The Sins of Tori Amos

Aquarian Weekly 8/12/09 BUZZ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The symbol of Isis?

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

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

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

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

No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I understand. Say no more.

Yeah.

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

Oh, yeah.

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

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

(Laughs)

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

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

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

Unedited Transcript of Entire Interview

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Tori Amos Interview

Aquarian Weekly 8/12/09 BUZZ

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

Tori Amos: Hi, James!

jc: How’re you doing, Tori?

I’m doing very well.

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

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

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

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

So have you.

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

I’m always after the muse, you know.

Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well…… (Laughs)

(Laughs)

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

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

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

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

Isis.

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

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

That’s right.

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

No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(laughs)

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

Oh, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Obama Beer Summit Review

Aquarian Weekly 8/5/09 REALITY CHECK

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

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

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

The “stupidly” part came afterwards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Healthcare Shuffle ’09

Aquarian Weekly 7/29/09 REALITY CHECK

THE HEALTHCARE SHUFFLE Fourth Rail of American Politics Goes Nuclear

Glenn Beck MeltdownAt the risk of continuing to make Glenn Beck weep like a schoolgirl or cause Chris Matthews further senseless hemorrhaging, it is important that this space reiterate its apathy when it comes to either the overhaul of the nation’s convoluted sinkhole of a Healthcare System or the ignoring of it. As a lifetime freelancer and mainline grifter, my irresponsible stagger through life has provided little in the way of “outside” financial assistance, beyond blood, sweat and swindle. At some point in the early nineties the idea of universal health provisions by the federal government was intriguing, and then the president let his ego-mad spouse peddle a hair-brained scheme into congress and the jig was up. Since, the subject has resonated only slightly beyond an abject hatred of all insurance companies and the usual shameless snake oil nonsense that passes for the pharmaceutical cabal.

Chances are, as predicted here for more than a decade, nothing this massive will survive The Process, and if it did, it would barely resemble anything close to an “overhaul” dreamed of in the most government-bloating wet dreams of Nancy Pelosi or the darkest night sweats of Newt Gingrich. Dilution of bills on Capitol Hill is as American as free land grabs and insider trading. It is where good, bold or even ridiculous ideas go to be gutted, pecked at, and drained of its spirit.

Take for instance the ambitious and dreaded Cap & Trade American Clean Energy & Security Act, a fairly motivated if not sketchy attempt to extricate this nation from its insatiable gluttony. However, the thing was so immense and incoherent by the House vote it was easily yanked apart and shredded by the Senate to the point that if it takes any steps toward resembling an actual clean energy edict it would qualify at the Vatican as a Living Miracle. Even the gruesome monstrosity it has now become could hardly be considered a shoo-in for law. At best, it will end up a sad, tired shell of its former mission, accomplishing only a forum for recycled rhetoric beneath the shadowy mist of fantasy.

This brings us to the decades old debate about the United States Healthcare System, which by the most liberal standards of Webster’s definition of System, is laughable.

Chances are, as predicted here for more than a decade, nothing this massive will survive The Process, and if it did, it would barely resemble anything close to an “overhaul” dreamed of in the most government-bloating wet dreams of Nancy Pelosi or the darkest night sweats of Newt Gingrich.

Most of what is happening now in the realm of Healthcare Reform is simply about politics. The Republicans, whipped and irrelevant for nearly two years now, have found a soapbox in which to rail and for a Democratic majority jacked on the fumes of victory and mandate with a still wildly popular executive, it’s bonkers time. The president, who has broken all records for media appearances, town hall meetings and press conferences, is out front for his first-year push. This, as is political wrangling over the issue, is nothing new. The last president spent his first six months pushing his tax cuts across the country to try and steal the day before a Republican-controlled Congress went to sleep, and thus so is the new one on Healthcare.

Baby Bush banked his presidency on tax cuts, and if not for what was to come in September of that fateful year of our Lord 2001, historians may have been privy to its ultimate results on what was then a significant surplus, but that presidency and its fallout was determined by the events of 9/11, and for he and the Republicans, it turned out expediency was indeed the ticket.

So there is no point wondering why Joe Cool was on the air again holding his near-weekly press briefing to quell fears and squash rumors of Socialism, Bureaucracy and dismembered babies crying in vain for their wounded mothers to provide solace beneath a cold and indifferent government clusterfuck, as it is pointless in defining his de facto deadlines. Unfortunately for him, this was insufficient for Lefties who wished for His Excellency to bring the funk and spine-chilling sermons on Hope Mach II and it damn sure didn’t placate an already feed-frenzied Right, which provides lip service to wanting to “reform” The System while banking on an early burial of the current administration.

And this is a good thing for democracy as we know and love it. The Loyal Opposition hitting and running with TV ads and radio talk show geeks and RNC chairmen shouting Armageddon, while the bleeding hearts of urban plight wax poetic about morality and rising costs and bankrupting the middle class. None of it is close to being true or even having a shot at ultimately affecting anyone. This is tantamount to the same hue and cry when the government votes to spy on its citizens. Honestly, did this curtail your drug deals or sex chats or put your incessant cell phone yammering and texting lunacy on hold? Nope. And neither shall whatever piddling nonsense congress and the president whip up put you on the street bleeding to death while illegal immigrants get free foot massages.

What is fairly amusing however is this half-cocked notion out of the U. S. Department of Health & Human Services, which has now gotten into the business of regulating human behavior by trying to ramrod into this sieve of a bill weirdly phrased shit about obesity and smoking. Nice try. Lord knows we’re fat and drugged up beyond recognition, but hell, it’s our choice — it’s the way God wanted it; Free Will. And while it is highly unlikely this or any other government in our lifetime will do anything about the state of providing, regulating or overhauling our dysfunctional Healthcare System from Medicare to Medicaid and beyond, there is absolutely no chance of saving us from ourselves.

 

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In Praise Of Woody Allen’s “Whatever Works

 

Aquarian Weekly 7/15/09
REALITY CHECK

WOODY BEING WOODY
In Praise of The Master’s Latest Opus, “Whatever Works”

Whatever love you can get and give, whatever happiness you can provide, every temporary measure of grace, whatever joy you can filch from this immense void of nothingness, whatever works. – Boris Yellnikoff from “Whatever Works”

"Whatever Works"It was somewhere in the painful drudgery of penning an overview of a bogged down Health Care debate in Congress that I decided to chuck the entire thing and write about the new Woody Allen film, Whatever Works instead. In a mind-numbingly prolific and brilliant career filled with several and varied celluloid masterworks (forty-two in forty years), my favorite filmmaker, and an indelible influence as a writer and award-winning curmudgeon, has once again hit the mark. With Hollywood mired in a string of regurgitated formulaic schlock and even the independent sources beginning to repeat the same dark, gut-wrenching themes, Allen has continued to present a freshly consistent string of darkly funny, thought-provoking satires on the human condition and modern society at large.

