UBER VERSUS NYC

Aquarian Weekly
7/29/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

UBER VERSUS NYC

This was bound to happen here. It has happened elsewhere. The grassroots ingenuity of transport services, more specifically Uber and to a lesser extent Lyft, offer a convenient alternative to mass transit and traditional cab services. In the case of Uber, which thanks to my friend Dan Bern I personally used to great effect in my spring visit to Nashville, Tennessee – a town spread out into disparate neighborhoods yet bereft of available conveyance for those not wanting to rent a car – it adds a fairly unregulated number of extra vehicles to the area while threatening the livelihoods of the existing official vehicular fleet. In other words, Uber is to a region-city-town-county what Napster was to the music business. There may be compromise and reshuffling, but there will be no going back.

lyft_cab

In Nashville, for instance, it took months of wrangling with the local cab services to settle on an agreement to infuse the Uber fleet into the city’s environment, mostly because many of the cabbies (minuscule in comparison to a metropolis silly with them like NYC) saw an opportunity for themselves to break out and become Uber drivers.

Uber drivers must pass a rigorous review of driving records and other key personal histories, but is according to the drivers I spoke to more lucrative than the traditional hack route. It is a well-oiled concept that invites single moms, college students, struggling lower-economic, two-job types, and others to take on a livery business to help make ends meet. Some drivers I met in Nashville raved about its flexibility and its boost to their incomes (average Uber income per hour is $12, while it is $30 in NYC). Some loved it as a distraction – one woman concerned my brothers-in-law and myself by boldly stating she had been driving people around town for some thirty hours without sleep and wondered (if she hadn’t passed out by then) if we needed a ride to the airport the next day. Needless to say we passed on her, but used Uber nonetheless.

Uber is cheaper than cab and car services simply because there is no expected tipping. You sign up through an app on your phone, connect it to your credit card or Paypal and hit it. Within minutes, depending on where you’re an independent driver arrives promptly. In Nashville we rarely waited more than four to five minutes for a car, most times it was two to three minutes.

But Nashville is a burb compared to places like Chicago, L.A., Houston, and especially the largest city on the planet, New York. In fact, my only Uber experience in NYC was a bad one. In early June my wife and I found ourselves in our usual position of fairly inebriated on McDougal Street in the Village and it was late and we needed to get back to our hotel in Tribeca. Normally I’d hail a cab and end of story, but I decided to try out Uber in the big town. I hit the app and a car was promised in three minutes. The car purportedly showed up on Bleecker around the corner in the requisite time. Not sure why it wasn’t in front of us. The driver called me, but the street was buzzing with people and traffic and it was hard to hear him. I explained that we were around the corner, but his response was unintelligible. Just then a free cab happened to be passing right by us, so I flagged it, told the Uber guy never mind, and went about our business. The next day I received a ten-dollar cancellation fee from Uber. I wanted to fight it, but screw it.

I ended up using cabs the rest of my brief stay that weekend, and part of me felt it right, since cabbies have always held a special place in my heart. I’ve had some amazing adventures in cabs all over this world. Drivers always take my advice and always put the pedal to the medal – I rarely trust any cabbie that does not blatantly break the law, especially in NYC. It is a must. And, on a personal note, my grandfather was a proud member of the hack brigade and I believe in supporting these guys/gals whenever possible.

This takes us to the issue at hand. City of New York Mayor Bill De Blasio is now faced with the same dilemma as every New York mayor before him, how to integrate progress into the city construct seamlessly without destroying the echo-structure of the town. He must simultaneously serve all New Yorkers; consumers and workers, while managing the progress of capitalism. New York’s history is filled with these moments, and for the most part New York was the experiment for the rest of the country, the most significant of these were canals, roadways, social programs, fiscal parameters, subways, building, or general infrastructure, and a host of inventions thrown into an urban environment left to its own devices.

De Blasio claims that Uber and Lyft present a possible ecological and traffic-congestion problem to the city. His latter claim is not unfounded. Uber adds hundreds of cars a day to the already uber-(pun intended)-congested streets, and having driven for over four decades around all five boroughs (I parceled medical records around NYC during the late 80s and early 90s to supplement my meager freelance earnings), I can tell you it ain’t beanbag. I have seen things on the byways of NYC that are hard to explain in print. Suffice to say – though since the city’s rebirth in the mid-90s things have been less hair-raising – it is not an easy town to traverse. This is the concern of city officials, as much as the added smelly and dangerous exhaust the additional vehicles provide. But I shan’t go down a road that claims that a few less cars will save New York from its noxious fumes. That is part of the charm, come on.

De Blasio has begun his push-back by imposing limits to the amount of cars Uber can have “on the job” at any one time. I don’t think this unreasonable, but as a business model, no one wants to have “limits” imposed on your expansion, and Uber is expanding big time. The company estimates adding 25,000 customers every week.

Ultimately Uber and Lyft will win out. This is not an if but when and how.

Uber is making its case that by rightfully pointing out that De Blasio has another reason for his push-back, NYC cabs are in jeopardy of going the way of the horse-drawn carriage. Also, more ubiquitous and affordable modes of transportation via the car lowers the mass-transit numbers, which every mayor wants to keep up, freeing the streets of congestion. Uber has countered with a multi-million dollar ad campaign online and on TV suggesting that lower-income, minority travelers now have an option, especially in the outer-boroughs, where cabs loathe to tread; specifically because they are not guaranteed a return fare.

But the sinister underbelly of this, which puts De Blasio in a tight bind to his liberal constituency, is that cabbies for decades have refused to pick up black and Hispanic fares for a variety of reasons that do not jibe with the civil rights of these individuals. Uber has no such agenda or history. De Blasio and the cab lobby cannot hide from this argument. It is real. I have seen it myself and spoken to those who have been denied rides.

Uber also has a hidden, less than moral-outrage argument for its own push-back. If Uber becomes part of the regulation of NYC-Transit, does it lose its “affordable” outside the system appeal?

Ultimately Uber and Lyft will win out. This is not an if but when and how. Maybe a compromise is coming, but if De Blasio or city officials think by ignoring a popular service with progressive tendencies a winning quotient in NYC, they will also go the way of the horse and buggy.

As usual, the rest of the nation watches the outcome.

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THE IRAN DEAL AND THE SECRET WAR ON ISIS‏

Aquarian Weekly
7/22/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE IRAN DEAL AND THE SECRET WAR ON ISIS

Let me be the first journalist or pundit or columnist or politician or radio host or prime minister to admit I have not read the entire Iran Deal. I am sure a 150-page stream of international-law gobbledygook is a fine summer jaunt, but I’ll stick to Simon Critchley’s The Book of Dead Philosophers, which I am currently enjoying and this book on Bob Dylan’s recording sessions from 1960-1994. Good stuff. I am never going to read the Iran Deal, but like all the other people who haven’t done so and probably never will, yet felt compelled to comment on it over the past few days, I will nevertheless write about it. But at least you know that I know I have not read it and have little idea of what’s in it, unlike everyone running for president and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and everyone on cable news and on the radio and in nearly every newspaper op ed page in the nation.

waronisis

However, unlike those who merely agree with this thing because they support the president or disagree because they do not, I have only one agenda, which has been consistent here from the moment our purportedly antiwar president took the oath in January of 2009, stay the fuck out of Middle East conflicts. And so an Iran Deal, while being ridiculously calamitous in believing will accelerate the process for an Iranian nuclear program or spectacularly naive to think it will mark a new era in Iranian/American relations, is better than what has transpired since the CIA-orchestrated coup d’état of Mohammad Mosaddegh, the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, for the despotic Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, better known to his bosses in the U.S. State Department as the mighty Shah.

