School Prayer and the abuse of God – Pop Culture satirist, James Campion tackles religious hypocracy.

Aquarian Weekly 7/5/00 REALITY CHECK

PIGEONHOLING GOD & OTHER EGO-MAD PURSUITS

On June 19, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in a Texas case that public schools cannot allow student-led prayer. The Sante Fe Independent School District in Galveston had allowed student-initiated and student-led prayer to be broadcast over the public address system before high school football games. The question on trial was whether allowing prayer violates the First Amendment’s establishment clause, which states that Congress “shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” The pertinent one is why in the name of any supreme being would anyone force mass prayer before an athletic event?

Forgiving Texas, which is best known for the celebration of the gun, the electric chair, snipers in clock towers and a dandy place to murder Catholic presidents, there is little argument that Friday night high school football is something of a religion. But this ridiculous ritual of petitioning faith for victory is as tiresome as this seemingly endless charade of defending the Confederate flag.

Whatever is left of Christianity has been so bastardized and abused in the pursuit of money and power that to speak of it with any public reverence is at best laughable, and, at worst, sickening. Because that’s what this is all about. The suit was originally lead by two unnamed students, one Mormon and one Catholic, and their mothers. The voice of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism or the odd Buddhist is about as welcome at a Texas pigskin affair as a John McCain tailgate party.

In nearly every corner of this planet the effusive rage displayed by misguided religious zealots and fundamentalist lunatics has rendered humanity to the level of beast.

And as oft celebrated in this space, the strong-arm tactics of religious righteousness and untouchable separatism practiced by holy-rollers masquerading as weekend martyrs is damaging and hurtful to those who wish to worship and pray in the comfort of their own belief, away from rabid throngs hoping to watch cousin Billy rip the cranium from his pagan opponent.

We have enough trouble in this nation without jamming religious insanity into the boiling cauldron. In nearly every corner of this planet the effusive rage displayed by misguided religious zealots and fundamentalist lunatics has rendered humanity to the level of beast. This is a republic built on the rights of religious expression to be realized peacefully in the privacy of the establishment built for it or in the cocoon of family and culture. Every time it reaches beyond these parameters we achieve dangerous levels of wretched craziness.

Of course, none of these points was the determining factor in any part of this ruling. “Religious activity in public schools, as elsewhere, must comport with the First Amendment,” wrote Justice John Paul Stevens for the majority. Amendments win over philosophy and silliness most of the time. This was one of those times.

No one on the Supreme Court wanting to remain there would not dare to utter the truths about the misuse of Jesus Christ as a hammer of cultural dominance. Most likely, none of them would even fathom such radical nonsense. This is, after all, a God-fearing country built on the always pleasant idea that God blesses us and damns everyone not with the program. It has allowed the slaughter of Native Americans, burning of women, lynching of blacks, persecution of homosexuals, killing of doctors, jailing of artists and a host of military atrocities abroad.

Again, things are a heck of a lot worse in other parts of the globe, but we live here, and have to face the truth that because of this holier-than-thou attitude buoyed by terribly naive and narcissistic visions of a male deity nodding its approval, there has been a buffet of anguish to choose from.

There is the prevailing argument that preventing a public school from instituting rules is grounds for free-speech abuse, but that is selective deduction on the level of putting safety belts on living room couches.

You want to pray? Recite every psalm King David could muster. You want everyone to stand there and listen to it over a loudspeaker before a friggin’ football game, you’re heading into different territory. They have private institutions for that, and although it’s always amusing seeing a dramatic shot of Touchdown Jesus before Notre Dame takes the field at South Bend, public schools are a government-funded establishment bound to the law of diversity.

And all those who wish to bring heretical anti-religion rhetoric into the equation must remember that every time you want to shoot yourself because you opened the door on an endless Jehovah Witness rant or been detained in an airport by dancing bald men in flowing white robes, you are a practicing member. Or don’t those religious activities matter as much as forced public prayer services?

Next thing you know every maverick theologian with half an idea about existence is demanding that we stand on our heads and do the Tango with a stranger to cajole the blessings of the Lord.

Finally, prayer is what an individual makes of it. Mass prayer in the public arena is not only criminal, it’s asinine. This is tantamount to someone telling you that the only concept of love is fondling muskrats at a beach party while spreading egg salad on your neighbor. If this sounds a bit avant-garde, then explain why a person who sees the beatific spiritual understanding of God as wholly opposite of anything crammed down their throats at a football game is so abhorrent.

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Dr. Laura Schlessinger vs. GLAAD – Pop Culture satirist, James Campion defends Free Speech for all.

Aquarian Weekly 6/14/00 REALITY CHECK

FREEDOM OF SPEECH Case 1,653: Dr. Laura vs. GLAAD

“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”– George Orwell “Animal Farm”

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, is “Nothin’ but a pawty.”

Keeping these hard facts and cold logic in our back pockets we shall proceed to yet another case of mistaken constitutional identity by humming charlatans, who, for many strange and puzzling reasons, revisit the terrible tunes that allow for anything anyone says to be swallowed with anything more than a smirk and a cookie.

Ironically, or poetically, Schlessinger finds herself on the same raft caught in a storm front of crazies using the media to drum up enough wild anger to put the fear of the almighty (dollar not God) into the hearts of mother sponsors.

A woman by the name of Laura Schlessinger, who considers herself a doctor and not a performing seal, hosts a talk show baring her name. She uses these daily hours of Marconi’s instrument to disseminate her own words, which she considers wisdom and not a stream of hyperbole meant to boost ratings and gather an audience. Schlessinger is quite adamant about a variance of subjects. She has been very adamant about two particular ones. The good doctor considers homosexuals a “biological error” and unwed mothers “immoral”.

Enter the noisy souls over at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the National Organization For Women (NOW), who have rightfully taken umbrage to these silly musings. These two groups, allowed to pass off their own sillies as wit and wisdom daily, have taken it upon themselves to try and force the good doctor from a pending Paramount produced television show.

