Tuesday, 25 June 2013

4 Years On: Remembering Michael Jackson…

On June 25, 2009, just a few minutes to midnight, East African time, I switched on to CNN and found a breaking news story: Michael Jackson Suffers Cardiac Arrest. All the other major international news networks were carrying the same story and there seemed to be a lot of buzz around it.

There were many talking heads on some of these channels speculating on the unfolding events in Los Angeles, but one medical doctor caught my attention. He was explaining the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest because apparently many of us didn’t go to med school on account of not paying much attention in heart class in high school.

A heart attack occurs when a part of the heart muscle dies because of a blocked coronary artery, but the heart continues to beat. Which is why many people might suffer one and not even know it, particularly if the accompanying chest pains are mild. On the other hand, a cardiac arrest happens when the heart completely stops beating.

Now, what the doctor was saying was that people don’t usually come back after a cardiac arrest, and he actually went as far as to say that if Michael Jackson wasn’t dead already, it was just a matter of time before they pronounced him.

Well, TMZ.com did just that, seeing as they were the team of doctors attending Jac-

Oh, wait. Actually, they are just an entertainment website that likes to be the first to break a story thank you very much we’ll confirm the facts later!

So, for about half an hour or so, they were the only website on the globe that had “Michael Jackson Dies” as its lead story while everyone else was twiddling their thumbs waiting for word from UCLA Medical. Sadly, it turned out they were right.

I can’t remember the exact moment I first heard Michael’s music, but it was in the early eighties. The album Thriller had come out and it was proving to be kind of a big deal the world over. And by that I mean in my universe. In my young mind, that album was the most artistic, versatile, eclectic, beautiful piece of music I had ever heard! I didn’t even know the meaning of some of those words I just used (hint: now I do, thanks to Google).

Young Michael Jackson

No, actually that’s my nephew Larry Lari, a budding gospel musician. He’s got a single called Ombi. Check out the video on YouTube!

Young Michael Jackson

Granted I didn’t have anything to compare it to, having gleaned all my musical knowledge on the only TV and radio station in the country, VoK, but just the fact that it turned out to be a big deal not just in my mind, but in every country on earth (well, apart from Lebanon because they were busy fighting a civil war and were kind of douchebags about taking time off to appreciate some record breaking music) proved that he was destined to be the biggest musician of our time.

I remember as the years rolled by, I would recruit some boys that I grew up with, brothers Jaymo and Michael (yeah, you know who you are!) into my one man Michael Jackson fan club. And boy, did we break out some cool moves!

I followed his every career move with the dedication of a super fan and even managed to get some of his older music from his days with Jackson 5 and later The Jacksons. Some of his solo projects from the seventies were beautiful pieces of work too. Have you ever listened to Ben?

He released that song in 1972. He was singing about a… pet rat, which I’m going to go ahead and assume was, I don’t know, kind of a stupid thing to do. But for me, it remains one of the best songs he ev- A RAT? MICHAEL, REALLY???

In 1979, he released his first solo album, Off The Wall, and if the world hadn’t been paying attention before, it did now. This 21 year old was gonna go places! If only there was a way his music could find acceptance across the racial divide. You see, in those dark ages, and by that I mean any time before the eighties, black folks and white folks in America listened to music only from their own kind!

Michael Jackson was the first crossover artist to appeal to all races, particularly when he performed Billie Jean in front of a live audience and millions of TV viewers, and introduced the moonwalk to the world at the Motown 25 event in 1984. That performance was a thing of beauty at the time. And everyone just loved him.

In subsequent years, he did go on to make beautiful music, including the albums Bad (which did really well), Dangerous, HIStory, Invincible and other singles. But he was never able to replicate the success he enjoyed throughout the eighties.

I guess part of the reason that a lot of his fans started looking the other way was when his complexion started changing and they took offense that he was trying to change from black to white (pun intended). Of course, we did come to know that he suffered from a skin condition called vitiligo. This results in the de-

What; do you not know how to spell Wikipedia?

So anyway, it saddened me that the things that were happening in his private life, the cosmetic surgeries, his odd behavior including sleepovers with young boys - how could he not know that there was no way that was going to have a happy ending? -  the alienation from family and friends, etc were distracting his fans from the genius of his music.

That in the end, it would be a sad epilogue to his life that the King of Pop would be forced to try and make a 50-show comeback in London just to keep his head above water from all the debts he had managed to incur in the course of time. 50 shows that there was no way a 50 year old man with a record of poor health was ever going to pull off!

Be that as it may, if there was one thing I will always admire Michael Jackson for, was his dedication to perfection in his work. If you watched This Is It, you know that he wanted to put on the greatest show of his life. 

