Sunday, June 28, 2009

Remembering Michael

Of course I had to weigh in on this...after I had completed my six stages of grief. RIP Michael!

Twenty five years ago, I came downstairs for breakfast and was met by the grim faces of my parents. “Kids, we have something to tell you,” my mother said as we took our seats around the table. A few moments later while my brothers and I ate our cereal, my father disclosed “Marvin Gaye died yesterday.” And although I am unsure that this is exactly what happened next, my father’s scratchy clock radio began playing a Marvin Gaye medley.

For my parents, news of Marvin Gaye’s death stirred up emotions that I, as a child, could not comprehend. He was a DC native whose rise and fall in the music business had been well-known among his fans, and because I was a faithful Jet magazine reader, I knew that he had been in the mist of a career comeback. However, I had no frame of reference for appreciating his earlier career, so Marvin Gaye was just another old R&B singer. While discussing his death among my friends at school that day, we naively disparaged our parents’ grief. As one friend put it, “It isn’t like he was Michael Jackson.”

Now that Michael Jackson has died, I can only imagine that if I had children, our dinner conversation about his death would have been eerily similar to that breakfast conversation my parents attempted with my brothers and me so many years ago. Although Michael had recently announced that he was embarking on a major comeback, my children probably would have shrugged and kept eating while the endless medley of Michael Jackson songs played on the radio (or the iPod). They would have dismissed the incessant news coverage of an old pop singer as misplaced; it isn’t like he was Miley Cyrus or one of the Jonas Brothers…

Michael Jackson. He is so important that my computer recognizes his name as a complete sentence. Michael Jackson. His success was so enormous that Dick Clark hailed him “Entertainer of the Millennium”, and that moniker is likely to endure unchallenged for the next thousand years. Michael Jackson. His talent and influence were so out of this world that if there is intelligent life anywhere else in the universe, there are aliens millions of light years away still dancing to his music right now (my apologies for the nerdy space-time continuum reference).

That only begins to explain the impact of Michael Jackson the Entertainment Phenomenon; alas, there is also the human tragedy of Michael Jackson the man—Wacko Jacko of Neverland, his alter ego. While Michael Jackson the Entertainer enthralled us, the self-indulgent Wacko Jacko repulsed us with an endless sideshow of bizarre behavior. If I had children, I could never begin to explain that.

In death, Michael Jackson joins Elvis Pressley, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and maybe even Marvin Gaye in that exclusive club of gone-too-soon musical talents. Like much of the world, I am in shock, but I cannot say that I am totally surprised that he died young. Old age is the consolation prize granted to those of us who are lucky enough to be average. Michael Jackson the Phenomenon was nothing less than a musical genius—he was Off the Wall, a Thriller, Bad, Dangerous, and perhaps even Invincible. But genius operates on borrowed time, and Wacko Jacko was ultimately consumed by the demons that possessed him.

Wacko Jacko’s ignoble passing does not absolve any of his inexplicable actions in life, but perhaps the blessing in his death is the immortality it ensures to the persona that touched the world, Michael Jackson the child prodigy, humanitarian, musical trailblazer, and icon. Twenty five years from now, fans will make pilgrimages to the family homestead at 2300 Jackson Street in Gary, Indiana; the Apollo Theatre in New York City; and even to a reclaimed Neverland Museum and Ranch in California. They will gather to celebrate the music that enchanted us, not the sideshow that perplexed us…which perhaps is how it should be.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Wine is Fine

It looks like I'm back to blogging because my life is in shambles again. Not that it wasn't being held together by duct tape anyway, but now I realize that things are much easier when I am writing and sharing my pain with an anonymous internet audience of one (or two).

I write, I drink a little wine, and then I write some more. I see things that make me want to comment or I experience a temporary set-back that makes me want to spill my guts...To anyone who follows this blog, the gut-spilling pieces flow much easier because they are fueled by generous glasses of wine :) Tonight's post has been brought to you by nothing in particular except for the fact that Riesling pairs well with salmon.

Although I do have some commentary on the day's events (which I only learned of about two hours ago because my computer came to a virtual halt earlier in the day and I have been comparing and downloading virus protection software all day to give it a jump start. It is still moving slower than molasses, so I guess the next step is to buy more RAM. If that doesn't work, it may mean that I'll have to switch to my laptop that crashes more often than my antiquated desk top because of the dreaded Vista OS).

Anyhoo, self-destruction thy name is the Republican Party of 2009! I am not cocky, and I totally get the notion of hubris. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone (yadda, yadda yadda)...but is there a decent Republican left in public office? Is everyone a philanderer or a dim-witted prom queen? I mean, WTF??!! Sen. Ensign (R-NV) disses fellow Senators for their moral indiscretions while he is boinking a married staffer (and employing her kid on the government payroll)! Gov. Sanford (R-SC) disses President Obama for wasteful government spending while he is flying off to Argentina to spend a weekend with his mistress (and over Father's Day weekend, no less)!

OK, so back to me--I am feeling pretty light right about now. I looked in the mirror today and determined that I might have actually lost some weight! I am making it to yoga class every week, so that appears to keep me calm and centered. I am back in my Thursday ballet class, and that makes me happy too. And I am writing again...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

"Very Special Episodes" Pt. II

OK, I never made it back to finish commenting on the "very special" episode of Little House the other day, but the developments of the last couple of days have led me to an epiphany of sorts--reality programs are the 21st Century version of the "very special episode".