Last year Schlessinger went the same route trying to put a halt to a kid’s skateboard magazine and the stores that dared carry something she deemed “immoral” and “deviant” and rapped it all in the guise of saving the children of planet earth. Then she backed out of a CBS deal that would have her working for the same “demons” who employee Howard Stern, harboring a fleeting sense of grandiose self-righteousness saved for television preachers.

Ironically, or poetically, Schlessinger finds herself on the same raft caught in a storm front of crazies using the media to drum up enough wild anger to put the fear of the almighty (dollar not God) into the hearts of mother sponsors.

No sponsors, no show. No show, no Schlessinger. No Schlessinger, no hate mongering toward that tiny corner of the world where boo meets hoo and all the pretty pictures look like the ones in our tiny swimming brains.

Nonsense with extreme prejudice.

While the New York Times, the LA Times, Daily Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Ad Age and Broadcasting & Cable print huge ads decry the talk show host as Satan on wheels Procter & Gamble, United Airlines and soon to follow AT&T and American Express back off. This is no crime. Newspapers need to sell newspapers. Television is the home of swill and barley and would sooner burn the last remaining electrodes in your brain than consider things involving the U.S. Constitution. And sponsors? Needless to say that as long as something prevents the separation of human from currency, there is no need consulting them.

The crime here is hypocrisy and overindulgence.

It is hard to find anyone to root for in this mess, but when all else fails it is comfy to remember that although your smarmy neighbor might not like your opinion or profession or how and why you go about it, there isn’t a fucking thing they can do about it. And when that wonderfully loony patriot, John Adams stood in front of a bunch of angry slave-owners bucking for a freedom ride from Concord to Yorktown and barked, “I may not agree with you, sir, but I would die for your right to say it” he banged the spike right on the head.

God bless that maniac. It was rogues like him that made it possible for Laura Schlessinger to get all Bible crazy and tell 18 million Americans that sexual preference and circumstance has pissed off the supreme being and it’s her job to pass on the bad news. And if it weren’t for those who came up with the concepts of freedom GLAAD and NOW would be in cell block 15 being beaten by crack heads and gun thieves.

That is supposed to be the beauty of this country. People can spew forth the most bilious crapolla and pass themselves off as authority and it’s our job to either listen carefully, heed, chuckle or move in the other direction with increasing speed. But when those same people start saying that their opposition can’t do the same then we have to put up the proverbial red flag.

All the while, it always important to remember that talk show hosts are no more qualified to determine your personal feelings or judge your inner pride than a circus clown or professional wrestler (or dumbass hick relief pitcher from Georgia). And it is far more pertinent to hold dear the age-old sentiment that groups with cute names and logos and access to bullhorns are no more an authority on who should be allowed to speak and earn a living as the boy scouts or the National Rifle Association.

To review:

Freedom of Speech – just as important to whining protesters as it is to ignorant show-biz folk.

Humans are hairless apes with indoor plumbing – all the wattage or newspaper space in the world should never hold any weight with John Q. Public and his sister Passerby.

If you’re not particularly enamored with any of this please do one of two things – fuck off or tell me to do the same.

The deal is struck – you don’t stop me from saying it and I won’t stop you from disagreeing.

Class dismissed.

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Wall Street Jovial Interview – Pop curture columnist, James Campion investigates the Stock Market min-crash 2000.

Aquarian Weekly 4/19/00 REALITY CHECK

HOW THE GRAVY TRAIN SKIDS

The twisted, the frightened, and the troglodytes may not come together in many circles, but they are all in agreement about one element of society not abandoned by political rhetoric and fancy titles: money. The almighty has legs. It turns the wheels and greases the irons; and when it runs and hides there is reason to gulp and jump and find the right number that will put you touch with those who might harbor the odd sober answer.

But the voice on the other end cannot bear the grudge of the suddenly poor; once riding the wave of wondrous capitalism, only to be yesterday’s funk begging for coins with a stained cup and a ragged coat. It’s only the bulldogs with true grit who can unleash the nitty when it counts. And it counted for two days in early April when the stock market jerked and bucked like a cheap ride at Coney Island. Only those with their mitts on the controls aren’t the toothless, drunken carnies, but the wide boys with power ties and two martini lunches.

I rode those goddamn hours with the stammering remnants of the once great Chief Wonka and his 500 shares of tumbling Allaire stock. By 1:15 PM, when the Nasdaq numbers reached record lows–down 574 points, a 13.5 percent plunge that would’ve been the index’s biggest percentage drop in history–and horrid memories of Black Monday of ‘87 tickled the careening fancy of the walking dead on Wall Street, there was little else for the old boy to utter but “Oh my God this is bad” or “The market is crashing.”

“You see, the Wall Street Establishment will use the news when appropriate to their inventory concerns. Believe me, there was no panic on the inside.”

For three ugly hours on a breezy Tuesday afternoon, the high rollers caught a glimpse of Steven Hawking’s black hole, while nearly 50 percent of tech stock disappeared inside it. But by day’s end hunky met dory and “disaster” was reduced to “minor hit.” But what happened for those few terrifying hours?

When the smoke cleared early on Wednesday, 4/5 a correspondence from the wounded Reality Check New & Information Desk went out to the hub of the Wall Street Jovial. Founded by David R. Gahary, a warped insider with a grudge and a web site (www.wallstreetjovial.com) aimed at poking holes in theories all-too willing to be swallowed, it is just the sort of flashlight needed to flesh out the stock market’s scurrying roaches.

jc: Is two hours of panic considered a legitimate crash, even though it recovered by closing?

