The Astonishing Life of Colin John Campbell, 1944-2012

by: Nurse Kelley

Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 16:21:50 PM EDT

CJ Campbell, who blogged as ulookarmless, passed away one year ago today. This is a reprint of the long tribute I posted at Daily Kos last October:

 photo 251586_108992979200867_2981296_n_zps1fff6eb0.jpg Self-portrait by CJ Campbell, 11/11/11

This community first came to know CJ Campbell - ulookarmless - in 2008. By then he was almost 64 years old, had lost an arm to cancer, and was suffering from aphasia, heart disease, epilepsy, and poverty. We followed his journey as he underwent chemotherapy, a heart attack, and more kinds of cancer. What many of you don't know is that he wrote poetry and painted daily, cooked at a near-professional level, devoured newspapers from around the world, was a gifted musician, fathered five children by three wives on three continents, helped change the course of Australian politics in 1972, made and lost a couple of fortunes, had some astonishing adventures, never met a stranger, played golf, and - at the end of his life, with one arm, a pacemaker, the aftereffects of a stroke, and three kinds of cancer - coached soccer.

As CJ and I became friends, I asked him questions about his life. Here, in his own words, is his story.

Och, ma family is Scots. My father is Donald Cameron Campbell and our traditional family toast is "Here's lookin' up yer kilts and takin' doon yer particulars."

On my mother's side, we are Scandinavian from waaaay back. Our original ancestor was a mercenary on the Second British fleet that brought convicts to Australia in 1792. As a result, we are rare 7th and 8th generation Australian-born natives with no convictions in our backgrounds. My mum Julia's maiden name is Leth (Leith) and she claims she traces her heritage back to the vikings.

Now, somewhere along the line, my great-grandmother fell in love with an aboriginal stockman (cowboy), so, I am 1/16 Australian aborigine.

People often say to me, boy you have led a great life, and I say back, "No, I simply remember what has happened in my life". When I get people to begin to dredge up the incidents that have made them who they are, they suddenly begin to see their own journey in a different light.

Every journey is different, every journey worthwhile.

My grandmother-in-law (in Hong Kong) was about 4'9", had bound feet, weighed no more than 80 pounds and was an opium addict from the 1920's. She lived into her late 90's, died in 1975. Imagine the life she lived and the things she saw!!

I come from a working class background. My dad was a fitter and turner (a metal worker), he built the furniture in our house. My mom was very intelligent and was always frustrated by the lack of opportunity for women in Oz. Her dad was a well known artist and her mum, my nana, was a wonderful artists' model with all that implies.

I am the oldest of my generation and the first in the family to graduate from University. I had a job with the Feds and was slated to go into the diplomatic corps, was a regular church goer, married my teenage girlfriend when we both turned 22, had two sons. But then, in one of my last year of classes, met the manager of research at J. Walter Thompson, an older guy who was earning his degree courtesy of the ad agency. He offered me a job, which in turn led to a VP position at Spectrum within 2 years at age 24.

CJ's oldest friend (and new Kossack) Daigomi fills in here, giving some details on CJ's successful effort to change the Australian government:

During Col's tenure at Spectrum in Australia, they (the Spectrum team) developed the election campaign in 1972, "It's Time", which unseated a conservative coalition (Liberal Party and Country Party) government that had been in power for 23 years.

CJ's poem about this period in his life:


Life was never difficult for a white male born after

The second conflict to end all great international arguments

And while we never had much money in our pockets

We never wanted for material possessions
Nor did we lack for love from family and friends

Father had a steady job, protected by the union

Mother owned a coffee house, espresso in the 60's

Cheese and pineapple toast, berets, turtle necks.
Ferlinghetti read aloud to bongo drums

Me and Gordon and Rhonda played PPM tunes

My young brother Pete did Mick to a tee
Joined a group of radical left wing uni grads

In a market research group who worked for

The loyal opposition to the then government

In Oz. In the next twelve months we design,
Then run a successful campaign to try to elect
First Labour Party government in almost 20 years

On the simple premise that "It's Time"

That's correct, it was simply, time for a change.
Some would ask, "Time for what?"

