Global Warming

Aquarian Weekly 2/7/07 REALITY CHECK


Polar IceGeorge W. Bush is an oilman. Make no mistake about that. To write or utter anything about an energy crisis and the President of the United States and avoid that slice of information is tantamount to discussing Martin Luther King’s contribution to the Civil Rights movement and fail to make the distinction about his race. – “Oil Men To The Rescue” Reality Check 5/30/01

Superstition does not hit the cut-off man. – Joshua Prager “The Echoing Green”

There is no rational adult alive who really thinks there hasn’t been some form of global warming. They know it, believe me. They just don’t want to admit it for various reasons – selfish political nonsense or pride or some other goofy notion. It’s like the whole Adam & Eve thing. No one really buys the traditional creationist theory as actual truth. They may want it to be true, they may even need it to be true, but they know, intellectually, quite obviously, that it isn’t. This self-con is also not unlike the Flat Earth Society. They know the earth is round, but they choose to believe otherwise. I choose to believe I play centerfield for the Yankees. The fact remains I do not. But we are not discussing illusionists or fanatics today, but those who absolutely must accept global warming as fiction: Oil Companies.

This is why during the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing this past week (revenge of the Democrats!) it has come to light that big oil lobbyists and henchmen of the Bush Administration – bankrolled by and jam-packed with Oil Men – suppressed scientific panic-speak on the accelerated global warming dangers. And they did so by completely rejecting, changing, or expunging scientific facts from the record, thereby keeping the results from mandating any shift in the torrent of cash flow pouring into their insatiable coffers.

Makes sense to me. Stringent regulations and panic will only decrease profits. This cannot stand. Decreasing profits to a business tycoon is tantamount to someone offering to remove your vital organs to help the neighbor’s lawn grow. There really isn’t any point in discussing it. Science? Fuck that. Money beats science every time. These guys would tell you the sky is chartreuse and Oswald acted alone if it could keep the federal government off their backs. And ecology? It’s voodoo, jack. Ecology is the study of available resources yet to exploit.

It is the same battle we’ve been waging for almost ten years in this space: The Beautiful Lie or the Ugly Truth?

The Oil Men stance: If we have to move heaven and earth to keep the spotted owl alive, then why can’t we do so for us?

Legislation imposing controls on industrial carbon-dioxide emissions is a death knell to these people. They would sooner sell their children into slavery than allow that to happen, something Lee Raymond, former chairman and CEO of Exxon/Mobile suggested to his attorneys in the autumn of 2002. The whole global warming thing may be a political football to conservative spokesmen or liberal protestors, and a fun debate at parties, but it is Armageddon to Oil Men.

For Scientists?

Oh, it’s big doings. Scientists live for this shit. They love bringing the doom. More times than not they’re off-the-wall, and this is what emboldens the delusional global warming opposition. Face it, scientists can get wacky with catastrophe and then nothing comes of it. Sometimes though, like quite apparently with global warming, they nail it.

Thus, here is the nagging problem for the Oil Men: Scientific theory is debatable, but scientific fact is not. Evidence also throws a big rusty wrench into the thing. Global warming used to be theory, now it is fact. Network news cameras capturing chunks of glaciers splashing into the Artic Ocean takes all the wind out of the Oil Men sails. So those who once vehemently denied the existence of global warming now spin the argument to its pertinence, shifting it from whether there is such a thing and whether it is happening or not to how bad it will be and how soon it will start to damage our way of life, and, most importantly for the Oil Men, how much the use of their product is contributing to it.

The federal government enters here.

Scientists employed by the government, and paid for by the rest of us who don’t happen to own oil concerns, claim that for the past five years some 435 times, not two dozen or occasionally, but 435 times there was some form of government interference or “pressure” to back off the presentation of findings regarding global warming. Of the 1,600 scientists having anything to do with government work, 308 responded to an independent survey on the subject of “government censoring of pertinent environmental information”.

Here’s the breakdown: Forty-three percent of respondents reported edits during review of their work that changed the meaning of their findings. Forty-six percent felt administrative requirements impaired climate-related work. Sixty-seven percent said the environment for federal government climate research is worse now than five years ago.

In other words: Scientists say, “Your house is on fire.” Government officials change it to “A slight incendiary incursion of timber particles.” Or “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”

There’s pretty much enough evidence here to safely conclude that the Oil Men of the private sector who put the Oil Men in charge of our government have been getting their money’s worth. Good for them, and for George W. Bush, but not so much for us.

Why is it good for Bush? Well, for starters our Boy President wouldn’t have been born on third base and thought he hit a triple if not for Daddy’s oil money. He doesn’t get a free ride into and through Yale and the National Guard or own a baseball team or run companies while snorting half his salary through his nasal passages without it. He damn sure would not have broken every standing record for campaign coffers without it. And there is no possible way he could be president without it either.

Look, I know how business works. I know how politics work. It’s human nature under a gargantuan microscope. And it is basic human nature to mask bad tidings with cuddly images and superstitious ranting. But the truth still exists. And sometimes the truth is a bummer. It’s a bummer for all of us who like our Hummers and the SUVs. It’s a bummer for those who gain the windfall for the sales and operation of said items. But it doesn’t change the facts and the evidence. Evidence, whether suppressed or bellowed from the rooftops or slapped together in an Al Gore documentary, speaks volumes for rising climate changes, damaged ecosystems, fluctuating ocean current patterns, and a real threat of flooding.

I’m not sure what we’re going to do about it. But that discussion only begins when we rid ourselves of the fantasy.

It is the same battle we’ve been waging for almost ten years in this space: The Beautiful Lie or the Ugly Truth?

Apply it here.

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Wishes For 2007

Aquarian Weekly 1/3/07 REALITY CHECK


Dumb AssInstead of the usual boring list of self-improvements people begin whipping together at the start of every new year, I thought I’d change it up a bit and search outside. Okay, sure, I could stand for a little self-improvement. Who couldn’t?

For starters I might reconsider eating less crap, cutting down on the absinthe, and curtailing my abuse of the cats for sport. I probably should also quit shooting my pellet gun at speeding motorists on the street in front of my house, or serving “the special Kool-Aid” to the neighbor’s kids, or this childish obsession with sabotaging the Boy Scouts of America. I promised my wife I would no longer co-opt her wild shenanigans for column material like the time last week when she rammed her Jeep into a brand-new Mercedes driven by a middle-aged lawyer while juggling a map, two-lattes, spinning the radio knob, and shifting gears with her knee. When the stunned guy got out, she politely asked, “You got a speed pedal on that shit-box fuck face?” (Hey, it’s still 2006 when I’m writing this – one last one couldn’t hurt).

