james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 4/10/13 REALITY CHECK

READERS RESPONSES

Mr. Campion,

The drone policy of our government and the absolute powers exhibited by this president, as were the last ones by the previous administration, are the obvious consequences of the way we as citizens allowed the zealous deconstruction of our rights immediately after 9/11. (LIFE (AND DEATH) DURING PERPETUAL WARTIME – Issue: 2/13/12) Back then there was at least an excuse: the shock and fear that we were not as powerful and untouchable as we once had thought. Panic set in at the highest corridors of our government and we demanded to we protected and see justice served. We did not seem to care about what would come of it. We went for immediate gratification; we let our principles as a free people go away – torture, spying, invading countries that had nothing to do with out plight. We were damned scared and acted like it – from people to government.

What is happening now is far more frightening. We have learned nothing from the Bush/Cheney years. We have a president who ran against these atrocities, promised to shut down our illegal prisons and to be transparent in our overseas operations. He lied. And by now using drones against American citizens and having an enemies list to rub out while continuing to try and negotiate fairly with rogue nations like Iran in a hotbed of revolt and anti-American fervor throughout a volatile Middle East, things have gone full circle.

We know now, as you say, there is no going back. We are a war nation more than ever before. And while World War II was massive and Viet Nam disastrous, we now may never know a time without our most generous resource and biggest export is violence and death.

Andrew Simon

 

I don’t know who the bad guys are any more. I have to trust that someone does. Who is accountable? Have we evolved to the degree where our inherent need to conduct warfare has honed itself to strategic levels where now only a few will die (compared to past slaughters, ethnic cleansing, holodomors etc.)? We shout for transparency regarding who our government is offing (or planning to off) while at the same time we willingly place all of our faith in those who we feel will protect us while hoping, with all of our might, that they have the wisdom to act in a manner that justifies the authority we have handed them. We curl up in our metaphorical Snuggies and watch the Grammys pausing at a commercial break to briefly take stock of the world that surrounds us before sticking or heads back into the sand. We sleep soundly at night believing that the Good Guys are taking care of business when we know that there are no longer “good guys” or “bad guys”. That there never really was. Just degrees of bad and levels of tolerance. Nazis, Khmer rouge, Stalinistas or Grey Wolves. CIA, IRA, KGB, KFC. Our government has always held the right to indiscriminately kill us (Just ask the American Indian). The saving grace is that, at least now, they have the technology to do it with precision.

Peter Saveskie

 

Where is the Left now that their beloved president is in the same black hole as Dick Cheney, the minister of unlawful hate and destruction? Where is the outrage? The anti-war protests? Killing citizens? How about Rand Paul waiting twelve hours during an inexhaustible filibuster in the senate for an answer from our chief law officer on whether it is legal for the government to murder its citizens on suspicion of terrorism. This is FDR Japanese interment camps and Nixon’s enemies list. It is Bush’s domestic surveillance, and it is wrong.

VV782

 

It’s hilarious. The last president killed innocents abroad – women, children, bombing schools and churches for absolutely nothing, but since they weren’t Americans, it was apparently fine. Now this guy kills one American (a terrorist) and there is wild screaming – especially from the Right that has no leg to stand on after their dismantling of the constitution and destruction of the economy.

I say, drone away.

It is better than sending my son to another duty in a country we had no business being in in the first place. THANK YOU, GEORGE BUSH.

Laura B.

 

Come on, James be real. (JOE COOL BUDGET/GUNS/IMMIGRATION/EDUCATION TOUR 2013 – Issue: 2/27/13) The Democrat Senate and the Democrat President do not pass budgets because they do not have to. The Big 3 networks, CNN, MSNBC, the NEW York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times and every other major daily rag have never and will never call their guys out and so doing the heavy lifting is left to the next guy. Hence the problem with sequestration. The whole she-bangabang was Barack Hussein’s idea and now that it is blowing up in his face he gets the Palace Scribes to go out and blame the GOP. The GOP on the other hand is not doing themselves any favors by allowing themselves to get butt violated by this President and not fighting back. The fact you haven’t figured out why Barry Soetero is out on tour is rather funny. Don’t you understand it is easier to campaign than govern? He has a media who will support his every whim and never call him on it and he has a free 747 full of Jet A for whenever he needs it. He stays on the campaign trail and will never have to be held to account for his many failures.

It is funny, when there is a Republican President, it is all his fault but when there is a Democrat President both sides are at fault. Oh to be a Democrat at a time when 47% are living off your benevolence….

Peace, Bill Roberts

 

I am positive there will be no gun control laws passed by this or any congress ever. The president can go on all the populist tours he’d like. We love our guns. And by the way we love our shitty fast food and our porn and our reality shows and our beer and pot and NASCAR and there is not a damned thing the northern NY establishment elite can do about it. They cannot touch that. And we don’t care what manner of murdering anti-societal inbreeds you call us either. This is not going to change. Live with it.

GABBA-GABBA

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

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John Densmore Interview (2013)

TRANSCRIPT 4/9/13

JOHN DENSMORE INTERVIEW
Unedited Transcript

James?

Yes.

John Densmore.

John , how are you, sir?

John DensmoreI’m good, thanks. How are you?

I’m well. Big fan here, so this is a big deal for me. So thank you very much for the time.

Oh, you bet.

Not only a big fan of your work as a musician over the years, but I really enjoyed your two books, this latest one we’ll talk about and your first one, Riders on the Storm.

Well, I appreciate that, James.

I cranked through this book in about two days nearly a month ago, so before we spoke I wanted to revisit some key parts, and was even more impressed by how poignantly you write about how difficult it was to be in this ugly battle against your brothers-in-arms. And it got me wondering how hard was it to get it down in print, to physically express it, and know that your inner most fears and anxieties and beliefs would be on record in this account?

(laughs) Wow. It wasn’t as difficult to write it down as going through it. (laughs) The old phrase, time heals; time does heal. And I worked real hard at trying to not to make it a legalese, blah-blah, boring, technical lawyer thing. So, I interspersed my emotions. I drift off when I was in the court room, I mean, when writing this, I didn’t necessarily do that when I was actually in the court room, but I wanted the reader to get inside my mind, so I could better tell some stories about whatever – sitting in with Carlos Santana or seeing Elvin Jones. So, technically, it was hard, but I took years to do it. Writing takes forever. Well, you know how it is. I’m real pleased it’s available for those that are interested.

It was pretty difficult as a fan of The Doors to read about how the lawyers for your friends and colleagues stooped to accusing you of being a communist or worse still, unbelievably, a terrorist. I’m 50, and have been covering politics for decades, but even I was appalled.

I know. It’s funny, because in the beginning the fans, the really hardcore ones, thought I was destroying their favorite band. But now that they can finally read the whole journey they will hopefully get the idea that I was trying to preserve the integrity of the original group. You know, (sighs) now that this book is coming out a cloud is lifted from me. It feels healing, even though it’s a tough pill to swallow for Ray and Robbie. In the last chapter I say, “Hey, how can I not love you guys, we created this incredible thing together.” And, you know, musically, they’re my brothers forever. They just didn’t see… The Doors…they got knocked off their hinges by their idea that they could play without Jim. And that’s been (chuckles) proven wrong.

Sure, in many ways. I was immediately taken by your signature point in the book being Morrison’s well-documented derision against the selling-out of “Light My Fire” to Buick in 1968 as the basis for your protecting the brand. And an intriguing element of your story is this defining of what a 27 year-old man, who stands for so much of the 60s’ imagery, would come across today had he lived. Yet, Morrison is frozen in time with his ideals. There was no maturing or being corrupted or compromising for Morrison. Despite Krieger and Manzarick arguing in court that Jim would have evolved in his thinking about selling out The Doors integrity for profit, you stood by the ghost of your friend as if he were here today to speak out for himself.

“You know, now that this book is coming out a cloud is lifted from me. It feels healing, even though it’s a tough pill to swallow for Ray and Robbie.”

I’m very proud the first line of the book is “Fuck you!” (laughs) Jim saying “Fuck you!” (laughs) You know, if he were alive today would he okay using Doors songs to sell Cadillac? I’m not unaware of the fact that times have changed and the music business, like all the creative businesses, is really difficult, and as I write in the book; if a new band wants to use their stuff to hawk some product to pay the rent, I get that. It’s just that in our situation we’ve already done well and if a new band begins to do well maybe then they should revisit whether they should do commercials anymore, because, as Tom Waits wrote, “You’ve changed your lyrics to a jingle.”

