Friday, June 26, 2009

Remembering Michael Jackson

Why is it that only upon death do we realize how special someone is?

Unless you live in a cave without any form of communication with the outside world, you know that the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, passed away yesterday. Suddenly, it's cool to like Michael Jackson again. For years, he has been at the center of pop culture controversy (child molestation charges, his ever-changing appearance and disappearing nose, Neverland Ranch, dangling his infant off a balcony, and so much more), the punchline of many jokes, and in most circles, the epitome of lame. But there was a time when he was not just the King of Pop; he was the King of Cool.

My earliest memory of Michael Jackson was the Thriller album, which my big sister owned. The video to "Thriller" scared the bejesus out of me for years. I remember visiting family friends in Virgina the summer that Thriller was huge. Walking around their complex, I could hear songs from the album drifting from open windows and cars. I don't know why I remember that; I guess it was that big of a deal then.

Years later, Michael Jackson still managed to creep into my life, even when I decided that alternative music was way cooler. In 1995, when MJ released HIStory, he had giant statues of himself all over the world. That summer, I was in Berlin, and there was his statue, perched high atop some building. It was smaller than I thought it would be, but a secret part of me thought it was a little cool. In college, a friend loved to sing Michael Jackson songs at karaoke; he did the King of Pop proud. Just last spring, another friend busted out dancing to "Thriller" at a bar in Boston - and that was before we started drinking. These are just some of my favorite MJ memories.

He's gone now, but his music will live on. So, he was weird. Really, really, weird. But it's not like that weirdness came from thin air. He was a troubled soul, trying to find his place in the world and a little love. He gave everything he had to his fans and those in his life. Today, let's remember what he gave us. Won't you share a memory or two?

In the meantime, here are two of my favorites from MJ:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

There and Back Again

So, I just returned earlier this week from my first trip ever to Puerto Rico. I first have to say how fortunate I am to have a job where I get to travel to cool locales like that. The intent of the trip was to oversee an educational meeting in Santurce last Thursday with primary care doctors who treat diabetes. Overall, a good meeting.

I decided to stay in Puerto Rico through Sunday in San Juan, and was happy to have company this time - my lovely sister, Kim. We both were way overdue for a little R&R, and we certainly took advantage of it...while seeing the sights, of course! Friday, we toured Old San Juan, including Castillo San Felipe de Morro, the 16th century fort built at the tip of the city. I'm always amazed to walk around buildings that were built before the first settlements were established in my own country, to breath in the history and imagine my feet touching the same ground that people from centuries ago touched. And it's really amazing to go to places where the culture and history are honored and, in most cases, well-preserved. The United States is a proud melting pot, but very rarely can we find remnants of something from centuries ago. Out with the old, in with the new. Always. But I digress...

While we saw beautiful architecture, drank the rum the island is known for, felt the history around us, I found the most intriguing thing (as with most trips) to be the locals. I loved watching the hundreds of school children fly kites in the field outside of the fort's entrance. I loved the warmth and friendliness of the people, from the taxi drivers to the shop keepers and beyond - there was no pretension. I have to admit, I do not warm up to people easily; I don't trust immediately, I'm skeptical, I try to sense the vibes coming from others. Maybe that's just the Northern New Jersey side of me. So, to say that I had in-depth conversations with the locals would be a lie. But I appreciated their warmth just the same and it really added to the trip.

...and the beaches. My goodness. I forgot what soft sand between my toes and the warm ocean gently lapping the shores felt like. I forgot what sunlight felt like (yes, it's been raining way too much at home!) It was heaven. Even when it rained, it was wonderful. Loved. It. Next time, I'll have to stay longer to check out the rain forests and bio-luminary lagoons, and all the secret treasures of the island.

Now I'm home, still reveling in my relaxation. What would have made things all the better would be if my back didn't go out again. And it's not just that it went out. It left without leaving a note. A few years ago, I had the same problem, but even after therapy, the only resolution was surgery. Followed by more therapy. And a big scar on my lower back. So, to think, I've returned to that state where I might have to go through all that's really a buzz kill to my wonderful trip, where just a week ago, I was walking around like no one's business. For the last few days, I haven't even been able to stand upright. So, a week of highs and lows...but that's Life and it goes on and on...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Do Unto Others

I'll preface this by saying that I'm not an overly political or religious person. Still, I believe in doing what's fair and what's right, in recognizing there are two sides to every coin, and following the Golden Rule.

Apparently, not everyone is on the same page when it comes to treating others as they would want to be treated.

This week alone, we saw an angry white supremisist open fire at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, killing one. A few weeks ago, a doctor who performed late-term abortions in Kansas was shot to death. A few months ago, another racist went on a shooting spree, among other horrible acts, against any "non-white" people outside of Boston. Then there are those who are vehemently against homosexuals, with current hot topics being the continuous fight against same-sex marriage, as well as some hateful words thrown in Adam Lambert's direction since the American Idol contestant "came out of the closet" earlier this week.

It really saddens the heart.

I appreciate that, under the U.S. Constitution, we are all supposedly protected by the First Amendment. I appreciate that there are people in this world who do not share my viewpoints, and I don't share theirs. What I cannot appreciate is the violence, the hatred, ignorance, and bigotry that still plagues our nation...and the world, for that matter. It's a story as old as time, but you would think as we continue to progress as a modern society, that people would educate themselves and learn to co-exist, respect, and (dare I say) even like those that share this world with them.

Oh (if you'll allow me a few more minutes on my soap box)...and I love when people throw God into the mix. I will not repeat those statements here because, simply, I do not want to give anymore time to them than required. But you know the statements. Now, again, I'm not religious. I recognize that not everyone believes in God, but I do, so if you'll allow me this sentiment...I believe that we are His children and made in His image. I believe that He loves us all the same, regardless of race, religion, creed, sexual preference or whatnot. And I also firmly believe that He would welcome those who live a life of honesty, love, humility and respect (again, regardless of background) instead of those who live with hatred and violence in their hearts.

I'm sorry if I have offended anyone. I just feel that something needed to be said. With that, I leave you with this famous quote from Martin Niemöller

In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me -
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Such Random Things

Nothing extraordinary to write about today, so I'll just post a few things swimming around in my head at this moment:
  • My prayers go out to the families of those on Air France Flight 447. What a terrible tragedy.
  • How does Air France Flight 447 have a Wikipedia page already?
  • Susan Boyle will be just fine. After a bit of rest, she'll have the fantastic singing career that she deserves, and hopefully she'll get used to the fame that comes with it. Diversity reminds me of those super choreographed cheerleading routines...but maybe they'll get a job as backup dancers to Britney Spears? What else could they do?
  • Why can't "America's Got Talent" be more like "Britain's Got Talent" rather than a weird carny show?
  • The Pope is getting techy on us: (Replacing former Website*
  • My husband's 20-year college reunion is this weekend, and although I'll only know a handful of people, I have to wonder if it will be like Romy and Michelle....or I Remember Andrea (yes, so they were both about high school get my point). I guess in the end, not my reunion - not my problem.
  • Speaking of 20 year anniversaries and reunions...The Stone Roses should reunite. The former band members say no dice, but there's always wishful thinking. Pleeeeeease?
  • This is one of the best songs ever and I've loved it since the 80s. (Pretty Please???):

* This was never a real Website...but it should have been!