Monday, July 27, 2009

Fish, Family



My latest experiment in mixing digital photos
to create a photo narrative. Most of these pictures were taken over the weekend of the 18th and 19th of July. I turned 30 on the 16th, and my father urged me to visit the family, and celebrate my birthday in Chicago.

The first occasion was dinner at my Aunt's house. The family was entertaining a Syrian Orthodox priest from Iraq, who I had the pleasure of meeting.

The second occasion was the following day at the Shed Aquarium in Chicago. I hadn't been to the Shed in fifteen years and immediately fell in love with gazing at the bright, exotic fish. I would have liked to meditate a little longer on the life of a fish, but I was too busy taking pictures.
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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What is Contemporary Art?

Travels with Isabella 1 (2008), Luisa Rabbia

I stole my question from—“Predicting the Present”—an interview with science fiction writer Cory Doctorow in the Harvard Business Review.

His answer:
I believe that from the artist’s perspective, today’s art must presuppose copying. If you are making art that you expect people not to copy, then you are not making contemporary art.
A bold claim; it places the activity of copying at the center of contemporary art-making. I struggled with this at first. Maybe I was in denial, but I didn’t want to believe that “copying” could be the prevailing zeitgeist. After several days researching and writing this essay, I’m coming to see the light of our Xerox-infatuated culture . . .

Let’s resurrect that boogie of a concept, “postmodernism”. After John Barth, famed contemporary novelist, first condemned postmodernism as the “literature of exhaustion”, he later recanted and saw the possibility for a “replenishment” and a transcendent “synthesis” in literature. He wrote:
The ideal postmodernist novel will somehow rise above the quarrel between realism and irrealism, formalism and ‘contentism’, pure and committed literature” to combine the most vital aspects of past literatures.(1)
The exact terms that Barth uses are not as important as his idea of synthesis. I believe contemporary art, and specifically contemporary fiction, sees itself as a synthesis of genres, styles, approaches, materials, and modes. This has to do with the tendency in contemporary art to distrust “totalizing mechanisms” and “grand narratives”, and instead to employ ironic juxtaposition, pastiche (mixing high and low art), and imbuing works with a na├»ve sense of playfulness.(2)

Novelists aren’t the only ones recycling outmoded genres and repackaging them, musicians are too. Portland band, the Decembrists, loosely based their fourth album, The Crane Wife, on a Japanese folk tale; but listening to the album, you’re more likely to attribute the lyrics to 19th century Irish literature. While combining many styles, baroque pop, progressive rock, and folk music, the transcendent, replenishing synthesis John Barth refers to becomes increasingly self-evident.

We are living in the age of the re-mix
; where the creative act of re-mixing and combining styles and vignettes claims an originality of its own. This may be scary to some, but to others it means unfettered creative freedom.

One musician and producer from Israel, known as Kutiman, rose to fame almost over night with his music video project ThruYOU. Kutiman created a seven track wonder from video material exclusively found on YouTube. Each track mixes samples, such as drumbeats and base lines, to produce seamless melodies and elaborate compositions. The tracks employ a variety of instruments (guitars, pianos, drums, harps, synthesizers), and reflect a variety of influences (R&B, Funk, Reggae, Jungle, Afro and Jazz).(3)

Under the same sky 5 (2009), Luisa Rabbia

The collagist impulse, I argue, is seen across disciplines. A parallel to Kutiman is Luisa Rabbia in the art world. Recently I read an interview with Rabbia in Art in America (June-July 2009). Rabbia’s range of works include drawings, collages, video art, porcelain and paper-mache sculptures. In her most recent project, she uses images on the web that have been made by someone else, much like Kutiman uses video clips from YouTube, and integrates these images into a “non-existent landscape”.

The collagist impulse in contemporary art is more than merely combining images, sounds, or pieces of text. I see it as inherently social and global—a departure from the artist’s role as private and alienated from society. With technology that knits us together in a million different ways, there is now an augmented awareness of each other.

Local issues become more prominent and so do seemingly random intersections between different parts of the world. Along with the freedom implicit in new technologies and mediums, artists embrace a mixture of narratives and feel comfortable (and liberated) creating their own story from the varicolored cloth of the many.

Rabbia writes, “What is different now is the fact that the images are not mine, but come from the experiences of other people. I stare at the images a long time, and try to bring my own journey into their journey.”