From the opening salvo to the final soliloquy of Whatever Works the very spirit of what this space has represented for nearly a dozen years is unerringly portrayed in the form of one of Allen’s most hilariously nihilistic characters to date; Boris Yellnikoff, played with an overdose of toxic venom by the laconic Larry David, whose general flavor is summed up with “I am a man with a huge world view surrounded by microbes.”

Using the obliteration of the dramatic “Fourth Wall”, originated in Allen’s first true cinematic masterpiece, Annie Hall thirty-four years ago, David repeatedly looks to the camera and unleashes his outrage at what he has determined from years of reality bombardment and a keen sense of prescience is a mindless, violent and depraved society of nitwits and suckers floating through an insipid series of failures as a race. But Yellnikoff’s tormented, self-proclaimed genius existence has rendered him an emotional cripple. He repeatedly attempts and fails at suicide, yet ironically fears death; waking up several times throughout the film shouting, “I’m dying!” When his wife, whom he eventually dumps, of course, asks if she should call for an ambulance, he argues, “Not now, eventually!” and bemoans the concept of not existing as “unacceptable!”

It is an existential theme Allen has mined many times before in Stardust Memories (1980) and Deconstructing Harry (1997), but not nearly as sharply contrasted to whatever happens around him. Allen beautifully juxtaposes Yellnikoff with his beloved New York, where people are alive, creative, romantic, and almost goofily optimistic in the face of his smarmy despair. It is no coincidence the protagonist subsists in a basement hovel imprisoned in the expanding corridors of China Town, an aging Jewish academic, railing against the failures of Western culture, politics, and art in the shadow of an emerging Eastern empire. Even when a young, naïve Southern girl in the grand tradition of Eliza Doolittle winds up on his doorstep begging for sustenance, which eventually brings her overtly myopic Bible-thumping parents – all eventually embracing the city’s freeing Bohemian temptations and finding true happiness in self-realization – it has absolutely no affect on Yellnikoff, save for providing fodder for his condescending wise-cracks along the way.

Yellnikoff’s art is his lifestyle and worldview, which both serve as a convenient excuse to ignore human contact or engage in the simple pleasures of social interaction, in a way a twisted reflection of Oscar Wilde’s famous quip; “I want to make of my life itself a work of art.”

And make no mistake about it; Whatever Works is Allen’s most political film. There have been polemic hints and jabs in his vast canon, whether his prose – last year’s heady and oft-hilarious Mere Anarchy – or 1983’s Zelig, but Whatever Works reeks of vicious slams on the NRA, the religious right, the giddy superciliousness of modern liberalism or just about any general philosophy. To his harrumphing friends, Yellnikoff, in the signature Larry David snide but lovably demented tone, blurts, “Democracy, socialism, or the teachings of Jesus, all great ideas with one undeniable flaw, they all assume the better nature of humanity, that if we allow people the freedom to make their own choices they will choose to be kind and generous and sympathetic.”

The other of Allen’s grand themes is on display in Whatever Works; the illusion and beauty of art; whatever the medium – its soothing elixir either masking the harsh realities of life – The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Bullets Over Broadway (1994) or acting as a dangerous narcotic that is no substitute for genuine emotion or a connection to the life experience, Celebrity (1998), Sweet and Lowdown (1999). But here it is not as obvious. Yellnikoff’s art is his lifestyle and worldview, which both serve as a convenient excuse to ignore human contact or engage in the simple pleasures of social interaction, in a way a twisted reflection of Oscar Wilde’s famous quip; “I want to make of my life itself a work of art.”

It is here where the casting of David as Yellnikoff is simple perfection. His legacy as co-creator of the torturous craziness in Seinfeld and his successful HBO stint with the consistently amusing Curb Your Enthusiasm, wherein everyone is duped, pissed, and unnaturally selfish to the point of megalomania with no redemption or learned experience in sight puts him in Allen’s unblinking spotlight. He is relentless, dour, condescending and yet a weirdly relatable composite of Groucho Marx and Dostoyevsky’s Ivan.

Among several stellar performances in the film is the Southern triumvirate of Ed Begeley Jr., as the easily tempted moral patriarchal poser, his overly dramatic and perpetually flustered ex-wife, Patricia Clarkson, and their wide-eyed belle of a daughter, Melodie, who is the adorable antagonistic foil for Yellnikoff, played with great empathy and wit by Evan Rachel Wood, following in the footsteps of such Oscar-winning female luminaries as Diane Keaton, Diane Weis, Mira Sorvino, and Penelope Cruz.

For Yellnikoff and quite frankly his author, Melodie represents the random lunacy, unpredictability and splendor of life’s little joke; how two completely disparate personalities in age, intellect, sensibility, and geographical origin, can meet up and imprint their character on one another, spiking holes in the film’s otherwise dimly comical skepticism. This is not unlike Allen’s own bizarre courtship with Soon Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of his ex-lover, Mia Farrow.

There are also the many and varied classic Woody Allen twists and turns, strangely formulated encounters and plenty of laughs in Whatever Works, which may not be his best work but an uncanny synopsis of his most celebrated films’ general philosophy – life is filled with one frighteningly random chaotic pratfall and unexpected disappointment after the other, but sprinkled with just enough humor, love, art, and exciting distraction to keep us from snuffing it.

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Michael Jackson 1958 – 2009

Aquarian Weekly 7/8/09 REALITY CHECK

MICHAEL JACKSON 1958 – 2009

In the woods, too, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period so ever in life is always a child. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Michael Jackson is America’s celebrity experiment. A kind of preternatural Skinner Box child, who grew up in a fishbowl with no boundaries and sense of self beyond what the Billboard charts indicated. – MICHAEL JACKSON IS IN DEEP SHIT REALITY CHECK 2/16/05

Michael JacksonThe scars of physical and emotional child abuse were always etched on Michael Jackson’s countenance, long before he deconstructed his face to mask it. It is one of the great feats, this incredibly talented prodigy — exploited, beaten, and robbed of precious childhood innocence and the foundation of self esteem by those who claimed to love and protect him — becoming one of the most influential and dominant forces in American pop culture.

It is a wonder the man the papers continue to flippantly call Jacko didn’t end up balled in a fetal position, sucking his thumb and babbling nursery rhymes. And maybe he did; holed up in his many bunkers from the Neverland Ranch to secret compounds and hotel suites from London to Nigeria. But that was long after he had overcome being reared by a twisted gargoyle of a father and his enabling matron, and bearing the pressures of carrying his fairly competent musical siblings, who relied heavily on his startlingly gifted talents and incandescent star quality to even get a sniff of life outside of Gary, Indiana.

