Thursday, April 30, 2009

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So, I have decided to re-pick up 35mm photography. It's something I used to enjoy considerably, and most likely, was a contributing force to my career switch from making food to making film. I have had other SLR's in the past, all Canon. But the first SLR I got my hands on was my Father's Canon AE-1 from 1975 (pictured here). He used it through a few years of photography studies at McGill before I was even a thought. In fact, at that age, I was more than likely a worry. Later, I would get a brand new Canon SLR (never digital) but, much to my dismay, it never captured like the old AE-1 did. I would end up pawning my new Canon and lenses in order to pay for some post production fees on my film "Six Reasons Why" and, since, photography has been but a memory (still photography that is, since, I have been capturing images at 24 frames per second).

I have picked up the good ol' 1975 Canon AE-1 once again, blew off the dust and cobwebs, and have set out to refamiliarize myself with the antiquated piece of equipment which, hopefully, still snaps unrivaled picture quality and produces a 35mm feel like no other camera I have used since.

Directors nowadays, or at least the younger ones like myself, tend to forget about the technology which paved the way for Hi-Def Video, 4K Red Cameras, P2 Cards and Hard Drives. We loosen our grip on the artistic nature of what we do and it's only when we go back to strips of 35mm film that we get a fair and conscious appreciation for the art itself, instead of simply the process.

writing under the influence, and now snapping under the influence,
jeffc

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

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The first video, you may have seen and it may, or may not, have triggered the same surprised reaction as it did for me.  The second video I am fairly certain you have not seen, which is something I intend to remedy. 


GAGA
So, I thought she was just another campy pop steamroller who'd light up the scene for a spell and, before we knew it, would see her music gone, resting peacefully in the hokey over played concert arena in the sky. But in my most recent archeological YouTube dig I brushed off a not so ancient video of Lady Gaga exhibiting some very real musical chops. She covers 'Viva La Vida' by Coldplay. She rearranges the composition and has some fun with the lyrics on the spot.

Last night, at a dance choreography meeting for my new music video gig, I found out that Lady Gaga was singed first by her label not as a performer, but as a songwriter. When the label couldn't find anyone capable of singing her tracks, they gave her a shot at singing them herself. It begs the question, how talented is the girl? At any rate, she's definitely a lot more talented than the radio stations, ripe male teens humping their Dells and TMZ's give her credit for.



GOULD
So, that was the Afterer, and this is the After. I would say this is the Before, but it's not. Simply because, as you will hear the great Canadian concert pianist explain, he does create new material, he interprets the classics by Mozart and Bach, but, like Lady Gaga, drastically changes the arrangment and, in Gould's words "...turns performance into composition."

If you are not familiar with Glenn Gould, familiarize yourself. He is one of the most exciting, successful and progressive pianists of our time... and he's a Canuck too boot. His off the wall interpretations, abnormally low piano chair, constant humming heard on almost every one of his albums and, not least, his wickedly idiosyncratic and peculiar demeanor make him one cool and talented dude.



In closing, next time you look at a pop star shaking her ass in front of 100,000 people singing about riding a boy's disco stick, take a second to contemplate the possible depth of that character. Their dreams, plans, talents and other things that fly under the radar of larger-than-life pop music. And, if you fail to see the connection between Gould and Gaga, crawl in a dark moldy hole somewhere and never come out, for you lack even the rudiments of progression and open-mindedness.  

Bring it.

writing under the influence,
jeffc

Sunday, April 26, 2009

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First off, this isn't a film for everyone - in fact it's quite a bizarre experience. However, if you haven't seen "L'Ours" (or "The Bear" for all us anglos), you probably should. This evening I watched it, and I don't think I will ever be quite the same. 

It's a French film, you may have guessed via the title, and there is little to no dialogue, or narration for that matter, throughout it's entire duration; an artistic decision I have respect and intrigue for, as my tool for story telling is clearly words - which could be my crux.  I watched the un-subtitled version, so even when there was sparse conversation between the two villainous poachers, I  had absolutely no clue what they were babbling on about, which, by the way, didn't seem to effect the story's comprehension at all.

The film, to boil it down in simplest terms, follows an orphaned bear cub through the B.C. wilderness as he searches for new guardians, escapes (but not always) the poachers and fights to survive (no, this is not animated).  What sounds like an amusing and educational movie is actually an emotional journey which will put a severe strain on your inner animal lover and/or human hater.

I am still not sure as to how they managed to capture this crowning achievement of not only nature photography but it's innate story as well. Being shot in '88 adds even more mystery to the mix.  The camera angles, lighting, scenarios, conveniences and coherence could furnish the same sort confused mesmerization that one would suffer from while watching "The Hills" on MTV. Is this real? How are they catching this? How much is staged? Is that a man in a bear suit?

In any case, "L'Ours", from the opening scene, locks you into an emotional roller-coaster that makes "Hotel Rwanda" feel like a tacky Van Wilder romp. If you get the chance, check it out. 

And remember; this is not a review, I merely watched a bizarre film that I was compelled to share with you, and, in no way intend to critique it. 

"The Greatest Thrill Is Not To Kill But To Let Live."

writing under the influence,
jeffc

Friday, April 24, 2009

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Well, after a not-so-grueling rewrite on "Roll The Hard Six", we have a script that is much more complex, emotional and well written. Always a weakness of Campagna Brothers writing (and in all probability why we didn't include ANY female roles in "Six Reasons Why"), is the writing of female gender characters. They always seem, after the 1st draft at least, to end up with very little dimension and necessity. We use them merely to move the plot forward, which, admittedly, is a horrible literary and cinematic crutch, and, something we hope to have remedied on our latest love child.


