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Michael Jackson: 1958-2009

My dad was in the navy when I was a kid and we moved frequently.  In the 60’s and 70’s, we crossed the country 5 times by car, my sister, brother and I trying to keep from killing each other in the backseat of our red Chevelle.  On trip 4 from Pennsylvania to San Francisco, things were getting pretty tense between my sister and myself in one of those “I” states when my mom flipped the radio to a pop station.  A few minutes later, we were dancing in the back to Michael Jackson’s soaring falsetto singing A-B-C, 1-2-3.  As long as Michael was singing, we called a temporary truce.  Michael Jackson saved my sister’s life.

We grew up with Michael.  It was hit after hit during the 60’s and early 70’s and we knew every word.  “Ohhhh, baby give me one more chance”  On Saturday mornings while the PUs slept in, my sister and I munched our Captain Crunch and watched the animated cartoon adventures of The Jackson Five.  We thought he was just an average kid, like us.  He had brothers, he liked to sing, he got to travel around the world, his family was Jehovah’s Witness.  Yep, totally normal.

Well, there was that love song he sang to a rat but we figured it made sense in the movie.

Time passed.  We moved on to other music.  Heart for me; Steve Miller for my sister.  We came out of  the disco era relatively untouched.  We were too young to go to the clubs.  I went to college and discovered Leo Kotke, Pure Prairie League and the Eagles.  I figured Michael Jackson was off pulling all nighters too.

We resurfaced together.  One night, my mom called me to watch a something on TV.  “Do you know who that is?”, she asked.  It took me a minute.  There on the screen was the face of a black angel on the body of Fred Astaire, alternately strutting and gliding across the floor.  My jaw dropped, “THAT’S Michael Jackson?!”  If it hadn’t been for the instantly recognizable light head voice, I almost wouldn’t have known him.  His physicality and  performance wasn’t anything like his brothers’.  He was his own creation.

And what a creation.  Thriller was so big.  It was hit after hit again.  The video format was perfect for Michael.  The songs were stories with narrative arcs.  The dancing was precision.  How did he do that?

Then the bad times came.  He burned his scalp.  He wore the glove.  He erased the black angel and retreated behind his plastic mask.  He built a fantasy world and hid in it.  His savvy business decisions made him a fortune and attracted the good and the bad.  When the accusations of child molestation started, I hoped it wasn’t true.  I hoped he was just a victim of our generation of fear or some fortune hunter who exploited his predilection for recapturing his lost youth by surrounding himself with real children.  I don’t know how much of an effect his family’s religion had on him but he wouldn’t be the first Jehovah’s Witness kid who felt like he lost out on a real childhood.

Then he disappeared again.  Once in awhile, we’d see him do something, um, unorthodox.  I thought it was probably better for him to stay out of the spotlight.  He had a habit of attracting the wrong attention and it was clear that the public just didn’t understand.

Brooke called me to tell me Michael died.  Cardiac arrest, they say, caused by a disruption to the heart’s electrical signals.  Prescription drugs were mentioned.  The Big Satan researcher in me says a hERG problem.  It can happen.  Who knows what off label use he was testing?  I feel for his children who he clearly loved and enjoyed.

May they remember him as fondly as I do.

Goodbye Michael.  Thanks for leaving your music behind.

My favorite Michael Jackson video is Black or White.  It highlights his dancing at its prime.  The embed has been disabled so you can find it here.

Share your memories of Jackson with us tonight on Conflucians Say at 10PM EST.


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Thursday: The Quiet Coup of 2008

And it’s still cloudy over the northeast.  The less said about it the better.  It’s just too depressing.

"Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam
and the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word
and the skies are not cloudy all day"

Yellowstone Lake, Montana

Yellowstone Lake, Montana

Does anyone care about Governor Sanford of South Carolina?  Me neither.  Just resign already for keeping your Lt. Governor in the dark.   This story isn’t worth two front page pieces at the NYTimes.  FOCUS people!  There’s still a problem in Iran.  You know, crazy Ayatollahs and the Revolutionary Guard threatening to further destabilize an unravelling region of the world?!  Aw, jeez, why do I bother?

StateofDosbelief asks a very good question:

How can the failbots defend what’s going on with so-called healthcare reform?  This latest update from the Senate Finance committee notes that their ideas include:

Dropping the employer mandate
Dropping the public option
Including a new “tax credit to purchase insurance”
and
Taxing employer-based health benefits

Uh…doesn’t this sound a whole bunch like someone else’s ideas?  yeah, Bush II and McCain.  WTF is going on?  My head will explode if this is what we end up with and the failbots try to paint it as a victory.

