If a picture says a thousand words, then the words “Michael Jackson” say a thousand pictures. Whether it’s the young Michael, performing with his brothers as the Jackson Five, to his breakout solo performances like “Billie Jean” and “Thriller”, to his physical transformation and legal troubles in later years, Michael is an icon of our time and our culture. Close your eyes. You can still see him jamming with his brothers. Transforming into a monster in red leather. Moonwalking. The glove. Attending his child molestation trial in his pajamas. From Ed Sullivan, to MTV, to Court TV, Michael grew up before our eyes.

There is an entire generation that only know Michael Jackson as the “Wacko Jacko” of tabloid fame. Most of the people I work with, college-age kids who consider acts like Linkin Park “old school”, never saw Michael Jackson perform in his prime. There is still, thanks to sites like YouTube, evidence of the greatness that was Jackson’s career. The King of Pop was the most energetic and dynamic performer I have ever seen. Spinning and sliding, he moved in a way that was almost superhuman in its utter smoothness. To this day, I have yet to see another human being pull of a Moonwalk with the ease and fluidity of its creator. His concerts were to us what P. T. Barnum’s circus was to another generation—a cultural phenomenon that transcended race and class, an event that baffled the senses and went far beyond reasonable expectations of entertainment. The bestselling album of all time, dozens of number one hits, Neverland.

Then, as we all know, it went to shit. Paparazzi. Plastic surgery. Child molestation charges. More plastic surgery. More child molestation charges. The odd marriages. The three children. The masks and the sunglasses and the skin that lightened like a sick dawn. All of that was part of the story, but today we do not care.

There will be a great deal of debate over the legacy Michael Jackson leaves behind. To people my age and older, we will remember Michael the Performer, the peerless master of frenzied crowds across the globe, the most beloved musician of his age. To others, mostly the young, he will be recalled as Michael the Freak Show, the damaged ten-year old locked into a adult body that seemed to fall apart before our eyes.

I have my own theories about Michael Jackson. Raised from poverty to a level of fame and fortune that most of us cannot possibly imagine, Michael is the purest distillation of the American Dream. No one has traveled so far, so fast, along that path. Like a diver rising too fast from deep water, there were pains to be had from such a climb. Michael grew up in series of boxes—the first of his parents’ making, then one made from his stardom, and finally one of his own making designed to preserve the stunted life he was forced to give up at an early age. Michael Jackson, mentally and emotionally, never grew from the time he entered the public domain and we took possession of his soul. We, the raving masses screaming for his favor and his talent, we created the tragedy that played out over the last two decades of his life. As soon as we sensed vulnerability in the superstar’s mental state, we set up the 24/7 crazy watch, looking for more and more to justify our opinions that, somehow, we were better than this demigod we had ourselves made.

So, rest in peace, Michael. Hopefully, you are somewhere where there are no cameras and only music.

I spent Friday and Saturday at the wedding of my wife’s best friend. This event has been a long time coming and I can happily report that the thing went off without any major difficulties. My wife, Amy, was the matron of honor, while my daughter, Devyn, was the flower girl and Nic filled in the role of ring bearer. He didn’t quite buy it when I told him he was the “ring bear” and had to dress up in a furry costume. Smart kid, that one. Anyway, there will be pictures at the end of this post.

One thing from the ceremony, though, gave me something to think about. The preacher was talking about marriage as a 50/50 partnership and said that no successful marriage could be that way. He went on to say that both people entering matrimony should be prepared to give more than they receive, more like a 60/40 split.

As it happens, I think that’s true.

It is possible for a husband and wife to only give 50/50, but that is a recipe for divorce. There’s no margin for error, no wiggle room for when someone feels down or tired or simply bored. Likewise, if one party gives significantly more than the other, frustration will eventually lead to isolation and separation. If both parties give 60%, you end up with an extra 20% over what contitutes a stable marriage. There’s room for variation, for one side to prop up the other side when times are tough and happiness is low. That extra 20% is where the love is. Two people can be married, true, relying on a 50/50 split, but the love and happiness and resilience that leads to a long life together only lies in that little extra. That extra twenty percent, given freely by both sides.

Now, I’m sure you’d rather see pictures than read about marriage, so here you go:

First up is Devyn, flower girl extraordinaire:

Here’s Nic, doing his Frodo Baggins imitation as the Ring Bearer:

Nic again, with Tim the Groom:

My wife, Amy, using an expression she usually saves for when I do something stupid:

Jennifer and Tim, the Bride and Groom (not nearly as cute as my children, but . . . . ):

My oldest daughter, Alex, in her natural position:

The only decent picture of my middle daughter, who decided to be camera-shy that day:

Finally, a nice shot of my three peeps in the wedding:

Sorry, no pictures of me. There are a few on my camera, but as they have me in them, they aren’t good enough to post. Maybe next time.