I am not going to waste much time going over the complete disaster that has been the U.S. foreign policy in regards to Iran for over six decades and eleven presidents. We all know the deal; U.S. backed bloody dictatorship followed by bloody theocratic revolution, giving asylum to bloody dictator, hostage crisis, sanctions, working out alliance with and arming bloody Iraqi dictator, Iraq invades Iran, more sanctions, secretly trading arms with Iranians to back illegal Central American war in Nicaragua, you guessed it…sanctions, war kicking out aforementioned U.S.-backed Iraqi dictator in neighboring Kuwait, “axis of evil”, second war deposing Iraqi dictator, Iranians begin nuclear program for energy, which no one on the planet believes, G.W. Bush nixes initial Iran Deal to not appear weak in “war on terror”, suspected nuclear plan quadruples, diminutive lunatic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies Holocaust, the existence of Iranian homosexuals and promises to wipe Israel off the map, U.N. (everybody together now!) sanctions, citizens discover twitter and fake an Arab Spring, Ahmadinejad goes bye-bye, Iran Deal.

Okay, I lied – minor time-waster; but you get the point.

There are two options left for the U.S., the U.N, and the rest of the oil-addicted world – deal or war. Period. I choose deal.

Of course hardliners in the U.S. and Iran will bitch about this thing. This is the aim of “the deal”. No one is happy. Would it be better if there were stronger terms on weapons-testing and did testing end up in a war in Iraq in 2003? Yup. And would it be better for Iran if the sanctions would be lifted sooner without all this “trust but verify” verbiage? Yup. But, again, this is the nature of “the deal”. People get something and give something up they would not want to give up. I find it hard to believe people over six years-old would find this concept alien. How does anyone get through forty seconds of adult life, never mind international relations, without compromise?

Now, although I think Netanyahu a buffoon, he is in a tough position – one he created by being the hard-line candidate and prime minster, but nevertheless it is a tough one. He has been saying for ten years that Iran is weeks away from making a bomb. If I said for instance that I am sure Martians are coming next month for ten years I would be put away. Prime ministers and presidents say stuff like this and get re-elected. It’s just the name of the game. I do not blame him and I realize that if this thing goes sideways Israel will have to be aggressive, but I also know that all this bluster from Netanyahu is backed by billions of American dollars (our taxpaying dollars) and billions in U.S. weapons, and out of mere diplomacy, we would have to back such aggression.

This is why “the deal” makes sense. It finally puts us in the game. Instead of lip service and name calling and grandstanding to get votes or seem morally superior, we now in a sense partner with Iran to make sure they act responsibly in the international construct or finally pay for their transgressions. It is an oil-rich, advancing, and geographically large nation. It is about time.

And if this pisses off the Saudis who are currently fighting Iran in Yemen, all the better.

I want to take a moment to point out that this haughty notion of making deals with countries that ignore human rights and sponsor terrorism and/or foreign aggression being a no-no is crazier than the Martian analogy. Please see Saudi Arabia and China for prime examples of why this never seems to matter.

However, there is another key reason, and maybe the key reason, for “the deal” at this time; the growing issue with ISIS.

Aside from the Egyptians and a rag-tag army of Kurds, there is no one who has been more of an ally against the Sunni-configured ISIS than the Shiite theocracy of Iran. Just like our tentative and eventually disastrous alliance with the Soviet Union during WWII, the Iranian influence, intelligence and underground weapons’ network in the region is second to none. We need Iran to defeat ISIS, plain and simple.

This is a classic Barack Obama move. Joe Cool has been pussyfooting around with drones and “relief aid” and Special Forces for too long. He has to stick to his “no boots on the ground” rhetoric and continue to appear “weak” to hawks while also getting into the deep weeds with regards to Iraq. U.S. fingerprints will be all over the Iranian military thrust, eventually strengthened by lifted sanctions, in Iraq now. The Iran Deal comes with a secret détente no one to my knowledge had sussed out; these two nations have a common interest and a common enemy; thus speeding up the negotiations now more than ever.

And if this pisses off the Saudis who are currently fighting Iran in Yemen, all the better. This is should be their war, yet they insist on asking us to fight it. They had their chance. Fuck them.

So Obama gets his secret war against ISIS, which I have also vehemently opposed, seeing this is a cultural civil war that has nothing to do with us. This thing reeks of Ronald Reagan’s expedient support of Iraq in 1982, which did not end well for any of us.

But it isn’t the first time and it won’t be the last.

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EQUALITY…OF COURSE

Aquarian Weekly
7/8/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

EQUALITY…OF COURSE

Let it be so marked that on June 26, 2015, 239 years after declaring the right to be free and sovereign to pursue life’s ambitions under the law, and not some theocratic monarchy, that we have once again embraced our truest nature as a nation; that we must never deny the rights we enjoy to our fellow citizens. For that is the day the U.S. Supreme Court, echoing its own prior ruling on this measure and every lower court that has been forced to observe it, that all the citizens of these United States will be granted the opportunities of all, regardless of sexual orientation, as did their fore-runners in race, religion, and gender. Homosexuals now join every one of us not born male, white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant, who were told we do not belong in the pantheon of Thomas Jefferson’s haughty dreams of all being equal, from his God to the compulsory halls of law, but eventually triumphed as you do.

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I write these words on the eve of commemorating our nation’s day of birth, July 4, 1776, a full dozen years before its official commencement, the ratifying of a national Constitution. It sacred words of law since amended to include so many more than it defended that late June day of 1788, not unlike the one that duly reflected its power and purpose 227 years later this past week almost to the day. When tested, it has endured. And its crowning achievement exists in the millions it has freed from the tyranny of discrimination through hatred, tradition, religion, and the will of the majority, which ultimately has nothing to do with whether you are entitled to the rights of someone who is not like you, the right to breathe free. That, Jefferson said, is settled by merely being human.

And so America, its concept, its majesty, its stubbornness, its clamor and furor and foundation, gets it right…again.

Eventually.

Because all we have to do as Americans is look to the history of our vaunted Declaration of Independence and the bloody insurrection that lasted nearly nine long years and its ensuing half-decade of debate and rancor that helped forge a Constitution that would be insufficient to raise its ambitions to Jefferson’s promise. It is why it took 73 years to bring forth the idea that some men being more equal than others (apologies to Orwell) was something America could not abide. Of course it took five more years of the most devastating war the nation has endured and 600,000 dead before America became an actuality. The last days of slavery and the eradication of the aborted Confederate States put the legal end to the discussion on who was denied the right to exist.

But of course this took another century before everyone was on board, commencing with the signing of the Civil Rights Act, which continued what the 41st Congress did five years after the Civil War by allowing African-Americans the right to cast a vote, the most binding of our democratic rights. During that time it took America 143 years to finally recognize the full rights of more than half its citizenry with the Constitution’s 19th Amendment, providing our women the right to a vote, nearly a century and a half after Jefferson’s notion about universal equality given not by the state but by simply being.

And now our homosexual brothers and sisters join our proud ranks, cementing a right that should never be provided by a state, but only protected by the state, these United States, a republic, not a theocracy, a rule of law, not the majority of discrimination. But know this; what happened on June 26, 2015 is not merely the end of something, but just the beginning of a whole other thing.

If what you have read above is not enough of a warning, you should be aware that there will be battles ahead. Those woefully unaware of what it is to be an American already pontificate and conspire on how to subjugate this right to marry as any law-abiding, tax-paying citizen may (check that, heterosexuals in prison can marry). It is happening now as I write this and will continue for many, many years, long after you are gone from the script and will be fought by your children and your children’s children. But at least they are now assured by law that they are not “less than” but “equal to”, and that is the whole and binding and spiritual point of June 26, 2015, which is a direct and proud descendent of July 4, 1776. It is the reason there is an America. In some twisted wrench of logic, it even makes all the other crap worth it.

