Saturday 4 July 2009

Topical - Michael Jackson

When I started this blog, my intention was to stick to the topic of writing. The process, the product - whichever. I had wanted to keep politics or current events out of it, which is why I never intended to write a post about Michael Jackson. However, as the world and his wife seems to be chipping in their two cents, I thought I might as well follow suit.

Now, before I begin, let me state that I am sad that he's gone. I wasn't that bothered initially but after re-watching some of his old videos lately, I do feel how much of a shame it all is. He made some truly impressive music and he was a real trendsetter in his time. Despite this, I have not wept or wailed as I never met him and never felt that he made an impact on my life, beyond my liking the music he made.

However, I can't decide if I'm more disgusted or disheartened by the number of sick jokes doing the rounds. Jokes about celebrities are all well and good but I really don't like to hear them when someone has passed on - it smacks of cowardice, since the deceased can hardly defend themselves. And in a way, this is why I wish that the media in general would just let the poor guy rest. He already made a song asking people to leave him alone - why is this so difficult for anyone to do? Can't people stop raking over his life, or his final days, looking for stories they can sensationalise in order to shift magazines or newspapers?

I had a rant on Facebook about this the day I heard the news. Out of laziness, I'm going to use some of it again here. All the histrionics displayed by his so-called "fans" annoyed me somewhat. His passing is very sad, yes, but it was NOT the day that "the music died", as proclaimed by a hysterical American on the news. Music is a universal thing, it won't 'die' just because someone who made it their profession died. You wouldn't say that literature died when Roald Dahl did, for Christ's sake! Acting didn't die with the demise of Laurence Olivier!

My biggest gripe is not that people are upset, but rather I want to know where were all of these distraught "fans" when he actually needed the support a few years ago? Hiding in the woodwork, that's where! No one wanted to stick up for him with all of those allegations flying around, no one wanted to associate with someone who had all that hanging over them, but now he's gone, everyone wants to be seen to be 'grieving'. No one wanted to hear his music when he released his last album, but look at his record sales now. One word for that - pathetic. For Christ's sake, pull yourselves together! If you never actually met him, or had any personal connection with him, then it's hardly a personal tragedy. It is sad, and it is a shame because he was incredibly talented, but these things happen. Be sad he's gone, but be glad he left such an awesome back catalogue of work.

If these people were truly fans, and truly wanted to do something useful, then instead of keeping their O2 tickets as a "souvenir" of something that never happened, why don't they get the promised refunds and donate the money to a cause close to Michael's heart? Maybe the allegations about him were true, maybe they weren't, it isn't my place to say, but at least the guy wanted to see change happen.

I'm ignoring the newspapers, and I'm ignoring the reports about his final days. I've seen the footage of his rehearsals and that's how I'm choosing to remember him - as a supremely talented entertainer who just happened to have a sad life. I suggest you do the same.

Tuesday 30 June 2009

What is a good short story?

I found a post on Emma Newman's blog on what makes a good short story. As short stories have so far been my weapon of choice, I thought I'd give the matter some consideration. After all, I've read far more than I've ever written, and in some ways, I prefer the short story to the novel for its brevity. Short stories are far more difficult to sabotage - a good idea in a novel is all to easy to hijack and turn into a ridiculous flight of fancy (ever read Dreamcatcher?), but with a short story, you feel compelled to do the idea justice as you're with it for such a short period of time.

I've read some brilliant stories. I think my favourite short story ever written is Chivalry by Neil Gaiman - it's delightful in every possible way. It's also the first thing I ever read by him. It's short, it's to the point, and yet he manages to capture a little snapshot of an idea, complete with characterisation and a sense of place.

Yet ultimately, I like stories that grab the attention with a wonderful first line, stories that transport you to another person's reality or imagination for a short time, and stories that take me away from the mundane constraints of everyday life. A good short story, for me, should be like a little holiday.