The Money Season 2010

Aquarian Weekly 9/22/10 REALITY CHECK

THE MONEY SEASON

The kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand? – Revelation 6:15

Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin to slit throats. – H. L. Mencken

This is the Money season. The mid-term elections are under fifty days away and the running campaign dialogue is about the economy, Jack; jobs, taxes, stimulus and deficit. In 2002 it was Vengeance, 2006 Anti-War; this time around it’s Money. Beohner - ObamaAnd since there are only two political parties to choose from, they’ve opportunely split the baby on how Money is created, saved, spent, utilized and doled out; from the private sector to Washington D.C. Thing is it’s important to come to grips with the fact that there will be nothing new offered by either faction. What the “new” Republicans have in mind, whether it’s the No Government TEA Party enthusiasts or traditional party hacks, it will be no different than Goldwater or Reagan or Gingrich. And what the Democrats counter with will be another healthy dose of FDR, Clinton and Pelosi/Obama.

Not one candidate you will hear from has the guts to tell you what the real deal is. I dare you to find them.

What’s the real deal?

For starters the always populace idea that the national deficit is killing businesses, crushing the dollar, spiking unemployment and laying out a death sentence for our children will be discussed in general terms but with no solutions. This is because fifty percent of the American public eligible to do so fails to pay taxes. Another fifty percent of said public is receiving entitlement payouts.

Ouch.

No money coming in and tons going out create a deficit; from the corner lemonade stand to General Electric. There is no new math. It’s the same shit.

Now, what you’ll get is Republicans repeatedly pointing out both of these factoids, but with a glaring refusal to face the obvious: The nose-pinching decision to either raise taxes, overtly enforce or enhance the current tax laws, or cut a heaping share of entitlements.

All of these “options” are, of course, political suicide, even in a year wherein anyone not in charge is an acceptable alternative, no matter how brainless or bizarre. Not even conservatives have the balls to start fucking with people’s entitlements. That went the way of Calvin Coolidge and his doom-struck clan. Even the Mighty Ronnie Reagan saved Social Security and when the Lords of Newt scared enough of the elderly, they ran to the booths to re-elect the Minister of Fun.

What about hammering away at tax cheats, loopholes and shelters?

Sure.

This will happen. Next week.

Only the Democrats will start pitching that kind of nonsense, couched in atavistic Middle Class warfare rhetoric and the always-gangbusters anti-rich miasma, conveniently forgetting that from the dawn of civilization it is the ones with the Money who put Money on the Money tree. And since this is the Money Season, and definitely not the Democrat Season, this would also constitute a hot steaming bowl of political suicide.

But its desperation time in Dem Land and tossing out unconstitutional pogroms on the wealthy with randomly shifting tax laws, whether the ones in their favor or to penalize them, is expected. Not unlike Republicans suggesting emergency amendments denying another small segment of society — two percent or so — the right to marry.

Hell, like it or not — or having a political solution or not — there is not much wiggle room on either raising taxes or cutting benefits to lower the deficit or risk playing roulette with the tax laws in a time of economic crisis.

Hey, as long as we’re deep into the Money Season, it can’t go without saying this country has always been schizophrenic when it comes to the rich, from celebrities to moguls. We worship them, dream of becoming them, but despise them to the point of wanting to siphon their funds to lighten our tax burden.

This segues neatly into the approaching deadline to extend, revise or let go of the so-dubbed Bush Tax Cuts. Of course none of these options does a thing for the aforementioned national debt but pile upon it.

The Republican plan to perpetuate a non-funded hand-back raises the deficit three trillion. The Democratic plan to revise it and punish the top two percent of the economic equation jacks it to four trillion. No one, not one candidate or political play we are faced with does a thing to stop the deficit from climbing, let alone decrease it.

Not one.

No one.

Meanwhile, as the country was temporarily distracted by a 9/11 hoax hatched by superstitious goobers using their voodoo tome to motivate the burning of a rival’s superstitious falderal, the United States government was selling billions of dollars of weaponry to the very country from which our attackers and their mastermind hail, Saudi Arabia. A supposed American ally, just as the Afghans, Saddam Hussein and lately the backstabbing Pakistani government before them, the Saudis will likely gather taxpayer funded firearms to turn on us in a generation.

Perhaps that would be Money best used to tackle the above issues, but then selling weapons to the world is one of our hottest commodities, like construction, food and engines. It’s just that unless it’s killing machines, we import twice as much as we export, another recipe for economic woes and political fallout.

Hell, like it or not — or having a political solution or not — there is not much wiggle room on either raising taxes or cutting benefits to lower the deficit or risk playing roulette with the tax laws in a time of economic crisis.

Oh, and by the way, this whole deficit whining is mostly a scare tactic. Non-partisan experts pretty much agree that with the lowest interest rates on record the deficit is actually more manageable now than thirty years ago. It’s better to keep money in the pockets of those who can and will use it to create jobs and loan or borrow Money, perhaps even, if miracles are still available to us, create new and improved manufacturing vocations for a change. Many of the same experts figure it’s been a little over twenty years since the U.S. of A. has done anything close to that.

So hard choices need to be made and difficult truths need to be uttered.

None of this is forthcoming from anyone.

 

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Rob Monte Says Good-Bye (for now)

Aquarian Weekly 9/15/10 REALITY CHECK

DEEP TANK TO WEIRD BLOOD Jersey Shore Music Icon Rob Monte Says Good-Bye (For Now)

It’s a steamy, late-afternoon on the Friday before the titular summer’s end and Robert Montesdeoca, aka Rob Monte, The Columbian Freak Boy is about to head southeast to do what he has done for the past 20 years; sing, prance and entertain over every inch of a packed barroom. He will do it as he always has; in front of a popular New Jersey rock band. He will make a lot of money for some and some for himself. It is business as usual for the grizzled stage warrior. This time, however, is different. This time will be his last. The long, rock & roll road ends for the man most know as merely Monte this Labor Day Weekend 2010. He is calling it quits after some 20 years of running amok on the famed Jersey Rock Circuit; much of it a blur and all of it chock full of what he politely calls “reckless abandon” while “feeling very comfortable playing it by the seat of my ass.”

Rob Monte“I am one-hundred percent ready” he tells me when I ask if this is truly it. “But for awhile I felt guilty saying it aloud or to anyone, because I might disappoint them.”

That’s always been the nut for Rob Monte, who took every show, hell, every song to be a long walk to the gallows, as if tomorrow was a rumor and squeezing every last inch of a Saturday night meant a little bit more than everything.

There is weird blood running in the man’s veins, much of it tainted with alcohol and the gripping fear that someone in his presence might not be having the time of their lives. It’s a rough gig spending nearly an entirety of an adult life convincing audiences that infinite merriment is tangible while the clock has other ideas.

“It was a unique period,” he exhales, before packing his kitbag of lunacy for one last go-round, two-decades of memory working its way through the fog. “Beer funnels? You can’t do that in clubs anymore, bro! People think that was the dark ages — hundreds of people smoking in clubs? The drinking and driving? The complete chaos?”

His voice cackles over the phone line and it sends a chill down my spine. I have heard that laugh before, a broken gravel of a coughing guffaw, fused with a kind of mischief that knows soon there will be danger afoot. “Whatever the formula was, it worked,” he admits with confidence. “Even with everyone trying to reel me in, there I was deep in some Irish drinking contest off stage, while the band figured it out.”

