Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson: The Price of Fame and Youth

To have fame and youth at once is too much for a mortal”—Schopenhauer, German philosopher

So, too, it was for Michael Jackson. Was he the King of Pop? No, that title rightfully belonged to Frank Sinatra. Michael Jackson for the last twenty-seven years of his life and career was the King of Plop or should I say the King of Hype? As his creativity gradually declined in the wake of his magnum opus Thriller his hype and notoriety grew exponentially, like a cancer upon the world’s hedonistic consciousness. At the end the only thing sustaining his name was his hype. He squandered and exhausted his creativity decades ago.

When John Lennon died I was devastated and I wept for his passing. When Kurt Cobain died I sympathized and understood. When Frank Sinatra died, I paid homage and showed respect. When Ray Charles and James Brown died (two authentic musical geniuses) I truly mourned.

To be cruelly blunt, I felt nothing when I received the news about Michael Jackson’s death; and with it the allegations of prescription drug abuse, not even surprised. John Lennon, shortly before his assassination, commenting on the death of Elvis, said that “the courtiers always kill the king.” So too it was for Michael Jackson as it was for Elvis; the same enabling support systems; the same refusal by his family and friends to properly confront his destructive addictions and habits head on because they were beholden financially to him. Just Elvis needed his Memphis Mafia, his gun collection, his karate lessons, his girlfriends in white lingerie, and his trusted physician Dr. Nick to administer his “medications” (and even when Dr. Nick wasn’t available, Elvis had plenty of other physicians who could be counted on to administer the prescription drugs he desperately craved and was addicted to) so, too, it was for Michael Jackson. He, too, needed the enablers, the omnipresent Doctor Feelgoods, his personal amusement park, his bizarre toys, and, lastly, his young child playmates for the sleepovers at his mansion.

When I started blogging in May 2005, one of my first blog entries was about the civil suit against Michael Jackson for allegedly molesting various young children during the course of his career. I remember a phrase I used when commenting on the trial. It went like this: rule of the fast lane: there are no victims only volunteers. The phrase remains apt. Even though he was never formally convicted of child molestation charges it remains disturbing (and compelling) that he deliberately placed himself in a position where such accusations could be made. Even allowing him the presumption of legal innocence his personal judgment must be seen as appalling if not criminal. And why did he settle out of court with the children’s families in question? Why, afterwards, did he consider seeking citizenship in Bahrain (in the Middle East) where there is no extradition treaty with the U.S. for sex crimes?

When contemplating the flotsam and jetsam of his life, I am reminded of something former Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell said in a documentary about Jimi Hendrix. Mitchell was asked about how the various leaches and hangers-on in Hendrixes life contributed to his death. Mitchell acknowledged their role but made some interesting remarks which need to be considered. I don’t what Mitchell said precisely but the gist is as follows: Mitchell said that, yes, Hendrix did have a lot of leaches and spongers living off of him but that Hendrix knew what he was taking on otherwise Jimi would not have gotten involved in it. Mitchell added that Hendrix took on what he wanted to take on. In other words, Hendrix lived the way he did with his eyes wide open.

So, too, it was for Michael Jackson. He took on what he wanted to take on and in the end it took him. In the end what’s left is the debris of his personal life and, sadly, his three children who, already, are being used as pawns. (I have a nasty prediction to make: don’t be surprised if their grandfather, Michael Jackson’s father, tries to forcibly forge the three kids into a musical act in the forlorn hope of regaining the Jackson’s family musical glory. Considering that Jackson’s father is a psycho-hose beast stage father, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit).

In the end, with regards to Michael Jackson, all I have to say is good, bloody, riddance.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Iran: An Aroused Electorate

A strange fire is being kindled in Iran; a fire that has the enormous potential of erupting out of its chamber and consuming all who stand before it. The growing protests in Iran led by supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi over the results of the Presidential election are reaching critical mass. Despite Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s affirmation of the election results and his threats of a brutal crackdown the simmering fury of an aroused electorate continue to grow. Khamenei’s reaction was not surprising. After all the repudiation of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s electoral “victory” is also a repudiation of Khamenei (and his ilk) as well.

