CHEATERS PROSPER

Aquarian Weekly
1/22/20
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
CHEATERS PROSPER
A Guide for Our Children
 
This past week a Major League Baseball investigation concluded that the 2017 Houston Astros cheated to win the World Series. They stole signs that catchers put down to let the pitcher know which pitch he should throw (curve, fastball, change-up, slider, etc.) through an elaborate electronic system of cameras and then players banged on trashcans in the dugout to alert batters of what was coming. It is the greatest cheating scandal in modern baseball history. Only the 1919 Black Sox affair, in which eight members of the Chicago White Sox took mob money to throw the Series to the Cincinnati Redstockings eclipses it. And maybe not even that, as only part of the team was implicated. It is clear now that everyone in the entire Astros organization was part of the scheme to steal a title. All eight men on the White Sox were banned from baseball. Those guys didn’t have a union. Current players do. Thus, they were granted immunity to come clean. They did. They told MLB that they all cheated, all season, and during the playoffs. They admitted that their individual achievements and their team title were a complete and utter fraud. So, Astros owner Jim Crane, in a CYA move for the ages, fired manager, A.J. Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow after the league fined the team, took away draft picks and suspended those gentlemen for a year. However, the counterfeit title stands. Again, it was a fraud, but there it is, in the record books.

Was it worth it?

The answer would have to be yes.

The players are likely being vilified behind closed doors from fellow players who rightfully whisper if they knew what pitch was coming, or more importantly, which one was not coming, and they too could win an MVP, like Jose Altuve did that year or their entire team could lead the league in every offensive category or go 8-1 in the post season at home where the cameras and system to spy were set up. Sportswriters, ESPN and fans of other teams are registering their disgust loudly. No one outside of Houston actually considers them the legitimate champions of anything, but who cares? They have rings. They have awards. They got all the outside-the-game revenue that comes from being a champion, from being considered the best. It’s still there. Cheating helped that happen. Good for cheating.

Of course, the very next year the Boston Red Sox took the World Series, winning a ridiculous 108 games, and they also had an MVP, Mookie Betts, and led the league in all the pertinent offensive numbers. The stat-heavy Five Thirty-Eight web site actually said they were the closest thing to the immortal World Champion 1998 Yankees that went 125-50 that we ever thought we’d see. Their manager, Alex Cora had been the architect of the Astros cheating as a coach in Houston, so, of course, the Red Sox were caught using video monitors to steal signs. Why not? “If it ain ‘t broke, don’t fix it” is how the saying goes. The Red Sox are now under investigation and Cora was sacked to save face. Their title is also a goddamn fraud. But it still says 2018 Champs, so was it worth it?

You’d have to say by the standards of American ingenuity and success, absolutely.

Fairness? Fuck that. Sportsmanship be damned.

Take the New England Patriots aka America’s Cheat Machine, its coach, Bill Belichick aka Belicheat and its bogus quarterback Tom Brady aka Tommy Tuck-Rule (look that one up, it’s a doozy), who have been making a mockery of the rule book for over a decade and as such winning championships and awards after championships and awards. It’s a tragic fucking joke what is going on up there. And everyone knows it. The league has repeatedly fined and disciplined and suspended and warned and castigated this gory lot for camera and audio spying, deflating footballs, finding weird loopholes in rules, and other illegal shenanigans. The players, coaches, owners, front offices and fans of the teams that have repeatedly cheated have screamed from the rooftops. For a while. But everyone loves a winner. Beantown loves to say everyone is jealous or that they’re being persecuted. Everywhere else watches the Patriots get slapped on the wrist, another freaky thing occurs, everyone winces, and things go on as before. Tainted Super Bowl titles stay in the record books. Hell, “if you ain’t cheating, you aint’ trying,” is another old saying that applies here.

So, you see, none of it matters in the end, and all of it has led to an unprecedented era of winning for the Patriots. Even their owner Bob Kraft aka Nasty Krafty was busted in some sex trafficking, porn video, massage parlor shit and he gets to go back to his luxury box and preside over all this cheating. Because winning is the thing, how this achieved is a bunch of detailed bullshit for moralists. Fairness? Fuck that. Sportsmanship be damned.