And the “figuring out” is what made the incredible professionals Monte has played with over the years so fascinating. There are far too many to name here, but know they are brave subjects in an improbable conquering horde of weekend marauders just the same.

“The bands? Four sober guys following along, hanging with me, I want to thank all of them. Thank them or apologize!” Monte laughs, but then there is a serious shift to his tone. “Hey, there was trouble sometimes, but once the club read the register they’d forgive us.”

Monte’s story is hardly unique. It is but one of thousands played out across this great land, where somewhere tonight there are hard-bitten dreamers tossing about elusive glories in cover tunes and original numbers; piano troubadours and harp-mouthed folkies and jazz cats and sing-song beauties putting on one more show for one more dollar and one more round of applause. But here in New Jersey, when a man steps down from his well-earned throne as King of Long Beach Island, it is pretty big news. For the mythical, radical, hysterical place I once called Clubland in my book, Deep Tank Jersey, it is monumental.

As far as icons go, if there is such an animal trolling the sordid corridors once inhabited by the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi, Rob Monte sure as hell is. He has fronted several bands of varying degrees of reputation and earning power for the past two decades, the most lucrative and history making is DogVoices, the birth of which during its most lavishly successful summer is depicted in the aforementioned book by yours truly. Therefore, Monte’s swansong is also a somewhat selfish personal tribute for this space. It can be argued that without Deep Tank Jersey and the wild events of the summer of 1995, the access and honesty of the original five members of DogVoices, and all those clubs and roadies and fans and wonderfully colorful hangers-on, there may not be a Reality Check News & Information Desk.

There is weird blood running in the man’s veins, much of it tainted with alcohol and the gripping fear that someone in his presence might not be having the time of their lives. It’s a rough gig spending nearly an entirety of an adult life convincing audiences that infinite merriment is tangible while the clock has other ideas.

So blame the whole damn thing on Monte, who was foolish enough to allow the sordid tale of young men treading the floorboards from Atlantic City to Clifton to be recorded for posterity.

Lord knows it is hard for me to believe a word of it today, and I wrote the damn thing. Worse still, I lived it. Barely. Like most of the poor souls who stepped into a Jersey Rock Club looking for a good time but were assaulted with a strange combination of burlesque and mud wrestling soaked in gallons of beer and sweat. Rob Monte the ringmaster of it all, from midnight ocean dives to launches from the odd hotel roof, impromptu strip shows and Tequila-shot binges, bar dancing and a rabble of dawn seekers thrown into the spotlight for an inch of what Monte has come to call home.

It is a home he never takes for granted as he continued to review his incredible run at a pace that would have killed several if not all other men not named Keith Richards.

“I plan on playing my last gig at the Ringside Pub in January,” he says with pride. “The owner, Bob Harper is a friend and mentor. I started there, and I should end there.”

Along with the Ringside, a modest but hopping rock venue in the hamlet of Caldwell, there is the now-defunct Wally’s and Nickel’s Alley, Wild Mike’s, the Wreck Room, and the legendary Mother’s, all of them outlasted by the unsinkable Columbian Freak Boy.

Then there is the cash cow for any serious full-time cover band; the Jersey Shore, where for 18 consecutive years Monte has plied his trade at Nardi’s, the Sea Shell and of course, Bar A. “I have to play Bar A once more in December,” Monte says. “My craziest stunts may have happened there. I broke ribs jumping off that balcony. The owner, Tom Jannarone has always been there for me.”

The center of Monte’s universe for nearly 20 years has been Long Beach Island, known to many in the tri-state area as an interesting amalgam of quiet, sunny family getaways and completely maddening midnight parties, the latter of which became the central force in an impressive career of playing popular songs of the day with a splash of carnival folly.

“The Quarterdeck, Sea Shell, Nardi’s, Joe Pop’s, you could play over four days without ever leaving the island,” Monte chuckles, as if struggling to recall earlier triumphs.

Now, placing it all into perspective, he can securely move into a fulltime career mentoring younger bands with his newly formed Monte Booking Agency, where the man himself tutors his acts to steer clear of the Monte Method.

“No way Monte could survive now,” he says, speaking in the third person as if this Monte creature is a thing of fiction. “Most of the bands I book now don’t know about the Deep Tank Jersey years. I tell them to do the opposite!”

And what about any parting words, a final stage dive or perhaps a Daffy Duck self-immolation jag?

He laughs again and sighs; “I cannot plan anything. It goes against everything I’ve done as an entertainer. So there’ll be no final song. No canned speech.”

Whatever it will be, its toll will end one part of an implausible career, close an era, and provide another reason for those who were there to recall the past.

For me, I wish good luck to my friend, a long-gone protagonist in my first published work.

And good luck to the rest of the Weird Blood who dare scour the depths of what is left of the Deep Tank.

 

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GOP 2010 Political Hammer

Aquarian Weekly 9/8/10 REALITY CHECK

GRAND OLD PARTY – HOW BIG IS THY HAMMER? Trends, Polls & History Spell Mid-Term Democrat Doom

What makes this election cycle so devastating for the Democrats is that the Republicans have had their numbers reduced so severely in the past two cycles. Republicans were reduced to 42.5 percent of the popular vote in 2008 – their lowest total since 1974. Their share of the two party vote (i.e. just Republicans and Democrats) was 44.5 percent. Even a dead-cat bounce in a neutral environment would have netted the Republicans twenty seats after plumbing those depths.

– Sean Trende “Bigger Than 1994”

Mark RubioDuring the summer of 1937, a time of enormous international political upheavals, from the rise of fascism to the spread of communism and an explosion of modern right wing revolt to the command of modern liberalism at home, the great author-wit, Dorothy Parker was asked to comment on which political party she belonged to. Parker, one of the great radical drunks in American letters, mused; “That not especially brave little band that hid its nakedness of heart and mind under the out-of-date garment of a sense of humor.” Thus marking out territory for this space and the entirety of the Reality Check News & Information Desk’s toil for the past 13 years; an aim to serve the outer limits of political judgment, considering neither the prevailing winds nor its humorous intent.

The winds, as is their wont in these shifting political times, have gone from predictable to historical according to one of the finest political columnists in this country, Sean Trende, who spends his spare time combing over an outlandishly bizarre collection of charts, graphs and polls to cobble together the odd opinion on political trends (pun duly intended). Trende is a warrior when it comes to laying it on the line, often re-printing his previous missteps and copping to weird shifts in prognostication. The above quote is a small gem from his most recent exhaustive discussion on the Real Clear Politics web site on the devastation awaiting the Democrats this autumn.

Trende, while a favorite of this space, is hardly alone. No one with half a brain or a bloated heart thinks the Democrats are not going to be pummeled this November, nor do those blissfully living in the ideological wilderness of the late Ms. Parker. The question has always been by how much? Or more to the point, how many seats can the Republicans snatch; 40 to 50? More? In turn, can the GOP retake control of congress and put the screws to the Obama agenda, pushing the president into the kind of legislative cramp that led to the repeated shut down of the federal government in 1995 and ’96.

In a perfect mid-term campaign world, the opposition party in power is weakened by a poor to horrid economy and a president who, while unnaturally popular at the time of his election two years prior, has taken broad steps in activity that have queered even those rooting for him. As stated in this space, Ronald Reagan’s first term comes to mind, but according to Trende and his mounds of research, the far-less iconic Bill Clinton in 1994 may be more apt.

