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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mama say ma ma sah ma ma kuu sah: Help me sing!

I almost called this entry "The biggest understatement and inadequate generalization in the form of a headline ever" in response to seeing a Yahoo article regarding the sudden passing of Michael Jackson that read "Superstar Died to Soon," but then I thought about what I was going to write here, and realized that the sweeping scope of what there is to say about Michael Jackson and his influence makes it hard to summarize what one wants to say about Michael Jackson in any sentiment aside from the one-word answer - "Thriller."

As crocker stalkers are aware, this blog devoted several entries (though the story remains unfinished) to exploring the cartoon-imagined-in-my-mind world of Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson living together under one roof - that of Paul's English mansion. Saddened and lonely since his divorce, Paul takes on the bankrupt and lonely Michael Jackson for one final collaboration of musical geniuses - living as roommates! Paul hopes to win back the Beatles catalog from Michael, and Michael, functioning in reality only as much as he is guided by those who may visit his fantasy world, is happy for the company of an old friend.
Prince was a visitor to, and rabblerouser in, this exclusive world, and I for one loved imagining the daily foibles of superstars who lived in such rarefied air that it sometimes made even them lightheaded.

Now I feel more obliged than ever to carry on with the tale of Prince leveling challenges at Paul and Michael, because the Michael that lives with Paul is indefatigable and, so I must believe, immortal.

The problem today became discovering Michael Jackson was not immortal in the physical world. The words spoken to me by a coworker after a seemingly harmless trip to the bathroom, "Michael Jackson died," were incongruous with my understanding of Michael Jackson. Back from the bathroom, my world order was rocked. Michael Jackson as idea, memory, commodity, influence, music, dance, insanity, reclusiveness, inventiveness, abuser, abused, amuser, amused, talent, motion, emotion, and era could not be beaten by death. Michael Jackson, with a barely audible speaking voice, could not, to my mind, be silenced. Michael Jackson, transformed by the world that so adored him to the shell of a person whose fame isolated him impossibly from the one thing he desired most - authentic love, was bigger than the body that trapped him in its recognizability and elevated him away from the common by virtue of its superior and nearly inhuman dance maneuverability.

When I heard the words "Michael Jackson died," I simply refused to believe them.

The buzz swept through our cubicles like prairie fire. Until I saw a reputable website use the word "dead" in print with my own eyes, I refused to believe it.

The experience of learning the news or almost news was incredible in its own right.
When I first heard the proclamation of Michael Jackson's death, I immediately assigned this news the same weight for my generation as a hybrid of the JFK assassination, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe's deaths. This was the surprise toppling of a bigger-than-life icon by life itself, and it was the first time I remember thinking "that just can't be true," without any hint of "oh, that's bad news," because my refusal to accept the fact as truth was that complete. Acceptance of that rumor as truth would mean the world as I knew it had lost an icon whose presence in it was powerful and persistent.

Equally interesting to observe, as my mind raced toward denial and simultaneous cultural analysis, was the way in which such major news was being shared and processed by those in my world.
Text messages drove fingers to keyboards to type URLs to check websites to then type to then update and comment on statuses about this news, this hype this rumor, and what others had or had not posted or tweeted on twitter that could confirm or validate the word of mouth born from word of fingers. Suddenly, getting the news of something pop culturally earth-shattering was a communal activity. I took part, no doubt, as I do so now. Like switchboards lighting up when Jerry Lewis hugs a small child, facebook came alive with the banter of disbelief. Interoffice banter became quotes shared from internet banter. We were in this together.

And when the L.A. Times web page finally loaded with the headline I would not believe until I saw it with my own eyes, I too changed my facebook status. Read the one-liners of others. Some RIP messages, some sympathy for Farrah Fawcett's bump down death's totem pole, some lyrics turned epitaphs. All consumed by the news of MJ's death. The news cycle was immediate, but the public online experience of the news cycle was mere nanoseconds behind. And I did it too - judged those who dared to share tidbits about themselves that referred to anything other than MJ's death as completely out of touch. Didn't they know? This was where we came to mourn now! To elevate and deflate! To worship the fallen and wink at death! To get out our feelings and have them justified by the thumbs up icon of others whose mouseclick indicated a symbol be produced to express an emotional response was being shared or approved of by their online user persona. Childhood memories were trotted out, and welcomed to the ring by a chorus of voices who also remembered the wind in their hair on a similar ride.

