james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 9/4/02 REALITY CHECK


“It’s just another night on the other side of life.” – Ian Hunter

Here’s the problem with turning 40, which I do on the ninth day of September, 2002, or a few days from the time this hits the streets. You see, it actually seems like I’m technically 110, or somewhere in my mid-hundreds. Not unlike say, Moses or Noah, or any of those Biblical types that lived well into their second or third centuries.

Aging, or should I say, experiencing life, is an odd process, seeing how most of what you really know is what is right in front of you and most of what you’ve already accumulated in the way of knowledge is ghostly, like a dream of some kind. And by the time you reference this crap its so completely meaningless in the realm of your current reality, you seem like a doddering fact-finder trying to impress the congregation.

Let me explain this as best I can within the structure of this column and the space limits in which it imposes.

My childhood used to matter to me. The events of days around pre-school or somewhere thereafter held an almost monumental theme to my teens and my early-to-mid-twenties. And since I’ve never been in therapy and barely attended the few psychology classes of my youth, these events have seemed to fade into a kind of peaceful oblivion. Not to mention drowned out by my over-use of testosterone-addled rage and teen angst transformed neatly into random poetry, wild prose and silly rock songs.

I guess if I’m lucky, I’ll have a few hundred more lives. Some of my fellow compatriots weren’t so fortunate. After all, hiding has its casualties.

So by my early twenties, I’d developed this character in my head that resembled my childhood persona in no possible way. The shy, blonde and blue-eyed runt whose mother dressed like a porcelain doll every day before attending the rigors of Catholic school was replaced by some kind of mutant. I grew up in a predominantly Italian neighborhood in the Bronx with everyone around me looking like something between John Travolta and some key cast member of The Godfather. So the quiet, outcast thing was predisposed, but not manipulated until the teenage years when I quickly became a foul-mouthed slop-head with a penchant for hating everything known to modern civilization and then some.

Although, if I can break for a moment, I must say, my parents recently visited Fort Vernon and brought clippings from my high school and college newspaper days, as well as the odd published mess from whatever bones the education system throws young loons like myself who fancies himself a scribe. And I must say, not too much of what comes spewing forth in this space weekly was absent from the mini-me. However, that kind of honesty seemed to slip through the cracks as I moved out on my own and broke from the family nest.

I stopped being honest, that’s it! I made it up as I went along and tried the best I could to mask any parts of me that might have reared its ugly head during the painful maturation process.

So, until I hit thirty, I found myself hiding. Yes, I think that’s it, hiding. Here’s the best way to describe hiding in America as a young man. Play music. Grow your hair. Get extreme to the point of structured radicalism. Get pissed at things you cannot control, like international mistreatment of foreign citizens by your government and other governments. Just mainly get pissed, really pissed at everything. When you get bored of this, freely practice getting pissed at being pissed.

During this time, treat other people like characters in a play, especially those of the opposite sex, who are more than a little confused at their own place in the world. You can also throw in the odd use of drugs or alcohol, and mostly fill up what’s remaining of your mushy brain matter with reams of pop culture and volumes of Kurt Vonnegut.

Then go to work in the most disgusting forms of journalism. By this time you cut your hair, put down the guitar for a meager form of subsistence and begin to sink yourself into the fantasy world of sports journalism. More hiding; but with less angst and a better level of car and girl and friend.

Not to say, I did not meet the finest humans on the planet while practicing my hiding and making anger into some semblance of art, its just that for every pearl there is too much swine.

But hey, I don’t want to hear any pansy shit about the Marines or Special Forces. If you could send me back in a time machine to Brooklyn or Greenwich Village or Freehold or the Jersey Shore or Trenton or Philly or those original far-off days at the Putnam Bunker, I’d gather up all those crazy motherfuckers and ship us all to Baghdad right now and prepare for victory. But enough about my twenties.

Man, I loved turning thirty, because for a manic of infinite changes, the flip on the age odometer means regressing back into the hiding state, but this time with eyes wide open. In other words, try being nineteen again, but with a hell of a lot more cash, experience and a better vocabulary in which to skew your new version of pissed. I don’t know about anyone else, but for the likes of me, this is a highly evolved state a nirvana.

And it was during my thirties that I got down to really writing. Not pretending to write, or living like I wanted to have written; just balls to the wall, no white flags, burn down the fucking highway writing. Bad writing. Good writing. Book writing. Talk about writing. Sleep writing. Dream writing. Sex, laugh, fools gold writing.

Yes, a writer. Like I once wrote in my middle-school yearbook, like I wished when I was falling asleep on some beach half out of my head, like I talked about with everyone who would listen. Living in the swirl of events and not giving a pile who the hell cared. But 40? Jesus, how long do they expect me to live?

I guess if I’m lucky, I’ll have a few hundred more lives. Some of my fellow compatriots weren’t so fortunate. After all, hiding has its casualties.

One hundred more lives, huh? Maybe that means a few more times to die. So, I’d like to conclude by thanking all those people who came to my many funerals. See ya at the next one hundred. Hopefully.

Now where are my hiding shoes?

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


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The Bonzi Conspiracy

Aquarian Weekly 8/21/02 REALITY CHECK


Internet spying by the CIA, FBI and the Nike Corporation has reached new levels of paranoia and mayhem in the aftermath of 9/11. The dedicated crew of the Reality Check News & Information Desk has compiled several smoking guns as to how government organizations, corporate recognizance and diabolical Arab nations have used software, downloads and subtle forms of subconscious propaganda to infiltrate the minds of web surfing Americans.

The following is a public service warning from our own computer guru and web double agent, G-Padre, the Godfather of Spam, and the Duke of Hacking. Seems the cute purple gorilla icon known to insiders as the Bonzi Buddy is an egregious breech in security for Internet users, as well as a blatant mockery of the 4th Amendment.

The potential evil of this “Bonzi” was first revealed to me through several scathing E-mails disseminated by the legendary Chief Wonka, who in his haste to destroy Bonzi as a tool of oppression inadvertently fingered him to the cyber press. But since everyone has lost their shirt on tech stocks in the last fifteen months, and many Internet police have been sacked, the only way to implicate those barons behind this insidious plot was to communicate with G-Padre through code.

