OPEN LETTER TO MY WIFE III

Aquarian Weekly
6/11/14

REALITY CHECK

James Campion              


OPEN LETTER TO MY WIFE III
In Which We Discover Your True Grit After 15 Years Married To The Author        


Me, I always have you there.
Yours for the whole life.

– Arthur Rimbaud

Once again, as has been my feckless duty for the previous two public floggings – first on the occasion of our nuptials in June of 1999, when I sent to press a confession of my many and varied ills, and then a decade later on the tenth anniversary of our legal bonding – I take this precious ranting space to applaud your courage in still calling me your husband.

IMG_5645This time around we find ourselves in Dublin, Ireland on the twelfth day of this pagan tribute to the goddess of marriage, Juno. I tend to have these things hit the streets when we’re abroad and you are not able to read them, but then again the Internet has since screwed my insidious plan to express with glee this one-sided affair of our journey (advantage jc) with as little repercussion as possible.

Do not think I take this lightly. I know I married way above my class. Nor do I take lightly the unflinching dedication to this madness of a life we have slashed together as if a living, breathing Jackson Pollack. In fact, “abstract expressionism” would be a good description of this thing we’ve created by coming together, nay, staying together so long.

I tell friends almost daily, as I did a couple of days ago, how you have ruined me for other women. Say you come to your senses and boot me out, then how am I supposed to relate to ordinary mortals? Who would see this tornado of jack-assery coming the way you do, or fire against my brimstone the way you do, or crack wise, embrace rage, sink passion, brave doldrums, and rip through the artistic cosmos? Who, I ask you?

Fuck that. It’s prostitutes and bad poetry from then on.

You have taught me a valuable lesson lo these past seventeen years; fifteen in unholy matrimony: Love is not a universal concept. I probably should have seen that one coming, with all the evidence to the contrary. The idea that you can truly love someone else after being in love only works when you don’t have the scars of you, the brand of you, the scent, the fist, the silence, the exhale, the laughter, the abject mind-altering fuck-all of you. Sure, you can toss around affection and even understand random sex, but love? This comes from having your grip on my throat (I meant heart, not throat, no…wait, throat).

Here’s how you pulled that off: By allowing me to think you do not have this ironclad stranglehold on me; that somehow all these decisions that revolve around thinking of you every single day of my life since we plunged headlong into this without reason or logic have been mine and mine only. How some metaphysical hammerlock on my psyche doesn’t exist; it’s merely a “want” on my part or even (gulp!) a need. Yes, I need to have you consider me an important part of your existence, because, shit; not for one minute could you not be doing all this incredibly cool stuff – art, home-building, yoga, tequila abuse and zig-zag wandering across cityscapes – without me. Or taking care of every animal within a sixty-mile radius of this place we’ve built together in the mountains, which you stripped bare and rebuilt in your lioness image.

I guess the one thing you definitely could not have achieved is this now six year-old talking, singing, arguing, playing, challenging contraption called Scarlet. This offspring, this progeny, is partly my fault.

I guess the one thing you definitely could not have achieved is this now six year-old talking, singing, arguing, playing, challenging contraption called Scarlet. This offspring, this progeny, is partly my fault. This warped Vegan, Ramones-loving, snake-handling, cosmopolitan water-rat rhythm-machine with the innate ability to speak simultaneously with you whilst spouting divergent ideas has taken your staunch propaganda of empathy and protest and complicated my super-ego to a surprising level of boundless joy. What’s entirely my fault, however, is her shouting requests for “Dead Babies” at kiddie sing-alongs and reveling in what she calls the “bad things” like horror flicks, reptiles, punk music and whatever that creepy melody she hums late at night in bed that sounds like she’s conjuring demons.

What our daughter has received from you is the concussive beauty and steely strength and infinite compassion and the uncanny ability to draw six lines with a crayon and make me think of the Iliad or Twain or Beethoven’s Ninth or those unimaginably gorgeous Mexican sunsets. Most importantly, and dangerously for me, she also possesses your capacity to take hold of my jugular and squeeze; her grip is fierce, dare I say fiercer still than whatever it is you unleashed on me years ago and made me want to keep around. The uninitiated may call it masochistic, even fatalistic, but I call it loving you and now loving her and wondering how actually being loved by both of you is deserved.

But I am comfortable in my hoary role as the mutant in this dynamic; the bleating curmudgeon whose only purpose is to remind you of what being a mere human is like, and not avenging angels with the cute cat voices and the paint splattering all over and me over here never once struggling against your goddamn supernatural grip.

So now we’re in Dublin in search of the another bizarre heritage we share, beyond apathetic radicalism and constipated sensibilities and a dark faith that we never doubted each other for these fifteen years and how much I have cherished that rare, rare trust. It is what keeps me in your sway with infinite gratitude.

Your grip is strong, woman.

Don’t let go.

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BUNDY RANCH SOLUTION: FREE-FOR-ALL IN NEVADA

Aquarian Weekly
4/30/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion              


BUNDY RANCH SOLUTION: FREE-FOR-ALL IN NEVADA

The key to organizing an alternative society is to organize people around what they can do, and more importantly, what they want to do.

– Abbie Hoffman
Yeeee-haaa!

I love this blithering asshole, Cliven Bundy. He is a dumb hick bigot dipshit and he is my hero. Soon I will take his advice and begin a life (or at least write about) a life of blessed anarchy where it belongs…The Bundy Ranch.Bundy

Right now this scofflaw has been sitting on miles of my land; American taxpayer…I. That’s right. Squatter. Freeloader. Welfare King. And I figure, just like my daily visits to the Bank of America when I was a reluctant but proud shareholder of that corrupt institution, which included me shouting about turning up the air-conditioning and demanding to hear Daniel Johnston tunes in the lobby, I will have plenty to impart in the area of wisdom and well wishes.

It’s obvious this nation’s defense has been compromised since 9/11, what with all the torture chambers and six-hour waits at the airport. Otherwise there would be no good explanation why this good-for-nothing shit-stain rancher would not pay me and my taxpaying brethren the over one million bucks he owes in back taxes for 20 years of fraud and not be taken down like road kill.

Where is George Washington when you need him? Hell, you might ask those poor bastards the federal army plowed under over some barrels of whiskey in the wee months of this republic, forcing the ratification of the U.S. Constitution and the federal government to ostensibly represent our interests with appropriations culled for being a citizen.

But George is gone, and ever since Nixon decided it might be a good idea to murder children at Kent State, people tend to frown on armed denizens of the nation “cleaning house”, so to speak. Take out the trash, like we say here in New Jersey. Here in Jersey we like our civic representation to use us as fodder, especially at rush hour and then deny it ever happened – then when busted apologize and whitewash the thing with “internal investigations” – in other words good, old time politics; something between a hockey fight and the human centipede concept.

But never mind us; this Bundy Stand-Off nonsense is about ripping stuff off and calling it rebellion. And I am all for that. I was a fan of the Rodney King riots, but this is way better. Despite Mr. Bundy’s inability to parse four words in the King’s English without his brain going sideways and the odd white supremacist rant, he possesses something of a genius strand. It is vague, but it is there. Of course suckering FOXNEWS in getting behind anti-American causes and calling it American causes these days is like running over the Branch Davidians at Waco.

