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.


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…



Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

Steve Jobs Retires

Aquarian Weekly 8/31/11 REALITY CHECK


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.


Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

We Suck

Aquarian Weekly 8/24/11 REALITY CHECK

WE SUCK (Apparently)


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.


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.


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.”



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.


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.


Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

Rupert Murdoch – A Tribute

Aquarian Weekly 7/27/11 REALITY CHECK


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.


Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

Judgment Day Bust 2011

Aquarian Weekly 5/25/11 REALITY CHECK


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.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

Sticky Fingers/Fear & Loathing 40 Years


Aquarian Weekly 5/4/11

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!”

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

Read More

Okay…Donald Trump

Aquarian Weekly 4/27/11 REALITY CHECK


I have tried to ignore Donald Trump. But he will not go away. He is everywhere, interviewed by everyone, and invited to speak anywhere more than two people are gathered. Some part of this is showbiz, but most of it is politics; and whether Trump’s tiptoe through the minefield of the American political landscape becomes official or merely a prelude to another lengthy presidential campaign period is of little concern. It has attracted my attention and motivated words.

Normally, we don’t do celebrity goofy here. I have never wasted an entire column on Glenn Beck or Al Franken or Chris Matthews or Sean Hannity. Okay, admittedly, I’ve cranked out lengthy diatribes on Ann Coulter and Michael Moore, defended Lindsay Lohan and reviewed Robert Downey drug binges, and the above names did occasionally appear to make a cultural point; however, to opine on the absurdity of legitimate discourse is enough of a waste of my time and more importantly yours. But hell, Donald Trump wins. He has chicken-winged me into commentary and for that alone he should be lauded.

Donald TrumpLook, of course Trump is a joke; even he must know this. Nothing he has uttered appears to derive from any particular basis in fact or comes within shouting distance of a point, aside from the shameless expanding of his notoriety. His substantial and very public business failures over the past three decades are a matter of sad public record, and his personal life is just short of an abject embarrassment. His appearance is comical and his speech patterns are that of a jabbering moron on the F train.

Donald Trump has evolved into something even he fails to comprehend, a queer link in the chain of weird American characters that make up the lineage of the fringe presidential candidate. Trump is this century’s marginal power vacuum figure, a strange amalgamation of past Great American Distractions. There is Leonard “Live Forever” Jones, who as a self-proclaimed “immortal” perpetually ran for president in the mid 19th century as the only member of the High Moral Party, but only after curiously declaring himself governor of Kentucky without receiving a single vote. Also, George Francis Train, whose late 19th century run for what he imagined would be the lofty post of Dictator of the Unites States garnered him the kind of press that inspired Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. Then in 1965, Homer Tomlinson, who in a fit of pneumatic fever had founded the patently insane but short-lived Theocratic Party, declared himself King of the World.

And as Trump’s forbearers would find, although populist chicanery may gain you much sought-after attention, no one remotely pertinent to the current political environment could seriously go on record to support this disjointed process. But yet, as was the case with former celebrities gone almost presidential like Charles Lindbergh or Douglas MacArthur, acceptance among peers may be a plus but is not paramount to relevance, as Trump holds a lead in most polls of potential or existing Republican candidates.

And aside from performing admirably on the one aspect being a contender demands, incessantly demeaning the incumbent with outlandish and malicious hyperbole, Trump is the one Republican who can say without debate he has never raised taxes.

Sure, it’s a weak early field, but Trump’s standing here is not insignificant. He has everything needed to run for the highest office; money, name recognition, the attention of the national press, and an alternative stance. It’s getting hard to argue against Trump having it over every Republican candidate on all counts.

Although his wealth is mostly wrapped up in questionable real estate concerns, of which he is only partial owner, Trump has shown a strong propensity to bamboozle banks to loan him millions on whimsy alone, something no career politician not named Barack Obama can approach. On name recognition, he has a television show on a major network, while Mike Huckabee hosts a late night thing on a basic cable news network in which Newt Gingrich is merely a “contributor”.