But if I may throw in a humble bit of personal joy; I have made it mostly my ambition here in this space for over 12 years to make known the atrocity of our denying our citizens their inalienable rights. For some, I know, it seemed like every argument forged here would find its way back to this subject. But through it all, I held the strong and unwavering belief in this abomination being unconstitutional, and for that my ecstatic relief of June 26, 2015 knows no bounds. Trust me; my first gin on July 4 will have special meaning. And for that I thank one of my heroes, Kurt Vonnegut, whose prose one day, not sure when or what passage, some 15 years ago, woke me up to the sad fact that I had not spoken up, that I had not used this minor but sometimes effective pulpit to shout from the rafters the core elements of this crucial fight.

what happened on June 26, 2015 is not merely the end of something, but just the beginning of a whole other thing.

And I thank all who appreciated the effort and came around to my words and all of the gay news outlets and magazines who reprinted my rants on this latest battle in our tumultuous history. I even thank those whose opposition, however misguided, but sometimes salient (and you know how you are) arguments seemed to put at least some measure of intellect into what was ordinarily a pathetically stupid and sadly derivative counterpoint to this journey.

Freedom. Rights.

We get there eventually. It is frustrating and perplexing, but when it comes, it is damn glorious.

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RECALLING THE ETERNAL WAVE – A Brief Conversation with the Legendary Brian Wilson

Aquarian Weekly

7/1/15
BUZZ Feature

James Campion

 

RECALLING THE ETERNAL WAVE
A Brief Conversation with the Legendary Brian Wilson

 

You know the old showbiz axiom about luminaries needing no introduction? Okay, so here’s one of those.

There is no need for anyone to wax poetic about Brian Wilson, musician composer, arranger, producer, hit-maker, icon. For over half a century there has been Brian Wilson. In one way or the other he has influenced the cultural and artistic landscape of the American experience. He was the heart, soul and musical and philosophical engine of the Beach Boys. His songs created the great California myth of what I once called “the sun-drenched hymn to hedonism.” Pretty good resume. He has survived well-documented traumatic hardships from childhood to his years of fame and fortune and the inevitable 1960s cliché fallout of drugs and madness and break-downs, both mentally and physically.wilson_380

Much of this is covered in the new biopic about Wilson, Love & Mercy. The film features two actors, Paul Dano and John Cusak, portraying Wilson as a young man at the height of his musical powers while unraveling from mental illness, and the middle-aged overly-medicated period when he was being manipulated and exploited by the tyrannical Dr. Eugene Landy, played sinisterly by Paul Giamatti. While Wilson did add his expertise and memories to the filming, which he commented was “very factual, accurate, stimulating,” he ultimately found it hard to watch. I saw it weeks after speaking to Wilson and was very moved. The studio sequences recording his two masterpieces, Pet Sounds and Smile truly capture the mood and the significance of the times and add to Wilson’s already legendary status, while his ascent from the abyss is truly inspiration.

Seeing Love & Mercy and reading about Wilson’s harrowing but prolific journey, which takes another step with his recently released album, No Pier Pressure, it would be easy to say that Brian Wilson is the shell of the man who broke molds and conquered the zeitgeist, but that would be short-sighted. What you get from speaking with Brian Wilson today is the real guy, the guy who would never let it all crack his resolve or bend his personality into something he couldn’t recognize. He is by any credible definition of the word, a genius. He is cloaked in it like armor. It precedes him. It defines him.

He speaks in certifiable tones, but with a sweet disposition that is at first alarming and then as comforting as one of his spectacularly arranged five-part harmonies. There is no hesitation in his expression, therefore he doesn’t self-edit for effect. This is a raw psyche; the echoes of a man who brought some important stuff back from the darkness and the light and placed some high stakes in all those strikingly beautiful songs.

What follows here is about fifteen minutes over the phone from Los Angeles of the musings of a living legend, and I don’t think I’m being maudlin or coy or ironic when stating this. In the pantheon of rock and roll, especially during its most experimental, influential and lucrative period, there is Dylan, Lennon and McCartney and Brian Wilson. This is a person you hope to get two minutes with. I got fifteen. And so I asked him things I always wanted to ask Brian Wilson. It was rapid fire and it was thrilling His answers, although appearing in print as curt and often dismissive of detail, in person –hearing his cracked, sing-song voice coming over the phone line – are surprisingly effusive and to the point.

This is a man who has answered countless questions. How could you even begin to put a number on it? People want to know how the genius works, where it comes from, how it goes from the head and the heart to the canvas or the page or the recording. These are the things you think about when gaining access to the artist who has provided the world indisputable greatness. And this is what I think about when Brian Wilson is uttered in my presence. I put it to him and waited breathlessly for the key to the kingdom, so to speak. And I think this discussion, of which I send to press virtually word-for-word, is my few minutes getting to the bottom of genius. I hope I asked the questions you would ask of Brian Wilson. And I hope his answers are enough. They have to be.

 

Brian Wilson: Hi, James!

 

james campion: Mr. Wilson, how are you, sir?

 

BW: Very good.

 

jc: Excellent. I know we have a short amount of time, so I’ll get right to it. I know you’ve probably been asked this a billion times, but I have to do it. I’m a huge fan and you are one of the great composers of the latter half of the twentieth century, so everyone always wants to know where do the songs come from? What is your process? Take me through the Brian Wilson method of writing a song.

 

BW: Well, I go to a studio…there’s a studio I go to and there’s a piano there. I play chords on the piano, and then after awhile a melody starts to come. And after the melody is done, the lyrics start happening.

 

jc: And that’s basically it.

 

BW: Yeah. Basically, yes.

 

jc: When you first started writing songs, which I assume was when you were a teenager or even before that…

 

BW: Well, I started playing piano when I was like…I don’t know…twelve or fourteen? And when I was nineteen I wrote “Surfer Girl”, the first song I ever wrote, and then from there I was a self-taught musician.

 

jc: And do you write basically the same as you did when you were nineteen? Have you changed the process at all through the years?

 

BW: Oh, no, I changed a lot. I’ve changed the process a lot.

 

jc: How so?

 

BW: Well, I used to write more rock and roll type songs, thanks to Chuck Berry.

 

jc: (laughs) Right. You’ve often spoken in the past about capturing sounds on tape that you hear in your head; harmonies, various instrumentation, is there any song that you wrote and recorded that you think came out perfectly, that was exactly how you heard it in your head?

 

BW: Yeah, “California Girls”; some of it I heard in my head and some of it I heard in the studio.

 

jc: So when you listen to that record, even today, you say to yourself, “That is exactly how I pictured it.”

 

BW: Yeah, when it was done I said, “Hey, guys, that sounds exactly how I wanted it to sound like!”

 

jc:  And that never happened again?

 

BW: It happened again with “Good Vibrations”.

 

jc:  Those are the two, huh?

 

BW: Yes.

 

jc: Some pretty good songs, there. I know you’re a big fan of Phil Spector’s sound, and I know you were a Beatles fan, did you ever listen to a song and say, “Wow, not only do I wish I wrote that, but that is really a perfect record”?

 

BW: Yeah, “Let It Be” by Paul McCartney and The Beatles. That’s something where I said, “Boy, I wish I could have written something like that!’

 

jc: (laughs) Well you certainly did in many, many ways. Here’s something I was always interested in asking you. I think it was in your 1990 autobiography, Wouldn’t It Be Nice; you had revealed in that book that you had discovered at some point that placing certain bass lines and notes under a specific chord or specific melodies over other chord progressions would evoke an emotion in listeners; get them to feel melancholy or feel joy or spark memories in them…

 

BW: Well, Pet Sounds was my ballad album; “Caroline No” and “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)” were, I think, a very sweet, feminine theme to get across. Those songs were the feminine side of me.

 

jc: I remember as a kid listening to Pet Sounds and getting very emotional, and not because of the lyrics or any particular connection to the themes. I was a kid, yet, I could not escape feeling something mature when listening to that record. It was as if you got across with music these mature themes of love, loss, anxiety, nostalgia. Still, to this day it moves me. Was that something you planned or did it come together in the writing?

