James Campion’s “Reality Check” Celebrates Ten Years

Aquarian Weekly 8/15 – 8/29/07 REALITY CHECK

Reflections On Ten Years Of Reality Check

jc 2007

Humans need laws. We are weak and stupid and would reduce our quality of life to fossil fragments without them. We have so many laws now it would choke forty civilizations. We cram God and country and all that weepy singsong crap down every throat possible. Yet we continue to reign as the most heinous creatures sucking air. – Tramps, Thugs & The Corporate Lie 12/8/99

It feels almost as though Campion and the yet-unconquered mountain of human reason were made to square off against each other, and when I read his regular dispatches from the front of whatever war he happens to be fighting that week, I picture him standing before that mighty pile of rock, shouting out the real deal, telling logic and actuality how it really goes down on this twisted and interminably fucked planet of ours. The mountain, for its part, has no response.

And what incredible self-indulgence could drive one to grate week after week on the spinal nerves of America’s backbone in hopes of maybe digging through the spin and misinterpretation, the utter lack of context, to the discovery of true motives. Like planting a flag on the North Pole and calling it yours, so too is the futility of speaking truth to a power that simply will not listen, and doubly admirable then is continuing on until the throat is raw and bleeding.

Undaunted by the hopelessness of his or anyone (everyone) else’s position, Campion continues forward, upward and deeper inside, pulling apart the sediment of that mountain, element by element, so that at the end of it he may have the pieces wholly dissected and ready to be put back together in a way that actually makes sense. Those upon whom the title of “rational” would be heaped can only stand on the sidelines and whisper well-earned wishes of “good luck,” or otherwise lose themselves in their own desperate sneers of, “you’re out of your mind.” In either case, Campion is the one who does while we are the ones who watch.

Unable to idle in an age of enforced stillness, his is the frantic and hyperventilating voice of a man who cannot give himself up to the ultimate cynicism-that belief that in between two sides of any story there is no truth to be found. Whether there is or not, I’m at no liberty to say, but I take great comfort knowing there remains at least one good human being out there dedicating his decades to finding out for sure.

To the next 10,

JJ KoczanAquarian Weekly Managing Ed. July 2004-May 2007

John CusackCampion’s whole bleak trip is a means to an end. It’s so apocalyptic it has to be a put-on, or it reveals ulterior motives, like a reverse pep talk. As long as he’s painting everything dark you no longer feel so bad about your place in it.

John Cusack Actor

Interventions and parental group therapy are nice, but a carefully placed fist to the temple sets the bully straight and gives a lifetime of hope for the bullied. I’ve had plenty of experience with bullies, and it sounds to me like the AMA is bullying us into robbing our kids of childhood’s most precious victory, the ass-whupping of the deserved. Life is about a series of defeating bullies; the sooner we understand it, the better. – In Defense Of The American Bully 6/26/02

I first came across “jc” while interviewing him about Deep Tank Jersey and Fear No Art, the latter had just been published. Coffee turned to beer and critical interpretations of music [Lester Bangs on low battery life] led to insights about religious exile – no Main Street here – rather an address amid a hipster neighborhood yet to be discovered by the New Yorker or some other rag worthy of at least a few page turns before interest turns to self congratulatory prose. You won’t find Campion there, however. He lurks between the shadows cast by accepted “rogue” journalists. Lyricist John Perry Barlow penned the phrase “Shadow boxing the apocalypse;” Campion’s column is his gloves. Ten years in, the laces are tattered, the red, leather mitts scuffed but his blows still hit hard, especially when on target.

Late last year my wife and I read excerpts of Midnight For Cinderella at some joint in New York City celebrating its release. The bar was loud, the PA was at times inaudible, but somehow Campion’s truths, his take, rang true.