The Republican PVQ polling percentage as of the time of this writing is also a rock hard ten percent — 51 percent to the Democrats 41 percent, an especially alarming swing since the Democrats obliterated the last vestiges of the Karl Rove Experiment just two years ago and delivered the White House with the most impressive victory in 40 years.

Although Trende’s more conservative approach rightly warns that the “Contract with America” Republicans not only had a unifying ideological agenda but was ushered in by an impressive surge of young lawyers, legislators and number-crunchers, who posed confidently as less fiery political hacks than a no-nonsense accounting firm. This year the Republicans are not only more “colorful” and playfully disjointed in their candidates’ personas, running the gamut from sacked CEOs to wives of former wrestlers, but the TEA Party movement’s chaotic “outside political gamesmanship” has them fractured as never before.

Since many Republican candidates are either spanking new or hardly set, and the embattled Democratic incumbents still regrouping, the general doom-speak perception in the press comes from generic polling, or what Trende and other junkies of his ilk refer to as the Popular Vote Quotient. In less wonky terms the PVQ registers voter confidence in or popularity for either party without mentioning a single candidate.

Trende uses the PVQ in pointing out key mid-term beatings by both political parties in similar volatile environments, such as the aforementioned Republican Revolution of 1994 and the Reagan backlash of ’82, but specifically former Republican uprisings not unlike this year in 1966, ’68, ’72, ’80, and ’86, wherein the GOP polled dramatically higher than Democrats but hit a ceiling in certain counties and districts which kept them from gaining the number of seats the Popular Vote Quotient portended.

This is all very interesting, but there is more than a good chance that because of the wild card TEA Party “outsiders” posing as Republicans and the always unpredictable two-headed opposition to the status quo, 2010 Republican gains could approach 60.

As Trende states in his piece; not since 1932 when merely admitting your allegiance to the Republican Party, much less representing it as a candidate meant a very real threat of tar & feathering, has the opposition party hit this kind of jackpot. Democrats that year, when the crippling damages of the Great Depression vaulted FDR into power, jumped an astounding ten percent in polling from 46 percent to 56 percent, netting 97 congressional seats in the process.

The Republican PVQ polling percentage as of the time of this writing is also a rock hard ten percent — 51 percent to the Democrats 41 percent, an especially alarming swing since the Democrats obliterated the last vestiges of the Karl Rove Experiment just two years ago and delivered the White House with the most impressive victory in 40 years.

Assuming Trende’s historical postulation holds up, the Republicans might not be able to count on crushing 1932 numbers, but then no time in American history has there been a lower polling of congress or less trust and reverence for political figures. Merely considering the kind of kooks that are popping up all over the hinterlands these days, on both sides of the political fence, there appears to be no candidate litmus beyond the choosing of someone for an office they either openly despise or aim to transform into a personal soap box.

Whether throwing all these statistics and reference points into the cauldron that is the 2010 political landscape is wise at this juncture is anyone’s guess. But with less than 60 days remaining to Election Day, it is unlikely a drastic rebound in the economic indicators or a GOP implosion could slow the current anti-incumbent momentum.

But since all politics is local and national polls tend to be poor-to-dismal finite indicators, there is nothing left to do but cast votes; the preponderance of which will not be for Democrats.

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Free Speech Redux

Aquarian Weekly 9/1/10 REALITY CHECK

FREE SPEECH REDUX

There continues to be a difficulty among Americans as to the veracity of the First Amendment. It is an article of law which gives every citizen of this republic the right to speak one’s mind without the fear of government oppression. This does not include endangering others. It does include upsetting and defaming others with the notable exception of Lord Libel and Duke Slander. Everything else is, as they like to say at 4:00 am on McDougal Street, “Nothin’ but a pawty.”

– “Freedom of Speech Case 1,653: Dr. Laura vs. GLAAD”Reality Check — Issue: 6/14/00

Dr. LauraThe back of my throat is shredded from the constant bellowing at a vicious gaggle of geese, which has turned an extended stretch of my property into a toilet, and my groin is barking from a lengthy three-day spell of dancing wildly to ancient AC/DC songs with a manic two year-old, who for reasons known only to the gods of irony considers this a suitable pre-bedtime ritual. Let’s say I am in no mood for another thousand-word lecture on Freedom of Speech, a subject, whilst as near and dear to my soul as any, has never truly been grasped by an alarming majority of the citizens of these United States. It appears that only when it suits us, we embrace the Constitution, but when inconvenient or our feelings are bruised we opportunely bag it. It is equally vexing on how we believe that unless everyone is on board with our speechifying, our rights are denied.

And so, despite my physical and mental handicaps, I forge on.

The issue remains that the law, as stated and upheld by the liberties bestowed upon us by birthright as Americans and fortified by years of serious and continued bloodletting are blind to human frailty. Stupidity, opinion, prejudice, money, religion, politics, bad parenting and showbiz cannot and will not tremor the foundation of our First Amendment rights. No vote, no protest, no rally or shift in the mood, tenor or zeitgeist will alter it, lest the heaven’s fall and other fancifully devised nonsense.

This is why ultimately, because the First Amendment also protects freedom of religion, the bullshit over this proposed Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan will be settled neatly. If those who wish to build the thing have the cash to do so, receive their zoning permit, and have the will to battle the assholes who will surely come from everywhere to stop it, as they have done to block the cultural and religious freedoms of blacks, Jews, Irish, Italians, etc. for centuries, then they will have their Islamic Center, as they should. Emotions and sentiment should not enter into it, nor should political posturing, as it eventually failed to do when under a deluge of requests to show decorum the National Rifle Association refused to move their annual meeting from Denver shortly after two teenaged freaks went ballistic at Columbine.

This brings us to back to Free Speech and one Dr. Laura Schlessinger, whose recent struggle to “express myself freely” came under fire following her repeating the word “nigger” over and over on a her radio show.

While “nigger’ may well be the most vile and demeaning word in the English language, it is not to my knowledge a no-no FCC thing, as say “fuck” or “shit” or “cunt”, which of course makes the arbitrary choice of what words constitute a fine from an unelected board of judges ever the more imbecilic. Nevertheless, “nigger” doesn’t cut it, as “kike”, “wop”, “spic”, “fag”, “jap”, and other derogatory terms to ridicule someone’s race or heritage are not precluded from broadcast banter.

So Dr. Laura’s free speech was okay there, but when predictably derided for it, she wanted to be clear that she was using it in the context of double-standards; the kind of thing you get from say older white people who are very upset that they cannot use the word when it is clearly and boldly cranked out in nearly every rap record or in what Dr. Laura clumsily tried to illustrate, nearly every black comedian, and I’d like to add, the whole of the Quentin Tarantino film canon.

Dr. Laura has the right to be a bigot or appear as one or comment on them, etc. What becomes interesting is when defenders of Free Speech also want radio stations, sponsors, and the public at large to simply accept the behavior without reprisal.

Maybe Dr. Laura is a racist, maybe not. We don’t know. Maybe we’ll never know. This performance perhaps could have been received by most as insensitive since Dr. Laura was offering “advice” to an African American woman married to a white man, in which she was not only trying to allay the angst the woman may have felt about being abused by such a word, but that somehow, according to Ms. Schlessinger’s reasoning, all people who enter into a mixed-race marriage “must have a sense of humor.” But this falls under the category of You Get What You Pay For or Consider The Source, because much like the “incident” involving another old, white radio geek, Don Imus, the history of Dr. Laura’s insensitivity is long and in many cases profitable.