From the start, Michael Jackson was the bread-winning, bacon-hauling strength and breath of the Jackson Five — those sparkling eyes, blinding smile, and a playfully endearing personality far beyond his eleven years. And although anyone who came close enough to this phenom clung hard to his hem at every turn, it was the young Jackson’s ability to focus on the blessed music that allowed him to not only endure, but thrive. It’s curing melodies and furious rhythms, the highs and lows of its keys and its soothing structure of scales, arrangements and the flawless dance steps of campy routines that accompanied it all.

Jackson’s juvenile voice — the one that predated the falsetto yipping adult screech version — barely trained, raw, and preternaturally distinctive was one hell of an instrument. What he’s doing in “I Want You Back”, “Got To Be There”, and “Never Can Say Goodbye” is downright eerie. He alone created the Jackson myth: A bottomless well of magically imbued DNA, when all along it was little Michael and a bunch of hanger’s on.

You think a moderate talent like Janet Jackson would have been outfitted with a Jimmy Jam/Terry Lewis School of Funk tutoring if her name had been Jones and her brother wasn’t the biggest pop star on planet earth?

This was a being literally created to entertain, so much so that all of the lunacy that became his personal life was just a way for him to keep up the performance, maintain the “put on”. The Show was his safe place, like his arrested development, a state of naive inertia, caught between a clamoring for the affection of millions and the abject horror that they would eventually uncover his demons.

Hey, but child stars, whether mediocre ones like Danny Bonaduce or legends like Shirley Temple all have their tales of woe. It’s as old as traveling carnival freaks and pathetic dog acts; cute kids who can carry a tune and hoof a number to pay daddy’s bills. But it was far more than that for Michael Jackson, who was almost immediately emasculated by his family and driven hard by the factory corral at Motown, both of which conspired to tell the world that the already amazing whiz kid was three years younger at a time when a pre-teen boy is eager to add a half-year on every turn of the calendar, to inch closer to his more mature and handsome older brothers who were banging groupies across darkened hotel rooms on endlessly grueling tours.

It was a strange confluence of emotions for a boy caught in the spotlight, hobnobbing with glitzy celebrity, handling nagging newsmen and appeasing clamoring fans, trapped in airless studios for weeks and run ragged in rehearsals, while also being healed and exhalted by song. For Michael Jackson, it was more than a love affair with showbiz and the adulation that came with performing; it was a measure of pride and identity. Most of all, it was escape. Escape from the looming prospect of failure in the shadow of an incessant badgering for perfection, all the while being looked upon as nothing more than a cash machine.

It is why years later Jackson told gurus and spiritual advisors he wouldn’t dare trade the sacrifices and abuses he endured as an imprisoned child star for a life filled with the peaceful anonymity of uneventful mediocrity. This was a being literally created to entertain, so much so that all of the lunacy that became his personal life was just a way for him to keep up the performance, maintain the “put on”. The Show was his safe place, like his arrested development, a state of naive inertia, caught between a clamoring for the affection of millions and the abject horror that they would eventually uncover his demons.

In J.Randy Taraborrelli’s exhaustive 1991 biography, Michael Jackson; The Magic & The Madness there emerges a character that defies all psychological reasoning. It is as though you are peering into not so much an abnormality in the human condition, but one without the proper wiring to cope at all. And this is the nut about all the bizarre and allegedly criminal behavior of the aging and morphing Michael Jackson; he was expected to act as if he were a properly developed and nurtured person, when he was anything but.

And maybe you can say as much for his genius, of which there is little doubt — its impact equal to that of any African American artist of the 20th century, and that’s saying something. For genius is defined in Webster’s as a “peculiar, distinctive or identifying character or spirit”, right next to “a personification or embodiment especially of a quality or condition”, which could scarcely better describe Michael Jackson from the tender age of eleven until his final breaths in a lavish Hollywood estate a week ago, with all the good and strange stuff in between.

In an interview I conducted for this magazine in March of ’08, Counting Crows front man and prime songwriter, Adam Duritz reminisced about the impact the Jackson Five had on his initial love of music. Turns out the first album Duritz owned, like myself, a seventies kid raised on pop and soul and folk and humming melodies and showstoppers, was the Jackson Five’s fourth studio album, “Maybe Tomorrow”.

As an aside, I chuckled to myself, “What happened?”

And without thinking, Duritz, a man who has publicly grappled with his own demons of fame and identity whispered, “Oh, he’s in there somewhere.”

 

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Uprising In Iran 2009

Aquarian Weekly 6/24/09 REALITY CHECK

THE ALLAH STOMP How The Streets Of Iran Are Burning The Fumes of the ’79 Revolution

The large print giveth and the small print taketh away. – Tom Waits

If you have children at an age where they have a basic grasp of their place in the grand scheme of human endeavor, you must place them in front of a television or find a spot on the Internet and share with them the incredible Awakening In Tehranevents unfolding in Iran. For it is important that youth be served with uprising. It is even more important they understand what it means to fight to control their environment and to be comfortable in the total and furious rejection of all that has come before; especially when what has come before is a tired and pathetic series of atavistic oppressive nonsense perpetuated by mindless zealot thugs hiding behind laughably formed religious dogma.

You see, the riots engulfing the whole of Tehran currently have less to do with a sham of an election than it does with a “movement”. Granted, movements tend to explode from the bowels of cheap political frauds, but they also tend to have a life of their own, a violent birthing complete with a bloody, cacophonous splendor of fury. Movements also don’t necessarily need leaders or figureheads or even a singular purpose. But they always seem to regress into a fistful of backlash from the Status Quo, which more times than not see movements as a threat to what is left of their stale hag of desiccating stupidity that has subsisted way beyond any reason to keep functioning save for the greed and self-preservation of its nurtured few.

Thomas Jefferson, one of history’s most articulate dreamers, saw uprisings as a kind of spiritual right of passage for the human spirit, a Jesus/Mohammad king-hell joust with tyranny, whether religious, cultural or political. He also believed in the “world revolution” where the desire to steer one’s destiny trumps any feign designs on the collective freedom, because one man’s freedom is another man’s shackles and Jefferson, like all pie-in-the-sky types, knew instinctively that only those who’ve worn the shackles understand implicitly that things gotta change.

So maybe while you watch a world turn upon itself you can explain to your kids that not everything is shit, but a goodly portion of things are, and strange aberrations of civilization like Theocracies only work for some but not all. And when the majority of the “all” happens to be around the age of 27 and cannot recall with xenophobic blinders the Revolution of 1979, they fully realize the absurdity of their existence; that all about them is religious miasma existing only to expunge any remnants of the evil western-propped governments for a return to the Dark Ages and the headdresses of warring tribes and the muzzling of science and progress and art and social expression.

