There's still no word on the cause of Whitney Houston's death this afternoon, but the LA Times has pretty thoroughly described the circumstances surrounding it. Whitney died in Los Angeles, in the Beverly Hilton. She was in town to attend a tribute to Clive Davis, and intended to join the revelries at Mr. Davis's pre-Grammy party this evening. She was found in her hotel room by a body guard, who called for paramedics at approximately 3:30 p.m. The paramedics performed CPR for 20 minutes, and Whitney was pronounced dead at 4:00 p.m. She is survived by her 19-year-old daughter, Bobbi; her mother, Cissy Houston; her cousin, Dione Warwick; her godmother, Aretha Franklin; several hundred million fans; many others.
Personal note: Since I heard about Whitney's death I've been thinking a lot about her botched comeback tour of 2010. It was called Nothing But Love, but from its disastrous first night it drew almost nothing but snark from the press. A typical notice, this one from the Evening Standard:
... that fabulous voice is utterly, utterly torn to shreds.
Where once she soared, now she wheezes and croaks, bludgeoning her perfect pop single I Wanna Dance (With Somebody Who Loves Me) into karaoke submission; stripping the moving My Love Is Your Love of all emotion and inflicting grisly carnage on I Will Always Love You (if she is late-period Judy Garland, this is her Over The Rainbow).
"My soprano friend doesn't wanna come tonight," she mumbled after missing yet another note. Neither did her contralto or mezzo-soprano “friends“.
(The reviewer ended by calling the night "heartbreaking," but it's hard not to detect a little glee in that last set of quotation marks. A lot of people wrote things like that, and it's a little queasy-making to think how many of them will be airing sweet sentiments in the coming days; sentiments which are now about six hours out from the last moment when they could have done some good.)
Anyway -- Whitney's singing came under a lot of fire in her last few years, but I hope it's not too early to hope for a critical reappraisal. In the 80's and 90's, Whitney's instrument was a natural marvel. She didn't have to do anything with it. She opened her mouth and there it was; making sounds bigger and better than any other sounds in the world. Interpretation? Nuance? Whitney's singing couldn't contain those things, because the songs she sang couldn't contain her magnificent voice. But on Whitney's last record, and in the concerts she gave to promote it, none of that was true. Singing "I Look To You," she wasn't just a voice. She barely had a voice. She was a woman. A little sad, more than a little tired, and -- if her endless, loopy onstage banter was any sign -- absolutely terrified that those natural gifts upon which she had built her career and identity had abandoned her forever. All of this came through in her singing. If music is judged by how much weight and wisdom and emotion can be supported by a single sung word (and I dig Patti Smith and Maria Callas, so I think it is), then in those last concerts Whitney made some of the most beautiful music of her life.
Watch Whitney sing "I Look To You" AFTER THE JUMP ...
UPDATE: Whitney Houston is dead at 48. Cause unknown. From CBS:
Whitney Houston, who ruled as pop music's queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, erratic behavior and a tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown, has died. She was 48.
... News of Houston's death came on the eve of music's biggest night — the Grammy Awards. It's a showcase where she once reigned, and her death was sure to case a heavy pall on Sunday's ceremony. Houston's longtime mentor Clive Davis was to hold his annual concert and dinner Saturday; it was unclear if it was going to go forward.
At her peak, Houston the golden girl of the music industry. From the middle 1980s to the late 1990s, she was one of the world's best-selling artists. She wowed audiences with effortless, powerful, and peerless vocals that were rooted in the black church but made palatable to the masses with a pop sheen.
... She had the he perfect voice, and the perfect image: a gorgeous singer who had sex appeal but was never overtly sexual, who maintained perfect poise.
In the New York Times, Charles M. Blow turns the Roland Martin flap into a teachable moment:
The truest measure of a man, indeed of a person, is not whom he lies down with but what he stands up for. If we must be judged, let it be in this way. And when we fall short, as we sometimes will, because humanity is fallible, let us greet each other with compassion and encouragement rather than ridicule and resentment.