Please be advised that this type of intricate emissary tactics have been kept from the public for decades. The same kind of language can be found in hidden documents regarding the planning of D-Day, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the ensuing Kennedy Assassination, the botched Waco infiltration and detailed paparazzi communication during the recent Liza Minnelli wedding.

“I said fuck Bonzi….whitey!!!!!!!!!!! Another plot from the man to monitor my computer you fascist fuck hole!!!!

The transmission, although crude and often offensive, is a glimpse into international intrigue and rogue agents of badass journalists. It begins with a veiled discussion about the implicated desktop icon, Bonzi, but deteriorates into what appears to the untrained eye as a blathering piss fight between drunken street gangstas. But although crack cocaine has run high among top-level CIA informants, be assured the security of your civil rights hangs in the balance of this ostensibly innocuous conversation.

Special agent Tork, an agent of unknown origin, joins G-Padre, a Korean expatriate for this revealing transmission. The names and places have been hidden for legal purposes. To decipher the code-speak of these men, it is best to clear the mind of all preconceptions of accepted diction and coherence.

As the great mathematician, Lewis Carroll once wrote, “We are now through the looking glass.”

Somewhere in the Western Hemisphere:

Tork: Did you use your Bonzi Buddy today?

G-Padre: Fuck Bonzi, you cocksucker.

T: Are you denying your everlasting love and devotion to the Lord Bonzi??

G: I said fuck Bonzi….whitey!!!!!!!!!!! Another plot from the man to monitor my computer you fascist fuck hole!!!!

T: Fuck yo momz, Bonzi ain’t no narc like P-Diddy. Get wit da bomb, k- dag.

G: What do you know CRACKER??!!!!!!! Round mother fuckin eye!!! Stay out of the ghetto mofo or get sprayed.

T: Listen you poser, muthafucka, jump back or get a smack daddy back to the ghetto blaster! There is nobody like the Bonzi when the deal goes down, cumputa boyeee!!!!

G: DTAI – BAI, you wack-ass cracker. Stay your ass out da hood!

T: DA HOOD? What you know about the boogie down, cribble beatch? It’s Bonzi’s world and you’re renting!! Whatcha think of that, punk tech slut??

G: Who are you talking to you cumputa slut. Stop tricking the cyber hood bitch. Bonzi pimps you!!!

T: LOVE BONZI or DIE BONZI – know it, be it, live it, gutta ho!!

G: Reppin 845 straight out da projects bitch. Nigga what?? Thug life, kid, thug life. —yo, tootie pussy ass black mofo!

T: Check da time and do the crime, if ya’ll can stands the heat at 108 and counting, muffin muncher!!!!

G: Uncle Tom get da step bitch.

T: Get dat weak-ass, k-dawg shit offa my cumputer skizzie, or you will be cueing up for statistics! And keep your time on this work “ORIGINAL SPEC” BITCH!

G: Take your yoga and shove it up your ass. Walk on coals motherfucker? Try walking in the hood at night and then be proud.

T: Listen, jungle telly, almond-eyed bitch, you think you escaping the Bonzi threat of the day in your midday slumber!!! Think again, mutha humpa!! Fight the power. Get up, stand up, stand up for your rights. Don’t get it twisted, Bonzi trick.

G: Yo, buffalo soldier, don’t worry ’bout a ting, man.

T: Dat’s the Jah lookin afta ya, not Bonzi. He is da white man’s lord & savior — son of kong, don’t ya know? Git wit it, rastah!! One love, one world lets get together and feel all right.

G: Straight from Babylon with gaze trees bitch. Keep it gansta. Keep it gator.


G: Fuck the po po, mutha humpa. Bonzi be a cop killa, cheap ho, lap-ass barracuda bitch – fo po, yo!!

T: G’s up, ho’s down. Bonzi ho – peace out.

G: Righteous clean.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


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In Defense of the American Bully

Aquarian Weekly 6/26/02 REALITY CHECK


According to a bizarre, but apparently all too true, report printed in Reuters this past week, the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates has decided to rile up a “bullying awareness” movement. The country’s largest doctor’s conclave plans on urging fellow colleagues to inform parents of this growing epidemic. According to the group’s extensive report, one out of ten kids are victims of bullying. Nearly 15% of children are bullies, and more than half of those have been, or currently are, being bullied.

Last year the AMA’s Council on Scientific Affairs concluded that without intervention, “bullying can lead to serious academic, social, emotional and legal problems.”

The push for a national campaign to “stamp out bullying” cites the rash of school shootings in recent years resulting from the relentless abuse of schoolchildren at the hands of each other. Extensive psychoanalyses studies of terrorized children have proven that a significant amount of mental afflictions are suffered by bullying, leading to gnawing psychological problems well into adulthood.

Now, as a diminutive runt, and a victim of years of chronic bullying, I am here to say that any such movement to end bullying in our time is capricious, arbitrary and wrong. It is against every law of nature and yet another example of doctors acting like some kind of supreme beings and jamming statistics wherever they might fit the latest cause.

Here at the Reality Check News & Information Desk, we have done our own studies, many of which were of a particularly painful and personal nature. In fact, in a column entitled, “The Truth About Willie & The Underground Sharks” printed in the 2/14/01 issue of this publication, the point was made quite clearly. It began as a response to a letter accusing a close friend, and a main contributor to my last book, Willie, for doling out a series of savage beatings in some downtown NYC rave club.

Following an unprecedented deluge of hate mail, even for this space, the below statement still stands:

“Many kids who gobble Ecstasy find a good beating a welcomed enhancement to the high. There is nothing better than breaking the chains of well-being and peace with a fine stomping at the hands of an anonymous madman whose only purpose in hanging around in the first place is to doll them out like Easter candy.”

Discovery is part of youth, and to discover verbal, physical and mental abuse from another kid is the right of every American child.

The crux of the sentimental piece is what I wish to revisit this week in response to the terrible glut of news coming out of the AMA.

