Letters to Holly

Friday, June 26

New Technology

Your Sister bought herself a laptop. She browsed models yesterday and found one that had all she wanted, including a touch screen with stylus. Her late school version had the same feature. It's an Hewlett-Packard, and it was on sale. The Macs were too expensive and alien for her. We saw an HP PC last year and were bedazzled by its Mac-like structure (the tower is in the monitor), but it was priced as much as a comparable Mac desktop.

She also offered to buy my next digital camera, an upgrade I need for the work convention next month. In just a short amount of time, cameras have become incredibly small, and the memory cards can swallow piles of pictures. I love the camera she bought me seven years ago. It was just what I needed. But it's on the threshold of picture resolution for magazine printing. I need a new one, and the prices are almost half what my current camera cost. She's offering to buy the camera as an early birthday present. I'll also need to buy a suit for the convention's posh dinner of honors. I knew I needed a new one, but I didn't want to buy a new one until I slimmed down. Here I am, a svelte 173 pounds. Your Sis is a bit amazed.

The rehearsal last night was just one runthrough with the new actress following her movement notes. She did OK. The veteran actors from the first performance are playing with delivery in a relaxed manner, and it's bringing out the comedy. I encourage it as we're so early in rehearsals. I noted their efforts and reminded them of our one rehearsal next week. They said they'd come in for that meeting with many lines memorized. I won't make them play with props then; we'll save that for the following week. Even though we don't have much time before we take the stage, we're already in a good place. I have the rare opportunity to direct a show with actors familiar with the material and a new actor walking in and energizing the veterans.

In The News
The national media dropped everything to cover Michal Jackson's death. ABC replaced Grey's Anatomy with reruns of Jackson interviews and live coverage from the UCLA Medical Center. MTV went with live news coverage and Jackson videos. The cable news networks stopped their programming to cover the reaction to his death and recap his later scandals.

His last musical hurrah was this 1995 duet with sister Janet. It has all the hallmarks of his big hits: the staccato drums, the background harmonies, Michael impersonating James Brown on the verses. The video proves that while Janet was a game dancer, Michael had total physical control. The man was an entertainment machine.

I'm not moved by his death because he stopped being musically relevant a decade ago. Also, he at the very least was wildly inappropriate with children. He devolved into secluded psychosis, and he lost his golden musical touch. Efforts to work with current, hot producers failed to hook the young audiences. He was of course incredibly popular overseas as the total sell-out of his questionable 50-date London tour proved. He was coasting on past success.

But what success to milk. An NPR interview today suggested he was the synapse between black and mainstream music. I certainly don't remember a young black performer having his prominence even before Thriller. It was said more than a year ago that Jackson's acceptance by white audiences paved the way for the marketing success and cultural adoration of Michael Jordan and then Tiger Woods and Will Smith and then Obama.

I remember our Baptist summer camp going crazy for Thriller, and the cassettes were passed around hourly. I hated camp, but that cassette got me through. I was hypnotized by Wanna Be Starting Something and played it over and over in the dead, hot air of the log cabins. This music from a future alternate dimension transported me and seems to have done the same for people the world over. Billie Jean remains a fascinating composition, a no-bull masterpiece of pop music.

His death is compared now to that of Elvis and Lennon, and I can't swallow that. Just doesn't have that heft for me, and I feel somewhat plugged in to pop culture. I do remember seeing high-school kids perform Billie Jean as a 1600s folk dance tune during our Shakespeare honeymoon in Virginia. They even had a dancer with the hat and glove.

Buncha Pictures of the Day

The Big Picture covers soccer in South Africa. The American victory over Spain was of mild interest to some here. Not much of a ripple. It's covered like the opening rounds of Wimbledon.

The bigger sports story was the NBA draft and the trade sending Shaq to play with LeBron in Cleveland. Shaq relied on the Phoenix Suns' medical staff to keep him mobile. Without their help, he may not be as productive. But those are two powerful guys sharing the ball. Highlights will abound.

Hansbrough went to the Indiana Pacers, and that's a nice franchise for him. He can learn the NBA pace in a good division facing quality opponents and gradually improve. He won't have to carry the burden of immediate title expectations. A really good team for him. Also, if he does really well, he and Peyton Manning become tandem state icons.

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