26 June, 2009

And I will take from you your stony face, and I will give unto you a new face of flesh

Michael Joseph Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009)

For those of you who have been away from television, the internet, and other people for the past 24 hours or so, it is my sad duty to inform you that Michael Joseph Jackson* died yesterday afternoon of cardiac arrest in his California home. He was only 50 years old.

It is a definite sign of my maturity and newfound awareness of my own mortality that 50 no longer sounds old. In fact, to die at 50 seems horrendously young. Both of my parents are well past 50--though, granted, neither of my parents receive daily injections of morphine, either. However, the most interesting thing to me about Michael Jackson's death was the varied reactions it received--not from the press, but from everyday people. Many of the facebook statuses, tweets, etc. I read focused on the far-reaching, unprecedented effect of his music. But disturbingly, some people seemed eerily gleeful that he was dead, as if he had done something to offend them personally. "Good riddance," wrote one friend. "May he rest in piss," wrote another. Not since the death of Saddam Hussein have I heard someone's demise so celebrated by Americans.

Huh? Why? OK, I know that he was a strange guy. No denying that. And he was twice put on trial for child molestation. However, he was acquitted of those charges in what seemed to be a pretty fair trial. I followed it pretty closely. One of my favorite pieces of pop culture writing of all time is found here, where Jacob Weisberg elegantly and intelligently defends Michael Jackson against his accusers, not by trying to prove that he isn't a disturbed person, but that his arrested development might in fact belie his general image of a sexually preoccupied pervert. Read it. I wholeheartedly agree with Weisberg's theory that Michael Jackson may well have been socially and mentally incapable of the malicious behavior so many people condemned him for.

I love Michael Jackson's music. He was an incomparable entertainer. But more than that, he was an incomparable celebrity. It's strange for me to think that once upon a time, celebrities' personal lives were once guarded jealously by their agents and presented to the public as a facade: either bleached to the point of being unrecognizable, or completely falsified. Their actual foibles were covered up and/or lied about. But with the death of Elvis and the advent of celebrities like Madonna and Michael Jackson, all that changed. Suddenly their struggles were our business, and ignoring them was dishonest. BOOM! MJ and Madonna birthed the celebrity culture of the 80s, and America was never the same. Modern celebrityhood would not be what it is today without Michael Jackson--or, more specifically, without his father, who shoved all his sons into show business when they were all just children. As Weisberg points out, had he been forced to work in a mine or a factory at the age of seven rather than on a stage, we would have a lot more sympathy for him. Michael Jackson wasn't just the King of Pop music, he was in fact the King of Pop culture.

That's the real tragedy about Michael Jackson, I feel. That he was literally (!) THE MOST POPULAR ARTIST IN THE WORLD. His album sales were insanely lucrative. His influence on Western culture was remarkable, absolutely incomparable. He was one kid who could sing, and his talent and innovation changed the world. And our culture broke him. His parents took his childhood away so he could be famous, and he spent the rest of life trying to move away from the fame and get his childhood back, and failing miserably. I remember my parents using Michael Jackson as a poignant example of how money can't buy happiness. He had everything, and lost it all in his search for something more elusive than a perfectly plasticized and youthful face. Obviously he has to shoulder some of the blame for his poor decisions. But was anyone helping him instead of posting funny pictures of his collapsing nose and making jokes about his weird fascination with Peter Pan? I wasn't.

Michael Jackson was a warning to all of us about what our culture based on money rather than charity (thank you Suheir Hammad) does to people. It breaks my heart now to think about how much he must have been suffering, both outwardly and inwardly, his entire life, and how nobody cared . The public fascination with him was based on his freakishness, not his humanity. I actually remember looking at photos of him a few years ago and thinking to myself, "Wow, suddenly my life doesn't seem so bad."

For those of us who believe in the family of man and the immortality of the human soul, this raises a particularly relevant question: how could we do this to a child of God, to another god in embryo? I would never think of condoning the emotional torture of someone I know personally, so why does it make it OK to do that to someone just because he or she is famous? Who gave me the right? I don't know. But it upsets me that I often feel authorized to say un-Christlike things about someone I don't know just because he or she is in the public eye. Obviously, this is inherently wrong. I just never thought about it in this way until Michael Jackson died.

