Monday, July 20, 2009

Sunburn and Lunar Wonder

Forty years ago today I was a teenager spending a month-long vacation with my family in Florida. There were two things that made today etched forever in my memory: the first lunar landing and a case of sunburn I received from fall asleep on the beach.

Since the space program has fascinated me from its beginning, like millions of others of that time, I stayed up late to watch those grainy black and white images on a television relayed back to those marvelled by the wonder of it all, reported by Walter Cronkite who shared in that sense of wonder and astonishment. There were those who said (back on earth) that the whole thing was a stunt filmed on earth in either a sound studio in Hollywood or Death Valley. Fortunately, those "conspiracy" believers were in the minority.

I remember after the excitement of watching the lunar landing walks and bouncing by astronauts Armstrong and Aldrin, trying to sleep, but the sunburn and a historical milestone that seems so much nearer than forty years ago, keeping me up longer than I'd ever been awake in my life at that time.

I had hoped, like Stanley Kubrick, that by 2001, the world would have made greater strides in the space program, but such has not been the case. Perhaps one day, astronauts will venture out beond the moon, and I hope I am alive to see that event. Sunburn, however, is something I never wish to experience again

Sunday, July 5, 2009

R.I.P. M.J.

I learned about the death of Michael Jackson when someone told me while I was chatting online with them the day the news broke (Actress Farrah Fawcett had died earlier that same day.) Like many people, I was in shock. Fawcett's death was sad but not unexpected given her long struggle with cancer. However, Jackson was an extremely gifted and talented individual, but a seemingly deeply troubled one as well (some labeled him "weird", others made less kind remarks to the press--even after his recent death--judgments that his soul has now gone to "Hell") and growing speculation about drug dependency is not a surprise.

Before the pedophilia issue, before controversy over his changing looks, I had enjoyed Michael Jackson's music back to the days of the Jackson 5 when I was a teenager. I enjoyed several of his songs in his later years as a solo performer. The song "Billie Jean" was not a favorite of mine beyond the televised "moonwalk" MJ revealed to the world at the televised Motown celebration, but that dance move impressed me. I wish he'd stopped his physical transformation after the release of the album "Thriller." The video of "Heal the World" can still move me to tears.

There would come the revelations (not surprising) that Joseph Jackson abused his sons to get them noticed by music companies at an early age. There is a long history of "stage parents" and it continues today in the form of baby or children beauty pageants and even over-hyped reality programs using the term "talent shows." All a disturbing trend for money and fame.

I'm going to remember Jackson for his talent, which also probably led to physical problems and as speculated, drug dependency. Toward the end of his life, Jackson had altered his appearance so much that he gone from a cute boy to a man obviously with too much money and not enough self-esteem. His music will live on as part of his legacy.