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Global MJ Pilgrim "I'm with the doll"

World Cry and the case for ‘Cry’

large-rippedA combination of memorial service and charitable fundraiser, World Cry was the dream of an American Michael Jackson fan named Amber Sipes. [1]

It brought fans together by the glow of candlelight, to read poems and messages for Michael on the anniversary of his passing, and to sing along to Michael’s recording of ‘Cry’ from the ‘Invincible’ album. [2]

‘We all cry at the same time tonight.’ [3]

The first time I participated in World Cry was on 25 June 2010, at Piccadilly Circus in London.  Like many other fans, I’ve done it at the same time every year since, either in a group or a quiet space of my own.

The most memorable was in 2013 when I planned to be at Neverland, presumably by myself, to remember Michael in private outside the gates of his former home.  Only it turned out that I wasn’t to be alone.  Lonjezo from Malawi and Marge from Toronto also arrived to pay their respects.  Although they hadn’t known about World Cry, both happily joined in with me in a close circle as I spoke a quiet introduction and prayer/mediation intention, and then turned on the song on my phone.

An incredible thing happened.  Michael sang ‘Somebody shakes when the wind blows…’ and the branches of the Neverland oaks stirred overhead in the wind, their leaves sighing like the sea that can be heard in the recording.

As the song reached its impassioned crescendo, our close circle became a spontaneous group hung.  It was an experience both inexplicable and wonderful.

cry‘Cry’ is a very special song.  Joe Vogel refers to it as a universal lamentation. [4]   When used in solidarity with others during World Cry on 25th June each year, it becomes a prayer for healing for both the planet and our own wounded souls – and for Michael, whose reputation has been constantly under attack from many sources since his passing.

When his album, ‘Invincible’ was released in 2001, the song almost seemed to go un-noticed, or was dismissed as messianic.  Even generally favourable album reviews often seemed to miss the heavier material, like ‘Cry’.

‘On “Invincible” he goes back to what he does best—breaking down musical barriers while fighting to get the girl.’ [5]

This quote from PopMatters appeared on the Michael Jackson social media accounts on 7 Oct 2016.  It’s fairly typical of some of the positive reviews the ‘Invincible’ album received on its release, and seems to saying ‘Hooray!  The king of pop has gone back to entertaining us rather than wanting us to help him change the world.’

These reviews, despite being complimentary, make me wonder how many times the author listened to the album before penning the review.  What about ‘All the Lost Children’ which, although having a sweet melody, is about a serious subject, and what about ‘Cry’?

‘Cry’ seems to me to be very much a plea from Michael, who had earlier in his career encouraged us to ‘make that change’ and ‘heal the world’ and who now begs us to help him get on with the job of making it happen: ‘we can do it if we try’.

This track is an obvious successor to ‘Earth Song’ and sung with such passion, it’s difficult to believe Michael didn’t write it himself.  The composer was R. (Robert) Kelly who also wrote ‘You Are Not Alone’ and ‘One More Chance’.

It doesn’t really matter.  In performing the song and producing with Kelly, Michael makes it his own.  Here is an artist, globally adored, who has willingly taken on the mantle of healer – to use what he saw as his God-given gifts, to make the world a better place; to heal the children; to save the planet.

But, despite ‘Heal the World’, despite ‘Earth Song’, the world and many of its children, were still in trouble.  No matter how sweetly he sang, or how passionately he raged into the microphone in the dark of the recording studio, not enough of us had taken up the mantle to make the world a better place.

‘I can’t do it by myself’. [6]

In using ‘Cry’ as a memorial song on the fateful date of June 25th once a year, we are acknowledging our pain and loss over the death of Michael Jackson.  But we are also joining him in his plea for the planet.  We WANT to make it a better place.  We WANT to share the load that he took up when he first started writing and singing songs that made us think about important issues.

When he found his personal voice, and put his fears, longings and prayers into words and music, Michael Jackson willingly shouldered the mantle of light-bringer, to shine a light into the dark corners of global society, so we could see for ourselves what work needed to be done.

Every time I listen to ‘Cry’ I find myself thinking, in response to Michael’s plea, ‘You are not alone in this.  We are here to share the load with you.  We will carry on the work for you.’  And, if we have our way, we will let everyone know that it was Michael Jackson who inspired us and showed us the way.

‘Change the World’. [7]

Kerry Hennigan
January 2017




[3] ‘Cry’ by R. Kelly

[4] Vogel, Joseph “Man in the Music: The Creative Life and Work of Michael Jackson!


[6 and 7] ‘Cry’ by R. Kelly

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A bitter-sweet sort of agony – On being an MJ pilgrim

Story and Photos* by Kerry Hennigan

A Michael Jackson pilgrim is what I call a fan who travels the country or the world to visit places relevant to Michael’s life or to attend special events honouring his art and legacy. They are a culturally diverse group of individuals from many countries, and since June 2010 I’ve been fortunate to consider myself one of them.

While many people think of pilgrimage in terms of traditional sacred journeys to places like Santiago de Compostela in Spain, following in the footsteps of Jesus in the Holy Land, or travelling to other sacred sites like Lourdes, there are also many types of secular pilgrimage.  Michael Jackson pilgrimage belongs in the latter group, of course.  We love and admire Michael as a human being; we don’t worship him as a god.

California locations like Neverland in the Santa Ynez Valley and Forest Lawn, Glendale are the most obvious places of pilgrimage for MJ fans. In Hollywood his star is on the Walk of Fame and just down Hollywood Boulevard is Pantages Theatre where he filmed scenes for “You Are Not Alone.”  Michael’s final rented home in the Holmby Hills part of Beverley Hills and the Jackson family compound in Encino are examples of other places to include on any LA-based ‘Michaeling’ holiday.

There are no ‘rules’ to follow – like any journey taken by choice, the itinerary should be what the individual pilgrim wants it to be.

Some of us travel to see monuments and statues of Michael – in China, London, Hong Kong, Rio and other places. Happily more are cropping up around the world as Michael’s legacy continues to grow.  When I attended the unveiling of the magnificent statue of Michael by Lu Zhengkang in the Guangzhou Sculpture Garden in China (photo above), I was in the company of hundreds of fans from China, Hong Kong and Macau, didn’t understand the language (except when my HK friends spoke to me in English) and yet had an absolute ball interacting with everyone as much as I could!

