I Remember Where I Was When I Heard Michael Jackson Died

I do know and am quite likely to remember how I learned of MJ’s death.

Just as I remember when JFK died – fifth grade, Miss Oberlik’s class, Daniel S. Dickinson School, Binghamton, NY. Just as I remember finding out about the Challenger disaster – working in the back room at FantaCo Enterprises, the late comic book store store on Central Avenue, Albany, NY, while listening to Q-104, when Mary Margaret Apple interrupted the music to give the news.

This is not to say – lest you start to fret – that I’m making a comparison about the import of these events. I am talking about how memory works.

I was at the Albany Public Library, main branch, computer room, shortly after 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 25. I needed to write about my daughter for a blog post the next day. Then I heard someone say to the woman at the desk that Michael Jackson had died. WHA? So I went to CNN and AP, both of whom indicated that Michael had been rushed to the hospital but neither of whom had announced his death. Most sources indicated that TMZ, the Matt Drudge of entertainment sites, WAS declaring Michael dead, but that they were seeking independent verification.

About 15 minutes later, CNN notes that “multiple sources” have noted Michael’s passing. In the moment, I was more peeved that TMZ had been right in breaking the story, that this was a greater sign of the deterioration of the mainstream media, than the death of an entertainer who I’d watched, sometimes with tremendous admiration and other times in disdain, over the past four decades. Someone who, and I ALWAYS hate this, was younger than I am.

The death of Michael Jackson is this fascinating cultural and technological phenomenon. It slowed Twitter to a crawl and taxed much of the rest of the Internet as well.

Here’s what always bothers me about these types of stories. There are folks who say endlessly, “Why do people care about THAT? If people spent more time caring about (pick one or more) world hunger/the health care crisis/the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan/whatever, rather than some entertainer’s death, we’d be better off.” It’s often the same people disdain the use of television (they don’t have one or only watch PBS).

I’m willing to bet that if people spent as much time worrying about the health care industry as they did about Michael or Jon & Kate (who I must admit, I didn’t even know who they were until a month ago) or some other “frivolous” thing, it would have next to zero impact on the important issue. It is as though some individuals feel that passion for Off the Wall, Michael’s best album, could be somehow transferable to other, more “significant” things. (Speaking of which, apparently Michael’s soul has been saved, in case you were wondering.) Thank goodness ABC was planning repeats of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice last Thursday so they could preempt them for instant specials on Michael and Farrah Fawcett, who, not unexpectedly, had died earlier that day. (What, no special on Sky Saxon of the Seeds?)

So I will remember how I learned of Michael’s death, just as I remember John Lennon’s (heard it from Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football) or the shootings of Lee Harvey Oswald and Robert F. Kennedy (saw them on TV in real time). The intensity of the events will wane, but a piece of the recollection will likely remain.
Just discovered The Dead Rock Stars Club. Have only been in 2009, but it is quite detailed. Not does it have obvious choices such as MJ, Sky Saxon and Koko Taylor, but more obscure artists such as Viola Wills, and even folks you wouldn’t have thought of in this context: Gale Storm (I’m old enough to remember My Little Margie), Ed McMahon, and David Carradine, e.g.


Eight Meme

Jacquandor has a quiz thing! And I’m a sucker for them

8 Things I am looking forward to:

1. Riding the bicycle more.

2. Carol finally being done with her schooling in early August. It’s exhausting for all of us.

3. I’m hoping for our annual trip to the Mid-Hudson area of NYS, though the school thing may interfere.

4. That month between Carol being done with school and Lydia entering kindergarten when I can go to racquetball directly from home and Carol will take Lydia to day care.

5. Getting the new Top Pop Singles book from Record Research.

6. September when it’ll presumably gets less hot. I burn incredibly easily these days.

7. September, which is my favorite sports month. U.S. Open tennis, end of the baseball season, beginning of football season.

8. Actually watching those TV shows I’ve recorded but not seen – Scrubs, The Office, 30 Rock.

8 Things I did yesterday:

1. Went to church.

2. Watched the news from Friday and Saturday.

3. Made pancakes.

4. Read old newspapers.

5. Rode the stationery bike.

6. Played board games with the child.

7. Read to the child.

8. Sing to the child.

8 Things I wish I could do:

1. Care about politics. I mean I participate, and I’ll probably be carrying petitions for two candidates this summer, but sometimes I sense a real futility.

2. See better – reading in bad light is a chore.

3. Catch up on some of the “I ought to read that” list.

4. Have my father meet my daughter,

5. Type; I’d make blogging easier.

6. Most of the handiwork (that I’m really quite awful at.

7. Sleep through the night.

8. Lose weight.

8 Shows I Watch


2. 60 Minutes

3. This Week (ABC)

4. CBS Sunday Morning

5. Brothers & Sisters

6. Grey’s Anatomy

7. Bill Moyers Journal

8. Scrubs

Just a couple more entries would sum up the entirety of my teevee watching these days.

