The Courtship of Chris Christie

Aquarian Weekly 6/22/11 REALITY CHECK

THE COURTSHIP OF CHRIS CHRISTIE Desperate Republicans Beg New Jersey Governor to Beat Obama

“I’m 100 percent certain I’m not going to run,” New Jersey’s Governor told CNN this week. It is the same thing he’s told the local press for months and what Chris Christie told the Republican elite this past winter. It is what he said matter-of-factly to former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani a couple of days ago at a very public Manhattan power lunch. Soon he will be forced to repeat this to a committee of five separate conservative groups and one national TEA Party fund-raising firm next week when they officially beseech him to rescue the Grand Old Party from the current snooze-fest crazies making up the Republican field that hopes to challenge a sitting Democratic president next summer.

Chris ChristieIt is also what his office emphatically told this reporter the very evening this was committed to print.

Christie has been governor for a little over a year and has done so in the very opposite manner of quietly. His fervent attacks on unions, specifically the bloated and rancorous state’s teachers’ unions and its public employees, has created a template for Republican governors across the nation. This has made him quite simply the party’s star. A hefty, straight-talking no-nonsense bluster of a man, Christie is the kind of tough matched with likable in a New Jersey wise-guy way that simultaneously defuses and ignites both opposition envy and anger.

I like Christie. As with every politician, I do not agree with many of his policies or ideologies, although I’m more apt to swallow stringent fiscal chopping of state funding if it comes from a Republican who doesn’t openly oppose gay civil unions or supports reasonable gun laws, and shies away from bludgeoning the electorate with his faith, which is Catholic. Most of all, my good friend, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a Republican who is enduring similar battles with public employees and unions, digs him. Astorino told me last summer many in his county have gone as far as calling him the “thin Christie”.

It doesn’t hurt that Christie is a mere three days older than me, another post-Boomer Irish/Italian ball breaker who would sooner eat shit than apologize for his actions and/or statements. I respect that, as I respected his handling of the Choppergate issue in which he used a tax-funded helicopter to see his kid’s championship baseball game and then paid the money back, but paid no lip service to microphones or newspads by back peddling with some creepy conciliation.

Of course, I would like Christie more if he’d lower these oppressive property taxes, something he, like the last guy, Jon Corzine, promised. And would it kill his Libertarian views to wave certain smoking laws, so I can work down an Ashton at a roadside tavern now and again.

After spending two painful hours watching its misguided gaggle of badly coached candidates, it would be hard not to conclude that only a young, northeastern, social moderate could possibly hold off what would surely be a “lesser of two evils” Independent vote for a president with sinking approval ratings in a quagmire economy and four to five questionable military conflicts.

But give Christie, or at least his office credit. Neither was thrown by my repeated e-mails and one four-page screed sent over the past six months regarding a permit to build a second-story parapet for my canon, the very one the local police were appalled at when I broached the subject three summers ago.

The entire episode began soon after I’d spotted two half-soused goons brandishing rifles while walking in broad late-morning daylight down my road. I quickly cautioned the authorities who then reminded me it was hunting season. I in turn reminded them that “hunting” on a public road at ten in the morning constitutes a tangible threat to my sovereignty and I’d be “forced to ready my defenses”.

Within minutes two squad cars screeched up to my property and after a tertiary search of my front room, I was to endure a ten-minute lecture on the legal right for the dickless to massacre helpless creatures for sport. I calmly retorted that while wild bears run free ready to wrestle in hand-to-hand combat, what kind of feckless pussy would prefer blasting deer from fifty yards away with a shotgun?

And so it was with great glee that I was informed by the governor’s office that while they did not particularly care about my late-nineteenth century firearm – perfectly within my Second Amendment rights to protect the Clemens Estate, especially as the economy continues to slip into chaos – they could see no sensible reasoning behind building a raised station for it.

But my affinity for the governor and my strict adherence to ancient defenses aside, it is the Republican Party that is most in love with Chris Christie. And why not? After spending two painful hours watching its misguided gaggle of badly coached candidates, it would be hard not to conclude that only a young, northeastern, social moderate could possibly hold off what would surely be a “lesser of two evils” Independent vote for a president with sinking approval ratings in a quagmire economy and four to five questionable military conflicts.

Independents are not going to vote for any of these people, least of all Mitt Romney, early frontrunner and bane of the party. While the former Massachusetts governor has the money and the name recognition, he is also getting strong resistance from below in the TEA Party grassroots and above from the power players. Smart money, even this early when as in the summer 2007 it looked like a lock that Hillary Clinton would oppose Rudy Giuliani, has Romney failing to survive past the South Carolina primary and is likely doomed in Michigan where he is on record as calling the auto industry bailout a mistake.

This week Texas Governor Rick Perry began an exploratory committee to see if anyone could accept a man for president who thrice threatened to secede from the union. To most observers Perry has become a sad punch line for his own constituents as record state deficits stare them in the face.

So it is Chris Christie and his Saturday-at-dawn-downing-gravy-fries-at-the-diner scowl or bust.

Christie maintains it is bust.

The stretching shadows of my 3.4-inch Dahlgren Boat Howitzer causes me to agree.


Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

Eric Hutchinson: The Thin White Jukebox

Aquarian Weekly 6/20/11 Buzz

Eric Hutchinson Hits The Throwback Road

Eric Hutchinson makes albums like guideposts, allowing him to check out where he’s been and where’s he’s going. The 31 year-old singer/songwriter has spent the last three years since his debut studio effort, Sounds Like This reflecting on his maturation as an artist and life as a rising star, and the results are found on the infectiously soulful and auspiciously titled, Moving Up/Living Down. Loaded with rock-solid melodies and rib-sticking rhythms, every track on Hutchinson’s latest tour de force is more than a collection of songs; it is quite literally a soundtrack for a high-energy stage show that is fully realized on his current 41-city American tour.

Eric Hutchinson

“I was thinking a lot about the live show when I was writing songs for this record,” Hutchinson explains from a quiet hotel room in Ames, Iowa before his show at Iowa State. “Having been on the road for a few years now and wishing I had written something to take the energy to somewhere else, it was fun to write a song like ‘The Basement’ and then see how it lets the band and the audience get there.”

Through the prism of what appears on repeated listens as a living homage to the best of the Atlantic, Stax and Motown sides of the Sixties, Moving Up/Living Down spans the rhythm and blues genre from every angle, to the rousing Isley Brothers meets Sam & Dave driving rat-ta-tat-tat of “The Basement”, which lyrically pays tribute to among others, James Brown, Aretha Franklin and Michael Jackson in a raucous tale of heading down to where they “really wanna to rock and roll” to the bouncing vocal elasticity of “The People I Know”, which rings the Stevie Wonder bell as well as it can be rung.

“It’s always been in there,” Hutchinson says when asked about his playfully derivative approach. “I kind of describe myself as a soul singer at this point, because ‘soul singing’ is so much about having it come from inside, that gut feeling, and that’s what I’m looking for when I’m writing songs.

“A lot of what this album is for me is coming to grips with what I am rather than what I’d love to be as a singer,” cites Hutchinson. “I love The Strokes, but I’m never going to be Julian Casablancas and I’m okay with that. I’m comfortable being me, processing my influences and having it come out through my own filter.”

Hutchinson has always been a student of song styles and uses his education well on Moving Up/Living Down, as he flirts with Todd Rundgren smooth in “I’m Not Cool” and channels a 1983 version of Prince for “Living in the Afterlife”. Yet these well-crafted compositions are no mere imitations. There is something wholly original and 21st century to Hutchinson’s stripped down approach, which he honed while building his career entirely solo on piano and acoustic guitar.

