12

Aquarian Weekly 12/28/11 REALITY CHECK

12

This will be the last column I pen this year, in the final days of this twelfth month of 2011, and I choose to write about the number 12.

In a few days we embark on 2012, and each year I try and end the previous one with a tag line or a semantic touchstone for where things may go over the following calendar run. It’s a way of cleansing by throwing something out there for kicks. We hardly ever — and by hardly ever, we mean mostly — predict how things will pan out. Never did go much for the “past is prologue” stuff. Don’t look back. Rearview mirrors are for suckers. This is more our speed.

jcNone of this is true, of course. The entire purpose of this space is to point out that nothing is new and that somewhere along the line of civilization, and most assuredly in the history of these United States of America, there has been a dead-ringer or worse catastrophe than the one currently being endured. This calms the natives from believing the End is Nigh, an age old defection in the human condition that bridges raging ego with a preternatural fear of the unknown to justify the eradication of existence, when all it really means is that things are subject to a natural shift and we’re just pissed about it.

However, the end of the year is hardly for reflection but dissection, and in that spirit we offered up 2011 as the year of “challenge”, as the political and social landscape of our nation would be motivated to defend, refute or understand the largest legislative maneuver in nearly half a century; the National Health Care Law. Before that in 2010, we predicted a re-birth of fiscal conservatism by examining a growing worship of Ayn Rand by the wounded Right Wing. Back in 2009, which we labeled the Year of the Guilty, we took a turn for the weird. Not sure where that was going.

Now 2012 is upon us and it is long in coming for me.

The number 12 is my number.

Well, I was initially partial to the number 2 in the grand scheme of the primary numbers, but my grandmother and mother were both born on a twelve, and later I was married on a 12. My first hero, Joe Namath wore number 12 and his team won its only title on a 12. When I was 12 my head exploded when I heard The Who’s Tommy for the first time, which completely altered my being, and then shortly after or during this experience, my body exploded into another completely different being.

Yet, somewhere along the line I learned from the Oxford Dictionary that a study of the number (or word) twelve’s etymology suggests that “twelve” arises from the Germanic compound “twalif” “two-leftover”, so a literal translation would yield “two remaining-after having ten taken”. Therefore, the remaining “tw”- hints that twelve and two are related.

Nice.

Also, in any monotheistic measure, 12 rules; as in 12 tribes of Israel for Judaism, 12 apostles and a bunch of crazy 12 stuff in Revelation for Christianity, which brings us to the Mayan calendar, end of the world thing, and well — I get that. Also, there are 12 Imams, whom are considered the legitimate successors of Muhammad in Islam. But my favorite is the Hindu 12, which indicates the number names for Surya, the Sun God.

Really nice.

Of course, my awareness of the number 12 is not without its constant reminder: The Roman calendar has 12 months, broken up by 24-hour days split into 12-hour periods, which begin at the stroke of midnight (12:00 am). In fact, the very basic units of time (60 seconds, 60 minutes, 24 hours) can all perfectly divide by 12. And for what’s it’s worth, the Western and Chinese zodiacs have 12 signs.

This year of ’12 could be the year we get out of the war business for a while. That would be nice.

Maybe my absolute favorite (and let the music geeks have at it on this one) 12 is the number of pitch classes in an octave, not counting the duplicated (octave) pitch. Also, 12 is the total number of major keys, (not counting enharmonic equivalents) and the total number of minor keys (also not counting equivalents). This applies only to twelve-tone equal temperament, the most common tuning used today in western influenced music.

Beyond nice.

Crucial, really.

There are 12 steps in AA.

There are 12 face cards in a deck.

There are 12 Federal Reserve Districts in the U.S.

Human visitors to the moon; 12.

You may have heard something about the number 12 deriving from Egeria, the Roman water goddess, often pictured carrying 12 jugs of water, which she summarily spills to create the earth’s lakes, oceans and rivers.

Here’s a final tidbit about my 12; the word “twelve” (the largest number with one syllable) is also the largest number with a single-morpheme in English. In linguistics a “morpheme” is the smallest semantically meaningful unit in a language.

Chew on that for a while.

So, while we’re enjoying our 12 days of Christmas, I wish to ponder on all-things 2012, a presidential election year. The hope here, and a mild prediction, is that a true third party candidate will emerge to finally challenge the status quo.

Why not?

Has that not been my mantra for eternity? Why not in ’12? If not now, when? If the Payroll Tax debate, as innocuous and petty a tit-for-tat political piss battle as can be imagined, ends in a virtual stalemate, what is the point of a Two-Party system? (and let’s not deal with the ironies of my conveniently decrying the number 2 appearing here, shall we?)

Not sure who or what a third-party candidate would look like, and the foolish dream is it won’t be a nut like Ross Perot or Donald Trump, but we’re feeling positive for a few fleeting seconds, so go rain on someone else’s parade.

This year of ’12 could be the year we get out of the war business for a while. That would be nice. When Iraq goes to the dogs after trillions spent and thousands dead and maimed we’ll turn our attention to letting Afghanistan tumble, ignore the Middle East and continue this interesting infatuation with Asia, the New Europe for the New Century.

The desert is out in 2012.

Sadly, what is also out in 2012 is Hackwriters.com, which has been printing this column across the U.K. and the rest of planet earth for the past 12 years. Along with the brave souls at this paper, and several others who have come and gone over the nearly 15 years we’ve been at this, Hackwriters and its staff have been right on the front lines with the Reality Check News & Information Desk.

We wish their next endeavor in 2012 to be better.

Why not?

Embrace the 12.

It’s good for you.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

 

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Black Friday In Mexico

Aquarian Weekly 12/7/11 REALITY CHECK

SOUTH WEST BLACK FRIDAY REVELATIONS
Bored, Drunk & Hiding In Mexico

Mid-afternoon in Salsita’s Café, a garishly authentic dive near the historic town square of San Jose, Mexico. The glorious quiet is accented with an aroma of fresh salsa fresca and bean spices wafting from its kitchen, inspiring a wave to our friendly barkeep for a lunch menu. My wife sips Tequila staring at the tiny television flickering weirdly violent images across its screen.

Salsita's Bar“Black Friday is underway in the U.S.,” a British voice intones with the kind of blissful sarcasm best presented from a BBC anchorman witnessing the stampede of consumer madness. “Millions of shoppers, many of whom have waited for hours in long lines throughout the night for giant chains to open their doors at midnight, begin a furious rush to procure the best bargains and herald in the American Christmas season.”

“This is why we’re sitting here,” I whisper calmly to my wife, tipping a bottle of warming Corona to my lips in a deliberate attempt to punctuate my pithy observation.

The wife says nothing. She rarely if ever says anything when offered commentary of strange behavior on television, whether seated on our living room couch, in bed, an airport gate or any and every place they put televisions now, so one can more frequently view the peculiarity of the planet’s highest intelligence. But when she is enjoying Tequila, there is scant chance she will even acknowledge my presence.

But, really, what is there to say when enduring clip after clip of what has to be assumed are “normal” adult humanoids crashing through barely opened automatic glass doors to careen spastically over end-caps and clothes racks in a trampling charge worthy of the Running of the Bulls or the opening sequence to a 60s’ Japanese monster flick?

So the wife sips her Tequila.