One of my favorite scriptures in the Old Testament reads as follows:

26 A anew bheart also will I cgive you, and a new dspirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony eheart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my aspirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
---Ezekiel 36: 26-7

I hope that Michael Jackson is peacefully reunited with those that love him on the other side, and moreover that he is learning about his intrinsic worth from He who loves even the most strange and the least understood.


*An interesting parallel between Michael Jackson and one Joseph Smith, Jr. (another controversial and misunderstood historical figure): generally, the FIRST son in a family is the one who receives the honor of carrying on his father's name. However, Joseph Smith junior was the third son of his parents (though the fifth child), and Michael Jackson was the seventh child, sixth son. COINCIDENCE? Yeah, maybe. Still, though.

25 June, 2009

Here's the thing.

I have so many good, honest, compassionate people in my life. People who know what is best for me even if I don't realize it until much later.

I believe in second chances. And fourth ones. For myself as well as for others.

Additionally, I went for a bike ride this morning and smelt honeysuckle twice.

July will be an auspicious month. I can feel it.

19 June, 2009

Attention shirtless old man living at 500 S 300 E Provo:


I wasn't even provoking the little beast. I was just running down the street. He attacked me out of sheer evilness.

08 June, 2009

The trivialities of this Monday existence

A summary of today's events:

1. I woke up, showered, and rode my bike to school.

2. I started to not feel well while I was on my bike, but against my better judgment ignored my feelings and went to class anyway.

3. I was in class for not ten minutes when I left the room to throw up. See my entry about how sick I get when I menstruate here. Sometimes I get so sick with cramps that I throw up. Today is one of those days.

4. I staggered back into class, then decided staying would be unwise (especially since I was already familiar with the subject and would most likely learn nothing from the lecture ... HIST 201 is pretty darn remedial). So I staggered out.

5. This is one of the best bits:

I realized that I had my friend Elaine's little iClicker quiz device, and that she would need it in class that day in Astronomy since I wasn't going to be there. I called her and asked if we could meet on campus for the hand-off, but she was still at home. We discussed whether or not I could leave it under her usual chair in the planetarium, but both agreed that most likely some well-meaning student would find it and take it to the Lost and Found. I couldn't think of any other place I could leave it where it would remain for two hours unmolested. Then Elaine had the genius idea: in the library! The library is so vast there is no way any employee would find the iClicker if I left it in an unpopular place. I told her I would hide it in the library and text her the call number. It was a completely brilliant plan!

I ended up leaving my iClicker for her as well seeing as I wasn't going to be in class (Elaine is a good friend like that). I went to the second floor, to the Maps/Government section, which is both vast and under-inhabited. The Canada of the HBLL, if you will. I found a book with a title I liked (The History of Luminescence, by someone named Harvey) and left both iClickers on top of it. I also attached a note to them that read: "Please don't move these! I am asking a girl on a date!" I figured this would assure that no one would move the iClickers because no one wants to be the jerk that messed up some guy's complicated date scheme, and because I thought it was a really funny notion, asking someone out by hiding an academic device (two!) in the library.

6. After I texted Elaine the call number, but before I had exited the library, I went to the restroom and threw up again.

7. I came home and took a nap with Sego, who is a lot like a giant, fuzzy hot water bottle and did me the courtesy of sleeping on my sore belly.

8. I woke up and watched the Simpsons and ate "chicken" soup. The word chicken is in quotation marks because the broth is vegetarian and there is no chicken in the soup. I felt inspired to make a big batch of said soup yesterday afternoon even though I felt just fine. It must have been the Spirit who knew I was going to get sick.

9. Alisha Geary, who I used to visit teach and who has a great deal of health troubles and thus is very sympathetic to the distressed and ill, brought me some ibuprofen and a book we'd discussed some weeks earlier.

10. I took another nap after downing an undisclosed number of aforementioned pills.

11. I watched Penelope and ate more "chicken" soup. By this time I was feeling a bit better and decided I wanted something with chocolate. It is that time of the month, after all.

