SORRY…NO “DO-OVERS”

Aquarian Weekly
2/8/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

SORRY…NO “DO-OVERS”

The President was very clear during the campaign whether it was economic security or national security that he has an agenda that he articulated very clearly to the American people and that it is his job to lay that vision out and that the people who he appoints and nominates…their job is to fulfill that and if they don’t like it then they shouldn’t take the job.
– Press Secretary Sean Spicer, White House Press Briefing; January 23, 1017

The above quote originally addressing the sacking of former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates for refusing to enforce the president’s mostly unconstitutional and highly controversial executive order temporarily barring refugees entry into the United States from seven terrorism-specific countries should be the general rule going forward. And every American must come to accept this. This goes for those with perhaps buyer’s remorse or maybe those who woke up in mid-January and realized that because they voted their conscience a crazy man is running the free world or whatever mass hysteria Donald Trump has and will ignite in this country over the next four years.

Spicer is right. The president was quite clear, in fact, loudly and passionately so, perhaps more so than any candidate before him, about what he planned on doing if he were to win the White House, which he did. And now he is going about his business. He told you he was going to be the bull in the china shop, so stop complaining.

There’s no “do-overs”, folks. Or as we used to say, “no give-backs” or “backsies”. Trump is president and it doesn’t matter what transpires from here on in beyond legal avenues, like with the Patriot and Affordable Care acts, parts of which were deemed unconstitutional or at least got their day in court. This is now temporarily the way of the U.S. of A., and it’s time to come to grips with it.

This goes for the new record Trump has achieved by being the first president to dip below 50 percent within a week of taking office since “approval ratings” were first gathered by George Gallup sometime during the Great Depression over 80 years ago. To further illustrate this dubiously spectacular achievement it took Barack Obama 936 days and George W. Bush 1,205 days to reach a majority disapproval rating. And this number ain’t going up anytime soon, it would seem.

But where do they find these people? Four months ago they could have prevented this, but over half the eligible populace failed to vote. So I assume a good portion would have likely been just as pissed at Hillary Clinton. But, then again, Trump has gone hog-wild on executive orders. He’s signed 19 in two weeks, which if extrapolated out over four years would be accumulate to a tick under two thousand by the end of his first term.

Remember when Republicans went nuts about Obama’s executive orders and called him a tyrant? And remember when Democrats defended each and every one of them? Just the opposite is happening now. I actually heard Speaker of the House Paul Ryan say the other day that everyone should take a deep breath and not over-react to Trump’s aforementioned “Muslim Ban”. Wasn’t he the guy who warned of “Death Panels” an hour after the ACA was passed?

Or course he was the same guy who, based on his principles, could not immediately endorse the candidate who would be president during the campaign. Principles? Yeah, he has principles like one and half a million people were at the inauguration and Trump was only speaking in metaphors when he said all the things he is now doing and for some reason people are having hissy fits over. Ryan is a shallow and unprincipled political hack, but he’s at least dealing with the fact that Trump is president and not some alternative-universe dreamed up by Kellyanne Conway’s hallucinogenic fever dreams.

Trump told you he was a maniac; “very clearly”.

We all understand that Trump was already the least popular president in half a century to be elected and the only one since tracking began to have as quick a disapproval rating; not to mention taking the worst beating in the popular vote for a successful campaign. We all knew this for the interminable 20 or so months this thing dragged on, and now there’s all this shock and grief?

Things we also knew: Trump is in Vladimir Putin’s back pocket, diplomacy is alien to him, he’s afraid of Steve Bannon, and he had no interest in divesting himself of any of his current business dealings; if you ask, he is under audit and cannot address it, even though this is a completely made up excuse.

According to Market Watch this morning the Wall St. crowd has now realized Trump was not fucking around about alienating our top two largest trade partners in China and Mexico by threatening penalty trade tariffs and using the force of the federal government to control the means of production by penalizing companies for building plants wherever they damn well please. In other words, socialism. In fact, this is the very definition of socialism, so if somehow Trump’s time-machine could take us back to 1988, when I dabbled in such trite and debunked political concepts, then I might be digging all this.

But as it is, I do far less drugs now and stopped living under the delusion that any government can do a damn thing about the unfair nature of life or cease progress or to make everything peachy keen for the feckless and frightened among us. You grow up, or you live in a spoiled rich-kid’s bubble and become president or sit at home clutching your lunch pail and wish for daddy to give you your factory back.

Regardless, I am not sure that after two weeks anyone could seriously render a verdict on someone they don’t already have figured out. And, again, I ask: What does it matter? Minds have already been made up. Votes have been cast. Shenanigans were afoot, and will be again in two years for the mid-terms. But none of this should be Donald Trump’s worry. He’s a busy man wondering what Meryl Streep thinks of him. Trump told you he was a maniac; “very clearly”. He is now president. He can maniac-it-up all he wants.
No “Do-Overs”.

Read More

“ALTERNATIVE FACTS”

Aquarian Weekly
2/1/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

“ALTERNATIVE FACTS”
What The Trump Era Can Teach Us About Our National Illusions

When world-class political flack, Kellyanne Conway uttered the gorgeously provocative and spectacularly honest phrase “alternative facts” to defend some nonsense blathered by the White House press secretary at the behest of our paranoid new president on NBC’s Meet The Press, it conjured up the kind of joy in my soul that is rarely sparked. Only a true poet can take the magnificence of all-things and parse it down to a hymn to the human spirit. Conway is an artist. And artists are inspired by muses, and there is no greater muse to the delicately trained ears of this reporter than Donald J. Trump.02-01_af

And like Rosa Parks, whose seemingly trite refusal to move from her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus became the symbol of the burgeoning Civil Rights movement 61 years ago, the goofy defense of how many people showed up to Trump’s inauguration has become, thanks to Conway’s abstract reasoning, a teachable moment for our republic.

Now, firstly, one is right to ask; what exactly is an “alternative fact”?

Before, say, the Beatles, there was this thought that popular music had to be massaged through several layers; songwriters, performers, managers, public relations firms, record company geeks, etc. The Beatles changed all that by becoming all of these. Don’t fool yourself, this is what the mastery of the artist formally known as Citizen Trump, but in this space will forevermore carry the nickname El Douche, has done with the word “fact”. It is taking an absolute and transmogrifying it before our eyes; a science meet art meets steaming piles of crap principle that speaks volumes.

To wit: Prior to this historic appearance on an otherwise dull sixty-minute program originally founded on political discourse but slowly deteriorated over the years into a mind-numbing spin-cycle, a “fact” was “a piece of information presented as having objective reality” or “a thing that is indisputably the case.”

Fact: The earth revolves around the sun.

Alternative Fact: The sun revolves around the earth.

Those unfamiliar with genius might call such a thing a “falsehood” or even a “lie” or at the very least the evidence of stupidity. This is wrong. These definitions miss the point of Trump and the United States of America. The concept of an “alternative fact” is not new, but somehow, through the creative machinations of a true mastermind, it has shed light on our national delusion that has and continues to forge ahead unbounded, and, miraculously, never gets called into serious question. Nay, it gets celebrated and passed on with pride.