We had Michael in common.  What more did we need?

The author in Guangzhou, China with local Michael Jackson fans for the unveiling of Lu Zhengkang’s statue of MJ – 1 January 2011.

By contrast, being a solitary visitor to this statue’s twin in the sculpture garden at the Overland Park Arboretum and Botanical Garden in Kansas years later was equally as moving, but in a more personal way. Luckily some US visitors came by and offered to take some photos of me with the statue in case I ever needed to remind myself I had really been there!

Some pilgrims will take in costume and artifact displays like the MJ FanFest (in Las Vegas in December 2011) or the collection that was housed at the MJ Galley at Ponte 16 in Macau. I used to love visiting Ponte 16 and enjoyed staying in the hotel there on two of these occasions. Sadly, I couldn’t ever afford to book their special MJ-themed suite!

Not surprisingly, considering the many cities he visited on his world tours, Europe has plenty of opportunities for Michaeling: the HIStory statue located in Best in the Netherlands, for instance, and the fan-created street memorial in Munich, Germany, opposite the hotel where Michael stayed when visiting that city.

Photos posted on social media of other places fans have encountered provide plenty of items for the pilgrim’s ‘wish list’.

There are numerous artifacts to view at Hard Rock properties all over the world, and at the Hard Rock Cafe in Penang, Malaysia, a large seated statue of Michael reminiscent of the Lincoln Memorial in Washing DC is a permanent fixture right at the entrance (but there is none of his memorabilia inside, unfortunately).

Michael’s statue in front of the Hard Rock Cafe at the Hard Rock Hotel resort on the Malaysian island of Penang.

Big tribute shows like Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson the Immortal World Tour, and their resident Michael Jackson One show in Las Vegas have also been successful in attracting fans from far and wide.

Over one extremely heady period ranging from Dec 2011 to October 2013 I saw Immortal in 5 different cities on three continents for a total of 14 shows.  Only the last of these was in my own home town.  My favourites were opening night in Vegas, Saturday night at the O2 in London, and Saturday night in Hong Kong, when the local fans hosted a large group from mainland China who came in especially for the occasion.

I sat with the mainland Chinese fans in seats down on the arena floor and was amazed at how they sang, ‘Earth Song’ word for word – like an actual chorus accompanying Michael! None of them spoke English (and most of them didn’t speak Cantonese – the language of Hong Kong).  It was an unforgettable moment and a wonderful reminder of the truly international appeal of Michael Jackson, world citizen.

When it was screening at the various Disney parks around the world, I would plan my travels to be able to see Michael circa 1986 in the lighthearted 3D space adventure ‘Captain Eo’.  I was eventually able to catch it at every one of the venues in which it had ever screened – Disneyland California (where I had first seen it in 1987), Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disneyland and Disney World in Orlando. It took some effort over a few years, but was certainly worth it, especially considering it’s now no longer screening at any of the parks.

With pals Queenie, Yoly and Jessica (from Hong Kong) at the Captain Eo Theatre in Tokyo Disneyland.

Of course there are other shows – like Adrian Grant’s long-running Thriller Live in London’s West End and in Las Vegas the MJ Live tribute show currently at the Stratosphere (formerly at Rio – where I saw it) plus numerous other tributes which can enliven the travels of the MJ pilgrim.  While you probably wouldn’t plan an overseas trip around these types of shows, they are good entertainment and great places to make some new friends among the fans attending the event. Thriller Live’s home at the Lyric Theatre in London also has a small memorial to Michael in the form of a plaque mounted on the wall in the lobby.

As Michael fans we are blessed indeed to have so many places to visit and, occasionally, exhibitions to view and special events to attend. All are a testament to the man we admire and love, the incomparable King of Pop and king of our hearts, and the source of some incredible moments of personal ecstasy as we enjoy, share and celebrate his legacy.

The author with celebrated photographer Greg Gorman’s 1987 portrait of Michael Jackson, temporarily exhibited at the Museum of Photography, Berlin, Germany.  *Photo by Yoly Leung, May 2016.

So where, you might well ask, does the ‘agony’ come into it?

The more you get to know some of these places and the more fans you meet, the more you discover to add to your wish list. It’s frustrating being on the other side of the world, for example, and not having the time or wherewithal to see or do everything when Michaeling opportunities arise.

That’s one sort of bitter sweet agony.  The other, which is more acute, is knowing that as a pilgrim you have fallen short of the real prize, which is now unobtainable. This is the agony of us late-comers to MJ fandom who never saw Michael perform live, much less had a chance to meet him. We never made the ultimate pilgrimage – to attend a Michael Jackson concert, or to see him when/if he was visiting our own part of the world.

For us, this lack of first-hand experience of Michael has driven us to travel the world ‘in Michael’s footsteps’ (as my friend Nena calls it) as if attempting to make up for what we have missed.

There can be no adequate compensation for never having seen Michael in person, so it’s just as well to have a pilgrim’s wish list that is ‘bottomless’.

Like mine.

The author with Britto’s mosaic portrait of Michael Jackson at Espacio Michael Jackson, Santa Marta favela, Rio de Janeiro, where Michael filmed parts of ‘They Don’t Care About Us’.

An earlier version of this article was posted on Facebook in October 2013:

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Michael Jackson, Shiva and the Cosmic Dance

[The similarities in Michael’s poem ‘Heaven is Here’ and the story behind the great bronze sculptures of Shiva performing the cosmic dance have long fascinated me. The photos and video footage of Michael dancing in a raging desert sandstorm from the ‘Dangerous’ television commercial also remind me of the Shiva bronzes. They are some of the most powerful images of Michael I have ever seen.

What follows may be just a piece of imaginative fantasy on my part – but I tend to favour synchronicity over coincidence, especially considering the insight Michael has granted us into his creative processes over the years. As we all know, when it came to his art he left nothing to chance. – Kerry Hennigan]

In “Dancing the Dream”, his 1992 book of poems, song lyrics and reflections, Michael Jackson gives us a poem called ‘Heaven is Here’. In this striking piece of prose he writes (in part):

You and I were never separate
It’s just an illusion
Wrought by the magical lens of

There is only one Wholeness
Only one Mind
We are like ripples
In the vast Ocean of Consciousness

Come, let us dance
The Dance of Creation
Let us celebrate
The Joy of Life

The poem is indicative of Michael’s many works on ‘oneness’ and ‘wholeness’ not just with each other, but with the Creator, by whatever name we call Him/Her or the divine Force. The dance as an act of creation and an analogy of creation itself, reflects ancient wisdom – especially that of Eastern philosophies.