Then we have our game show president. Holy shit, what a corruptibly insane asshole Donald Trump is. He gets help from a foreign enemy, like his rich daddy, denies it happened, like every stupid thing he says and does, fights the United States intelligence community, goes to Russia, tells our press that Russia didn’t do it, then when he is up for re-election tries to threaten another foreign nation to help him win again.

He is our greatest and most successful cheat. He sidestepped his way into the most powerful position in the world. If everyone on the Astros, Red Sox and Patriots shot everyone walking down Fifth Avenue, he can pardon them. He can assassinate heads of state. He can take people from their land to build an imaginary wall. He can even shut down baseball and pro football if he wishes. He is the shit, and he’s lied and cheated his way there, and that is a lesson for us all.

The illegitimacy of the president’s 2016 win becomes ever more into focus with every new allegation and piece of evidence that comes down on what eventually got him impeached. Impeached? Stained? Tainted? Sure. But Trump still gets to be president. Was it worth it? Fuck yeah!

Even when you erase the hoary characters from this fiasco, the entire electoral process is now in question. Who knows who’s currently hacking into the private emails of a major American political party, spreading false information and passing it off as news on Facebook, or even queering the vote counts of how many counties in how many states? Who knows?

But without all this, there is no victory in 2016 or the presidency. So, cheating worked spectacularly and may work again. Hell, those who voted for him or share his politics agree it doesn’t matter if he cheats. They love tax cuts, conservative judges, a rising stock market, and for those of us covering this hot mess, there is a shit-ton of craziness to get into print. Goofiness. Embarrassment. Anger. Racism. Idiocy. It is all on the table and a win-win for everyone.

Ask the U.S. Senate, who are preparing to sweep all of this president’s constant cheating and stonewalling under the rug. They will cheat to victory and move on for more cheating.

Cheating is in.

Class dismissed.   

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AMERICA ALONE

Aquarian Weekly
1/16/20
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
AMERICA ALONE
Welcome to the New Age of Isolation, Apathy & Defeat
 
 
I’m not sure what you would call this Trump Doctrine. Is it foreign policy? Not sure it would make the cut of any “policy” per se. Seems like most of this presidency’s maneuvers are knee-jerk, ad-hoc, half-ass what-the-fuck kinds of things that end up in ranting tweets and Nuremburg type rallies of bloviating mendacities and bumper sticker logic. Does it show a consistent measure, say, like the Bush Doctrine’s War on Terror or Reagan’s Geo-Political chess games or even Clinton’s piecemeal effect? I would argue no. Fact is, it appears that Donald Trump doesn’t know either, and more to the point neither does his drooling attack dog Mike Pompeo, a former CIA Director and cheap hood from Kansas whose only understanding about international affairs is assassination. It was the current Secretary of State who convinced the easily swayed Trump to illegally assassinate the top general of a sovereign state in a battle zone that was not specifically waged against the nation for which he toiled. Ensuing press conferences seemed to indicate that he was bad. And that is a very tenuous reason to conduct international murder.

It appears even to the mentally challenged that the erratic short-range planning on how to deal with international affairs falls mainly to a man whose woefully short attention span and fantastic inability to learn anything has been on dangerous display for three years. Some call this a method. In other words, the lack of planning or doctrine is kind of a doctrine, and I would grant them this misnomer, if not for the imbalance of enemy vs. ally that comes with who might “like” or “ego pet” or “placate” a single human being as opposed to the safety and advantage of an entire nation.