A la Guerre comme a la Guerre #1, Michael Cheval

When talking about contemporary art, I also use the term “collage” as a metaphor for combining disparate elements into a singular tableau. Michael Cheval, a Russian artist who I’ve written about before, borrows the style and technique of 17th century Dutch art and combines them with his own surrealistic dreamscapes. The historical elements in Cheval’s paintings, 17th century dress, courtly figures, jesters are not historical references; but instead part of an inventive and original assemblage.

Sendai Mediatheque, Sendai-shi, Japan (2001), Toyo Ito

I’ve always felt that architecture, more so than any of the other arts, presages the future. There may not be any truth to this, but it has served me as a guide. Toyo Ito is the Japanese architect who was commissioned to design the Berkley Museum of Art in California. His buildings evoke the complexity, maddening paradoxes, and transcendent, replenishing synthesis of contemporary art.

To begin with, none of his buildings look alike.(4) They are independent of a dominant mode or aesthetic style. Furthermore, Ito experiments with reversing expectations in modern architecture and design. The Sendai Mediatheque, a library and exhibition space, has the trappings of a Modernist building—from the distance, the building looks like a conventional glass box—but upon closer investigation, one notices “white latticework tubes that pierce the top of the structure”.(5) The juxtaposition of Modernist rigidity and outlandish, outer-space tubes extending “down through the entire structure” imbues the building with a lavish sense of freedom.

Kaohsiung Stadium, Kaohsiung, Taiwan (2009), Toyo Ito

The 44,000-seat Kaohsiung stadium designed by Ito goes even further with pushing the boundaries of contradiction. A stadium that resembles a giant coiled snake combines the expansiveness of a super-stadium while maintaining a transparency and openness between inner and outer worlds. Nicolai Ouroussoff, from the New York Times, writes, “Mr. Ito’s stadium seeks to maximize our awareness of it while still creating a sense of enclosure.”

I love how Ito describes his architecture. “I am looking for something more primitive, a kind of abstraction that still has a sense of the body. The in between is more interesting to me.”

Contemporary art revels in the spaces in between. In between materials, styles, stories, histories, and techniques. Contemporary art is the art of perpetual discovery, an art without a destination, only entry points and possibilities. And if it is true what Corey Doctorow says about today’s art presupposing copying, then it is only because copying is merely a first step towards something greater and less recognizable.

More essays are available at Escape into Life

Image Credits:

Travels with Isabella 1 (2008), Luisa Rabbia
Under the same sky 5 (2009), Luisa Rabbia
A la Guerre comme a la Guerre #1, Michael Cheval
Sendai Mediatheque, Sendai-shi, Japan (2001), Toyo Ito
Kaohsiung Stadium, Kaohsiung, Taiwan (2009), Toyo Ito
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Am I too pessimistic for my age?--A 15 yr old wants to know

Among other things, I talk about social technology on this blog. I've long been curious about the multiple uses and applications of Q&A social media. These "advice" services have grown dramatically in recent years. The ability to get an expert opinion for free is tempting. But you can even pay to get answers on some sites promoting "experts".

Every popular Q&A site has a different value-add, a unique offering. Aardvark, a fairly young Q&A service, was recently talked about in The New York Times. The distinguishing feature of Aardvark is that the application asks only a "friend" or "friend-of-friend". According to the service:
A real conversation with a friend (or friend-of-friend) can be much more helpful than searching the web — all the knowledge and experience in people’s heads can’t be put on a web page!
The idea is that if this person is connected to you somehow they will be more reliable and more relevant. But people who ask questions on Yahoo! Answers, the most popular Q&A social media site on the Internet, get a faster response because there are so many people online to answer the question, and the archives cover a vast storehouse of previously answered questions.

Q&A sites are interesting as social media experiments. Typically, there is a reputation system in place. Users who answer more questions and receive higher ratings from their peers gain more exposure. In other words, power users have more influence on the site. This happens to be true of all social technology.

Tonight, while I was on the Yahoo! search page, a strange link appeared up in the News section. "What came first, the chicken or the egg?" was the "news story" and it directed me to Yahoo! Answers. Once I was there, I read the question, then the answers; and I "friended" a couple of the people whose answers I liked. (BTW, this question crops up regularly on Yahoo! Answers simply because it cannot be resolved).

Within seconds I received an email in my inbox stating someone had invited me to answer their question. I went to the site and the question was this, written by a 15 yr old:
Am I too pessimistic for my age?
I'm 15 and I don't believe in

-God
-heaven
-hell
-true love
-fate
-destiny
-love at first site
-the perfect man/woman
-soul mates
-salvation
-miracles

honestly, there's no solid proof that any of these things exist and I just can't find a way to let myself believe in them.