There are only so many jailhouses and so many bullets and so much upheaval the Status Quo can handle. Eventually the voices overwhelm. If not today or tomorrow, soon. No matter what comes and how our new president or the rest of the curious Middle East will deal with it when it has subsided, it will not be the same.

This is how a society becomes straddled with a bleating little troll like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a twisted gnome of a man whose sole purpose is the wiping away of the terrible nightmare in the mirror — the sad beady-eyed gargoyle mommy ignored and the neighborhood bullies stomped for kicks — and replace him with something “special”. Ah, but his babbling psychosis was forgiven for too long, this tour-de-force of spectacular dumbness displayed with spastic zeal, simply because the public learned that he’d been stricken from birth with a strange malady called Mesenteric Torsion, which had heretofore only been diagnosed in dogs and other creatures that regularly consume their own feces and countless pounds of diseased meat. It is literally a rotting of the intestines wherein eventually the bile invades the bloodstream and then onto the brain. Dogs usually have the decency to crawl off to die alone, but in the human, MT produces a bloated sense of self-worth and a demented lust for purpose, producing a bent sort of abject megalomania.

Modern civilized societies either quarantine these poor creatures or give them high-profile radio gigs, but in Iran there appears to be a relish for this manner of madness at the state level. But, alas, Ahmadinejad’s atavistic showbiz had begun to wear thin, not only abroad but at home, and that is a hard dose to swallow for those living in fantasyland. And it’s also how that fantasy might spill into “the process”, where campaigns suddenly become pud pulling exercises and votes are more a vague framework than reality.

And despite the fading echo of The Revolution being outnumbered by the new, wide-eyed youth to the tune of almost two-to-one and rising poll numbers for weeks for his opponent, Mir-Hossein Mousavi Khameneh, and a strong tailwind of debates in which all observers viewed Ahmadinejad’s “clock cleaned”, the election went the other way by a staggering two-thirds. Weird stories of thousands of hand ballots ignored, a media crackdown and a quickly cobbled victory speech left Iran looking to the rest of the world not as it wished — a noble nation built of tradition and allegiance to Allah — but a grotesquely anachronistic embarrassment to modern civilization.

That’s when the foreign press was kicked out and international cell phone connections were shut down and the Internet was blockaded. But this, like all revolutions, has new avenues to victory, whether they are the sword and musket or the Twitter and FaceBook.

Images of a vengeful Revolutionary Guard shooting wildly at protesting students and the capitol in flames is not the way a rogue nation wants to hang in this renewed time of diplomacy. The mockery of justice and law and the total abandon of human rights and common decency play regularly on the World Wide Web and it is all a pox on Iran’s faith and its way of life. And all the vacillating rambles of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will amount to the proverbial hill of beans if order is not restored.

There are only so many jailhouses and so many bullets and so much upheaval the Status Quo can handle. Eventually the voices overwhelm. If not today or tomorrow, soon. No matter what comes and how our new president or the rest of the curious Middle East will deal with it when it has subsided, it will not be the same.

That is a Movement, brutha.

Give your kids a taste.

 

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200 Favorite Albums – Author, James Campion’s list.

200 FAVORITE ALBUMS
(no live, best of…, or soundtracks included)

During a symposium for music journalists sponsored by public radio, jc was asked to list his 50 favorite albums of the rock-n-roll era, complete with mini-reviews for the Top Ten. Taken from the original notes rendered in the winter of 1998, jc told jamescampion.com that he reserves the right to update it at anytime, to which he then perused and changed considerably adding 50 more titles in the winter of 2002 and yet another update in the spring of 2009. The most recent of these updates was in the winter of 2022, when it expanded to 200. Nevertheless the list is fairly concrete, and, as usual, open for healthy debate.

Last Updated 2/22

1. Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy – Elton John (1975) Captain Fantastic
The ultimate collection from all-time song-writing team, Bernie Taupin and Elton John performed as a trip down English memory lane with one of the most underrated rock bands of the era. Killer opening tune, (title track) and dramatic closer (“Curtains”). A champion of melodies and musicianship, it combines the pomp of 70s’ pop with poetic angst. A flawless effort from artists in their prime.
Highlights: “Bitter Fingers”, “Someone Saved My Life Tonight”, “Writing”.

2. Quadrophenia – The Who (1973)Quadrophenia
An evolved rock ensemble tackling the essence of its author, Pete Townshend to perfection. The best concept/opera ever set to tape with an anger and sensitivity rarely displayed by artists of this genre. Defines the frustration of youth and its warped dreams of coming to age while offering a tapestry of powerful release and somber beauty.
Highlights: “The Real Me”, “5:15”, “Love Reign O’er Me

3. Exile On Main St. – The Rolling Stones (1972)        Exile on Main St.
The greatest rock-n-roll band in the world at the height of its powers, cranking out musical inspiration with nasty delight. Recorded in a castle basement with the grit of high flying junkie hipsters, it is everything the Stones did well in every stage of its existence: country, blues, gospel, boogie, and barroom rockabilly.
Highlights: “Tumbling Dice”, “Loving Cup”, “Let It Loose”.

    4. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles (1967) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The musical centerpiece for an affluent postwar generation, it heralded the age of Aquarius, issued in the era of the album as an art form, and reinvented the most famous pop band on the planet. Lyrically effusive, musically colorful, and eminently entertaining; the history of rock-n-roll is split by its presence.
Highlights: “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, “Being For The Benefit Of Mister Kite”, “A Day In The Life”.

5. The Joshua Tree – U2 (1987)The Joshua Tree
Documenting the most fertile period of one of the 80s’ most important bands, it is a musical journey both spiritual and cathartic. One of the finest opening songs (“Where The Streets Have No Name”) sets the stage for this brilliant array of folk/rock songs displaying the apex of U2’s unique sound and fury. It’s overall lyrical vision of earth, fire and water set to infectious melodies and dark images cut deep. Highlights: “With Or Without You”, “Bullet The Blue Sky”, “Running To Stand Still”.

6. Sign ‘O’ The Times – Prince (1987)Sign O' The Times
A mad genius caught in the infinite groove and the wild abandon of his mystical world, this is the quintessential collection of muses by any artist attempting to use popular music as a single career statement. Eschewing collaboration for the myopic vision, this is Prince Rogers Nelson as funk Gershwin setting impossible standards of creativity. Highlights: “Play In The Sunshine”, “I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man”, “Adore”.

I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got7. I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got – Sinead O’Connor (1990)
The most honest account of a woman artist exorcising spiritual demons, rendered with raw passion and infinite grace. Before O’Connor’s public furor and marketing defiance loomed over the work, it is a sweet and horrific demonstration of what a songwriter can do when facing the mirror and describing the view. Highlights: “I Am Stretched On Your Grave”, “Three Babies”, “Last Day Of Our Acquaintance”.