And aside from performing admirably on the one aspect being a contender demands, incessantly demeaning the incumbent with outlandish and malicious hyperbole, Trump is the one Republican who can say without debate he has never raised taxes.

Before leaving Minnesota in a $6.2 million deficit hole, its former governor, Tim Pawlenty raised property and cigarette taxes, while corporate taxes rose 50 percent on his watch. While serving as governor of Massachusetts where he signed into law a more all-encompassing health care government initiative than the current national model, Mitt Romney raised fees on gun permits and marriage licenses, as well as closing corporate tax loop holes. Indiana’s current governor, Mitch Daniels has already proposed raising taxes on individuals making a minimum of $100,000, while increasing the state sales tax.

Thus, Trump has gone from mildly amusing to dangerous loose cannon, precisely why rumors already abound. The first and most intriguing surrounds the idea that Trump is a Democratic invention, mucking up the new and improved “adult conversation” Republican model by acting like a Right Wing loon, not to mention ably filling the crazy/stupid vacuum left by waning Sarah Palin numbers. Another has the Republicans creating Trump as a placebo to the extremist or TEA Party hardliners, an old-fashioned decoy sideshow allowing the current Republican majority in the House to quietly vote to raise the debt ceiling and begin compromising on a reasoned 2011 budget with a Democratic-controlled Senate and White House. Trump also makes religious nuts like Huckabee and idiots like Michelle Bachmann appear as alternatively rational candidates.

Finally, there is the very real possibility the Republicans kick Trump off the bandwagon and he runs as an Independent. According to Public Policy Polling, as cited by conservative columnist Andrew Sullivan in the Daily Beast, Trump is likely to pull 31 percent of the Republican vote, which nationally should ring up anywhere from five to ten percent; less than what Ross Perot garnered to elect Bill Clinton twice or the minuscule but effective Ralph Nader chink in Al Gore’s armor in 2000, but significant enough in a polarized electoral map to easily re-elect Obama.

But fear not, this will be the last we’ll hear from Donald Trump, in this space, or anywhere in the realm of serious or con job politics. Soon, and much sooner than Trump would like, since most of his public life has been glossed over by a well-oiled publicity machine, the terrible truth about his disastrous business decisions, his mountain of defended lawsuits, the complete travesty he made of the once burgeoning United States Football League, which he single-handedly sank, and the entertaining details of two failed marriages will come to light.

Until then, Mr. Trump, I humbly surrender 1,088 words.


Make that 1,092.

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

Read More

“The King’s Speech” vs. “Social Network”

Aquarian Weekly 3/2/11 REALITY CHECK

ANGLO-AMERICA ON PARADE “The King’s Speech & “The Social Network” in Oscars Contrast

By the time this goes to press it is likely one of the two films we’ll discuss here will have won the Academy Award for Best Picture; “The King’s Speech” or “The Social Network”. Granted, many outside of Hollywood could not give a pack of flying farts, nor do we, particularly. Although the Oscars is the only award show worth watching, an annual fury of unchecked wagering (some larger than others) on the outcomes of Best Costume, Most Likely to Gaffer or some such. My wife is always surprised when I pick six or seven in a row, citing corporate politics and the inner machinations of the studio culture — who is owed what and why someone like say Martin Scorsese can be repeatedly ignored after directing an unmatched string of brilliant, culture-defining films and then win for a piece of shit like “The Departed”.

The King's SpeechIt is also an opportune time for me to ratchet up a healthy dose of rage for less dire activities, which has happened on several occasions, not the least of which surrounded the defeat of “E.T.” at the hands of “Gandhi” in 1982, when as an apoplectic college student drunk on a dozen Genesee Cream Ales I went off the rails and took on half a dorm room of activists.

