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Farewell To Michael Jackson: Patent Holder & More

Shoes like these would make riding the subway far more fun.   

It's with a heavy heart that I heard about the death of Michael Jackson. When the historic Thriller album dropped, I was in Junior High School (or “Middle School” as people seem to insist on saying these days), and very far removed from pop culture. Nevertheless I had a sneaky admiration for the pre crotch-clutching Jackson, and in later years I grew to admire much of his work. The journalistic world is scrambling to pay tribute to the fallen enigma that is the king of pop. We'll leave the inevitable rumor mongering to others, but I felt like sharing a couple of MJ secrets that the rest of the world may miss.

I thought that pretty much everyone had seen the YouTube video of the prison in the Phillipines that uses dance as their daily exercise, but many friends I asked hadn't. The choreographed moves from the history making Thriller music video are performed here by a staggering 1500 prisoners. This isn't some talent night quality performance either, these guys are really good. Thriller's impact on worldwide culture is so great, that's it's helping reform prisoners. I knew that it took discipline to get good at these signature MJ moves, but who knew how much better you'd get under lock and key?

Smooth_criminal_video_lean-mini Michael dominated many forms of media, but who knew that he also holds a patent? One of the iconic moves from his "Smooth Criminal" music video is when all the dancers lean forward at an impossible angle. In the video this was acheived with wires. Jackson's innovation was the development of special shoes along with a support system hidden under the stage enabilng the move in a live show. Very clever. It makes me wonder what secrets he might have had that he didn't want to share with the U.S. Patent Office?

Finally, we could talk about the 80's pop culture products that rained down on a Thriller buying public. There were a couple different styles of 12” doll, clothes, buttons, a single sequined kid-sized glove... but one of his more infamous products is from the 90's. The Sega Genesis is host to “Moonwalker”, a video game that puts the player in the long-form music video of Smooth Criminal.

It took me years to find this game at the thrift store, and after playing it I found it was a pretty typical 90's platformer. The Genesis soundchip is put to the test with a constant loop of Jackson's music, possibly the coolest part of the game. There is also an easter egg where Michael will turn into a flying robot (oh, and Bubbles the chimp shows up too). The way I sum it up is that it's a game where you play Michael Jackson going through a lonely dark house, searching for hidden children. Once uncovered, you touch the child, he yelps “Michael!”, and then runs away off-screen. Less said...

Links:

Read the actual patent describing the Smooth Criminal shoes
Video review of Genesis Moonwalker game

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