 

BW: It actually came together in the writing. Very fast.

 

jc:  That is generally considered your greatest work. Do you think it is?

 

BW: It has to be one of the best albums I ever produced, yeah.

 

jc:  When you heard the Smile stuff that Capitol put out a couple of years ago from the original Beach Boys sessions, much of it unfinished, do you think it captures what you were trying to do with Smile or was it your version that came out about ten years ago?
(Note: Smile was the great and mysterious unfinished opus for Wilson that eventually caused mental exhaustion and his eventual retreat from the mainstream that would cause his reduced role in the Beach Boys)

 

BW: Which version do I prefer?

 

jc: Yeah.

 

BW:  The 2004 version.

 

jc: Your version.

 

BW: Yeah.

 

jc: Did you have anything to do with Capitol’s choice of material or were you surprised that they released it?

 

BW: I was surprised they put it out, yeah.

 

jc: Were you disappointed in how it sounded?

 

BW: A little bit, yeah.

 

jc: Is it because it was unfinished business, it took you back to that time and you said, “Damn it, I wish I had the chance to finish that album the way I originally planned it!”

 

BW: Right! Right on!

 

jc: (laughs) I figured. Just from reading about you and your work on that record and how much it meant to you, the first time I saw it out, I thought, “I wonder what Brian thinks of all this?” You have a new record out, correct?

 

BW:  Yes.

 

jc: Can you tell me about the process of working with this new material and what you may have discovered when writing and recording it?

 

BW: Well, I wrote a couple of the songs back in 1998 that I use on the album and the rest I wrote in 2014.

 

jc:  So it’s been a couple of years in the making?

 

BW: Yes.

 

jc: How do you find performing now? I know that it was something you didn’t really enjoy during the Beach Boys years, but over the past two decades you seem to be playing more and more. Do you enjoy it more now?

 

BW: Some of it. I enjoy some of it, but some of it is a lot of hard work and some of it is an easy-going kind of thing, you know?

jc:  I sure do. You’re known for so many great songs. My favorite is “God Only Knows”. You mentioned that you agree that Pet Sounds is one of if not your finest collected work; do you have any fond memories of writing and recording “God Only Knows”? Do you think that’s something truly special that you nailed there?

 

BW: I worked with my friend, Tony Asher. I started writing a melody and he immediately came up with (sings) “I may not always love you…” and it was a very spontaneous writing session.

 

jc:  I bet its one of those incidents when you think, “Where the hell does this come from?”

 

BW: Right. I said, “What the fuck?”

 

jc:  (laughs)

 

BW: Yeah. Yeah.

 

jc:  That song has been used in so many films and it never fails to move people. Did you ever see it used with visuals, in whatever capacity, and agree that it works on that level?

 

BW: Most of it works, although I’m not really sure where it ended up, whether television programs or movies or whatever, but I do know that whenever they do use it I hear, “Good job.”

 

jc:  (laughs) What part of your legacy do you enjoy the most? What is the talent you are most proud of – the songwriting, the producing, arranging, your building the Beach Boys into this iconic piece of Americana? How do you want to be remembered?

 

BW: Well, to tell you the truth my singing means more to me than anything.

 

jc: Sure. I’m sorry I didn’t even bring that one up. Of course, the singing. Would you say that’s also the most fun you had working with the Beach Boys in the studio, getting all those wonderful vocal harmonies together?

 

BW: Yeah, that was the fun part! The hard part was producing. That was the hardest part of it for me. Producing was rough, but singing always came very naturally, effortlessly. You know…an artist expresses.

“Don’t take drugs, write songs on the natch.”

jc: And that is your most cherished expression as an artist, your singing.

 

BW: Right. Right.

 

jc: There’s a film out right now about the famed Wrecking Crew, a working studio session band that played on so many hits of the 1960s, including a lot of the Beach Boys stuff. Can you talk about working with those kind of top musicians in the field and producing the incredible records you did with them?

 

BW: I worked with some of the more well-known musicians in Los Angeles like Hal Blaine (drummer), Carol Kaye (bassist), John Randy (keyboardist), Steve Douglas (saxophonist), and so many others. They worked with other producers around L.A., but we did some great work together.

 

jc:  Is there a song you heard when you were a kid that turned you on, influenced you more than the others?

 

BW: Well, “Rhapsody in Blue” comes to mind. I think “Rhapsody in Blue”. That was the song that got to my heart the most.

 

jc:  Do you listen to any music of today that moves you, influences you? Who are the great songwriters today?

 

BW: Well, I listen to a lot of 80s music. There’s so many artists from the 80s, Rod Stewart, Billy Idol, Blondie, just a lot of groups I like. I listen to 80s music all the time.

 

jc:  In all the years you’ve collaborated with quite a few lyricists and songwriters, is there anybody that you wish you could work with that you haven’t?

 

BW: Paul McCartney.

 

jc:  I can’t believe you two guys haven’t written a song together; after all the years. You guys respected each other’s talents so much, influenced each other to greater works, the Beatles pushing the Beach Boys and vice versa. It’s hard to believe there is no Wilson/McCartney composition?

 

BW: Are you kidding? I haven’t had the chance!

 

jc:  Somebody has to get that going.

 

BW: Yuuuup.

 

jc: Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson that would be something.

 

BW: That would be a trip.

 

jc: (laughs) Sure would. What is the one thing, you would say, a songwriter today needs to focus on? What is your advice for the kid now cobbling songs together and starting a band?

 

BW: I would have to say…okay…okay…I would say don’t take drugs, write songs on the natch.

 

jc:  Got it.

 

BW: Don’t take drugs, write songs on the natch.

 

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FLAGS ARE BULLSHIT

Aquarian Weekly
7/1/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

FLAGS ARE BULLSHIT
Or An Ornery Stroll Down Our Useless, Pathetic Clinging To Symbols

Any so-called material thing that you want is merely a symbol: you want it not for itself, but because it will content your spirit for the moment.
– Mark Twain

My little swastika
My little swastika
You can do what you want
But I’m taking it back
It’s not yours anymore
It’s mine now

– Dan Bern

Flags are bullshit.

They are symbols and symbols are not reality and thus are bullshit.

nascar_confederate

Before you start your hissy fit, let’s not merely embrace the ranting of yours truly and instead head to the dictionary; the place where those who cling to or are threatened by symbols rarely tread. According to Merriam-Webster a symbol is “a material object representing something, often something immaterial.” Then a quick shift to “immaterial” brings us to “of no essential consequence; unimportant.” A flag is then a symbol and thus “immaterial” or “of no essential consequence and unimportant”. The Oxford Dictionary uses the word “abstract” in its definition – and “abstract” being something “existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence.”

Can you imagine getting worked up over something with no concrete existence, the bogeyman, vampires, an insurance company with integrity, God?

Oh, shit, God. Right, that works us up.

But be that as it may, a flag is bullshit, like a weird haircut, lawn signs or tee shirts with pithy sayings. None of these things mean a thing. It’s akin to people crowding around a guy wearing a Michel Jordan jersey and wanting his autograph. Do people really believe this guy is Michael Jordan?

Votes, laws, actions; these are the things that sustain humanity.

Not flags.

Not symbols.

The swastika never did a damn thing. Neither did the crucifix. The Yankees interlocking NY never won a baseball game and heavy metal hand-horns never wrote, recorded or performed a single song. I just recently watched a brilliant documentary called Happy Valley on the Jerry Sandusky crimes, which were enabled and perpetuated by the entire institution of Penn State University for fifteen years. When I think of Penn State now, I personally think of a child-rape factory, but does that make everyone who goes to Penn State or represent the university pedophiles?

People who conflate the symbol with something actual and binding and/or are threatened by symbols or inspired by them are simply misguided. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that worshiping symbols can sometimes lead to great things; so more power to them. Still, sometimes this misguided worship can perpetuate violence. But make no mistake; these are just excuses for the greatness and violence, not causation.

