Wednesday, July 22, 2009

GIDGET (the Taco Bell dog)
1994-July 21, 2009

Ed's note: Mini (my Editorial Assistant, pictured under "Support Staff" in the column to the right) asked to say a few words in memory of one of her favorite fellow canines, who died last night after suffering a stroke. After all the help she gives me screening albums, editing manuscripts, rolling calls and doing internet research, how could I refuse? --Paul

It's not easy being small. Just ask Russell from Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Bobby from The Brady Bunch, or Verne Troyer.

It's even harder for us dogs.

"Why don't you just get a cat?" "Your dog looks like a rat..." "Oh my god, you have a pet bat?" "Ooh, what a vicious watchdog..."

Yeah, you humans are really creative with your insults.

Sorry we can't all be as big as Golden Retrievers, Labs or Border Collies, but don't blame your dog envy on us. People say we're the small-minded ones, but we've got room for everyone in our packs.

And I like to think of Gidget as a canine version of Michael Jackson.

The King of Pop opened doors to MTV, and Gidget opened doggy doors to American pop culture. Michael Jackson transcended color lines, and Gidget transcended fast food's burger barrier. MJ penned "We Are The World," and Gidget coined "Yo quiero Taco Bell!"

And just like Michael Jackson, Gidget loved to make little kids smile. (Come on, just because my dad won't go there, doesn't mean I can't!)

Nothing against 101 Dalmations, Spuds Mackenzie, or Petey from Our Gang, but how much butt did Mojo kick in Transformers? Reese Witherspoon didn't have a Great Dane by her side when she graduated at the top of her class in Legally Blonde, and Paris Hilton doesn't walk around Beverly Hills with an armful of St. Bernards.

No, it doesn't count that Perez Hilton looks like a St. Bernard.

It doesn't matter if we're big or small, most dogs are wired the same. We can't get enough of our people, we love having our bellies rubbed, and every once in a while we'll bark for absolutely no reason at all.

Gidget reminded America that dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and it's okay to have ears as big as your head. For that, she'll forever hold a place in the hearts of us small - and sometimes awkward looking - dogs everywhere.

The next time you get your dog a side order of chicken at the Taco Bell drive-thru, take a moment to thank Gidget... And if you don't buy your dog chicken at the Taco Bell drive-thru, get with the program! You think you're the only one who quiero Taco Bell?


Saturday, July 18, 2009

November 4, 1916 - July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite was a bit before my time. That's not to say that I don't remember him, but I remember the mythology, not the man.

My parents had yet to meet when he broke the news of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy's assassination on Friday, November 22, 1963. The Apollo 11 lunar landing happened two years before my birth, and I was barely walking in the waning days of the Vietnam War.

When Walter Cronkite retired from his post as anchor of the CBS Evening News on March 6, 1981, I was admittedly more interested in baseball scores and being a nine year old kid than the hum-drum last broadcast of a silver-haired guy who talked really slow, let alone about things that I barely gave a second thought.

If only I knew then, what I know now.

I wrote a thesis on the Vietnam War in college, and you couldn't write about the war without reading about Walter Cronkite. When he declared that the war was unwinnable during the Tet Offensive in 1968, President Lyndon Johnson stated that if he lost the support of Cronkite, he'd lose the support of middle America.

When Walter Cronkite died yesterday at the age of 92, it was more than an iconic newscaster that passed away. He brought with him the integrity of the American media, and the trust that President Johnson knew was integral to any straw poll and public opinion.

Walter Cronkite was more than just a news anchor, he was the most trusted man in America. What strikes me most about his passing, is the people talking about how he made them feel. The emotions he stirred. The calm he portrayed. When he spoke, people listened. Trust was inherent in his tone. Nobody questioned a single word he ever said.

Today, we question everything.

In the modern age of infinite television channels and instant internet feeds, ratings are won by breaking news first and fastest, not articulately and accurately. It's not about being calm and composed, it's about creating hype. And it's not about sense and sensibility, it's about sensationalism.

There used to be an air of finality to the news. Now we watch the news expecting it to change if we watch long enough. And if it doesn't change, we can just change the channel, where chances are good someone is reporting something else.

In the quarter-century since Walter Cronkite's retirement, news has evolved from something that is broken with integrity and reported with an air of nobility, to something that is broken in pieces, and sent over the air with little more than a concern for ratings.