8. Blood on the Tracks – Bob Dylan (1974)Blood On The Tracks
The best example of what an important social icon is capable of when turning his caustic, probing guns inward for a biographical purging. Spinning ballads and literal tales of the infamous lonely minstrel; this is Dylan on the psyche couch spitting out personal questions about the age of loss.
Highlights: “Tangled Up In Blue”, “Simple Twist Of Fate”, “Shelter From The Storm”.

New American Language9. New American Language – Dan Bern (2002)
It’s pop, it’s folk, it’s rock, it’s country, but mostly it’s melodiously infectious and begs the listener to actually listen. One of the best new albums of the new century’s opening decade from a man fast becoming a musical chronicler of our bizarre times, and besides being as funny as hell, a damn good songwriter. Highlights: “Sweetness”, “God Said No”, “Albuquerque Lullaby”.

10. Living With Ghosts – Patty Griffith (1992)Living With Ghosts
Elegant melodies and provocative lyrics bloom from the pure grit of a distinctly pristine voice and come to life in these quaintly stripped down compositions. Originally recorded for a demo, it is a startling debut from a signature songwriter of her time poised to unleash the deepest fears and soul aspirations onto tape. Highlights: “Moses”, “Poor Man’s House”, “Forgiveness”.

11. Good Old Boys – Randy Newman (1974)Good Old Boys
The master of mordant metaphor and biting satire doled out in two minute ditties of twisted wit and wisdom offers up a smorgasbord of haughty characters born from the bowels of crazed self-loathing. Only a songwriting genius such as Newman could conjure such manic diversity delivered in goose-bump inducing melodies and striking orchestration. From the opening lines of “Rednecks”, this one hits hard. Highlights: “Birmingham”, “Louisiana 1927”, “A Wedding In Cherokee County”.

12. Tommy – The Who (1969)Tommy
Expanding the mind, cleansing the soul and satirizing the whole damn world. Pete Townshend’s initial foray into the Rock Opera yields a rough and tumble unit’s cerebral side. Ardent imagery and bizarre glimpses into a metaphysical era, while impaling the various modes of culture, this is a special place where philosophy meets tonality with a vengeance. Highlights: “Overture”, Pinball Wizard”, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.

13. Plastic Ono Band – John Lennon (1970)Plastic Ono Band
One man bellowing from the inside out for the whole wide world to hear. It is a stripped-down raw-wound collection of painful songs beautifully presented under the guise of healing. A signature effort from one of the most influential voices of a generation at the crossroads of a life three-quarters complete.
Highlights: “Mother”, “Isolation”, “God”.

14. Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys (1966)Pet Sounds
Precursor for the age of studio chaos and experimentation. Gorgeous tunes with omniscient orchestration written and presented in glorious splendor by the genre’s resident ingenious broken spirit, Brian Wilson. Sweet harmonies and dreamy arrangements set in the backdrop of childlike fantasy.
Highlights: “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”, “You Still Believe In Me”, “God Only Knows”.

15. Destroyer – Kiss (1976) Destroyer
A wonderfully noisy postcard from the ostentatiously loud and dynamic 70s’ pap/metal/fantasy troubadours. Hits the traditional highs of great albums with a rollicking opener, “Detroit Rock City” and closes with the ethereal sex rant, “Do You Love Me?”, not to mention an orchestral bombast, rousing choir and the genre’s first ballad. As good as hard rock gets.
Highlights: “God Of Thunder”, Shout It Out Loud”, “Beth”.

Night At The Opera16. A Night at the Opera – Queen (1975)
A fitting title for an eclectic collection of electric arias of rhythmic playfulness, this breakout siren from one of the virtuoso bands of the period unloads the full repertoire of tricks from down-and-dirty rock, bouncy ragtime, operatic swooning and one of the finest pop songs of the 70s’ in “You’re My Best Friend” and its most outlandishly tasty bombast, “Bohemian Rhapsody”.
Highlights: “Death On Two Legs”, “’39, “Love Of My Life”.

Not A Pretty Girl17. Not a Pretty Girl – Ani DiFranco – (1995)
The ultimate screaming, pompous, angry, curiously romantic serenade from an incredibly diverse poet, musician, and folk singer in the zone. The evolving momentum of her work leads to this seminal musical moment and launches several more levels of creative explosions worthy of the great composers of 20th century passions. Highlights: “Worthy”, “Hour Follows Hour”, 32 Flavors”.

18. The Wall – Pink Floyd (1979) The Wall
The only accomplished “audio film,” it is the signature 60s/70s art band’s final stab at bassist and songwriter, Roger Waters’ career-long fascination with the artistic seduction of madness. Beautifully produced and presented in a tour de force of sound, fury and virtuosity, a well of infinite sadness resonates with every note. Highlights: “Mother”, “Nobody Home”, Comfortably Numb”.

19. Hunky Dory – David Bowie (1972)Hunky Dory
No better slice of the musical chameleon at the height of his songwriting, singing, and poetic powers. It is the framework for an an entire movement of 70s’ folk/glam/storytelling albums with a central figure speaking through the schizophrenic prisms of boundless imagination. The glaring example of Bowie’s engaging duality is on display with the opening strains of the positively charged “Changes” to the final note of the disturbingly somber “The Bewlay Brothers”. Highlights: “Oh! You Pretty Things”, “Life On Mars?”, Quicksand”.

20. King of America – Elvis Costello (1985)King Of America
Everything Costello has given to the pantheon of modern songwriting and performing is evident in this masterpiece of lyric and melody. Arguably the finest collection of songs presented in the post-Beatles/Dylan period of balladeers with a few properly placed chords wrapped around a heavy bushel of irony, Costello’s distinct voicing and unnerving timbre is chillingly powerful throughout.
Highlights: “Brilliant Mistake”, “Indoor Fireworks”, “Poisoned Rose”.

