WHITE GUY WRITING ABOUT #BLACKLIVESMATTER‏

Aquarian Weekly
9/9/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

WHITE GUY WRITING ABOUT #BLACKLIVESMATTER

I’m Caucasian.

To double-down, I’m male.

Just to make it completely unfair, I am heterosexual, and for a time awhile ago I was Christian, but for all intents and purposes I do not practice any weird or scary or overtly dismissed religion.blm

I have a family. I own property.

I am untouchable.

And while I am a ball-busting, radical, wise-ass, instigating piece of shit journalist, I still have it over about sixty-percent of everyone else, except rich white guys. I do well, but I’m no Donald Trump, and therefore there are some white guys who may have it better, but tell it to someone else.

I ride high.

Basically, I can do just about anything I want and not get any guff. And, to be honest, I do. No one seems to notice me much. If I were to say walk down the street in a fairly suburban neighborhood at ten pm, a cop car would not slow down to check me out or stop to ask me where I was going. If I go into a store of any kind outside of a women’s lingerie shop or a children’s Gap no one would bat an eye. I can even show up to a parade packing several weapons and no one would really care much. Some people might even applaud that I was exercising my Second Amendment rights. And you can bet if I were being pursued by the police, I have a better that 90 percent chance of not being gunned down in broad daylight.

Hooray for me, I’m a white guy.

Now excuse me for a moment while I opine on the #blacklivesmatter movement.

Waxing poetic on a subject I know little about is the inalienable right of the white guy, don’t you know? We have opinions on everything, especially things we cannot relate to in any rational way. We cannot stop telling people what to do and how to do it. We have radio shows and TV shows and blogs and columns in big newspapers. Everyone listens to us. We have white guys that look like us on paper money and there are statues of these and other white guys everywhere in almost every town in the United States. This provides an immutable gravitas to our rhetoric. This is why whenever we’re afraid of progress, inclusion and tolerance we evoke their names, our Founding Fathers. Yeah, that’s when white guys knew the score, right? This is our legacy. We hate it when non-white guys try and tell us what we need to do. This is our gig. Get your own thing.

Face it; you cannot wait to read this white guy’s next paragraph.

Hell, every time we convene a committee on something that has nothing to do with being a white guy, people show up and we grill, say women, on women’s contraception. Even one fat white guy called one of the women testifying a “slut” on the radio and some of us nodded our heads. Of course, we do, we’re white guys. Keep your hands off our stuff, but while you’re at it know this: Whatever is going on in a woman’s body is our business, bub. Damn right. White guys coming through.

This is why we cannot understand what all this #blacklivesmatter stuff is going on about. It is just cop bashing and riling up the bad element. All lives matter, right? Why blacks? Why are they going on and on about just blacks? Don’t they care about racial harmony and how things are better if everyone just accepts things as they are? Shit, the president’s not a white guy, even though six out of ten of us still think he is not American and probably Muslim and is some kind of rigged device to destroy everything. We’re just getting used to the gays getting their rights, now we have this? It’s overwhelming. We thought we were done being afraid of blacks, and had moved onto Hispanics and Muslims. Multi-tasking fear is tough. Wait your turn.

Sure, according to a 2009 U.S. Department of Justice study although 12–13% of the American population is African-American they make up 60% of the almost 2.1 million male inmates in jail or prison. Census data for 2000 of the number and race of all individuals incarcerated in the United States revealed a wide racial disproportion of the incarcerated population in each state: the proportion of blacks in prison populations exceeded the proportion among state residents in twenty states. But that’s because many black neighborhoods are hard and dangerous and there is bound to be a higher element of crime among the poor and desperate, right?

Of course many of these black lives are in prison because of insane mandatory sentencing laws enacted in the 1980s and hardened in the 1990s by white guys, usually old, straight, religious white guys, who had no compunction about sending anyone selling five joints to prison for a dozen years or life for a gram of cocaine. And then all those poor neighborhoods with their dissent into drug use turned them all into criminals and the neighborhoods into dangerous and somehow gave the police the idea that killing someone first is better than dealing with it properly.

Because that is one thing the white guys don’t get, apparently; it is not remotely the same for a society to expect a random person on the street to have the same responsibility and stature as a police officer. This is why when a cop is shot it is a really, really big deal. Cops represent the state, law and order, a society of restraint against violence. When some lunatic slaughters kindergarten children we shudder, we weep, we do more opining, and then we go back to whatever we do to ignore the issue with police and people of color in these neighborhoods.

We hate it when non-white guys try and tell us what we need to do. This is our gig.

When I was a younger white guy, I decided for awhile to chip at my invisible façade and grow my hair long and wear weird clothes and make-up and sing in a rock and roll band. For that short period, five years or so, I was treated very differently. I was looked at more than once when I went into a store and received judgmental glances from many, and was assumed to be a druggie or a fag or a communist or a thug or you know…an undesirable. I was none of those things, of course – although I did dabble in Socialism for about 18 months in the mid-80s after gorging myself on volumes of Arthur Koestler, but I blame Sting for that, who by the way ironically wrote songs and sang in a band called The Police. (Oh, and yeah, the police’s reaction to my speeding was to ask me to get out of the car, so they can check it for drugs and stuff, you know, cause of the hair).

By the end of the 1980s I cut my hair when the band went nowhere and I was back to being a white guy. Admittedly, it was kind of boring at first. I missed having that badge of honor, but it was also nice to just meld into the woodwork. Get back to living a life where I wasn’t discriminated against for the random acts of some who looked like me, despite the actual behavior of my own to the contrary. It was like…I mattered again.

You know, like black lives.

Or #blacklivesmatter.

White guy…out.

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A NEW TWIST ON WEEKLY SHOOTING

Aquarian Weekly
9/2/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

A NEW TWIST ON WEEKLY SHOOTING
Former TV Newsman Kills TV News People on TV

This is the beauty and horror of living as long as I have; you tend to see it all. Well, you think you see it all and then this past Wednesday happens. Former disgruntled local news guy, 41 year-old Vester Flanigan aka fancy TV name, Bryce Williams, shoots 24 year-old WDBJ feature reporter, Alison Parker and her camera man, 27 year-old Adam Ward, killing both, and fatally wounding the subject of the report, Vicki Gardner, the middle-aged director of the chamber of commerce for Roanoke, Virginia. The whole thing happens on live TV and is later posted on Facebook and tweeted by Flanigan before he is run down by local police and shoots himself dead.vester-flanagan

This is a murder/suicide emblematic of our media-obsessed times. A TV guy shoots other TV people on TV and uses social media to promote it. Later, the obligatory incoherent hate manifesto emerged, also posted somewhere on the Internet, where all ugly things eventually reside, like these words, and whatever you will absorb after reading this.

Make no mistake, I am not decrying the Internet or television or social media, nor am I citing it as the only motivation for a kook to murder people, but just like freedom – freedom from invasive and presumptive state or federal regulations on mental health, freedom to own and carry a deadly weapon, freedom to spew odious propaganda online or really anywhere you wish, and freedom for predators to skulk from victim to victim undeterred – it can be a dangerous game.

And as much as it pains me to spend two consecutive weeks discussing the media’s role in events when I have maybe touched upon this ancillary subject once or twice at most in 18 years of penning this weekly column, it does indeed play a role. And it is not something that can be or should be easily curtailed. News happens and news organizations must cover it, some of those news organizations bring cameras and those cameras roll 24 hours a day, five days a week, 365 days a year, and thus are a powerful attraction to the one constant in these random killers, whether terrorists or lone crazies: They dig being covered.

The coverage is a spotlight to the killer; a spotlight not afforded them in their otherwise empty, grueling, oppressed existence. It gives them purpose and it gives them honor, the honor of being remembered for something where they will likely live out their subsistence in crushing isolation and unending anonymity. Vester Flanigan is chubby loner living in a one-room apartment with no job, no prospects, no friends, and as a result, no self-esteem or hope. His alter ego, made for television, Bryce Williams was dynamic, lovable, and good enough to have someone point a camera at and for people to watch it. The management at WDBJ fired the effervescent Bryce Williams and turned him into the pathetic loser, Flanigan.