Long before America was addicted to Red Bull and Twitters, Walter Cronkite knew that slow was the way to go. While the average American speaks at a rate of approximately 165 words per minute, Cronkite paced his newscasts at 3/4 that speed. He understood that delivery had just as much impact on the news, as the news itself.

Walter Cronkite was distinguished by his finesse. Today's newscasters rely on little more than flair.

Yes, that's symptomatic of the world we live in. And that's exactly why the passing of Walter Cronkite represents so much more than the loss of a television news anchor.

It is the end of an era in American journalism.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Michael Jackson Loves America

America's love affair with Michael Jackson may have suffered a dramatic decline in the decade leading up to his June 25 death, but apparently the King of Pop's love affair with America never waned...

The band America, that is.

A clip from Jackson's previously unreleased track "A Place With No Name" (listen here) surfaced yesterday, leaving many to scratch their heads at its similarity to the song "A Horse With No Name" (listen here) from '70s folk rockers America.

Rest assured, there won't be a legal battle of Coldplay/Joe Satriani/Cat Stevens proportions any time soon - Quite the contrary, America are making love, not war.

While “A Place With No Name” does feature a prominent sample of “A Horse With No Name” and lyrics that don't stray far from the original recording, Jackson had obtained permission to use the track years ago.

In fact, Jim Morey, America's current manager, was Michael Jackson's manager in the late '80s and early '90s.

“We’re honored that Michael Jackson chose to record it and we’re impressed with the quality of the track," said America's Dewey Bunnell and Gerry Beckley in statement issued this afternoon. "We’re also hoping it will be released soon so that music listeners around the world can hear the whole song and once again experience the incomparable brilliance of Michael Jackson.”

Dewey Bunnell wrote "A Horse With No Name," which was originally released on America's self-titled 1971 debut. The album reached No. 1 on March 25, 1972, and remained there for five weeks.

“Michael Jackson really did it justice and we truly hope his fans - and our fans - get to hear it in its entirety. It’s really poignant,” the statement continued.

Michael wasn't the only America fan in the Jackson family. Janet Jackson's 2001 hit “Someone To Call My Lover" sampled America’s “Ventura Highway,” and “Let’s Wait Awhile," from Janet's blockbuster 1987 album Control, reminded many fans of America's ”Daisy Jane.”

America are currently on tour (click here for dates), and will remain on the road throughout 2009.

Offical America Website

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hey California, How's That Budget Coming?

I'll be the first to admit that I don't fully understand the intricacies of government spending. But that's alright, because clearly our own government doesn't, either.

I live in California, where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of fiscal emergency. What does that mean? It means that the state is in dire financial straits, and our elected leaders have demonstrated nothing but an embarrassing inability to approve a budget that even hints at helping California emerge from its current financial doldrums.

How bad are things? California is operating under a deficit of more than $25.0 billion, a figure that is almost a quarter of the state's total operating funds. In simple terms, that means that the state of California has spent $125 for every $100 it has allocated for spending. When you're talking about a budget in the billions, that's a lot of dollars. And according to the BBC, that deficit could increase to over $30.0 billion by September.

What does this mean to you and I?

A friend of mine just got her tax refund in the mail - Instead of a check, she received an IOU.

That's right, that state of California issued her an IOU for the refund she was owed for money she had already paid in withholding.

How does that work? Theoretically, the IOU she received can be deposited in the bank, but the funds won't be paid by the state treasury until the state budget is approved. In other words, that IOU is worth less than that "I'll get you next time" that your friend promised when you picked up the tab at the bar the other night.

At least you can count on your friends.

Political rhetoric aside - because we all know that the other side is always to blame - this issue boils down to a simple fact: The people that we elect to do a job, are not doing their job. Period. End of story.

In the real world - meaning, everywhere but government - operations grind to a halt without an approved budget. And people lose their jobs when those budgets aren't established and adhered to.

When I worked as a department head at one of America's leading internet companies a few short years ago, I was told that my employee reviews couldn't be processed until a new budget was in place. A month after my proposed raises were submitted (and approved), my entire department was laid off - despite the fact that we were one of the most productive teams at the company. It was no doubt a hard choice by the higher-ups, and it had bitter ramifications, but even I can admit that it was a necessary choice given the site's fiscal concerns.

Hard times call for hard decisions, and nowhere is that more evident than in today's trying economic times.

But in the state of California, nobody seems willing to take responsibility for the necessary compromises and hard choices when it comes to our budget. Why? Because the decisions won't be popular, and nobody wants to look like they are rescinding promises that they made to attain their elected positions.