8 Life Lessons I have benefited from (or am TRYING to put into practice)

1. Listen more, talk less.

2. Please, please: Don’t be a litterbug, ’cause every litter bit hurts.

3. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

4. Do, or do not. There is no try.

5. Take the road less traveled.

6. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

7. Do unto others…

8. Smile, though your heart is aching.

Quizzes! Fun!! I love words with zz -give ’em the old raZZle daZZle.

Roger (Finally) Answers Your Questions, Scott

Scott from the Scooter Chronicles – GIVE THIS MAN A JOB! – wrote several questions:

Since obtaining your current job, have you ever thought of switching careers?

What, and leave show business? Seriously, not really. I learn something new (and sometimes interesting) every day. I work with smart people, and I provide a valuable service, if I do say so.

Besides which, I came to it so late (library school at 37, librarian at 39), I feel behind the curve compared with people who are my contemporaries agewise but have twice as much experience in the field.

Do you think the Obama administration will be able to make changes to the current health care systems? If so, do you think it will truly change for the better?

It’ll be incremental change, and it’ll be marginally for the better. But it won’t be the sweeping changes you righteously ranted about a few months ago. I knew trouble was brewing when single-payer wasn’t even on the table. I blame Sen. Max Baucus for that. Then the single-payer people were at the table but could not speak. Do not underestimate the power of the insurance lobbies.

Who do you think will be in the World Series, and who will win it?

At the beginning of the season, I picked Mets over Red Sox. Still feel the BoSox will be there. I could/should jump on the Dodgers/Cards/Phillies bandwagon, but heck with it, I’ll stick with the Metropolitans.

Oh, there was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal about “high-leverage” situation hitting versus the two-run homer in the fifth inning when you’re already ahead 11-1.
These are the best and worst, through June 13.
Giants .299/.254
Phillies .288/.247
Marlins .263/.231

Nationals .236/.284
Mariners .252/.279
Rays .257/.276

When growing up, did you play in any organized baseball leagues?

No. Tried out for Little League once. I was a middling to poor fielder, but what really made me give up was being at bat. This kid threw a 3-2 pitch for a strike and I never even saw it.

Is so, what position(s) did you play? (If you didn’t, what position would you have liked to play?)

I played a lot of unorganized baseball. I tended to play the right side of the infield, though I’m right-handed, because my arm wasn’t great. I could throw relatively accurately from second to first, but not from shortstop or third base. Also played first, since I was a large target. Actually got better getting throws in the dirt, but not throws that were too wide or too high.

I also caught some games. Didn’t much enjoy it, but I could block the ball if I didn’t catch it.

Who was your favorite baseball player while growing up?

Clearly, Willie Mays. He could hit for average and power, he could run and he could field well. That said, I always had an affection for National League outfielders such as Vada Pinson (Reds), Lou Brock (Cards), Billy Williams (Cubs), Hank Aaron (Braves), the Alou Brothers (Giants), Frank Robinson (Reds/Orioles), and Roberto Clemente (Pirates); I had a Clemente card that referred to him as “Bob”, but he was no “Bob”.

Do you have a favorite baseball player now? If so, who and why?

Albert Pujois (Cards). Seems like a decent guy and he’s very good.

Any big travel plans for the summer months?

At this very moment, we were supposed to be in Williamsburg, VA with my parents-in-law, my two brothers-in-law, their wives and collectively, their three daughters. But my wife Carol has so much school work to do in preparation for going away to college for 17 days in a row later this summer that we bailed. During that 17-day run, I’ll be doing the solo parenting thing. Having my wife back will be like a vacation; we did this last summer as well, so I know of what I speak.

There’s talk about going somewhere in August, but so far, I’m not feeling it. I don’t know about your experiences with Nigel, but my experience with Lydia is that vacation away from home is more taxing than just staying in the routine. I AM basing that on our vacation when she was three, and she’s more self-sufficient now.


Michael, Farrah, Ed

Just this month, a friend of mine bought me the 1979 Michael Jackson album Off the Wall on CD, after I noted that I only have it on vinyl and that I believed that Off the Wall was better than the album Thriller.

But my appreciation for Michael goes back earlier than that. The first album where Diana Ross “presents” the boys from Gary, Indiana to us was played often in our household. Not that I owned it; my sister did. On the surface, it was a little too childish to buy the music of a group led by a preteen. But I certainly did listen. I watched them on Ed Sullivan and eventually on their Saturday morning cartoon show. (In Gordon’s tribute to MJ, he picked a fine song from that debut album.)

But it was the second collection, ABC, that won me over. Not just the title song – “Sit down, girl, I think I love you” – but especially The Love You Save. I can competently sing every vocal part of that song – save for Michael’s. My sister got the third album, cleverly titled “Third Album”, and the fourth. I once requested on my favorite radio station of the 1970s that the DJ play Maybe Tomorrow, but she cut it off before that great call and response at the end.