I love the fact that two of my great heroes, lyrically and musically, Tom Waits and Pete Townshend are quoted in your book arguing both sides of the point. Waits is vehemently against having his music used purely for commerce while Townshend states emphatically that he can do what he wants with his songs and shouldn’t feel guilty about it. And I can see both sides of it.

Yeah, yeah, it’s true. Townshend’s quote is funny; “I don’t give a fuck if you fell in love with Shirley to my song, I’ll do what I want with it.” (laughs)

(laughs) But Townshend gets to speak for himself, while Morrison could not. I liken it to arguing that if Martin Luther King had been alive today he might say, “I’d like to reconsider this whole civil rights thing.” You have to go by what a person did and said during their time. That’s all you’ve got.

That’s it exactly, James. All you’ve got is what they did when they were alive. What else could you base your thoughts on?

You see, where Manzerick and Krieger lost me was when they, or their lawyers, used the 1969 Miami incident where Morrison was arrested for lewd behavior and public disturbance or whatever, to besmirch him. In all the books I’ve read on The Doors and interviews I’d heard or seen, all of you guys clearly denounced the charges against Morrison, especially for allegedly exposing himself on stage, which ostensibly finished The Doors as a touring act. Until this case, all the surviving Doors are on record as stating none of these things happened.

That’s what’s hysterical, really, because at the trial in Miami Robbie was asked, “Did Mr. Morrison perform, or simulate performing, oral sex on you?” To which he said “No! Are you kidding? (laughs) He gets down on his knees to look at my fingers! He’s enamored with musicians since he can’t play an instrument.” So here are his lawyers implying that it was true, as if Ray and Robbie were never there!

This is where I was on board with your rather lofty goal of “honoring your ancestor”. In essence, you stood by a lost member of the band, who could no longer defend his fourth voice in the collective, his equal vote to stop the band from selling out. It’s really is an honorable gesture to uphold the legacy and wishes of Morrison and saying, “Jim still gets a vote here.” That is The Doors.

Wow, James you’re smart. I hope you write this stuff down.

Well, thank you. (laughs)

I agree. And since the trial, Jim’s dad has passed, and his mom too, so now they are ancestors as well. We’re standing on all their shoulders. It was so touching to me, you know, I had never met Jim’s dad. I had met his mom, but I hadn’t met his dad until this trial. And here I initiate this horrible struggle and this great gift of hanging with his dad comes along. How he turned the past around and supported his son’s legacy even while we had written songs against the Viet Nam War as he was over there fighting it! So, what a great healing of the 60s’ in a way.

The Doors - 1967It’s true. And it comes across in the book. It really does. What hit home for me is as I was reading your account I vividly recalled when I was younger and wanting to be a writer and dabbling in poetry and all that stuff you do when you’re trying to find your identity or your voice, how much An American Prayer was so influential and inspiring to me. And although I have many literary heroes and influences, I consider Jim Morrison as one very special one. And I’ve had my arguments over the years with fellow scribes and even fellow students who dismissed Morrison as a poser or even a hack because of his affiliation as a pop star. There’s a legitimacy factor that I’ve always embraced with Morrison and The Doors, so to read how you stood by that hit home for me. I found myself rooting you on as I read it.

Well, thanks. Yeah, we really enjoyed doing American Prayer. You know, Jim was really over the top in some of his lyrics and behavior, so people wrote him off. In fact, you gave me an idea, I read a little excerpt from American Prayer while playing a hand drum. I think I’ll do that at the Vintage Vinyl signing. I’ll dedicate it to you.

(laughs) Thank you, man. Where is that? L.A.

No, wait, You’re writing this for The Aquarian, right? Isn’t that out of New Jersey?

Yup, right here in Jersey. Pop culture weekly; longest running independently-owned rock weekly in the country – our archives were recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Excellent! Well, I’m doing this reading/signing thing at Vintage Vinyl in New Jersey.

Cool. I’ve got to be there then. I’m sure the paper is plugging it. Not sure if this piece will be in by then. Getting back to your trial and this battle to maintain the integrity of The Doors – now that this is all settled, and we’ll let people decide by reading your book how it all comes out and what they believe was the right angle; what are your thoughts on the line drawn between art and commodity? Does it move from when you’re struggling to put food on the plate to when you’re a rock star? Is it tangible?

You know, I quote this writer, Lewis Hyde who wrote a book called The Gift, which really nails it for me. He says there is a gift exchanged between the artist and the receiver and it doesn’t matter if you’re paying for an opera ticket or a concert ticket or whatever, it’s still this gift. But if you change the work of art entirely into a commodity, you’re going to lose the gift. So, I like that very much. It’s kind of what I’m saying, whether its a painting or music or whatever the hell it is, it’s an expression of the artist in trying to share what it’s like being human. There’s a sacred something exchanged there. And, you know, if you make it be about a new deodorant you…gee…I think you’ve lost the gift.

But I can see the other point about this creativity being your task and trade. I’m not sure how you feel about what Pink Floyd went through with Roger Waters or what KISS goes through when they tour with two new guys in the make-up of the original guys and selling it as KISS, and I’ve had Alice Cooper tell me in interviews that he created this character and if someone, say, wanted to carry on as Alice Cooper after he was gone that would be all right with him. This is really about definitions; how The Doors are ultimately defined, and in this book you define it as a singular entity, almost sacred. There are some things that are not for sale.

Well, I’m so grateful for something Tom Waits said, and I put it on the back of the book; “John Densmore is not for sale and that’s his gift to us.” But, you know, Alice Cooper, that’s his name, where this is The Doors, and that’s not Jim’s name. It reminds me of this moment when we were on stage and were introduced as “Jim Morrison and The Doors” and Jim dragged the promoter back out and made him re-introduce us as The Doors. So, (sighs) behind closed doors – sorry about that – we were four equal parts. Even L.A. Woman was a good, strong album, and Jim was clearly an alcoholic by then. It was still…when we were alone, the four of us…the muse still blessed us. And so I feel okay. I feel the beginning of a healing with Ray and Robbie, because something bigger than us helped us make our music.

Ultimately, did you see those guys touring as the 21st Century Doors, and more or less promoting it as The Doors, as identity theft?

Yes. That’s pretty good. I know I did say The Doors died in a bathtub in Paris in ’71, but you know, he’s such an icon he lives on in everyone’s mind. Of course, I was just trying to make it clear that The Doors were Jim, Ray, Robbie and John – John, Paul, George, Ringo – it’s not Ray, Robbie, Ian (Astbury – The Cult, new singer), Stuart (Copeland – former Police drummer), Fred and Tom. The Doors were knocked off their hinges for a few years due to this idea (sighs)… The Stones without Mick? The Police without Sting? No, come on. But The Doors are back on their hinges. Thank God.

“Unpredictability was a main ingredient. You know, Jim could be completely wild or quiet and it created a ritual or something like a séance. What’s gonna happen tonight? “

I always say I’d trade all the shows I saw in my lifetime for one evening watching you guys ply your trade, because as I understand it, a Doors show was literally an organic experience, no matter how bad it got or how brilliant it got, no one could predict what the hell would happen.

(chuckles)

So, I ask you, someone who played that music and performed those shows; how did you feel when you came on stage with The Doors? As the lights went down and the crowd was cheering and you guys were about to crash into the first song; did you have that same feeling of, here we go, let’s see what goes down now?

(laughs) It’s funny. Unpredictability was a main ingredient. You know, Jim could be completely wild or quiet and it created a ritual or something like a séance. What’s gonna happen tonight? It was sort of crazy, but also magical. A lot of the time it was magic, until his self destruction increased and then I was lobbying for us to stop playing live. And it took me a year to convince Ray and Robbie of this, because I missed the magic. It was so good in the beginning. It was, you know, goose bumps…pin-drop time. Usually we’d play “Light My Fire” and everybody would be on their feet dancing and then we’d play “The End” as an encore and people would file out…quietly. (chuckles) Like they were gonna take it home and chew on it. It was so…deep…or something.