Sitting in a deli yesterday watching a CNN reporter standing in front of the small WDBJ studios in sleepy, otherwise quiet and peaceful Roanoke, the signs of dozens of other television news outlets crammed around him, surrounding the place, was surreal. Here is a news station, used to covering the news, being covered for a tragedy; a tragedy (again surreal) that had befallen it whilst rolling cameras and reporting the news (or at least some local TV version of news).

I realize bitching about too much news and an overload of information is as useless an endeavor as complaining about too many guns. How much is too many guns? How much is too much information? How much is too much freedom?

For the past 15 years, since 9/11, there has been constant chatter about how much our civil liberties should be compromised in order to protect ourselves from violence. The most egregious was the Patriot Act, but there have been others subtle forms, (racial profiling, protests against the building of mosques, the simple idea of everyone being a watchdog against everyone else “If you see something, say something”) and less so (outlandish airport security, street cameras, frisking at sporting events, etc.). But in every instance there is only so much you can do to protect the citizenry from itself. By nature a free society has consequences, just as one living in a lockdown has its own dark drawbacks.

This is a murder/suicide emblematic of our media-obsessed times.

I have written way too many times to be comfortable about these shooting tragedies and human nature, accepting the fact that by the very fabric of allowing you and me to roam free without harassment in the relative and constitutionally-provided cover of privacy – everyone having a camera on their hip notwithstanding – is a risk we are always willing to make; “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Sometimes, Mista Henry, you get both.

And so, of course, we cannot dissect the allure of the televised murder, anymore than we can have a serious discussion about the amount of guns we have out there, or more pointedly the risk one takes when firing someone that might come back blasting away at the purveyor of his misery. Notice how I didn’t put “his/her” there; it is always “his”, another fun aspect of our male humanity.

It is also foolish to not recognize that by giving infamy to those who would otherwise wallow in a meaningless existence is seductive to these vipers. The fact that I have just written about a guy who a few days ago would be lucky to get someone to nod at him with any kind of socially acceptable street behavior shows that it works. Killing someone in this wildly dynamic manner gives you an immortality you would never get in a million years of being the miserable little shit, Vester Flanigan.

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MEDIA, MONEY & DONALD TRUMP‏

Aquarian Weekly
8/26/15

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

MEDIA, MONEY & DONALD TRUMP

All media exist to invest our lives with artificial perceptions and arbitrary values.
– Marshall McLuhan

Winning!
– Charlie Sheen

The current issue of Time magazine features an extreme close-up of real estate mogul turned presidential candidate, Donald Trump, whose squint-eyed, pursed-lip Mussolini-like pomp has recently taken on a kind of Miley Cyrus meets Charlie Sheen quality. The text below him simply says “Deal with it”. Inside, there is an article featuring photographs of Trump with a bald eagle perched on his outstretched arm performing his now recognizable thumbs-up routine. This is only one, if not an utterly grotesque example of what has transpired over the past 60 days or so; the tried and true coupling of interesting weirdo being lapped up and shoveled at us by a corporate-backed profit machine known as the media.

trump-prez-fingers

This is always what the media has done well, (see the Spanish-American War, Hearst Publishing, McCarthyism and the Woodstock generation) but since all of the mainstream outlets for news organizations have been bankrolled by huge corporations, whose ratings numbers and advertising dollars trump (pun intended) the faintest idea of news, this is now the standard business model. Of course, with Trump leading all the national and local primary polls his act has now become news, but I maintain it would not have done so on its own momentum, if not for the candidate’s brilliant use of the media to create it. And once it is patently obvious that his shenanigans attracted numbers, all bets were off.

Full disclosure: This whole episode is wildly entertaining to me. I cannot get enough of its “torching the system and blowing up the usual boring expectations of August in off-year politics” – take the 24 million people who purportedly watched the FOX News candidate showcase masquerading as a debate, which four years ago garnered 3.2 million viewers. The Republican Party is running 45 people, 43 of which have no chance of getting its nomination, and unless the nation’s shifting demographics dramatically swing back to its 1988 levels in the next fourteen months, almost none of them will be president. For a political junkie, the Donald Trump Show is a welcomed distraction; especially the stuff about how he has made a living off purchasing the system and how it is a sham and his run is a metaphoric exploitation of it.

This is an art form, and I, for one, applaud it.

Side note: Trump has been at this particular activity for over 30 years in the media capital of planet earth and studied under Don King. He is very good at turning the rote into spectacle. It is a potent cocktail of nature and construct, like Shelly’s Frankenstein complete with groaning.

But let’s not mistake show biz for a grass roots movement.

Another side note: The surge of Barack Obama in the late summer of 2007 that mesmerized the national press, bitched about ad nauseum by the whining right wing as a media creation, was true grass roots, as it came from out of nowhere and built on its own momentum. It is like Obama was punk and Trump is disco. One forged a place into the mainstream by the force of its conviction as fashion; the other was made-up crap jammed down our throats as the fashion.

For someone who has spent most of his sentient existence studying the cross-pollination of creative entities and media manipulation, this whole thing, while appearing mostly fabricated, has legs. Just because it smells like hype infused with a generational pull greased by a fervor for profit, (pop stars, celebrities, etc) does not mean it doesn’t have merit or deeper meaning to some. It does, but it is also a difficult balancing act – one that is given credence through the lens of the television and the Internet; Marshall McLuhan’s wet dream.

There are literally hundreds of examples of Trump getting a pop culture level of coverage, but the most glaring may have been FOX News airing last Friday of one of Trump’s “events”, which preceded a live interview with fellow Republican candidate, Carly Fiorina, whose “outside Washington” thing trolls the lower rungs of the polling. The network pulled away from it to put Fiorina on the screen and then proceeded to not only ask Fiorina about Trump, which is now standard procedure these days, but then cut back in the middle of her answer to the live feed of an animated Trump, who even without sound was more compelling than whatever Fiorina was prattling on about.

The other interesting media maneuver that has benefited Trump is these panels that incessantly discuss why anyone finds him interesting or if his candidacy has any substance. It reminds one of the breakdown panels after some lunatic shoots up a mall and they begin to dissect video games, mental illness and gun control. There is now an industry in “explaining” Trump, as if he is the Yeti.

This is precisely why Trump’s penchant for blurting out the kind of bizarre rhetoric that would bury any other politician does not harm him. In fact, as a pop culture star, it enhances his notoriety. It is another media maneuver that I call the “Hokey Fight Syndrome”, something which ESPN brilliantly pulled off back when people still followed hockey; the network would run gruesome video of hockey fights and add “tisk-tisk” commentary that was meant to show you that while they knew hockey fights were what you wanted to see, they were outwardly appalled by it. Then they would show another hockey fight. Showing crazy Trump quotes and decrying them matters little in this game. They are shown and therefore they are part of the show.

It is a potent cocktail of nature and construct, like Shelly’s Frankenstein complete with groaning.

The media also prefers the carnival barker; “Wait until you see the economic plan (bearded lady) and foreign policy (lizard boy) we have for you! It will be spectacular!” In this equation having a point or even scintilla of a policy platform matters even less than how it is presented; which, of course, neuters the legitimate press (whatever that is) by presenting my good friend and colleague Doctor Slater’s axiom, “You can’t argue with crazy.”

Once this boldly impenetrable character is rolled out and makes a spectacle of what was formally a pretty dull and predictable exercise, there is a clamor to overdose on it. Take the aforementioned FOX debate for example. There were rumblings, and still are, that FOX, well entrenched in Republican politics, had other plans for this race that did not include the Donald Trump Show, and its battle with him turned into a stalemate that had FOX not airing anything Donald Trump for seventy-two hours. This so effected its ratings, the normally powerful medium backed down and went back to what everyone else was doing, “All-Trump-All-The-Time”.