I was a fan of the Rodney King riots, but this is way better. Despite Mr. Bundy’s inability to parse four words in the King’s English without his brain going sideways and the odd white supremacist rant, he possesses something of a genius strand.

Shit, Janet Reno knew what she was doing; tanks rolling over a burning arsenal is as American as a deadbeat rancher, and I salute any idiot who refuses to recognize the American government and its representation, namely me, and still rides around on a horse waving the goddamn flag. Like those moron TEA Party jack-offs and their “Keep The Government Out Of My Medicaid” signs.

We’re getting off track here. Way off. We need to plan this out. How can we take advantage of this Bundy character’s new philosophy: Whatever you can get away with you can own, or Finder Keeper’s, which works great among prepubescents or people with an IQ just north of flat-line.

Sign me up.

I say fuck the government or the FBI or whatever gets these goobers all militia-ed up and put together a small army of our own; North Eastern Rebel Force 12 (why twelve? I love Joe Namath and I was married on the twelfth and it’s none of your goddamn business, tyrant!). Then march down to this old fart and plow under his land, (His land? There is no “ownership” in Bundy World) turn it into a rock festival; jam godless music at deafening volumes and take long, painful shits all over his property, festoon the joint with used condoms, beer cans and syringes, and find out where Bundy sleeps and have ten-deep orgies before organizing a group puke all over his bedroom. In fact, turn his house into the center of a giant tribute bonfire.

That is the way Cliven Bundy rolls.

And thus….we roll.

Like Frank and his brother Jesse James, who knew what is was like to flout convention, take on a new philosophy of lawlessness, which blazed a trail of land-rape and gun justice that would make these high school dropouts and their cousin-wives down in Nevada look like the Webelos.

Now, my friends, that is true anarchy.

Then when it’s over, we’ll erect a statue to Grampy Cliven, godfather of Do What You Like And Damn The Torpedoes; a renewed sense of American tradition, where you just steal what you wish and call it a cause.

Yeeeeeee-haaaaaa!

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ERIC HUTCHINSON’S PURE FICTION

Aquarian Weekly
4/16/14
Cover Piece

 

ERIC HUTCHINSON’S PURE FICTION
Pop Singer/Songwriter Gets Back to Basics; Rhythm + Melody = Hit

It was one of those brutal New York City winter nights this past January when april-16-2014-eric-hutchinson_small
I met up with Eric Hutchinson at the Monkey Bar in midtown. He was sitting alone in a booth towards the front across from the bar dressed in a high-collar, blue zippered sweater and jeans, his hair a little longer, his face a little thinner. He looked relaxed, confident; as if he had shed the excess from his life and work. Ella Fitzgerald played softly on the jukebox. An elderly couple chatted at the far corner. Hutchinson ordered a Scotch, neat. I had my obligatory Hendricks and tonic, two limes, lots of ice. I had come to find out what was behind the songs I had lived with for two weeks on a first mix of his new album, which he would title, Pure Fiction.

“It’s called Pure Fiction, because when I finished writing the songs that would end up on this album and started looking them over, I noticed that none of them were about me,” Hutchinson began. “When I took myself out of the way, I wrote about something else. But then I thought anything that comes from me on some level is about me. I still wrote it, I still made it; it came from somewhere, and I think on this album I tried not to get in the way of that as much. If I wrote a lyric, maybe at some time earlier I would have thought this is too cheesy or this is too simple, but this time I said, ‘I wrote it for a reason and I don’t want to get in the way of what I’m writing it for.’ I tried really hard this time around to not screw with stuff more than it needed to be. And I enjoyed that process.”

Hutchinson’s first two studio albums brimmed with the kind of hooks, choruses and clever lyrics an ascendant star needs to make on his way to the firmament, but he was now without a label for the first time in years. He recently released a set of live songs from his last tour, Almost Solo in NYC, which featured his deftly humorous storytelling as much his considerable musical talents, but decided it was time to trim the whole thing way down, get back to what put him in the discussion with the industry’s hottest new talent in the first place.

“You get a lot of good things from being involved with a major label system like exposure I never would have gotten,” says Hutchinson. “But the other side of it is it’s almost never on my time-line. The last album took a long time, partially it was me, but partially because once it was done there was a lot of stuff out of my control. My mantra on this album was ‘I want to make it, I want to put it out, and I don’t want anything to be between that.’ I wanted that control.”

“My mantra on this album was ‘I want to make it, I want to put it out, and I don’t want anything to be between that.’ I wanted that control.”

Released from music-biz trappings, the 33 year-old singer/songwriter returned to his roots; back to his apartment, back to the guitar, and reconnected with his adoration for the well-constructed song – tearing it down and building it back up, one note at a time.

“I sat at in my home studio asking, ‘Can I play this song on the guitar? Can I make this song work?’ recalls Hutchinson. “Because it’s not about hiding behind tricks, it’s about ‘Is this a song when it’s broken down to its bare basics – is it a song or not? Is it tangible?’ I would be at the piano or guitar and just play it as hard as I could and just sort of sing and leave the recorder going and for twenty minutes maybe bang on the piano as hard as I could, smash the guitar, totally sing guttural. Then, leave it alone. Go back the next day and see what jumps out from that, what works.”

Much of this primal, stripped down style is clearly evident in each track of Pure Fiction; a truly masterful presentation of Hutchinson’s acute pop sensibilities. In fact, Pure Fiction is Hutchinson’s elegy to pop music, his raison d’être, a place to fit all those melodies that are so comforting in their immediate hook you’d swear you’ve heard them before. The album’s first single, “Tell The World” is a wonderfully crafted sing-along and a striking prologue to the album’s underlying theme – holding onto our moments and shamelessly shouting it from a mountain top.ERIC_HUTCHINSON14291_Web_25

“I found myself in the worst place a writer can be, which was happy,” he chuckled to himself. “I live in New York, I’m married, I’ve got a dog – I’ve got a nice life…and when I sat down to write this time I didn’t feel like emptying the chest all over again and having to dig out my problems. And I became aware midway through that there’s a lot of that in there anyway, but I kind of felt it was thematically working and I didn’t try and go away from it when it was clear I wanted to keep saying it. It’s also a little bit about ‘I’m in a great place, but doesn’t everyone always hate you when you’re in a great place?’”

To hear Hutchinson explain it “Tell The World” is less joyous romp than social commentary on how everything that ends up on Facebook and Instagram reflects only our best moments in life, however there is a great joy in the song, especially the vocal, which is as infectious as anything he has committed to a track. His experience with achieving a measure of stardom and accepting his good fortune without trepidation infuse Pure Fiction with a feel-good vibe, something he found while traveling the country on tour and experiencing life outside the bubble of New York, where he lives, but mostly seeing the world for leisure.

“I put up this inspiration board right in front of me at my workspace when I was playing piano or guitar and singing into the mic,” effuses Hutchinson. “I was actually thinking about what I am looking at when I’m working. This method took me back to Barcelona, when I went to visit the Joan Miró museum and I was in heaven. The whole city is amazing. It’s so beautiful. And his stuff was so beautiful I immediately thought, ‘Should I be looking at something that pleases me when I’m writing; would it bring something out?’”

