Tag Archives: Michael Jackson

Off the Wall, Motown Superstar Series (an anthology of sorts), and the original Thriller (a gift from my roommate)

I’d hate for this to turn into a “What’s Nate up to today?” sort of blog since this is supposed to be the representation of my left brain, but I wanted to pull out the DSLR and snap some shots as well as check out what this Image Post Format on WordPress is all about. UPDATE: It appears that the Image Post Format turns the rest of the text in the post grey–a means of drawing attention to the image, I suppose. Accordingly, I’ve turned this into a Standard Post Format.

I haven’t shot photos on my T2i in a long time. I’ve been using the 50mm 1.8 (nifty fifty!), but I’m growing very upset with it. The crop factor is just immense and it is annoying having to back up and hold the camera in awkward positions to get the shot I want. On the other hand, though, I don’t want to go back to using a zoom lens since that just feels tacky–and of course I can’t get the apertures I want with zooms. Perhaps I just have to develop an intuition for my 50mm.

Michael Jackson’s birthday is coming up. I have an idea for a tribute. I wasn’t able to prepare for one adequately for his death anniversary, but I’m hoping that this idea is good enough to celebrate and recognize: 1) His 3rd death anniversary 2) His 54th birthday 3) The 25th anniversary of BAD.

I’d like to share one of the most haunting memories of my life. It took place on July 7th, 2009. It was the end of Michael Jackson’s public memorial service in Los Angeles in the Staples Arena, in the space he had been rehearsing for his upcoming shows in London.

0:00 – The video clip starts after members of the Jackson family addressed the audience with closing remarks. The most touching of these came from Michael’s daughter, Paris. “I just want to say that ever since I was born, daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine . . . and I just want to say . . . that I love him so much.” It started off in a forced manner, almost. But I think you would be cold hearted to deny the integrity of the second half of her statement. It’s such a simple thing to say, but it is also the strongest thing to say at this time: “I just want to say,” is the weak introduction, but in the context of a memorial it acquires a remarkable strength; and ” . . . that I love him so much,” is raw emotion, void of rhetorical flourish. To see Paris embraced by the family afterward is only added strength to her statement. It is a love so manifest and so tangible. (Link)

0:06 – Members from the crowd begin to shout short messages of love to Michael. “We love you, Michael,” “We miss you, Michael.” It’s unrestrained affection for Michael. No one cares if they stand out from the crowd. In a sense, Michael made us comfortable enough to be uncomfortable with respect to society’s boundaries, and this is evident even in his death.

0:28 – Man, this part will always get me. Michael’s brothers approach his casket and escort their brother. I mean, unpack the symbolism in that act; it’s filled with imagery. As they begin, Michael’s band begins to play an instrumental version of Man in the Mirror. It’s haunting, heartfelt, and harrowing. The casket that sat at the front of the arena finally moves. It is Michael’s final move as protagonist. It is our final chance to bid adieu. It’s bittersweet. We don’t want Michael to leave, but this is his final curtain call, the inevitable and equalizing curtain. It is at this point that we must finally face the reality of our loss, but it is a loss we are prepared to meet. The service is a fitting memorial, honorable for such a man, and, in this, we are prepared to come to terms with our loss. This smashing of emotion is only intensified with the beautiful melody. I could literally sit at a piano and play those 10 notes for hours on end just to listen for Michael’s echo and to appreciate their simplicity and inherent beauty.

1:05 – The casket is gone. Michael is gone. All we are left with is the empty stage and photographs. The photograph and the stage function as our imagery, our remembrance of Michael through sight. The instrumental haunts and robs us with our auditory remembrance. The harmony is present, but Michael’s melody and voice is absent. It is at this point that we face reality without Michael. It is at this point that we first experience how we will experience Michael posthumously.

1:26 – The percussive clap wakes us from our sorrowful state and daze. It ushers in a more powerful image and mode of remembrance: The naked spotlight and the unhandled microphone. It is incomplete. Here is the spotlight; our attention is fixed. There is the microphone; we await the voice. Though fixed, our attention will never be satisfied. Though we wait, the voice will never come.

1:39 – The lights are dimmed, and the sensations are only intensified. I imagine that, at this point, everyone that was moving in the audience paused. It is a powerful beckoning for us to pay a final respect to this imagery of remembrance. There is the stage, the microphone, the spotlight. There is Michael, but there is not Michael. Photograph, song without vocal, and the symbolic stage: this is how we will keep Michael within our grasp.

2:42 – I always feel bad for Pastor Lucious Smith. I’m sure he didn’t want to ruin this intimate moment. Though nothing changes for nearly two minutes, it is not long enough. We want to continue to mourn, but we have mourned and remembered properly. It is time to move on.

This is one of the most haunting memories of my life. It is full of symbolism and meaningful imagery and sound. It is one of the most meaningful losses in my life. I feel so impolite and ignorant when I say that, but I would be remiss in myself to confess differently. I find so much meaning for myself and for Michael in Michael and Michael’s life. This short video clip attempts to signify the end of that era in my life. It attempts to symbolize the end of Michael Jackson, but it never will. Nothing will ever adequately present the end of Michael Jackson.

An elderly black lady approached my cash register one day. Caught in my routine of “customer service”, I robotically processed the transaction. Then my manager walked past me and commented on my customer’s tshirt.

“I like your Michael Jackson tshirt.”

My ears perked, my eyes removed their focus from her purchases, and my mind went sharp. It wasn’t a tshirt I would buy, but it made me very happy to see someone wearing a Michael Jackson tshirt. My manager and customer exchanged comments about the tshirt and Michael’s passing (and his recent death anniversary), and it broke my heart when the old lady said she “got all sad again” when the 25th rolled around. I didn’t say anything the entire time, and my mind was all over the place. I wanted to throw my hands in the air and scream “I LOVE MICHAEL JACKSON TOO! WE BOTH LOVE HIM. CAN I GIVE YOU A HUG?!” But, of course, I didn’t.