And I guess it’s time I put silly pranks aside like sending singing telegrams to J.D. Salinger or betting so-called “terrorist organizations” over the Internet they couldn’t obtain uranium by the weekend. Okay, and no more midget porn. Oh, and I should start calling midgets Little People. And positively no more road rage, or at least this terrible habit I have of winging the really big Arizona Tea bottles at motorists trying to pass me on the right when I have my signal going and am clearly attempting to enter a jug-handle. Most people hate that; except my wife, who likens the experience to “an evening with Ben-Hur”.

I will also stop telling everyone I meet that Britney Murphy is the quintessential thespian, when I know she is not. I must cease paying homeless people to moon the Fox & Friends show through the 6th Avenue window behind the hosts. And I will absolutely stop telling anyone who asks if I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior that I am Jesus Christ and I’ll get rid of that phony ID I had made up at the State Fair that proves I’m Jesus Christ.

Hey, but I’ve grown a great deal in the past few years. My public urination and cursing at nuns has gone down considerably.

But enough about me, let’s get rid of annoying societal issues.

No more apologizing for offending people. I am tired of celebrities, political figures, sports goons or whoever speaks their minds rescinding their comments once they realize they’ve offended someone.

1. No more apologizing for offending people. I am tired of celebrities, political figures, sports goons or whoever speaks their minds rescinding their comments once they realize they’ve offended someone. No more reorganizing the pure thought and succumbing to sensitivity. Say your piece and stick by it. Everything offends someone. Everything you hold dear offends me. Do I ask you to apologize? No. 2007 must be conciliatory-free or it will not stand.

2. In the spirit of number 1., let’s not pay attention to Rosie O’Donnell anymore. She is a stupid ass. Seriously. You know the guy on the subway platform screaming about aliens stealing diamonds out of his rectum? Let’s listen to him instead. And while we’re at it, don’t pay attention to any more celebrities. This includes talk-show hosts. People with a camera in front of them will do or say any pathetically futile thing to get you to listen. Don’t do it. Ignore the famous. It’s good for the soul.

3. Oh, and one more thing about the whole talking and listening thing: No more athletes, professional, amateur, or weekend are allowed to say anything anymore. They are not smart people, and they don’t have a scintilla of interesting points to their conversation. Truth is most of them are goofy shitheads. All of them, actually, accept the ones I like, and they’re the ones that don’t do all the talking. Muhammad Ali was cool and funny and revolutionary. These guys are not. They either shut up or we don’t listen. Quiet 2007 in sports.

4. Speaking of sport, and really most of our society, let’s stop saying the latest thing is the Best or the Worst. It’s probably not the Best or Worst. Just because we endured it or saw it or are fascinated by it as an infant by shiny things does not make it the ultimate anything. And while we’re at it, no more Top Lists. Why does every innocuous subject spawn a Top Ten or Top One Hundred List? Who makes these lists? More dumb asses and shitheads, probably. Let’s cut those out this year.

Shit, sorry – back to me for a second. I would like to take a moment to publicly apologize to the Better Business Bureau and the NY Attorney General’s Office, and, I guess, to Maxim Magazine for making several claims that its editorial staff is a secret Nazi Kabal run by the biological offspring of Heinrich and Margarete Himmler. It was wrong. I can’t believe anyone would have believed that. And don’t worry; I’m not really “sorry” they’re offended. It’s just not true. Although, you have to admit – well, you would if you were a freelancer – that it only “appears” that way.

5. Let’s not mention global warming anymore. Let it go. It’s fine. I’m digging this crazy unusual warmth up here in the mountains. No snow, no ice. Sure other people might bake and terrible ecological disaster may befall future generations, but anyone reading this will be long dead or closer to it by then and we have to enjoy every day as it comes. Live in the now. It’s very Zen and quite self-empowering. Plus, I like it. And another thing, Al Gore is Satan and I’m not sure how much we’re supposed to support the Dark Lord’s causes. Go ask David Duke. I’ll wait.

6. I was just tossing this around, but hear me out. Let’s all accept Islam as our religion. Just to fuck with things. You don’t have to actually do it, just let’s pretend to become a Muslim nation and rail against capitalistic demons and infidels. Try really, really hard. A mass ruse. Think about it. All we have to do is say we’re all Muslim. Muhammad is all right with us. We dig burkas and all that other crap. It’s just as silly as anything else we believe or stand for and it’s much safer. Then we get to pull out of Iraq and disband the Homeland Security tax sinkhole and get rid of all the unconstitutional stuff the federal government laid on us and get back to the way things were. Okay, so, let’s get that going for ’07. We can have a slogan – “Islam Yeah!”

Oh, one last thing. This is important to me – I will no longer tell strangers I was raised by freaks in a circus. It was a carnival. Sorry, mom and dad.

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“Buy The Ticket Take The Ride” Review

Aquarian Weekly 12/6/06 REALITY CHECK

“BUY THE TICKET, TAKE THE RIDE” In Praise Of A New Hunter S. Thompson Documentary

In the labyrinth that became American culture in the sixties and seventies, Hunter S. Thompson just might have been at the center, and in a way, that center still holds. – Opening narrative from “Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride”

Buy The Ticket, Take The RideFourteen months ago, roughly four months after his subject’s suicide, filmmaker Tom Thurman set out to gather together an eclectic group of artists, writers, actors, and historians, and threw them together with colleagues, friends and family of fellow Kentuckian, Hunter S. Thompson to compile their memories, anecdotes, and critiques on film. The result is the poignant, passionate, often compelling, and thoroughly entertaining “Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride”, premiering on the STARZ movie channel December 12.

Doctor Thompson, as discussed more than a little in this space over the years, is one of the celebrated godfathers of our aim and purpose here at the Reality Check News & Information Desk, and as such any new material on the late master is wired in. So a few months back I was sent a pre-screened version of the film and upon review was sincerely blown away. For my money, having spoken with Thompson on several occasions and having been a fan for decades, Thurman captured the true essence of the man, the soul of his persona and his work, which more times than not crashed into each other in creative and destructive ways.

Fact is “Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride” is the first significant film biography of one of the 20th century’s finest satirists since his death. Aside from three uneven print biographies, and our pal Wayne Ewing’s cinéma vérité masterpiece, “Breakfast With Hunter”, it is the only complete overview of Thompson’s life and legacy to date. In addition, using the STARZ “movie channel” theme, the dcoumentary also doubles as a study in Thompson’s impact on Hollywood and popular culture through a study of the two film adaptations of his work, “Where The Buffalo Roam” and “Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas”.

“As sad as it might be, there are a lot of people who have come to Hunter S. Thompson through the film adaptations, and they know more about Bill Murray and Johnny Depp than know about his writing,” Thurman told me in our recent conversation about the film’s premier. “So the real aim was to be able to discuss these issues and these themes and ultimately try and send many of these viewers back to what’s most important, his writings.”