This past week a white kid shot black people in the South. This used to be called Tuesday afternoon in the South. Now it is a national outrage. That is what is known as progress or what the dictionary defines as “a movement toward a goal or to a further or higher stage.” It is a slow, painful, abjectly embarrassing level of progress, but one that happened under the shadow of our beloved American flag, not the defunct, dishonored, terrorist, insurrectionist, anti-American symbol of the Confederate flag, which had its symbolic moment for around six years 150 years ago, before it was summarily defeated, humiliated, and left to the dustbin of history. However, for 90 years prior to the Civil War slavery boomed under the American flag. After the crushing of the Confederate South, Jim Crow happened under the American flag. Lynching happened under the American flag. Women denied the vote; American flag – illegal wars, assassinations, high political crimes, spying on and jailing of dissidents, marriage inequality, American flag. Does that make all Americans murderers of innocents, bigots, racists, tyrants?

This hubbub about the Confederate flag or streets in the South named after criminals and defenders of slavery is insane. There are monuments and airports and holidays dedicated to slave owners all over this country. The goddamn capital is named after a slave owner. It is impossible to have an America without slavery. Free labor and land grabs made America, a country stolen from someone else before our forefathers kicked those guys out. Slavery is, among many other misappropriations of humanity, forever a stain on our national soul. There is no coming back from this, or wiping it from our national psyche, and if you take away one symbol another feckless, misguided murderer will use something else, a film or a song or another kind of flag or symbol to justify violence.

You know what is far more dangerous and a pox on the idea of America than some bullshit flag? The sweeping eradication of planned parenthood centers in an overt attempt to subvert the law of the land or votes to prevent citizens from enacting their civil rights or laws that disenfranchise voters on some fantasy of voter fraud or other laws giving religious belief a reason to empower the open market to legally discriminate, all of it happening in the South right now, not 150 years ago, under the American flag.

Some people get riled up about these things – not enough of us, but some. But everyone, and I mean everyone, Republican, Democrat, Independent, you name it, get nuts about a fucking, stupid, meaningless piece of cloth with bars and stars on it. It would be like complaining that the surfing at Normandy Beach on D-Day was sub-par or the rain at Gettysburg was a bit dreary.

It’s akin to people crowding around a guy wearing a Michel Jordan jersey and wanting his autograph.

I’ll give you a prime example of this craziness. This week the president of the United States was making a larger point on symbols of racism having no bearing on actual racism by using the word “nigger.” People went sideways on the word. The word, not his actual point, became the story. This quite ironically made his point: The symbol (the word), not the actions of what that symbol purportedly represents, is a distraction. Nothing more. Like people thinking if we get rid of the “N” word all racism will cease or if we eradicate all the names of sports teams that use Native American terms or symbols we will somehow wipe away the horrible, criminal actions of the past that allow us to be here getting all worked up in the first place.

It is easier for us to get all righteous about the meaningless, like embracing or protesting the Confederate flag, because the meaningless doesn’t really exist, like arguing what Islam means in the grander scope of the violence in the Middle East. I argue Islam, like all religion throughout blood-soaked human history, is an excuse to perpetuate violence. I can find as many justifications for violence against infidels in the Bible, but it would simply be exploiting a symbol and attaching all of your reasons for doing whatever you do, good or bad, to it. But it is far from reality. It is merely a distraction from what we need to observe and contemplate as humans sharing this spinning sphere.

Flags are bullshit.

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THE BODY EXPERIMENT‏

Aquarian Weekly
6/24/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

THE BODY EXPERIMENT
or Torturing One’s Self for Results

I found a way to cut your cholesterol numbers in half.

In half.

I did it in 40 days and so can you.

Read on, Macduff.

Here’s a reality check for ya; most of what we eat is shit. A spectacular number of us are in abysmal shape and are going to die sooner than we’d expect and likely the final years will be an agonizing death march merely to survive. But at least we’re having fun, right? To that end, I decided this past spring to use my body as an experiment in radical diet change that ended up reaping stunning results, which were duly corroborated by my doctor, who looked at my blood work numbers this past week and blubbered, “What happened? What did you do?”
6millman

I’ll share this pertinent information, if for nothing else, as a public service.

In other words, none of the kind of thing you usually get here.

Before I reveal my method and results, I need to clarify that I am among the millions that wage a battle with high cholesterol. Although I am not over-weight and do not smoke cigarettes, and eat healthier than the average American (which ain’t sayin’ much), I was told it is mostly hereditary – some kind of Mediterranean thing, thanks to my Martignetti side. It’s not scary dangerous, but when I was first diagnosed in my mid-to-late-thirties, I was well over the safe level (at some point in the 300’s, which sucks ass) and was told to go on Lipitor, which I flatly refused to do and accomplished enough with diet and exercise – something I did none of after high school – that helped keep me from a potential stroke. And while I have managed this naturally for lo these fifteen or so years, (staying in the 230’s, still sucks) I have never had the kind of numbers that would fool anyone into thinking I did not have an issue.

That would change after The Experiment.

The Subject: I am five-foot-five-inches tall and usually feel comfortable around 127 to 132 pounds. The reason I know this is because I was a diseased wrestler in high school and did unspeakable things to my body in the cause of making weight (hey, I did many and varied unspeakable things to my body in general in high school, but let’s leave that be). Just to give you an example of my weight journey, I wrestled in the 108-pound weight class in 1979-80 during my senior season, this is up from the 91-pound class my freshman year. I probably did not grow an inch since, but back then I knew for a fact (and one concerned doctor told me) that the thinnest this frame of mine can be and still function in society would be 107 and three-quarters pounds. The heaviest I have ever been is 153 sometime at the turn of the century when I was stress-eating during my building concerns about Y2K.

The Method: So, I’ve always been aware of my weight and, having gone a little nuts over the holidays, I was up around 141 around early February. But weight was never really a big thing for me. I eventually get to where I need to be because each Lenten season I do what I call “a fast”. I have written about this occasionally here and more in-depth in my book, Trailing Jesus (Gueem Books – 2002).

When I was a young Catholic growing up in the Bronx, New York, we were expected to give something up during Lent, which is kind of a Christian rip-off of Passover/Yom Kippur that commemorates the assassination and purported resurrection of one Jesus of Nazareth or more to the Catholic point, the Christ. I found this exercise rather challenging and began as a young man giving up some candy product or whatever, and although my faith inevitably waned, crashed and burned, I always challenged myself each spring to give up something and then something more, until there were times that I went way off the rails, but that is a column for another day.

The Regimen: This year I decided to be a Vegan for 40 days. My wife is a Vegan and we’re raising our daughter, Scarlet one, and well…I get a lot of shit around here for being the only carnivore and mainly get accused of being weak – since calling me amoral and uncaring toward nature is a losing battle. So, what the hey? I’ll do it. (Note: a Vegan eats and wears nothing that comes from an animal – I just did the eating part) This was coupled with eating one meal a day – the normal spring ritual – along with no booze, cigars or anything other than water to drink and a regimen of a daily 30 minute to 50 minute treadmill related activity – speed-walking, running, and incline-jogging. Usually I do every other day to recover, (hey I’m over a half-century, sue me) but this time went full bore. I also managed to get up to 50 push-ups and 50 sit-ups and 50 crunches along with it.

The Supplement: Sometime in the late 90s when I flatly refused to take drugs to curtail my Mediterranean-induced problem, I came across an old Chinese woman who counseled me to take a supplement called Red Yeast Rice (look it up, I’m running out of space), which was so good at reducing cholesterol the assholes who produce Lipitor and the other assholes who run the federal government teamed up to try and have it taken off the market, but were met with a granola-head revolution to my utter delight. It was Red Yeast Rice that kept me just under the red line for cholesterol troubles all these years.