Since I have vowed years ago not to write about presidential politics until at least the September before an election year, I shan’t discuss the Trump campaign’s legitimacy or electoral chances yet. Just know this, while the media can saturate us with something strange, it can and will turn like a wild animal. If Trump is truly a media creation, he will eventually be consumed by this insatiable beast he has appeared to tame. If this is somehow merely a conveyance to his end-game, whatever that may be, then we’re into the real fun.

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PLANNED PARENTHOOD & MADE-UP SHIT

Aquarian Weekly
8/12/15

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

PLANNED PARENTHOOD & MADE-UP SHIT

I want to make clear from the outset that I honestly could not care less if Planned Parenthood is defunded or shut down or whatever this wacky congress would like to do. Have at it. I also think that whoever was caught on camera being blithe about sensitive issues should be terminated and there should be some oversight to how a government-run, taxpayer funded institution is run. What needs to be pointed out is this gnawing penchant for political activists – both on the Left and the Right (this time it is the Right) to go off half-cocked and just make shit up to support its agenda. The anti-gun lobby has done it repeatedly after every shooting that occurs in this country (and Lord knows it is daily and insane and speaks more about us than the weapons used, but that is for another column) or the recently hyped Black Lives Matter movement that moves from shedding light on a serious issue of racist practices by an inordinately large number of police killing unarmed black men to an all-out assault on police in general.

planned-parenthood

If you’ve read just one paragraph of this space since 1997, you would know I have no problem with people getting riled up about a cause. And I think if you are even remotely familiar with my work you also know it is not acceptable to create your own facts in the fervent pursuit of your passion. This is the most dangerous area of our discourse, always has been. It takes us from “I disagree with his policies” to “he’s Hitler”, which is more irrational, sub-mental hyperbole than making shit up, but the journey is the same. This problem is further exacerbated when purported news outlets like the pathetically inauthentic FOX NEWS/MSNBC cabal take a story that really doesn’t exist and make it one. It’s one thing for citizens, activists, protesters, lobbyists, or paid political pundits (including the radio host goofballs) to spin their own “truths”, but when supposed journalists not only work fast and loose with facts but blurt out-and-out lies as news, things take on a kind of Alice in Wonderland aura.

Okay, so the biggest problem pro-life crowd has with Planned Parenthood is its safe and convenient (and legal) taxpayer-funded locations to provide abortions for women who decide to go that route (pro-choice). In fact, PP is the number-one enemy of the pro-lifers to the point where, for instance, petitions for mayors, congressmen and governors to close these (perfectly legal) locations are a key to elections. In the past decade many Republican officials have been skirting national law and passing laws to curtail the effectiveness of PP on the state level on the accepted assumption that PP is an abortion factory, when in fact the percentage of abortions to the other specifically women’s health provisions account for about three percent or 328,000 of the group’s nearly 10.6 million services provided last year. And although I support the right for those who oppose abortion to try the political route (as opposed to killing doctors) to advance their agendas, I also do not support a systemic flouting of law for “moral” reasons. Once again, though, this is a subject for another column – one I have written at least a dozen or more times.

The meager (when compared to the ridiculous amount of money thrown at useless murdering like the U.S. military) $528 million is about forty percent of its annual budget, less than pennies to individual taxpayers. Yet, the federal defunding (states can and do provide a sizable sum) of the other ninety-seven percent of PP’s services will adversely affect its usefulness. So while overreacting to make an ideological point, it ends up doing greater damage to nearly 2.7 million women that need PP for non-abortion related care. In an approaching election year, this kind of reactionary nonsense seduces political suicide for Republicans, who already have problems looking like they are perpetually waging social war on women.

And so once videos of PP officials casually describing in detail the “selling” of aborted fetus parts donated legally by the mothers, the pouncing began. The “outrage” singles out the profiting of this ghoulish practice and the horrors of not only the inhumane practices, but the entire idea of PP being some kind of underground human trafficking scheme.

The problem with this is none of it is true. Not a word. PP has for years provided a service to use aborted fetal tissue with written consent of the parents to scientific research for a myriad of diseases and never profits from it. The money causally discussed in the videos (which is a matter of decorum not criminality) subsidizes the preservation and transportation of said tissue, and in most cases these funds are reimbursed. While some may find this appalling, it is no different than you donating your organs to science or to save lives after you’re gone. The spectacularly irresponsible narrative that PP is coldly cashing in on this is a fantasy concocted by overzealous activists that count on you being ignorant to the facts at hand.

…while overreacting to make an ideological point, it ends up doing greater damage to nearly 2.7 million women that need PP for non-abortion related care.

The bigger problem with wildly disseminating misinformation and the orchestrated fabrication of all this leads to government officials, presidential candidates, and members of congress hinting at “investigations”, which like most investigations will end up costing taxpayers more money than the actual funding of an institution and will need nowhere, because there is no crime or story here. The story should be that people who oppose abortion will use any measure, however fanciful and inaccurate, to advance their agenda. And perhaps the most glaring problem will come if congress decides to shut the federal government down over this straw man, (and the sad fact is almost all of these politicians know this is trumped up bullshit, but pursue it to gather favor and potential votes) which will cost us fifty times what we’re discussing here, if we’re so worried about money.

Believe what you will about pro-life or pro-choice, but here are the facts; a woman’s right to choose is protected by law, Planned Parenthood is a legally run women’s health institution that provides useful services to millions of patients annually, and while people with agendas may live by their own versions of truth, none of it alters the first two. And while anti-abortion activists do not hold a patent on making shit up, they are in this case very much making shit up.

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UBER VERSUS NYC

Aquarian Weekly
7/29/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

UBER VERSUS NYC

This was bound to happen here. It has happened elsewhere. The grassroots ingenuity of transport services, more specifically Uber and to a lesser extent Lyft, offer a convenient alternative to mass transit and traditional cab services. In the case of Uber, which thanks to my friend Dan Bern I personally used to great effect in my spring visit to Nashville, Tennessee – a town spread out into disparate neighborhoods yet bereft of available conveyance for those not wanting to rent a car – it adds a fairly unregulated number of extra vehicles to the area while threatening the livelihoods of the existing official vehicular fleet. In other words, Uber is to a region-city-town-county what Napster was to the music business. There may be compromise and reshuffling, but there will be no going back.

lyft_cab

In Nashville, for instance, it took months of wrangling with the local cab services to settle on an agreement to infuse the Uber fleet into the city’s environment, mostly because many of the cabbies (minuscule in comparison to a metropolis silly with them like NYC) saw an opportunity for themselves to break out and become Uber drivers.

Uber drivers must pass a rigorous review of driving records and other key personal histories, but is according to the drivers I spoke to more lucrative than the traditional hack route. It is a well-oiled concept that invites single moms, college students, struggling lower-economic, two-job types, and others to take on a livery business to help make ends meet. Some drivers I met in Nashville raved about its flexibility and its boost to their incomes (average Uber income per hour is $12, while it is $30 in NYC). Some loved it as a distraction – one woman concerned my brothers-in-law and myself by boldly stating she had been driving people around town for some thirty hours without sleep and wondered (if she hadn’t passed out by then) if we needed a ride to the airport the next day. Needless to say we passed on her, but used Uber nonetheless.

Uber is cheaper than cab and car services simply because there is no expected tipping. You sign up through an app on your phone, connect it to your credit card or Paypal and hit it. Within minutes, depending on where you’re an independent driver arrives promptly. In Nashville we rarely waited more than four to five minutes for a car, most times it was two to three minutes.

