Wednesday, 1 July 2009

My producer is doing this to me, isn't he? I ask for a BAD guy and he gives me Michael Jackson? I can't take it anymore!

OK so, I finally bit the bullet and set up a twitter account. The good news is I am only about a year and a half late jumping on the bandwagon. The bad news is that I really have no idea what to do on there. I mean sure I get the basic concept of it. Let people know what you are up to. Come up with witty one liners. Ask celebrities questions they'll never reply to. That type of thing. Sadly I'm never really doing anything interesting. Nor am I that funny. So if you do wish to stalk follow me, expect lots of updates along the lines of "I'm sitting down." or "Mmmm, 50 slices of American cheese". Seriously that's about as exciting as my life gets.

One major annoyance with all this is that my first choice username "isawelvis" has already been bagged by some presumptuous little upstart in Tampa, Florida. In fact it appears all the good names are taken. I literally spent way too much time trying to set up an account with the user ids "flippermcginty", "foreshadowingbadger2", and "dudedidyouseethat?" only to be told "Sorry bro, you're not as original as you think you are" by Twitter's server. I finally gave up and settled for "elvisinthewoods", despite the fact that it makes no sense. Still unless there's a guy out there who prides himself on surviving on the berries he finds whilst humming "Heartbreak Hotel" then I think it should be a pretty unique tag.

Speaking of the King everybody's favourite pop icon Michael Jackson passed away last Thursday. Which is quite sad I guess. I don't know. I mean MJ's been on a slippery slope since 1993 so it's kinda amazing he lasted this long. He was diagnosed with lupus in the early 90's, as well as vitiligo which was the cause of his insanely pale skin. He'd been addicted to pain killers on and off since then, as well as barely eating enough to survive, and at the time of his death his 5'10'' frame only carried 112lbs (Gee Note: Dude I ate, like, 112lbs for breakfast this morning).

Truth is, even with all that going on, Jackson was a freakin' oddball. Not in the endlessly entertaining Lindsey Lohan/Britney Spears get smashed, throw up all over the paparazzi, and crash your Ferrari in to a fountain kinda odd. I mean Tom Cruise freaking out on Oprah and then later claiming that psychology is all a load of old bollocks kinda odd. Even if you discount half of the reports of his bizarre behaviour as being fabricated, such as him sleeping in an oxygen chamber, or buying the bones of Joseph Merrick "The Elephant Man", then his admission that he used to share a bathroom with a chimpanzee is enough.

Ah Bubbles, Jackson’s best friend who also happened to be an ape. In 1985 Michael "rescued" the chimp from a cancer research clinic in Texas. From that point they lived happily together until some point before 2003, where Jackson revealed that Bubbles had become overly aggressive (Gee Note: My theory? Nicotine withdrawal. Think about it.) and moved him to an animal sanctuary where he could throw faeces and swing on tires to his heart's content. My favourite story about Bubbles was reported in the National Enquirer some years back, where it claimed that Jackson's long time "rival" Prince had used extrasensory perception (Gee Note: Or woovy bezerk mind powers to you and me) to turn Bubbles crazy. Jackson was reported as saying "What kind of sicko would mess with a monkey?". Of course it was all made up. Never the less the idea of tiny little Prince sending mind bullets to Michael Jackson's chimpanzee just to, you know, mess with him still makes me chuckle.

Jackson's passing has of course meant that Papa Lazaru's Media Circus has come to town, bringing it's assorted collection of freaks and geeks along for the ride. LaToyah Jackson, Michael's sister, has been interviewed ad nauseum. Presumably in the hope that she'll say something scandalous, as she did in 1993 during a press conference in Tel Aviv amidst the first of Michael's trials dealing with alleged child abuse. When a member of the press asked LaToyah about the allegations she responded with a quite magnificent statement where she claimed she was tired of being a "silent collaborator" and was taking her stand against Michael's "crimes against small, innocent children".

Alas between now and then LaToyah, who claims to have been forced to be negative about Jackson by her abusive husband, has since retracted the whole thing and now has nothing but nice things to say about her brother. Which must be incredibly frustrating for the media. So it should come as no shock then that the press gang have brought out an old favourite to add some colour to the proceedings. Step forward and take a bow Michael Jackson's long time friend Mr. Uri Geller.

Uri Geller, born Gellér György in Tel Aviv in 1946, is… um… well look the dude claims to be able to effect material objects with the power of his mind. A gift that was apparently given to him by aliens. As in beings from another planet. Not Sting hanging out in New York or something. Geller became a sensation during the 1970's where thanks to various television shows across mainland Europe, Britain, and yes even America he displayed talents that had Europeans dropping their sausages, the British dropping their monocles, and Americans dropping their handguns (Gee Note: Causing chaos in the process. Tsk. Americans huh?) in astonishment.

But what caused such an international uproar? Well it was this kinda stuff.

(Gee Note: That night Swedish Accident and Emergency services were flooded. In homes across the nation cutlery that had been previous lying dormant on top of television sets suddenly leapt in to the air, causing many an innocent bystander to end up with a fork lodged in their eye. It was later blamed on a combination of a drifting weather balloon and an electrical storm. Why the f*** Swedish people were keeping cutlery on top of their television in the first place remains a mystery.)

Geller doesn’t just bend spoons mind. Oh no. He can also make watches go faster and slower, and move the dial on a compass, all by using the “supernatural powers”. The problem is a lot of other people can do the exact same thing just by performing regular magic tricks. In fact some people do it a lot better. Like this guy for example:

But while Geller freely admits that his powers can be replicated by simple stunts, he claims that he really does have supernatural gifts. Which of course is tremendously silly. Nobody really believes it. Still some people get very angry about the whole thing, thundering on about how Geller is a fraud and should be banned from making money by deceiving the public. One such person is James Randi.

