There is nothing like the death of a celebrity to cause the preemption of normal programming to make way for tribute after mind numbing tribute as the media rehashes every detail of fallen icons. I experienced the phenomenon for the first time in 1963 when I was five years old and John Kennedy was assassinated. Back then, my hometown only had two television stations to preempt. Now at least I have 300 or so satellite channels to surf through in a vain attempt to avoid seeing another report about the death of the king of pop.
I don't really have much to say about Michael Jackson's death. I appreciated his music and shook my head in weary disbelief at the circus that his life became. I think it is sad that he died so young. What makes it even more surreal for me is that Michael Jackson was almost the same age as I am (then again, so are Donnie Osmond and Madonna).
I am struck by the sad parallel between the reaction when Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll died and Michael Jackson the King of Pop died. Elvis didn't have the brush fire speed of the Internet to broadcast his passing, however. Nor did Elvis have to put up with cell video shots of his ambulance being broadcast on television within a few hours of his death.
It wasn't more than an hour or two after Michael Jackson's death was announced that the conjecture began about the cause. It couldn't just be left at cardiac arrest the way it would be if John Doe died. The voyeuristic nature of our society these days is to have to pin the cause of celebrity death on something more sinister like drugs or foul play.
I was struck by the sad coincidence of Farrah Fawcett dying in the morning and having her memory eclipsed by Michael Jackson dying in the afternoon. If there is an afterlife, I have to think she is there complaining to whoever is in charge about the unfairness of the timing.
But death doesn't seem to follow any rules of decorum. It meanders through life randomly striking down the just and the unjust with as much forethought as someone afflicted with ADD. More and more I realize that death, like shit, just happens.
A fleeting practical side of myself can't help but wonder why humans make such a big deal about death. It is that one universal truth we all encounter eventually. I suppose the shock of having someone die is that most of us are in denial most of the time about our own deaths.
I am also a bit put out at the outpouring of love and respect for Michael Jackson now that he is dead. The media for one acts as if they were in his camp all along even when they were roasting him alive when he was being paraded through our court systems for alleged crimes against children.
If we focused on everyone we love or admire as much when they were alive as after they have died, at least they would have the benefit of enjoying it. And then maybe they would engage in the self-destructive behaviour that drove them to an early grave.
Oh well, as Michael Jackson once sang, "Beat it, beat it, beat it..."