“I guess the more places you go, the more you realize the same things matter to everybody.”

The “inspiration wall” can be heard in the nearest Hutchinson has come to a ballad, “Sun Goes Down”; his “Dock of the Bay” moment, mixing a haunting melody with striking lyrical imagery. “I got this postcard and just described what was on it,” says Hutchinson; the postcard as metaphor for the captured moments of Pure Fiction: “On the front a desert sky orange, red and brown/ She wrote will you think of me/When the sun goes down.”

“I guess the more places you go, the more you realize the same things matter to everybody,” he says, smiling.

We ordered another round as the room began to fill and the background banter reverberated. Hutchinson made sure I understood the spiritual center of Pure Fiction which is infused in tracks like “Love Like You”, an achingly infectious song with a tension that draws the listener to the lyric through an almost hypnotic vocal performance, mixing Beatles bop with the velvet strains of Al Green. But it is in the juxtaposition of subtle duplicitous lines like “This is a crash landing, we’re living a dream”, which hint at Hutchinson’s playful seduction of how much happiness is the result of blind chance.

But it was anything but blind chance when Hutchinson entered the studio last summer, where he constructed the songs meticulously, showcasing an array of rhythms for flavor – South African, bosa nova, four-on-the-floor rock and slap-back funk – giving personality to dance numbers like “I Got The Feelin’ Now”, “A Little More” and “I Don’t Love U”. Wrapping the tracks in airtight tempo allowed his dexterous vocal lifts and twists to breathe inside percussion. “I tried really hard to not get in the way of these songs,” says Hutchinson. “I usually agonize over a certain chord progression or lyric, but this time I just let it happen. I stopped wondering what it was or where any of it came from.”hutch

To complete the cycle back to basics, Hutchinson worked on Pure Fiction in L.A. at the late Elliott Smith’s humble studio on Van Nuys Boulevard where he recorded his debut, Sounds Like This in 2008. Under the tutelage of two producers, Jerrod Bettis, (Adele, Better Than Ezra, Backstreet Boys) who played much of the accompanying instruments, and Aben Eubanks (Kelly Clarkson) he opened his mind to new recording techniques , but remained dedicated to my description of him when we first met in 2006; songsmith.

“It’s that attention to detail all the way across, where every single thing matters, which could also be the unraveling as you get close to the end of the album,” Hutchinson says, laughing. “In the old days you get the whole band together and figure out later what the hell that sounded like – did the bass player play the right thing or not – but to me that’s the whole thing; we get the drums down, and then I get the acoustic guitar, and I make sure the acoustic guitar works and then Jarred picks up the bass and I say, ‘Well, that’s great, but that part could have gone there.’ It’s the only way I know how to make music.”

New found professional freedom, a comfort in knowing his place in the music biz and a masterfully crafted pop album has Eric Hutchinson right where he wants to be. “I’ve been doing this for how many years, but whenever anyone asks me, ‘What kind of music do you play?’ it’s like the first time it’s ever been asked. I never have an answer, you know? And on the last album I was chasing this thing that I’m a soul artist and the show reflected that on some level, but I think after making this album, I can answer people; I make pop music. This is pop music, and I think this show will reflect that a little more. The last show was little more like a soul review and I think this will be a little more pop, whatever that is? I guess we’ll figure that out. Yeah, these songs are pop. I’m a pop artist.”

“Yeah, these songs are pop. I’m a pop artist.”

Perhaps the strongest musical statement on Pure Fiction is “Forever”, a collaboration with The 88’s Keith Slettedahl, a first. It is a master’s course in dynamic ranges; from the massaged acoustic open to the lilting lead vocal as prologue to chest-caving bass drum kicks, all of it bedding the wash of harmonies that appear as if a choir. It evokes the best of the British New Romantics period seeped in a New York club milieu. “I was trying to get out of my head space, and for me, that meant co-writing with someone else for the very first time,” says Hutchinson. “For the first time I can listen and kind of say it’s not mine. I can appreciate all that he contributed to it. Talk about getting out of your own way, I was completely out of it, because it was his thing, and I came to love it more than anything I could come up with.”

When we parted, well over an hour of coming to grips with this crossroads album of his, and where it will lead him, he assured me that just speaking aloud its intentions brought to light all the hard work it took to realize Pure Fiction. But doubtless it will be more well-defined this time around.

“My manager (Dave Morris) is obsessed with the idea of how many artists finally figure it out by their third album; Springsteen, Billy Joel, their first albums are not the ones people talk about, they don’t have the hits on them,” says Hutchinson. “But to me, I think, the third album was about figuring it out. The first one was just gut level, raw, had to get it out there, the second album was over-thinking it all, and this one is me tinkering and learning from those two and changing it up a little bit.”

 

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DESPERATE DEMOCRATS LOWBALL STRATEGY 2014

Aquarian Weekly
4/23/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion


DESPERATE DEMOCRATS LOWBALL STRATEGY 2014

Karl Rove once told me that the only thing that matters when you are looking at miles of bad road is what you do to shorten it. I remember he let the “shhh” just roll through his teeth; “shhhhorten it”. They were gritted like a challenged pit bull. His eyes seemed weird, unfocused, as if he were thinking of six things at once. But his words rang true.Debbie-Wasserman-Schultz

That was in the summer of 2000 just outside of Orlando, Florida. I remembered it a few months later when his candidate eviscerated a blindsided John McCain in South Carolina with scurrilous rumors of a “Negro love child” and “Rabid atheism”. And I remembered it when Rove openly told reporters those last desperate weeks in the late-summer of 2004 that he was going to “rile the base with anti-gay” legislation. And his candidate won re-election.

I can’t recall who or what Rove elected both times. Another Bush? Perhaps it worked out. Maybe not. One thing is for certain, his arch enemies, the Democrats have decided that the projected ass-kicking they are looking at come this November – and it is going to be severe and cost them the senate and completely neuter this president – will not come at a price for the Republican Party.

Since the Democrats owned the store in 2010 with the passing for the Affordable Care Act, the Republicans have made a mockery of “statement votes” in the House, most pointedly the 281 or so times they attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Now the Democrats announce something called the Paycheck Fairness Act, a desperate attempt at useless legislation that has no chance of becoming law, but will make Republicans, who will certainly piss on it, appear anti-woman.

Women, especially single women, are a boon to Democrats, coming out nearly 3-1 for Barack Obama in 2012. Much of this was aided by brutish Republican candidates waxing poetic about “levels of rape” and more than hinting that women’s contraception was a euphemism for whore.

This shameless attempt to fire up the women’s vote with political window dressing was launched out of the White House, which floated out a bogus figure of women in the workplace making 77 percent of what a man earns. Statistics from several studies including Bureau of Labor Statistics report it closer to 83 percent or in other studies closer to 88 percent, still others by profession average at 91 percent. Of course, these studies like most studies of a fluid and variant subject tend to fluctuate, but is nearly, if not completely impossible, to legislate.

But it is a moot point, since this is a political ploy by House Democrats who are merely using this as an election year stunt. It is pandering, like Rove did with the Religious Right and your garden-variety bigotry in 2000 and again in ’04.