Between that, hitting the 10,000 word mark on a concept novel/series of short stories/who-knows-what-the-hell-it-is, getting a poem into The New Yorker for review and a couple half decent blog posts earning me a "Blog Of The Day" award, it has definitely been a prolific few weeks. 

Hopefully I can maintain a certain degree of momentum and, with all luck, pull myself out of this horrible slough where the failure is almost palpable and the vodka bottles don't last long. 

I'll have a proper blog post up in a day or two... promise.

writing under the influence,
jeffc

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

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So, "A Writer Under The Influence", for what it's worth, has won a "Blog Of The Day" award.  As a new blog with no clear direction or message, this is a very special accolade and we here at 'A Writer Under The Influence' (me) are very appreciative of it.

Blog Awards Winner

writing under the influence,
jeffc

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For the next 72 hours, I will be locked in a random suburban hotel room rewriting the script for the "Six Reasons Why" follow-up; "Roll The Hard Six" with the film's co-writer/co-director, and my brother of 26 years, Matt.


Hopefully, I will make it out alive, and in a perfect world, so will he.

writing under the influence,
jeffc



Tuesday, April 21, 2009

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I have never claimed to be wise nor have I thought myself as an intellectual at any point or junction in my fresh and sheltered life. Both of the above I, one day, strive to be, and perhaps will be in my own perversions, but doubtful in some fashion of reality. In my opinion, and it is simply that, there are two types of people in this world. First, but in no way more important, there are the types of people who, at any given point, feel the constant biting need to express one self. As if an itch routed deep under the skin crawling from one limb to the next, one is compelled to emit their thoughts, their belief systems, their skills and talents to the world, be it listening or not. And Secondly, there are those who do not. The recent advent of Blogging, in the blip that is the Devil's technological conception, a number of people living in category One have packed up and set sail for the new world of online exposure. I have no respect for the Blogger, nor do I posses a disrespect for him either. He merely is.


I sometimes furnish the notion that people who lived and spoke in the public sphere through the 50's,60's and possibly the 70's were more complex, less predictable, characteristically rich and independently thoughtful. They had something to say. Something that, if people listened to, would have a positive effect on reality. However, I am constantly torn. Were they, in fact, more intelligent and observant? Or was that of a different ratio present? Today, are there just so many venues, vehicles, exhibits and showcases for people to display their personalities and world views that it seems a less intelligent, less tasteful human is taking over due to shear volume of douche-bags speaking their mind and being heard? The weight of one's word has been diminished to a mere gram of Warholian fleeting fame. Are there still smart people out there? Are there still interesting characters? Where are the Norman Mailers? Will the Jim Morrisons please stand up. Will the Marshall McLuhans rise above their Global Villages? Where are all the voices that so eloquently, effectively and sometimes accidentally spoke ahead of their times. Who will I speak to my uninterested and eye-rolling kids about 20 years from here? Where are the great minds and independent thinkers of My generation? Who do I have to look up to? Where are my inspirations? They definitely aren't blogging.

It seems exceedingly likely that the days of excitement, invention and exploration have been sucked into the vacuum of counter-progression and met an untimely fate with the giant metaphorical nostalgic garburator and that the days ahead are those of redundancy, interpretation and expectation. Cheaper, less durable tar laid over the bumpy yet still effective road of discovery that led us here.

As I type along to the metronome in my brain and gulp my red wine, which poured out of a cheap, plastic corkless tetra pack, I can say, with the certainty of a time bomb, that there are too few pieces to what is too much puzzle.

writing under the influence,
jeffc

Monday, April 20, 2009

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Four pints of Double Vodka + Rockstar later; the newest addition to "A Writer Under The Influence" is born; "Poetry That Wouldn't Pass a Breathalyzer". Truly written under the influence, and, at the time, a porthole into my inner workings.


Leap And.

Stand on the edge.

Feel the winds of constant change,

As they bite at you with fear you try to ignore.


Close your eyes.

Feel your body sway sardonically,

The ebb and flow of liberation.


Open your mind.

Widen the corridors of your thoughts,

Allowing heights to be raised and reached.


Inch forward.

It's okay, others do it.

I'll show you. The fall isn't that bad.


The closer you inch to the edge, the more appreciation you gain for it.


Lift a foot.

Like a flower,

Let yourself blow in the breeze.


Commit.

I don't care what anyone says.

I'm gonna love this dream like no other.


Breath deep.

For it may be your last.

Take in what earth has on offer.


Open your heart.

Fall forward.

Leap and the net shall appear.


If the net fails you, like it has others, enjoy the fall; for it's something that not many feel.

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Free Spirits. Individual Thinkers. Trail Blazers. Cross Pollinators. Crazy Ass Rock Stars. Where have all these people gone? Why is society producing less of them now? Or, perhaps, why is society not letting them, if they are indeed around, voice their opinions?


If one of the more preeminent musicians or singers were to pull this in an interview in todays day in age, they'd be trashed talked all the way from Twitter to TMZ. But, at one point in time, it was accepted. People who seemed to function on some higher plain of thought and spirit were celebrated, not castrated. 

