Last Temptation Of Obama

Aquarian Weekly 8/26/09 REALITY CHECK

LAST TEMPTATION OF OBAMA Joe Cool Must Rally To Save Progressive Movement

It is pointless to argue that George W. Bush all-but destroyed the conservative movement, while ironically, in more ways than a little, failed to resemble or embody any of the true aspects of conservatism. His lunatic federal spending, ill-conceived and badly executed nation building, and most strikingly, an almost hippie-fueled freedom-around-the-world meddling was distinctly progressive and at times downright liberal; the final straw being his $400 billion Medicare Barack ObamaPrescription Drug Modernization Act, which will doubtless bankrupt the system, not to mention simultaneously signing into law the recently dubbed “Death Panel” quotient. His government’s behavior in the controversial but wholly private Terry Shivo case sealed the deal. Under Bush, the federal government became a massive, invasive, insufficient mess; all the fears of the original and less religiously baked and corporate lapping conservatives of yore. Yet so-called conservatives defended Captain Shoo-In all the way through, trading in their fragile ideologies for a slice of the power pie.

Now it is the progressives turn. Handed the entirety of the government and the majority of the public’s trust in two consecutive ass-stomping elections, and the hiring of the first African-American as chief executive, they are faced with choosing between the purity of their ideological faith or staying in charge. This faith was squarely laid on the shoulders of a Democratic Party, which handed over the reigns to the party’s liberal wing last November just as Republicans handed a powerful voice to the right wing in the autumn of 1980, when their holy patriarch, Ronald Reagan landed the final blow of a century-old conservative push.

Barack Obama is, as stated more than once in this space for over a year, the yin to Reagan’s yang. He understands this better than most, having put his liberal-cred on the line during the primary campaign by quoting Reagan copiously at rallies and giving network interviews that conspicuously skipped the impact of the Clinton era while heaping praise on the totality of Reagan’s political reach.

Thus, the president went into this thing with eyes wide open, and should now realize that the man he sold the progressive liberals and the majority of the nation’s Independents with chants of Change and Yes We Can is now on trial — in the halls of governance and the Main Street he loved courting so.

It is Go Time for Joe Cool, the man who did not listen to crazed pundits when they prodded him to go ugly on the Clinton Machine or get tough on the weak McCain/ Palin rhetoric over months of campaigning. The vaunted Obama Syndicate, which bested all comers and stayed above the fray during racial nastiness and mud-slinging hoo-hah has to emerge soon, or not only will his legacy be in jeopardy, but the significance of his entire presidency and the last stand of true progressive politics in America.

It is an enviable quest, whether agreed upon or feared, for it is the determinate of what leadership means. And isn’t that the deal you run on, raise all that money and have every fiber of your being vetted ’til Tuesday to achieve. It comes with the gig, and the gig has suddenly challenged what Obamamania stood for, not some political ploy, but a very real and inspiring movement.

The August stand-off on National Healthcare, the continued struggle for energy reform and the pogrom on the rich and all-things corporate has turned the new president’s first significant challenge into his Gettysburg; notwithstanding the moronic notion that this is his Waterloo as recently proffered by sub-mentals whose laughable grasp of history is on display every time some nitwit minimizes the horrors of Adolf Hitler by portraying or referring to the president of the United States to humanity’s most celebrated monster. It was imbecilic when the anti-war movement did it to the last guy, and it is equally so now.

This space offers Gettysburg as the perfect wartime analogy, seeing how Napoleon’s last stand at Waterloo implies a lengthy run of victories and unquestioned power coming to an ignominious end over a seminal moment when what appeared to be an unstoppable Union force had to prove on the battlefield and not on the statistical sheet it was to either crush the rebellion or slowly be bled dry.

But a shameful lack of historic perspective aside, the next few weeks will likely render a verdict on liberalism and its always-entertaining off-shoot, progressivism. And this is not merely because Barack Obama is the most progressive president perhaps ever, but because not since The New Deal or The Great Society has this country been faced with such a severe legislative shift in the role of the federal government over the private sector. And like the previous two massive shifts, this one has been at the very least agreed upon by both major parties: There is a problem with our healthcare system and it is time for some type of energy reform. The debate rages on as to the length and breadth of the government’s, and let that read the taxpayers’ level of responsibility therein.

For his part and to his credit, the president has taken to the streets like none other in my lifetime; engaging direct dialogue with the citizenry on the healthcare issue specifically. And although this has helped frame his enthusiasm, it has met with mixed results, merely because no one pushing the legislation can clearly define its more detailed pratfalls, sacrifices, or benefits, as laid out in perfect bureaucratic banality over 1,000 pages. Generalities and axioms have not taken hold, nor should they, for generations have understood that once the toothpaste is out of the tube in large government programs there is no putting it back.

Due to the occasional ferocious public pushback and more importantly a Republican contingent in the senate that is emboldened by the groundswell, the president is already beginning to sway from ideology to politics, miffing those on the far left like Howard Dean, who from the periphery try and hold Obama’s feet to the fire. Then comes more rumblings from the House that there could be two bills, following in the public relations, “Insurance Reform vs. Public Option” the president has leaned on in weaker moments.

