Bits and Pieces: Recent Pop Culture News

I'm back from vacation and there are a bunch of topics in pop culture news that I want to chat about.  Here are some...

1.  Ron Howard's ambitious movie and TV adaptation of Stephen King's Dark Tower saga has been cancelled.  I had high hopes for this project, but it's not surprising that Universal Pictures had cold feet about the proposed budget.  It's a real shame, because I think it could have been something truly special.  Allegedly, Howard isn't giving up on it and is shopping it around to another studio.  Fingers crossed that we'll see the adventures of Rowland the Gunslinger come to life someday in a worthy production.

2.  The death of singer Amy Winehouse was another tragic example of celebrities gone too soon.  I liked her song "Rehab," but I can't say that I was a huge fan of hers.  Nevertheless, it's always terrible to hear about a talented person losing her life, especially at the tender age of 27.  As of this writing, the cause of her untimely death is still undetermined, but she was notorious for her drug and alcohol problems -- if her addictions led to her passing, it should be another warning sign not just for pop stars but for everyone that abuse of controlled substances can have bitter consequences and ought not be glamourized.  We've lost far too many people already, from established legends to up-and-comers who had their futures nipped in the bud.  Some other factor may have led to Winehouse's demise, but I somehow think that if more people around her had tried to give her the help she needed, her end may not have come so quickly. 

3.  Another sad death last week was the suicide of baseball pitcher Hideki Irabu.  He was a superstar in Japan and tried to continue that success in America.  The greatest memory I have of him is his first game pitching for the New York Yankees.  It was an electrifying night, the crowd was cheering him on, and for that one game at least he delivered. The rest of his career from that point on was mediocre at best, never living up to the stellar (and probably unrealistic) expectations that everyone had.  The tabloids giddily repeated George Steinbrenner's unfortunate nickname for him ("fat toad") at every opportunity, but he should be remembered more than just a footnote in the National Pastime.  His glory days in Japan were great indeed, and I for one am saddened that he cut his life short at the age of 42.  The path to fame and fortune in professional sports is paved with countless obstacles and hurdles, and even those at the peak of their game can quickly stumble and never reach that zenith that once seemed so close.  The awful thing about suicide is that it takes away any chance of regained glory in any capacity.  The darkness seems to win.  Those of us left behind should remember the positives of the life cut prematurely.

4.  The news that Borders bookstores are closing should come as no surprise.  Brick and mortar retail shops have been struggling for a long time now.  Unlike Barnes 'n' Noble, which embraced e-commerce through BN.com and the Nook e-reader to complement its in-store sales, Borders lacked the forsight and the business sense to compete.  It's not a sign that print is dead, but rather a sign that print needs to embrace reality and partner with its electronic counterpart.  The customer is always right, and if customers were still flocking to physical bookstores, Borders would still be open.  Instead, it's the latest casualty in a long chain of retailers who thought the status quo could continue uninterrupted without having to innovate and keep up with the times.

5.  Last Thursday marked two years since I posted my first entry on Open Salon.  Despite recent technical issues on the site and reports of Salon's struggles to keep its blog hub thriving, I think it's still one of the greatest communities in cyberspace.  I have discovered some great writers on OS and continue to be thrilled every time one of my essays is selected as an Editor's Pick or a cover story.  More than anything, I value the feedback I continue to receive from readers on the Web site.  Every new comment, whether it's praise or constructive criticism or just a shared perspective, inspires me and motivates me.  Whatever the future may hold for OS, I continue to be thankful that I'm a part of it.

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