Sunday, August 31, 2008

Campaignin', the movie

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Ironic that Obama is to the RIGHT of me, stage direction-wise.

(the only reason I did this was because John F. Kennedy's Resolute Desk, which was fashioned from pieces of the H.M.S. Resolute, is featured in the first few seconds. That, and I look like Cesar "Dog Whisperer" Millan. The full video is in the next post, above.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Yes, Palin is EXACTLY What The Country Needs


...and in case you were wondering what American Samoa thinks:

Well, WE like polar bears


'St. Nicholas also casts its three votes for Obama...'

Thursday, August 28, 2008

There Are No 'Hurricanes' in a Gale

I'll assume that these adjacent two statements (from a letter by Eddie Garcia, faithfully printed by Lefty at Fall River Blog) are somehow logically connected, because Eddie Garcia is a facile communicator whose work I often admire, but I must comment on the leap of faith required here.
First: Not all radio people have Type A personalities. (I do not, although I did slam some studio doors and it probably saved me.) Although it is currently fashionable -- and a marketable and common practice, alas -- to have outlandish and outrageous jerks mucking up the airwaves with irresponsible dross, there is a difference between "Borderline Personality Disorder" and "Type A Personality." One requires medication and patient counselling. The other requires a good swift kick in the ass.
Second: It's not an excuse in either case. Outlandish personalities may be entertaining, and the eager talkradio audience has been taught to accept -- and yes, "love" -- them as the order of the day (along with poor elocution and flawed reasoning).
But to consistently excuse and enable every violent and antisocial narcissist who sits behind a mic -- or calls a talk show -- does a great disservice to a community. I know the old saw: that it's "just entertainment."
But, really: what good is the circus if it's only clowns?

Everywhere that I worked in broadcasting, with one notable exception, any unpleasant incident or untimely accident was addressed properly, truthfully, and compassionately. Nobody was ever left flapping in the wind, neither the wrong nor the wronged. If you didn't have a modicum of common sense or a sense of personal responsibility, there was help. There was Human Resources, or the professional management I worked with. And failing any other means, your employee handbooks spelled out the proper procedures for harassment complaints or chain of command protocol, and what was expected of every staff member.
The local newspapers didn't carry smug stories about firings, or quotes out of context, or statements from barely-relevant witnesses. Stations did not talk about other stations, their programming, or their personalities. We couldn't even say other stations' call letters.
Wherever I worked, with the one obvious exception, we had enough pride in our own workplace and in ourselves to know that each of us was the "face of the station/magazine/network/show " wherever we were. It would be disrespectful to act inappropriately. And just plain crass to engage in gossip.

The old ways appeal to me, because a ship can't sail without a conscientious crew.
Sure, there were indiscreet nights in port, and shouting matches and raised fists and misunderstandings and grudges and harmful words.
And hearts that ached with apologetic wishes, sense returned and repairs were made.
Because, whether you are right and wronged, or wrong and righted, the rain falls on the bow as heavily as it falls on the stern.
And we're all sober when we're underway.
And we're Shipmates.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008



Nineteen years and a month ago, I was at a big social gathering held by the owners of the new radio station in town, to smugly congratulate themselves for having bought a crappy AM radio station with a filthy facility across the street from a crack house in a trying-but-dying milltown and pretend that they were "powerbrokers" or "kingmakers" or some such nonsense.
If I could, I would go back nineteen years and two months, and quietly tell the younger me to not bother sending that dumbed down version of that resume, and to avoid the entire ugly enterprise by hopping a freighter or something.
Because he would be disgusted with himself when, years later, he finds that he can believe the horrific claims of any former worker. I would warn him that there will be online forums where, daily, he will read the same kinds of complaints about ownership, about management, about talent and callers. But the most disturbing will be the posts that ring with the desperation of someone just seeking some recognition.
And then he will watch as each story is waved away with that "disgruntled ex-employee with an ax to grind" obiter dictum.
But he will know details of a few of those stories, and remember some that never made the forums or blogs or webpages. Because of the tangled morass of excuses and passivity and negligence and ignorance and indifference that obfuscated justice.
And he will remember those who walked away.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Convention? In Colorado?

