Books & Reviews 📚

Book #152: Michael Jackson: The Magic, The Madness, The Whole Story, 1958-2009

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But was he, really? 🤔

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Pages: 765

Unless you have been living under a rock for your entire life, EVERYONE knows who Michael Jackson was. He was a man of many talents and one of those was beatboxing. MJ could’ve beatboxed the instrumental of a song before it came together. 

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Now, this book took me many years to read believe it or not. A friend of my mom gifted the book to me in 2010 and I left it for a while. I started reading it sometime in 2012 or so, then left it again and returned to it sometime in 2014. Then, late last year was the final straw. I finally picked the book up and read until the last page which I completed earlier this year. I was glad to get this off my TBR.

“I want my whole career to be the greatest show on earth”

Michael Jackson

The author had known MJ since they were little – MJ was 10 – and so he decided that he was MJ’s official biographer. However, Randy struggled with accuracy throughout the book and you can tell that Michael’s youth up until he was 20 was the best-researched part of the book for as the years rolled by, they weren’t that close anymore. MJ had shut a lot of people out of his life, for he was always insecure, mistrusting, and suspicious.

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Some things/thoughts I took away from the book:

* The author overwrote. There was no need to talk at length of the Thriller video. We know it scene for scene. At one point, I wonder if I was reading a bio or a journal. 

* MJ didn’t want to do the Pepsi deal for he had a bad feeling about it, but his money-hungry brothers and father forced him to sign the contract anyway.

* MJ wanted to rename the “Victory Tour” to “The Final Curtain”. Many, many years later, he got to call his final shows “This Is It”.

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* Paul McCartney is a proper right hypocrite.

* Berry Gordy and Diana Ross taught MJ to lie about his age when he was about 9. I still don’t know why he idolized this woman.

* Elizabeth Taylor was a brat and a handler who always knew how to get under MJ’s skin. She made decisions for him as if she wishes she was Katherine Jackson. She was high maintenance and expected MJ to gift her with extravagant things. At one point, she moved MJ to her home. She nagged MJ about opening up himself to a romantic relationship and when he finally had something with Lisa, she felt jealous and left out. She even took charge of his life and legal proceedings in 1993. I never trusted her friendship with MJ, but I also think MJ was infatuated with her and she knew it and she held him at arm’s length for she had control and power over him. 

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And I think I’ll stop here for there was nothing to really surprise me about the man and the myth. Now, my rant… or something like it.

The Magic

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Trust me, there was nothing magical about MJJ. He was programmed and brainwashed by Disney just like many of us were as children into believing in magic and that’s probably why he preferred fantasy over reality. MJ was an enigma and he beheld the world with a childlike wonder and curiosity, but his talents had nothing to do with magic. He was just crazily gifted. Did you know he also drew and painted? Exceptionally well, too?

See, crazily gifted. No magic there.

The Madness

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MJ was highly valued by his mother as the son who can do no wrong and put on a pedestal by fans making him a god. In the 80s, he was said to be battling with lupus and vitiligo. 

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He often shied away from talking about his skin condition and that was fine by me. I did not need to know every medical detail. But it spiraled him to another height of madness for over the years people were crazy over his skin and his eccentricity. It was as if he was in a circus peep show except that he was viewed in front of the entire world as a freak at a P.T. Barnum circus show. 

The greatest madness of MJ’s career were/are his fans. 

The Whole Story

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Hmm… will the REAL MJ, please stand up?

Did we really know the whole story? Do we really know the real MJ? Alas! We don’t. Michael was a slave to Hollywood and the devil for he used his God-given talents to carry out the devil’s work through his lustful and sexual dancing. He was the ultimate sex symbol and sexual fantasy for both men and women. He ripped his shirts, thrust his pelvis and gyrated his hips in ways no man – or woman for that matter – ever should.

It seems like he had childhood trauma, but sometimes I wondered if he also had DID. He was a terrific father, but he avoided communication and conflict. He loved giving and visiting the orphanages, but he was also a narcissist who quickly became bored with people so he discarded them like unwanted toys.

Over the years, I couldn’t decide if Michael was too feminine for my liking (he really blurred the lines between masculinity and femininity), but his smile endured and up to this day, I still think he had one of the most beautiful smiles in the world if not the most beautiful. I mean, come on, that smile could bless a nation!

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Overall:

MJ was a gifted, talented genius, but he was also battered, bruised, broken, and the poster boy for why you shouldn’t love the world and all that is in it (1 John 2:15; Mark 8:36). He was tortured, twisted, molded and created in their image – turning him into a caricature of his former self; the image God created him in – for our entertainment and we contributed by enjoying his work or ridiculing him (especially by mocking the way he looked in photos when he was just probably miserable, silently pleading for help while dying inside) whichever suited us best. He never found the happiness he passionately yearned for, for he was looking in the wrong places.