One of my favorite piece of video of you guys, and it might have been in Europe, is The Doors playing live on a television show and doing “The End”, which in and of itself is gutsy – here you are probably expected to do the hit, to play “Light My Fire” on a pop television show and you’re playing this eleven-minute opus with bizarre poetic references and Oedipal overtones and this is not a theater or a rock club. The studio lights are up and you can see the audience and these people are between awe and shock. That’s pretty profound, man. And I think unique to The Doors.

(laughs) That’s funny. It reminds me of a gig in Mexico City. We were promised to play in the bull ring for the people who had just a few pesos in exchange for playing a ritzy supper club. And we went down there and there was some riot in the bull ring a few weeks before and they ended up cancelling us playing there. We were so depressed. So here we were playing for these people eating supper in a real ritzy club and we were playing “The End” and they were trying to cut their steaks…(laughs)

(laughs)

…with mouthfuls of food having stopped being chewed. (laughs)

That kind of story reminds me of how you really just loved the whole thing; not just being in The Doors, but, like I said before, the whole sacred thing about it. And, this is something I didn’t know that is revealed in your book – first of all, I didn’t know that before he went to Paris, Jim had gotten lawyers to draw up an agreement stating officially that one dissenting voice from any member would halt any proceedings- and that final phone call that you received from Jim when he was in Paris shortly before he died. I know the account is in your first book, but I was reminded of it, and how that resonated because you were the last person in the inner sanctum to speak with him before he died. Could you take a minute and recount how that conversation affected you? Did you get this eerie feeling that maybe that it might be the last time you spoke to Morrison?

(sighs) Oh, boy. Well, I could tell he was still drinking, so that was disturbing, but no…I didn’t think it would be the last time I’d talk to him. But I appreciated his enthusiasm for hearing of how well L.A. Woman was doing, because we produced it ourselves with Bruce Botnick, our longtime engineer, and we had more control. So, it was fun to do. It was in our rehearsal room. And he said, “Oh, man, I’ll come back. We’ll make another one!”

The Door UnhingedWhich is a cool story, because in most books I’ve read on The Doors or on Morrison, it always depicts him as wanting to shed The Doors and become a legitimate poet and leave all that pop stardom and rock god stuff behind. But when you tell it, it sounds like he still held his place in The Doors and what you guys accomplished together in high regard.

Yeah. Yeah.

Have you read Greil Marcus’ new book on The Doors? (The Doors – Five Mean Years)

I did.

I loved the story about when he was visiting his dad, who was in a hospital at the time a few years back, driving across the Bay Bridge from Oakland or Berkley to San Francisco and listening to several rock/pop radio stations for weeks on end – every day – and in that hour or so drive there and back almost inevitably with all the new stuff like Lady Gaga or Justin Timberlake or whatever, there would be a Doors song and how more than any band from the past, The Doors still seemed to have a resonance among this generation, how the band transcended its time so well. It’s not like you guys are stuck in that time, Herman’s Hermits or The Raspberries, The Doors are still a relevant brand, still something that means something currently. And this speaks to your battle to protect that, not just for nostalgic purposes, but for now, for today and for all time.

Well, I don’t know why it’s lasted so long. It must be the drumming. (laughs) Yes! Of course. I’ll tell you, speaking of that book; Greil describes in just a couple of passages what I was doing on the drums and it just astounded me! I can’t literally tell you what he was saying, but I’m reading it and I’m going, “Oh, my God, that’s what I was doing!” And I hadn’t realized it until I read Greil’s translation. It was some section on how I would kind of drive the soloist, either Ray or Robbie, and for some reason, I would kind of lead them in and out of the solos. It just evolved. It was not talked about at all. And so, when I would sense that they were done, I would do a rat-tat-tat-tat-tat and then everybody knew we were taking it down or whatever, we were taking it to the verse. Until Greil described it, it was really like, “Oh, wow! He got in my head and I didn’t even know I was thinking that!” But it’s true.

That’s the beauty of writing, if you do it right. Marcus is one of the greats. It’s an art form to describe something like music or people playing music, a visceral experience, something so hard describe in words, and hit it straight on. What you’re saying is the greatest compliment for those of us who do this thing, this trying to express the un-expressible, to share in words the feelings derived from the experience and harder still, to, as you say, get into the head of the artist. It’s a great service for another generation, who may have missed the experience. And I guess, that segues into a final question I have for you: What do you hope future generations or people who didn’t experience all this turmoil between you and Robbie and Ray and the court case and everything you describe in the book take away from your book?

Well, at the risk of being on a soapbox and sounding like Mister PC, there’s an underlying theme in this book…money. And as I quote Michael Mead, a mythologist friend of mine; “Currency comes from the word “current”, and it’s supposed to flow like a river.” So if the corporate leaders horde everything – the billionaires damn it all up -money is like fertilizer, when horded it stinks and when spread around things grow, I’m kind of arrogantly implying that my personal struggles with my band might be metaphoric for bigger issues. We live in hierarchal world, there will always be doctors and nurses, but if the doctors are little kinder and a little more generous then it will be a nicer place.

Mmmm.

That make sense?

It absolutely does. Somebody has to think it and express it, because in most cases it’s not always true. It doesn’t always play out in the literal world, but it’s still nice that there are some people who believe that and some who actually enact it.

I guess I’m talking about integrity or whatever the hell.

It’s funny, because I’m thinking of titling the piece something in the ballpark of Identity Theft in the Land of $$$ and using the dollar sign in it.

Oh, that’s a good title. (laughs) Great! Well, thank you again for the time. This really was a huge deal for me to get to speak with you. Good luck with the book. Thanks. A real pleasure, James. Thank, you John. Bye-bye Bye.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

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Supreme Court: Marriage Equality

Aquarian Weekly 4/3/13 REALITY CHECK

SUPREME DECISIONNation’s Highest Court Faces Down Discrimination in Our Time

Congress decided to reflect and honor of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality. – House Report on the passing of Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

This week the Supreme Court hears arguments to overturn the odious Defense of Marriage Act and the anti-constitutional nonsense known as Proposition 8, the California equivalent of the attack on civil rights spread across this nation of so-called liberty. Fourteen times prior this august body has called marriage “a fundamental right”. And so, it is another day in court, the highest court, for the inalienable rights and pursuit of happiness so lauded, so celebrated, so promised by the aspirations of this flawed but unique nation. It is when the antiquated “gay marriage” issue begins to go away, as would any distinction in a right; whether interracial, Jewish, Italian, Muslim, Mormon, whatever, that the argument against the right does not stand.

Supreme Court - Marriage EqualityHere is what the court must hear this week.

This is what the court must know this week.

Once and for all.

The public does not decide rights. The government does not grant rights. The public decides the social order of things and the government upholds our rights. Rights, as in what the court describes as the “fundamental right to marry”, are granted by the very fact that we suck air. That we have a right to live in a free nation fought for, argued over, and put to the test for over 240 years.

It is a basic right; the basic right to exist and to therefore be given the same opportunity to share property and wills and investments and to adopt and raise children. A right. Not something to vote on or debate or discuss in linear, theological, biological, racial, cultural terms. It is a right. My right. Your right. Their right.

Without rights, keep your guns. Throw out your guns. Balance budgets. Don’t balance budgets. Control the rest of the planet. Don’t control the rest of the planet. It does not matter. What really matters, what has only mattered since the conception of America, are rights.

There is a lot of talk about growing public support for “same-sex marriage”, but that changes nothing. A right to marry was just as valid when it was supported by only 19 percent of the public, then 28 percent, then 33 percent, then 42 percent, then 52 percent, and now 63 percent. When interracial marriage was rightfully deemed a constitutional liberty, 65 percent of Americans still opposed it. You want to know how many Americans, many of them women, opposed the right to vote for women? A majority.

In fact, much of the social arguments against gay marriage harkens back to the vote for women; “What’s next? Children voting? Dogs voting? Lamps?” Just like the arguments against interracial marriage; “What’s next? People marrying chimps? Their house?” It’s all been said before and the “fundamental right” has defeated it all.

Here it is; marriage is a public institution that excludes a portion of our society. This will not stand.

