Friday, June 26, 2009

No, not really

When one of your experts writes something patently nonsensical and it isn't April Fool's Day, you should:

1) Quietly delete it, knowing that your reward awaits in heaven
2) Bring it to the writer's attention, in hope of saving future copy editors the trouble
3) Repeat it in a cutline so all the world can see!

Homer had the “Iliad,” Francis Ford Coppola had “The Godfather,” and Michael Jackson had “Thriller” – which is arguably the most influential album of all time and easily the most popular one in history.

It's nearly impossible to find someone over age 35 who didn't own the album at one time. Since it was released Nov. 30, 1982, more than 50 million copies of “Thriller” have been sold worldwide.

Well ... in a word, no. It isn't very hard at all. If I was home, I could look in the study and find another one,* but I'm not, so I found one in the department office. (Our little corner of communication heaven is less than a mile southeast** of the Motown studio museum,*** if you're scoring along at home.) We missed the Thursday old folks' shuttle to the discount grocery, but I'd hazard a small bet that many or most of the shuttle ladies never owned a copy of "Thriller." No idea how to predict the Harley Night crowd on Wednesdays, but if you want to gather the data, I'll do the numbers.

You can find some video from the gathering on the Boulevard here. From that, and from the tales of people falling in love with the album at age 7, and from a little basic addition and subtraction, you might get the idea that setting age 35 as your split point is the sort of random false authority that makes the paper look deeply clueless. Surely there's some way to capture the spirit of the age without plucking numbers out the air.****

* Born south of 8 Mile and everything.
** It's like Alaska and Russia: We can see it from here, but that doesn't make me Berry Gordy.
*** Click link, turn up volume.
**** I'm trying really, really hard not to bring up the "Iliad" thing again, but -- are you freakin' kidding me?


Anonymous M.C. said...

I'm 41 and never owned "Thriller.” There you go.

3:17 PM, June 26, 2009  
Blogger Strayhorn said...

I don't own it either.

I felt more sorry that Sky Saxon of The Seeds had passed away.

4:53 PM, June 26, 2009  
Blogger John Cowan said...

I never owned it, listened to it, or voluntarily heard it -- and I'm old enough to remember when Michael Jackson was black.

5:02 PM, June 26, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

50 million copies. If no-one ever owned more than one, no-one born after 1974 ever got one, and they all stayed in the US, that would still mean a minority of people over 35 in the US would have owned one. Even counting community property for married couples probably wouldn't push you over 50%.

Isn't the population of these here United States one of those numbers that a reporter or editor should have a rough idea of?

5:03 PM, June 26, 2009  
Anonymous rayb said...

When was the last time anyone even heard "Thriller" on an oldies station? But they'll be studying it centuries from now, right? Just after they finish the Odyssey.

7:56 PM, June 26, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@rayb: It appears that you haven't gotten the memo. There are no "oldies" stations any more (and when there were, a record from 1982 would have been far, far too new for them). I, on the other hand, am definitely in the target demo, but never liked MJ even at the height of "Thriller"'s popularity. (I've always thought his sister Janet was the better pop singer.) I certainly never owned a copy of "Thriller" in any format, and don't plan ever to buy one.

There is a larger editorial-judgment question here, though. The news of Jackson's demise has thoroughly pushed all of the various ("actually important", he wailed) news stories that had dominated coverage this week off the front burner. Even the normally respectable BBC World Service devoted several hours to nearly-non-stop "coverage" of the event -- or rather, random people's reactions (some well-informed and some ill-) to it. It makes me want to shout "Enough! I want to hear about the dead Iranian protesters!" which I probably wouldn't have thought Thursday morniung.

9:11 PM, June 26, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your interlocutor has walked the walk of which he talks. He personally prevented the publication of the lede "A nation mourned" in a story about the death of one Woody Hayes from seeing the light of print. This in Mr. Hayes' personal shrine of Columbus, OH.

10:59 PM, June 26, 2009  

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