It’s what Hutchinson described to me in 2006 as “acoustic soul” after I sought him out following a stirring opening stint for Joe Jackson in New York City followed by a successful residency at the Cutting Room later that year. Hutchinson, a slave to the boogie in his head, used his instruments as percussive foundations, strumming or bouncing off the keys to keep the beat and allowing his vocal arrangements to soar above it. It was a natural evolution to his throwback flirtations so prevalent on Moving Up/Living Down as well as its predecessor, Sounds Like This (2007), a truly masterful pop effort. But to his credit, Hutchinson did not merely rest on his well-earned laurels.

“The big thing for me when I was just starting out I would think; ‘If I could just get to this spot, I’ll be happy – play this venue or sell this many records’, and as things began to go well for me I realized it’s a moving target, there isn’t just ‘this place’, there is no end. You just got to keep goin’, I guess.”

Sounds Like This was written as a solo musician and I got guys to play on it,” Hutchinson recalls. “This time I knew I’d be working with a band and it changed my approach, and now I’m excited about people seeing the show. It’s really hummin’, more and more energy, and I’m especially excited for someone like yourself who saw me do the old show, ’cause I’m still trying to find ways to have that personality come through, but also make it be a rock show.”

Two weeks later at the Highline Ballroom on the south-end of Chelsea, Hutchinson and his band – Andrew Perusi on bass, drummer, Steven Robinson and Elliott Blaufuss on keyboards and guitar – proved his point; from the opening fanfare and grand entrance announcement to song after song of heavy funk, sly soul and a wry wink at several forms of reggae, accentuated at two intervals when taking turns at The Beatles, “Obla-Di, Obla-Da” and Sublime’s “Santeria”. Rather than merely performing, something he aimed for after spending his time during the writing of the album attending concerts by stalwarts, Bruce Springsteen and Prince, Hutchinson looked passionately joyful, a wide-eyed boy aghast that this was all hitting home.

As promised, along with playing every one of his most popular numbers, including the inescapably hummable, “Rock & Roll”, the head-bobbing, “OK, It’s Alright with Me”, and the cleverly structured, “All Over Now”, Hutchinson chided the audience (when a young woman shouted, “I love you!”, Hutchinson began asking her if that’s such a healthy thing to get involved with someone that he hasn’t met and already loved him; “That’s gonna be a strange first date!”) and spun touching tales about playing for change in Union Square in 2001. “Where the fuck were you guys back then?” he asked, smiling.

All the while, as I leaned against the top step of the waitress stand and glanced over the packed house of bouncing heads, I could swear, especially after a wise quip or classic “Hutch” tongue-in-cheek comment, I saw Hutchinson look over to me and smirk, as if to silently say, “I told you so.”

The audience was treated to one moment of ‘the old show’, as Hutchinson removed the veil of inspiration and went right to the source, strumming out a beautifully tapered rendition of Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears”.

Moving Up/Living DownWhich brings us back to Moving Up/Living Down, which, according to random e-mail updates Hutchinson regaled me with throughout the process over the past year was not only a gradual evolution from burgeoning club act to legitimate pop star, it was a painstaking battle to find the right musical mix, something he achieved after a random encounter with an industry legend.

“I pretty much had the entire record done and then I had this chance meeting with Quincy Jones,” recalls Hutchinson. “We were at this charity event and they made him sit with me in a VIP section for a few minutes, and I couldn’t let the chance go by without asking him about all the stuff he had done, Thriller in particular, and he said, ‘When we had Thriller finished we picked the five best songs and we threw everything else out and found four more good songs.’ And I thought that was a great idea and went back and tried to dig deeper and make the songs be as good as possible, and one of those became “Watching You Watch Him”.

The first single off the record, “Watching You Watch Him” is Hutchinson at his lyrical best; playing the lovable loser in what he calls an “F’d up lover’s triangle where no one is happy.”

It was Hutchinson’s self-effacing lyrics that first drew me to his work and many of the songs on Moving Up/Living Down center on the irony of maturing or growing in a fish bowl of constant touring. “I had to get off the road and back to reality in New York where no one cares who you are,” laughs Hutchinson.

“I’m Not Cool”, “The People I Know” Best Days of Our Lives” illustrate that all this maturing and growing has him ending up in an emotion cul de sac. In the ska-fueled and strikingly honest, “Not There Yet” the message is more direct, to the point where his “I’m getting there, but I’m not there yet” refrain sounds eerily like he’s singing “not dead yet,” as if the protagonist is fighting the process.

Hutchinson concluded our conversation by slightly disagreeing with my assessment. It’s not so much fighting, as surrendering. “It’s about being infinitely more happy thinking about things circularly rather than linearly. The big thing for me when I was just starting out I would think; ‘If I could just get to this spot, I’ll be happy – play this venue or sell this many records’, and as things began to go well for me I realized it’s a moving target, there isn’t just ‘this place’, there is no end. You just got to keep goin’, I guess.”

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

Read More


Aquarian Weekly 6/15/11 REALITY CHECK

WEINERGATE The Continuing Saga of Congressional Dipshits

Anthony WeinerI’m not sure a middle-aged man whose penchant for taking lewd photos of his body and sharing them with college students, and thus, through the magic of Twitter, the entire planet, can reasonably continue to present himself or his ideas, arguments and principles in a serious light. But I am quite sure that same man can continue to be a United States Representative.

Unless there has been a crime committed, then the Democratic Party, unleashing its well-worn bully routine and predictably running for cover as have Republicans in dozens of recent offenses, has no right to ask a man to resign a post honored him by the electorate. And thus once again we are confronted with the abject unconstitutional element of a two-party system that cherishes political expediency above the tenets of democracy.

Anthony Weiner, New York congressman, is the latest in the long line of “Did weird shit – lied about weird shit for awhile – copped to weird shit in a tearful press conference when it looked like the lying could not quite make the weird shit go away”. His case only differs in that he has been one of the most contentious, pompous, overly dramatic, and self-promoting assholes congress has produced in some time. And folks, that’s saying a whole lot there. In other words Weiner, who in 2005 ran for mayor of NYC would have run again in 2009 if the current mayor hadn’t proclaimed himself king, had designs on becoming something of a political star in the realm of a Sarah Palin or Eliot Spitzer.

Yeah, Spitzer and Palin, both disgraced quitters of governor gigs and raging hypocrites (Spitzer made his bones attacking prostitution while being a high-paying consumer of prostitutes, and Palin has perpetually railed about the evils of federal government subsidies when under her watch Alaska was rife with federal government subsidies) currently cull sizable cable television salaries.

So looks like Weiner can still be a congressman and most assuredly a TV personality, but then again, who can honestly ever take this guy seriously any longer?

Well, there is a man running for president right now who cheated on two wives, the last one while she was in a hospital dying of cancer, at the same time having the balls to be a prominent moralizer during the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal.

Could a John Edwards comeback be far behind?

Never mind that; if I may borrow a line from our good friends at The Daily Show – please Google new presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s name right now.

We’ll wait.

Hell, anyone with half a brain knows Weiner cannot sincerely continue to show up to a very public, civic gig and represent his district and his party with this load of feces upon him. His next move should be to quietly step down due to distractions and an undo amount of pressure on his family life and whatever blah-blah-blah the busted usually roll out like the guy who propositioned his employees by e-mail or the guy who picked up men in airport bathrooms or the guy who stuck shirtless photos of himself on Craig’s List after the other guy who did the crazy stupid thing that lead to his also quietly stepping down.

You pick an example, man. The names all seem to meld into the other.

This laundry list of systematic goofiness is what anyone, even those without the requisite potty mouth, would call a FUCK UP, or if you will, a monumental error in judgment or the very least a glaringly fanatical display of stupidity.

But let us reiterate that thus far there is no evidence Weiner has broken any law. And if code of conduct is the only issue here then it needs to be stated that being sneaky, underhanded and lying to the press is not all completely legal but actually a congressional staple. In fact, covering up embarrassing personal issues is aggressively encouraged among the congressional elite. The senate holds annual award ceremonies for the best and the brightest. Ted Kennedy and Strom Thrumond routinely took home a bevy of trophies.