12. I decided on vegan chocolate mousse. I drove to Smith's (which I normally never do), bought the necessary ingredients, and came home and made the mousse. It turned out very delicious. There's a lot leftover if you want to come over and have some.

13. Joe came over and we talked while the puppies played. At one point Joe was playing with Sego and accidentally stepped on a glass in the living room. The glass shattered but luckily his foot was only cut in one place. and not very badly.

14. Brooke came over and brought me more soup while I was talking with Joe, and the three of us sat and talked until it got dark. One subject of interest was what food-related names might be acceptable for Joe's future children since he likes to name his pets after food (Broccoli, Potato, etc.). Most of the names we came up with were herbs: Sage, Rosemary, Saffron, Ginger. Why do you think that is the case?

15. I talked with Candace about birth control since she is getting an IUD installed (inserted?) soon.

16. Now I am writing in my blog. I have not thrown up for quite a few hours. I assume that means I will be OK tomorrow.

Today was a very boring day except for the library and the chocolate mousse.

02 June, 2009

I can't believe I haven't blogged about this experience.

Today I participated in a research study that measured heart rate in relation to oxygen consumption. It involved running on a treadmill for ten minutes with an oxygen mask strapped to my head. It was actually pretty fun. And interesting. If anyone is interested in my MAX VO2 levels I have it on a computer printout. Also they gave me ten dollars.*

Afterwards I was in the women's locker room changing into my street clothes when I remembered an interesting thing that happened to me a few years ago. I thought I had blogged about it before, but it turns out I have not. So I will share this experience with you now.

It was my sophomore year of college, when I still had foolish and impractical ideas like "it would be more fun to take three half-credit classes to fulfill my physical education/health credit than take one three-credit class." Idiot! This philosophy has since evolved into "how can I get out of here as quickly as possible? and is there a faster option than that?" I realize this is not a very admirable attitude, but we'll save the discussion re: the flaws in our American educational system for another day.

So anyway, I was taking a PE class called either "everyday fitness" or "weight management." I honestly can't remember. It was just like high school PE in that we met three times a week and played various sports. It was at nine in the morning, and this was before I had a car so it required me to wake up quite early to get there on time. Eventually I lost motivation to do so and ended up failing the class. This was before that.

One day after class was over, I was in the locker room changing into street clothes. This was the semester I took 18 credits and worked for EiZ, so I was on campus all day, every day. I always brought a lunch with me rather than buying a lunch: generally a peanut butter sandwich and several assorted baggies of rabbit food such as nuts, raisins, carrots, et al. That day, as other days, I had brought a peanut butter sandwich with me, and had removed it from my backpack so it wouldn't get squished by my running shoes. It sat that on top of my backpack while I stood next to it and put on my jeans.

Until a girl, about my age, wearing a leotard and tights, walked by me as I stood there changing. I watched her as she paused, then grabbed my peanut butter sandwich and walked away! She was literally right next to me when she did this.

I was so shocked at what happened I didn't even confront her. I just stood there as she walked away with my sandwich. I was very hungry that day, with only baggies of rabbit food to eat.

I can think of several explanations for this strange behavior:

1. She thought my backpack was hers, and that she was grabbing her own property. That really doesn't make any sense seeing as she had clearly locked her stuff away elsewhere
(she was walking to class in dance clothes), and I was clearly standing next to that backpack, as its owner.

2. She thought I had stolen her sandwich from her stuff. I don't know what might have lead to her believing that.

3. She was a spy and an enemy had planted an explosive in my sandwich while I was in class.

4. She was starving to death and didn't care about morality anymore. She was a ballet dancer so that makes sense.

5. She figured I didn't want the sandwich since it was just sitting there.

Because I was 19 and non-confrontational, and also completely confused by this incident, I just let her walk away as she pleased. Sadly, I will probably never know the motivation for this act of sandwich terrorism. However, if she ever reads this, I hope she will do me the courtesy of commenting and explaining why she was taking my sandwich to a starving orphan in Bolivia who needed it more than I did. Or whatever.

*I should say that it was actually a ten dollar gift certificate to Legends Grille on campus. I think they sell hamburgers and such.