A little over ten years ago I wasted a column on Dr. Laura and her battle with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. In it, I stressed those dispensing three-minute snippets of “advice” on monumental subjects such as mental health or sexual deviancy and the odd moral dilemma may be as noble an endeavor as rodeo clown or hosing down animals in a traveling circus but is nevertheless protected under the First Amendment. However, since such goofiness is broadcast over the airwaves, there comes with it a certain level of resonance. Therefore comments such as homosexuals being “biological errors” or single mothers “immoral” and spending months trying to have a kids’ skateboard magazine expunged from the periodicals publishing list can be construed by listeners as radical and outside the mainstream, yet not surprising, specifically if these viewpoints are the very core of the program in question.

And, as stated before, shock and abhorrence are no reasons to strip the rights of a fellow citizen, nor in actual tried cases, thanks to great American heroes like Lenny Bruce and George Carlin, are the vagaries of obscenity.

Be that as it may, Dr. Laura has the right to be a bigot or appear as one or comment on them, etc. What becomes interesting is when defenders of Free Speech also want radio stations, sponsors, and the public at large to simply accept the behavior without reprisal.

In other words, Dr. Laura can say “nigger” while making a point or mocking a race, but the radio station, its sponsors and/or the listeners do not have to accept it. Radio is a business. It survives on sponsorship from other businesses, and those businesses have to sell their product to as many people as possible, be they blacks, Jews, homosexuals, gun loons, religious weirdoes, perverts, revolutionaries or single moms. Under the First Amendment they have as much right to reject Dr. Laura, force her from the station or refuse to further bankroll her show as she does to blurt “nigger”.

Dr. Laura, and recently her new defender, Sarah Palin, who less than a year ago had a fit when White House Chief Advisor Rahm Emmanuel used the word “retard” in a private meltdown, yet boldly defends Schlessinger’s N-Word jam, wants everyone to be at peace with it, effectively stripping her dissenters of their First Amendment rights.

Although not guilty of shatting on my lawn or instigating an early-evening mosh pit, I am as guilty as Saint Sarah of hypocrisy here. As my Dad may well remind me, since he set me straight back then, in the early nineties when Irish, bald, singer Sinead O’Connor ripped a photo of the Pope on national live television and took as much crap as if she had actually ripped the Pope in half, I became incensed. I felt O’Connor had merely exercised her right to free expression as an artist. The backlash seemed laughable to me, especially when considering she had become a polarizing figure already. This came to a head a week or so later when O’Connor appeared at Madison Square Garden as part as a tribute to Bob Dylan and was roundly booed off the stage. New York? A Dylan tribute? Booed for expressing an artistically revolutionary idea? How? Why? Then my dad simply said, and I had to agree; “Everyone has to like it?”

Nope. Everyone doesn’t.

That’s how it works.

I wrote this in this space over a decade ago, and it still stands: “The deal is struck – you don’t stop me from saying it and I won’t stop you from disagreeing.”

Good?

Good.

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Victory For Gay Rights & America 2010

Aquarian Weekly 8/18/10 REALITY CHECK

MOSQUES, SLEVIN, NEWT & THE NAZI POPE How Drilling Into One’s Skull Can Cease Religious Extremism

I am more than distracted this week. Appears I’ll have to deal with another shift at the top of this magazine. Change has never been my strong suit. The details of Master Patrick Slevin’s exit are murky, and from my brief conversation with him this week I can tell this is no negotiation ploy or Brett Farve maneuver. He is serious about moving on. It is what happens when you have to run a magazine or a steam engine or circus for any length of time — many moving parts, irregular intangibles, messy, messy fragments. For Slevin, five years was his limit. This is a lifetime for the centered, but for the emotionally wrought, the true Newt Gingrichparanoids, it is something of a world-class achievement. Lord knows, it is nothing I wish to contemplate or even dare envision. It is a hearty sort who treads the masthead lightly. Slevin did it well, and we wish that whatever private sector gig he now slides into, it would be quieter and filled with less publicity hounds and voodoo dolls.

As for me, I have found a new passion; the expunging of all religious edifices in and around the island of Manhattan. My partner will be Newt Gingrich, with whom I have decided to enter a tontine, a sort of secret blood sport against all religions, cults, and Tom Cruise. Personally, I like Tom Cruise, but the Gingrich people assured me his actions lately have been “highly motivated by foreign sources” and that, they said, could not stand.

Recently my attorney friend sent me an e-mail detailing Gingrich’s plan to exact vengeance on the Saudis, whom he claims will not allow a Christian house of worship to be built in their atavistic theocracy, therefore the proposed mosque or Islamic Center to be opened two blocks from Ground Zero is a no-no. This kind of half-cocked radical thinking intrigues me of course, for it is rare that any politician, especially a disgraced one with a penchant to go off the rails in dimly vetted talking points, would have the gall to take on religious freedom, the cornerstone of how the bulk of this continent was overrun by Europeans in the first place.

Excited by Gingrich’s “theory”, I placed a call this week to his Washington office, but was unable to get him on the phone. Although I knew he was there. Gingrich, like all proud members of the trepanation set, tend to breathe loudly. This can clearly be heard over any phone line, specifically with the type of bandwidth we’re dealing with these days. A healthy length of gray coif may hide the holes in Gingrich’s skull, but it cannot fool me. I know all about trephining. Many of my closest colleagues have used it in desperate times to take the edge off. I hardly think it is revealing anything tender by stating emphatically that Patrick Slevin needed it to run this magazine for half a decade and Gingrich needed it to run the United States Congress, and no one alive can blame either of them for it.

It may be odd, even unsettling for some to accept the practice of drilling small holes in the skull to relieve pressure and expand consciousness, but not for Slevin or Gingrich or Tom Cruise for that matter. These are men of foresight, doers — not cheap little religious peons, who harbor a powerful need to spread their ancient superstitions all over the most enlightened stretch of land in this great nation.

It may be odd, even unsettling for some to accept the practice of drilling small holes in the skull to relieve pressure and expand consciousness, but not for Slevin or Gingrich or Tom Cruise for that matter. These are men of foresight, doers — not cheap little religious peons, who harbor a powerful need to spread their ancient superstitions all over the most enlightened stretch of land in this great nation.

But let’s try and forget voodoo dolls and trepanation for a minute and get down to brass tacks. There is a spate of religious fervor going on in this country, played out all over the world. It has led to the most vile, violent and bizarre behavior capable in the human condition. The graves of the faithful are outnumbered only by the greedy and stupid; all enviable human traits, which blessedly separate us from the other mammals. Earth creatures are normally moved by random instincts of hunger, sex or territoriality. The human mind, however, has developed a “fear center” with the knowledge that our days are numbered, a clock ticks somewhere and someone has to be tending it.

Therefore, it is hard to believe that most Muslim clerics are not extremists or that most Catholic priests are not pedophiles. There is a sense now that the yoga craze is a front to humanize the deadly aims of Hindus and that the Anti-Defamation League is harboring an undercover Kabal of IDF agents, whose mission is to assassinate Persian hot dog vendors. Their recent missive that “ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain — unnecessarily — and that is not right” reeks of fascist leanings. “Not a question of rights”, but “what is right”? Who decides what is “right”? And “In our judgment” goes a long way, bub.

This brings to mind the ugly background of the current Pope, who was a Nazi. It is true. The Pope was a Nazi, which is more like he is a Nazi, since, like alcoholics, once a Nazi always a Nazi. This was something the Gingrich people told me they would look into, now that they are in charge of the evil spread of religious freedom. Since it is mandatory that all American presidents be depicted as Nazis, despite no actual affiliation with the Nazi Party, to which, by the way, Pope Benedict XVI absolutely was or is, it must fall under the category of dicey affiliations.

