Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Those Thais Are Onto Something

My friend saw this Thai kropek in a store in Chinatown, NY. My officemate swears she also saw another brand of crackers named Mighty Pussy. Put the two together and you’ll have a multiplication of loaves—er, crackers.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Did They Really Have To?

I think the Thai badettes beat these Cebuanos by a mile. Though I still don’t see how dancing jail inmates would help society in general—it’s a form of exercise for them, and a form of punishment for us.

It Is (Supposedly) Not A Love Story

The following seems to be a movie that certain people at this point in their lives would either love to watch this, or will avoid it at all costs.

Since I quoted the lead actor in my previous episode on “love,” I will want to watch it. Obviously.

Will you want to watch it? Or will you run away from it, screaming? Discuss.

Tour De Force

Remember the time we went on a tour of the National Museum? Well, for those who are interested, they’re offering the tour again, from end of July all the way to September.

I strongly urge you to give the tour a chance. At least once in your life you can claim that you checked out our National Museum and saw—if not appreciated—our heritage.

And what I found utterly delightful is how John Silva started very academic and formal, but as the tour moved forward and the people became more relaxed, he loosened up as well, progressively becoming gayer and gayer in his presentation! Priceless.

The massive “Spolarium” by Juan Luna, and John Silva’s 10-15 minute riveting backgrounder on the painting is, by far, the highlight of the tour and an experience not to be missed.

It’s three wonderful hours on one Saturday for eight hundred pesos only. Go na! (Uhm, I wasn’t forcing you, hm’kay?!)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

McYin Yang

Don’t be fooled, my dear. Under this giddy school girl façade is a sober risk management officer. But conversely, behind every cynical comment is a wistful what-if. Somewhere in between the tug of war of opposing forces lurks the truth. And I’ll always be in search of it.


I’ve heard the following comment once too often that I’ve started taking notice of it: “Don’t worry, you’ll be collecting good karma.” Usually people convey that comment to me after I tell them how, in lieu of a romantic love life, I’m putting my efforts on my other loves—family and friends. Of course, what they all mean is that all that collected karma will one day return to me in the form of a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious boyfriend.

What they never point out—which is something I’d like to tackle head-on here—is another, more disturbing possibility: What if all that collected karma will one day return to you, but not in the romance area. What if your good karma translates into having a more successful career, so much so that you can now afford a brand new, top-of-the-line, one-of-a-kind Jaguar? (No, not the animal but the automobile, silly!) What then?

You do this.

Make sure your Jaguar is a convertible. As much as possible drive it with the top down, preferably along PLU-friendly places like Makati, Cubao and along Quezon Avenue and Circle. Bingo! Instant 100,000 pogi points right there and then.

Moral of the story: collecting karma points is easy versus collecting boys. One needs a Jaguar for the latter.

Friday, July 24, 2009

That Other Four-Letter Word

Yes, let’s talk about Love, baby.

The problem I have with younger people’s notions of love is not the fact that they believe in romance. Romance is fine in and of itself.

But the romance they’re in love with is a fantasy, a lie created by Hollywood, Star Cinema, Mills & Boone, Sweet Valley High, and silly love songs. They get indoctrinated very early on, and it’ll take several crash-and-burns before they realize that the romance they believed in from the start isn’t all happily ever after. Some still insist on believing in the fantasy even as adults, and they find ways to hang on to their belief. But in the end, it remains a fantasy. Because what Hollywood and other romance peddlers do is only to give voice to the sentiment of romance. But they often never offer the brass tacks of how to achieve real romance, meaning romance grounded in the real world.

(In an interview in Entertainment Weekly, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the 28-year old star of the Sundance charmer [500] Days Of Summer, said, “The relationship between the two characters in our movie felt like something that would happen in the world that we live in, as opposed to some propaganda fantasy of Hollywood’s to sell tickets. Audiences our age are savvy. The same kind of hokey, pandering formulas are just not flying as well as they used to.” I disagree with his last statement, though—hokey love stories still rake in big bucks; see The Notebook and Twilight.)

