Thursday, July 02, 2009

Damn you, MJ!

Damn you, Michael Jackson!

I've made a proud habit of making fun of crazy fans lining up near celebrity sightings for autographs (what exactly does one do with a piece of paper and somebody's scratch anyway?), a two second glimpse, crying, fretting, writing crazy notes and going around declaring, 'when s/he passed, a part of me died'. WTF?! And now Michael Jackson has brought me pretty darn close to that state, and i'm not amused. Again, WTF!?!

I was out in 'The Last Frontier' when I heard the news. My friend and I had singed up for a boat trip in a 'fjord', this one a long narrow water inlet surrounded by cliffs, glaciers, and ... nothingness. At the end, we returned to civilization in what turned out to be a rainy, cold evening ... we decided to treat ourselves at one of the nicer restaurants in town.

We got there. They seated us. The diner at table to my left turned out to be a crazy woman, seriously nutty or possibly tripping on some sort of narcotic, who started talking at us. We didn't even get enough time to look at the menu as she marched as through a dozen topics. Suddenly she interrupted herself and said, 'Oh, stop! OMG! Let's talk about Michael Jackson'. My friend, who's Kenyan, and I looked at each other -- I could see she was on the verge of cracking up, as I was. I guess as I grow older I've become unnecessarily cynical. This may come out as borderline, eh, racialist but it's pretty bizarre when you're in the US state nicknamed 'The Last Frontier' for a good reason, not yet fully "discovered" by certain demographics, and a white woman assaults two unsuspecting African women at an upscale-ish, otherwise tranquil restaurant with a conversation and the topic is, 'Let's talk Michael Jackson'. Seriously? I kept quiet. My friend, barely containing her laughter, asked, 'Who's that?' There went my control over my laughter.

At this point a person sitting on the right also joined in the conversation.

'Wait a minute, you guys haven't heard?'
'Heard what?'
'He's dead, you know that right?'
'Who's dead?'
'What do you mean?'
'He died today.'
'What do you mean?'
'He died today, it's all over the news.'
'What do you mean 'he died'?'
'He died today. And farrah fawcett also died.'
At this point I was fully disengaged from reading the menu. They told us what they knew. Between the nutty woman and the news it took us about 40 minutes to pick something and place our orders. Throughout the dinner our conversation kept coming back to, 'I can't believe he's dead.' We couldn't wait to get back to the B&B where we could watch the news. We eventually left the restaurant over 3 hours after we'd arrived. The food was great, the experience, including the news, was torturous.

On our way back I asked my friend, 'So who's the other person who died?'
'Farrah Fawcett'.
'Who the hell is that?' She laughed at me. She's routinely my celebrity bearing,
'You know ... the girl in the red swimsuit. She'd been battling anal cancer.'

For once that was sufficient description. I remember reading about iconic photographs and the girl in a red swimsuit was one of them. Then recently I'd read about a woman who was doing a documentary on her battle with anal cancer. I just hadn't known those two referred to the same person.

"Ouch, nobody will remember she died", I commented. She corrected, "The people who really cared for her will, which is all that matters". True that. True that.

On TV commentaries that followed the death of Michael Jackson spewed a lot of shit, I thought. As we listened to CNN, I found myself getting very annoyed.

' ... we'll have more on Michael Jackson and his controversial life'. Please. The man is dead. He's not even been dead 24 hrs. Can't the fuckers just say, he passed. Period. We've a lifetime to make up and fan more allegations which he'll never defend. No need to get an 'early' start on something for which society is already so far ahead.

' ... we'll tell you more about the fate of his children, whose custody could turn out to be a controversy'. What? Could turn out to be a controversy? What the hell kind of reporting is that ... the media's version of a preemptive strike? It seems like a controversy to me to report on the possibility of a controversy ... which turned out not to be a controversy.

Then there were other little irritating tidbits, like comparing Elvis' and Prince's careers to MJ's. Seriously?

The other day I asked a friend about his thoughts on MJ. His response was a somewhat nonchalant, 'Well, it doesn't affect me, but he was alright' kinda take. Mind you, this brat grew up in Ethiopia too, listening to MJ stuff. I told him I'll now have to reconsider our friendship. But you see, this is what I mean... MJ has turned me into one of those freaky, fanatical fans. I'm taking this personally. Damn you, Michael.

The day after I found out about MJ's death, I went hiking with the Kenyan friend. She told me how while she was growing up in Nairobi, people used to translate Michael Jackson's songs into Swahili or Kikuyu. Smooth Criminal had become 'Muishi Munyoroku' which literally translates to 'slippery criminal' form Kikuyu. The didn't have a word, nor concept, for 'smooth' in that context. So up we went Mt Roberts, singing 'Muishi munyoroku, munyoroku, munyoroku ...aww ...! '(they sang that in place of 'Annie are you ok, so are you ok, are you ok ...') Hilarious!

