Tom Kolovos, NBC5 Street Team
Life is strange. At 44 years of age, I’ve lived long enough to have buried a lover, a mother and a few hatchets.
Death is ever stranger. Especially the death of strangers.
I never met Phyllis Hyman but in 1995, when she committed suicide at the age of 45, I felt a very real sense of loss. That exact same sense of loss came over me again on Friday when I heard that Tim Russert had died from a heart attack.
I’ve never met Tim but he has been in my home on most Sunday mornings for something like 15 years. NBC’s “Meet the Press” has always been mandatory viewing for me even as I have found the amount of television that I care to watch has changed in inverse proportion to the number of channels on the cable box. (“Deal or no Deal?” Are you kidding me? No, seriously, are you kidding me?)
I don’t know about you but I live in a world where all the network weekday morning news programs have morphed into infotainment; a world in which the real news on the evening news is that America is still not ready for a female anchor let alone a female president; a world in which the cable news channels offer programming and personalities mostly reminiscent of the WWF; and a world where, Monday through Thursday, the only real news analysis can be found on “The Daily Show.”
Phyllis Hyman was one of the best vocalists ever to make music. Her “Greatest Hits” and her penultimate record, the masterful 1991 “Prime of My Life,” are primers on how to sing any songbook (or phonebook). “Gonna Make Changes” on the former and the title track on the latter were, it turns out, as cruel a choice of words as can be found in life’s playbook.
Tim Russert was quite possibly the last practitioner of intelligent broadcast journalism. Presidents, Princes (of Darkness known as Cheney) and Kings will still have occasion to meet the press, but it’s difficult to imagine (today) that, without Tim presiding, it will evermore be done with such diligence or accountability.
I began by saying that life is strange. How strange, you ask? Well, walk this way.
Just last week I walked into Zolla/Lieberman Gallery and saw the most ravishing painting by Chicago native Maria Tomasula. I’ve known and admired her work since 1995, but her newest painting “Royalty,” is something to behold. (You must see it in person because the reproduction here does it, and her talent, no justice.)
I intended to devote a whole blog next week to the exhibit of her work, but I found myself thinking today that her own description of this exceptional piece is a more fitting tribute to the legacy of Tim Russert (or any of our dearly departed) than I could have come up with myself. She writes:
This painting began as a meditation on the relationship between being and not being and how that relationship is imagined by different people. For some people, death is the end of life on earth but the beginning of something else. [T]his painting advocates the idea that death is final, and that while death (represented by the skull) is crowned with an image of life (the halo of fruits emphasizing succulence, sensation, fecundity, pleasure), the skull is at the center, irrevocable and final. But, for me, this isn’t a cause for lamentation. Instead, it is to say that our paradise is in this life that we live right now. And far from being simply an advocacy of hedonism, for me, there is a call for responsible action imbedded in this view. If this life is it, as far as we know, then we have a responsibility to do everything we can to bring into existence the most just society we can, because if we want to enjoy our lives, we want to do so in a society that makes the pleasures of life accessible not only to us but to the greatest number of people possible.
The exhibition of Ms. Tomasula’s work runs through August 23rd at 325 West Huron in Chicago.
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