I believe in a romance grounded in reality. It’s a romance that exists in a world of baby diapers, taking out the trash, and dealing with your partner’s friends whom you don’t like.

Which is why when I first saw “The Rules of Love” by Richard Templar, I paused. I’m not a big fan of self-help books and books about love. But I am a sucker for neat book covers. And while flipping through the table of contents, I got curious: How many of the rules do I agree with?

The book is divided into six parts. The first is rules on finding love. The second and longest part is on relationships rules. There are only five rules for parting. Family relationship rules follow, then rules on friendship. The last part is for everyone, because those 4 rules can fit in any situation.

I plowed through the first part for obvious reasons. I skipped the second part—also for obvious reasons—and read the rules on friendship first, followed by family then parting then for everyone. I was honestly surprised that I knew almost all of the rules already. There were one or two which managed to surprise me, but more of the “Oh yeah, thanks for reminding me!” rather than the “Whoa! I never knew that!” kind.

While plodding through the rules on relationship, I realized that I knew most of them already. Which, I suppose, makes me bookishly ready buy practically inexperienced. Oh well.

But the Rules made me feel that, despite being someone already in his 40s but still single since birth, love and romance are actually doable and attainable. Of course, finding that someone is the elusive part, and there’s no guarantee that I’ll get to meet him anytime soon—or ever.

But the very last rule gave me comfort. It said that by helping other people, you help yourself. Being single and unattached isn’t a problem, nor should it be considered a difficult/sad/pathetic/lonely state to be in. But people can get wrapped up in their own single-hood. Whenever that happens, it’s best to put others ahead instead of oneself. That way you get to live a rewarding life, coupled or not.

Hu-what the—?! Oh yeah, I knew that.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

That Four-Lettered Word

I was talking to my friend Dan about another friend of ours whose romantic relationship recently had gone kaput. I was trying to describe to Dan how our friend, who is straight by the way, was taking the break-up. “I think he’s still waiting for her to give him another chance,” I said. “That’s why he refuses to date other women.”

Dan, who’s also straight, is a veteran of the dating scene. He’s had his share of looking for Miss Right, and so far she’s proven to be very elusive. Like me, Dan is single since birth, proof that SSB-ism isn’t a gay phenomenon. He still goes out on dates, but more and more he’s becoming frustrated and puzzled, wondering where else can he go in search of a life partner. It doesn’t help that he’s also just a year younger than me.

“Hay naku,” was all he could say.

I raised an eyebrow at him. “Well, he still has hope kasi.”

“Hope?! What’s that?!” Dan exclaimed. And we both laughed out loud.

Ah yes, that four-lettered word. Nope, not “love” folks.


Funny that it is also the name of a cigarette brand. You light up hope and take it in—and it kills you.

That’s why I also have this favorite quote; I don’t remember now where I first heard it, but it just stuck in my head. It goes: “A little hope is a dangerous thing.” Especially with matters of the heart; I used to be romantic, but too much of my hopes dashed on the ground can change one’s views dramatically.

Like the time when I met this guy online. I liked him from the start. He started calling me Papa Bear. We agreed to meet for coffee. Since it was just a short chat, I asked if we could go out on a date. He agreed, but asked to wait until his schedule eased up. I waited. And waited. Then I found out from his tweets that he had met someone else and was head-over-heels with that guy.

A little hope is a dangerous thing.

Or this guy who, when I first met him, we hit it off well. He was easy to talk to, and could immediately get what I was driving at. He also shared a love for discussing things. But as I was getting more and more interested in him, he turned out to be interested with other guys, not me. He ended up another one in a long line of my could-have-beens that never were.

A little hope is a dangerous thing.

For instance I met this guy. Cute, intelligent, and can hold his own in a conversation with me. And we hit it off immediately. But on our second meeting, he told me that he still had issues with his ex, and that they might patch things up.