To my knowledge no MJ song has been translated to Amharic or other Ethiopian languages, but you never know. "muliCHliCH leba"? "afetlaki leba?" "aschegari leba"?

My earliest memory of Michel Jackson was on an NTO bus, on a rare trip to Lake Langano with families from my mother's maheber. Somebody put a MJ tape in the player, and there it was, Beat It, beating though the speakers in communist friggin' Ethiopia. To parents' and us little kiddies' entertainment, some of the teenagers were on their feet attempting impersonations of MJ. I was maybe 4 years old. I doubt that was the first time I heard MJ's music, but that was the day I got the bug. We'd been hit by a smooth criminal ... and it was more than ok. (yeah, i'm getting carried away here, and no, I know my name is not Annie.)

Last night I was reading random stuff about Michael Jackson and came across a reference to his legendary half time Super Bowl performance in 1993, which I didn't know much about. The writer claimed that was the best performance in the history of Super Bowl. Of course, I believe anything about Michael Jackson, right? I figured I'd check it myself so I dug it up on youTube. As I have never watched a Super Bowl half time show I have nothing to compare it to. But on its own, it was a stunning performance. Surreal. Quintessential Michael Jackson.

At the end of Heal The World I couldn't help but feel guilty. Society had severely misjudged and mistreated this man. Eventhough there's a chance he was a pedophile, you say? No, I don't believe so. For Michael Jackson to be a pedophile, then the parents who settled for money to drop their charges had to have been pimping their kids out for child prostitution. You can't drop a case on sexual assault on your kids for any price, at any time. Perhaps the only thing I find more disturbing is to think parents as selling their kids for sex, and that somehow the law allowed that to happen. I don't even understand how that was permitted. So I I chose to believe that the parents lied, and MJ paid.

Back in the 80s when Micheal got 3rd degree burns while filming a Pepsi commercial, one of his many good wishers supposedly sent him a note that read, 'Michael, I heard you're pretty hot, but this is getting ridiculous'.

Now a similar statement can be made about how Michael's always been pretty cool, but he's gone a little over the top this time. More than a little. (a bit in bad taste? I've to find something in this to keep it light.)

Wherever he is, I hope he finally finds some peace and happiness. I never know whether to believe if there's heaven and hell, but I'll make this exception and hope that there's an afterlife for him. And may this afterlife be much, much better than the one life he had thus far.

He'll be missed.

p.s. Long post, I know. But Dude, it's about MJ!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Me, anti-social?

A party organizer is not something that anybody who knows me would think of when  thinking of me. Yet when I first got hired I got thrown into an after-work 'position' which most of my co-workers called 'the social chair'.  I threw parties and got people out for drinks once a week in the evenings. When I moved to NYC, it all stopped. Last week I'd to rise out of my ashes to organize a sendoff for one of the guys I worked with for the past year. 

Once we sat down I found myself immensley bored. It didn't help that they were all guys and after a couple of drinks I started hearing statement like, 'The best things in life are cigars and  good whiskey. And women.' It also didn't help that that particular statememt was uttered by at 24 year old munchkin who just got weaned off his feeding bottle. 

Recently I've been hanging out with/hosting a grad-school friend, an Aussie who moved back home and is now back for a short visit. He commented that New Yorkers are impossible to talk to for more than 5 minutes. He said he keeps meeting very interesting people but the conversation always ends just when it gets to be interesting. I was going to make fun of him and ask how he makes his interst be known at minute 5, but the truth be told, yeah ... conversations are breif in Manhattan. They're like business cards. Nobody wants the details. Common questions are where do you live? What do you do? Your name? And if you're really more curious you can ask leading questions to figure out the age of the person by asking how long they've been in NYC and where they came from. You conclude by, 'Do you like it here.' You'll get an enthusiastic affirmative, which you acknowledge by shaking your head vigorously and smiling, 'I know! It's an amazing city isn't it? So full energy ... ' Then abouts you look for in a distance at a person you know but most likely have alraedy talked before and raise your glass (or bottle, or just empty hands) as you turn to your new found company and say ... 'Well, it was good talking to you. I'm going to say hellow to a friend over there' and you take off. If you don't do it, the other person will do it.  As you walk off, you conveniently fall into another conversation with a new person crowd. Repeat cycle. Really. This is my thought on Manhattan conversations. So my Aussie friend legitimately asked, 'How do people date in this city? How do they get to know eachother.' Beats me! But it reminds me of an evesdropping I read at that went along the lines of:

European Man: New York girls are strange. They don't like it when a man holds a door open for them. 
European Woman : New York girls are either want to slap you or sleep with you, but nothing in between. 

As a female, of course there're many things i could take offense in with this exchange, but there is an element of truth on Manhattan interactions. 

As I approach my second year in this city, I really am nowhere near ready to leave this town  any time soon. But there are certain things that I just don't care to be a part of .. such as shmoozing New York style. I've no patience.