DG: Very little about the structure of the stock market could be considered legitimate. These violent swings are precipitated by big hedge funds. Those are private investment funds only open to the ultra-rich. Hedge funds are a favored tool of the filthy-rich, as it is an unregulated investment vehicle with the latitude to utilize so-called exotic trading strategies, such as short-selling and leveraged directionalism. Manipulating the market equals more profits for a few.

jc: The ABC Nightly News reported last night that because the quarter was ending many brokers called in their credit markers. Coupled with the Microsoft monopoly ruling, and the big hit the market took Monday, there was a panic.

DG: The end of a quarter usually consists of “window dressing.” Microsoft had nothing to do with the sell-off, as it has been proven time and time again. In fact, the news has very little impact on the direction of stocks. The closest the collectively captured media has come to admitting this, currently, is by calling it a “managed” market. It’s fixed due to its structure. It’s a specialist monopoly, the market-maker oligopoly. The fact these entities are not regulated, but regulate themselves, have had enforcement actions brought against them by various bodies. And that’s gone a long way to shed light on how fixed it all is. You see, the Wall Street Establishment will use the news when appropriate to their inventory concerns. Believe me, there was no panic on the inside.

jc: Are these day-traders skewing the bell curve? Simply because what is considered normal swings in the numbers by pros, and these crazed fuckers are sitting online and watching it as if it was the end of the planet, without giving it a chance to fluctuate.

DG: Absolutely not. The addition of the day-traders & the online investing community in general, have dramatically enhanced the profits of the organized crime ring that is today’s stock market. I know hundreds of these hedge fund managers who have seen their take rise 5-fold over last year, with no change in strategy or tactics. This is due to the addition of unsuspecting, innocent individual investors, affectionately known as “dumb money,” by these crooks.

jc: Dumb money?

DG: “Dumb money” is a pejorative term used to describe the individual investor. If you’re not inside, you’re outside. “Dumb” is not aware; not privy to important info. Unequal dissemination of market news creates “dumb money.”

jc: This is tantamount to a fixed poker game with the drunken suckers loaded with fresh bills and playing the willing possum?

DG: Willing possum?

jc: Someone who jumps into a poker game with a lot of cash, not particularly knowing anything about how to win money. They’re just in for the thrill. Maybe they don’t know they’re going to get fleeced, but, hey, what the fuck?

DG: Exactly! But technology has already revealed many of the inequities in the stock market, and it will eventually lay waste to these criminals.

jc: And who exactly are the criminals?

DG: The entire structure. Anyone involved with Wall Street is a criminal because they are playing in a system designed to take advantage of the individual investor.

jc: Is the .com stock, predominant in Nasdaq, fool’s gold, or will it keep sailing?

DG: The Federal Reserve’s loose money policy, buoyed with economic expansion, should continue to run the markets with Nasdaq moving higher. Remember, this index is a market-capitilization index, which means that the larger stocks have more of an impact on its movement. For example, several hundred smaller Nasdaq stocks would have to move in order to equal only the move of a Microsoft or Cisco. Basically, it’s a rigged barometer. The Dow, on the other hand, is a price-weighted index, which means the higher priced stocks have a greater affect on the index. That’s another scam, but The Dow contains only 30 issues. Whereas the Nasdaq holds 5,100 stocks.

jc: Are the drastic shifts of Tuesday, 4/3 a frightening harbinger for the market boom?

DG: The past two days will have zero effect. This movement occurred now because it’s the beginning of the second quarter, and the positions of the big boys have not been fortified yet. This allows them much leeway to whipsaw prices around.

jc: So, is playing the market today any more of a risk than it was ten years ago, or even a few years ago when the Internet did not have such a monumental effect? Unless, of course, you don’t think it has had the effect we’re told it has.

DG: Absolutely it is more dangerous, for the reasons I’ve mentioned. Now that individual investors have more access, the game is made much harder, by making it much less predictable. This is why several hedge funds have gone tits up.

jc: Why would anyone consider putting hard-earned cash into this grinder?

DG: Greed & fear.

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Guns In America – Political satirist, James Campion dissects gun control.

Aquarian Weekly 4/5/00 REALITY CHECK

GUNS IN AMERICA: POP GOES HISTORY

“And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand.” – Genesis 4:11

Western civilization uses a tome known as the Holy Bible to define its structure. This collection of tales, truths, and mayhem is well known for a great deal of events, not the least of which is murder. The first one takes place in the pages of Genesis where a man by the name of Cain rubs out his brother Abel. Nowhere in the telling does a gun come into play.

However, some 4,000 or so years later the job can be done much quicker with the use of one. And now that humans of all ages have taken to party with such tools of death in the land of the free and home of the brave, it has come to the attention of the courts and one prominent gun manufacturer that something radical must be done.

Jefferson was afraid of the people he governed. Why wouldn’t he be? He handed them a document of wild freedom built on the backs of loonies and drunks who ran ragged from the tightly wound culture of England to a whooping barn-dance of ambiguous laws.

Chagrin of the National Rifle Association and its intellectually stunted mouth pieces aside, a hellfire of backlash led to Smith & Wesson being the first manufacturer of firearms to agree to child safety locks. This is considered a controversial act of insurrection and surrender, and the kind of shock and debate resulting from it, speaks to humanity’s inability to admit that it is the only species on earth that massacres its own at the drop of a hat.

This is, after all, a country built on two key elements; anger and violence. In fairness to the birth of the United States of America, most republics are born this way. Citizens of Europe migrated here to escape law, taxes, and the status quo. When the status quo leaned hard, the vagabond infantry beat them back with the time honored tradition of savage warfare. When the King’s Army was defeated, a new element crept in: fear.

Thus explaining why the same guns that produced freedom became an integral part of holding on to it.

So in 1787, four years after the last British soldier staggered back to the mother country, the sweaty few intellectual land barons and statesmen crowded into a room in Philadelphia and made damn sure no one would take those precious freedom tools away. Three years later the Constitution of the United States included a 2nd amendment to Thomas Jefferson’s document: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

It stated loud, but not so clear. For 15 years later in his sixth annual presidential message, its author issued another rather cryptic statement: “The criminal attempts of private individuals to decide for their country the question of peace or war, by commencing active and unauthorized hostilities, should be promptly and efficaciously suppressed.”