However, we’re not here to merely discuss Oscar mistakes, but use the timing to discuss two extremely important, if not disparate films, as a consequence of their place of origin and the revealing aspects of their cultures.

Aside from three-word titles beginning with “The”, there is nothing about either “The King’s Speech” or “The Social Network” that could be compared. The contrasts however are stark and provide ample insight into the general milieu of which they depict. There is also the interesting inside game of how the awards culture may view the films around the events of its times.

For a good example, one could cite the 1976 Best Picture that the experts had all-but handed to “All The President’s Men” for its timely pertinence to the fall-out of Watergate, et al. Judging from the preponderance of left-leaning, Nixon-despising voters, it appeared to the odds makers as a no-brainer. However, it was the individualist, rags-to-riches feel-good “Rocky” that took the prize, celebrating the nation’s bicentennial in style; erasing our horrors by pasting over it with goose-bumped fantasy.

This, of course, was the polar opposite of the old-fashioned childhood fairy tale of “E.T.” being dumped in favor of the solemn epic of political strife in “Gandhi” two-years into the Reagan era. This made the 1998 Oscars a tough call as the brutal WWII odyssey magnificently told in “Saving Private Ryan” was beaten by the wryly poignant “Shakespeare in Love”. Go figure.

This year “The King’s Speech”, a superb tale of overcoming a stigma, both physical and metaphorical, set against the backdrop of a Europe at war, has rightfully been the talk of the odds circuit. As timing is everything in handicapping these things, “King’s” recent release last month helps the cause. The press has been kind and the performances, specifically Colin Firth as the self-flagellating, reluctant King of England, George VI, whose infamous stammer threatens to victimize an empire, are certainly worthy. “The Social Network”, released in early October of last year, initially fell into “perfect timing” in the “awards season” brief, but has lagged in the shadow of “King’s” since the new year. But just in the nick of time, the more recent uprisings in the Middle East, more to the point, Egypt has brought the subject of Facebook and social media in general to the fore. And while “King’s” deals with a time of enormous upheaval and greatness overcoming peril both on a personal and national level, the charming/alarming story of Harvard computer geeks on an inebriated vengeance kick exploding into a billion dollar culture shift now trumps it. However, here comes another royal wedding, so…

There is nothing subtle in the way these films showcase their cultures.

Ultimately, though, and what I actually set out to dissect this week, is the glaring introspection of stereotypes set in these films’ environments that make for an interesting stand-off at Oscar time; an echo of the British sense of deportment, image and overt social roles versus the infinite American scuffle for fame, riches and personal victory.

Let’s face it, without having to issue a spoiler alert “The King’s Speech” is eminently English in every way, and not just its setting, cast, and history. It reeks of a sense of duty to a greater cause, the respect (obsession) with both visible and hinted caste systems, the tethered subjugation of personal safety for an expected task, and the explicit role of gender in a habitually repressed society. The setting and its environs ignite the patrician tension and the subsequent English charm. Without the cultural boundaries and royal expectations, as well as the pressure set upon the mid-twentieth century man, or the male figure seen as an effective father figure, leader, or functioning testosterone machine, especially when confronted by an outside aggressor, we have the story of a whiny dink with a speech impediment.

Now line that up against the world of “The Social Network” and it’s as if we are watching a different species, much less a different culture; as the characters — youthful, defiant, slyly disingenuous and voraciously creative — work on a sub-level of society, actually going as far as to circumvent, manipulate, and eventually obliterate it. “Social” is uniquely an American film, or at the very least a heaping slice of Americana; with characters exhibiting a feral level of competition, utilizing ingenuity as an act of revenge, and once the cash comes in, unleashing a relentless back-stabbing free-for-all.

“The Social Network”, as “The King’s Speech” on the other end of the pond speaks of the image and scope of power, could only be about the power grab in the American experience; substitute Mark Zuckerberg, played with an understated kind of robotic myopia by the young, talented, Jesse Eisenberg, with say Thomas Edison and you’ve got the American Experience and everything that results from it; power, celebrity, riches. Oh, and also backlash, fall-out and comeuppance.