A little hope is a dangerous thing.

Of course I’m not saying we should all be hope-less when it comes to love. I still think there’s room for hope in this world, otherwise living will be insufferably bleak. (I can’t believe I’m actually saying this, jeez.) Sometimes we do need to flirt with Danger once in a while; sometimes it’s Danger that comes calling us. Hey, we do need our kicks every now and then, right? If love is a drug, we’re really all junkies.

But like an addict seeking to reform, I’ve learned to be a realist with matters of the heart. I always try to be ready for that other shoe to drop. If you’re going to hope, might as well get used to disappointment too.

I was asked before: “You mean you’re not romantic?” I remember answering flippantly, “No, I’m a realist.” But the truth is I still have my notions of romance, but I prefer to ground it in reality.

I’m not a hopeless romantic; maybe I’m just a romantic with less hope.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The McMJ Medley Challenge

This challenge might only be relevant to people of my generation, but still. Dare to name all 20 Michael Jackson songs in the medley I made?

(I’m guessing only a true MJ fan can get all in one listening.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Okay so I can get very much obsessed with a new song, especially if it grabs me by my ears, lodges deep in my brain and stays there, reverberating for the next few days. Call me fixated. So here’s my latest LSS.

The hair!

The costumes!

And no, she’s no Lady Gaga. She’s La Roux, and she’s “Bulletproof”! Unfortunately the video in YouTube was disabled, so you can view it here:

Been there, done that, messed around,
I’m having fun, don’t put me down
I’ll never let you sweep me off my feet.
I won’t let you in again,
The messages I’ve tried to send,
My information’s just not going in.
Burning bridges shore to shore,
I’ll break away from something more
I’m not to, not to love until it’s cheap.

This time baby, I’ll be bulletproof,
This time baby, I’ll be bulletproof.

I won’t let you turn around
I’ll tell you now I’m much too proud
To walk away from something when it’s dead.
Do-do-do your dirty words
Come out to play when you are heard
There’re certain things that should be left unsaid.
Tick-tick-tick-tick on the watch
And life’s too short for me to stop
Oh baby, your time is running out.
I won’t let you turn around
And tell me now I’m much too proud
All you do is fill me up with doubt.

This time baby, I’ll be bulletproof,
This time baby, I’ll be bulletproof.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I’m A Mac

The above is just one of the “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” series of ads (ooh, Justin Long!) shown on the Apple website. I love that series. Not only do I find them hilariously entertaining, but they also reinforce the belief that what I’m using is vastly superior to the PCs that 90% of computer owners are using. And even if that were not true, my elitist, contrary nature kicks in and says, “Humph. I’m sooo not proletariat and hoi polloi.” I’ll have my Mac and eat it too.


My most favorite Apple campaign is an older one. It showed a series of iconic people such as the Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein, the apple logo, and a very simple yet powerful message: Think different. How fitting.

Someone recently told me thru text that I rarely connect with people because I view things differently. I was going to object but instead I just let it slide. I do connect with people—I guess 102 who follow me here and the 267 who follow my tweets can attest to that. But yes, I do think differently. Or rather, I do no hesitate to entertain different, even radical ideas. It doesn’t mean that I will immediately embrace such ideas. But it helps me be more tolerant. And tolerance is more than just having an open mind; it is also having an open heart.

(Now, having an open heart does not necessarily mean anyone can just waltz in and stay there. Because the key to my heart is hidden somewhere in my mind, and to find it means stepping into the maze between my ears. But that’s for another episode.)

Meanwhile I’m thinking I’m a green apple because of having “berdeng dugo” and all that, but the Blue Eagle in me is squirming in protest. So fine, I’ll be an apple pie instead. Hey, apple pie is iconic. On second thought, it’s American; now the Pinoy in me is the one who’s squirming. Shucks.