Now, in politics you are expected a measure in truth-bending, but this is child’s play compared with the symphony of madness Trump wielded for over a year. There was one point in which I was unsure if Trump wasn’t some kind of Andy Kaufman/Tony Clifton satire or maybe the entire thing was happening in his/our head like Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas or Scientology. (A man running a campaign for political office continuing to say he is not a politician is worthy of Lewis Carroll). However, Conway’s admission that we can now deny that water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit by simply saying it does not puts on trial the very nature of our American tradition of “Alternative Facts”.

Here’s one that will get Conway wet; Columbus discovered America.

This is a monumental “alternative fact” that we not only celebrate but continue to teach in schools to our children, who one day may grow up to use phrases like “alternative facts” with a straight face on television, purportedly sober and not joking.

From the Encyclopedia Britannica (soon to be outlawed under the Alternative Fact Executive Order): “During four separate trips that started with the one in 1492, Columbus landed on various Caribbean islands that are now the Bahamas as well as the island later called Hispaniola. He also explored the Central and South American coasts.”

Or…Columbus never set foot on North American soil.

This is fact.

Alternative fact: Columbus discovered America.

Also included as bonus “alternative facts” is Columbus “discovering” anything, as there were indigenous peoples inhabiting these lands and the always amusing “proving that the earth was not flat”, which was first determined by a Greek philosopher named Pythagoras in the sixth century B.C. and corroborated many times thereafter.

I can hear Conway moaning now.

I know this makes me hot.

One of the epic “alternative facts” of recent times was the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, which was the grounding principle of getting the richest, most powerful nation in the world embroiled in a multi trillion-dollar desert war, costing thousands of American and Iraqi lives and dozens of other horrors.

Fact: Iraq had no WMDs.

Ah, but that ordeal pales in comparison to my lifetime’s greatest “alternative fact”, which is still not widely known. Chances are you are reading this for the first time, but please (unlike Conway, Trump or whatever is going on in the White House right now) check my research: North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched an “unprovoked attack” against a U.S. destroyer on “routine patrol” in the Tonkin Gulf on Aug. 2, 1964 and North Vietnamese PT boats followed up with a “deliberate attack” on a pair of U.S. ships two days later.

What was known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, which resulted in the egregious Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, providing President Lyndon Johnson unchecked aggressive powers over all of Southeast Asia, and as a result, unleashed the Viet Nam War, the most damaging useless conflagration this nation has ever endured. For fun and frolic, this later laid the foundation for the kind of powers granted to daddy and son George Bush to enact their highly questionable forays into Iraq.

If Kellyanne Conway is not cumming by now, I can’t imagine why.

Debunking other “Alternative Facts” include:

Pilgrims did not host the first Thanksgiving.

Paul Revere never declared “The British are coming” nor did he even make it to Concord.

There were really only twelve original colonies, not thirteen.

Teddy Roosevelt nor his half-assed Rough Riders ever stormed San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War.

Abner Doubleday did not invent baseball.

in politics you are expected a measure in truth-bending, but this is child’s play compared with the symphony of madness Trump wielded for over a year.

This barely scratches the surface of “alternative facts”. So, I ask, how can a country that lives comfortably with illusion be equipped to defend against the kind of bullshit it is fed from every corner from history books, politicians, the media, agenda-motivated bloggers, and the like? We are programmed to accept the “alternative fact” from our religious institutions, schools, and other myopic groups that aim to gather us in like a mindless flock to march lock-step into a mass hallucination.

This explains the popularity of television, which, in turn, gave us a Donald Trump.

Hey, when you’re forced to put your hand on your heart and pledge allegiance to your country, as if you are a potential insurrectionist, in the first grade, it tends to dull you to mind-games.

And so we thank Kellyanne Conway and El Douche for their continued harping on the pointless defense against fact like a nearly three-million shellacking in the popular vote is the result of dead people and illegal aliens and there were more people seeing the Trump inauguration than anything ever in recorded history or the Mexican government and not the American taxpayer will be paying for a border wall or the president did not brag about assaulting women, he loves them.

Their unyielding dedication to this time-honored craft has allowed us a short but meaningful stroll down bullshit lane, which, of course, will change nothing, as we will continue to swallow our “alternative facts” and hold parades on fantasy holidays, and, I guess, believe anything Trump tells us. But at least we will know we are full of shit, so then we can’t blame everything on the Chinese.

“Alternative Facts”: An American tradition since a slave owner wrote “All men are created equal.”

Read More

GROUND RULES FOR DONALD TRUMP COMMENTARY

Aquarian Weekly
1/25/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

GROUND RULES FOR DONALD TRUMP COMMENTARY
A Template for “Covering” a Weird Presidency

You can’t argue with crazy.
– Doc Slater

As one can imagine, I have been getting a bevy of advice on what I should be writing or how I should be dealing with the emergence of this thing called Donald Trump. And I do not use “thing” pejoratively, although it can be taken as such, because no one knows what the hell to expect from the 45th president of the United States. Funny thing is this edict also applies to those who voted for him, and, quite frankly, Donald Trump himself. He is a complete unknown. He has never spent ten seconds in the service known as civil. He has cast nary a vote, dealt in any way with a civic budget, certainly has not commandeered an army or run a state or a county or district. There is no track record beyond his infamously obligatory, “Believe me…” or “Trust me…” Even Trump’s spotty and controversial business ventures are a complete mystery.

01-25_dt

This ambiguity also has a daily spin to it, as Trump tends to not only contradict his own comments day-to-day, but sometimes within the same sentence. If someone can figure out if he is pitching universal health care or not through several interviews over just this past week you win a prize.

But there will be plenty of time to dissect our bizarre journey into darkness. What we are going to deal with first is how this space will conduct itself for the foreseeable future.

Here is what I will not do here: There will be no “What the hell is he doing?” or “You can’t do that!” or certainly any “It’s completely insane and no one has ever…” editorializing here. The assumption will always be that – judging from everything Trump has said and done for the entirety of his public life all the way through his campaign – what you are seeing and about to see is going to be, or appear to be insane, stupid and completely outlandish compared to any and all examples of the past, regardless of your support or opposition to him.

Trump has no idea what the fuck he is doing and this is precisely why Trump was elected: He is not like everything else. Talk to any Trump voter, even those who held their noses because they despised Hillary Clinton, and they will tell you this: “We are tired of politicians and we don’t care if Trump appears nuts or childish or boorish or misogynist or racist, we want someone who is not affiliated with any ideology to blow the whole friggin’ thing to smithereens!”