Only God could’ve granted him what he was searching for.

Michael died as he lived for the worldly desires: the King of Pain, never freed,  always chained.

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Books & Reviews 📚

Book #92: Messi

Lionel Messi’s career has been a stellar ascent, and shows no signs as yet of slowing down.

Born in Rosario in Argentina, he began playing football at a very young age. He made his debut with the first team in 2003 as a 16-year-old and a year later he broke FC Barcelona’s team record for youngest footballer to score a league goal, as well as winning the league with that outstanding team. Is breakthrough season was 2006-7, when he became first team regular, and in 2008-9 he scored 38 goals to play an integral part in the team’s triple-winning success.

Since Pep Guardiola took over as manager of Barcelona in 2008, Messi has become Barcelona’s all-time top scorer in all official club competitions – at the age of 25. He scored an astonishing 91 goals in the calendar year 2012 alone. He has also excelled on the international stage, playing for his national team. But all that was achieved via hard work, sacrifices, family break-ups and huge pressure.

Guillem Balague has had unprecedented access to Messi’s inner circle: his coaches, teammates, presidents and relatives, Joan Laporta, Sandro Rosell, Gerard ‘Tata’ Martino, Alejandro Sabella, Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta, Carlos Bilardo, Pablo Zabaleta, Cesc Fàbregas, Juanjo Brau, Gerard Piqué, Javier Mascherano, Silvinho…In addition, Pep Guardiola has provided exclusive analysis of the player.

The result is an authoritative and compelling account of the mystery – and genius – that is Messi.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Guillem Balague is a key fixture in Sky Sports’ coverage of Spanish football, appearing regularly both on live match coverage and on the weekly round-up show, Revista de La Liga. He is also the UK Correspondent for AS, the Madrid-based Spanish sports newspaper and El Larguero, Spain’s most popular sports radio show, attracting some 1.5 million listeners. His work appears regularly in twentyfour7 magazine, Bleacher Report, and in Champions magazine, where he writes a regular column on international football. He wrote the bestselling A Season on the Brink, an insider’s account of Liverpool’s 2004-05 Champions’ League winning campaign, and the biography Pep Guardiola: Another Way of Winning, published in 2012.

‘He is a shining light sent by God. You know when someone says, “he will make it, he will”? He was a footballer from the day he was born,’

Claudia, Cintia Arellano’s mother

Lionel Messi. The child, the man, the immigrant, the footballer.

Messi is a force to be reckoned with. He’s also an enigma. He easily captured my attention just as Michael Jackson did when I first saw him perform. I’ve never thought about understanding Leo because I see shades of myself in him when it simmers down to personality traits.

‘Leo doesn’t need money, he doesn’t want beautiful things…he’s just looking for more success.’

Silvinho

I’ve always maintained that Messi is a genius. A footballing genius and I don’t care for science to explain why people aren’t born geniuses. God has blessed Messi with this football talent that not even he himself could comprehend. Geniuses still need to work on their craft and that’s why they’re never satisfied when something doesn’t work out in their favor. That’s why they’re such perfectionists. Once God has blessed you with a talent, you don’t take it for granted. You go out there and you add your own initiative to it. If it means that you have to practice, practice, practice, DO IT for we were meant to work to develop our God-given talent.

People considered geniuses no matter the field they’re in, preserve their childish traits well into their adulthood even when they become family men themselves. Geniuses also need to practice their craft and I think this is the reason why they seldom fall out of love with what they do because of that passionate drive within them.

Leo the student. Ronaldinho the teacher.

The first time I saw Leo play, I thought that the ball was stuck to his boot and I sat there thinking that the ball is Leo and Leo is the ball. They’re one. He was born to play football. No argument.

‘Leo left the house with a ball, lived with the ball, and slept with the ball. He only wanted the ball,’

Rodrigo Messi

When you read Leo’s journey, you’ll understand why he has instilled so much faith in his beloved FC Barcelona. Why they’re a love affair. A romance. He is also fiercely loyal to Argentina. Although he had to leave Argentina to seek a better life, he always carried the country in his heart and soul. Leo’s dream is to win a major trophy with his country and with the World Cup looming around the corner, this might just be his last chance to do so. He came close on a few occasions, but Argentina never seems to really live up to their potential in finals. I don’t think Leo needs any major trophy for he is already one of the greatest footballers of all time in my book.

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Leo was born with a growth deficiency hormone, hence his small stature, but it didn’t stop him from chasing his dream and accomplishing more than he bargained for. He never let doubters have the last say. The author took me on a journey showing where Leo grew up in Rosario, an insight into his young school life (always with the ball), the attitude he had as a child, his passion, and his quiet personality. He was always the happiest in the company of family.