There is already a sense on the Right that the white flags are beginning to be unfurled, and to a certain extent, they are, as long as this progressive president tries to both govern and chase the two-party unity tag, at best a pipedream worthy of a man banging his head on the unyielding healthcare wall.

It is an enviable quest, whether agreed upon or feared, for it is the determinate of what leadership means. And isn’t that the deal you run on, raise all that money and have every fiber of your being vetted ’til Tuesday to achieve. It comes with the gig, and the gig has suddenly challenged what Obamamania stood for, not some political ploy, but a very real and inspiring movement.

And that is as much at stake now for progressivism as the supply-side, less-government, Shining City On The Hill rallying cry was for conservatism in 1981, not long after the Reagan Victory became the Reagan Myth as the 40th president of the United States, faced with a crippling recession and an alarming spike in the national deficit, unilaterally rolled back his famous tax cuts one by one, until he was forced to repeatedly raise taxes across two terms. But the myth lives, like the myth that The New Deal without an ensuing world conflict was a rousing success in saving a nation plunged into a Depression by the same drunken spasms of greed we too paid dearly for these past months.

A presidency and his ideology on the line.

Go time.

 

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Un-American Again?

Aquarian Weekly 8/19/09 REALITY CHECK

“UN-AMERICAN” IS UN-AMERICAN

Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. – ‘Un-American’ Attacks Can’t Derail Health Care Debate Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer

There is stupid, insipidly moronic, and then there is the above.

Mob In what can best be described as a barely masticated brain poof, the Speaker of The House and its Majority Leader decided it would be a good idea to deftly illustrate how arguments can be utterly bereft of reason while simultaneously driving home the point of their opponents. If nothing else, it is a miraculous feat. Not sure it gets us any closer to supporting Universal Healthcare, but nonetheless…

If there has ever been a point to America it is to drown out opposing views. It fueled the Declaration of Independence, sparked a revolution, erected a constitution and inspired a series of amendments, motivated generations to expand the borders, crushed the secession of the South, supplanted the human condition with industry, and invaded nearly every hemisphere on the planet.

However, it is now official that no matter what bleating dink is in charge of this government of ours, there seems to be this prevailing thought that if you’re not on board with the agenda, you are un-American.

No, I’m sorry; “simply un-American”.

Here’s some simple American for ya:

FUCK Nancy Pelosi and FUCK Steny Hoyer and FUCK any lame motherfucker who tells me I’m un-American for writing it.

By the way, the CAPS were a visual illustration of “drowning out”. Apparently the “F” word was not sufficient enough.

Drowning out opposing views has freed slaves, given women the right to vote and control their bodies, and toppled more than a few foreign despots. Almost every inch of progress achieved for good or ill, depending upon point of view, began with “drowning out an opposing view”.

What I can only guess Ms. Pelosi and her sidekick meant was the “denial of opposing views”. That would be a plausible description of un-American, but “drowning out opposing views” is the very essence of America. There is no America or democracy or really any structured society without it. And, ironically, “drowning out opposing views” pretty much defines what this fancy USA Today op ed faux pas is trying to accomplish.

Here’s another doozy from the goon squad: “These disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves.”

Did the recession drain the entire proofing department at USA Today?

Yes, people who oppose views are usually frightened by the facts behind them. This is why they oppose them. Also, the use of “facts” here is dicey. The rancor about Healthcare is merely speculation; no one, whether opposing or supporting the concept, has a goddamned clue of how it will play out. This is made painfully obvious by the continued lunacy coming from both sides, whether it’s “Death Panels” or “Curtailing Insurance Company Greed”. Finally, the use of “disruption” is downright insulting. Would Ms. Pelosi call those who opposed the Iraq War “disrupters”? I doubt it, since she counted herself one.

Would Ms. Pelosi call those who opposed the Iraq War “disrupters”? I doubt it, since she counted herself one.

One more key question for our House Speaker: What is the difference between Dick Cheney’s two-dimensional bunker mentality against dissent and this crap? The most disturbing aspect of the Pelosi/Hoyer drivel is that it feeds into the long-running fears Americans have about their legislative branch, whether it is Republican senators making infantile anti-Healthcare arguments with cartoon placards of bunny rabbits or red-faced Democrats acting as if people screaming at public forums constitutes “mob mentality”.

To wit: “Tactics have included hanging in effigy one Democratic member of Congress in Maryland and protesters holding a sign displaying a tombstone with the name of another congressman in Texas, where protesters also shouted ‘Just say no!’ drowning out those who wanted to hold a substantive discussion.”

I argue that visual aids and chants are fine examples of “substantive discussion”, but maybe you don’t. Okay. But this does not make you un-American. Perhaps it suggests you need to get laid, sip a beer, read a little Blake, turn up the volume on Ray Charles and get to shaking yo ass, but to each is own.

But hell, “Un-American” worked like gangbusters for Republicans during the months and years following 9/11, through all the goofy machinations and laughable screw-ups masked as patriotism, so why not? Just throw it out there, like the opposition currently throws out killing grandmothers, Nazis, tyranny, and rationed care to spin the tide. And this is all very American, and quite educational; unlike someone claiming that crazy innuendo and bombastic fear mongering are hidden plots to warp the electorate. Get over yourself; we have talk radio for that.