You see, from a place of authority the hunter becomes the hunted, and sparing no pun, this is where the tale gets sticky.

Jefferson was afraid of the people he governed. Why wouldn’t he be? He handed them a document of wild freedom built on the backs of loonies and drunks who ran ragged from the tightly wound culture of England to a whooping barn-dance of ambiguous laws. Then he turned around and bought a huge chunk of land from the French at dirt cheap, where this crazed musket-toting gaggle set up shop and began murdering one another for as little as ten feet of land.

There was a manic migration due west, replete with the slaughtering of anyone sporting darker skin, a bloody Civil War over the enslaved imports with even darker skin, assassinations, coups, riots, demented children picking off tourists from clock towers, the Black Panthers, the Hell’s Angels, Bernard Goetz, Mark David Chapman, Waco dissidents, and exploding federal buildings. Then, at the end of what was deemed the American century, two lost mutants with daddy’s uzi’s and an Internet arsenal walked into school and laid down some misery.

Throughout the madness the federal government has added over 20,000 gun laws to its books. In most cases they were innocuous, based solely on the fact that individual states are responsible for enacting them, even in the most dire situations. This has made those in charge a mite worried. Jefferson’s reticence not withstanding, the amount of violence in the American heart has increased with nauseating speed.

Somewhere in the midst of this sordid history arose the NRA, formed ostensibly to “provide firearms training and encourage interest in the shooting sports.” Incorporated in 1871, and now grown to over three million, it is the haven for those clinging to the notion that as long as people have a blood lust and an ounce of that ol’ “fear and anger” there will be a buck to be made on its most effective tool. And as long as those bucks stay more than solvent, there will be political agenda to formulate.

Like most organizations, the NRA is a joke. The government has enough trouble delivering the mail. Neither has what it takes to exorcise Cain’s demon. That would be our job.

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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.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

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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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Elvis Presley – The Bad, The Sweet And The Boogie – Author James Campion Rates the King’s effect on the 20th century

Summer 7/1996 The 25 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century: #5

ELVIS PRESLEYThe Bad, the Sweet and the Boogie

“Before Elvis,, there was nothing.” -John Lennon

The great irony of the twentieth century is how Americans north of the Mason Dixon Line have viewed their Southern brethren as often comical, less-than-hip hicks, far removed from the cutting-edge cultural hub wrestled so vigorously in cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Yet, in this subtle bread basket of culture, the lines of musical, and consequently, societal challenge have been repeatedly drawn in the generational sands of America. And the man that will forever rise to the top of the legendary pioneers roll call is an ex-trucker from Memphis Tennessee named Elvis Aaron Presley.

Elvis Presley never wrote a published song, designed a stitch of clothing, sculpted a single hair style or invented one dance step; but the man forever known as The King certainly sang, modeled, coifed and hoofed his way to the pinnacle of fame and fortune the world over. Presley was the package: the swooping, greasy pompadour, sneering smile, the slightest shake of his pant leg and an indescribable, godly voice meshed in sweet tones and snarling grit, all added up to arguably the most recognizable personality in the history of pop culture.

Somewhere on the edge of black and white, male and female, young and old, innocence and evil; the skinny kid from nowhere still sits straddling the fence of genre, style and celebrity. With a name for the ages, and a look of an alien creature sent to earth on a twist of fate, Elvis Presley, by his mere presence, changed everything Americans knew or imagined about iconoclasm.

The country bumpkin image of Lil’ Abner, Hee Haw and the mellow world of Andy Griffith has forever defined the South as a vacuous, backward desert of culture and progress. These images usually followed the alarming pictures of a nation dependent on farms and old-fashioned tradition for life-blood. The core battle for civil rights and religious morals seemed to drag well behind what the times, and the rest of America, dictated. But the fact is for decades before and after World War II the warm simplicity of the American South produced nearly all of the country’s original music; Jazz, Country, Folk, and Rock-N-Roll. In towns like New Orleans, Louisiana, Memphis, Tennessee and Mobile, Alabama, simple “county folk” were tearing down the walls of musical expectation and setting the standards by which the rest of the country would copy for evermore.

The South produced Blues originators like Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters, who were laying down the lyrical and musical bedrock for the future of modern music, folk legends like Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, who began to set the mood of the nation to three-chord ballads with a satirical twist, country icons such as Hank Williams, who wrote the Bible of musical musings, fore fathers of Jazz like Louis Armstrong and John Coltraine, who simply created the genre, and the young pistols of rock-n-roll like Buddy Holly and Little Richard, who influenced a billion-dollar legacy that has dominated the world.

When a 20 year-old Elvis Presley wandered into the now-famous Sun Studios, the eventual stable for rock-n-roll originals and now one of the most frequented tourist sights in America, he was not only unaware of the impact his voice, face, and demeanor would have for the future of modern celebrity, he hardly knew if he’d like the results of the visit himself.

It was the spring of 1955, and the affluent winds of modern America were blowing. The first wave of Baby Boomers were ready and willing to spend their daddy’s money on the Next Big Thing. The only son of Vernon Presley, an out-of-work ex-con, and his overly-affectionate, chubby wife, Gladys, Elvis quickly tired of wading through the sludge of poverty and busting his fragile back in the dust bowl of anonymity. All of his teachers, school mates and fellow Sunday gospel singers down at the local church had told him that he possessed a beautiful voice and a certain boyish, naive charm that could settle a song deep within his chest and pour over the ears like the molasses in their cuppards. So, he collected part of his measly weekly earnings driving a delivery truck and decided to record his untrained, lilting voice onto an actual vinyl disc.

