Parachute Women – Marianne Faithful, Marsha Hunt, Bianca Jagger Anita Pallenberg, and the Women Behind the Rolling Stones – Elizabeth Winder(2023)

First and foremost, Parachute Women is a gorgeously written work; every paragraph brims with boldly worded visual descriptions of hippy fashion, psychedelic comportment, and underground psychological expression with pure rock and roll spirit. Author Elizabeth Winder’s wonderfully evocative travelog through the hoary subculture and glitzy celebrity romps of the long-haired, drug-addled nouveau riche and the 1960s into the seventies youth movements simultaneously flips its macho machinations on its head. This is a story of not the women behind the Rolling Stones in their most prolific and powerfully influential period, but leaders in their behavior, brand, and image.

Parachute Women is a revelation to those of us, namely me, who have been fed a filtered version of these well-worn tales over the years – even if powerful female figures like the enigmatic train-wreck sexual firebrand of Anita Pallenberg bursts from previous volumes on the band’s history. The author deftly eschews rehashing the usual stories of drug busts and bad-boy behavior to recast previously celebrated rebel figures of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger as cultural neophytes groping for radical fulcrums for which to build their outlaw bona fides.

Pallenberg rightly gets top billing as she radically altered the Stones paradigm while bedding three of its key members, introducing drugs, fashion, and a worldly witchy countenance to their otherwise middle-class attitudes, which Winder reminds us never really faded throughout their reign as “the greatest rock and roll band in the world.” Although, it is in the fragile yet indefatigable Marianne Faithful that the strands of this tale find its pathos. She gets a fair review as a genuine alter ego of Jagger in their “it couple” period bounding around Swinging London, in which her impish teenage freestyling reflects badly on the posturing of her ego-driven man.

This is a must read for those of us who gorge on Rolling Stones ephemera with a true exploration of strong women who endured their oppressive if not brilliantly devised ascent as a major force in rock’s firmament.   

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Lou Reed – The King of New York – Will Hermes (2023)

For my money, Will Hermes penned one of the finest books written about music, Love Goes to Buildings on Fire, which I reviewed here in 2012, and by far the finest one on New York’s rich late seventies influence on modern popular music. So, it makes sense he would tackle the oracle of New York in Lou Reed, and as imagined, he hit it out of the park.

First off, full disclosure, I knew Hermes had been working on this book for a while. Years ago, he’d reached out for contacts of insiders I had interviewed that dovetailed with Reed’s studio history, so from that point on I was busting to read this. Hermes ability to mine research and bring interviews to life is unparalleled, but what makes Lou Reed – The King of New York sing is his ability to describe and deconstruct Reed’s eclectic artistry, his mercurial nature, and his surly, spastic, intensely passionate life within and beyond the music. 

Having written my own book on a difficult subject in Warren Zevon, my heart goes out to Hermes, who agilely tightropes very delicate subjects here, from mental illness, drug addiction, sexual identity, domestic violence, art versus commerce, and music business ugliness that found Reed at every turn. His work on the Velvet Underground period is a completist’s dream, as many nuggets are uncovered and still many others explained – including wonderfully painful but insightful commentary from the band’s drummer, Moe Tucker. It is within the solo years that much of what Reed did in addition to his music – interest in film, painting, his foray into poetry and theater – along with his forgotten but seminal tours are portrayed and analyzed. Reed’s music – his hits and misses – leap from the page and profoundly illustrate what made him a great, as well as oft-misunderstood, celebrated, harangued, and imitated artist.

Lou Reed – The King of New York may be the final word on Reed’s life (and the final weeks before his death) as it is a biography that reads as dangerously close to the bone as its subject investigated in his best work.

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Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check
Mike Johnson Tells It Like It Is – Ignore his Warning at America’s Peril

I have extremely low expectations for humanity. I presume more times than not to be disappointed by us. Over the past four to five years, what has sunk even lower in my pathetically low bar is the Republican Party. I am not sure how much deeper they can sink to spike my abhorrence, but the great thing about penning this column each week is it brings new opportunities to mine the depths of depravity. This week we had a doozy from the new Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson, a heretofore little know religious loon from Louisiana, who helped facilitate the attempted coup de tat on America in 2020/21. Upon the proposed release of extended January 6 footage, he said this week, in public, as a matter of decorum and philosophical pride, “We have to blur some of the faces of persons who participated in the events of that day because we don’t want them to be retaliated against and to be charged by the DOJ and to have other concerns and problems.”

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, a man two heartbeats from the White House, who has sworn on his precious Holy Bible to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States, and currently guides the nation’s law body, called the press together and said, once again I state, out loud, that he means to protect criminals who sought to violently overthrow a free and fair election, beat and eventually kill capitol police, and destroy the people’s property. 

Is this not completely and utterly insane behavior? 

Or is this the new norm? 

I believe the latter now more than ever, even though I have written so for years, and especially after January 6, but the cat is out of the bag. The Republican Party is a proudly devised and systemically bolstered domestic terrorist organization. What adversary conclusion can one glean from this? Its titular head is shouting from the rooftops that he will aid the obstruction of justice for enemies of the state. In essence, what Johnson is saying is the Republican Party is aligned with domestic terrorists. Not some nut like Tucker Carlson or those dweebs on OAN or the Proud Boys or the tin-foil hat brigade on the Internet waiting for JFK Jr. to join Donald Trump, the new Christ, as VP, but the Speaker of the House! 

Initially, in the waning hours and days after the horrors of January 6, the entire gory episode was on Donald Trump and his cronies, many of whom are in jail or have plea-bargained to take him down. The whole “Come to the Capitol Mall, it’s going to be wild” tweets, the rally, the violent rhetoric, and the armed insurrections were his and his alone. But then, slowly but surely, those who initially decried Trump and underlined his crimes on the floor of Congress like former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, seemed to take a left turn and kowtowed to the criminal underground. And now the voters, nearly 90-percent of Republicans, join them. They are about to send the architect of this mayhem, still screaming about our elections being fraudulent back into the fray as their 2024 nominee for president.