“Estimates from independent economic indicators say that this year’s all-important Black Friday retail numbers will dwarf 2010, even as the U.S. economy sags,” the British voice continues. “Consensus from the American Consumer Council predicts a nine percent increase in retail sales this year, a crucial gauge of how the economic climate may go in 2012.”

Our barkeep, a handsome quick-witted soul whose name, Izel, means “Only One” in the Mexican lexicon, decides to fill the silence left dangling by the wife; “This is…what…is…Is this real?”

“Oh, yes,” I proudly say, as if translating the behavior of my countrymen with certitude. “We celebrate the inauguration of every major holiday by launching ourselves into silliness. On the Fourth of July we blow shit up. Just blow shit up. Everywhere.”

“On purpose?” Izel asks.

“Well, of course,” I tell him. “On Easter, we lather chocolate all over our bodies and writhe in vats of jellybeans and duck sauce.”

“What…duck sauce…they make sauce from a duck?”

“Correct,” I continue, satisfied to be helping my new friend appreciate the customs of the true American. “New Year’s marks the time when we take all the alcohol and drugs we have failed to consume in the previous year and challenge each other to a collective gorging that in many ways signifies re-birth.”

“This…” my wife hisses. “…is why I don’t retort.”

Izel chuckles nervously, as he notices my wife roll her eyes.

“Don’t listen to her,” I caution. “Black Friday did not get its name by accident. It is imperative that Americans shop like it will be their last time to spend money, to insure the national economy. It is a way of life, the very fabric of our country’s life-blood. After our generation’s greatest calamity on 9/11, the president of the United States told us to go out and shop!”

I have plans to prattle on, but get distracted by video of Manhattan’s Herald Square looking like Occupy Wall Street, but with haircuts and pocketbooks instead of dreadlocks and bongos; the One-Percenters on Parade.

“Christmas time here is very quiet,” Izel says, sounding disappointed. “Too quiet.”

“Black Friday did not get its name by accident. It is imperative that Americans shop like it will be their last time to spend money, to insure the national economy. It is a way of life, the very fabric of our country’s life-blood. After our generation’s greatest calamity on 9/11, the president of the United States told us to go out and shop!”

Of course, we are miles and seemingly centuries from the images flashing across the tiny screen that hangs above the bar. San Jose is a sleepy fishing town perched on the curve of the Sea of Cortez, founded in 1730 upon rivers of blood and Catholicism by Spanish pirates, Native Americans, and ultimately, Jesuits, who turned it into a mission that still dominates the hamlet today. Mainly, San Jose is an escape for the artists who make the pottery, linens, and tourist junk sold ad nauseam day and night across the beaches of Los Cabos.

For a full hour before settling into our comfortable place, bellies firmly squeezed into bar, my wife intensely browsed hand-painted sink basins until sadly realizing none of them would fit our bathroom counter. “We can gut it!” she decided gleefully. I offered that we’d think about it over Tequila; a dangling carrot that never fails to distract my bride from taking heavy tools to vital portions of my home.

“Make sure you keep these coming,” I nod toward her near-empty glass. Izel smiles and fills it.

Suddenly, a mist of rain turns steady, causing a rush of tourists to pour into the café, interrupting our oasis from the Black Friday specter. The women furiously shake out their hair and the men flap their arms as if the terrible notion of getting wet against their will on the Baja Peninsula is some heightened measure of mortal sin. Up until now, the bar has been empty, save for two half-soused artisans, the wife and myself.

“Goddamn, it!” shouts the silver-haired Midwesterner. His wife, a look of utter horror masking her overly adorned pallor, stammers, “Where did this come from?”

A young couple, awkwardly groping, as young couples need to be doing at every waking second, giggle in the corner. A family barrels forth through the tiny entrance squealing, making the chubby fellow with the phalanx of cameras uneasy. “Can I get a towel?” he demands to no one in particular, sounding quite obviously like one of the “all-inclusive” types that converge on small Mexican shore towns every autumn.

“What is wrong with these people?” my wife asks the bar keep, but he is long gone, having run with four young boys to frantically drag the leather porch furniture back into the bar.

The cook, who we learned an hour ago likes to be addressed as Clavo, pokes his head from the back with the grin of a man about to clean the house at the roulette table.

“Holy, mother,” he whispers.

“What? What?” my wife presses.

“It has not rained here for more than ten minutes in four years.”

Although spoken with astonishing conviction, it sounded apocryphal — No rain for four years? — almost in that creepy Biblical phenomenon way that’s added to enhance the affect that you’re merely here because some greater force is allowing it on a whim. However, it was true as far as I could tell. We had not seen it rain in southwest Mexico in the three years we had visited here during November, nor have the many friends we have convinced to invade this magnificent place. No one has experienced so much as a mild Nimbostratus.

As more people, mostly Caucasian and mildly perturbed, stumble into the café, the rain intensifies, prompting additional precipitation history from Señor Clavo.

“It has only rained twice in the past year, amigo, for ten minutes each, last September — ninth and nineteenth. People will be dancing in the streets.”

“The farmers,” one of the artisans adds, now pushed to the corner of the bar, as the tiny front room begins to take on the look of lifeboat. “They pray for rain and it never comes, but now it is a gift.”

Black Friday on the outskirts of the 21st century has found its stampede.

We turn back to the bar, and my wife sighs; “One more for the road.”

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

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Chasing The Center With Dan Bern

Aquarian Weekly 11/2/11 REALITY CHECK

CHASING THE CENTER WHILE KICKIN’ ‘ROUND THE FRINGE A Few Crucial Hours On The Run With Admiral Bernstein

Sometimes you get lost and you find something new. – Dan Bern

Yeah, sometimes the Reality Check comes home.

It’s bound to happen.

Dan Bern & Erin D. MooreWe spend a lot of time slashing and burning around here, so of course it gets hard to differentiate between the slash and the burn; and sometimes you can barely see a sliver of light between them, and other times there is no light at all, believe me. So you get lost in the joke of it all, where the joke is going — if it hits Fitzgerald’s “High White Note” or when it bottoms out — but in all the absurdities of human endeavor we traverse here weekly, from one hypocrisy to the next, there is very little in the way of direction or point.

And that is precisely the point of what this space provides, a pointless point. For when the rubber truly hits the road, there is no actual point, and therefore, ipso facto, the point.

Ha!

Don’t worry. You’re not confused. I am. Check that — was confused, or if not confused at least temporarily off kilter about the space we inhabit here each week; to provide the service of one voice. That’s all you have, really, One Voice. Unless you begin to stagger into the hypocrisy area, then you inhabit several and varied voices that become a cacophony, which is far worse than a pointless point.

To wit: A few weeks back a friend and colleague, the esteemed novelist and griper, Vincent Czyz wrote me a one-sentence response to my overly wise-ass-to-fairly-beaming attempt at defining the Occupy Wall St. movement. In so doing, Czyz perfectly nailed the entire milieu in which we merrily occupy — for 15 years here and for many more before that in a host forms.

“Perhaps my memory is faulty,” Czyz wrote. “But I, while I have seen lots and lots and LOTS of world-weary, jaded, I-know-how-this-is-all-going-to-turn-out-better-than-you (you poor deluded suckers) criticism in your columns, I don’t recall ever seeing a solution. Not a serious one anyway.”

Ah, this not only struck a chord, but a big fat G-Chord on a beautiful Gibson Songwriter Series, a fantastic piece of American engineering that I broke down to purchase a few years back and trust me when I tell you that for my dollar it can ring out a fucking big-fat-god-fearing G chord like no other guitar in existence.