If nothing else, Wiener kicked ass in every one of those departments.

Sure, this insipid idea that he simply “made poor choices” or that those of us not suffering from delusions should consider this a “mistake” is nose-diving into Charlie Rangel territory here. Rangel, the last New York congressman disgraced by scandal, believed in an alternate universe of his making that embezzlement was a “mistake”. A mistake is forgetting to pick up bread when it was on the grocery list or flubbing the name of a relative at a holiday party. It is certainly in no way a reasonable vehicle in describing the sharing of self-portraits of one’s cock over the Internet. And it is hardly an apt description for telling everyone your account was hacked by a Right Wing blogger and then not being sure it was your cock in the first place. This laundry list of systematic goofiness is what anyone, even those without the requisite potty mouth, would call a FUCK UP, or if you will, a monumental error in judgment or the very least a glaringly fanatical display of stupidity.

I would think any man not sure what his penis looks like and/or has such low expectations of the collective intelligence of people who could believe such nonsense needs to seriously reevaluate his self worth.

But all that existential shit must ultimately be his choice, and not those who wish to shove his stank into the corner to keep it off them.

Admittedly, a yawning credibility gap is the only reason this space felt the burning need to repeatedly state in the late-nineties that Bill Clinton was better off being an ex-president sooner than later. The Lewinsky case was never about sex or even perjury for us; it was about having someone hold the most powerful post in the free world and not only turning the Oval Office into a Bourbon St. massage parlor, but abusing power, influence and age to seduce his intern there. Then, scold us for having the audacity to call him on it.

But, hey, dumbness and arrogance are also not crimes.

Look, no one should give half a fart if Weiner lied to his wife or if he likes to take photos of his junk and throw it around the Twitter universe. God bless him. But he of all people, who frames his political arguments around common sense and intellect over sappy emotion and cold facts over-indulgent claptrap and has the unmitigated gall to demean the reasoning, common sense and intellect of his opponents (the way he dressed down a CNN producer as if he were a school kid) has to know he’s officially cut off his credibility oxygen. This would be like an abject business failure whose run ragged all over law and decency to amass pseudo empires with other people’s money and then passing himself off as a super mogul, like, say, Donald Trump.

So in the spirit of Spitzer and Palin and Trump, or hell, even Arnold Schwarzenegger, this space chooses to support Weiner’s right to his job and his hilariously deviant behavior and would like to officially recommend he pitch a network show.

He’s got star potential.

Weiner in 2016!


Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

Ryan Plan Protests?

Aquarian Weekly 6/1/11 REALITY CHECK


Okay, I think I get it.

Fourteen months ago a majority of Americans, anywhere from 52 to 58 percent depending on the politically bias nature of the polling, were against government-run health care. Today, anywhere from 60 to 74 percent of Americans polled are against the Paul Ryan plan to begin the gradual but eventual eradication of Medicare, which is, of course, a government-run health care system.

Wait, what?

So, well…maybe…no, I don’t think…but…

Where do they find these people?

Medicare ProtestsPerhaps this is similar to Ryan, Wisconsin congressman and rising star in the Republican party, confidently scoffing at such polls with fancy rhetoric about “true leadership ignores polling” whilst having spent much of 2010 arguing that what he dubbed Obamacare was hugely unpopular with the American people and thus should have been abandoned for a more reasoned but wholly fictional right wing approach.

Normal commentators might call this hypocritical or dumb, but this space would like to put forth the notion that what we’re dealing with here is an acute case of mass schizophrenia.

And it’s spreading.

At least that’s how it is for a nation of knee-jerk reactionaries, who apparently have the time and inclination to willfully engage in banal exercises like the answering of polls. These same hearty souls could be seen attending rallies and protests throughout both Obama’s 2010 health care tour and now Ryan’s latest foray into the national scene. Not sure what level of personal means or abject boredom precedes these activities, but it might be worth investigating for the rest of our bored and independently wealthy masses.

Or could we extrapolate from this random information that people both love and hate national health care?

One cannot fault Ryan, of course. Ryan is a politician, and a good one. His use of the bloated national debt and the results of the previous election to present his plan is not unlike the president, himself a nifty politician, using six years of Republican over-spending and an economic crisis to pitch his own. Also, it is not immaterial that it was Ryan who wrote this bureaucratic piss-in-the-wind and the Obama one was cobbled by his opponents. So it stands to reason he would presently appear pointless and make the majority of the polls reacting to it follow suit.

At this juncture what appears most intriguing about all this, beyond the eerie similarities of both the 2010 National Health Care Reform Law and Ryan’s new economic plan being badly explained and presented by its supporters, is when someone on the same political side of the fence finds fault in the jiggering of national health legislation, like say a presidential candidate and former rising star of the Republican Party.

When Newt Gingrich, a disgraced Speaker of the House and newly minted candidate for president of the United States — quite obviously over-coached and wearing a new suit of reasonable to hide three decades of gibberish — painted his colleague’s plan as “radical social engineering”, the truly irrational backlash began.

It’s hard to please us. Ask us something today and we’re for it, and five or so weeks later, not so much.

The crap Gingrich has taken for his overly centrist remarks about any unbalanced restructure of Medicare being unacceptable from either the Left or Right is unfair. That is until the schitzo bug hit again, and the man spent over a week in the kind of neck-wrench backtracking rarely seen among even the most contemptible salesmen.

First Gingrich made claims that he meant none of which he said and then threatened to charge those who quoted him directly as liars. He also went so far as to say he would personally vote for a plan he originally said was “going too far”. Now, while being off the charts pathetic, these actions should not mean, as reported from FOXNEWS to the Wall Street Journal to the most Leftist rags, that his days-old candidacy is finished.

Gingrich, who is often spoken of as a bright political mind even by his critics, has every right to have an opposing opinion to that of his party, especially its more entrenched fiscally conservative wing. Contrary to popular belief, like that of Gingrich somehow being a “bright political mind”, sucking up to TEA Party types did not guarantee victory last November. In fact, many Republican candidates who were either endorsed by or piggybacked the more extreme factions of the party were roundly defeated.

Anyone with even a rudimentary notion of political maneuvering could see that Gingrich, whose Right Wing credentials should have been a given, was trying to appear as if he would work the middle with ease and appear moderate, even charming towards people he has repeatedly called vipers and charlatans, horribly weak appeasers of America’s enemies and a disease upon the land. It was a difficult high wire act that was fabricated and silly but hardly suicidal.

However, it speaks to a wider point; that of the day-to-day shift in what is expected of our candidates and what the candidates may expect from us.

Let’s face it folks, we’re crazy. There really is no other way to sugarcoat a fourteen month shift in how national health care is perceived; just as it is never perceived in the endless scuffle about the national budget concerns, which is ironically only a concern when considering the entitlements that people do not want to give up.

It’s hard to please us. Ask us something today and we’re for it, and five or so weeks later, not so much.

This is why lunatics predicting the possible result of a presidential election eighteen months out is not only folly, but dangerous. Someone please tell me where Barack Hussein Obama was in the spring of 2007; sixty points behind Hillary Clinton?

We have problems staying the course for eighteen days around here.

And for those who might think this is the natural swing of events and there are subtleties ignored here, I humbly offer anyone to check out the vacillating mess that is found in the Iraq War polling from 2004 to 2007 or so. Monthly, sometimes weekly, the shifts were dramatic, as if people were watching the flowing tide of an NBA game, with the score changing by the second, all the while making overall assumptions on its eventual outcome.

It may turn out that political pundits end up applauding Newt Gingrich for distancing himself from the Ryan plan, which is now taken on too much water for his party to support. Take for example the mass exodus in the Senate. But this is only in the short run, for there is still time for it to rally and then die and rally again.

Give it time.