The other day I decided to bite the bullet and checked out New Moon, the follow-up to Twilight, on audiobook to listen to going to and from work. Even though I wasn’t very impressed with the quality of writing in the first one (for which I have been much vilified by my teenage employees), I believe the story, if not how it’s told, has some merit and I’m just curious to see where the damn thing ends up. If nothing else, maybe I can take away something that will help me sell millions of novels to unsuspecting teens.

I’ve said before that listening to an audiobook is a different experience than reading one from print. The Harry Potter series, for instance, is enhanced a great deal by the remarkable talent of Jim Dale narrating the audio versions. Hearing the book being read gives you new insights on things that you might miss as a reader. So, with that in mind, I’ve developed a theory about Stephanie Meyer that may explain why she writes the way she does and, rather than waste a lot of my time and yours detailing all the things I don’t like about her writing, I’ll just throw out my theory and see what you, my astute reader(s) think(s).

I don’t think Stephanie Meyer knows much about people.

Now, I’m sure you may be wondering how I could make that sort of statement just from reading one novel and listening to part of another, so I’ll explain myself. I believe that a writer, to perform the craft effectively, must know and understand people–how they act, how they speak, how they think. I spend a great deal of time interacting with people through work and my other commitments and pay close attention to everything about them, from their mannerisms to their dialects, so I can go back and write about those things as possessed by my characters with honesty. Some writers try to cover up these weaknesses. For example, H.P. Lovecraft, for all his imagination, was a loner who spent little actual time in conversation with real people. Consequently, his fiction contains very little dialogue–he simply did not have a solid basis from which to write accurate speech patterns.

Meyer’s perception of the people in her book seems to come not from her perceptions of the real people around her, but rather from characters she may have read about in other books–Austen and others who have flavored her own brand of fiction. Her dialogue sounds unreal, more of an ideal of what dialogue should be rather than the way people would actually speak. Particularly when her characters go off on a long bit of it, you can hear her cramming bits of exposition into the statements, rather than accounting for the way people actually talk about such things.

Also, I’m sick of hearing about Edward Cullen. Not that I don’t understand Bella’s emotional attachments to him. I do. What I’m tired of hearing about is his physical description–his perfect features, his smooth voice, etc. As a reader, once I’m given a description of a character, I’m good on that account for the rest of the book unless something about it changes. With Edward, it’s almost as though Meyer is using the vampire’s good looks as a means of justifying his violent temper and borderline emotional abuse of Bella. What kind of message does that send to young girls? It’s okay if your boyfriend is verbally abusive, as long as he has chiseled abs.

Anyway, I’m willing to debate this issue with anyone who has read the books and thinks other than I do. I haven’t finished the series, of course, and I hope things do improve as I go along, but if the story wasn’t so enjoyable, I’d fling the disc out my car window at 70 mph.

As for my own work, that update will have to wait. Stupid laptop battery.

Yes, I realize that it’s been nearly a month since I last posted anything on here. Yes, I know I have repeatedly said that I would post more often rather than less often. Yes, I know I have done a few Twitter updates since my last LJ post. Yes, I know I’ve been a bad, bad blogger and that I should be punished.

I’m sorry.

Truth be told, I’ve been in a bit of a daze lately. I recently had my annual inventory at work, a pretty big deal that required a lot of mental and physical energy to prepare for properly. I’ve also had various family-type responsibilities from Girl Scouts to Cub Scouts to softball to t-ball to dinners and other assorted happenings. I just came back from a delightful camping trip with some friends from high school and managed to avoid getting bitten by more than a few mosquitoes. I also, on said camping trip, was reminded of how out of shape I am when I became winded walking just about anywhere beyond the perimeter of our camp. I am furthermore not quite convinced that I should not see a doctor about a few issues I’m having healthwise.

On top of all of this, I’m trying to work on a new novel and, only 20,000 words in, am starting to have some negative feelings about the work. I think I’ve identified the problem, and I think I know how to fix it, but I’m not sure right now if I have the energy to do it properly. I’ve also received a few rejection letters for Gifts of the Hirakee that, while still in the early stages of submission, have left me a bit down in the dumps. I’m in a rut and I’m taking a little time to dig myself out.

So, poor neglected readers, do not despair. I will return soon to blather on about a plethora of topics, but for right now I’m sorting some things out and trying to get my mojo back. When it does come back, I’ll be sure to post all about it on here.