Here’s where Thurman does his best tightrope act; mixing Thompson’s art with the art created from and about him.

Distinct film clips work as exclamations and parenthetical asides to the wealth of background offered by illuminating interviews, file footage, and rare photographs. The aforementioned Murray and Depp, who both portrayed some form of the author on film, make intriguing observations about their channeling of the Thompson idiosyncrasies and mannerisms to best exorcize the personality from the icon and the words from the craftsman. Their subsequent performances, while both unique, furiously exhibit the fruits of their labor, as does the clips Thurman uses to illustrate it.

Fact is “Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride” is the first significant film biography of one of the 20th century’s finest satirists since his death.

“We wanted to create a sophisticated, evocative interplay between the film clips and the interview participants,” the director points out. “To have one feed into the other for there to be an energy between the people on camera and the film clips that I can use to illustrate people’s attempts to bring Hunter’s work to film, to carefully study the films themselves, so then I can maybe educate people and hopefully entertain them and let them have a little fun at the same time.”

The “little fun” starts with unscripted lunacy from eccentric actor Gary Busey, who opens the film trying to direct Thurman and his crew in a self-styled “scenario” which tumbles uncontrollably from pathetically silly to downright goofy. Then there is the whiskey-gnarled narration ably delivered by actor Nick Nolte, who is joined by an oddly harmonious stew of celebrity voices including Sean Penn, Tom Wolfe, George McGovern, Ralph Steadman, Douglas Brinkley, the late Ed Bradley, and even William F. Buckley Jr., among others.

There is a real sense throughout the film that the fusion of divergent personalities and their swirling examinations is the key to understanding Thompson’s enigmatic ride. But as diverse as the principles are, there is a central premise that runs throughout: Thompson confuses, attracts, reviles, and intrigues, but he is never without title.

Thurman sees Thompson as a kind of sun around which other planets revolve. “People felt the heat from Hunter,” he told me. “They knew there was something unique going on there, and they wanted to get a piece of it, to be influenced by it.”

In many cases, as Thurman points out, some of these planets collided in a very salient way.

“I wanted use a passage about Muhammad Ali as an example of Hunter’s long-standing attraction to an interest in sports, and Ali, like Thompson, was born and raised in Louisville, and came to prominence almost at the same exact time. I also wanted to use it because it seemed to me that Hunter was talking about himself when talking about Ali. So we’ve got Thompson, the original creator of the passage, who’s from Louisville, writing about Muhammad Ali, who was also from Louisville, and was such a key cultural figure at the time, being read by Johnny Depp, who is also from Kentucky, and is one of the leading entertainment-industry figures in the entire world. So there seemed to be an interesting confluence of Kentucky connections right there.”

“Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride” covers all the key characters in the Hunter Thompson saga, including childhood friends and his widow, Anita, and all of the author’s major achievements are also discussed. Thurman has done his research, and like every worthy documentarian, he knows where to sniff out the grit. The irony of many of his film’s bad-boy Hollywood line-up is not lost on Thurman either. “Many of the people I selected to participate in this, very few of them are poster children for the wellness center,” he jibes.

Thurman, a veteran of 10 original independent documentaries, among them films on Western icons Ben Johnson and Warren Oates, and rough-and-tumble directors Sam Peckinpah and John Ford, understands well the burden of living up to the tall-tale American icon, and how it can shadow and hound its creator. The inventor, purveyor, and keeper of the Gonzo flame was the latest, Doctor Hunter S. Thompson, a Baby Boomer hobgoblin outlaw, two-fisted drinking, drug-addled, gun-toting mad poet walking the dangerous line between the ghost of Hemingway and the shoulders of Paul Bunyan.

“Buy The Ticket, Take The Ride” is a brilliant film about a brilliant writer and an excellent primer into the life and times and art of Hunter S. Thompson. It is required viewing, but I think Mr. Thurman would like to join me in imploring the faithful to read the damn books.

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O.J.Simpson & The Media

Aquarian Weekly 11/29/06 REALITY CHECK


Bill O'ReillySanctimonious, hypocritical, disingenuous media harping.

Only this juicy nugget could make me bag a perfectly serviceable plan to send the demented correspondence I get from you lunatics to press before whisking off into a long Thanksgiving weekend booze haze in Key West. Instead, I send my own departing love note to my pedantic brethren in the fourth estate. Then we get down to shredding whatever passes for common decency on the Gulf of Mexico these days.

Seriously people, calm down.

So Harper Collins and Fox Television attempted to make a buck on O.J. Simpson’s desperate notoriety grab. It’s not like the man was skipping a double-murder charge. This already happened. Outrage then was justified. Now it just seems like collective sore loser whining.

For those comfortable in their bubble existence, and I, for one, do not blame you, O.J. Simpson has scribbled some kind of pamphlet camouflaged as a book called “If I Did It”, which postulates his having committed a crime he actually committed – the murder of his ex-wife and a very unlucky waiter.

No matter how you view this confusing scenario: strange Lewis Carroll jabberwocky or a nifty Abbott & Costello routine, it is fascinating stuff and a guaranteed ratings bonanza for FOX Entertainment, which happens to own the book’s publishing concern, Harper Collins. This is not unlike those interminable Simon and Schuster book plugs masquerading as news on 60 Minutes, a product of CBS News, owned by CBS Enterprises, which owns, you guessed it, Simon and Schuster.

Exactly when did book publishing and TV nonsense need a code of ethics?

But incestuous corporate shenanigans aside, making scratch off of salacious, gruesome, sensationalistic tripe and the tasteless picking of bones is the very aim and purpose of having publishing houses and television production companies in the first place – not to mention the only reasons to endure a mainstream media. The real outrage is that any of you “watchdogs for decency” believe otherwise.

Grow up. What is this Journalism 101 with Professor Tweed Jacket & Elbow Patches waxing poetic about the code of reporter ethics, serving the common good, and ridding the planet of evil? Join us in the new century. It’s the same as the old century, and all the centuries’ prior. Freak shows sell. Reality entertainment is a cheap bilk and has excellent resale value. This stuff is business, not art. It sure as hell isn’t anything that needs a hearty debate on principles.

Exactly when did book publishing and TV nonsense need a code of ethics? And what exactly is a code of ethics? Our ethics? Please. I’ve worked for all levels of the Big Three, jack; television, newspapers, and radio, and not one minute of it did I get the idea anyone was in it for the exaltation of humankind.