Shhhhorten it.

Now the Democrats announce something called the Paycheck Fairness Act, a desperate attempt at useless legislation that has no chance of becoming law, but will make Republicans, who will certainly piss on it, appear anti-woman.

Speaking of which, you may have noticed a bit more talk in the past week about the covert racism of the Republican Party due to the race of the president. What was once innuendo has become blatant accusations, which, of course, are difficult to substantiate. And even though there is truth to how people are motivated by politics, it is not a real debate. Saying a political party or a member of government is racist for disagreeing with a sitting president is as specious as a government who labeled you as siding with terrorists or un-American if you protested the Iraq War. We’ve been down that slippery slope for decades. It is not politics, it is human nature, and to whitewash an entire opposition party with racism or anti-American rhetoric is fabricated, self-serving and reeks of desperation.

Shhhhhorten it.

On a similar note, pay attention to how things roll out after the Republicans take the senate. There will be a concerted effort on the part of the establishment to push for a comprehensive immigration bill during the final two years before the 2016 presidential election, to begin the healing process between the Republican Party and the Latino/Hispanic vote, which is toxic to its national election hopes thanks to such stellar ideas as “Voluntary Deportation” and building giant walls on the border. They’ve already rolled Jeb Bush out to pour honey on this turd. Believe me, it’s coming.

Another Bush?

Shhhhhorten it.

But fear not, this transparent dance with demographics can’t work, right? Because all one has to do is look at 2006, when Democratic candidates ran on the promise to end the Iraq War. It was one of the great slaughters in mid-term history leading to a whole lot of nothing. Well, not nothing; the Affordable Care Act.

But fear not, Republicans, you have your own pile of feces called Voter ID Laws enacted in 30 states for only one reason; politics. If there is one thing that does not need government overreach it is voter fraud, which is less than half of one percent of millions of votes cast each year in all 50 states, but there they are just the same.

Shhhhorten it.

But the Dems have it this season. The party is pulling out all the stops to halt what is an inevitable transfer of power in the legislative branch and a two-thirds majority in the federal government. Two years of Republican majority is plenty of time to strengthen the already invincible electorate waiting for our next president, Hilary Rodham Clinton.

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MONEY, CORRUPTION & THE FREE THINKER PRINCIPLE

Aquarian Weekly
4/16/14
REALITY CHECK
 

James Campion

 

MONEY, CORRUPTION & THE FREE THINKER PRINCIPLE
Some men worship rank, some worship heroes, some worship power, some worship God, & over these ideals they dispute & cannot unite–but they all worship money.
– Mark Twain

 Believe none of what you hear and half of what you believe.
– Something Benjamin Franklin heard in a French whorehouse and repeated at a Philadelphia beer garden
This week the Supreme Court further removed the shackles for wealthy donors to
contribute as much as they wish for political candidates, building on the momentum of the Citizens United ruling of 2007. The decision was 5-4 right down the line of political ideology, five conservative to four liberal judges, which is telling since this has been an issue for high-profile Republican donors like the Koch brothers that have turned quid pro quo cash deals into an art form. However, the dissent by liberal judges is disingenuous since Labor Unions routinely make up the preponderance of big money donations across the country in outrageous sums, and have been long before the Koch brothers knew how lucrative buying congressman could be.koch-brothers

Be that as it may, the following sentiments will not be going down the ideological slippery slope of hypocrisy wherein you have the Right whining about liberal media and the Left bitching about FOXNEWS. This is indeed about the First Amendment and the right to support any candidate of your choice with how you choose to do it. It is also about the realities of this republic, which was colonized, founded and manipulated since day one by money.

Firstly, taking the freedom of speech angle, it is unconstitutional to put limits on a citizen’s voice in the political process. For corporations, big money donors or whatever the fuck Citizens United is, this is the avenue in which they can impart said voice. If this were a true democracy, which it is not, never has been, and was never considered as such by our mostly rich framers, then, of course, there would be an issue with the rest of us (or at least those of you without a weekly column) that have no real voice beyond the ballot box. This is why, despite my abject mockery of TEA Party rallies and the 99-percent protests, there is a real desire for the rest of us to “be involved” without having a boatload of money to invest in our civic interests.

But that does not change the fact that if you have dough, you should be able to spend it how you like, within legal boundaries, which, as stated, should not preclude the First Amendment.

Of course money corrupts the system, just like bad journalism, idiot pundits and kowtowing to the lowest common denominator, which is by far the very essence of this nation’s lasting legacy.

Those opposed to this argument will shout that the system is circumvented by a collected few, which is as American as your mom’s apple pie and steroid abuse. From the shipyard of Boston Harbor to the railroads moguls of the Midwest and the pile of feces printed daily by Randolph Hearst and the tentacle reach of Big Oil, the influence of cash is our heritage. It kicked the English out, eviscerated the natives, ripped off the French, Dutch, Spanish and Mexicans, burned the South to the ground and ended slavery, smacked the Kaiser, toppled Hitler and eventually bankrupted the Soviet Union. It is what got us into Viet Nam and Iraq, elected a Kennedy and bribed Florida judges to put G.W. in office. It is our political pedigree.

Arguing about this now is like suggesting that red, white and blue is not quite right for the flag.

And don’t talk about corruption, which is where all this capping of donations started in 1974 when Dick Nixon blew up the entirety of the executive branch. Like the sallow ruins of 9/11 and whatever crazy shit happened thereafter from illegal jailing and wiretapping, covert wars and the vice president shooting a man in the face over quail meat, Watergate unleashed a torrent of silly overreactions that put a lean on our Bill of Rights that I strongly believe the Supreme Court corrected, whatever its political motivation.

But Nixon gave corruption a bad name. His ravenous paranoia stripped us of our right to have to actually see past the fantasy campaign ads and Super Pack machinations and realize that Citizens United is made-up shit concocted by the dickless to feel important, and do our due diligence as citizens, like ignoring Tipper Gore’s dream of having society parent our children by putting a goddamn sticker on everything. As if a record called “Kill The Cops” needs a warning. Or even merits one, since it is not actually killing cops, just singing about it. And all that awful crap about not being able to burn a piece of cloth because it happens to be designed as an American Flag. Next you’re going to have people suggest Bill O’Reilly shouldn’t be allowed to go on the Today Show and demand every American kid be force-fed Judeo-Christian principles without being smacked with a rubber mallet.

Of course money corrupts the system, just like bad journalism, idiot pundits and kowtowing to the lowest common denominator, which is by far the very essence of this nation’s lasting legacy. Everything can corrupt given the proper circumstances, and sometimes it is welcomed corruption. Lord knows George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan, Salvador Dali, Alice Cooper, Woody Allen, Mark Twain, H.L Mencken, Hunter S. Thompson, Edward Hopper corrupted me, and I am a better man for it.

It’s called free thinking. Try it sometime. Turn off the radio and podcasts and politically manipulated television stations and put down the signs and toss away the cute slogans and corrupt yourself.

Then maybe you won’t be so threatened by everyone else’s corruption.