There is nothing subtle in the way these films showcase their cultures. For instance, the use of references and soundtracks; Shakespeare is routinely quoted and classical music beautifully layered in “King’s” and a bevy of fast-talked, tech-driven jargon and strategically placed hip hop/rock colors “Social”. At the end of each film, the melancholia of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony in “King’s” expertly balances the tortured protagonist’s final triumph and The Beatles “Baby You’re a Rich Man” underlines the main character’s ivory tower isolation at the epilogue of “Social”; both as equally gripping as they are forcefully incongruent.

Both stories are about men, one a middle-aged product of societal station, the other a boy, using wit, skill and aggressive battle tactics to overcome the very same prejudices that make the former character in “King’s”, well, a king. Even their women respond accordingly to their environments, “King’s” mothering queen engineering the action, ably played by the gorgeous Helena Bonham Carter, and the parade of young women, opportunistic, manipulative and sometimes outright mad, which come in and out of “Social”.

Finally, we have the supporting male characters, which act as confidants and spiritual guides in both films. The stalwart, Geoffrey Rush, who plays therapist, Sherpa, and buddy to the king in his time of crisis and the new comer, Justin Timberlake, whose slick-talking, coke-addled contrivances, pull the golden goose inside out. The Englishman, refined, if not middle class, a patriarchal substitute, and the American, a rebellious, capitalist rogue, a kindred spirit. It matters little the personalities or their methods, because both main characters do just fine in the end. Well…?

So who will win? Hey, by the time many read this, you’ll know. But, as in the tertiary awards; Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Roles, Director, etc, don’t look for the voters to provide a hint where they believe the audience or the artists are in terms of sentiment, acceptance or comfort. For certain, both films have done well and gotten the lion’s share of rave reviews; American and British.


Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More

“Wizard Of Oz” Remake?


Aquarian Weekly 11/24/10 REALITY CHECK


It is official. This is the worst period in the history of Hollywood.

There, I said it.

Wizard Of OzIf you’re familiar with even two sentences of this column over the past 13 years, you’ve come to expect our throwing ice water on most flaming hyperbole, like “Worst president ever!”, “Worst disaster ever!”, “Worst economic crisis ever!” or “Best (fill in the blank) ever!”. Then we crank out a thousand or so words explaining why everyone conveniently forgot what was likely a far worse or much better (fill in the blank). However, I vehemently stand by the above lead now that some coke-addled rapacious corporate geek has green-lit a remake of The Wizard of Oz.

In all of the American century, it is hard to find a more iconic piece of art, its characters or its music, its influence or the bedrock resonance in the psyche of generations than The Wizard of Oz. Okay, maybe you can argue one or two that come close or perhaps might be equivalent, but then I’d use up my allotted space to easily refute it, and where would that get us?

Let’s agree for the purposes of this week’s rant that we’re pretty much in the ballpark in saying that if there is a piece of suitably untouchable Americana, a seminal work of art and a signature expression of a particular time and place in its creation, it would be The Wizard of Oz, okay?

And if it’s merely twentieth century pop art, then so be it. I would not be so bold as to place it beside The Great Gatsby or The Sun Also Rises or Death of a Salesman or Birth of the Cool or the original recording of Kind Hearted Woman Blues. But how much of any of those ends up in the forefront of present-day culture, whether to be exploited, engender an emotion or act as homage? I would argue none.

But coming soon, celebrated director, Robert Zemeckis of Back to the Future and Forrest Gump fame is tabbed by Warner Bros. to take the original script of one of the most beloved films in all of the art form’s history and hatch a modern, digitally ravaged, CG-festooned version of it.