The other bogus argument is the threat to “traditional” marriage, as if traditions has ever meant a hill of beans in this nation of fluidity of modernity of progress and constant revolutions; social, moral, economic, cultural, religious, political. We’re into upheaval, not tradition. Tradition is for parades, identifying law above superstition is how things go here, or should and will go here – eventually. There is no threat to marriage that involves society. Marriage is between a man and a woman and also two consenting adults, both sets of whom should not allow society or family or politics or race or religion to keep them for their right, their pursuit of happiness.

Another bogus argument against marriage equality is “marriage for procreation”. In that case why do couples either with no desire for children or are biologically incapable of bearing children marry? Should they then, in this scenario, be denied marriage? I wonder how much outrage you would have if you were impotent and the state denied you your right to marry.

Having beaten the God/Bible thing to death here, we’ll just say, on the occasion of the Supreme Court hearing legal and binding arguments for and against the liberty of our fellow citizens that no one, not the Catholics or the Jews or the Muslims or the Evangelicals know what God wants. Nope. None. Not a wit. Assuming there is a God, when there is sworn testimony from the deity, we’ll deal with that.

In fact, we’ll make this deal: When religions decide on what God supports – what culture or region or NFL football team – then we’ll put that in writing. But for now, there is much to be figured out in the grand scheme of interpreting God, so until at which time there is a consensus of the Supreme Being, the Supreme Court should not and will not force any church into marrying anyone. This is not about churches. Church and state are separate and shall remain so. Let the churches protest by excluding certain citizens from their clubs. It’s fine. They do not belong in this argument; one way or the other. They do not decide the law of the land on traffic issues, nor shall they on liberties.

Here it is; marriage is a public institution that excludes a portion of our society. This will not stand. And the fact that is has stood for as long as it has is criminal and an embarrassment to this country and all that it stands for. I have been writing this since the late-90s’ and I will continue to write it, as sick of it as you are to read it and how exhausted I am penning it. From unpopular to popular, it has not changed here and it should not change in the most important chamber of law this republic has.

It is life.

It is liberty.

It is the pursuit of happiness.

Everything else, EVERYTHING else, is noise.

 

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1983 N.C. State Wolfpack

Aquarian Weekly 3/27/13 REALITY CHECK

N.C. STATE & THE BIRTH OF MARCH MADNESS 30-Year Anniversary of the Improbable Ride of Jimmy V and the Wolfpack

With the commencement of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, arguably the most watched American sporting event outside of the Super Bowl, it is time to mark the 30-year anniversary of one of the most impossible runs in sports history. The 1983 North Carolina Wolfpack created March Madness, coming from nowhere to win nine consecutive elimination games over a month period against a field of mostly heavily favored opponents with rosters bulging with future NBA superstars. In seven of those victories, State came from behind in the final minutes on the way to defining in almost every way possible the very essence of the term underdog.

1983 N.C. State WolfpackSeems like five minutes ago, but it was another era. Before the three-point line, before the shot-clock, and long before the best players in the game skipped to the pros after one season (and for a time, ala Lebron James, skipped college all-together), here was this team that won game after game, overcoming ridiculous odds in one bizarre event after another.

It was also before every office had a pool and everyone you knew was filling out brackets and every sponsor clamored for a chance to be associated with the timeless joy of amateur athletes from across the nation sprinting to beat the buzzer. Hell, some of the early round games in 1983 were on tape delay.

Sure, a few years before it was Bird vs. Magic, but that attained its legendary status when both men and their teams revived the NBA during its most enduring mano-a-mano rivalry. And, of course, it wasn’t as if there had never been upsets in college basketball, but the ’83 Wolfpack was one for the ages. There has quite simply never been nor has there ever been since a college team so completely overmatched, so irrevocably poised, so damned exciting as N.C. State winning game after game in such a concentrated period of time.

Instead of one enduring upset in a 40 or 60 minute contest; Villanova’s incredible upending of the mighty Georgetown in the 1985 NCAA Finals or say the N.Y. Giants improbable defeat of the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, consider one solid month of upsets – nine in a row.

To put into perspective, only three other upsets in American sport trump what the Wolfpack achieved in 1983; the 1980 USA Hockey team, The 1968 N.Y. Jets and Buster Douglas taking down Mike Tyson. You know, the type of Hollywood-esque fluff that transforms a century’s worth of sports clichés (destiny, momentum and clutch) into pure magic.

The grand wizard of this run, State’s coach, an Italian motor-mouth from New York City named Jim Valvano, showed up on Tobacco Road three years earlier and began having his kids practice cutting the gym nets down in mock victory ceremonies every week. The players thought him mad. It was silly. Who does this? However, slowly but surely, Valvano was teaching his team more than basketball. He was teaching them to dream; to visualize hope and expect the impossible. He was corny. He was goofy. He was the perfect lunatic for a collection of kids who bought into the Disney tripe that takes a pedestrian 17-10 record (the second most losses to win an NCAA title) and sweeps it through an ACC Tournament loaded with talent, wins and trophies.

Slowly but surely, Valvano was teaching his team more than basketball. He was teaching them to dream; to visualize hope and expect the impossible.

Due to its poor record, a symptom of injuries and inner turmoil, all N.C. State had to do was win the damn thing just to qualify for the Big Dance. Along the way, this meant besting defending champion North Carolina with three starters destined for the pros, including arguably the greatest player in the game’s history, Michael Jordan, and a Virginia team with the best player in the conference, the 7’4″ monster, Ralph Samson. Both teams, along with Wake Forest, whom State beat to earn a shot at these titans, had dismantled them during the regular season. And in each game the opponent had a lead late or in overtime, and yet could not halt the hoping and dreaming.

During the North Carolina game, Valvano was faced with a six-point deficit (no three-point line or shot-clock) against Dean Smith’s heralded and roundly mocked four-corner offense, in which the team passed the ball around half court for up to five minutes to kill the clock and end the game. So he decided to begin fouling. And as State fouled, North Carolina kept missing subsequent foul shots. State won. This tactic would readily assist the dreamers during their spectacular NCAA Tournament run to come.

Leading up the championship game against the heavily favored Houston Cougars, the nation’s baddest squad, nicknamed Phi Slama Jama due to the parade of high-flying dunks the 31-2 team rained down on its shell-shocked opponents, Valvano continued the “foul” strategy. To put pressure on opponents, State even fouled a player during a tied game late in one of the semi-final rounds.

The other strategy Valvano instituted was using his media-savvy, wise-guy persona to genuflect to Houston’s greatness in press conferences and television appearances, telling anyone who would listen that he would slow the game down so much it would bore the nation, but in a rousing pre-game locker room speech witnesses claim was worthy of Knute Rockne, Valvano told his team to take it right at the likes of future Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler. State did, building a seven-point halftime lead, which evaporated in the opening five minutes of the second half as Houston powered to its own eight-point bulge.

Then Valvano started putting Houston on the foul line and Houston began missing. N.C. State, having won the craziest, most gut-wrenching contests just to get this point, would drag the Mighty Phi Slama Jama into its web of dreams.

Miraculously, the team’s poise and Valvano’s scheming took the entire run, the entire season, down to the final seconds tied at 52-52. Once again State held back and let Houston pass the ball around the perimeter until it came to Alvin Franklin, a freshman guard with the least experience of the invincible Cougars. Then Valvano, running like a banshee up the sideline, screamed for someone to foul him.

Years later, when my family had moved to North Carolina in the mid-eighties and my brother went to N.C. State (like Valvano, by way of Iona) and my dad became a season ticket holder, whenever I would visit we could not help but remember watching this moment unfold back in New Jersey. How we coached right along with the crazy Italian, who asked a fair basketball team to be great again and again, and for good measure, one more time.

And, of course, the freshman missed the front end of a one-on-one, and now it was State’s turn to hold for the final shot; for all the marbles, this one-game-and-done waltz for over a month coming down to 44 seconds; tie game, destiny, dreaming, hope and visualization all right there.

And everyone who knows basketball history, that knows about this March Madness business, and how it got started, with a riveted nation and the kids against the men and the impossible becoming reality, knows what happened: Shooting guard, Dereck Whittenburg heaved a prayer with five seconds left from nearly half quart and center Lorenzo Charles sidestepped the mighty Olajuwon, whose nickname was poetically, The Dream, caught the thing in mid air and dunked it home at the buzzer.