During the rehearsals, every lyric, note, dance move, the lights and sound effects, everything had to be just right and if it wasn’t, it had to be done all over again until it came out the way he wanted it to.
How many of us do that at our jobs, our businesses? Food for thought.

1958 - 2009

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

5 Reasons Why We Should Legalize Prostitution In Kenya (But Probably Won’t)

A couple of interesting things happened in the country in the last few weeks concerning, umm, matters of the flesh. First it was the girls in Nyali, Mombasa who were arrested for engaging in pornography in which a dog was involved. Well, that video was no longer available as evidence on account of someone having confiscated it for their own private collection or… well, only that. Because the girls were totally charged with something else! 

Then a few days ago, a bunch of strippers and their employer were arrested in Mtwapa (again in the Coast) for engaging in public sexual (mis)conduct. At this point I feel I must ask, did you see those girls on the news? Looking all… well, not good at all? If that’s their “work” look, then the customers at the strip club are totally within their rights to demand a refund from the mzungu owner when he’s out on bail. Then again, I guess anyone getting busted by cops for anything might not be looking their best, so no judging!

"Totally judging!!!"

The first incident may not have a direct link to prostitution (honestly, I only mentioned it because of the dog. Really.), but the second one does. Any male above the age of 18 understands how strip clubs work, and if you don’t, well WERE YOU BROUGHT UP IN A CAVE OR SOMETHING??? SHAME ON YOU!

Anyway, talking about prostitution, why is it that we get our knickers all tied up in knots that cannot be untied by any sailor whenever the subject comes up? My feeling is that we are a nation of hypocrites and we need to get off our moral high ground.

Prostitution has been around for as long as mankind has existed (give or take a couple of years) and there’s a reason for that. It works. Men want to pay for sex; (some) women want to be paid for sex. Everyone goes home happy.

Shit only gets real when we make it sound so bad that people have to hide and get into all kinds of trouble. And then we blame the act itself rather than the system that criminalizes decisions made by adults about their bodies.

So, I think perhaps it’s time we engaged in a healthy debate about the whole idea of sex for cash and really think about whether we shouldn’t just go ahead and make it legal. The following are 5 reasons why:

1.     Increased Tax Revenue
We keep talking about how we need to expand our tax base to, you know, meet the cost of running government, providing services to the population, paying obscene salaries to our MPigs… actually, this last one ought to be a serious incentive for bringing sex workers into the tax bracket.

It’s simply unforgivable that given the amount of money that changes hands every day and night for a few minutes of stolen… no, bought pleasure, the government has never gotten in on the action and demanded its pound of flesh. Mr Njiraini of KRA must be cursing from all the lost opportunities. Yeah, you might want to mention this to the President at your next meeting.

"Ati? Yaani it took a blog to point out the obvious because why?"

2.     Employment / Business Opportunities
The Kenyatta administration is all about creating employment. With all the demand for sex going around, why not tap into this market and make it possible for investors to set up legit brothels (ok, I really don’t like this word) in which women can work in a safe and controlled environment?

For those that don’t really want to work for others, this could be a real business opportunity. They could set up websites through which their clients can connect with them, rather than risk life and limb running along K Street from cops, kanju, horny parking boys and watchmen!

3.     Mandatory Health Checks
In an era in which catching STIs, or even HIV is as easy as catching a cold, a legal, well regulated prostitution environment would demand regular checks for diseases among sex workers.

This would not only make for a healthier workforce, but would also protect the consumers of sex for cash against having to explain to their regular sexual partners why it hurts like a bitch to pee in the morning! (No, they wouldn’t understand)

4.     Protect (Women) Prostitutes Against Violence
Now, because of the nature of their work and the fact that it is illegal, many prostitutes face the very real danger of physical violence every time they go to work. C’mon, who hasn’t felt at one time or another the urge to punch one in the face? What… no one? Really? YOU PSYCHOPATHS!!!
The truth is that men find it very easy to be violent against prostitutes because… well, because they can! Who are you going to report to? The police? And complain that the reason you’re missing three teeth is because you were getting humped for two hundred bob?

If prostitution became legal, sex workers would work within the system and they would be able to get the necessary protection against arbitrary violence that could lead to serious injury or in some extreme cases, even death.

5.     C’mon, It’s the Oldest Profession In The History Of Ever
Can anyone honestly, and more importantly, with a straight face say that prostitution as we know it shall ever cease to exist? Again, I go back to what I said earlier. This shit works! That’s why it’s been around since man discovered that he didn’t have to spend a fortune on dinners and gifts just to get some! Also known as The Days Of The Bible. He could just pay for it.

So, rather than spend inordinate amounts of time and resources trying to fight a war that we shall never win, why not just mainstream the hell out of this industry and move on?

Ok, all you prudes and hypocrites (you know who you are!) can throw those brickbats at me now. 

I’ll wait.

"Bring it on!!!"