The sheen will fade: the half-life of post-Empire celebrity

Paul Raven @ 04-04-2011

As something of an implicit footnote to Brett Easton Ellis’s diagnosis of post-Empire celebrity, it’s worth remembering that if you’ve relied on the [whatever]sphere to raise you up, then it retains the power to swiftly lower you back down again, and that your fame may not translate from your native medium to all the others as you rush to monetize your moment in the sun. (Your best bet seems to be to attempt to recreate the medium in which you were successful within the confines of your new beachhead.)

Bob Lefsetz has a typically grandstanding analysis of Sheen’s attempts to jump the gap and become a brand/meme independent of the hierarchical Hollywood-and-TV world:

Charlie Sheen made the mistake of thinking the audience was on his side.  This is what happens when you descend from your showbiz perch, step out of the television and enter the realm of the people, you find out we’re all equal.  And that if you don’t give a great presentation, we tear you down from your peak.

[…]

Let this be a lesson.  If you’re one of the privileged, don’t intersect with the public.  Fly private, live behind a gate or a guard, avoid publicity.  Because the throng is there, waiting to pounce on every misstep.

[…]

Don’t equate the initial demand for Charlie Sheen’s live tour with longevity.  It was a stunt, no different from Bobby Riggs playing tennis with Billie Jean King.  To do it again is just creepy.  You made your money, go home.

But someone at Live Nation was only thinking about money.  Connecting fame with theatres.  There was no consideration of show, of value for money, only gross receipts.  That’s how low we’ve sunk.

But the public is not having any of it.

To a certain extent (and to take a very very callous view of things), Sheen was unlucky enough to be upstaged by a media event of quite literally earth-shaking proportions. But even had the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear-crisis combo not rolled in from the outfield and stolen the top slot on the global meme-stack, he’d not have lasted long. A one-trick pony should never try to top the bill.


The greys are coming! From generation gap to economic turf-war

Paul Raven @ 03-11-2010

Props to George Dvorsky for flagging up this Salon interview with Ted C Fishman, promoting his new book Shock Of Gray, which is all about the recent rapid increases in human longevity, and the knock-on effects of such. Perhaps we’ll finally shake off our geographical differences only to get caught up in an economic tug of war between the elderly and the young:

As baby boomers start to approach the age of 65 in large numbers, do you foresee a civil rights movement for older adults, given that generation’s history of activism?

There might be a civil rights movement, but people won’t recognize it as a civil rights movement. They’ll see it as an economic turf war. When you get the resources of a society, you get the respect. You can see this in Europe right now, where the population is somewhat older than it is here. The debt crisis has really caused a huge and quick reckoning with the crisis in pension funding and hundreds of thousands of people are coming into the street. They made promises to themselves and now they find that they can’t keep those promises. In some ways, they’re battling their past selves.

But they feel like they are fighting a younger generation.

Yeah, I think that’s right. But in the long run the battle will not be for who gets what share of the public financing. It will be a more traditional civil rights issue, which is: Evaluate me on my abilities and my skills, not on my weaknesses. The older population is a hugely diverse one. If the image of an older person is going to be exclusively that of an enabled, sharp, cognitively with-it, older person who can work into their 70s and 80s, then we’re ignoring a huge part of the population that will need our help.

Not exactly a new idea, but one that probably isn’t getting the attention it deserves; longevity is kind of sneaking up on us while we bicker about other matters.

Here’s an idea that’s new, though, or at least it is to me: longevity as an accelerator of globalisation.

You argue that when wealthy nations started to age, that actually sped up globalization.

Right. Aging economies — Japan and Europe and the United States — are shopping the world for youth. The traditional workplace is changing to drive older people out — the cost of healthcare and pensions weighs very heavily on global companies — and places such as China have a population that it could send to the cities unburdened by age and the cost of age. Globalization really is a function of demographic change. When you go into beat-up, industrial towns you can feel it. You can see that older workers who used to be on the factory are now doing minimum-wage work at big-box stores on the edge of town. And then China has factories that contain tens of thousands of workers, without a single soul that’s over 25 years old. And you think, the only important thing about these workers is their youth.

Unspoken but implicit in that statement is longevity-as-driver-of-immigration. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether the widespread tensions over immigration levels aren’t just a convenient proxy for concerns about the economics of greying…


Immortality might not be boring after all

Paul Raven @ 12-08-2010

Via George Dvorsky, ethicist Alexandre Erler has a rejoinder for me, and for others who believe that immortality might become boring.

Here it should be stressed that even though some people might find the human lifespan that characterizes today’s developed countries optimal, and even though they might feel that any additional years they might gain would quickly become boring and would decrease their sense of the value of their life as a whole, this clearly isn’t everyone’s perception of things. Some people have creative powers, a range of projects, and a thirst for knowledge and pleasure that make their current life expectancy seem extremely limiting.

(Kinda where we were going while biting back at Paul Carr’s “deathhackers” diatribe the other day. The prospect of being able to get more things done certainly appeals, but right now I’d prefer an effective mechanism for suppressing the need to sleep eight hours in every twenty four.)

As for those who might share Walsh’s view and enjoy their life more due to the awareness of their own mortality, they might still preserve that benefit by committing themselves not to use life extension technologies when these become widely available. Of course, when the time to kick the bucket seemed near, they might find themselves unable to respect their previous commitment. But they might perhaps protect themselves from such a hazard by writing advance directives stipulating that life extension procedures should not be made available to them.

In other words, “if it bothers you so much, opt out publicly”. Seems fair enough to me.

But I wonder if immortality (or even a significant increase in longevity) still looks possible in a world without antibiotics? For those rich enough to quarantine themselves away from myriad virulent microbial nasties in the general populace, probably so… and they’re the folk who’ll get access to longevity treatments first.


Who wants to live forever?

Paul Raven @ 26-04-2010

OK, here’s a deceptively simple debate to start the week off with – if physical immortality was available to you, would you take it? Arguing the case against is Annalee “io9” Newitz, and here’s Jason Stoddard playing earnest devil’s advocate for the longevity lobby.

I have no ethical issues with human immortality, but I’m not sure it appeals to me personally; I’ve long believed that mortality is the only thing that has truly motivated humans to create things greater than themselves, and as such I kind of like the knowledge that I’ve only got so long to get stuff done. That said, every year that passes sees my faith in that idea becoming more shaky…

So, what’s your choice – to go gentle into that good night, or to burn the candle at both ends forever?


We are all Ponce: The Quest for Longevity

Brenda Cooper @ 10-03-2010

When I was very little, some early-grade teacher lost in the mists of memory told me the story of how Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon spent much of his life searching for the Fountain of Youth. Now that I’m approaching one of those decade birthdays, I can finally relate. Besides, as the leading edge of the baby boom starts retiring, this seems like a good time to take a peek at the science around longevity. Continue reading “We are all Ponce: The Quest for Longevity”


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