“Oh, my friend,” I returned in earnest. “You have nailed this one. Never has it been put more on the nut than that. It shall go on my urn.”

And it shall.

But since I am not ready for my urn just yet, I spent most of the following week thinking of how I would broach this absolute truth to my readers; get out from under the mask, flick on the light, face the mirror and describe the scars. Hell, I can do this. I’d done it before in this space. Get real for a few words. Come out from behind the curtain and try and explain what solutions I may offer or if I believe in anything, and if so, for more than a fleeting burp or a gin high.

Nothing came.

What happens on the fringe stays on the fringe.

At least nothing worth writing, or if it got out at all, reading. So I decided instead to address the Youth of America, as old a rant as there is in the annals of middle-age commentary. I have volumes of garble on my shelves by aging scribes giving half-assed advice about “not fucking up like I fucked up” crap from Norman Mailer to Pete Hamill. This is what happens to writers, especially decaying male ones. I have seen it with my own eyes. I have listened to their wounded call, like the dying elephant walking proudly to its final resting place. Not everyone could feel good and write about feeling good and mocking you for not feeling as good as Henry Miller did until his last breath. That bastard had better be in heaven. He sure as shit carved out a chunk of it here.

So, in my malaise of self-examination, into town blows Admiral Bernstein, aka Dan Bern, songwriter, troubadour, novelist, painter, and one-time guest columnist to this space. Bernstein has been to me and my artist/yoga/Vegan crazy-person wife, a dear friend and sounding board, a brother-in-arms, a fellow wise-ass in the great hall of wise-ass fame. We have run the gamut with The Admiral that has been only broached in public by any of us; from the deserts of New Mexico to the Lower East side.

What happens on the fringe stays on the fringe.

Turns out, in his usual perfect timing, Bernstein is on the road again and through the Big Town. Sure, I thought, a few minutes with The Admiral will provide daylight.

First stop was the shores of the Hudson at an aging theater under construction called The Beacon in Beacon, NY. The stage was set up in its vast lobby, making its ironic backstage a massive, ornate 1930s’ rotunda, where we shared Thai food and discussed of all things parenthood.

Because that’s where we are now, bub. He has a girl; a beautiful brown-bob, button-nosed, round-eyed cherub, who I would be humbled to meet the following night, and me and the crazy-person with our own striking, dirty-blonde, giant green-eyed, ruby-lipped gal. The Fringe dwellers deep into the center; a place we would occasionally visit but could never hang for too long, but now with the beauties hanging on every word and calling you dangerous things like “Daddy”, it is indeed a Reality Check.

And so we spoke of fatherhood and writing (songs and other stuff) and personal evolution in the grand scheme of that madness, during which the man said, “You’re on a roll, keep it up, you’re doing a great thing; they can’t put a label on you” or something gut-punching like that. And then he hit the stage, pulled out his own G-fat Gibson and played some of the most heartfelt of his songs, new ones like “Economy” and “Party By Myself” and a gorgeous song about Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash and George Jones; a country ballad about maturing and teaching and understanding where you’re from and guessing where you’ll end up.

We left with hugs and a sense that it wasn’t enough for me. I needed to run the streets with Bernstein again; feel the aura of those far-off days of fist-pumping creativity. And so we met the next day downtown to toss around why we’re never sure that what we do is what we actually do and if so what’s the point? We spoke about why we love films, baseball, Spain, beer, J.D. Salinger; road a van up Fourth Ave., ate Indian food with these really great guys from Common Rotation, an L.A. band I plan on writing more about. I watched the entire clan play songs at a magazine, made vacillating top-five lists on Tom Waits and Woody Allen backstage across the street from the Village Voice at Joe’s Pub, and before I left we promised each other to never again search for a point in the grand pointless dance.

We’ll just dance.

And that is where we found our center.

Okay, Admiral?

I’ll see you back on the fringe.

 

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Youth of America on Wall St. 2011

AAquarian Weekly 10/26/11 REALITY CHECK

AMERICAN YOUTH – MOVEMENT, FAD OR VOICE?Occupy Wall St., Maintain a Presence

All you people in the streets from NYC to Chicago to Seattle and all points in between; when the signs come down and the chants die out and FOXNEWS and MSNBC are not frightened or titillated by you anymore, there is something you need to hear: Anger and protest only gets you so far, and in most cases it gets you nowhere, aside from maybe something you can tell the kids or claim in a documentary 20 years from now actually had an effect on the course of events but really didn’t. I’ll assume people over the age of 25 have a basic understanding of what I’m talking about and thus are already guilty of repeated dumbness. You are, therefore, beyond retribution.

Youth Vote 2011However, to the youth; fists in the air, spitting mad about The Man, The System, The Rip-Off; I got you. I was there, a few times too many. I marched, sang, spoke and wrote up a storm and really, aside from the fleeting moments of blessed solidarity and being left with a strange hangover filled with the sense that I’d devoured an overload of empty ideological calories, it was a misguided binge.

Yeah, it’s the “piss on the status quo” thing. It’s very sexy. It’s why the Lefties love Che Guevara and Woody Guthrie and the Righties worship Ayn Rand and Douglas MacArthur, and why I graduated to Lenny Bruce, John Adams and Jesus; take down the elite, crush the unrighteous rule makers and blaze a new world order on their bones.

I love that shit. It makes for great poetry and folk songs, but in the end you become another generation of statistics. That is unless you play the game – and play it to win. And in order for this to take place, you have to matter, be counted, force a payback from those who use you for a few minutes, whether its through antiwar rhetoric, promises of better education or the vote-or-die/cyberspace shuck.

That’s what the hicks and the religious nuts and the elderly and the war hawks and the big business tycoons do; put the scare into politicians, buy them up, and make them do their bidding. This is why you’re pissed, right? Yeah, they have the cash, the organization, the backbone, and as a result the voice, while your future is at best cloudy to dismal. We filled you up with all that Disney, American Dream, sporting life bullshit; study hard, eat your vegetables, say your prayers, and do an extra lap and the free market will beg to fit you into the machinery – Gonna get yourself a fancy car, cool gadgets and a kicking apartment.

That con is as old as the corner shell game or the lottery jive; plays on your sense of hope and seduces your pride. It is insidious and stupid and you should no longer buy it without organizing…for real.

And please do not make this a political movement based on frayed crap like conservatism or liberalism. None of it works. Just look it up. See for yourself how this dumping ground of “isms” ultimately treated your forbearers. Study how the myopic thrill-seekers built this nation into a shameless superpower by not getting sidetracked with antiquated ideas of economic or social structure. That kind of recidivism gets you Jim Crow, Prohibition, John Birch, The Weather Underground or worse. What you need is to pool the youth concerns about the import of education, environment and what matters to you – freedoms; sexual, intellectual and chemical, if need be.

Focus. Organize. Demand. Conquer.

Focus. Organize. Demand. Conquer.

The AARP, the NRA, the UAW, the Christians for Family blah blah blah, these people have titles and form petition groups and push agendas. This is how the shit goes down around here. Revolution? Ha! We joke about “Ready You Muskets” here all the time, but who has the stones to take up arms against the government? It’s a costly and no-win endeavor, no matter how many times these brainless fucks scream about hording weapons to protect themselves against the government. This pitiable gaggle of dickless self-esteem beggars waving loaded penis substitutes just because mommy didn’t hug them enough couldn’t fight their way out of a PTA bake sale.