You see, what minions of science can never understand is the natural order of God’s law. It is survival of the fittest and the predatory instinct of humanity to bully. Of course this has been broached here before regarding the freaks that pass themselves off as agents of the Lord to molest children. The real problem with these holy cretins is they haven’t taken enough beatings in their lifetime. The raw element of fear is absence in their hearts. To taste the lash is their wanting.

Face it; the bully holds a special purpose in the grand scheme of “growing up.” Hating another for no reason merely because you can kick them around is the right of the brute in society. Learning this at an early age is not only beneficial to our children, but also important to fuel other basic urges like vengeance and spite. The bully helps put these deranged emotions into perspective during a time in our lives when the only aim is to remain invisible, inconsequential, and hopefully unharmed.

The only harm in bullies is the continued coddling of them in order to come up with intellectual or emotional reasons why children pick on each other incessantly. They do it because the ignorant need an outlet. Discovery is part of youth, and to discover verbal, physical and mental abuse from another kid is the right of every American child. They have so few as it is, don’t take away the playground.

It’s ironic, but a few days before this report was made public I was telling my wife of my days as a Catholic School boy in St. Dominic’s on Van Ness Avenue in the Bronx, NY, and of some little shit heel named Troy who thought it fun to challenge me to a fight every friggin’ day for the first three years of schooling. This was his mistake, and my good fortune, because despite the fact that I was nothing more than a spit-shine momma’s boy with pressed slacks and gooped hair at three foot nothing, I eventually smote him.

You see what Troy did not realize, like most bullies, is that after awhile it really doesn’t matter what they do. There is a sense of “nothing left to lose” that wells up in the human psyche, even at age eight, and not too long into our after-school bouts I was routinely hitting him in the face. And in my extensive study, the only thing that really stops a bully is not a team of doctors, but clean shots to the bridge of the nose or square on the jaw. This produces the greatest stream of blood. My study also revealed that bullies hate that.

Sure, interventions and parental group therapy are nice, but a carefully placed fist to the temple sets the bully straight and gives a lifetime of hope for the bullied. I’ve had plenty of experience with bullies, and it sounds to me like the AMA is bullying us into robbing our kids of childhood’s most precious victory, the ass-whupping of the deserved. Life is about a series of defeating bullies; the sooner we understand it, the better.

It is quite Zen when you think about it. Without pain there can be no pleasure, and without defeat there is no victory.

I conclude with a quote from my 2/19/01 column:

“The underground is filled with natural-selection beasts like Willie, and so are politics and Wall Street and suburbia for that matter. He is the bully, the boogieman, the great equalizer reminding everyone that humanity is not the home of compassion, but the result of brutal evolution, where the strong and maniacal unleash their frustration on those who might live under the illusion that they are somehow more refined or “better” than the rest. We shouldn’t shun or fear them. The idea is to befriend these mutants, pull them close to your bosom and mother their intentions, or at the very least, bring a notebook and study their habits.”

Today I am five foot nothing and encounter bullies of every sort everyday, but thanks to Troy I still keep the notebook and study the habits.

Who’s your Troy?

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Catholic Church Cover-Ups

Aquarian Weekly 3/27/02 REALITY CHECK


It’s been another banner year for God and all of his servants in the cause of ugliness.

If it isn’t Islamic extremists ramming airplanes into buildings or seventy thousand choruses of “God Bless America” as fighter planes pile up the death and destruction in Afghanistan, then it’s the molesting of children and cover ups by the Catholic Church or the daily maiming and pillaging between Jews and Palestinians in Israel. The Hindus and the Muslims are ten minutes from annihilation in the Indian/Pakistani border war, and right now somewhere there is ethnic cleansing going on somewhere in the holy name of extinction.

The week we go to press with this one, it will be Passover and Holy Week for the Jews and Christians, and everyone will recall the Lord’s murder of innocent Egyptian children and the assassination of a Nazarene first century mystic. But no one seems to really know what any of this will do for the plight of humanity, except create more boundaries and kingdoms and ways for us to be different and feel better than each other.

We grew up in this twisted arena of misjudgment and fantasy wherein our stuff and our God were somehow more on the nut, and by subjugating our will and reason to reverence and superstition we reserve the right to belittle and castigate and kill and shove people out of their homes and countries and bury their traditions.

It’s funny. Every time I’d read some screaming headline last week about these revelations of child molestation by priests, I could not help but think of the night Sinead O’Connor tried to make a stand on Saturday Night Live against the Vatican’s cover-up of rampart child abuses in Ireland. And how anyone with verbal motor skills wanted her lynched and burned at the stake for it.

Before the singer tore a photograph of the Pope in half, she recited an a cappella version of a Bob Marley song infused with lyric about the church’s silence to the continued mistreatment of races and children, ending with the infamous statement, “Fight the real enemy.”

A victim of child abuse herself, O’Connor decided to use her art and freedom of expression to reveal the terrible secrets no one could admit, and it effectively ended her career for almost a decade.

That was ten years ago now. At the time I defended it as not only an act of compassion, but also a reasoned protest against the repeated violence in Ireland between Protestants and Catholics, ostensibly a religious war which had raped that country and taken countless lives for decades.

Little did I know. Little did anyone know.

One thing I did know, and have known for most of my adult life, is that anytime more than two people are gathered in the name of God there had better not be any sharp objects available. We are so evolved, us humans, you know. We conquer and invent and politicize and socialize and cram and jam and pursue that money. And we hang onto our stuff, don’t we? And sometimes we put labels on that stuff, like country or color or gender or God.

Yeah, God.

Because you know that it’s God’s will that our stuff is safe from the other stuff. And all the silly talk of what God wants and needs and what God told the other strange people, that’s just evil or wrong. We know what God wants. Can you believe that some of these other people don’t even have a God? They’re blinded by intellect and science and skepticism, and they blot out truths with power and greed and drugs.

Of course, that really doesn’t matter much, because we’re all screwed. Nothing we can do about that. We grew up in this twisted arena of misjudgment and fantasy wherein our stuff and our God were somehow more on the nut, and by subjugating our will and reason to reverence and superstition we reserve the right to belittle and castigate and kill and shove people out of their homes and countries and bury their traditions.

