Letters

Letters 05-02-2016

Facts About Trails I would like to correct some misinformation provided in Kristi Kates’ article about the Shore-to-Shore Trail in your April 18 issue. The Shore-to-Shore Trail is not the longest continuous trail in the Lower Peninsula. That honor belongs to the North Country Trail (NCT), which stretches for over 400 miles in the Lower Peninsula. In fact, 100 miles of the NCT is within a 30-minute drive of Traverse City, and is maintained by the Grand Traverse Hiking Club...

North Korea Is Bluffing I eagerly read Jack Segal’s columns and attend his lectures whenever possible. However, I think his April 24th column falls into an all too common trap. He casually refers to a nuclear-armed North Korea when there is no proof whatever that North Korea has any such weapons. Sure, they have set off some underground explosions but so what? Tonga could do that. Every nuclear-armed country on Earth has carried out at least one aboveground test, just to prove they could do it if for no other reason. All we have is North Korea’s word for their supposed capabilities, which is no proof at all...

Double Dipping? In Greg Shy’s recent letter, he indicated that his Social Security benefit was being unfairly reduced simply due to the fact that he worked for the government. Somehow I think something is missing here. As I read it this law is only for those who worked for the government and are getting a pension from us generous taxpayers. Now Greg wants his pension and he also wants a full measure of Social Security benefits even though he did not pay into Social Security...

Critical Thinking Needed Our media gives ample coverage to some presidential candidates calling each other a liar and a sleaze bag. While entertaining to some, this certainly should lower one’s respect for either candidate. This race to the bottom comes as no surprise given their lack of respect for the rigors of critical thinking. The world’s esteemed scientists take great steps to preserve the integrity of their findings. Not only are their findings peer reviewed by fellow experts in their specialty, whenever possible the findings are cross-checked by independent studies...

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · The 27 Club
. . . .

The 27 Club

Robert Downes - August 1st, 2011
The 27 Club
“They tried to make me go to rehab and I said no, no, no...”
-- “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse
Some 2,500 years ago, Buddha offered the advice that the best path through
life is the “middle way.” The former prince who gave up his kingdom and
all its pleasures to live naked and alone in the forest prior to becoming
a holy man learned that too much or too little of anything was no good.
In particular, he meant money, fame and power.
We seldom think about the benefits of the middle way here in the West
where songs such as “If I Had a Million Dollars” by The Barenaked Ladies
and “I Want to Be a Billionaire (so freakin’ bad)” by Travie McCoy spell
out the daydreams of millions of people. Winning the lottery, bagging the
cute bachelor on TV, dancing to the stars and the meth-rush euphoria of
being named an Idol are the dreams of our society as expressed in the
media. No one wants to get voted off the island, even though that might
offer a saner, happier life.
But considering the death of torch singer Amy Winehouse, one might pause
to consider Buddha’s advice on just how unhappy one can become by “having
it all.”
Winehouse is in the 27 Club now, occupied by musicians who died on or
around that age at the peak of their powers. Jim Morrison -- died of an
overdose in a bathtub in Paris. Jimi Hendrix -- choked on his vomit while
ODing on drugs. Robert Johnson -- poisoned with strychnine at age 26 by a
jealous husband. Hank Williams -- drank himself to death at age 29.
Janis Joplin -- heroin overdose. Kurt Cobain -- suicide by shotgun.
Winehouse picked up the torch dropped in the ’60s by British soul singers
such as Petula Clark and Lulu and turned its flame a cool blue. She had a
voice that could snake around a phrase like a python, embracing the notes
in a millisecond and squeezing the agony and anguish from a song straight
into your heart.
Add the beehive ’doo, the road map of tattoos, toothpick arms. alleycat
attitude and kohl-dark eyes of an ancient Egyptian princess and Amy
Winehouse was certainly a woman to remember.
But a lot of female singers have the ability to wrangle a note, even here
in Northern Michigan, and one could argue that what took Winehouse to the
top was her pursuit of dark material as exhibited on her breakout 2006
album, “Back to Black.”
On that album, which earned Winehouse several Grammys and critical
acclaim, the theme of the songs tended to be rehab, drinkin’ and “doin’
blow.” And of course the obligatory broken heart song or two.
One might argue that this would be fertile territory for a singer-surviver
who’s been around the bar and booze scene for a few decades -- Lucinda
Williams comes to mind -- but Winehouse was only 21 when she recorded this
material. Obviously, if you feel compelled to dwell on your rehab troubles
at that age, you’re neck-deep in trouble.
One could also argue that her get-drunk shtick did more to turn her into
the butt of jokes on Leno and Letterman than it did to advance her career
in the U.S. It seems likely that Amy will sell more downloads from her
coffin than she did while she was among us.
One of life’s great lessons is “be careful you don’t get what you wish
for.” The dream job turns out to be a nightmare; the beautiful woman or
handsome man you pursue and place on a pedestal turns out to be a monster
who eats you alive. The fame shot through your veins like a drug burns
you from the inside out... That last bit is the theme of Eminem’s albums,
“Relapse” and “Recovery.”
Pop music is full of stars who got the keys to the proverbial candy store
but were still basically kids and couldn’t keep a lid on their desires.
Members of The Doors reported that Jim Morrison used to line up a row of
screwdrivers on the bar -- his favorite drink -- and refuse to leave them
for fear one would get snatched. He’d piss his leather pants rather than
risk making the trip to the men’s room.
Even lesser talents come to doom on the road to fame and fortune.
Members of The Band, for instance, who served as Dylan’s backup group,
made musical history, and produced some of the most celebrated music of
the ‘60s. You’d think that with all their adventures, honors and
success that the members of The Band would have been reasonably happy,
but keyboardist Richard Manuel committed suicide while drummer Rick
Danko died in his sleep of a drug overdose.
Then there was Canned Heat, who had a lock on the boogie-woogie blues in
the ’60s. When the blues lost its mojo to punk and disco in the ’70s, the
resulting depression lead to the suicides and overdoses of three visionary
members.
Successful musicians don’t have a monopoly on depression, drugs and
suicide. Author David Foster Wallace who wrote “Infinite Jest” in 1996
was at the peak of critical acclaim for his byzantine (and to me
unreadable) books with a blank check available on demand from his
publishers.
But like grunge rocker Kurt Cobain, Wallace lived ‘too high up in his
head,’ so to speak and never could master his depression. He hung himself
at age 46 in 2008.
Sometimes “having it all” is a death sentence. For all her glory, Marilyn
Monroe got heartbreak and a barbiturate overdose at age 36. John F.
Kennedy, Jr. had the resources to buy his own plane, but went down in a
fog over the ocean at the age of 38 as night fell with his star. John
Lennon was shot at the age of 40 by a lunatic fan who thought he’d “sold
out.” Judy Garland’s emerald slippers couldn’t save her from a drug
overdose at the age of 47...
And Amy Winehouse? Farewell to a dark comet that crossed our orbit,
leaving a trail that others will surely follow at their peril.
 
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