Am I wrong for yearning for these days gone by? Am I the only one who thinks things were more interesting and vibrant back then? Maybe I am way off kilter because I wasn't even born yet. In any event, Jim Morrison is one forward thinking, prophetic cool-ass poet, writer and rock star. Listen to his noteworthy thoughts on the performance and how one day it might be a single man on stage standing with a bunch of machines he can manipulate.

writing under the influence,
jeffc


Thursday, April 16, 2009

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press play


I went golfing today. Not something I do very often, in fact, once a season at best.  My grandparents had memberships at golf courses when I was younger, much younger, so I am no stranger to a 9-iron.  Two friends and I - I know, one short of a foursome - walked into the pro shop of the mid-level Granite Ridge clubhouse to pay our green fees. As I was paying, a short, bearded man surfaced from the back. Upon first glance, he might have been a full grown hobbit sporting a powder blue spandex golf tee.  I knew what he was about to say even before he said it.

"Any golf attire today sir?" He quipped with a condescendence he made no clear attempt to disguise. I could only assume he was referring to my casual shoes, neat blue jeans, white v-neck tee and plaid button up shirt. Accessorized of course by a try-hard paper-boy/golf hat and black as night Guess shades.
"Pardon me?" I asked. I wanted to get a clearer listen to his tone.
"Golf attire sir? Do you have any?" He confirmed.
"Yes. I am wearing it." I replied with no apparent offense or defense.

Needless to say, the story goes on, and I did in fact, get out on to the course and hit a generous 103.  As always, I was extremely polite to other players and greenskeepers. I was quiet, until needing to yell 'FOUR' which I had to do more than I'd like to admit. I didn't litter, especially any of the excessive amount of beer cans I generated. And, like any respectful golfer, I let faster players play through. I saw other players, older and well dressed men, exhibiting very questionable behavior on the very same course. Littering cigarette butts, yelling to one another and, perhaps the worse sin of all; referring to the refreshment car operator as 'Beer Wench'. 

Afterwards, I felt like returning to the Pro Shop and having a wee talk with Bilbo Baggins-in-Spikes. Why must old, stuffy establishments remain old and stuffy even though they can see times changing rapidly around them? Why must people be so caught up in the traditions of more reserved times? Why must older generations always be scared by the generations following them?

And this wasn't the first time I had been treated strangely due to my wardrobe or age; my boyish features adding insult to injury. Even flying back from L.A., via our 3rd world airline Air Canada (where 'comfort costs' with a $3 fee for a blanket or pillow. What's next? Additional fees for oxygen masks in case of emergency?).  In any event, I was flying Stand-By - living the dream... I know - for which there is a dress code. 

I wore shiny black dress shoes that you may see on a man in Rome. Clean and slim blue jeans with a white dress shirt, black tie and black blazer. Beside me sat a man, a generous 35, also holding a C5 Stand-By ticket; he wore twenty year old moccasins, wrinkled khakis and a faded golf shirt accented by a stain. Who got the preverbal "Sir. We shouldn't be letting you on the plane dressed like that" lecture? Me! Who had to listen to "When flying Stand-By, you are representing the airline sir."? Me again. If I owned an airline, I would rather have a representative like me as opposed to a closet slob in dockers knock offs and shoes that may have seen the civil war of the mid 1880's. People with any amount of power seem to no longer look at those with less power with any sort of individuality or moral wisdom. Others are just part of a mass, and they are either abiding by the rule, or breaking it. No Grey Area.

People. The times are changing. Don't only tolerate it, change with them. I too enjoy a lot of traditional, old fashioned and romantic notions, but when doing so, I don't impede or offend others.  Exercise constant moral wisdom based on individual circumstances. If you must judge, judge the sentiments of a man, and not his appearance.

A wise man once said "And the sign said 'Long Haired Freaky People Need Not Apply'. So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why. He said 'Son, you look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you'll do'. So I took off my hat I said 'Imagine that! Huh. Me working for you!"

writing under the influence,
jeffc

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

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My favorite band growing up (age 11-16) was The Tragically Hip. And although they still have a special place in my cold shriveled heart, when I entered my formative years in high school I was casually introduced to the music of Led Zeppelin. Now, don't misunderstand me, I had heard plenty of their songs before this, but, what I am referring to is a deep and profound sort of introduction. One that stuck.  Since, I have touted Zepp as the greatest band to ever walk the face of planet, or any other planet for that matter. 


John Bonham; potentially the world's most skilled percussionist (though Pert runs a very, very close second), Jimmy Page; one of music's more prolific and electrifying guitarists, John Paul Jones; an inspiring musical genuise and, not least, Robert Plant; the single most original and intense vocalists ever - make up what would come to be, and still is, my favorite band.

Without any further introduction, the following is an interview with Robert and John before they blew up in America and is simply magic. Witnessing greatness before the world deemed them to be great is such a privilege that, as much as I rag on it, has been afforded to us via YouTube.


writing under the influence,
jeffc

Sunday, April 12, 2009

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A fairly decent writer once inked "Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon 'em".  Any one of these three factors may have sufficed in 1601 when 'Twelfth Night' was assumably written, but now, it seems exceedingly likely that one needs not one of these traits, not two of these traits but all three simultaneously to achieve any level of success and/or immortalization. 


I have begun to analyze, perhaps to an unhealthy and virulent degree, my current ineffable feelings of failure, torturous self-doubt and paralyzing second guesses.  To analyze or not analyze? Either way my introspective nature is now running without governor. I have deduced, after much contemplation, that what one needs to usher their dreams into reality is a combination of, like Bill said, three things. 