Now this should be taken with a caveat: What people don’t know about how government works you could barely shoe-horn into the Grand Canyon. So there is an excellent chance these Trump supporters will be surprised at how this whole thing can go sideways. This may not change the bulk of his core support, for they will merely defend anything he does or says to not look like they voted for a moron. This is how these things go; supporters make excuses for their choice and those who are against him will accuse him of everything from bad weather to bad hair days. Not even the presence of a Reality TV guy is going to change that.

So there will be no pointing out “crazy”. Crazy is what people wanted. Let’s see where crazy gets them. Or at least gets the people in the Rust Belt, who ultimately made Donald Trump president.

As stated in our quick post-election “analysis”, which went from “What the…?” to “Okay…sure”, we pointed out that if not for Hillary Clinton coughing up Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio, she and not “the crazy” would be running things. And what that tells us is that this will be the aim of this space going forward. Forget “The Wall” (although for fun I might be inclined, if a member of the White House press corps, to ask the president every day when that promised check from Mexico is forthcoming) and the other unconstitutional Wizard of Ozian nonsense Trump garbled to the gullible, this is what he needs to do as president to be successful: Bring back the millions of jobs this country has seen go the way of technology and progress since the 1980s and especially the advent of the Internet and our fancy global economy.

If Trump does that, if he can shoe-horn a 18th century time machine edict into our 21st century series of events, then those who put him in office will deal with “the crazy”.

Trump has no idea what the fuck he is doing and this is precisely why Trump was elected…

Now, assuming Trump doesn’t embroil the nation in an apocalyptic war, which is always possible no matter who’s in charge and that whatever his overlords in Russia deem necessary, the amount of damage he can do to this colossus of a republic is fairly minimal.

Unless you allow it.

For instance; unless you were suckered into volunteering for Bush’s horrid Middle East rebuilding project, what did the Iraq or Afghanistan wars really do to harm you? If anything, the disaster of the banking crisis in 2008 was far worse, and we not only fully recovered from that, we are the strongest economy in the world.

Sure, Trump’s proposed trade-penalty taxes and his failure to get another nation to pay for a border wall could be groundbreaking madness, but really, is your wife going to leave you because of it? Will your car break down? You children suddenly hate you? Beer taste bad? Hair fall out?

Nah.

So there will also be none of this, “Donald Trump is destroying the very fabric or American…fill in the blank “around here. There is no fabric of America. That is a myth sold to you like mouthwash by people who need to justify outrage or a gig. There is also zero chance that anyone who is president “represents” you. I have lived through nine of them and not one represented me. I represent me. Always have and always will. The words I put in this space and how I choose to express myself in my daily life and my work is what “represents” me. This is what represents you. Politics is bullshit. Obama was bullshit and now Trump is indeed bullshit. Changing bullshit does not make it less bullshit or not bullshit, just different bullshit.

And so we will apply Doc Slater’s axiom about “the crazy” and comment on the fall-out.

Business as usual around here.

Read More

JOE COOL…OUT!

Aquarian Weekly
1/18/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

JOE COOL…OUT!
Our Journey From Hope To Change To Trump

Barack Obama is the only major party candidate for president I have ever voted for with gusto. And he shall be the last. That is my gift to him on his way out. The man I dubbed Joe Cool was historic for many reasons, but that is the only one that counts around here. Of course this only applies to 2008, for I went back to my independent ways four years later. Nevertheless it was a monumental vote for me, and one that I shall ultimately remember him by.

01-18_jc_out

True, I voted for G.W. Bush in 2000, but that’s because I despised Al Gore. I never forgave him for the whole PMRC shenanigans in the 1980s. Still haven’t. And I would do it again, even though I blame Bush for 9/11, which is now all the rage but was considered some kind of treason in 2001. Fuck him and fuck Al Gore.

All of these votes are a matter of record in this space, but it doesn’t do much beyond explaining that since 1980 I have never and will never again vote for a major party candidate beyond the 2008 Barack Obama model. That idea was, is and will always be a completely bullshit either/or decision that is needlessly heaped upon the citizenry, which came to an ugly head this past year when I have now personally spoken to two dozen people who voted for one of the two candidates they were purportedly “forced” to vote for with a measure of growing apathy to outright disdain.

I gladly voted for what would be the 44th president of the United States in 2008 for one main reason, well, two; the first is that damned whiz-bang, hootenanny king-hell mutha of an Iowa Caucus victory speech he delivered on January 3 of that year. It remains the finest political oratory that I have had the pleasure to digest in real-time. I must have played that thing twenty times in a sixteen hour period, like the first time I heard Exile on Main St. or Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” or that part in “Three Babies” when Sinead O’Connor hits the high note. That speech is far better than most any that I have studied and it may be the last time I would actually believe in anything to do with politics again.

For those who dig Obama, I suggest you watch it. It’s on YouTube and it will make you throw up when you consider what transpired from that day forward; how much of the soul of that guy at that time was sucked out by our politics, even upon winning the presidency. That night the bar was set too high for the likes of us or him. But man, that Democratic primary was, along with the Republican one this year, the most fun I had covering this game to power we roll out every four years. I was never concerned by what transpired afterwards, as I’m not now. It reminded me why people who care about such things love politics, think it matters or actually believe it has any true effect on their lives. Listening to that speech transformed me, for the shortest but most enjoyable of weeks, maybe months, but then I went right back to being a cynical jack ass and proud of it.

It is important to point out that what makes the human condition at once so mesmerizingly horrific and beatific is what can be framed in a moment of true sweeping progress and is then easily sullied by the stark light of reality. This is what happens to those who see the utter lack of purity in things and understand fully how fucked the whole concept is and how those who don’t see it and think politics is some kind of elixir to the gaping hole in their faith-centers come to the same rude awakening eventually.

But political speeches come and go; what really matters to me in retrospect is that first run between 2009 and Obama’s re-election in 2012, when there absolutely had to be a shift in viewpoint of the presidency, and not a racial or ideological one, per se, and Lord knows it certainly will never be a political for me. It was ultimately a brief but dramatic generational shift; the second reason I voted for Barack Obama. He is from my generation; the butt-end of the Boomer (but not quite), and too old for X – that “between generation” that was born with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Kennedy Assassination and weaned on Viet Nam and Watergate and was far too young to get high at Woodstock. We did not fight the battle of Civil Rights but watched the potential for an Equal Rights Amendment be crushed by the forever-maddening puritan ethics bullshit which I think now that a playboy TV thug is president we can stop pretending we care a lick about.

Be that as it may, I am proud of that 2008 vote, even though the first Obama term was somewhere between stabilizing and shit. I hated the parade of Clinton cast-offs he dragged in. I wanted everyone in the cabinet to be from my generation as well, not pathetic hold-overs from the ego-addled lunacy of the 1960s through the 1980s. We had just endured two Boomers on both sides of the aisle, both of whom ended final terms in ignominy. But remember, this is a man who took office under by far the worst economic collapse of the Western hemisphere that anyone under 100 years-old could recall. The Dow was somewhere in the six-thousands and soon gasoline would spike to nearly five bucks. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were disappearing.