Of course behind all this posturing is a Democratic Party on its heels with the decades-old Healthcare debate, as it has once again plunged into a quagmire of bureaucratic nonsense, followed predictably by harebrained panic-speak. You’d think by now professional civil servants would recognize the telltale signs. They might even recall similar tactics employed when the last president tried to privatize Social Security, another American institution the citizenry believes is doomed but gets nuts when you try and restructure, just like Healthcare or the College Football Bowl system.

What is this, the fourth, fifth, twentieth, thousandth crack at this? You have to give them credit for what many would describe as the very definition of insanity — attempting the same failed maneuver time and again and expecting victory. But even George W. would have been hard-pressed to write something as completely irrational as Pelosi, which should give Sarah Palin supporters hope.

Speaking of idiocy, White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel recently told the NY Times, “Do not associate loud with effective”, which is hilarious when considering the source. Emanuel would be delivering sub sandwiches around the Southside of Chicago without his brilliant use of the “loud as effective” template.

I haven’t boned up on my Machiavelli lately, but I feel pretty confident that it isn’t too cool for populists to be mocking the populace. This is a fair tack for a Right Wing “The public doesn’t know what’s good for it” play, but the Democrats, who posit themselves as “Saving the people from themselves” would be better served with more coddling and less sarcasm.

At the very least the party shouldn’t unleash people with questionable debating skills and at best sub par literary abilities to front what the president of the United States has repeatedly called the most important piece of legislation of his young administration.

Why doesn’t the new guy just go the route of the last cabal and ignore everyone and do whatever the hell he wants. He has the votes. He has the “political capital”. Enough with these people expecting everyone to love them. Get on with it, and then history will decide what works and what doesn’t.

Annoying. Defiant. Reactionary.

Very American.

 

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Tori Amos Interview

Aquarian Weekly 8/12/09 BUZZ

Tori Amos Interview
Unedited Transcript 
Conducted from The Desk at the Clemens Estate to Orlando, Fla. 7/28/09

Tori Amos: Hi, James!

jc: How’re you doing, Tori?

I’m doing very well.

I guess I should start off with personally thanking you for Little Earthquakes, because back in the winter of ’95 it really, really helped me finish the manuscript for my first published book. The thing ran incessantly in the background and provided much-needed motivation, so thanks.

Tori AmosOh, good. How’s the writing going?

Um, always tedious, but it just keeps comin’. You can’t keep those words back as Bukowski used to say.

Isn’t that exciting, though. You’ve tapped in, James. (laughs)

So have you.

Look, nobody talks about this. I hear a lot from artists, the idea of a writer’s block, and sometimes I think you can really get into a paranoid place about that. Creation, as you know, is always there. It’s always there for any of us that just want to surrender to it. If you can admit that it’s just not you who’s doing the creating, then it’s there for us all the time.

I’m always after the muse, you know.

Yes.

(sighs) And hopefully she’s always paying attention.

(laughs) It sounds like she is with you, if you’re able to just keep writing those words. I can’t stop it. I find that the creation is control, and when it demands that I show up – it could be in the middle of a movie or a nice evening with the husband, where I might be getting somewhere – and all of a sudden muse walks in, grabs me by the throat, (whispers) “Pay attention.”

That’s actually my first question: How is the tour going, and can you create, can you escape to continue to create and be yourself, when you have so many of these things – interviews and you have to be on planes and in and out of hotels and performing – can you escape and be Tori every once in awhile?

Uh, being Tori…, you see, it’s not segregated anymore. Tash said the other day (chuckles), “Mummy, you rock.” Just about something silly, you know? I got her something cute, and dad looks at her and says, “Well, that’s an actual true statement, you’re mom rocks.” (Laughs) And so the thing is we travel as a family, and this is our life. People have said to Tash, you know, when they’re meeting her and they don’t understand the creature, they will say, “So when do you get back to your real life.” She’ll look and say, “Do you think this is a joke, then?”

It’s funny, a friend recently reminded me when she heard I was going to be doing this interview, that you call your songs “Your Girls”, and now you have a girl and it’s weird, the balance of that.

Yeah, I mean, Tash has asked me before; “Do you love me as much as your piano?” or “Do you love me as much as your song girls?” And I say, “Uh, Tasha, I love you more than anything in the whole world”, because the mom in me is going to step in at that moment, but the truth is James, you can’t…there are no comparisons. Tash is a physical being and this is ether, and they’re immortal; the songs, they’re not trapped inside human emotions and all that. So in my mind, the way I see it is that the mother, the composer, the performer… this is not a job to me. When I do interviews, I try and put my head space as in there’s an opportunity to have conversations with people. When you start seeing things as a job, then you start responding with a job consciousness as opposed to “I’m a creator who has an opportunity to create and live my life.”

Getting to the “eternal ether” of which you speak, I’d like to move onto the new record, Abnormally Attracted To Sin. I found it replete with strong mythic metaphors; this idea of defining evil or specifically iniquity, which I know has informed your past work – but could you talk about the subjective defining of Sin as a theme in these new songs?

