Monday morning, about ten past seven. I was getting dressed ready for work when K shouted. I went to the top of the stairs, and she came the bottom.
“David Bowie’s died!”
“It was just on the radio. He was 69.”
“That was the age my grandparents died at,” was the random stupid thing that came out of my mouth. It’s only true for 50% of my grandparents, too. It feels strangely young, for 2016, for someone to die in their 60s, especially someone who felt like a force for foreverness. “The Man Who Sold The World” has been stuck in my head for most of the past two days.
Tuesday: the weather has turned colder, but still no frost on the ground here. No frost at all this winter so far, in fact. The Child Who Likes Fairies has taken to asking to have a grey headscarf draped over her head so she can run around wearing it, looking like a ghost as she does so. I’m not sure she knows, though, that she looks like a ghost.
I was intrigued by yesterday’s news story on Sense About Science, the public information charity who has produced a leaflet aimed specifically about celebrities, in the hope of persuading them not to talk rubbish in public. They’re distributing it around celebrity-infested places, but if you’re not a celebrity yourself you can download it from their website.
It’s an admirable attempt by an admirable charity, to reach people who could potentially have a lot of influence but who probably don’t read Bad Science regularly. I can’t help thinking that they would have had more effect distributing it to celebrities’ agents, rather than the celebrities themselves. Moreover, I think that a lot of media organisations overestimate the level of influence that celebrities in particular (and the media in general) have on your average person.
Furthermore, are any celebrities who read the leaflet going to believe it? Apart from being recognisable, they’re generally fairly average people. Not particularly clever, not particularly smart, maybe more charismatic than the average,* but on the whole fairly ordinary at heart.** They’re not scientists, and they’re not going to realise how little they know about science, because, as a general rule, the less you know on a subject, the less you realise just how little you know. The less you know about scientific ideas, the worse things you’re likely to say along the lines of “natural things are chemical-free”, or “green plants are healthy because chlorophyll will oxygenate your blood”,*** and the less likely you are to believe the truth on the topic.
* this is starting to sound like an RPG statsfest, I know
** despite what some of them may think.
*** the first is a common trope; the second is a Gillian McKeith piece of wrongness.
In case you were wondering: last week, I was away in Wales. I was staying in the small, snowy town of Penrhyndeudraeth, Meirionydd, doing some volunteer work.* Of course, I came back from my holiday needing another one to recover from it.
I managed to come across as a bit of a mad English tourist, whilst I was there, whilst I was in the local post office. The post office’s Lottery machine, you see, had a cardboard advertising hoarding on top of it. “Do you have a spare one?” I asked.
“I’m not sure,” said the shopkeeper. She started to hunt around. “I’m sure we have one somewhere.”
“I don’t mean to be any trouble,” I said, “but if you had one handy – I’ve been looking for one of those.”
“I’m sure we did have another,” she said, wondering what the hell this mad English tourist wanted with a cardboard Lottery advert. “I’ll have a look for it and put it to one side for you.”
“Oh no no I don’t want to be a nuisance,” I said, feeling slightly embarrassed. “I just wanted one because that” – I pointed at the picture on the advert – “is my friend W, and it would be nice to have one. Well, um, thank you anyway. I really don’t want to put you to any bother.” And I left the shop, leaving me feeling embarrassed for causing a fuss, and her baffled at these strange tourists with friends off the adverts.
* “…with the mentally ill,” as one of the other people there said. I think it was The Goon, who may well be reading.
I can’t help but feel slightly sickened at pre-obituaries – the endless news reports on the life and actions of famous people who are dangerously ill. It didn’t seem too bad during the slow death of George Best,* but the coverage of Ariel Sharon’s stroke has been terrible. As I’m writing Sharon is in a coma, but definitely alive; but for the past day or so every news report I’ve heard has been about how Middle-Eastern politics will change after he is gone – or, even worse, what his impact on history has been. These really are just obituary reports under another name.
(yes, I know they have a partial excuse that he’s almost certainly retiring – but even so, I still don’t think it’s right)
* or maybe it was just drowned out in my mind by the volume of post-death tributes
A news story from the other day: Elvis Presley is the world’s highest-earning dead celebrity yet again. Partly, I assume, because of the effort his record company is putting into milking his back-catalogue as heavily as they possibly can.
Whether or not you think that the Presley estate is being overly grasping and moneygrabbing with its constant record re-releasing; things could, you know, be much much worse. There’s an awful amount of Elvis-related tat out there in the world, but how much of it routes income back to Graceland? If his estate really wanted to exploit its history, they easily could. Re-releasing old 7” singles is the tasteful option.