Keep on, keeping on…

Will King Musician (“Coming On In From The Cold”) Journalist (North Country News, The New Jersey Cooperator, Rescue Magazine)

James Campion was an ardent supporter of my former column, Ruminations for many years, during which time he made outlandish declarations about my thoughts and writing. He is often self-indulgent (aren’t we all!) and takes his own opinions way too seriously (ahem! I too have been guilty of same!) but he’s also brilliant at his best, consistently passionate and insightful.

Rita J. King Journalist/Author (Village Voice, CorpWatch, Huffington Post)

Breakfast With HunterJames Campion sees the truth in art and life in ways that few people recognize and even fewer are able to express so eloquently.

Wayne Ewing Filmmaker (Breakfast with Hunter, When I Die, The Last Campaign)

Come now, fellow travelers, this is the waning century. Let us rise from slumber and count the coffee beans among us. Power corrupts, and absolute power is like an IV loaded with speedballs cruising through the main vein. It is King Richard III wandering through the desert looking to trade the Third World for a goddamned horse. No human can survive it with a shred of decency left intact. There are horrible places on this globe where you can go to see the fierce results of its wounds. – Ugly Truth 3/24/98

When I started Hackwriters I had lots of enthusiastic writers but none with any political savvy. James sent in a piece that was witty, intelligent and a little wicked. I knew immediately that here was a guy with talent and a great set of values. James Campion wants the world to be better than it is and knows that someone has to point out the imperfections. I cannot think of a better man to point the finger than James Campion and we have valued every piece for eight long years. The world is still imperfect so anticipate that James has a long career ahead of him.

Sam North Editor of Hackwriters.com

Dan BernCampion doesn’t bash sacred cows – he bludgeons them, removes their entrails, leaves them wishing they had never been cows at all. And yet, for all of it, Campion has that thing held probably in common by all great satirists, be they Swift, Twain, Mencken, Vonnegut, or Campion’s beloved Hunter Thompson: a deep romanticism, an unshakeable love for the things, people, ball teams, bands, towns and ideas that have been unable to lose him along the way.

Dan Bern Singer/Songwriter (12 CDs and EPs, including New American Language, Fleeting Days, and Breathe) Author (Quitting Science, Tales of Toscana, Ted The Cow, World Cup)

I am lucky to have friends with guts of steel and the resolve of titans. Unfortunately for them I have none of these attributes, and can only churn out bad words and funny asides about meaningless bullshit, so I offer only my gratitude and undying friendship to the faithful. The Desk is dead. Long live The Desk. – A Bittersweet End To The Putnam Bunker 9/5/01

Know this, if you know anything about what is slowly happening to the social landscape of this country, as long as this nation is at war the truth can no longer be considered an absolute, it is a concept to be manipulated and raped and put on display for those with agendas to dance around like savages soliciting rain. – Post Mortem On War Coverage 4/9/03

Pat BuchananI think we have pretty much astonished the establishment so far. We’ve been out there fighting battles, and the more they call us names and the more they say this and that it just tells me that we’re in this thing for the long haul.

Pat Buchanan Political Commentator, two-time presidential candidate, speechwriter for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan

One question to the editor of the Aquarian: Did you ever actually check Jim’s references ten years ago? Apparently not. The good thing is, through on the job training and a naturally poisonous keyboard, Jim has managed to make even this rock-ribbed Republican occasionally laugh at my own party. That’s talent. There aren’t many writers with the wit and sarcasm of Jim Campion. In fact, I can only think of one. And you’re lucky enough to have him.

Rob Astorino Former Westchester County Legislator, Executive Producer of the Michael Kay Show/ESPN, and current program director of The Catholic Channel on Sirius Radio

“So how does it feel to be Clinton’s butt buddy? How can someone be so wrong so often and still be able to live with themselves?” The response of “if you don’t like it write your own fucking column” began my three-year journey of sharing the political page of the Aquarian with one, James Campion.