However, I never took it twice a day – recommended. Don’t ask why. Maybe it was laziness. No, forget the other reasons. It was laziness. I also added something the last couple of years that helped too, one capsule of Fish Oil. But for the purposes of The Experiment, for 40 days I took two of the former and one of the latter (two 600 mg of Red Yeast Rice and one 1200 mg of Fish Oil).

Exercise drives up good cholesterol (HDL) which fights the bad (LDL). It is apparently okay to have a higher LDL number, if your HDL is soaring. The idea is the HDL cancels out the LDL and then some. This is not the scientific portion of this column. You want more info? Look it up.

Okay, so after 40 days of this torturous regimen, (I remind you I had my blood samples taken the week after Easter, the end of Lent, but due to my insane schedule and other factors, my annual physical was only this past week), here’s the deal, folks:

2014 results:
Total Cholesterol – 212 (borderline crappy, but nowhere near good)
HDL – 58 (ideal is close to 60, so not bad)
LDL 129 (this is considered the high-end of near or above optimal)
Triglycerides 123 (this is fat in the blood, and I’ve never had an issue with this – this is very normal)

**Also, last year my blood sugar levels were a tad high – apparently, this is tough for all of us since everything, and I mean everything, has insane historically high and way bad levels of sugar in it. If anything kills us before ISIS or wild-card cops or Ebola, it’s sugar.

2015 post-experiment results:
Total Cholesterol – 137 (considered desirable levels, but I have never been that low)
HDL – 56 (steady, so looks like exercise was not as effective as diet and supplements)
LDL – 69 (half of last year’s number and well within optimal)
Triglycerides – 61 (once again, halved from last year and so low it’s not even listed on sites dealing with this issue)

**Sugar levels were non-existent.

…my doctor, who looked at my blood work numbers this past week and blubbered, “What happened? What did you do?”

And so there you have it. It ain’t bragging if it’s true. And it’s far from bragging. Lord knows I have abandoned that diet and I’m back to destroying myself again. I ended up at 126 points (lost 15) and am already pushing 130. I only make this public as a specific reality check: You too can make a dramatic change to your health in 40 lousy days, not weeks or months. It’s not easy, but it is effective and it involves no drugs. Lipitor damages the liver and I need that to imbibe at Olympian levels, so there’s that.

Now excuse me while I have a beer and a cigar.

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WELCOME (BACK) TO THE JUNGLE

Aquarian Weekly
6/17/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

WELCOME (BACK) TO THE JUNGLE

It is not possible to know at this time the precise scope or the duration of the deployments of U.S. Armed Forces necessary to counter terrorist threats to the United States.

– Excerpt from a letter accompanying a classified report to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate President Pro Tem Orrin Hatch, R-Utah this week from President Barack Obama

Uh oh.

If that little tidbit of information that escaped the red-alarm of the mainstream media obsessed with reality-show transgender announcements, presidential candidates with zero chance to ever be president 17 months from Election Day, and Lebron James doesn’t scare the living shit out of you then it damn well should.

Start being scared.

aumfjungle

The president went on to state that he would strongly consider “direct additional measures,” which more pointedly means expanding bases and additional troops could be deployed if needed.

Oooh-boy.

Our antiwar president is slowly being dragged into a giant mess we’ve already made of Iraq with the kind of “cautious” speak we’ve heard for a century around here from many a president citing national security to embroil us in a useless, unwinnable, soul-sucking, fund-sinking, bloody fray.

It began a few months back with “advisors” and “special forces”; buzz words for your kids coming back from some foreign desert sinkhole in bags or with stuff missing from their bodies. Just so we’re clear. Don’t want to miss the point of all these “advisors” and “special forces”.

Remember when the president announced a few months back to a dubious and overwhelming majority of war-weary Americans that this kind of thing was a mercy mission and a training exercise? This is translated as “See you in another quagmire, sports fans.”

Lock up your sons and daughters. It’s time to add more wounded that will be ignored and dead that will be forgotten.

We’re off to WAR again.

As if it ever ended or will ever end.

Granted, Barack Obama has cited the wildly sweeping 2001 AUMF, the bane of American foreign policy and arguably the sole reason there is an ISIS and a massive national deficit. It is the golden ticket for every U.S. president until the end of time to wage questionable military exercises all over the joint. He is well within his right and purview.

The egregious Authorization for Use of Military Force, a fancy piece of legislation titled Pub. L. 107-40 was codified at 115 Stat. 224 and passed as S.J.Res. 23 by the United States Congress on September 14, 2001 and eventually signed into law by President George W. Bush on September 18, 2001. It gives the Patriot Act a run for its money and puts all this haughty talk for the past few years about presidential overreach into grim perspective.

You want presidential overreach, jack?

The AUMF, which Obama (the guy who in 2007 scoffed at these sort of tyrannical knee-jerk powers) mentioned directly in his letter, “authorizes the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the attacks on September 11, 2001”. The authorization grants the president (any president) the authority to use all “necessary and appropriate force” against those whom he determined “planned, authorized, committed or aided” the September 11th attacks, or who harbored said persons or groups.”

What does ISIS have to do with 9/11?

What did Iraq have to do with 9/11?

What did Libya or Syria or Iran have to do with 9/11?

Glad you asked. It’s simple. It all does.

Why do you think former Vice President and godfather of Iraq madness, Dick Cheney was so hot and heavy about conflating Saddam Hussein with 9/11 – something that had credence due to faulty intelligence and Bush 41’s laughably unnecessary Kuwait war in 1990, but could not lead to war without the AUMF?

Why do you think every hawk in congress cites 9/11 when anything goes awry overseas, especially in the Middle East, and berate the president for “leading from behind” every time a firecracker goes off in the desert?

It is not to remind us of our weakness in the summer of 2001, how we felt invincible and untouchable for all the crazy shenanigans we pulled aboard for more than half a century fearing no consequence. It is strategic. It puts all missions under the guise of the AUMF, providing the kind of unchecked military power that even Abraham Lincoln would have found troubling.

Well, maybe not Lincoln. He went a little nuts. But that was our Civil War, not someone else’s. But the AUMF makes it, prompts it, cajoles it, nay, demands that it is ours.

The idea of 9/11 is no more a date in American history than a blank check for future actions against any threats that remind one of 9/11, like EVERYTHING.

All that crap the CIA pulled after WWII would have been so much easier if congress had not merely declared war on Japan and Germany in 1941, but simply said that any country that sees fit to 12/7 us or threats to 12/7 us is open game.

Blank check.

War.

Stick that in your “Don’t Tread on Me” pipe and inhale.

And so while we debate the merits of insane cops running amok or whatever middling crap we can dig up on Dr. Ben Carson, who is a pathetic side-show to our already insipid presidential politics, our president is once again thrusting this nation into another war it cannot win and will likely only exacerbate its incendiary status.

Lock up your sons and daughters. It’s time to add more wounded that will be ignored and dead that will be forgotten.

Think I’m simply an anti-war whiner? A cynic?

Fair enough: Let’s examine the facts of how there came to be an ISIS in the first place.

After the Iranian overthrow of the puppet tyrant the United State implanted in 1979, ignoring the democratic wishes of yet another in a long line of oil rich nations, we began arming auxiliary tyrant Saddam Hussein’s Baathist soldiers to combat it. These are the same soldiers that rumbled into Kuwait in August of 1990, prompting the Gulf War, which helped to build the case for al Queda (the terrorist outfit led by Osama bin Laden mobilized from the CIA-created Mujahideen that fought the Soviets in Afghanistan and were later abandoned when we no longer needed them, grew predictably and stridently anti-American, and bombed American foreign installations and ships in the late-‘90s) to unleash the 9/11 attacks. These are also many of the same soldiers that today (with American weapons) make up ISIS.

And you know who our ally in all this is now?

Iran.

So, now with all of that whiz-bang success from arming rebels and propping up corrupt regimes and our spectacularly disastrous foreign military-led policy of the past 15 years, we once again go slowly down the path of self-destruction.

