The Great MTV Hoax reveals motivation for MTV’s anti-descrimination campaign.

Aquarian Weekly 1/17/00 REALITY CHECK

THE GREAT MTV HOAX

“It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.” -Mark Twain

The most consistent reward of penning this weekly mess is coming to grips with the ever-plummeting bar of human stupidity, which reaches new and exiting lows with each coming day. This is especially prevalent in the dynamic, if not frustrating, misinterpretation of the First Amendment to the Constitution of these United States. From Jerry Springer to Al Gore to the MPAA and FCC to Howard Stern and Marilyn Manson it has given new hope to the term redundancy.

This week MTV, pop culture dumping ground for the painfully mediocre and terminally pubescent, will launch “a yearlong public service campaign against discrimination.” The music network ran the details of hate-crime victims for 17 consecutive hours on 1/10. There was no music or fun-loving counter-culture programming or, God forbid, ads for its duration. MTV claimed to sacrifice $2 million in the process. Since announcing this, MTV’s pr department has been working overtime citing a sense of guilt or even responsibility for purveying material bent on perpetuating hate. One in particular is its assistance in the recent meteoric rise of rapper, Eminem.

Doesn’t MTV realize that by overtly taking blame for influencing mayhem with art, it might give distributors, record companies, producers etc. added ammo to ramrod more commercially senseless tripe down our collective throat until we become so innocuous a society that we cannot tell the difference between danger and expression?

In the grand tradition of Philip Morris dumping a small share of its gargantuan profits, gained by peddling addictive drugs, into cancer research or domestic violence, and Budweiser spending even less on guilt-assuaging “Think Before You Drink And Drive” ads in a sea of endless booze-addled promos, we now have MTV apologizing for what it perceives is a direct correlation between silly music videos and heinous acts of violence and murder.

The stupidity in this is three-fold.

Firstly, the collective ego at MTV is mind-bending. Having dated a woman who worked there in the mid-90s’, I can attest to it first hand. The daily routine of counting money in a drug haze has certainly taken its toll on the self-importance meter over there. It began with the Live-Aid campaign that went belly up in a swirl of corruption and embezzling that could feed the inhabitants of two planets. This latest misguided effort is tantamount to the same line of garbage payola deejays of the 1950s’ like Alan Freed tried to sell as martyrdom when white American authorities and government agencies tried to shut down radio and television at the site of black performers. The birth of every musical genre is littered with myopic worms who take all kinds of credit for everything artists produce, and although it is naïve to think MTV is not a powerful voice in the distribution of noise-candy, to admit, or even declare its guilt in the abuse of women or gays is ludicrous.

Secondly, even if MTV thought this public-relations charade could curtail the sickening abundance of violence in this country, wouldn’t they run peaceful hymns over hours of loving sentiments at the cost of high profits in perpetuity? Instead the “smart people” see the looming threat of a government crackdown-threat on the entertainment industry and offer up this pathetic bone. The obligatory distraction from economic and foreign policies ripe with malfecance washes sleazy politics in phony nobility, but solves next to nothing but sucker votes. However, MTV is a huge money business and needs government out of its coffers. This is equivalent to USA Studios lame attempt to strip itself of blame for Jerry Springer’s dumb-fest by leaning on the host to curtail the excessive violence in the face of congressional statements decrying daytime talk as the tool of Satan.

And finally, doesn’t MTV realize that this is another piece of raw meat thrown to the rabid censor wolves, heightening their insatiable appetite for more blood? Doesn’t MTV realize that by overtly taking blame for influencing mayhem with art, it might give distributors, record companies, producers etc. added ammo to ramrod more commercially senseless tripe down our collective throat until we become so innocuous a society that we cannot tell the difference between danger and expression? The answer is unequivocally no. MTV is about making money, and the moment this peace offering is over, they’ll go back to peddling the junk food.

And that is fine, because we don’t need MTV to save us. And we don’t need Eminem, or any artist for that matter, to apologize for his views. Eminem is a punk, but he’s gained an audience that relates to him. Whose fault is that? At the risk of leaping over Maudlin and onto the back of Sickeningly Repetitive, violence is a symptom of hate nurtured in the home by example and prejudice handed down by the people responsible for its dissemination: PARENTS. If people don’t take care of their own, we are a doomed lot, and if rap music or a television network stands between human survival and moral guidelines then its time we joined other useless civilizations and cash in the last chip. People have to start caring for people and allow art to take care of art, and business, which MTV certainly is, will take care of business.

Unlike the politically correct fear running rampart in most entertainment, music still offers a chance at art imitating, even reflecting, life. To that end we should applaud Eminem for his sophomoric anti-gay, anti-woman, pro-violence rhetoric, and for pointing out that these sentiments really and truly exist everyday. Surprise! We’re not living in a Hallmark card with Fonz rooming over our garage, and Britney Spears is not merely a suggestively sexual ball of fun, but a nauseating example of children trying to grasp onto mature concepts their parents flippantly whitewashed on the way to the golf course and PTA gatherings.

I say we run the crimes of irresponsible baby machines masquerading as parents, complete with photos for heightened humiliation. Then Eminem can go the way of Vanilla Ice and everyone can get crazy castigating some new culture toy.

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Bill Bradley Letter- Political satirist James Campion implores fledgeling campaign

 

BILL BRADLEY LETTER

Date: 8/10/99 4:30 PM

Eric Hauser Press Secretary Bill Bradley For President

Mr. Hauser,

Al Gore must be stopped.

He is a lapdog Washington cretin with the credibility of a street pimp. His wife makes my skin crawl and if she is allowed to run unchecked through the White House we may as well sell the rest of our military secrets to the Chinese at half-price. I hope you realize that you presently work for one of the few people who can cease this terror from being unleashed on the American public. Are you prepared for true battle?

I am the main nerve for news, politics, and social issues for the Aquarian Weekly. Mostly freaks, drug addicts, the unemployed, or musicians read my column. However, any points of interest for the young voting public in the NJ, NY, Conn. area can be targeted through me—and anything short of all-out violent revolt or taking a slow boat to Australia, I am most likely going to endorse your candidate forcefully. It is in your best interest to keep me well informed. I would like to receive info and credentials to any appearance of Mr. Bradley or his tri-state campaign in the coming months.