Manifest Destiny is the Inquisition is the Holocaust is the Potato Famine is Slavery is Tibet is fill-in-the-blank.

As a recovering Catholic, I think it is imperative to point out, especially this week, that all this self-serving, egotistical bullshit that is done and said and rationalized in the name of Jesus has to stop.

Will it stop? Of course not. Let me repeat, we’re already screwed, but it’s time our children get a quick lesson, or perhaps it will be your kid that’s too afraid of God and his handmaidens to ask why the soft-spoken man with the white collar keeps touching them down there.

And don’t expect these cretins who run this line of propaganda up the flagpole to blow any whistles. They have to keep the gravy train stocked with coal for the engines to chug along unimpeded with no one asking any questions or too bloated with fear to dare point any fingers.

Yeah, they know all about it, these big business religious hypocrites. They have a blueprint somewhere in the war torn corners of Israel, where the martyrs who tried to stop this mess are buried. They know all about what happens when you try and halt the cycle of hate and ignorance, for every Sunday there is the lifeless image of a man hanging from a cross above their heads to remind them.

And so we march on…

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


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Save Ted Koppel!

Aquarian Weekly 3/13/02 REALITY CHECK


Around 9:32 am, this past Monday morning my publishers at BLAZO!! received a rather interesting fax from the office of David Westin, president of ABC News. The thing wasn’t signed or even issued by Weston, who wouldn’t know BLAZO!! or me from a hole in his shoe, but there it was just the same.

It read…

Mr. Reality Check,

Disney is screwing us good this time. By the time you read this everyone here at the Washington bureau of ABC NEWS will be cleaning out our desks to make room for the sawdust and elephant dung, because the circus is moving in. But not even that is entirely true, because the circus has been moving in for some time. This is what network news organizations get for allowing amusement park moguls to run the show.

And believe it, it is a show now; Paddy Chayefsky ‘s worst fears realized. But instead of a broken down schizophrenic like Howard Beale ranting and convulsing every night to the strains of a gospel organ beneath a circular stained glass window, it is poor, dejected Ted Koppel forced to spill his guts on the op ed page of the New York Times like a pathetic caller to these afternoon talk shows that litter the landscape of radio these days.

Maybe you can convince Koppel to chair a panel show where inbreds beat each other with tire irons or maybe he can join degenerate imbecilic couples on blind dates and report on the wacky results?

Koppel is no “latter day prophet decrying the hypocrisy of our times”. No, he is a newsman. That’s all Ted would like to be, a newsman. And there is apparently no room for newsmen these days in the rapacious network swirl of events, even when that newsman outdraws David Letterman and all his “young, hip audience.” But there really isn’t any reason to weep for shows like Nightline or even This Week, even though Cokie Roberts is being treating like a crack whore by an establishment she has toiled under for14 years.

It would not surprise any of us if by September; Peter Jennings is hosting a variety show wherein celebrities spread feces over each other until someone cracks. It will all be for charity of course. We like to mask our dilution of standards with ice cream and good wishes here at the American Broadcasting Company. Pretty soon the news will be special reports from lollipop land hosted by Zsa Zsa Gabore and Emo Philips while the rest of us “journalists” are all sent to bag groceries or spit out futile columns in entertainment weeklies like yourself.

Doom is in the air. One only has to breathe to taste it in the back of the throat, where the last of the bile erupts to save the innards from rotting. That is what is happening here, rotting. It is terrible to see. Our accomplishments and credibility decays like a corpse in the desert sun and we are helpless to stop it.

I would cry, but my contract does not allow it. Put this in your column if you have any guts. No one would believe it, and in your case, that is an advantage.



Despite the pejorative references to my standing in the journalistic community and its ludicrous inference to Letterman pulling in a “young and hip” audience, it was, after all, ABC NEWS and so I was kind enough to respond:


Do yourself a favor, please remove your miserable head out of your ass and smell something rosier.

Your news division has been prostituting itself for over thirty years. I too love Ted Koppel. If it weren’t damned by the Living God I’d drive right now to DC, wrap him in my arms and take him to the Watergate for three days of forbidden passion, but Nightline is a show, funded by ratings and advertising and network goons who couldn’t name the first ten presidents of the United States or locate Wyoming on a map with ten chances and a tutor. You have sold your sold to rock and roll, and now you whine like a schoolgirl?

This is why you are all doomed. You have not heeded the writing on the men’s room stall. It has been there for years. Nightline was born on the bloated coverage of the hostage crisis in 1980. For the sake of all that is holy, I was a child then, and even I could see the news exploitation of that mess. Where was Nightline when the Iranian consulate was railroading Jimmy Carter, while William Casey was negotiating a hostage release from the Ayatola Khomeyni?

Trouble is news doesn’t bring the big numbers anymore, otherwise how could anyone explain these infinite obsessions with Monica Lewinsky, O.J. Simpson and Jennifer Anniston? Maybe you can convince Koppel to chair a panel show where inbreds beat each other with tire irons or maybe he can join degenerate imbecilic couples on blind dates and report on the wacky results?

C’mon, could it be any worse than hiring Dennis Miller to commentate on football games?

Hey, why don’t you just swing the whole operation over to ESPN? It’s practically running the joint now. From what I understand they’re going to send Sam Donaldson over there to baby sit Dick Vitale through March Madness. The network can bill it as a freak show and throw a gimp in there for halftime analysis.

C’mon, could that be any worse than having Bobby Knight on your tournament selection show?

It’s time someone in your position makes a stand and wracks his brain for better ways to disseminate information. These cable news shows are a wasteland of yammering idiots who glean less than 1% of the consumer base. Fifty-year-old “I Love Lucy” reruns out draws Bill O’Reilly and this crazy fucker has a goddamn limo. And from what I’m hearing cable news is killing the networks. So even if you pray for another catastrophe or for Gary Condit to kidnap another woman, you might as well get your hackers license and chauffeur diplomats to Dulles for a healthy tip.

Here’s one more piece of friendly advice: It’s time Koppel ends his thirty-plus year career at ABC by revealing that Michael Eisner tried to rape him in the make-up trailer during the Republican convention. Then he can smile like the Cheshire cat, flip America the bird and head off to the California hills with an unlimited supply of Carona, a pair of EZ-kill mortars, a mail-order bride and a box of Macanudo’s.