From the time I first read it, this poem, accompanied in the book as it is by photos of Michael dancing in the desert (stills from the promotional video for the ‘Dangerous’ album) reminded me of the great Chola bronze depictions of the Hindu god Shiva as Nataraja, Lord of the Dance – the cosmic dancer who performs his divine dance to both destroy world weary views and herald the arrival of a new world in its place.

The dual nature of his dance are the Lasya (the gentle form), associated with the creation of the world, and the Tandava (the violent and dangerous dance), associated with the destruction of weary perspectives and lifestyles.

In essence, the Lasya and the Tandava are dual aspects of Shiva’s nature; for he destroys in order to create, tears down to build again. [1]

He holds a drum in one hand, with which he makes the first sounds of creation, and fire in the other – the fire that will consume the universe. At the same time, with his lower right hand, he makes a gesture that allays fear. Beneath his feet he tramples a small figure that represents illusion, which leads mankind astray. Shiva’s front left hand, pointing to his raised left foot, signifies refuge for the troubled soul. The energy of his dance makes his hair fly to the sides. The symbols imply that, through belief in Shiva, his devotees can achieve salvation. [2]

10915272_10203757583715226_6884599099477970321_nNow Michael Jackson was no Hindu deity; he was as human as you or me, except, he was an enormously talented, highly intelligent and inquiring individual who believed he had been blessed with such gifts for a purpose. He consciously used these gifts to inform, influence and create change.

He can be seen to be a benevolent, all embracing (but deceptively harmless, perhaps) pied piper of nations in the first part of the short film for Black or White – and then becomes ‘dangerous’, ‘violent’, sexually charged and ‘subversive’ in the controversial black panther dance that follows the song in the full length version of the video.

In an interview given in 1992 when asked about the black panther dance, Michael explained “Anger and rage are the prelude to a shift in consciousness. Unless we feel rage at some of the inequities and injustices of our society, there is no hope for transformation.” [3]

As with Shiva, there is an important purpose to this dual vision of the song’s writer/choreographer – in order to create a harmonious existence for everyone regardless of race, creed or colour, one has to recognise, acknowledge and dance/stamp out the ignorance. It should not be a solo act either, but a performance that draws the attentions of others to the problem(s).

I don’t know whether Michael made the connections I have made with the cosmic dance of Shiva – whom he certainly knew of in the form of Nataraja (Lord of the Dance). Michael had help from his friend Deepak Chopra in preparing “Dancing the Dream”, and as fans we’ve come to understand that there was little Michael did in terms of his art that was not deliberate, and planned, fine-tuned and perfected so as to get his message across.

In 2009 after Michael’s passing, Viraf Sarkari, co-director of the event management agency Wizcraft told the Times of India about Michael’s 1996 visit to India on his HIStory tour. “We first met him in Los Angeles to confirm the concert. We were told he is very keen on performing in India. We’d presented him with a Ganesha, a Nataraj and a sherwani. And without requiring any explanation, he said, “Yes, that’s Ganesha, the god of luck.” Even when politician Bal Thackeray presented a silver statue of Shiva as Nataraj to Michael he didn’t need the politician’s explanation and said, “Yes, I know that’s the god of dance and art.” [4]

Shiva has other identities too, and one of them is as a Guru, or teacher of all types of knowledge (including music). In this form, called Daksinamurti, Shiva personifies the ultimate teacher – the embodiment of knowledge and the destroyer of ignorance. So, even in this seemingly benign form, the duality of his nature and intentions remains.

With knowledge comes awareness and enlightenment as a result of self-realisation. The outcome is freedom – from ignorance and fear. In ‘Heaven Is Here’ Michael tells us to not be afraid to know who we are…

You are much more
Than you ever imagined

You are the Sun
You are the Moon
You are the wildflower in bloom
You are the Life-throb
That pulsates, dances
From a speck of dust
To the most distant star

And you and I
Were never separate
It’s just an illusion
Wrought by the magical lens of Perception

Let us celebrate
The Joy of Life
Let us dance
The Dance of Creation

One of Michael’s friends and creative collaborators told me in the year after Michael’s passing that we can never lose him; in his spiritual form he is all around us and inside us. He is a part of us, and we are part of him.

It’s as Michael wrote in his poem “you and I/Were never separate/It’s just an illusion/Wrought by the magical lens of Perception.”

It is Michael Jackson speaking, but it could just as easily be Shiva, the ultimate teacher.

In his poems, songs and his dancing, Michael has interpreted Shiva’s cosmic dance for the enlightenment of his global audience.

Heaven is Here
Right now is the moment
of Eternity
Don’t fool youerself
Reclaim your Bliss


Conceived and written by Kerry Hennigan.  Originally published on Facebook on 17 January 2015:

10931510_10203757587835329_1228745484215141078_n[1] Wikipedia
[2] The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Excerpts from “Heaven Is Here” are from the book “Dancing the Dream” by Michael Jackson, originally published by Doubleday 1992, reprinted 2009.

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Arguing to ‘Make that Change’ – the perspective of a passionate Michael Jackson fan

Recently I participated in a blog discussion about the social and cultural impact of Michael Jackson, the man and his art. I was posting comments on someone else’s blog – the author and their interviewee come from academic backgrounds, as well as being genuine MJ fans.

My own ‘qualifications’ (other than also being a fan) are purely as a mature age student through the Open University. I don’t have a degree and am never likely to unless higher education becomes much more affordable (or free) – but as things are, I have chosen to spend my savings on travel. This therefore limits my ability to participate in some discussions from a sufficiently qualified perspective.

However, I felt that my experience as a former environmental activist with an international organization, as well as my ‘world-view’ meant that I could add intelligently to the discussion. I subsequently got so caught up in stating my point of view on the topic that I ended up feeling quite frustrated, and finally withdrew from participation on the blog.

