Flatlining in ’09

by Michael Armstrong, TN2 Editor

This morning my alarm woke me at the all-too-optimistic hour of 7am, with the news the Patrick Swayze, star of Dirty Dancing and Ghost, had passed away. The strange thing was that while I was sorry to hear the news, it didn’t come as a surprise. Swine flu aside, this summer there was a lot of death in the news, and that’s not exactly the nicest thing to look back on when 2010 rolls around and we’re summing up each year of this tumultuous decade in terms of the big cultural events. So looking back on the summer in this way, are there any positive developments to be found amidst all the grief and gloom?

Obviously, the biggest casualty of the summer was Michael Jackson, but grieving for the King of Pop was more complex than it ought to have been. Had a voice of public opinion spoke up at his televised remembrance service rather than just family, authorised fandom and celebrity friends, the best they could have said would be a lame “thanks for the music”, as there are still too many tragic facts and unanswered questions about MJ’s personal life for us to celebrate the man himself.

A much easier life to celebrate is that of Walter Cronkite, the voice of news for a generation and a historic figure in his own right. Cronkite is most famous to our generation as the man who solemnly took off his glasses to brush a tear away while announcing that President Kennedy had died, but later in life he acted as a watchdog on the watchdog, pointing out flaws in the modern media and upholding the principles that defined his career. Another great figure from that generation, Senator Ted Kennedy, also passed away this year, though there is a chance that his passing may mark a turning point in the debate on healthcare reform in the U.S., which has sunk to such a low that Republicans began taking pot-shots at the N.H.S., and suggested that the value of Professor Stephen Hawking’s life would be decided by committee if some form of universal health care was established in the world’s greatest democracy. 

The chances of the death of a Kennedy melting conservative hearts are pretty slim, however, so the only remaining summertime “death” I can think of that has any upside is the much overdue break-up of Oasis. Having chosen to plug on through the Noughties rather than take a break and experiment like their Smash Hits rivals Blur, Oasis’ output this decade has been both uninspired and culturally irrelevant. It’s no suprise that their demise wasn’t met with an Jackson-style spike in sales, but in a sort of collective shrug, as we wondered exactly what Noel is going to do without his band or the Russell Brand Radio Show to keep him busy, and how long we’d have to wait before the inevitable, and inevitably dire, Liam Gallagher solo album. All good things come to and end, but thankfully, this summer, at least one bad thing did too.