Leo has left such an impact on many people’s lives and he changed the face of history in the sport he loves so much. The book shows his (and his family) ups and downs. How he had to adapt to a new culture (Catalan) after leaving Argentina behind for better. On the day he debuted for FCB, the club that gave him everything, there was no looking back. History was made that day. He was only 17.

The author had not only taken me on Leo’s journey, but he also took me on the ups and downs I’ve suffered, enjoyed, cried and laughed with FC Barcelona. 2012. Tito. Abidal.

As I come to the end of this journey, I am reminded that family keeps us grounded. The family is the foundation and the key to our future success. Balague couldn’t have ended the book on a bittersweet note reminding us about Leo’s rite of passage from boy-genius to man (father):

And one day he will take Thiago to the park to play football. When he’s ten years old, Leo will be around 37.
And he will pass him the ball.

It’s now 2018 and Leo is a father of 3 beautiful boys: Thiago, Mateo, and Ciro (newborn). Football might be his love, but his family is his joy.

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“I told her the day Leo stops playing, I think I will lose all excitement I have for the game and will stop watching it. I love everything about football and imagining that Leo will not play any more one day distresses me. I don’t even want to think about it.”

Jorge Messi

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

The interviews were sometimes confusing to follow. The author should have had a DVD or CD made to accommodate the book. 

COVER

It’s a 5!

OPENING:

That was the question on everyone’s lips in Leo’s classroom at the Juan Mantovani Middle School. His school was situated in the district of Las Heras in the south of the Argentinian city of Rosario, close to his home. Leo had missed a week of school and, apart from brief illness, he rarely did that. His desk stood empty, and at playtime, when someone got the ball out, the game seemed even more confusing. There is not football pitch at the Juan Mantovani and there are always too many kids for the small, cramped playground. It did not encourage spacious, expansive games and, with Leo absent, even less so. It had been some days since he had been seen.

VERDICT:

love coffeelove coffeelove coffeelove coffee… one coffee down due to unnecessary gibberish at times (I felt as if I was reading results about a conducted experiment sometimes).

Books & Reviews 📚

Book #26: Escoffier: The King of Chefs

Author: Kenneth James
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (2002)
Pages: 319
Chapters: 18+17 interludes

BLURB:

Auguste Escoffier (1846 -1935) was the first modern celebrity chef.His clientele included royalty as well as leaders of society and fashion. This book traces his career from his humble origins on the French Riviera to Paris, London and New York. Acknowledged already during his lifetime as the greatest chef in the world, with the hotelier César Ritz, he changed the way we eat and the way food is presented. Together they established a tradition of superb cooking. They were also instrumental in making dining in public respectable for women. Escoffier popularized his repertoire in a series of hugely successful cookery books. He shows what made the cuisine at the Savoy and the Carlton so outstanding, as well as drawing a persona: a culinary portrait of a chef of genius. Escoffier: The King of Chefs also presents the dishes, from eggs to lobster, on which Escoffier had both lasting influence and strongly held views.

review

“Although I had not originally intended to enter this profession, since I am in it, I will work in such a fashion that I will rise above the ordinary, and I will do my best to raise again the prestige of the chef de cuisine.”

– A. Escoffier

So said, so done. I’m just going to talk about the book.

Frenchmen rules the kitchen! That being said, I have no business in the kitchen. I am not a foodie fanatic nor am I an adventure eater, but where history is concerned – food included – I indulge. Also, I am a notable Francophile and Auguste Escoffier simply happen to be one of my favorite French heroes. This man was a revolutionary. When I picked this book up, I was not expecting much about the Escoffier family knowing that French people (well, most of them) are a private people. Even the French footballers are very private about their personal life. He didn’t let me down. Escoffier had written little about his family during his time.

“Cooking is a science and an art, and the man that puts all his heart into satisfying his fellow man deserves consideration.”

– A. Escoffier

Escoffier’s father chose this field for him and instead of fighting his father over his future, Escoffier did his best to come out on top. In the first Interlude, the author divulges into coffee history. Coffee was Escoffier’s favorite brew and he said, “Never serve coffee except at the end of a meal.”

Coffee drinkers are a bit like wine lovers: They know what they like and sneer at the others.

Coffee back then was an exquisite expensive brew. Escoffier’s cooking career started off with the forbidden brew that was meant to be drunk on special occasions. Look at how far we’ve come! The French certainly enjoy taking their coffee at breakfast. Escoffier’s love for coffee saw him write an article about it in 1883, stating that the beverage was THE necessary complement to ALL meals. About coffee being introduced in France in 1669, Escoffier said, “The French people, the most alert in the world had no need of it as a remedy, but both the court and the bourgeoisie adopted it as a new gastronomic joy.” The first successful coffee house was opened in Paris by an Italian in 1702, the Café Procope.

Escoffier was a staunch patriot and he loved his country. It had pained him to see his own fellow people insulting Bazine and praising the Prussians after they won the war against France. “What more could they have desired than to see French soldiers being insulted in France by the … French?”