Oh well. An apple a day is seven apples a week. I’ll be the happiest fruit in the world if I can tempt any Adam with: “Bite me.”

She’s A Dora-ble!

OMG! I received an invitation to be a friend of Dora Go Dong Hae in Multiply. So I accepted it. When I checked her account, guess who is also a friend of hers?


Quick! All those with Multiply accounts, be friends with Dora now!

Friday, July 10, 2009

I Heart NigaHiga

The Midyear Fabcast, Part 3

Here’s the third and last part of the Midyear Fabcast. Here the Fabcasters answer questions sent by listeners/readers.

Listen: (20 min 12 sec)

Download this episode (right click and save - 18.5 MB)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Farrah Must Really Hate Michael By Now

So I placed in my Facebook status the following: McVie wonders when Farrah Fawcett was buried. Oh yeah! The day Michael died, she got buried under a ton of MJ news. (Yeah, I also tweeted that. So sue me.) Comments started coming in. Then I got this comment from someone who, as far as I know, isn’t exactly known for dishing out sarcastic wit. She wrote:

“Farrah Fawcett died?”


Either she developed a sharper sense of wit, or she just illustrated my point perfectly.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Go Dong Hae!

And now, they’re using the internet to promote Eugene Domingo’s next movie! I suddenly received notice that Dora Go Dong Hae and Kimmy Go Dong Hae started following me on Twitter. Clicking on a link in Dora’s Twitter, this is what I found:

Give Me Head

For readability’s sake, I am rewriting the YM conversation I had with K like the dialogue of a scene. K is a young friend who always liked discussing relationship stuff with me. And so: lights, camera, action!

* * * * *

mcvie: Believe me, Rejection and I are super tight, as in Best Buds for Life! Hahaha!

K: Hahaha! We all go through rejection, honey. I guess you feel you’ve had your fair share. Baka lang inuubos lang yung quota mo, and the trend is changing. Hahaha!

mcvie: Kasi if I get rejected these days, I know exactly what to do. So it takes me about a week—more or less—depending on the intensity of my feelings and the “sayang” potential. And then I’m over him.

K: Whew!

mcvie: Which, truthfully, is an embarrassing fact that I shouldn’t gloat about, hahaha!

K: You have mastered it. Maybe time really is the best teacher.

mcvie: Time and experience, hand in hand.

K: Do you get really intense? As in head over heels?

mcvie: Before. Now I still go intense, but my head is much better trained so that it actually tells my heart to hold its horses.

K: And does your heart follow?

mcvie: Most of the time my brain puts on the brakes. Well, my heart still makes mukmok and is pasaway but thanks to my brain, my actions are dictated more by brain than heart. I end up feeling bad and all that shit, but I just allow my feelings to run its course safely. What I mean by safely is that I often just talk to close friends about it. I let it all out. And that’s the extent to which I act on my feelings, by letting them run their course.

K: Which is healthy.

mcvie: I try not to do anything stupid, like run after the guy, make makaawa...

K: Ever?

mcvie: …do stupid, grand gestures that are desperate, really.

K: Siguro not in the recent past.

mcvie: Before yes, when I was younger and more foolish, hahaha! Nowadays, at my age? Nakakahiya na! Hahaha!

K: Ahahaha! Ano ba? Sometimes you have to fight for it.

mcvie: No, I don’t believe in that. Kung ayaw niya, bakit ko pipilitin? It just means he doesn’t want it (a relationship with me) that bad enough. He’s just not that into me.

K: Sigh. Cutting your losses early.

mcvie: Oh no, it’s called letting go. There’s no greater power than the power of goodbye. :-)

The Midyear Fabcast, Part 2

Here’s the second part, which has Corporate Closet, Gibbs and Migs assessing their first half of 2009.

Listen: (13 min 56 sec)

Download this episode (right click and save - 12.8 MB)

Coming up is the third and last part, where the Fabcasters answer questions from readers and listeners.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Midyear Fabcast, Part 1

Last Sunday the Fabcasters met up to celebrate July 02, the midyear mark, with a podcast assessing the first six months of 2009. This first part features yours truly and Tony.