On a pilgrimage last century to Colorado Springs to visit the home of my boyhood friend Nikola Tesla, I got a good whiff of the pong of Colorado.
Here in New England, people point you at Providence's Thayer Street or Northampton's Center Street, or Provincetown, or somewhere in Vermont when you ask, "Which way are the liberals?" In Colorado, I met a liberal woman, who was sitting on a pillow on the sidewalk near a music shop in Boulder, and asked me if I wanted to make love -- right there on the sidewalk -- for a quarter. My travelling companion gave her a quarter and she gigglingly wriggled about in her diaphanous caftan (which held farm implements or, possibly, farm animals) and then she spelled "L-O-V-E" on the sidewalk with a collection of quarters and we all had a good laugh.
Most everyone -- except for the actual politicians -- in my corner of New England is a sensible, quietly dogmatic Catholic or Prod who wishes that Republicans weren't so racist or Democrats weren't such Commies. They are Whigs who have plucked up the label "Libertarian" and still vote Democrat because their parents would kill them from beyond the grave if they didn't. (Their parents were closer to actual employment issues like "having a job" so they voted "Union.")
That's why it was strange for me when I drove to Colorado.
Besides the "no coastline" thing.
Which terrified me after a long night's drive across Nebraska. I mean, Nebraska has a serene sea quality about it at night, filled with impossibly-peopled ports. 80 to 76 and ... Colorado: BIG FECKIN' MOUNTAINS.
It's beautiful.
There are really nice people. REALLY nice people.
Some, yes, who drive around in the 4X4 with Dad's loaded Springfield M1903 and an open can of CoorsLight right along with the rest of us, listening to both kinds of music ("country AND western") driving for miles and miles and miles and miles and miles before seeing ... anything. Me, no smokes, two weeks out of the Gulf of Mexico. I'm screaming inside. Screaming.
Hope those kids have a swell time. And do you know what would be cool? If Pete Seeger got onstage with Bruce on Thursday night and they did something.
But that's my "theatrical nature" talking.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Brought to you by : C-SPAN'S CONVENTION HUB!

  • According to the Associated Press in yet another article about what town should claim Lizzie Borden, Fall River is "a hardscrabble fishing community."
  • Yes, it is true. Some Fall Riverites find Scrabble™ to be hard.
  • Others use hard words while playing Scrabble™.
  • I love the originals/covers thing what BitterAndrew is doing at Armagideon Time.
  • According to Steven Greenhouse's The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker, at least 33 million U.S. workers make less than $10 an hour.
  • From 1979 to 2005, after-tax income was up 6 percent for the bottom fifth of U.S. households, while it rose 21 percent for the middle fifth.
  • For the top fifth, income jumped 80 percent—and for the top 1 percent, it grew by 228 percent.
  • If wages had kept pace with productivity since 1980, the average full-time worker would be earning $58,000 a year. Instead, the average worker made $36,000 last year.
  • Forty million Americans live below the poverty line.
  • All I ever hear on talk radio is people who must be wealthy because they don't do anything other than call talk shows all day, obviously palling around with wealthy industrialists who have moved their businesses offshore so that they don't have to deal with pesky unions or the guilt that comes with massive tax breaks.
  • It might be possible that they just want us to think that, though.
  • John McCain thinks that he might own 4 houses and that $5million a year makes you a rich person. And that he never saw his daughter Bridget until Cindy brought her home in what sounds like some kind of a baby-smuggling racket. Except that she said that Mother Theresa gave her the kid. She said.
  • I was having a delicious straight-from Stop-N-Shop arugula and cranberry salad. And do you know who I was just thinking about, just the other day?
  • On a beach, factories in the background, looking exactly like a crush that I had freshman year. Again, I've no idea how else to credit this.

Bette Davis in a cute outfit on a lifeboat.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