This is mainly a liberal or independent publication. Yet, nearly every one of our readers would like to see Al Gore tarred and feathered, and hung from a flag pole outside the Vince Lombardi rest stop. And lest you think this information unworthy of your attention, I personally receive hundreds of letters a week to this end. These are people who are jacked to vote for anyone but Al Gore. Jesus, man, G.W. leads in most polls dealing with the 18-25 set. What are you people doing about that? These are free votes for Bradley, and I can bring them aboard. It’s a harmful existence, but we cannot be weak. And if your boy can’t stop that inane creature of hypocrisy I shall back whatever the Republicans can muster.

Let’s work together on this and you can sweep the tri-state area in the primaries, and we won’t have to worry about me painting the Democrats as “the home of pathetic losers and dipshits.”

Also, it is imperative that your candidate address issues pertaining to the federal government’s annoying penchant for sticking its nose in the arts, from film to music. An extremely sticky issue with myself and my readers. First Amendment rights and all that.

I can also be of use to you in the mudslinging department. Just last week I received nude pictures of your opponent with a donkey. Take from it what you will, but I was told it was the result of a campaign photo-op mishap that would have already been circulating the Internet if not for death threats and five-figure cash offers. Yours free for the asking.

Also note, it is optimum to fax the newspaper’s office when you send me e-mail. You will find it to be an effective way of working your points in other parts of the paper and getting a cover next summer or fall. Until I hear from you all…

Never Surrender, James Campion

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Greatest Novels of the 20th Century – Author, James Campion lists the books that changed generations.

20TH CENTURY CLASSICS

The Great Gatsby
Slaughterhouse Five
Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas
On The Road
Brave New World
One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest
Catcher In The Rye
The Shining
Tropic Of Cancer
Jaws
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
Junky
In the fall of 1996 the national men’s magazine, Genesis commissioned jc to put together a list and short reviews of some of the 20th century’s most groundbreaking American novels. Although many of the titles were chosen in a group effort between the editors of Genesis and jc, the author made it clear that mere sales nor critical acclaim would dictate the prerequisites for the list, which he readily admits is one not only close to his heart, but inspiration as well. For the first time they appear all together for your perusing and debating pleasure.

THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby“But I didn’t call him, for he gave the sudden intimation that he was content to be alone–he stretched out his arms toward the dark water in a curious way, and, far as I was from him, I could have sworn he was trembling. Involuntarily I glanced seaward–and distinguished nothing except a single green light, minute and faraway, that might have been the end of a dock. When I looked once more for Gatsby he had vanished, and I was alone again in the unquiet darkness.”

The Great Gatsby is with little argument the “Great American Novel.” At just under 56,000 words it defies the logic and boundaries of mere mortal literature. The development of characters, the glaring metaphors and the intimate rage of its purpose tip the scales of perfection. The work is a lesson in prose and tension, a creation of romanticism and commentary bridging two centuries of American life, dreams and fears. In a letter to a friend in 1923, Fitzgerald bemoaned the construct of the novel and how he longed to create something beyond it, something of great worth. Two years later, he did just that.

The finest examples of Fitzgerald’s fulfilled prophecy is his choice of chapter breaks, how they demand notice, bridge curiosity and meld a delicate balance between good and evil, and how money, lust, ego and circumstance blur their lines. It is at once a story of God with the absence of one, a tale of integrity in an atmosphere of deceit, and a study of love where such a concept is impossible.

The Great Gatsby is the blueprint for all great fiction because by its very existence it challenges the genre. Anyone who has even read but a comic strip should say they have enjoyed it.

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SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughter House-Five“So it goes.”

If Slaughterhouse Five is not Vonnegut’s finest work, it’s certainly his legacy. After this, his sixth book, postwar America would know him as a major voice of the late 20th century novel. While boasting a penchant for satire and the most blatant antiwar sentiment put to paper it may best be remembered for it’s full-blown romp into science fiction and black comedy. Slaughterhouse Five is the purest form of art for it achieves the best compliment one can bestow on the artist–it was far ahead of its time.

Moving in its subtlety, it is the semi-autobiographical tale of a man’s jump through time and space while facing the remnants of wartime horror. Having been a survivor of America’s bombing of the German city, Dresden, toward the end of the Second World War, Vonnegut uses his protagonist, Billy Pilgrim to roam the conscience of his own memory. But it is the discovery of Pilgrim’s own tragic life that is spent at the mercy of fickle destiny which makes Slaughterhouse Five a timeless classic.

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FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS by Hunter S. Thompson

Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas“Turn up the radio. Turn up the tape machine. Look into the sunset up ahead. Roll the windows down for a better taste of the cool desert wind. Ah yes. This is what it’s all about. Total control now. Tooling the main drag on a Saturday night in Las Vegas, two good old boys in a fireapple-red convertible . . . stoned, ripped, twisted . . . Good People.”

Although infamous for its painfully descriptive and cartoonishly drugged-out scenes laced with a seemingly senseless abuse of societal boundaries, overt violence and maniacal behavior, Thompson’s hit-and-run search for the “American Dream” in the city of sin is so much more. Set in the backdrop of 1960s’ fumes and awash in the author’s unique brand of Gonzo Journalism, where the writer becomes part of the landscape he is covering, Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas is a clinic in language and brevity. No scene is wasted, no dialogue superfluous.

Written as a series of articles for the pop-culture magazine, Rolling Stone, it is a fictitious haze that attacks, probes and holds to the mirror the humor of its futile characters bounding their way from one paranoid scenario to the next with little care for the consequences. Yet, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas stands alone in the pantheon of literary gold because it is completely and utterly original. It is the perfect voice for a rock-n’-roll generation, for it simply boogies like one of its most recognizable songs.