This is especially appalling because nearly two-thirds of the American people do no support this president. He has zero mandate, in the traditional sense. For whatever that is worth these days. And these kind of zig-zag irrational one-off decisions – like tweeting to pull U.S. troops from Syria last year without alerting those who are running the war, or worse still, the allies on the ground – tend to alienate America from the international community. This has happened with annoying regularity during Trump’s first term and while this gets the current 41-percent that support him the giddies it does leave America isolated globally. And this latest Iran goofiness has only exacerbated the problem. And although I couldn’t give nary a shit whether we have any kind of powerplay in the Middle East, I would guess that Iraq (“welcomed as liberators”) after eighteen years voting last week to kick the most powerful nation out of its country has to be a bad look to the rest of the world. Not to mention without a presence in the country we broke, a vacuum – already partially filled by ISIS and soon to be consumed with Iran, the very nation killing its lead commander was supposed to impede – will most certainly not be completed by anything approaching U.S. friendly.

That is not foreign policy, it’s the script of a horror movie. 

This is why I took to Twitter – which I rarely do – to implore congress to cobble together a veto-proof halt to what will likely be an ongoing clusterfuck in the Middle East with Iran. The House, with mostly Democratic votes, predictably came with a feckless attempt to limit Trump’s war powers a few days later – I am not suggesting this was because of my tweet, but hey… – it was a show vote and not a binding resolution. At some point, I will argue until the face turns a bluish hue that the actual branch of government that has the constitutional powers to declare war needs to get their shit together and end what has amounted to over seven decades of abject stupidity from the executive branch, the Pentagon and the military. We suck at war. We have not won one since 1945 and that’s because congress was kept out of it since; in most cases illegally. This appears to have happened with Pompeo’s fancy assassination.

But I digress.  

If I may, let’s take a look at non-binding, shadowy “agreements” that lunatics have entered into with this president in the past three years: More pertinently, Russian President Vladmir Putin, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, Turkish President Recep Erdogan and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bind Salman Al Saud. All of these leaders – Trump favorites – are despots, dictators and tyrants. All of them Trump has “trusted” over American intelligence agencies – the same agencies the administration and Pompeo ran to use as cover for murdering the Iranian general. Trump said, on foreign soil during the first year of his term with Putin standing beside him, that Russia probably had nothing to do with hacking our 2016 election, before his private meetings with him that did not include an American translator. He has had two meetings with Jong-un that resulted in no signed treaty, just a couple of what he described as “love notes.” Meanwhile North Korea continues to fire off missiles and thumb its nose at the U.S. Then there was the little nastiness of the Saudis murdering an American journalist that Trump excused after some shady rationale from the Prince.

Now, Trump, who tore up an actual Nuclear Pact that had assurances in writing agreed by a large part of the international community, is telling us “All is well” and that he’s got Iran’s assurance that this whole thing is a misunderstanding and whatever other nonsense he can garble in a pinch. No treaty. No negotiation. No international coalition. Just “I got this” from a guy who has trouble telling the truth about everything.

No question that what happened this past week in Iraq could have gone far worse. If anything, Iran acted as an international power with some restraint. But that’s if it is to be believed and that’s another story, because we have nothing in writing. There is no safety net. There is no “trust but verify”. Only trust, and oh, a crazy man taunting another crazy man on social media. Makes me sleep well at night.

One thing is certain, there has to be some stable direction with America’s foreign policy, because this kind of silliness is not sustainable. If this is a new era of isolationism, then let’s go with that. Anything would suffice over what is currently transpiring. Pulling out of treaties, reneging on promises, scuttling agreements and random assassinations with no explanation is wearing thin.

What the result of all this looks like is anyone’s guess. And that is not foreign policy, it’s the script of a horror movie.    

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THE IRAN MISTAKE

Aquarian Weekly
1/8/20
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
THE IRAN MISTAKE
Forget Impeachment, Crimes, Lying, Stupidity & Sucking Up to Tyrants – This is the Worst Part of the Worst First Term
 
 
We are at the brink of war with Iran.

The executive branch is at war with Congress.

The Senate and the House are at war.

A game show host is in charge of all this.

Welcome to 2020.

What a shock. Impeachment. Then the assassination of a key war figure of a perpetual enemy. Is this what they call “wagging the dog”? Crisis. Distraction. Didn’t Bill Clinton do some bombing after he was impeached? Yeah. Same shit. Trump. Clinton. Shamed. War. Got it.