I came to this conclusion after it was revealed that Jon and Kate Gosselin are separating. Like, yeah...And of course, they made this announcement on a "very special" episode of their show to about 10 million of their closest friends!

In the old days, heady social issues like divorce, rape, drugs, racism, etc. were explored on one of the top-rated family-oriented sitcoms or dramatic series (hence, my Little House flashback). Usually, the set up was that an obscure minor character or a guest star would take center stage for the purpose of explaining the ways of the world to impressionable TV-watching youngsters in 30 to 60 minute intervals. Some notable examples:

  • Very special "Diff'rent Strokes" when Arnold's friend Dudley is molested by the candy store owner
  • Very special "Facts of Life" when Natalie decides to sleep with her boyfriend Snake
  • Very special "Cosby Show" when a colleague of Cliff's reveals his daughter's drug use
  • Very special "Different World" when the basketball star tries to date rape Freddie
  • Very special "Good Times" when JJ's prom date is a dope fiend
  • Very special "Fresh Prince" when the Banks family joins old friends in rebuilding LA after the riots
  • Very special "Happy Days" when the only black kid in town joins Richie's band
On some rare occasions, there was the very, very special episode, wherein the central characters experienced various life-altering transitions:

  • Very special "Golden Girls" when Blanche realizes she is going through menopause
  • Very special "Roseanne" when Roseanne gets a breast reduction
  • Very special "Blossom" when Blossom gets her period
  • Very special "Full House" when DJ has her first kiss
(Yep, I watched that much TV growing up).

Unfortunately, there are very few sitcoms these days, so reality TV has had to pick up the slack. In lieu of laugh-tracks, dramatic music cues, and special commentary by the cast, we have the real-life train wreck of the Gosselins (or the Hogans, Danny Bonaduce, or any of the early episodes of MTV's The Real World). If you favor celebrity or political dysfunction, there is always Vh1, E! True Hollywood Story, or 24-hour cable news.

As much as I enjoy mocking the melodramatic very special" episodes of my youth, I have to admit that I miss them because as reality TV has proven, real life is stranger than fiction. Make-believe drama requires no emotional investment because the people are just characters, the situations are contrived, and between the reactions of the studio audience and the guest-star credits, we get reminded that this is just a TV show. The following week, Arnold will have hatched a new scheme to avoid the Gooch; Tootie will have created that ridiculous paper mache bust of Jermaine Jackson; Rudy will imagine her family as two-dimensional fairy tale characters; Freddie will continue to be a hippie flake; JJ will declare something "Dynomite"; Carlton will still dance awkwardly to Tom Jones; the Fonz will jump the shark; Blanche will continue to be an old slut; the Connors will still be poor; Joey will respond to everything with 'woah'; and Uncle Jesse will still have his mullet.

However in real life, the Gosselins might actually get divorced and ten people will be directly impacted. Of course real people get divorced everyday, but we usually do not get to see the uncoupling in living color. There is already speculation that this could lead to a post-divorce spin-off show.


Which just makes me long for the drawn-out soap operatic disintegration of fictional marriages made in hell such as Ross and Emily on a very special "Friends"; Grace and Leo on a very special "Will & Grace"; Frazier and Lillith on a very special "Cheers"; Niles and Maris on a very special "Frazier"; etc.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Very Special "Blossom"

So, I am supposed to be heading off to yoga class, but I really needed to post this...

While I was flipping channels, I caught the summary of an upcoming episode of "Little House on the Prairie." I used to love this show as a kid, but unfortunately, I have been (until now) totally uninterested in revisiting it at this stage in my life. However, the summary of today's episodes was a two-parter that I clearly remembered watching years ago, so I decided to take a chance.

Ok, now looking at the clock, I realize that it will take me a lot longer to write this than I have time, so this will be a two-parter post.

Part I - The quick and dirty summary of this "very special" episode of Little House: Albert, the kid adopted into the Engalls family, falls in love with some puberty-stricken girl who gets raped and impregnated by a masked stranger. I think the girl's mother is dead, so she is being raised by her ultra-strict father, who assumes the worst when her condition is discovered. Because he is in love, Albert offers to marry her, which sets Mrs. Olsen's tongue wagging about Albert being the baby daddy.

Drama...drama...obligatory confrontations, outrage and misunderstandings follow...

(By the way, I really didn't watch too closely, so a lot of this is based on my 20+ year memory).

At some point, the girl either runs away and gets kidnapped by her rapist, or she runs away and gets discovered by her rapist while asleep in an abandoned shack. Masked rapist attacks again, she tries to escape, Albert comes just in time to try to save her but gets knocked on his ass, Mr. Engalls and the girl's father arrive in time to shoot the rapist...but in the excitement the girl falls off an old ladder.

Commercial break...

Albert, Daddy Engalls, and widowed father are sitting around the Engalls' kitchen table. Doctor emerges from the room stone-faced and informs Albert that the girl wants to see him. She and Albert declare their love, share a final kiss, and then she kicks the bucket. Dream sequence ending with another kiss between them.

Cue the closing credits and theme music...

And, you'll just have to wait for my reaction in Part II.