Listen: (Part 1, 13 mins 53 sec)

Download this fabcast (right click and save - 12.8 MB)

Watch out for Part 2 which features Corporate Closet, Gibbs and Migs assessing their first six months.

I’m So XOXO Dead

So I got invited to a friend’s birthday party. I’ve known L since he was in college (he’s several batches much younger than me), but we never really became close until recently. Now L’s party had a costume theme, so he warned us way ahead of time to dress up ala-Gossip Girls; he even emailed some links just to give his guests an idea of the look he wanted. None of my current wardrobe matches the sartorial sense of Upper Eastsiders, so the early heads-up was a welcomed gesture. Yesterday morning I even received an SMS from L, giving directions to the venue. I knew I had to get cracking on buying clothes for the party, so this afternoon I rushed to the nearest mall, thinking that even though I had plenty of time before next Saturday, might as well get the outfit out of the way.

I’m neither a clotheshorse nor a fashionista. In fact, I’m a little sloppy when it comes to clothing. Give me the basics—color, style and especially price—and I’m a happy man. But because it’s a party, I tried my best to come up with an ensemble that would fit in the set of that TV series. And I must say, I was proud of what I managed to get—two pairs of pants (I couldn’t decide which one so I got both), a cool shirt, and a new pair of shoes. I was so happy with my purchases I decided to treat myself to a fancy dinner.

While waiting for my order to arrive, I decided to check my phone’s inbox for text messages I may have forgotten to reply to (usually when I put my phone on mute). I reread L’s text message yesterday and found myself growing cold. It said to prepare for tonight. Tonight? But the party’s next Saturday! I immediately searched for L’s earlier text message about the party. It read: “…on the fourth of July, everyone’s heading out to….” Fourth of July?!

Oh. Good. Lord.

I carried the heaviest shopping bag ever when I walked back to my car after dinner.

Friday, July 03, 2009


I’m not a big fan of motorcyclists in the metro. While I’m often unflappable behind the wheel, certain cyclists are capable of irritating me with their inconsiderate driving.

Last night along C-5 I found myself behind a motorcycle with two guys on it. Because it kept weaving left and right, I was paying attention more to the bike’s movements rather than its occupants, although I made a mental note that both of them were wearing sleeveless t-shirts, jeans and matching helmets. By the time we got near the area where SM Hypermart was, the motorcycle driver finally settled on driving on a straight line. And that’s when I got a good look at the two riding the motorcycle.

The guy at the back had gorgeous arms, lean and muscular. The driver too had a well-built torso, with powerful, wide shoulders and bulging biceps. Since they were wearing helmets, I couldn’t see their faces.

The lane on the left opened up, so I swerved there and moved up alongside the motorcycle. I glanced at them; I still couldn’t see their faces. But I did notice that both guys looked like they had flat stomachs and lean, powerful frames. And wait! Was his muscular arm hooked around the waist—and touching the flat abs—of the guy in front of him?

I was suddenly reminded of the motorcycle scenes from Eternal Summer and Formula 17, two Chinese gay movies that I hold quite dear to me (too bad the kids in Love Of Siam were too young to be on motorcycles). There’s something very homoerotic with the image of two good-looking guys on a bike, their bodies touching one another, a private posture done in full public view.

from “Eternal Summer”

from “Formula 17”

Suddenly I felt like swerving my car violently to the right and running them over. Instead, I floored the gas pedal. Orlando obediently obeyed and left them far behind.

Apply McLiberal-ly

Norman is a Canadian who married a friend of mine, Nelz (yes, they allow gay marriages in Canada). The last time they were in the country was a couple of years ago. We seldom communicate, so I was pleasantly surprised when he chatted me up on Facebook yesterday.