21. Rain Dogs – Tom Waits (1986)

22. August & Everything After – Counting Crows (1993)

23. Modern Happiness – Eric Hutchinson & The Believers (2018)

24. Warren Zevon – Warren Zevon (1976)

25. Ram – Paul and Linda McCartney (1971)

26. Around the World in a Day – Prince and the Revolution (1985)

27. Sail Away – Randy Newman (1971)

28. Mothership Connection – Parliament (1975)

29. Let It Bleed – The Rolling Stones (1969)

30. Blue – Joni Mitchell (1971)

31. Moondance – Van Morrison (1971)

32. Girlfriend – Matthew Sweet (1990)

33. Welcome Interstate Managers – Fountains of Wayne (2003)

34. Little Earthquakes – Tori Amos (1991)

35. The Sunset Tree – The Mountain Goats (2005)

36. Look Sharp – Joe Jackson (1979)

37. sincerely e – Elizabeth & The Catapult (2021)

38. Purple Rain – Prince & The Revolution (1984)

39. Armed Forces – Elvis Costello (1978)

40. This Desert Life – Counting Crows (1999)

41. Document – R.E.M. (1987)

42. Sticky Fingers – The Rolling Stones (1971)

43. Who’s Next – The Who (1971)

44. Rocket To Russia – Ramones (1977)

45. The White Album – The Beatles (1968)

46. Jagged Little Pill – Alanis Morissette (1995)

47. I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You – Aretha Franklin (1967)

48. Hi, How Are You? – Daniel Johnston (1983)

49. Excitable Boy – Warren Zevon (1978)

50. Cissy – Seán Barna (2018)

51. Bookends – Simon & Garfunkel (1968)

52. Maybe Tomorrow – Jackson Five (1971)

53. Tapestry – Carole King (1971)

54. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill – Lauryn Hill (1998)

55. Welcome to My Nightmare – Alice Cooper (1975)

56. Paul’s Boutique – Beastie Boys (1989)

57. Fleeting Days – Dan Bern (2003)

58. Dookie – Green Day (1994)

59. Thousand Dollar Dinners – Matt Sucich (2019)

60. Soviet Kitsch – Regina Spektor (2003)

61. The Doors – The Doors (1967)

62. Sprained Ankle – Julien Baker (2015)

63. Jazz – Queen (1978)

64. When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? – Billie Eilish (2019) 

65. The Sun Sessions – Elvis Presley (1976)

66. Tidal – Fiona Apple (1996)

67. Hard Candy – Counting Crows (2002)

68. Uh-Huh – John Cougar Mellencamp (1984)

69. Nilsson Schmilsson – Harry Nilsson (1971)

70. Bringing It All Back Home – Bob Dylan (1965)

71. Yolk in the Fur – Wild Pink (2018)

72. Innervisions – Stevie Wonder (1973)

73. The La’s – The La’s (1990)

74. Southern Accents – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (1985)

75. Pure Fiction – Eric Hutchinson (2004)

76. Small Change – Tom Waits (1976)

77. 1999 – Prince (1982)

78. Revolver – The Beatles (1966)

79. Van Halen – Van Halen (1978)

80. Billion Dollar Babies – Alice Cooper (1973)

81. Out of Time – R.E.M. (1991)

82. Berlin – Lou Reed (1973)

83. Let There Be Rock – AC/DC (1977)

84. Outlandos D’Amour – The Police (1979)

85. Yip Jump Music – Daniel Johnston (1983)

86. Drifter – Dan Bern (2012)

87. Central Reservation – Beth Orton (1999)

88. Nothing’s Shocking – Jane’s Addiction (1988)

89. Rites Of Passage – Indigo Girls (1992)

90. Joshua, Judges, Ruth – Lyle Lovett (1992)

91. Nebraska – Bruce Springsteen (1982)

92. The Dream of the Blue Turtles – Sting (1985)

93. Recovering The Satellites – Counting Crows (1996)

94. Toys in the Attic – Aerosmith  (1975)

95. Ten – Pearl Jam (1991)

96. Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars – David Bowie (1972)

97. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John (1973)

98. The Cars – The Cars (1978)

99. Business As Usual – Men At Work (1982)

100. Norman Fucking Rockwell! – Lana Del Rey (2019)

101. Band on the Run – Paul McCartney & Wings

102. Trouble in Paradise – Randy Newman (1982)

103. Graceland – Paul Simon (1985)

104. Gold – Ryan Adams (2001)

105. The Velvet Underground & Nico – Velvet Underground (1967)

106. Freewheelin’ – Bob Dylan (1963)

107. Violent Femmes – Violent Femmes (1983)

108. School’s Out – Alice Cooper (1972)

109. Every Picture Tells a Story – Rod Stewart (1971)

110. Objects in the Mirror – Stephen Kellogg (2018)

111. Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones (1979)

112. Some Girls – The Rolling Stones (1978)

113. The Wind – Warren Zevon (2003)

114. Astral Weeks – Van Morrison (1968)

115. Talking Book – Stevie Wonder (1972)

116. Damn the Torpedoes – Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (1979)

117. The Rainbow Children – Prince (2001)

118. Nothing is Wrong – Dawes (2011)

119. Rubber Soul – The Beatles (1966)

120. Exodus – Bob Marley and the Wailers (1977) 

121. Remain in Light – Talking Heads (1980)

122. Back in Black – AC/DC (1980)

123. Ghost in the Machine – The Police (1981)

124. Azure Ray – Azure Ray (2001) 

125. Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan (1966)

126. Ringo – Ringo Starr (1973) 

127. Parade – Prince & the Revolution (1986)

128. Misplaced Childhood – Marillion (1985)

129. Transformer – Lou Reed (1972) 

130. Dilate – Ani DiFranco (1994)

131. Magic Gone – Pedal (2018) 

132. Madonna – Madonna (1983)

133. Beggars Banquet – The Rolling Stones (1968)

134. Sentimental Hygiene – Warren Zevon (1987)

135. Dirty Mind – Prince (1980)

136. The Texas Campfire Tapes – Michelle Shocked (1986)

137. Universal Mother – Sinead O’Connor (1994)

138. Bryter Layter – Nick Drake (1971)

139. Under Rug Swept – Alanis Morrisette (2002)

140. No Need to Argue – The Cranberries (1994)

141. Illinois  – Sufjan Stevens (2005)

142. God Bless Tiny Tim – Tiny Tim (1967)

143. Rumors – Fleetwood Mac (1977)

144. My Aim is True – Elvis Costello (1977)

145. Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings – Counting Crows (2008)

146. Abbey Road – The Beatles (1969)

147. Music From Big Pink – The Band (1968)

148. Habitual Eater – Van Goose (2019)

149. The Ramones – The Ramones (1976)

150. Hot Buttered Soul – Isaac Hayes (1969)

151. Private Revolution – World Party (1986)

152. What’s Goin’ On – Marvin Gaye (1971)

153. 1,000 Kisses – Patty Griffin (2002)

154. Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Only The Piano Player – Elton John (1973)