And tell him to wait for me.




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In Praise of “Gangs of New York”

Aquarian Weekly 1/8/02 REALITY CHECK

THE BIRTHING OF HISTORYIn Praise of “Gangs of New York”

“Gangs of New York” is a masterpiece. Ripped from the pages of Herbert Asbury’s brutal depiction of nineteenth century Manhattan street life, it is one of the finest films I have seen in years, and although I have enjoyed quite a few brilliant offerings at the movies since taking this post at the Reality Check News & Information Desk, it is only the second slice of celluloid art I’ve been motivated to devote a column to.

Needless to say my two viewings of Martin Scorsese’s latest effort, and I deign to write his best, left me in awe of the passion and dedication of one of this country’s most celebrated filmmakers when he is forced to confront his most beguiling demons; the city of New York and his wavering faith in human kind.

Scorsese has wrestled with the idiosyncrasies of faith in the backdrop of the Big Apple before. His early Holy Trilogy includes the painfully autobiographical “Mean Streets”, the disturbingly accurate portrayal of ’70’s Manhattan in “Taxi Driver”, and the ultimate ode to blood sacrifice in “Raging Bull”. He later vividly expounded on these themes in the stirring, if not flawed adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ “The Last Temptation of Christ” and his up-to-now signature film, “Goodfellas”, but the pure guts and raw honesty of “Gangs of New York’ resonates in those wonderfully grimy artistic beginnings.

Every moment of “Gangs of New York” harkens Scorsese’s best work, but eclipses it simply by tearing at the fabric of his normally metaphoric characterizations of the New York spirit/curse of true grit and tough love.

Every moment of “Gangs of New York” harkens Scorsese’s best work, but eclipses it simply by tearing at the fabric of his normally metaphoric characterizations of the New York spirit/curse of true grit and tough love. “Gangs” takes his vision to a new level, paradoxically reveling in its victims as triumphant and villains as sympathetic deities.

Set in mid-nineteenth century lower Manhattan’s combustible Five Points, amidst the racial and cultural upheaval of a birthing nation cracking under the weight of civil war, “Gangs” explores the epic struggle of humanity in the imposing shadow of a burgeoning city. Peasants from across the globe pour onto its streets, forced to subsist within the boundaries of corrupt law and violent religious reprisals, their will for survival roaring above the cannon fodder of a modernized American dream.

At its core, “Gangs” is a brutally honest psalm to this survival, the purest form of human survival in a chaotic landscape of prejudice, fear, pride and greed. New Yorkers trapped in a jungle of political strife and cultural mayhem which helped to give agonizing birth to the greatest city in the world.

An overtly violent film from one of the genre’s most honest portrayers of street life, Scorsese strips bare the time-worn vengeance theme to unfold an almost Shakespearean quandary of good vs. evil, or past vs. the inevitable evolution of progress. Unlike recent historical epics that scratch the surface of this subject’s moral imperative such as 1995’s “Braveheart” and “Gladiator” of 2000, “Gangs of New York” presents characters of varying depths. The line between the villain and hero is constantly blurred, as in true life. There is no sacred vision, only the eruption of existence in a cold world.

Throughout this film, one does not just view, but experiences a time long before the veiled era of common sensibilities. Deep within the bloodstained streets and impoverished neighborhoods ruled with an iron hand by thieving politicians and frightened thugs the audience can never question the savage realities thrust from its rage, only wonder time and again how any society could thrive from it.

In addition to the combined writing efforts of Scorsese, Steven Zallian, Jay Cocks and Kenneth Lonergan’s gripping screenplay brimming with memorable scenes (my favorites include the burning of a downtown building while rival fire companies rumble beneath the ravaging flames and a line of Irish immigrants simultaneously signing for their US citizenship and army induction moments after exiting the ship, handed a rifle and paraded onto a ship headed for the front) and quotes (When the participants of a hilariously dirty political campaign learn the candidate is a formally savage gang member with an inordinate amount of kills, the comment is simply, “We should have run him for mayor.”) there are a number of memorable performances here as well.

Leonardo DiCacprio’s role as the angst-riddled Amsterdam Vallon breathes new life into the resume of the once revered, but recently maligned young actor. He is the eyes and ears of the audience, lending an enticing, yet monotone, narration that ably accompanies Scorsese’s sweeping scenes. Again, he is a far more believable heroic figure in a story and time when a steely fortitude was demanded not from the extraordinary but the everyman.

Cameron Diaz supports DiCaprio’s dangerous journey with a fiery rendering of a wise and conniving street lass turned revolutionary and Jim Broadbent’s lasting portrayal of the indomitably corruptible Boss Tweed, the famously insidious NY political power monger, is right on.

But “Gangs of New York” is all about Daniel Day-Lewis’s mind-bending depiction of the outrageously evil William Cutting, aka “Bill the Butcher”. He forcefully dominates the screen, cajoling, slashing, barking and bleeding, yet he plays the emotions of this psychologically damaged soul with a wry sensibility. Cutting is both sinner and saint, patriarchal charmer and black hand, a gory amalgamation of Scorsese’s Jake La Motta meets Travis Bickle with the mind and mettle of a latter day mob boss. When considering the British actor’s usually polished demeanor, it is literally mesmerizing.

Finally, “Gangs of New York” soars because it does not turn away from the nauseous reality of cultural fear and hatred, the perpetuation of skewered values based on race, creed and nationality. The film dissects the duplicitous struggle to face the crude nature of our traditions and generational sins, and for a three-hour romp through the darkest secrets of our human psyche, it’s a damn entertaining ride.

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Chris Uhl, Patriot ‘s loving tribute to a managing editor.

Aquarian Weekly 12/5/01 REALITY CHECK


There is growing evidence that Britney Spears is a cyborg, Taliban leader, Mullah Omar is a cross dresser and Bobby Knight has a flesh-eating brain tumor. The entire planet is inches from cinder and there is a pending court case in northern California between two cretins who claim ownership of Barry Bonds 73rd home run ball. There have been six Jesus and Elvis sightings at the Texas/ Arkansas border since 11/1, and the word I’m getting is that my cat has made it across the Hudson and is slinking up route 287 into Westchester as I write this.