Pandemonium.

Championship.

Valvano running around the court looking for someone to hug.

March Madness forever more.

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Holy Land Obama

Aquarian Weekly 3/20/13 REALITY CHECK

HOLY LAND OBAMA

By the time these words hit the stands, the president of the United States will be in Israel. This has not been as anticipated a trip as in the past for a few reasons; Barack Obama has been spending quality time on the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the U.S. continues its anti-Iranian nuclear rhetoric and running point on crippling international sanctions, the American public has bottomed out its interest in Middle Eastern affairs for the first time since 9/11, and all eyes have been on the slow crawl to attain some measure of a federal budget here at home. But, make no mistake; this visit will have its repercussions.

Obama & NetanyahuFirstly, long before the 2012 election season, this administration has turned its trade/energy/negotiation attention away from the primacy of the Middle East and focused it on Asia, where for years economic forecasters have pointed to it as the New Europe. In fact, even mother oil has become more important to the energy concerns of China (having eclipsed the U.S. for the world’s largest oil importer) and India than it currently does to the U.S. This has added to the already strained relations between the Obama Administration and Israel.

Most of Netanyahu’s posturing, including his over-analyzed, behind-closed-doors harangue against the president during a 2011 U.S. visit, has centered on Israel’s concern for Iran’s nuclear capabilities, but politically it is imperative for the brash prime minister to keep U.S. fears of an insane Middle East percolating. Pressuring Iran has internal consequences for Netanyahu as well, if merely to appear tough to Palestinians; an act of personal relevancy that has served him well over several terms.

Netanyahu, no fan of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who openly supported a Palestinian state, now has to deal with newly confirmed Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who represents the U.S.’s new and improved “anything but war” stance. Something the American people now overwhelmingly support and by default reflects an expedient solution for a nation with less available funds than a will to fight someone else’s battles anytime soon.

Next is the mere fact that there are bigger fish to fry in the Middle East. The key question remains whether or not Syria, Egypt, Lebanon or Iraq will maintain its solvency as working states in the grand scheme of international diplomacy. Deeply contentious Shiite and Sunni religious/cultural civil war is now front and center in all-things Arab Spring, which handcuffs any Western interference. With the outcome in serious doubt and no obvious ally emerging, the last thing Obama wants to do on this trip is appear gratuitous. Any commentary on this matter, even on a chummy diplomatic sojourn, can be counterproductive.

These are the types of trips that can distract a president from more pressing issues and weaken his domestic position.

Yet, there is no way to escape the most explosive aspect of this disaster; Syria. It is a killing field rife with intrigue between Iran, Hezbollah, and the Syrian government. All three factions are attempting to crush the “rebels”, whom the United States have supported rhetorically, but with no plans to add weapons — mainly due to Israel’s horror that those weapons could be used against its interests. Syria will be the giant elephant in the room when Netanyahu and Obama chat, but there is little chance the details of those chats will not have already been determined before Air Force One hits the Holy Land.

But what will ultimately stare the president directly in the face is the 300,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Obama has held fast in his opposition to the expansion of Israeli settlements there, a neat balancing act for the leader of a nation that kicked indigenous peoples off their land. In a similar show of our convenient Manifest Destiny two-step, Netanyahu has no designs on reversing Israel’s course to colonize the region and ignore the 2.5 Palestinians that also call it home. This will make Obama’s meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas an interesting study in appearing not to play favorites. Explaining personal ideology that speaks directly against U.S. policy has been a favorite task of the presidency dating back to George Washington’s famous farewell address.

It is this tightrope walk, in the shadow of the Iranian mess, that makes Obama’s Israel trip so intriguing. What critics have dubbed the White House’s “maintenance trip” due to the failure of having even a tertiary peace initiative, there appears to be no directive here beyond face-saving.

Yet, it is no time for a misstep, which can harm the president politically at home, as he maintains an edge in popular support over Republicans in the battle to balance the budget, reform taxes, propose immigration reform and introduce a measure of gun control into the legislative discussion. But polls are beginning to show an erosion in the post-election high and soon the ramp-up to the 2014 mid-terms will force members of both parties into local political fights that will all-but halt any second-term agendas.

These are the types of trips that can distract a president from more pressing issues and weaken his domestic position. Republicans, who have failed to paint this president as a weak foreign policy commander-in-chief, would love nothing more than this thing to go sideways, ala Mitt Romney’s pre-campaign Britain trip that made him look like a piker and effectively sabotaged the first weeks of his presidential run.

Let’s face it; this is bad timing for Obama. He does not need this kind of pressure, but he spent a boatload of money and time fighting to retain this gig, and there will never be a good time to pull off a balancing act of this magnitude.

 

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james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 2/30/13 REALITY CHECK

READERS RESPONSES

I am forever entertained by the notion of whether or not this country will ever consider gun violence to be an epidemic. Your piece on this idea was not only a masterpiece in satire, but it said all the things I wish to say, and more. (GUNS & THE AMERICAN EXPERIMENT – Issue: 1/16/13) And it all begs the question: Why is that a single man, out of the millions of airplane travelers, can make an aborted attempt to board a plane with an explosive device in his shoe – a one in a billion shot – and for the rest of eternity every human flying out of this nation anywhere has to take his/her shoes off at airport security, but nearly a thousand people have been murdered by guns since the Newtown Massacre (and you are right, it is not so much a tragedy as a massacre, let’s quit pussyfooting around and call it what it is) and we’re not allowed to even discuss guns?

Melissa Aughey

 

The quote you used for the open of your column this week was stunning. (Excerpt from Memo PPS23 “Review of Current Trends, U.S. Foreign Policy” by George Kennan, Head of the U.S. State Department Policy Planning Staff. Written February 28, 1948, Declassified June 17, 1974) To think, a man with that kind of intel in the highest reaches of the U.S. government could so precisely predict the way that the American government would and should conduct its business for decades after World War II is just, well I cannot think of another word but stunning!

How this translates to our right to bear arms, especially against a type of government that had no problem during the Viet Nam War bugging, harassing, and in some cases as in Kent State, murdering its citizens is beyond me. Not sure if you are joking when you say that gun violence is a cultural aspect of how the government or the environment of the fifties might have effected our nation going forward, or even going back to the frontier days, but I’m still not sure it translates to the rights granted us by the Second Amendment.

I think it’s interesting reading, and you are a fine writer, but it is stretching the credibility of the argument. Period.

ALLIE88

 

The paranoia in this column reeks of Howard Zinn’s The People’s History of the United States. I would be shocked to learn that Mr. Campion would have not read it. In fact, on a weekly basis there are many parallels to Mr. Zinn’s work and Mr. Campion’s sentiments, both ideologically and psychologically. I’m not saying he is merely regurgitating Zinn’s philosophies on how the nation has progressed during the post-World War II era, but the similarities are eerie. I think all people should read Zinn’s work. It is well researched and reasoned. Mr. Campion has a more cynical and aloof style and I doubt highly he believes half of what is written here weekly, but it still has an echo of Zinn’s approach.

I will say that it is not a popular viewpoint, so it isn’t as if Mr. Campion is gaining any style points or urging any readership from this type of radical thinking. But it is radical and it is at points paranoid and there is always a place for that in the sensationalism of editorials.

M.A.Fererra

 

Oh, I never supported the Patriot Act, it may have looked like it but I was more “beat Al Qaeda’s ass at every opportunity”. No sir, in fact I was detained in Orlando Airport for speaking German to the TSA agent and when he stated he didn’t speak German, I advised him that weren’t all Nazi’s German. Boom, it’s on and now I am surrounded and getting fucked with. When I told them they were fucking with a Ranger Qualified veteran of the 101st Airborne Division, they stated in no uncertain terms they didn’t give a flying fuck and proceeded to try to make an example of me. I had a crying wife and 2 scared little kids. As I was “released”, I turned around and looked at him and told him “Sir, rest assured, when the revolution comes, people will remember this”. I thought I was going to get arrested but for some reason I was able to walk.

It’s getting bad out here, brother. More and more, I tend to agree with you on the erosion of freedoms.

Peace, Bill Roberts

 

I agree that guns are in our DNA. The question is can we ever get it out?