* * * * *

• Hey Joel

• hey norman!
• sorry i was busy with YM
• didn’t notice you here in FB
• how are you?! :-)
• long time no hear :-)

• I just saw you online and had a big smile and had to say hello

• hahahaha
• well, i always try to greet the world with a smile

• i am good, and you Mr McVie?

• i am well, thank you very much!
• i’m “counseling” a friend on YM
• he’s having romantic problems

• poor boy
• and him too
• ;-)

• hahahah
• actually, i kinda enjoy this
• i just hope i end up helping him and not traumatizing him, hahahaha!

• i know you do
• i could see that in you the moment i met you
• you have insight into people specifically interpersonal

• why, thank you :-)
• i just find it ironic that i have all these “insights” into interpersonal relationships (a lot of it regarding romantic love) and yet I’m still single since birth
• methinks that’s the price, hahahaha
• like David Carradine in Kung Fu, i’m to roam the world alone, helping people with their love problems hahahaha!
• (i’m just kidding, it’s just fun to romanticize my lack of romance hahaha)

• no, it makes you more discerning Joel. What you are looking for is someone who can meet you at that level

• oh, good luck to me then! hahaha!

• nope, there are boys out there who are at your level
• they just are harder to find... our little queer community is a little self focused

• yeah, and they’re not boys... they’re oldies hahahahaha
• you got that right! self-focused :-)

• so your challenge is sifting through the shit that cares more about hair product then being able to talk about the world we live in
• and that my friend while it is sad is true, but if you YOU exist, so do others

• oh wow, when you put it that way, it sounds more... graspable :-)

• yes, grab them by the nuts and pull

• hahaha!
• i love it!
• how very Caveman! how very Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach

• Joel if I could be so bold and imply that we have some similar qualities.... my realization about relationships is that I always had this idea that I had to have all the qualities I was looking for in a single person, but instead what I needed were a few core things and the rest was to be gotten in others

• wait :-)
• that was quite long... lemme try and grasp it
• (ooh that sounded kinky)
• hahaha

• kinky can be fun

• hmmm interesting point you’ve made

• i try Joel

• i agree that while you can try to be “all that you can be”, you’ll never be everything to everyone

• and vice versa Joel, one person can’t fulfill everything you need

• yes, yes
• that fact is PAINFULLY true, hahaha!
• and so there are people in your life who will “enhance” who you are

• it is not about enhancing life per se, it is about experiencing it with you

• ah yes, that was better put
• and these people need not become your BFs, they can just be BFFs
• (although having a BFF for a BF is quite a jackpot! LOL)

• it is easy for people like us to seek all of what we want, to not settle for something less... we want more than hair product... hehhehe... but ideally we want somebody to experience life with that can meet us at our level

• there is that minimum expectation (which, unfortunately, is quite high a bar for most! BWHAHAHAHA!)

• you are a liberated man Joel, you are not stuck in some belief that the world needs to fit some old fashioned convention

• nope i’m not liberated, i’m pisces
• hahahaha
• why, thanks Norman! :-)

• go on dates with some guys that are fascinating to talk to and who cares what they look like or their age, etc

• hahaha yup!
• okay, now i really have to go back to work :-)

• be well my friend
• find some boys that titillate your mind, not simply your eyes or tongue
• bye!

• as we Filipino gays say in Fagalog, “Babooshka!”

* * * * *

So that was it. What struck me most was what he said about me being a “liberated” man. Unconventional, open-minded, freethinking, modern, enlightened, activist—I don’t know which of those synonyms of “liberated” Norman meant to describe me (definitely I can scratch “activist” off that list, hahaha!) but I had this OMG realization when he said that. No wonder I value people who can banter and discuss things with me. And no wonder I inwardly raise an eyebrow whenever gay guys tell me about wanting to get married, or wanting the traditional relationship trappings.

