Monday, July 20, 2009

A few of my favorite things

I (Dove) am a little obsessed with 2 things right now. They consume all of my free thinking time.

1. The Pillars of the Earth

I'm about 1/2 way through this behemoth read and I can't put it down. It's riveting and salacious and well thought out with webs woven through the character's lives that leave me on the edge of my seat at all moments. Now, truly it is Days of Our Lives set in the 1100's. It's the story of a man who is building a cathedral and the brutality of life in this era. For whatever reason, it's interesting to note that peeps were just the same then as they are now. Some are good, some bad, some both, and at the end of the day life is all about having food in our bellies and someone to love/reproduce with. Thank goodness it's long (nearly 1,000 pages) and that there is a an equally lengthy sequel so I can enjoy the compellingness for a loooong time.

2. MJ (I know it's a little late to spout on him, but I can't suppress it any longer)

I've never not been a fan, but since his death I can't stop (til I get enough). I listen to him on my commute with a more discerning ear than I've ever before listened. I watch youtube videos. And I don't do stuff like this. Ever. I don't buy into hype & am usually content to let the bandwagon pass me by. I am totally mesmerized right now though.

I read the Time Michael Jackson Commemorative Issue on a flight a couple weeks ago from cover to cover. LOVED it. Oh it was so good. I've browsed through a few other gossipy magazines about him and I didn't enjoy them at all. The Time issue chronicled his life, but didn't glorify or vilify him. To quote the opening paragraph of the magazine, "Michael Jackson kept his most stunning performance for the very end. Always able to command an audience, he knew how to bring whole arenas to fits of exultation with his moves and then silence them to the point of tears with his poetry. He was brilliant, excessive, maudlin, tacky and possibly criminal, but could never ignore him. So it was fitting that in death, he momentarily silenced the largest arena humanity has ever known, the Internet." Did you know that his death caused major disturbances in web traffic, momentarily disabling and/or surging Google, Twitter, Facebook, CNN, etc?

I was about 6 when Thriller came out. I didn't see his rise to fame so I didn't have any reason to understand what a phenom he was. I learned in the tribute that when his brothers were forming the original group, they didn't even intend for Michael to be in it because he was so young, but when people started to see his talent they not only added him to the group, but made him the headliner. I remember being amazed at Beat It, Billie Jean & Thriller on MTV, but didn't know what a talented anomaly he was, simply because I didn't have the life experience to accurately form a comparison. As I read Time I had my ipod on and listened to his hit songs as they were described in the magazine and heard them again for the first time, finally understanding the reason he blew minds all over the world.

One of my favorite childhood memories is when my mom gathered us around the TV to view the moonwalk when he performed at that Motown Records show. Oh we were so thrilled. My mom was totally enthralled by the Thriller album when it came out. She said she would listen to it over & over and find reasons to stay up late, cleaning the kitchen or whatever she could find to do, just so she could keep listening. He toured after that and my mom wanted to go so bad, but our finances were too restricted so she honestly thought about putting us kids to work worming so we could all buy tickets & go. Worming, if you don't know, is where you go out after dark and spread worm poison on grass. The worms begin to suffocate so they come up for air and you, with spotlight in hand, collect them to sell as fishing bait. Yes, people actually make some pretty good side money this way. Oh how I wish my mom had followed through on this idea. Can you imagine if you had seen that tour? Would probably still be one of the highlights of my life 20 some odd years later.

If you have a minute and haven't already, you gotta check out (with your now adult eyes & critical thinking abilities) some of his videos. One of the things I learned to appreciate from reading the magazine were his little idiosyncrasies...the funny little noises and unique ways he throws his body around. Chekkit.

Billy Jean (best bass line ever written):

Beat It (can't embed, but you gotta go see it...such drama)

Thriller (my kids have long loved to watch this mini-movie):

If you ever went to Disneyland in the 80's, you are sure to love Captain Eo.

Part 2 is here

And in case you want a moonwalking tutorial (I wish you could see my kids right now after watching this).

I am not in denial that he turned into a serious weirdie. I'm sad about that. And I realize he is a walking contradiction (Man in the Mirror, Heal the World...assuming he was guilty of that which he was accused), and I don't pretend to know the truth about what happened. None of us really do. He certainly did some good in the world, however. We Are The World (which he wrote with Lionel Ritchie) raised over $63 million for famine relief in Ethiopia.

I remember this song being on the radio about every 15 minutes when it was released. I just watched the video with my kids, pointing out all the super stars in it...Lionel Ritchie, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, Cindy Lauper, Willy Nelson, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, etc. They didn't know one of them. I'm annoyed about it. Looks like I have some educating to do.

Remember our friend, Pager Stalker? He had this to say after Mikey died. "Before he started cutting his nose (and thus part of his tone generator), he had such a smooth and pleasant tone to his voice. You might say that as a smooth singer, and clearly a never-convicted-criminal, he was a very smooth criminal." Ohhh, another great song....

Okay, I've spent far too much time writing this post. Time to return to my book (YEAH!!!), but first one last video. Even if you hate him, watch this and just try to deny that he deserves the moniker King of Pop. The dude has some serious moves. I love him. Seriously.



we chirp said...