Many of you have probably been in a similar situation – and it is important to emphasis that everyone commenting on this particular blog post was arguing for what I consider ‘right’ and ‘valid’ reasons. Rather I was frustrated by what I perceived as the narrow focus of their argument. It seemed that Michael’s creative output was being assessed in terms of a single issue, rather than the broader context I felt was required.

In my attempt to get across my own point of view, I sort of forgot that we were all on the same side in the debate. We were all ‘good people’ who were participating in the discussion with the best intentions i.e. we all want Michael’s art appropriately acknowledged as impacting and influencing social change for a better world.

Some of us have a different focus or perspective – that is only natural. Michael’s fan base, academic or otherwise, is global. We can all only argue effectively about what we know. It isn’t possible for us to ‘walk a mile’ in everyone else’s shoes to truly appreciate where they are coming from when they express a point of view.

6-250Sometimes, in wanting desperately to help ‘make that change’ we lose sight of something important – Michael Jackson was first and foremost an entertainer; it was his art that brought him to world attention.  He believed it was incumbent on him to use his art as a medium for advocating social change. The music, the dancing, the short films – these are his ‘contributions’ to improving the human condition, and they have stood the test of time.

As fans who want to promote Michael’s invaluable offerings as tools for social change we occasionally need to step back from the heat of debate to enjoy those offerings.

We – I – just need to remember to be tolerant and respect the informed arguments of others. And, if necessary, take a breather and reconsider. It certainly helps to TURN UP THE MUSIC or, even better, watch the spotlights highlighting Michael’s fluid moves as he performs in concert in his HIStory tour gold pants!

This may not be the cure for everything – my frustrations with certain debates included – but it comes pretty close!

“You and I were never separate
It’s just an illusion
Wrought by the magical lens of

– Michael Jackson, “Heaven is Here” (1)

Article © by Kerry Hennigan
Originally published on Facebook, 12 August 2015
(1) Michael Jackson, “Dancing the Dream” Doubleday (1992)


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Berlin, May 2016 – Michaeling East and West

There’s something about Berlin. It has history, drama, excitement and an indefinable vibe. I didn’t feel ‘at home’ there as I did in Munich, or as enraptured as I did in beautiful Cologne, but Berlin is just…unforgettable.

Having survived the Nazi regime and subsequent Allied bombing of WWII, then occupation and a cruel Cold War that divided the city into East and West and, in some cases, split families and friends asunder, re-unified Berlin has become a magnet for visitors from all over the world.

For my friends Yoly and Queenie and I, the ‘magnetic attraction’ was Greg Gorman’s previously unseen portrait of Michael Jackson on display at the Museum of Photography. The seated semi-nude portrait was taken by Gorman in 1987, and displays a beautiful young performer with a look of determined concentration on his face. At the same time, he seems so vulnerable.

I wondered if his expression represented some thoughts on Michael’s part that perhaps this portrait was not such a good idea. Or whether he was miles away in his mind, focused on some new project, whether a song, choreography or short film concept. Or perhaps his brow is just furrowed against the cold, being scantily clad (and considering how sensitive to cold he always was).

We could speculate endlessly; but regardless of the cause of his intense expression, the portrait is an evocative (as opposed to ‘erotic’) image.

I don’t know what sort of reception this portrait would have received had it been used back in the late 1980s. Gorman has speculated in media interviews that perhaps it was too revealing in terms of the way Michael was being presented in official images at the time. We can’t ask Michael, sadly, so we will probably never know.

The Museum of photography was within walking distance of our hotel. I made the excursion twice, once shortly after I arrived in Berlin, and again a couple of days later after Yoly and Queenie had joined me.

The route encompassed some other noteworthy locations, including the preserved ruins of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church with its war-shattered carapace and restored mosaics; and the Berlin Zoo, the latter which Michael visited with Prince and Paris in 2002 when in the city to attend the Bambi Awards ceremony.

I didn’t go into the zoo on either occasion, but the path to the Tiergarten from the Museum of Photography provides glimpses through the perimeter fence into some of the animal enclosures.


The main attraction in the Tiergarten, apart from the glorious green vastness of it (larger than the whole of Monaco, one taxi driver told me) was the Michael Jackson memorial tree, a young tree bedecked with love tokens from fans from around the world. We added our own and those of friends and took copious photographs.

Our attention to the tree caused others to pause and look at the ornaments, cards and messages that decorated it. Yoly had a conversation with an American family whose young son (not with them) loves MJ and “knows all of his dance routines.”

Such happy encounters are one of the many rewards of being a global MJ pilgrim; you never know when or where they are going to happen. But, if our being there, adding our tributes on the tree (like many before us) prompted others to stop, talk and read the messages, then that is surely a positive thing for Michael’s legacy.

Facing the north-eastern corner of the Tiergarten is the Reichstag (1894), home of the German parliament. A lot of history has happened both inside and outside the Reichstag. The building we see today is largely a reconstruction of the pre-war edifice which was abandoned after a fire in 1933. It remained a ruin during the years Berlin was a divided city. In place of the cupola that originally topped the building is now a modern glass dome and a roof garden, both accessible to the public.

13576683_10206904790953440_2115597222141787979_oOn 19 June 1988 Michael Jackson performed a concert on his Bad world tour on the grounds in front of the Reichstag. The choice of venue was deliberately strategic; the Berlin Wall still separated East and West Berlin. While 50,000 fans attended the open air show at the Reichstag, there were many on the other side of the Wall who gathered at the Brandenburg Gate to hear their idol.

Michael returned to Berlin for more concerts, but there was no longer any need to choose a venue with proximity to the infamous Wall. By then it had been torn down (Nov 1989) and Berlin – and Germany subsequently reunified. You can still see parts of the original Wall preserved in situ, or slabs of it covered in graffiti and mounted as works of folk art in and around the city, but especially in proximity to Checkpoint Charlie.

During my visit (May 2016) Berlin was enjoying a long weekend of cultural festivities, and Paiserplatz – the square east of the Brandenburg Gate – was full of people having a great time in this vibrant and exciting city. I visited Michael’s wax figure at Madame Tussauds and indulged in a light lunch at the famous Hotel Adlon, marvelling at the beautiful interior – completely rebuilt after the destruction of World War II.