James’ writing style is pure genius. It is a wicked combination of intellect and street smarts that says he can kick your ass while simultaneously spouting the works of Aristotle and the combined ERA of the ’78 Yankees starting rotation. His biting wit and satire on all things sports, political or pop culture makes waiting out the week all that more fun.

He ain’t lib and he ain’t conservative…he’s James Campion, and I believe he hates everyone equally.

Thanks for the laughs and the inspiration. May you have many more 10-year anniversaries. The thinking public needs you around.

Bill Roberts Conservatively Speaking

What level of brain-dead mannequins are we enduring with this vat of bilge? We need gory caged ferret fights to the death. That is how democracy works, not some number-crunching pinheads with interchangeable personalities. Likeable sods with wet feet and dapper ties leave us with grinning charlatans from the South pampered by daddy’s oil and tobacco money. This is what we deserve now. We don’t want any nasty commentary on the way things are, just force-feed us the Pollyanna pabulum and send us to bed with no dinner. – Notes From The Campaign Fringe 10/18/00

Messenger RecordsDuring my 11 years as an owner of an independent record label, I’ve come across only a small handful of writers who go beyond great writing talent. Having integrity and the resolution to act upon it is not a choice; it’s in their DNA. James is one of those few. He is militantly honest and passionate, and he seeks and exposes the truth wherever he can find it. James is among the best of the good guys.

Brandon Kessler Messenger Records

CAMPION… the name itself brings pimples to my geese! First time I saw him I thought he was one of the dwarves from the castle, turns out he’s a glorious midget with a knack for the written word. GENIUS… that’s what he is… I’ve not seen such unrestrained rambling since I spoke at that Meth convention in Prague. Say what you want about Meth heads… at least they DO!! And Campion… Do’s… yes…. the man is BRILLIANT!! I love his writing so much I HATE IT! Kaptain Von Karl, my Minister of Propaganda idolizes the freak! Especially for his infamously twisted plan to make his Jesus book so big… no one would be inclined to move, let alone lift and carry it back to a book shelf, thereby forcing the poor sap who purchased it to create a permanent advertisement for Campion on their coffee table. The “child” in Campion is strong… the “imp” and “brat” powerful… He is quite assuredly… a shaman, a prophet… an Asshole! Long live the Midget Asshole!

The Mighty Chief Wonka BLAZO!! (Publisher of “Fear No Art”)

Colonel Campion has illustrated a consistent objectivity in the dispensing of ire. No one is sacred, no punches are pulled. One week he’ll piss off the conservatives, the next the liberals, and the next both. But hey, fair is fair, and if you’re going to lift up that rock, you’d better expose all the slugs.

Chris Uhl Aquarian Weekly Managing Ed. 1998-2002

The manifestation of violence from hatred is delicate. It is nurtured as much as the trip from love to philanthropy. What happens on a dim Tuesday just outside of Denver should not be looked at as an aberration as much as a culmination. We are lucky more children don’t take to the streets with savage vengeance for the abuse, distrust, and pain we substitute for understanding, and the garbled misinformation we trade for teaching. – Cyclical Pain: Child Abuse In The 90s 4/21/99

Eric HutchinsonI love James’ writing, and not just because he usually speaks highly of me in it. He displays a sincere, thoughtful touch while still managing to sound jaded and pissed off at just about everything. His rantings are the stuff Dennis Miller wishes he had the mental capacity to pull off. James is the moral compass of Northern New Jersey. Now THAT’S scary.

Eric Hutchinson Singer/Songwriter (…Before I Sold Out, Sunds Like This)

James Campion, a More Handsome Michael Moore?