Well…… (Laughs)

(Laughs)

Once I realized, once I really thought about it; the church authority, the early fathers of the Christian church, I started to think about how clever they had been, because as I’ve traveled, the one thing that comes up all the time with women, is the segregation of the sexual and spiritual. Women can step into these different energies, but rarely are they together, and in order to get off or get excited and feel sexy, a lot of them have to step into a cliché picture of porno, instead of being in control and allowing the moment to take over them. If that makes any sense, don’t you see then the whole porno aspect, where women will say “Well, I’m liberated, I can do whatever I want with my body”, but in order to get off a lot of them have to pervert what could be a spiritual man. What’s sexier than touching your twin flame? But, don’t you see, it’s kind of been put in a holy space, so that women turn to what I would say is perversion and negativity in order to get off. And I think that this is all connected to sin, and the definition that was programmed and passed down by the early church fathers. So you couldn’t win, don’t you see? If you step into the bad girl you’re never going to achieve transformation, just orgasm. And if you’re spiritual, you’re not going to get transformation either, because you’re disconnected from the body.

“Women haven’t had a template. It’s not as if we’ve been taught, in the West particularly, throughout the Christian world, how to be whole and complete women. You’re taught to pick different aspects of this.”

That brings me to a couple of points, and I’m reminded of an interview you did a few years ago on the subject of the subjugation of women in the early church while I was researching a book on the historical Jesus. This was in the mid-nineties actually. I was in Israel visiting the town of Magdala, which was the town of the New Testament’s Mary of Magdala, later translated as Mary Magdalene, often seen as a woman of ill repute and wrongly depicted in church parlance as a prostitute. Actually, or historically, she was a mainstay in the early Christian movement, or the Jesus Movement, which I call it in the book, and conspicuous in its absence is not one church or plaque or remembrance in the birth town of this Mary Magdalene. This, I think, speaks to that subjugation of women, not only spiritually and sexually, but literally and historically.

Yes, and then, later, once the movement was taken over by what became the Catholic Church, then, as you well know, Jesus’ message was merely a jumping off point to their own messages. And their messages became shame, that the body wasn’t holy, it was dirty and all these things. The truth, that I thought, that I felt Mary Magdalene was telling us was about integration, that she was a prophet. And if you and I go back to the great goddess culture of these women, they were whole. A lot of these women from ancient Egypt…

Isis.

Yeah, they were complete beings. They weren’t just only sexual or only spiritual, and I think women haven’t had a template. It’s not as if we’ve been taught, in the West particularly, through the Christian world, we’re certainly not taught through Christianity how to be whole and complete women. You’re taught to pick different aspects of this. And this is why so many women who are respected go have these affairs and might start dancing on the street or on a poll, (laughs) because they haven’t been able to figure out how to liberate the passionate self. And the title of the record is so important, James, because it really asks you to define; “What are you attracted to?” And once you start knowing what you’re attracted to, until you really can look at what it is, and just talking to women, some of them are appalled and shocked at what they’re attracted to. Some of them have been attracted to men that don’t respect them at all. My God! So then don’t you see you have to go into your programming and you really have to reconstruct your main core outward.

That reminds me of something a woman friend of mine said years ago. She was pretty good at chess, but her father was excellent, and she said the problem there is that men are wired to parry and attack, while women are wired to react and protect, to hold back, which is doom speak in the realm of chess. You are preprogrammed not only sexually or spiritually, but also intellectually, instead of choosing to live not on the prospect of fear, but self-empowerment.

That’s right.

So in a way I think this record is attacking the way that sin was seeded and put in the psyche generation after generation. Which brings me to the lyric in Flavor; “Who’s God then is God/ They all want jurisdiction/In the book of Earth/Who’s God spread fear/Spread love.” And there is also the stanza from the title track, “She may be dead to you/But her hips sway a natural kind of faith/And I love the combination of physicality and spirituality there/That could give your lost heart/A warm chapel/You’ll sleep in her bell tower/And you will simply wake ” Which has a Buddhist feel to it. Have you ever heard of Matilda Josyln Gage.

No.

The reason why I ask is your answer speaks to your point. Apparently, she was a latter nineteenth century suffragette who was ostracized by the women’s movement and in particular Susan B. Anthony for her vociferous stance against the church and Christianity at large. The movement subjugated her because the movement could never be ingratiated into American politics on the momentum of an atheist or pagan voice, even though her points justified the very movement she was kicked out of. And in an essay at the time that I believe ended up in one of her later books, she wrote: “Believing this country to be a political and not a religious organisation…the editor of the NATIONAL CITIZEN will use all her influence of voice and pen against ‘Sabbath Laws’, the uses of the ‘Bible in School,’ and pre-eminently against an amendment which shall introduce ‘God in the Constitution.'” In a way she is saying that all of these concepts were set up as a retaining wall to keep women from their constitutional rights, and although it differs slightly to what you’ve been saying, I thought about Gage and this quote upon hearing much of Abnormally Attracted To Sin.