Unfortunately, it's too late to worry about public perception. It's time to get the job done, regardless of how it may be perceived by the media, and regardless of how it might effect one's chance at reelection.

Politicians aren't elected to their offices with the expectation that they'll be reelected, they are elected with the expectation that they will serve their term with the best interests of their constituents in mind... Reelection is their reward for a job well done.

Somebody needs to remind our politicians that their reelection is in the hands of cash-strapped Californians who are receiving IOUs instead of tax returns.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Michael Jackson Memorial: Paying The Bill

There's one simple rule that is the basis of financial responsibility: Don't spend money that you don't have.

Critics are up in arms over the $1.4 million in expenses that were incurred by the city of Los Angeles as a result of Tuesday morning's Michael Jackson memorial held at the Staples Center.

But how are these expenses any different than any other event that is held at the downtown arena? Whether it be the Grammy Awards, a Los Angeles Lakers game, hockey or a concert?

When you're one of the biggest metropolitan centers in the world, you incur operating expenses. And when you are the entertainment capital of the world, it is not unrealistic for those expenses to include police details for a memorial service for the world's most widely-recognized and celebrated entertainer.

To be clear, according to the Los Angeles Police Department, $1.1 million of that $1.4 million figure was overtime pay for the 4,173 police officers that secured the Staples Center, Forest Lawn cemetery, and other areas that attracted fans and media.

Let's break that down, shall we? There were 4,173 law enforcement and public safety officials hired to work overtime by the city of Los Angeles, at a total cost of $1.1 million. That amounts to an average of $263.20 per employee. More specifically, it's $32.95/hour for an eight-hour shift. If overtime is time-and-a-half, that means the law enforcement officials were paid at a base rate of $21.97/hour.

And we're supposed to feel sorry for the city of Los Angeles because they don't have the financial where-with-all to pay them? You couldn't pay me $210.97/hour to do a police officer's job in some parts of this city - I definitely don't begrudge them a day of overtime to maintain security at the most media-saturated event of the internet age.

There's no point in arguing that $1.4 million is a small price to pay for the publicity the city received for a live event that went off without a hitch before one of - if not the - biggest worldwide audiences in history. And it's also pointless to dwell on the estimated $4.0 million in income for local businesses in the form of food sales, parking, shopping, hotels and transportation, as speculated by Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

If you had told the city of Los Angeles beforehand that they could pay $1.1 million to guarantee an incident-free memorial, or roll the dice with crowd control and take their chances, don't you think they would have gladly paid the $1.1 million?

Of course they would have... If they had it.

Need we be reminded that the reason they don't have the money, is because they are incapable of balancing a budget, there are moratoriums on spending, and the city is mired in a fiscal black hole where more than one-in-ten of its citizens are unemployed?

Which brings us back to my initial statement: If you can't afford to spend money you don't have, DON'T SPEND IT!

The memorial wasn't planned overnight, and someone, somewhere, should have talked to organizers about the costs inherent in the event. Had that been done, properly, solutions could have been explored in advance.

For instance: More than 1.6 million fans registered for the opportunity to receive a pair of the 17,500 free tickets to the memorial. Had the organizers charged a $1 processing fee for each request (which would have been easy to do - tickets were issued by Ticketmaster, and they know a thing or two about service charges) that total would have covered all of the city's expenses... With money to spare.

A nominal fee might have also prevented people from registering for tickets if they weren't serious about going... So maybe you charge a $3 registration fee - if that vetted two thirds of the applicants, it still would have netted $1.5 million and covered the city's costs for the event... With money to spare.

I don't know any Michael Jackson fans that wouldn't have paid $3 for an opportunity to attend his memorial service.

You might argue that it's easy to come up with solutions after the fact. That may be true. But that doesn't change the fact that somebody didn't do their job in preventing the problem.

Had I been presented the situation in the days before the memorial, I know that I would have offered that solution in a matter of minutes. How many other solutions were never explored?

It's not rocket science, it's just common sense.

Unfortunately, common sense seems pretty hard to come by when it comes to fiscal planning and spending in the state of California.

