This Is It

michael-jackson-this-is-it-rehearsalI just watched movie “This is It“, Michael Jackson’s rehearsals for his intended performance tour.  I feel stirred.  Here are my rather raw thoughts.  (Won’t be much proofreading or editing this time).

I am a music snob.  There, I said it.  I do not care for much pop music and I probably won’t ever buy any MJ music.  It just does not match my musical pallette.  That statement says more about me than it does about MJ.  I could say his music is bad, but the reality is that it is very good.  I just don’t care for it… musically.  My opinion.

I once heard an interview with Quincy Jones in which he was praising MJ for his musicianship when they worked together on The Wiz.  I have a lot of respect (musically) for Quincy Jones, so his praise for Michael made me sit up and take notice.  I also heard a lot of people who saw it in the theater say how much they liked it.  I really noticed for myself what an awesome musician MJ really was.  He knew what he wanted to hear… exactly and pushed back until he got it.

I noticed that at times, he had trouble explaining in plain language what he wanted.  He would describe something in really wacky abstract terms, like the time he said that his ear piece (monitor) felt like someone was putting a fist in his ear.  The producer guy had to ask him patiently if there was anything they could do to make it better.  Was there something missing in the mix?  He replied, “No, just turn it down.”  I thought to myself, “Why didn’t you just say that to begin with?”  However, I can also relate to having trouble communicating something simple.  Sometimes I am so caught up in what I’m doing that I can’t express simple what I want to say until someone patiently asks the right questions to get understanding.

I am reading Pops (a biography of Louis Armstrong) and they called him an entertainer.  The “real” musicians didn’t mean it as a compliment.  They complained that he was an “Uncle Tom” and too self depricating on stage.  What they didn’t understand was that was who he was… an entertainer.  It was part of the act.  Similarly I think Michael was truly an entertainer and “real” musicians don’t get it.  In his own words near the end of the video (to the best of my memory), he told his fellow performers that they (the audience) was coming to escape reality.  they want to be taken places they’ve never been before and experience talent that they’ve never experienced before.  That’s entertainment.  He put on a helluva show!

Michael Jackson was a strange man with some really odd problems.  He was born in 1958, the same year I was born.  He became famous with the Jackson Five when he was only eight.  I can only imagine what that would do to a person.  You can’t live the life of a public star and not have any adverse affects.  My guess (and it is only a guess) is that a lot of the personal issues MJ had were direcly related to his fame.  He wasn’t a normal guy. I also think that his artistry was related to his eccentricity.  In my experience, it seems like when someone has a lot of talent in one particular area, they are missing it in most other areas.

Before I started the movie, I posted on Facebook that I was going to watch it.  I got some interesting comments.  It’s funny how someone like MJ pushes so many buttons even after his death.  I like pushing my own boundaries, experiencing new things and doing the unexpected.  Most of all I love excellence and I love variety!  I’m glad I watched the show.  It was excellent.

Thanks Michael.

Tying My Own Shoes

While boarding my plane on my recent trip to Arizona, I overheard one passenger telling another about a different method for tying shoes.  He was just finishing the explanation and telling her how it was much more secure than the regular method.  My shoes are constantly coming untied, so I was curious, but the line was moving again and it was too late to ask.  I determined to check google for the answer.

Wouldn’t you know there is a site devoted to tying ones shoes; Ian’s Shoelace Site features 17 ways to tie a shoelace. I experimented with each of them evaluating for ease of tying and security until I came to the ians-balanced-knot“Two Loop Shoelace Knot”; the “normal” knot that I learned when I was a kid.  Thinking that it has never been very secure, I almost moved on and then I caught Ian’s warning:  “It’s often tied incorrectly, resulting in an un-balanced ‘Granny Knot’.” As an experiment, I tied my shoes automatically without thinking about how I was doing it and checked the results.  No wonder my shoelaces always come untied.  I have been tying a “granny knot” my whole life!

So, I didn’t need a fancy new way of tying my shoes, I just needed to tie a square knot instead of a granny knot.  I have to think about what I am doing when I tie them now, but now that I am tying them correctly, my shoes have been quite secure for the last couple of weeks.  Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

A Perspective on Hierarchies

Two seemingly unrelated stories stirred something deep in me… Warning: movie spoiler ahead.

puzzle-piecesStory 1: I was talking to a friend this morning.  Incidentally this friend is a few years younger than I.  In the near future, we will be spending more time together, and we were discussing how we were each looking forward to that time.  He said he was looking forward to all the things he would learn from me in our time together. I replied that I predicted there would be a lot of mutual learning.  He responded that he wasn’t sure what he could teach me.  Hmmm…

Story 2: Last night, I watched the movie Instinct about a man who lived among apes and then became a murderer.  It is a classic storyline of an old guy teaching a somewhat arrogant, self-assured, young guy stuff about life.  The teacher has the reigns of power.  He is always in control, in charge and invincible.  In the end, they young guy learns lessons about himself that the teacher somehow knew how to pull out of him.  It is only at the very end that we learn (almost as an afterthough) that the teacher has also learned from the student.  In the movies, the older guys always teach the younger guys things and the younger guys either have (or learn to have) total respect and reverence for their teachers.  The teachers always have the upper hand.

When I was a youngster, I learned those rules well.  In the heirarchy of relationships, my teachers are above me.  They are all-knowing and unquestionable.  It is my job to learn what the teacher knows.  Period.  The teachers have already been through what I have been through, so there is nothing I can teach them. One day, I will be the teacher. Until then, I am the student. I looked forward to the day when I could be the older guy teaching the younger ones about life.  Then, I would get the respect that comes from being the sagacious teacher and leader.

I find myself at that point of transition.  Although I don’t see myself as an “old guy” yet, I find that there are more younger people in my life than older people.  I am beginning to see things from the other perspective.  I see that the old guy in the movies is hiding behind the hierarchical relationship.  The old guy still has a lot of stuff to work through and learn.  In fact, the whole hierarchy thing is bullshit (sorry mom, it was the right word this time).  Maybe there is a good purpose behind hierarchies, but they do not promote the honoring of individuals and do not contribute to building strong relationships.

Now that I have “paid my dues” and “earned the right” to be the “sagacious teacher”, rather than enjoying the role, I find myself wanting to destroy the hierarchical nature of the whole shebang. The society that we live in produces and encourages these kinds of hierarchies.  Most are unaware of them, but feel a “need” to have them to be able to function. I think they are dishonoring and that we mostly hide behind them.

In areas where I wield the power, I want to use it to empower others.  Rather than spouting my own “wisdom” all the time, I want to learn from the perspectives of others.  I want to be an encourager and a builder of people… and I want to help normalize those kinds of relationships… relationships that honor and respect others.  Not because we have earned it somehow, but because we are breathing the same air.  I want to listen to stories and dreams; stories that tell how we got here and dreams of where we want to go.

I keep thinking about the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant. Each person brings a new perspective and each perspective has value. To my friend, I say, “I hope you will learn from me.  I hope that some of the things I have learned through the years will help you in your journey.  I look forward to sharing my stories and dreams with you.  I also look forward to the stories and dreams you will share with me… and what I will learn from you.