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RELIGIOUS NONSENSE & THE LAW

Aquarian Weekly
4/2/14
REALITY CHECK

James Campion             

RELIGIOUS NONSENSE & THE LAW

I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong.
– Muhammad Ali

This week religion has jammed its hefty portion of silly into the ways of reality. Again. Why not? Humans are proficient at propping up fantasy to avoid obeying the law. Lord knows I do.

Firstly, we have the Supreme Court case of Sebelius v Hobby Lobby or some company against the Affordable Care Act. Hobby Lobby, an arts and crafts chain, claims that it not only sells knick knacks but stands for Christian values and therefore refuses to adhere to the ACA mandate that it provide contraception to its employees as part of its health plan.

Good one.hobby

Although I admire this craziness, it has no grounds. Religious freedom is not a free pass to discriminate or ignore laws. This was the point of obliterating the egregious Jim Crow horror show which originated in churches in the South and was propagated by Christian organizations like the Klu Klux Klan. It expanded to owners of diners, hotels, gas station etc, all of whom decided that they did not care for civil rights because it jibed with their interpretation of Christian ethics.

The other proposed opposition to the law is contentious objector status, which was broached during President Barack Obama’s visit to the Vatican this week.

This bit of fluff theater was a nifty time to bring up three very political notions expressed by the popular Pope Francis over the past year. One is income inequality, a biggie in the First Century Jesus movement but mostly ignored by the preponderance of Christians worldwide, especially in this country. Two was the call for tolerance of all gender, creed, race and sexual orientation. The last one had many conservatives in the Vatican running for cover assuring the intolerant across the globe that the Holy Church still has their back. And finally, the aforementioned conscientious objector option for those who adhere to church dogma that preaches contraceptive use is equal to abortion and should be banned.

Whew, a lot to get to, so let’s start with conscientious objector.

Claiming conscientious objector status was famously tried in the Supreme Court in 1971 when boxing champion and social activist, Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted by the United States Army during the Viet Nam War on religious grounds. However, although the court ruled in Ali’s favor it did not cite his “conscientious objector” defense, but rather that the United States government had failed to properly specify why Ali’s application had been denied, thereby requiring the conviction to be overturned. In other words, it was an easy unanimous vote due to a technicality, and quite frankly because popular opinion had swung significantly in Ali’s defense due to the abject disaster that was the Viet Nam War, which had heightened considerably since the time Ali was stripped of his title and banned from boxing in 1968.

Shit, there are plenty of religions that believe blood transfusions are against protocol, others cite the evil of surgery, and still others believe photographs steal your soul and leeches are the way to go. But forget religion. That’s small potatoes. Can you imagine if some giant chemical concern decides it wants to break even more laws than it currently does? You think your drinking water is poisoned now?

You see, unlike Hobby Lobby, Ali manned up and took the unfair stripping of his title and languished for years to stand by his principles. He broke the law and paid the price, something this company is trying to avoid.

Hey, no more a sympathetic companion could Hobby Lobby find than this space, but on the grounds that they can pick and choose what laws they want to obey is not realistic, not to mention its lawyer began opening arguments trying to conflate a corporation with the rights of an individual under the constitution. The Civil Rights Act is enough precedent to halt Hobby Lobby denying health care coverage to its workers, specifically women, who have several health-related reasons for needing contraception beyond sexual activity.

But there is no need to bring up religion and sex in the same sentence in this or any lifetime.
Shit, there are plenty of religions that believe blood transfusions are against protocol, others cite the evil of surgery, and still others believe photographs steal your soul and leeches are the way to go. But forget religion. That’s small potatoes. Can you imagine if some giant chemical concern decides it wants to break even more laws than it currently does? You think your drinking water is poisoned now?

Now the idea of income equality is a cute aside, but for the Catholic Church it is a joke. It may be a noble cause espoused by Jesus, who was by for all intents and purposes an egalitarian, which is a fancy philosophical term for socialist, but have you seen the friggin’ Vatican? Bling on bling piled on bling. It’s like Ted Nugent preaching gun control. Please.

When the Vatican strips its jewels and gold and sells it to feed the poor, I’m on board.

Quick question: What Would Jesus Do? Short Answer: Strip the Vatican bare and give everything to the poor.
Never mind the marriage equality thing. No one is asking the Christians to be gung ho, and no one should care. Using religion to discriminate is as old and as dirt. We’ll leave this one alone.

Finally, the most appalling aspect of the week is that Barack Obama met with the leaders of an organization that has perpetuated a century-plus of unchecked and unprosecuted pedophilia; more to the point aided and abetted these acts by shamelessly covering up. A more disgusting display by a president is hard to imagine. Who wants their tax dollars going to this immoral sham?

Come to think of it, maybe it would be a boon if Hobby Lobby won this case, pushing religion into the public sector, then we can start taxing religious freeloaders and get on with the twenty-first century.


Do yourself no favors and “like” this idiot at www.facebook.com/jc.author

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A Songwriter’s Cyber Showcase

Aquarian Weekly
3/12/14

BUZZ Feature

by James Campion

 

A SONGWRITER’S CYBER SHOWCASE
Welcome One & All To Dan Bern’s Cyber Showcase
                              

If you put me in a box, make sure it’s a big box. – Dan Bern “Jerusalem”

“If I was to stage a theme show of my songs, say, around girl’s names; what would you put in there?” Dan Bern asked over Indian buffet near lower Lexington Avenue last September. He had been staying in New York for longer than usual and we made haphazard plans to get together and chat on-and-off the record, take in a film, walk the streets, smoke cigars, and, as Dan likes to say, throw a few back. I did not hesitate to make suggestions from his vast catalogue of material: Of course, “Marylyn” from the first record, Fleeting Days’ “Jane”, “Monica” (about Seles, not Lewinsky), “Sister” – not really a girls’ name, but a beautiful one about his only sibling from 1998’s Fifty Eggs, the stirring, “Estelle”, and suddenly we were off and running.

“Exactly,” he smiled.db

Later, as a collection of unreleased tunes for a planned album filled out the street sounds penetrating his modest suite at a downtown hotel that was framed by crudely beautiful renderings on the walls painted by his four year-old daughter, Lulu, Bern began to build on the idea. “I could see maybe renting out space off-off-Broadway and putting on shows based on song themes; a different one every night.”

There was no arguing that he, more than anyone this side of Randy Newman, could pull it off. For over 20 years now, Dan Bern has been writing songs (along with books, poems, and kid’s stories) with a reckless abandon – some of them even composed on demand for fans to help defray the costs to get this bulging phalanx of tunes out to the public and still others for the films Walk Hard, Get Him To The Greek and friend, Jonathan Demme’s Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains. Pressed to count them all, Bern will first insist he cannot, but will eventually acquiesce with a sighing, “Okay, over a thousand.”

Yup, Bern writes songs like most of us read the paper or peruse the Internet. It is almost a daily routine. He breathes, plays tennis, enjoys a bike ride, loves his family, and writes songs. Since 1997, this prolificacy has resulted in 14 studio albums, two live, five EP’s, a collaborative song-cycle adapted from the letters, essays and poems of the Western folk legend Everett Ruessand, and a collection of children’s songs; the second volume is already done and is brilliant and another country-flavored record is poised.