To be fair to Johnson, the man didn’t even want to be Speaker. This was the idea of the fascist wing of the party who couldn’t abide McCarthy getting the people’s business done by working across party lines. They ousted him and ended up with a man who clearly disdains the American experiment and its people. His design is a theocracy, a Christian Sharia Law doctrine that jails pregnant women and queers, as he stated before the Supreme Court in a 2003 amicus brief about how “deviant same-sex intercourse should be a crime.” Johnson, who calls our Bill of Rights separation of church and state a “misnomer,” is on the record framing America as a “Biblical Republic,” boldy hanging a Christian Nationalists’ “Appeal to Heaven” flag outside his office that he wishes will replace the stars and stripes as if imagining a Handmaid’s Tale dystopia. The aim of this theocracy is laid out in one simple edict: “God has called Christians to exercise dominion over all areas of American society”.

Believe Johnson when he says this stuff. He doesn’t see the January 6 rioters and insurrectionists as criminals, they are persecuted Christian Warriors sent to overthrow this secular nation for a one-religion government like Iran or Saudi Arabia. Stripping women of their reproductive rights was just the start for this sect, and it is being fronted and supported by the Republican Party. Not maybe or tomorrow or if things go badly, RIGHT NOW. Not just Trump and some crazies from the hinterlands, but the federal government. And not phony conspiracy theorists, but a ruling party. One of only two that we got, folks.

The Republican Party is a proudly devised and systemically bolstered domestic terrorist organization.

The other day, after Ohio rightfully codified women’s rights into their state constitution, which Republicans there are trying to override as I write this, former Republican presidential contender and talking head from some half-baked Right Wing internet media conglomerate, Rick Santorum said, once again, out loud, that “pure democracies are not the way to run a country.” People guffawed. “What a dipshit,” they laughed. Yeah, he is a dipshit, but you know who also espouses this nonsense, Mike fucking Johnson, who has said on more than one occasion, “America is not a democracy.” He believes it, and now he is in a position of immense power. And if Trump wins and Republicans gain full power again, make no mistake, he’s coming for your freedom and replacing it with Christian falderal as law.

They’re banning books and threatening our kids’ curriculum to strike history and revisit it with god-fearing jingoism. It is happening, not as a science fiction harbinger like War of the Worlds, it’s the Republican Party today. So, when Mike Johnson says, “We have to blur some of the faces of persons who participated in the events of that day because we don’t want them to be retaliated against and to be charged by the DOJ and to have other concerns and problems.” We need to hear loud and clear his defense of those who want to transform America into a theocracy. Because he means it. 

Listen and heed him.

Or else. 

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Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check

Concepts like Hell never resonate with me. Afterlife is a gamble at best. Maybe there is reward or retribution, maybe there is nothing. In the case of Henry Kissinger, who died this week at the remarkable age of 100, I sincerely hope there is an infinite anguish awaiting his blackened soul and that in this neo-Christian netherworld his torture reaches the levels of misery and death he spent a lifetime inflicting on the latter stages of the American Century. His like is a rare plague that exists merely to remind us of our failed and damaged humanity. He was a monster and a murderer, an epic liar whose contemptable resume rids us of all notions of a merciful god or one that might ignore his most heinous crimes, as we did continuously until he was expunged from this planet.

Kissinger orchestrated some of the most unconscionably vicious assaults on innocent life to promote his ego and get him laid. His celebrity and influence were unquestioned for his time – every president treated him as an honored stateman – and he used it to inflict wounds on the body politic and slaughter millions worldwide. He helped set in motion a myriad of war crimes in his wake that slithered through the halls of governance and used his heinous methods to wreak global havoc that stood in the place of something called “foreign policy.” His legacy is carnage for photo ops and hatred disguised as American Exceptionalism. He was scum and a villain of the highest order.

Before he ever came to power, eventually given the reigns of Secretary of State by the wretched and disgraced Richard M. Nixon, in 1968, the bloodiest year of the greatest of American crimes, the Viet Nam War that ended up taking nearly 60,000 American lives and over 1.3 million for no reason, he orchestrated the skuttling of possible peace talks that would have ended the conflict and essentially Nixon’s chance at the presidency. Accepting, as I do, the immoral senseless Cold War ideology that was later exposed by the publishing of the Pentagon Papers, the Nixon/Kissinger cabal not only conned the electorate into a “Secret plan to end the war” but coordinated its horrific escalation over the next eight years. Ironically, this mayhem led to the downfall of the Nixon presidency due to Kissinger’s pushing for “a White House Plumbers” unit to destroy the reputation of Daniel Ellsberg – the Pentagon Papers leaker – leading to a series of federal crimes called Watergate, which stood as the worst attack on the U.S. Constitution until the Donald Trump coup to overthrow an American election in late 2020 into 21.

Watergate was a black-ops plan cooked up by Kissinger who played Nixon’s inept paranoia like a Stradivarius and made a mockery of the law, while simultaneously leaking anti-Nixon rhetoric to his friends at the New York Times and Washington Post, further heightening his boss’s perchance for unchecked vengeance. This, of course, pales in comparison to his “Madman Theory” that turned the Viet Nam War into America’s genocide of the neutral countries of Laos and Cambodia, which endured years of carpet-bombing, as Kissinger played a public relations game with human life that had him standing as a “hero” of the failed war when the finality of our escape was in its death throes in 1974. To this day, Loas is still the most bombed nation in civilization. This cause célèbre scheme of creating destruction to later come in and claim “peacemaker” served Kissinger well, as in 1971 when he surreptitiously worked with Nixon and the CIA to squash the move to independence for Bangladesh, installing tyrants to rape, pillage and kill over 300.000 of its citizens, so Nixon could open U.S. relations with China. But Kissinger was only warming up.

His most lasting and puzzling maneuver was the placing of the genocidal maniac Augusto Pinochet as de facto head of state soon after Chileans elected the democratic socialist Salvador Allende president. Flipping “free and fair elections” was normal duty for the Central Intelligence Agency after WWII, but under Kissinger’s machinations became ambitious intervention routines that destroyed nations. According to the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation (Rettig Commission) and the National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture (Valech Commission), the number of direct victims of human rights violations in Chile under Pinochet from 1973 to 1990 accounted for around 30,000 people: 27,255 tortured and 2,279 executed. In addition, some 200,000 people suffered exile and an unknown number went through clandestine centers and illegal detention.