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ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac

On The Road“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…”

It is arguably the most influential novel of the 20th century. For Jack Kerouac–the celebrated, if not reluctant point man for the underground Beat Movement of the late 1950s’–it was a signature work. A slice of Americana for 40 years, On the Road launched a Baby Boomer fallout and countless writing careers. Many argue that the moment it hit the shelves on September 5, 1957 the cultural revolution of the 1960s’ sex, drugs and penniless freedom began.

However, Kerouac’s rambling ode to a life with vague boundaries still breathes today with a speed and passion unique to its “spontaneous prose.” It is the first of many autobiographical odes penned by many of his contemporaries, most of whom used the medium of fiction to lay out a manifesto of underground delights rarely seen in the bland light of a growing middle class America. Several generations have found it a valuable source of inspiration and rebellion. Perhaps the hordes of Generation X can escape the Internet for a fresh encounter.

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BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World“ Feel how the Greater Being comes! Rejoice and, in rejoicing die! Melt in the music of the drums! For I am you and you are I” -The Third Solidarity Hymn

It is religion and science, fascism and communism, reality and fantasy, future and past. It is the strangest collection of thought and theme to be put into a novel without even a hint of pedantry. First published in 1932, nearly a full decade before the world was faced with the type of horrors depicted in it, Brave New World presents the potential for humanity to cleanse itself with the death of freedom.

Unlike the boorish political rhetoric of George Orwell’s 1984, Aldous Huxley fears for the human spirit; doused in black humor and a warp of science madness, making it almost certain that it will be well over a millennium of failure before the final solution is to come. Although sometimes mired in an intellect that betrays its playfulness, Brave New World is the author’s most accessible work.

Before he would be done with the novel form, Huxley would dabble in a sequel and challenge most of the assertions found in this fascinating study of society’s trail.

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ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest“Whatever it was went haywire in the mechanism, they’ve just about got it fixed again. The clean, calculated arcade movement is coming back: sixty-thirty out of bed, seven into the mess hall, eight the puzzles come out for the Chronics and the cards for the Acutes . . . in the Nurse’s Station I can see the white hands of the Big Nurse float over the controls.”

On the surface, Kesey’s first, and most successful, novel is a wonderful study of human fragility in the American Century’s increasingly cold and impersonal world. Beneath a fascinating character study, it scorches societal landscapes while stretching the art of imagination into ghoulish paranoid nightmares. It’s central figure, Randle Patrick McMurphy, simultaneously stands as both a leveled host into a psychotic world where machine and medicine belies madness, and that world’s most damaged psyche.

It is Kesey’s depiction of McMurphy’s vacillating dementia that lifts One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest to more rarefied literary air. He stands aloof from the clan of crazies he at once hopes to infiltrate and then illuminate. The roots of the author’s later celebrity in the acid-frenzy culture of the late-sixties is evident in the expertly depicted dream-sequences, but where the novel takes shape is in its overt metaphor for a burgeoning cultural movement cracking under the weight of creeping fear.

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CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher In The Rye“It was lousy in the park. It wasn’t too cold, but the sun was still out, and there didn’t look like there was anything in the park except dog crap and globs of spit and cigar butts from old men, and the benches all looked like they’d be wet if you sat down on them. It made you depressed, and every once in a while, for no reason, you got goose flesh while you walked. It did’t seem like Christmas was coming soon. It didn’t seem like anything was coming.”

Once the Baby Boomer Bible, with its dose of alienation and swipe at the stagnation and apparent insanity of the establishment, Catcher In The Rye has since been transformed from harbinger to prophecy. Its raw, blatant direction may be far more potent in today’s world of lost innocence and hope than it was for a postwar generation high on excess and dreams.

Seemingly ripped from this present-day, sound-bite society obsessed with the grotesque personality as a defining portrait of itself, Salinger’s only real novel has become standard fodder for the depraved and maniacal.

First published in 1951, it raised questions on the stark reality of its content–from slang to sexuality. Beyond Catcher In The Rye’s social significance, there is the brilliantly confused innocence of its main character and narrator, Holden Caufield. It’s his desperation to be understood and gain a measure of self-respect in circumstances glaringly beyond his control that make him the “everyman” the way Steinbeck’s Tom Joad had been at the turn of the century.

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THE SHINING by Stephen King

The Shining“Force, presence, shape, they were all only words and none of them mattered. It wore many masks, but it was all one. Now, somewhere, it was all coming for him. It was hiding behind Daddy’s face, it was imitating Daddy’s voice, it was wearing Daddy’s clothes. But it was not his Daddy.”

The most frightening element of unparalleled horror-scribe, Stephen King’s ode to the haunted house lies not in its fantasy, but its chilling reality. Not unlike most of his work, the author uses the inner demons of society and their effects on its unsuspecting victims to weave morality tales of terror. But where The Shining stands above the rest, and therefore becomes a legitimate classic, is in its subtle transformation of the the fragile human condition to a stammering monstrosity.

A sensitive story of lonely childhood fantasies, psychic phenomenon and the gory specter of alcohol nightmares, it has spawned two movie adaptations that have yet to capture the eerie remnants of King’s unforgettable looming Overlook Hotel and its mysterious Room 217. As madness and evil possession gives way to hallucinations for King’s sympathetic protagonist turned antagonist, Jack Torrance, The Shining paints indelible images of our own dark side lying dormant in places not easily hidden. But most of all, it is a damn scary yarn told by a master.

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TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller

Tropic Of Cancer“I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I though that I was an artist. I no longer think about it. I am. Everything that was literature has fallen to me. There are no more books to be written, thank God.”

Sixty-six years after it was first published and subsequently banned in all English-speaking countries, Tropic Of Cancer remains a vital piece of American literary history–a work to which all young writers must go for a fresh and poignant slant on the definition of modern prose. With a vulgar honesty and riveting characters leaping from the page in a stream of consciousness reserved for the manic and ribald, it simply blurs the line between genius and pap.

Long before the Beat Generation and Gonzo Journalism, there was Henry Miller, the “ugly American”, stuck in Paris– a mere six years before it would ravaged by war–wandering the city of lights with no money or prospects. There, he wrote his first book amid the inspiring bohemian landscape, exploding with sexual indulgence and crude revelry.