But you know what? They get the vote out, make demands, and no matter how idiotic the cause, it works.

You know why Social Security is considered the third rail of American politics? The elderly make it so. You know why every time someone’s tit shows up on a Super Bowl halftime show, there are forty new FCC laws? The religious groups make it so. You know why any time someone farts in the Middle East your pals are being shipped over there? The Oil Companies make it so.

You know how something becomes too big to fail?

I dare you, bring up a new gun law or a tweak to abortion rights, and here come the gun types and the women groups.

You’re pissed because you are ignored. Well…

Courted. Coddled. Exploited. Ignored. Mocked. Roused and then passed over.

This is the history of the youth vote in this nation since the Baby Boom, and especially since the expansion of the voter base to 18 years old. Suckered and screwed first by Nixon, who claimed to have a secret plan to end the Viet Nam War in 1968 and then four years and an escalated conflict later, he trounces the anti-war, pro-pot, rock and roll candidate by a record landslide.

Then you were suckered by Jimmy Carter’s “Aw-shucks” routine, shoved aside by Reagan and Bush, completely snowed by Clinton’s hipster two-step, and later made to feel guilty by Baby Bush, only to finally and completely be sold down the river by the very campaign that had you amped; Barack Obama.

You’re damn right you don’t matter.

So it’s time to get real and organize. Time to demand your space in this fixed arena by becoming a voter-oriented lobby machine for, say, ending wars. Hell, you’re the ones asked to fight these things. Demand a more dynamic and accountable education system that properly prepares you for the dog-eat-dog-stomps-cat-and-dumps-on-you world. Make a stand for appropriate attention paid to the quality of the air you’re going to be breathing and water you’ll be drinking long after we’re all fossil fuel. Lighten unjust drug laws, legalize gay marriage, whatever the hell you want, just make it a movement that matters, and make those who court you answerable.

Trade in this overblown righteous indignation for serious backdoor, strong-armed influence.

Infiltrate The System by using it, abusing it, and if you have to, ring it dry.

You’ve never done it before. Ever. But you better start, because the standard of living around here has been rapidly eroding for decades and aside from maybe your parents no one, and I mean no one, gives a flying dung heap what becomes of you.

You appear to have their attention now.

What are you going to do about it?

 

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#OWS

Aquarian Weekly 10/12/11 REALITY CHECK

#OWS Pissed Populist Resistance Shifts Left

Some is rich, some is poor That’s the way the world is But I don’t like lying back Sayin’ how bad your luck is

So we came to jazz it up We never loved a shovel Break your back to earn your pay Ah’ don’t forget to grovel

– Joe Strummer

Occupy Wall St.There’s a place in the heart of the world of commerce called Liberty Square; lower Manhattan, NYC, deep in the money district – the trade market, slipknot wink-wink wheel-greasing machinery. It’s not far from where a few weeks ago they laid their wreaths and said their prayers for what went down on 9/11/01, when after a decade people were still not quite sure how the hell that could have happened to the richest nation on planet earth in its biggest city. For 20 days now this tiny patch of land in the bowels of the concrete jungle has acted as an epicenter for the latest in street-theater populist outrage aimed at a fixed system that, let’s face it, has been a pretty fair whipping post for this space lo these past 14 years. Weird how the slipped veil will occasionally reveal the fragility of subsistence.

A fair number of people have jammed the cross streets and bridges, waving signs, wearing costumes, strumming tuneless guitars and brandishing cheap bullhorns while they block traffic and are summarily hauled off to prison. Some are there for the spectacle, others for the sense of purpose, others to perpetuate the illusion of filibuster, a slice of the rhetoric from the bottom up. Others are making the same point, maybe, from a different political slant, but nonetheless a very similar dissent to that of the TEA Party enthusiasts of two years ago.

There is a lot of fairly damaging shit that goes down without much democratic voice.

To the byways pour the jobless, disenfranchised, and the youth, who are told there is no future, and the aging, who hear that what they banked on is going bye-bye and it ain’t comin’ back. Voting appears to be an annual joke and unless you can afford a lobbyist, there is a corned animal vibe going down now; here, there and everywhere.

The left-leaning 99 Percenters, the Occupy Wall St. movement, which began noisily enough in late September, has now reached into the thousands over three weeks and has spread to cities across the fruited plain. It’s a splintered kind of mashed-up message of middle class civil disobedience, worker’s rights, and fed-up disillusioned patriots protesting against the wealthy, influential and apparently under-taxed one percent that we’re reminded of in Washington daily; by the president, the congress, and echoed through the news cycle cable soap boxers. It is old-fashioned Have vs. Have-nots, the class warfare crowd, demanding a share and exercising a voice – real Woody Guthrie meets Emma Goldman angst.

Apparently no one is safe these days.

The Right is being pounded daily from the TEA Party that the broken government needs to stand down and out. “Taxed Enough Already” was grassroots at its finest, and although it at first appeared naïve and then patently mean spirited, it had a signature resonance. Of course, this has become a bit of a problem for those who call government a career, whether they’ve achieve their position from deriding it or not. Whatever the Grand Old Party throws its red meat subculture, it comes back chewed up and spat out. Ask its current presidential “frontrunner”, who, by the way, keeps besting all the TEA Party comers on by one.

Now the Left, feeling rejected and hoodwinked by its centrist, Wall St. bailing president and a congress that passed the buck for two years into the gnarled teeth of a freshman class of neo-conservatives hell-bent on hacking chunks of big government at its roots, has hurled itself into the scene with a fervor not seen since the last president decided to war it up.

Now the Left, feeling rejected and hoodwinked by its centrist, Wall St. bailing president and a congress that passed the buck for two years into the gnarled teeth of a freshman class of neo-conservatives hell-bent on hacking chunks of big government at its roots, has hurled itself into the scene with a fervor not seen since the last president decided to war it up.

But unlike the anti-war movement, the Democratic Party survivors don’t know what to do with these people; placate, lecture or exploit. The present administration would love for their chants to echo into the hinterland and rile up a fractured base to rekindle any sort of independent fervor against what is sure to be a dozen more months of putrid economic news. Yes, the faceless hordes of shysters you handed over your retirement funds to so they could gamble like drunken roulette addicts are the bad guys. Good, yes, please.

But that is a dream or a delusion not worth dissecting here. We’re talking about protests now, protests against this president and this congress and the elite of this nation; the oil barons and corporate masters, the huge conglomerates, who poison and pollute and rack up massive profit margins to give out big bonuses to the yacht boys at Christmas, and then have the audacity to not ease the burden of our nine percent of employed. Protesting, I guess, against the cold, hard facts: “Too fucking bad, pal. Tell it to the judge!”

My favorite sign is “Lost My Job, Found An Occupation”.

Good stuff. Very clever.

Of course, as I kindly shared with the TEA Party gathering on Tax Day, 2010 in Hackensack, NJ: What are you going to do once the fist is unclenched, the cameras go away and you have miles of The System staring you in the face? Well, the TEA Party did something all right; they became part of The System. They got themselves exploited and piggybacked, which has been both a blessing and a curse. Someone legitimized and then politicized them. The power suits they sent to the Virginia swamp started yakking it up about deficits and federal debt and revisiting the legitimacy of entitlements and opened up a slimy can of worms they can’t seem to reseal.