Historians will rightly or wrongly credit Obama’s presidency with halting this hemorrhage, but that will be the last thing his first term slam-dunked, unless you work in the American automotive industry. But there will always be the Affordable Care Act, which was a half-assed boondoggle that never worked because it cannot function in the human condition explained briefly above. It would be known as Obamacare, a term I did not use, like calling people not from India, Indians. But the president embraced it from good to bad to worse. I, for one, never bought it and neither did the country, as within two years the dismantling of the Democratic Party began.

that Democratic primary was, along with the Republican one this year, the most fun I had covering this game to power we roll out every four years.

That will also be the legacy of Obama; beyond the transformative nature of electing an African American in a mostly racist, back-water, religiously fanatic intellectual sinkhole of a nation. His party was abandoned by him. And this is where the generational thing comes in. Obama didn’t give a shit. He also didn’t give a shit about explaining anything he did well, like finally killing the man who committed the greatest crime against America that didn’t include bankers. He probably should have killed some bankers.

But doubtless and without argument, Obama’s second term, one I did not endorse because up to that point second terms were always a disaster – Viet Nam, Watergate, Iran/Contra/Monika Lewinsky/a hundred things Bush screwed up – was the finest of my lifetime. Granted, the bar was low, but the economy that was in a historic shambles continued to recover, albeit slowly, yet with a record number of months of job growth, because Obama was, and historians will record this too, the first truly “progressive” president; the one that did not fall under the anachronistic tag of liberalism. One that worked in the pragmatic, grown-up-in-the-70s mentality that was ingrained in us.

Be that as it may, the most important event that happened during Obama’s second term is the rightful, legal ratification of marriage equality and he had absolutely nothing to do with it. Trust me, the refusal of a black leader to acknowledge an obvious civil rights abomination against a community of tax-paying citizens is one of the things that made me cringe in 2008, and almost had me run back to the independent candidates, but remember, despite being in my enlightened generation, marriage equality always seemed like a pipe dream, like women voting once was. The very idea that this country could actually twice vote for a progressive black man as president is a nod to that generation and the next; you know, the one that did not buy into another Clinton – but that is another column for another day – certainly kick-started a groundswell for civil rights the likes of which we had not seen in two generations. I am glad to have been alive and be an American for that and then embarrassed for all those who continue to oppose it, because it is sad and bigoted, but entirely understandable. This is the change we were supposed to believe in, but you know what? The president was an innocent bystander. We, the law, the United States Constitution made that happen.

You see, beyond the Iran Deal, which I supported heartily and believe if the Republicans take their collective heads out of their 19th century asses will finally begin to transform the horror-show Middle East through secular economic concerns, and not third-century, voodoo religious nonsense. This is what progress and my generation should believe; at least the free thinking among us. And if the election of Obama’s successor is any indication, the religious right is still very much on life support, and that is the best we can cite for progress.

The rest for Barack Obama is window dressing. But failing a spate of impeachment hearings or ramped up phony wars or secret unconstitutional weapons deals with enemies or Nixonian abuses of power, this was one no-drama-Obama presidential run.

Thanks for allowing my generation a crack at this shit-sandwich.

Now it’s back to a bloviating, narcissistic, media-whorish Boomer again.

Good luck.

Joe Cool…out!

Read More

A SEASONAL WISH

Aquarian Weekly
12/28/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

A SEASONAL WISH
What You Write The Day Before Christmas Eve With A Crushing Deadline

Hold me in your thoughts
Take me to your dreams
Touch me as I fall into view
When the winter comes
Keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you

-Warren Zevon
“Keep Me In Your Heart”

I remember it vividly.

I was walking up 14th Street across from Union Square Park staring up at the Barnes & Noble where I last saw Hunter Thompson alive – the place we spoke for one of those short spurts I would get with him. Within a few months he would put a bullet through his brain. And I remember the June sun on my face and being thankful that everyone I loved was alive and more or less healthy. And I was momentarily pleased by this. It seemed right.

12-26_sw

I’m remembering this with only a week left in 2016 because it has been a tough one for a lot of us. Many of my friends and loved ones have had a rough go, like my dad dealing with health problems and my sister-in-law battling cancer, and still others who are gone now. This year, in particular, I lost my beloved mother-in-law, Mary Lou Moore. She was a uniquely gifted artist, and more importantly, loved this column and loved to laugh at its weekly impertinence and to be honest my general impertinence. And that always touched me; how such a sweet, creative, loving soul could get a genuine kick out of this mess.

She died in late June, almost two years to the day that I had my 14th Street epiphany. My wife and I were on our annual anniversary weekend sojourn in downtown NYC and Mary was at my mountain home hanging with our then six year-old daughter, Scarlet, who soon would be eight and find herself without her maternal grandmother.

Later in the year two good friends would lose their parents. This will be their first holiday season without them. My dad had a scare this year; quadruple bypass surgery. He’s had a couple of lousy health years. And the whole thing gets me thinking again of my 14th Street epiphany and I wonder if somehow I’m a jinx.

Or if I was trying to tell myself something that I’m now acutely aware seeing time pass over these two years and how everything that transpired did so in such a shockingly rapid manner that it all seems like a dream.

My dear Uncle Johnny – who has the distinction of two mentions in as many weeks in this space – was not well that summer. I had visited him in a hospital for patients with dementia down in Florida the previous February, and since his dad, my maternal grandfather, had suffered from the same malady, and I seemed to have acquired quite a few of their genes, I only assumed I would be going nuts soon or at least willing to admit I’ve been clinically nuts and not just symbolically so for some time. And I also wondered how long he could last living that way. I got my answer. He died that autumn. And then I pondered how long any of us have and I was just glad that for that fleering moment, just a few steps across from Union Square, that everyone was okay and maybe they would be for a little while longer.

But a little while was not long enough. It never is. Is it?

And I guess in some ham-fisted way I wish that we would all have a 14th Street moment more often and realize how finite all this is and all the bitching and moaning about things we cannot control are merely distractions to those things we actually can, like being kinder to each other and maybe making a phone call or offering a hand or a compliment or a reminder to those we care about to let them know how fortunate we are that they’re in our lives and that they have their health and their right mind for another one of these seasons.

“Hold me in your thoughts, Take me to your dreams…”

You see, when I was younger (Man, you know things have crept well past sentimental into maudlin-ville when someone writes, “When I was younger…”, but I pointed it out, so that exempts me and so shall I proceed), I would fraction life out in summers – like how many summers do I have with these friends of mine, or how many summers will I be carefree and single and penniless and not give a shit until it becomes sad or pathetic? How many summers could a relationship survive or a job or a book project or some other activity that appeared at the time to have an infinite shelf-life?

Now, maybe, I think of this season, this “holiday season”; the one I usually “endure”, and wonder how many more of these Christmas mornings will be left for the kid digging on Santa or how many more will I have with my dad or how many more with my friends that I think will somehow age but not get closer to not having another summer or season?