Suddenly, here was Bern imagining, even scheming a place for this disparate group of melodic brothers and sisters, heroes and despots, celebrations and protestations to go – one place, as if, well, as if a Theme Park.

Bern brought the “theme” idea up again a few weeks before leaving for the West Coast in early December, citing several reoccurring slices-of-life to his canon; pop culture, politics, history, literature, family, tennis, baseball, travel, etc., along with the obvious subjects available to any songwriter; love, loss, protest, and inner revelation.

“My first thought was, ‘That fucking Campion! That’s not in the rules!’ Then I thought,’ Eh, I’ll do it.’”

Once back in L.A., he was inspired by an online concert his friend and sometime collaborator, Mike Viola had hosted on the web site, stageit.com, wherein artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Indigo Girls, Plain White T’s, Jason Mraz, Jimmy Buffet, Sara Barreilles Better Than Ezra, and Ingrid Michaelson, among many others create backstage, in-house podcasts to interact directly with fans. It seemed Stage-It was the perfect vehicle for the “theme” idea, and it did not take Bern long to begin fashioning a one-man show around not only his moving, hilarious and poignantly striking music, but sprinkled with his razor-sharp wit, and officially call it “Theme Park”.

“All of my song subjects are so far afield, and with my songbooks here, I can pretty much pull from everything I’ve ever written and come up with set-lists,” Bern said from his L.A. abode over the phone in mid-February after he had a couple of Theme Park shows under his belt – the first theme, Football, broadcast the week before the Super Bowl included such luminary musical numbers as “Namath, Mantle & Me” (written when he shared a similar knee injury to the ailing stars), “Who Gets Serena?” (an imagined double-date between the Manning brothers and the Williams sisters) and “O.J. Simpson” (you know) and the second, Love, for Valentine’s Day featuring his unique sentimentalities displayed in “Love Makes All the Other Worlds Go Round”, “My Love is Not For Sale” and “I Need You” among others.

“I’m doin’ stuff I wrote this fall mixed with stuff I wrote 20 years ago mixed with stuff people know from the records, and its focused and it feels like a new thing.” Bern says, as he excitedly previewed a third one coming up for President’s Day.

So without much prompting, I had to “tune in” or more to the point, login to see it.

I became a member of Stage-It the day of the show, which was simple using Paypal, and since Bern mentioned more than twice I could “set the price, and in my case, it’s a dime”, I did, but went for broke at an outlandish $2.50. He informed me of the opportunity to “tip” the performer, as if he were playing in a downtown subway.  “I started offering these little perks for top tipper,” said Bern. “For the Super Bowl one I signed a football jersey, and for the Valentine’s one I gave away Henry Miller’s Wisdom of the Heart, and for the Presidents Day show, I painted three presidents, (Lincoln, Nixon, and LBJ) and in honor of the Winter Olympics, I’ll give them to the top three.”

db-2At 9:00 PM Eastern, there was Bern, captured by his MAC camera, nattily attired in a suit and tie (very presidential) and welcoming his audience with a very theme-y Theme Park theme song. Then he immediately launched into a toe-tapping ditty called “Weird Little Thing”, which playfully recites the bizarre coincidences between Lincoln and Kennedy’s time in office (not the least of which both were initially elected 100 years apart, to which Bern lyrically warns whoever is elected in 2060 better keep on his toes).

The humble USB mic did the trick, as the intimacy and immediacy of the performance was striking. I have seen Dan and hundreds of musicians ply their trade in every possible venue, from cramped clubs to upstairs lofts, garages to Madison Square Garden and Carnegie Hall (including Bern), but this is far different;  personal and interactive. As Bern played, viewers started messaging, the comments floating up on a stream to his right. Interspersing pithy comments, one spot-on imprecision of LBJ, and displaying his original paintings auctioned off to the “top tipper”, Bern was in his element and the fans loved it.

It was during a brief introduction to the next song as having been written as something of a dare that I realized my own request would make the show. As is my tradition, when invited to such ad hoc events, and knowing Bern’s ambitions run deep, I emailed him earlier that day to pen a song about William Henry Harrison, who infamously died 32 days into office from pneumonia thanks to his refusing to wear a coat on a bitterly cold and rainy Inauguration Day. “That kind of story is ripe for a folk song,” I wrote, unsure if even he could pull it off.

Sure enough, he did.

“Hey, a challenge is a challenge,” Bern said when I called to thank him the next morning. “My first thought was, ‘That fucking Campion! That’s not in the rules!’ Then I thought,’ Eh, I’ll do it.’”

Bern rounded out the 50 minute set (it was only scheduled for a half hour) with nine more songs, his haunting introspection of Lee Harvey Oswald in “Marine and Me”, a couple of verses of Tom Waits, “On The Nickel” (“…even Thomas Jefferson is on the nickel over there”), and his 2004 call for candidacy in “President” were the highlights.

Then, just as quickly as he popped up, he was gone.

“It’s weird for me, because when I do this show online, although I’m home and not in a club, I still feel that post-show glaze,” says Bern. “It could really grow into a bi-weekly thing for me, but it’s really the gravy, because if I finish touring and then come home and go a week or two without a show, it’s like arrrrrrrr. And to have something like this to focus me – getting the set together for that show’s theme and then doing the thing, and it’s only seven o’clock and your done – its kinda great.”

The experience, which began percolating in New York a few months back as a kind of local cabaret act, became a reality on the other side of the continent and has suddenly gone global. Some members of the audience were from Greece and all points abroad.

“The theme idea along with wanting to stay focused for 50 minutes of playing has allowed me to get 11 to 15 songs into each show, and by getting my paintings in there and being able to play more often to a larger audience beyond touring, it’s just a cool way to do all the things I like to do, and never leave my house.”

But one wonders when Bern does go back on the road, which he will this spring with dates already set to begin here on the East Coast in March and crisscross back to Los Angeles, before heading to Holland in April and returning for another week of gigs around New York in May, will Theme Park live on?

“Oh, I’m gonna keep doin’ ‘em,” Bern insists. “I can do a Theme Show anywhere, the hotel room or I’ll come out to your place and we’ll do it.”

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THE BEATLES – THE WEEK – THE LEGACY

Aquarian Weekly
2/12/13

REALITY CHECK

James Campion              


THE BEATLES – THE WEEK – THE LEGACY

In the early 90s’, Babe Ruth biographer Kal Wagenheim told me the only way to describe the Bambino’s effect on the game of baseball and America at large during his first few tumultuously historic years in New York pinstripes would be to say it was like he had been dropped from another planet. “There had been nothing like him before or since,” he said. “No one could remember what the game or American sports were like before Babe Ruth arrived on the scene. He changed everything.

beatles-on-ed-sullivan-showFor my money, this is as close as anyone has come to framing The Beatles arrival on American soil half a century ago this week.

Like Ruth, there was no lead-up to The Beatles in New York City on the second week of February, 1964.

How could there be?

Much of The Beatles image; the four cheerfully pasty, monochromatically dressed mop-topped British lads, was a hodgepodge of German art-house nihilism drenched in a transsexual sheen. At first glance, it was if the four figures were equal parts of a whole – what Mick Jagger once described as “the four-headed monster that went everywhere together”. The Beatles were a moving pop sculpture, a walking billboard of patent waves and cheeky smiles; on stage the rhythmic bouncing and bobbing of heads and the choreographed bows became inseparable from the music.