So many Filipino men—gay or otherwise—are just too traditional, conservative and vanilla in their way of thinking. I need a liberal Asian man (yeah, I’m still very much in my sticky rice queen stage), and if in Metro Manila they’re already slim pickin’s, where can I find them? Singapore? Hong Kong? Bangkok?

One day I might just do an Amazing Race Asia.

P.S. – Yeah, that’s where I got my McQuote for The Day which I tweeted: “No I’m not liberated, I’m Pisces.”

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

My MJ Episode

It’s interesting to note that people are still divided over Michael Jackson, even in his death. And the main reason for that divide is how bizarre and weird he lived his life outside of his music. But everyone agrees that MJ was a musical genius. So I’ll talk about that instead.

Two mornings ago I heard a radio DJ say how, during her time, it was Bad that was the biggest thing on the radio; she and her classmates all gushed about “Man In The Mirror” being the greatest song ever. I found myself disagreeing at first. But then I realized that maybe, at her young and impressionable age, that change-should-come-from-within song would resonate far more deeply with her than, oh, a classic like “Like A Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan or “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys (aside from the fact that she may never have heard those songs played at all!).

I was lucky to have been savvy of pop music by the time Off The Wall came out. MJ’s break-out solo album spewed several top 10 hits, including “Don’t Stop ‘til You Get Enough”, “Rock With You” and the title track. The album became a staple at parties and soirees. And it established MJ as a solo artist who could stand apart from The Jacksons.

But I think his ultimate triumph, the pinnacle of his prowess was with Thriller. The whole album was wall-to-wall with hit after hit. He was able to break boundaries, first with a duet with Paul McCartney in “The Girl Is Mine,” followed by brilliantly getting Eddie Van Halen to do a blistering guitar solo in “Beat It”, thus blurring the lines between rhythm-and-blues and rock, black and white. “Billie Jean” was a funky, irresistible dance track and a paean to paranoia. And by this time, MJ was also responsible for making music videos an integral part of the music industry. The “Thriller” music video was groundbreaking in its length, ambition and impact.

When Bad came out, I thought even then that he was trying to repeat his Thriller success even as he tried to change his image. “Dirty Diana” had that same Van Halen-like guitar solo, this time by Steve Stevens. “Smooth Criminal” was his “Thriller”-like full-length music video. “Just Good Friends” with Stevie Wonder echoed his duet with Sir Paul. And the earnestness in his songs, which paid off well with Off The Wall’s “She’s Out Of My Life” (it made the break-up sounded real), was now in full message-song mode with “Man In The Mirror”, a song whose earnestness I find, by the fourth minute, to be irritating. (And it doesn’t help that, years later, I find that song even more grating than when I first heard it. That’s why when the kids in Bed go wild over the dance mix version I inwardly roll my eyes.)

Starting from Bad, MJ’s singing ticks, tricks and mannerisms became even more obvious and studied. With each new album, with each new song, his clicks, “oooohs” and “whooooos” sounded more and more calculated. Worse, you can see in his videos that he’s also merely repeating his once legendary moves. Sure, they’re signature moves—but c’mon, can’t he just drop them for new ones? His reinvention was limited to his hair, his skin color and his reputation. His music and his dance moves remained in limbo, just like his state of childlikeness.

The few songs I liked from him post-Bad days were “Scream” (his duet with sister Janet in a bid to prove that they aren’t one and the same person), “You Are Not Alone” (his vocal ticks sounded restraint, probably due to the very gradual build-up of the song—whatever, it worked), “Stranger In Moscow” (which for me is in the “Human Nature” vein, but turned down several notches more mournful), and surprisingly “Blood On The Dance Floor” (again, nothing new but still quite an infectious number—and I was surprised that in the music video, the camera wasn’t always trained on him, something that seemed unthinkable years before).

So yes he was a musical genius, one not born but made through hard work plus the right timing. Years of toiling as part of the Jackson Five trained him and prepared him for his break-out role as the biggest solo act of the 80s. But with Thriller he peaked. And sadly, he and his music didn’t grow up.