Okay, so last year I wrote a screed defending Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge and now I’m bringing people down with “loved ones are not going to be here forever, so start acting like it” nonsense that no one needs to hear.

Well, I think that’s bullshit. We do need to hear it. I certainly needed to hear it last year when we still had Mary and never in our wildest dreams did we consider not having her, and maybe that is silly hindsight that humans play with in order to ease their minds that you cannot spend every “season” wondering who will be here next year to share it.

Shit, there’s probably no other reason to bring any of this up except to point out that I work too much and cannot enjoy enough of what its brought me because I’m not sure I’m four or five or less “seasons” from losing my mind or that someone else might not be here that I need to tell how much they mean to me.

Time to rectify that.

Right?

Right.

Read More

IN PRAISE OF THE DAILY SHOW (THE BOOK)

Aquarian Weekly
12/21/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

IN PRAISE OF THE DAILY SHOW (THE BOOK)
An Oral History of the Golden Age of 21st Century American Satire

I have never actually missed a TV show. The concept seems silly to me. Sure, I wish certain shows I dig would have kept going in-perpetuity, but usually when I look back, I figure it was probably a good idea it stopped. I think Showtime’s Shameless is going bye-bye after seven seasons. That sucks. It is currently the best show on TV for my money. But, I get it, its time. But when The Daily Show lost Jon Stewart – effectively going off the air (for me) – it was a bummer, but, you know, okay…I get it.

But, man, do I miss The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

12-21_ds

And I don’t think it actually hit me until I received a copy of film-maker, Chris Smith’s wonderfully compiled The Daily Show (The Book) – An Oral History in the mail and haven’t been able to put it down. And weirdly, I think when I’m done in a few more pages I’m going to – for all intents and purposes – finally put away this particular icon and try and understand why it was so damn important to me.

For me The Daily Show was, of course, very entertaining. Some might say; right up my alley. Or at least it was playing in the same alley.

In 1999, when Jon Stewart took stewardship of Comedy Central’s then half-hour social-commentary joke-fest, I began getting emails about it from readers of this space, specifically an old radical friend of my Uncle Johnny, who I had never met but I guess started reading my stuff and then tried to get me onto Stewart’s jag. I was never a fan of “fake news” satire – the HBO series Not Necessarily the News or even the early Weekend Updates on SNL. It took me a few years, really, maybe just before 9/11 or so, to begin to catch on to the insurrection that was The Daily Show.

Occasionally I would flick it on and get more than a chuckle, and then, and I’m not sure when or what story they were lampooning or what level of satire they were playing at, it suddenly struck me as damned important work. My guess is I probably became an avid viewer and began setting the DVR sometime before the 2004 presidential campaign and found myself getting at first influenced by the track of the show and then trying like hell not to cover similar ground – as if anyone would notice or care for that matter. But I would. It is a thin alley we were working in. You do not want to bump into anyone for fear you are merely echoing the angst or bile. I have plenty of both already.

And, you see, that’s where Smith’s book really put me on notice this past week. It reminded me how much of the free-thinking public, and okay…college burn-outs and shut-ins and the fringe-class…were satiated by watching The Daily Show make a difference, whether to drive a bill through congress to assist first-responders, or affect the free-expression brigade in Egypt, or merely expose those who needed exposing from the War in Iraq to the banking crisis to the general absolutists that make this country a strange and wonderful mixture of the horrible and fantastic.

The Daily Show (The Book) – An Oral History … illuminates the aim and effectiveness of true satire and the skewering of our most cherished institutions as an art form

Certainly if you are a fan of the show you must read The Daily Show (The Book) – An Oral History, because although I wish it had more “inside baseball stuff” – writing room stories or inner turmoil or other things (and it has it, but not as much I crave from these oral histories) – it is a sincere blast to relive its finest moments and understand how it was achieved and more importantly remember how much it was a major part of the democratic process and how much it began to force politicians and social leaders and writers and scientists and authors and even celebrities hawking whatever to “be real” and give them either a forum to express or a place where they could…not…hide.

And I don’t think necessarily, as has been argued, that the power and scope of The Daily Show would have meant a hill-o-beans in this past presidential election cycle, I do think it would have helped to frame it in its most peculiar terms, something we have striven for here since 1997, two years before Stewart sat in the chair and began to shift the narrative of American comedy, much like the usual suspects, Twain and Bruce and The Simpsons…you know the roll call.

Anyway, before this holiday season gets away from us, I wanted to put a few words together for Smith’s exhaustive work. I rarely get the chance to laud books here. I read so many damn books and some are definitely worth writing about and some…not so much. I do my bi-annual Rock Reads thing for the paper and that seems to suffice. I am not a critic and have no interest in faking it, but I think the readers of this column would get a kick out of The Daily Show (The Book) – An Oral History because it illuminates the aim and effectiveness of true satire and the skewering of our most cherished institutions as an art form I believe is the last vestige of reality (ironically) in a world that is replete with fabricated nonsense passing for righteous outrage and political expediency.

But mostly the book has made me miss the show and miss Stewart and all the great correspondents and writers and that nice exhale at the end of each day when it is eleven and we can laugh at our goofy human experiment and then nod off to sleep.

But at least we have this as a memento.

Bravo, Mr. Smith.

Read More

NEXT UP – OUST CHRISTIE

Aquarian Weekly
12/14/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

NEXT UP – OUST CHRISTIE
Freeing the Garden State of Assholes since November, 2016

Feeling good.

Still high on our rousing victory over the scum that is Scott Garrett. That’s right, Garrett, you’ve got a few more weeks to bring the full force of the United States Congress down on me, then it’s off to the funny farm to protest stuff you’re afraid of or make a boatload lobbying for economic national socialism.

So we now turn our attention to our governor, Mista Christie, who has been more or less a political dead man now for months. We began to smell the familiar stank of decay on him around February when he dropped his charade of becoming president and became Citizen Trump’s bellhop. Turns out standing behind a candidate trying to appear relevant during campaign rallies netted him a whole lot of nothing, as he was summarily dropped from the fancy transition team minutes after the president-elect’s stunning upset victory on November 8, and has now been tossed from the shortlist of boot-lickers the new administration has lined up to duly ignore or explain or no-doubt apologize for what is sure to be high and wild times on Pennsylvania Avenue over the next four years.

I just want to point out that this is the Trump Administration that Chrisitie cannot get a sniff in. “Apes Tossing Feces at Each Other” is the employable motto over there. Pretty much anyone who supported Trump and can suck air for five minutes without keeling over and can kind of put two sentences together with verbs and stuff is being given prime gigs. Shit, Trump’s Atlantic City pit-boss will be heading the Department of the Interior. Pretty soon Sarah Palin, whose IQ is a tick north of 70, will probably be running something important. The guy in charge of National Security thinks the religion of Islam is a front for terrorism while a rabid anti-Zionist is pulling the strings. And I’m sure I have the wording wrong, but I think Dr. Ben Carson is in charge of the Department of Jesus or something or other. But Chris Christie? He’s out.