The first question has to center on the issue of bad taste (a Hollywood prerequisite that everything is for sale, like, well…hell, re-staging Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” for countless shitty Jesus films or whatever crap is attributed to Babe Ruth — It always astounded me they could not make a film of someone as famous, complex, and paradoxical as Babe Ruth, but keep coming up with these fairly moving horse movies like Seabiscuit or abysmal solipsistic schlock like Rudy — the thing practically writes itself!).

But who cares about taste? We’re firmly entrenched in the “nothing is sacred” camp around here. They can remake anything they want. It’s merely a vehicle, a piece of sellable content sitting around gathering dust to these cretins. No matter how abhorrently pathetic the previous “What the…?” re-makes have been, most notably Planet of the Apes and The Bad News Bears — I didn’t mind King Kong, but then they made forty King Kong movies, so it kind of came as less a shock anyway. Some lunatic thought it made sense to re-do Psycho (shot-for-shot) and half the planet had a fit when George Lucas had the gall to change a few scenes in Star Wars, and it’s his friggin’ movie! But, again, this is The Wizard of Oz we’re dealing with here.

The more pressing question then becomes “Why?”

Shit, then why not re-record The Beatles stuff with better equipment and more talented musicians, like they do with Beethoven. Let’s fight WWII over again now that we have more precise military devises and deadlier weaponry? Hey, why don’t we re-try O.J. with more competent lawyers?

Seriously, the only reasons to desecrate this masterpiece have to be money and technology. We can promote the shit out of this, build curiosity by making the trailer look super hip (for great examples of truly appalling films trumped by amazingly edited trailers, please see every Tim Burton movie since Edward Scissorhands) or we’ll simply take all our toys and make this thing look way cooler. Shit, then why not re-record The Beatles stuff with better equipment and more talented musicians, like they do with Beethoven. Let’s fight WWII over again now that we have more precise military devises and deadlier weaponry? Hey, why don’t we re-try O.J. with more competent lawyers?

Wait, I’m veering way off course here. I have an airtight argument, can’t muck it up with flippant asides that may have its place in appetizing irony but dilutes the point.

When this craze of incessant Hollywood remakes began to really hit its stride in the late nineties (mainly due to the independent film uprising, wherein the truly original artistic visions grew tired of being booted out of executive offices and told to go back to the college dorms to blow weed and put out their films anyway, eventually making money and winning awards and then wooing big stars to their productions, which scared the living daylights out of the big studios) I would always joke, “When they remake The Wizard of Oz, then you know it’s over.”


This makes our opening line a solid piece of warranted hyperbole. And so I will repeat it for effect: It is officially the worst time in the history of big-ticket American movie making.

The exploitation of races and gaudy musicals in the thirties, the bad monster and gangster films of the forties, the really horrific attempts to battle the advent of television in the fifties with drive-in fodder, 3-D (which predictably is back) and mindless rock and roll teenage falderal moving into the Beach Blanket Bingo or embarrassing attempts to make social statement sixties, where a wave of film makers had to begin the golden age of Hollywood’s artistic expressions, all have their place in “Worst”. But the last ten or so years, with its endless rehashing of computer animation and repackaged series whether warlock or vampire related, and even the lauded work of badly imitated subject matter from the original gritty independent versions, has solidified the flat-lining of Hollywood.

Now they go and put dirt on the entire thing by re-making The Wizard of Oz.

So I say good luck to the poor asshole that has to sit on that hay cart and belt out “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”.

Let the cringing begin…

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

Read More

Cablevision vs. News Corp. vs. Customers

Aquarian Weekly 11/3/10 REALITY CHECK

CONSUMER VS. CABLEVISION VS. NEWS CORP. One Man’s Journey Into the Conglomerate Abyss

For those not at the mercy of Cablevision’s stranglehold on cable television provisions up here in the northeast, it is important to begin this week with what corporate shenanigans have been transpiring over the past fourteen days.