What makes this worse is Donald Trump appealed to the great unwashed for his constant mocking of stupid moves in the Middle East and now he has got himself one. It is a good distraction, for sure. Making bold idiotic moves to change the narrative is all well and good when you are stealing real estate in Manhattan or selling a pro wrestling gig. It even worked to sucker the duped into voting for you. Using the presidency as a queer business maneuver – like the Ukrainian nonsense which got him impeached – is another direr story entirely.

Assassinating Iran’s top military commander, suddenly the most important thing in the world – as Syrian burns and North Korea spits in our face and Europe laughs at us – with a gutted State Department and a Department of Defense in shambles is a bad move. War with Iran was always a bad move. Even in the best of times. These are not the best of times. Far from it. We are not prepared for this shit. Hell, this was an imprudent move in 1979 and through the 1980s and into 9/11. Always bad. Ask Saddam Hussein. Oh, shit. You can’t. They hung him. Why? Because we made him our puppet to take on Iran and they beat him mercilessly and we decided to hunt him as a despot, invade his country and then turn him over to what amounted to Iranians.

This is just another in an agonizing series of foreign policy blunders for this president. What the fuck am I talking about? There is no foreign policy. There is no domestic policy. This is reality TV for Trump. His capacity to parse these things does not exist. He is a damaged personality living in paranoia and madness and the best place for that kind of thing is the Pentagon. They love a commander-in-chief with his back against the wall. But no one, not even our top generals think we can sustain a third-front war in the region. We are still at war in Syria, despite rhetoric to the contrary, and in Iraq, where this guy was offed, and of course in Afghanistan – our longest running military mistake, which we have learned (yet again) was run on a lie and perpetuated for nearly two decades on more lies. Your brothers and sisters, sons and daughters died for a lie, just like in Korea and Viet Nam. And this lie by the most untrustworthy human to ever take the office is a doozy.

Even for the far less cynical, the timing is more than intriguing.

And it could have been avoided. In fact, it was avoided. Because the previous commander-in-chief had a choice; engage in an unwinnable conflict with the largest country in the Middle East or try and curtail its nuclear capabilities while giving lip-service to its inclusion in the world politick. Barrack Obama wisely chose door #2. It was his finest hour. It had international support and by all accounts (not most) it was working. For the first time, Iran was not pursuing nuclear capabilities. It was good for the region, especially good for our most cherished ally, Israel, and good for the world. I supported it wholeheartedly, and I support almost nothing. It was certainly not perfect. Nothing is perfect. This is not Disneyland. This is the real world. Things are difficult and have setbacks and bumps and bruises and you work with that. But all of this, reasoned the game show host, had to go, because Obama did it and all-things Obama had to go, because Donald Trump is a simpleton and should have been sent packing in the first weeks of a Republican primary, but has now engaged us in a war with Iran.

Again, even for the far less cynical, the timing is more than intriguing. And since it is hard to believe anything this dunce has to say we find that the same day hundreds of incriminating unredacted emails between the Department of Defense (trying to release the halted funds to Ukraine as directed by Congress and signed originally by the president) and the Office of Management and Budget (doing the bidding of Rudy Giuliani/Donald Trump) further implicated the president in criminal activity, an overt act of war ordered by Trump is sketchy.

However, regardless of timing and distraction from his disgraced presidency, this nation is on the brink of war with Iran. From its statements, Iran believes we are already there. Oil prices soared overnight. Israel is in lock-down. The over-reaching battle against ISIS, already damaged by recent ill-advised actions by this administration, is over. Trump has escalated troop numbers to the region already. Congress is being kept in the dark. Zero Pentagon briefings. Propaganda talking points. Trump tweeted an American flag.

Welcome to 2020. The year we have to find a way to oust this bleating cancerous boil from the White House and try and undo three years of astonishing destruction. That is if we see 2021.

Happy New Year. 

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Exile in Guyville (33/13 Series) – Gina Arnold (2014)

While on the subject of the aforementioned 33 1/3 Series, one of the finest ones, which I’d just read when readying this edition of Rock Reads, is Gina Arnold’s deconstruction of Liz Phair’s monumental Exile in Guyville. Arnold, one of the finest historians on the indie movement of the late Eighties to early Nineties, puts the 1993 release into pinpoint perspective while getting inside many of its myths, geographical touchstones and feminine evocations.