One, a dreamer must possess great skill
Two, a dreamer must possess unshakable determination.
Three, a dreamer must be in league with a cosmic force they know nothing of.

I have come to terms with the fact, like many before me, that there are many, more determined and skilled artists out there who have never given up than ones who are successful, acclaimed and, furthermore, affluent.  So there are those who did all they could but were given nothing in return. Why? Because they were overlooked by this intangible cosmic lubricant that afforded others long and sustained careers. 

Any success I have had thus far has been but a shiny jewel set in rusted brass.  If anyone sees this cosmic force; tell them I am looking for them.

writing under the influence,
jeffc

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Let's all take a moment to admire the severe eroding of what was once such an eloquent and useful language and means of communication.  The following are actual comments left on a music video I directed that was posted on YouTube; perhaps the most criminal catalyst for said decline. Others being micro-blogospheres such as Twitter that force one to abbreviate their thoughts into 140 characters or less.


ChampionVideos69
"Yo man this is the best song ever
Theyre Ukrainian too man even better
UKIES FOR LIFE"

xtopher
"...the guys hit, girls hot. sounds awesome, videos hilarious. LOL!~amazing combo.
ill take 2. ahha"

whiskeygirl188
"I Loove Thiss Song But I Cant Seem To Download It On Limewire. It WOnt Work?!:["

greeneyesdragonlol
"this song suchs haha"

greeneyesdragonlol
"im jk its awesome"

and the 'Piece de Resistance':

gohabsgo152025
"lol id hate if tht band just showed up watch huis lips when theyre playing hes like fuck off"

As I watch the tool which I use to create slowly being widdled down to it's retarded nub like Andy Dufrain's rock hammer of freedom, I think to myself; "WTF. U ppl hav no idea the consequences of ur actions :[ !?!?!"

writing under the influence,
jeffc

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"Private Hewitt's Pork Belly Stew"

by jeff campagna

Prologue

Up at 6:00 am. Breakfast ready for 7:30 am. Lunch set for 12:00 pm. Dinner ready for 6:00 pm. Prayer at 9:00 pm. Lights out at 10:00 pm. Thus was the redundant routine of Private Hewitt. A man who was where he didn't want to be, though not entirely. Private Hewitt had spent sixteen long sardonic months aboard The N.O.A. Liberty. By now his body had become accustomed to the swelling motion of the sea. Also something he became accustomed to were the far off cries of war, though they did seem to be carried along the choppy water like rolling tumbleweeds in the wind. He would know, he was born and raised in a small town where tumbleweeds outnumbered people. Nevertheless he was far from that town now.

6:00 am

Hewitt couldn't sleep. His thoughts wandered the corridors of his restless mind like a mouse nibbling at the floorboards, keeping you awake. He tried to ignore it, but, just as with the mouse, the harder he tried to ignore it the more persistent it seemed to become. He had waited a long time for this day, and, much to his former disbelief, it was finally upon him. The barracks were silent but even the subtlest of motions, be them human or ship, would bounce off the cold steel walls of the bunk room. It sounded as if everyone was asleep, but the smell of cigarette smoke was a clear indication that the silence misled him. Hewitt hated cigarettes. His internal clock alarmed him. It was time to get up he thought to himself. 6:00 am. And he did not hesitate. He walked the hollow echoing hallways of the ship, past other barracks where soldiers from other platoons either slept, played poker, smoked, fought or masturbated. Up three flights of rusted beaded stairs to the first deck where some squads were already beginning to board the transport boats headed for shore.
"Morning Hewitt" a rough voice shouted.
"Mornin' Remy" Hewitt shouted back. His voice was clearer than it usually was at that time which surprised him. He spoke with a southern drawl like many of the men aboard the Liberty. "Headed out today Ah see?"
Remy spread his arms out with a shrug of approbation. He didn't speak much, but when he did, it was to Hewitt. They had become dear friends over the past sixteen months although they both knew that if it weren't for the service, they would not be friends elsewhere. Remy knew Hewitt's backstory but didn't pretend to understand or imagine what it would be like. Remy knew that Hewitt had joined the service not out of sense of duty or patriotism but out of shear and unstoppable revenge.

7:30 am

Hewitt had spent the last hour or so preparing breakfast for some 950 troops. He spent the next two hours preparing something else. He hated cooking but did it with skill. He knew this kitchen too well. He knew the smell that the sinks possessed when they clogged up and precisely where rats would leave their droppings by the dry storage. If blindfolded he could maneuver the area like one of those very same rats through a maze in a university lab. Hewitt had been working in that kitchen long enough to be aware of the slow dulling of the knives, the even slower rusting of the pans from the salt water all around them and even the ever so subtle change in odor since his first day. Not that he ever wanted to remember it again. He came on this boat madder than a juiced bull in a bull fight. He could recall the bright Corporal welcoming him aboard with a false mirth, which made Hewitt's anger that much more obvious and fortified. "Welcome Aboard The Nation Of The America's Liberty" he recounted the line. It still made him cringe.