Okay, time’s up.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

Judgment Day Bust 2011

Aquarian Weekly 5/25/11 REALITY CHECK


I’ve been listening to Harold Camping on Family Radio since the early nineties; tooling along Route 84 in the wee hours – half soused, eyes weighing heavy and deep in contemplation about my mortal soul and some girl I was trying to bed. These were heady times, and Camping, with his comprehensive knowledge of scripture, chapter, verse and queer interpretation, was my beacon. There’s only so much highway wind and rock and roll a mind can handle without numbing.

Harold CampingAnd so Camping’s monosyllabic baritone delivery, weakened now by the advanced age of nearly 90, has been a lifeline to those of us whose sweet embrace of insomnia is ceaseless. His kind barely knows the lives he may have saved or the property his distant broadcasts kept intact; the Disc Jockey preacher man’s words resonating out over Marconi’s sacred device. Once in late ’93 I flipped a Toyota truck off an icy curve on the back roads of Hudson Valley, NY; and as I crawled from the wreckage and looked back from the darkness, it was Camping’s voice, booming as if God were calling Abraham to murder his son for a lark, that I could clearly hear emanating from the flickering dashboard.

As I say, my dear friends – heady stuff.

This is why when Camping says that Judgment Day is coming on May 21, 2011, I listen.

Hell, I know all about the Rapture, jack. I understand quite well how the shit storm will go down. I know my Revelation inside/out, and upside/down. I love, as my late friend and mentor Doctor Thompson used to say, “the wild power of the language and the purity of the madness that governs it and makes it music.” It may well be the finest piece of literature printed in English; completely insane and a dangerous thing to digest at all hours in lonely hotel rooms; Gideon style.

Do yourself a favor when you’re done reading this; go find a copy of any version of the Bible you have around and open Revelation to a random page and enjoy. All the best psychopaths from Hitler to Manson to Billy Graham were well acquainted with Revelation. It is the reason Western Civilization is obsessed with drugs and religion, guilt and agony, violence and masturbation; it expertly explains weird shit like politics, money and Colonel Kurtz’s horror.

But pick up the pace, because according to Camping you shall be judged on May 21. In fact, when most of you read this in print it will be too late. And for that, I am truly sorry. Even Noah had friends and readers; and none of them made it onto the ark; every last one of them drowned; a terribly agonizing way to go – God style.

Me? I’m ready to be judged. My moral house is in order. The cosmic shift in the spiritual muse is a personal liaison. It’s all part of the divine plan, and the main reason there are times when I find myself hoping to be judged, harshly. Bring it on. I just want to see my score. It will be high. Very high. This comes from an almost expressly comfortable intimacy I’ve forged with sin. “Love your enemy”; this is my motto. That, and “Do not drive Toyota trucks on icy roads whilst balancing a tumbler of Bombay Sapphire on your lap.”

Trust me when I say, God’s waiting on me.

I’m ready to be judged. My moral house is in order. The cosmic shift in the spiritual muse is a personal liaison. It’s all part of the divine plan, and the main reason there are times when I find myself hoping to be judged, harshly. Bring it on. I just want to see my score. It will be high. Very high.

Firstly, any true God will recognize my kind; demanding and irritable with completely unrealistic expectations. I have anger issues and am not particularly fond of explaining myself or what the hell I want from people. Let them figure it out. I also love claiming to have done stuff that I cannot particularly prove I’ve done. I basically take credit for anything that I can think of and then get pissed when challenged on it.

Secondly, I’ve spent the last forty years sharpening my ego skills and have developed a megalomaniacal streak similar to that of any worthwhile omniscient being. I also have a concrete set of obligations to worshiping me: Have no other scribe before thee – Use my name in vain, and – Under no circumstances kill me.

Finally, I have not ignored the main aspect of humanity, and that is, as I have written in this space numerous times over the past thirteen odd years, it is wholly overrated. My personal correspondence with the omnipotent one has broached the subject of the feline versus the human. I have clearly stated and I think fairly laid out a strong argument that it is far better to lick one’s balls and sleep 18 hours a day than to develop a computer chip. And reason? That’s for the birds; the birds or Plato, who thought it a good idea to make up the concept of an afterlife, effectively infecting every world religion for the next 2,500 or so years. I know for a plain fact that this “reason” thing is wasted on us. For a prime example, put on cable news; you pick one, any will do.

This brings me to my own judgment of how the current deity has run things; badly. I have plenty of critiques about famine, war, earthquakes, the Pope, whatever the hell the Mormons are, Stonehenge, what went down with Lenny Bruce – never mind Jesus – my distressing lack of height, the general disarray of all supposed holy lands, and lima beans.

Okay, there’s the good stuff too.

So on Saturday, I plan on cranking up AC/DC and dancing with my daughter, lather up a good sweat and shred our throats, before taking a minute to explain why at three years in she has to be judged and then plunged into some weird Rapture kick. Then I’m going to read the best paragraphs of The Great Gatsby to the wife, smoke an Ashton to the nub, pour some celebratory wine into a clay jug and go out in style.

Then again, there’s always a pretty good chance Camping is a nut and I’m a wiseass prick who will both be waking Sunday feeling cheated.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

Osama & Out

Aquarian Weekly 5/11/11 REALITY CHECK


Osama bin Laden, the seminal figure of the new century; who’s incredibly complex and improbably successful mission to destroy the World Trade Center (a symbol of American financial might) and hit the Pentagon (the symbol of America’s military might) while murdering as many civilians as possible on 9/11/01, who forever changed the culture, economies and domestic and foreign policies of the entire Western world, is dead. Taken out as coldly and efficiently as his devastating strike a decade earlier, closing a bloody, irrational, and in many ways, embarrassing chapter in American history.

And so the evil villain of 9/11 is killed, finally, after nearly ten long years by the new guy — the next generation leader, my generation, the stoically calculating Barack Hussein Obama, hardly the sloppy, overly emotional mess the Baby Boomers sent to the White House from 1993 to 2009, the years bin Laden made his bones as the FBI’s Most Wanted Criminal.

Osama bin LadenEliminating bin Laden from among the living turned out to be no small feat. In fact, it’s a monumental, almost Biblical vengeance kick that may speak more about the soul of this nation than anything one man could inflict from outside it.

Although in recent years the specter of bin Laden had faded, his master plan assured there would be no going back after 9/11 in any aspect of social, political, or cultural existence. Not since the Civil War has this nation been turned into a completely different thing altogether — and that was an inevitable internal struggle, not the result of an abstract foreign interloper. It is fair to say that no enemy of the United States, including the Nazis, the Empire of Japan, or the Soviet Union, has shifted every single one of our lives the way Osama bin Laden has.

Since 1996, Osama bin Laden had been the most prevalent symbol of anti-American rhetoric and its resultant overt violence; boldly hitting American embassies and ships, targeting hotels and tourist spots across the globe. It was in that same year he officially declared war on the United States. Yet, not only did bin Laden escape retribution for the aforementioned deeds, he thrived. In the presidential campaign of 2000, neither his name nor the name of his terrorist network, al Qaeda was ever broached. Hundreds of hours of campaign stumping, thousands of stories in thousands of newspapers and of course debates galore; and not once by any candidate was Osama bin Laden’s growing mayhem ever cited. Worst of all, in the winter of 2001 our federal government ignored a serious memo regarding intelligence that bin Laden was a “direct threat”, and then again weeks before the attacks when the CIA warned of an imminent airplane hijacking, which ultimately led to the tragedies of 9/11 and victory for the invisible man.

Truth be told, bin Laden’s invisible man act had become so darkly pathetic this space had maintained since late September of 2001 that he was already dead. This became a more distinct possibility once the richest, most powerful nation in the world, with operatives all over the planet and at least half of the countries in the Middle East on the payroll, failed to locate him, much less capture or kill him. For close to a decade, bin Laden’s fugitive hide-and-seek routine was the country’s greatest failure, and because of it, plunged this nation into several war fronts and deeper into debt. All the while we traded in more and more of our civil rights in an avalanche of paranoid incompetence. After threats and bombings, invasions and terrorist plot thwarting, along with several key arrests of his cronies, Gitmo and Homeland Security, torture, fiery speeches and tough talk, still no bin Laden.