I understand this. And the Gingrich people now know it. I have no way of truly understanding my former managing editor’s take on Catholic Nazis or Islamic terrorists, so I will stop gratuitously dragging him into this column for cheap laughs or a proper send-off. I only hope before he leaves his post the bastard makes one last call to the jackasses who handle Radiohead. Never in all my time working with Slevin had we been so decidedly jerked around by cretins as we did when dealing with Radiohead, none of the members of which have sided with Hamas or the Nazis to my knowledge, but there were surely signs of strategic trepanation.

Holy shit, things around here have gone awry. Let’s tie this one up and send it in. It’s Slevin’s last issue, and this one had to be gangbusters. It is the least the Reality Check News & Information could do for a fellow solider in the war against worship. Hell, yeah.

So fuck Islam and Judaism and Christianity and L. Ron Hubbard or Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wacky Shari’a bullshit.

As Newt likes to say; “If it’s not mine, shut it down.”

It has a nice ring to it; like “Goodbye Master Slevin, you shall be missed.”

Now get me J.J. Koczan on the phone. There’s a Buddhist Temple going up in Wayne.

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Victory For Gay Rights & America 2010

Aquarian Weekly 8/11/10 REALITY CHECK

VICTORY FOR LIBERTY & JUSTICE FOR ALL How the Fight for Gay Marriage Remains Alive & Well

Tradition alone cannot form a rational basis for a law.– Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker upon overturning California’s Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage unconstitutional

God bless America.

It is the greatest nation on the planet, for its governed by the rule of law and not that of majority moral conviction, religious fervor or the whims of the elite or the blather of ignorance and fear. It has stood fast against the forces of enslavement, civil injustice and a strangely reoccurring superstitious perpetuation of discrimination. The echoes of Thomas Jefferson’s most precious ideal; that “all men are created equal” may have been ignored at first, diluted by the times, manifest in period and geographic prejudices, and fueled undaunted by the disdain of the status quo, but was soon exalted, as it must in a country boasting from on high that its land be made free.

Rights For AllHere is a rather important portion of Article XIV of our beloved Constitution (which some crazy people are currently pitching to repeal, because they have horse dung for brain tissue): “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Yee-Ha!

These core ideals, the very fabric of a cause of liberty and a noble Bill of Rights, solidified in the ever-evolving Constitution of these United States (the above “Equal Protection Clause” was added in 1868) gives rise this week to the most important court ruling since the Civil Rights era; the complete and utter rejection of California’s ridiculous Proposition 8. A child with the most basic understanding of middle-school civics could have come to the same conclusion as that of Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker, who has ruled that Prop 8 is “unconstitutional under both the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.”

Of course it is.

Of course denying basic civil rights to tax paying members of this purported free society is not only a blight on our trumped-up sense of national pride, it makes a mockery of our veiled but continued attempt to lecture a good portion of the rest of the world on their human rights abuses. For the entire dozen-plus years I have been filling this space with my bent ideas and half-baked concepts, there has never been a more perplexing case; this denial of basic civil rights, which for some unseemly reason has been cast in votes (in 31 states over 10 years) and debated in churches and private sector forums. It’s a goddamn Right, not the placement of a traffic light or the disbursement of funds to irrigation valleys. Why are we voting on who has access to the Bill of Rights?

Guess what, jack?

In his 135-page ruling, (in this author’s judgment, a more wonderfully thought-provoking and masterfully worded screed of constitutional interpretation has yet to be compiled) Judge Walker, a G.H. Bush appointee, stated that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry the person of their choosing, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, because “describing marriage as being simply between one man and one woman is an artifact of a foregone notion that men and women fulfill different roles in civic life.”

Bing-fuckin’-O.

The very idea that we allowed votes on this fundamental issue of basic civil rights is one of the great embarrassments of this or any century around here. And to think, it was never even denied on the grounds of the most outlandish understanding of the law or the Constitution, its Bill of Rights, or a goddamned thing this republic was founded and continues to persist on; liberty and justice for all.

Therefore, again — of course — the argument for denying the rights of American citizens based on some atavistic, superstitious, (gulp!) religious notion has so little merit it becomes a form of grotesque tragic comedy performed by the most irrational among us.

“That the majority of California voters supported Proposition 9 is irrelevant.” writes Walker. “Fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.”

In fact, Walker correctly ruled, “Moral disapproval alone is an improper basis on which to deny rights to gay men and lesbians. The evidence shows conclusively that Proposition 8 enacts, without reason, a private moral view that same-sex couples are inferior to opposite-sex couples.”

Reason trumps Moral Private View; got it.

Enter stage right, the Equal Protection Clause, which was the key to another landmark ruling last month in Massachusetts in which a federal judge also ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated the Constitution.

Moreover, as a key part of his ruling, Judge Walker goes on to discuss social matters of gender and race inequalities, both of which litter our recent history of civil rights abuses (until as recently as 1967, men and women of different races were forbidden to marry in 16 states) and which sadly the majority of Americans supported.

The very idea that we allowed votes on this fundamental issue of basic civil rights is one of the great embarrassments of this or any century around here. And to think, it was never even denied on the grounds of the most outlandish understanding of the law or the Constitution, its Bill of Rights, or a goddamned thing this republic was founded and continues to persist on; liberty and justice for all.

Evidence of this appears throughout the 138-page ruling, which recounts in stirring detail a parade of incredulous testimony by unsubstantiated “experts” that made no attempt beyond moral outrage and dire predictions of fires in the streets and Satan laughing. (I shit you not, read the damn thing). The Emperor was not only butt naked; he was certifiably insane and had the balls to wield a measure of unchecked power.

Not anymore, bub.

And now, it is on to the Supreme Court — the ultimate destination for this imperative civil rights decision, and for the two attorneys that chose to defend liberty, Ted Olson, who represented G.W. Bush in the famous 2000 general election Gore v. Bush battle, and his partner, the opponent in that very same case, David Boies. Not only does this politically bi-partisan legal team expect an appeal, they welcome it, as hinted in several places of Judge Walker’s ruling, wherein he evoked the name of Supreme Court Judge Anthony Kennedy, who over the years in several disparate cases has steadfastly decided on the side of gay rights. Not to mention the 80, that’s right, fans of the “crazy knee-jerk judge usurping the will of the people and moral superiority”, 80 detailed statements of fact.

And so August 4, 2010 becomes another in a long line of seminal dates in the spiral of American history; a victory for all Americans, who are perhaps a few years from saying we’re closer to providing all citizens with the rights granted by the blood, treasure, and maverick brilliance that beats in humanity’s finest experiment in liberty.

It’s about time.

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“Animals, Whores & Dialogue” Review

Aquarian Weekly 7/28/10 REALITY CHECK

HAPPY BIRTHDAY DOCTOR THOMPSONIn Praise of “Animals, Whores & Dialogue”

In my situation, and I believe this is really the key to what I’ve done all my life; I’ve been extremely aware of not being taken into the system. – Hunter S. Thompson “Animals, Whores & Dialogue”

Animals, Whores & DialogueThe Outlaw Journalist sits restively at his writer’s throne; an unassuming swivel chair pushed slightly back from a cluttered kitchen counter. He is staring at a well-worn IBM typewriter, as if its silent challenge is beyond comprehension, despite all the tumultuously wonderful years of glorious soliloquies it has rendered for the man. A man now legend — looking very much his age; a ravaged mid-sixties — dressed in the midnight uniform of his craft; dark shirt and jeans offset by a white safari cap pushed down to the eyebrows where a pair of black reading glasses have slipped to the tip of his nose. It is mid-November of 2003, Owl Farm, a purported fortified compound deep in the Colorado mountains, and filmmaker Wayne Ewing is capturing this intimate image of Hunter S. Thompson at work for all eternity; the rare, grizzled genius felled by the vast white nothing.