Whatever was in Martin’s heart, what was in his Twitter messages wasn’t helpful. They may not lead directly to intimidation or violence, but they may add to a stream of negativity that feeds a culture in which intimidation and violence by some twisted minds is all too real. I don’t believe that Martin wanted that.
Let’s show the whole of mankind that men can indeed be kind, even to other men who dare to wear pink suits.
At the "Toward Healing and Renewal" symposium, Vatican finally "gets religion" on sex abuse prevention reform:
... the idea was to share this experience with the rest of the Catholic world, especially places where the sexual abuse crisis has not yet exploded, in the hope that for once, church leaders can defuse the bomb before it goes off. [emphasis added]
... We saw Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Vatican's powerful Congregation for Bishops, presiding over a liturgy of repentance -- effectively symbolizing that the crisis isn't just about wayward priests, but it includes failures by the hierarchy. We heard American Cardinal William Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, concede that much of what's been accomplished to date is due to media pressure, insisting on a "more proactive" approach.
Pope Benedict XVI dispatched a message to the symposium, endorsing the effort to build "a vigorous culture of effective safeguarding and victim support."
The Vatican's top sex abuse prosecutor, Maltese Monsignor Charles Scicluna, bluntly said it is "not acceptable" for bishops to ignore anti-abuse protocols and openly called for imposing sanctions under church law on those bishops who drop the ball.
Are there 10,000,000 secret Obama-loving Catholics?
I have overheard this conversation so many times and in so many bathrooms that I can't tell if it's a satire or a transcript.
The forensic sciences bring us composite sketches of literary characters.
Sandy Rios explains that the real problem with Ellen isn't her comedy or winsome personality; it's that she wants 12-year-olds to engage in exotic sexual practices with the Symbionese Liberation Army. Or something like that.
Breathtaking "cloud tsunami" rolled into Panama City Beach on Friday.
Tomorrow is Darwin Day!
Ray Comfort to black people: Don't believe in evolution like those stupid whitefolk.
“Atheistic evolution isn’t an intelligent belief, as atheists would have the black community believe,” said Ray Comfort, whose new project is “Hitler, God, and the Bible.”
“It’s a philosophy for the dumbest of the dumb, and it’s an insult to the black heritage to try and hoodwink them into believing that nothing created everything,” he said.
“That’s a scientific impossibility, and African Americans have got too much intelligence to believe such an insane worldview. That’s why there are so few black atheists. Most atheists are white, educated, and greatly lacking when it comes to common sense,” he said.
Maryland Del. Pat McDonough talk about the "gay life form."
CNN insists CPAC was downright twitterpated with Santorum ...
... but Romney still won the CPAC straw poll.
Ann Coulter said funny/evil things at CPAC.
I was gonna post that CPAC video in which comedian Steve Crowder and blogger-hubby Chris Loesch, incarnated as wig-wearing hip-hop duo The Powdered Zombies, rap "Mr. America," a song in which they pretend to say the word "knicker" when they're actually saying the "n"-word, thereby causing lilywhite ladies in fannypacks to tee-hee-hee. But why post horrible music? Instead, hear Tim Minchin sing about the language of prejudice, AFTER THE JUMP ...
Posted Feb. 11,2012 at 6:50 PM EST by Brandon K. Thorp in 2012 Election, Ann Coulter, Catholic Church, CPAC, Deaths, Ellen DeGeneres, Maryland, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Roland Martin, Sandy Rios, weather, Whitney Houston | Permalink | Comments (20)
Thom Hartmann at RT News interviewed Maggie Gallagher on Thursday, and holy god! It was brutal! Thom spent the whole interview looking at Ms. Gallagher, co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, like she was some kind of outsized exotic insect who'd bumbled onto the set. He swatted aside her points one after another before bringing the interview to a crazy, deeply unprofessional but undeniably awesome denouement -- the sudden, shocking appearance of Betty Bowers, Thom's "heroine, and America's best Christian," who showed up to explain what real Christian marriage is all about. Watch AFTER THE JUMP ...