Peter the Writer would always answer "It's just time"

The question would hang forever in the air...
A wise man was old Peter

Who understood that voters

Would finish the sentence

With their own ending
He was right
Three years later

Time was up

It was, indeed

© CJ Campbell March 2012

I joined a group of like minded researchers and opened the Hong Kong branch of Spectrum. My wife came to HK for 6 weeks, did not like it at all and one night, when I got home, there was a note advising me that she had taken the boys and gone back to Oz and her boyfriend. I was devastated. S, who I had hired to run the new office, eventually became my wife and after almost 10 years in HK we came to LA in 1978. S is the mother of my third son and only daughter, both born here in America.

So then I was running a major research firm in LA when I met L. I was still young, still thinking below the shoulders in matters related to sex. I left S for a woman ten years younger. L had a daughter, who I now consider mine.

We moved to SF where I was working with a group researching market potential for energy efficient appliances.

Since my fourth son was born, his first 8 years coincided with the destruction of the Silicon Valley boom and I saw job after job disappear until cancer struck in 2004.

S, who has every reason to give me a hard time, married a good friend of mine from HK. She and he have both been solid as rocks.

My two younger brothers both live in Tasmania, I am in constant touch with them.

In my life I have:

-been the lead singer of a Peter Paul and Mary clone group in Oz

-lived with a tribe in the Oz desert for 4 months

-taken Polaroid pics of almost 200,000 tractors in SE Asia for
Caterpillar Tractor

-driven the length of Java from east to west

-spent a week with my wife on a deserted tropical island

-eaten Civet cat, harvest birds, snake, kangaroo tail, goanna,
witchetty grub, chocolate ants, fish heads and more

-abandoned the plane via the escape chute on the runway at Kai Tak Airport

-landed "dead stick" in a lettuce field in the Imperial Valley, Ca
holding on to the waist of my camera man as he kept the camera -going
outside the window of the Cessna

-developed the "bring to market" plan and helped sell the prototypes
to Maytag and Toshiba for the world's first microwave clothes dryer in
1999. The product is slated to come to market by 2015 it takes almost
twenty years for technology testing!

-wrote the original "bring to market" document for compact fluorescent
lamps in 1991 which predicted a 2004 "take off" year. I was wrong by
one year!

-been the lead singer of The Gang Bang, a HK rock group in the 70's
consisting of one Caucasian singer, a 5'1" Chinese lead guitarist, a
6' Chinese rhythm guitarist, a 5'5" 220lb Chinese bass player and a
tall skinny Chinese/Portuguese drummer who was stoned 105% of the
time. We had a permanent gig with Bacardi Rum on the Ferries where
they threw parties in HK Harbour

-conducted several million dollars worth of surveys for Reynolds
Tobacco and Coca-Cola in the 70's as they turned their attention to
Asian markets

-sat in a room with Reagan's advisors before his election when one of
them looked at him and said "You know Ron, when you made movies, we
always knew you were acting. Now you're a politician, we're not so

-at last count have been to 42 States

-I love to meet and learn about other people's journeys

Nurse Kelley :: The Astonishing Life of Colin John Campbell, 1944-2012
CJ's struggles since becoming ill in 2004 have been well-documented. One of his earliest diaries should be required reading for Gov. Romney:

Every day I check my SSA account hoping to find that I qualify for extra help with medications, or that California will once again pay my Part D premiums, or that my Medicaid copayment of $760 a month has been waived so I can afford much needed dental work. To no avail.

Every day I check to see if I have an appointment with one or more of the following: Blood test, CT Scan, Oncologist #1 (for Nerve sheath cancer), Oncologist #2 (for mouth cancer), Cardiologist #1 for Chemo induced heart problems, Cardiologist #2 to check my implanted defibrillator, Neurologist for Chemo induced strokes and seizures, Dermatologist for Chemo induced rashes and skin pain, Primary care doctor for monthly check up, ENT specialist to check mouth cancer, Radiation tech to check my progress after 4 months of radiation on my neck, tongue and mouth. Cool, only have three appointments next week.

Every day I get dunning calls and letters from collection agencies, sometimes polite, mostly insulting "pay the bill or no doctors in this town will see you." I usually offer to send them the other arm (cancer took the left arm 5 years ago).

Every day I sit at my computer and try to budget a way for $1461 a month to pay for rent+utilities ($1050), health care premiums, meds, payment of past bills ($240), food for myself and my son ($200), transportation, public, can't drive ($50). So I don't eat out, don't go to movies. My older kids help make up the shortfall every month. Bless them.

Every day I am thankful for great doctors, nurses, techs. My children who help bridge the money gap. And my ex-wife who, with her husband, have become stalwart allies and good friends.