So I kinda feel...empty.
I had nothing to do, so I thought I would answer her question. Why not? At her age, I could have used an answer to that question.

Here is my reply:
You will feel this way your entire life. Some days you will forget, but you will always return to this feeling.

Every human being feels this way. It is part of what it means to be human.

Don't get overly hung up on it.

Use the feeling of emptiness as a positive motivation to make your life mean something.

If you start out with nothing, then you always have the potential to be something.

If on the other hand you start out with everything, you have everything, feel everything wonderful, then what is there left to do?

So emptiness is good. Even if it feels lonely sometimes, it's good.

I look at this feeling of emptiness, loneliness, boredom, etc. as an advantage.

When there is less water in the cup, there is more room. Beliefs are like stones in a cup of water, the more stones, the less room. So not having set, fixed, rigid beliefs actually turns out to be a good thing!

Feelings come and go. You'll always have time on your hands. How will you spend it?

That's up to you.

Your optimism or pessimism will usually depend on something. Sometimes we think of things in a positive light, sometimes in a negative light. Some people are pessimistic by temperament; others optimistic.

There is nothing wrong with being pessimistic. And, on the other hand, optimism is not always good.

You may not have a belief system now, but someday you will. You will have a belief system if you're religious, secular, or not thinking about "existence" at all. You will come to believe in certain things.

You just haven't lived long enough to believe that strongly one way or another about these ideas.

Proof is always riddled with error. You will never have proof, but you will come to believe in things.

You're telling a story about the world and your experience in the world.

It will always be a story.

"Every man believes he's in possession of the truth."

One of my favorite writers said that. Robert Musil, in his opus, The Man without Qualities.

If you want to exercise your mind, read that book.
The unique ability to tap into a diversity of opinions is the essential character of the Internet. Q&A sites are popular for this reason alone. A service like Yahoo! Answers or Aardvark can really help a person. You know the feeling of wanting desperately to know the answer to something.

I enjoyed writing this response to an anonymous 15 yr old. I don't think I'll spend the rest of my days answering questions on Yahoo! Answers, but for a change of pace, it was a worthwhile experience.

We enjoy helping each other out. Especially when we get to share our wisdom and make a sincere connection.

You can see how other people responded to her question here.

IMAGE FOUND AT [DAILY DOSE OF IMAGERY]
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

How many of us are self-medicating?


I sent an odd email to my father the other day. I was intoxicated when I sent it; actually I was high. I had been smoking weed for the past week almost daily and not entirely sure why I reached for my stash each night and proceeded to put myself into a stoned state. The experience was not always a good one. In fact, on some nights I descended into an extreme paranoia—even when there was nobody around to trigger it. The positive effects, I guess you could call them, were my racing thoughts and the hypo-mania my personality lends itself to while high. There were so many brilliant ideas shooting off like fireworks from my synapses, but translating these ideas into writing seemed increasingly difficult. To me, drugs have always been a way to make contact with another world, another dimension of myself.

The night I sent the email to my father I was researching the growing trend in self-medication. I rummaged through the top results on Google for “self-medicated” (it turns out this is also a movie) and “self-medication.” First I wanted to know the definition of self-medication so I turned to Wikipedia.

Self-medication is the use of drugs or self-soothing forms of behavior to treat a perceived or real malady. Self-medication is often referred to in the context of a person self-medicating, in order to alleviate their own distress or pain.

What originally drew me to the idea of self-medication was the broadness of the topic and the number of people (I knew) who seemed to self-medicate in one form or another. While “addiction” is a term usually reserved for a specific class of people enslaved by their substance of choice; “self-medication” sounded more ambiguous.

Surely, it doesn’t have to be ambiguous. There are plenty of people suffering from mental illnesses in which self-medication is a clinical fact. The correlation is so common that doctors have come to expect it in patients with depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and anxiety disorders.

These people have “real” maladies. But what about those of us who don’t? I’m pretty sure I don’t suffer from a real or perceived malady, and yet I self-medicate.

But my definition of "self-medication" is broad. For example, I drink coffee at least twice a day. This has become a sort of ritual, like a religious exercise. I have my coffee at a local Border’s. I always bring The New York Times with me; I find a comfortable chair in a spot where there are few distractions. Coffee is a powerful stimulant, but sometimes I think the ritual holds more sway over my body.