All these soapbox soldiers railing against exploitation while working for major newspapers and television concerns is the very definition of irony. This lame pilfering of Rupert Murdock, CEO of Fox Entertainment, and Judith Regan of Harper Collins is as stupid as getting all worked up over another outrageous Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh statement. Murdock and Regan are business buddies who’ve made millions on “shocking” celebrity refuse. Hey, come to think of it, Regan published both Stern’s and Limbaughs’s books, among other cash-grab gems.

Still, the usual low-rent pundits have been checking in all over the joint. I was going to print some of the outrage, but I didn’t want to waste any bitching space.

Suffice to say, you’ve likely read it or heard most of it. And the worst has been coming from sports columnists, who rarely get to play outside the toy department – getting all self-righteous and preachy again, like during the Senate hearings on steroids. It would have been nice of them to get self-righteous and preachy in the late-nineties when all these jock-sniffing assholes were getting rich off of human chemical spills.

But I cease and desist from excoriated sportswriters for anything. It’s like blaming your dog for property taxes. The real silliness began at FOXEWS, where Bill O’Reilly, whom I assume cashes Rubert Murdock’s checks, went ballistic over this thing, threatening to boycott sponsors of the scheduled O.J./FOX broadcast. If O’Reilly really wanted to impress anyone he’d quit FOX altogether. But he didn’t. You know why? Who would hire this performing seal other than FOX? It’s the perfect home for his goofy antics. Unfortunately for O’Reilly, it was also the perfect home for O.J. Simpson’s antics. This makes pious phonies angry. They want the whole pie. Sharing is anathema to media whores.

And this brings us to O.J. Simpson.

Until the events of 9/11, the O.J. Simpson trial was the defining moment of a generation. It had all the elements of true cultural drama and paraded the most important issues of our times in front of the nation: lawspeak, race, and the abuse of 24-hour media coverage. Thus, I believe anything to do with O.J. is news, even this farce. It’s either that or more mindless shit about Tom Cruise or the Royal Family or some dumb-ass football creep like Terrell Owens.

C’mon, O.J. is our gremlin. He’s the ghost in our machine, like these trolls we have in the White House or Michael Jackson. Personally, I have a need to see the fallout. More importantly, I have the right to see it.

But, alas, as I write this it looks like FOX is caving into sponsor pressure or bailout, which are how these things usually get settled. Who is willing to pay for them? My guess is someone somewhere will be willing to pay for this dung eventually. I might. Maybe I can broker an Internet deal. Anything goes on the Internet. Call YOUTUBE!

I’ll listen to offers now. Can’t be worse than taking money to pen this mess.

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Aquarian Weekly 11/1/06 REALITY CHECK


Down in Vineland there’s a clubhouse, Girl in white dress, boy shoot white stuff Oh, don’t you know that anyone can join And they come and they call and they fall on the floor – Patti Smith

Ramones at CBGBContrary to popular wisdom, the Punk Rock revolution did not originate in London – East or West End. The Sex Pistols, widely recognized in the pantheon of pop culture as the purveyors of the genre, with their exploitation of multi-colored coifs, safety pin self-mutilation, ragged anti-establishment attire, offensive blurts, and the gurgling dupe that was Sid Vicious, were merely the fumes of the original New York City movement. It was there, on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan, where the famous Bleecker Street careens into the Bowery, in a little dive called CBGB & OMFUG, that Punk Music, Punk Culture, and the next-to-last legitimate street music revolution began.

On October 31, All Hallows Eve, 2006 CBGB officially closed shop. In a city where nostalgia and landmarks always takes a back seat to profit and progress, an American institution bows.

Ironically, if you think about it, disregarding what was once considered sacred for a slice of the sweet unknown is everything Punk and CBGB once stood for.

However, there is something inherently bittersweet about this passing. Now that NYC has been reborn in conglomerate dreams and media clamor, Times Square mutating from the cesspool of seedy sex dens and rampant drug trade into a Tokyo façade hijacked by Disney and TV Network grabs fused on high-grade speed fashion. Greenwich Village overrun by Starbucks and Barnes & Noble and gutted by gentrified real estate moguls clutching at the bottom-line high.

CBGB has no place there anymore, much like Punk, or whatever is left of Hip-Hop, beyond the plastic macho horde of exploitation. CBGB represents a time of dire calls for eccentricity and upheaval, its voice, the voice of the underbelly of a fume-generation that began to fight back, but fight for what? This was never really crystallized. Revolution rarely is…neatly, anyway. Yet, in most cases, we’re all better for it. And at its best NYC can give you true ground-swelling revolution once and a great while, and most times it comes from the most unlikely sources.

Owned and operated by a West Village saloon proprietor by the name of Hilly Kristal, CBGB opened under the guise of its true definition – Country Blues & Bluegrass – with the subheading OMFUG, meaning “Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers”, but quickly fell on hard times. That is until Kristal reluctantly agreed to allow an unknown distorted noise-machine to play the club’s dead Sunday night slot. The band’s name was Television, and on March 31, 1974 they took the tiny corner stage and virtually created a three-chord manifesto later dubbed Punk Rock, a term first used by the prescient music critic Dave Marsh in the May 1971 issue of Creem Magazine.

If the Mersey Beat was created inside the sweaty walls of the Cavern in Liverpool, England, then its bastard baby brother called Punk was born here in the badass Bowery.

Kristal, partial to the country-western sound, despised Television, but his new Lower Eastside customers disagreed, not the least of whom was punk icon, Patty Smith, a New Jersey college dropout factory worker cum beat poet. To Smith, soon to join the Punk roll call, and the growing CBGB audience, Television seemed to encapsulate the hangover of the hippy sixties and define the true grit of the nasty, balls-out and broke New York experience to perfection.

The club, and Punk, a true grass-roots urban street movement preceding the borough-bred Rap origins by nearly a decade, were off and running.

But if Kristal despised Television, he was simply appalled when a rag-tag foursome of leather-clad, ripped-jean longhairs first strode through his doors, each one thick with Forrest Hills, Queens mumbles and answering to the same last name, Ramone. His mood did not improve when they took the stage to pummel the gleeful CBGB crowd with a wall of din rarely heard in the annals of music or LaGuardia air traffic for that matter.

In the following months of the soon to become disco-drenched seventies, The Ramones exploded onto the NYC scene and beyond, taking their act to England, where young and impressionable future members of The Clash and a snot-nosed lower-class petty thief, John Lydon lay in wait. Soon after being “transformed” by the Gotham racket, Lydon created his angst-addled alter ego, Johnny Rotten, and the rest, as they say, is history.

There is simply no Punk Rock without The Ramones and their festering incubator, CBGB.