Indeed, the Prussians must have smirked in satisfaction, but that is the French for you. I’ve seen it time after time again in football. The French simply enjoy insulting their own.

As relaxation, Escoffier read books on the history of France (my favorite history topic too!).

The French style of presentation of a meal was derived from the system pioneered by Marie-Antoine Carême (1784-1833). Another Frenchman that I love!

The author didn’t touch on this, but I’m going to anyway. Carême was interested in architecture and he applied it to desserts thus he became known as the Architect of French Cuisine. He was the originator of haute cuisine. He updated the chef’s uniform. This was the man who was considered the first celebrity chef by many. Even Escoffier was inspired by him, but somewhere in French cuisine history, his story got lost and many modern cookery students are quick to identify with Escoffier. Carême was abandoned on the streets by his father who was too poor to keep him. But look at the man he turned out to be!

You can read more here:

Marie-Antoine Careme-the-first-celebrity-chef

I met a lot of interesting people in this book such as the eccentric Jean Zamoyski and Izzet Bey, a Francophile such as myself.

“To know how to eat is to know how to live.” – A. Escoffier

Enter César Ritz.

The pioneer of luxury hotels. Ritz’s story was equally interesting as Escoffier. When he sent for the master chef he was four years younger than the 38-year-old Escoffier. Ritz wanted nothing more than to run his own hotel. Escoffier wanted nothing more than to run his own business, to be independent and work in his own way to exploit his culinary talent. The Escoffier-Ritz partnership couldn’t have come at a better time. They got on like a house on fire and understood each other on a professional level. They complimented each other well. They even shared a mutual distaste of England and its way of life until April 06th, 1890 when they arrived in England to take over the Savoy.

“Even English dishes were quite good if cooked by a French chef,” – M. Gimon (Auguste’s understudy)

The author seemed curious as to what Escoffier’s actual relationship to Sarah Bernhardt, “the most famous actress the world has ever known” was.

Although there are no mentions of Escoffier and Bernhardt having an affair, James couldn’t let it go and mentioned it several times in the book. It was pretty clear that they were intrigued with each other and I mean, look at her! Had I been living in her time, she would have been my muse. Escoffier was a lover of the ladies and he named many dishes after them, but there is no strong evidence pointing to speculated affairs… not saying that he didn’t have one. Escoffier-Ritz brought the Grand National Hotel in Rome to a high standard. It was the first hotel in the world to have a bathroom for every bedroom.

You can more about the hotel history here:

http://www.famoushotels.org/article/732

Escoffier’s book Le Guide Culinaire is still an important book for the kitchen.

Have you ever had the Pêche Melba or Peach Melba? It was one of Escoffier’s creation. Peaches on a bed of vanilla ice cream, covered with raspberry puree and lace of spun sugar, nestled between the wings of a sculptured swan. Today:

“The secret is that most of my best dishes were created for the ladies.” – A. Escoffier

Ritz had overworked himself and became depressed. It was quite sad how he sunk out of life. At one point, he couldn’t even recognize his wife, who took over all his responsibilities. Ritz died a couple of weeks before the Armistice. Escoffier was also concerned for the less fortunate, the aged and the invalids. He was appalled when he saw the wastage of food from grand hotels in London, something which still goes on today not only in hotels but in mere restaurants too. At the Savoy, Escoffier had the nuns come each morning to take away the left-overs for distribution.

Escoffier was also generous and wouldn’t hesitate to reach into his pocket. He appeared to not hold many grudges, a fine example: the chef de cuisine who bullied him at his early days at the Petit Moulin Rouge was now old and lonely. What did Escoffier do? He asked the nuns to take Ulysee Rahaut in. ❤

Escoffier helped save lives when a fire broke out at the Carlton Hotel on August 09th 1911. He had collected people from the upper floors and led them to safety. Again, April 14th, 1912, the Titanic went down leaving 1500 people dead at sea. All but one of the cooks perished, but Escoffier made it his duty to publish photos of each cook with obituaries in Le Carnet d’Epicure. He didn’t sit on problems, he did something about them.

Escoffier passed away six days after his wife Delphine, having lived a fulfilled life.

Sometimes I didn’t feel like I was reading the bio of Auguste Escoffier, just a mere historical account of important parts of his life. The author even took some time to compare his fellow English food writer Elizabeth David to/with Escoffier. Come on, you English should be grateful! David is not in Escoffier’s boat.

Escoffier was a very likable man and his unparalleled career is an example for cookery students to follow and mold themselves after.

Notable Honors

> Awarded the Médaille de la Reconnaissance Française (3rd class, bronze)

> First chef ever to receive France’s highest accolade, the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur

> The first artiste-artisan to receive the Cross of Denmark

> Promoted from Chevalier to Officier de la Légion d’Honneur

VERDICT:

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