International Writers Magazine: Reality Check:
George Carlin 1937-2008
all this favoritism towards the dead? Why should the dead get a
moment of silence? Fuck the dead! Let's have a moment of muffled
conversation for those who were treated and released."
- George Carlin
For over a half
century George Denis Patrick Carlin was the standard bearer of the principles
on which this space was founded: Nothing is Sacred and Truth Need Not
Apologize. He stomped that terra without fear; took names, laid waste
and left volumes of incredible material to prove it. Only Mark Twain,
H.L. Mencken, Lenny Bruce, Hunter S. Thompson, Dick Gregory, Kurt Vonnegut,
Randy Newman, the first four years of Saturday Night Live, or those
wonderful maniacs who pen The Simpsons have tread the same plain of
his satirical mastery.
For my money his passing is a true American tragedy; a significant loss
to the alternative voice, a rare and dying breed.
"I love and treasure individuals as I meet them; I loathe and despise
the groups they identify with and belong to."
George Carlin was the patron saint of the wayward radical without a
home politically, spiritually or philosophically. It was Carlin who
made sense of taking the thought less traveled -- possessing an intrinsic
ability to detach and reform from weird angles -- then make it sing.
He had what the bodhisattva might call The Third Eye. Carlin viewed
life through a prism of individuality, and like all great artists, baring
its results became the universal language.
"By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth."
Language and words were Saint George's tools, his play toys -- the penetrating
microscope into the human condition. He massaged their beauty by deconstructing
their gruesomeness, regurgitated their nuances, idiosyncrasies and then
exposed their inaccuracies like a mad poet street troubadour bip-bopping
megaphone. Language was his instrument and the words soared like notes
"You can prick your finger -- just don't finger your prick."
The truly magical times came when the words would possess him, contort
his face and jangle his lips, his voice raising and dipping, his timbre
guttural and hoarse, eyes bulging, teeth gritting maniacally until you
could no longer breathe with laughter. He would blurt out "There
is no blue food! Where is the blue food?" and you were gone. Only
Carlin could use everyday musings as machine gun concussion to make
you cackle until you could no longer draw air. He did it to me all the
time, since I was eight years old.
I will never forget the first Carlin. It woke me up, bub. It gave me
a sense that there was true grace in this world if you were willing
to uncover the deeper regions. Knowing Carlin (Class Clown, Occupation
Foole, Take Offs & Put-Ons, Toledo Window Box, AM/FM) meant survival
was not having to be the strongest, coolest, most popular; only funny
-- funny and witty and ready to bring the goods, funny as a defense,
hypotheses, elixir. But you had to have the inflections down, and the
timing. You had to hit the marks like the master, and only then were
"The very existence of flamethrowers proves that sometime, somewhere,
someone said to themselves, 'You know, I want to set those people over
there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done.'"
Sharing Carlin meant friendships. If you knew Carlin, then you were
in. If you saw him on Flip Wilson last night, stayed up for his Tonight
Show appearance for the new rant then you could recite it the next day
and be the hero. My good friend Ken Eustace called it "releasing
crucial endorphins", extending your life, or extending the child
in you who could see in all things humor. Another long time friend Chris
Barrera said it best when he left an honorary voice message which concluded
with "Man, did we laugh."
"The sun did not come up this morning; huge cracks are appearing
in the earth...details at eleven."
Before books or protest songs, before causes and ideologies there was
Saint George around my house. We celebrated his absurdity because Carlin
was the neighborhood kid. Born and bred on the corners of New York City.
He went to my dad's high school, talked about the same lunatics and
recounted all the same shit. He had the NYC madness in him; something
the cursed can understand immediately when we hear it. It is a rhythm,
a cadence, a parry and jab resolve, metaphysically unable to surrender.
Fight on for no other reason but joy. It makes noise. It makes trouble.
Most of all, it is damned funny.
"The reason they call it the American Dream is because you have
to be asleep to believe it."
I was watching an old Carlin thing a few days before he died. He was
doing the riff on the Seven Dirty Words, the one that made him famous,
the one that went all the way to the Supreme Court. And he was jamming
like Coltrane or Monk or Charlie Parker. It was like jazz, I told my
wife a few days later; a few days after that he was gone.
It got me thinking about what my friend, a damned killer satirist himself,
Dan Bern wrote about my work in the preface of my last book, how I had
this "bullshit meter". And I thought about how I was given
the keys to it by Saint George all those years ago.
So I bid farewell to another of a dwindling circle of influences who've
molded this voice into the lovable cynical, ball-breaking hack jockey
he is today."This country was founded on a very basic double standard:
A bunch of slave owners who demanded to be free. So they killed a lot
of white English people in order to keep owning their black African
people so they can wipe out the rest of the red Indian people and move
west and steal the rest of the land from the brown Mexican people, giving
them a place to drop their weapons on the yellow Japanese people. You
know what our motto should be? 'You give us a color, we'll wipe it out.'"
Half a century will have to be enough.
© James Campion July 2008
IN '08 Parts I & 11
Internet influences every dimension of the political and campaign process.
In fact, its driving many campaign professional out of their minds.
They no longer have complete control over their message. I know that's
a long answer, but I feel very passionate about it.
Bye, Miss American Pie
Barack Obama Buries The Boomers
is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past.
Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face.'
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