Superfluous 7…..Celebrity Death Watch 2012

The recent tragic death of alleged singer Amy Winehouse elicited a variety of reactions from the masses, from sadness & regret to complete unsurprise and “I’m shocked it didn’t happen sooner.” Here at The Manofesto, where we are only interested in quality music, it served to get the creative juices flowing as I began to wonder “Who’s next??” Now these things tend to happen in threes, so another celebrity or two may kick it before this is even published, but I thought it would be interesting in a macabre, dark comedy, Stanley Kubrick/Tim Burton sort of way to ponder the possibilities. I do want to make a few things clear. First of all, I am in no way wishing harm on these individuals. I am not like that, no matter what kind of smart ass remarks I may make. I was recently accused of being like a member of the Westboro Baptist Church and it royally pissed me off because anyone who has known me for any length of time (like 20 years for example) should know better. Secondly, even though I am calling this piece Death Watch 2012 it goes into effect now, just past the halfway point of 2011. Also, as always…please…no wagering. I don’t condone gambling and do not claim to have any particular aptitude for the prognostication arts. And finally, there are two names you will not be seeing on this list: Lindsay Lohan & Charlie Sheen. That’s like predicting water is wet or a Michael Bay movie will have explosions & special effects. I can do better. So with tongue planted firmly in cheek (kind of), I give you…..

 

 

from the home office in Tombstone, AZ (where it is currently a balmy 153 degrees)…..

 

 

The Superfluous 7 Celebrity Death Watch 2012:

 

 

7       Jerry Lewis

Just about one month from now Jerry will host his final Labor Day Telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, something to which he has dedicated his life for over a half century. Not to mention that the traditional 20+ hour telethon is being cut down to a one night, 6 hour prime time special, which pretty much removes any sort of singularity it had anyway. My Dad’s name is Jerry and I am “physically challenged”, nee crippled if you prefer, so I always flippantly have said I really am one of Jerry’s Kids. Jerry (Lewis…not my Dad) is 85 years old and has battled a variety of health problems such as multiple heart attacks, diabetes, and prostate cancer so I am not exactly going out on a limb here.

 

6       Abe Vigoda

For those that may be confused at this moment, yes, Abe Vigoda, at present, is still alive. He has only looked like a corpse since the 80’s. We know & love him from his roles in The Godfather as caporegime Sal Tessio and in the 70’s cop sitcom Barney Miller as Sgt. Fish. In recent years he has made a variety of appearances on talk shows & sitcoms and in commercials. I always find it remarkable when a 90 year old person does anything more than make it out of bed in the morning, so kudos to ol’ Abe.

 

5       Eddie Van Halen

My first roll of the dice. I am a huge Van Halen fan. It doesn’t matter to me who the lead singer is…David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar, even Gary Cherone wasn’t that bad. Van Halen is real rock n’ roll. Alex Van Halen may be the best drummer in the history of music, and it is my contention…with all due respect to Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, BB King, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Carlos Santana, Buddy Guy, and a host of other legendary axe men…that Eddie Van Halen is the best guitarist that has ever lived. However, it is undeniable that Ed is also a wee bit unstable. He has feuded with both Roth and Hagar, and a few years ago threw long time bassist Michael Anthony out of the band. Most of EVH’s issues have been due to rampant drug & alcohol abuse, and he has been in & out of rehab even more than Lindsay Lohan. In addition he has had a host of physical issues, had a hip replaced, and battled cancer. Eddie may only be 60 years old, but he has packed about 95 years into those six decades. Supposedly the band (with Roth as the front man) is working on a new album, which I hope is true. I want Van Halen to continue kicking ass until I’m in my 60’s…but I wouldn’t put any money on that happening.

 

4       Jimmy Carter

Well…I had to throw a former President in here, and there are only 4 to choose from. The smarter pick may be George H.W. Bush, but I’m going with the peanut farmer from Georgia. He is nearly 87 years old and probably a skosh too active for a man that age, flying to all corners of the globe as an emissary for the United States to bring peace, love, and stagflation to the world. Come on Jimmy…let Bill Clinton do that stuff now. There are still nations in which he hasn’t received extramarital oral sex yet.