With marriage equality headed for votes in both houses of the New Jersey legislature next week, New Jersey Senate president Stephen Sweeney appeared Friday on The Brian Lehrer show on WNYC, the NPR affiliate, to talk about the bill's prospects. He also explained, perhaps not entirely satisfactorily, why he abstained from a marriage equality vote in 2010:
It was a political calculation ... you know, I didn't want to be part of a bill that was gonna fail. And it was the wrong position to take. Because this is about civil rights, and you can't take a pass on civil rights ... So, you know, we started working on this, and I'm showing the importance of this -- this is no game, it's not politics, it's civil rights ... It is absolutely gonna pass [the Senate] on Monday, and I expect it to pass the assembly on Thursday, and it's gonna go to the governor's desk.
... There's a whole lot that's taken place since [the last vote]. Which is people like myself recognizing that this isn't a political issue, it's a civil rights issue, and when you talk about, well, put it on the ballot -- you know, the majority will always deny the minority, in almost every example, of giving what they already have. So no, we're not doing that. As a legislative body it's out responsibility to do the right thing.
But Sen. Sweeney says he nevertheless expects Gov. Chris Christie to fulfill his promise to veto any marriage equality bill to cross his desk:
Do I have any doubt? No, I expect him to veto it. I would hope, as a decent human being that I think Chris is, the governor is, that he would look at it the way we looked at it. He doesn't have to sign it. He could even let it pass by not signing it ... But if he vetoes it, when he vetoes it, well, we have two years.
Listen to the interview here.
On a Friday in February three years ago, disappointed LGBT people and their allies departed the Idaho Senate, some tearfully, after the Senate State Affairs Committee rejected legislation adding LGBTs to the Idaho Human Rights Act, which would have protected LGBTs from housing and employment discrimination. A similar scene played out yesterday. From MagicValley.com:
BOISE • Shock, anger and sadness reverberated through the Idaho Senate auditorium Friday morning after a party-line vote by the Senate State Affairs Committee killed legislation to add protections for gay, lesbian and transgendered individuals under the Idaho Human Rights Act.
Legislative committees don't hear testimony at print hearings, but that didn't stop 300 people from watching as the proposal fell, with only the committee’s two Democrats voting to print the bill. Many attendees wore buttons or shirts stating their support for the legislation, referred to as "Add The Words."
... Bill sponsor Sen. Edgar Malepeai, D-Pocatello, introduced the legislation to the committee. He fought back tears [as he] asked its members to print the bill and allow testimony from supporters.
"In my opinion, it would be profoundly disrespectful not to afford," Malepeai said, pausing to compose himself. "Not to afford those tens of thousands of families affected by this legislation with at least a printing of the bill."
None of the committee members spoke against the bill, though Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, thanked Malepeai for his work.
"I appreciate your passion for this. I appreciate your sensitivity," Winder said. "I appreciate the way you treated me when we visited. I thank you and have a great deal of respect for you."
Marriage equality supporter and Obamafan Bruce Springsteen has released a video for "We Take Care Of Our Own," one of several songs selected to serve as theme music for the POTUS's reelection campaign, according to Raw Story. The song sounds about right for the purpose. It never changes keys, and barely deviates from its anthemic, endlessly repeated central chord sequence, which means it can be sliced and diced at will, looped or elongated, so as to last precisely as long as it takes a candidate to make his way from a geenroom to a podium.
From Raw Story:
It’s not the first time Springsteen has been prominently featured by a Democrat running for the presidency: He famously appeared with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in 2004, drawing a massive crowd in Cleveland, Ohio days before the election. Four years later he appeared with then-Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) in the same city, backing his bid for the presidency in 2008.
Explaining why he endorsed Obama, Springsteen wrote: “He has the depth, the reflectiveness, and the resilience to be our next President. He speaks to the America I’ve envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that’s interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit. A place where ‘…nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone.’”
Watch "We Take Care Of Our Own" AFTER THE JUMP ...