The eggs came from a tin can roughly the size of a football. "Whole Dried Eggs" they read in big black lettering. Each can was more rusted than the next but a hot breakfast on the ship was better then rations from a soldier's pack while they were in the trenches. See, a soldier realizes very quickly that, once in combat, everything becomes 'relative'. One no longer compares things to their equivalents back home, but instead they only compare things to the worst possible scenario now. "A cold shower on the ship ain't bad compared to not showering for 16 days on land in the shit" they might say. In any event, the eggs were served right on time at 7:30 am with trays of 'bacon', but everyone knew it was Spam sliced and covered in a brown glaze so as to resemble a horrible unreasonable facsimile. In recent years, Spam had become a staple of the military inventory. Meatloaf Without Basic Training some G.I.s would call it. Others would refer to it as Ham That Didn't Pass Its Physical. No matter what name you gave it; it was still Spam, and there was only one positive attribute to it, it was endless.

Once Hewitt had been on the ship for a few weeks, and the lingering anger of his circumstance had subsided, he started to experiment with his newly designated position. Back home, in The South Of The Americas, he lived a pleasant life with his mother and father just outside of town centre. He played baseball and showed quite a lot of promise at it. He drank socially, watched films and made love to a few women, young or old it never seemed to matter to Hewitt. He was 21 and had bedded more women than other men his age. His mother and father loved him equally and he loved them equally back. Every Saturday and Sunday he would work with his father in mechanics shop fixing old bikes and bonding with one another. His mother would make her infamous Smoked Pork Belly Stew. After Hewitt registered with the service, his mother taught him how to make the hearty dish in case he ever got the chance or needed to. Well, Hewitt never needed to, but he sure as all hell got the chance. He got sixteen months worth of chances. "Three fucking chances a day, seven fucking days a week. Plenty of chances" he would always remind himself, losing the humor a little bit more every time, but gaining irony in its place.

12:00 pm

The day grew older and the hunger of the troops still on board grew with it. Hewitt seasoned and poured out the last of the Smoked Pork Belly Stew into buckets. It was a favorite on board, even though everyone knew the closest thing to smoked pork belly on board was Spam. Sometimes, Hewitt would even convince himself that his stew single handedly kept the morale of the ship afloat, despite the fact his morale was always scraping along the bottom of the ocean. Twenty-two moths ago his father was killed. When the 6th World War broke there was a mandatory sign up for trades-people - as they were sparse in those days. Like Hewitt, his father would work on the ships, but as an engine mechanic. As it turned out, the workings of a ship were seldom different than the workings of a bike, principally speaking of course. Twenty-two moths ago Asian artillery sunk the ship his father worked on just off the coast of Sub-Asia, not far from where the N.O.A. Liberty was anchored now. Hewitt had every intention of exacting revenge, or what amount he could, in the name of his father. Though he did not expect to be anchored to the ship itself. Thus, he was where he didn't want to be, though not entirely. After a trivial injury on the military base before deployment, the service, instead of keeping him landed, sent him to war as a line cook for the N.O.A. Liberty.

Hewitt's father would often visit him in dreams but Hewitt would always lie to himself, knowingly, and say they were false apparitions, for his father's message contradicted what Hewitt had sent himself to do. He would see his father dressed in full fatigues set against a backdrop of Asian beach vistas, and see himself against the sharp metal of the ship's kitchen panels.
"War is about duty!" his father would yell. But not in a voice he knew, instead, in a deep contrived sort of voice. One that a Hollywood actor may put on to play a seasoned war hero. "War is about value of one and one's country! Not glory! Not vengeance. The machine of war is so much more complex than the pullings of triggers, Son!" he would continue his speech as machine gun fire would cut the wind's tense howl and giant explosions would erupt behind him. Hewitt's father would flinch from the force and persist in lecture."Duty son! There is more to revenge than revenge itself!"
Hewitt didn't at all believe in The Four Gods, but he knew that if they really did exist, they were right, for the ghost of his father knew of his son's cruel and tragic intentions.

By 2:00 pm Hewitt had left the kitchen and walked back down the barracks floor. With him, he carried a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a dish towel. As he passed the open doors to the mostly empty barracks, he listened for the rare, but because of that, evident snore of a sleeping soldier. By 2:30 pm he was on deck, in full fatigues which had a name that was not his stitched on the breast, looking for the next transport boat to shore. He had never felt anything like the weight of the soldiers pack. The straps cut into his virgin shoulders. He held the rifle, uncomfortable as he had never used one but confident that when the time came he would figure out how. He knew others would see his actions as wrong, but he thought them to be right. For even the devils think they are doing good.
"HEWITT?" Infantry Sergeant Sheenan yelled in question "Is that you?"
"Yes Infantry Sergeant Sir!" Hewitt replied with false confidence, imitating numerous troops he had heard before. There was a pause in the air manufacturing tension. Neither Sergeant Sheenan, nor the other troops on board the transport boat knew what to say.
"What the fuck are you doing on our transport Hewitt?" Sheenan contested. "You're a cook for God's sake! You ain't trained to be in the shit"
"It's jus' somthin' I gotta do Sergeant Sheenan." Hewitt exclaimed. He repeated with a mutter "Somethin' I gotta do is all"
"What in the hells are the boys back on Liberty gonna eat for dinner tonight dip-shit" another soldier interjected offensively.
Hewitt was silent and merely jumped at the soldier with aggression. Other soldiers on board held him back and a small scuffle ensued, rocking the boat.