In fact, by 2005, the Bush Administration, with its dumbfounded war hawks Cheney, Rumsfeld and that poor sucker, Condoleezza Rice, et al, closed down the special unit to bring the greatest single American villain of the past half century to justice. The president declared to the Washington press he had no idea where bin Laden was and could not care less. Bush, the rough and ready faux cowboy, smugly declared, “I don’t even think about him.”

And of course this seemed like a good idea. The whole al Qaeda thing was belly up by 2005; there was a second term to deal with and the Iraq distraction, already a severe blight on the Bush presidency, was escalating out of control. Afghanistan, another bust, had been left to the dogs. Meanwhile Pakistan, the best anti-terror partner in the region, was annually gathering up three and a half billion of American dollars to weed out terrorists. Curiously, in a suburb ten miles from its capital city and a stone’s throw from its military academy, a town teeming with retired generals and lounging military types, Osama bin Laden built and occupied a suburban fortress.

Five years later, in August of 2010, with zero Pakistani assistance, bin Laden’s whereabouts was discovered. And in the face of a social networked, Internet connected and 24/7 televised news world the most miraculous exhibition of secrecy in the highest levels of the government resulted in what has to be considered the cleanest most devastating U.S. military mission in memory. The heavy lifting carried out with rare but ruthless precision by a Navy Seals Special Unit, ending with a gaping hole in the head of the man who put one in lower Manhattan.

No war. No grandstanding. No orange alerts.

Bing. Bam. Boom.

Bad guy erased.


No war. No grandstanding. No orange alerts.

Bing. Bam. Boom.

Bad guy erased.

Let’s be brutally honest; this is one motherfucking grand slam for this president, who has heretofore been generally considered ill-prepared for tough national security decisions and accused of being an ineffectual appeaser of rogue nations. He was also mocked as a candidate in 2008 for stating that the real War on Terror began and ended on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan and that given half the chance would take out bin Laden even in a sovereign country. No Shock & Awe, Mission Accomplished, Big Invasion, Nation Building, Chest-Thumping nonsense. Go in, kick ass, and get out, with the target in a body bag — mob style.

Before the raid, Obama was asked point blank by officials if the bin Laden compound should be obliterated in a bombing campaign. Nope. He decided a body was needed, the result of an official a face-to-face snuffing out. He was then asked if the mission might consider taking bin Laden alive? The president’s response was unequivocally no. No trial. No second act. No screwing around.

There is little arguing, if this thing went sideways, there was no coming back from it. Ask Jimmy Carter, after his doomed decision to rescue the Iranian hostages in a last ditch attempt to save face. Maybe ask Ronald Reagan, whose ham-fisted attempt to arm the Nicaraguan Contras nearly got him impeached.

This is why the timeline from August, 2010 to Sunday, May 1, 2011 makes some sense out of a few of Obama’s curious actions; not the least of which is what is at best a dubious decision to get involved in Libya this past March, the toe-to-toe battles to avoid what would have been a politically advantageous government shutdown last month, and finally, the strange timing of releasing an official birth certificate last week.

It also explains the Secretary of State’s bizarrely worded press briefings on Pakistan/U.S relations that went from “assisting” to “avoiding” to “obstructing” in the past months. Then within hours of the raid, a veiled compliment to their “support”, even though anyone within earshot of events went public that Pakistan knew nothing of the mission, and no one, certainly not the president, considered cluing them in.

There is no political or historical downside to this puppy. It is, to use a now overused CIA joke, a “slam dunk”. However, a tough sell-job for this administration will be to convince the American people to continue to fund Pakistan’s alliance in the shadow of its openly harboring a mastermind of mass murder for six years; this coming on the heels of a decade of nearly every high-level al Qaeda operative’s arrest taking place in a Pakistani city. But sell he must. Without Pakistan, there are issues, not the least of which a teetering police state with nuclear weapons bordering the tribal madness of Afghanistan.

The other tough sell will be coming to grips with how the information on the leads to bin Laden had originated. Especially since the type of torture incompetent fossils like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and other neo-con dinosaurs keep touting in a sad attempt to appear relevant to the vengeance they so abysmally botched for eight years is not only illegal but was roundly criticized by candidate Obama in 2008. Conflicting reports could lead to the type of leaks that might launch a re-trial on the effectiveness of “advanced interrogation”, even as it has been, according to preponderance of experts, mostly useless up until now.

Of course this entire episode is “too little, too late”. The fact that it took three wars, billions upon billions of dollars, much of it borrowed from China, thousands of American lives and tens of thousands of lives across the Middle East, and over ten years to track down what is arguably the most significant villain in America’s recent history, is so fantastically absurd it bares the most serious scrutiny of our nation’s true worth in the realm of justice and stability.

But for now one very important corpse is added to the roll call of maggots that have infected the planet since humans crawled from the slime. And that is always a reason to salute.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

Dick Wagner: Invisible Virtuoso

Aquarian Weekly
5/9/12 Buzz

Guitar Legend Dick Wagner Bears His Soul in New Memoir

In a 1975 interview, conducted when he was musical arranger, band leader and co-lead guitarist for rock legend, Alice Cooper’s record-breaking Welcome to my Nightmare world tour, Dick Wagner, then 33 years-old, told the New Musical Express; “I don’t personally give a shit about being a star; I just want to be a good guitar player. But if that means becoming a star then I’ll become one on a natural basis. I go on pure gut feeling; I was invited to play on Bowie’s tour, but I turned it down even though I really liked David, because it didn’t feel right. One thing I’ll never do is let this business make me crazy. I always try to pace myself when I’m on the road, and when I get some time off I go hang out with my friends and have nothin’ to do with any of it.”

Dick Wagner

Nearly 40 years later, approaching 70, Wagner has never changed his tune about being a star, which he achieved divergently through a lasting respect from rabid rock fans and industry insiders, especially fellow musicians, and long surpassed being a good guitar player throughout a career filled with incredible high and lows. The part about the business not making him crazy, however, was a little more difficult. Serious life threatening and relationship damaging sexual and drug addictions were a constant undercurrent to one of rock’s most compelling arcs.

It is all well documented – dark reflections, humorous anecdotes and insightful memories – in Wagner’s tightly presented memoir, Not Only Women Bleed, titled after one of his most memorable compositions, the achingly poignant, “Only Women Bleed”, a song most known, as many of Wagner’s best work, for someone else.

“I tried to avoid bragging on myself in this book,” Wagner explains, sitting comfortably in his desert home in Arizona. His voice, ragged from years of smoke, drink, and vocal shredding, still evokes the rough affect of his Detroit youth. “It would have been easier to bullshit, but people can read through that. It’s just a story of a human life. I mean, the things that happened to me are unique because they happened to me, but they could have happened to anyone.”

A survivor of serious drug exploits and, more recently, surgery to remove a blood clot on his brain, Wagner humbly reminisces about the days when he was best known for being one of the top studio and touring guitar sidemen in the world; asked to lead international tours for Alice Cooper, jump-starting Lou Reed’s solo live career and subbing on lead guitar (in some cases un-credited) for Aerosmith’s Joe Perry (Get Your Wings) and KISS’s Ace Frehley (Destroyer). His songwriting partnership with Alice Cooper, who in his heartfelt preface to the book, once filed Wagner under “guitar players I’d like to steal”, produced some of the most theatrical tracks of the era and hit ballads like “Only Women Bleed”, “I Never Cry”, “You and Me”, and “How You Gonna See Me Now?”

Yet many rock fans would fail to pick him out of a line-up.