 

3       Some Random Rapper

I don’t like rap. I don’t consider it music. I probably couldn’t name more than 3 rappers if my life depended on it. But it certainly isn’t beyond the realm of comprehension to assume that some quasi-famous rapper will bite it in a drive-by in the coming months, boosting his album sales beyond anything they were when the dude was alive.

 

2       Betty White

Boooo. Okay okay…I know I’m going to get pummeled for this one. But think about it for a minute. Who has enjoyed a bigger career renaissance over the last few years?? While the other Golden Girls…Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, & Estelle Getty…have all died in relative obscurity in recent years Betty White would be going out on top.

 

1      Tara Reid

Everyone talks about Lohan, Paris Hilton, and the Kardashian twits, but the biggest, skankiest party gal in Hollywood may be Tara Reid. “Who??” you ask. Reid is an actress who has been riding the tasty wave of fame for 12 years after the only role anyone remembers her for, one of the horny high schoolers in American Pie. She was also once engaged to talk show tool Carson Daly but broke it off. That was a smart move because I am guessing that if she would have married Daly she wouldn’t be alive to be on this list, she would have offed herself years ago. At any rate, Reid kind of flies under the radar because she isn’t quite as flamboyant in her partying as some of young Hollywood, but she is known to still be out & about and on the scene. I am 38 years old and I can say with certainty that if I were still out doing the things I did when I was 19 I would either be dead or atleast feel like I was, so if 35 year old Tara Reid is trying to keep up with her 20-something counterparts it could be a huge mistake.

 

 

 

O.J. Who??

Here’s a crazy, politically incorrect, out-of-left-field thought: maybe she really didn’t do it.

Full disclosure – I did not pay one iota of attention to the Casey Anthony trial. I know that a little girl is dead and her mother was on trial for possibly killing her. I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head how old the kid was, where the family is from, what the father’s involvement was in all of this, the mother’s backstory or mental wellness history, or how old anyone involved is/was. I heard the story mentioned occasionally on the local news between tales of bank robbery, political misconduct, car accidents, and celebrity divorces/drug rehab/sex scandals, but I have enough problems of my own without voluntarily wallowing in the tragic drama of others.

However, apparently while I wasn’t paying attention millions of bored, mindless, easily manipulated sheep became intensely invested in the outcome of this television show. And make no mistake, that’s exactly what it was…a TV show. It wasn’t all that different from any other crappy reality program except for a child really is dead and a woman’s freedom really was on the line. But I wonder how many sheep even remembered those facts while they were caught up in the sensationalism & drama. The combined efforts of producers Mark Burnette, Steven Spielberg, and Dick Wolf couldn’t have dreamed of a more perfect story for the masses to devour. Parts CSI, Law & Order, and Lifetime movie, I am quite sure that a lot of folks have already made a lot of money on this case. Television suits have been salivating for years, waiting for another bonanza like the OJ Simpson fiasco in the mid-1990’s. So many people got famous and made bank on that circus that it almost got lost in the shuffle that two people were brutally murdered.

I despise reality television. Wasn’t television (and other forms of entertainment) invented to help us escape from reality and the daily grind of our boring, exhausting, often meaningless existence?? I watch TV to ESCAPE reality, not dive headfirst into it. I was asked by a friend once if I liked the show House, about an acerbic, curmudgeonly yet brilliant doctor who solves seemingly unsolvable medical mysteries. The irony was that I was asked this question as I myself was laying in a hospital bed. I have never been particularly enamored with medical shows like ER or Grey’s Anatomy specifically because I have spent far too much of my life in hospitals, so even though those shows are fictional they hit a little too close to home. When looking at reality TV I just cannot fathom how people are entertained by something like The Bachelor, where a successful, good-looking person is able to choose from among two dozen other successful, good-looking people and “fall in love” all while a half dozen cameramen capture every intimate moment. I’m no relationship expert, but I am pretty sure that’s not how it really works. Instead of being true reality, shows like The Bachelor, Survivor, The Real World, Temptation Island, The Real Housewives, Jersey Shore, Flavor of Love (because Flavor Flav is such a catch that beautiful women will actually compete to be with him), and Celebrity Rehab are really just excuses for television networks to save a few bucks by not paying talented actors & writers and having low production costs. Immoral attention whores desperate for their 15 minutes of fame aren’t exactly in short supply either, so it’s a perfect marriage of convenience.