Michael and his family stayed at the Adlon in 2002. This was where the so-called ‘baby dangling’ incident occurred when Michael attempted to show ‘Blanket’ to the fans calling to him from the plaza below his hotel suite.

I could have spent a lot more time in Berlin than my schedule allowed. One entire day was spent at Museum Island, home to five incredible museums. Three proved to be my limit before my feet gave out, with the Pergamon Museum being the undoubted star attraction, thanks to its reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate of Babylon and much, much more.

Given more time I would have returned to the island to see the remaining museums and perhaps paused to enjoy a coffee or lunch overlooking the surrounding River Spree.

But for now, my sightseeing and Michaeling was done, and it was time for the three of us to move on – by train to Dusseldorf on the banks of another river: the Rhine. And beyond it, Best in the Netherlands, and the next ‘must see’ site on our Michael Jackson-inspired odyssey.

Text and photos copyright (c) Kerry Hennigan4 July 2016
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What is it about ‘Blood on the Dance Floor’? or: Michael Jackson as alpha male

By Kerry Hennigan


It’s the thumping, Latin-infused beat; it’s the grit and growl of Michael Jackson’s vocals; it’s the violent tone of the subject matter; it’s Michael’s sharply defined, mature features in the short film; it’s the ruby red ensemble he wears; it’s his shiny black locks caught back in a French braid which he whips about his shoulders as he dances.

It’s “Blood on the Dance Floor” – song and short film. And it’s almost guaranteed to send some of Michael’s female fans into near orgasmic ecstasies. (Just ask me, I’m one of ‘em!)

The song had its genesis as early as 1990 as a collaboration with Teddy Riley. Seven years later the demo was revisited and re-recorded by Michael with his 4-man creative team at Mountain Studio in Montreux, Switzerland in January 1997, during a break between the first and second legs of his HIStory world tour.

Teddy Riley’s 2-track recording was completely re-created as a big multi-track, according to Brad Buxer, as there was no way to mix Riley’s original. When the team played the new “Blood on the Dance Floor” the first time, Michael’s comment was “This is delicious!”[1]

The track continued to be augmented by Michael and Brad Buxer back in Los Angeles. It was finally released on 21 March 1997 as the first single from the (then) forthcoming album “Blood On The Dance Floor: HIStory In The Mix.” [2]

This song speaks to something primeval in our psyche. But it’s not the psyche that resides in the rational, reasoning parts of our brain; it’s the earthy, solar-plexus dwelling, dangerous thinking that arises from our inner depths. In fact, you could quite bluntly say that, for some of us, it’s Michael speaking directly to our deepest, darkest hidden desires.

We’re not talking about enduring, sentimental love here. “Blood…” is the antithesis of heartfelt ballads like “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” and “You Are Not Alone”. This is passion and lust without any excuses.


Doubters just need to read some of the comments posted under the short film for the song in various forums. For example: “I wish I had his number…” “He is Fierce… OMG!” “So sexy!” and, my personal favourite to date: “Hot, hot, HOT! He is so alpha male in this. Whew! Be still my heart…..”[3]

Of course, Michael’s fans were aware of his animal magnetism long before the release of “Blood on the Dance Floor”. Going back to his 1987 album “Bad” with songs and short films like “Dirty Diana” and the title track, it was obvious that a more mature, aggressive edge to Michael’s songs and performances was emerging. In the film “Moonwalker” when he strutted his stuff in shiny black leather pants to the tune of the Beatles’ hit “Come Together”, Michael was clearly pushing up the temperature.

(An interesting aside to this is the fact that a movie still of Michael performing “Come Together”, combined with a 1997 photo by Bill Nation, provided the model for Will Wilson’s painting for the “Blood on the Dance Floor” album cover.) [4]

In asking what is it about “Blood on the Dance Floor” that sends some of us fans into raptures, we have the answers right in front of us, whether we’re listening to the track or watching the short film. It’s Michael dark and dangerous. Brad Buxer revealed at one of his “In the Studio with Michael Jackson” guest appearances that “when he was in his dark mode [as in “Blood on the Dance Floor”] – that’s the best Michael.” [5]

There’s no doubt that Michael was a complicated musical genius who created, sculpted and honed his public persona over the decades to meet his own constantly growing expectations of excellence. From a young age Michael had set himself the goal of perfecting his art until he was the best at whatever he did. He worked at it until he achieved it, and then he set the bar higher.[6]

For self-preservation, there had to be a layer of emotional ‘protection’. While he frequently presented a sunny, child-like nature in public, and was delighted by simple things (playing games, making prank calls to his friends), beneath that veneer there were very adult emotions and sensibilities to which Michael gave full voice in his songs, concerts and short films.

Being a complex, creative individual means we can’t neatly label Michael as “dark” or “light” (or, speaking metaphorically, “black” or “white”- if you don’t mind a bad pun). This too has been stressed by those who knew him from working closely with him on his various recording, filming and concert projects. That word – “genius” – comes often from the lips of these individuals in attempting to describe Michael.

The person we see in the “Blood…” short film is Michael the performer. He is playing a part – that of a man attracted to a woman with a deadly reputation. He flirts with her and dances with her, but is he going to be stabbed in the back by her – whether physically or emotionally? He’s willing to take that risk, despite the fact “the girl is dangerous…” The femme fatale is a recurring theme in Michael’s music.

The question is, who is going to get burned most by this experience – the woman with the bad reputation, the man who desires her and pursues her (on to the dance floor, at least) or the listener/viewer, who may need to monitor their blood pressure.

If you look at some of the few rehearsal photos we have for “Blood” you will see Michael apparently laughing and having fun with his fellow dancers. This is Michael “off stage”. When the cameras roll, and the call is for “action” he is seriously hot, sexy, and yes – definitely an “alpha male”.


Michael actually “hated” the short film we love so much, according to Brad Buxer. It didn’t tell a story like some of his other music videos. Michael just didn’t get the fact that he was “cooler than cool”. [7]

The launch of the short film on VH1 was cause for comment on ET which noted it was his first video release since becoming a father. The commentators are (typically) preoccupied with his appearance:…

The album “Blood on the Dance Floor” was released on vinyl and CD in May 1997, two months after the release of the single.