Here is where CBGB rises from a mere cultural launching pad to a place held holy in the hearts and minds of the rock and roll era, or beyond that, the post-war free expression highway, where the sacrosanct gets the shaft, and the ugly gumboots rear their putrid anthems. CBGB then becomes something of a slash-and-burn Jerusalem, a Mecca for the disenfranchised and isolated who flocked to its dungeon as lemmings to the sea. If the Mersey Beat was created inside the sweaty walls of the Cavern in Liverpool, England, then its bastard baby brother called Punk was born here in the badass Bowery.

As the seventies rolled on, and the midtown glitz of a drug-hazed Studio 54 welcomed flash gawkers and the celebrity flock to dance away the malaise of Baby Boomer fallout to another NYC invention, Disco, CBGB reeked of revolution, revulsion, and bare-bones art downtown. The very split in cultures, sprinting for escape from economic strife, violent Cold War lies, and middle-class drudgery, rode the polarized crest.

The litany of performers that tread its stage, reads like a who’s who of the era and beyond: Blondie, Talking Heads, The Police, The Fleshtones, and on and on. Soon, CBGB became something more than an underground rock club, with its placard-festooned walls, dank, dangerous atmosphere, and pungent fog of urine. It was the symbol of motherland primal screams and a fist in the face of Apple Pie.

I was lucky enough to tread its stage once, back in the winter of 1985, as a grimaced-faced shit heel, me and my band, kicking out the jams and gormandizing the history. I remember it being cold, smelly, and an acoustic nightmare. And I remember loving every second of it.

CBGB is gone now, but it did its job for those of us left in the Baby Boomer shadows. The place provided an outlet for something gritty and real, unkempt and unbowed, offering no apologies and getting no sleep. It can now Rest In Peace.

We sure won’t.

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Warren Buffet For Sainthood

Aquarian Weekly 7/5/06 REALITY CHECK


Saint WarrenWhile on the book tour for “Trailing Jesus” three years ago, I was asked time and again how the heck did we get from a murdered Jewish mystic to the massive scope of Christianity, Jerry Falwell, George W. Bush, etc. It was a fair question, one that unfortunately my book does not cover. But I was able to answer a small part of the query by confidently stating that if there is one aspect of the first century Jesus Movement which could be translated to any time and any place it would be charity, sharing, and a complete disregard for personal possessions for the good of the whole community. Many people took that as some kind of political testimonial, like Jesus was some kind of socialist. But that was never it for Jesus, and anyone who claims to act or speak or cull his name in deed and promise need to know one thing: You cannot ignore the idea of chucking riches for the good of your fellow human.

The rest of it is really just a song and a dance or a wafer and a pulpit – uniforms and glad-handing myopia, and nothing really to do with what a preponderance of Christian mouthpieces like to call The Word.

Sorry folks. It is well documented. Far more documented than this pogrom against homosexuality or defining marriage or saving the world with war or damning the sinners or holding up holy relics like Mohammad’s visage or the celebration of Christmas as life preservers of society. Camel through the needle’s eye. It’s all there in black & white. Good to go. Easy to follow.

No one does, of course – least of all me, who charges a healthy 18 bucks for my little tome. But you don’t see me wagging an accusatory finger at the moral fabric either. I know I’m a self-centered ass just like everyone else.

Look, nobody with half a brain is going to give away all of their stuff to homeless, sick, indigents on a lark. It’s insane, which is why, among other prominent reasons, they strung Jesus up in the first place. And, of course, if you’ve read a word of this space for the past nine years, you know that you have a cynic on your hands here. I think the best way to go through life is let the other guy worry about it. Chances are “the other guy” is trying to screw you anyway.

In the world we live in right now, and considering the art form of the stock prognosticator and what money, big money, means to people like Warren Buffet, this is Mother Teresa meets Gandhi meets the Loaves and the Fishes.

But then there is the whole “Love your neighbor as yourself” and/or “Love your enemy” stuff that gets in the way of all this Christianity. Dig?

So when I first heard of billionaire stock guru, Warren Buffett handing over the miraculous sum of $37 billion to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, doubling their pot, I was reminded of the two-thousand year old Galilean loon and his small attempt to move the notion of humanity.

And I do not use the word miraculous flippantly. On the contrary, this is a friggin’ miracle. No matter how you slice it. Especially since it is all the rage among philanthropists to mumble under their collective breath about the evil white corporate stock market greed-heads, who carve up the world in a salacious gentlemen’s criminal syndicate. And let’s be clear here, we’re not just talking about nations throwing money at disasters and human rights atrocities or We Are The World publicity parades. This is the greatest show of charity in the history of this country, or any country for that matter.

In the world we live in right now, and considering the art form of the stock prognosticator and what money, big money, means to people like Warren Buffet, this is Mother Teresa meets Gandhi meets the Loaves and the Fishes.

Last week, Buffet made good on a promise to hand over the bulk of his fortune to charity upon his death, only he did it on the heels of his beloved wife’s death. Of his $44 billion, he let go of $37 billion.

And not even my bitching heart can mock someone this generous by saying, “Hey, he has seven billion left.” Sure, but again I tell you: You do not accrue $44 billion dollars by letting even a lousy two bucks get away. It’s the financial equivalent of you chopping off a finger. This man just lopped off every limb, and then some. And never mind the money, if you can ignore this gluttonous figure, because it may just be the act that makes all the difference. For, as stated time and again in this space, and a subject that is often mistaken for doomsayer satirical trickery, I state that although religious theocracy, political philosophy, or other tired forms of human meandering, is all well and good, the only way to shake the foundation of the human collective, the heart of our species, is through personal sacrifice and selfless citizenship. No organized faith or government’s military action, no president, or celebrity, or even grass roots movement is going to make a dent in society like a person making good.

Attach that bit of twisted wisdom with the fact that this column is normally a running commentary on what motivates the great horde of bipedaldom: Cash. Moolah. Greenbacks. Deneri. Sweet, sweet coin, and you got yourself one impressed son of a bitch here.

Hey, this is the landscape we roam. We like to think it is a world run by God, compassion, empathy, and a yearn to be free. We like to think we fight for these concepts and the other guy fights for some bizarre notion of Allah, but we all know it’s about Mighty Mammon. We know what makes this spinning rock go ’round: Money, Money Money.

So now the second richest guy in the world gives nearly all of his money to the richest guy in the world’s own charitable institution: Bill Gates, who recently retired to spend the rest of his days running the organization and making sure the money doesn’t end up in the coffers of some sham artists or a black hole of red tape, but in the hospitals, villages, and bank accounts of needy organizations and persons with so much less.

It’s good stuff. Great stuff. And, as we know, this is a rarity around here or anywhere.

So here’s a note to all those who claim to know “What would Jesus do?”

Check with Warren Buffet, and not some Bible waving idiot for the lowdown.