My roomate likes to surprise people — or me, at least. On my 20th birthday, he told me had a wonderful gift for me. He had it wrapped and it sat in our dorm room for about a week before I could open it. I’m not too fond of birthday gifts, so I really gave no bother to what it was. Honestly, I was more interested in hoping that my sister would show up with a copy of This Is It on Bluray. But, of course, that didn’t happen.

Then I was allowed to open the gift, and it was a wonderful gift — possibly the most wonderful gift a friend has ever given me. It was a framed copy of Thriller in vinyl. The record was his mother’s, and my roomie found it while cleaning out his family’s attic. I was shocked that his mother was willing to give it to me. I was even more shocked that I had it. I had it, the record that sent Michael into orbit (not that Off The Wall didn’t, but nothing will ever match Thriller). It was like history and power behind glass, and it was mine to gaze at forever. I told my roomie how fantastic I thought the gift was. I’m horrible at conveying my emotions, and I don’t think I’ve ever fully expressed how grateful I am for the vinyl. It’s a material possession I will treasure forever.

These are two examples where I’ve encountered Michael Jackson in the real world. For as large as a celebrity as Michael is, I’ve had very minimal interaction with his fans in real life. In fact, I only have maybe two or three friends who are legitimate Michael Jackson fans. I treasure those encounters because they love Michael Jackson, and I do too. I love to share my love for Michael. To see him embraced by my customer, an elderly black woman, and my roomate’s mother, a younger white woman, was very precious. It reminded me that Michael’s influence and art spanned across race and class. His art and life broke social barriers. He didn’t accomplish these social feats alone, but he certainly expedited them. I wouldn’t liken him to Dr. Martin Luther King, but it would be remiss to remember Michael Jackson only for his music.

The first black artist to be prominently featured on the dominantly white MTV was a loud shout to an America emerging from racial strife: I AM YOUNG AND BLACK AND I CAN BE THE FACE OF MAINSTREAM AMERICA.

Michael, along with many other important social activists and artists, paved the way for me, an Asian American, to be in America today. I’m eternally grateful for these giants.

The Tribute (

  • The costume consists of the fedora, white glove, loafers, socks, and black pants. I decided to wear a designed t-shirt because I wanted to try and capture some of Michael’s element from the Victory tour. He wore a blue t-shirt under his sequined jacket in that tour, and I thought that looked very cool. My parents bought the jacket, and it’s special because it’s a replica of the jacket he wore during his 30th Anniversary Concerts. Usually he wore the jacket without the stripe, but those September concerts — the concerts that made me a fan — were ones where he wore the arm band. I was most disappointed with the pants. They weren’t short enough and they didn’t have a stripe down the sides.
  • The audio is also borrowed from the 30th Anniversary Concerts. I like his Billie Jean performance from those concerts because they’re full of excitement. Billie Jean at Motown 25 launched Michael into stardom — Billie Jean was iconic, synonymous, with Michael Jackson. Then at the 30th Anniversary Concerts, the audience in Madison Square Garden were lucky to see Michael Jackson — to my knowledge — perform Billie Jean for the first time in years, but the last time in his life. This was Michael’s song. At points you can hear the excitement emanating from his voice. This song made Michael Jackson, Michael Jackson, and he was sharing it with the world again.
  • The camera angles were all courtesy of my friends who helped film it: Kyle, Angie, Ana, Zhennan, Isaac, Vince, Caitlin, and Tegan. I have to thank them for helping me film this tribute. It means so much to me, and it wouldn’t have been possible without them. Isaac also provided the lights, microphone, and experience in reserving the stage.
  • The tribute was filmed in Marquette University’s Weasler Auditorium. It is a compilation of 4 run-throughs. This is a testament to Michael’s mastery. In what took him one show, it took me four — and even with four, it’s not up to par — not that I would ever be — with his show.

That’s something I didn’t expect from filming this tribute: Therapy. I wasn’t sad at all. It was like when I watched “This Is It”. When some facet of Michael is on stage, you have to smile. It’s not sad at all. You saw this man doing what he loved to do, what he had been doing since the age of five, what he was proudest and best at. When you see someone in love with something that they truly and genuinely love, you have to smile. It’s compulsory.

Had Michael not passed, I probably would have never filmed this. And that’s exactly my intent: I don’t want to bring adulation on myself because my purpose was to pay final respects to a man and entertainer I’ll always remain fond of. This video is for Michael as an expression of gratitude and love.

Michael Jackson

I’m glad that, for the most part, Michael has been represented in a positive light in the media. His This Is It tour was supposed to be, in a sense, redemptive for him from the public scrutiny. It was supposed to remind us that Michael Jackson wasn’t just the man with the oddities, but that he was a genius with music and an artist with dance. This Is It was supposed to remind the world that Michael Jackson entertained, and he was a master of entertainment.

Yet, in light of all the positivity, I think we must be rash and remember that he died because of unhealthy drug use (in addition to poor care, I’m guessing), and that Michael Jackson was and is not a god. Not everything about him before his passing was perfect, and like any one of us, Michael was fallible. Sometimes I feel like I make him my idol, and that worries me. But it would be foolish to try and reduce my obsession or interest. First, because it would be nearly impossible. Secondly, because in order to reduce something, you have to increase something else. ((In my case, I don’t want Michael Jackson to come before God. Therefore, I increase my focus on God, but can still healthily enjoy Michael.)) In the end, I’m elated that his enduring legacy will be positive. He didn’t get it for most of his life, but he deserved it.