She also wonders what ever happened to Franken in Minnesota.  The unresolved senate case was presented before the Minnesota Supreme Court in the first week of June and we’ve been waiting ever since.  Franken is the Democrat’s 60th vote.  He is the filibuster proofer.  OoooooOOOOOooooo!  Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln might have to act like Democrats since there would be no reason for them to give away the store anymore.  Well, we’ll have none of that.  It appears that nothing is happening in Minnesota.  One *almost* suspects that there’s a deal to get most of the tricky legislation off of the table before the Senate recesses and THEN the Minnesota Supreme Court will say Franken won. The delay is somewhat inexplicable.  From what I read previously, there was virtually no way that Coleman could emerge victorious.  The ruling imeediately previous to this one pretty much told him to give it up already.  So, what gives?

Now, a lot of you dislike Franken and, hey, if you want to hold his former profession against him, who am I to tell you you’re wrong?  But there comes a point when past resentments should take a backseat to current events.  Franken is a true liberal senator, or he will be once he’s sworn in.  If you want healthcare, the end of the wars, equality for all, financial accountability and someone who will stand against the coup of 2008, your best bet is with Franken.  You can donate to his recount fund here.  Yes, the guy still needs money.  It’s expensive to keep this going for 7 months and lawyers need to eat too, damn them.

Americans aren’t the only ones wondering what they heck is going on with their government.  One of my French colleagues just got back from a trip from Paris.  She tells me the French are thoroughly disgusted with Nicolas Sarkozy, who recently booked a night at Versailles to hold an unprecedented meeting with the legilative branch.  Yep, Versailles, that beautiful white elephant and former diggs of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI.  I don’t get it either.  Versailles is about 30 minutes trip from Paris via the RER.  The setting is beautiful but why would you want to have a meeting there when presumably there are suitable meeting facilities in the city?  D’oh!  It’s a perfect photo drop:

Nicolas Sarkozy at Versailles to give a speech

Nicolas Sarkozy at Versailles to give a speech

Surprisingly, the French do not seem to approve of such excess and staging.  Who knew?  My colleague says he’s been a little imperious with his cabinet as well, reshuffling the deck chairs, getting rid of people and generally acting like an arrogant little prince.  She thinks it’s funny that he’s so short too.  Yep, “short people got no reason to live” ridicule is not a good sign for Sarkozy.  Not good at all.

Podcast of the day: Donald Kagan teaches the history of ancient Greece at Yale.  You can find his fascinating lectures online at youtube, so technically, this isn’t a podcast recommendation.  In lecture number 8 on Sparta, Kagan discusses the origins of the word “tyranny”.   It’s all just a little bit of history repeating.


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NOW the truth

Terry O'Neill

Terry O'Neill

There are lots of salacious stories and juicy rumors floating around about the National Organization for Women’s national conference last Saturday in Indiananapolis.  Violet Socks tells it like it is:

#1: The real issue at the NOW election was that the organization is broke and going nowhere fast. Membership has nose-dived and so has revenue (which is primarily based on membership dues):

During the two year period from 2005 to 2007, total revenue declined $1,189,644 or almost 40%. For the past three years, NOW’s expenditures have exceeded income, and NOW Inc. has been forced to borrow money from The NOW Foundation to stay solvent…

During the last election cycle (2005-2009), NOW’s membership declined approximately 10% per year and current membership figures are probably around 60,000…

The current Membership VP (Latifa Lyles) and her five-member team are directly responsible for a catastrophic 40% decline in membership and corresponding decline in revenues that imperils the continued operation of NOW.

In addition, something like 28% of NOW’s membership revenue goes just to pay the salaries of the four people at the top (the president and three VPs).

#2: Latifa Lyles has been the Membership VP during this period of catastrophic decline. She was running for president on a record of under-achievement, to put it mildly. Terry O’Neill, on the other hand, maintained overall membership levels during her tenure as Membership VP a few years ago, enhancing outreach efforts and bringing in new members each year.

#3: Latifa Lyles was not the candidate of change; she was the hand-picked successor of Kim Gandy and Ellie Smeal (who is the power behind the throne, as it were). Latifa’s election would have meant a continuation of Ellie Smeal’s control and a continuation of the inside-the-beltway strategy NOW has pursued in recent years.

#4: Terry O’Neill ran on a platform of change: shaking up the organization, re-invigorating the grassroots, re-establishing vendor relations, restoring financial integrity, and re-building membership.

There is a bunch more, but you need to visit The Reclusive Leftist to read it.

(#7 and #8 are especially shocking)

Well, what are you waiting for?  Go see Violet.  While you’re there you can read her archives and check out her pictures of alpacas too.


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The Stoning of Soraya M.

From Wikipedia:

The true story of one of the victims of stonings in modern Iran. Soraya M.’s husband Ghorban-Ali was an ambitious man, prone to rage with a lust for power. He wanted out of his marriage. When Soraya began cooking for the widowed husband of a friend, he found his excuse. Abetted by village authorities, he accused his wife of adultery. She was taken away, buried up to her shoulders and neck in the ground, and then stoned to death.

It opens Friday in selected theaters.


Stoning-of-Soraya1


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