Every day I start on a new diary but run out of energy. Today is different. I am determined to share my story. Health care is not "broken", rather it has been coopted by greedy people who think it's OK to profit on others' pain. The leeches who run the system should go through one week of my life. Wonder how long they would last?

In 2010 CJ became a member of the KosAbility board and, eventually, moderator of the Wednesday diaries. He found and nurtured new writers, encouraged all who wrote and commented even as his own health continued to decline, and played an integral role in making the series so important that it is a featured group on the Daily Kos masthead. One of his last poems was written for the KosAbility community.

 (For A.E. Houseman)
An outnumbered band of ill-equipped veterans
 Volunteer for duty on this fate deciding day
 Where nurse and priest and blogger stand
 Shoulder-locked in confident array

A quilter and her sister over there
 Stand arrayed beside a kilted Scot
 Mother/fighter for disabled rights. Care
 They for those less able to go not

Where help is needed most. Look see
 The bear arms locked with the math savant
 Himself learning disabled. Many others to be
 Mentioned in this army of care for human want

This bridge will hold, as with Horatio, until
 Every soul is safe and help is an open offer
 We can do no less, for if we don't fulfill
 Our duty to our fellows, what more does life proffer?

© CJ Campbell September 2012

CJ wrote at least one poem every day. The ones about pain and disability are haunting:


Wake up in the morning
To a sink of dirty dishes
Have some eggs for breakfast
Despite your doctor's wishes
Sitting drinking coffee
Absorbing all the dirt
In the local coffee shop
In yesterday's t-shirt
Lunch at one a sandwich
Or some soup out of a can
Then nap all afternoon
Or do puzzles til the man
You've looked forward to comes on
At five to catch you up
With the news outside your walls
He really fills your cup
With the foolishness of those
Who want to lead us all
Or they that they know best
(I wouldn't have the gall)
Then dinner all alone
While watching the TV
Basketball or hockey
It's all the same to me
Exhausted by the meds
By 9 or so in bed
Solving several sudoku
Buzzing in his head
Sleep in fits and starts
Phantom pain still there
After almost 4 years on
Very hard to bear
Wake up in the morning
To a sink of dirty dishes
Have some eggs for breakfast
Despite your doctor's wishes


Last night the Phantom struck again
It struck in my left arm
And though the arm's no longer there
The Phantom does great harm
The wrist is very painful
Fingers curl up in a ball
This non-existent menace
Won't let me sleep at all
The best solution I have found
An imaginary cane
To whack the Phantom 'til he stops
Then whack him once again
The problem with this whacking
Is really plain to see
When I'm beating on the Phantom
I'm also whacking me
I wake up all exhausted
My stump is black and blue
I'm mentally lethargic
The Phantom ne'er says "Boo"


The pain in my non-existent arm never stops
The phantom pain of loss
It wakes me in the middle of the night
Makes me turn and toss
Pain in the side of my head endures
Since stroke knocked me down
A constant buzzing in my brain
My face a permanent frown
The pain in my chest is complicated
From heart or cancer I can't tell
It stops me after 10 minutes
Feeling this way is hell
The physical pain as bad as it is
Is not the worst in fact
The pain of being rejected
Has the most impact


Lately I've been dreaming nonsense
Don't know what it means
I think it must be the drugs
I'm seeing frightful scenes
Sometimes I wake to grab my arm
But it's no longer there
Amputated years ago
I just reach for air
At other times I hear the words
Of some new country song
In a language I don't understand
And a melody that's wrong
Nevertheless I carry on
There's nothing else to do
I'll never give it up
Tell me what would you do?


How long do I have
When will it take me
How will I go out
When will I not see
Anymore more with these
Brown and blurry eyes
As my body shuts itself
Down in brief surprise
Or will I just collapse
In excruciating pain
As the medics make
My heart beat once again
Perhaps I'll simply fall
Asleep and never wake
With a satisfied smile
That would be a break


All my life has been
A struggle between
A body full of disease
And a brain full of ideas
Epilepsy took my teenage years
Made me a drooling fool
Then Cocsackie got me
In the heart muscle
To lay me low for almost
Two years
Destroying my thriving business
In Hong Kong
Came to Los Angeles
To struggle with narcolepsy
And second divorce
In Oakland
A blood clot in my leg
Slowed me for a while
Then 4 years ago today
A stroke took me to hospital
Where cancer was discovered
Amputation of left arm
Several seizures from chemo
Cardiac arrest on operating table
Now have implanted defibrillator
And heart incident about
Every 2 months
I guess