“Blank paper,” the Father of Gonzo sighs, “the curse of the writing class.” The camera moves from the starkly mocking visage to the icon of latter 20th century satire, irony and mayhem as he chuckles to himself; “There is no writing class.”

These are the incredibly transparent moments in time, shot, compiled, reviewed and edited by Ewing after over 15 years of following, filming and working with the great Doctor Thompson, which make up his new documentary, “Animals, Whores & Dialogue”. These were also moments left on the cutting room floor, when his first brilliant documentary, “Breakfast with Hunter” hit the streets in 2003 — a few months before this opening scene and one year prior to the suicide of its mercurial subject.

When speaking to Ewing then on why “Breakfast with Hunter” — this space correctly described its portrayal as “done with due respect and enviable insight” — did not display more of the master at work, the filmmaker mused; “Watching Hunter write is quite like watching paint dry.”

So then it is only fitting that Ewing’s stirring follow-up takes its title from a humorous scribbling atop the aforementioned IBM typewriter, which Thompson describes later in the film as “a relief just to read.”

“It’s very unusual to have a film where the main character sits in the same place over a period of about ten years in different scenes,” Ewing told me this week, a few days removed from the film’s release, celebrating what would have been Thompson’s seventy-third birthday. “To have it work is truly a piece of alchemy that only Hunter could be responsible for.”

“Animals, Whores & Dialogue” is a remarkable glimpse into Hunter S. Thompson’s “process”; the act of getting the whirlwind of sledgehammer phrases banging playfully around his skull onto the page, whilst he sufficiently feeds his psyche with booze, dope, music, ranging his spastic ammo on every media distraction from piles of newspapers to his ever-running televisions, and, of course, gathering an audience for “the show”.

“Animals, Whores & Dialogue” is an investigation into a southern gentleman of letters, deconstructing what he describes at one point in the film as “a miracle”. This ability to take the core of individual experiences and craft them into engagingly poetic accounts, as only Hunter S. Thompson could.

“It was that way,” Ewing recalls. “Sometimes we did what many of his previous editors would do; tape record stuff, then transcribe it, let him go at it, spruce it up, and that would be it. It’s fairly typical. It’s how he did it.”

In addition to the haphazard style of pouring his thoughts on the blank of the page, “Animals, Whores & Dialogue” delivers the most intimate portrait of a true American original.

“Hunter really came through as a bright and shining spirit through the whole project,” remembers Ewing. “There wasn’t any particular genius on my part to think it was a good idea to hang out with Hunter Thompson and film everything I possibly could, but for whatever reasons Hunter trusted me and that’s why I was able to get the kind of footage that I did, and the whole project took on a life of its own, especially after his death.”

Over the years Ewing says his camera became an extension or evolution of the great experiment of Gonzo Journalism. Its probing gaze actually takes the place of Thompson six months after his death, as his friends and family pay tribute — an extremely moving scene at the close of “Animals, Whores & Dialogue” — or as the director described shooting it, “chilling”.

“It was as if Hunter was manipulating things from the grave,” Ewing explains. “I more or less resurrect him. Suddenly the camera, after ninety minutes of pretty much non-stop observing him at one point or another in the kitchen chair, suddenly takes on his point of view. And that wasn’t something I planned to do, but right before we were going to light the candles on the cake, Ed Bastion, longtime friend and former campaign manager from Hunter’s sheriff’s race in 1970, said, ‘Wait, you should get in the chair! You should be Hunter with the camera’. And as you can see from the footage, there’s not a dry eye in the house.”

This truly sentimental moment is the culmination of two hours of a tour through the inspiration, making, and celebrity of Hunter S. Thompson, through his words, work, and the poignant reflections of his childhood friends, colleagues, and those who knew and loved him most.

“Animals, Whores & Dialogue” is an investigation into a southern gentleman of letters, deconstructing what he describes at one point in the film as “a miracle”. This ability to take the core of individual experiences and craft them into engagingly poetic accounts, as only Hunter S. Thompson could. “Anything else I did in my life, I was punished for,” the Outlaw Journalist states in one of several contemplative moments in the film. “When I worked at writing, I was praised.”

Ewing says he always knew there would be a sequel to “Breakfast with Hunter”.

“There was so much material left behind, so many good scenes; the problem was I could never figure out how to put it together. Then I came upon that scene I shot in November of 2003 when Hunter was writing a Hey Rube column, which at the time I thought really went nowhere, because it’s the quest. He’s just writing and never gets it done. And I suddenly came up with the idea of using that as home base, that he would continually throughout the film be trying to write this column, and that would be the glue that held the whole thing together.”

The Weapon of ChoiceSince “Breakfast with Hunter” and the author’s death in 2005, Ewing has kept in touch with The Desk, and during that time, and for much of our discussion this week, I had to remind him of the importance of his work. “Animals, Whores & Dialogue” is living history, a treasure in the long line of American literature in that it captures the consciousness and motivation, the fears and triumphs of a seminal talent. It’s as if someone had access to Mark Twain or as Ewing cites, William Faulkner for weeks on end, culling the most telling signs of where the genius arrives and how it evades, which truth be told, it did for Thompson most of his life — these hits and misses, but never without the plentiful grind.

As Thompson philosophizes in the film, “I figured out what you have to do in this world — to be able to do one thing better than anybody else, no matter what it is. Find it.”

Once again, as with his first film, Ewing’s choice of scenes, whether it’s Thompson reading aloud from his work or talking about his love and need to write, accentuated by a muted smile, the face contorted with sudden joy, the tongue lashing out, the almost stunning awe at what has come from him; the indescribable wherewithal to get the thing on paper. That’s the Hunter I knew in brief but memorable encounters.

“I think this film, more so than ‘Breakfast with Hunter’, truly gives you a sense why we all felt so lucky to be able to hang out in the kitchen with Hunter, what was so important about it,” Ewing concludes. “Not just the art and the writing, but the magnificence of his personality. He was an incredibly endearing human being, and you felt fortunate to be his friend. You understand completely why his mother describes when he was four or five years old all the kids in the neighborhood waiting for an hour or two on the front porch for Hunter to come out to play. So we were really lucky to be able to play with Hunter.”

Thanks to Wayne Ewing and his “Animals, Whores & Dialogue”, so are we.

 

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George M. Steinbrenner III – 1930 – 2010

Aquarian Weekly 7/21/10 REALITY CHECK

GEORGE M. STEINBRENNER III – 1930-2010

Winning first, breathing second. -George M. Steinbrenner III

Exaggerated rumors of NY Yankees principle owner George Steinbrenner’s demise abound. Something he has conspicuously failed to retract, due mostly to a predictably undeniable lust for power and an acute sense of timing to steal the big headline; whether it is from low-rent pikers like LeBron James or senseless mid-summer exhibitions made paramount by the demented gargoyle who runs Major League Baseball. No, The Boss is not dead. He has expanded his business to the afterlife; scouring the bars of hell for Billy Martin, so two of earth’s most demented souls could team up once again to wreak havoc for publicity and profit at the Pearly Gates Pavilion.