Much of Phair’s persona and this record in particular took on a wider interpretation at the time of its release. There was a sense that the album’s raw expression on sexuality, personal angst, a lashing out on external demons and the dying of a musical street movement in Chicago was somehow a referendum on the artist and not the art made delving into this book a treat for me, and the author did not disappoint. This is as much a record of its times and beyond it, and Arnold leaves no subject ignored. 

Of course, the one thing that intrigued me from the moment the album was released – beyond its DIY mastery of tape demos being put out as statement a la Daniel Johnston and Michelle Shocked and later Beck, all of whom perked my ears in a time when rock and roll had become a bit stale again – is its immediate reference to my favorite Rolling Stones album Exile on Main St. By name-checking arguably one of the two or three finest rock records of all time, Phair goes into sacred territory on her own terms. Many, including your truly, dismissed the originally stated idea by Phair that Guyville is a track-by-track answer to the Stones, specifically the macho messaging by Mick Jagger. You would have to be someone looking for such things to consider it as a serious exercise, but Arnold does it! And does it with the kind of intense music writing that makes doing what I do as a music journalist and essayist worth noting.

As stated, this series is worth exploring in general, but if you need to start somewhere, Gina Arnold provides a template to why these books work so well in making listening to these works subsequently appealing.  

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The 33 1/3 B-Sides: New Essays by 33 1/3 Authors on Beloved and Underrated Albums – Edited by Will Stockton and D. Gilson

Speaking of music journalists, the highly recommended 33 1/3 series out of London, of which I have enjoyed more than a dozen of their over two-hundred volumes based on seminal records of the rock era, has just released a very interesting compendium penned by many of the same authors to dig deep into their secret loves of overlooked classics (hence B-Sides) – some by wildly successful artists and others almost completely ignored. It is a revisit to records that for reasons broached in each essay need to be reconsidered. It’s a fantastic idea and a great read.

There is so much care and passion by the authors on each selection, it is hard to cite the most compelling. I was, of course, jazzed by selections I too think are easily dismissed as lesser works by significant artists, The Rolling Stones’ It’s Only Rock and Roll (written by David Masciotra), The Cars’ Candy O (Susan Fast) and still others that I believe are masterpieces in their own right as in Sinead O’Connor’s brilliant, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (Tara Murtha) Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking (Rolf Potts) and Songs of Love and Hate by the always evocative Leonard Cohen (Drew Daniel).

Full disclosure, back when the series was published by Continuum Publishing, also out of London, I was working with an editor there to write a volume about the 1976 KISS album Destroyer, a record (in the spirit of B-Sides) I have long argued has been discounted in the pantheon of great 1970s hard rock releases, mostly due to critical prejudice of the band’s cartoonish persona. After extensive interviews and mounds of research bloated the project that would eventually be titled Shout it Out Loud – The Story of KISS’s Destroyer and the Making of an American Icon  I was to take it to my current publisher Backbeat Books for a 2015 release.

Nevertheless, the very concept of trying to reimagine its impact was an inspiration.

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Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Roll and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z – Edited by Jonathan Lethem and Kevin Dettmar (2017)

For someone who has spent many years writing about music and compiling quite a list of heroes along the way, a collection of the best music journalists and essayists is a true gift. And Shake It Up delivers. Having read many of these articles and essays before, it is nice to have these seminal pieces available in a single volume. There isn’t one key music writer form the past half century missing. Editors Johnathan Lethem and Keven Dettmar uncover some real gems too. The main voices from gender to race from hip hop to rockabilly are featured.

Reading some of my favorites, Paul Nelson, Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, and the self-proclaimed dean of all rock writers, Robert Christgau is quite illuminating when they are all there back to back to back. The way the book is arranged, it provides a wonderful chronological sense of where the rock world began all the way to today through the voices of those who lived it, expressed it, turned it from a teenage fad into a serious consideration as a legitimate artform.

