Thursday, June 09, 2005

After Antibalas: Thoughts on Michael Jackson

It took me awhile to get into what Antibalas were doing last night at the Commodore. Their opening song had what seemed a kind of simple, repetitive riff to it and not a lot of soloing -- it seemed like a "warming up" sort of number. Perhaps it was my cold, perhaps its that my mind was on other things, but I didn't get excited about what they were doing. For the second song, I closed my eyes, and that helped a lot. When I wasn't dancing, I meditated on how the singer used tribal energies and identifications to lead the audience, and on how it was rather gutsy to begin "Who is Dis America (Dem Speak of Today)" with a routine about "chopping down an overgrown Bush" -- particularly if they're saying that in the United States when they perform. It seems, given the tension and hysteria one associates with the divide opening up down there, that it could actually be a little dangerous to make such statements in public.

I enjoyed what I saw of the show, but I have a cold, and wanted to get enough sleep so that I could consider going to work this morning, which I'm not doing. After four songs, I let myself go home, saying goodbye to Mel, who I'd taken to the concert for her birthday.

On the way home, a homeless guy asserted himself at me with a joke -- part of his shtick to get attention and thereby money. "Why was Michael Jackson in Wal-Mart?"

I told him I really wasn't in the mood -- I was deep in other thoughts -- and he moved on to someone else without skipping a beat. "Why was Michael Jackson in Wal-Mart?"

I continued home, thinking whatever it was I was thinking, when suddenly the answer to the joke came to me.

Q: Why was Michael Jackson in Wal-Mart?

A: Because he heard they use child labour.


You know, you wonder about Michael Jackson. There seems to be this process of publicly ostracizing him from the human tribe going on among all but his most devoted fans. He is widely regarded as a freak, and treated very cruelly, as the above joke attests (in him, even the homeless have someone they can abuse!); yet he seems to have participated so actively in this process, behaving so bizarrely, so publicly, that it is rather hard to sympathize. It starts to seem creepily significant that he tried to buy the remains of John Merrick, the so-called Elephant Man; as if Jackson could express his own feelings of freakishness, explore them, through owning such a thing -- as if he were saying he was, somehow, like Merrick. Why else would he want them?


Anonymous said...

the joke actually goes:

why did Michael Jackson go to Walmart?

Because he heard little boys pants were half off.


Allan MacInnis said...

Nuts! Ah, well. I like mine better, anyhow.

Thanks for the correction, tho'.