It was that immediate and intense response that made me look at the internet in a new light, as well as feel confident I was not over exaggerating my response. I was not skewing dramatic, Michael Jackson, as my facebook status read, gave us the only iconic moonwalk witnessed by our generation. That same moonwalk sold us and sells us: Pepsi, red leather, penny loafers, Magic Johnson, Weird Al Yankovic, Geico insurance, State Farm insurance, Disneyland, Disneyworld, Justin Timberlake, Usher, the 3rd dimension, Egypt, the Super Bowl, the occult, Macaulay Culkin, the worth of unpaired gloves, knife fights, gun fights, midnights, Van Halen,
Vincent Price, world peace, Diana Ross, and his entire family. Michael Jackson is the star who collaborated with Paul McCartney. The guy who wrote "Hey Jude" wanted to work with him. He was that big.

He was so big, in fact, that in gauging reactions to his death and talking to friends (electronically, of course) I realized Michael Jackson probably has many of the same characteristics of a language. He is a common tongue for those of a certain age range. Breaks ice, guides one to safety, gets one past check points in new territories. You know, you HAVE to know, a little Michael Jackson. At least conversational Michael Jackson. Most are Michael Jackson proficient. Many, fluent.
Those are my favorites. We converse in dance for hours and relish the long vowels of common phrases like "HEEEheee hoo!" and "OOOOOOOH!" jubilant invective, boisterous agreement with the speaker's point of view.

I realized that Michael Jackson has been there for me.
I remember watching the Billie Jean video in awe with my family, while we had MTV in the rental apartment on vacation, and had the chance to consume new digestible avenues of pop culture.
In grade school, a Michael Jackson medley show was choreographed and performed at recess, as those seeking all the glory and then some possible in the constriction of a grade school uniform could do. The costumes matched, by dress code, and so did the gloves, by sharing. At the time, we were unstoppable. The mime in the mirror choreography to "Man in the Mirror" an inspired touch in a wholly Vegas-caliber revue.
In college, the discovery of "Stop the Love you Save," a less popular, but very catchy Jackson 5 song whose lyrics we disputed while sober, danced to while drunk. Then, as now, you can fill any dance floor with white people who suddenly think they can dance if you strike up the MJ. His gifts are so vast that surprisingly, some find they can dance. If only they'd tried sooner.
When I studied abroad, the bar that began our nights was Jacko's, a bar devoted in theme and enthusiasm to the career and allure of Michael Jackson. The attention to detail in the mirror with an MJ silhouette in it paid off. American kids flocked. Michael Jackson! That's ours! We recognize him too! Buenas! Un Thriller, por favor.
And at the end of the night, when the Tequila and god-knows-what of the Thrillers had set in, we'd carouse-shout our way through the streets until we found the Irish Rover, the Irish bar that played American dance music. It was there that we were reminded to "Blame it on the Boogie" by Jacko himself time and time again. "I just can't, I just can't, I just can't control myself." In the safe embrace of MJ, we didn't even try.
After college, Michael Jackson was even more crucial to announcing the party, declaring the atmosphere festive, and inviting the dance to begin. Man in the Mirror often called us to self-evaluate once more.

I spoke to my brother about the death and explained that I could not believe it. Could not allow myself to. He pointed out that it wasn't really surprising, given Michael Jackson's personal struggles.
Michael Jackson does have the unfortunate Greek tragedy element to his story, that his fame gave him adoration but kept him from love, stole his childhood so profoundly that he spent the rest of life trying to get it back by never leaving what he never had (possibly to the grave detriment of others). For someone obsessed with Peter Pan, it was the power of Tinker Bell to live fueled by public adoration that he had, but Peter's existence he envied.

I agree with my brother, it is not surprising. But for my consideration of Michael Jackson as a pop cultural force greater than the humanity of any one human being, it is shocking to hear the human basis for the machine is gone. I hope he is somewhere happier. And dancing.
No one wants to be defeated.

I suggested a Michael Jackson medley be, if not added to my brother's impending wedding reception playlist, then expanded upon to include more of his work. I was assured MJ already figured prominently. After all, there's one surefire way to get people to dance like there is no other option, because there isn't - play some Michael Jackson. And then play some more.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Much Too Late for Goodbyes

In the past two days I've had interesting experiences feeling the after effects of music and sleep, good and bad.

Yesterday's music made me euphoric and capable. Today's music, after last night's sleep, made me tear up at the coffee counter. And by the end of the day, a jerk on the freeway made me ready for death metal (really, this guy was provoking me by offering mock applause while tailgating and then passing me), but I ended up settling instead for John Denver, yogurt, and the becoming resolved to my inability to buy a plane ticket efficiently, the acceptance of which led me to write this.