And then every once-in-awhile an actual real situation like the Casey Anthony trial comes along, and what happens?? TV execs and their all-too-willing audience somehow manage to cheapen the tragic, sad, enormously senseless death of a child into just another one of their shows. Who will be voted off the island?? Who will get the final rose?? Is Casey Anthony guilty or not?? The outrage expressed by the masses when the defendant was found not guilty was palpable. People became almost as angry as they were a few months ago when talented vixen songstress Pia Toscano was inexplicably eliminated from American Idol. Millions were so frustrated about the verdict that they all decided to turn their porch lights on!! Yeah, that’ll show ‘em.

Because I could not escape the story any longer I did finally do some due diligence and what I stumbled upon was sort of the final clincher of my disgust with this story and peoples’ overwrought Drama Queen reaction to it. Many pundits and “legal experts” were not surprised by the verdict because apparently the prosecution’s case was built largely on circumstantial evidence. There was no motive, no DNA evidence, no official cause of death. While it is undeniable that Casey Anthony’s actions when her child was “missing” were bizarre by the standards of most ordinary folks, being batshit crazy doesn’t always constitute a felony. Did she do it?? I don’t know, and neither do you. But the American justice system provided for a fair trial where well compensated attorneys presented their cases before a jury of Casey Anthony’s peers. That jury found the defendant not guilty. Millions of people are found guilty or not guilty in courtrooms across the country every single day, and no one pays any attention outside the family & friends of those involved. But because Geraldo, Nancy Grace, and countless others decided to exploit this particular trial for ratings now we have the court of public opinion thinking it somehow should have more legitimacy than the judicial branch of the government.

I am not stupid. I am well aware that an opinion is like…well…everybody has one. That’s fine. This is America and free speech is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. But as much as it is your right to cry foul when preconceived notions (fed by an unscrupulous media machine who, it seems, knew damn well they were selling false expectations based on emotion rather than facts) are shattered and the outcome is not what you wanted, it is my right to call BS on your whining & crying about a child you never met and will forget about inside of a month, and also my right to scoff at your meaningless vigils and porch lighting. But in typical 21st American fashion my mocking (of the reaction to the tragedy, not the tragedy itself) was met with even more overreaction. A friend of two decades actually equated me with members of the Westboro Baptist Church (look it up…I can’t do all the heavy lifting). I couldn’t have been cut any deeper if he were wielding a machete.

I could not quite put my finger on exactly what was bothering me about this whole situation until my favorite radio personality, the Godfather of Conservatism and the undisputed King of Talk Rush Limbaugh put it into laser focus. Poor Rush…he’s going to get slaughtered in the “mainstream” press for this, but only because it hits a nerve and is absolutely true. In a nutshell he stated that if Casey Anthony’s daughter would have died in the womb the woman would be a hero to the same libs in the media who are now ready to grab their pitchforks and lynch her in the public square. It occurred to me that maybe that was part of my disgust, the inescapable vibe of disingenuousness surrounding the outcry. I wonder how many of my Facebook “friends” who put their porch lights on have murdered their own progeny under the legal protection of an abortion clinic, or at the very least cast their vote every election day for candidates who support a woman’s right to “choose” (i.e. kill)?? I am also reminded of my father’s advice to me as a child. He used to tell me that people who came up to me and patted me on the head and expressed empathy for “the poor little crippled boy” hadn’t gone more than a few feet as they were exiting the scene before they’d forgotten all about me because they had their own lives and their own issues. Facebook is a great tool to express pithy thoughts and opine on the frivolous news of the day, but as my “Wall” filled up with Casey Anthony related indignation I couldn’t help wondering how much of it was a genuine, Christ centered, heartfelt outpouring of support for a gone-far-too-soon child, or a bunch of folks falling in line with the cool crowd until something else comes along to capture their gnat-like attention spans. Who knows?? I know I am far too cynical for my own good, but life has taught me some harsh lessons that have solidified that skepticism. Your mileage may vary.