He flaunted his evil and we celebrated it.

Throughout most of the 1970s under Nixon and his successor Gerald Ford, Kissinger oversaw the implementation of a half-dozen “Dirty Wars” from Pakistan to Argentina, overthrowing governments and installing fascist murderers backed with U.S. intelligence and money. This was a culture of muscle tactics that came to define American policies that claimed millions of innocent lives under the guise of anti-communist munitions that rivaled the systemic massacres of Hitler and Stalin before him. This is not hyperbole, it is history.

In a piece I wrote in this space during the weeks after the 9/11 attacks, I recalled a morning in 1997 when I awoke from a long night of debauchery in Boston to Kissinger prophesizing the endless wars to come on CNN and quoted it: “What troubles me the most about the United States current standing in the Middle East in regards to Arab countries is the delicate balance between our alliance with Israel set against the tenuous financial dealings with OPEC. And right now no one knows how the fallout of the Gulf War will affect those invisible, radical factions who fall through the cracks of that balance.”

Kissinger echoed the lies that led us into pointless and inept wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, concurrently outing our failures (much of it espoused by him for decades) and destabilizing the region further; leading to whatever the hell is going on there now.

This is only a snippet of Henry Kissinger’s perversions of the American ideal and the desecration of the rule of law, as he roamed the halls of power and the influential elite – frequenting Hollywood parties to extravagant celebrity circle-jerks. He flaunted his evil and we celebrated it. Everyone in his presence was stained by his legacy, which, sadly, is ours. Coming to grips with the evils of men like Henry Kissinger to cleanse our own national soul may not be enough to do so, but it is a start.

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Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check
Roevember Streak Will Continue Unless the Following Happens

Another election evening and another trouncing of Republicans under the weight of the disastrously unconstitutional Supreme Court Dobbs ruling. What is now being dubbed the annual celebration of Roevember by gleeful pro-choice advocates continues the undefeated streak at the ballot box for reproductive rights in red, blue, and purple states, adding Virginia (Dems flipping the state legislature), Ohio (overwhelmingly voting to codify reproductive rights), Pennsylvania (securing a liberal state supreme court) and Kentucky (re-electing a Democrat for governor in an ultra-red state) to the list. Since Dobbs, Democrats have outperformed polls and previous election cycles by anywhere from six to 11 points despite low approval ratings for the Democratic president under the weight of several controversial issues from immigration to crime. Stripping the reproductive rights of 51.1percent of the electorate is killing the Republican Party. And doesn’t appear to be stopping anytime soon, as prominent legislators, senators and media cronies continue to ignore this trend.


Please consider this a Public Service to Save the Republican Party from Itself – Or Else. It comes from the heart. Zero smarm. I promise. Okay, maybe some smarm and victory dancing on my part, but I would heed the following if I were Republicans, although I doubt, they will. They’re running a criminal for president and just elected a religious zealot for speaker of the House. But for the good of our democracy, the bleeding must stop. And I have a solution for both ends of the abortion issue and for pro-choice and pro-lifers to come together and stop the madness.

Consider it a treaty. All wars with this level of one-sided crushing begs a treaty. The Republican Party needs to come to the table or risk extinction. Democrats should recognize their incredible victory and humbly offer the defeated party a lifeline. For two reasons: a healthy democracy needs political balance, as long as that balance does not include fascism – as the current GOP supports – and it is more important that women have their rights back than to simply use Dobbs as a handy cudgel to cravenly win elections. As stated in this space, my goals to destroy the current Republican Party is not to unilaterally elect Democrats, it is to free enslaved women from this heinous Dobbs mistake and the large swath of Republican governors and Republican state legislators who have imposed draconian laws in fourteen states. The quicker we get there, the better it is for all.

First, before I submit my offer, it must be pointed out that it should have never gotten to this, and it is all the Republican Party’s fault. It used this private sovereignty issue to gin up religious-right support to win elections since the 1980s. Their president, Donald Trump, pledged to appoint judges to overturn Roe v Wade and he did, and crowed about it for years after, as is his wont on everything. They all own this and are paying for it with repeated election floggings. Ultimately, if not for Mitch McConnel stopping the vote for Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee by claiming sixteen months left of a presidency was not enough time to vote for one and then ramming Donald Trump’s nominee through with a month left in his presidency, and the ensuing Supreme Court nominees lying under oath about “settled law,” and then theocratic loons in the South turning America into an episode of Handmaid Tales, we wouldn’t be here. But we are. This is prohibition all over again. And like that moralizing disaster we need a way out.

The results of this have been catastrophic, with hundreds to thousands of women’s lives at stake. Not to mention – okay, I’ll mention – Republican-led states forcing doctors to allow women suffering with dangerous pregnancies to go into sepsis – what killed my father – rather than lose their license or go to jail. States where ten-year-old rape victims are prohibited to escape to free-states to terminate their pregnancy. Or states that force twelve-year-old girls to bring to term the child of their stepfather. These, and many more, are actually daily occurrences and it is clear, unless there is a national protection of women’s rights in this country the ballot-box shellacking of Republican candidates will continue unabated until there is nothing left of the GOP. I can go either way, but I am assuming they want to survive.

The Republican Party needs to come to the table or risk extinction.

If so, read on:

Before Roe v Wade was stupidly taken down, 99.9 percent of all abortions were conducted before Week-20 of pregnancies. I propose a bipartisan compromise of a 20-Week federal moratorium on legal and safe abortion rights, including all health care issues for women before, during and after pregnancy, and especially those who suffer rape and incest. There must be provisions after 20 weeks for health issues, et al, and include healthcare protections against government intervention afforded to men. This is only five weeks more than current governor of Virginia Glenn Youngkin proposed before coughing up both of his state’s houses on election day. What Youngkin, a former wonder-boy of the party, wanted was a way out for Republicans to tight-rope walk this losing issue. He tried and failed to paint those who want freedom as radicals and his party as the sane ones. He’d hoped that by controlling the state legislature he could enact a 15-Week moratorium, which actually polls better than the nightmare going on in the rest of the South, but voters weren’t buying. In fact, they went steps further to hand all of the Virginia’s congress over to Democrats.