How come we had money to bail out the big banks? The auto industry? Wall St. fat cats? How come we ran two wars over eight years off the books? How come Homeland Security was needed when we have a CIA, FBI, National Guard and supposedly the most powerful military on the planet? What the hell is that pork-addled limp-dick stimulus package doing for us now? Why all this foreign aid? Why all this tax money going to belly-up green franchises? And, while we’re at it; where are the hovercrafts we were promised? Yeah, and where are the cool laser guns?

Nobody said indignation had to be coherent, but at least in America there isn’t major rioting and looting and the burning of neighborhoods.

Yet.

Well, probably not in NYC. That’s an L.A. thing. Too many interesting distractions that you can get to on foot in the Big Town to waste time running amok. But, shit, that shouldn’t mean when this thing becomes a maudlin exercise for the righteous, all that is left us might be the reckless.

But for now, fight the good fight, people. At the very least, you’re keeping the riot control units of the NYC police department busy and there will be a host of jobs for those paid to clean up afterward.

It’s like we used to say around here…

NEVER SURRENDER.

 

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Steve Jobs Retires

Aquarian Weekly 8/31/11 REALITY CHECK

TITANS OUT

The story this week should be the overthrow of one of the world’s most celebrated tyrants. It’s not. That kind of thing — Axis of Evil, Matters of National Security or Taking the Fight to the Enemy — is so 2003. We’re out of the oughts and into the money game now. Moahmmar Gadhafi and his kind no longer rate. Oughts? We’re talking Eighties here; Reagan, Madonna and “Where’s The Beef?” By the time this goes to press the self-styled Libyan King of Kings will have likely been smoked out of his bunker, throat slit and burned alive, his mangled and charred body dragged through the streets of his beloved Tripoli. There will soon be a much-publicized kangaroo tribunal for his sons, and they too will be snuffed out; palaces sacked by rebels spitting on their corpses.

ISteve Jobsnternational intrigue is so messy. No one needs to think about that anymore, even with Dick Cheney’s new tome pending. The one where he shovels dirt on his friends and defecates on his foes, continuing the tried-and-true Dark Lord act he pulls out of mothballs for cocktail parties and the poker buddies from intensive care. Cheney is even older and less relevant than Gadhafi, with far less charm. No one would waste their time killing Cheney, never mind setting his lifeless body on fire, and after the neo-con drones are done making his “memoirs” a NY Times bestseller, it will go the way of bargain-basement Wal-Mart Sarah Palin drivel and we can go about paying attention to a far more important changing of the guard.

Steve Jobs is the story this week. That’s right. The co-founder, chairman and CEO of Apple is stepping down. Currently the most successful, well-run and powerful company in the United States of America, a dying super power deep in debt and embarrassed to even admit its part in the bloody coup that has rid the planet of a madman, is losing its figurehead, master-of-ceremonies, nucleus.

Jobs is no normal man. Yes, he’s a magnate, mogul, inventor, risk-taker and pioneer, all the things that made this country great in the first place. But he’s also this weird combination of Thomas Edison, Jackson Pollack and Bob Dylan rolled into one. There is this Svengali nature about him, a corporate shaman, for when he speaks technology leaps, products move, stocks rise and life as we know it changes. Jobs has the power of a thousand armies and the will of a thousand more, and when he goes and Apple puts someone in his place, it will roll on, just because that’s the air tight ship he’s helped to build, but it will not be the same. No, sir.

So now what do we do? How do we go on without Jobs? He is our true entrepreneurial genius, our modern-day Henry Ford, without all the Nazi affiliation. Hell, you want someone who is most like this chic veneration of Founding Fathers? Ben Franklin. Steve Jobs is like Ben Franklin rolling in Ben Franklins.

It’s a funny thing, but Steve Jobs’ company actually works. It works because his products work, and in one of the worst downturns in consumerism in our lifetimes due to a limping economic landscape, his products sell. Big time.

It’s a funny thing, but Steve Jobs’ company actually works. It works because his products work, and in one of the worst downturns in consumerism in our lifetimes due to a limping economic landscape, his products sell. Big time. If not for Apple, there would be no U.S., just a shell of outsourced corporate land rapers and bloated union zombies backed by lobby money, manipulated by junk bond day-traders, and bankrolled by castrated politicians.

This is America without Steve Jobs; fat, stupid and boring complainers waiting for Jesus or the Chinese to bail us out. Not Apple and not Steve Jobs. He keeps coming. He’s had tumors and a liver removed and was reported dead on five different occasions in the last decade alone; his decade, the Apple decade, but rose again to sit at the right hand of the Lord.

Is he God?

Maybe Jobs is closer to Rasputin than Ben Franklin, but he sure as hell could be God in a nation gripped with fear that the dollar will soon be defunct and our national character washed out with the sad echoes of a slumping empire.

Not sure about any of that, but I do know Steve Jobs’ stuff is good, real good, and the kids eat it up; kids who until four months ago couldn’t pick Moahmmar Gadhafi out of a line-up — even with an iPhone. These glassy-eyed geeks are the future of America, and they expect stuff to work and work quickly with top-notch customer service and groundbreaking innovations — cool stuff, fast stuff, the best stuff.

We’re connected now, and Steve Jobs and his merry Silicon Valley clan have connected us best. Think about it; is there a worse state in the union than California right now? It is busted and leaking from every economic orifice, and if Apple were to take their baffling profit show elsewhere, it may as well sink into the Pacific.

Yeah, the story this week isn’t another dime-store third-century thug losing his country to a motivated and internationally armed rabble. That is the way of the old world order. Shit, next week there will be another one somewhere waving his cock substitute at some CNN camera. Yawn. Steve Jobs, true titan of American industry, a maverick and a originator, is one of the rare people who love the work and the machinery and the methods and may not only be the best model for the business evolution, but evolution itself, while Gadhafi, of course, represents the victimhood of a damaged subculture bullied by megalomaniacal recidivism.

Its lousy 20th century bloodletting and cheap medal-festooned mimicry, but when success and not freedom is your goal — Steve Jobs is the story.

 

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We Suck

Aquarian Weekly 8/24/11 REALITY CHECK

WE SUCK (Apparently)

Waaaahhhh!

The stock market is crashing! My house is worthless! The Middle East is a tinderbox! Too much government! Too little government! Get me a job! Protect my kids! Save the poor! Fuck the poor! Whose fault is this? The Democrats? The Republicans? The Arabs? The Debt? Taxes? Regulations? Corporations?

I hear you, America; in all your complete vacillating, half-assed philosophical sexting miasma. I’m no reality show or Donald Trump, but I can entertain your angst. Give me a minute or three. Let’s begin here: This is our fault.

Yes, us.

We the people.

Waaah!All of it. Well, not all of it, because it wasn’t our idea to be pulled into this insipid dog-eat-dog, half-baked backstabbing clusterfuck. This was our parents’ idea, or at the very least the results of some dim amorous overreach. So they have some explaining to do, but for the most part, after we intellectually accepted this cyclical madness – let’s agree to say sometime during high school age – it’s on us.

Admittedly, agonizing self-examination is not a popular editorial style and thus does not fly on talk radio, op ed pages, blogs or cable news. No one wants to hear how they are weak and stupid and completely at fault for their leaders, economy and the disasters of the planet. It works better to blame these things on Muslims or the weak dollar.