This is akin to having Motley Crue kick you off the tour for being “a little drug-happy”.

It’s bad is what I am saying.

This is not surprising, since the governor of New Jersey has now set a record-low in approval ratings. We’re now at 19 percent, folks; the most pathetic in two decades around here. If this was a normal state run with a history of somewhat competent civil servants you’d likely have to reach back a century or so for that kind of futility. But this is New Jersey. Usually, if you can spell cat after being spotted the “C” and the “T” and stay out of jail, you can get 40 percent. Our bar is low and we expect lunacy. Of course, Christie can always say he’s no worse off than Sam Brownback, who has turned Kansas into the Hunger Games without the attractive young people.

Bad is my point here.

The latest Quinnipiac poll, which is mostly a Republican bitch, stated in its summation that “Everyone hates Chris Christie.” This is a direct quote. That is not opinion; it is what the data tells them. Water boils at 212 degrees, a whale is a mammal, and Chris Christie sucks ass. According to a parsing of the raw statistics, every possible group despises the man.

In a strangely Darwinian way, Mista Christie has managed to become the most non-partisan of concepts. He has brought the state together like nothing else could. He is indeed a “uniter”. We all think he is very, very bad.

This, however, in political parlance, makes him toast.

Now we begin to see if we can get him to quit. This is our goal here.

Then we can get around to legalizing pot, reverse this onerous gas tax, and stop bear hunts. Get this state rolling, jack.

Water boils at 212 degrees, a whale is a mammal, and Chris Christie sucks ass.

I am appalled that only 4,200 or so people have signed Petition 3908 thus far. It is a memo to congress to send Christie out on a rail. I have mostly ignored it, because petitions to congress are stupid, but also because the Tar & Feathering rider has been summarily removed. Hell, I figure with Trump in charge we can bring back some of the things that truly made this country great. Like rolling fat useless government slags in scolding tar and heave large pillows of feathers over them while children sing “God Bless America” and we fire cannons at the Irish.

But I digress.

Chris Christie is a horror show and he must go and he will go, it is merely a matter of time, but humiliation must also be part of the procedure. This is why despite my repeated calls to Trump Tower to beg the Human Grenade to give Christie some kind of job just to get him out of here; valet, new pit boss in Atlantic City, or throw him a spade and have him break ground on the already paid-for Mexican wall; I have decided the best thing is threat of incarceration. I have it on good authority that he cannot merely be shamed from office. Although, to be fair, I did not need iron-clad sources on this; have you seen what this guy looks like? He goes out looking like that and actually appears on TV. What could you possibly do that would shame the man?

For this project I will employ my new buddy, Congressman Josh Gottheimer. He owes me big time. It is not every century a Democrat runs my district, and it isn’t every political season that a loon like yours truly gets to lean on a congressman for pay-backs.

First Garrett, now Christie.

Last chance to drag New Jersey in the twenty-first century.

Read More

THE BALLAD OF DISTRICT FIVE

Aquarian Weekly
12/7/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE BALLAD OF DISTRICT FIVE
How Acting Like a Total Jack Ass Helps Flip the Tide of Politics

Victory is mine.

At least that is how I choose to frame it. When you get a column someday, then can you crow. This is my moment and I’m taking it.

12-07_bd5

Sure Democrat Josh Gottheimer now represents New Jersey’s Fifth Congressional District, my district, after what was a highly contentious and some say patently ugly battle over the past months. But that is merely a sidelight around here. What really happened is I got involved. For the first time. And I kicked ass.

I’m not entirely sure what the hell Gottmeier’s got going, but I know he is not his opponent and our current Congressman Scott Garrett. This was an opposition front from the get-go. Topple the horrid and deal with the terrible. Old time politics. Gory. Brutal. Music for the masses and sweet demolishment for the wicked.

Fuck Donald Trump. I’m a bigger asshole and I can prove it. My victory is even more unlikely.

2016! Assholes are in!

Let me just point out that my throwing this thing into turmoil helped to flip a district that has not elected a Democrat in 85 years. That’s right, long before my parents were on the planet. Eight decades plus. Nearly a century. Not one Democrat.

Then I got pissed.

And I wish to be clear; I was not necessarily politically pissed. It matters little that Garrett was a Republican. He is scum. And he had to be sent packing.

At first I was merely inconvenienced, then mildly annoying, then increasingly angered. It was around flat-out pissed that I got involved in the race.

If you think about it, the entire history of civilization is summed up in the above sentence.

American Revolution is Inconvenience – Annoyance – Pissed.

It all began for me with simply researching what the hell my representative was about. I suggest you do so, as soon as you are done reading this. I don’t care what you stand for, but when everything the person representing you in congress stands for makes you want to violently retch, it is time to get warmed up.

As soon as Scott Garrett’s record revealed itself to be a tsunami of bigotry, spite and overall dumbness, taking this thing into the realm of the asinine suddenly appeared worthy of my angst-in-motion.

Okay, let’s recap; A few weeks ago I became embroiled…okay, I embroiled directly…in a very public tete-a-tete with Garrett, whom I openly challenged to a fist fight in print. I felt, and rightfully so, that everyone needs a beating once in awhile in their life. I took them. Many times. They are good for the soul. They teach you that ideologies and debate are all well and good, but a direct hit to the temple can wake a man, give him needed perspective. Garret was way overdue for this, and I took up my patriotic duty to administer it, with extreme prejudice.

This was not my initial plan. I was having the time of my life covering what was the most absurd of presidential campaigns run by two giant assholes and generally making glib of all-things as usual here. Then I started getting inundated with robo-calls from the Garrett campaign. One or two a week became five or six and then it was every evening, right around eight or so. Sometimes, as I shared with my readers, it interrupted key dancing time with my eight year-old daughter. We dig punk and we dig it loud and the incessant phone ringing and then some automated falderal being read in a sub-mental drone could not be obliged.

To be frank, I was already at a boiling point with Garrett’s bi-annual digital town halls that would call my home and then for close to twenty minutes, if I dared answered or my machine picked up, would not allow me to remove it from my line. My phone connection was literally hijacked by this nonsense.

And so I began badgering Garrett’s campaign to cut the shit. They did not comply. I could have reported the whole operation to the FCC or some such, but I despise “proper channels”. I like to get ugly. Not to mention, I have this nifty forum and it seemed right to use it in the most vicious way.

American Revolution is Inconvenience – Annoyance – Pissed.

As you might have read in the now infamous series of Garrett bashing (“Scott Garrett Needs an Ass Kicking” and “Scott Garret’s Intimidation Machine Versus Me”), which resulted in the aforementioned challenge to brawl, I could not have been more blatantly satirical. Yet, I thought it my journalistic duty to gather a comment from him. Several professionally placed calls to his campaign came up empty. The campaign then decided this would be a good time to accuse me of harassment (ironically what started all this was their harassment of my home phone) and got local police involved.