Youngkin’s move was a cynical political gambit, but it shows one key thing: Republicans are cracking. Bold talk about wiping out baby killers is over. The whole heartbeat movement is toast. The pro-life movement, pardon the pun, is on life support and they now know it. But with the Virginia trouncing of the 15-Week Hail Mary at the polls, Youngkin’s surrender proposal is out. And remember, Virginia is a purple state. Ohio, a ruby red state, voted overwhelmingly for 22 to 25 weeks – or the viability of the fetus – which was the 50-year Roe statute. So, my 20-Week compromise is sweet relief for Republicans. Take it or leave it. And make it quick, because more hurt is coming in 2024, as a half-dozen states are priming to put reproductive rights on the ballot and goose turnout, and many of them are red or battle ground states. Not to mention, the architect of this catastrophe, Donald J. Trump, is on the ballot too, as he brags about delivering the stacked Court to sink women’s rights.

The war is over. The evil axis of Republicanism and Theocracy lost. Badly.

And so, to ensure the Republican Party does not go the way of the nineteenth century Whigs, this is more than a fair proposal for a federal protection of reproductive rights. For a party with zero leverage and hanging by a thread, it is the best they’re getting.

And to my pro-choice and Democratic friends and/or enemies, and most importantly women, many of whom I reached out to prior to writing this a received a solid majority for the plan, I think you should lay it out there and be the bigger of the two in this fight. Come with an olive branch and restore sanity to the nation. Why risk someone competent and not defending himself in four trials to run for president as a Republican or some weird shit going down and somehow Republicans own all three branches of the federal government again. They will ban reproductive rights federally. The current Republican-controlled congress voted unanimously to do so this past January the week they attained power. It’s coming. So, get something on the books now. Take this issue, as it should be, off the table. Restore the rights of your moms, sisters, daughters, aunts, cousins, significant others, your friends, and more to the point, Americans.

Or, if you want, and I don’t deny it is tempting, let this go one more year and take down Trump and whatever is left of Republicans and then control everything and do what you want. But as an independent and a free thinker, I disagree with this crash and burn plan. Sure, if they resist and don’t say uncle, then wipe the Republican Party out. I’ll keep helping, as I have now since Dobbs went down. But this is the fastest, best way to return the blessed sovereignty of constitutional rights to the bodies of 51.1 percent of our electorate while simultaneously removing this political death grip from the necks of Republicans and get back to debating election-denying, insurrection-revisioning, gun-toting, Bible-thumping, LGBTQ-hating, and win that way.

Take the W, Dems, and take the L GOP, and end this.

Women in all states deserve equal rights. Now.

You are all welcome

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Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check
Guest Columnist – Seán Barna

(Seán Barna is a sing-songwriter and activist, whose themes run from queer rights and the trans-underground, to love and loss and personal experiences. His series of single releases like “Straight Motherfuckers and Their Favorite Friends” (2015), and “Everyone’s Queen on Halloween” (2022) among others, EP’s Cutter Street, (2014), Cissy (2018), and Margret Thatcher of the Lower East Side(2020), and his latest LP, An Evening at Macri Park teem with humor and pathos. This is his second guest columnist appearance)

People always ask if I get nervous before I have to play a show. No, I do not. Not if there are five people in the audience, not if there are 8,000.

November 5, 2003

“Hey, what’s up?”


“Alright, are mom or dad there?”


I wish I had better words to replay and relive. Hell, even the best songs can get tiresome after twenty years living in your head. But all I have is, “Hey, what’s up?” to remember as the last conversation I had with my brother, Kyle. 

That conversation happened on a Wednesday. That evening was my first concert with my jazz combo. At the time, I was a freshman in the jazz drum set program at Florida State University College of Music and had been away from home for less than three months.

I have played thousands of concerts since then. That was the last one I gave without the experience of having lived the worst day of my life. My brother was hit by a car on November 8th, 2003. Twenty years ago. The police report listed his time of death as 10:03 p.m. It was a Saturday. I was practicing drum set in room 27 of the HMU music building at Florida State University. 
My dad asked me, “What’s your plan?” 

I’d been home for two weeks. All the people had gone, all the food had been eaten. We had returned to Southwest Florida from our native Connecticut, where we buried my brother. 

I had no plan. Somehow, in his own grief, he summoned the wisdom to give me this advice: “Whatever choices you make right now, whether you go back to school or not, or for that matter if you become a drug addict or something, nobody is going to blame you. They will understand. You can do what you want, but I think you should go back to school.” 

He was not wrong. Science is pretty clear on this: when a young person loses a sibling, they face an increased risk of early death themselves, for many terrible reasons, including deteriorating mental health from emotional trauma and increased risk of alcohol and drug abuse. Grief is a bitch.

And so, I went back to school. I will forever be grateful to my dad for this advice. Looking back, it is an obvious turning point for me. 

As a serious undergraduate music student, your life requires relentless prioritization over four years. You spend countless hours practicing for weekly private lessons and learning or rehearsing music for various ensembles. In my case, I had a weekly hour-long lesson with my drum set professor, Leon Anderson, and was the drummer of one of the university jazz combos. As a jazz major, I was also required to take a half hour classical percussion lesson – though I voluntarily did an hour-long lesson – and attend the weekly percussion studio class. Then there are multiple music and non-music academic classes.

Knowing I had serious catching up to do on my classwork, I asked my drum set professor if he could just give me a pass for the rest of the semester, since private lessons are basically a class that lasts four years instead of a single semester. “Of course. You have an A.” He also gave me a very nice card signed by everyone in the jazz studio (I wonder if I still have that card? There are some serious names on there…).