In the chronology of Michael’s musical canon, the “Blood…” album comes at an interesting time. It is preceded by the raging emotional highs and lows of “HIStory: Past, Present & Future, Book 1” – a towering achievement that gave us “Earth Song”, “They Don’t Care About Us” and Michael’s incredible vocal performance on the Charlie Chaplin classic “Smile” among other memorable tracks.

It is succeeded by 2001’s “Invincible” which re-visited, up-dated and incorporated so many different musical styles and displayed Michael’s broad range of vocal capabilities (e.g. contrast “Butterflies” with “2000 Watts) and gave us the gem, “Speechless”.

Between these two considerable achievements “Blood on the Dance Floor” comes as a full-blooded assault on the senses, with the remixes of some of the “HIStory…” tracks fitting perfectly “in the mix” with the five new tracks premiered on the album.

Of the latter, there are some that would have been stand-outs even on an entire album of new tracks: the songs from Michael’s short film (long form) “Ghosts” for example, and especially “Morphine”. This would have made an incredible short film of its own, if Michael had cared to make one. (Just imagine the publicity that would have generated!)

The “Blood on the Dance Floor” album is an excellent example of how Michael Jackson was forever moving forward in his music and the performance of it. This trend continued right up to the planning and rehearsing for “This Is It”. During that time he worked on new songs to be introduced via his O2 concerts. These were reputedly to be released sequentially as digital downloads that would provide the fans with a full album of new music by the close of his 50-date London tenure.

Throughout his career Michael Jackson willingly sacrificed himself in the cause of creating great art. He did it over and over again, with each new, ground-breaking project. That was the real “blood on the dance floor”; it wasn’t a song, a short film or an album. It was his life as the consummate artist and showman.

The Song:
  • Blood on the Dance Floor – album title track and single (1997)
  • Blood on the Dance Floor – remixes – TM’s Switchblade Mix – Refugee Camp Mix – Fire Island Vocal Mix – Fire Island Dub – T&G Pool of Blood Dub – Refugee Camp Dub – Acapella – TM’s O-Positive Dub
The Videos:
[1] Author’s personal notes from Brad Sundberg’s “In the Studio with Michael Jackson” seminar at Thriller Villa, Las Vegas, 10 October 2015, with guests Brad Buxer and Michael Prince.…
[2] Joseph Vogel “Featuring Michael Jackson” Baldwin Books 2012.
[4] MJJ Magazine Issue #7
[5] Author’s personal notes from “In the Studio with Michael Jackson” seminar at Thriller Villa, Las Vegas, 10 October 2015.
[7] Author’s personal notes from “In the Studio with Michael Jackson” seminar at Thriller Villa, Las Vegas, 10 October 2015.
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Michael Jackson – Passion, Fraternity, and Solidarity. MJ Studies Today, March 2017

MJ SAbstract: In this column, Kerry Hennigan discusses the way fans express their passion and solidarity with Michael Jackson. Column by Kerry Hennigan,

Source: MJ Studies Today XV – The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies | ISSN: 2452-0497

The ‘Pop Art’ of Michelangelo and Michael Jackson (as defined by LaChapelle)

The website for the UK’s Tate Galleries defines Pop Art as…“an art movement that emerged in the 1950s and flourished in the 1960s in America and Britain, drawing inspiration from sources in popular and commercial culture such as advertising, Hollywood movies and pop music. Key pop artists include Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Hamilton, Peter Blake and David Hockney.” (1)

Photographic artist David LaChapelle has a much broader definition.  He believes that ‘pop art’ is art that has crossed over from being for the very few to being for everyone – it is art that has become so recognisable that everyone can identify it – not just Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans, but Michelangelo’s David or something from Michael Jackson’s catalogue.

It is art that has transcended genre and outlived the era in which it was created.

LaChapelle equated the art of Michelangelo with that of Michael Jackson in a recent BBC video clip promoting an exhibition at the National Gallery, London.*  It’s a statement that may shock some, but which hardly comes as a revelation for Michael’s many fans. (2)

David LaChapelle, whose first job as a professional photographer was for Warhol, is famous for his own surrealistic photographic and film work employing popular cultural figures in exotic scenarios often inspired by Renaissance artworks and displaying Biblical themes.

In December 2016 he photographed Paris Jackson for her Rolling Stone cover feature where his use of religious iconography is prominent – along with plenty of nods to Paris’ father, of whom LaChapelle is a huge fan. (3)

Biblical themes dominate his series ‘American Jesus’ which featured three post-2009 images of Michael Jackson (achieved by using an impersonator plus some digital manipulation) respectively titled ‘American Jesus: Hold Me, Carry Me Boldly’, ‘The Beatification: I’ll Never Let You Part For You’re Always In My Heart’ and ‘Archangel Michael: And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer’. (4)

The first of these, ‘American Jesus’ features a pose clearly inspired by Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’.

michael and david
Michael Jackson at the feet of Michelangelo’s ‘David’,  Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, 1988.  (Photographer unknown)

Michael Jackson’s own appreciation for the art of Renaissance masters like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci is well documented.  He saw some of these masterpieces first hand while in Italy on his Bad world tour in 1988. (5)

Later, at Neverland, he had a painting of himself by David Nordal – called simply ‘Michael’ – which was inspired by Michelangelo’s monumental sculpture of David.

In his ‘Moonwalk’ biography, Michael explained his admiration for Michelangelo – “he poured his soul into his work.  He knew in his heart that one day he would die, but that work he did would live on.  You can tell he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with all his soul.  At one point he even destroyed it and did it over because he wanted it to be perfect.  He said, ’If the wine is sour, pour it out.’” (6)

This is a particularly memorable scene in the 1965 movie The Agony and the Ecstasy based on Irving Stone’s biographical novel of Michelangelo.  I wonder if Michael saw it and remembered it from there?  (I first saw this film in the cinema as part of a school group accompanied by the nuns who taught us.  Today I still own a copy of the movie on DVD, so I know it well.) (7)

Michael certainly knew the emotions involved in Michelangelo’s outburst – and undertook similar drastic measures.  When he listened to the completed Thriller album for the first time, he knew it wouldn’t work.  In ‘Moonwalk’ he explains that he felt devastated and angry, and declared “We’re not releasing it.”