All of this back-and-forth, of course, was published here and on the fancy Internet and that is when things got interesting.

It started with calls from the Gottheimer Campaign. They had been spending way too much time trying to answer for me, and the seriousness of first my challenge and then the cops being brought into the fray. They asked if it was okay to send newspapers and online blogs my way and even requested I address a rally for their candidate, for which I answered the same way I have for nearly twenty years of this; “I don’t do rallies.”

It wasn’t until Politico contacted me that I realized this had gone national and it was directly affecting the race. Some off-the-record comments, which I can now reveal, since Gottheimer is the congressman-elect, from his people were telling me the negative feedback from voters to the petty and feckless over-reaction from Garrett was putting a strain on his campaign. They were actually answering questions on whether they understood the concept of satire and whether Garrett was afraid of a 54 year-old writer who is a little over five foot and 125 pounds soaking wet with a bag of nickels in his pocket. Even the cops who were calling me laughed at the whole thing.

And then I found out there were tapes of my calls to the Garrett Campaign, not only archived, but sent to the authorities. I was able to obtain them through a journalist whose name shall not be revealed, because I wouldn’t want mine revealed, not so much to protect sources.

I cherish those tapes now- every syllable dripping with sarcasm and rage. They will be my legacy here.

For all the crap I have stirred up over the past nineteen years of this cannot compare to acting like a complete idiot and having it result in a victory.

Now I know how Donald Trump feels.

Fuck him. I’m a bigger asshole.

Read More

PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP – AN EXPLANATION IN TWO PARTS

Aquarian Weekly
11/16/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP – AN EXPLANATION IN TWO PARTS

Editor’s Note: The following are two brief explanations on how a reality TV star is now president of the United States by first jc and then his old colleague, former Conservatively Speaking columnist, Bill Roberts.

I have to be honest; I’ve got nothing.

Really, what right do I have to pontificate when I was spectacularly wrong about this entire thing? And not only the results of the election, but long dissertations on demographics and gender gaps and the shifting generational pull away from the kind of throw-back populist falderal pitched by the new president elect, Citizen Donald J. Trump.

dt_1116

First off, data took a big nosedive here – in fact, everything in the realm of modernity was cast aside for at least one election cycle; global trade, progressive socials issues, the realities of a 21st century cyber-based economic model, international diplomacy and geo-political military intervention. And really, that is the nut here; in the end Hillary Rodham Clinton would have been president if she held fast to the reliable Rust Belt. She did not. Big league. As her opponent may put it. Pennsylvania (not Republican since 1988), Michigan and Wisconsin (not Republican since 1984) and even Minnesota, as of the time of this writing still being counted, which was the only state the Democrats won in ’84.

What all this tells me is this result had less to do with corruption and emails and untrustworthiness and the FBI than it did with raw, blue-collar economics, which used to be solidly Democratic, or at least when Ronald Reagan wasn’t on the ballot. This was about a changing world that scares the shit out of the low-educated white man, the overwhelming support of which shifted these states into Trump’s column and turned him from punch line TV clown into the president of the United States. But it is also about anger. Anger sometimes wins the day. This time it surely did.

Turns out, Trump was wiped out by Hispanic/Latino vote, skimmed a little off of the Obama African American vote, lost out on the college-educated white vote (somehow he was not sunk by women), but not by the margins that could stem the tidal wave of lower middle-class people expecting a messiah to bring the 1950s back.

Good luck with that.

We know less about Donald Trump than any human who has achieved this station. He is vaguely erratic, sometimes unhinged and always recalcitrant. I have no idea what he stands for or what he will do. But now being on the other side of the Trump phenomenon, since I was one of the few journalists who seemed to grasp his significance in the primaries but whiffed on the general, it must be stated that this is the greatest political upset in our nation’s history. Period. Trump was an eight-to-one underdog and he swept the table he needed to sweep. American history was written on November 8, 2016, for good or ill.

So maybe he can deport 11 million people and build a multi-trillion dollar wall on the Mexican border and most importantly force American companies back from abroad. I highly doubt it. But then again, I highly doubted this.

jc

**************

Okay, here is my morning after “Inside Baseball” explanation over why I was so sure Trump would win despite being told otherwise by so many other people. This is a bit long and may be boring, unless you are a political geek, so buyer be warned.

This wasn’t difficult to see if you knew what you were looking for. First off, this was a repudiation of the GOP and the NeverTrump crowd. The base didn’t believe the Establishment any longer and if you opened your ears and eyes you would have felt the outrage building. The ascension of Trump is of the GOP’s making and it was clear to see. The NeverTrumpers sadly have to make a choice. The party is no longer yours. The door is still open to you and you can come home. We welcome you home ,but just know the people now own the GOP.

Trump had a populist message that was resonating with folks who watched their factories close and their jobs move away in the name of progress. Those folks were in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and they truly wanted change, yet after the politicians spoke, change was all they had left when their jobs and paychecks left town in the name of NAFTA. The shattering of the Blue Wall was astounding to see in real time.

to sum it up, prognosticating Trump’s win was not hope or faith. It was looking at real numbers and listening to real Americans.

As for the hidden, shy Trump voter, this was an easy one to see. If you had listened back in the primaries, instead of just screaming about who was a real conservative, you would have seen the GOP set a record for new voter registrations. They weren’t there for McCain and they weren’t there for Romney…they showed up for Trump, so it wasn’t a stretch or a leap to believe they were coming out for Trump. Now, the polls would never capture them because they hadn’t voted in 2012, so they were never going to show up on a pollsters call list, but they were there. I studied the polls and saw they sampled Democrats too high and didn’t adjust to what I felt to be a correct sampling number, which was about a GOP plus-five. This formula held true in PA, MI, OH and WI. What was shocking was how well the Panhandle in Florida performed in blunting Broward, Dade and Palm Beach’s Democratic onslaught. I admit, I always believed Trump would win in Florida, but the way it occurred even shocked me.

So to sum it up, prognosticating Trump’s win was not hope or faith. It was looking at real numbers and listening to real Americans. Had the media done that as I did, they wouldn’t be sitting there with egg on their face looking all stupid this morning.

Speaking of the media, you guys are done. You are through, you cast your lot as an active combatant and now you will pay the price. People will no longer place any value in your reporting and the ridicule you will receive is well-earned and you must endure it as it is a self inflicted wound.

Finally, here is why Trump will be one of the greatest President’s in our nation’s history. He knows we voted for his message and his ideas not necessarily him the man. He knows if he lets us down, we will fire his ass in four years. He is the right man for the job and I am proud to call him “My President”.

