Thursday, July 16, 2009

Post No. 127: Who Was Michael Jackson, and Why Are So Many Saying So Many Things about Him?

© the Institute for Applied Common Sense

In Post No. 126, we mentioned a number of the Laughingman’s sayings, including “Common Sense should be a way of life.” The Logistician, still on sabbatical in Brazil, has a few too, albeit somewhat strange.

He claims he only needs a woman in his life 12 days each year. Why? For the highs and the lows.

He’s always viewed intimate relationships with women like prescription drugs – beneficial, on occasion, when administered by a licensed physician, and in moderation. However, he considers them, let’s say, problematic, when administered intravenously on a regular basis.

Our mission is to engage college students in a discussion about Personal Responsibility, the options / choices they have, and decisions they make.

We’ve been watching this freak show since MJ’s death, trying to figure out whether there are some not so obvious lessons to be learned, which we can discuss with students.

We did observe an incredible, international outpouring of love, sadness, and admiration. We also noted an intense dissection (primarily on the home front) of his career, values, and character, supporting the conclusion that he was a bad, evil human being.

What we found most fascinating was the phalanx of critics, who had little appreciation of his work, but who clearly had views about his lifestyle and eccentricities.

We watch Turner Classic Movies religiously. Last week, Judy Garland was a featured artist.

We were reminded how much we were dazzled by her talent. We viewed a bio-documentary, which outlined her life-long relationship with prescription drugs, which ultimately led to her demise at age 47.

She started performing at 2-1/2, and thus performed for 45 of her 47 years. For decades, she fought addiction with prescription drugs. Movie industry officials used them to control her weight, and regulate her productivity. Coupled with her perception she was not “pretty” enough, and you had a recipe for ….

One of our heroes has always been Howard Hughes, the great aviator, inventor, industrialist, film director and producer, and philanthropist. We loved his passion for life, and his intensity. There was also a down side. What some called his fearlessness, others termed recklessness.

As a result of various plane crashes, he spent a significant part of his life in pain, eventually becoming addicted to prescription drugs in many forms. When they finally wheeled him out of the “Acapulco Princess Hotel” on the way to the morgue, he weighed 90 lbs.

The more intriguing sub-plot to MJ’s story was the fact that his wife, Lisa Marie Presley, walked away because of, and in spite of, her love for MJ. He confided in her that he would probably go the way of her Father, Elvis, “The King.”

A siren, who in her own way was like a drug, and caused the Logistician to stutter many a starry night at the Hollywood Bowl while listening to classical music, said it best.

“Everything in moderation.”

And that applies to drugs, plastic surgery, driving at high speeds, skydiving, sex, food, wine, dancing, paragliding, and perhaps most things in life. (Even physical exercise.)

Some years ago, the History Channel aired a program on the literary creation of heaven and hell. Although various religions have different versions, in every instance, mortals here on Earth, through their conduct, walk a very thin line. Stepping on either side could determine their descent or ascent.

Lest you be confused about this drug thing, there is little difference between illegal/recreational drugs, and prescription drugs, with the exceptions being the legitimacy of the “entity” which produces them, who gets to prescribe them, and whether politicians benefit. Drugs be drugs.

Take it from some guys who matured (arguably) during the drugs, sex, and rock and roll years. We know lots of successful doctors, business people, family people, accountants, judges, and pillars of society who once used drugs in many a form and fashion. Fortunately for most of them and for society, they appreciated that drugs might be an interesting pastime, but not a life long journey.

Two final thoughts, one of which is a line from a TCM movie:

“A man ought to be appreciated for more than the worst thing that he has ever done.”

By doing so, we can keep an eye out for the good in people, not just the bad.

The other is the Logistician’s:

“If you’re willing to walk into a courtroom looking like a freak, you’ll be judged a freak.”

Just ask Phil Spector. At least O.J. had the Common Sense to put on a suit the first time around.


  1. Now that contained a lot of common sense. It also contained some wisdom. I think, on the other hand, that we place too much value on celebrity.

  2. I have previously expressed my views on MJ's death and its possible connections to society-at-large here.
    If you check it out, you can see from the reaction it got from one "Anonymous" reader, that the issue of Michael raises a lot of issues that seem to hit home, here and there.

  3. Thanks Douglas. When you refer to "we," we assume that you are referring to "society?" Are those individual, personal, or free market forces at work, or something else? Are you suggesting that people should not feel what they feel, admire who they admire, or perhaps that certain forces have too much influence over what people feel, like or admire?

  4. Yes, "we" as in the general society. Actually, all societies seem to do it. I suppose it is something that is part of makeup as humans. It may be an extension of a need for leadership or some integral part of it. I would never tell someone, anyone, to not feel admiration for another. I might try to get them to investigate their motives for doing so but I would not deny them the right to do it.
    I published a post on my blog not too long ago entitled "Some Thoughts on Leadership" but I wanted to express some thoughts about what I call "followship" We feel a need to follow others and so we humans do. It does not always work out so well. There are many historical examples of those errors of collective hero worship.

    But the MJ situation is different. He certainly had talent but the talent was not that of a great artist expressing great thoughts. He was arguably a great pop star. But what is that in the terms of human progress and achievement? He apparently was someone who engaged in many humanitarian efforts and charitable causes. A lot of that was overshadowed by those darker (in society's eyes) episodes regarding children. Now we will learn more about the drug usage and another dark cloud will settle over his memory.

    I have never been one who sees another human being as worthy of such emotional worship. So my take on it may be entirely wrong.

  5. “A man ought to be appreciated for more than the worst thing that he has ever done.”

    Now there is a realistic view on man. I think we all have the potential for greatness and for failure. Those who attain greatness, usually have paid a visit to the dark side as well. In truth, I think we all need to have experienced both good and bad (not necessarily evil) to appreciate each.

    MJ was an amazing performer. In my opinion though, he was an average man and father. I sit not in judgement, more in awe of what he managed to do in his 50 years.

  6. Helene: Thanks for visiting and weighing in.

    During the recent airing of a mini-bio-documentary on James Cagney presented by TCM, we heard a quote attributed to Cagney which we tried to locate and include in this article. We were unable to do so, but here is the gist of what he had to say:

    Within us all lies the potential to be every other person. It caused us to pause and think about judging others.

  7. On Twitter, in response to our article, many lamented about "celebrity worship" in American society. We've been thinking about that notion quite a bit since. Do we, the members of the broader, collective society, (a) do this to ourselves, either consciously or unconsciously, or (b) are we manipulated by a small group of professional worship creators, or (c) some of both? And what does it say about us as a society or tell us about ourselves as people?

  8. Celebrity and celebrity worship is nothing new. Both Achilles and Helen of Troy were "celebrities."

  9. Martin Scorsese's "Aviator," which examines certain aspects of the life of Howard Hughes, is currently being shown on American Movie Classic now as we type this.


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