The protest movement in Iran raises more questions than it answers. Does Mousavi know that to overthrow Ahmadinejad he must also overthrow Khamenei, the mullahs, the Revolutionary Guard, and the militias that do the filthy work of the present regime? If Mousavi succeeds in overthrowing the present regime and its associates what will he create in its place? A more socially liberal regime or will this is be a repeat of 1979 when the Shah of Iran (a brutal dictator who ruled in the Western-style) was overthrown by another brutal dictator who ruled in accordance with the tenets of Islamic fundamentalism? Is Mousavi truly motivated to achieve true reform in Iranian society or this is another mad quest for power by a self-seeking adventurer (which one could say the late Ayatollah Khomeini was when he ruled Iran). Another question is this: is it truly possible to reconcile democratic socio-political values with the Shiite Islamic faith? Indeed this leads to further questions: if Mousavi’s revolt (and that is the proper word for what is going on right now in Iran) succeeds what will happen to Khamenei and his fundamentalist mullahs who have held great power in Iranian society since 1979? Does Mousavi send them all into exile (which allows the surviving mullahs to foment potential counter-revolution like Khomeini did when the Shah exiled him?) Or does Mousavi have them all killed which would lead to the mullahs being declared martyrs by their adherents and which would then spark even great counter-revolution? Given a cursory look at their records there is no way that Khamenei and the mullahs would ever peacefully accept being reduced to socio-political impotence. Even if Mousavi’s revolt succeeds there is a distinct possibility that Iran can and will disintegrate into a costly and prolonged civil war; perhaps even fragmenting the country geographically as well as politically. If such a civil war does take place how will that impact the Middle East and the world? If a civil war erupts and it disrupts Iran’s considerable presence in the oil-producing market than one much expect an even greater spike in gasoline prices than what we’ve seen during the past year.

And what can America to do while all this goes on? As it stands right now we can do nothing. This is an Iranian matter and must remain so. For all our loathing of the present Iranian regime, we must remain silent. It’s no accident that Ayatollah Khamenei tries to portray Mousavi as an American stooge (please remember one of the prime motivating factors in the overthrow of the Shah of Iran was that the Shah was very much a client king of the U.S. during his reign from 1941 to 1979). Indeed there is no guarantee that Mousavi will be more friendlier to the U.S. than Ahmadinejad is right now.

No, all we can do is sit and watch this revolutionary tennis match which will have seismic socio-political ramifications for the world at large.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Song: Hammer or Anvil...and the story behind the song

"In life, one must either be hammer or anvil"
--Goethe, German writer and philosopher

I wrote this song in the late winter of last year. It was written and influenced completely by the Elliot Spitzer scandal when (then) Democratic Governor of New York Elliot Spitzer was forced to resign as Governor when it turned out he had been a frequent client of a Washington, DC escort service. The irony of Spitzer's downfall had been that he had been a very vocal advocate of "family" values and condemning pornography and other assorted immoral aspects of American society.

Thus the exposure of Spitzer's hypocrisy made for delicious debate among American political pundits as well as ending a once promising political career.

The title of the song is drawn from the above-mentioned quote from Goethe. It is also drawn from one of my favorite episodes from the 1967 British mini-series The Prisoner which starred Patrick McGoohan (who also used the above-mentioned quotation) when facing his nemesis, Number Two.

The lyric is relatively self-explanatory about the Spitzer scandal.

The "no rights we can abuse" line is me making a social comment about the Bush Administration.

The "wife displayed" line is me commenting on Spitzer's execrable decision (like all other politicians who get caught in scandals) of having his wife stand by his side (and thus forcing her to share in his humiliation) while he tries to explain the unexplainable; justify the unjustifiable; and ask for pity when he was being pitiless to the woman he loved.

When it comes to the melody, imagine acoustic guitars scraping, elementary percussion instruments being shaken, while a hammer clangs against an anvil in the background.


"Hammer or Anvil"

What you’ll be is precisely what you’re not
What you’ll get is what you haven’t got
The lie you live is not the lie you are
The path you lead is not the path you carved

Dishonesty’s disarray
Communities we betray
The answers left unsaid
The debtors left unpaid

Excess is no excuse
No rights we can abuse
The hammer becomes the anvil now
The anvil chorus destroys the sacred cow

What you missed is what you haven’t shot
What you pissed is what’s outside the pot
The life you take is not the life you sought
The wife displayed is not the wife you bought

Hypocrisy’s panoply
Idolatry’s feet of clay
The heroes left unsaved
The villains left depraved

Excess is no excuse
No rights we can abuse
The hammer becomes the anvil now
The anvil chorus destroys the sacred cow

© 03/14/2008 by Matthew DiBiase