But Nashville is a burb compared to places like Chicago, L.A., Houston, and especially the largest city on the planet, New York. In fact, my only Uber experience in NYC was a bad one. In early June my wife and I found ourselves in our usual position of fairly inebriated on McDougal Street in the Village and it was late and we needed to get back to our hotel in Tribeca. Normally I’d hail a cab and end of story, but I decided to try out Uber in the big town. I hit the app and a car was promised in three minutes. The car purportedly showed up on Bleecker around the corner in the requisite time. Not sure why it wasn’t in front of us. The driver called me, but the street was buzzing with people and traffic and it was hard to hear him. I explained that we were around the corner, but his response was unintelligible. Just then a free cab happened to be passing right by us, so I flagged it, told the Uber guy never mind, and went about our business. The next day I received a ten-dollar cancellation fee from Uber. I wanted to fight it, but screw it.

I ended up using cabs the rest of my brief stay that weekend, and part of me felt it right, since cabbies have always held a special place in my heart. I’ve had some amazing adventures in cabs all over this world. Drivers always take my advice and always put the pedal to the medal – I rarely trust any cabbie that does not blatantly break the law, especially in NYC. It is a must. And, on a personal note, my grandfather was a proud member of the hack brigade and I believe in supporting these guys/gals whenever possible.

This takes us to the issue at hand. City of New York Mayor Bill De Blasio is now faced with the same dilemma as every New York mayor before him, how to integrate progress into the city construct seamlessly without destroying the echo-structure of the town. He must simultaneously serve all New Yorkers; consumers and workers, while managing the progress of capitalism. New York’s history is filled with these moments, and for the most part New York was the experiment for the rest of the country, the most significant of these were canals, roadways, social programs, fiscal parameters, subways, building, or general infrastructure, and a host of inventions thrown into an urban environment left to its own devices.

De Blasio claims that Uber and Lyft present a possible ecological and traffic-congestion problem to the city. His latter claim is not unfounded. Uber adds hundreds of cars a day to the already uber-(pun intended)-congested streets, and having driven for over four decades around all five boroughs (I parceled medical records around NYC during the late 80s and early 90s to supplement my meager freelance earnings), I can tell you it ain’t beanbag. I have seen things on the byways of NYC that are hard to explain in print. Suffice to say – though since the city’s rebirth in the mid-90s things have been less hair-raising – it is not an easy town to traverse. This is the concern of city officials, as much as the added smelly and dangerous exhaust the additional vehicles provide. But I shan’t go down a road that claims that a few less cars will save New York from its noxious fumes. That is part of the charm, come on.

De Blasio has begun his push-back by imposing limits to the amount of cars Uber can have “on the job” at any one time. I don’t think this unreasonable, but as a business model, no one wants to have “limits” imposed on your expansion, and Uber is expanding big time. The company estimates adding 25,000 customers every week.

Ultimately Uber and Lyft will win out. This is not an if but when and how.

Uber is making its case that by rightfully pointing out that De Blasio has another reason for his push-back, NYC cabs are in jeopardy of going the way of the horse-drawn carriage. Also, more ubiquitous and affordable modes of transportation via the car lowers the mass-transit numbers, which every mayor wants to keep up, freeing the streets of congestion. Uber has countered with a multi-million dollar ad campaign online and on TV suggesting that lower-income, minority travelers now have an option, especially in the outer-boroughs, where cabs loathe to tread; specifically because they are not guaranteed a return fare.

But the sinister underbelly of this, which puts De Blasio in a tight bind to his liberal constituency, is that cabbies for decades have refused to pick up black and Hispanic fares for a variety of reasons that do not jibe with the civil rights of these individuals. Uber has no such agenda or history. De Blasio and the cab lobby cannot hide from this argument. It is real. I have seen it myself and spoken to those who have been denied rides.

Uber also has a hidden, less than moral-outrage argument for its own push-back. If Uber becomes part of the regulation of NYC-Transit, does it lose its “affordable” outside the system appeal?

Ultimately Uber and Lyft will win out. This is not an if but when and how. Maybe a compromise is coming, but if De Blasio or city officials think by ignoring a popular service with progressive tendencies a winning quotient in NYC, they will also go the way of the horse and buggy.

As usual, the rest of the nation watches the outcome.

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THE IRAN DEAL AND THE SECRET WAR ON ISIS‏

Aquarian Weekly
7/22/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE IRAN DEAL AND THE SECRET WAR ON ISIS

Let me be the first journalist or pundit or columnist or politician or radio host or prime minister to admit I have not read the entire Iran Deal. I am sure a 150-page stream of international-law gobbledygook is a fine summer jaunt, but I’ll stick to Simon Critchley’s The Book of Dead Philosophers, which I am currently enjoying and this book on Bob Dylan’s recording sessions from 1960-1994. Good stuff. I am never going to read the Iran Deal, but like all the other people who haven’t done so and probably never will, yet felt compelled to comment on it over the past few days, I will nevertheless write about it. But at least you know that I know I have not read it and have little idea of what’s in it, unlike everyone running for president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and everyone on cable news and on the radio and in nearly every newspaper op ed page in the nation.

waronisis

However, unlike those who merely agree with this thing because they support the president or disagree because they do not, I have only one agenda, which has been consistent here from the moment our purportedly antiwar president took the oath in January of 2009, stay the fuck out of Middle East conflicts. And so an Iran Deal, while being ridiculously calamitous in believing will accelerate the process for an Iranian nuclear program or spectacularly naive to think it will mark a new era in Iranian/American relations, is better than what has transpired since the CIA-orchestrated coup d’état of Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, for the despotic Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, better known to his bosses in the U.S. State Department as the mighty Shah.

I am not going to waste much time going over the complete disaster that has been the U.S. foreign policy in regards to Iran for over six decades and eleven presidents. We all know the deal; U.S. backed bloody dictatorship followed by bloody theocratic revolution, giving asylum to bloody dictator, hostage crisis, sanctions, working out alliance with and arming bloody Iraqi dictator, Iraq invades Iran, more sanctions, secretly trading arms with Iranians to back illegal Central American war in Nicaragua, you guessed it…sanctions, war kicking out aforementioned U.S.-backed Iraqi dictator in neighboring Kuwait, “axis of evil”, second war deposing Iraqi dictator, Iranians begin nuclear program for energy, which no one on the planet believes, G.W. Bush nixes initial Iran Deal to not appear weak in “war on terror”, suspected nuclear plan quadruples, diminutive lunatic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies Holocaust, the existence of Iranian homosexuals and promises to wipe Israel off the map, U.N. (everybody together now!) sanctions, citizens discover twitter and fake an Arab Spring, Ahmadinejad goes bye-bye, Iran Deal.

Okay, I lied – minor time-waster; but you get the point.

There are two options left for the U.S., the U.N, and the rest of the oil-addicted world – deal or war. Period. I choose deal.

Of course hardliners in the U.S. and Iran will bitch about this thing. This is the aim of “the deal”. No one is happy. Would it be better if there were stronger terms on weapons-testing and did testing end up in a war in Iraq in 2003? Yup. And would it be better for Iran if the sanctions would be lifted sooner without all this “trust but verify” verbiage? Yup. But, again, this is the nature of “the deal”. People get something and give something up they would not want to give up. I find it hard to believe people over six years-old would find this concept alien. How does anyone get through forty seconds of adult life, never mind international relations, without compromise?

Now, although I think Netanyahu a buffoon, he is in a tough position – one he created by being the hard-line candidate and prime minster, but nevertheless it is a tough one. He has been saying for ten years that Iran is weeks away from making a bomb. If I said for instance that I am sure Martians are coming next month for ten years I would be put away. Prime ministers and presidents say stuff like this and get re-elected. It’s just the name of the game. I do not blame him and I realize that if this thing goes sideways Israel will have to be aggressive, but I also know that all this bluster from Netanyahu is backed by billions of American dollars (our taxpaying dollars) and billions in U.S. weapons, and out of mere diplomacy, we would have to back such aggression.