I first met Mr. Campion when he was shaking his finger at the universe along with my friend Al Quagliata, they spoke at length with a scathing vocabulary which seemed to police the very stars into alignment. They were at a bar and I coerced Al to introduce me to his handsome pontificating partner. James was friendly for a moment, then asked me what project I was working on and how I knew Al. I confess I was worried that he might criticize me along with the corrupt politicians and racist movie stars. I briefed him on “Putnam,” a one-act musical about superstars (Billie Holiday, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, etc.) staging early deaths to get out of the fame ring. Quagliata (excellent comic actor/impressionist) was portraying John Lennon at the time. Lucky for me, James softened to the concept that a talent agency might just enact a celebrity’s demise if for no other reason than to get the paparazzi off their backs, giving some validity to the notorious Elvis sightings. Then like a rodeo cowboy, he immediately jumped back on the journalistic beast, holding on tight to the beliefs he’s been riding now for ten years. I’ve been a fan ever since we met and highly recommend Trailing Jesus before the Middle East disappears entirely.

Sharon Fogarty Playwright (The Overdevlopment of Scott, Putnam, Portrait of the Artist as a Dumb Blonde)

It has never been particularly important for me to have anything resembling a strong philosophy or belief. Those things are transient, like standing at a railway station and hoping to get to Detroit by taking the nonstop to Philadelphia. I want the next train that pulls in to head in my desired direction, but no matter what I believe, the damn thing is going to Philly. It’s a train all right, but not the one I hope it will be. – What Is Belief? 8/8/01

A national election being decided by one state, controlled by partisan judges and attorney generals presiding over clairvoyant hand counts, where hired drones spin electronic ballots into lamplight to guess at voter intent: It is entirely possible that a Zippy the Chimp funzo dance on a Twister mat would be a more legally binding and fair-minded attempt at choosing the leader of the free world. – Surviving The Great “System” Anal Probe 11/29/00

Ralph NaderI thank you, James, for your continuous support of my independent message and your reasoned good will in the face of political hysteria, and most of all keeping the hope for a progressive agenda alive in this country. I’ve tried to give voice to tens of millions of people as the underdog candidate for Americans who get pushed around and defrauded and harmed and disrespected and excluded and underpaid and laid off and denied health care. The American people need to know they can have anything they want, the problem is they don’t seem to want anything at all, or at least it appears that way on Election Day.

We’re all prisoners of an exclusive two-party monopoly with a barrier called an electoral college and we’ve got to break out of prison. We have to liberate our minds, begin voting our conscience, and stop voting for politicians who go to Washington and month after month vote against their supporters. They’ve turned over the U.S. government to an increasingly smaller number of giant multi-nationals, who’ve turned Washington into corporate occupied territory, and have no allegiance to our country or communities other than to control or abandon them to China or elsewhere as they see fit.

Keep up the good fight.

Ralph Nader Historic consumer advocate, three time independent presidential candidate, author, and tireless activist

Your piece on my book The Trials Of Lenny Bruce was really terrific. You’ve done Lenny and me a great honor. I’m even more grateful for your enthusiastic endorsement of and efforts on behalf of my work. Also, having perused your book, Fear No Art, I can honestly say it is a please to experience the range of emotions expected from the works of a fine essayist.

David Skover Dean’s Distinguished Research Scholar & Professor of Law at Seattle University

Kathleen Glynn & Michael MooreKeep giving them hell, James.

Kathleen Gynn Author, Film Producer, Activist

The abuse of LSD at the New York Times has reached epidemic proportions. I happen to know it isn’t just at the print level anymore, but management and editorial staff have now imbibed beyond any definition of recreational consumption. This is why the Times has never understood George W. Bush. The president is a cokehead. He has all the tendencies: paranoia, overt machismo, a painful inability to construct coherent thoughts verbally, and a penchant to scratch his groin incessantly without shame. Only a serious speed freak would continue to describe what is happening in Iraq as progress. And only acid junkies would comment so blindly that there is some kind of insidious U.S. plan for a bloodless coup in that mess. – Manifest Destiny Made Easier Through Modern Chemistry 12/29/04

While I’ve yet to meet the man, James Campion is on a short list of people I wouldn’t mind sharing a bunker with. Bravely holding ground, wisely weighing when to flank and attack, and keenly aware of his enemies’ weak points, he pens Reality Check, the longest currently-running column The Aquarian Weekly is proud to publish, based on an entirely unscientific, dusty once-over of our archives. It’s that breed of brazen, unemotional analysis of the world’s organized evil that we hold dear here, and there’s no better soldier than James.