News Corp, which owns the Fox Network, has pulled its product from Cablevision because it maintains that not only has the cable provider asked to pay a bundled discount for content without paying for the full package, but Cablevision has charged its customers, of which I am one, for said content without forwarding a substantial portion of these charges into the News Corp. bank account. News Corp. also argues that these alleged charges are not attached to rival ABC, NBC or CBS network programming.

Dolan vs. MurdochCablevision responds by claiming it pays a competitive rate to News Corp. for the right to include its stations on the basic cable package and in so doing has already forked over what was negotiated; despite News Corp. whining that it costs considerably more than other networks to produce its “high quality” content.

Cablevision, which has gorged consumers for decades with hidden rate hikes backed by ambiguously half-assed rhetoric, says it does not want to pay News Corp. a dime more than agreed so as to not have to raise the current rates, thus putting its customers, which again I am one, under siege by a salacious corporate monster, of which, let’s face it, Cablevision can consider itself counted.

And although it is propaganda worthy of P.T. Barnum, Cablevision has likely nailed it on the head. I am sure News Corp. is a salacious corporate monster. Problem here is I do not pay a monthly stipend to News Corp. I, as every last Cablevision customer, make out a check payable to Cablevision.

You see where we’re going here?

At around the seven-day mark of this stand-off, or about a day or so before we all realized around here the N.Y. Yankees wouldn’t be defending its title in this year’s World Series — broadcasted by Fox — I placed a call to Cablevision customer service. A lovely woman by the name of Roslyn answered.

“Roslyn,” I began pleasantly. “How is Cablevision providing a requisite discount for the reduced services this month?”

“Sorry, sir,” Roslyn innocently asked; “What services do you mean?”

“I am paying for all the broadcast stations,” I explained “And I see you’re two short this month, so I would just like to know how Cablevision plans to compensate its customers.”

Roslyn, bless her heart, then proceeded to read awkwardly from a prepared script about the ongoing negotiations, a nod to FCC regulations, and a bit on the ideas of “bargaining in good faith”. She continued politely, if not disingenuously, to offer a series of canned apologies, which concluded with a promise that when all this is sorted out customers will be duly apprised of the next step.

“Yes,” I calmly retorted, “But no matter the outcome, I have been paying full price for an inferior or lesser service for a week’s time, and so I expect, as any consumer of any sub-standard service or product would, to receive an equivalent reduction in billing.”

Once again, as if I had merely recited the alphabet or sung the final stanza of “Hey Jude” rather than offer a rational argument, Roslyn politely read from her script.

Before she could finish, I inquired as nicely as I could if she would be happy perhaps working an extra four hours a week for the same pay as she now receives, or more to the point, if she would have an issue with her hour lunch breaks being reduced to half an hour with no fair reparations.

“Well sir,” she sweetly answered. “That’s illegal.”

“Ahhhh,” I exhaled. “And so wouldn’t you agree as the representative of Cablevision currently on this phone line that what your company is doing to its customers is tantamount to the illegality offered in my pithy analogy?”

There was apparently no script for this part, for Roslyn responded with stone silence.

Fearing she had been bludgeoned into unconsciousness by reason, I posed to her one last binding query; “Roslyn, is it Cablevision’s official stance that it will charge the same price for less service?”

To her credit, Roslyn exited the logic train here and asked if I’d be more comfortable speaking with management. I agreed it would be best, but alas when she returned she instead gave me the press relations number in Long Island at Cablevision headquarters.

I called that number a day or so later, perhaps the Tuesday of this week, and received assurances from an amiable Lisa that a misters Charlie Shueler Executive VP of Communications and Jim Maiella Vice President of Media Relations Cable & Communications would be contacting me before my noon, Friday deadline.

Nothing by Thursday prompted me to call again. After further assurances from Lisa, the core of which had now begun to resemble the trade value of air, she provided me with the direct number for Mr. Maiella’s office. Since Lisa worked for Charles Shueler, you didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce this line of pass-the-buck.