6:00 pm

By now, Hewitt was crouched in a fox hole near the other troops on the beach. For once, the far cries of battle weren't so far at all. He could feel the heat from the flames which continued to singe the brush. It was almost hard for Hewitt to picture what the tree-line looked like without the additional of fire. The explosions shook the ground beneath him as sand from around his fox hole fell inwards onto his body. He became unsure of his actions. Should he have stayed on the ship? he thought to himself. Should he have even enlisted in the service? he expanded. His internal clock told him is was near dinner time and he briefly thought about the troops still aboard. The sound of machine gun fire got closer and louder creating confusion for Hewitt and instantly ripping his thoughts away from his fellow troops. Were the Sub-Asian troops advancing or were the mechanisms of fear distorting his perception of the sounds he had been hearing all along? He didn't have time to choose. He slowly lifted his head above the fox hole to get a clearer look at his surroundings.

About the same time, back on the N.O.A. Liberty, an order cook wandered into the walk-in fridge in the kitchen to find sixteen 20L buckets, full to the brim, with Smoked Pork Belly Stew. The orderly didn't know anything other than the fact that he had never seen so much of Hewitt's famous stew before. The man did a rough calculation, as anyone in his position would have, as to how many days, and how many weeks that amount of stew could actually feed the population on board. A large amount filled a thick unsteady pot which sat perched upon the stove, simmering.

Plenty went through Hewitt's mind. What exactly the difference was between revenge and duty started the barrage of thoughts. Next through his head was the notion he had not, at least altruistically, thought of his mother. And as he heard a bullet whistle toward his ill-gotten helmet, cutting the wind with an ominous hiss, he understood, with vistas of such omnipotence, the ghost of his father's intimations. The last thing to go through his head was a fiery hot, insignificantly sized bullet from an Sub-Asian machine gun.

9:00 pm

Back at the Hewitt house a lonely mother sits by a fire. She expects the worst yet hopes for the best in a distribution of thought only capable of a loving mother. She prays to The Four Gods for their understanding and guidance. She knows, as the portent tumbleweeds rhythmically bounce past her front door, that something tragic has happened. She begins to cry, something she rarely does, in fact hasn't done since her son's deployment, at the notion of loneliness. The tears run down her face, over her gaunt cheek bones and, after hanging on the line of her jaw, fall onto her knit sweater. The fire she sat before no longer provides the heat is was meant to. The house she sits in no longer provides the shelter it had been built to provide.

10:00 pm

Hewitt lies in the dirt. A ring of blood around his perforated helmet has stopped seeping into the sand. And as fast as the bullet had entered his brain and exited, so did the notion that he had ended his family's blood-line. He was to be the last of the Hewitt men, a thought he wished he had garnished long ago. A thought that may have saved his life.

written under the influence by
jeffc

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

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The title of this blog isn't only the title of a pretty fantastic new HBO show, but, it is also the way to best describe my current emotional and mental climate. Lately, things have been tough. Tougher than usual that is. And don't get me wrong, I am well aware of the tribulations beset on most in these harsh economic times and I don't presume that my problems are half as bad as some out there. But, alas, they are my problems which makes them infinitely worse.

As multiple $1,000,000+ feature film projects fall out from under me and a handful or two music videos follow suit, it has become all to clear that I was merely stumbling across such a rickety suspension bridge in my career. Something that one would assume was sturdy, and would keep, would end up doing just the opposite. And the water down below, as I hurl down in the direction of it, starts to appear as if it has run dry and a rocky unwelcoming riverbed waits for me with an irritating sort of patience.

As long as I can remember I have had two raging personalities battling within my every thought and action. For lack of more descriptive names, lets call them Optimism and Pessimism. Optimism has always been smiling, at some junctions wider than others. But Pessimism is what has so aggressively mutated. What was once a mild-mannered devil perched upon my shoulder is now, with regret, an unstable daemon of depression vying for dominance as it drags Optimism further and further down the rabbit hole.

Who will win? I used to think I knew. Is it possible that I have severe entitlement issues? Probable. Am I perhaps becoming to selfish? Most definitely. They say that the night is darkest before the dawn. Well, that doesn't help someone who may not survive the fucking night now does it?

What I do know is that, like a battery slowly growing ineffective over time, my life has become a series of too many efforts met with too few triumphs.

writing under the influence,
jeffc

Thursday, April 2, 2009

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I am going to make this nice and brief. Coldplay, although at a less breathtaking junction in their career, has released potentially the greatest music video I have ever seen. There are great videos from the 70's, a few from the 80's (even if the music made you want to bear claw your eyes out), some interesting shit in the 90's (nothing comes to mind though) and few between here and there. However, this "Life In Technicolor" video, in my unprofessional opinion, is an instant classic.


I hope to one day create something this fucking great... enjoy.

writing under the influence,
jeffc

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

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"The Day The Old Man Knocked"

