Summer of death
Summer may have felt like it zipped by, but it sure wasn’t fast enough to avoid the scythe of the Grim Reaper. Over the brief course of the summer, the world lost media mavens and Hollywood heroes; musical legends and political pundits.
Let’s give a little shout out to some of the people we lost over the past few months.
The biggest headline, of course, went to Mr. Michael Jackson, whose, um, quirkiness, definitely outlived him. Jackson’s body wasn’t buried until more than two months after his death (he died on June 25, and was finally laid to rest on Sept. 3). News of the King of Pop’s death broke mere hours after the world was (mostly) unaffected by the the passing of Charlie’s Angels actress Farrah Fawcett, effectively stealing any shot of notoriety out from under dead body.
The entertainment world also lost Ed McMahon, which some people might remember from (or at least associate with) Star Search, the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, or those bathtub commercials targeted at old people who are scared of falling in the tub.
Walter Cronkite, the man who delivered news of President John F. Kennedy’s death in 1963, passed away somewhat expectantly in July. Along with delivering the crushing news of J.F.K’s passing, Cronkite was also made famous for his journey to Vietnam in 1968 to cover the aftermath of the Tet Offensive, a military campaign during the Vietnam.
Speaking of Kennedys we lost another couple of those toward the end of the summer; Eunice and Edward (Teddy) died two weeks apart. That leaves Jean Kennedy Smith as the sole survivor of nine children. (For the record, in order of birth: Joseph died when he was 29 at the helm of a plane during the second World War; John was assassinated when he was 46; Rosemary died of natural causes when she was 86, but the lobotomy she had when she was 23 left her, well, without a part of her brain; Kathleen died when she was 28, also in a plane crash; Eunice was admitted to hospital with an undisclosed ailment and died there. She was 88; Patricia died from complications of pneumonia when she was 82; Bobby was assassinated when he was 42; Jean is the one who’s still alive. She’s 81; Teddy died of cancer at the age of 77).
After cheating death in a plane crash last year, Adam Goldstein (aka DJ AM, aka Nicole Ritchie’s ex-fiancé) succumbed to death by crack pipe (or so it appears, anyway) in August.
And last, but certainly not least, in this non-exhaustive list is Les Paul, who died in August of complications from pneumonia. Beyond his abilities as a guitarist, Paul also earned credit for helping make rock and roll music possible. He pioneered the solid-body electric guitar and recording techniques like overdubbing and tape delay.
July marked the 40-year anniversary of the first manned mission to the moon, and the first time man walked on the moon. There was a bit of (mostly NASA-created) hoopla around the anniversary. The space agency created a sort of online audio time-capsule by streaming in real-time original recordings of the communications between the astronauts and the ground team from the entire Apollo 11 mission.
The crew of Neil Armstrong, Michael Colling and Buzz Aldrin launched on July 16, 1969, and landed on the moon on July 20.
This summer, on the eve of the anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch, the spaceship Endeavour blasted off carrying Canadian astronaut Julie Payette. The shuttle finally made it off the ground on its sixth attempt to launch; weather and technical glitches has thwarted the previous five tries. The Endeavour was carrying a platform for the International Space Station, located 350 kilometres above Earth. The platform was the last piece needed to complete a vacuum space for astronauts to carry out experiments on the Space Station, which is expected to be completed in 2010.
When Payette finally made it to the ISS, she met up with Robert Thirsk, marking the first time two Canadians have been in space at the same time. Thirsk had been up there since May.
The infamous Woodstock festival also turned 40 this year. The original “three days of peace and music” took place in Bethel, New York from Aug. 15 to 18 in 1969. A show was planned for this summer to commemorate the event that drew about half a million people, shut down the New York State Thruway, and resulted in at least two deaths and one birth.
To celebrate the anniversary, some alumni gathered at the Bethel Center for the Arts to perform an eight-hour, sold-out show. Acts included Canned Heat, Jefferson Starship, Big Brother and the Holding Company (minus Janis Joplin who has since died) and the Levon Helm Band (Helm played drums for The Band at Woodstock).
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said in June his party would work with Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, thus staving off an election. The leaders met three times in two days, to discuss the idea of creating a panel to help settle the differences between the two parties when it comes to boosting employment insurance benefits. For a while, it looked like everything was honky-dory between Ignatieff and Harper. But then, speaking from Sudbury, Ont. one early day in September, Ignatieff decided enough was enough, and announced the Liberals would no longer support the Tories.
The House of Commons will begin sitting again on Sept. 14, at which point any matter of confidence, such as any money bill, presented to the House can trigger an election. Harper’s minority government risks being defeated if members of the opposition parties – the Liberals, NDP and Bloc – vote against an issue.
Over the summer, the NDP toyed with the idea of changing its name at the party’s annual convention this year. The idea was to drop the “new,” and just run with “Democratic Party,” or DP for short. In the end, no action was taken on the issue, as it was slated to be the sixth resolution to discussed in one-hour. Or maybe the party realized the DP acronym is perhaps too open to interpretation. Either way, now voters won’t have to be faced with trying to figure out how some other political party popped up during the summer.
July, bloody July
July was the bloodiest month for foreign forces in Afghanistan since the U.S. began the invasion in 2001. That month, 75 NATO troops were killed, five of whom were Canadian.
During the first week of August, nine NATO troops were killed – six Americans, two Canadians and one French soldier.
Canada has lost 23 soldiers so far this year, for a total of 129 since the country’s mission began in 2002.
About 2,500 Canadian soldiers are stationed in Afghanistan, and 300 in other regions as part of Task Force Kandahar.