While the whole world is mourning the sudden loss of the iconic phenomenon, the class act... that was the "King of Pop", the incredible wonder that was THE Michael Jackson, I came across... a news item titled, "'World's oldest blogger' dies in Spain at 97"... while surfing the net.
María Amelia López Soliño, a Spanish great-grandmother who billed herself as the 'world's oldest blogger' and who gained a global following on the Internet, logged off for the last time on wednesday, May 20, 2009 at the age of 97... to the dismay of her followers/readers, leaving behind nearly a century of stories. The Washington Post reported that Lopez died on the 20th of May in her hometown of Muxia in Spain's northwest Galicia region. She started the site in 2006 after her grandson created it for her 95th birthday present. Wryly, she noted that her grandson was 'very stingy'... "Today it's my birthday and my grandson, who is very stingy, gave me a blog," she wrote on her first post on http://amis95.blogspot.com/ on December 23, 2006.
She began blogging over two years ago and became an Internet sensation with her riffs on growing old and modern politics... winning a raft of fans with her eclectic mix of commentary and nostalgia infused with a sharp wit. Her posts became a sensation and her blog was one that intrigued through the sheer volume of her experiences. She was introduced to the Internet when her grandson set up the blog as a gift to mark her 95th birthday. It proved a great escape, Mrs. López later wrote: "On December 23rd 2006, my grandson gave me a present, this blog when I was 95 years old ... and my life changed ... now, I can communicate and interact with the world." She wrote and video blogged about her experiences during the long dictatorship of General Francisco Franco and voiced criticism of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. Her posts touched on personal health problems, from trips to the doctor to bouts of dizziness, to her opinion on current events; from the Basque separatist threat to Iran's nuclear ambitions - and poignantly discussed what it was like to grow old.
María's blog quickly soared in popularity and became a global hit (and with it her fame grew) after the media reported on it; notching up more than 1.7 million hits. Even the (Socialist) Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero (who she openly supported) dropped in for a chat. Visit Maria Amelia Lopez's blog here (it's mostly written in Spanish, but there are snippets here and there in English, too). María described her blogging experience this way: "It took 20 years off my life. My bloggers are the joy of my life. I did not know there was so much goodness in the world." Mrs. López became an unlikely campaigner for digital rights for older people and wrote frequently of the benefits of the online community she had created. In one of her last postings in February'09 she said: "When I'm on the Internet, I forget about my illness. The distraction is good for you - being able to communicate with people. It wakes up the brain, and gives you great strength."
In summer, María would write from her seaside home in Muxia in northwestern Spain, where she was born in 1911; and from the Galician farmhouse where she lived with her grandson - Daniel - during the rest of the year. She blogged sporadically - sometimes once a week, sometimes daily - with the aid of her grandson because cataracts impaired her vision. In recent months Mrs. López was increasingly posting video messages on her blog instead of written texts. In one of her last posts made in February, she enthused about how the "Internet amazes me more and more" after her grandson Daniel introduced her to the social networking site Facebook. She promptly set up a group on Facebook to defend old people's rights. "One day soon I am going to die. All I am really scared of is losing my mind. In the meantime, I'll carry on," she said in an interview with Britain's The Guardian newspaper in September 2007.
Her family left a posthumous post, thanking readers for their support. "[There were] 880 days when her blog made her happy... the support she needed to enjoy her last days of life," they wrote. "When somebody leaves after 97 years, living with joy from the beginning to the end, we can't be sad. "Wherever you are, grandmother, you will read these comments, all of them without doubt. She will laugh at some, will learn with others, she might get annoyed at the specific 'language' used in some ... but she will be happy reading all of them."
Mrs. López became the 'world's oldest blogger' after the death of the 108-year-old Australian Olive Riley aka Oliver Riley in June 2008. The new holder of this unoffical title is unknown, although the American actor Kirk Douglas, 92, who blogs regularly on his MySpace page, could be in the running. He is the father of Hollywood actor and producer Michael Douglas. Twitter's oldest microblogger is the 104-year-old Briton Ivy Bean, who keeps her 14,600 followers entertained at twitter.com/ivybean104.
Even The Hindu (newspaper) did an article on Mrs. López. You can read it: here. She did not sit around waiting for the end to come. She was full of life, curious to learn new things and increase her knowledge, even at the ripe 'old' age of 95. She blogged and made new friends... from across the globe. She was truly young at heart. We can only hope and pray for a life as productive as hers... in our last years. My deepest respects to this wonderful human being. I admire her grandson too. While reading about her life, I was reminded of a few lines from 'Ulysses' - a poem by the Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson - that I first read while at school: "I cannot rest from travel: I will drink Life to the lees:" and here are some more:
"Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are,
One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
María Amelia López lived up to these immortal words and drank Life to the lees. Truly! She charmed her way into our hearts and will remain there... forever. May her soul RIP.