Sam Phillips, owner and proprietor of Sun Studios, fancied himself a producer and manager of unknown local acts. His connection with disc jockeys and larger record companies made him a magnet for talented young boys fed up with their dead-end lives. Legend has it that Elvis walked into the waiting arms of fate by pure chance, that he wanted to record a song for his beloved mother’s birthday. But the young budding star knew full well what a stunning maiden performance could bring him, or more precisely, get him; far away for Memphis.

Phillips was mesmerized by the kid’s raw, yet surprisingly, refined talent. Presley’s impeccable punching of the notes, elastic range, and above all, natural ability to sound like a blues-based, old-time-gospel-hour black man, had the old pro’s wheels spinning. The man knew the goods and the dollar sign when he saw it. The very idea of a young, strange-looking white boy who could croon and bark like a country Negro could set the world on its ear and subsequently bridge the racial gap between the struggling, but eminently gifted, black songsters, and the ultra-conservative landscape of post-war America.

Phillips almost immediately set Presley up with three local musicians; guitarist, Scotty Moore, drummer, D.J. Fantanna, and bass player, Bill Black. Between the quartet and Sun’s cramped, muggy studio with its old microphone hanging from the dusty ceiling, they created a sound dripping with jazzy turns, bluesy riffs and biting country-folk drawl. Yet, the music was as new and compelling as the tightly wound figure of angst and rebellion who would eventually bare its name.

Elvis Presley, and his tight, little group, recorded over twenty songs for Mr. Phillips’ tiny Sun Records, went on small tours of the South and appeared on local television and radio shows for the next year. Presley’s impact was immediate and far reaching. Before 1956 was over, he would hook up with the notorious and pompous Colonel Tom Parker, appear on enormously popular variety network television shows including Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan and sign a lucrative contract with the largest record company in America, RCA.

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Elvis Presley was truly an overnight success story of epic proportions,. the American Dream of fortune and fame unchained. Not only was he recognized as the next teeny bopper pin-up boy in the mold of Frank Sinatra, but his uncanny and innate ability to cause a stir through his constant gyrations while singing, coupled with his long, greasy crop of hair and baggy, colorful clothes simultaneously served as a figurehead for the look of the rest of the decade and the early part of the next.

Although he never expected it, Presley became the quintessential figurehead for the evils of music and frivolity in the young, restless hordes of the post-war generation bloated with dreams and time their parents never knew. The strange, hypnotic rhythms of black country blues and the raw sexuality of the performance literally sent shock waves through the core of a patently conservative America. For the first time since WWII, young Americans thumbed their noses at their parents’ beliefs and ideological foundation. All the freedom provided by the country’s post war boom had given the spoiled, wild youth the avenue to search for figures of rebellion. The solid temple of values and tradition, of growing up, working hard and raising a family, gave way to unbridled, unabashed boogie woogie, “feelin’ fine” mantra of the next generation. And standing in the crossfire as the shining symbol of this uncharted path was Elvis Presley.

It mattered little that Presley spent the remainder of his career defending his old-fashioned, God-fearing, momma’s-boy Southern background. The image of the young Elvis; mean and strong, standing in the defiant spotlight was, by definition, the very essence of the American cultural rebellion experience. James Dean, Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis were all heroes, and in some cases, influences on Presley. But they eventually took a back seat to him. Elvis was the product of a brand new wave of popularity and revolution, one he would eventually come to represent as its most royal participant.

Rock-n-roll, this new and exciting musical amalgamation of sped-up blues and raucous country-folk, sweeping the nation from the streets of Cleveland and Detroit to the skyscrapers of New York and Philadelphia, rode the crest of radio and household record players. Unlike movies or even television, any kid could own a transistor radio, spin a 45 record or run down to the local skating rink or sock hop and dance their adolescent troubles away. It was raucous simplicity coming in compact and movable forms, just like the evolving world all around. Not unlike the power and impact of the automobile and fast food, these quick two-minute songs, singing the praises of young love, lost love, and the frustrations of mommy and daddy’s world succinctly set to dance patterns provided the soundtrack for an era, a generation and the genesis of modern American music. All of these points would have been harder to slip into the mainstream, or might not ever existed in quite the same way or reached quite the same number of people, if not for Elvis Presley.

His contemporaries, especially the talent-laden black artists, who invented and authored the anthems of the time, like Chuck Berry and Little Richard, often complain about Presley’s legacy as the King of rock-n-roll. Berry’s bouncy four-bar blues set in different keys, curved in counter rhythms, and laced with searing solos that surrounded the biting and witty lyrics of good times and wild rides has been adopted as the living primer for modern American music. He was the poet of middle class dreams and fears. However, Chuck Berry, with all his shining smiles and cutesy charm was still an aggressive, egotistical black man with a stud-like aggression. His art was far too alien and threatening for lilly white Johnny Blue Jeans or Lucy Curls, who made up the bulk of the record buying public. If Elvis doesn’t smooth the road and chop down the brush of fear and resentment, ignorance and bigotry so prevelant in the mid-1950s’, brilliant artists such as Berry might have floated in relative obscurity, forced to keep his music within the sociatal boundaries of “his own kind.”

By merely being Caucasian, Presley, like an eager salesman, was able to make his noisy stand by sticking his foot in the door before it closed . The black artists and song writers, who penned a great deal of Presley’s hits were lucky he truly loved their work with an unique passion. Instead of stripping the melodies and rawness of their thump and pop, his interpretations exploded from the depths of its meaning. While Pat Boone and Perry Como were busy “whitening” the kick and bellow of their craft, Elvis Presley was doing it justice.

By virtue of his unprecedented rising popularity, the thousands of gold records, millions of dollars in merchandising and image conscious pruning, Elvis Presley stands as the father of all pop stars. Frank Sinatra merely stepped to the beat of the current times, wearing the proper attire of any dapper man of his era. Sinatra fit his world like a glove. Presley looked like someone dropped out of a spaceship. The crossover sexuality of the hot pinks and jet blacks, thin ties, baggy pants and white shoes that would hang from his lithe body like a uniform of peculiarity were the precursor of every pop star who followed him from the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix of the 60s’, to Elton John and David Bowie of the ’70s, to Boy George and Prince of the 80s’, and finally almost every musical figure rounding out the century. Elvis was America’s first male freak– mainstream and macho– yet effeminate and docile. He was the inspiration for a generation of rock stars who took misfit alienation to new levels. Before Elvis there were codes and standards by which unknown acts had to capitulate or be sent back to obscurity. Within months of his explosion on the national scene, Presley became the standard.