155. L.A. Woman – The Doors (1970)

156. Jungle Groove – James Brown (1986)

157. The Who By Numbers – The Who (1975)

158. The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle – Bruce Springsteen (1973)

159. Mule Variations – Tom Waits (1999)

160. Trouble –  Ray LaMontagne (2004)

161. Black & Blue – The Rolling Stones (1976)

162. Parallel Lines – Blondie (1978) 

163. Car Wheels on a Gravel Road – Lucinda Williams (1998)

164. So Tonight that I Might See – Mazzy Star (1993)

165. Katy Lied – Steely Dan (1975)

166. Loaded – Velvet Underground (1970)

167. All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes – Pete Townshend (1982)

168. This is Big Audio Dynamite – Big Audio Dynamite (1985)

169. Lady Soul – Aretha Franklin (1968)

170. We Started Nothing – The Ting Tings (2008)

171. Songs – Regina Spektor (2002)

172. Move It On Over – George Thorogood & the Destroyers (1978)

173. Ani DiFranco – Ani DiFranco (1990)

174. Voices of Freedom – Little Steven & Disciples of Soul (1984)

175. Mellow Gold – Beck (1994)

176. Nothing Like the Sun – Sting (1987)

177. Horses – Patti Smith (1975)

178. Simple Dreams – Linda Ronstadt (1977)

179. Electric Ladyland – The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1970)

180. Never Mind the Bullocks: Here’s the Sex Pistols – The Sex Pistols (1977)

181. Daddy’s Home – St. Vincent (2021)

182. Court and Spark – Joni Mitchell (1974)

183. Abandoned Luncheonette – Hall & Oats (1973) 

184. The Barbara Streisand Album – Barbara Streisand (1963) 

185. London Calling – The Clash (1979)

186. Rocks – Aerosmith (1976) 

187. Honky Chateau – Elton John (1972)

188. It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back – Public Enemy (1988)

189. Rage Against The Machine – Rage Against The Machine (1992)

190. Bat Out of Hell – Meatloaf (1977)

191. There Goes Rhymin’ Simon – Paul Simon (1973)

192. The Pretender – Jackson Browne (1976)

193. Psychoderelict- Pete Townshend (1994) 

194. War – U2 (1983)

195. The Stranger – Billy Joel (1977)

196. Making Movies – Dire Straits (1980)

197. License to Ill – Beastie Boys (1986)

198. Imagination – Gladys Knight & the Pips  (1973)

199. News of the World – Queen (1977)

200. OK Computer – Radiohead (1997) 

50 Favorite Films

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Open Letter To My Wife

Aquarian Weekly 6/17/09 REALITY CHECK

OPEN LETTER TO MY WIFE PART II A Continued Apology Ten Years In The Making

Dearest,

I send this missive to press on the tenth anniversary of our marriage from a hotel in Barcelona, Spain, where you lay beside me in one of your rare restive states, mouth agape, right wrist resting awkwardly on your forehead; your breath slow, but steady. It is the finest example I have that you have survived me, something I did not predict a decade ago in this space, when we were far away in Syracuse, NY getting hitched. It was a cowardly act; putting down every horrible thing I had wreaked on my loved ones and those who were unlucky enough to cross my path in a pathetic attempt to publicly expunge all this bile without your knowledge. But no jury would convict me. I just didn’t want to queer the deal. Ultimately it was nothing more than cute and it brought me a meager pittance to submit it, but it didn’t mean a goddamned thing.

Before The FloodTurns out you knew all about it, didn’t you? After all, you lived with me, and not the Me that I rolled out at parties or professional jaunts or even family affairs, but the real Me. What the hell does that mean? Fuck if I know, but you do, and that’s all that counts. I rely on that instinct to strip away all my well-crafted facades and leave me a bloody, emotional, blithering child. It’s a good feeling to be “reduced”. Hell, yes. I recommend it to anyone with this kind of mind-numbing ego.

But you never ran from the tornados, darling. Not you. Not ever. This is why you are the finest of women, which makes you the finest of humans, because we all know a man could not begin to scale the heights you traverse daily. It is always a trip to awe to watch you move. It is something between cat and silk. I’m afraid to describe it anymore. I close my eyes and see you dance and that’s good enough, so that image will have to be good enough for the reader too. Good luck with it. It’s worked for me.

So there is the toughness of spirit and the tenderness of your feminine wiles, but it speaks nothing of what this crapped on, kicked out, undulating sack of protoplasm has gained from even knowing you, much less being “loved” by you. No one really knows what love means. I never did. I thought I had it down and tore it up and dragged it out and caressed it and sunk into it like a soft chair and was thrown from it like a speeding car careening into a blind ravine, but I was mistaken. I know that now. Love is nothing you grasp. What I have for you cannot fill poems or splatter on canvas. You can’t hum it like a melody or turn it into a foreign film. It seeks no philosophy or religion. It is the unspeakable, the unknowable and I sure as hell wouldn’t reveal it under oath or threat of torture.

I carry your love not as a badge but a scar. It ain’t coming off. Not now. Not ever.

We put it on the line, you and me.

And that is the nut here, huh? We put it on the line, you and me. Through it all we hold the wheel and forge ahead boats against the current. From that day ten long years ago when we stood before our beloved rabble; beautiful people who make us whole, these friends and brothers and sisters and comrades and all the DNA that reminds us that we’ve put together a pretty good crew on the thinnest of rafts. Shit, we filled the loft of that ancient theater and opened our threadbare veins and let it flow, shaved our heads and sprint into the fucking desert. And ever since we have been lost at sea with no hope, strike that, no plans on returning. Let the rest of the walkabouts walk about, we’ll be on the bouncing waves in our serpentine embrace. No one gets in, no one leaves hungry.

Just in case you weren’t so sure, I put it all down on paper; scribbled out something hastily and handed it to you in front of the woman who married us, some local judge who butchered my middle name and could hardly believe we turned the whole thing into a bohemian ritual. I don’t recall the exact words, but it said something about never letting you down or always being right there for you and I am sure I have broken that promise. Promises tend to have weak handles. It’s something I once read on the bathroom wall at the White Horse Tavern. It is something I learned the hard way more than once. But one thing is certain; you have never let me down and have always been there for me.

For that and all the things that make up this complicated, mysterious, foreshadowing, caustic, sexy, drunken, hard-charging, pistol hip-shaken, kick ass woman, I am eternally in your debt. I’d thank you if it weren’t maudlin and beneath the truth and could hardly carry the weight of this infinite smile you put on my weathered face.

Ten years of marriage plus nineteen odd months of this impenetrable bond; we’ve lived in three places and shared five cats and miles of road and air and valleys of grief and mountains of joy and volumes of music and rivers of booze and the kind of laughter that you can’t trade even on the black market.

And you still had the grit to give me one more thing; this person, this girl, this piece of us that is without question its own uncompromising, noisy, two-fisted shining spirit of you, a porcelain goddess with a wicked grin and those special moves from heaven. Yeah, she grooves, mama, and it shows no signs of stopping. Hope she keeps putting us in our place, this place, the place where we got it going on; and apparently on and on.