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Iraq Newspaper Propaganda

Aquarian Weekly 3/8/06 REALITY CHECK


Hot Off The PressesGood news! It turns out the U.S. government is going to continue to pay Arab newspapers to run pro-American propaganda after all. Despite weepy protests from jealous hometown reporters not on the pay roll, more erroneous stories out of the human lying-machine known as Scott McClellan, and the latest pile of steaming feces emanating from Donald Rumsfeld’s craw, things will continue as before. Huzzah for capitalism and free press! It’s time for this space to cash in.

I don’t know whose been previously penning these fancy fairy tales, but they lack a certain grit and verve only a seasoned veteran of journalism can provide. And not any journalist, but one with no discernable recognition of concepts like dignity or integrity, one that has little to no regard for facts, research, or general reporting skills, and one whose mere existence is up for sale to the highest bidder, regardless of crimes against humanity at large. Most importantly, one whose moral faculties are so severely damaged they can only be properly observed by the purest intent for mayhem.


And so, the following is an audition to take over as the home office for world-class pro-war propaganda (cue the dramatic music). I have sent it to the U.S. Department of State/American Foreign Service Association (AFSA).

To whomever it may concern,

I am a big fan of your war. It is a fine war, possessing all the qualities of such: plenty of death and destruction without all the sappy tunes from that Second World War. I was never a big fan of “Over There”. But I digress already; for I am officially submitting my participation in this “yellow journalism” scam you got going over in Iraq. Not only that, I wish to run the entire thing, pick the editors and copy boys, set type, write the headlines, and buy drinks for all the secretaries. I am on board. Completely. And as a proponent of all things bullshit with no conscience to speak of, at least not one usually found in Homo sapiens, I believe I am the perfect fit for this gig.

Mad skills. Gutless pot shots. Questionable grammar. If I don’t get this job I’m off to the NY Post.

Now we all know, if you do your homework, you’ll see my byline over a great deal of, okay – reams of negative commentary on the mishandling of this war, a bunch of crazy stuff about the president being a stammering dunce and other immature anti-military ranting. But I beseech you, in the interest of our future endeavors, to ignore it all. I am a changed man, strike that, not entirely changed, for I still base my opining on who manages to benefit me the most, and if you pay me, that would be you guys. Trust me when I tell you that I am all for whatever dumb shit you’re trying this week. And I will gladly accept the job of making it seem feasible, even heroic in the face of the most pathetic failures.

Thus, to illustrate how I can passionately defend both sides of an argument, expertly ignoring any and all negative aspects of the opposing argument (I was a champion debater in both high school and college – taking the finals with the bold assertion that Abe Lincoln was a Portuguese lesbian – I still have my notes) I have included two potential leads, pro/con, for the U.S. Ports/United Arab Emirates issue.

AMERICA SAFER THAN EVER How The Almighty Dollar Saves Us All

The overtly bigoted attacks on an Arab nation and an Arab security concern cannot mask the importance of honoring free market exchange, regardless of who owns the companies. You’ve been hearing a great deal of sensible talk about how freedom is all well and good, but without our safety, it is non-existent. Trading in a few civil liberties for the right to enjoy freedom is the least we can sacrifice in these difficult times. But freedom and safety must take a back seat to money. Without money, what do you have? No money. And how would that sit with all our debtors and the billions we spend on bribing nations with weapons and handouts. Who the hell do you think pays for all this shit? Free enterprise, that’s what. And if the United Arab Emirates has earned its place in protecting our ports in a free enterprise system, then we must show the rest of the world how to make an honest buck. So now we should all shut up and go back to paying attention to the money pit that is Iraq.

Pretty nifty, huh? I especially like the way I wrapped it up by distracting everyone with a bigger problem. That’s what’s called a “tie-in” in the business, just one of the many buzzwords and axioms you get from a seasoned pro. But let’s say you’re not a fan of our ports being run by terrorist sympathizers. Check this out.


AMERICAN PORTS A SIEVE Another Sad Example OF How The Federal Government Blows

You want to know what should frighten us to the very core of our beings? The president is vehemently defending a deal he didn’t even know about until the Washington Post told him. Hey everybody, the Washington Post is running Foreign Relations! Cool. Now if we can just get the NY Times to balance the budget. I have a better idea, let’s get the Chinese to run the Central Intelligence Agency. Maybe those nuts who won the Palestinian election can take over the Secret Service. Perhaps then one of the highest members of our executive branch could make it through a weekend without shooting anymore of the elderly. And let’s try and remember this was the party that won a national election to protect us. It certainly wasn’t general competence, leadership, or economic wizardry. I guess its time we all move to states no one gives a shit about like Idaho or Montana and leave the port cities to the capitalist martyrs.

So there you have it. Mad skills. Gutless pot shots. Questionable grammar. If I don’t get this job I’m off to the NY Post. But before I conclude, I would like to thank you for your time and consideration. I think you guys are doing a bang-up job. Literally. So as a bonus, I leave you with additional pro-American headlines for no charge: SOCIAL SECURITY IS DOOMED & OTHER BUDGET SAVING SCHEMES FEMA & YOU: DON’T CALL US, WE’LL CALL YOU HOORAY FOR GOD! FIND BIN LADEN? WE’RE BUSY SPYING HELPS US HELP YOU TOM DELAY: WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE? OUR MOTTO: THE LESS YOU KNOW, THE BETTER WE FUNCTION

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Religious Extremism vs. Free Speech

Aquarian Weekly 2/15/06 REALITY CHECK

LOONY TOONS Another Sordid Tale of Religious Extremism vs. Free Speech

Hip-hip Allah!And kill them wherever you find and catch them. Drive them out from where they have turned you out; for Al-Fitnah (polytheism, disbelief, oppression) is worse than slaughter. – Qur’an 2:191

True revolutionaries never bomb buildings. – Dan Bern

Just when you think you’ve written about the dumbest, most illogically asinine subjects known to modern man, this happens: Months ago some Danish newspaper prints satirical cartoons depicting Muslims and their fancy prophet Mohammad in a “bad” light. Initially, no one gives a shit. Then riled up clerics take a fieldtrip around the Middle East with the things, along with additional non-published heretical material to raise the collective ire. Extremist Muslims, who need little motivation to do so, predictably freak out. Threaten violence. Wreak violence – big time violence and destruction. And what are the predominant responses to this whole pile of steaming sociological horse hockey and babbling religious fanaticism? Defend the vicious protestors or bow to fear. We truly are living in an age of enlightenment and intellect, I’ll tell ya.

Let me begin by respectfully stating that what Islamic loons do on their own time with their own set of wacky dogma is their business. I have been pretty consistent on this issue with Christianity, Judaism, Scientology, Wicca, the Promise Keepers, the Branch Davidians, Jim Jones, those desert hippies who worship The Burning Man, whatever. Believe what you will. We’re all proud of you. But what any of it has to do with a free press or freedom of expression in purported free societies is anyone’s guess. Although who the hell knows what goes on in Europe these days, where Muslims carrying a grudge against the British government can be deported or some insanely illegal shit.