Stand-outs include “The Memphis Soul Sound” by Stanley Booth – I loved his book on the Stones 1969 tour and his observations on Altamont, The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones that I may or may not have reviewed here –an excerpt from acclaimed poet, Amiri Baraka’s The Changing Same (R & B and New Black Music), which I plan on reviewing here in the near future, “The Cars’ Power Steering”, chronicling the formation and incredible success of The Cars in the late-seventies by NY Times entertainment critic, Jon Pareles, a piece that I read mere days before their founder and main songwriter, Ric Ocasek died, and John Jeremiah Sullivan’s in-depth reporting on the weirdly wonderful and equally repellent lead singer of Guns N’ Roses, “The Final Comeback of Axl Rose”.

Volumes such as these are important guides to our understanding of how the music was digested during its times and how they altered the landscape of the future. These are the voices who were there to describe the view and put it into perspective.  

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Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles – Kenneth Womak (2019)

The final days of the Beatles. Has there ever been a more overly detailed account of a breakup in the annals of print? Yet, Kennth Womak has written a wonderful new book, Solid State: The Story of Abbey Road and the End of the Beatles, which comes on the fiftieth anniversary of the classic album’s release. Womak uses the backdrop of the Beatles final musical statement to provide new insight into the events surrounding the disintegration of the world’s most popular rock and roll band and its refusal to go away quietly.

What makes Solid State stand out from previous “end of the Beatles sagas” is as the title hints, it concentrates on perhaps the most crucial instrument on Abbey Road, the then brand-new solid state mixing board introduced to the studio whose name the record bares as its title. Abbey Road was indeed recorded in the place where nearly all the band’s legendary music was realized, but in the winter of 1969 there was one major difference: The studio moved away from its trusty BTR four-track machine for a new solid state board and an eight track deck, something the Beatles and many of its contemporaries clamored for since its introduction a year earlier. The very sound of the band was altered, the smoother and deeper Paul McCartney bass runs, the crunchier John Lennon rhythm guitar riffs, the sweetly resonant slide guitar of George Harrison, and the silky groove of Ringo Starr’s drum rolls. It is as if the band of the Sixties was heralding the Seventies. This, among other pressing issues within and without is what captivated the Beatles enough to rekindle previous magic with producer George Martin to make one final brilliantly sonic profession of their mystical talents.

If you are a studio nerd or a Beatles aficionado you will love this book, but for the mildly curious, or those learning about this seminal period in the final days of an historic run of musical success, there is plenty to cull here. For me, perhaps the coolest nugget is the transcript of a meeting between three of the Beatles (taped because Ringo was absent due to tests for stomach pain) that starkly reveals the problems each of them were harboring with the music – beyond the lawsuits and backbiting, drug issues and other nagging elements that finished them off. Their personalities, the years of crushing fame and stellar artistic output coming tumbling forth to expose their truest personalities beyond the Fab Four that were soon to be no more.  

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The Beautiful Ones – Prince Rogers Nelson (2019)

Mere months before he was found dead in an elevator in his home/studio complex, Paisley Park in April of 2016, Prince Rogers Nelson, one of the most talented, celebrated and enigmatically reclusive rock stars of all time put out word with little to no fanfare around the publishing world that he was ready to write his memoir. Shockwaves and rumors and several aborted attempts to pin Prince down – a seemingly impossible task since his emergence on the music scene as a nineteen year-old phenom that convinced Warner Bros to give him complete creative control over his work. Enter writer/editor, Dan Piepenbring, who was both an advisory editor at the Paris Review and a rabid Prince fan. The story of his enchanting but furiously quick time in Prince’s presence working through pages of scribbled screed from the man himself about his childhood makes up a third of The Beautiful Ones. The other two-thirds of the book is just as intriguing.

The second part features Piepenbring’s yeoman’s work making heads or tails of Prince’s cadence, his use of weird symbols that replace words like “two” and “four” with their subsequent numerals and “I” with a drawing of an eyeball, and many other eccentricities into a readable text that is the most revealing of Prince’s private thoughts, fears and dreams. The passages about his parents and his awakening as a musician and eventually one of the great artists of the latter half of the previous century and the first sixteen years of this one is well worth the effort.