A lot of these issues would be solved if cameras were not allowed in courtrooms and talking heads like Greta Van Whatthehellisupwithmyface, Chris Matthews, Rachel “She’s a MAN baby!!” Maddow, and Anderson Cooper didn’t exist. Maybe in addition to being a cynic I am also an old fuddy duddy. I remember being entertained by quality television shows like Cheers, Family Ties, Taxi, Newhart, and Frasier. I even fondly recall not-so-great shows like The Dukes of Hazzard, Dallas, Three’s Company, and Baywatch. When did we become such a voyeuristic society?? When did watching a very real trial concerning a very real tragedy become entertainment??

I cannot wrap my head around the concept, and I have no desire to even try. If it makes the masses feel like they are “doing something” by venting disgust online, wearing ribbons, turning on lights, etc. then that’s okay. Do what you gotta do. When you are done you’ll find me curled up with Ray Bradbury, watching old 80’s movies, or maybe even doing something useful.

In Defense of The Constitution

My Dad has always told me “you may not get your way but you can get your say”. It’s wisdom along the same lines as “well, the worst they can do is say no” and closely related to “an opinion is like an @$$^*!#…everyone has one”.

 

In fact, The Constitution of the United States guarantees that everyone can “have their say”, express their opinion, etc. It’s called The First Amendment. However, like other parts of The Constitution, there are folks in 21st Century America that want to cherry pick the parts they like and discard the ones with which they do not agree (much like how The Bible is treated). There is a not insignificant minority of people who would like to see guns banned, even though The Second Amendment guarantees our right to keep and bear arms. Christians have stood by and watched as God has been pushed aside in the most asinine of ways over the course of the past few decades, with the PC crowd citing The Establishment Clause of The First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”), while conveniently forgetting the second half of that sentence that says “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof “. All manner of controversial issues…taxation, same sex marriage, abortion, capital punishment, affirmative action, etc…are, at their core, a tug of war wherein The Constitution is used and misused, bent, twisted, and shaped to fit whatever argument is being made by any particular side.

 

The question becomes, is The Constitution really that difficult to understand?? I don’t think it is.

 

There have been two things in recent weeks that have grabbed my attention in relation to The First Amendment, and more specifically, peoples’ understandable but troubling disregard for it. But before I dive into those issues in particular let me refresh the collective memory of the masses by spelling out exactly what The First Amendment says. The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” There is a lot of good stuff in there ladies and gentlemen. I already mentioned how Freedom of Religion has become Freedom from Religion, especially if that religion is Christianity. But my focus now turns to the Freedom of Speech.

 

Freedom of Speech” is admittedly rather vague terminology, but essentially it means that we all have the right to say anything about anyone, even if it is critical or negative, so long as it isn’t slanderous, obscene, or may insight violence. And even those exceptions are so narrowly defined that a lot of things may be offensive but still within the realm of legality. That very restricted piece of no man’s land…offensive vs. unconstitutional…is the battleground that brings about this particular diatribe.