Tori AmosWell it’s funny that you bring this up, because number one, I’m playing the Daughters Of The American Revolution, in Washington – DAR Constitution Hall. (sighs) The thing is, James, yes, things have changed in many ways, but you probably know how corporations are rife with a Right Wing Christian kind of leaning. And that this is not just an isolated situation I’m talking about, but across the country there’s a movement that is really about subjugating women on every level. It’s everywhere. And yes, there are corporations that are thinking more like you and I, and there are those people as well, but the fact is that in the twenty-first century there are corporations that are driven by a belief system! So the separation of church and state is a concept that is not necessarily a reality in our country at all. And I’ve had to go up against it as well; nothing like this woman, mainly because of the Internet, where I could get to the people without…(pauses) Without the Internet I’m not sure I’d be on my tenth album right now quite frankly, because the Internet came as corporations were clogging where I stood. And I was very vocal about the emancipation of all people, not just women from this tyrannical faith system that is not Jesus’ teaching. So, yeah, I’ve had to combat some pretty dark forces. And without the Internet I don’t think that I would have been able to do it, because I went directly to the people.

Working outside of the system that is set up against free thought or free expression?

That’s right. But if we didn’t have the Internet we couldn’t work outside the system. Not like we are.

Sure, and that speaks to the self-empowerment issue as well. One last question about the record, there is quite a bit of prose, almost dialogue, specifically “Welcome To England”, “Not Dying Today”, “Maybe California” – which has a gorgeous melody, by the way – this sort of almost Allen Ginsberg, Beat poetry thing. And I understand there is an accompanying DVD with the record that has videos for nearly ever song. So I’ll assume you saw a cinematic aspect to the songs that could be more direct or succinct visually than audibly?

Well, honestly, I think the audio lives on its own, as you’re talking about it. There are conversations happening. It’s a very intimate record in a lot of ways, because we’re looking in on these conversations this woman is having and what’s going on in her mind, and the deepest feelings of her heart. So I don’t think it needed visuals, necessarily, but when I saw Christian Lamb’s montages I thought of silent movies and I thought of stories being told, but I wanted the visuals to be abstract not literal. And he doesn’t work that way, so when I saw them I thought, “This is the tenth album and I want to give something sort of, I don’t know, it’s a double-digit anniversary number, I want to give something that is a little gift,” and I was really moved by his montage work.

“When you start seeing things as a job, then you start responding with a job consciousness as opposed to ‘I’m a creator who has an opportunity to create and live my life.'”

So you were inspired in that direction, which makes sense, again I find many of the songs cinematic, especially Mary Jane, which has now become my favorite drug song of all time. (laughs) There’s a Kurt Weill style that the song musically has, not sure if you agree with this, but it has that German, nihilistic sound, just as the playful lyric works against it nicely. I know you didn’t do a film for that, but it recalls an old, visual kind of play.

Oh, I’m so happy! You just made my day!

Oh, I did. Okay, good. (laughs)

(laughs)

It doesn’t have a film, because really to do that film justice, you know, I… I understand. Say no more. Yeah. But you were thinking in terms of Kurt Weill? Because it screams it to me.

Oh, yeah.

Okay, (laughs) That’s wonderful. This has been a treat for me. I do have two quick final questions from fans that I promised to ask – they have to know, because they’re huge fans. The first one is have you been playing covers on this tour, and if so, which ones and why?

Yeah, we’re doing a lot of covers, meaning there’s one a night, just because it fits into what we’re doing. I have a Lizard Lounge section. So it might show up there. Sometimes if it’s raucous it might show up somewhere else. I enjoy doing them. It’s also fits very well in the live format, especially if I don’t repeat the covers that it kind of tailors that show special for them.

That makes sense. And this next question I was thinking of asking myself, if the conversation veered more into the music as opposed to the literary and spiritual aspects of your work, but I know that your proficiency on the piano helped you to stand out among the many women artists that came along in the early nineties. Not only that it’s your style of playing – a facing the audience, more intimate style, and the playing of different keyboards at once. Is that style something that you have always used as a performance vehicle or something you’ve done out of necessity to lend different tonalities to the performance?

Well, all of the above. Once I was playing lounges for so many years, after I had been doing that, and as the records started to get developed and the sounds became more and more, then I thought for me to be able to deliver what I want it to sound like I’d have to include more keyboards on stage, it became…during Choir Girl…I had the harpsichord in Boys For Pele, and after doing that I just realized this is the way to go. So it started with the harpsichord and piano and then it expanded to all kinds of keyboards. In order to have a little orchestra.

Sure, I remember that specifically seeing your show out in Long Island years ago and that was one of the treats of the show. Well, I see we’ve gone a little over our press limit, so I want to thank you for your time, continue to chase that muse and bring her in and best of luck on the rest of the tour.

Hey James, will you let somebody know what book I can read, what you’re working on.

Oh, thank you for asking. Do you have somewhere I can send my books?

I’ll give you Barry and he’ll give you Chelsea’s address or he’ll e-mail you. Is that okay?

And I’ll send down some required reading for Gage, because she’s someone I think you’ll really enjoy.

Oh, yeah, could you do that? You’re the best mind I’ve talked to …ever! (laughs)

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The Sins of Tori Amos

Aquarian Weekly 8/12/09 BUZZ

IMPECCABLE PECCADILLOES
Tori Amos Defies The Sins of Sexual, Religious & Corporate Segregation

Tori Amos“I can’t stop it,” an ebullient Tori Amos whispers over a phone line somewhere on the outskirts of the road. “The muse walks in and grabs me by the throat, and demands, ‘Pay attention!’ – it could be in the middle of a movie or a nice evening with the husband, where I might be getting somewhere.…” Snickering playfully, she hesitates, exhales ardently, and simply confides, “Creation is in control.”