by jeff campagna

I.
It was mid-summer. I was sixteen, maybe seventeen and I remember, for as many years as I could, my family had been poor without even a savings account to fill up. My father was a farmer. And whether he was a miserable one, or one that mother nature just chose to spite, I doubt I will ever find out. My mother was a kind soul, still is for that matter, and would take up many a part-time occupation in order to pay the odd bill which needed paying. But, as my father wouldn't care to admit without a few shots of booze, her full-time job was keeping him on this side of sanity. My younger brother was born three years after me but had died early in life, from what is still a heart wrenching mystery. As you may have guessed, we lived on a farm and it was modest and always smelled of the outside, no matter how tight we shut our windows. The walls were thin and in the middle of summer, as it was then, I could strain to hear the sounds of insects congregating by our front porch light. The house was surrounded by fields, some corn and some wheat - all large enough to get lost in if not careful. This summer was supposed to be a good crop, but as of then, mid-summer, it wasn't looking that way. I can remember a time when we would have meat for dinner and sometimes even some custard for dessert, probably I was five or six. Now it's more breads, oats and stews, almost all of which made from potatoes. How my mother would concoct as many different items out of potatoes I shall one day hope to find out. I would sometimes ponder, as we sat around our quiet creaking dinner table, what if my mother had more indulgent ingredients to work with, would she would create meals fit for kings and queens - the God's even. During the summers I would take up the clarinet, as it was my mother's favorite instrument. My father couldn't stand the sound of it. When I would begin to play he'd storm out, onto the porch and hit rocks into the field with a small wooden log he lathed into a bat. I knew though, from time to time he would let it show, that he still contained a certain pride that I set my mind on something. Since my brother's passing my family had stopped going to Sunday Service at The Sanctuarium. I was raised inside the faith but my family would let it slip away. I had always found theology of great interest. I had heard of many other belief systems in other far off countries, though they could have all been made up, I would never know. Much of the world was speculation in those early years. All I knew for certain, and even then it wasn't guaranteed, was that we had Four Gods over us. Two of which were Good and Powerful and the other two were Evil and equally as Powerful but all Four, be them Good or Evil, were to be equally respected. There was Reenol who was the Good of the Two Creators, the other being the Evil one; Qwansii. They were to always be at war, not only with each other, but within us as well. They created us, when, it is not written, to be different levels of Good and Evil. No one man or woman was the same amount of the combination. They, like other Theologies I hear, gave us Ultimate Freedom. That Freedom they bestowed on us would lead to a ramped over population of the Nine Worlds they held. With over population came religious sectioning and defecting which bred non-believers which, in turn, lead to a false sense of land ownership then ultimately leading to wars over territory and mass eliminations. As we believe entirely in reincarnation, the mass eliminations, occurring many centuries ago up until now, led to an over abundance of rising souls thus putting a strain on the cosmic economy. At that point Reenol and Qwansii were in need of aid to properly process the dead, thus creating, sub-rosa, Two more divine beings, one of Good and one of Evil, Thust and Bruginar respectively. Needless to say we were a society of fundamentalists and we were to live by the rules laid out in front of us by the Four Gods. It was the elder's contention that the virulent powers of The Two Evils, or so they were deemed, was and always would be perfectly balanced by the profound virtues of The Two Lights. This is the substratum which I was raised on, until Keb's death of course, and was taught not to question it. When Keb passed it wasn't as though I was to stop believing, it was more that I was to stop practicing. And so I would only practice at night, before sleep, in my room where I once slept with Keb. His open crib was across from my bed, lying on either would be analogous of lying on the dirt path between the fields, but I'm am sure his body would have adapted as mine did long ago. I would pray to The Four Gods whilst kneeling on his open crib. I wouldn't dare pray for things as trivial as good crops, grades or karma, no! I would reason with them, question their logic and trains of thought. Not in a vengeful way but in a curious one. I knew, even at a young age, to pray out of greed was to pull at the arms of your parents constantly begging and bothering.

II.
There was a knock on the door, which was odd for lunch time - or any time for that matter. We were so out of the way that not even mail was delivered to our house. You could go two or three weeks without even seeing another man, woman or child. No sounds other than nature. The land was bereft of any life outside of the faun and flora created by The Four Gods. Never-the-less, the knocking persisted. I remember trying to recall the last time I had heard the sound and I failed to produce a memory. We sat at the creaky dinner table over bowls of luke-warm stew. It was the most we had ever looked up at each other from the bowls during our austere meal time, but, no matter how long we looked at each other, or how long we considered the seldom nature of what was upon us, the knocking would persist but never grow louder or more eager. I can so vividly recount how awkwardly my father placed his spoon down once he decided that he would answer the knocking. It was as if he had never, in his long and tiresome life, put his utensil down before actually finishing a meal. But alas, the spoon went down and my father got up and to the front door he walked. His footsteps were slow but rhythmic. The feeling of foreign tension was ineffable and almost profound in retrospect. I heard the door open and a raspy voice, strange to me, forced out an introduction. "G'day Sir" it said "I have lost my way and am in need of food and shelter. If I wouldn't be imposing you think I cou-". My father was quick to cut him off "Where did you come from old man?". At this point I knew only three things for sure; one, it was a man, two, he was old and three, my father had never seen him before. "Came from the rail station" the old man answered "Walked down the main road when my train got in at nine this morn. Seems the main road has nothing main about it" he went on to explain. My mother and I sat at the table, both of us pretending we weren't eavesdropping. She would continue to slurp her stew, but quieter than usual is how I knew. I could almost hear my father thinking, pondering as to the nature of this old man's existence and why our house he chose to knock on. "You have nowhere else to go?" my father quipped. "No Sir. I'm not from these lands." the old man said with a kind tone. My father opened the door wider, which was obvious from it's rusty cry. The old man's footsteps were subtle and sounded barefoot which fell victim to the loud sound of my father's boots, however I could tell both sets were headed for the dining room. Before I knew it, the old man was standing before me, my father by his side. He was a sight, one I will not soon forget. He stood a foot or two shorter than my father, and was at least half as thin in the frame, but still, he emitted a large and powerful ora. "This here is my son Hoss and his mother Deirdre" my father introduced. "It's a joy to meet you both" the old man returned. "And what's your name old man?" my father questioned. "Oh, that's not important. I will be out of your hair long before my name is ever needed for anything. I am fine with being called Old Man" the old man assured. My mother motioned for the Old Man to have a seat at the table, where Keb's seat would have been had he graduated from his high chair. "I'm sorry Old Man but we have only warm oat stew and dandelions to eat." warned my father. Though he didn't say it, the Old Man didn't mind as he dug right in from the pot in the middle of the table. He ate with conviction and would rarely look up, but, when he did, his altruistic smile would say the pardons he did not. The next hour, or so it seemed, was silent but not empty. After lunch we made our way to the family room for tea. Tea, however, was simply hot water and the left over weeds from lunch, but, still, it was nice for we had company. My father would give the Old Man a set of his clothes to replace the tattered rags he wore and the man would shamelessly change into them before us. As the sun set the conversation persisted. My parents and the Old Man spoke of many things. Hardships, farming, religion, the Townsfolk and Keb were among the graced topics. Just about the time I could hear the buzz of the insects hovering around our front porch light my mother got the notion that it would be nice if I played my clarinet for the Old Man. I could see the idea on her face minutes before she mentioned it. And so, when she finally did, I didn't argue for I knew I wouldn't win. I fetched my woodwind from beneath my bed and played for the Old Man. Though I was out of tune and time in nearly every song I attempted the Old Man seemed to enjoy every note. Interestingly enough, for the first time since I began practicing the instrument, my father remained seated in the living room and almost seemed to find enjoyment in my playing which I found in enjoyment in in return. I forget how long I played but I do remember my fingers cramping as they had never done before. Eventually the old man, I speculate from an exhausting journey, fell asleep in the very chair he sat in. My father would often fall asleep in that same chair after smoking a short cigar or having the odd shot of whiskey, so I could comprehend it's welcoming comfort. My mother and father thought it time for bed, seeing as the guest had preempted us, so we made our way to our rooms for the night.