Shocking for 1934, it is still the most unique work of its kind, and helped set the blueprint for the rest of the century’s literary meanderings along the road less traveled.

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JAWS by Peter Benchley

Jaws“The fish, with the woman’s body in its mouth, smashed down on the water with a thunderous splash, spewing foam and blood and phosphorescence in a gaudy shower.”

One of the most popular novels of the 1970s’, Jaws paralyzed the American public with such fear that many oceanfront resorts were forced to add shark experts to their payrolls and contractually guarantee the safety of potential swimmers. A few years later the wildly successful Steven Spielberg film drove the hysteria to even more astounding heights. Peter Benchley, unwittingly by his own admission, had started a panic phenomenon that is not likely to be equaled by another novel.

Benchley’s fascination with sharks, most notably the Great White, from which he created a modern Moby Dick, undulates throughout each page. The destructive force of the creature looms over the characters even when it is merely a shadow; controlling their emotions and driving them deeper into its world.

Unlike the movie’s lighter adventure tale, Benchley’s Jaws never promises a salvation for humankind beyond its mere survival in the wake of a being that has ruled the seas for millions of years. It is nature that is Benchley’s tragic hero in this vastly underrated masterpiece of primal fear.

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CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY by Roald Dahl

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory“He seemed to love the sensation of whizzing through a white tunnel in a pink boat on a chocolate river, and he clapped his hands and laughed and kept glancing at his passengers to see if they were enjoying it as much as he.”

Roald Dahl’s engaging tale of morality and maturation in a 20th century vacuum of poverty and excess reads like a strange morphing of Lewis Carroll and Charles Dickens cranked on pure sugar.

Disguised as a children’s book with surreal illustrations by Joseph Schindelman, it moves with a sophisticated wit. Although an inspiration for the cult film, Willie Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, the original work bares only a resemblance in story and characters, while delving deeper into the dysfunction of a humanity smoldering at its core.

Dahl reminds us before the text begins, much like Dickens demands the reader to accept that Jacob Marley is quite dead before he unfolds his 19th century classic, A Christmas Carol, there are “five children in this book.” Four represent certain undesirable traits: greed, selfishness, sloth, and bad manners, while the fifth, Charlie Bucket–an Oliver Twist meets Alice in Wonderland–is simply billed as “the hero.” His adventure in self-discovery, riding the coat tales of one of modern literature’s most memorable “White Rabbits”, the Mysterious Wonka, is a time-honored romp through delightful fantasy.

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JUNKY by William S. Burroughs

Junky“The hipster bebop junkies never showed at 103rd Street. The 103rd boys were all old-timers — thin, sallow faces; bitter twisted mouths; still-fingered, stylized gestures. They were of various nationalities and physical types, but they all looked alike somehow. They all looked like junk.”

Bathed in the eerie light of alienation and surrealism, the characters in William S. Burroughs’ true-life tale of drug addiction in underground post World War II New York appear almost sympathetic through the eyes of one of their own. Along with overt physical oddities and idiosyncratic quirks, Burroughs’ junkies wear the warm sadness of their self-inflicted desperation, which becomes almost normal in the jungle of city existence. But it’s the slang of the addicts and the atmosphere they create that makes Junky a unique expose on the damage wrought by a burgeoning drug culture.

Unlike his most famous book, Naked Lunch, Junky eschews the bizarre angles for a more straightforward account of a person whose only routine and purpose is to procure, distribute and consume hard drugs. First published in 1953–long before the pop romanticism of the 1960’s–Junky proved a wailing siren to society’s ills and its wounded fringe. Today, its disturbing tribal echo still reverberates.

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R.I.P. Woodstock – Pop Culture author, James Campion slams Woodstock 1999.

Reality Check Classics 7/28/99

R.I.P. WOODSTOCK

Like all things attached to aberrations and miracles, the legacy of Woodstock must be allowed to rest in peace. It has become sadly apparent that to revive its memory only unearths actions barely resembling anything to do with the word peace.

Glaring examples of capitalism run amok in the form of 90s’ sponsorship, and potential record sales eclipse any homage to a time and place so rare it defies explanation even now. For if Joni Mitchell had been walking down the road to Rome, New York on the weekend of July 24, 1999, it is more likely she would have seen less a child of God, than a Baby Boomer fallout.

Whatever those who put together Woodstock ’99 might have thought—or offered up as an excuse, following three days of disgusting accommodations, ridiculous overpricing, lewd and abusive behavior, blatant acts of violence, looting, and arson—it can simply be summed up as the day the piper came looking for his check. Somewhere between MTV, pay-per-view, and ultra-hip.com, the ripped-off, starving, unwashed, poser revolutionaries who were bilked by this sham enacted their vengeance on what surely has to be the last of these hapless revivals.

By the time the miscreants began looting the evil money lenders and setting fires, Woodstock, as we have come to know and love it, became just another example of humans misinterpreting compassion for luck.

Thirty years ago, a couple of rich kids got lucky. All they wanted was to make a few bucks on a burgeoning music culture born out of a Summer of Love and a stockpile of recreational drugs. The small town known as Woodstock, nestled in the mountains of Sullivan County, New York seemed as good a place as any to have what was fast being known as a music festival.

Home to artists for most of the century, and by the Summer of ‘69, host to musicians including the patriarchal Bob Dylan, the town of Woodstock served as a mini-nirvana for those starved for an image to summon the crude, but sometimes charming lifestyle begun in the streets of the East Village in NYC and Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. The Woodstock Music and Art Festival didn’t turn out like the rich kids planned (Actually, it didn’t even take place in Woodstock, NY, but in nearby Bethel), but it could’ve been a whole hell of a lot worse.

Nearly three decades later, other rich folk, coupled with corporate America and the record industry, decided to press the odds. A 25th Anniversary weekend went relatively well a few towns south in Saugerties, NY five years ago, and now it would take place a few miles southeast. But it was more than decades and miles which separated the 350,00 lost souls who descended on Max Yasgur’s farmland in the Summer of the moon landing and the Amazin’ Mets, and nearly 230,000 suckers crammed into an abandoned Air Force base last month. That was a distance made but for one element: luck.