I’m also addicted to cigarettes, which I’ve tried to quit many times. My essay “The Divided Self” gives a psychological portrait of my struggle to quit smoking. I keep telling myself that my smoking is temporary, as if nicotine were a drug I’ve prescribed to myself to cope with reality for the time being.

And so we can expand “self-soothing forms of behavior” to include almost anything. My father has never taken illegal drugs and he rarely drinks more than a glass of wine. But he engages in many “self-soothing forms of behavior” from meditation to yoga to hiking.

What's the underlying malady my father self-medicates with his intensive yoga practice? Maybe it's stress, maybe over-activity or insomnia. I don't know, but it seems my father with his "healthy" practices and me with my "unhealthy" ones are attempting to treat some internal issue.

Does it sound like I'm validating my behaviors? I hope not. Self-medication is not always a bad thing, as I see it. But I'm curious about human behavior in general and why we medicate ourselves in the broadest sense of the term. After all, "self-medication" could simply be a metaphor for how we cope with reality.

The question posed in the title of this essay is not meant to be condescending. I seriously want to know, "How many of us are self-medicating?" Because I have a hunch that self-medication is pervasive, and I would like to know of how many people identify themselves in this way . . .

“Dysphoria” is a term sometimes associated with “self-medication.” The general idea is that we self-medicate to assuage, or lessen, the effects of an undesirable mood such as sadness or anxiety. I think this complicates the matter further. How many of us engage in behaviors to alter our mood? The American culture clings to the idea that shopping, eating, exercising, taking a pill, and (fill in the blank) will make us feel better. Because most of the time it's true; at least temporarily, like my cigarettes.

The growth of the pharmaceutical industry in the last two decades has led to many of us becoming connoisseurs of our own vague conditions, our own dysphorias. And this is especially true of teenagers and women between the ages of 18 and 44 in the United States. We take pills rather nonchalantly for every slight problem that arises. And you don’t need a prescription drug in order to self-medicate. The vast selection of over-the-counter drugs practically grants the consumer status as diagnostician.

But I digress.

The email I sent to my father was odd because I sought to convince him of the connection between my mother’s degenerative disease and her incessant painting with toxins and solvents. You see, there was a section of the Wikipedia definition that stood out from the rest—even as I was stoned, or perhaps because I was stoned.
Exposure To Organic Solvents

Chronic exposure to organic solvents in the work environment can produce a range of adverse neuropsychiatric effects. Occupational exposure to organic solvents can lead to alcoholism with higher numbers of painters for example suffering from alcoholism. It is possible that a small number of alcoholics are self medicating the toxic effects of organic solvents albeit with another toxic substance alcohol.
I wondered if my mother was self-medicating because, as an oil painter, she was exposed to many toxins. But my father sent me a curt reply: “No, your mother was not self-medicating.”

My mother never drank a sip of alcohol. But she did plenty of other things excessively, and obsessive-compulsively, creating for herself an abundance of self-soothing behaviors. Gradually her nervous system broke down until she lost her ability to draw a straight line on the canvas.

I’ve decided to put the pot away. I’m not smoking weed, or drinking, at the moment. Two roommates have just moved into my house and the new experience of living with other people has motivated me to go to sleep at a normal hour and avoid the temptation to self-medicate.

I still drink coffee twice a day and smoke a pack of cigarettes. But maybe those things are not considered “self-medication”.

ARTWORK BY LUI FERREYRA

Visit Escape into Life for more essays by the author

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Kindly Ones: The Anti-Hero is Us


The real danger for mankind is me, is you. And if you're not convinced of this, don't bother to read any further. You'll understand nothing and you'll get angry, with little profit for you or me.

The Kindly Ones, Jonathan Littell

As many of you know, my writings are preoccupied with the question of innocence. The question of innocence inevitably begs the question of guilt. As a perceptive reader, Mark Kerstetter noted in my post about Michael Jackson, "I do believe he desperately and tragically sought innocence. It's an inexhaustible theme: how is an adult innocent?"

When the reviews and appraisals of Michael Jackson's life flowed into cyberspace after his death, I thought for sure this man is a perfect example of my theme. A larger-than-life entertainer who strove for innocence and yet lived in dangerous proximity to its opposite.

Also, I've been researching the new culture of self-medication, and wanting to write an article on the topic. Can a culture consumed with self-medication really be so naive? Aren't we all just looking to cover up the pain somehow?

Strange is life when you open the mind to associations, parallels, and linkages . . . I went to Borders today to have my coffee and read the Times. This is not unusual for me; I go to Borders nearly every day. But today I did not read the Times. Instead, I wandered up and down the aisles, glancing at the latest hardcovers.