Which I meant to do yesterday when I was excited for no reason except starting my day by hearing "Steppin' Out" as the first song on the radio. After Steppin' Out, coffee in tow, I heard "Too much time on my hands" by Styx, which lately and inexplicably, I find myself looooving. I think it's because of lyrics like "I've got no place to go and all night to get there" and the musical stylings that make this song an (in my opinion) obvious precursor to "Mr. Roboto." Um, and probably the driving synthesizer bassline. Yeah....that gets me every time.

So I've been generally loving this song on the radio when, WHOOPS - in looking for a youtube video to share this find with crock pot readers, I discovered there is no WAY i don't love this song. The keyboardist is appareled in a manner very similar to Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney in the "Say, Say, Say" video, which I appreciate, and which offers another tie-in to a topic later in this post, Paul McCartney, and, if you've read this blog at all, you may be familiar with my obsession/animated television show idea about MJ and Sir Paul living under one roof.

Again, once again, the crockpot is a vortex into which all things spin into making perfect sense.
Also, for anyone who is really taken with the literal videos that have become popular email forwards, please note time stamp 1:45 of this video and the lyric to image literal interpretation. And know that I love it.

Sidenote - is Sam Rockwell the lead singer of Styx? A resemblance. Have I brought this up before?

"Too Much Time on my Hands" is a new addition to the list of "hey, maybe i love that song and didn't know it" songs, but it is nowhere near the instant euphoria king of the list at present, "The Boys are Back in Town."

I don't know why, but when that song comes on, I am ready for the drinks to flow and the blood to spill - because if the boys wanna fight you better let 'em!
Love it. You will catch me singing along in the car.

Given this oomph of a start to my day yesterday, I found myself, quite unlike now, able to accomplish things that needed doing. And sometime in the middle of the day, out of nowhere in particular, the song "Much Too Late for Goodbyes" popped into my head.

I cannot tell you the last time I've heard that song on the radio. It's a Julian Lennon song that I remember loving, but I realized I hadn't heard it in years. But thinking about the song more, I realized yes, it was great. It stayed stuck all day, and the more it replayed in my head, the more I began to think that it sounded like a Paul McCartney song. Especially with the quirky instrumental response to the refrain "It's much too late for good byes" that sounds something like "waah waah wuh." Too bad so sad expressed musically, but lightheartedly, but with lyrics that are actually heavy. Suddenly it struck me that John Lennon's son had written a Paul McCartney song, and I began trying to put pieces together in my grand conspiracy for McCartney mansion.

"Hey Jude" was written for Julian, with "Jules" having been changed to "Jude," so maybe Paul was a major player in Julian's life, and music was the natural next step.

When I went to Wikipedia, I discovered confirmation that the Breakfast with the Beatles radio show where I'm sure I'd learned the above history of "Hey Jude" was in fact, correct in saying that the song was for Julian, and I also learned that maybe my hunch was not so crazy as this quote popped to life:
"Paul and I used to hang about quite a bit ... more than Dad and I did. We had a great friendship going and there seems to be far more pictures of me and Paul playing together at that age than there are pictures of me and my dad."
So, that found, I became drawn in even further to the Paul/Julian relationship, which makes me want to draw Julian into my fantasy cartoon show. Julian, welcome! And thanks for the great song.

Last night's sleep was bizarre in all respects. I had a dream about a former high school classmate in which she was catching me up on her life, but I was able to watch a montage of her life and love story as she told it. She lived in a beautiful glass front apartment with a bed that overlooked the Pittsburgh skyline. And she fell in love with an older man who shared her passion for the exotic yet simple - there was a montage of them dancing down a hill in a park - out of place in period costume hats -, drinking wine on a picnic far beyond the scope of the picnics of those around them, laughing and looking at things scientifically.

This individual was a high school classmate rather than one of my very best friends, yet I've managed to invent an un-reality for her which she shared with me like I really needed to know. This was puzzling enough to wake me. And when I went back to sleep, I had one of those dreams so intense you wake up crying, and with the sense that what has happened in your mind has happened in the world. A jolt to the day in a more difficult way. Not steppin' out, but more like steppin' in it. And the it is your own brain! Confusing. And for the morning commute, my leftover dream dust made even happy songs sad.
But I guess back to post number two or so, back when i was a loyal contributor, happiness is a sad song.
And if Paul McCartney is to be believed, sad songs are often happy to hear.

I'm off to bed, hoping for a better sleep starter for tomorrow! We'll see what comes, and if any other high school acquaintances have fallen in love with fictional older men. Hope they're happy!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

4: Piss and Vinegar, the corruption of the crockpot

Hello folks,
I am back without organized thought and with overflowing angst for no good reason, but trying to write something as my negligence in writing following Lent's finish has reached a level I would term "alarming."
So I'm trying to get back in the swing of things, even all my swings are whiffs at pitches. Baseball!