 

The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled on a case involving the Westboro Baptist Church. This is a church in Topeka, Kansas that has gained a certain amount of infamous notoriety in the last couple of decades for traveling around the country to protest at funerals and other gatherings, expressing very clearly their anti-homosexuality beliefs. Basically they hate everyone, including every other religion and all Christian denominations and churches except their own, and believe that President Obama is The Anti-Christ and Pope Benedict XVI is The False Prophet. Obviously they have not been informed that Oprah is The Anti-Christ. Anyway, I think it is safe to assume that an overwhelming majority of Americans from every corner of the sociopolitical spectrum and all religiosities would likely find the activities of this “church” appalling. I don’t feel like I’m stepping too far out on a limb by saying that there might be more unanimity on this than just about any other topic, including the relative merits of Justin Bieber’s career or the entertainment value of Vin Diesel films. The Court ruled in favor of Westboro, saying that their protests are protected free speech. Not surprisingly this is a tough pill to swallow for many, but it gets to the heart of the matter. The Constitution protects (almost) ALL speech…not just the stuff with which we agree.

 

Another situation is more local. A few weeks ago here in northcentral West Virginia a young U.S. Marshal was shot and killed by a suspect on whom he was trying to serve a warrant. I did not know the young man, but we apparently had a lot of friends in common. The overwhelming sadness of the tragedy cast a pall over this area for days. The outpouring of love and respect for the fallen hero and his family was amazing. However, there are always a few dissenters. One of the local TV stations had an article on their website about the shooting, and the vast majority of the comments after the article were supportive, sympathetic, and respectful. Unfortunately a few weren’t, and not only called into question the tactics of law enforcement in general and this deceased officer in particular, but were downright repugnant and insulting on a variety of levels. The whole thread got really ugly, and was made worse by the response of those who were, undoubtedly in good faith, coming to the defense of the officer, his family, and the police as a whole. Was there good reason to be upset and even disgusted?? Absolutely. But there were demands, both on the station’s website and its Facebook page, to delete the comments. Someone even blamed one of the news personalities who hadn’t done anything wrong and by all accounts is a genuinely good guy. A tragic story was made worse by idiotic fools who seemed to be getting their jollies by stirring the pot and making inflammatory statements, but it wasn’t helped by well intentioned yet misguided individuals seeking to spit on The Constitution and suppress free speech.

 

The theme song for an old 80’s sitcom said “you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have The Facts of Life”. That is a good summary of freedom, justice, The Constitution, our government, and our nation. Is it all perfect?? No. With gun ownership comes the unfortunate result that sometimes people are going to get shot. Democracy doesn’t mean that we will always agree with everything our elected leaders do. Sometimes an innocent person will be sent to prison and the guilty will go free. We take the good with the bad because most of the time things go right and in comparison with every other nation in the world America has far and away the very best system available. The opening words of The Constitution say “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Notice that one of the goals is not to form a perfect union but a more perfect union. The Founding Fathers knew that nothing is perfect, but that there is nothing wrong with striving for perfection. We cannot have freedom a la carte, picking & choosing what we like and what we do not. Freedom of Speech means that sometimes we might not agree with what is being said, but we must find some way of dealing with it besides trying to squash the freedom itself. It would be great if everyone was polite, courteous, and appropriate, but it is an irrefutable fact that there are a lot of people who are either stupid, mean, or both. And sometimes two people are just going to disagree about something, whether the issue is big or small, with neither individual necessarily being right, wrong, or evil in any way. In America even the folks who are wrong and not very nice about it have the right to be wrong and not very nice. We must be extremely cautious not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

 

I wish groups like the Westboro Baptist Church didn’t exist, and that everyone who decides to express their opinion would do so in a manner that was respectful and gracious, but that just isn’t realistic. Utopia, Paradise, Eden, or whatever you might refer to it as went out the window the second Eve was beguiled by Satan and nibbled on The Forbidden Fruit. So we must deal with the world the best way we know how. The Founding Fathers…although not perfect men themselves…established freedom & liberty as the bedrock of these United States, and it works better than anything else out there. We should never stop seeking a more perfect union, but we also need to stop being so cavalier toward the level of excellence we have already achieved.