It’s an all-pop culture blog today, because that’s what we have at the moment. The news out of China yesterday was about the so-called ethnic Uighurs, which the guy on NPR kept pronouncing “wiggers,” and wandering into the report halfway through, for about two seconds I wondered what Eminem had to do with China. It’s like the stupidity of Michael Jackson’s funeral was flying through the air on invisible wings.
You know who also played at the Motown 25th anniversary concert, the one where — we have been reminded approximately eleventy jillion times in the last, GAWD, TWELVE DAYS — Michael Jackson unveiled the moonwalk to the world? Anyone?
You could look it up. I just did, and ran across both the YouTube video (which I recommend for its excruciating badness) and this amusing recap from a blogger, c. 2006. He notices things — commercials for the Commodore 64 personal computer, and Anacin. (This was before we learned aspirin is pure poison for everyone other than middle-aged people expecting a heart attack.) And it wasn’t just Adam Ant. Two other acts of the future played. Get ready: DeBarge and High Energy.
I think it’s useful to be reminded of this stuff from time to time. Berry Gordy had his streak, for sure. He caught a big wave, surfed it perfectly, and rode it all the way to a nice beach in Los Angeles, and has spent the rest of his life telling people about it but not once even coming close to duplicating it. His best artists got out from under his grinding bootheel as quickly as they could, Stevie Wonder and M.J. among them. His new discoveries sort of define “forgettable.” While I remember DeBarge, a Jackson family with 78 percent less talent, it’s mainly for a story a hotel manager in Fort Wayne told me after they passed through town on tour, about how they ordered room service consisting of a $500 bottle of cognac and a six-pack of Coke, and yes, they mixed them.
High Energy is lost to the ages, or at least my creeping Alzheimer’s. As for Adam Ant, well, Berry was all about maximizing the audience, and that crazy English kid had that “Goody Two Shoes” song on the charts, and, what? You don’t remember “Goody Two Shoes,” either? Well, maybe Journey was busy or something. The early ’80s was a bit fallow, pop-wise.
Why am I talking about Adam Ant? Oh, right: Because Jon Mayer played at M.J.’s funeral concert — you know, the noted soul artist. In 25 more years, I think we’ll be saying, yes, he was the Adam Ant of his day, and dated Jennifer Aniston.
If you have but one Jackson-memorial story to read today, make it the WashPost’s:
Carey, wearing a long gown with a plunging mesh neckline — demure, for her — performed her version of the Jackson 5 hit “I’ll Be There,” and looked meaningfully toward Jackson’s casket.
The musician Usher also looked toward Jackson’s casket during his song, then walked toward it and placed his hands on it.
Jennifer Hudson did not interact with the casket but sang a from-the-gut version of “Will You Be There,” accompanied by a troop of backup dancers. Somber, funereal backup dancers, yes, but backup dancers nonetheless. No one tried to moonwalk. It would have seemed disrespectful.
…His transformation of his own face took more than 20 years, as did his journey from beloved, giggling child-star to bizarre, fragile child-man.
The public’s transformation of Michael Jackson, from mutant to messiah, took less than two weeks. “Michael . . . made us love each other,” Sharpton called out. “It was Michael that made us . . . feed the hungry.”
God, it’s almost like you were there.
Elsewhere on the beat, the New York Times has been running some odd culture stuff lately. A few weeks ago, they brought us the shocking news that many people who start blogs lose interest in them after a while. Today, get ready to be blown out of your chair:
The pornographic movie industry has long had only a casual interest in plot and dialogue. But moviemakers are focusing even less on narrative arcs these days. Instead, they are filming more short scenes that can be easily uploaded to Web sites and sold in several-minute chunks.
I had no idea they had even a casual interest, but then, I think the last dirty movie I saw in long form was by the Dark Brothers c. mid-’80s, and while I don’t think I lasted even seven minutes, I did see what we amateur screenwriters like to call the first act. No plot or script was in evidence then, either.
This seems to be the peg:
Plot-centrism was in full bloom in 2005 with the release of “Pirates,” about a ragtag group of sailors who go after a band of evil pirates.
That movie, with a budget of more than $1 million, had special effects (pirates materializing from the mist), and, yes, lots of sex. Two years later, the movie’s studio, Digital Playground, spent $8 million on a sequel — a remarkable sum in an industry where the average movie costs $25,000, according to the director of the two movies, Ali Joone.
I missed the era of “plot-centrism?” Pirates materializing from the mist? I need to get out more.
Finally, a last bit of bloggage, in which Billy Dee Williams comes up in discussion at a Detroit City Council meeting. That august body takes on a serious issue — malt-liquor ads that imply it’s the fastest way to something, perhaps date rape — in their own special way:
Councilwoman Martha Reeves said her beef is the way the cartoon ads portray Williams: “He’s ugly.”
I need to go in search of my brain. If you see it, mail it home.