I think I may be in one of those stages where I'd be better served to live closer to a batting cage, as I seem to have a lot of negative energy in need of release. Unfortunate and unappealing, particularly to myself, but like Prego, it's in there!

There are some fairly clear indications of contributing factors - change, the new unreliability of things I rely upon: my car, my body, my free time, my television programming schedule in a summer hiatus...a mess.

A few remaining, new episodes of Pushing Daisies are going to air. Instead of being pleased by this development as I find the show to be, like Chuck, an underrated 8 p.m.ish time slot addition, smarter and more pleasant than many give it credit for as they are unable to overlook some of the kitschy, corny parts of these shows, I was flummoxed.

What?!? Is this show back on? Is my DVR lying in listing this episode as "New"? I can't emotionally re-invest in this. I was just getting over that show while confronting Anna Friel's picture all over the Land of the Lost marketing landscape! Now how am I supposed to feel?!?

Again, a reaction far more intense than the situation mandated, but the piss and vinegar instinct is strong in me these days.

As such, and to get some steam out of the valve, I'm just going to devote some time to bitching and moaning, as I seem to be exceptionally good at these exercises now.

Also, may I recommend the song "Let me Go" by Heaven 17 to everyone.
It's very high on my list these days.

Ways to Annoy Me with a Vanity Plate -
Use your vanity plate to reiterate the type of vehicle you are driving a mere 4-6 inches from the silver lettering indicating the model of your car, and probably 1-2 inches below a trunk seal indicating the make of your car. This is particularly annoying when done by people with sporty cars.
Stuff like "Rob's Z" on a Nissan Z. Or "Kims 3 C rez" on a BMW 3 series - really? I want to get a "NO SHIT" sign that would attach to my driver's side sun visor that, when confronted with one of these cars, I could fold down as if blocking the sun in the window, when actually I want to let Rob and Kim know that I was really aware of the type of car they were driving by the branding work their car manufacturer's did so that there would be NO WAY i could follow their car and not know exactly what type of car it is.
Things with numbers strike me as particularly dumb too for some reason.
Like, "JonEz RAV4"
OH OH OH OHHhhhh. Good. Thanks so much Johnny, or is it Joanie? I'm not sure on the phoenetics of that "O" there, but thank goodness I AM sure which rav we're talking about. Would hate to think that's a Rav 6 here when it's a 4.

It's such a waste of a vanity plate!!!
Why pay extra money to give me information I already know because it's already all over the back of your car?!?!!?!!!!! Tell me something new!
Like "Robble" or "Z yr Pants" or something that makes me look twice. Even "Rob ZomB" or "Sleeper" for the Z. I dunno. But give me something to think about other than how unoriginal your use of vanity plate capabilities are.

Category 2: ECO WARRIOR condescension.

Nothing makes me wish for a fleet of Hummer Limos to clog up the car pool lane faster than eco-friendly cars that use the vanity plate to righteously reinforce the virtue of their eco-friendly car to everyone else on the road. Again - please refer to the NO SHIT visor folks.

You know, SmartCar driver, I didn't need your "GaS Less" license plate to know that you were driving that car for reasons other than your love of enclosed spaces. The only other time I've seen a car that size is when it's being lifted by two dudes in Scandanavia in the Mentos commercial, so I have got to assume that it takes less gas than the rest of these monstrosities on the road, including mine, unless you are the living embodiment of a freshmaker, which, I'll assume because your license plate doesn't say that, you're not. But thanks for clarifying. It's not just the car that's smart, it's the driver too! Got it. Yes.

And Priii, the giant yellow uglifying stickers California assigns you to permit your use of car pool lanes do enough to let me know of your environmental virtue far before you leave me behind, impatiently waiting in a line for entrance to an L.A. freeway, with your "50 MPG" license plate blazing it's way to a careful merge that, like your stewardship of the earth, is far more considerate than the rest of us could ever be. I get it.

I want a license plate to say "EcoWank." Because, as you silently toodle past, your NPR blaring and your free trade coffee still warm in your reusable cup, I am pissed off that you are passing me, pissed off that you are so damned smug about your positive impact, and PISSED OFF that you're smart enough to have a conscience about your global impact but apparently not considerate enough to use your vanity plate for something biting or accusatory outright, or hilarious in any fashion! Come on! If you give to the pledge drive every year, can't you at least pledge to drive something with a sense of humor?
Like, how about a smart car owner with "HIGH IQ" or "SMRT E PNTS" or "MENSA"?
Or a Prius that says "ITS A GAS" or "POST US" or "CNTANK-RUS"?
Really, it's a case of me hating things I should love.