The third part is a treasure-trove of extremely rare photographs, notes, and mementos from Prince’s rise to fame all the way through the triumph of his groundbreaking smash hit Purple Rain album, film and tour. There is original artwork and designs for album covers, tour outfits, staging and insights into the magical world that Prince had figured in his head and set about infusing into the music and eventually those who helped make it a reality.

And while it is a bittersweet document of what could have been had Prince not accidentally overdosed on prescribed opioids at age fifty-seven, we nonetheless have a better grasp on the mysteries surrounding the blossoming of a superstar in his own words and with images from deep inside his life.

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Me – Elton John (2019)

In the wake of this summer’s blockbuster biopic, Rocket Man reminding everyone how preternaturally brilliant, insanely famous and spectacularly screwed-up Elton John was in the 1970s and 80s, here comes his far more detailed memoir, Me. The author proves one thing straight away, the playful drama of the film doesn’t include his incredible self-awareness of his proclivities, talents and addictions, and that by imparting it in this most intimate way, he is damned funny. It is through his self-deprecating humor that Elton John becomes less cartoon superstar, something he readily admits he knew compromised his musical integrity as a part of one the great songwriting duos of the rock and roll era, and brings us closer to the man behind it all. It is in those intrepid insights into his myopic thrill-ride of a life and career where Me truly comes alive.

My complaint, as it was with Keith Richards and Pete Townshend’s memoirs, is that there just isn’t enough info into Elton’s two main contributions to the genre; his aforementioned composing with Bernie Taupin, and his instinctual ability to awe audiences from the very beginning. For the decade of the seventies when Elton John was the biggest rock star on the planet he released thirteen albums in nine years, some two or three in a single year, many of them some of the decade’s finest, and played the world over. His 1982 MSG show is still the best concert I have ever seen. So, count me as biased here, but it is clear Elton is far more interested in sharing a retrospective of having written “Your Song” in twelve minutes or the utter terror he felt starting at his idol, Leon Russell from the Troubadour stage when he blew Hollywood away and literally became an overnight sensation in the U.S. than he is with explaining how he did it.

One thing Elton does reveal much of is his truly incredible drug abuse, his search for love in almost all the wrong places, and his constant battles to expunge the sins of his parents, especially a love-hate cycle for decades with his mother. Of course, most people perusing fame with as raid ambition have some part of their past in which they are first motivated and then mortified by the results, but Elton’s is a heartfelt and triumphant journey from child abuse to a loving father and humanitarian who has conquered his demons. Me is a brave telling and in a voice that is, well, damn hilarious and brutally honest. Kind of like sitting for tea with Sir Elton.

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NOT ALL REPUBLICANS ARE FOR TRUMP

Aquarian Weekly
12/11/19
 
Reality Check
 

James Campion
 
 
NOT ALL REPUBLICANS ARE FOR TRUMP
Mass Exodus of GOP in Congress Tell a Different Tale
 
I have spent weeks hammering Republicans who have contorted their broken ideologies and done mind-bending about-faces on morality and Russia and free trade and exploding deficits and a ton of other apparently flimsy tenets of what used to make up their platform to kowtow to a rabid base that props up the worst polling numbers in the history of a first-term president. Donald Trump, I’ve surmised, has crippled the party, because, really, what could they do? They have to defend this. Supreme Court judges, tax cuts, a booming stock market and low unemployment is not nothing. So what if he’s a criminal and a doofus and the laughing stock of the world and blurts out daily vulgarities as a matter of Twitter discourse? And although having done this kind of thing for decades, I understand it. I do. But it turns out that I was not entirely correct about this. A preponderance of polling and a whole lot of talking does not quite meet the one criterion that matters in this workaday world; actions.