“I’m an artist and have been since I started doing this,” Wagner insists. “For me, it’s about playing well and doing different projects and being able to handle all these different kinds of music and being able to play something great every time. That was my goal… always.”

A studio engineer who, before working with Wagner for the first time in the mid-Seventies, idly queried if he was as good as advertised to famed producer, Bob Ezrin, who used Wagner either exclusively or strategically on most of his projects. Ezrin simply raised his eyebrows and said, “He’ll play, you’ll hear, you’ll know.”

“I’m an artist and have been since I started doing this,” Wagner insists. “For me, it’s about playing well and doing different projects and being able to handle all these different kinds of music and being able to play something great every time. That was my goal…always.”

As if there were a red emergency phone always near-by, Wagner recounts his guitar gun slinging days when he could get a call at any time from either coast and have to be ready to perform on records that were huge hits; “Sometimes I would know a couple of days ahead about a session, and sometimes, like for instance with Aerosmith, I got the call when I was sitting in my apartment at The Plaza, grabbed my guitar and went down to the studio.” Then, after absorbing the track, under pressure and with a looming minute-by-minute deadline, Wagner would sit in a corner and craft his part. “My philosophy in playing on somebody else’s record was get inside and learn the song and treat your guitar playing as an extension of what the melody of the song is and the mood, the attitude of the song; staying, of course, within the confines of what the chord changes are. There are limitations, but you also have complete freedom when they just give you a spot and say, ‘Go for it’, you got a chance then to come up with something that will be lasting.”

Wagner’s whirlwind rock and roll life, as depicted in is his book, was a rollercoaster ride of dizzying proportions. None of it – the women, the hijinks, the bizarre to the sublime – is left out. The reader is invited backstage and on stage, riding on the tour buses, cavorting in the hotel rooms and sequestered inside the studios, while also crawling through an addict’s shadow of desperation and amazingly find a guiding light.

Not Only Women Bleed harkens back to the burgeoning Detroit rock scene filled with the who’s who of late-Sixties and early Seventies pioneers of what champion rock critic, Lester Bangs once dubbed “the rattly clankings” of blue-collar, assembly-line heavy metal; Iggy and the Stooges, Grand Funk Railroad, the MC5, Ted Nugent and more. Wagner’s slick leads and becoming a master composer of both blistering jams and tender ballads penned for such local acts as The Frost and Ursa Major earned him the repudiation of guitar virtuoso, jumping into difficult back-up band jobs to expand the primacy of the stars.

Rock n' Roll AnimalThe best example being the searing duel-guitar suite that opens Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane” with fellow guitar great, Steve Hunter that appears on the classic live album Rock and Roll Animal, which inspired a generation of axemen. According to reports at the time, Reed was so jealous of the glowing press and wild accolade from concertgoers directed towards Wagner and Hunter he sacked the entire band. The record went gold, prompting RCA to release second volume, Lou Reed Live a year later, which lead Wagner and Hunter, along with Reed’s entire touring band, to lend its magic to the new Alice Cooper solo project and its ensuing massive tour.

When asked to describe the guitar as if it were a seminal relationship in his life, much like he does with all of his friends and colleagues in the pages of Not Only Women Bleed, Wagner does not hesitate. “It’s really like a lifelong marriage with a woman who is your soul mate, who is always there for you and you always carry her with you in your heart. I used to sleep with my guitar. I don’t mean sex. I used to take it to bed with me, so that if I woke up in the middle of the night I could play it. I had a boom box I kept beside the bed and I had these tapes with backing tracks for the blues and lie there in bed for hours and play guitar to it. That’s how I learned how to play, to completely involve myself in it. It’s like a marriage. It’s the two of you; a way to hide, express yourself and go outward. It can become all things. The guitar has been that important to me.”

But although defined by the instrument, if not secretly becoming among the best guitarists of his generation, Wagner’s story is that of survival, both personal and professional. Even in the midst of recovery from brain surgery in 2011, he worked on two songs for Alice Cooper’s Welcome 2 My Nightmare, the sequel to his and Wagner’s collaborative 1975 masterpiece. And as Wagner reflects now, as he does in Not Only Women Bleed, the long, hard but rewarding road can lead to better places; “When I wrote the last chapter of the book in recovery from brain surgery, it was a completely cathartic moment in my life and it really made me feel kinder, closer to humanity. It very much was a bearing of my soul. Without sounding pretentious, I have to say I understood something lying in that hospital that I never understood before.”

Wagner’s unique rock and roll journey is a touchstone in American music history, even if much of it has been behind the scenes or inside the hub of creativity, and it is about time it receives its due.

But for Wagner, he can take it or leave it. For him, it is the camaraderie, the inventive pursuits and his beloved instrument that has fueled him and the pages of his fine book all these years later.

“I received a lot of ‘non-credit’ credits and some attention over the years, but my favorite may be one time when I took my sons to see Aerosmith at the San Antonio Convention Center,” Wagner fondly recalls. “Steven Tyler put his arm around me in front of all those people backstage and said, ‘This is the guy who helped us sell three million records’. I really appreciate that more than anything.”

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

Read More

Sticky Fingers/Fear & Loathing 40 Years


Aquarian Weekly 5/4/11

or How Hunter Thompson and The Stones Drove a Spike into Hippie Hearts

Did you ever wake up to find
A day that broke up your mind
Destroyed your notion of circular time
It’s just that demon life has got you in its sway.

– The Rolling Stones/Sticky Fingers

Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting–on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave….So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark –that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

– Hunter S. Thompson/Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas

Sticky FingersIt happened in the spring of 1971, forty years ago now.

It was like a snap; the kind of ghastly sound a finely tuned athlete hears when it all goes wrong inside. A major tendon gives way. A knee buckles. The elbow dangles gruesomely. Pain. Terror. The very real sensation that the change from full-speed ahead to over can be cruelly immediate, and soon, very soon there will be a long, dreadful period of rehabilitation. Even then, there’s no guarantee the body will ever be the same again.

Oh, the game goes on, but not for some.

This is what happened when the fast-paced, anything-goes wild and free Sixties youth movement heard a snap from deep inside. Actually, it was two snaps; one literary, the other musical. A long-form, two-part journal piece gone awry for Rolling Stone magazine, rather haphazardly titled, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, and a ten-song ball-breaker of a record called Sticky Fingers.

In March of ’71, journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who was a year removed from “inventing” a frantic style of fantastic deadline humping gibberish called Gonzo, escaped to Las Vegas with a Chicano lawyer by the name of Oscar Zeta Acosta to ostensibly work on an investigative piece about a slain East L.A. activist named Ruben Salazar. To bankroll the proceedings, Thompson accepted a Sports Illustrated gig to cobble together 300 words on a weird desert event called the Mint 400 motorcycle race, but ended up delivering a 25,000 word screed about drugs, violence and mayhem.

Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas would become a sensation, then a book, and inevitably made Hunter Thompson a star, helping to create a bestial character which would enslave him for the rest of his life. But as he struggled with the mountain of his random scribblings and garbled tape musings in a San Francisco hotel room through much of April and May, what Hunter Thompson was actually doing was fashioning a eulogy; a final dirge for the hippie generation and an ugly mirror poised on a drug culture he would expertly exploit in a long and very successful literary career.

Fear & Loathing in Las VegasThompson’s last biographer, William McKeen aptly describes Fear & Loathing as “a look back at the promise and hope of the Sixties that had been stomped to death somewhere in the middle of 1968”, the year that its author was beaten with other anti-war protesters outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago.