We have to quake because Muslims are pissed at their icons being battered in art and/or satire? How about someone from the State Department getting upset that apoplectic religious freaks are running amok over a goddamn cartoon?

And as far as ultra-violent activity in the Middle East…well, who really needs a cartoon for this to go down anyway. A stiff breeze and a burp could buy you weeks of flag-burning, chant-addled frenzy in a dozen theocratic monarchies. Let’s face it, after awhile its white noise and test patterns; the boy who cried riot.

Normally I wouldn’t even get too crazy about this brand of raging stupidity until it reaches these shores. But now we hear American newspapers are backing down from printing the cartoon and network news organizations are blotting out the images in its reports, despite the clear fact that it is news – big time news. And then there is the case of the United States government, which, by the way, is on a well-documented mission from God to spread freedom and enlightenment throughout the world, making mind-bendingly goofy statements.

To wit:

Our State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper: “These cartoons are indeed offensive to the belief of Muslims. We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression, but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable.”


How is it that Christian icons and Jewish Biblical Characters are fair game in print, film, music, art, comedy, and not Mohammad? Because we don’t know shit about Islam and are infinitely afraid all Muslims are crazy or this confused white bread government of ours has depicted most of the Islamic world as radical hate-mongers of freedom, while also conveniently passing lip service to the “normal and peace loving members of Islam”?

Honestly, who cares if Muslims are offended? Boo hoo. Get a helmet. Have we gone complete off the rails with this religion crap now? We have to quake because Muslims are pissed at their icons being battered in art and/or satire? How about someone from the State Department getting upset that apoplectic religious freaks are running amok over a goddamn cartoon?

Of course this is another superlative example of why George W. Bush should be sent to prison for using the United States military to now force-feed the Middle East democratic ideals. We should have sent Snoopy in as an emissary.

Here’s the argument from the other side: Muslims are prohibited from depicting or creating renderings of Allah or Mohammad in any way, good, bad, or otherwise. It is an anathema to their customs and beliefs. Well, once again, goodie for them. But what in the name of all that is holy and idiotic does this have to do with the Danish Press or the French Press or certainly the First Amendment laws of the United States of America?

Another salient question at this juncture might be: Were the people who wrote, drew and/or published these cartoons even Muslim? If not, what are we getting nuts about? What’s next, everyone at the New York Times is now forbidden to eat meat on Friday or the entire editorial staff at the Washington Post has to be home by sundown later that afternoon? Maybe we should let Billy Graham run NBC news.

Hey, I’m well aware that people who make the most noise and break the most things get their way on this planet. This is business as usual, like religious violence. The Crusades and the Holocaust are fine examples of forcing religion on others and the persecution of religious cultures. But have we learned nothing from their fanatical crimes? This is 2006. Why are religious fundamentalists even allowed to debate this subject, much less burn and pillage unchecked and then defended in the press?

I’m offended. How about that? I worship at the altar of free speech and expression. And these lunatics are trampling all over it. But that’s not new. That kind of God reasoning for wreaking havoc on everything is as old as it is crazy. But it doesn’t make it right, and it is even less right to apologize or give into virulent oppression. Believe what you want. Fine by me. But keep it to yourself.

Of course I have my doubts 90% of these maniacs give half a fart about Mohammad anyway. How many of those conveniently enraged fuckers stealing televisions and ransacking grocery stores during the Rodney King riots had even heard of Rodney King?

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Sirius Radio & The Death of the FCC

Aquarian Weekly 1/18/06 REALITY CHECK

I HAVE A DREAM Why Satellite Radio Will Crush The FCC

Howard SternNever lose sight of the fact that all human felicity lies in man’s imagination, and that he cannot think to attain it unless he heeds all his caprices. The most fortunate of persons is he who has the most means to satisfy his vagaries. – Marquis de Sade

Don’t be told what you want Don’t be told what you need There’s no future no future No future for you. – Sex Pistols

My feel-good wish for the New Year is to witness the mortal wounding of the FCC. I don’t expect it to flat-line, but it needs to bleed, terminally, perhaps a day or two in intensive care on the critical list. “Doesn’t look good, doctor, contact the next of kin.” No cure. Have a nice day. It was good to know ya.

Dare I?

It has been my fuzzy little dream for decades, but now it can actually come to wondrous fruition with the emergence of satellite radio. With Howard Stern’s debut on Sirius Radio this past week, along with most of the subject-specific programming available to subscribers for $12 a month, there appears to be a real sense that things will loosen up on the old traditional airwaves; finally freeing up Marconi’s instrument of destruction for more penetrating and corruptible behavior.

There have been some who’ve opposed smut radio, shock jocks, and certain levels of discerning demographics of music programming, as well as the odd slice of controversial and biting subject matter for the darker souls among us. And they now claim victory. They say kicking the likes of a Howard Stern off the air and onto pay radio at least takes him away from being available to everyone. And I would applaud their perspective. Whatever shuts these cretins up is fine by me. Because the only thing that matters in radio is ratings, which translates into advertising muscle and then the all-important product-placement dollars.

The idea that commercial radio was invented to serve the populace and/or the greater good is as infantile and naive as assuming big-time college sports creates school spirit while maturing young citizens may learn fair play and teamwork or that television and the Internet would become super tools of education, enlightenment, while promoting evolved thought. Nothing exists without it garnishing a buck in this country, nothing worth a shit to the masses anyway. Nothing anyone would pay attention to or that you might receive without sending out search parties.

It doesn’t need to be regulated. People don’t watch it, it goes away. Simple as that. No muss. No fuss.

Radio, television, newspapers, et al, exist only to sell products, period. Not to promote agenda or serve the citizenry, but to sell cars, beer, loads of corporate junk and other things bottom line. Advertising is where the money is in these mediums. Very few make a serious buck in broadcasting. Advertising. Marketing. All that crap. That’s where the money is.

So, think about it: If people are willing to pony up cash to listen to the radio, like they currently do to watch cable television or, say, rent films or use high-speed Internet, there will be someone around to exploit it for dollars. And that’s how change comes along in this country: Cash. Cold, hard, and handy cash. The rest is white noise and head patting.

Why are listeners abandoning free radio to pay for it? The money people will want to know this. The product hawks and Madison Avenue geeks have to know. And they will know all too soon, believe me. Then they will do something about it.