Jesus, Steinbrenner cannot die. It would be a dark day for the greatest owner of any business enterprise to exit, especially in these broke times and specifically if it is an enterprise located in my hometown, the elevated borough north of Manhattan, where the Mighty Bronx Nine stomp the terra with a voracious appetite for victory unmatched by competition anywhere.

King George & The CaptainThe Big Bad don’t die or fade away or shuffle off the mortal coil; they buy and trade and berate and haggle, and they do it loudly, like bootleg explosives. Pop! Pow! Bam! Steinbrenner, you know, was the original Big Bad; born on the Fourth of July, a real honest-to-goodness Yankee Doodle Do-Or-Die. He stood as a living symbol of American might; loved by the faithful for doing whatever it takes to win, win, win in the most hard-charging, flag-waving style — pure capitalist grit — and, of course, hated by everyone else. Deep down below the pomp and bluster there remains a soft underbelly of empathetic honor; propping up the needy, bankrolling the downtrodden, all the while enduring the slings and arrows of being On Top.

And that is where The Boss finds himself as he runs amok in the afterlife; his team ensconced in first place with the sport’s best record, defending another title.

This just in on the AP wire; Steinbrenner, with Billy Ball in tow, has managed to gain controlling interest in Purgatory and received Mickey Mantle in return for undisclosed monies, which he plans to parlay into a massive take-over of Nirvana.

And why not? This is how things got done in Yankeeland under King George’s watch for nearly half a century. Along the way Steinbrenner’s presence, his mad, impetuous foresight evolved, nay, transformed the profession of baseball from a gang of silver-spooned dullards herding half-witted jocks through a pastoral mind-numb into a veritable high wire circus act; The Boss as its willing and able ringmaster. His cast of characters ranged far and wide from the fringe of the free agency era, which he single-handedly fueled from a queer oddity mostly shunned by his fellow owners to the status quo in every major sport, not to mention the cash cow, team-run sports network — his brainchild, the Yankees Entertainment & Sports Network, now a must for every serious franchise, may be worth twice his world-class team.

King George invented modern sports free agency and its mass marketing. He inspired imitators and riled the competition. You think there would be blabbering meddlers like Jerry Jones or a Mark Cuban without The Boss? You think the NY Mets or the Boston Red Sox would have half the payrolls (the second and third highest in the sport) newly renovated or brand new ballparks and their own networks, if not for the NY Yankees? Oh, and don’t piss off a Bosox fan by reminding him that one of George’s disciples used his methods to buy a half-assed bungling club and finally fell the Curse of the Bambino. Let them think it was all a Beantown thing.

Speaking of Beantown, a mad series of tweets are now reporting that Steinbrenner has abandoned his raid on Nirvana and has decided to trade a frozen Ted Williams for St. Peter, while acquiring the rights to Salvation.

Money, Fame, Power: This is Horatio Alger on a John Galt jag worthy of Ulysses, jack.

Here’s what you need to know about George M. Steinbrenner III: In 1973, at age 42, he wrangled nine associates representing 49 percent of his 51 percent ownership bid — a poultry 150 grand of which came from his pocket — to purchase a busted, aging, and debt-ridden symbol of early twentieth-century Americana for $10 million. Today it is worth well over a billion dollars.

Upon his arrival from the shipbuilding business in Cleveland, Ohio, the NY Yankees, once the proudest team in sport, dominating for decades with the biggest names — Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle, Berra — had not sniffed a stellar season in nearly ten years. Within five seasons it was champion of baseball, boasting the game’s most dazzling stars — Munson, Hunter, Jackson, Lyle.

Before the reign of King George, Yankee Stadium, once the cathedral of the nation’s pastime, was a dilapidated cavern of empty seats. By 1976, it was a renovated jewel of modern sports, and today, filled annually with league-leading attendance, it sits across famed 161st street as a state-of-the-art tribute to the excess of winning.

Steinbrenner, shrewd, hard, and aggressive, with a manic ambition set alight by an unyielding father whose will to win was only outdone by a paralyzing fear of losing, knew so little about the nuances and framework of baseball — a game of patience run in a long-distance style — he drove an entire city, its press, and the sport crazy. “One-hundred and sixty-two game sevens,” is how his most successful manager, Joe Torre once described a season under George Steinbrenner.

The legend of The Boss hiring and firing everyone and anyone in sight on a whim — the first 24 seasons of Steinbrenner rule bore 20 managerial changes — was born on two brilliantly bizarre moves that everyone who had the slightest inkling about baseball thought mad: Spending Thanksgiving waiting out the free agency of star, Reggie Jackson in an O’Hare hotel lobby for seven hours until the slugger agreed to take his millions and the next summer firing an insubordinately violent drunkard manager, his team trailing the division by double-digits, to hire a more subdued boozer. Both decisions brought his Yankees back-to-back titles in 1977 and’78.

Thus was born the Bronx Zoo, so completely ingrained in New York sports lore that over two decades later after the 1999 Yankees pulled off its own repeat, I asked Steinbrenner to compare it. “Oh, now, it’s hard to compare anything to those days,” he said, eyebrows pitched. “Those teams had…well, they had some big things to overcome. Namely me.”

Twenty years between champagne sips for the Yankees is a lifetime; in fact, the longest run of non-dominance in the team’s illustrious history, and most of the wilderness stemmed from Steinbrenner’s belief that his two “big moves”, wooing the high-priced superstar and sacking a manager in mid-stream, would always bring the brass ring. Instead it brought everything imaginable — outrage, embarrassment, tumult, and lunacy — but no titles.

During this time whenever anyone would ask me to write or comment negatively about The Boss’ almost daily asinine behavior, I would pass. Hell, I told them, when it really mattered for me, as a kid, when you really live and die with the game, the guy gave me a collection of crazed banshees who conquered all comers. Sports are a distraction at best when you’re 30, at 14, its pretty much Armageddon.

Apparently it never stops being Armageddon for some, and for King George, it was daily.

Still, it was a much mellower, almost humbled Steinbrenner that emerged from his second suspension from baseball, the first in the early seventies resulting from a fallout from illegal campaign contributions to the same Nixon CREEP fund that eventually sank the 37th president, the second, a series of weird events that drove the most famous owner in sport to employ a slimy New York bookie to sandbag his multi-million dollar all-star.

Soon the aging titan was being parodied on a sitcom and weeping during trophy ceremonies, a raging idiosyncratic caricature of indomitable impatience now the doting patriarch — his team on top, his franchise the richest, and its brand second to none.

So of course he would expand his interests to the unknown quantities of the afterlife, with its infinite eternities and boundless potential to mine for big gains and bigger headlines.

This just in: THE BOSS BUYS HEAVEN, FORCES THURMAN MUNSON TO FINALLY SHAVE BEARD.

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Labron James Play Basketball

Aquarian Weekly 7/14/10 REALITY CHECK

LEBRON JAMES PLAYS BASKETBALL

Tell me, Britney, why did the chicken cross the road? Because he wanted to be seen. The chicken is smart, he is cool. He is making a sound investment in himself — unless he is drunk, and then he has no future. But he wins either way. If the chicken is Flamboyant as he crosses the road, he will soon be rich and famous. If he is bitchy and neurotic, he will be eliminated. This is the Law of the Road.