But I’m going to waste this week’s precious news space heralding the escape of this magazine’s managing editor, Chris Uhl.

I have no fucking idea who this man really is. I only met him in person once, at a Bennigan’s Restaurant in Ramsey, or some godforsaken hamlet of this maniacal state, and he seemed like a nice enough fellow. I secretly taped the entire conversation, but it revealed nothing except his love for The Simpsons and the Yankees and that I would sooner receive a champagne enema from Jerry Falwell’s agent than get another dime out of the Aquarian for my weekly grind.

It was always comforting to know that Chris Uhl could be reached at the office, for free tickets or credentials or to promise Pat Buchanan the cover for the privilege of having him slobber cocktail weenies all over me for fifteen minutes.

But there in lies the beauty of Chris Uhl. Before he even shook my hand he penned a preface for my second book, and claimed to understand most of what was in it, which was largely the ungodly pus I sent to press nearly every week for three years. And he was glad to do it. He said he liked my work, even cherished my place on the staff. Then he sent me what can only be described as a scathing attack on my person and race, something the FBI could use to derail chimp molesters and gunrunners.

Of course, I loved it, and sent it to the publisher. And why not? Uhl (I liked to call him Uhl to make sure some other Christopher wasn’t jiving me on company policy) was a patriot. He saw the danger in my eyes without peering into them. That is the talent I will miss, even if it will be easy for the rest of the staff to usher him off to Pennsylvania.

Yes, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of rotten whiskey and the lap dance. Somewhere in its borders they make chocolate and harbor freaks that pay good money for the right to attend sporting events and throw beer at icons and midgets.

Jesus, I’m running off the subject.

And that reminds me of another reason why I loved working with Uhl.

He once requested I take over this sidebar mess he was throwing together every week, which commented on current events and pop culture. I had done that gig in my weaker moments when I started humping words for this publication five years ago. But on the occasion of my filling in, I used the space to accuse him of every crime realized by modern man, including a few I made up for embarrassment purposes. And in a telling admonishment of his personality, the girls in the editorial department let it fly.

I never officially apologized for it.

And I never will.

Because Chris Uhl didn’t need apologies or money or drugs, he craved the action. And only a supreme being with a descent resume could begin to understand what kind of action he was seeing in this gig. Oh, there were rumors, but I didn’t believe them, or I did believe them, I can’t remember. They seemed likely, but what do you really know about managing editors?

The guy who hired me to work for this periodical years ago once told me that killing stable rats at Freehold Raceway was more rewarding than editing stories about New Jersey club bands. He couldn’t fathom my interest in writing a book about it. Told me to save up for a cat scan. Then a week or so before he quit to work for a national men’s magazine I called him in the middle of the night demanding expense money to chase a woman journalist who’d been kidnapped by Republican party officials in Washington. He laughed, hung up, and dumped me on Chris Uhl.

The rest is boring, and most of it was covered above.

But the reason why I still crank out this meaningless tripe every week is because the Aquarian welcomes it with open arms, and rarely questions it. And for that, I can only be eternally grateful. Having to deal with so many editors and publications and creative outlets in an infinite freelance dirge, it was always comforting to know that Chris Uhl could be reached at the office, for free tickets or credentials or to promise Pat Buchanan the cover for the privilege of having him slobber cocktail weenies all over me for fifteen minutes.

Now Chris Uhl is off to do what he recently told me was his passion in the first place, writing.

So I offer him this advice: Writing sucks. It is painful and demeaning, lonely and desperate, and feeds paranoia like no other profession. And that’s when you can earn or publish anything. When you can’t get it together, it causes pain and anguish. And the irony begins when you realize that you are better off in that state. None of your friends like you when you’re on, when you’re rolling, losing sleep and sure that what is coming out of you is the best, no, strike that, the worst garbage ever put to paper. What in the hell could I have been thinking? I am shit. I should be tortured and spat on and kicked to the gutter.

But Chris Uhl already knows he should be kicked to the gutter. He can write. I’ve seen the results. He’ll be fine.

It’s that girlfriend he keeps referring to that I worry about. What will become of her? Trapped in Pennsylvania with an ex-editor, strung out on over-the-counter amphetamines and trying to string together coherent sentences at 3:00 am for a noon deadline.

Pray for her soul.

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Ken Kesey : 1935 – 2001 ‘s tribute.

Aquarian Weekly 11/28/01 REALITY CHECK

KEN KESEY: 1935 – 2001

“These things don’t happen,” Harding said to the girl solemnly. “These things are fantasies you lie awake at night dreaming up and then afraid to tell your analyst. You’re not really here. That wine isn’t real; none of this exists. Now, let’s go on from there.”– Ken Kesey from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

I carried around a dog-eared copy of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest my entire sophomore year of high school. It is hard to admit now, in print, but it’s true. I’d already read the damn thing twice, but hoped, in some strange way, that the spirit of it would somehow work its way into me. I tried a similar move with The Great Gatsby, but that didn’t take. Not that Cuckoo’s Nest took in any conventional or tangible way, it’s just that it spoke to me in modes that I needed to be spoken to.

It is hard to fully impart that experience now, some 25 years later, but needless to say, it was influential in all that word denotes. It was training of the first degree, a lesson in language and metaphor as bazooka, and for that I will forever be grateful.

You see, young writers love Cuckoo’s Nest, because there is a freedom there, a real sense of creative liberty. And with liberty there is the wonderful feeling of danger and confusion, and all the elements of great art, the kind of stuff that makes a young man feel alive and worthy of wasting his time in front of a typewriter or with a musical instrument or any form of creative expression. It’s like when the Jazz guys talk about Coltrane or Monk or Miles Davis or the paint crowd creams over Jackson Pollock’s colorful mess.

There is a load of that same stuff in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. These are books that scorch the eyes and twist the brain, but, for me, they came later. Cuckoo’s Nest, and soon after, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughter House Five were first for me. And firsts; first kiss, first sunrise, first time behind the wheel, first drink, first night on the beach, first ballgame, first published work, first true love; these are the memories that stick and jab and keep coming back to remind us that we feel, that we live.