Dove, you are such a bandwagon softie. You should be an investigative reporter. I like all you had to say, I love the visuals (what did we do before youtube?). I had never thought about PS's tone generator addition, totally makes sense. Seriously, an incredible artist. My brother and I loved Thriller. Did you know that Michael has a U.S. patent on his anti-gravity lean? A patent. No doubt, he was a giant, but it is so sad to see what became of his life.

we chirp said...

Oh, and I LOVED Pillars of the Earth. When I finished it, I wished I had never read it, so that I could read it again for the first time.

Christy said...

Well I haven't read it, and it's definitely going on my list!

Through the Looking Glass said...

Pillars of the Earth is sooooo good. Loved it. Didn't want it to end; it has a fabulously strong and dynamic female character, which I love.

Oh, Michael. Love him. He touched us all, didn't he?

Dove said...

I also love a book with strong female characters and Pillars has 2(Ellen & Aliena). I want to be them.

Leslie said...

Dove, thank you for this post! Such a "thriller." :) (forgive me for my sentimentality)
So, that last vid haunts me in my sleep. I can't get enough of it, I kid not. Me and my kids have sat through it atleast 100 times and it freaking RULES! It's MJ at his finest.

I have yet to read the TIME magazine, but am working my way through the commemorative edition of Rolling Stone. It's cover to cover MJ and it is absolutely enthralling. There is so much to love and mourn about his life, and above all, he is captivating. My husband thinks I might have lost my mind, but I can't give up the Michael Jackson beats right now. And I seriously love that MOM had the ear and appreciation for the artist he was. I've heard many of my friends say that their parents shunned his music and his image and tried to shield their kids from it. What a loss for them...

And about Pillars, I read it and I LIKED it, but I didn't LOVE it. I can't explain why, but it just didn't have a hold on me. But I have always been one to go against the grain... ;)

(p.s. i, however, LOVED ps' comment about the "smooth criminal." it was genius.)

Leslie said...

Oh, and "worming." What a bizarre money maker. I remember when our neighbors ( the Beck's) had a whole bucket of them get loose in their car over night and they crawled into all the crevices of their car and rotted in the hot sun. Do you remember that stench that never went away after years and years? Ewwwwww!

If we would have been able to go to the Thriller tour, it would have far topped mom's cool factor over the time she flew us to Phoenix to see Pink Floyd as teens...

PagerStalker said...

what a lovely post! I so appreciate Michael Joseph Jackson. He paved the way for me to live a better life. Let me explain. I used to get picked on a lot as a kid - mostly cuz I was skinny and my pants were high water pants. Yet when the Beat It and Billie Jean videos came out (make sure you check the links Dove posted for a visual reference) people realized that since me and Michael are about the same skinny and sexiness (I dance and move just like him and seriously probably the same skinny) that I was really cool. It's true, I promise.

Also, I wanted to make another comment about his nose. If you have a chance, take a musical journey keeping his rhinoplasties in mind. I think he had six (as far as I can tell by a quick internet search.) The first was after he broke his noise filming a video for his Off the Wall Album. Anyway, listen to a few songs pre surgery. Notice the purity of tone - soo smooth it touches the soul and pierces the heart. Try "Aint no Sunshine" from a Jackson 5 album and the "Off the Wall" song from Off the Wall album. (all can be heard on YouTube) Then he had his first surgery, and his style changes a little - he no longer has as large of nares to breath and his music sounds like he is grasping for air a little more. It was called by musical pundants as a "vocal hiccup" but i think it was getting harder to breath - check out the song Thriller. He does seemed to be gasping a lot - and as those nares get smaller each album, his gasping for air gets more pronounced. (Let's face it - singing that high and intense takes a lot of wind energy and breathing needs to be efficient.) So next check out Bad. Holy cow as an ansthesiologist, I want to slap some O2 on him to help out. And it goes on from there. It is clear that as you listen to a song from his early days and compare it to a song off his later music that contains a barrage of hiccups, grunts, and yips, that his tone has changed. It still is great, but something is lost I think. I really like his song "They don't Care About Us." Cool video too.

Anyway, just my opinion. What a talented joe. Such an outlier of talent. In the world of pop, there is MJ, and then everyone else.

Interesting enough however, Thriller is not the #1 album of all time in the US (it is in the world though) but the Eagles greatest hits album has it beat

Flores Hayes said...

a great find for panda fanatic!
my roommate and i LOVE this bag

Dove said...

I kinda wanted to be pissed about that spammer right above me, but the bag actually is pretty cute (in an Asian kinda way).

Well said PS. Go back to the post & listen to the difference in his voice in the last 2 videos. He sounds really terrible in Smooth Criminal.

And great/touching story about your similarity with MJ. Is that why you are wearing one white glove in that prom picture on FB? He he he.

suzan said...

I think I might have played a big part in clogging up the internet the day after his death... seriously, I could not get enough. I was in love with MJ as a kid and I still am! I need to read the Time Commemorative!!

As Zach (my 5 yr old) and I are watching these videos he is totally in a trance watching. His only comments, "He looks like a girl" and, "HOW DOES HE DOOOO THAT???!" LOL!!!

Great post! Love it! (and I love that you can admit that you got love for Michael)