As the crippling images of hotel, automobile and brain cell destruction began to careen from his IBM selectric typewriter, the dark, savage rhythms of “Sympathy for the Devil” blasted from Thompson’s tape recorder — a song recorded in 1968 by The Rolling Stones and one quite prevalent in his unfolding tale. It was the very song the band played at the infamous Altamont free concert just outside San Francisco in December of 1969 as a man was being stabbed to death by a pack of booze-addled Hell’s Angels. Ironically, two years before, and one year before the Stones unleashed “Sympathy” into the fading echoes of the Summer of Love, Hunter S. Thompson made a fringe motorcycle gang famous with his first groundbreaking book, Hell’s Angels.

In April of 1971, across the Atlantic, The Rolling Stones’ new album, Sticky Fingers was wrapping blues riffs and snarling vocals around what would be Thompson’s final bugle call for the Sixties. Before long the two would remain connected by time and tone for what would be dueling Baby Boomer tolling bells.

The Stones had been hinting at what might be coming for two previous records, Beggar’s Banquet and Let It Bleed, both sinister clarions to the darker side of the counter-culture soon to be realized in political assassinations and street riots, an escalating Viet Nam War, the Manson Family murders and the deaths of four pop icons, one of them a former Rolling Stone. But Sticky Fingers is different. It is a dreary exhale, less foreboding and more grimly apathetic, as if the sense that doom could be avoided or marked as historical imperative was laughable. It was just doom, both personal and cultural, and that’s all.

But this was The Rolling Stones, so the doom was fraught with tongue wagging humor, a whistle past the gallows reeking with funk and jazz and down home raunchy blues, country honk and bittersweet melancholia. Never had the death knell of fast times sounded so goddamn good.

“It’s a bleak record about what the morning looks like after a decade of unchecked hedonism,” rock journalist and author, Robert Greenfield told me on the occasion of his last book about his time with the Stones in the South of France. “The Stones were making it clear the party was over and what was left was not pretty.” Sticky Fingers, it’s most charming song boasted a rather spot-on metaphor for the sharp decline in hippie ardor, “Dead Flowers”, was the kind of “fun’s over” message the purveyors of decadence would be gleefully inclined to make.

As Thompson was imagining the Death of the American Dream as a fat-cat fascist money-grubbing moral sinkhole on the Vegas Strip invaded by acid-crazed radicals hell-bent on wresting its corpse from Mother Authority, The Stones filled the airwaves with odes to slave master rape, misanthropic suicide jags, and morphine hallucinations.

As Thompson was imagining the Death of the American Dream as a fat-cat fascist money-grubbing moral sinkhole on the Vegas Strip invaded by acid-crazed radicals hell-bent on wresting its corpse from Mother Authority, The Stones filled the airwaves with odes to slave master rape, misanthropic suicide jags, and morphine hallucinations. Thompson’s “gross, physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country” is echoed in Mick Jagger’s haunting “Moonlight Mile” with his “dreams fading down the railway line” or Keith Richards’ rather dire “I have my freedom but I don’t have much time” from the gorgeous “Wild Horses”.

Then, of course, there is the drugs; as in the opening paragraph of Fear & Loathing wherein a phalanx of pharmaceuticals is recited as if names from an invading army soon to be consumed in herculean fashion by men “too weird to live, but too rare to die” who would finally be overcome but not defeated by the “excessive consumption of almost every drug known to civilized man since 1544 AD”. Not to be outdone by the “cocaine eyes” and “speed-freak jive” of Sticky Fingers, wherein nearly every song has at least one reference to mind altering — it’s seductions, consequences and mysteries.

Make no mistake, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas nor Sticky Fingers celebrate drug abuse – both Thompson (an openly unrepentant dope fiend until his suicide in 2005) and Richards (Keith is still kicking and has recently released his memoir, which reads as an unapologetic junkie handbook) – they simply tell the truth about the experience; something rarely found in either the Feed Your Head or Just Say No camps four decades since. In these tales of excess, the piper indeed comes to call. And perhaps no more honest portrayal of the drug culture has been improved upon since Thompson’s masterpiece hit the streets in late 1971.

“We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled the 60’s. That was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary’s trip. He crashed around America selling ‘consciousness expansion’ without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him seriously… All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create… a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody… or at least some force – is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Or maybe, “Love… it’s a bitch!”

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

Read More

Okay…Donald Trump

Aquarian Weekly 4/27/11 REALITY CHECK


I have tried to ignore Donald Trump. But he will not go away. He is everywhere, interviewed by everyone, and invited to speak anywhere more than two people are gathered. Some part of this is showbiz, but most of it is politics; and whether Trump’s tiptoe through the minefield of the American political landscape becomes official or merely a prelude to another lengthy presidential campaign period is of little concern. It has attracted my attention and motivated words.

Normally, we don’t do celebrity goofy here. I have never wasted an entire column on Glenn Beck or Al Franken or Chris Matthews or Sean Hannity. Okay, admittedly, I’ve cranked out lengthy diatribes on Ann Coulter and Michael Moore, defended Lindsay Lohan and reviewed Robert Downey drug binges, and the above names did occasionally appear to make a cultural point; however, to opine on the absurdity of legitimate discourse is enough of a waste of my time and more importantly yours. But hell, Donald Trump wins. He has chicken-winged me into commentary and for that alone he should be lauded.

Donald TrumpLook, of course Trump is a joke; even he must know this. Nothing he has uttered appears to derive from any particular basis in fact or comes within shouting distance of a point, aside from the shameless expanding of his notoriety. His substantial and very public business failures over the past three decades are a matter of sad public record, and his personal life is just short of an abject embarrassment. His appearance is comical and his speech patterns are that of a jabbering moron on the F train.

Donald Trump has evolved into something even he fails to comprehend, a queer link in the chain of weird American characters that make up the lineage of the fringe presidential candidate. Trump is this century’s marginal power vacuum figure, a strange amalgamation of past Great American Distractions. There is Leonard “Live Forever” Jones, who as a self-proclaimed “immortal” perpetually ran for president in the mid 19th century as the only member of the High Moral Party, but only after curiously declaring himself governor of Kentucky without receiving a single vote. Also, George Francis Train, whose late 19th century run for what he imagined would be the lofty post of Dictator of the Unites States garnered him the kind of press that inspired Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. Then in 1965, Homer Tomlinson, who in a fit of pneumatic fever had founded the patently insane but short-lived Theocratic Party, declared himself King of the World.

And as Trump’s forbearers would find, although populist chicanery may gain you much sought-after attention, no one remotely pertinent to the current political environment could seriously go on record to support this disjointed process. But yet, as was the case with former celebrities gone almost presidential like Charles Lindbergh or Douglas MacArthur, acceptance among peers may be a plus but is not paramount to relevance, as Trump holds a lead in most polls of potential or existing Republican candidates.

And aside from performing admirably on the one aspect being a contender demands, incessantly demeaning the incumbent with outlandish and malicious hyperbole, Trump is the one Republican who can say without debate he has never raised taxes.

Sure, it’s a weak early field, but Trump’s standing here is not insignificant. He has everything needed to run for the highest office; money, name recognition, the attention of the national press, and an alternative stance. It’s getting hard to argue against Trump having it over every Republican candidate on all counts.

Although his wealth is mostly wrapped up in questionable real estate concerns, of which he is only partial owner, Trump has shown a strong propensity to bamboozle banks to loan him millions on whimsy alone, something no career politician not named Barack Obama can approach. On name recognition, he has a television show on a major network, while Mike Huckabee hosts a late night thing on a basic cable news network in which Newt Gingrich is merely a “contributor”.

And aside from performing admirably on the one aspect being a contender demands, incessantly demeaning the incumbent with outlandish and malicious hyperbole, Trump is the one Republican who can say without debate he has never raised taxes.

Before leaving Minnesota in a $6.2 million deficit hole, its former governor, Tim Pawlenty raised property and cigarette taxes, while corporate taxes rose 50 percent on his watch. While serving as governor of Massachusetts where he signed into law a more all-encompassing health care government initiative than the current national model, Mitt Romney raised fees on gun permits and marriage licenses, as well as closing corporate tax loop holes. Indiana’s current governor, Mitch Daniels has already proposed raising taxes on individuals making a minimum of $100,000, while increasing the state sales tax.