Stephanie V.

 

What are we saying here, Campion? (TOBACCO, BOOZE & FIREARMS – AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY– Issue: 1/23/13) We’re all at fault? Or none of us are at fault? We have guns, we love guns, our history is riddled with guns and gun violence, that we all profit from murder and mayhem and now we whine like bitches because our children are murdered in our kindergartens or that in some precise way you are turning this whole story on its head and removing the moral quotient but slyly admitting that all of this has been going on for centuries and our foundation, the founding fathers, the revolution, the Civil War, the fight in the streets in the Wild West, the eradication of the Native American population, The Alamo, everything is tied together in some bizarre synchronicity? This is bullshit Carl Jung gobblygook. It is beyond your understanding. This is shit psychoanalyzing. If I want to have a gun, it does not put me in the long line of killing. I have not killed and I don’t intend on killing, but I have this right and I won’t allow bits and pieces of it to be taken away by the sentimentality of liberal thought that will strip us of our God-given right to survive the attack of evil.

Sometimes your words ring hollow. This is one of those times, friend.

EEE-9(OVER)

 

Love the concept of the “Holy Trinity”: Tobacco, Booze, and Firearms. Never heard it or read it put quite that way. There is a fist-like quality to this type of slant, a no holes barred thing that is intriguing for no other reason but it is so wrong in the face of these terrible tragedies we endure almost on an hourly basis in this country, a country born and expanded and perpetuated by the type of violence you depict in you column. It makes me sad to know we have come to this and that there is no way back. But it is good to know someone is telling it straight, being honest to the point of painful. I just wish it didn’t have to be written and I didn’t have to read it.

anonymous

 

Your last line (“Not sure what this tell us, beyond the notion that industry, economy, and tradition trump human life. It is a high price some of us pay to live in a land that’s vital resource is the worship of the Holy Trinity.”) is on the money (no pun intended).

V.

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Ten Lies About Health Care Reform

Aquarian Weekly 3/1/13 REALITY CHECK

TEN LIES ABOUT HEALTH CARE REFORM

Health Care Reform is a government take-over of the entire healthindustry.

Nope. It’s what the Democrats intended, and to varying degrees, the president, however with no Single Payer or Public Option, this is merely an expansion of the existing system loaded with extra taxes to defray national debt and provide more invasive oversight and regulations, some of which are needed badly, while others overreaching. But it is a far cry from anything Socialist or what countries in Europe and Canada have adopted. For one, doctors will not be working for the government, nor will hospitals be nationalized. But beware, anytime law invades the private sector, amendments and expansion of said law is almost guaranteed.

This is actually fiscally responsible legislation.

Not in the least. Although there is concern in the medical community as to the cost to tax payers for millions of uninsured citizens running to emergency rooms for primary care and a guarantee of ridiculously escalating insurance costs crippling the system, there is also grave doubts that this will not be another in a long line of bloated, over-taxed and under-funded government bureaucracies. The Congressional Budget Office estimates, which fueled final support among fence-sitting Democrats last week, are at best flimsy and at worst nonsense. This cost of $938 over ten years and deficit reduction of $1.3 trillion over 20 years is less inexact science than science fiction. Normally the CBO does not project anything accurately over a decade much less two. Truth is nobody knows anything, especially since most of the tax increases don’t kick in for another eight years and are unlikely to be enacted by a congress that had nothing to do with creating it.

The law is unconstitutional mainly because it contains strict mandates for all citizens to purchase some form of it.

This is not entirely false, but hardly true. There are low-income provisions for the law and those who’d argue it on the “not need” basis are mainly young people, who are now safe under their parents coverage until age 26. Technically, even when considering The Commerce Claus in Article One of the Constitution, a government mandating of anything is indeed unconstitutional, but then so is Social Security, Medicare, Income Tax, Speed Limits, The Civil Rights Act, Major League Baseball, the Federal Communications Commission, nearly every military action after WWII until the first Gulf War and the drafting of our youth to fight them, the Patriot Act, and every obscenity law on the books. Oh, and this latest idea for state attorney’s general to fight the new law in the courts will be mostly futile, but one must remember that every case taken to court against specific restraints of the Patriot Act has prevailed.

This is sweeping insurance reform.

On the contrary, insurances companies, although regulated more than they wished – and what company doesn’t want free reign to gouge – absorb nearly 33 million new customers, which immediately defrays the cost for what they will eventually face legally in 2014; an end to denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and dropping consumers with serious illnesses. This is one of the reasons – along with the lack of Single Payer or a Public Option – progressives are as miffed as conservatives. The day after the bill passed every health insurance stock on the market soared, not to mention the pharmaceutical trade, which will surge when millions more rush to join our already booming national prescription drug frenzy.

The American people don’t want it or the American people demand it.

This one of those ubiquitous fabrications on both sides. Tanked economies tend to not elicit clamor for major legislation, save for job creation or economic relief, and it is quite clear a healthy majority now fear and hate the government in any form. But as stated in this space weeks ago, universal pronouncements about what everyone wants are just stupid anyway. It is fair to say this; fiscal conservatives despise any tax or entitlement, as long as they are not benefiting from them. Liberals believe compromise beyond total government intervention on all things is never enough, as long as it doesn’t involve social issues. The center-left who supports the president is pleased at least something got done and the center-right who hate the president and thus want him to fail is pissed. Once again, no one can see into the future, therefore no one is certain about how anything will turn out.

This is a historic victory for the Democrats and President Obama.

Yes, but…As stated above many liberals are not happy and are hardly sated by “something is better than nothing”. Not to mention the wild shifting of the sell-job, which started as Affordable Health Care For All to Moral Obligation, then Insurance Reform to Deficit Reduction, and finally, Curtail Future Damages. However, this was a political must for Nancy Pelosi, Obama and the entire party. Seemingly, the president goes from Jimmy Carter to FDR in one vote, and the Democrats from weak, do-nothing hagglers to now owning a piece of history. Both will energize a sagging base and allow whatever happens to exist in reality and not fought in hyperbole on cable news and blogs. Obama could no longer lose this than Bush could lose Iraq. Once in, all in.

The process with which this bill became law was highly irregular and underhanded.

Sure, as long as you’re allowed to frame the making of every law this way. But just because people don’t freak out every time, doesn’t mean it ain’t happening. And folks, it happens. Everything the Republicans and the opposition punditry screamed about from kickback deals, political favors to lobbying and Reconciliation, has been a staple of our legislative system at every level from county to state to national. It’s like going to a boxing match and complaining about all the hitting or continuing to be shocked by Howard Stern. More to the point, since everyone in congress have at one time or another participated in acts some now call “sleazy”, it’s more like the guy running the casino in Casablanca looking stunned during a police raid.

The Republicans wanted health reform, but not this monstrosity.

Well…The GOP did have six years in congress after the Hillary Fiasco, and the bulk of eight years in executive and legislative power without so much as a peep about reform. There were signs, such as G.W. Bush’s Massive Prescription Drug overhaul and the formation of the Health Savings Accounts, but the truth is only when the Democrats finally pushed, Republicans seized the issue with kid gloves and appeared to be simultaneously on board and wounded by being ignored, neither of which is particularly accurate. In many ways the over 200 Republican amendments and bi-partisan wrangling with Blue Dog Dems watered down Obamacare from an aggressive overhaul to a centrist regulatory watchdog program, none of which Republican lawmakers voted for after months of wild demagoguery.

The violent threats and wacky overall behavior against Democratic members of congress who voted for the bill are calculated political stunts by the Republicans, who are prime instigators or inflated political chicanery by politically savvy Democrats.

No more than kids running off to shoot cops after listening to NWA songs or that goofball who tried to kill Reagan after seeing Taxi Driver. If Capitol Hill cannot be the home base of wildly melodramatic posturing, then we may as well just fold the whole shebang and let the Native Americans have it back. Arrest the assholes that spit on public officials and especially those who throw bricks through windows and call in death threats. Don’t we have some kind of unconstitutional spy ring set up for this crap?

The 2010 mid-term elections will be a referendum on this vote.