Friday morning around nine, I phoned Maiella’s office and spoke to his secretary. I could tell by her disappointed tone, she knew right away my identity and purpose, and after putting me on hold, said Maiella was unavailable at the moment, but would call me at home before my deadline.

A half an hour later, I received an e-mail message from Maiella with a series of attached media to outline the company marching orders on the state of Fox, the World Series, general Cablevision propaganda, and probably a lollypop. It read: “James – anything specific I can help you with? Do you have our most recent information/announcements on the Fox matter? Please let me know how we can help.”

And so, we can conclude that it is Cablevision’s official policy at this time and place — not a magical future date and time — that it will continue to charge its customers the same rate for half a bagel.

Not to be too much of a pain, I wrote; “I only need an answer on two issues from a consumer stand point: As a Cablevision customer, as too are many of my readers, I was wondering what plan Cablevision has in place to compensate monetarily or otherwise for this downgrade in service, or to be less pejorative, a lesser service than the one offered prior to Fox pulling its station. Secondly, I would like to know if there is no resolution to this dispute, if there will be an adjustment in the rates. Since as a customer we do not pay News Corp., and care little how the bread is baked, only if it is tasty, then we need some qualification on what will transpire as a result of two weeks of reduced service. Simply, I ask, as my column proffers, ‘Is it Cablevision’s official stance that there will be no requisite adjustment to the current rates for reduced service?’

I then gave Mr. Maiella a chance to respond without speaking, and so he took it:

“Background information – please don’t quote directly, but you can attribute the information to the company – we are obviously public with the MLB.com reimbursement offer but we have not made any announcement related to broader rebates. I would be happy to make sure that you receive any information in that regard when it is available, does that sound fair?”

I did not think it fair, nor do I think you would. And so:

“I would like you to offer something on the record. I pretty much laid out my timeline on contacting Cablevision in the piece and it unfortunately or perhaps fortunately led to you. I think the fair thing for my readers is to have something on the record from someone at the company. If not you, is there anyone who would give me a direct quote, so I can conclude my story? I assure you this is not a hatchet job or an end-around. I simply would like a “Listen, we’re through the looking glass here” or “We haven’t dealt with” or something. Maybe it is a “stay tuned” situation, which I am sure you are accustomed to, but I need a quote of some kind.

I concluded by asking if he’d like to speak directly.

Nothing until nearly eleven, when I called and caught a none-too-pleased Mr. Maiella, who at first demonstratively asked if this was (using my terminology) a hatchet job — perfectly describing the timeline story, but couching it in demeaning terms. I had to agree that although it was a “timeline piece” replete with mockery, but it was in my own unique and lovable idiom and without template and hardly an agenda beyond wanting to receive a simple answer.

The length and breadth of our nearly twenty minute discussion had to be off the record –take that how you wish — in which Mr. Maiella, a pretty stand-up fellow in a pretty damnable situation, tried to make the case that programming costs drive up rates and that Cablevision’s phone and internet rates have not increased in seven years. He also basically agreed with some humor that my “baked bread analogy” was apt when considering that if I went to buy a bagel and the baker was selling me half a bagel at the original price to avoid having to charge me twice as much for a full one due to a flour price increase I might be incredulous.

“It doesn’t seem like you’re getting into the substance of what they want and what we’re trying to be more reasonable about,” Maiella asked.

“Nope,” I said. “Not at all.”

At the end of this back-and-forth Maiella agreed to try and get back with more than the basic company line by noon, but if it winds up in a direct quote, then: “We have not made any announcement on rebates, but we’ll be in touch with our customers in the future.”

I send this to press at 12:29 pm on Friday with no other statement.

Information I received some eight days and twelve or so phone calls ago From Roslyn.

And so, we can conclude that it is Cablevision’s official policy at this time and place — not a magical future date and time — that it will continue to charge its customers the same rate for half a bagel.


Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music


Read More
Page 5 of 14« First...«34567»10...Last »