The waiting is the worst. The knowledge that something truly awful is coming, and there’s nothing you can do but stand by and watch. You see, my blue pen is running out of ink, and there’s nothing I can do about it. To truly grasp how important this is, I’m going to ask you to consider the following points:
1. I’ve had this pen for a long time. Its preternaturally superfine tip and cosmically peaceful light blue shade have carried me through more classes and pages of notes than most people have had hot meals. If the Rapture were to happen tomorrow itself, St. Michael would almost certainly come down to Earth a day early and ask me if he could use the last of this pen’s ink to tattoo “Psalm Life” across his six pack, prison-style.
2. This is an article by the only Global Comment author who writes as though he just finished losing a boxing match to a kangaroo.
My overall point in relating all of this is not very kind, and I won’t pretend it is. But, ultimately, I like sharing, and you like spending company time on stuff like this, so let’s just forge ahead, shall we?
You see, I was more upset about this pen running out of ink than I was during the Michael Jackson funeral.
I should probably clarify that I’m not happy about the fact that he died. I’m not even neutral; the whole affair is sad, but in a way that’s different from the one the media has been using to wring ratings out of their flipper-clapping public. Michael Jackson was popularly known as the King of Pop, and to much lesser extents, as the Ambassador of Funk, the Surgeon General of Fashion Twirls, and the CEO of Pelvic Communications, LTD. He was hailed as an innovator, an artist, and a prodigy. But when I look at his life, all is see is a sequined version of the bearded lady. Michael Jackson was possibly the least prepared person to become the music legend we all turned him into.
Consider his early life: when most kids were busy bungling long division, he was spending his days getting whipped by his father and his nights performing at lounges and strip clubs. Honestly, I’m surprised Jackson had the time or inclination to learn how to read. When I first read about his early childhood, I found myself thinking that in a fair world, he would have been abandoned and subsequently raised by a tribe of friendly animals. I’ve seen Disney’s “Tarzan,” and would much rather entrust a baby to a nomadic group of pantless primates and a Phil Collins soundtrack than to Joe Jackson. And that’s even after you belt him to a stretcher and put a Hannibal mask on his face.
Let’s talk about Joe Jackson. I’m being as delicate as I know how when I say that he’s a money-grubbing jackal in human shape, and I think it would serve some sort of grand universal purpose if we hog-tied him to an old Russian nuke and fired him at the sun. He decided that rather than allow his kids to have any semblance of normal life, it would be a far better parenting tactic to force his dream on them with a belt, or his bare fists if it came down to it.
It was reported that Joe Jackson once held Michael up in the air by one leg and pummeled him with the other. I’m almost positive that’s one of those power attacks from Street Fighter II, where you mash ‘A’ as fast as you can. It might be going a little far to compare Joe Jackson to Michael Vick, but there are certain parallels between their training methods.
Obviously, everyone’s parents have a different approach to child-raising, which may or may not be a great fit for that particular kid. But you have to moonwalk to the far end of the bell-curve to find Joe Jackson’s strategy of “crack knuckles and make threats during all 13 hours of family dance practice.” And remember, all of this is before Michael even went on to have a mind-blowingly successful solo career.
You have to give it to him: Michael Jackson wasn’t nearly as screwed up as he should have been.
America loved Jackson for at least 2.6 out of his 4-decade career. He gave us “Thriller,” a harrowing tale about the roving undead and their ghastly lust for human flesh and intriguing choreography. The Robot, frankly, changed the face of entertainment forever (1). And most importantly (I’m going to allow myself a bit of an aside here) he broke what I consider to be the sound barrier of American rock: the higher registers.
Rock artists for years before had tried to ride the higher notes, and every one of them had crashed and burned. It was always the same: first a couple hard, heavy hits, delivered in ripped-up jeans and soaked in Jaegermeister, just like we liked it. Then, maybe a few power ballads, which we… well, we liked it less, but we tried to respect it as much as you can respect somebody with a skull tattooed on their scrotum crooning about how “every rose has it’s thorn.” And finally, they’d try to come out with some sort of timeless classic, as if they were unveiling their secret, “real” genius.” I call this Billy Joel Syndrome (2).
But Michael solved all that. Who knew that pelvis thrusting, of all things, would be the answer? I think it works because it’s just hard to make fun of a guy who’s so insanely confident that he’ll start miming intercourse right in front of you. “Sh*t,” you say to yourself. “This guy is having sex with a poltergeist and staying on beat. I’d better just smile and enjoy.”
Michael Jackson was tragic, in the sense that he was monumentally accomplished, but also batsh*t crazy. He was the guy who imposed some sort of symbolic monarchy over pop music, and took himself completely seriously. He air humped his way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (3). He gave serious thought to his wardrobe, and ended up dressing like some sort of special lieutenant, about to lead a platoon of ballerinas during the Tet offensive. He completely expunged every molecule of pigment and nose from his entire body; it was like watching that guy melt at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but in decades-long slow motion.
We looked away as a country for what seemed like a second, and the next thing we knew, he was buying up ranches and turning them into every parent’s nightmare version of a petting zoo. He luckily owned the rights to all those Beatles’ songs, because he was getting sued from every which way. It finally got to the point where he was dangling babies off of balconies, and we were relieved that it wasn’t anything worse.
I don’t think that was his fault, though – or, at least, not 90% of it. He was a person who fortunately or unfortunately was born into a very peculiar life that started out incredibly badly. And I don’t feel that many people, if any, were willing to help him. Whatever else he was, he was an incredible franchise, and I doubt anybody in a real position to help would have been willing to screw that up just for his so-called mental health.
By the end of his life, he was a pariah; five minutes after the end of his life, he was once again one of the most popular men on earth. His funeral was vast, undignified, tawdry, and maximized for ratings; it had all the class and legacy of a celebrity sex tape. Ultimately, to me, it felt like an event simply for the sake of an event. It was mentioned multiple times during the event that he “would have wanted” this or that or whatever. I really doubt the guy knew what he wanted, or even why. But very, very few people in the world would tell you that they specifically want a convoy of Escalades involved. You might as well hire Timbaland to mix up a rendition of “Pomp and Circumstance” while they lower you into the ground (5).
The entire funeral was a way to mourn the myth, the guy with the spins and the quick steps. But as for the guy that actually died? Well, he spent the vast majority of his life stumbling to or in between personal screw-ups and massive lawsuits, which he may never ended up in if he hadn’t had the misfortune to be an amazing entertainer. I don’t think he was necessarily unhappy, because it was the only life he ever knew; unfortunately, we can apply the exact same statement to the bacteria living in our colons.
I liked some of his albums, but I thought most of his later stuff sucked – which doesn’t necessarily reflect badly on him, since almost all artists create bunk later on, when they slowly move away from the things that made us like them in the first place. He probably had a hard time living up to his own mythos – anybody would have. That sort of pressure probably exacerbated whatever other problems he did have.
If there is a heaven for rockers, I hope he’s up there making a new, better album with Freddie Mercury, and that he was too busy to see what kitschy mess his idiot friends and money-grubbing family made out of his funeral. It was never about him anyway.
1. There’s at least one person in the world who was conceived because a) their mom got impressed at how well their dad could do The Robot, and b) colorful, alcoholic drinks. Think about it.
2. Billy Joel must be miserable, because he’ll always be remembered for “Piano Man.” That’s like being one of the greatest UFC fighters of all time, but only being remembered as “that guy who wore panties on his head.”
3. This isn’t actually that rare, now that I think about it.
4. Even as I write this, I’m betting some exec is forehead slapping themselves for not thinking of this.