Ken Kesey was one of those wonderful confused danger addicts who could create something of this kind because he felt life to the core. And Cuckoo’s Nest was his manifesto.

Critically, his second novel, Sometimes A Great Notion received more noise, but Cuckoo’s Nest was immortalized in film and theater, and has an edge to it that is eminently American in its reach. It is free and wild and has an open air of possibility that reflects what is truly great about the American literary spirit; check that, the American spirit, period.

If Kesey had merely written Cuckoo’s Nest – he compiled the notes for the book while volunteering for LSD experiments and then working as a psychiatric aide at Menlo Park Veterans Administration Hospital – there would have been sufficient enough evidence that he was comfortable teetering on high wires.

But Kesey lived his art in the same fashion, by being the honest troubadour of lunacy and mayhem, the quintessential Californian jester, the clown prince of whimsical release. His gift was harboring energy, not letting it go. He could let it engulf him, channel it, and make it into a book, make it into Cuckoo’s Nest.

Kesey was one of those nine lives types, a genetic mutation of Baby Boomer angst and good old-fashioned Great Depression bravado. Sadly, many of those lives were spent jerking off around Mexico in a drug haze, or sitting as the Grand Poobah of a lost gaggle of hippies in the California Mountains. But even then, Kesey used the foul nature of the beast as performance art – the precursor to Andy Kaufman – in what he called the Merry Pranksters.

You see, young writers love Cuckoo’s Nest, because there is a freedom there, a real sense of creative liberty. And with liberty there is the wonderful feeling of danger and confusion, and all the elements of great art, the kind of stuff that makes a young man feel alive and worthy of wasting his time in front of a typewriter or with a musical instrument or any form of creative expression.

Ah, the Pranksters. Never has a more meaningless endeavor culled the imagination, while demonstrating how a warped cross-country bus ride could capture the pointless rebellion of youth with hallucinogenic stupidity. It was less fun, than militant madness, a stretch of mind-swelling, spiteful counter culture hyperbole. And it was fueled by Kesey’s formulaic mania, sometimes satirical, sometimes emboldened farce.

But a mere prank was never really Kesey’s style. He was what a very good friend of mine calls the “balls to the wall” mentality.

Kesey rode the sucker to the bitter end, or in this case, New York’s World Fair. Filmed the whole thing. Naked, painted hippies, bikers and the human match stick, Neal Cassidy behind the wheel, it was the true movable feast, a happening, a ruckus. Tom Wolfe came along for the ride. He wrote a book and called it The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. The high brows called it the new journalism; Wolfe became a famous novelist, Kesey became an infamous one.

Kesey once said that a writer couldn’t be famous because it was “hard to observe when every one is observing you.”

Kesey said a great deal of smart and insightful things about spirituality and politics and art and literature, but that was buried beneath years of drug busts and insurrections of varied kinds. The jester routine wore thin. The maverick became the caricature, and then some kind of Buddha for the sixties generation of aging optimists.

And Kesey welcomed all monikers. He didn’t have a name for any of it. To Ken Kesey, it was just life worth living until the end.

The end always comes too soon for the hearts of fire. I have another copy of Cuckoo’s Nest somewhere. Maybe I’ll give it to my godchild, Nicole when she’s fifteen.

The world needs more wonderfully dangerous, confused lunatics.

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What id Belief? – Infamous Gonzo journalist, James Campion comes clean.

Aquarian Weekly 8/8/01 REALITY CHECK


Hello Mr. Campion,

I’m a faithful reader of your column and I’m impressed by your political sensibilities. However, I do believe that your nihilistic approach to politics can sometimes be off-putting. Do you have any beliefs at all, other than professional cynicism?


Dearest Michelle,

It is rare that I respond in print to a letter or note, not because I don’t appreciate the mail or the responses, but more often than not they do not warrant a direct answer. Opinions, like rectums, are a key part of everyone’s make-up. The only difference between myself and a great many of my readers is that I’m paid to put my opinions onto paper once a week in some sort of coherent fashion, which is not always the parameters for those we confront daily on our highways, at our jobs, visits to market or late at night in our favorite watering holes.

Yet, each of them has an equal right to their own truths. Some even change or reform them with age and experience. A great deal us with credos and haircuts in our youth begin to redefine the world we’d pigeonholed years before when faced with the inevitable nagging pains of loneliness, poverty or ridicule. Age has a way of filling our heads with contradictions. Black becomes white with the passage of time. That is if we choose to accept this new reality, which a good portion of society refuses to do, regardless of the heaping evidence to the contrary.

Oh, how boring this planet would be if all of us just stuck to our guns and forged ahead regardless of the consequences, to which there are many and varied. But these roadblocks can spur on serious contemplation, leading to a more evolved thought process, which may or may not elevate us to an almost pristine level of understanding.

We are nothing more than fragile creatures possessing the audacity to convince ourselves of invincibility.

It is in that seminal moment when maturity gives birth to clarity, which allows us to fully realize our flaws. We are nothing more than fragile creatures possessing the audacity to convince ourselves of invincibility. We nurture this insatiable need to fool ourselves into thinking we can exist without forgiveness, love and guidance, and that although we’re yanked from the womb kicking and screaming alone and end up in the ground in the same fashion, we’re still all finally measured by those who’ve benefited from our empathy.

A teacher friend of mine once mused that it is easy to have a philosophy, the difficulty lies in living it. Concepts and ideas can sometimes define people when they’re often unsure what they believed in the first place. Cradling strong beliefs over a few drinks with a woman we’re trying to impress or a professor we hope to influence is far different than wrestling with the results of them. That is why most of us shy from offering our true beliefs out loud or even allowing them a prominent place in our conscience.

This brings me to your question of my beliefs.

I have ignored many, if not all, of the scenarios presented quite adroitly in the previous paragraphs. It has never been particularly important for me to have anything resembling a strong philosophy or belief. Those things are transient, like standing at a railway station and hoping to get to Detroit by taking the nonstop to Philadelphia. I want the next train that pulls in to head in my direction, but no matter what I believe, the damn thing is going to Philly. It’s a train all right, but not the one I hope it will be.