This is why “the deal” makes sense. It finally puts us in the game. Instead of lip service and name calling and grandstanding to get votes or seem morally superior, we now in a sense partner with Iran to make sure they act responsibly in the international construct or finally pay for their transgressions. It is an oil-rich, advancing, and geographically large nation. It is about time.

And if this pisses off the Saudis who are currently fighting Iran in Yemen, all the better.

I want to take a moment to point out that this haughty notion of making deals with countries that ignore human rights and sponsor terrorism and/or foreign aggression being a no-no is crazier than the Martian analogy. Please see Saudi Arabia and China for prime examples of why this never seems to matter.

However, there is another key reason, and maybe the key reason, for “the deal” at this time; the growing issue with ISIS.

Aside from the Egyptians and a rag-tag army of Kurds, there is no one who has been more of an ally against the Sunni-configured ISIS than the Shiite theocracy of Iran. Just like our tentative and eventually disastrous alliance with the Soviet Union during WWII, the Iranian influence, intelligence and underground weapons’ network in the region is second to none. We need Iran to defeat ISIS, plain and simple.

This is a classic Barack Obama move. Joe Cool has been pussyfooting around with drones and “relief aid” and Special Forces for too long. He has to stick to his “no boots on the ground” rhetoric and continue to appear “weak” to hawks while also getting into the deep weeds with regards to Iraq. U.S. fingerprints will be all over the Iranian military thrust, eventually strengthened by lifted sanctions, in Iraq now. The Iran Deal comes with a secret détente no one to my knowledge had sussed out; these two nations have a common interest and a common enemy; thus speeding up the negotiations now more than ever.

And if this pisses off the Saudis who are currently fighting Iran in Yemen, all the better. This is should be their war, yet they insist on asking us to fight it. They had their chance. Fuck them.

So Obama gets his secret war against ISIS, which I have also vehemently opposed, seeing this is a cultural civil war that has nothing to do with us. This thing reeks of Ronald Reagan’s expedient support of Iraq in 1982, which did not end well for any of us.

But it isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last.

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EQUALITY…OF COURSE

Aquarian Weekly
7/8/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

EQUALITY…OF COURSE

Let it be so marked that on June 26, 2015, 239 years after declaring the right to be free and sovereign to pursue life’s ambitions under the law, and not some theocratic monarchy, that we have once again embraced our truest nature as a nation; that we must never deny the rights we enjoy to our fellow citizens. For that is the day the U.S. Supreme Court, echoing its own prior ruling on this measure and every lower court that has been forced to observe it, that all the citizens of these United States will be granted the opportunities of all, regardless of sexual orientation, as did their fore-runners in race, religion, and gender. Homosexuals now join every one of us not born male, white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant, who were told we do not belong in the pantheon of Thomas Jefferson’s haughty dreams of all being equal, from his God to the compulsory halls of law, but eventually triumphed as you do.

gay_marriage

I write these words on the eve of commemorating our nation’s day of birth, July 4, 1776, a full dozen years before its official commencement, the ratifying of a national Constitution. It sacred words of law since amended to include so many more than it defended that late June day of 1788, not unlike the one that duly reflected its power and purpose 227 years later this past week almost to the day. When tested, it has endured. And its crowning achievement exists in the millions it has freed from the tyranny of discrimination through hatred, tradition, religion, and the will of the majority, which ultimately has nothing to do with whether you are entitled to the rights of someone who is not like you, the right to breathe free. That, Jefferson said, is settled by merely being human.

And so America, its concept, its majesty, its stubbornness, its clamor and furor and foundation, gets it right…again.

Eventually.

Because all we have to do as Americans is look to the history of our vaunted Declaration of Independence and the bloody insurrection that lasted nearly nine long years and its ensuing half-decade of debate and rancor that helped forge a Constitution that would be insufficient to raise its ambitions to Jefferson’s promise. It is why it took 73 years to bring forth the idea that some men being more equal than others (apologies to Orwell) was something America could not abide. Of course it took five more years of the most devastating war the nation has endured and 600,000 dead before America became an actuality. The last days of slavery and the eradication of the aborted Confederate States put the legal end to the discussion on who was denied the right to exist.

But of course this took another century before everyone was on board, commencing with the signing of the Civil Rights Act, which continued what the 41st Congress did five years after the Civil War by allowing African-Americans the right to cast a vote, the most binding of our democratic rights. During that time it took America 143 years to finally recognize the full rights of more than half its citizenry with the Constitution’s 19th Amendment, providing our women the right to a vote, nearly a century and a half after Jefferson’s notion about universal equality given not by the state but by simply being.

And now our homosexual brothers and sisters join our proud ranks, cementing a right that should never be provided by a state, but only protected by the state, these United States, a republic, not a theocracy, a rule of law, not the majority of discrimination. But know this; what happened on June 26, 2015 is not merely the end of something, but just the beginning of a whole other thing.

If what you have read above is not enough of a warning, you should be aware that there will be battles ahead. Those woefully unaware of what it is to be an American already pontificate and conspire on how to subjugate this right to marry as any law-abiding, tax-paying citizen may (check that, heterosexuals in prison can marry). It is happening now as I write this and will continue for many, many years, long after you are gone from the script and will be fought by your children and your children’s children. But at least they are now assured by law that they are not “less than” but “equal to”, and that is the whole and binding and spiritual point of June 26, 2015, which is a direct and proud descendent of July 4, 1776. It is the reason there is an America. In some twisted wrench of logic, it even makes all the other crap worth it.

But if I may throw in a humble bit of personal joy; I have made it mostly my ambition here in this space for over 12 years to make known the atrocity of our denying our citizens their inalienable rights. For some, I know, it seemed like every argument forged here would find its way back to this subject. But through it all, I held the strong and unwavering belief in this abomination being unconstitutional, and for that my ecstatic relief of June 26, 2015 knows no bounds. Trust me; my first gin on July 4 will have special meaning. And for that I thank one of my heroes, Kurt Vonnegut, whose prose one day, not sure when or what passage, some 15 years ago, woke me up to the sad fact that I had not spoken up, that I had not used this minor but sometimes effective pulpit to shout from the rafters the core elements of this crucial fight.

what happened on June 26, 2015 is not merely the end of something, but just the beginning of a whole other thing.

And I thank all who appreciated the effort and came around to my words and all of the gay news outlets and magazines who reprinted my rants on this latest battle in our tumultuous history. I even thank those whose opposition, however misguided, but sometimes salient (and you know how you are) arguments seemed to put at least some measure of intellect into what was ordinarily a pathetically stupid and sadly derivative counterpoint to this journey.

Freedom. Rights.

We get there eventually. It is frustrating and perplexing, but when it comes, it is damn glorious.

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RECALLING THE ETERNAL WAVE – A Brief Conversation with the Legendary Brian Wilson

Aquarian Weekly

7/1/15
BUZZ Feature

James Campion

 

RECALLING THE ETERNAL WAVE
A Brief Conversation with the Legendary Brian Wilson

 

You know the old showbiz axiom about luminaries needing no introduction? Okay, so here’s one of those.

There is no need for anyone to wax poetic about Brian Wilson, musician composer, arranger, producer, hit-maker, icon. For over half a century there has been Brian Wilson. In one way or the other he has influenced the cultural and artistic landscape of the American experience. He was the heart, soul and musical and philosophical engine of the Beach Boys. His songs created the great California myth of what I once called “the sun-drenched hymn to hedonism.” Pretty good resume. He has survived well-documented traumatic hardships from childhood to his years of fame and fortune and the inevitable 1960s cliché fallout of drugs and madness and break-downs, both mentally and physically.wilson_380

Much of this is covered in the new biopic about Wilson, Love & Mercy. The film features two actors, Paul Dano and John Cusak, portraying Wilson as a young man at the height of his musical powers while unraveling from mental illness, and the middle-aged overly-medicated period when he was being manipulated and exploited by the tyrannical Dr. Eugene Landy, played sinisterly by Paul Giamatti. While Wilson did add his expertise and memories to the filming, which he commented was “very factual, accurate, stimulating,” he ultimately found it hard to watch. I saw it weeks after speaking to Wilson and was very moved. The studio sequences recording his two masterpieces, Pet Sounds and Smile truly capture the mood and the significance of the times and add to Wilson’s already legendary status, while his ascent from the abyss is truly inspiration.