III.
To this day I remember the prayer I recited that night. "Dear Four. I know that it is said that you operate in mysterious ways too complex and profound for us mortals to comprehend. But, it is my wish, my desire to one day have a better understanding of the duties which stand before you every day, every year, every century. I find comfort in the fact that Keb's physical death was one of necessity and The Two Evils deemed it important, for reasons I will never know. I do know, almost for certain, that there were actual reasons though. Why you have sent this Old Man to us I don't know. Why you would let a man so lacking of mental capacity and physical ability to wander the plains I don't know either. What I do know is, that between The Two Lights and The Two Evils, there is reason and sense enough to avoid nihilistic actions and keep in line with the original concept. And for that, but not only that, I thank you."

IIII.
I arose first the next morning, as was not usual. I opened my door for I presumed that my parents were still sleeping, and crept down the narrow crowding hallway towards the main rooms. I had expected to feel a presence as I approached the main room, as I knew the Old Man fell asleep on the chair. As I neared, a presence I felt but not one that I had anticipated. What the differences were at the time I couldn't remember. As I turned the corner, where the paint had begun peeling off the walls a few years ago, I saw no man on the chair, but, nor was the chair empty either. Perched upon it was a leather sac, one that I had not seen the man come in with. I crept slowly towards the foreign sac, careful not to step on the planks which I knew let out loud creaks. I got to the chair and looked down into the open satchel to find what I had least expected, even with the already stated strangeness of the situation. It was shocking and something that I had never seen the likes of. I slowly crept backwards, all the way back down the narrow crowding hallway to my parents bedroom door. I knocked. I could hear them muster about shortly before my mother pulled the door open just as I was about to knock once more. "What is it?" she rasped. "The Old Man has gone and left something in his place." I countered. My parents followed me to the chair where the Old Man once slept. The sac was still there, and I remember hoping that what I saw inside of it was as well. My father was the first to get to the chair and look down into the bag. His hands reached in and I could hear the clinging and clanging of it's contents. The morning light came in through the window, in a rectangular fashion, and shone a light into the sack, reflecting a warm golden glow of my fathers hard leathered face. I recall him looking back at my mother, who must have had a view of it's contents, with an expression I had never seen, but, judging from my mother's reaction to it, she had a long long time ago. They both smiled as my father cupped his hands together and removed a collection of the contents. The sound of gold coins hitting the worn wooden planks of our farmhouse will be forever ingrained in my memory, as much of that night and subsequent day have been.

IIIII.
There was a knock at the door. Again, we looked at one another in confusion, but this time with a whole different set of underlying experience so newly learned. My father once again walked to the door and opened it, this time revealing Bishop Withers from The Sanctuarium, someone we had not seen in years for reasons stated already. From the look on Bishop Wither's face, his visit was as confusing to him and as it was to us. He would go on to explain that he was sent a cosmic message from the powers of Good and Evil that rewards had been bestowed upon us from the likes of Reenol who had taken human form to test our charity and Ultimate Good Will. As I heard the words leave his mouth I was hit with the most obvious recollection of all; as filthy, unkempt and inhumane as the Old Man was he didn't possess the repulsive odor that one would expect a man in his state to emit. In fact, with the exception of his appearance he was the most pleasant of men. There is little I know outside of what I have told. The notion that The Four existed is something I knew and didn't speculate. The notion that One of The Four would one day visit us is one I speculated but didn't know until that day.

written under the influence by
jeffc