Beatles music was also odd. A jangling echo-saturated guitar assault launched upon primitive foot-stomping drums adorned with high-pitched semi-accented voices, as if mimicking normal cadence between all the “oohs”.

This was more than Sinatra, more than even Elvis. The Beatles were a thing. This weird inexplicable force of nature; seemingly fabricated, built in a lab somewhere to perfectly capture the intangible drift of hope.

In England, where Beatlemania had exploded through the previous summer, the copycats, both amateur and professional, already abounded, but in the States there was barely minor curiosity. Beyond a three-minute report from an American news organization that autumn smarmily mentioning some outlandish behavior by European youth over a caterwauling guitar band, The Beatles were a footnote by late January of ’64, when the band’s fifth single, “I Want To Hold Your Hand” bounded onto the Billboard charts at a modest #45.

Everyone in the growing organization that was The Beatles, including their wide-eyed genius of a manager, Brian Epstein, sent from central casting as king-maker deluxe, had any clue as to what awaited them at New York’s Kennedy Airport (ironically named after the fallen president scarcely two months in the grave, grieved by a nation starving for a little silly foreign distraction).

New York, much like the four Beatles home, Liverpool, was a port town, an artery of cross-culture and, perhaps more than any city in the world, always a hive of “happening”. It did not take long for “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to torch the charts, and by February 7, the day The Beatles walked out on the tarmac to hundreds of frenzied kids and a phalanx of grizzled Gotham reporters, it was #1 with the proverbial bullet. John Lennon (23), Paul McCartney (22), George Harrison (20), and Ringo Starr (24) were babes in the woods in age and experience – they had never been outside of Europe before – but their time on the rough road from late 1960 through the red-light district of Hamburg playing endless sets of American R & B music prepared them well for the onslaught.

And here’s the kicker; The Beatles were good, real good.

This was a well-oiled machine; no Memphis “aw, shucks” trucker or pristinely coached turtle-necked pop idol. From the harried ad hoc press conference at the airport, where they deflected questions with one-liners and breezy repartee, The Beatles drew the adoration, worship and envy of a scary amount of the American public. It was an organic template for the modern roll-out of pop stars for ensuing generations, which culminated on the most watched live program in the nation.

Forty-eight hours on American soil, after all the hoopla and mobs in front of the Plaza Hotel and a swirl of photo shoots and half-assed radio “interviews”, arguably the most influential and time-altering few minutes in the history of human communication occurred on the Ed Sullivan Show. In less time than it takes to boil water, The Beatles performance of “All My Loving” (viewed by a record for the time of 73 million) ambushed an entire generation, set alight the British Invasion, and legitimized the heretofore idiotic notion that rock and roll would be anything other than a teen fad.

Before February of 1964, rock and roll, the last truly original American youth movement (its children being Rock, New Wave, Punk, Rap, Hip-Hop, etc) was on life support. Its founders and heroes, Elvis Presley (the army), Chuck Berry (jail), Buddy Holly, (dead) and Little Richard (religion) had gone away. Pop music was mired in bland, white, corporate creations, interrupted briefly by the brilliance of Phil Spector and Barry Gordy’s machinations, but mostly a plastic wasteland.

Before February of 1964 the art of pop songwriting was practiced in smoke-filled cubicles deeply tucked away in monolithic brick and mortar castles like the Brill Building, controlling the force and message of teen angst, lust, and yearning to challenge the status quo and find a voice.

Before February of 1964 this free-form expansion of cultural mayhem known as the Sixties seemed resigned to fight the battles of Civil Rights, sexual revolt, and youthful upheaval to the angry folk brilliance of Bob Dylan.

And here’s the kicker; The Beatles were good, real good. And soon this thing would take us all on a wild ride over six years, 12 studio albums, 13 EP’s and 22 singles. Each one was, without exception, really, really good. Crazy good. Scary good. Along the way this thing changed everything (Babe Ruth style), in fashion, experimentation (both sonically and chemically), business, mass communication, and culture.

It remains an element all its own, this Beatles, this thing, that for all intents and purposes began for America here in New York City in early February, 1964.

Fifty years ago, The Beatles came, saw, and conquered like no one or nothing since. To think of what mattered to us in 1964 being as relevant and nostalgic and passionate as this continuing movement is today is laughable.

John Lennon famously said, “Before Elvis, there was nothing.”

He and his band made sure we didn’t forget that notion ever again.

*Dedicated to my friend, Lisa Geller, born the day this all went down.

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Keith Richards At 70

Aquarian Weekly
12/18/13
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

KEITH RICHARDS AT 70

Although it was a shock when it actually happened, nobody was really that surprised. Everybody knows people that you just have a feeling about them that they’re not going to be seventy years-old…ever. Not everybody makes it.
– Keith Richards on Brian Jones death in 1969

I recently saw that news clip again of an emaciated, mumbling Keith Richards – dark, dilated eyes sunken deeper by ebony make-up below a wild mane of black, tussled hair, a dangling dagger earring and that signature rotted black hole in his teeth from thousands of cigarettes – waxing poetic about his recently deceased former band member, Brian Jones, who, at 27, had drowned “by misadventure” in his pool in Sussex, England a few weeks prior. Jones, whom Richards had introduced to LSD two years before his rapid downward spiral of Dionysian drug abuse, was the first victim of trying to keep up with Keith, which this week reaches an inconceivable 70 years. keith_3

That’s right, kids; by the time this hits the streets, December 18, 2013, Keith Richards will turn 70.

Keith Richards.

Seventy years-old.

If there was ever a time to slide the minted acronym WTF into this space, this would be it.

Hell…for Keith’s 70th, I’ll just write it out: WHAT THE FUCK?

I rewound the clip; watched Keith say it again; “Not everybody makes it”. And, of course, they don’t. But for him, the man that has turned “not make it” into an art form for half a century, it is the bedrock of irony that he has indeed “made it”.

This shudder of irony struck me when Michael Jackson died. And I thought, while the prepubescent Jackson was twirling around in front of his teenage brothers on the Flip Wilson Show, Keith was comatose on smack and whiskey in a Villa on the French Riviera causally firing pistols at local drug merchants and ramming a rented skiff into a gangster’s yacht and spitting at him.

I had a similar experience when vacationing in the Mohave Desert at Joshua Tree State Park in1999. I ran into a local who told me a story about the young, frail singer/songwriter, Gram Parsons, whose 26 year-old remains were doused with five gallons of gasoline and burned there by “friends” after overdosing on morphine a few feet away in a rented cabin. Parsons hung around with Keith for little more than three years in the early Seventies and introduced him to country music. Richards reciprocated by turning him onto heroin. Staring out into the long stretch of rock and sand, I could hear the echoes of Richards, who sang a beautiful duet with Willie Nelson of George Jones’ “Say It’s Not You” only a week earlier.

It was always the running joke, you know. A long running joke – over 40 years at least, when people became aware of this death wish river boat gambler with a guitar slung over his shoulder, a weird amalgam of Hank Williams’ doom injected with a Jesse James outlaw fury topped off with the insatiable appetite of the Marquis de Sade, if the Marquis de Sade happened to also be a lion tamer that defused bombs on the weekends. “What is keeping Keith Richards upright?”