I also stopped by the office of Dr. John W. Parks, IV. Like me, he was in his first semester at Florida State, except he was the new Professor of Percussion. 

“Of course,” he said. “Don’t worry about it. Keep going to your lessons and work on cymbal crashes with Mr. Lloyd or something, but don’t stress about your grade.”

Keith Lloyd was a doctoral student and my graduate student teacher. 

“Thanks,” I said.

He stopped me as I was turning to leave. “Oh, and you haven’t performed in studio class yet. On Tuesday morning let’s have you perform the Bach you’ve been working on for your colleagues.”

My jaw hit the fucking floor. I was furious. Did he not hear what I just said? I do not have the capacity to practice hours a day right now. 

Though I had been a semi-professional drum set player since fourteen years old, I had just started learning four-mallet marimba a couple months before and could barely read melody. Plus, I did not really know anyone in the percussion studio. I was not one of them. I was a jazz guy, not a classical guy. A drum set guy, not a mallet guy.

And, to my astonishment, none of them knew what had just happened to me aside from Dr. Parks and Mr. Lloyd. Dr. Parks made the choice to let me tell who I wanted, if I wanted. 

I walked downstairs to the practice rooms and, fuming, got to work.

Seven a.m. on Tuesday came fast. Dr. Parks chose this time for our weekly class to weed out the students who were not serious about what they were doing. It worked because if you were late by even one second (I don’t mean two seconds and I certainly don’t mean three seconds), the locked door would slam shut in your face. If you did this three times, you failed.

It was my turn to play. I was terrified. Preparation aside, I just was not that good at this instrument yet. And J.S. Bach, under the best circumstances and in the hands of the best players, can be a nightmare to remember in live performance. 

My love and obsession with music did not go away, it just evolved.

It started fine but at some point, in the middle, I froze. Unable to remember the next note, I stood there as my vision started to blur from the panic and embarrassment. It felt like an eternity, but of course it was likely four or five seconds. That being said, of all the emotions a person can feel, embarrassment is my least favorite.

And then came one of the most important moments of my entire life.

From the corner of the room, I hear Dr. Parks shout, “A.” Horrified, I strike the A. Then, “F#.” I hit the F#. It continued like this.

With his photographic memory, he could see the music in his head, so he yelled out every single note for the rest of the piece until I made it to the end. Then he stood up and clapped. The rest of the studio, unaware of what was going on, followed his lead and clapped. Dazed, I sat down. I wanted to disappear.

By the end of the semester, I had added Percussion Performance as a second major. By the second semester, I was ranked #2 in the studio, behind only my graduate student teacher, after a rather stunning amount of practicing over Christmas break. By the end of my first semester in college, I had dropped jazz as a major entirely.

I believe – I know – that Dr. John W. Parks did not just save my ass that day. He saved my life. He did not encourage me or ask me to keep going, he insisted. 
My new routine was practicing eight to fifteen hours a day, forgoing all of the things a college student is supposed to do from attending parties to having sex with people you just met. This seemed to be a pretty healthy way to grieve my brother. Better than drinking, right? 

Playing the Bach Cello Suite in G Major, or Debussy’s Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum, my tears would fall from my face to the marimba. The music, so beautiful, provided a perfect setting for my sadness. 

Sounds peaceful, in a way.

But the reality is this: with even the smallest mistake, I would snap marimba mallets in half. Punch walls. Scream. Or, at my very worst, hurt myself. It was not out of the question that I would pull my hair or scratch my face if I missed even one note. As a percussionist, I wanted to be a bad motherfucker. And I was. But I was also a nightmare to the people around me, especially my best friend then and now, Ben King. And what I was doing almost killed me. 

During my junior year, my body started to shut down, my hands shaking so uncontrollably in one lesson that Dr. Parks forbade me to practice for a time.

To this day, I do not enjoy playing drums, especially in a rehearsal setting, due to legitimate PTSD and the association between the loss of my brother and the act of playing percussion. I play on all my own records, but I have not seriously practiced since probably May of 2006. But my love and obsession with music did not go away, it just evolved.

On August 18, 2006, I bought an acoustic guitar in Denver before attending a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert alone, hoping to rekindle my love of music.

On August 18, 2007, I saw Counting Crows live for the first time. This is the day I started writing songs. Until I wrote the previous sentence, just this moment, I did not realize this concert was exactly a year after buying my first guitar. Holy shit.

In September of 2014, I released my first EP, Cutter Street

In August, September, and October of 2021, I toured as a solo artist (with a band) for two months as direct support for Counting Crows, playing for larger crowds than I ever have in my life.

In May of this year, I released my second LP and first on the legendary label, Kill Rock Stars, entitled, An Evening at Macri Park.

This week, November 9th, the day after the 20th anniversary of my brother’s death, I am playing a show at Sleepwalk bar in Brooklyn. The evening is named, Songs for my Brother.

It is going to be an emotional, difficult show. I am playing entirely solo. The audience will contain friends and family, including my parents. 

What a couple of decades it has been. 
Am I nervous for Thursday’s show?
No, I am not.
The only thing that scares me about music is the thought of what my life would have been without it. 
Music is why I am alive. And when I am on stage, I want everyone to know they are not alone. 
Be kind to one another.

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Mo – King of the Clemens Estate – 2009 – 2023

Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check

James Campion
Mo – King of the Clemens Estate – 2009 – 2023

Dignity. That is the word that keeps invading my thoughts as I comprehend the death of another of our beloved cats. I’ve penned five of these since 1997 when I embarked on this sojourn of expression, argument, and general mayhem. Each one of these eulogies becoming harder than the next. Getting older now myself, I appreciate the concept of death far more. Four years removed from saying goodbye to my dad, who’s birthday passed only from the final breaths of our latest ex-feline. James V loved Mo. I guess dignity knows dignity.