Sorry.

For those who find comfort in Dr. Phil or Glenn Beck, please get off now. This isn’t for you. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but if you hang in there I promise no one-dimensional axioms or convenient boogiemen. Next week, we’ll return to general mockery of all-things, but it’s time to say hello to the mirror.

Ready?

Okay, I know the president didn’t turn out to be the Black Jesus and congress is filled with feckless self-promoting creatures, but how about we exhume Gerald Ford or worse still Franklin Pierce? How about those guys? Sound good? These were my offers to those who bitched about G.W. for eight years. The deal still stands. Also, you think this 14 percent-approved congress is shit? How about we get ourselves the fancy prohibition congress? Let’s bring those good old boys back for one more go ’round? How’d that work for you?

You do realize that the president or the federal government does not choose our vocational path or our present locale or the home we decided on or the car we financed or the stuff we stockpiled, our choice of spouse or shrink or whether we thought it a good idea to take those night classes or bet the three-team teaser, sleep with the stripper, develop the speed habit, eat more fried food than the human heart could conceivably endure, got us addicted to EBAY, forced us to march in rallies, invest in ponzi schemes or be hypnotized by the endless stream of media overload.

So it’s probably not an advisable plan to expect these scapegoats to pull us from the morass, assuming it is a morass or just a setback, a run of tough luck or life’s many tragedies. Did we learn nothing from the Wizard of Oz? Want a brain? Learn.

This falls under the category of rock music rotting your brain or video games contributing to the downfall of Western civilization. Its crap and we know it. Maybe we should stop having all these children and then asking the rest of us to deal with them. How can I feed my kids on this salary? What kind of education system is this? The debt is murdering my grandchildren. Well, then…

While you’re pulling back on all the needlessly selfish procreating, how about quitting it with all these organizations. They are time thieves and a distraction from the real issues in our lives. The Organization of Self-Righteous Big Mouths with No New Good Ideas that Exploit Individuals & Murder Independent Thought is no way to personal gratification or solving social or political problems, never mind putting food on the table. Put down the sign and the funny costume, shelve the slogans, and get on with reexamining your own mess.

I got news for you; sit down, because this is going to hurt – “When you wish upon a star…NOTHING HAPPENS.”

Finally, let’s please stop interpreting dead philosophers and long-gone patriots to define personal agendas. This is literally a dead end. For a good example of this goofy task, please see any Bible deconstruction or Islamic Extremist and check out women politicians telling us what the Founding Fathers wanted, when for one thing we know they didn’t want women politicians, or women to have anything to do with political discourse, voting, or really working at all.

The above examples are all merely fancy forms of whining. We’re whiners. We are. When did we get so goddamned sappy? Was it Disney movies? Hippie parents? Sugar? God? Too much TV? Not enough vegetables?

I got news for you; sit down, because this is going to hurt – “When you wish upon a star…NOTHING HAPPENS.”

Really.

Nothing.

And while we’re at myth busting, the government is not going to get you a job. Nope. And if by some weird circumstance of desperation, it does, it’s not going to last. And let’s face it; this worshipping of the Free Market isn’t going to help out either. The Free Market is not here for you. Companies are interested in profit, not putting your kid through college or in advancing American Exceptionalism. Like, for instance, insurance companies are not into paying off on your timely and responsible investments. They’re keener in turning this money into profit and then using that money to hire a team of lawyers to keep you from recouping it when in dire need. And by the way, this didn’t just happen in the last five years. It’s been going down since the dawn of the concept, or long before you hit high school.

Apparently, we missed the memo on most of these immutable truths.

Thus…waaaaahhh!

But, relax. It’s going to be okay. Well, that’s also bullshit. Nothing is going to be okay, unless of course you do something about it. Prayer and hoping and the odd lottery ticket are no elixir. You’ll have to make this happen on your own. Sure, luck and timing are key, but I can tell you quite frankly there is no luck and/or timing while you’re pissing away your life blogging about tyranny.

So take a breath. We’re already smarter than we were a dozen or so paragraphs ago. Doesn’t it feel good to face the truth? Freeing, right? It’s a spiritual experience to understand the con of spirituality. Even gurus tell us spirituality is nothing but a word without action.

Now we can stop existing in a “talking point” or banking on “campaign promises” or “House votes” or basing our self-worth on beer ads. Guess what? Life isn’t on the Internet or in your smart phone. Celebrities are not your enemies or your heroes; they are famous and only made so because you need a distraction, nothing more. Let them go.

You see? You’re not really stupid or weak, just misguided.

And look, the sky didn’t fall.

Sure, things blow right now. Even when things aren’t generally crappy, they’re crappy for someone somewhere. But its time to cease blaming everything on people you put in office to run the place you live. They are means to an end, not an endgame on your means.

So go seize your destiny and begin penning the hate mail…now.

 

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Rupert Murdoch – A Tribute

Aquarian Weekly 7/27/11 REALITY CHECK

RUPERT MURDOCH – A TRIBUTE

Keith Rupert Murdoch, champion of the fourth estate, whose international media empire and its unhinged influence on law, politics, power and celebrity is this generation’s William Randolph Hearst – a true media giant; no shame, no principle, no soul. According to the kind of reliable sources Murdoch bankrolls, it has been reported in several publications that the News Corp. owner and operating office was once caught in the men’s room at his now defunct News of the World jacking off to Hearst’s most quotable maxim; “You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war.” It was alas Murdoch’s mantra, an elixir as powerful as smack and as smooth as Jameson’s.

Rupert MurdochFor these and many other laudable qualities, we celebrate Murdoch’s reign as one of the finest smut peddlers the modern concept of the press has conjured. His corporate gluttony devouring dozens of powerful media outlets, many of which ironically spend countless pages and hours decrying the entire medium, has not only vaulted him to the greatest heights of his art form but also turned him into a sickeningly rich man, the latter accomplishment being far more important in this or any society.

The following is our in-depth coverage of his conglomerate’s embarrassing hacking scandal and the house of cards that has toppled as a result of its outing. It is of course as crass, vindictive, and filled with the sort of hoary innuendo passing as fact and grossly overstated rumor passing for reporting that Murdoch not only loves but pays handsomely for. It shows no mercy, as Murdoch’s best properties certainly would not, had his own pathetic crimes not been the juicy subject.

After all, did News of the World not set up a 67 year-old FIA (Formula One Racing) President Max Moseley with sadomasochistic prostitutes (on the newspaper’s payroll) to give life to the infamously beautiful headline, F-1 Boss Has Sick Nazi Orgy with Five Hookers? And how about the more recent gorgeously repugnant NY Post headline when actor David Carridine was found dead of apparent erotic asphyxiation; HUNG FU?

And so for our hero, the wretched pile of steaming feces named Keith Rupert Murdoch, for which somewhere there must be a Rosebud buried in the snow, we offer our humble salute.

MURDOUCHE – The Unfair & Imbalanced Saga of Ruppie The Wrinkled Kingpin

The slain body of the heroic Sean Hoare, whistleblower of the heinous crimes of News Corp. against the British government and the very moral fabric of humanity itself, lies cold in a Scotland Yard morgue; his desperate cries for justice silenced. But by whose hand, the public ponders? Some may speculate that the source of his courageous revelations might well know; the unrepentant media kingpin and cradle robber, Rupert Murdoch, whose wife, aka The Dragon Lady, almost a half-century his junior, who some have called a mail order bride or worse still a Chinese spy, was last seen ruthlessly pummeling a helpless comedian in the very chamber her husband was humiliatingly standing accused.