Not exactly. Just as the Democrats were selling partisan politics in their arm-twisting vote-a-rama, the Republicans selling of outrage in its wake is purely political. Every first-term president loses seats, and coupled with overall anti-government fervor puts the minority party in the driver’s seat. A lot can and will happen in six months and it will be difficult for Republicans to merely run on excoriating a system that now helps a fair amount of voters and has provisions for children with pre-existing health issues, never a good platform to attack.

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In Praise of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” 2013

Aquarian Weekly 2/6/13 REALITY CHECK

SOUTHERN COMFORT INTERRUPTEDIn Praise of a New Revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Wouldn’t it be funny if that was true? – Tennessee Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Great art has a boomerang effect that is hard to match in other disciplines of human endeavor. Once something of artistic density is created it permeates time, culture, and progress. There are the usual attempts by those whose foresight is driven by the wallet (and this does not necessarily preclude the artist, in fact, in most cases is highly motivated by him) to rearrange its brutality to create a more palatable or sellable franchise. Thus is the pedigree of Tennessee Williams’ most accessible ensemble piece, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, a Broadway revival of which now plays at the Richard Rogers Theater. Its eviscerating themes of casual mendacity, psycho-sexual anguish, overt greed and pomposity, and a crushing fear of mortality have swooped back to confront a 21st century audience with the subtlety of a jackhammer.

Scarlett JohanssonTruth be told, I had no desire to see it this time around. I had read it in college and found it to be no Glass Menagerie or certainly A Streetcar Named Desire, for my money Williams two true masterworks, but at the request of the wife to see Scarlett Johansson play Maggie the Cat, I would give the play and its gifted author its rightful due. Needless to say, Johansson, much like Elizabeth Taylor, who made the role famous in the film adaptation three generations removed, exudes a primal sexuality that has less to do with talent, training or guile, but pure biology. Her voluptuous draw had the theater packed with twenty-somethings clamoring to share airspace with the star and none seemed to be prepared to absorb Williams’ cruel truths, a perfect blindside that any writer drools over. The poor bastards never knew what hit them.

Williams’ best work, of which now after being thoroughly moved by this staging, I am fully willing to admit that Cat On A Hot Tin Roof is included, deals in his key central theme of living a lie in order to assimilate into an alien existence not of his characters making. This inevitably leads to Williams other pressing themes of violence due to either creeping madness brought on by this charade or alcoholism, which either expedites the madness or quells the rush of its inevitability. All insights into Williams’ homosexuality in a mid-twentieth century southern milieu of intolerance, bigotry and machismo, along with the schizophrenia suffered by his beloved sister Rose, and the violent outbursts of an age when alcohol fueled the desires of a repressed nation are all on display with a relentless vigor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

The play’s debut in 1955, the height of America’s last purely conservative moral levee, hinted at Williams’ original theme-scape, but failed to bellow it; as if the words only broached the subject like a slight tap on the shoulder instead of the swift punch to the jaw that unfurls now. The three-act version today is Williams’ 1974 re-write, which many of the freedoms the post-Sixties cultural shift and the Seventies individuality explosion inspired. It bears only a minor resemblance to the famous film with Taylor and Paul Newman of 1958. Ironically, it was infamous director Elia Kazan who neutered its thematic force. Kazan had lived his own life of ignominious duality when informing on wrongly accused colleagues to the absurdly unconstitutional House Committee On Un-American Activities when he himself was a communist.

Tennessee Williams breathes again in this loud, brash and concussive revival of a story best known for its wounding due to censorship, but spins back with ever-threatening speed to assail us once again.

Having achieved enormous success with the quintessential film adaptation of A Streetcar Named Desire starring a young and sexually charged Marlon Brando in 1952, Kazan subjugated Williams’ crucial expressions for a Hollywood squeezed by the strangely powerful Motion Picture Production Code, enacted in 1934 and later abandoned in 1968 at the dawn of the golden age of modern film. Kazan, also having directed the original Broadway staging, cajoled Williams into toning down the striking language of the play to avoid the obligatory blowback subjected to works of the time.

The fury of Williams’ boomerang effect is palpable in this staging, as Johansson, feverishly bawdy, stomps around in nothing but a slip for half the performance, taught in sexual frustration and cunning manipulation, taunts her crippled husband (both physically with an ankle injury and mentally in the throes of an alcohol stupor) with wild abandon. She lends proper voice to Williams’ incongruities of a dying post-war southern motif filled with land barons, heirs, belles and debutantes trolling their children around like trophies. Her husband, ably but not strongly portrayed by a handsome Benjamin Walker, acts as Williams’ whipping boy; both characters providing insight into the author’s tortured psyche.

The play, however, is abducted by the work of veteran Irish actor, Ciarán Hinds, whose outstanding turn as Julius Caesar in HBO’s Rome a few years back put him on the map. Hinds, as Big Daddy, the patriarch of a Tennessee Valley cotton empire, seethes with regret and disgust for his life, family and station. He is the play’s philosophical weathervane; vulgar and unwavering with nary a stitch of societal affectation brimming in every other character in the piece, pushing the others to confront their hypocrisy as he shouts “Liars! Liars!” at them all. Stricken with cancer, although he has been deceived by his doctor that he is safe to enjoy his 65th birthday, Hinds’ Big Daddy tries in vain to save his son from the slow suicide of drink the young man believes he must pursue due to his pangs of guilt over the death of a close friend whose homosexual advances he had to refuse, which in the end led to his friend’s death. It is a riveting performance.

Mostly, though, it is Tennessee Williams who breathes again in this loud, brash and concussive revival of a story best known for its wounding due to censorship, but spins back with ever-threatening speed to assail us once again.

 

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james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 1/30/13 REALITY CHECK

READERS RESPONSES

How can you write so much and still not get it?(THE (NEW) NEVER DEAL – Issue: 12/19/12) Susan Rice was a tool, nothing more. Susan Rice was tossed out knowing the right would immediately call for ineligibility and therefore Obama would get the guy he wanted in Kerry. Now Kerry gets the nod and the right can’t complain lest the press crucify them for being mean-spirited. It was typical Chicago politics and people still don’t get it and continue to praise Dear Leader. Well, we get the government we deserve.

Bill Roberts

 

There was a sense from the very beginning that the Republicans were going to cave on this tax hike thing. They had no choice. Boxed in. They only had to appease the new TP contingent and Grover the Rover. Once the deadline passed, it was all-systems-go with the excuse that they LOWERED people’s taxes! YIPPIE!

Sarah5678xxx

 

Sir,

Republicans are finished. Going the way of the Whigs! Who represents the American taxpayer anymore? The conservative movement failed! The TEA Party failed! Hell, Reagan and Bush I failed; only Bush II didn’t raise taxes, but he spent us into oblivion and handed the country over to the Democrats who come and go spending. There is no one in the current climate that represents – really represents – the American taxpayer. The elderly are bleeding us dry. Soon the Baby Boomers will bankrupt us all! The youth is oblivious to all of it! The minorities are suckered into believing one party is for them and the other is not when neither is not. They both love guns and are afraid of abortion and afraid of immigration reform. This column of yours is right to point all of this out, but what are the alternatives? And don’t give me this trite bullshit about revolutions. There are no more revolutions. People are too interested in tweeting and IPADs and celebrity minutia to be truly “involved”!

Beat that cynicism, Campion, you crazy motherfucker!

Layton

 

Most places that dissect the political landscape do not go to the dark places Reality Check goes. I’m not sure this is a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe it’s just a thing. I often wonder how much of this column is a send off. Is this a way to play with the supposed important issues of the day? I know you’ve written of your apathy before, but when I read the breakdown of how congress is handling this fiscal cliff issue and how it will likely screw up the debt ceiling again and how this president is more worried about making speeches and appearing to care than actually governing I have to also wonder how much of what you cover is actually the joke and maybe you have no other choice.

Zach Ballan

 

Hello James,

I mentioned this once before, but it bears repeating. Almost all of these emails end up in my spam folder because of your use of the word “f*ck.” You write very intelligently, but those words distract for me. Really necessary???

Chuck

 

Mr. Campion,

I was in attendance nearly ten years ago at a book signing you had for Trailing Jesus and someone asked you why you use such abrasive language, your blatant and flippant use of vulgarities to make your points. And I distinctly recall you telling that person, “It’s hard to properly explain politics without using the F-word.” I laughed at that, as did many in attendance that day. And now, nearly a decade later, having come and go with following this column and your career, I realize that this was no quip. This was a great insight. It is in fact more of an honest insight than you will hear or read anywhere else.