His given name was Rivera. We got him in 2009, only a few months old, as the Yankees were on the cusp of winning their fifth World Series title with the enormous contributions of one Mariano Rivera aka Mo. So, he was Rivera. But we called him Mo from the start and so did my daughter Scarlet, who was there when he was plucked from the shelter and subsequently became the first word she was able to write soon after. She couldn’t be prouder than to scrawl his name across a whiteboard or random scrap of paper, “MO.” Over and over. We realized the morning he passed that this was the first of the cats to go that she remembers from his arrival

And Scarlet knew Mo well. It is a fine tale of the toddler and the little girl and the tween and teen and her big, male cat. At his most robust, Mo was 21 pounds. He was long and grey and when she held him his body engulfed her. He looked like a lion. That was fitting. He had a regal countenance. A king. We once had a Queen around here. Mazzy. Mo was her grey successor. He had to “deal” with two black cats, deferring to their domain and acquiescing like a gentleman despite the fact that he could have killed them both within seconds. That is if he’d been as crazy as the cat he actually replaced. 

That would be Parker.

She was grey, lean, and extremely mean. She had the sniping disposition of her namesake, Ms. Dorothy Parker. She terrorized our other two cats, so she had to go. It was sad, but we had to send her back. Never thought the animal-crazed Vegan wife would go for it, but it became a matter of survival for the black ones cowering in the cellar. Yeah, Parker only lasted maybe a week, two? Back to the drawing board.

I KNOW what I will miss the most is the quiet times we had together on the couch.

And so here came Mo, big, bad, and serene as they come. It was if he knew his role. Calm things down. Get along to go along. From the moment we got him out from under the guest room bed he was a joy. Mostly quiet, very matter of fact in gate (which always included the requisite click-clacking of his incessantly growing claws) and comportment. He patiently waited his turn to eat and only swiped at cats that gave him shit, inside or out. One of the three black ones he had to endure (we kept bringing these damn black cats into the fray, but he sucked it up), Bukowski – who, once more lives up to his namesake. Jesus, he is a walking Hank: Likes to fight, annoy everyone around him, eat like a beast and lounge as if every minute is siesta. 

But Mo endured. Even when the two kittens came the summer before last. He just sighed and soldiered on. He was cool. As long as he could sit in his “Mo Patch” – a little spot out by our hot tub above the patio. Or he might lounge on the hill leading up to the barn or on the balcony outside our bedroom, looking up at the sun and feeling the breeze on his cheeks and brush past his whiskers. He would close his eyes and you can feel his damn smile. It was visceral. 

He was, in the end, a cat of simple pleasures. He didn’t hunt like the others, whine like the others (until towards the end when he was a cranky old man) or create useless drama. 

My mom took to him, and she pretty much despises almost every living creature on God’s green. But there was something Italian in Mo – he liked to eat, loved life, and got his rest. All these things are important to Phyllis Campion – relax and mangiare! Yeah, Mo could mangiare! He was the first down for breakfast and the last getting his calories in at night. He may have waited his turn, but when it was his turn, politely back the fuck up; the Great Rivera is dining.

But I think, nah, I KNOW what I will miss the most is the quiet times we had together on the couch. If I was sitting there, usually writing, sometimes reading, other times just watching TV, no matter where the hell Mo was, he’d find his way to lean on me, put his giant paws on my lap, and nuzzle his head into my hip. As I pounded out words on this infernal contraption, he would purr and give the other cats and anyone who might saunter by the side-eye. This was our time together. No sharing! He may have liked those times as much as eating, I tell myself, but then I realize I’m just being a melodramatic human idiot. Mo loved eating most of all. 

I am grateful that through that horrible pandemic I got to spend more time at home, the silver lining to the world collapsing. I was fortunate to be “stuck” inside and enjoy all that offered – being with family, including the four-legged ones. And Mo was the highlight because he just hung. No one around here hangs out with me, and I guess now no one will. And that’s okay, ‘cause ain’t no one hangin’ like Mo. He cannot be replaced. I made the words. He made the purring. Good partnership agreement. Yeah, gonna miss that.

And so we bid a hearty and melancholic ado to our King of the Clemens Estate. He was a benevolent and sympathetic ruler. He just needed quit time and a meal close at hand. There is never enough time to love that, I think. I should have loved it and him more. Life moves fast. Mo didn’t. He had his own clock. And that one stopped at 2:40 AM on Tuesday, October 24., 2023.

The king is dead, long live Mo. 

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(Above photo, jc with IDF soldier outside the Dung Gate, Old City, Jerusalem, 5/29/96 – the day Benjamin Netanyahu was first elected Prime Minister of Israel)

Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check

James Campion
Square One: Rinse & Repeat

The Lord thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth.
               – Deuteronomy 20:16-18 King James version
It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.
               – Mark Twain

I always find it interesting when Americans think everything is about them. The minute people started dying, missiles fired, and things went sideways for the umpteenth time in Israel this past week, politicians, pundits, Twitter (X or whatever), and the usual “echo chamber of the silly” weighed in on how this was someone’s fault around here. Of course, none of this is true. Well, some of it. I know we bankroll the Israeli Defense Force’s powerful armory and have been the one superpower to maintain the country’s sovereignty in the midst of its surrounding enemies, most of whom we either have uneasy alliances with over oil (Saudi Arabia), wage war against for stupid shit (Iraq) and constantly make deals with (Iran – Reagan to Obama), and then we moved the country’s capital to the hotbed of religious lunacy, Jerusalem, followed by someone sending their son-in-law to fix it, but, really, this has (hardly) anything to do with us. 

Long before there was Joe Biden and Donald Trump (as much as that seems hard to believe considering both are really old), and before there were Republican and Democratic Parties, shit, before there was democracy, there was God. And the formulation of this God in oral tradition and then documentation – much of it unpleasant with a lot of rules and terrible retribution for not following these rules – seemed to confuse those whom these rules applied to. (For a recent instance, the Torah, the Old Testament of the Bible, is written specifically for Israelites, the pure Chosen People. No one fits this category in America, or pretty much anywhere, yet people used this fucking thing to strip women of their reproductive rights a mere two summers ago). Crazy, right?

And now onto truly crazy. 