I went away to college, appreciating what I had heard, but they left my consciousness until Dancing Machine in 1974, which I simply could not resist. Ultimately, I picked up that 1976 anthology.

There was this Andy Rooney special circa 1978 who did a riff on who was famous and who was not. Paul McCartney was famous; Michael Jackson, to his mind, was not. That would certainly change.

1979’s Off the Wall would sell sell over seven million copies domestically. But Michael’s commercial growth was stalled because MTV wouldn’t play MJ’s music, including the new (1982) Thriller; not their demographic. That is to say, too black. Columbia/Epic said, Fine, we’ll take off our OTHER artists from MTV; MTV capitulated. Given the way that MJ made MTV, and vice versa, it seems unbelievable now.

Every teenaged girl i knew thought that Michael was so “cute”. For whatever reasons, Michael’s appearance began to morph, all the weird stuff began happening. Seriously, I think the vitiligo, the skin disease that I also have messed with his head as much as his reportedly abusive father Joe. But I’m not going there. I choose to remember Michael as this force so powerful that on the Motown 25 special, he performed two non-Motown songs, mesmerizing the audience with his moonwalk, and forever stamped his ticket as a pop legend.
I hardly ever saw Charlie’s Angels. I know watched one episode at my parents’ house in Charlotte, NC that first season; I think it was the now infamous prison episode. When I bought a notebook with Farrah’s famous red bathing suit on the cover, I said I was being ironic; well, maybe. Used that notebook as a journal and I still have it, actually. She showed that she could act in The Burning Bed, which I did see.

So, I didn’t have a great deal invested in Farrah the icon. But her very public fight with cancer and her dogged determination to tackle it was admirable, if a little uncomfortable.
I always felt a little sorry for Ed McMahon. It was though, because he “lucked” into a high-profile, long-term job, he was somehow undeserving of it. Stuff happens; if he came onto a great gig, more power to him. Actually, I probably saw him more in his pitchman; he seemed ubiquitous in the roles, and I think it undercut his effectiveness. But he seemed like an OK guy. And in any case, he did not suffer the premature death of the others mentioned herein.
In more upbeat news:
Help Polyvinyl Save 10,000 Records From Destruction. I did and will be getting Of Montreal and other artists in return.
My niece Rebecca’s in a Top 40 Cover band, Siren’s Crush.
They’ve been in a battle of the bands and have made it the finals! The final competition is this coming Sunday night, June 28, 2009 at Viejas Casino, San Diego. 7 – 10 PM.
If you’re in the area, please come out and show your support. If you can’t make it, please send out good thoughts.


The Lydster, Part 63: The Songs

It’s been long been my philosophy that, as much as I love providing information for youse folk, a primary point of this blog is as a resource for myself. Things I think I’ll remember “forever” fade into oblivion.

With that in mind, I’m going to note the songs I sing to my daughter. Often, it’s the case that I’ll take an existing song and put new lyrics to it. If I do that, though, it has to be a song that she does not know. Once, I tried singing something to the “Wonder Pets” theme: “Lydia, Lydia, my favorite girl…” I was scolded, and told “THAT’S not how it goes.”

So, I take songs obscure to her. One of the first was this ditty:
“I love Lydia
I love Lydia,
‘Cause she is my daughter
Oh yeah
She is my daughter.”
This is to the tune of I Eat Cannibals by TOTAL Coelo. I didn’t even KNOW what the tune was at first, since I don’t even own it, I don’t think.

Another song I adapted Turn Down Day by The Cyrkle, a group best known for covering Paul Simon’s Red Rubber Ball. The words vary, but I usually start with the chorus, usually trying to prod the child out of bed:
It’s a day-care day
And it’s time to get some clothes
It’s a day-care day
Let’s get ready.

These tend to be the morning songs.

There are a slew of tuness to choose from when I sing to her at bedtime. Many are standard children’s songs, though she likes a variation on Twinkle, Twinkle about traffic lights which she taught me. “Sing A Song of Sixpence” is altered from “pecked off her nose” to “[kiss sound] kissed her nose”, at her instance, NOT me being overprotective.

The Car Song I learned from my father and I sing to her: “Mommy, won’t you take me for a ride in the car.” Be Kind to Your Parents was from from a record my sister Leslie and I had on red vinyl when we were kids; we sang it at my 50th birthday party.

But always, these are the last two. When she’s really tired, these are the ONLY two: A, You’re Adorable, which my mother sang to me – indeed the ONLY song I remember my mother ever singing to me, and for which I changed many of the lyrics, starting with J (“you’re so jolly”) because I couldn’t remember the original; and Good Night, the song from the Beatles’ white album, during which I turn on her night light, then slowly dim the overhead light.

Tomorrow, my take on yesterday’s news.


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