PS: If the city of Los Angeles wants to cry that they can't afford to pay the 4,173 law enforcement officers they hired to maintain order, they might want to make sure all 4,173 were necessary. Judging from the urgency of his stance, I'm guessing this guy wasn't texting for back-up...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson Memorial: My Thoughts

"We will never, ever understand what he endured, not being able to walk down the street without a crowd gathering around him, being judged, ridiculed... How much pain can one take? Maybe now, Michael, they will leave you alone..."
-Marlon Jackson, Michael Jackson's brother

Watching today's Michael Jackson memorial, it wasn't Michael Jackson that I felt sorry for, it was the people that are so fast to ridicule him, so fast to condemn him, and so fast to play judge, jury and executioner, despite the fact that so much of what they think they know is rooted in speculation.

I feel sorry for those people, because most of them will never know the pleasure that Michael Jackson brought the world. I feel sorry for those people because they are too scared to feel anything but anger and shame. They don't know the joy that springs to life in a catalog of recordings that spans more than five decades. They know only that it is easier to mock what they don't understand.

But isn't that the world that we live in? If we took the time to understand, there wouldn't be war. Even worse, if we took the time to try and understand, we might come to the hard realization that we can't all be right all the time, and that the world we live in isn't black and white.

And if the world isn't black or white, where do we fit in?

Michael Jackson wanted the world to know that you didn't need to fit in, and that it didn't matter whether you were black or white. Michael Jackson created a world that was colorblind. Not because the world really was colorblind, but because he taught us to be colorblind.

He helped us realize that the world could be colorblind, which is half the battle.

"Today in Tokyo, beneath the Eiffel Tower, in Ghana's Black Star Square, in Johannesburg and Pittsburgh, in Birmingham, Alabama, and in Birmingham, England, we are missing Michael Jackson," said Queen Latifah, the first speaker of the morning's memorial. "But we do know we had him. And we are the world."

Michael Jackson touched our world. And by touching the world, he made it a better place.

"When Michael started it was a different world, but because Michael kept going, because he didn't accept limitations, because he refused to let people decide his boundaries, he opened up the whole world," rang the Reverend Al Sharpton with a rhythmic flow following a breathtaking performance of "Will You Be There" by Jennifer Hudson. "It was Michael Jackson that brought blacks and whites and Asians and Latinos together. It was Michael Jackson that made us sing 'We Are The World' and feed the hungry long before Live Aid... He created a comfort level where people who felt they were separate were interconnected with his music...

"Michael made us love each other. Michael taught us to stand with each other. There are those that like to dig around mess. But millions around the world, we're going to uphold his message. It's not about mess, it's about his love message. As you climb up steep mountains, sometimes you scar your knee. Sometimes you break the skin. But don't focus on the scars, focus on the journey. Michael beat 'em. Michael rose to the top. He outsang his cynics. He outdanced his doubters. He outperformed the pessimists. Every time he got knocked down, he got back up. Every time you counted him out, he came back in. Michael never stopped!

"...Some came today to say goodbye to Michael. I came to say thank you. Thank you because you never stopped. Thank you because you never gave up. Thank you because you tore down our divisions. Thank you because you eradicated failure. Thank you because you gave us hope!"

And thank you for creating music that gave so many of us the spirit to keep on going. Music that lifted us up when we were down. Music that brought us solace when we felt alone. Music that brought us together when we were apart. And music that made us realize we weren't alone.

It's easy to make fun of Michael Jackson. He's different. He wasn't like you or me. And he didn't try to be. He was a human being, and while he knew that he wasn't perfect, he embraced his differences because he knew that the could make a change.

Even if that change was only made one person at a time.

As John Mayer laid into the delicate intricacies of "Human Nature," the five strings of his guitar replacing the poetic palate of Michael Jackson's warm vocals, I didn't understand his placement amidst the memorial. But once I reflected on the nuances of his appearance, it made so much more sense...

Appearing on Larry King Live early this evening, he said that he was performing not just for himself, but for all of his fans. Standing on the Staples Center stage, John Mayer wasn't telling a story about who Michael Jackson was to him as person, he was relaying who Michael Jackson was to him as an artist. And Michael Jackson means that same thing to all of us that love his music.

We are enchanted by his ability to capture that brilliant spark that made us all feel so human, and translate it into the most beautiful of music.

Music that was transcendent, and music that made us smile. Just like Brooke Shields smiled as she told stories about her friendship with Michael, and the laughter they shared. "Although our hearts are aching, we need to look up, where he is undoubtedly perched in the crescent moon, and we need to smile," she said.

And then Jermaine Jackson performed Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," his brother's favorite song. It was a song that rang true to Michael Jackson's heart, but did anyone ever ask themselves why?

Because even Michael Jackson needed to smile. Michael was only human, just like the rest of us.