The very idea of Israel as the center of the theocratic universe and its “ownership” of such a place by these mostly confused sorts, gives both ends of their skewed theology credence to unleash mayhem. It begins with a “one way or the highway” scenario – the highway usually ending up with one person’s God telling them to kill the other person because their God is wrong or some such. It started with fists and then rocks and sticks, then escalated using whatever terrific new ways to kill came along. Look at Israel as the proving ground for how crazy the God thing can get. For the past five thousand or so years people have been killing each other for this small stretch of land over the God thing, and even when twentieth century craziness like politics (Nazis) and culture (Israeli/Palestinian) enter the fray, the results are the same. 

Since visiting Israel in 1996, the very month the current Prime Minister   Benjamin Netanyahu was elected for the very first time (also crazy, since the most famous baseball player of the last half century, Derek Jeter hadn’t even won any of his five title yet), I have been fascinated with the underlying human carnage there. Not just death carnage, but rights of survival carnage, parenthood carnage, day-to-day existence carnage. No Palestinian, despite their being treated as Europeans treated indigenous people on this continent, want violence. I know this. I went there and asked them. Anymore than most Republicans wanted the horrors of January 6 to unfold. And Israelis, despite their ham-fisted leaderhip and shaky (at best) human rights crimes, want to worry about their kids popping into a candy store being at risk to end up a smoldering heap of flesh and bone. 

But then there is the God thing, and ya know… 

There’s also politics, sure, but what is politics anyway? The Good Doctor, Hunter S. Thompson once mused it’s “the art of controlling your own environment.” And since that environment was never built, nurtured, fought for, or preserved on principle and law (human law, not the God thing law), then the opening for what is happening right now is infinite.

Even when twentieth century craziness like politics (Nazis) and culture (Israeli/Palestinian) enter the fray, the results are the same. 

One thing will be for certain, because it has been the case since the late 1940s, the IDF is a vicious and concentrated fighting machine (also met and spoke to many of them, which is made up of every citizen) and no terrorist attacks or fancy slogans are going to keep it from crushing all comers. People will “pay,” things will calm down (but not really), and then we will be back to square one, because square one in Israel is the default position – Square One being an untenable and weak cultural and religious off-balance that leaves a vacuum for extremist hatred and state retribution. 

Rinse and repeat. 

Now, I get accused all the time here of being a cynical twit. And I am. Guilty as charged. But, come on. If for five millennium, things go this way more or less than you must call it as you see it.

It sucks.

We suck. Humans, I mean. But don’t worry the planet has a plan for us that includes being under water over time and we’ll be eradicated from the proceedings.

Until then, there is Israel, the God thing, Square One, and a bunch of solipsistic self-centered ego-loons over here blaming it on each other.

Rinse and Repeat.

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Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check

James Campion
A Right-Wing Populism and Post-Covid/Inflation Blowback Resurrection

According to a recent Gallup poll, 71 percent of Americans support labor unions. This is statistically significant for two reasons: This is the highest level of public backing of unions since 1965 and as of 2021 there has been a 57-percent increase in union election petitions filed, as reported by the National Labor Relations Board. There are two key factors in this surge in participation and national support for unions: Record corporate profits during post-pandemic shutdown, which shifted drastically after corporations asked workers to sacrifice or be furloughed or ended up being laid off during the crisis, and the solidarity among political parties on the subject. Up until Donald Trump’s complete 180 on working-class rhetoric, first as a candidate in 2015/16 and as president from 2016 through 2020, the previous pro-management Republican Party has now joined Democrats in competing in this field.

Timing and lack of opposition have led to a complete resurgence in the power, influence, and popularity of unions.

Over the past few months two major unions have struck against their employers, garnering increased press coverage and a windfall of public sympathy and solidarity; the Writers Guild of America, which settled last week with Hollywood production companies after being on strike since May 2, and what was once the most powerful union on planet earth, the United Auto Workers, who’s current standoff with auto manufacturers in Detroit continues and has not only gotten support from the president of the United States, but his likely Republican opponent. 

Both President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump have given vocal support to the union, and in an unprecedented move for a sitting president, Biden spoke on their picket line this week while Trump went to Detroit to ostensibly support the strike, but instead spoke at a non-union management conference. And while this is a classic grifting Trump move to say he is for a popular movement but knows his record says otherwise, so avoids being booed off the stage and puts on a con show instead, the leaders of both parties are on board with unions in both image and branding. 

This is an astonishing comeback for labor unions, who since the Ronald Reagan administration gutted laws protecting unions and firing 11,000 public workers during an air traffic controllers strike in 1981 saw a severe downturn in labor union support nationally. The over fifty-year Republican battle with unions, seen then as an early 20th century Communist off shoot of post-Industrial Revolution blowback, was the core of conservative politics. For a long time, Reagan was a paragon of conservativism for his bold actions forty years ago, but that all ended with the take-over of the Republican Party by Trump and the death of modern conservatism with his populist stance. Now, a large portion of the party, which has become a populist cult of personality that spent decades fighting unions, stumble over one another to be on their side.

This is understandable if not cynical analysis since this is precisely where the political winds are blowing. During last year’s record inflation, price gouging by corporations, especially the auto industry created record profits for management with zero “trickle down” to workers. Just like the advent of streaming services and the use of content created by entertainment writers, wherein the boom in repeated viewings of their work garnered them no extra pay, autoworkers saw exploitation and acted. 

The political might of unions and the reason for their increased popularity are due to the Republican Party’s at least rhetorical about-face on them.

The times have always dictated support for unions, which, as stated, after the Industrial Revolution saw the dehumanization of the worker class, lack of safety regulations, child labor, and other aspects of the period, along with political uprising in Socialist and later Communist philosophies affecting the order of the day. The same for post-World War II and its exploitation of the female labor force and returning GI’s from combat. Unions were never more powerful during the Middle Class/manufacturing boom of the 1950s into the early 60’s. And then came the outing of organized crime infiltration in labor unions, specifically auto workers after the asinine Volstead Act bankrolled their ascent, and the general malaise among union workers, which eroded public support. 