You haven't read any book reviews of mine because I haven't read many books lately--or at least finished them. The newspapers take up all my time and attention. As a writer, they do fairly well to fuel my inspiration. (Disclaimer: this is not exactly a book review--a book preview, rather)

In my article, "Is the Internet Killing Culture?" I discuss how I abruptly stopped reading "serious" literature. I read literature for nearly ten years, inside and outside of college, covering large swathes of French, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Austrian, and Italian literature.

At the time, I read few contemporary novels, even fewer American contemporary authors. I read what excited me, what boggled my mind, what catapulted me into writing. The dearth of American literature in recent decades was not something I cared to scrape the bottom of--there were plenty of incredible and delicious novels written by French and Russian authors in the last two centuries.

Today I opened up a big book. Causally, capriciously, I opened up The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell. Whether a novel is full of brilliance or entirely lacking the scaffolding to hold it together, I always stop to look at those monsters approaching the thousand page mark. Why? Because I am in awe of any author who can discipline their life to write such a long tale. The editorial process is maddening enough, let alone the dedication it takes to sustain a level of productivity for five to ten years.

So this book that I looked upon was large. By the cover I could see it was written in French and translated into English. A cursory examination of the side flap and back cover taught me that it had won France's most acclaimed literary prize, Prix Goncourt, the same prize Proust won for Vol. 2 of In Search of Lost Time in 1919.

But none of these things usually matter to me more than the first paragraph. When I read the first paragraph of a novel, I generally know enough to know if I want to read more of it. So I stood over the Goliath in the middle of Borders with people flooding into the store and breezing all around me. I began reading:
Oh my human brothers, let me tell you how it happened. I am not your brother, you'll retort, and I don't want to know. And it certainly is true that this is a bleak story, but an edifying one too, a real morality play, I assure you. You might find it a bit long--a lot of things happened, after all--but perhaps you're not in too much of a hurry; with a little luck you'll have some time to spare. And also, this concerns you; you'll see that this concerns you. Don't think I am trying to convince you of anything; after all, your opinions are your own business. If after all these years I've made up my mind to write, it's to set the record straight for myself, not for you. For a long time we crawl on this earth like caterpillars, waiting for the splendid, diaphanous butterfly we bear within ourselves. And then times passes and the nymph stage never comes, we remain larvae--what do we do with such an appalling realization? Suicide, of course, is always an option. But to tell the truth suicide doesn't tempt me much.
The "bold" lettering is mine. You can see now why this novel caught my attention. It was the voice of the narrator who instantly seduced me into wanting to know more about his particular troubles and woes, but even more than that I believe it was the narrator's self-knowledge that compelled me to pick up the book and bring it over to the small tables in the cafe where I set down my coffee and continued reading.

The title comes from the trilogy of ancient Greek tragedies, The Oresteia, written by Aeschylus. It refers to the Furies who were vengeful goddesses that tormented anyone who murdered a parent. In the story by Aeschylus, the Furies are transformed into merciful goddesses instead of spiteful ones by the goddess Athena. They are renamed the Eumenides or "The Kindly Ones"(1).

What this has to do with the book I have no idea. I am simply mesmerized by the complexity of the narrator's thoughts, his intelligence, and humanity. The voice of the narrator in fact recalls to me reading Proust, whose narrator seduced me much the same, although the temperaments of the narrators are probably nothing alike. But that too, I can't confirm yet . . .

How can one not identify with this?
Ask yourselves: You, yourselves, what do you think of, through the course of a day? Very few things, actually. Drawing up a systematic classification of your everyday thoughts would be easy: practical or mechanical thoughts, planning your actions and your time (example: setting the coffee to drip before brushing your teeth, but toasting the bread afterward, since it doesn't take as long); work preoccupations; financial anxieties; domestic problems; sexual fantasies. I'll spare you the details. At dinner, you contemplate the aging face of your wife, so much less exciting than your mistress, but a fine woman otherwise, what can you do, that's life, so you talk about the latest government scandal. Actually, you couldn't care less about the latest government scandal, but what else is there to talk about? Eliminate those kinds of thoughts, and you'll agree there's not much left.
This is a controversial novel. If I previously thought that Michael Jackson was the supreme archetype to my theme of innocence, then Littell has just upped the ante. In the clever guise of a memoir, the novel tells the story of a former SS officer who witnessed the massacres of the Holocaust. He also, we would assume, took part in these massacres; and gave the orders to carry them out.