After a couple of days off, and taking a deep breath, Michael and his team mixed the entire album all over again.  Afterwards everyone – including the record company – could hear the difference.  “It felt so good when we finished.  I was so excited I couldn’t wait for it to come out.” (8)

Michael’s instincts as an artist who – like Michelangelo – poured his heart and soul into his work were accurate – “if the wine is sour, pour it out.”

For Michelangelo, the outcome of starting afresh was his Sistine Chapel masterpiece.  For Michael Jackson, it was the biggest selling album of all time.

Like Michelangelo’s ceiling frescos, Michael’s album, singles and videos are indelibly stamped on popular culture – they are ‘pop art’ as defined by David LaChapelle.

Whether or not we agree with LaChapelle’s definition of the genre, to have Michael Jackson’s creative endeavours compared to those of Michelangelo is a testament to Michael’s work ethic and life-long commitment to perfecting his art.

I believe the comparison is justly deserved and one he would have loved.

Kerry Hennigan
March 2017

‘Art is Life… Life is Art’ pop art triptych features Michelangelo’s Pieta, photo of Michael Jackson (photographer unknown) and David LaChapelle’s American Jesus, digitally edited by the author.

*The Credit Suisse Exhibition “Michelangelo & Sebastiano” runs 15 March – 25 June 2017 at The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square, London.  For details visit:

For an examination of David LaChapelle’s images depicting Michael Jackson I highly recommend Annemarie Latour’s two part article “Redeeming the King of Pop: David LaChapelle’s Fine Art Portrayal of Michael Jackson” (link below).  Annemarie has also recently written on the iconography in LaChapelle’s portraits of Paris Jackson for Rolling Stone:


  2. BBC video
  3. Rolling Stone
  4. Annemarie Latour “Redeeming the King of Pop: David LaChapelle’s Fine Art Portrayal of Michael Jackson Parts 1 and 2
  6. Michael Jackson “Moonwalk” Arrow Books paperback edition 2010 p.220
  7. “The Agony and the Ecstasy” 20th Century Fox, 1965
  8. Michael Jackson “Moonwalk” Arrow Books paperback edition pp 199-200

books edited.jpg

Stone Sentinels of Salisbury Plain: Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral – June 2010

It was the day after the Summer Solstice and the field next to Stonehenge was still full of the camps of New Age Druids who had been present for the rising of the sun the morning before. There was even a Druid wedding ceremony underway in the car park when our tour group emerged from its bus.

Stonehenge, and the plain on which it is located, has seen the passage of history for over four millennia. What it consists of now is just the remnants of a large ceremonial centre come celestial calendar which appears to have attracted visitors from as far afield as the Mediterranean.

Evolving over centuries of usage by the ancient Britons of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, Stonehenge reached its apogee in approximately 1930 BC – 1600 BC before falling into gradual disuse and decline.

Contrary to the belief fostered by early antiquarians, there is no historic evidence of Druidic ritual practices having been conducted at the man-made structure. Their preference was for oak groves deemed sacred to the gods. However, that doesn’t stop their modern-day counterparts from turning up in the hundreds for the traditional seasonal occasions.

Regular visitors can book tours to enter the stone circle at dawn or sunset at certain times of the year. Our visit though was in the early afternoon, after lunch and a tour of Salisbury Cathedral.

Salisbury is the perfect introduction for overseas visitors to the picture post-card English country town. The landscape is gloriously rural and undulating, dotted with livestock and adorned by thatched cottages.

Old Sarum (c) Kerry Hennigan 2010

Just outside the town is Old Sarum, an archaeological site that dates back to pre-Roman Britain. The Romans took over the hill-top location for their own fortress, and in later ages the first Salisbury Cathedral was built within the walls of the settlement. Due to the instability of the ground on which the Cathedral foundations were built, a new Salisbury Cathedral replaced it.

This is the Cathedral constructed of massive stone blocks, which visitors (and the faithful) flock to today – a stunning medieval structure surrounded by a serene expanse of open space dotted with shade trees – Salisbury Close.


Salisbury Cathedral (c) Kerry Hennigan 2010

Within the actual church there are many wonders to behold – soaring stained glass windows of myriad colours, towering columns, the great vaulted ceiling high overhead.

There is a medieval clock in a glass case, the pennants of ancient regiments adorning the walls, many burial crypts of historically notable figures, and, in the Chapter House, the best surviving copy of the Magna Carter in existence.

For those seeking a quiet place within the vast Cathedral for personal prayer and reflection, at the time of our visit the Chapel of St Michael the Archangel was signposted as being specifically reserved for this purpose.

Back out in the streets of the town, we could be forgiven for thinking we had walked in on a scene from the famous Midsomer Murders TV series. That was what Salisbury looked like to this Antipodean visitor. I expected to see Inspector Barnaby hop out of an unmarked police car and go into one of the quaint shops or pubs to investigate yet another mysterious death on his patch. Midsomer is fiction, of course, but Salisbury has the right appearance to induce flights of fancy in the first-time visitor.

However, these creative imaginings were quickly dispelled by the delicious smells of our pub lunch at one of the historic old inns. There is nothing like a good feed to bring you back willingly to the here and now. It was after tucking into our traditional roast, fish and chips or seasonal vegetable pot pie (followed by apple crumble for dessert) that we continued on in our coach to Stonehenge. The first glimpse of it on the plain just off the modern highway is unforgettable.

The inner circle (c) Kerry Hennigan 2010

In addition to the Stonehenge monument itself, walking trails in the area wind amongst ancient burial mounds (burrows) that dot the surrounding hillsides. It is an amazing landscape for the amateur archaeologist and history enthusiast.

Of course, experts in the field have long explored the mysteries of Stonehenge and Salisbury Plain, and new discoveries continue to be made. Reinvestigation of old ones also reveals new information about the place and the people who came here – some travelling vast distances in the process.

Even without access to the inner circle of the stone temple, by walking the path around Stonehenge, you can get surprisingly close to the giant stone blocks. A low fence suggests rather than prevents access to the circle, and this is certainly no impediment to taking unobstructed photographs of the monument – and plenty of them, from every possible angle.