It's easy to forget that he's not a sideshow, he's a man. He's a brother. He's a son. And he's a father. And while a cynical segment of America mocks his loss, all his family can do is mourn.

When Michael's 11-year-old daughter stepped in front of Janet Jackson to make a comment at the close of the ceremony, she not only touched the world, she melted its heart.

"Ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine," said Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, trying to choke back tears that couldn't be contained. "And I just want to say I love him so much!"

Michael Jackson may have touched our hearts with his music, but his spirit, love and passion lived in the hearts of his family and friends.

The world may have lost an icon, but the Jackson 5 have been reduced to four. Katherine and Joseph Jackson have outlived their son. And the three Jackson children have lost their parent.

While there are a lot of people who deserve our sorrow, as his fans, we deserve it the least.

Michael's message and music will endure for as long as we keep it alive. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, let's be thankful for the gift he gave us, and send a special prayer for the people who knew of him as more than just an icon. The people that lost a family member, a parent, and a friend.

And, yes, take a moment to pray for the people who don't know what they've lost. They are the ones that might need it the most.

In my darkest hour, in my deepest despair
Will you still care, will you be there
In my trials and my tribulations
Through our doubts and frustrations
In my violence, in my turbulence
Through my fear and my confessions
In my anguish, in my pains
through my joy, and my sorrow
In the promise of another tomorrow
I'll never let you part
for you're always in my heart

-"Will You Be There" (Michael Jackson)

Michael Jackson Memorial: The Twitters

I was torn this morning, not knowing whether to attend the Michael Jackson memorial in person, or to watch it on television, not a part of the Staples Center congregation in downtown Los Angeles, but a part of a bigger celebration, that of tens of millions of fans worldwide who were touched by the biggest entertainment icon the world will ever know. My indecision forced a decision, and I have no regrets. I watched from my desk, digesting it all and sharing what I experienced with the online community. Here is my experience of the Michael Jackson memorial, as told via my Twitter account...

The motorcade is pulling into the Staples Center now... The hearse didn't use a blinker. I hope it doesn't get pulled over.

The motorcade is an eerie procession of dozens of black limousines wrapped around the Staples Center as they pull in. Surreal image.

CNN analyst Bryan Monroe agrees with me: "Off The Wall" is his favorite Michael Jackson album.

Based on posthumous sales and projections, CNN is reporting that that the Michael Jackson estate could be completely debt free within months

Smokey Robinson is opening the ceremony by reading a statement prepared by Diana Ross, who is not in attendance

It is astonishing how many people worldwide, so many cultures and languages, are celebrating Michael Jackson's life right now, all together

2200 credentialed journalists are covering the Michael Jackson memorial and surrounding events today.

Gospel choir sings "no more crying, we are going to see the King," casket is rolled to center stage shortly after 1030 am PST...

Mariah Carey singing "I'll Be There" - I'm sure this isn't the last time I'll have goosebumps watching from home. Must be magical there.

Queen Latifah "representing all the fans... Michael never felt distant... Michael was the biggest star on Earth... A human being first"

Lionel Richie singing "Jesus Is Love" ...Is he in training to be a Minister?

Berry Gordy on Michael Jackson: "King of Pop isn't big enough for him, I think he is simply the greatest entertainer that has ever lived!"

My dog doesn't care that I'm glued to TV, she wants to go out... I told her to be reverent of the moment - she went and curled in her bed!

Video montage ended with "You Are Not Alone," goosebump moment number three... WOW. Here's comes Stevie Wonder...

Stevie Wonder performing "Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer"

Kobe Bryant: Michael Jackson in Guiness Book of World Records for most charities supported by a pop star.

Magic Johnson: "Michael made me a better point guard and basketball player..."

Magic: "Chef brought me out grilled chicken, and brought Michael a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken...That was a greatest moment in my life"

Jennifer Hudson "Will You Be There" - Holy gospel pipes, she is owning it! CNN showing footage of people dancing in churches. Mo goosebumps!

Michael Jackson voiceover at end of "Will You Be There" - I'm shocked the ovation wasn't bigger, unless people too stunned to respond...

Rev Al Sharpton "It was Michael Jackson that brought blacks and whites and Asians together... Michael Jackson made us sing We Are The World"

Rev Al Sharpton: "Michael outsang his cynics, Michael outdanced his doubters..."

Rev Al Sharpton to Jackson children: "There was nothing strange about your daddy, it was strange what he had to deal with!" Standing Ovation

Based on the tribute Reverend Al Sharpton just gave, I'd join his church...