Amos, who once told the Chicago Tribune that her life was overrun by these “beings”, which she dubbed her songs that come “in and out like fragments”, is never one to ignore their meaning, birthing, and eventual nurturing unto bold statements that liberate her from an entertainment industry usurped by focus-grouped robotics.

“Creation is always there,” she continues, as if desperate to get the word out. “It’s always there for any of us that just want to surrender to it. If you can admit that it’s just not you who’s doing the creating, then it’s there for us all the time.”

Embarking on her first world tour as an independent artist, (she signed a joint-venture with Universal Republic Records late last year) with family in tow, (aforementioned husband, Mark and daughter, Natashya) Amos, who turns 46 this August, has released her tenth studio record, Abnormally Attracted To Sin, a tour de force of disparate musical styles furiously expressing sinister notions of sexual emancipation and spiritual fisticuffs. The tour, the artist blissfully admits, is something between Lounge Lizard and Fire & Brimstone, swings through the NY/NJ area this week with an edge some may expect from the enigmatic pianist cum myth-buster, but this time with perhaps something decidedly deeper.

The show is a reflection of Amos’ new-found escape from the corporate music industry with healthy backslaps at all-things oppressive, as is the balls-out themes broached in her newest razor-sharp collection of songs and throughout our candid discussion.

James Campion: Abnormally Attracted To Sin is replete with strong mythic metaphors; this idea of defining evil or specifically iniquity, which I know has informed your past work – but could you talk about the subjective defining of Sin as a theme in these new songs?

Tori Amos: Well…,once I realized…,once I really thought about how clever the early fathers of the Christian church had been, …because as I’ve traveled the one thing that comes up all the time with women is the segregation of the sexual and spiritual. Women can step into these different energies, but rarely are they together, and in order to get off or get excited and feel sexy, a lot of them have to step into the cliché of porno, instead of being in control and allowing the moment to take over them. Women will say, “Well, I’m liberated, I can do whatever I want with my body”, but in order to get off a lot of them have to pervert what could be a spiritual man. What’s sexier than touching your twin flame? But it’s kind of been put in a holy space, so that women turn to what I would say is perversion and negativity in order to get off. And I think that this is all connected to sin and the definition that was programmed and passed down by the early church fathers. So you couldn’t win; if you step into the bad girl you’re never going to achieve transformation, just orgasm. And if you’re spiritual, you’re not going to get transformation either because you’re disconnected from the body.

I’m reminded of an interview you did a few years ago on the subject of the subjugation of women in the early church while I was researching a book on the historical Jesus. I was in Israel visiting the town of Magdala, which was the town of the New Testament’s Mary of Magdala, later translated as Mary Magdalene, often seen as a woman of ill repute and wrongly depicted in church parlance as a prostitute. In actuality, she was a mainstay in the early Christian movement, or the Jesus Movement, which I call it in the book, and conspicuous in its absence is not one church or plaque or remembrance in the birth town of this Mary Magdalene. This, I think, speaks to that subjugation of women, not only spiritually and sexually, but also literally and historically.

“Women haven’t had a template. It’s not as if we’ve been taught, in the West particularly, throughout the Christian world, how to be whole and complete women. You’re taught to pick different aspects of this.”

Yes, and later once the movement was taken over by what became the Catholic Church, then, as you well know, Jesus’s message was merely a jumping off point for their own message. And their message became shame; that the body wasn’t holy, it was dirty. The truth is I always felt Mary Magdalene was telling us about integration and that she was a prophet. And if you and I go back to the great goddess culture of these women, they were whole. A lot of these women from ancient Egypt….

The symbol of Isis?

Yeah, they were complete beings. They weren’t just only sexual or only spiritual. Women haven’t had a template. It’s not as if we’ve been taught, in the West particularly, throughout the Christian world, how to be whole and complete women. You’re taught to pick different aspects of this. And this is why so many respected women go out and have these affairs and start dancing on the street or on a poll, (laughs) because they haven’t been able to figure out how to liberate the passionate self. And this is why the title of the record is so important, because it really asks you to define; “What are you attracted to?” And once you start knowing what you’re attracted to, until you really can look at what it is, and just talking to women, some of them are appalled and shocked at what they’re attracted to. Some of them have been attracted to men that don’t respect them at all. My God! So then, don’t you see? You have to go into your programming and you really have to reconstruct your main core outward.

That reminds me of something a woman friend of mine said years ago. She was pretty good at chess, but her father was excellent, and she said the problem there is that men are wired to parry and attack, while women are wired to react and protect, to hold back, which is doom speak in the realm of chess. You are pre-programmed not only sexually and spiritually, but also intellectually, instead of choosing to live not on the prospect of fear, but self-empowerment.

That’s right. So in a way I think this record is attacking the way that sin was seeded and put in the psyche, generation after generation.

Which brings me to the lyric in Flavor: “Who’s God then is God/They all want jurisdiction/In the book of Earth/ Who’s God spread fear/ Spread love.” And there is also the stanza from the title track; “She may be dead to you/But her hips sway a natural kind of faith”. And I love the combination of physicality and spirituality here; “That could give your lost heart/A warm chapel/ You’ll sleep in her bell tower/And you will simply wake ” Which has this Buddhist feel to it. I wonder, have you ever heard of Matilda Josyln Gage?