The Heel Stone (c) Kerry Hennigan 2010

Sitting back by the roadway, all by itself, but seemingly pointing towards the main structure is the Heel Stone, which has been known by various names throughout Stonehenge’s later (i.e. recorded) history. This is as far as the path goes before being stopped by the boundary fence that borders the A334. But from here you get a good view back at the ring of standing stones.

It’s a lot to take in, and there is no peace and quiet to be found in the visitor centre or gift shop, which are full of fellow customers. Better to find a quiet spot at the top of the walk and sit down to contemplate one of ancient Britain’s most famous enigmas.

Take a deep breath and inhale the stuff of legends… they don’t come much bigger than Stonehenge, whatever its original purpose (or multi-purpose) may have been.

Story and photos by Kerry Hennigan

This article was originally written for publication in my brother’s on-line magazine ‘Travelscene International’ which sadly no longer exists. I found the draft buried in a folder of documents on my work computer and, since my fascination with Stonehenge still remains (I returned for another visit in October 2012 – see photo of little MJ with the monuent, above) as do my memories of Salisbury and its magnificent cathedral, I decided to polish it up and publish it as a Note on Facebook. Now it has been transferred to WordPress for easier access by a wider audience.  I hope you enjoy it.

Kerry Hennigan
11 February 2017

Book Review: “Let’s Make HIStory. An Insight into the HIStory album” by Brice Najar

517upefrryl-_sx258_bo1204203200_“Let’s Make HIStory.  An Insight into the HIStory album” by Brice Najar.  Translator: Laetitia Latouche.
Preface by Bruce Swedien
Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (September 20, 2016)
Paperback 242 pages

The scope of Brice Najar’s book “Let’s Make HIStory” encompasses both parts of Michael Jackson’s HIStory: Past, Present & Future Book 1 double album, quite rightly referred to as “an opus”.

This was considerably more than I expected when purchasing the book – based on an interview with the author in the Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies – it being the new material on HIStory – the “HIStory continues” portion – that I was most interested in reading about.

The book is composed of interviews, some of them quite in-depth, with people who worked on the different recordings with Michael Jackson.  This means we have people who worked on material from the early 80s as well as the 90s, a rare few having involvement all the way through.

I have to admit to not being one of the fans who worships at the shrine of Quincy Jones, but given that tracks from “Off the Wall”, “Thriller” and “Bad” are included on the “HIStory begins” portion of the album, the references to Mr Jones are unavoidable.  That’s not to mean that I begrudge Quincy his due for the truly memorable work he did with Michael, merely some of the things he has said publically about Michael in recent years.

Once we get to the 90s tracks – three from the “Dangerous” album under “HIStory begins” and then the “HIStory continues” portion – I became truly engrossed in the recollections of the talented musicians and others who contributed their skills and experience to the creative process.

Included are some photographs of the individuals interviewed along with some autographed items from the author’s collection of Michael Jackson memorabilia.  They are not a major component of the book, but they do nicely augment the text and, in some cases provide evidence of the author’s interaction with some of the interviewees.

One thing this book lacks which would make it so much more valuable as a reference work is an Index.  Add a Bibliography, and it would be even better.  But, while there are numerous MJ books that have those things, few of them can claim to have acquired their information through first-hand interviews as has Najar.

Furthermore, Najar’s interviews are composed of intelligent questions, respectful of the creative process and the interviewee’s part in it, and respectful of the primary artist, Michael Jackson.  There is no tabloid fodder here.  It was Najar’s intention to give a voice to those working in the studio “and this way not making anything up!”*

The text contains some typing idiosyncrasies which, though minor and at least used consistently, I nevertheless found to be irritating.  If I had been editing the book I would have insisted they be changed.

I would also have moved the Table of Contents from the back of the book to the front, where we’re used to seeing it in most publications.

By far the most interesting part of the book for me was the interview with Brad Buxer.  Even though I have heard Brad talk about his work with Michael in person at one of Brad Sundberg’s famous In the Studio with Michael Jackson seminars, at which I took copious notes in longhand, it’s wonderful to have his stories “on record” by virtue of this book.

For those who don’t know, Buxer worked with Michael from 1989 onwards, both in the studio and on tour and eventually became his musical director following the Super Bowl half time show in 1993.  He continued to work on songs with Michael up to and including 2008.

Other favourites are Steve Porcaro and Rob Hoffman.  The latter’s recollections of the night in the studio when Michael recorded the final vocals for Earth Song are truly memorable, as are his many other insights from the HIStory album sessions he was involved in.

There are so many quotable quotes in this book from many of the interviewees.  But what comes through in every case is their absolute appreciation for having worked with Michael Jackson and for being a part of his, and popular music’s, HIStory.

Review by Kerry Hennigan
February 2017

*Najar, Brice in his Preface to “Let’s Make HIStory” p 8.

The book is available from Amazon.


‘Tell ‘em that it’s Human Nature’ – studying the ‘why?’ of Michael Jackson – MJ Studies Today column, Nov 2016

Abstract: In the November column, Kerry Hennigan examines the ‘why’ of the life and work of Michael Jackson. Column by Kerry Hennigan, editor of the monthly newsletter, A

via MJ Studies Today XI (14-11-1016) — The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies | ISSN: 2452-0497

Inspired by Michael Jackson – MJ Studies Today column, Sept 2016

Column by Kerry Hennigan, editor of the monthly newsletter, A Candle for Michael, and administrator of the widely-subscribed Facebook group, Michael Jackson’s Short Film ‘Ghosts. Inspired By Michael

via MJ Studies Today IX (14-9-16) — The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies | ISSN: 2452-0497

Michael Jackson Advocacy – Column in MJ Studies Today, Oct 2016

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via MJ Studies Today X (14-10-2016) — The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies | ISSN: 2452-0497

“Annie, are you OK?” Michael Jackson and Film Noir Part 1 – Column in MJ Studies Today, Dec 2016

Abstract: In the December column, Kerry Hennigan examines Michael Jackson’s fascination for the film noir genre. Column by Kerry Hennigan, editor of the monthly newsletter, A Candle

via MJ Studies Today XII — The Journal of Michael Jackson Academic Studies | ISSN: 2452-0497

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