This week, Representative Tom Graves of Georgia announced that he is retiring from congress. At present, Graves makes seventeen Republicans that have decided to quit rather than seek reelection in 2020. This is not too dissimilar to the twenty-three House Republicans who bailed prior to the November 2018 crushing the GOP took in eventually losing forty seats in the midterms. Now, not all of these are merely seasoned professional politicians seeing the writing on the proverbial wall that Trump is headed for defeat and is poised to take the party down with him in November. More than a few have been around a long time – which some may argue means that it has taken three harrowing years of a game show host stumbling his way through the executive branch to make this a sane alternative to continuing the gig. But then again it may just be time to seek quieter pastures. Still, there is something brewing beyond this.

To wit: Only two of the escaping legislators, F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. from Wisconsin and New York’s Peter King, are north of seventy. And despite abysmal approval ratings for the president, his pending impeachment in the very same House of Representatives, and the continuing low approvals for congress in general, many of these Republican retirees come from districts (polling twenty to thirty percent higher than the nation’s average) that they will most likely win without much effort. So why not run?

Well, let’s take Greg Walden from Oregon, who has raised a shit-ton of money and is virtually unbeatable in his district. What is his reason for getting out? And, by the way, he is not alone. There are others who have raised enough funds and have superior polling numbers to show that they could keep their jobs beyond 2020, and yet they want out.

I proffer that these representatives simply can no longer bear Donald Trump or where the country is going – fiscally, morally or otherwise. Some announced they were quitting shortly after Trump’s knee-jerk shift in Syrian policy turning America’s Kurdish allies over to their Turkish enemies without notifying anyone, including the Pentagon. Some also mildly raised eyebrows about the spend-thrift lunacy signed off by a Republican president. Recently former fiscal conservative rodeo clown Rush Limbaugh answered a caller concerned about the exploding debt under Trump by saying, “There has never been fiscal conservatives, that was always a myth.” And then there is the thorny battle between phony Evangelists who claim some form of aborted Christian values and yet tossed them into the shit can for this bleating oaf of a president, who mocks, spats and pays off hookers with campaign funds and holds sway over the human tragedy that is occurring at our southern border.

A good example of someone who is quitting directly because of Trump is Florida Rep. Francis Rooney, the only House Republican to publicly say he was open to impeaching Trump. The next day he quit. Rooney put his mouth where his position is and combined anti-Trump rhetoric with leaving, but for the most part the rest of those who have decided to abandon public service in the past few months have simply given no reason or just the standard, “I’m done.”

These representatives simply can no longer bear Donald Trump or where the country is going – fiscally, morally or otherwise.

It was either Sigmund Freud, Thomas Aquinas or someone or other said that “there are no coincidences” and we know that regardless of whatever lip service people provide, their actions indeed speak louder than words. Something is up.

I choose to see this as some Republicans not being comfortable with all this and to stick around and have to deal with a pro-Trump primary opponent or to rubber stamp this mess is simply beneath them. Many of my colleagues, and still other brain damaged types, claim this is a sign that perhaps things may not go as smoothly in an upcoming senate trial for Trump. But a Republican-controlled upper chamber is not going to kick their president out of office no matter what crazy, illegal, anti-American crap he does. And, again, if that is the way they wish to play it, I cannot argue with them. And this is why although I am considered a cynic, I am a realist. I never believe when people talk about loving America or blah-blah values. This is how things work. Self-preservation wins against America and values every time.

Other commentators and insiders broach the idea that legacy and having the stain of letting these latest crimes and misdemeanors pass will forever put senators in the “wrong side of history” box and that may sway them. But a gig is a gig and if you belong to a club or a team or a company, and in this case a political party, you may have to fall on a sword or two to keep your job or at least keep the whole thing afloat.

But it ain’t all of them. Seventeen and counting members of congress are begging to differ. They won’t stick around to continue to besmirch their names with this madness. Maybe they actually care about the country, the constitution or perhaps they’re thinking of saving their own hides. The last one is probably true, because I highly doubt even in exiting they would vote against the party to impeach Trump in the House. But, nevertheless, what their quitting ultimately says is that it is better than whatever Donald Trump and his cronies are cooking up next. And I can’t say I disagree with that either.    
 

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