Seeing Love & Mercy and reading about Wilson’s harrowing but prolific journey, which takes another step with his recently released album, No Pier Pressure, it would be easy to say that Brian Wilson is the shell of the man who broke molds and conquered the zeitgeist, but that would be short-sighted. What you get from speaking with Brian Wilson today is the real guy, the guy who would never let it all crack his resolve or bend his personality into something he couldn’t recognize. He is by any credible definition of the word, a genius. He is cloaked in it like armor. It precedes him. It defines him.

He speaks in certifiable tones, but with a sweet disposition that is at first alarming and then as comforting as one of his spectacularly arranged five-part harmonies. There is no hesitation in his expression, therefore he doesn’t self-edit for effect. This is a raw psyche; the echoes of a man who brought some important stuff back from the darkness and the light and placed some high stakes in all those strikingly beautiful songs.

What follows here is about fifteen minutes over the phone from Los Angeles of the musings of a living legend, and I don’t think I’m being maudlin or coy or ironic when stating this. In the pantheon of rock and roll, especially during its most experimental, influential and lucrative period, there is Dylan, Lennon and McCartney and Brian Wilson. This is a person you hope to get two minutes with. I got fifteen. And so I asked him things I always wanted to ask Brian Wilson. It was rapid fire and it was thrilling His answers, although appearing in print as curt and often dismissive of detail, in person –hearing his cracked, sing-song voice coming over the phone line – are surprisingly effusive and to the point.

This is a man who has answered countless questions. How could you even begin to put a number on it? People want to know how the genius works, where it comes from, how it goes from the head and the heart to the canvas or the page or the recording. These are the things you think about when gaining access to the artist who has provided the world indisputable greatness. And this is what I think about when Brian Wilson is uttered in my presence. I put it to him and waited breathlessly for the key to the kingdom, so to speak. And I think this discussion, of which I send to press virtually word-for-word, is my few minutes getting to the bottom of genius. I hope I asked the questions you would ask of Brian Wilson. And I hope his answers are enough. They have to be.

 

Brian Wilson: Hi, James!

 

james campion: Mr. Wilson, how are you, sir?

 

BW: Very good.

 

jc: Excellent. I know we have a short amount of time, so I’ll get right to it. I know you’ve probably been asked this a billion times, but I have to do it. I’m a huge fan and you are one of the great composers of the latter half of the twentieth century, so everyone always wants to know where do the songs come from? What is your process? Take me through the Brian Wilson method of writing a song.

 

BW: Well, I go to a studio…there’s a studio I go to and there’s a piano there. I play chords on the piano, and then after awhile a melody starts to come. And after the melody is done, the lyrics start happening.

 

jc: And that’s basically it.

 

BW: Yeah. Basically, yes.

 

jc: When you first started writing songs, which I assume was when you were a teenager or even before that…

 

BW: Well, I started playing piano when I was like…I don’t know…twelve or fourteen? And when I was nineteen I wrote “Surfer Girl”, the first song I ever wrote, and then from there I was a self-taught musician.

 

jc: And do you write basically the same as you did when you were nineteen? Have you changed the process at all through the years?

 

BW: Oh, no, I changed a lot. I’ve changed the process a lot.

 

jc: How so?

 

BW: Well, I used to write more rock and roll type songs, thanks to Chuck Berry.

 

jc: (laughs) Right. You’ve often spoken in the past about capturing sounds on tape that you hear in your head; harmonies, various instrumentation, is there any song that you wrote and recorded that you think came out perfectly, that was exactly how you heard it in your head?

 

BW: Yeah, “California Girls”; some of it I heard in my head and some of it I heard in the studio.

 

jc: So when you listen to that record, even today, you say to yourself, “That is exactly how I pictured it.”

 

BW: Yeah, when it was done I said, “Hey, guys, that sounds exactly how I wanted it to sound like!”

 

jc:  And that never happened again?

 

BW: It happened again with “Good Vibrations”.

 

jc:  Those are the two, huh?

 

BW: Yes.

 

jc: Some pretty good songs, there. I know you’re a big fan of Phil Spector’s sound, and I know you were a Beatles fan, did you ever listen to a song and say, “Wow, not only do I wish I wrote that, but that is really a perfect record”?

 

BW: Yeah, “Let It Be” by Paul McCartney and The Beatles. That’s something where I said, “Boy, I wish I could have written something like that!’

 

jc: (laughs) Well you certainly did in many, many ways. Here’s something I was always interested in asking you. I think it was in your 1990 autobiography, Wouldn’t It Be Nice; you had revealed in that book that you had discovered at some point that placing certain bass lines and notes under a specific chord or specific melodies over other chord progressions would evoke an emotion in listeners; get them to feel melancholy or feel joy or spark memories in them…

 

BW: Well, Pet Sounds was my ballad album; “Caroline No” and “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” were, I think, a very sweet, feminine theme to get across. Those songs were the feminine side of me.

 

jc: I remember as a kid listening to Pet Sounds and getting very emotional, and not because of the lyrics or any particular connection to the themes. I was a kid, yet, I could not escape feeling something mature when listening to that record. It was as if you got across with music these mature themes of love, loss, anxiety, nostalgia. Still, to this day it moves me. Was that something you planned or did it come together in the writing?

 

BW: It actually came together in the writing. Very fast.

 

jc:  That is generally considered your greatest work. Do you think it is?

 

BW: It has to be one of the best albums I ever produced, yeah.

 

jc:  When you heard the Smile stuff that Capitol put out a couple of years ago from the original Beach Boys sessions, much of it unfinished, do you think it captures what you were trying to do with Smile or was it your version that came out about ten years ago?
(Note: Smile was the great and mysterious unfinished opus for Wilson that eventually caused mental exhaustion and his eventual retreat from the mainstream that would cause his reduced role in the Beach Boys)

 

BW: Which version do I prefer?

 

jc: Yeah.

 

BW:  The 2004 version.

 

jc: Your version.

 

BW: Yeah.

 

jc: Did you have anything to do with Capitol’s choice of material or were you surprised that they released it?

 

BW: I was surprised they put it out, yeah.

 

jc: Were you disappointed in how it sounded?

 

BW: A little bit, yeah.

 

jc: Is it because it was unfinished business, it took you back to that time and you said, “Damn it, I wish I had the chance to finish that album the way I originally planned it!”

 

BW: Right! Right on!

 

jc: (laughs) I figured. Just from reading about you and your work on that record and how much it meant to you, the first time I saw it out, I thought, “I wonder what Brian thinks of all this?” You have a new record out, correct?

 

BW:  Yes.

 

jc: Can you tell me about the process of working with this new material and what you may have discovered when writing and recording it?

 

BW: Well, I wrote a couple of the songs back in 1998 that I use on the album and the rest I wrote in 2014.

 

jc:  So it’s been a couple of years in the making?

 

BW: Yes.

 

jc: How do you find performing now? I know that it was something you didn’t really enjoy during the Beach Boys years, but over the past two decades you seem to be playing more and more. Do you enjoy it more now?

 

BW: Some of it. I enjoy some of it, but some of it is a lot of hard work and some of it is an easy-going kind of thing, you know?

jc:  I sure do. You’re known for so many great songs. My favorite is “God Only Knows”. You mentioned that you agree that Pet Sounds is one of if not your finest collected work; do you have any fond memories of writing and recording “God Only Knows”? Do you think that’s something truly special that you nailed there?