Note: I do not believe that Michael Jackson (1958–2009) is no more. He's staging the mother of all comebacks. The magnitude of the emotional response to Jackson's death has in many ways resurrected the fallen hero, written off by most of the world for nearly a decade. In a fast-paced age of digital media and intrusive celeb tabloids - the untimeliness of a celeb's death may help them achieve 'cultural immortality'. Once a popular public figure dies prematurely, he/she is immediately venerated to an immortal, larger-than-life entity. They are escalated to bigger icons in death... and remain an object of eternal fascination.
Perhaps, MJ's untimely death will accentuate the yearning to explore his life deeper. With diverse opinions and assorted conspiracy theories, compounded by many Michael 'sightings'... his death has all the elements of a 'thriller'. Really, tragedy is the biggest entertainer. Everyone wants to cling onto a souvenir, a second-hand memory of the late star. The magnificence and the extravagance of their lives is carried on into death.
I read recently that... it was Shahrukh Khan who once famously said: "I work for brand SRK. I'm on his call 24/7." Today, SRK's cool admission eerily rings true as the icon-worshipping world pretends to be shocked at what living up to his brand image did to Michael Jackson. Jackson's final efforts to push himself beyond human endurance, just to live the brand, spelled his doom. But then, be it Barack Obama or Amitabh Bachchan, it's the image which makes the man or the woman. Wouldn't the American singer-songwriter Madonna be just another aging star on the firmament without her outrageously daring, femme fatale branding? A rhetorical question, right...?!! Usually, the public does not relate to icons without imperfections. Michael Jackson was quirky, eccentric, enigmatic and mysterious. For all his wealth, brilliance and professional excellence, he was - perhaps understandably - flawed, misguided and sad... perhaps a tragic figure... and that's how the image and the man stayed, till the end. May his soul rest in peace. He will be missed and His Music Will Live Forever (courtesy MJ's website: www.michaeljackson.com).
Every celebrity worth his or her salt, devotes his or her waking hours to 'live' that aura. But living an image is like putting on a mask 24/7. And at times the cookie, like in the case of Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix... and in more recent times Heath Ledger and now Michael Jackson, crumbles with tragic consequences. Not to forget (as pawan reminded me) the untimely and tragic demise of Elvis Presley at the age of 42. A cultural icon, he is commonly known simply as "Elvis" and is also sometimes referred to as "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" or "The King". He was also the father-in-law of the "King of Pop" Michael Jackson for a brief period. In May 1994, Jackson married his daughter - the singer-songwriter Lisa Marie Presley (they divorced less than two years later). During his lifetime, Jackson has been frequently compared to Elvis... now, with his passing, MJ has joined him in the afterlife and moonwalked into 'history'.
Author Samuel Roy has argued: "Elvis' death did occur at a time when it could only help his reputation. Just before his death, Elvis had been forgotten by society." The tabloids had ridiculed his obesity and his kitschy, jump-suited performances. Comedian George Carlin had remarked, "America got what it deserved in Elvis Presley: a big fat, drug-addicted squealer." There are reports that... the hysteria associated with sudden celeb deaths has prompted news agencies to 'pre-write' obituaries of young, out-of-control celebs. Associated Press entertainment editor Hesse Washington confessed to a website about preparing Britney Spears' obituary, "If she passed away, it would be one of the biggest stories." These surely does add to the 'pressure cooker situation' that celebs find themselves in, and may be... add to the 'live fast, die young and leave a good looking corpse' syndrome. But then as they say, 'showbusiness' is big business and there is no business like 'showbusiness'. Therefore, the 'show' must go on....
Note 1: Some info gathered, courtesy: Wikipedia.
1. Web-blogger and great-grandmother María Amelia López Soliño walks along a street of Combarro, in the northern Spanish region of Galicia, in this October 5, 2007 file photo. Mrs. López, whose blog attracted thousands of readers from around the world, died aged 97 in northern Spain on Wednesday, April 20, 2009. Mrs. López charmed readers with a homely mix of memory and chat at http://amis95.blogspot.com/, including stories of a long life which steered through Spain's Civil War and years of dictatorship by General Francisco Franco. Picture taken October 5, 2007. (Photo courtesy: http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/)