Saturday, 27 June 2009

Lamenting the death of Michael Jackson

Somerset, England.

The people who saw Michael Jackson live and joined in the chorus were themselves performing in the act; they were engaged in that collaboration of the audience with the artist which is a necessity, but not always an aspect of, all art.(1) After witnessing the countless collections of video clips and digital collage, revisiting the highs and lows of Michael's career, it is by no means a feat of astonishing bravery to conclude that the King of Pop possessed genial qualities. Michael's perplexing ability to draw the crowd into manic frenzy and tremendous applause, was, and will forever be, an attribute mastered by performers miniscule number. This is the ultimate reason why celebrities, politicians, critics, journalists and members of the general public will continue to occupy media attention with emphatic quotations of sorrow and lament for years to come. 

I believe that the retelling of Michael Jackson's story is a positive thing, even if it is only possible to retell after his passing. The inevitable negativity that musicians endure from the media ultimately distract the audience from what the performer sets out to achieve and this is often menacing. The extraordinary dedication, skill and prowess that were undertaken to achieve the height of fame conquered by Michael are unimaginable, but the courage and values that were mirrored in his artistic qualities only just fall short of impossible. No performer should attempt to bite off red-hot iron unless he has a good set of teeth(2) however, and Michael's august nature had been rotting under the heavy mass of media pressure for over a decade. 

The negative publicity was indeed a poisonous web spun by the powers that be and I often found myself being tangled up in it. But then there always was a nostalgic resonance whenever I heard the sound of his name that threw me back to the first time I heard 'Speed Demon', 'Another Part of Me' and 'The Way You Make Me Feel'. 'Bad' was one of the first records I ever owned and it was certainly one of the most frequently played. I was 7 when I got the album on cassette and I remember being fascinated by the fact that Michael used to black. As a 7 year old, I was (perhaps somewhat understandably) unable to comprehend how and, more importantly, why a black man would change his skin colour. There is only one way left to escape the alienation of present day society: to retreat ahead of it(3), but what I was unable to fathom at the time was the beautiful eccentricity, individuality and valor that Michael harboured. That he released such penetrating music was the icing on the cake for me, but this was something I did not take the time to reflect upon until his death. 

If anything positive can be drawn from what has happened over the last few days, it will be a newfound respect for Michael and his work. The musical legacy he left behind is set in stone to act as an inspiration for generations to come but also as a bleak reminder of what happens to the heroes we torture in the press.

1 - Shamelessly adapted from T.S Eliot's 'Marie Lloyd' (1922)

2 - Harry Houdini

3 - Roland Barthes

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Tales From America - Blog Update

It has been over a year since I last updated 'Bloated Winter Stock'. But tonight, on Saturday 20th June 2009, I have decided to rekindle the cathartic fire that once managed to find it's way from brains to the keyboard.

Tomorrow marks the release of 'Tales from America', the third film from The Learning Video Project and the longest in the series so far. The film is an objective documentary that focuses on education, integration and studying abroad. 'Tales from America' bridges a transatlantic crossing that incorporates the ideas, experiences and influences of language students from all over the globe. I am merely the weaver in this dynamic outlet that lays waste to the arguments for jaded patriotism and anti-immigration laws that litter the current political scene across the UK.

My film is released tomorrow, and although it is the third in the series, it feels to me as though it is the first. There is something special about this release causing me to pulse with both excitement and intrigue. How is it going to be received? Both 'Stories from Morocco' and 'Lessons from Romania' have had incredible coverage, with the latter achieving 15,500 views in the first month! Will this film attract the same amount of attention? The project sponsor, has organised free lesson plans, free material for teachers and free quizzes for students as well as global PR to coincide with the film's release. I would be foolish not to be excited.

Having said that though, The Learning English Video Project, in it's entirety, is a medium through which I am able to broadcast my feelings towards world society and global progress. I am inspired beyond words by the dedication of the people I interview and the students and teachers who have left feedback on This series is a testament to their dedication and the realisation that people from different nations, backgrounds and generations can come together in learning a 'neutral' language.

I am going to Shanghai in August, then to Sao Paulo in September. My trips to both China and Brazil are motivated solely by The Learning English Video Project and I hope that my positive drive towards producing the final two films in the series only increases...

In three days time I will begin my third year at Millfield Summer School. This time as the Academic and Site Manager for Downside.

'Tales From America' will be free to watch/download/host at as of tomorrow (21.06.2009)