Don’t be afraid of ISIS.

Or Iran, the Affordable Care Act, Caitlyn Jenner, Wall Street.

Be afraid of “additional measures”.

Be very afraid.

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GOODBYE PATRIOT ACT

Aquarian Weekly
6/10/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

GOODBYE PATRIOT ACT
Hello USA Freedom Act

And so the odious unconstitutional boondoggle merrily passed into law during the über paranoia of 9/11 and renewed time and again for 14 long years is gone. We say goodbye to the Patriot Act, one of the most intrusively open-ended pieces of legislation ever considered by a feckless knee-jerk congress since the generation-damaging Volstead Act. It’s very name a stain on its harbinger for what we have come to expect from all this “Don’t Tread On Me” rhetoric – the same jackasses carrying this glorious flag have no problem with their government spying on them, just don’t provide them health care. What a joke we are and have been lo these many years of pre-war trade-in on our civil rights for the fog of safety, from the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 to the jailing and deporting of German citizens during WWI and Japanese citizens during WWII to the FBI spying and CIA tampering with anti-war groups during the Viet Nam fiasco, we will eat any shit given us.
House Republicans Discuss Climate-Gate And Copenhagen Summit
And eat it we did for a decade and a half, and many of us – me included – didn’t seem to care. Why should I care? I break the law around here hourly. I have so much contraband at the Clemens Estate it would take a team of prosecutors months to dissect it. I have been open about my malfeasance and I have hung my “Don’t Tread On Me” flag proudly at every camp we have called home since the Putnam Bunker in the early-to-late 1990s. No one has ever harassed me. I am a middle-aged white man living in the woods with no priors. I am a working member of the Fourth Estate with skeleton-packed closet and blood on my pen. I treat NYC as a social experiment in spectacular abuses best kept off the pages of this paper and anywhere on the Internet, including the places where openly declaring that you yearn to cook and eat women can get you life in prison.

And I put it all in print with my name under it.

I welcome spying, as I welcome most of my unconstitutional miasma, which is why I cannot help but be surprised when anyone is shocked at the level of power and scope we have given our government, both local and federal, since Andrew Jackson told the Supreme Court to fuck itself and start the institutional migration of the Native Americans he couldn’t kill.

We are already choked by laws. Many of them keep us from killing ourselves and others. I have never believed in these, per se, more like tolerate them. Free Thinkers and the Evolved scoff at your petty morals (thank you, Keith Richards). We openly mock the diseased conditions that lead to things like Sharia Law or the PMRC or whatever crap Pat Roberson conjures or what con men like Mike Huckabee think you should be doing with your body. Fuck Mike Huckabee. He is a goober and a religious zealot and his kind is dying out and they know it, so they step out every four years to remind us of what it would be like if more of these cretins had the power to make us just like them.

Ah, but I digress.

Back to the lovely Patriot Act.

We now rest easy knowing our dick pics are safe from prying Big Brother.

Suddenly some gutless weasel who signed up to spy on us decides it’s a bit too much spying for his like, so he flees the country and at first anonymously unleashes all the collected data – including highly classified information – he’d stolen to the press in the guise of “whistle blowing”. In turn, the NY Times erroneously published secrets detrimental to the health and well being of Americans in harm’s way. Instead of standing his ground and going through the proper channels of the law, like the heroic Daniel Ellsberg, who in 1970 tried (in vain, but he tried) to persuade several senators of the crimes being perpetuated in the name of freedom by the United States abroad before going to the NY Times, and then stayed here to take his medicine and prove his position. Fuck Edward Snowden. I like my dissidents to take it standing strong, not cutting and running like Jesse James. Give me Jesus of Nazareth or Gandhi or Emma Goldman or Lenny Bruce any day, any week.

Now we’re all appalled? Right Wing to the Left Wing, we can finally agree on something and that something is the tip of the overreach iceberg, and you know what, this new USA Freedom Act has plenty of stuff in there that’s unconstitutional. As my good friend, Doc Buzz once mused, “Who’s kiddin’ who?”

I will give the USA Freedom Act one thing; it is the first time in a billion years a government has passed a law reducing its power. It has never happened in this country or on this planet to be fair. But it did this week. And that is news.

And so goodbye Patriot Act.

We now rest easy knowing our dick pics are safe from prying Big Brother.

Until the next thing blows up and then you’ll be glad to give blood samples to buy gum.

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ELIZABETH WARREN UNLEASHED

Aquarian Weekly
5/27/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

ELIZABETH WARREN UNLEASHED

Elizabeth Warren is what makes writing about politics interesting. She is the Democrats answer to Ted Cruz. She represents the polar end of a national party and can and will make waves to muck up the works when she can. In the end, though, her voice will be watered down by the legislative process. The progress of her times, as well as Ted Cruz’s, will go on. She will have made a point and she will live with her uncompromising street cred intact.Elizabeth Warren

Unlike Cruz and the right wing TEA Party he purports to represent – a sort of but not quite new fangled movement that shares the undertone of opposition for the current president and his policies, more specifically the ACA, which ushered this new wave in during the 2010 mid-terms – Warren is an old-fashioned liberal. She is dyed in the wool pro-labor, pro-regulation, pro-national education, and all the things that have become less fashionable in the past twenty years or so. This is why I laugh when people call Barack Obama a lefty. Lefties in the 1970s were lefties. It’s like calling Ronald Reagan a right-winger now. Reagan is a liberal compared to Ted Cruz, whereas Warren though would fit right in with Ted Kennedy.

And that brings me to Warren’s big move against her party’s president during this inner-party kerfuffle regarding Obama’s hot-and-heavy pursuit of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is the latest in a string of trade agreements proffered by presidents since the first Bush in the late 1980s. Since then it seems like everyone has had to pitch one. None of them seem to be total slam-dunks. In many ways they have hit the working class hard, specifically the organized labor front. Even staunch conservatives have barked about trade agreements that almost always benefit the other nations. Pat Buchanan famously ran amok in the streets of Seattle during the WTO protests that turned into riots in 1999. “Now you might not have seen me, but I was out there at the Battle of Seattle,” he puffed to me when running for president as an independent in 2000. “I was out there all five days. The WTO didn’t see me because I was disguised as a sea turtle moving around the imperial troops.”

Buchanan, who I hear from now and then with pithy commentary for my work, is an old-fashioned conservative. He is the one chuckling at Ted Cruz the way the president chuckled at Elizabeth Warren for two weeks when he was pressed by the media to respond to why she was very loudly telling rally after rally that Obama was screwing the working man and being “secretive” about his little trade deal. The president candidly struck back in interviews and his own stumping, saying, “Elizabeth and me are friends and we agree on a host of issues, accept apparently this one. And I have to say she’s got it wrong this time.”

You got the feeling that, as is his wont with many of the distended voices on the right, Obama tried shrugging this off until the vote came in and Warren successfully – mind you a lot more successfully than Cruz’s 400 votes to eradicate the ACA or his entertainingly flaccid filibuster routines – got the issue to a debate on the senate floor. Suddenly the shrugs became anger. You can tell by the way the White House responded to Warren that they considered this an affront – for awhile what was “She’s mistaken that we’re not transparent on the details of the deal” became “She is lying.” Obama called one of the more endearing and combative Democrats, a woman for whom the extreme left wants dearly to run for president in 2016 against the other more formidable woman, a liar. And worse yet the president called her the most damning moniker around these days; “a politician. “She’s a politician like everyone else.”

Interesting.

Make no mistake; Obama is getting his trade deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell loves it. He all but smooched the president’s ass on the floor of congress last week and couldn’t care less if staunch anti-trade voices in his party were bitching. He “commends” the president on his bravery to face down the radical wing of his party, something McConnell has failed to do at every turn. This is a man who boldly announced forty days into Obama’s presidency that his job was to make him a one-term president. He failed at that too.

