First of all apologies to regular readers for the late posting, I have been overwhelmed with rewrites (which are now finished) and was uncharacteristically existentially exhausted afterwards. Could be a sign of the times with the strange sense of finiteness (is there such a word? – There is now) with the absolutely tragic (and totally surreal) passing of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett-Major all on the same day. Both icons, both embodying realms that were fantastical in their own ways. The outpouring of grief for the Peter Pan of Pop is both extraordinary, pliable and even I, hard-bitten well-lived cynic, have found myself deeply saddened. Sort of like when Princess Di died – pointless deaths that becomes this huge metaphor for us all. I suspect it lies in the vulnerability of these icons when living, and in Mr. Jackson’s case, the tragedy of talent lost. Every shop, building and even my hair dressers (there for the tri-annual visit) seems to be pumping out Thriller and Billie Jean and I suspect this is the case in every major city in the world, to the point that if there was an alien craft passing by in the galaxy and they tuned in, it would be forgivable if they assumed Michael Jackson hit songs were the Linga Franca for humanity. What was almost as fascinating was the manner in which news of his death ringed the world in minutes. I actually coped it cruising the Australian papers on line, in London, which at that time of night (early Australian morning) was among the first to have it up on site. At that point the word ‘Death’ was in inverted commas, yes, just like that, as it hadn’t yet been confirmed officially, so there was a strange free-fall of disbelief as I frantically searched all the links I could find (Google hadn’t crashed yet) to confirm the poor bugger’s demise. Amazing what a couple of commas can do and how we cling onto that moment of possible misinformation – what if it’s the wrong body, etc? That it might be just an ugly rumour. I have vivid memories as a 16 year old receiving news of my father’s accidental death from the police and cross questioning them about how they had identified him (details in his wallet) desperately wanting them to be wrong. The deaths of the great become ours because they remind us of our own losses: Memory and Myth.
Speaking of which, a chapter in one of my coffee table books –Curiosities of Literature by John Sutherland, entitled First-Night Nerves, got me thinking about how we remember then fictionalise our own adolescence and sexual awakening. Mr. Sutherland was writing about Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach (please note: I am a huge fan of McEwan’s, just not of that particular book) and commented on how his experience of the early 60’s was certainly not the clumsy, emotional and sexually frigid landscape McEwan’s describes in the utter inability of his young English suburban couple to consummate their honeymoon. Not my era but my parents – however I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Sutherland, after all John Updike’s accounts of love, infidelity and scandal, most of which was set in American suburbia in the same years (early 60’s) were far more salacious. Each to their own, you might say, except it’s interesting how such descriptions of historical zeitgeists become immortalised in literature and then set in the concrete of quasi-fact then quoted as the finite description of that era – ergo – all Victorians were puritans, no-one had sex before 1968, homosexuality didn’t exist before the 1890’s (thank you Oscar) and there was no economic migration before the 1920’s.
One piece of fascinating news was the arrest of the Sri Lankan astrologer this week due to his prediction of the downfall of his current President, who apparently, takes his astrology very seriously indeed. Actually, so do I, within limits. I did, however have an amusing incident in Oct 08 when two weeks before the US stock market, Merrill Lynch and Washington Mutual went down, I phoned a close (and internationally published) astrologer mate asking her whether I should sell my US portfolio as I’d read (not on her site) that my sign was in for a very rough ride financially. She reassured me that there was no correlation between astrology and the stock market. Cut to a week later and I was losing value by the second. A lesson in trusting one’s gut – which is, according to author Malcolm Gladwell of Blink – really is an unconscious accumulation of information and sharpened assessment skills -. Intelligence appears not to be necessarily a slow rational process, an observation I find consoling, and the challenge is to have the courage to act on that first instinct.