He might not have been the century’s only marketable personality, but Elvis Presley was certainly the biggest. His likeness has donned almost every product know to humankind. Toward the end of his short life it was widely understood that Elvis was the most photographed person in history. Even today his face is used to sell more junk the world over than anyone. In an odd way, his image transformed the way celebrities are sold to the public. Today a look or image is imperative to a performer, in most cases more influential than the music itself. For good or bad, Elvis Presley became a legend beyond the reach of his talents. The wave of pretty boys and glamour queens that dominated the record business for the following decades relied heavily on the selling of Elvis.

For all the impact and influence on his time, the future of music and celebrity, Elvis Presley’s star burnt as quickly as it did brightly. By 1959 Elvis was becoming more of a movie star than trend setter or musical force. Within a year he would join the army, followed by the passing of his beloved mother and his doomed marriage to Priscilla. In the process, the young pistol gave way to the savvy, cute Hollywood hunk. He would never again be a significant voice in the landscape of popular music.

By the time Elvis Presley returned to the stage in the mid-60s’, the generation he had borne would be well ensconced in the pop fabric. The Beatles and Bob Dylan had taken the torch of rebellion to another, more intellectual place. They paid homage to his lasting influence by simply admitting that the only motivation for picking up a guitar in the first place and setting their own fates in motion was to simply be the next Elvis.

Had Presley never sung a note he might have still caused a stir, but sing he did. Along with serving as a conduit of musical styles and bridging the chasm between black artists and a hit-dominated record industry, the simple greatness of his original voice puts him at the top of any century list.

Watershed hits such as “Heartbreak Hotel”, “All Shook Up”, “Hound Dog”, “Jailhouse Rock”, and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” were eminately Presley’s from the moment he put his stamp on them. His jagged, bubbly highs and Southern baritone jump from those recordings like spirits from a cauldren. Elvis crooned romantically, then screeched relentlessly; always pouring his heart into the lyric and melody. His blood, sweat and tears are on each and every song he recorded, even those less-recognized for their influence. His range of emotion and excitement speak honestly about the singer. After Elvis, the male vocalist could no longer just sing a song, especially in the new world of rock-n-roll. The “feel” of a performance far out-weighed the perfection of the take.

Moreover, there is a timeless quality to those early songs, and yet they also bring us back to a more innocent age when being wild and free meant that the world was an open book for the young. It was a time when America boomed economically and the rest of the world looked to our shores for support and guidance.

The true measure of Elvis Presley’s impact on society and memory is his indelible link to the expansive decade of the 50s’. All the politicians, inventors and celebrities pale in comparison. Although he was so young, and his time had come later in the decade, Elvis still stands as the defining figure of his time. And his legacy continues to effect and influence the music business today. Every year RCA delivers a new package of his hits, the sound and fury of the performances have a similar ring. Many of today’s artists, even those who write their own material, have learned a thing or two from The King’s passion in expressing the message of a song, and the infinite marriage it holds for its singer.

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100 Favorite Films

100 FAVORITE FILMS(and a few additions)

Bloomed from a discussion started on the way to his 1/1999 nuptials with the demented, but well-meaning members of his wedding party, this list has been discussed, argued and playfully enjoyed over many cups of coffee and mugs of beer from New York to Los Angeles with a series of obsessives and shut-ins. It appears together for the first time for jamescampion.com with commentary from the author. This includes only English speaking films or documentaries, and just like the 100 Favorite Albums List jc reserves the right to edit at anytime due to not only new films, but difficult decisions.

1. The Graduate – 1968The Graduate“I want to be…different.”
A flawless work of art. Buck Henry’s screenplay is a masterpiece of generational apathy leaping into the sexual abyss, while also being damn funny. Director, Mike Nichols, a prolific writer and satirist himself, uses the camera as a window into the psyches of three perfectly cast actors; Dustin Hoffman, Ann Bancroft and Katherine Ross, set to the haunting songs of Paul Simon, and tied together with a memorable quilt of visual montages puncturing at the heart of alienation.

2. Oliver – 1968Oliver!“Consider yourself one of us.”

The first film I ever saw, and saw it often. The songs are fantastic and the choreography is mesmerizing, while also being a very worthy adaptation of Charles Dickens’s moving novel. A tale dominated by rogues and villains played aptly vicious and ironically lovable by Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger, Ron Moody as the venerable Fagin and Oliver Reed as the brooding and murderous Bill Sykes.

3. Annie Hall – 1977Annie Hall“Most of us need the eggs.”

If there is a better artistic example of the American male/female relationship in the latter half of the 20th century, you’d have quite a story. The best, most compact soup-to-nuts production by the genius of Woody Allen rolled into a film. If it wouldn’t be totally maudlin I’d put twenty of his films in here, but everyone needs a turn. Diane Keaton is as good as it gets here.

4. The Sting – 1973 The Sting“But my money’s in there!”

Until “Hannah And Her Sisters” and then years later, “Shakespeare In Love”, the finest of movie scripts. Its plot is flawless, while perfectly capturing the period of desperation and survival that was The Great Depression. Paul Newman and Robert Redford’s best work and a world-class soundtrack. I give my father full credit for not only taking me to see this against my prepubescent will, but for figuring out the dense setup before the sting.

