I started getting texts and social network notices the minute people heard that the singer Whitney Houston had died. My first thought was one of the sadness, then I hoped that her daughter, her mother, all her loved ones were not drowning in grief alone.
Of course, vulture that I can be, I checked out the news sites and gossips mags to get the latest tidbits of "information." How did she die? Where? Why? Who was with her?
As if it's any of my business. As if there is anything I can do to comfort her family or aid them in any way other than by being one of the many, many voyeurs of her musical ability and celebrity life. Not that the family might not appreciate the public displays of affection and mourning of her fans. I am sure they will, but there are levels of intimacy in these things that belong not with fans or this person's "public."
This poor woman was a product (largely) of her natural talent and a victim (mostly) of her celebrity. We fans are really strangers, knowing about her only what was exposed. We don't have a vested emotional right to her life other than what we have to every other human being in the world. We don't lose anything familial or "ours" by the loss of her. We don't have, really, any more right to "mourn" her than we do to mourn any of the many names in the Obituary page of any newspaper. Her celebrity makes us feel we do, but we don't. We can miss her voice, her talents, her contribution to an art, but, really, that's about it. Her family, her true personal friends - the assorted loved ones - they are the only one with a right to truly mourn. All the rest of us will move on with our lives, not being spiritually altered by her death. Possibly the mourning we do for celebrities is so much more about us than them.
This celebrity culture we live in has diseased us all a bit. We can't just let someone be talented without having to brand them and elevate them to some surreal being. If we didn't "celebritize" people, we couldn't claim some right to them. We couldn't justify our intrusion into their lives. Without celebrities, we might have to learn to just enjoy talent rather than be entertained by the talented.
So, I apologize for my bad manners. I offer condolences to the family as I would want offered by any stranger to mine. I apologize in advance for the ridiculous curiosity that I am going to be exhibiting throughout the circus the world is going to make of this situation.
We are all of us going to be dead. Some of us will be lucky enough not to have been put on pedestals of sand.
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