It is hard to explain to those who are unfamiliar with the life and exploits of Keith Richards to marvel as I do this week that the man is still breathing. It is an inspiration for those of us who work diligently on challenging our constitution. He is our god. He is our champion.

Thirty-two years ago, when in college, there was a horrific snow storm in New Jersey. I was to unfurl a detailed tribute to Richards’ birthday on my humble radio show at Mercer County Community College. But in the spirit of Richards, I ignored the elements and literally plowed ahead with my shit brown ’77 Plymouth Volare, sans snow tires or front wheel drive, but well-equipped with a badly wired cassette player blasting Exile on Main St. I cruised the uneventful 40 or so miles to the campus before an obviously catatonic woman decided to make a desperate left turn into my lane against a red light and I careened into her. I recall the impact, her alarmed face and soon her bleeding temple, as I crawled from the mangled driver’s side door to scream obscenities at her.

Instead of the aborted musical tribute that day, I settled for a metaphoric one; contemplating the strange karma of it all, as I embarrassingly waited in a garage called the Dragon’s Den for my mother to rescue me – just another victim of trying to keep up with Keith.

It is hard to explain to those who are unfamiliar with the life and exploits of Keith Richards to marvel as I do this week that the man is still breathing. It is an inspiration for those of us who work diligently on challenging our constitution. He is our god. He is our champion.

Forget the brilliance of the art; forget the Stones and all those ass-kicking riffs, forget “Satisfaction”, “Paint It Black”, ”Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, “Gimmie Shelter”, “Monkey Man”, “Brown Sugar”, “Bitch”, “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin?’” “Rocks Off”, “Happy”, “Start Me Up” and the countless, and I do me nearly countless, rock and roll defining sonic muggings. What I am talking about here is the sheer brilliance of surviving for decades, almost by the minute teetering on the precipice of total annihilation.

Also, forget the stupefying fact that maybe, all told, Keith Richards has spent a few days in jail, and not consecutively, just a scattered few hours here and there, whether being set-up by authorities or just busted flat out with tons of hard drugs and weapons all over the globe, and in places where either people didn’t give a shit that he was a Rolling Stone or because he was a Rolling Stone.

“I’ve never had a problem with drugs,” Keith has famously said, “I have a problem with cops.”

But that apparently isn’t even true.

And while Keith has left a long line of victims to his “keep up with Keith” axiom, some famous, some not-so, he has managed to do something even more enviable; despite whatever your selective morals might allow, and that is he has apologized for none of it. There were blood transfusions and drying out clinics to get him back on stage, but never any rehab or finding Jesus or sanctimonious after-the-fact anti-mayhem lectures from Keith. Shit, he only jettisoned the toxins he deemed “over”, as in he had bested them and could no longer see the need to belabor the point. This he astutely cites in his 2010 biography, Life, in which he tutors us all in the laughable art of moderation – for normal humans that means whatever it is most of us are doing, not that crazy, crazy shit he’s perpetuated since 1962.

Hell, Mick Jagger turned 70 in August, and except for a private toast around here, this was no surprise. There is a good chance with all the personal trainers and hyper vitamins and continued screwing of twenty-somethings, Mick will live to 100. But Keith fucking Richards?

And so I shall leave you with the wisdom of the man that I have told people for years and years that they absolutely must televise his autopsy and then find a way to regenerate his DNA into some super-human machine, if it is possible to dissect the part of the brain that worked so diligently to destroy it. When asked by a French journalist in 1977 what he thought about leading the international underground Death Pool, Keith dragged on a cigarette, guzzled a nip of Jack Daniels from the bottle and then let the smoke waft from his crooked smile. “Oh, yeah?” he croaked. “I’ll let you know.”

Keith Richards at 70.

That is a Christmas miracle.

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THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS AT 150

Aquarian Weekly
11/19/13
REALITY CHECK

 James Campion

 

THE GETTYSBURG ADDRESS AT 150
Lincoln’s Oratory Masterpiece Heralded The Modern Age Of America

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

lincolnNow we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

-Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States, November 19, 1863

 

One-hundred and fifty years ago on the day this hits the streets, Abraham Lincoln presented his address on the hallowed grounds of an American massacre. With a slight tremor in his voice, one that had the tendency to screech into strange registers when emoting, his words “echoed through the hills”. He read from his fifth draft, hardly peering up, and never breaking a stoic resolve. When he was finished, the silence, it was reported, lasted an excruciatingly long time. It was the silence, one witness remarked to a New York City reporter, “of the dead.”

Only five months earlier, just beyond the incline where Lincoln stood, the Union Army met General Lee’s Confederate charges over a three-day period of the most horrific slaughter ever realized on American soil. Until then, the Civil War had been in doubt. Despite riches and industrial strength and overwhelming human numbers, the devastation had dragged on for three gory years. Gettysburg changed that. Lincoln knew it. His words echo it.

At 278 words, it is a masterwork in brevity. Not one wasted; each a pillar for the next. It is less address than prayer; an American poem. Mostly, it is an invocation of the heretofore empty promise penned by Thomas Jefferson in his Declaration of Independence. The idea that a man who owned human beings from a place that thrived economically on the egregiousness of slavery would dare aspire to such lofty notions as “All men are created equal” and not in the eyes of law or sovereign or bloodline, but by an omniscient being grasping at the very notion of liberty.

The Gettysburg Address is not a point in history; it is history. Therefore it moves, like time.

Before Lincoln, before Gettysburg, and before those 278 words, that was all it was – rhetoric reaching pathetically at a dream. It was word, not deed. This is why Lincoln’s pronouncement, leaving nary a sliver for interpretation that “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here” would realize the truth of Jefferson’s vision. Eleven months after the Emancipation Proclamation, which would begin to dismantle our national disgrace, the inhuman bondage which would make a mockery of the lie that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is available to all, these words would float like a distant bugle call over the fields of battle.

It was with these deeds and words that this nation known as America was founded. Not in Philadelphia or Concord or those dark years between our extrication from the British Empire and 600,000 sacrificed from the moment the first cannon ball slammed into the ramparts of Fort Sumner. It is Lincoln’s “unfinished work” that is before a nation so full of Jefferson’s promise, and long after a lunatic actor put a bullet in the 16th president’s skull it remains, as it would remain then. The genocide of Native Americans and the long struggles for African Americans and immigrants and women and so many that succeeded them.

“The great task at hand” is always at hand.

This is why the Gettysburg Address is not a point in history; it is history. Therefore it moves, like time. Not to be shoved in a canister or placed behind glass. That is for fallen nations and buried ideals. Lincoln’s words were not and are not a command or a call to duty. It was and is not a rousing rhetorical spire or a solemn dedication to the blessings bestowed on his office, his nation, his place in the pantheon of the American God.

The Gettysburg Address was and is still the wish, the hope, and the vision of America as a concept, Jefferson’s dream come alive to evolve and continue to seek what its author once mused are “our better angels”. It is without question the greatest set of ideas ever uttered by an American citizen about the density of our purported ideal that we indeed “always shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

 

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