Bill Roberts
Conservatively Speaking

Read More

EVOLUTION OF A YOUNG WOMAN AS AN ARTIST

10/5/16
Aquarian Weekly
BUZZ

EVOLUTION OF A YOUNG WOMAN AS AN ARTIST
Songstress Gina Royale Takes The Big Leap

By James Campion

She stands before the microphone the picture of unwavering confidence, sinuously fitted into a scarlet dress; her hair turned from wispy chestnut to a pin-straight, deep black. Gina Royale on stage at New York City’s famous Duplex downtown cabaret for two separate shows over two crucial months of her burgeoning career; one in the relative chill of an early-April, Manhattan night, the other in the steaming bustle of late June. During the first, she introduces her new band, bassist Graham Orbe, Liam Kerekes on drums, and musical partner, Emily Case on guitar and vocals. The second, once again with the same band – this time a few months of shows tighter – is Royale’s CD launch party for her newest collection of songs titled, Brain Waves.gr_1005_03

Royale giggles between numbers, introducing each with short anecdotes of their origins, then looks to the band for a count-in, and it is there; pure and strong, effortlessly filling the room; her emotive, chilling voice takes over. It lifts and tumbles through songs about hurt and confusion, joy and loss. She owns these songs; they are like morsels of her psyche and the voice leads us through her journey. The audience takes a moment following the codas to exhale. Then there is a hoot or a whispered, “Wow’, followed by rousing applause; as the morsels are released back to her. And she giggles again; her smile as infectious as her natural instrument.

The maturation of Royale and her combo is stark. A year or so ago she was a determined but soft-spoken high school kid with big ideas and a handful of catchy songs co-produced by her dad and manager, Andrew Rajeckas, a fine songwriter and pianist in his own right. Back then she talked about school plays, petty jealousies, and snide nods to ex-boyfriends. Now, a year into her studies in the Pop Music Program at William Patterson University, having received praise for a music video for her stirring ballad, “Walk Without Gravity” that increased interest from record companies, and a series of seminal gigs both solo and with the band, she is beginning to ease into tell-tale traces of defiance, a razor-sharp directive, and an appreciation for all that the music has afforded her.

Only moments before, backstage, the members of the band, excruciatingly young with just enough green to allow for snickering and feigned shyness, flop on couches and make passing remarks on the size of the crowd and the minor troubles with the sound check. In the middle of it all, like a port in a storm, is Royale, petite and cautiously energetic. Despite a modicum of brashness and a wry sensuality, she calmly addresses the whirlwind of the past few months.

“I was definitely more comfortable in the studio this time around,” she says, acutely aware of her band mates leaning in to hear. “And I like my music a little more this time too, not that I didn’t like the songs on my first record, Heir, but I think Brain Waves has more personal meaning to me.”

How so? I must ask.

“I’m a pretty passive person mostly, so the last time I sat back and allowed my producer, (Rob Freeman) and my dad to come up with ideas and direction, which was the right thing to do because all I had were the songs and my piano. I had no experience arranging or producing. So, in the end, it sounded little too poppy for my personal taste. Don’t get me wrong, they did a great job, but this time around I was more engaged and had discussions on the sound and direction of the songs.”

gr_1005_01

This means being more comfortable in the themes of her songs, which, according to Royale has sparked some maternal concern. “My mom wishes I’d write happier songs,” she smiles. “But I’m confident in facing the sadder themes, because I know I’m not a depressed person normally, I’m just inspired lyrically to express the sadder side of myself. I think if I attempted a happy song it would just come out cheesy.”

There is nothing “cheesy” about Brain Waves, and yet even with Royale’s protestations, there is still a palpable pop sensibility to all the “sadder themes”. The title track, played delicately on ukulele, is an adorable paean to loyalty, in love and friendship. “You’re still here…” she sings sweetly, “You’re still here…” as she dreams of what that means by song’s end; “There’s a masterpiece in your complexity now.” On the other side of the emotional spectrum are the aforementioned “darker” songs like “You Don’t Want Me” or the aptly titled, “Mean Song” with its dire warning, “…look for the clues/‘Cause they all point to you.”

I’m confident in facing the sadder themes, because I know I’m not a depressed person normally, I’m just inspired lyrically to express the sadder side of myself.

The collection’s strongest songs are “Battle Cry” and “Let’s Just Kiss”, the former a powerfully combative rocker that snarls with the best of them; “I’m breaking through the boundaries/You haven’t seen the last of me,” she sings with a wink at empowerment and a fist-pump of vengeance. “And this is my battle cry/And it is war tonight.” The epic resonance of the latter, a wonderfully arranged and emotionally-charged ballad, far exceeds the years of experience for such a young performer who now insists on writing a song about physical intimacy that mocks our limited language and ham-fisted gestures. It resounds as personal confession and social commentary. “Let’s just kiss/Just two lips/A kiss does all the talking, when you’re clueless/Let’s just kiss/Savor the bliss/Before I say something that takes away from this.”

When Royale and the band played this song in early April, the room was stone silent; the players deeply focused on their instruments – the singer, eyes closed and hands sweeping adroitly over the keys, throwing her every fiber into the phrasing. The applause was effusive, as if the crowd was suddenly released from the lyrical plot she cleverly devised to share. And in many ways, the band too could feel the release.

“If you listen to the record and then you listen to the band play these songs, it’s completely different,” guitarist, Emily Case told me backstage in June. “We get to put our own spin on everything; Graham has put his own thing into the bass part and Liam has added quote a bit to the live drum parts. It works!”

“Since I predominately play jazz, I’ve been able to add a jazzy edge to the songs,” cites Liam Kerekes, as bassist, Graham Orbe, who calls himself, “a jazz nerd”, adds, “I think the mutual experience of being in the same music program has created a bond between us.”

“I like everything they bring to the table, because I know them personally,” Gina adds. “I trust their instincts because I know they’ve taken the time and effort to put their flavors into a song.”

gr_1005_02It is clearly evident that Royale revels in the camaraderie of her fellow musicians and remains humble with a keen understanding of the road that lies ahead, but there is a tone to her answers these days that transcends the goal-orientated teenaged dreamer I spoke to in the studio as she recorded her debut in the autumn of 2014. Slowly, but surely, this is now a seasoned professional poised to lead a band through a forty-five minute set of her songs on a renowned Greenwich Village stage.

When she finally does take the stage on that steamy June night there is a polish to Royale’s performance that was absent last year, or even in April. Supported ably by like-minded artists, she works the crowd during songs, where before she would keep a steady eye on her fingers as they crossed the piano keys. She strikes a seductive sideways glance and interacts with her band mates, crucially bringing the audience in when needed.

The band works effortlessly through the split between both of her albums, as if she is acutely aware of the building blocks of these mini-dramas she has put to music, how she grew up and into them, and how they are there to keep her steady. And as they venture boldly into the new material, as promised, it sounds rawer than the disc I was sent a few weeks before its release. There are chugging, distorted guitar rhythms from Case crossing over the steadily whimsical piano accompaniment from Royale, balanced on the jazzy backbeat of Kerigas and a tasteful bottom end from Warby.

Through maturation of experience and the amity of a like-minded musical ensemble, Gina Royale is off and running into the next phase of her career. The evolution of the young woman as an artist has begun.

Read More
Page 3 of 75«12345»102030...Last »