It should always be noted that the original Woodstock festival was supposed to be a profit venture. Sadly, for the rich kids financing it, the thing turned into a financial bath before the end of day-one. More than half the kids who piled into the festival waltzed over downed fences. As a result of the unchecked influx of flower children there wasn’t nearly enough toilets, water, or space. The New York Thruway, a winding stretch of road as long as the Mississippi River, was closed. Humanity outweighed the blue print ten times over. Then came the torrential downpours and random dissemination of tainted LSD.

But something significant, some might offer magnificent, happened over those three miserable days. Through it all, the people survived. Better yet, they thrived. What originally was supposed to exploit them, deteriorated into something which transformed them. For all their antisocial rhetoric, the hippie generation formed a mini-society which laughed in the face of convention by embracing its most ardent qualities. This was the story plastered on the front of the New York Times on the Monday morning after. Crazy kids with heads full of drugs and hardly a stitch of clothing or a dollar to spare supported each other for three days of “peace and music.”

Like Kennedy’s Camelot, Woodstock has been retrospectively lifted to epic lore. But for those who found themselves there it was nothing short of a disaster area. The Who’s Pete Townshend still speaks of it in horrific terms. Filmmaker Martin Scorcese, who worked the sound for the award-winning movie, has often described it as surviving war. Bad acid, bad weather, bad well water, and creeping sickness turned fields around the stage into Gettysburg without the rifles.

Yet, the world continued to wonder if those hearty souls showed the rest of us a thing or two about the glow of the human spirit., where behind the myopic harangue of civilization there is a ring of collective truth about brotherhood, caring, and the simple, but significant, act of lifting the person next to you out of the mud and back on stride.

The world knows now it was nothing but dumbass luck.

People would love to blame the senseless violence and looting of this year’s version of Woodstock on the music, the artists, the culture, or those empty-headed youngsters whose only sense of self-respect and responsibility eludes them. But if you find yourself in Limp Bizkit or Korn right now, a few months, maybe years, from eating stale bread in your no-heat apartments, you’re taking any gig, especially a high-paying, high-profile one. And if you need to scream and yell about how much life sucks to a rapid-fire beat and three chords to make a buck, may the good Lord bless and keep you.

Ironically, many feel that the acts not allowed to perform during the original Woodstock allowed for the vibe to float rather than sink. There was a reason why the Doors, with their radical calls for the break down of reality barriers and invisible social casts, were left off the bill.

When the rebellious Satan clan known as the Rolling Stones were told not to come, Mick Jagger decided to host his own festival on the hills of San Francisco which resulted in the blood bath forever known as Altamont.

But in reality the music didn’t have as much to do with the tragedy of Altamont as the fascist violence of the Hell’s Angels and the hippie mismanagement which inevitably led to infamous killings and another type of bell which tolled for the Baby Boomer peace and love era.

All of this had been conveniently forgotten until the pathetic display of raging capitalism, apathy, and finally violence in Rome last month. Only this time ignorance cannot be used as an excuse. As the weekend unfolded it seemed far more attention was paid to draining patrons of their cash than providing decent camp areas, ample toilets, showers, or any presence of security. The hundreds crushed in mosh pits could have been prevented. The overflow of human secretions hindered somewhat.

By the time the miscreants began looting the evil money lenders and setting fires, Woodstock, as we have come to know and love it, became just another example of humans misinterpreting compassion for luck. Those stumbling into a wonderful mistake and sliding through relatively unscathed 30 years ago achieved a level of fortune rarely reached in the annals of humanity.

The luck ran out in August of 1969. For the rest of us there is only an empty vessel of suffering at $169 a pop.

First Published on 8/11/99 in The Aquarian Weekly. It is included with many others in jc’s new book, Fear No Art available now on jamescampion.com!

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Bill Clinton – An Appreciation – President’s mia culpa revisited by political satirist, James Campion

Reality Check Classics 8/19/98

BILL CLINTON – AN APPRECIATION

By my count Bill Clinton has now surpassed Ronald Reagan for most speeches filled with monumental dog crap. His address to the nation on August 17, although not quite as pathetic as Ronnie’s “I didn’t know anything about any Irna-Contra thing” babble or certainly no match for the all-time disingenuous pap of then vice president, Richard Nixon’s pathetic Checker’s Speech, was nonetheless an historical moment in the presidency. Officially, after 220 years this country has not produced a better liar than William Jefferson Clinton. For your dancing and listening pleasure here is that speech with defining comments parenthetically inserted.

Good evening. (hello suckers) This afternoon in this room, from this chair, I testified before the Office of Independent Counsel and the grand jury. (I’m shoveling the crap from here for three minutes so you won’t be needing to hear the nearly five hours of embarrassing and incriminating testimony I spewed under the guise of federal law) I answered their questions truthfully, (sort of) about my private life, (blow jobs from government employees) questions no American citizen would ever want to answer. (Of course no American citizen has a rent-free airplane, limos, and hundreds of armed guards)

Still, I must take full responsibility for all my actions, (7 months and $40 million of your dollars later) both public and private. (blow jobs in the rent-free White House) And that’s why I’m speaking to you tonight. (ran out of legal options) As you know, in a deposition in January (when I thought I could beat this rap) I was asked questions about my relationship with Monica Lewinsky. While my answers were legally accurate. (legally O.J. Simpson is innocent) I did not volunteer information. (pretty much the definition of perjury)

Indeed I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was inappropriate. (inappropriate is an ambiguous term for kinky shit) In fact, it was wrong. (it was fine until I heard the word DNA) It constituted a critical lapse in judgment (fucked up) and a personal failure on my part (key words are “personal” and “my” – tell you why later) for which I am solely (key word) and completely (another key word) responsible. But I told the grand jury today, and I say to you now, that at no time did I ask anyone to lie, to hide or destroy evidence or to take any other unlawful action. (I’m using the words “personal”, “my”, “solely”, and “completely responsible” so you’ll buy this new and improved lie about obstruction of justice)