Hah! It’s good to know nature has a sense of humor and it works overtime around here.

I truly hope I’ve held my end of this bizarre bargain. Lord knows it pales in comparison to what I have once again failed to impart in these scanty words I pound out this morning.

Here’s to ten more from the desert to the sea and all the rest of those dark areas inside my beating muscle.

You’ve been there. You stay here.

You know.

 

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Rove & Carville Invade Radio City Music Hall

Aquarian Weekly 6/3/09 REALITY CHECK

DINOSAURS ON SIXTH AVENUE
Recording The Death Rattle Of Karl Rove & James Carville

For me, the notion of ‘teenage wasteland’ is about waste. It’s not about getting wasted, it’s about waste; wasted life, wasted opportunity, wasted years. And I take full responsibility for the fact that my generation complained about the state of the planet and did nothing to change it. – Pete Townshend

Politics is the art of controlling your environment. – Hunter S. Thompson

Rove & CarvilleThis, I told myself, was not going to be pleasant. A rainy, windswept late-spring evening on Manhattan Island ruined by a dismal assignment to “cover” the final brain flatus of two dying breeds, Karl Rove and James Carville, once giants in a field still very much inhabited by similar groaning creatures but the likes of which will rarely be seen again. Two middle-aged southern white men, whose claim to legacy is the achievement of other men’s dreams and, in weird unexplainable ways, doomed ideologies of bygone eras.

“Mach Shau!” my friend and colleague for the evening, Master Buzz exclaimed before we entered the main room of the still gloriously stunning Radio City Music Hall. This immediately lightened my mood, for I knew it as the clarion call of soused German audiences along the grimy stages of the Reeperbahn in early-sixties Hamburg.

Make Show.

Yes, and what of this “show”; a debate series of political misfits hurled at New York audiences for a price. It bordered on the obscene: Paying to see what is widely available from all ends 24/7 online and on cable television? It was not unlike those insidious live events staged with cartoon characters to pry the last dollars from guilty parents.

Entitled “Strategies, Alliances and Policy” and moderated by PBS’s Charlie Rose, the ruse unfurled a symposium air; properly attired set of comfortable chairs, dotted with bottles of designer water and a floral arrangement. By all outward appearances it was to be an educational evening of interesting anecdotes shared between celebrated rivals, but it was Buzz who noticed right away a terrible kind of misty funk about the place. I could only describe it as the scent of death. No one around us could smell it, but it was there; a rancid pall which might emanate from discarded carcasses left to rot in the midday sun. It was distracting but also strikingly clear. Rot, I told myself, don’t forget to tell the readers about the rot.

Soon Rose was behind the podium at stage right butchering what little notes he’d taken for the evening’s proceedings. He began strongly enough, but soon looked like a man stricken by confusion. We were sure the powerful odor had taken control of his senses, cracking his otherwise impenetrable professional facade. He tried to soldier on, but soon gave up, simply announcing the names of the men he was to moderate, hoping to Jesus the onerous stench would abate and allow him to conduct the business at hand.

Rove and Carville then emerged from the wings together, smiling and waving as if geeks in a traveling carnival. I winced at the sight. Buzz had to cover his face to keep from retching. I wanted to poke the gray-haired couple in front of us to see if what we were experiencing was also giving them this inexplicable bout of inertia. When I finally did, the woman’s head slumped forward, dangling awkwardly on the end of her spinal column. A young bearded man across from us gasped. I could tell he was not prepared for what was to come next.

I can only say that it was odd to see these men paraded out this way. I had been in the room with both of them before, watching Carville from afar at a Bill Bradley media junket in the summer of 1999 and almost a year later crammed in a hotel bar in Florida with the man behind our 43rd president, George W. Bush. That night Rove sported the impish grin of bloated cat with a tummy full of canary. Eight years before, Carville never looked unsure of his place in Americana while he was ramrodding Bill Clinton into the White House. But they now appeared sad, captured in a desperate plea to be loved, and finding only disdain. Apparently unaware of the horrors unfolding around them, the crowd cheered.

It was a pathetic display on all counts and spoke volumes about these men and what they do and what they stand for in the grand scheme of America or its voting public.

Half-expecting a hooded executioner brandishing a battle-axe to follow them to center stage, I kept thinking; Why would they do such a thing? Hasn’t everything both of them hold dear on The Right & The Left been shattered by the political events of the past year? Carville’s beloved Clinton Machine beaten severely by the process and rejected outright with no hint of honor and Rove’s eight-year reign summarily mocked, debased, and sent out of the Big Town riding high on the dreaded rail?

Shit, Rove re-invented Republicanism by politicizing the entire executive branch of the federal government, while Carville orchestrated a series of improbable comebacks for a morally bankrupt sociopath. Both are pundit darlings now; Rove guests on FOXNEWS and pens a predictably smarmy column for the Wall Street Journal, Carville squeaks in when he can on CNN and MSNBC, taking cab fare and cheap bottles of wine for speaking engagements.

Only four minutes into the exercise told us the answer. Rove, dressed like an actuary in a gleaming power-suit and clutching a thick notebook of charts, graphs and stats, he immediately began defending his president’s unmatched series of incomprehensible mishaps, while Carville laughed in his barely coherent Cajun style, throwing his hands up and yawping spastically. Rove became obsessed with “protecting the country after 9/11”, and Carville equally obsessed with two terms of “peace and prosperity”. Rove crowed on about the “shifting trends” of the opening century and Carville whined incessantly about Katrina.

None of the subjects, save Rose’s blithe inclusion of the new nominee for the Supreme Court, which had been rolled out only hours before, concentrated on the present. With the exception of one segment, when both guests, reeling from the terrible realization that they’d both passed their effectiveness as human beings, began to assess the Youth Vote for the next generation.

When faced with having stayed at the circus too long, Carville stammered on about how neither Barack Obama’s electric campaign nor the internet had as much to do with the now Golden Age of Liberalism as the failure of Republicans or a Democratic Party imprimatur. Rove did nothing to explain how his plan to rule Washington for decades turned into a terminal dismantling of the modern Republican Party.

It was a pathetic display on all counts and spoke volumes about these men and what they do and what they stand for in the grand scheme of America or its voting public. It was never about “the economy stupid” or “compassionate conservativism”, “supporting the troops” or “mounting a defense against a Vast Right Wing conspiracy”. It was about looking like the winner, no matter the circumstance. It was, as it will always be for the powerbroker: What did I sweat and bleed for? Was it worth it? Was it what I wanted? And was it ever going to be any better for me again?

By the time protests began to rage in the audience, it all seemed staged and predictable, as if the former vice president were suddenly a media darling trying in vein to appear relevant again.

At least someone still thinks these men matter.

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