Like children or kittens or positive environmental change.

And speaking of children.......

If you buy a loved one a car, don't put MOMTAXI on it!
Or "MomBus" unless she's a geometry teacher driving a minivan that looks like a rhombus.
Or "MamasGrlz"
Or, the combined sin of identifying your mom and the model of car she's driving.

Other things I don't understand - using windshields to either line up cartoon cut-outs of your family, including pets (seems like you're doing a good bit of legwork for people who will end up on "To Catch a Predator" who may be in the Costco parking lot at the same time as you), and people who put stickers memorializing friends, family, or loved ones in their rear windshield.
Stuff like

In loving memory of Roger "Cookie" Linder
1952 - 2002
Always here in our hearts

And sometimes our rear defroster...

I do not understand the circumstances in which a mobile memorial is a preferred method of rememberance. Unless you were a librarian on a book-mobile or died giving blood on a blood-mobile, I prefer my loving memories to not be in decal form.
Could just be personal preference.

One other area of personal piss & vinegar car annoyance -

License plate frames that indicate one is: spoiled, a princess, a spoiled princess, loved and spoiled, daddy's princess, daddy's spoiled princess, spoiled rotten, daddy's rotten princess, or Princess Spoiled, daddy's little rotten girl.

License plate frames that indicate one is: a bitch, a crazy bitch, PMSing, PMSing like a bitch, a crazy bitch with PMS, a bitch with crazy PMS, PMS-crazy, bitch please.

License plate frames that indicate one hates the opposite sex, specifically those they are most intimately connected to, i.e. SPOUSE.

"Dog and wife missing- if found, please return the dog" (saw this last weekend on a car for real).

"Honk if you see my husband- so I can speed up before he finds the car!"

"My girlfriend doesn't know I'm a pimp - you'll never tell!"

"Boyz are dumb - girlz rule!" (really? how about learning to spell, girlfriend!)


My new vanity plate?

"Pss n Vngr"

Beep beep beep beep YEAH!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

3: Gonna Take Some Time to Do the Things...

The gracious and generous gods of have opened their box once again to unleash a spell of wonderment upon me that brings me, rather than chaos, great joy. I was listening to “Africa” by Toto when I noticed that the song was on Toto’s album “Toto IV.” Intrigued by this Roman numeral, I had to click into the link for more information to see if that album was a greatest hits compilation, or if they really had three album’s-worth of songs prior to “Africa,” the song I’d always considered to be their penultimate hit. What I learned was that yes, “Africa” was huge, but prior to that Toto had done a lot of session work, and even some instrumental songs. But it was what came next that was the most surprising and pleasing at the same time – after “Toto IV,” which was to be their biggest success, they went back to session work and both helped write and perform Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” YES! It’s gonna take a lot to drag me away from youuuuuu! Like perhaps the firm grasp of the undead, just after miiiiiiid-night!

Finding out that Toto had a hand in “Thriller” is infinitely pleasing to me, as it is like discovering great songwriters sharing work. It’s like finding out Michael Jackson needed help, and that someone as great as Toto (really, think I’m overstating here? Go listen to “Africa” two times in a row and get back to me) helped! Toto helped MJ!

That’s way different than MJ helping Rockwell out with some vocals on “Somebody’s Watching Me.”

For those crocker stalkers who have been around from the start, this is a bit like the Bowie “Electric Blue” super connection. Pleasing.

For those of you who are newer to my ramblings, may I say this is a bit like yesterday, when I discovered that STEVIE WONDER WROTE THE MUSIC TO “TEARS OF A CLOWN” and GAVE IT TO SMOKEY ROBINSON at a party.

Why this was also earth-shattering? “Tears of a Clown” is an insanely good song. Insanely, barely legal, it’s really that good, good song. It is a song that, any time it comes on, makes me giddy, but also makes me wonder (and now Stevie Wonder) how one person could make one thing that good. Because, for those who are unaware, Smokey Robinson is a genius. But this tidbit, casually dropped by the morning dj after playing the song, that it was Stevie Wonder’s music? One person didn’t make that one thing that good. TWO geniuses are responsible. Two. Love it.

You need help! A great message! People don’t do it alone! You do need help to make something good even better.


No man is an island.

Islands in the stream – THAT is what we are!

(again example of something great being made greater by someone else great! Yay teamwork! Yay Dolly and Kenny! Now please stop having plastic surgery.)

I gotta get back in the stew. My apologies for a long absence.

No good excuses.