It’s hard to believe that so many people are not in on this particular joke.

Matthew Russo

 

It is a shame that this last vote from one of the most dysfunctional and do-nothing congresses in U.S. history would vote for a minor bill when something so big could and should have been done. (TAX HIKES, NO DEAL & THE GOP CIVIL WAR – Issue: 1/9/13) There was so much to tackle and the president (if it weren’t for Joe Biden, this wouldn’t have even been accomplished) has not led at all on this. I voted for him, and make that twice now, and he was head and shoulders a better choice than McCain or Romney, but I am continually disappointed in the results of his work. He does not, as you right pointed out here, work successfully on anything across the aisle. I get the feeling that he honestly wants to, and I know the Republicans, especially this latest band of idiots, have stonewalled some of his measures, but there has been absolutely NO attempt on his part to get down and get things done. Call them out. He did so a little during this and it actually helped, and I think he’s already begun to set up the debt ceiling debacle to come by making sure these Republicans do not pull the same junk they did the last time around, but to what end? Where is the true bi-partisanship he continually promises? At least fake it!

PopeyeyeyeyeYAY

 

Why is John Boehner the speaker of the house? There has got to be someone somewhere in that capitol building that has a semblance of an idea what it takes to negotiate or communicate or lead a group of legislators. He is a fucking embarrassment. There is no other word for it. Why does he bother showing up to press conferences? Nearly every single one ends in him lying his ass off. I’m sure he believes this pile of crap, but then he has to shuffle his sorry ass back into public to all-but apologize for the shit he rolls out the day before. I mean, who the hell calls a press conference to announce a vote – all arrogant and full of spit and vinegar – and doesn’t even have the votes? Does he speak to his caucus? Does he understand the job? Say what you want about Nancy Pelosi, she was no pussy like this ass-jack.

Wall-Pie-Trooper

 

FUCK THEM ALL! (except for those who voted against this bill) How the fuck did our government get so completely fucked up? As my sister would so succinctly say, MOTHERFUCKER!

Elizabeth Vengen Esq.

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Tobacco, Booze & Firearms: An American Love Story

Aquarian Weekly 1/23/13 REALITY CHECK

TOBACCO, BOOZE & FIREARMS – AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY

In the midst of the furious debate on gun violence in America following the Newtown massacre, this space has dedicated over 2,000 words to the silly idea of trying to regulate human behavior and ignore the very core of the American psyche; the gun. Admittedly, the summation had gone a tad Mark Twain, floating majestically above the fray by clearly pointing out how utterly helpless we are as a species. Oh, Mrs. Clemens baby boy, how we miss ye. And so this week we’ll get into the nitty gritty by exploring more salient concepts like money and power found in the economic and cultural ties firearms have had in the formation of what we like to call our Holy Trinity.

Mighty John BrownThe Holy Trinity of the American Experience is tobacco, booze and firearms, in that order. These three elements are the cornerstone of this republic. They provided a texture to the lofty rhetoric of Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin, the clarion call of Patrick Henry and the musket blasts of the Minutemen. You can almost touch their influence in Thomas Jefferson’s radical screed of defiance aimed at an empire that dared possess the tangible fruits of rebellion; tobacco, booze and firearms. Free labor and land grabs may have made this country an unstoppable force for international power in a gilded age of white, Anglo-Saxon, male supremacy, but it was the Holy Trinity that provided the fuel.

The first British colony, Jamestown, Virginia became the birthplace of European colonialism in North America on the strength and riches of “brown gold”. Tobacco built the American Colonies and made Virginia its most powerful hub. The might of Virginia sent notice to the Continental Congress that slavery be left out of its native son’s “all men are created equal” idiom and put fellow Virginian George Washington in charge of the Continental Army. It is why today it houses the capital of the nation.

This was made possible by tobacco.

John Hancock, whose name by no mere coincidence appears first and largest in the signing of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence, sparked the tax wars with Great Britain over what is known as the Liberty Affair. Hancock’s importing of Madeira wine, among other goods, brought to the continent on his famed sloop, the Liberty, helped build a personal empire, which found itself under siege of crippling leans by the British government, summarily turning the entire operation into a smuggling ring. And although the tax on tea, which sparked a seminal stir to revolution, it was pre-dated by the outrage over the price of wine, rum and scotch that led directly to the closing of the ports in Massachusetts, home to the foment of revolt in the words and deeds of its most vociferous patriot, John Adams.

This was made possible by booze.

And, well, as discussed over the past weeks in this space, none of these business dealings and high-minded talk of free states amount to a hill of beans without firearms, which aimed by the rabble at the mighty British Army forged a nation from the hoary shenanigans of land barons and importers. It then provided the force to stretch the shenanigans further west and inevitably across the globe. If the French had not butted in by sending us a statue of a lady holding a torch, a far better symbol of the United Sates might be a man smoking a cigarette while holding a bottle of whiskey and a rifle.

Not sure what this tell us, beyond the notion that industry, economy, and tradition trump human life. It is a high price some of us pay to live in a land that’s vital resource is the worship of the Holy Trinity.

However, despite its enduring mark on our nation, the Holy Trinity has consistently come under scrutiny by an equally commanding force in the forging of America; religion. It is to these shores the persecuted wished to openly worship without fear of government reprisal. Their stake in the power vacuum was a vital part of such draconian measures played out in the Prohibition Era and the William Morris trials of the late-1990s; both emerging triumphant in the moral outrage that occasionally cloaks the vox populi when trepidation over prolonged hedonism comes home to roost. To a lesser extent we have seen this pogrom against firearms in the push for the Brady Handgun Violence Act and the Assault Weapons Ban of the early nineties.

This balancing act of capitalistic profligacy and moral turpitude is why anyone doing what this space and the Reality Check News & Information Desk purports to do; sit back and enjoy the show. It is law, politics, protest and crime; it is MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and the TRUTH anti-smoking movement of the past two decades and Just Say No and Gun Control advocacies butting up against the mighty arms of the Holy Trinity; Big Tobacco, Anheuser-Busch, the NRA.

Big Tobacco had quite a run, hampered in the last two decades by heavy laws prohibiting smokers from enjoying in almost any indoor, and now in some cities like New York, outdoor locations. Hits against targeting advertising towards teens and massive warnings of just about any possible malady that could be contracted due to the use of the product, would not have been possible if the heads of seven of the major tobacco companies had not testified under oath to congress that nicotine was not addictive. It was self-inflicted wounds, but has yet to make a huge dent in the habit. Over 50 million Americans have died as a result of smoking in the past decade.

Booze, and its most powerful lobby, Anheuser-Busch, have never wavered, surviving the drunk-driving attacks of the 1980s and a bout with the satellite TV movement later in the decade. Before Direct TV all-but corned the market by making a deal with the National Football League, about as influential and powerful property in the nation, satellites were primarily used by sports bars, which provided “stolen” feeds of out-of-town games directly from networks with the NFL receiving no revenue. But the usually unflinching league, which spits sponsors and networks out like sunflower seeds, buckled when beer conglomerate unleashed its full potential, the results of which opened an entire media industry up for home use. Around 750,000 people have died of alcohol related deaths in the past decade.

And so now we have a blowback on firearms, which, by any measure of reaction, is warranted. Kindergarten children being mowed down in class by military-style kill-machines by another in a long line of anti-social, middle-class white nerd males is bad publicity. Dead children is a tough one; which the NRA in its infinite wisdom has predictably decided to suggest providing more guns to “good people”, as if it is tough enough distinguishing between the good and bad people. But just as Big Tobacco could not have its CEO’s telling the consumer base it’s product is a drug, and Anheuser-Busch could not be bothered with the NFL’s lost profits, the NRA cannot go to the White House or on Meet The Press and agree to start putting leans all over their cash cow.

Roughly 320,000 people have died in the last ten years due to gun violence.

Not sure what this tell us, beyond the notion that industry, economy, and tradition trump human life. It is a high price some of us pay to live in a land that’s vital resource is the worship of the Holy Trinity.

 

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