Thus, Trump has gone from mildly amusing to dangerous loose cannon, precisely why rumors already abound. The first and most intriguing surrounds the idea that Trump is a Democratic invention, mucking up the new and improved “adult conversation” Republican model by acting like a Right Wing loon, not to mention ably filling the crazy/stupid vacuum left by waning Sarah Palin numbers. Another has the Republicans creating Trump as a placebo to the extremist or TEA Party hardliners, an old-fashioned decoy sideshow allowing the current Republican majority in the House to quietly vote to raise the debt ceiling and begin compromising on a reasoned 2011 budget with a Democratic-controlled Senate and White House. Trump also makes religious nuts like Huckabee and idiots like Michelle Bachmann appear as alternatively rational candidates.

Finally, there is the very real possibility the Republicans kick Trump off the bandwagon and he runs as an Independent. According to Public Policy Polling, as cited by conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan in the Daily Beast, Trump is likely to pull 31 percent of the Republican vote, which nationally should ring up anywhere from five to ten percent; less than what Ross Perot garnered to elect Bill Clinton twice or the minuscule but effective Ralph Nader chink in Al Gore’s armor in 2000, but significant enough in a polarized electoral map to easily re-elect Obama.

But fear not, this will be the last we’ll hear from Donald Trump, in this space, or anywhere in the realm of serious or con job politics. Soon, and much sooner than Trump would like, since most of his public life has been glossed over by a well-oiled publicity machine, the terrible truth about his disastrous business decisions, his mountain of defended lawsuits, the complete travesty he made of the once burgeoning United States Football League, which he single-handedly sank, and the entertaining details of two failed marriages will come to light.

Until then, Mr. Trump, I humbly surrender 1,088 words.


Make that 1,092.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

Read More

Countdown To Compromise

Aquarian Weekly 4/13/11 REALITY CHECK

OPENING ACTStaged Drama in the Final Minutes to Avoid Government Shutdown (for now)

It is still an open question, however, as to what extent exposure really injures a performer. – Harry Houdini

The Show was in full force by late Friday night when word came down a mere 22 minutes before the deadline to close the federal government. A deal struck!

For now.

Oooh…drama; as trumped up and distilled as any lame B-Movie script. And as any worthy cliff-hanger, there are heroes and villains, saviors and demons, and of course winners and losers; but alas these titles can and do change by the minute in The District.

Paul RyanAfter a year of feckless deadline-pushing by Democrats, who held “super majorities” in both houses of the legislature for the past year and Republicans, who used every political machination to filibuster and delay voting until what looked like a landslide November would put them more or less in the game, the sausage makers stepped into the spotlight. And they used that spotlight to provide a preview of the political bloodshed to come; the Main Attraction. Soon the 2012 budget and the looming deadline vote to raise the debt ceiling will have to be answered for, and if this is any indication, it will provide the truest elements of drama.

Until then, the Speaker of the House of Representatives was Friday’s big winner. Just as Nancy Pelosi before him, when she pulled off her party’s cherished health care initiative and thus the most significant Democratic legislative victory in a generation, John Boehner displayed great resolve and just the right amount of backroom conniving to rally and then stay his caucus tide; bringing about the greatest single year budget slashing in the nation’s history. Unlike Pelosi though, Boehner needed Democrat votes, especially in the thorny Senate where the rules change on the fly. Make no mistake, as was the case with the Health Care Reform Law, there awaits fallout, but not without the hedging of a political bet.

Boehner’s gamble to include ridiculously frivolous ideological riders like defunding Public Broadcasting or Planned Parenthood or even reduce funding to monitor greenhouse gas omissions and eliminate the funding to implement health care reform, struck gold. As the long hours of Friday passed and the glare of the spotlight shined on the ideological wish list, the Republicans held firm until their last breath, when all along no one, not the president, the Speaker, or the Senate Majority Leader thought any of it had a hoot in hell of surviving, Boehner played the extreme elements of his party, now popularly referred to as the TEA Party, like a pro, while continuing to spew his fiscal mantra –driving up his cut numbers with a deal already in his back pocket. He would not become another Newt Gingrich and take a P.R. beating and revive a politically wounded Democratic president.

It was something this space did not think he had in him, as predicted here last week when it looked like all the world he would hand off this kind of con job to his pit bull, Eric Cantor. But Boehner stiffened, and until the final hours, dangled red meat to his social conservative colleagues, and then by conceding to drop the goofy demands at the last minute, appeared to be giving up the store, when just a few billion were handed back to Democrats already having caved on $78 billion from the original 2011 budget proposal.

Oooh…drama; as trumped up and distilled as any lame B-Movie script. And as any worthy cliff-hanger, there are heroes and villains, saviors and demons, and of course winners and losers; but alas these titles can and do change by the minute in The District.

It may not have been genius, but it was a damned smart and sinister move, and proved Boehner may be a man of his word; this new conservative movement could well actually be about the fiscal and not the usual parade of Terry Schiavo religious wack jobs that crippled the party in 2006, put Barack Obama in the White House, and made media whores out of idiots like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck.

Seven minutes before 11:00 pm, the victorious Speaker of the House was the first to address the media with less than a minute of standard Republican hoo-ha about “fighting for budget cuts” and “keeping America working”; but took no questions. Eleven minutes later, Boehner’s nemesis, who was also a de facto political victor in this little sideshow, the president of the United States stood before a window overlooking the Washington monument and began waxing poetic about sacrifices and the largest single annual budget cut ever and then went off the rails with a “Joe Cool manipulated the bi-partisan government victory” spin; yammering on about school kids from some God-forsaken mid-western hamlet, finishing his three minutes with a look ahead to “working together as one”.

By 1:00 am, the White House, suddenly presiding over by far a larger one-time program-slashing than anything Ronald Reagan dared attempt, would leak the contents of secret meetings over two days when Boehner and vice president Joe Biden engaged in an Irish stand-off, both threatening to paint the other as a raving lunatic to the press if the government were to shut down, to which the story goes Boehner admitted to his fancy two-step and had to head back to placate the TEA Party just in time to save face.

Ah, but then the losers first had to take to the podium at 11:10 pm, when Senate Majority Leader and poster boy for the mass Stimulus and Health Care moves of 2009, Harry Reid stood in the Capitol chamber and with the hoarse whisper of a broken man spoke of a “grueling process” to hack $40 billion from the government coffers in two months as if it came straight from his bank account, but in reality was a spit in the bucket of the trillions in the hole this government has dug over the past eleven years when a surplus was blown up by supposed conservative Republicans and a president who not only refused to veto one spending bill but signed onto an unfunded tax relief, ran two wars and bloated Medicare on the Chinese jiao.

Four minutes later, Mitch McConnell, who was all-but ignored in this process, stood at his own podium across from Reid and began waving the white flag of “avoiding the repeat of history”, before wrapping up his dreary two minutes by waiting for the thud that was once the Gingrich for President 2012 campaign. His terrible failures of 1995 have finally finished him. There are new legislators in town, Newt, who can get the dirty job done and still look like Yankee Doodle Dandies.

At 11:18, 42 minutes before the dreaded deadline, the reviews for The Show were in: It is a summer blockbuster, passing its script through the United States Senate and then rushed back to the House for an after-midnight vote and then quickly on to the chief executive’s desk.

A $39 billion cut to the trillions tumbling into infinity, and hardly a burp from Wall St. or a whisper on Main St. It was, in the end, just an Opening Act, but what an act! By 1:15 am, Saturday ultra-right congresswoman Michelle Bachmann was on FOXNEWS decrying Boehner as a gutless appeaser and leftist congressman Anthony Weiner was whining about Harry Reid and the president selling out.

Coming soon: Act II — This time it’s personal.


Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More