You know why the number one television show in the country is “Desperate Housewives”? Because “Sex in the City” kicked ass on HBO, that’s why. You think for one minute a racy show like “Desperate Housewives” gets anywhere near network television without some joker in a power tie saying, “Jesus Jumping Christ in a Blanket, Jack, have you seen the numbers that middle-aged woman sex romp is doing on HBO? Let’s get us one of those!”

“But, Bill, we’ll never get that garbage past standards and practices, we’ll get hate mail and threats by the Catholic League of Freakazoids!”

“Let’s see what Pepsi and Nike and Home Depot has to say about that, Jack. How about Ford and Honda and Budweiser and Coors?”

“Holy Shit, Bill! It’s a goddamn go!”

All these “CSI” shows? Cable. “Six Feet Under”, “The Sopranos”, even that hilariously consistent Larry David thing; all of them have been co-opted by network TV, and not one of them would have made it past secretaries five years ago. No way. All these Reality Shows everywhere? MTV’s “The Real Life”.

Network TV is now not merely a landscape littered with dirt and grime, exploitation and sex, sex, sex, with just the right amount of violence thrown in; it’s pretty much home base. And that’s great, if that’s what people want. And it’s quite obvious they want it big time. Otherwise it would go away. It doesn’t need to be regulated. People don’t watch it, it goes away. Simple as that. No muss. No fuss.

All these righteous fuckers who voted for George W. Bush to push the God agenda last year are the same ones tuning into this crap weekly, in big numbers, far bigger numbers than go to any voting booth. These people yell and scream about Hollywood and rap music and violence and sex and then turn around and lap this stuff up in record numbers. And again, that’s good. A free society should measure what the populace wants. Television has always been a good source for that. Television, fast food, speed banking, cosmetics, diet pills, booze and technological doo-dads; it’s the melting pot, really.

It’s like these ubiquitous ultra-violent video games; you think these things would survive without tons of people buying them? No is the answer to that one. And, once again, that’s a good thing. If that’s what people want, and it’s not hurting anyone, then fine.

Here’s where satellite radio grants my wish: Once advertisers realize the windfall of subscribers ponying up cash to listen to Lesbian donkey humping, then the reigns will be loosened on the ol’ squawk box and perhaps then can we have a completely free society unhampered by non-elected shit heels manipulated by loony soccer moms and mid-western preachers. The free air will then finally be free.

And pretty soon we’ll be hearing all sorts of fucks and shits everywhere.

And if people want it, then fine.

Everyone has to have a dream. This is mine: The death of the FCC.

Thanks for helping folks.

Happy New Year!

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Rosa Louise Parks – 1913 – 2005

Aquarian Weekly 11/9/05 REALITY CHECK


Rosa Louise ParksPeople always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in. – Rosa Louise Parks

She said no.

It was logical, courageous, and a bit disruptive. It was eventually measured defiant and consequently criminal. No, she said. No. She was not going to get up from her seat on the bus for no white guy or black guy or fat guy or some other guy. And it was less about race and it was even less about gender or timing or the fact that the bus idled in the town of Montgomery, Alabama and not New York City or Los Angeles or Chicago or Butte, Montana. Rosa Lee Parks was tired. She was there first. This was her seat, not anyone else’s. She paid for it, and she was not giving it up.


Feet hurt. Got a seat. Paid in full. Not going to take it from her. No, sir. Not you or anyone.

She was tired, all right. She was tired of the whole bus business and the Jim Crow business and the American business of “Liberty and Justice for Some.” And she was tired because since she was a little girl she watched buses pass her by for school. She could see the white people dressed in their finery sitting comfortably.

She was damned tired from attempting to cast a vote in three elections before her vote was counted. She struggled just to be included in the 7% of black high school graduates nationwide. She kept silent as she was passed over for work time and again, while the comfortable white bus passengers took a job she was more than qualified to handle.

She was tired of being tired.

So she said no.

No good reason. No sensible explanation. Law? No. Race? No. Pride? No. She was just tired. Staying put.

Eight years before her bus seat became the most famous seat on any mode of transportation in the history of human dignity, Rosa Lee dove into the Civil Rights movement. That was 1943, when the Civil Rights movement was something of a faint murmur. In the South, it was like breathing under water. And this was when her country was busy freeing people of other nations, while her people were not free. Nowhere close to free.

A few months before her bus seat became the most discussed instrument in the pantheon of democracy, a 15-year-old girl by the name of Claudette Colvin refused to give up a bus seat to a white man. Imagine that. What a coincidence. Not so much. Colvin was counseled by Rosa Lee. Rosa told her to “always do what is right.” Little Claudette did, and she was hauled off to prison.

It was Colvin, not Rosa Louise Parks, who should have been the shining symbol of Civil Rights, but turns out Little Claudette was pregnant with the child of a much older man out of wedlock, and in 1955 Alabama, many who ran the movement felt this subject to be anything but sympathetic. So there was little hubbub for Little Claudette, but Rosa Lee did not forget.

She was, after all, tired.

She did not forget that the bus driver on the day her seat became the most famous seat in the fight for equality, James Blake, was the very same one that forced her to walk five miles in a driving rain because she entered through the “white front door”. Rosa Lee remembered how tired she was then. She remembered the humiliation then. Decided she was tired of being tired.

December 1, 1955, Rosa Louise Parks was asked to vacate a seat in the middle section of the bus, the section open to African Americans only if there were no Caucasian Americans present. This was law; Section 301 (31a, 31b and 31c) of Title 48, Code of Alabama, 1940 and Sections, 10 and 11 of Chapter 6 of the Code of the City of Montgomery to be exact.

It so happens on that day when a Caucasian American wanted her aisle seat, she politely moved to the window seat. Why not? She would kindly do the same for anyone; black, white, fat, tall, dumb, rich or poor. But damned if Rosa Lee was going to leave the window seat. No good reason. No sensible explanation. Law? No. Race? No. Pride? No. She was just tired. Staying put.

She said no.

And so Rosa Louise Parks was dragged off to prison. But unlike Little Claudette, she was married and not with child. She was employed, articulate, motivated, politically savvy, and experienced in the denial of basic rights granted by the United States Constitution. Most of all she was beyond tired. In another words she was trouble – trouble, and the perfect subject for change.

Three days later a minister from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church by the name of Martin Luther King rose up from his chair in the Montgomery Improvement Association and helped plot the Montgomery Bus Boycott. The following months some 40,000 black commuters walked in the cold and snow to honor it, for many it meant 20 miles or more. The transit company stalled and began to crack. It was simple: Lift segragation or prepare for bankrupcy.

Nearly a year later the United States Supreme Court banned segregation on buses. Only then was the boycott lifted. There was still a long way to go, but it was a start. Thanks to a brave and fed up woman who was simply, irrevocably, vehemently, immovably tired.

So she said no.

No, she said.


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