It's almost impossible to type Geller's name in to a search engine and not stumble across a mention of Mr. Randi. Born in Toronto in 1928 this native Canadian was formerly a stage magician sometimes known as "The Amazing Randi" (Gee Note: Isn't it great magicians get to call themselves "Amazing" as part of their job role? Makes one think people should do it in other walks of life. Like a busy office for example. "Hey, Stu. Did you get those TPS reports completed?" "Brian, I no longer answer to the name Stuart. From now on I shall only be addressed as 'The Magnificent Stupendi'!!!!" "Er... OK. Magnificent Stupendi. Did you complete the TPS reports you were supposed to?" "The Magnificent Stupendi has no time for TPS reports! The Magnificent Stupendi was too busy fashioning a cape out polythene pockets. Look! Look how it flutters in the breeze!" "Man. You've got issues". ). Upon his retirement from magic at the age of 60, Randi turned his attention to investigating claims of the paranormal and supernatural. Using his background as a performer, Randi became an outspoken critic of psychics and the like, claiming they were using nothing more than the same type of tricks he practiced in his career. Determined to prove his point he did the rounds on many a talk show, and even made a series of television programmes with titles like "Secrets of the psychics EXPOSED!!!".

In 1996 Randi established the James Randi Educational Foundation. The JREF serves as an institution to investigate paranormal claims using controlled scientific procedures, as well as educating the public against unverified claims of supernatural goings on. For a number of years now the JREF has offered a prize of $1,000,000 for anyone who can prove they have unworldly powers. Sadly it means undergoing various tests under stringent scientific conditions, otherwise I'd have already turned up on their doorstep claiming I could turn myself in to a parrot or something. As of this writing no one has managed to pass the preliminary stages of the tests and as such the $1,000,000 remains unclaimed.

As you can probably guess Geller's claims that he is all kinds of psychic'd up does not sit all that well with Randi. And so the two have been embroiled in, if not a feud per se, certainly a game of one-upmanship over the past 30 years. Randi points to several examples of Geller not being on the level, such as a video available on youtube where Uri apparently uses a magnet on his thumb to move a compass dial. Or the time when in 1977, under the advice of Randi himself, Johnny Carson invited Geller on to the Tonight Show to display his talents but did not allow Geller to us his own props. Forced to use "regular" apparatus supplied by the Tonight Show, Geller failed spectacularly. To the point where if you watch it back now, and whatever you feel about Uri personally, it's really kinda uncomfortable watching a grown man squirm.

Touché says Geller. How about the time when he allowed the Stanford Research Institute and two noted physicists Russell Targ and Harold E. Puthoff (Gee Note: Who sounds like a character from a children's book. You know, Harold is a lazy man who never gets things done on time, until one day he's eaten by a snake. That kind of thing.) to test his abilities? The SRI concluded that Geller did indeed display abilities that warranted further investigation and even came up with a name for the phenomenon - "The Geller Effect" (Gee Note: See, you know you've made it when you've got an effect named after you. I've often dreamed about what an effect named after myself would be like. Probably something along the lines of "a person sits on the sofa eating tasty yet ridiculously unhealthy food while watching cheaply made television programmes and silently mocking celebrities. The Gareth Effect."). Or the fact that Geller admitted as far back as 1975 that some of his performances are sprinkled with magic tricks, owing to the fact that the spoon bending thing doesn't always work.

Now to get this back on track, the reason I bring all this up is to show that Geller is used to the kind of negative publicity that haunted Jackson during his career, and so is in a unique position to offer some insight on the man's life. Even better, despite being long time friends, to the point where Jackson was Geller's best man when he renewed his wedding vows, the pair had a turbulent relationship. According to Geller an argument about a 2002 documentary entitled "Living with Michael Jackson" had caused a strain on the relationship after the film, which Geller had talked Jackson in to participating in, cast Jackson in a negative light.

Now you can imagine the media salivating over this. Uri Geller, the bitter ex-friend of Michael Jackson, the man who can read people's minds, the guy who knows the pressure celebrity brings, is willing to give an interview about the death of the King of Pop. He's bound to have a scandalous story or two. Hell it might even be the interview of the century. I mean Jackson was a freak right? Uri's sure to have the inside scoop.

So what did Geller say? Well it went a little something like this:

"I once asked him "Michael, are you lonely?" And Michael said to me, "Uri Geller, I am a very lonely man."."

(Gee Note: Man who really talks like that? When was the last time someone asked you a question and you felt the need to reply using the person's full name? I mean really, say that sentence out loud. It just doesn't sound right, does it? Unfortunately my girlfriend was so amused when she heard the interview with Geller she's now taken to answering everything I say to her in that same style. Leading to such classic lines as "Darling, have you fed the guinea pigs today?" "Gareth Davies. Yes I have.", "When was the last time we made soup together?" "Gareth Davies. We've never made soup together...", and my personal favourite "You couldn't make me a cup of tea could you sugar?" "Gareth Davies. Make it yourself you lazy sod". Amazingly she's shown no signs of getting tired of this.)

And that was it. No scandal. No controversy. No "That Michael Jackson, what a weirdo". Nothing but a few vague references to his and Geller's "up and down relationships". Certainly not what one would call an earth shaking statement.

And perhaps that's the way it should be. I mean Jackson's life so full of controversy that maybe, just maybe, he deserves to be laid to rest with the minimum of fuss.

Mind, I'm willing to bet that in a couple of weeks time the National Enquirer leads with the news that Michael Jackson was murdered. Thing is, something's never change.

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