5. The Godfather/Godfather II – 1972/1974The GodfatherThe Godfather Part II“I believe in America.”

If you were to put two films in a timecapsule for purposes of explaining the American dream’s foul underbelly, and the endearingly dark subculture of family life in the growth of the American century, then you’ve come to the right place. There is far too little time and adjectives to describe their beauty, but suffice to say Francis Ford Coppolla’s two-part anxiety-ridden opus coupled with his faith in the brilliant performances of the entire cast, including Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Robert Deniro et al, is a thing to behold.

6. Jaws – 1975Jaws“We need a bigger boat.”

Steven Speilberg has made better films, but none with the concise storytelling and humorous impact of this one. The plot is airtight, if not wonderfully predictable, with its battle between man and nature, but the visual delights buoyed by the film’s fantastic John William’s score and the Hitchcockian subterfuge of the looming villainous shark, make this a perennial thriller. Robert Shaw’s Quint is legendary stuff.

7. The Wizard Of Oz – 1939The Wizard of Oz“There’s no place like home.”

After 60+ years this still stands as the most satisfying fantasy in film history. Musically, it has few peers, and visually it not only dwarfed its time, but still influences generations of set designers and special effects gurus. Frank L. Baum’s novel is still the standard barer for satirical depth, but the film has merit in its splendid morality play, not to mention sporting the finest song ever written, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. Terrific performances and legendary moments, it cannot be left off anyone’s top ten list without denial or serious explanation.

8. Field Of Dreams – 1989Field of Dreams“Hey dad…wanna have a catch?”

Personally, this may be the finest film I ever saw in the theater. It touched me on so many levels it’s hard to say I’ve fully recovered. It is a magnificent story about the faith of oneself to achieve reconciliation and forgiveness in a world bent on keeping those concepts at bay. Simultaneously, it is a fun romp of commentary and fantasy with chilling moments of recognition for anyone who has missed oneself for even a minute. “Hey dad, you wanna have a catch?” is the best line in the history of American cinema.

9. Hannah And Her Sisters – 1986Hannah and Her Sisters“I cannot fathom my own heart.”

Probably Woody Allen’s best humor/drama effort, it is a plot/dialogue masterpiece infused with metaphor and literal imagery for ten more films. Michael Kane is ridiculously good in his roll as a middle-aged, sheepish lovelorn, stammering through an illicit affair on his doting wife (Mia Farrow). Her sisters, played ably neurotic by Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest run the gamut of Allen’s best female character flaws and strengths, while being author/director’s most accomplished of work on the celebration of life.

10. A Clockwork Orange – 1970A Clockwork Orange“I was cured all right.”

One of the few films, if not the only one, that expands, even improves on a significant novel. Eerily crafted in the best Stanely Kubrick style, this futuristic study of violence inside the fragile human spirit, and the way emotions are swept under the societal rug by the cold hand of progress, has never failed to cull the word “disturbing” from a single person I turn onto it. The use of liberally adapted Beethoven music into an eerie score makes this a timeless classic of contemporary satire.

11. American Beauty – 1999American Beauty

12. Sideways -2004

13. E.T. – 1982

14. JFK – 1991

15. Manhattan – 1979

16. Network – 1976

17. Forrest Gump – 1994

18. Magnolia – 1999

19. Planet Of The Apes – 1968

20. Gangs of New York – 2002

21. Monty Python And The Holy Grail – 1979Shakespeare In Love

22. Broadcast News – 1987

23.Shakespeare In Love – 1998

24. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – 2004

25. Do The Right Thing – 1989

26. Goodfellas – 1990Good Fellas

27. Saving Private Ryan – 1998

28. Raging Bull – 1980

29. Night Shift – 1982

30. Schindler’s List – 1993

31. The Great Escape – 1963 Malcolm X

32. Malcolm X – 1992

33. Being John Malkovich – 1999

34. Crimes And Misdermeaners – 1989

35. Elephant – 2003

36. Kelly’s Heroes – 1970Apocalypse Now

37. Immortal Beloved – 1994

38. Apocalypse Now – 1979

39. Pulp Fiction – 1994

40. The Hours – 2002

41. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – 1975One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

42. Barton Fink – 1992

43. Napoleon Dynamite – 2004

44. Modern Romance – 1982

45. Midnight Cowboy – 1969

46. Star Wars – 1977Taxi Driver

47. Lost In America – 1985

48. Taxi Driver – 1976

49. Dummy – 2003

50. Natural Born Killers – 1994

51. The Royal Tenenbaums – 2001

Raising Arizona52. Sweet And Lowdown – 1999

53. Love Actually – 2003

54. Rain Man – 1988

55. Raising Arizona – 1987

56. 2001 A Space Odyssey – 1968

The Virgin Suicides57. Reservoir Dogs – 1992

58. Boogie Nights – 1997

59. The Virgin Suicides – 1999

60. Leaving Las Vegas – 1995

61. Broken Flowers – 2005

The Big Lebowski

62. The Purple Rose of Cairo – 1985

63. The Big Lebowski – 1998

64. World’s Greatest Dad – 2009

65. Dandelion -2005

66. A Very Long Engagement – 2004

My Life Without Me67. My Life Without Me -2003

68. Husbands and Wives – 1992

69. Miracle – 2004

70. Sling Blade – 1996

71. Talk Radio – 1988

My Own Private Idaho72. My Own Private Idaho – 1991

73. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – 1969

74. Around the Bend – 2004

75. Criminal – 2004

76. What the #$*! Do We Know!? – 2004

Hoosiers77. Hoosiers – 1986

78. Party Girl – 1995

79. In The Bedroom – 2001

80. Garden State – 2004

81. Straw Dogs – 1971

Straw Dogs

82. Persopolis – 2007

83. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three – 1974

84. O Brother, Where Art Thou? 2000

85. Brick – 2005

86. Dopamine – 2003

Dopamine

87. Bully – 2001

88. Fargo – 1996

89. Defending Your Life – 1991

90. Grand Canyon – 1991

91. Pieces of April – 2003

Pieces Of April92. Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas – 1998

93. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio – 2005

94. American Splendor – 2003

95. Searching For Bobby Fischer – 1993

96. The Station Agent – 2003

Station Agent97. Rocket Science – 2007

98. Frida – 2002

99. Spiderman – 2002

100. The Dead Girl – 2006

101. Breaking Upwards – 2010

Breaking Upwards102. HappyThankYouMorePlease – 2010

103. An Education – 2009

104. Two Lovers – 2008

105. Elegy – 2008

106. In Bruges – 2008

107. The Trotsky – 2010

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The Future of Comedy By The Numbers – Gonzo author, James Campion dissects underground comedy of late 90s’ local access television.