This, among many other factors, gave rise to modern conservatism and the over 60-percent negative view of labor unions from the 1980s until two years ago, when the once in a century Covid-19 pandemic shut the nation down, closed manufacturing, stymied shipping, and ground the international economy to halt. Workers, both essential and non-essential bound together in a direct backlash against companies gouging the American consumer while mistreating labor. 

This is, of course, not across the board, but the branding and public perception of management versus labor shifted dramatically, forcing both political parties to rush to their aid in hopes of remaining relevant. And while Democrats have been to a fault been the part of labor over the more corporate-minded Republican Party for a century, there is suddenly little area of disagreement on what unions mean to their success at the ballot box.

But make no mistake, the political might of unions and the reason for their increased popularity are due to the Republican Party’s at least rhetorical about-face on them. For the most part Trump’s government was not too far removed from Reagan’s in its ignoring and in some cases attacking worker’s rights, coupled with the massive corporate tax breaks over middle class relief. But since Trump is a media figure and his ham-fisted support of truckers, Johnny Lunch-Pail, barking about the return of manufacturing over outsourcing, and the fear of immigrants in the labor force pulled in the Rust Belt states to make him president, the Republican Party can no longer politically sustain an opposition to labor unions.

For the first time in many generations, labor unions are back, and perhaps bigger than ever, as now they have no political headwinds, not to mention low unemployment figures and inflation sinking from nine to three percent in the last two years to bring them back into the fore. And with a presidential election a year away, their voice and influence have become paramount.     

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Aquarian Weekly
Reality Check

James Campion
The Sad Tale of Kevin McCarthy Continues

It’s weird, right? Doesn’t it seem like Republicans are trying to not get elected ever again for anything? First, they have a criminal, who already lost an election three years ago by nearly eight-million votes coughing up former red states in the process, at the top of their presidential ticket. And they repeatedly send doomed candidates to the slaughter who mimic his “stolen election” craziness. They ban abortion, which six-out-of-ten Americans abhor. They deny climate change after five of the hottest years on record, which most Americans want addressed. They defend gun manufacturers and block sane gun regulations in the wake of dozens of mass shootings annually, which is gaining support among voters. And in all states that they run they make it more difficult for citizens to vote.

And now they’re going to shut down the government in the middle of a childish and very public inner-party spat that makes it look like their whole plan is to wreck America. Or as the current Speaker of the House, California Republican Kevin McCarthy put it this week, “They just want to burn the whole place down.”

Mind you, Republicans do not control two-thirds of the federal government, and yet, for some reason only known to six or seven MAGA Morons, they are going to do the one thing that is guaranteed to bury them in opinion polls and further motivate Independents and moderate Republicans to vote them out next fall. You would think the Speaker could wrangle enough votes to at least provide the Senate with a budget to fund the government, the most important job of congress, instead of floating strange evidence-free impeachment inquiries and trying to embarrass law enforcement on Capitol Hill for hours on end, before giving his colleagues a week off with two weeks left to the deadline.

But, nah.

No one should vote for Republicans until they right this ship.  Which sucks, because it fails to put a check on Democrats…

These appear to be the actions of someone who just wandered into the Capitol, like that guy who’s going to prison for four years for putting his feet on Nancy Pelosi’s desk on January 6. But McCarthy, nearly 60 years-old with a marketing degree, has been in congress for 17 years. You would think he could envision the shit storm he is orchestrating. But wait, why is he Speaker in the first place? Ah, right. He needed to persuade these MAGA Morons to get him enough votes to gain the gavel after a record-shattering 15 votes (longest such proceedings in 164 years). And what did McCarthy give up getting those votes? Oh, right. He handed the majority party the right to have any member call for a motion to vacate the speaker’s chair. This was unprecedented idiocy that no Speaker has had to face in the 234 years of the U.S. House of Representatives, but what choice did he have? It was either that or go home. He wanted the damn job, and now he has it, and it comes with essentially no power. He cannot get the requisite votes for anything. He didn’t even have the votes for his sham impeachment inquiry, which means that it’s a toothless political exercise that is also wildly unpopular. Seven out of ten Americans don’t want it, so, of course, Republicans are doing it. They apparently are begging to get shellacked at the ballot box again.

Let’s review: McCarthy is fucked. His party is fucked. The country, as long as Republicans are in charge of anything, is fucked.

I am going to reiterate what I have written here since January 6, 2021, and the ensuing striking down of Roe v Wade by the corrupt Supreme Court jammed with lunatics by scheming Senate Republicans, who moved heaven and earth to rob women of their reproductive rights; the first elimination of citizen rights in my lifetime: No one should vote for Republicans until they right this ship.  Which sucks, because it fails to put a check on Democrats, who continue to have it easier because the Grand Old Party doesn’t seem to want to compete in the political arena anymore. They merely want to make Donald Trump and his 38-percent of the national vote happy. They show no desire to expand their voter block, which is shrinking by the generation, or work in a sane construct. They are fooled by conservative media that this is the way forward to govern. It is not. And if Democrats winning every special election in the last six years by an average of 11 points in a polarized atmosphere is any indication of what is coming next year, then I’m not sure what is.

When Republicans return with one week to go before the shuttering of the federal government due to their incompetence, McCarthy has one move left; work with Democrats on a bi-partisan bill that can pass a Democratic Senate and be signed by Joe Biden, a Democrat in the White House. Or watch those polls, and with it, Republican prospects for 2024 sink further. And with the end of gerrymandering in six states by next year and many of the members of congress fortunate enough to gain seats in purple districts in 2022 facing an ousting, this would be bad. For them. Good for people who don’t want American “burned down.” But to accomplish this would mean a revolt in the party and McCarthy’s eventual removal as Speaker.

It’s all so Shakespearean. But it’s what McCarthy signed on for: Fund the government or take a powder. Either way, as I see it, things go further sideways for the Republican Party; shutdown, backlash, or dump McCarthy and then who becomes Speaker? Bozo the Zealot? And can that person get enough votes from moderate Republicans, many of whom have taken to the airwaves and the D.C. press to deem this a “clown show” and “unserious” and “politically suicidal?” 

All of it is a terrible look for Republicans, who prove they are a mess and continue to entreat Americans to vote the other way.

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