NEWS FLASH: John Mayer owns a tie... And he's wearing it while he plays "Human Nature"

John Mayer has a smile as wide as I've ever seen. He's the first white person to take the stage, and has as much soul as anyone. Goosebumps.

Other than him being @JohnMayer, not sure what his connection to Michael Jackson was, but it worked... Brooke Shields up now, talking, teary

Brooke Shields: "I used to tease him that I started when I was 11 months old and he started when he was five, he was a slacker..."

BS: "We never filmed a video or recorded a song, but we laughed... MJ's laugh was the sweetest and purest laugh of anyone I'd ever known"

Brooke: "I said, 'What up with the glove?' If you're going to hold my hand, it better be with the other hand..." VERY nice tribute...

Brooke: "He was referred to as the King, but I always thought of him as the little prince..." (read excerpt from book "The Little Prince")

Brooke Shields closed with mention of "Smile," now Jermaine Jackson singing with one white sequined glove... Both powerful and tender...

Martin Luther King III and Bernice King... I just ran to get a cup of coffee--I wonder if they're selling concessions in the Staples Center?

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX): "On behalf of representatives, we know law, and we know that people are innocent until proven otherwise..."

Usher performing "Gone Too Soon" at side of casket. Very emotional performance... Smokey Robinson up now, remembering meeting Jackson 5

Okay, I'll bite... Who is Shaheen Jafarghol, and why is he singing "Who's Loving You"? I guess there had to be someone I wouldn't know...

Shaheen Jafarghol sang "Who's Loving You" on Britiain's Got Talent this season, and Michael Jackson personally invited him to London shows

"We Are The World" This is going to be HUGE...

Ok, "We Are The World" wasn't huge, singing was done by his touring band. "Heal The World" now. MJ's kids, more kids, and all guests onstage

Jesse Jackson has ZERO rhythm (just saying)

I wasn't blown away by "We Are The World" or "Heal The World," but Michael has to be beaming down on the Staples Center right now...

Jermaine Jackson: "We thank you. We thank you very much."

Marlon Jackson: "A part of you will live forever in all of us..."

Paris Jackson: "My daddy has been the best father I could imagine, and I love him so much!" (forget goosebumps, now I'm crying)

As they wheel the casket out to instrumental "Man in the Mirror" there is a lone spotlight on an empty microphone at center stage...

Larry King: "It exceeded any expectations I had..." Said Al Sharpton was the standout of event. Looks like I wasn't alone in that thought!

The memorial was such a moving celebration of everything Michael Jackson represented as an artist and entertainer. Phenomenal.

It feels so good to revel in the joy and magic Michael Jackson brought the world, not the tragedy America encouraged and sensationalized.

I love it! There's some guy in a Lamb Of God t-shirt being talked to on CNN as he leaves the Staples Center...

I would love to see a picture of what the sky looks like above the Staples Center... There have to be too many helicopters to count!

Michael Jackson demonstrates America's divide: Half want to defile him, and the other half want to celebrate him. I'll celebrate, thank you.

If this clip doesn't break your heart, you don't have a heart:

Michael Jackson memorial highlights (for me): Rev Al Sharpton, Brooke Shields, Jennifer Hudson and Magic Johnson. And, of course, Paris. RIP

Follow Paul Gargano on Twitter: @PaulGargano

Thursday, July 2, 2009

This day in Gargano history...

In case anyone is looking for a reason to celebrate this weekend...

The July 2009 issue of Maximum Ink music magazine features not just one, but TWO Gargano brothers on the cover!

Andrew Gargano is not only my brother, he's also one of the most talented photographers I know - and I'm not just saying that because I feel bad about the time a decade or two ago (maybe three, but who's counting) that I kicked his ass in the front yard of our house. He is credited with this month's Maximum Ink cover photo (as well as the photos for the cover story), just below the lower right-hand cover line for my Michael Jackson tribute.

This is even bigger than the day President Bush read the names Paul Gargano and Anthony Gargano in the Washington Post, when my Dave Matthews Band concert review ran in syndication and a writer with the same name as the third Gargano brother appeared in the sports section...

And here I was, thinking I might make it through the weekend without cracking open a celebratory cold one!

Kidding aside, don't forget to take a moment this weekend to remember what it took to make our country great, and what it takes from each and every one of us to keep it that way!

Here's to a happy, safe and festive fourth of July weekend...