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Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson (photo)

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Michael Jackson has stunned me all my life. I couldn’t even tie my shoes when Off the Wall came out in ’79 (my favorite MJ record) but I know I heard it. I know it made it into my consciousness because when I was older and played it seemingly for the first time, I found that I knew every song. The melodies were old dancing friends, the lyrics, arcane chants waiting to be remembered. Everything Michael did in the 80’s and into the 90’s was a huge event. The records were obviously colossal, the video premieres that accompanied them defined the art at the time.

“Thriller,” “Beat It,” “Billy Jean,” “Smooth Criminal,” “Black Or White,” “Man in the Mirror,” each one fundamentally influenced the entertainment industry and set trends in music, techniques, art direction, choreography, etc. The man owns dance moves, he has patents on specialized shoes. Michael’s videos were as big as movies, even bigger in some cases. His actual film appearances were less impressive, and there are surprisingly few examples. “The Wiz” is an early classic, but Michael is nearly unrecognizable – of course that would become a hallmark. His cameo in “Men In Black II” is inexplicable. On the other hand “Ghosts” and “Moonwalker” are the kinds of fantasy kids stories he seemed to inhabit with glee. My favorite is obviously the Coppola/Lucas 3-d adventure, “Captain EO.”

But more important then Michael’s ineffable influence on music (and every copy cat hard on from Justin Timberlake to whatever their names are) is his immeasurable impact on our culture. Through his art (and charities) he’s also shaped people’s lives in some not insignificant ways. And there is absolutely no one like him on Earth.

It’s easy to get lost in this wretched salvo of dispatches, rants and commentaries about his demise. Michael crashed Twitter and AOL when he died. I was once thrown out of a bar in Williamsburg for somewhat violently defending him. It wasn’t even about the allegations – anyone who is both strange and devotes their life to children is a great target for blackmail – it was about his genius as an artist. Unfortunately, a lot of fools these days don’t understand that, and sometimes need to be straight. By the way the bartenders were pouring vodka on the bar and drinking it up through coke straws so, well I tried my best to educate them. People don’t realize where that one beat or that look came from in the first place, let alone that the odd, perfectionist man who devised it was Michael Jackson.

His song “We Are the World,” penned with Lionel Richie and backed by the supergroup (to end all upergroups) USA for Africa, was appreciated even in my Republican household. It’s still one of the best things anyone’s ever seen.

Goodbye Michael. He sought to better the world through music. Really, nothing else need be said.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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