Cancer came back
An unbidden attendant
At the family reunion
That crazy distant relative
Who always manages to say precisely
The wrong thing
The wrong time

In May, 2011, CJ formed the group Indigo Kalliope, a political poetry group. A random sampling of some of my favorites (some have not been published before) gives these gems:


Who are those blanched, smooth
Well dressed middled-aged
Over-fed self-satisfied
Holier-than-thou politicians
Who now complain that
Government is broken?
Why, the same Republicans
Who took a monkey wrench
And threw it headlong into
The workings of the machine
Under the guise of repairing
Faulty departments so that
Private enterprise (read "my buddies")
Could drain the nation of its wealth


Measured by material assets
A nation of brick and stone and metal
Piled high and locked behind
Bars of gold and silver
Owned by a wealthy few
Who keep it all for themselves
In case a rainy day
Spoils their unattended parade
Meanwhile the flock obeys the law
Goes off to work for table scraps
And sofa sized paintings
Of our savior never questioning
The reason for throwing their sons
And daughters in the way of deadly
Weapons from competing billionaires
With a different fashion sense


The loud crude hairless animals are at it once again
They simply do not understand their role in the grand
Scheme of life on this planet, let alone this planet's
Pivotal nature in the universal plan for life. We stand
To lose so much if these talking apes continue to
Burn and waste precious resources in their silly quest
To control their fate. A fate beyond the grasp of any
Being living now or yet to be. This species thinks it best
To kill in the name of peace; to consume in the name
Of preservation; to speak and listen simultaneously
A trick no other species ever learned, therefore
No need to speak, to communicate spontaneously
By this action, on this day, the council now decrees
Flood them out, take the oceans up another 10 degrees

© CJ Campbell July 2011


In a moment of senility

An actor known for roles

Best described as edgy

Violent, tough, no nonsense

Independent free thinker
Became, in full view of America,

A doddering, senile, caricature

Of the failed right wing past

Cause of war, poverty, racial hatred

Class warfare and true social unrest
Vituperative, insulting language

Directed in frothy streams at an empty

And innocent chair to the delight of

Cretinous brain-dead hooting white

Alligator brained feces slinging monsters
Such was the climax of the annual

Convention of the Flat Earth Society

Held in a violent summer storm this week

Where the intellectual elite of the right

Made plans for the violent overthrow of
Reason in all its manifestations
Fortunately for the rational world

And intelligent life everywhere

Human, or otherwise, on this blue ball

The armies of "faith before facts" have lost

All their dictionaries, resulting in
Calls to "go ahead punk make my day!"
And as he walked off stage

Did one see a hint of remorse

In that aged head for the scurrilous

Attack on a good man in the name

Of publicity for a new movie?

Pandering to the lizard brain

In the bubbles/spittle/froth

And alcoholic stupor of the

Broken tooth crowd beside

The polyester jump suiters

And the full Clevelands

With their overweight wives

As they pack the muu-muus

And matching shirts away

For another year
© CJ Campbell August 2012

And then there are the personal poems. Like the one he wrote for us when he received his beloved community quilt:

there are no words to describe
the truth of my feelings
i could say i am overwhelmed
it would not be strong enough
mere thank yous
do not come close
hugs from a one armed man
only reach halfway
at best
let me
leave it at this
nothing will ever replace
what all of you have given unasked
to so many in need
to be chosen as a receiver of your special love
is itself a miracle
a miraculous miracle

Upon receiving the news of exmearden's death:

I wish there was something to say
Something profound
To ease the pain
Only know that
We are all diminished by the loss
Of one so wise
A friend to every worthy cause
She will be missed
By those who long time knew her
And those only met yesterday
Tears are falling

My Christmas present from CJ in 2010:


A Sonnet
As real as any I grew up beside
Or sat with each morning on the train
Heading sleepy to my career
In lieu of life. Nor can I explain
How I know she is as lovely
As the most adored movie star
Although invisible to me
Her radiance outshines by far
The gods of antiquity. I love
Her soul, no need to see
Or stand beside. It reaches out
Enfolds, entrances me
Did we know each other in days past?
Will the dream come true at last?