– Hunter S. Thompson Stadium Living In A New Age

It is 3:25 pm on the eighth day of a brutally hot first week of July in NYC, and by all accounts among many of the sporting, national and celebrity press, LeBron James is the most famous man on planet earth. The pro basketball star’s brief but much ballyhooed free agency from the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers has pushed him into the Babe Ruth/Muhammad Ali realm of sport celebrity with hardly the resume or the personality to warrant such lofty comparisons. Although the league’s reigning MVP, displaying an almost blithe afterthought to his glimpses of magnificence (this space once described him less athlete than artist, his performances more akin to Jimi Hendrix than Pistol Pete Maravich), James’ greatest gift may lie in simply being famous.

The KingMore than mere fame, James is the ultimate capitalist in a socialist construct.

The National Basketball Association aka the Magic/Bird/MJ Enterprise is one of three major American pro sports which utilize a salary cap, putting a limit on otherwise free market organizations to what they can pay their employees, who also uniquely double as the product. Worse still, the NBA enforces a “hard cap” that is practically impossible to circumvent, as say the more laissez fare National Football League cap, which is mostly a joke considering the pathetic lack of a player’s union and no guarantee of payment should a player get brutally injured and can no longer produce to the agreed-upon salary’s level of performance.

James pisses on this.

The King will not only get his somehow, either through sweetened deals that involve part ownership or piggy-backed marketing deals and merchandizing sweeteners, but also, as has never before been seen in sport — the balls to broker deals with players from other teams, like-minded free agents, and hungry general managers, who have and will restructure their previous plans for one guy’s personal and professional happiness.

Atlas shrugs and we cannot get enough.

This is why it is fitting James waltzes around in a NY Yankees cap, the most successful and powerful franchise in the only pro sport not completely communistic in formation, despite its mostly unconstitutional and laughably irrational anti-trust exemption and the dipshits who own the Red Sox whining like bitches every year. This has allowed baseball to be run as a drunken land baron haven for decades — denying civil rights and promoting every form of cheating known to the art of gaming. The Yankees, who are forced to pay an exceedingly un-America luxury tax as a consequence of running the most outlandishly fantastic competitive business model ever conceived by the most brilliant titans of industry, continue to buck every system and traverse every era with unprecedented domination.

But again comparing LeBron James to the NY Yankees would be like putting your sixth grade science project up against the Atomic Bomb.

Having said that, not even the world’s greatest sports franchise with 27 titles, a billion dollar price tag, and a brand spanking new grandiose stadium can best the self-promotion machine whose very nickname, King James only hints at the spectacular level of narcissism he has achieved in a remarkably short time. Some seven years removed from his High School senior prom in a nowhere town in Ohio, James has parlayed his extraordinary skills into something akin to the Age of Vaudeville meets the Kennedys.

Money, Fame, Power: This is Horatio Alger on a John Galt jag worthy of Ulysses, jack.

For the past week, the nation’s, and in some cases, the world’s major newspapers, web sites, blogs and television programs from the Today Show to Nightline has either lead, plugged or speculated about his every move, mood, and machinations. And have there ever been machinations; from clandestine entourage meetings and strangely devised leaks to stock spikes (Cablevision shares — owners of the NY Knicks — exploded on a vague rumor he might choose Madison Square Garden to ply his trade).

Five or six franchises, the chosen few that could hope to afford him monetarily or accommodate him with the best plan for winning, wheeled their entire operations — owners, front office personnel, marketing firms, public relations departments, former players and in some cases jock-sniffing celebrities — to Ohio to woo his services.

Throughout the proceedings major stars of every major sport commented, tweeted, and weighed in on his “Decision”, which coincidently became the name of a one-hour “live network special” on ESPN later tonight. The James’ camp pitched the idea to the more than eager all-sports network to eat up 60 minutes of airtime smack in the middle of Major League Baseball season and days from the World Cup Finals on the whim of one man.

Money, Fame, Power: This is Horatio Alger on a John Galt jag worthy of Ulysses, jack.

No one denies James is a fine pro basketball player; perhaps casual fans would consider him the best in the game. Closer inspection by more astute followers of the sport would rank him considerably below former league MVP and five-time world champion, Kobe Bryant, after his pedestrian performance in key moments in an unceremonious ousting by the Boston Celtics in this year’s play-offs. At times it looked as if James had already begun his exit from the poor win-starved hamlet of Cleveland, as he walked around half stunned on the periphery as far less famous and powerful types chucked up an agonizing series of putrid shots to doom his season. At one point the cameras caught him on the bench during a time out with his eyes closed, as if in a Zen-like state of centering his chi on grander notions.

Those notions, it appears to all in the know, ended up in Miami to play in one of the worst sports towns in America for the Heat simply because his two favorite Olympic teammates, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, the latter of which is currently a contracted member of another team, held the league and their teams hostage to form an unholy bond. By the time the words “take my talents to South Beach” left his mouth, James’ jerseys and parts of downtown Cleveland burned, the Westside of Manhattan began to formulate interesting ways to chant “pussy” and the south side of Chicago sighed with relief they wouldn’t have to be pissed at him for not being Michael Jordan.

It was all part of a monumental plan hatched by the most famous capitalist in the world.

This week.

 

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Dan Bern at City Winery 2010

Aquarian Weekly 7/7/10

LIVING SONGBOOK ON PARADEAn Evening with Dan Bern City Winery, SOHO, NYC 6/19/10

There is the Dan Bern you must listen to; the storming riffs and tender shifts of progression that bed captivating melodies, all the better to ferry along the oddly profound witticism – a seemingly endless musical array of parody, satire and tribute. Then there is the one upon the stage, swaying and strumming as the quintessential portrait of a wandering troubadour – the room sufficiently primed by a raucous NYC crowd acting as the perfect chorus for his mini tragic comedies.

Dan BernWhen the prolific Bern is on his game there is really no one better in any genre. The composer of hundreds of ditties over two decades and sixteen records, jumping from folk to country to rock to whatever swims in and out of his yawning transom, was in fine voice at the City Winery on a sultry Saturday night in the big town. Donning a black vest and blue jeans, a gray cabby’s hat atop his head, the less defiant, dare I say, more mature singer-songwriter emerged anew, playing hauntingly arranged versions of his most gripping songs like “I Need You” and “One Real Thing”.

Later the performance expanded into a beautifully accompanied harmonizing romp, as Bern was ably joined by his usual touring companion, Paul Kuhn and opening act, Common Rotation, a talented Long Island trio which seemed to have been gathered especially for a distinct performance balance of sonic comportment.

Brand new selections, most memorably the riotously clever “Osama in Obama Land” and “Talkin’ Tea Party Blues”, and old favorites, “Black Tornado”, “Breath” and of course, “Jerusalem” raised an already high bar for Bern, who is fresh off two successful songwriting jags for rock comedies, “Walk Hard” and “Get Him To The Greek” and appears to have put a new sheen on his best work.

An excellent sample of the present show, which one can only hope unfurls into a longer tour, can be found on Bern’s latest release, “Dan Bern Live in Los Angeles”.

Having had the pleasure to see Dan Bern ply his trade over the past eight years in every possible venue from a goddamned boat to a half-painted hotel room to political rallies, college campuses and stuffy studios, the Bowery Ball Room to Carnegie Hall, and even his own artist getaway in the desert, he has never sounded better or his songs provided a more deserving exposition than in this most recent incarnation.

The living songbook is once again a must listen and see.

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