But McDonnell and Obama, strange bedfellows for the TPP, will win out. Maybe they should. I have no idea how this thing is coming out, like we had no idea how Iraq was going to come out or the ACA or really anything. But this does not change the fact that Warren has gone rogue and she has plenty of supporters.

She will have made a point and she will live with her uncompromising street cred intact.

Now Warren (Senator from Massachusetts – as Blue as a Blue State could be) may reek of Ted Kennedy’s brand of liberalism, but she also appeals to the Ron Paul wing of the Democratic Party. All those young people who hung onto Paul’s anti-military, anti-inefficient government stuff – something his son has chucked – flock to Warren. According to them she has fought the good fight because she is uncompromising, another dirty word in politics these days. And maybe it should be. It can get you momentum, serious mojo among the “fed up” and there are always plenty of those.

I’m reminded of something the great H.L. Mencken mused about Calvin Coolidge; “Half the people hate him and other half hate those who hate him, but they don’t comprise any portion that actually supports him.” I loathe paraphrasing a friggin’ genius, but I have no time to look it up. You do it.

I do have time for one more comment; Elizabeth Warren is interesting, because she may be the first person in a long time that has captured some kind of bygone sense of populist liberalism that’s not simply Keynesian, tempered by pragmatic professorial think-tanks of mortified inaction or works at MSNBC. But, alas, she’s like that kid pitcher who takes the majors by storm and gets big headlines and then sort of fades away, as if he never was and you miss him, but you move on; the political version of Mark “The Bird” Fidrych. He was damn interesting. That lasted a summer. But oh what a summer it was.

Look it up. Gotta go.

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AN OPEN LETTER TO PETE TOWNSHEND ON THE OCCASION OF HIS 70TH BIRTHDAY‏

Aquarian Weekly
5/20/15
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

AN OPEN LETTER TO PETE TOWNSHEND ON THE OCCASION OF HIS 70TH BIRTHDAY

Dearest Pete,

First off, happy 70th.

This must seem a surreal sentiment considering you will forever be known for having written that you hoped to die before you…well…you know. However, in a very distinct way you never really did get old, did you? I mean, of course, we’re all careening towards oblivion, but what never gets old is integrity, passion, impetuous adherence to art and an unflinching, unrepentant pursuit of truth. You know the stuff that makes us nod our collective head and go, “Yeah…yeah” – this is what has allowed you to remain true to your screed.pete-townshend

But I did not write this to belabor the obvious. Seventy years is quite a run for a 60s rock star. As you have broached eloquently in many an interview, too many of your contemporaries and half your band are no longer with us, and it is not as if you did not face the effrontery of the rock idiom with any kind of caution. If anything, it is something of a miracle that you are still with us, not as much a miracle as say Keith Richards, which is a Lourdes level of divine agency, but we both know this foray into the form was something of a gamble for all of you and it is on this occasion that I think we can comfortably state that you have come up aces.

Mostly, though, I wanted to thank you.

And I do so not just for myself, but my generation – the one at the butt end of the Boomer one or the premature birthing of X. I was born in late 1962 and was way too young for “My Generation” or Monterey or Woodstock or Viet Nam, etc. But I was also a little too cynical to be influenced by MTV or Nirvana and the spate of psychographics defined by sociologists for people selling zit cream and video games. I first heard Tommy at age nine in the attic of my friend’s grandparents’ house in the Bronx, NY. It was his older brother’s copy. I did not yet know about acid or transcendental meditation or sensory trauma or messianic delusions. I only knew I was moved. Really moved.

So I want to thank you for Tommy. Much later in life the film, a really horrible thing, but one that shook the world at my feet and changed the way I would ever view or listen to music again, ended up becoming something of a life-altering experience for a twelve year-old. I remember my parents being puzzled at my week-long trance over it. And I remember feeling good about that, even 40 years hence. It still makes my nads tingle and brings me to a place filled with youthful exuberance that is beyond mere nostalgia. No one can take that feeling away. I’ll take that one to my grave.

And I want to thank you for “Young Man Blues”. I thought I liked heavy music and distorted defiance and rebellion and neighborhood-shattering noise, but then I heard the live version of “Young Man Blues” as it was released in my junior year of high school on The Kids Are Alright soundtrack for the film that would impress me but only hold deeper meaning three years later when my beloved grandmother died; the first concussive sense of loss I endured. I spent ten straight hours playing the VHS version over and over and over until I was tired of crying. But that has nothing to do with the first time I experienced The Who’s cover of “Young Man Blues”. It rendered all other rock music to flimsy argle. Shit, man, I don’t know how one can be an adolescent and explain oneself properly without it: manic, chaotic, relentless power and volume, as if this monstrosity you unleashed had become nuclear; a weapon of mass destruction – clean, brutal, unyielding. I am blasting it right now writing this. Ouch. Goddamn it, man. What revelation you wrought.

Thanks for “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, which some enterprising DJ played on the final minutes of the 1970s when it was hard for me to grasp that there could be another decade and what the 1980s would do to me as a young man, and what The Who and all of your songs and records would do to influence and calm and direct me. That song resonated at two crucial points when watching you perform it. The band’s first of several “final” tours in the late-summer of 1982 at Philly’s JFK Stadium, this stone monolith packed to the rafters with sun-drenched middle-class Caucasians of all ages, and me and the friends had managed to get ourselves in the press booth and watched as the throng of some 90,000 kids clapped in unison over your legendary pre-programmed synth piece that you pained over in this little box studio in west London over a decade before. It was what it must have felt like to be part of the Roman Legion right before the plunging of a city – this insatiable hedonistic lust for dominance. Oh, and the other was when you played solo at the Beacon Theater in 1993 and you did the song as an encore and was so completely loony you hit the ground – ba-tannnng! – guitar screaming with feedback, the crowd apoplectic to get at you, intercede with whatever jolt of electricity you were channeling.

Yeah, we all knew it was electricity. It had to be. The windmill, ahhhh…the windmill; how that right arm could rise up and come whipping around and around to smack those power chords and how you couldn’t say you lived until you were in the room when that arm went up and came striking across the strings and the crowd exploded as if it was in there somehow. And we knew that soon you might splinter that thing into hundreds of tiny pieces and how A-D-E chords never sounded better – teenage wasteland and all that; those ungodly beautiful sounds that careened through my skull at the end of “Cry If You Want”. What the hell did you do to get that sound? How did you know that was the resonance of our fury, our longing, our corruption?

And I thank you for Horse’s Neck, because that book is a mutha and it is way underrated and proved your worth as a man of letters, beyond Tommy and Lifehouse (and I sure do appreciate your releasing all those demos of it in the 2000s, because that is silly good), “Slit Skirts”, and of course Quadrophenia.

Goddamn it, man. What revelation you wrought.

Oh, yes, Quadrophenia. For this one I evoke my dear college friend, Jake Genovay, for whom we would offer one sentence to those who needed Quadrophenia (and you know who you are) – “Do you know?”

It is the guiding principle of rock music, isn’t it? I know you were exorcising demons with that one, and it shows, and so it was used to exorcise a few of mine and so many of ours. It is, for my money, your manifesto and the arc of our youth – the one that got me through high school and that I quoted on beaches to dozens of girls and the ones I sang with friends after too much revelry and the ones you dragged out of mothballs in 1996 and prompted this review of mine that began “Pete is God”, ‘cause that was what we used to blurt out during “Love Reign O’er Me” when you can’t quite say what you’re thinking and fear that you might end up amounting to the hill-of-beans they all promised because the power and volume might not be enough anymore. But, hell, you made that all seem palatable. Of course it wasn’t. It was anything but okay. It was life. And life is grand and life is shit and life is the alternative to…well…you know.

I hope I die before I get old.

And that, my dear man, is what all the art and music is for, right?

Right.

Sincerely,

The Rest of Us

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