No.

The reason why I ask is your answer speaks to your point. She was a latter nineteenth century suffragette who was ostracized by the women’s movement and in particular Susan B. Anthony for her vociferous stance against the church and Christianity at large. The movement subjugated her because the movement could never be ingratiated into American politics on the momentum of an atheist or pagan voice, even though her points justified the very movement she was kicked out of. And in an essay at the time that I believe ended up in one of her later books, she wrote: “Believing this country to be a political and not a religious organisation…the editor of the NATIONAL CITIZEN will use all her influence of voice and pen against ‘Sabbath Laws’, the uses of the ‘Bible in School,’ and pre-eminently against an amendment which shall introduce ‘God in the Constitution.’In a way she is saying that all of these concepts were set up as a retaining wall to keep women from their constitutional rights, and although it differs slightly to what you’ve been saying, I thought about Gage and this quote upon hearing much of Abnormally Attracted To Sin.

Tori AmosWell it’s funny that you bring this up, because I’ll be playing the Daughters Of The American Revolution in Washington soon at DAR Constitution Hall. (sighs) The thing is, yes, things have changed in many ways, but you probably know how corporations are rife with a Right Wing Christian kind of leaning. And that this is not just an isolated situation I’m talking about, but across the country there’s a movement that is really about subjugating women on every level. It’s everywhere. And yes, there are corporations that are thinking more like you and I, but the fact is that in the twenty-first century there are corporations that are driven by a belief system! So the separation of church and state is a concept that is not necessarily a reality in our country at all. And I’ve had to go up against it as well; nothing like this woman, mainly because of the Internet, where I could get to the people without… (pauses) Without the Internet I’m not sure I’d be on my tenth album right now quite frankly, because the Internet came as corporations were clogging where I stood. And I was very vocal about the emancipation of all people, not just women, from this tyrannical faith system that is not Jesus’ teaching. So, yeah, I’ve had to combat some pretty dark forces. And without the Internet I don’t think that I would have been able to do it, because I got directly to the people.

Working outside of the system that is set up against free thought or free expression?

That’s right. But if we didn’t have the Internet we couldn’t work outside the system. Not like we are.

Sure, and that speaks to the self-empowerment issue as well. One last question about the record, there is quite a bit of prose, almost dialogue, specifically “Welcome To England”, “Not Dying Today”, “Maybe California” – which has a gorgeous melody, by the way – this sort of almost Allen Ginsberg, Beat poetry thing. And I understand there is an accompanying DVD with the record that has videos for nearly ever song. So I’ll assume you saw a cinematic aspect to the songs that could be more direct or succinct visually than audibly?

Well, honestly, I think the audio lives on its own, as you’re talking about it. There are conversations happening. It’s a very intimate record in a lot of ways, because we’re looking in on these conversations this woman is having and what’s going on in her mind, and the deepest feelings of her heart. So I don’t think it needed visuals, necessarily, but when I saw Christian Lamb’s montages I thought of silent movies and I thought of stories being told, but I wanted the visuals to be abstract, not literal. And he doesn’t work literal, so when I saw them I thought, “This is the tenth album and I want to give something sort of, I don’t know, it’s a double-digit anniversary number, I want to give something that is a little gift,” and I was really moved by his montage work.

“When you start seeing things as a job, then you start responding with a job consciousness as opposed to ‘I’m a creator who has an opportunity to create and live my life.'”

So you were inspired in that direction, which makes sense, again I find many of the songs cinematic, especially “Mary Jane”, which has now become my favorite drug song of all time. (laughs) There’s a Kurt Weill style to the song, not sure if you agree with this, but it has that German, nihilistic sound, just as the playful lyric works against it nicely. I know you didn’t do a film for that, but it is theatrical.

Oh, I’m so happy! You just made my day!

Oh, I did. Okay, good. (laughs)

(laughs) It doesn’t have a film, because really to do that film justice, you know…

I understand. Say no more.

Yeah.

But you were thinking in terms of Kurt Weill? Because it screams it to me.

Oh, yeah.

So, how’s the tour going? Can you escape to continue to create and be yourself, when you have so many of these things – interviews and you have to be on planes and in and out of hotels and performing – can you escape and be Tori every once in awhile.

Uh, being Tori…, you see, it’s not segregated anymore. (chuckles), Tash said the other day “Mummy, you rock.” Just about something silly, you know? I got her something cute, and dad looks at her and says, “Well, that’s an actual true statement, you’re mom rocks.”

(Laughs)

And so the thing is we travel as a family, and this is our life. People have said to Tash, you know, when they’re meeting her and they don’t understand the creature, they will say, “So when do you get back to your real life.” She’ll look and say, “Do you think this is a joke, then?”

It’s funny, you call your songs “Your Girls”, and now you have a girl and it’s weird, the balance of that.

Yeah, I mean, Tash has asked me before; “Do you love me as much as your piano?” or “Do you love me as much as your song girls?” And I say, “Uh, Tasha, I love you more than anything in the whole world”, because the mom in me is going to step in at that moment, but the truth is you there are no comparisons. Tash is a physical being and this is ether, and they’re immortal; the songs, they’re not trapped inside human emotions and all that. So in my mind, the way I see it is that the mother, the composer, the performer… this is not a job to me. When I do interviews, I try and put my head space as in there’s an opportunity to have conversations with people. When you start seeing things as a job, then you start responding with a job consciousness as opposed to “I’m a creator who has an opportunity to create and live my life.”