To be sure, we are now on the opposite end of the spectrum regarding my theme. The narrator's innocence should not even be in question. Of course, he's guilty of his crimes. This point seems so obvious we shouldn't have to debate it. Then again, maybe innocence or guilt is not the point after all . . .
Once again, let us be clear: I am not trying to say I am not guilty of this or that. I'm guilty, you're not, fine. But you should be able to admit to yourselves that you might also have done what I did.
I'm not even finished with the first chapter when a troubling philosophical thought arises. If this narrator is the quintessential anti-hero--a Nazi--then how is it possible that I identify with him as a man?

He's neither psychotic, nor a sadist, but he's committed these crimes against humanity and I haven't. If not for his fundamental evil, what separates us?

A rare author elicits this kind of recognition in her audience. Literature has the power to bend reality with language. I believe Jonathan Littell has done just that.

Browse The Kindly Ones on Harper Collins Publishers

Buy the book on Amazon

Read more of my essays on Escape into Life

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Friday, July 3, 2009

The Pursuit of Happiness

"Flag" (1954-55) by Jasper Johns

Tonight is July 3rd. In honor of our nation's birthday, I would like to share with you an essay that has meant a lot to me over the years. Written by John Perry Barlow, the former lyricist of the Grateful Dead, "The Pursuit of Emptiness" touches on our greatest strength and our greatest weakness as a nation.

Turning the famous and elusive utterance in The Declaration of Independence, "the pursuit of happiness" on its head, John Perry Barlow questions this unalienable right penned by Thomas Jefferson. For in Barlow's eyes, it makes little sense to "pursue" happiness in any form. He wisely quotes Chuang-Tzu, who says, "Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness."

And wholeheartedly I agree. In fact, right now I'm working on an article for this blog on the American culture of self-medication. Our impulse to self-medicate--not only with prescription drugs, but with food and exercise--seems closely related to the "pursuit of happiness" mentality.

The American people are after something, whether it's fame, recognition, love, wealth, sex, or satisfaction. What propels us is our insatiable demand for more. For awhile, this drive even kept our economy running.

The irony of happiness is this. Barlow quotes Swami Satchidananda:
If you run after things, nothing will come to you. Let things run after you. The sea never sends an invitation to the rivers. That's why they run to the sea. The sea is content. It doesn't want anything. That's the secret in life.
A magical and lovely idea . . . "Let things run after you." Happiness is not something you pursue; happiness is something that pursues you.

The fireworks go off in the neighborhoods surrounding my house and I'm glad to be alive. I'm glad to be pursued by happiness . . . keep it coming . . .

To Read John Perry Barlow's "The Pursuit of Emptiness" click here.
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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Vanity Fair says Michael lost his Youth


I happened to catch sight of a memorial article to Michael Jackson in Vanity Fair, "In Memoriam: Michael Jackson". The article celebrates Jackson's career and then pop-psychologizes him toward the end (no pun intended). Here's what it says:
He was different from all the other celebrities. He dressed different. He looked different. He even walked different. He did it backwards. And he aged backwards too, or at least he tried to. And that was the great tragedy of his life. His youth had been sacrificed to the music industry, spent in recording studios, and dealing with the trappings of fame. He would spend the rest of his life trying to recapture that innocence, receding into the William Randolph Hearst-like seclusion of Neverland Ranch, seeking for his own Rosebud. He surrounded himself with candy, toys, and other children, with whom he would never have normal relationships. Beginning in the early nineties, accusations of child molestation and troubling reports about his private life would overshadow even his own sublime music.
I was poking fun at Vanity Fair for reducing Michael Jackson's entire life to a psychological drama of lost youth. However, this sort of mythologizing is common when we are trying to understand a larger-than-life figure. There may be some truth to what Vanity Fair is saying here, but definitely not enough to put on a man's gravestone. "In Memoriam" means "in memory of" in Latin.

Why did I choose to pull this clipping of all the millions of other clippings of Michael Jackson floating around the Internet? Because it relates to my theme, the theme of this blog . . .

Was Michael innocent or guilty according to Vanity Fair's assumptions? Did he know better? Or was he pure-minded?

I'm guessing it was pretty murky for Michael if he was addicted to painkillers. But there is an innocence to him in the Jackson 5 that totally gets replaced by another image. "Off the Wall," "Thriller," and "Bad" demonstrate a sort of defiance, not innocence but lack of innocence.

Read my ode to the King of Pop here.
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