I know that my public comments (“Listen to me, I did not have sexual relations with that woman”) and my silence about this matter gave a false impression (more fancy verbiage for lied) I misled people, (politically correct way to say lied) including my wife (you know, what’s her name) I deeply regret that. (I’m pissed she found out) I can only tell you (because you buy most of my bullshit) I was motivated by many factors. First my desire to protect myself from embarrassment of my own conduct. (I’m out of control) I was also very concerned about protecting my family. (the sympathy props)

The fact that these questions were being asked in a politically inspired lawsuit (those bastards want to bring your beloved president down) which has been dismissed, (if it wasn’t for my damn penis I’d be scott free) was a consideration, too. In addition, I had real and serious concerns about an independent counsel investigation that began with private business dealing (illegal land scams) 20 years ago (I was young and stupid give me some slack), dealings (crimes) I might add, about which an independent federal agency (this Ken Starr guy you’ll be seeing trying to impeach your beloved president) found no evidence of any wrongdoing (guy couldn’t find Godzilla in a corn field) by me or my wife over two years ago. (its been awhile, give it up)

The independent counsel investigation (I’m off the blow job/lie thing and on the attack – follow me now) moved on to my staff and friends (more suckers I bilked) then into my private life (you know, the kinky in the rent-free federal office) And now the investigation itself is under investigation (they’re bad too – two wrongs equal innocence, use your imagination, like, my father beat me so I have to rape you stuff – you’re catching on!) This has gone on too long (if it weren’t for cum stains it would still be rolling) cost too much (my fault) and hurt too many people. (my fault again)

Now, this matter is between me, the two people I love most – my wife and our daughter – and our God. (those two can’t impeach me and I’ve got to throw God in here somewhere, don’t I?) I must put it right, and I am prepared to do whatever it takes to do so. (I’ll be redefining that hyperbole later) Nothing is more important to me personally (are you getting my third grade attempt at telling you that I can handle this thing – there is no use in putting me on trial, I’ll handle this – me, the guy who lied) But it is private (get it?); and I intend to reclaim my family life for my family (redundant but slick) It’s nobody’s business but ours. (something I borrowed from Al Capone) Even presidents have private lives. (and cats have whiskers boys and girls)

It is time to stop the pursuit of personal destruction and prying into private lives and get on with our national life. (national life? Made that up – like it?) Our country has been distracted by this matter for too long. (driving it home, baby) and I take responsibility for my part in all this (that’s what this charade is about) This is all I can do. (didn’t I just spew some garbage about doing whatever it takes, guess this three minute thing is “whatever it takes”)

Now it is time – in fact, it is past time – (driving it home mamma) to move on. (I admitted stealing the eraser, so no one should have to stay after class) We have important work to do (more chicks) real opportunities to seize (IRS investigations of all my enemies) real problems to solve (Paula Jones will be making a comeback after this) And so tonight, I ask you to turn away from the spectacle of the past seven months (I say its past and you will ignore it – damn it – you love me!) to repair the fabric of our national discourse (made that up too, dig my cryptic jive – yeah!) and return our attention to all the challenges and all the promise of the next American century. (how do I sleep at night?)

Thanking you for watching. And good night. (The brainwashing is done, go back to Jerry Springer and professional wrestling and leave me alone)

First published on 9/1/98 in The Aquarian Weekly. It is included with many others in jc’s new book, Fear No Art available now on jamescampion.com!

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NY Toll Madness – Pop Culture satirist and author, James Campion slams the EZ-Pass.

Reality Check Classics 11/18/97

NY TOLL MADNESS

A ’79 Mercury Cougar, a six pack of Bud cans, warm raspberry Margaritas, three $12 cigars, and an EZ-Pass; for two long hours it was all we had, my burly friend, Willie and myself. We were stuck in a major traffic jam on the approach to the Whitestone Bridge against a backdrop of snow flurries and an angry Mexican on our tail laying on his horn as if a battle ship were about to ram him. It was an education in patience and the art of the swerve. We did not surrender our wits, but sold the better part of our senses to the highest bidder, and it was not the Transit Police.

“Goddammit!” Willie yelled over the pumping radio noise. “What is the fucking point of this EZ-Pass if we have to sit here like trapped rats?!” He had conveniently forgotten he was the one who insisted on driving earlier that day. “You have no cassette deck,” was his reasoning. I did not argue.

“We might as well start on the beer,” I suggested, following closely the agitated tone in Willie’s voice and carefully placing it within the parameters of my own growing rancor.

Yes, of course, drink beer in a traffic jam. This seemed like the right thing to do at the time. It was just a bridge, and, after all, we were crawling. There was little we could do in the way of real damage.

Yes, of course, drink beer in a traffic jam. This seemed like the right thing to do at the time. It was just a bridge, and, after all, we were crawling. There was little we could do in the way of real damage. Desperate times call for desperate measures. The only problem, I was to learn, was that Willie did not handle pressure like the rest of us weary New York travelers.

That’s when we decided to hit the tepid Margaritas.

The Mexican was still leaning down on his horn. Willie rolled down his window. I can still hear its droning squeak. “How about I get out of this car and cram that fucking horn up your ass?!” Willie screamed. The Mexican could not hear him over the horn and the distortion blaring from the overworked speakers in our dashboard. Unfortunately, two sharply dressed black guys in the left lane heard him. They jerked back, immediately thinking the expletive-driven tirade was directed toward them. Down came their window.

By now a yellow-haired woman with thick glasses, driving a blood red Toyota of some kind, began waving her EZ-Pass at us, and started to edge her way in front of the Cougar. Willie did not see her. He had other concerns. “What did you say, fat boy?” the black guy in the passenger seat yelled as steam rose from his gritting teeth. “I’m not talking to you, asshole!” Willie yelled back, flailing his arms and causing his beer to spill about the front seat. I quietly sipped my Margarita, chased it with a cold shot of Bud, and sparked a cigar for us both. It was becoming painfully apparent we were not moving toward any bridge.

“Willie?” I called.