 

BW: I worked with my friend, Tony Asher. I started writing a melody and he immediately came up with (sings) “I may not always love you…” and it was a very spontaneous writing session.

 

jc:  I bet its one of those incidents when you think, “Where the hell does this come from?”

 

BW: Right. I said, “What the fuck?”

 

jc:  (laughs)

 

BW: Yeah. Yeah.

 

jc:  That song has been used in so many films and it never fails to move people. Did you ever see it used with visuals, in whatever capacity, and agree that it works on that level?

 

BW: Most of it works, although I’m not really sure where it ended up, whether television programs or movies or whatever, but I do know that whenever they do use it I hear, “Good job.”

 

jc:  (laughs) What part of your legacy do you enjoy the most? What is the talent you are most proud of – the songwriting, the producing, arranging, your building the Beach Boys into this iconic piece of Americana? How do you want to be remembered?

 

BW: Well, to tell you the truth my singing means more to me than anything.

 

jc: Sure. I’m sorry I didn’t even bring that one up. Of course, the singing. Would you say that’s also the most fun you had working with the Beach Boys in the studio, getting all those wonderful vocal harmonies together?

 

BW: Yeah, that was the fun part! The hard part was producing. That was the hardest part of it for me. Producing was rough, but singing always came very naturally, effortlessly. You know…an artist expresses.

“Don’t take drugs, write songs on the natch.”

jc: And that is your most cherished expression as an artist, your singing.

 

BW: Right. Right.

 

jc: There’s a film out right now about the famed Wrecking Crew, a working studio session band that played on so many hits of the 1960s, including a lot of the Beach Boys stuff. Can you talk about working with those kind of top musicians in the field and producing the incredible records you did with them?

 

BW: I worked with some of the more well-known musicians in Los Angeles like Hal Blaine (drummer), Carol Kaye (bassist), John Randy (keyboardist), Steve Douglas (saxophonist), and so many others. They worked with other producers around L.A., but we did some great work together.

 

jc:  Is there a song you heard when you were a kid that turned you on, influenced you more than the others?

 

BW: Well, “Rhapsody in Blue” comes to mind. I think “Rhapsody in Blue”. That was the song that got to my heart the most.

 

jc:  Do you listen to any music of today that moves you, influences you? Who are the great songwriters today?

 

BW: Well, I listen to a lot of 80s music. There’s so many artists from the 80s, Rod Stewart, Billy Idol, Blondie, just a lot of groups I like. I listen to 80s music all the time.

 

jc:  In all the years you’ve collaborated with quite a few lyricists and songwriters, is there anybody that you wish you could work with that you haven’t?

 

BW: Paul McCartney.

 

jc:  I can’t believe you two guys haven’t written a song together; after all the years. You guys respected each other’s talents so much, influenced each other to greater works, the Beatles pushing the Beach Boys and vice versa. It’s hard to believe there is no Wilson/McCartney composition?

 

BW: Are you kidding? I haven’t had the chance!

 

jc:  Somebody has to get that going.

 

BW: Yuuuup.

 

jc: Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson that would be something.

 

BW: That would be a trip.

 

jc: (laughs) Sure would. What is the one thing, you would say, a songwriter today needs to focus on? What is your advice for the kid now cobbling songs together and starting a band?

 

BW: I would have to say…okay…okay…I would say don’t take drugs, write songs on the natch.

 

jc:  Got it.

 

BW: Don’t take drugs, write songs on the natch.

 

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FLAGS ARE BULLSHIT

Aquarian Weekly
7/1/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

FLAGS ARE BULLSHIT
Or An Ornery Stroll Down Our Useless, Pathetic Clinging To Symbols

Any so-called material thing that you want is merely a symbol: you want it not for itself, but because it will content your spirit for the moment.
– Mark Twain

My little swastika
My little swastika
You can do what you want
But I’m taking it back
It’s not yours anymore
It’s mine now

– Dan Bern

Flags are bullshit.

They are symbols and symbols are not reality and thus are bullshit.

nascar_confederate

Before you start your hissy fit, let’s not merely embrace the ranting of yours truly and instead head to the dictionary; the place where those who cling to or are threatened by symbols rarely tread. According to Merriam-Webster a symbol is “a material object representing something, often something immaterial.” Then a quick shift to “immaterial” brings us to “of no essential consequence; unimportant.” A flag is then a symbol and thus “immaterial” or “of no essential consequence and unimportant”. The Oxford Dictionary uses the word “abstract” in its definition – and “abstract” being something “existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence.”

Can you imagine getting worked up over something with no concrete existence, the bogeyman, vampires, an insurance company with integrity, God?

Oh, shit, God. Right, that works us up.

But be that as it may, a flag is bullshit, like a weird haircut, lawn signs or tee shirts with pithy sayings. None of these things mean a thing. It’s akin to people crowding around a guy wearing a Michel Jordan jersey and wanting his autograph. Do people really believe this guy is Michael Jordan?

Votes, laws, actions; these are the things that sustain humanity.

Not flags.

Not symbols.

The swastika never did a damn thing. Neither did the crucifix. The Yankees interlocking NY never won a baseball game and heavy metal hand-horns never wrote, recorded or performed a single song. I just recently watched a brilliant documentary called Happy Valley on the Jerry Sandusky crimes, which were enabled and perpetuated by the entire institution of Penn State University for fifteen years. When I think of Penn State now, I personally think of a child-rape factory, but does that make everyone who goes to Penn State or represent the university pedophiles?

People who conflate the symbol with something actual and binding and/or are threatened by symbols or inspired by them are simply misguided. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that worshiping symbols can sometimes lead to great things; so more power to them. Still, sometimes this misguided worship can perpetuate violence. But make no mistake; these are just excuses for the greatness and violence, not causation.

This past week a white kid shot black people in the South. This used to be called Tuesday afternoon in the South. Now it is a national outrage. That is what is known as progress or what the dictionary defines as “a movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage.” It is a slow, painful, abjectly embarrassing level of progress, but one that happened under the shadow of our beloved American flag, not the defunct, dishonored, terrorist, insurrectionist, anti-American symbol of the Confederate flag, which had its symbolic moment for around six years 150 years ago, before it was summarily defeated, humiliated, and left to the dustbin of history. However, for 90 years prior to the Civil War slavery boomed under the American flag. After the crushing of the Confederate South, Jim Crow happened under the American flag. Lynching happened under the American flag. Women denied the vote; American flag – illegal wars, assassinations, high political crimes, spying on and jailing of dissidents, marriage inequality, American flag. Does that make all Americans murderers of innocents, bigots, racists, tyrants?

This hubbub about the Confederate flag or streets in the South named after criminals and defenders of slavery is insane. There are monuments and airports and holidays dedicated to slave owners all over this country. The goddamn capital is named after a slave owner. It is impossible to have an America without slavery. Free labor and land grabs made America, a country stolen from someone else before our forefathers kicked those guys out. Slavery is, among many other misappropriations of humanity, forever a stain on our national soul. There is no coming back from this, or wiping it from our national psyche, and if you take away one symbol another feckless, misguided murderer will use something else, a film or a song or another kind of flag or symbol to justify violence.

You know what is far more dangerous and a pox on the idea of America than some bullshit flag? The sweeping eradication of planned parenthood centers in an overt attempt to subvert the law of the land or votes to prevent citizens from enacting their civil rights or laws that disenfranchise voters on some fantasy of voter fraud or other laws giving religious belief a reason to empower the open market to legally discriminate, all of it happening in the South right now, not 150 years ago, under the American flag.

Some people get riled up about these things – not enough of us, but some. But everyone, and I mean everyone, Republican, Democrat, Independent, you name it, get nuts about a fucking, stupid, meaningless piece of cloth with bars and stars on it. It would be like complaining that the surfing at Normandy Beach on D-Day was sub-par or the rain at Gettysburg was a bit dreary.