Unedited Transcript of Entire Interview

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Obama Beer Summit Review

Aquarian Weekly 8/5/09 REALITY CHECK

STUPIDLY, STUPIDLY, STUPIDLY… …Life Is But A Dream

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. – 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution

Beer SummitLast week in the final seconds of a nearly one-hour press conference on Healthcare reform the president of the United States commented derisively on a curious case of police activity in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Barack Obama, despite admitting he did not know the hard details of the case but did have a personal relationship with the accused, said the police acted “stupidly”. After a close review of the police report it turns out the president was kind. What the police did to a Mr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. was beyond blunder or misconduct. It was criminal, and when all is said and done should be tried and convicted as such.

The “stupidly” part came afterwards.

The ensuing furor over the president offering any commentary on such a random case, despite its thorny racial overtones, was heated and somewhat warranted, even though as the first citizen of the United States and its chief executive officer and protector of the constitution, and also, (yikes!), a black man, he was simply asked and answered honestly. However, rarely are presidents as candid and forthcoming on such matters, excluding, of course, the famous quote from Richard Nixon about Charles Manson’s obvious guilt smack dab in the middle of the most dramatic trial of the twentieth century. The president busting on cops would be a cause for uproar. Apparently the president can only mock the press, dissidents, evildoers, or hippies without backlash.

Of course the president eventually backslid, as everyone does these days, which is very disappointing. Just because it hurts the odd feeling or crosses an invisible line of presidential etiquette does not make the observation false or wrong. It was true and right, and quite frankly not strong enough. Perhaps the president should have been more up on the details, then maybe he would not have been so quick to try and make nice, and make nice he did the day of this writing with a hollow and creepy White House “Beer Summit” between the victim and his most ardent critic, Sgt. James Crowley of the Cambridge Police Department.

Most troubling is that this P.R. fracas misses the most salient points — the entire episode has less to do with race, freedom of speech, or the presidency than it does with the priority of the Fourth Amendment.

Let’s begin with the incident at large, and then move onto the subsequent silliness. Firstly, there is a fair argument to be made that Henry Louis Gates Jr., author, scholar, literary critic and Harvard professor for nearly two decades was harassed within the walls of his own home because he was a black man. Cambridge is a lily-white upper crust town, and that upon returning home from a trip to China his driver, also an African American man, attempted to help him gain forced entrance through a “jammed” front door. Moreover, the woman who called the cops, Lucia Whalen, was cacuasian.

Most troubling is that this P.R. fracas misses the most salient points — the entire episode has less to do with race, freedom of speech, or the presidency than it does with the priority of the Fourth Amendment.

If you’re African Amercian this might seem more than a tad coincidental. However, I too might be inclined to call the cops if two guys I did not recognize were trying to gimmy their way into a home. That’s not true. I’d probably mutter, “That’s a shame” and walk away. But I get it. Then again I’m not black, so how could I begin to understand what someone who is might say to such an overt act of suspicion and the subsequent goofy actions by the local police.

This gets us to the climax of this notrious tale of bungle: When responding to a report of a possible break-in, the Cambridge police cuff and arrest Gates, charging him with disorderly conduct after what the officer described as “a confrontation”, but was later revealed as pretty much an overly dramatic wigout by Gates. Here’s where things get weird whether you relate or not.

Once the officers arrive, Gates clearly shows his identification and suffucient proof that the house was indeed his residence. Now it no longer matters why anyone called the cops, what color Gates is, what he does for a living, or what the hell the president of the United States or anyone else thinks of the proceedings. It is a blatantly indefensible 4th Amendment violation, and no matter what harrangue followed, barring physcial abuse to the officers, civil servants of the state grossly overstepped their duty and broke the law.

Oh, and by the way, prosecutors later dropped the charges, all but admitting the police at the very least acted inappropriately.

How the president could cave when the facts of this case were later made clear beyond mere public relations is beyond fathoming.

Could it have been the insipid ranting of Right Wing idiots blabbering on about Obama hating white people or dinasuars like George Will mucking up network news shows with the most out-of-touch Jim Crow gobblygook imaginable? Probably. Now that an outspoken Hispanic woman is in the dock for the Supreme Court and middle America needs to be greased for the Healthcare dirge, it’s time to placate; but since this space is not written by a politician or anyone running for the Congeniality ticket, it won’t fly here.

One thing Will, who knows less about race relations in this country than he does about baseball (at least he didn’t write a laughably moronic book about race relations), said about Gates was right; he’s a victim. But Will seems to think the president made him one, instead of the police, who actually ripped the guy from his home and arrested him for merely being an asshole. And shit, I can have half the people I know dragged to the tank for that.

Will, like all the crazies who attacked Obama for his commentary, profess to be card-carrying conservatives, who cannot stop whining about how the country is besieged by sudden tyranny, and scream bloody murder anytime someone mentions gun control — we need to protect ourselves from an authoritarian state, you know — appear comfortable with thin-skinned coppers playing Gestapo in someone’s living room.

 

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