“What?” he blurted, refusing to take his eyes from the two angered black guys. “What do you think that woman’s doing up there?”

Eyeing the woman in the Toyota slipping ahead just inches from our bumper, Willie was incensed. Just as I asked the question, his head turned to watch the wave of her EZ-Pass in thanks for letting her in. It was then that events became hazy.

It took the Mexican 45 minutes to stop blowing his horn, but far less for one of the black guys to exit his car and start pounding on our roof. By now Willie’s bravado had peaked and appeared to take on the mellowing effect of mainlined Prozac. The two of them must have discussed the “asshole” thing and decided it needed physical restitution. But by the looks of the man’s face it would not be without the sacrifice of pain on someone’s part. My cigar was almost done, and through a slight afternoon buzz, I could not think of one solid reason for saving Willie from his own stupid anger. And, most importantly, I could not help but think why in hell we needed an EZ-Pass in the first place?

Willie offered the riled black guy a beer if he’d smack the Mexican, who was back to leaning on his horn.

He accepted.

Willie smiled.

It was time for another Margarita and one last drag on my $12 cigar. I didn’t know anything about an EZ-Pass, but there was nothing hard about this.

First published on 12/1/97 in The Aquarian Weekly. It is included with many others in jc’s new book, Fear No Art available now on jamescampion.com!

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Sinead O’Connor Live at the Beacon Theater – Concert Review by James Campion

Aquarian Weekly 9/13/97

REDEMPTION Sinead O’Connor Beacon Theater 8/26/97

New York City

It is not particularly unusual to find the sheer raw talent of a singer stripped naked by the glare of the spotlight with her only weapon a wonderful voice piercing through a darkened hall like a siren of distinctionSinead O'Connor. It is only unusual if you consider Sinead O’Connor’s tempestuous career, filled with songs raging in blatant discourse, an appearance and demeanor of raucous rebellion, and questionable tactics budding from an unforgettable aura. Yet, on this night, an oblique, if not attractive woman; draped in an elegant white dress moving sinuously around the stage, served as a testament to a body of work as diverse and edgy as any hard-driving punk outfit.

Having seen O’Connor at the genesis of her baldheaded, black-army booted, in-yo-face run seven years ago, it was quite a change. Gone were her demonstrative movements, declaring an inner rant which bore clarity to the ugly truth of her lyrics. Only the sting of the lyrics remained, buoyed by the beauty of the melodies and the incredible range and control of a voice that could raise goose bumps on a cadaver.

Sinead O'ConnorA six-piece band, including cello and accordion, enabled O’Connor to stand guitar-free, clutching her ever-present controls for an ear-monitor she uses as a crutch for perfection. The four piece band known as The Screaming Orphans from Northern Ireland, opened the show and more than ably slid into their roles as back-up singers for the evening. At key points their five part harmonies lifted otherwise dreary dirges into sweet moments of orchestra, culminating in the vortex of an Irish folk revival.

Swerving through her entire, new six-song collection, Gospel Oak, and touching on choice numbers from her last two original studio works, O’Connor was visibly overwhelmed by the roof-raising ovations she received from the more than capacity crowd. (both side aisles were jammed with people standing and applauding throughout). Responding with a wave, a giggle, and a brush of her hand through a full head of brown locks, Sinead O’Connor put away the tantrums and overt displeasure her songs evoke, to merely sing them. And to those who recall her being mercilessly booed off the stage at the Bob Dylan tribute five years earlier, it was the best kind of redemption.

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Quadrophenia Show 1996 – Concert Review by James Campion

East Coast Rocker 7/30/97

RESURRECTIONQuadrophenia Madison Square Garden 7/16/96

New York City

For whom it may concern; Pete is God.

Of course that is the kind of statement that might have spewed forth from my days of raucous adolescence when passionate angst coursed through my burgeoning hormones. But for a few hours, during the opening night Pete Townshendperformance of The Who’s Quadrophenia last Tuesday, that is where I returned.

Townshend, (the aforementioned Pete) songster, guitar-smasher, and part-time publisher, fresh from his successes with the resurrection of Tommy on Broadway, and his last theatrical composition, Psychoderelic, took the time to relive arguably his finest work. And for six nights at the Garden last week he, the other to surviving members of Who–Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle–and a sixteen piece band, including four background singers, a full brass section, and percussionist, presented his magnificent musical story like never before.

When The Who released Quadrophenia in 1973, playing its intricate arrangements with four musicians turned out to be a Herculean task never conquered. The double album, (they had records in those days as you know) with its well-timed sound effects, tape loops, and involved orchestrations, had always been beloved and revered by Who fans and the rock community, but could never be properly performed.

However, from the opened notes of “The Real Me” amid the booming strains of an angry ocean and full screen of visuals, The Quadrophenia Show set the musical record straight.

Daltrey, dressed casually in a tank top and jeans, was in full voice and sounding better than even the distant past. Aided by a monitor earpiece, his vocals on such challenging numbers as “I’ve Had Enough” and “Love Reign O’er Me” were near perfection, and in some cases a newer and sharper voicing could be heard. Entwistle, still looming and stoic on stage left, lent interpretive bass lines long buried in the psyche of what Townshend himself has always said was “the last great Who album.”

The band, including Ringo Starr’s kid, Zak on drums and Pete’s brother Simon on rhythm guitar, did their homework. Culling every key lick and chop from the massive collection of songs, they provided a meticulous backdrop for the emotional theatrics of the story.

Daltrey and TownshendThe sound, a stark separation of vocals and intricate instrumentation, was flawless; pumping at top volume without the loss of clarity needed in the dramatic renderings of such songs as “Dr. Jimmy,” “The Punk and the Godfather,” and the haunting “Is It in My Head?” Guest appearances by Garry Glitter as the gruff Rocker and Billy Idol as the pretentious, yet sad, Ace Face helped breathe renewed life into heretofore uncharted character development. And to move the plot along Townshend and co-producer/manager, Bill Curbishley recruited the acting talents of Phil Daniels, who played the protagonist, Jimmy in the 1979 movie, as narrator.