June, 2012, when I expressed worry about his declining health:

my love
the brain still functions
at a high level
the heart (the immortal one)
is as strong as ever
so I don't worry much
about the pump
the gears
brakes and wheels
they have no bearing
on the essential nature
of our being
nor on the nature
of all of us
nor of love
I love you

CJ did not "go gentle into that good night". He was coaching soccer this fall; his final email, dated less than two weeks before his death, gave me the perfect ending to his story:

I will miss today's diary due to a Soccer party at a player's house. My team finally played the way they were coached this week and won 8-1!

See you next time...

Tags: , , , , , (All Tags)
Print Friendly View Send As Email

Miss you, Darlin. ♥ (2.00 / 11)

"Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." ~ Desmond Tutu

The anniversaries, births *and* deaths, are important to note. (2.00 / 10)
We need to remember those whose time on earth impacted our lives.

Sometimes it is sad, sometimes it is happy, but it is always important that they not be forgotten.

Thanks, Nurse Kelley, for republishing this.

Words have meaning. Our words will reflect what is in our souls.

Thank you so much for this. I remember him well and (2.00 / 10)
admired him and his poetry enormously. I looked forward to his poems and diaries. I was away when he died and missed this tribute. How lucky you both were to have each other as friends. Am saving this to savor and savor again. Thank you. This brings a smile and a tear,

My work here is done. :) (2.00 / 9)
This brings a smile and a tear

I was more an editor than a writer in this case. I had piles and piles of personal emails along with years of social media conversations, CJ's personal diaries, and all his paintings. He was quite a talker! Trying to put it all into some kind of cohesive story was a challenge I don't think I met as well as I'd wanted, but the process was healing.

"Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." ~ Desmond Tutu

[ Parent ]
Yes, (2.00 / 9)
the process was healing
and in that process you also helped others. Many thanks to you and CJ.

[ Parent ]
Thank you for sharing his life Kelley...... (2.00 / 10)
He was a talented and very giving man and I feel fortunate to have read his words. I was thinking about something he wrote just the other day.

Hugs to you today, take care.

Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

He and exmearden taught me a lot about grief. (2.00 / 9)
I was a mess for months after each of them died, wailing and crying and dreaming sad dreams. I really got into it, didn't hold anything back or spare anyone. In both cases I came out the other side so peaceful and so damn happy that I got to know them and share their final journeys. For me, at least, the only way to get through grief is to GO through grief.

"Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world." ~ Desmond Tutu

[ Parent ]
and that's what it's all about, what makes us human (2.00 / 9)
so damn happy that I got to know them and share their final journeys

[ Parent ]
CJ was a Scot, but also a man of Australia. (2.00 / 5)
Here is my inscription for his quilt:

O Fhluir na h-Albann,
cuin a chi\ sinn
an seorsa laoich
a sheas gu bas 'son
am bileag feoir is fraoich,
a sheas an aghaidh
feachd uailleil Iomhair
's a ruaig e dhachaidh
air chaochladh smaoin?

In English:

O Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
Your like again,
That fought and died for,
Your wee bit Hill and Glen,
And stood against him,
Proud Edward's Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

Sound of Australia by a master of both didgeridoo and Aboriginal heritage Dr. Richard Walley, who is an Aboriginal man himself.

I always regretted that I never discussed with him my (2.00 / 5)
experiences staying in an Aboriginal community in the Western Desert. A reminder that we should not hesitate to reach out.

[ Parent ]
I wish I'd known him better (2.00 / 5)
It took me a while to realize how amazing he was, and by then he was very ill. I'm sorry for what I missed.

Let there be light. Then let there be a cat, a cocktail, and a good book.


Advanced Search

Make a New Account



Forget your username or password?

Blog Roll
Angry Bear
Angry Black Lady
Balloon Juice
Black Kos
Booman Tribune
Charles P. Pierce
Crooks and Liars
Daily Kos
Five Thirty Eight
Huffington Post
Juan Cole
Maddow Blog
P.M. Carpenter
Political Wire
Scholars & Rogues
Stonekettle Station
Talking Points Memo
The Field
Washington Monthly
Moose With Blogs
Canadian Gal
Charles Lemos
Cheryl Kopec
Curtis Walker
Douglas Watts
Hubie Stubert
Intrepid Liberal
John Allen
National Gadfly
Peter Jukes
Senate Guru
Zachary Karabell

Back to Top

Posting Guidelines  |  FAQ  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact the Moose  |  Contact Congress
Powered by: SoapBlox