Close by, the frail and confused curmudgeon was slumped over in near narcoleptic seizures as he incoherently answered a series of questions about his newspaper’s hacking into hundreds of cell phones, including that of a dead girl, whose parents as a result were sure was still alive. Murdoch could barely maintain consciousness as he endured one charge after another for his part in a spectacular series of police corruption, political bullying and character assignation. Witnesses on the scene were heard to comment on the strange odor of formaldehyde and ether emanating from Murdoch as he allegedly coughed up blood and spat vulgarities at his underlings about “mourning the loss of his testicles”.

When confronted with the obvious hypocrisy of this blather, News Corp issued this merely speculative repeating of a vaguely substantiated statement: “F*#k off.”

The decrepit mogul’s son, James, who has been allegedly tied to the Australian equivalent of the U.S.’s Klu Klux Klan, was forced to speak for his decomposing father, echoing his sad declaration that he was the best man to clean up the very same sewage he’d been bilging for decades. Experts admitted that it was a curious shift in course for the defense, having the senior Murdoch move away from acting as a kind of Ronald Reganesque doddering old fool post Iran/Contra to a more defiant Watergate-era Nixonian cover-up stance.

Meanwhile, Murdoch’s prize American enterprises, the NY Post, Wall Street Journal and FOXNEWS, which all exhausted thousands of words and hundreds of hours prosecuting the leftist Acorn and NPR, have to date spent only a couple of minor blurbs and a mere seventeen minutes glossing over his crime spree, most of which were laced with flaccid denials and defensive arguments. When confronted with the obvious hypocrisy of this blather, News Corp issued this merely speculative repeating of a vaguely substantiated statement: “F*#k off.”

FOXNEWS resident psychologist, Keith Ablow, who is seen weekly weighing in with dime-store analysis for Murdoch on all matters of the mind from perceived pedophilia in toy ads to possible homosexual subtext in children’s cartoons, has ventured a wild guess that his employer is either evil incarnate or an excellent judge of human nature, or strangely enough, both.

Plans to ship what is left of the stinking husk of the decomposing overlord to a hyperbolic iron lung chamber where toxins will be shot into his shriveled brain around the clock by Cuban slave traders was neither confirmed nor denied by News Corp. spokesman.

Nonetheless, details of the hearing are already being optioned to Twentieth Century Fox for a film adaptation to be followed by a reality show after Murdoch purchases Parliament outright and fires the entire British government.

 

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Judgment Day Bust 2011

Aquarian Weekly 5/25/11 REALITY CHECK

HOW I’LL SPEND JUDGMENT DAY

I’ve been listening to Harold Camping on Family Radio since the early nineties; tooling along Route 84 in the wee hours – half soused, eyes weighing heavy and deep in contemplation about my mortal soul and some girl I was trying to bed. These were heady times, and Camping, with his comprehensive knowledge of scripture, chapter, verse and queer interpretation, was my beacon. There’s only so much highway wind and rock and roll a mind can handle without numbing.

Harold CampingAnd so Camping’s monosyllabic baritone delivery, weakened now by the advanced age of nearly 90, has been a lifeline to those of us whose sweet embrace of insomnia is ceaseless. His kind barely knows the lives he may have saved or the property his distant broadcasts kept intact; the Disc Jockey preacher man’s words resonating out over Marconi’s sacred device. Once in late ’93 I flipped a Toyota truck off an icy curve on the back roads of Hudson Valley, NY; and as I crawled from the wreckage and looked back from the darkness, it was Camping’s voice, booming as if God were calling Abraham to murder his son for a lark, that I could clearly hear emanating from the flickering dashboard.

As I say, my dear friends – heady stuff.

This is why when Camping says that Judgment Day is coming on May 21, 2011, I listen.

Hell, I know all about the Rapture, jack. I understand quite well how the shit storm will go down. I know my Revelation inside/out, and upside/down. I love, as my late friend and mentor Doctor Thompson used to say, “the wild power of the language and the purity of the madness that governs it and makes it music.” It may well be the finest piece of literature printed in English; completely insane and a dangerous thing to digest at all hours in lonely hotel rooms; Gideon style.

Do yourself a favor when you’re done reading this; go find a copy of any version of the Bible you have around and open Revelation to a random page and enjoy. All the best psychopaths from Hitler to Manson to Billy Graham were well acquainted with Revelation. It is the reason Western Civilization is obsessed with drugs and religion, guilt and agony, violence and masturbation; it expertly explains weird shit like politics, money and Colonel Kurtz’s horror.

But pick up the pace, because according to Camping you shall be judged on May 21. In fact, when most of you read this in print it will be too late. And for that, I am truly sorry. Even Noah had friends and readers; and none of them made it onto the ark; every last one of them drowned; a terribly agonizing way to go – God style.

Me? I’m ready to be judged. My moral house is in order. The cosmic shift in the spiritual muse is a personal liaison. It’s all part of the divine plan, and the main reason there are times when I find myself hoping to be judged, harshly. Bring it on. I just want to see my score. It will be high. Very high. This comes from an almost expressly comfortable intimacy I’ve forged with sin. “Love your enemy”; this is my motto. That, and “Do not drive Toyota trucks on icy roads whilst balancing a tumbler of Bombay Sapphire on your lap.”

Trust me when I say, God’s waiting on me.

I’m ready to be judged. My moral house is in order. The cosmic shift in the spiritual muse is a personal liaison. It’s all part of the divine plan, and the main reason there are times when I find myself hoping to be judged, harshly. Bring it on. I just want to see my score. It will be high. Very high.

Firstly, any true God will recognize my kind; demanding and irritable with completely unrealistic expectations. I have anger issues and am not particularly fond of explaining myself or what the hell I want from people. Let them figure it out. I also love claiming to have done stuff that I cannot particularly prove I’ve done. I basically take credit for anything that I can think of and then get pissed when challenged on it.

Secondly, I’ve spent the last forty years sharpening my ego skills and have developed a megalomaniacal streak similar to that of any worthwhile omniscient being. I also have a concrete set of obligations to worshiping me: Have no other scribe before thee – Use my name in vain, and – Under no circumstances kill me.

Finally, I have not ignored the main aspect of humanity, and that is, as I have written in this space numerous times over the past thirteen odd years, it is wholly overrated. My personal correspondence with the omnipotent one has broached the subject of the feline versus the human. I have clearly stated and I think fairly laid out a strong argument that it is far better to lick one’s balls and sleep 18 hours a day than to develop a computer chip. And reason? That’s for the birds; the birds or Plato, who thought it a good idea to make up the concept of an afterlife, effectively infecting every world religion for the next 2,500 or so years. I know for a plain fact that this “reason” thing is wasted on us. For a prime example, put on cable news; you pick one, any will do.

This brings me to my own judgment of how the current deity has run things; badly. I have plenty of critiques about famine, war, earthquakes, the Pope, whatever the hell the Mormons are, Stonehenge, what went down with Lenny Bruce – never mind Jesus – my distressing lack of height, the general disarray of all supposed holy lands, and lima beans.

Okay, there’s the good stuff too.