Genesis Magazine 1/98

PAST IS PRESENT(The Future of Comedy by the Numbers)

The world of comedy television is not unlike several other corners of the entertainment business. From music to radio, commercial literature to Broadway shows, the influence of one amalgamates into the other to form hybrids of unique art to which theme and style begin to fade into several like colors in the wash. However, the origin and destiny of their movements often lie in the darkest corners of America, and develop in the obscurity of a cult world bubbling over with the kind of originality networks could only dream about.

Today, a large portion of the comedy seed is grown in the garden of local and public access television, where the fantasy guffaw of Wayne’s World comes alive nightly throughout the fruited plain. Starving entertainers fill the free air space with the bizarre slant of life that longs to leap out of their heads. In the two biggest media sponges this country has to offer, New York and Los Angeles, the irreverent and the wise-cracking emerge from literally nowhere to gain notoriety.

Two classic examples of the type of programming that may seem frightening to network executives now, but will probably be the flavor of the 21st century are West L.A. Cable’s Colin’s Sleazy Friends and Time Warner Cable of Manhattan’s Exactly 29 Minutes.

Back in 1992, Colin Malone, a struggling stand-up comic, and his friend, Dino Everett, were two young men bored out of their minds working at a video store in L.A. when they decided to cause a ruckus talking about their bizarre personal lives on a half-hour television program of their own devise. The idea began with barely a whimper, then Malone decided to invite porn star, Ron Jeremy with the promise of a free lunch, and Colin’s Sleazy Friends was born. Five years, and a host of porn guests later, the show is one of the most talked about in Southern California, and now with the help of the True Blue Network, and satellite television, it is potentially viewed by millions.

“I’m the most famous poor guy in America, ” Malone laughs today. Every Wednesday at midnight on Channel 3 out of West L.A., a time slot which enables the twisted duo to steal from the Leno/Letterman channel surfers, the show pushes the obscenity envelope with X-Rated film clips and scantily clad porn actresses discussing the inner workings of the genre. But it isn’t just about smut for Malone. “It’s really a comedy show,” he says. “But we’re getting a lot of crap from the cable companies who try and force the obscenity issue.”

Malone, a sloppy, corpulent, long-haired slick talker with a rabid personality and keen sense of audience seduction, has built a mini-entertainment empire. Now mainstream celebrities Drew Carey and Jeanene Garafilo join cutting edge music acts like Danzig and Insane Clown Posse in calling themselves sleazy friends. “We’re hot right now,” Malone notes proudly. “Almost everywhere fans are having these ‘Colin Parties’ and I’ve already taken meetings with people from Fox to HBO.” Malone has even parlayed his infamy into a cameo on an upcoming episode of the number one sitcom on television, Seinfeld.

Exactly 29 Minutes, although no less inventive and determined, is on the other end of the popularity totem pole. Producer, writer, and head nut-case, Al Quagliata’s monthly character-driven romp through themes such as flem, masturbation, and old security guards whining about “the good old days” has been seen in New York homes from Manhattan to Westchester since the mid-80s’. Originally titled Zodiacs, Maniacs, & Just Plain Yaks, the half-hour sketch show has taken a page from the Monty Python-Second City style of featuring bit players willing to take on any character and attack subject.

“The show is a great source of exposure for my other work as an actor and stand-up comic,” says the 32 year-old Quagliata, who sites the late-great, Ernie Kovacks as his main influence. “But although we’re proud of the work we’ve done, dealing with cable outlets and bicycling the tapes all over becomes far too much work.”

Sometimes huge national fame and fortune is not the only legacy for the talented and ignored. Long before there was such a thing as local access, in fact, before cable became a household necessity and satirical comedy sketch shows ruled airwaves, a New Jersey native by the name of Floyd Vivino decided to branch out from his burlesque comedy roots and parody kiddie show format with his wild and wholly entertaining Uncle Floyd Show. Vivino and a cast of crazies worked, as he describes, “like animals” taping five straight hours weekly; sometimes in the middle of the night in order to fill a daily one-hour show packed with music, laughter, and mostly mayhem. “After awhile we realized the kids hated me, ” Uncle Floyd says today. kids, “They were frightened of us, but the adults and the older the college kids, they loved us.”

The Uncle Floyd Show was a pioneering effort in the world of local television. Vivino and his cast rented studio time and air-brokered space on channel 68 out of Newark. “I hate the word local access, ” he says. “We were professional all the way. Booked the time, brokered the space, and sold the time. We did it all.” It’s live to tape format with people screaming off camera and flubbing lines has now become a familiar staple on Saturday Night Live, Mad TV, and even wacky morning radio shows. Hip rock acts like the Ramones and David Johanson along with up-and-comers like Cindy Lauper and Bon Jovi frequented the tiny studio. “We had no idea that we were influencing a whole comedy generation,” Vivino says.”We were just trying to survive.”

Not only did it survive, but when it was all done The Uncle Floyd Show produced 6,000 programs of which only 300 still exist. “The people.at Shaneckie Video found about 84 shows from 980 that they’ve released regionally in two volumes,” Vivino, whose brother, Jerry plays in Conan O’Brien’s Max Weinberh Seven Band, delightfully announces, while remembering what it was like in those chatoic days of near banckruptcy and abuse from his detractors. “At least it was fun,” he chuckles. “It was always fun.”

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