Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Had enough Michael Jackson talk for the rest of your life?

It's become obvious to me that the largest reason people are getting so caught up in the Michael Jackson story is because when we think about a life's work like MJ's, that work is intrinsically linked to our own nostalgia. We, as humans, love to wax nostalgic.

That said, the rest of this post is only for the humans out there. The rest of you are free to go.

My parents took me and my brothers to Disneyland and we saw the Michael Jackson 3-D movie Captain EO. Holy crap. Did you see that as a kid? Do you remember walking out of that theater? Do you remember what that felt like? If we watched it now, we may roll our eyes or giggle through some of it, but for the time, for the age I was, it was bigger than the universe. A seventeen-minute film costing an estimated $30 million dollars to produce. At the time it was the most expensive film ever produced on a per-minute basis, averaging out at $1.76 million per minute.

Two days before Michael Jackson suddenly died I posted this status on facebook:

“Every now and then i hear a song from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album and am not surprised it is still the best selling album of all time. Today: Billie Jean. Danke Pandora.”

My parents had the original Thriller vinyl LP in their record collection. And they had a record player hooked up to the big family speakers all the way up until they moved in 2002.

Two days before he died, Pandora brought me back to our family room in Concord, CA. I was 5 years old. 8 years old. 12 years old. Then, I specifically remember my 16th birthday party. My house was packed with friends, music was playing from the CD player, kids were mingling and generally running amok. I always liked playing DJ. I had this planned all day: At the climax of the party, I stopped the CD player in the middle of a song, put the Thriller record on and set the needle to “Beat it.” It immediately changed the whole vibe in my house and the party became instantly cooler, even though we weren't bumping to the latest "cool" music. That's how classic pop works. We listened to Thriller, Billie Jean, P.Y.T. and Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ until we realized the party just can’t get any better and it started to die down.

I remember the first time time I saw the Thriller video sitting on the edge of the couch one afternoon in the mid 80’s. I probably wasn’t supposed to be watching MTV or VH1, but I was blown away. I think I was even scared of all the zombies at first.

I remember the day in Germany when my zone leader taught a 19 year-old me how to moonwalk. I could then moonwalk, for real, and it was a big deal to me. I’m pretty sure I wrote home about it. As if one of the 50 things I really wanted to do in my life was checked off, and that was simply fun for me. I started moonwalking all over my apartment, like a total goober, but I didn’t care.

MJ’s work is a large chunk of the soundtrack to my young life. A carefree, sun-kissed, dancing childhood. I know I’m not the only one, so I guess I’m not that surprised to find so many people from all walks of life are a bit caught up in his departure. In reality, I imagine they're more caught up in the memories of their own lives, but Michael Jackson, the entertainer, is the common denominator.

Why the media insists on spend hours on supposed "news" channels speculating on his cause of death, whether or not Janet tried to stage an intervention a few years back, who agrees or disagrees with who has custody of his kids now, etc, i don't know. Well, i do, but that's a different issue.

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