Let me get more confusing.

You mentioned politics in your question. And as much as I appreciate the plaudits regarding my sensibilities to the political culture, I cannot admit to the label of cynic. I am intrigued, even at times mesmerized, by politics and the people who inhabit its rocky terrain, but I have no real use for it as a solution for anything binding or true. Looking for truth in politics is boarding that train to Philly and expecting to end up at the Union Depot in downtown Detroit.

The word cynic denotes an air of skepticism. Contrarily, I strongly believe that human beings, especially male ones, have shown time and again, an amazingly consistent inability to govern themselves. This comes from a narcotic known as power, which has a debilitating symptom called money. Sometimes these gory stimuli work in reverse order. But inevitably, these drugs and its fallout fell the best and brightest, and those who were barely qualified for dogcatcher find themselves with money and power and the rest of us are forced to pay attention to them.

Ah, but I spent far too much space on politics and sociality and avoided the key question: What do I believe?

I believe in Friday conversations with my father and Saturday morning calls from my brother, and when the shit storm swirls there is no one I want in my foxhole other than Phyllis Mary Campion. I believe in the possibilities behind my wife’s eyes and her laughter when I’m pissed. I believe in 2:00 a.m. on Bleeker Street with a good cigar and a frozen Margarita. I believe in The Simpsons. I believe the rock song hasn’t been improved since the Suicidal Tendencies “Institutionalized”. I believe the ’78 Yankees was the best sports team ever. I believe in those incredibly inspiring, chaotic run-on Jack Kerouac sentences. I believe God is more easily defined by infants and cats.

And I believe I’m done.

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james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 6/13/01 REALITY CHECK


The following Memo From The Reality Check New & Information Desk was sent to the E-mail of Jason Hillery, program director for KKMG-FM radio and faxed to the general manager of Citadel Broadcasting, Brenda Goodrich on 6/6/01. The crux of the diatribe centers on the $7000 fine levied by the Federal Communications Commission on the Colorado Springs station for playing an edited-for-airplay version of Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady.” The FCC’s reason for slapping a fine on a nearly two year-old record that had previously received enough television and radio airtime to become a number 1 record is that it “contains unmistakable offensive sexual references.”

To The Faithful,

Under no circumstances should your company pay a cent of that fine. In fact, instead of a check or money order forward this message: “Listen, you pusillanimous, non-elected bully freaks, there are well-attested cases on the books defending our right to air, print and utter material of a shocking or offensive nature due to the cryptic, if not, wholly ambiguous laws pertaining to indecency. And if you would like to press this issue further we can take this grade-school extortion and place its merit in federal court where you will be exposed as the illegal puritan sounding board you have always been, hopefully rendering these cushy jobs of yours obsolete.”

I won’t need any credit for penning it. Do with it what you will; edit the damn thing or put your own sentiments in. I’m not even sure I understand the details of your particular case. Perhaps you went to a day care center and blasted the song a hundred times over the intercom or you had a contest for five year-olds to do their best rendition. I’m sure you had your reasons, all of them stemming from ratings or advertising revenue, but it really doesn’t matter to me nor should it to anyone culling a check from the federal government or certainly some shut-in house wife with a valium jones and a Jesus fixation.

The important thing here is that you NEVER SURRENDER. Put up the fight of your lives or just be another stepping stone to the dark ages revisited. Your time as “Magic Radio” playing all the hits is over. This baby is CNN quality news now and since it reached the Reality Check News & Information Desk red-letter box, it has now become a front-page First Amendment imperative. The term “lightning rod” applies here. Time to take off the goofy radio banter hats and strap on a fucking helmet, because it will get ugly before it gets better.

Of course you could pay the fine and let this thing die out like your peers at a radio station in Madison, Wisconsin. Maybe lay-off a few troubled souls and cut back here and there to save face. You can ignore the fact that the right of the medium and the artists it exploits is on the block right now. What are a few grand and a spin monkey SUV giveaway contests to distract the locals really going to do to affect the future of basic American freedom? That would be easy, and easy is what puts money in the bank and keeps the rotary club and church types from painting you all as back-alley pornographers.

But that is no option. Not for this fight or this right, and not for these times. Lenny Bruce didn’t get run through the courts for nearly a decade so you can back down. Certainly those poor bastards at Lexington and Concord didn’t get blown to unrecognizable pieces for you to slink into a corner and forget your duty. Remember Berlin in the mid-30s’ when putting the “right message” across to the “right people” meant a wonderful playground for all who kept walking the “good” path?

It is time the FCC and the occasional frightened peon with too much time on their hands become non-factors in the grand scheme of democracy, and its time you make it happen. Do you want Colorado to forever be known for John Elway and the home of unsolved mentally abused child murders? Okay, so not many of us remember Elway much anymore, but you get my drift.

It’s time to put your state, your medium, and every decent law-abiding artist and listener on the map by simply telling these anonymous trolls to take this weak-ass subpoena of the sublime and cram it repeatedly up their collective rectum.

Then, when you inevitably win the case in a sane court of law (anywhere outside of Los Angeles) you can lead the brigade against this insidious group of power-mongers who sit in judgment of free speech like it was given to them from a lake in Camelot.

Put yourself on the culture map. Show some guts. We’re all behind you over here in the hub of true journalism, where the weak are sent whining back to the classroom and those hung up on following rules are reminded that nothing worth a shit in any civilization was achieved without the ever-dangerous maverick approach. And nothing has ever been changed without a fight, and it is time to get downright nasty with these sons of bitches. Make the government reveal names and positions and give the American people a guideline on free speech to debate and appeal.

Someone has to do it, why not you people? Once, the pioneer spirit pushed west and opened Colorado through heinous crimes against Native Americans with illegal and violent activity. In that demented spirit, let’s ferret out the guilty and shed the glaring light of reason on their sheltered heads. Fire the first blow in this smoldering coup de tat by refusing to pay an illegal fine used to separate us from our liberty.

Always On Guard,


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