It’s akin to people crowding around a guy wearing a Michel Jordan jersey and wanting his autograph.

I’ll give you a prime example of this craziness. This week the president of the United States was making a larger point on symbols of racism having no bearing on actual racism by using the word “nigger.” People went sideways on the word. The word, not his actual point, became the story. This quite ironically made his point: The symbol (the word), not the actions of what that symbol purportedly represents, is a distraction. Nothing more. Like people thinking if we get rid of the “N” word all racism will cease or if we eradicate all the names of sports teams that use Native American terms or symbols we will somehow wipe away the horrible, criminal actions of the past that allow us to be here getting all worked up in the first place.

It is easier for us to get all righteous about the meaningless, like embracing or protesting the Confederate flag, because the meaningless doesn’t really exist, like arguing what Islam means in the grander scope of the violence in the Middle East. I argue Islam, like all religion throughout blood-soaked human history, is an excuse to perpetuate violence. I can find as many justifications for violence against infidels in the Bible, but it would simply be exploiting a symbol and attaching all of your reasons for doing whatever you do, good or bad, to it. But it is far from reality. It is merely a distraction from what we need to observe and contemplate as humans sharing this spinning sphere.

Flags are bullshit.

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THE BODY EXPERIMENT‏

Aquarian Weekly
6/24/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE BODY EXPERIMENT
or Torturing One’s Self for Results

I found a way to cut your cholesterol numbers in half.

In half.

I did it in 40 days and so can you.

Read on, Macduff.

Here’s a reality check for ya; most of what we eat is shit. A spectacular number of us are in abysmal shape and are going to die sooner than we’d expect and likely the final years will be an agonizing death march merely to survive. But at least we’re having fun, right? To that end, I decided this past spring to use my body as an experiment in radical diet change that ended up reaping stunning results, which were duly corroborated by my doctor, who looked at my blood work numbers this past week and blubbered, “What happened? What did you do?”
6millman

I’ll share this pertinent information, if for nothing else, as a public service.

In other words, none of the kind of thing you usually get here.

Before I reveal my method and results, I need to clarify that I am among the millions that wage a battle with high cholesterol. Although I am not over-weight and do not smoke cigarettes, and eat healthier than the average American (which ain’t sayin’ much), I was told it is mostly hereditary – some kind of Mediterranean thing, thanks to my Martignetti side. It’s not scary dangerous, but when I was first diagnosed in my mid-to-late-thirties, I was well over the safe level (at some point in the 300’s, which sucks ass) and was told to go on Lipitor, which I flatly refused to do and accomplished enough with diet and exercise – something I did none of after high school – that helped keep me from a potential stroke. And while I have managed this naturally for lo these fifteen or so years, (staying in the 230’s, still sucks) I have never had the kind of numbers that would fool anyone into thinking I did not have an issue.

That would change after The Experiment.

The Subject: I am five-foot-five-inches tall and usually feel comfortable around 127 to 132 pounds. The reason I know this is because I was a diseased wrestler in high school and did unspeakable things to my body in the cause of making weight (hey, I did many and varied unspeakable things to my body in general in high school, but let’s leave that be). Just to give you an example of my weight journey, I wrestled in the 108-pound weight class in 1979-80 during my senior season, this is up from the 91-pound class my freshman year. I probably did not grow an inch since, but back then I knew for a fact (and one concerned doctor told me) that the thinnest this frame of mine can be and still function in society would be 107 and three-quarters pounds. The heaviest I have ever been is 153 sometime at the turn of the century when I was stress-eating during my building concerns about Y2K.

The Method: So, I’ve always been aware of my weight and, having gone a little nuts over the holidays, I was up around 141 around early February. But weight was never really a big thing for me. I eventually get to where I need to be because each Lenten season I do what I call “a fast”. I have written about this occasionally here and more in-depth in my book, Trailing Jesus (Gueem Books – 2002).

When I was a young Catholic growing up in the Bronx, New York, we were expected to give something up during Lent, which is kind of a Christian rip-off of Passover/Yom Kippur that commemorates the assassination and purported resurrection of one Jesus of Nazareth or more to the Catholic point, the Christ. I found this exercise rather challenging and began as a young man giving up some candy product or whatever, and although my faith inevitably waned, crashed and burned, I always challenged myself each spring to give up something and then something more, until there were times that I went way off the rails, but that is a column for another day.

The Regimen: This year I decided to be a Vegan for 40 days. My wife is a Vegan and we’re raising our daughter, Scarlet one, and well…I get a lot of shit around here for being the only carnivore and mainly get accused of being weak – since calling me amoral and uncaring toward nature is a losing battle. So, what the hey? I’ll do it. (Note: a Vegan eats and wears nothing that comes from an animal – I just did the eating part) This was coupled with eating one meal a day – the normal spring ritual – along with no booze, cigars or anything other than water to drink and a regimen of a daily 30 minute to 50 minute treadmill related activity – speed-walking, running, and incline-jogging. Usually I do every other day to recover, (hey I’m over a half-century, sue me) but this time went full bore. I also managed to get up to 50 push-ups and 50 sit-ups and 50 crunches along with it.

The Supplement: Sometime in the late 90s when I flatly refused to take drugs to curtail my Mediterranean-induced problem, I came across an old Chinese woman who counseled me to take a supplement called Red Yeast Rice (look it up, I’m running out of space), which was so good at reducing cholesterol the assholes who produce Lipitor and the other assholes who run the federal government teamed up to try and have it taken off the market, but were met with a granola-head revolution to my utter delight. It was Red Yeast Rice that kept me just under the red line for cholesterol troubles all these years.

However, I never took it twice a day – recommended. Don’t ask why. Maybe it was laziness. No, forget the other reasons. It was laziness. I also added something the last couple of years that helped too, one capsule of Fish Oil. But for the purposes of The Experiment, for 40 days I took two of the former and one of the latter (two 600 mg of Red Yeast Rice and one 1200 mg of Fish Oil).

Exercise drives up good cholesterol (HDL) which fights the bad (LDL). It is apparently okay to have a higher LDL number, if your HDL is soaring. The idea is the HDL cancels out the LDL and then some. This is not the scientific portion of this column. You want more info? Look it up.

Okay, so after 40 days of this torturous regimen, (I remind you I had my blood samples taken the week after Easter, the end of Lent, but due to my insane schedule and other factors, my annual physical was only this past week), here’s the deal, folks:

2014 results:
Total Cholesterol – 212 (borderline crappy, but nowhere near good)
HDL – 58 (ideal is close to 60, so not bad)
LDL 129 (this is considered the high-end of near or above optimal)
Triglycerides 123 (this is fat in the blood, and I’ve never had an issue with this – this is very normal)

**Also, last year my blood sugar levels were a tad high – apparently, this is tough for all of us since everything, and I mean everything, has insane historically high and way bad levels of sugar in it. If anything kills us before ISIS or wild-card cops or Ebola, it’s sugar.

2015 post-experiment results:
Total Cholesterol – 137 (considered desirable levels, but I have never been that low)
HDL – 56 (steady, so looks like exercise was not as effective as diet and supplements)
LDL – 69 (half of last year’s number and well within optimal)
Triglycerides – 61 (once again, halved from last year and so low it’s not even listed on sites dealing with this issue)

**Sugar levels were non-existent.

…my doctor, who looked at my blood work numbers this past week and blubbered, “What happened? What did you do?”

And so there you have it. It ain’t bragging if it’s true. And it’s far from bragging. Lord knows I have abandoned that diet and I’m back to destroying myself again. I ended up at 126 points (lost 15) and am already pushing 130. I only make this public as a specific reality check: You too can make a dramatic change to your health in 40 lousy days, not weeks or months. It’s not easy, but it is effective and it involves no drugs. Lipitor damages the liver and I need that to imbibe at Olympian levels, so there’s that.

Now excuse me while I have a beer and a cigar.

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