Patrick Slevin Aquairan Weekly Managing Editor

James Campion keeps amazing me. He is one of the few demented souls our industry has produced. As fast as I could, I’ve tried to think of new and exciting editorial ideas to throw his way and every time I did he came through with flying colors. I’m proud to call him friend, but I have warned him more than once if I get one more call in the middle of the night begging for plane fare to D.C. in order to find kidnapped journalists I will shoot him.

Dan Davis Editor-In-Chief/Editorial Director Magna Publishing Group

Denise MihalikI have had the most delicious time conspiring with James. He is inspiring, truthful, audacious, and a TOTAL muse. He’s liberated and free and inspires others to be themselves. UNAFRAID. He mused me into creating a slew of art for his book, Midnight For Cinderella, which was out of the ordinary for me and totally rad. I have never had so much fun working with anyone in my life. Creatively he just says… GO…DO…BE.

Denise Mihalik Artist/Photographer

I think if people actually read the Bible, there could be trouble. But people don’t read. They watch television and snowboard and make money and plot getting laid. And when it comes time to do whatever they feel like doing or hating or co-opting, they interpret things like the Bible in their own interesting way. Worse still, they rely on crooked hacks to do it for them, which gets us all in trouble. – Gay Bishops & Other Modern Illusions 8/13/03

Jim Campion is pure gold. There is not an ounce of bullshit in his commentary. The man is straight up, and what more can you ask from a politically charged, passionate scribe. His battles are selfless, righteous and to the point. In recent defense of my plight, Jim Campion went above and beyond the call of duty in a piece entitled; Hooligans in the Press Room (almost one year ago to the day). The piece was vintage Campion; pure and seething, as he attacked a pack of clueless piranhas (a new publisher and managing editor) at the North County News who dismantled the best weekly sports section in the nation in one fell swoop.

When he worked freelance for me back in the wee ’90s covering the sports beat in Westchester and Putnam County, I looked forward to Campion’s fiery piece each week, just as I looked forward to our weekly beers at the End Zone Sports Bar in Putnam Valley, NY. The readers of Reality Check are now prone to his prose, hooked to his interpretation, and fortunate for his views. A decade of excellence has captured their eyes and minds… may his venomous spew continue.

Ray Gallagher NYSPA Award-Winning Editor, Writer & Photographer (North County News, Bedford Record, Lewisboro Ledger, Putnam Co. News & Recorder, P’Ville/Mt. Kisco Examiner & the Hastings Enterprise)

Ani DiFrancoI enjoy our conversations. I really do. But I do not use e-mail and I get all my news from the Nation and Ms. Magazine. I live on a bus most of the time, and I steer pretty clear of the TV. I can’t watch TV. It depresses me or enrages me. CNN is an impossible place to tap into anything real since all of the information is completely co-opted and controlled by corporate forces. I really don’t have a mind for the hyper details of foreign policy, or of what the stupid white men are doing, but I do have some basic ideas and feelings and impressions. I would make a very bad columnist like yourself, because if you believe in objectivity, then your reading of any kind of media is going to be misguided.

But I do enjoy our conversations.

Ani DiFranco Singer/Songwriter/Poet/Activist

Just know that authors inspire young writers, but scribes like Thompson, Twain or Mencken do not inspire, they abduct. Taken hostage, bound and gagged and beaten mercilessly from the first sentence. It is violent and disturbing, like all of life’s greatest gifts, not unlike an actual birth, with pain and screaming and blood everywhere. – Hunter Stockton Thompson 1937-2005 3/2/05

Reality Check | Pop Culture | Politics | Sports | Music

Social tagging:

Leave a Reply