So on Saturday, I plan on cranking up AC/DC and dancing with my daughter, lather up a good sweat and shred our throats, before taking a minute to explain why at three years in she has to be judged and then plunged into some weird Rapture kick. Then I’m going to read the best paragraphs of The Great Gatsby to the wife, smoke an Ashton to the nub, pour some celebratory wine into a clay jug and go out in style.

Then again, there’s always a pretty good chance Camping is a nut and I’m a wiseass prick who will both be waking Sunday feeling cheated.

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Sticky Fingers/Fear & Loathing 40 Years

 

Aquarian Weekly 5/4/11
REALITY CHECK

ART OF THE GIDDY HANGOVER
or How Hunter Thompson and The Stones Drove a Spike into Hippie Hearts

Did you ever wake up to find
A day that broke up your mind
Destroyed your notion of circular time
It’s just that demon life has got you in its sway.

– The Rolling Stones/Sticky Fingers

Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting–on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave….So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark –that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

– Hunter S. Thompson/Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas

Sticky FingersIt happened in the spring of 1971, forty years ago now.

It was like a snap; the kind of ghastly sound a finely tuned athlete hears when it all goes wrong inside. A major tendon gives way. A knee buckles. The elbow dangles gruesomely. Pain. Terror. The very real sensation that the change from full-speed ahead to over can be cruelly immediate, and soon, very soon there will be a long, dreadful period of rehabilitation. Even then, there’s no guarantee the body will ever be the same again.

Oh, the game goes on, but not for some.

This is what happened when the fast-paced, anything-goes wild and free Sixties youth movement heard a snap from deep inside. Actually, it was two snaps; one literary, the other musical. A long-form, two-part journal piece gone awry for Rolling Stone magazine, rather haphazardly titled, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, and a ten-song ball-breaker of a record called Sticky Fingers.

In March of ’71, journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who was a year removed from “inventing” a frantic style of fantastic deadline humping gibberish called Gonzo, escaped to Las Vegas with a Chicano lawyer by the name of Oscar Zeta Acosta to ostensibly work on an investigative piece about a slain East L.A. activist named Ruben Salazar. To bankroll the proceedings, Thompson accepted a Sports Illustrated gig to cobble together 300 words on a weird desert event called the Mint 400 motorcycle race, but ended up delivering a 25,000 word screed about drugs, violence and mayhem.

Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas would become a sensation, then a book, and inevitably made Hunter Thompson a star, helping to create a bestial character which would enslave him for the rest of his life. But as he struggled with the mountain of his random scribblings and garbled tape musings in a San Francisco hotel room through much of April and May, what Hunter Thompson was actually doing was fashioning a eulogy; a final dirge for the hippie generation and an ugly mirror poised on a drug culture he would expertly exploit in a long and very successful literary career.

Fear & Loathing in Las VegasThompson’s last biographer, William McKeen aptly describes Fear & Loathing as “a look back at the promise and hope of the Sixties that had been stomped to death somewhere in the middle of 1968”, the year that its author was beaten with other anti-war protesters outside the Democratic Convention in Chicago.

As the crippling images of hotel, automobile and brain cell destruction began to careen from his IBM selectric typewriter, the dark, savage rhythms of “Sympathy for the Devil” blasted from Thompson’s tape recorder — a song recorded in 1968 by The Rolling Stones and one quite prevalent in his unfolding tale. It was the very song the band played at the infamous Altamont free concert just outside San Francisco in December of 1969 as a man was being stabbed to death by a pack of booze-addled Hell’s Angels. Ironically, two years before, and one year before the Stones unleashed “Sympathy” into the fading echoes of the Summer of Love, Hunter S. Thompson made a fringe motorcycle gang famous with his first groundbreaking book, Hell’s Angels.

In April of 1971, across the Atlantic, The Rolling Stones’ new album, Sticky Fingers was wrapping blues riffs and snarling vocals around what would be Thompson’s final bugle call for the Sixties. Before long the two would remain connected by time and tone for what would be dueling Baby Boomer tolling bells.

The Stones had been hinting at what might be coming for two previous records, Beggar’s Banquet and Let It Bleed, both sinister clarions to the darker side of the counter-culture soon to be realized in political assassinations and street riots, an escalating Viet Nam War, the Manson Family murders and the deaths of four pop icons, one of them a former Rolling Stone. But Sticky Fingers is different. It is a dreary exhale, less foreboding and more grimly apathetic, as if the sense that doom could be avoided or marked as historical imperative was laughable. It was just doom, both personal and cultural, and that’s all.

But this was The Rolling Stones, so the doom was fraught with tongue wagging humor, a whistle past the gallows reeking with funk and jazz and down home raunchy blues, country honk and bittersweet melancholia. Never had the death knell of fast times sounded so goddamn good.

“It’s a bleak record about what the morning looks like after a decade of unchecked hedonism,” rock journalist and author, Robert Greenfield told me on the occasion of his last book about his time with the Stones in the South of France. “The Stones were making it clear the party was over and what was left was not pretty.” Sticky Fingers, it’s most charming song boasted a rather spot-on metaphor for the sharp decline in hippie ardor, “Dead Flowers”, was the kind of “fun’s over” message the purveyors of decadence would be gleefully inclined to make.

As Thompson was imagining the Death of the American Dream as a fat-cat fascist money-grubbing moral sinkhole on the Vegas Strip invaded by acid-crazed radicals hell-bent on wresting its corpse from Mother Authority, The Stones filled the airwaves with odes to slave master rape, misanthropic suicide jags, and morphine hallucinations.

As Thompson was imagining the Death of the American Dream as a fat-cat fascist money-grubbing moral sinkhole on the Vegas Strip invaded by acid-crazed radicals hell-bent on wresting its corpse from Mother Authority, The Stones filled the airwaves with odes to slave master rape, misanthropic suicide jags, and morphine hallucinations. Thompson’s “gross, physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country” is echoed in Mick Jagger’s haunting “Moonlight Mile” with his “dreams fading down the railway line” or Keith Richards’ rather dire “I have my freedom but I don’t have much time” from the gorgeous “Wild Horses”.

Then, of course, there is the drugs; as in the opening paragraph of Fear & Loathing wherein a phalanx of pharmaceuticals is recited as if names from an invading army soon to be consumed in herculean fashion by men “too weird to live, but too rare to die” who would finally be overcome but not defeated by the “excessive consumption of almost every drug known to civilized man since 1544 AD”. Not to be outdone by the “cocaine eyes” and “speed-freak jive” of Sticky Fingers, wherein nearly every song has at least one reference to mind altering — it’s seductions, consequences and mysteries.

Make no mistake, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas nor Sticky Fingers celebrate drug abuse – both Thompson (an openly unrepentant dope fiend until his suicide in 2005) and Richards (Keith is still kicking and has recently released his memoir, which reads as an unapologetic junkie handbook) – they simply tell the truth about the experience; something rarely found in either the Feed Your Head or Just Say No camps four decades since. In these tales of excess, the piper indeed comes to call. And perhaps no more honest portrayal of the drug culture has been improved upon since Thompson’s masterpiece hit the streets in late 1971.

“We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled the 60’s. That was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary’s trip. He crashed around America selling ‘consciousness expansion’ without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him seriously… All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create… a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody… or at least some force – is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Or maybe, “Love… it’s a bitch!”

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