It was a show for the rabid fan as well as the interested observer, doing the haunting libretto and sonic orchestration proud. Due to the cohesive aspect of the work, and the consistent pace of the show, there were few specific highlights save for the explosion of audience and act during Quadrophenia’s cornerstone number, “5:15.” It was one of the rare times a rock show captures the essence of the material and translates it to perfection.

Townshend, who through the years has been known as a hard-ass perfectionist and whining pessimist when approaching his work, could be seen grinning during the band’s four encores, which combined sweet nostalgia with hard-edged force. With an acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder, he was in fine voice and ecstatic temperament; singing and cavorting through the show with a fervor rarely seen in his more recent performances, solo or with the group.

For many fans of the genre, including myself, Townshend’s second and most endearing full-length “rock opera” is his greatest legacy as a composer. The universal story of a confused teenager railing against the hypocrisy of society, which helped many of us get through our similar quandary, has resonated for two decades. To see it revived as a road show could’ve been disappointing at best, but was brilliant and entertaining at the very least.

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Counting Crows and The WallFlowers Live at PNC Arts Center – Concert Review by James Campion

Aquarian Weekly 7/28/97

IN THEIR PRIME Counting Crows/ The Wallflowers PNC Arts Center 7/14/97

Holmdel, New Jersey

Rarely do headlining rock acts take a step to the side to allow for shared equality in popularity. But with the rise of Bob Dylan’s kid and the nostalgic combo, The Wallflowers, Counting Crows leveled the playing field for one balmy night in New Jersey. Both bands received similar ovations, producing inspired encores, while slicing into the pocket of understated licks and subtle energy to pump out two sets of uneven intensity.

Duritz & DylanJakob Dylan led his five-piece band through an hour-plus show of their second CD, Bringing Down The Horse, which has sold over three million copies and has been pumped through modern rock and pop radio ad nauseum for close to a year. Almost forgettable in appearance and nearly devoid of any stage histrionics, the band was tight and extremely composed while sounding eerily like a 90s’ version of The Band, who ironically backed Bob Dylan’s oft celebrated electric phase of the mid 60s’. This was made abundantly clear during a fine rendition of the classic group’s biggest single, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” which served as the set’s highlight, along with a soulful reading of The Wallflower’s first hit, “6th Avenue Heartbreak.” with accompaniment by Counting Crows’ lead singer, Adam Duritz.

Although looking frighteningly close to his father’s once imposing stage presence, Dylan, now considered the latest in a line of reluctant sex symbols, seemed a little embarrassed by the screams from the predominantly female audience; going as far as to playfully berating them for not standing and dancing.

The Counting Crows, also touring their second effort, Recovering The Satellites, which unlike The Wallflowers disc has been a step back to its riveting predecessor, August And Everything After, eased slowly into the evening’s proceedings with broad and humble strokes. With wonderful texture and remarkable dynamics, the more energetic of the two bands looked to be in their prime; moving through a healthy catalogue of lyrically packed musical vignettes.

No band outside of the 60s’ genre, and certainly none in the cookie-cutter age of video, so consistently reinvents a song like Counting Crows. There was no better example than on this night. Beginning with many new songs including, “Daylight Fading” and Catapult” through emotionally dynamic renditions of “Anna Begins,” “Rain King,” and the enigmatic, “Mr. Jones” the audience was treated to a band in constant creative motion, like an open jam or private rehearsal stripped bare and caressed with smooth melody. Much like The Wallflowers’ set, which seemed to drag in the mire of mid-tempo, there were moments of spontaneous beauty as in the closing numbers, “Round Here” and “A Long December,” when singer and primary songwriter, Duritz pranced around poetry and overt longing to explode into pure adrenaline and purpose.

To his credit, Duritz effectively toes the line of pretension without sinking into helpless melodrama. Thanks to a band made up of excellent musicians and even better interpreters of sense and style.

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Ani DiFranco Live at the Capitol Theater – Concert Review by James Campion

East Coast Rocker 4/5/97

A FIERCE GRACEAni DiFranco The Capitol Theater 3/21/97

PORCHESTER NY

It is the angry angel serenade; this fireball of female seduction with an Ani DiFranco acoustic guitar slung over a round shoulder below the spray of bright blue hair. She welcomes the bulging audience like a whimsical lover; crossed between reason and distraction. Ani DiFranco has spent the decade, seven albums, and a touring life proving she is arguably the finest singer/songwriter today. Her latest show is quite simply a gorgeous example of this.

With her usual passion and purpose she stalked the relatively empty stage of the small venue, save for the drums (Andy Stochansky) off to stage left, and bass (Jason Mercer) on the right. The ambiance of the classic theater, and the sparse accompaniment, lent a surreal intimacy to her signature jerky movements in and out of the multicolored spotlight which radiantly reflected off her distant stare. No performer demands such total attention when winding through an impressive catalogue of musical stories as when DiFranco is face first in the swirl of her talent. On this night, only the fifth date of a five-month tour through the U.S. and Europe, she slid effortlessly through her more recent numbers with a fierce grace. The highlights included a slithering version of “Shy”, a soulful rendering of “Untouchable Face”, and a riveting exhibition of her brilliant, “Dilate” which ended in an explosion of applause.

Ani DiFrancoDiFranco explored the many layers of her growth from a 19 year-old folkie to the original meld of punk, hip-hop, and lyrically driven rambles; resting easily in the various rhythmic changes. The aisles filled with dancing kids caught in the rapture of sexually charged songs like “Shameless,” which drives off the pulse of her unique picking/strumming style. The woman wields the finest right hand since Pete Townshend jammed his wrist through the whammy bar of an abused Stratocaster. All the while her voice hovers, roaming her register for notes and the noteworthy, scraping around a quirky shrill with an assault of phrasing.

Not since Dylan had a prime has one artist captured the displaced voice of the “other side” quite like Ani DiFranco. When she sings, “The butter melts out of habit, the bread isn’t even warm,” the irony induces a smile and a tear. When she sings, “I am a work in progress,” you anxiously await the next phase.

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