Thursday, June 25, 2009

More - and Less - Humorous News

In the wake of the passing of two pop icons of my youth, here is something a bit different from what is dominating every news outlet.[*] Well, everyone except one. MTV broke in with the news of Michael Jackson's death, but then went right back to its regular programming. I can't believe they couldn't cue up an obit show, or just pull a set of videos out of the archive. He made them a fortune. I wonder how long it will be before TCM shows "The Wiz" or The History Channel shows his biography.

Now for the story that is truly a bit different:
Stoned wallabies make crop circles
The posted comments are as priceless as that story. Could have been from The Onion.

Anyway, back to the real news ...

I feel a bit disconnected from the intensity of the coverage. Even though she is older than I am, I was in college when Farrah Fawcett became a pin-up queen of kids much younger than I. And Michael Jackson came along with the 'bubble gum' hit "Rockin' Robin" when I had moved on from "Mony Mony" to "Sergeant Pepper". I view his work more intellectually than I do The Beatles, because it was really his performance and production sense in his rock videos - starting with "Thriller" - that . That won't be the case for some younger colleagues who grew up with his records on a portable stereo at a pool party like I did with The Beatles.

Farrah Fawcett, age 62.

I can't believe she was that old. Or that my mom gave me a copy of her poster as a birthday gift sometime in the mid-late 70s. Her fame is kind of odd because it seems based entirely on that poster! Her acting roles were pretty forgettable.

Michael Jackson, age 50.

I can't separate Michael Jackson from MTV. That's why I was so disappointed that they were showing some movie rather than showing the videos where he displayed his true brilliance. He created some memorable music, unique choreography, and the ability to be a movie director if he chose to move into longer format film.

The only thing I take exception to in the coverage I have seen is the characterization of his work as music that brought black and white together. To me, that happened with any number of artists in the 60s, but particularly The Supremes and The Temptations. What was once 'race music', banned from 'white' radio, would be played right along with every other band. There were any number of songs that I didn't realize were by black artists until I saw them on a TV show.

By the way, the photo sequence in the BBC "Life in Pictures" tribute is as surreal as the rest of Jackson's life. He was getting to the point where he looked older than Keith Richards, who somehow managed to outlive Jackson.

It is sad to say, but maybe now Michael can rest in peace, even if someone turns Neverland into Graceland.

Condolences to all of their family and friends. Parents, even one as controlling as his father reportedly was, should not have to bury their kids.

Well, MTV finally woke up and smelled the stale roaches. They now have a tribute program on the "original" channel (where they used to show videos, just like CNN used to have news on CNN) and continuous Jackson videos on one or another of its other channels. I happened to catch the "Thriller" video, from the start, on a digital channel just by channel-surfing luck this morning. That made this event more real than any of the news coverage. I remember well when we put the debut of that video on our daily TV schedule. It was truly ground breaking, and in many ways it still is. It, and a few others, will be remembered in the same way some as the films that sprang from the genius of Gene Kelly.

And I take back a bit of what I said about his role in integrating music. The commentary that pointed out he integrated MTV was on the mark. In addition, my views of music integration might reflect the region I grew up in. I was remembering last night, when re-reading my post, that I heard a "Top 100 Rock Hits" program around 1980 in a southern state that did not include a single #1 Motown hit.

[*] Footnote:
The BBC is streaming their live BBC World News coverage onto a regular web news story. I've never seen that done, but it is interesting how much better their coverage is to the cable networks in the US - and it is after midnight there! I really can't believe that I was watching live video from Los Angeles of the helicopter carrying his body to morque by way of England over the Internet....


Matt Springer said...

The 24-hour news networks are wall-to-wall on the Jackson death. It's a big story so I don't begrudge the sensationalism all that much, but there's more big things than usual going on in the world now at the moment. It's a shame it's getting swamped.

Good news for that governor with the affair though.

Doctor Pion said...

Yeah, and those doper Wallabies.

Who thinks "Hiking the Appalachian Trail" will be a new euphemism for having an affair?

Anyway, FWIW, I expected 24-hour coverage by US networks, but seeing it streamed by BBC World News - with "follow the sun" standups as the news reached Australia and Malaysia in the morning - really put the scale of this story in perspective.

Is it bigger than a minor war that killed the best friend of one of my students just two years ago? Probably, to everyone except him.

Is it more important than what is going on in Iran? Who knows. If we are lucky, he will be more important.