When Children Can't Play Nice

Shamrock from Fall River-tastic has a nifty video and succinct discussion of how Fawrivvah's creepy old narcissaur Mayah Vobbit Correia displays his befuddlement at parliamentary niceties, first stating that he isn't aware of one of "the traditions" of the FR School Committee, and then subsequently calling upon "the traditions" of that august body, the one that says you must use Robert's Rules of Order in meetings up to the point that you don't want to. Like if you don't like an amendment. Or the guy making it. I lost interest when the chair started to huff and puff and do the snap-snap-snap thing. Or at least that's where it looked like it was going.What Would Cahlton Do?(And what the hell is the Mayor doing chairing a School Committee meeting? I thought we stopped that megalomaniac pissing contest childishness. You'll have to go to the above link to see the short comedy clip.)
A misleading page from the otherwise-excellent "History of Milwaukee" website seems to imply that Henry Martyn Robert was teaching at Downer Teachers' College in Milwaukee when he compiled Robert's Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies.
For those not familiar with what a smart guy does when faced with a personal adversity: HE CHALLENGES HIMSELF. Colonel Robert was shocked when, asked to run a Baptist church meeting in New Bedford, he watched as it descended into chaos without the kind of order that, say, a handy procedural manual might have provided. Robert decided that he would learn everything that he could about running meetings, and compiled the indispensable pocket manual, which he published in 1876.
When an assembled body decides to utilize the procedures in Robert's Rules, it drinks deep from the same draught, the same tradition that thousands of good-intentioned bodies have, the strong armor and wisdom that has impelled forward millions of assembled patriotic and civil citizens.
I started studying Robert's Rules when I was involved in a non-profit business being dragged down by a roomful of old shits who used the Rules like a club to confuse and obfuscate. I knew that their use of the procedures as a weapon was wrong, so I picked up a used copy and shared what I learned with the rest of us who were being double-talked and motioned and amended. We learned their game before the next meeting. With the playing field leveled, they eventually lost control of the non-profit that they were trying to ruin.
Yes, I have been in meetings with pretentious creeps like the above so-called "chair." Self-impressed sophistry leads him into an empty cul-de-sac of inadequacy. And it ain't pretty when he stamps his little feet, feigns ignorance, blames others for not following the rules he doesn't know, gets all petulant and defensive, waves his hands around, shrugs and makes faces. That he learned this behavior while he was a State Representative is reprehensible.
An interesting question is, "Just what Parliamentary Procedure is followed in the Massachusetts legislature, anyway?" Many Massachusetts towns do not use Robert's, or follow to some bastardized extent. But if the chair or the constitution or bylaws tells me that we are following Robert's Rules, I expect everyone in the meeting to do so -- or be educated how to do so -- throughout, to the final gavel of adjourn.
Robert's Rules is there to provide harmony. Easily understood and documentable harmony that applies to everyone.
We see a lot of problems with leadership in this country. The ones who think they're smart, finding something that they think is a loophole or a "special rule" or a weak constitutional device, and then twisting it to benefit their own situation.
Like "executive privilege," for instance.
But neither war nor weather can change certain rules. Like the Constitution. There's a word for knowing what those rules are. That word is CIVICS.
There's a word for people who should know and practice those rules: CITIZEN.
There's also a word for people who don't follow rules: Criminal.

I appreciate and respect your work, and am truly sorry, Colonel.
As soon as I stop spinning...

Friday, August 15, 2008


  • When I was brought up, long ago in the last century, I was not prepared for some things. Like in publishing. You can write a book that is factually inaccurate, and people that agree with the book's misguidedpremise can buy the book in huge quantities so that it looks like it's selling well, and then people who aren't paying much attention think it's true because it's #1.
  • I knew I should have used my massive media power to get more people involved in the British Navy's Eighteenth Century use of Thames River colliers.
  • When I had the chance.
  • Marc Monroe Dion's future ex-wife Deb Allard shows how the BCC Kids' Summer College Commencement ceremonies prove that it's true what they say about some people and rhythm:
  • Can't say as I care for every woman competing in the Olympics being called a "gold digger."
  • As a performer and director who has worked with talented young performers, the story of the lip-syncing singer in the Olympic$ Opening ¢eremony caught my attention. Because.
  • First: People are somehow offended that, 60 years after we thought twice about using duckcalls to enhance popular music, somebody is miming to pre-recorded music.
  • Second: That a "cuter" performer was chosen to publicly perform the song that was sung by someone else, who "didn't have straight teeth."
  • Third: That all the people on teevee news who tell the story are not particularly skilled, talented, or credible.
  • But they all have really straight really white teeth.
I did get a good shot of the back of a huge not-so-red red-tailed hawk keeping watch over the grapevines in my backyard. She wouldn't turn, no matter what I did. I'll never be a raptor paparazzi: I'll give you fish/I'll give you candy! However...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

And in gracelessly inappropriate headlines...

Sometime in 2005 I deleted a whole mess of posts to this journal. Never mind the state of my mind at the time, I just deleted stuff and "took a little break." Or "stamped my little feet and stormed off because nobody would play with me."
One of the adventures I deleted was the time I took a friend's Jeep Cherokee -- at his insistence -- and drove down to pick up some of his friends and their pets who had lost their home in Bay St. Louis, where a 30-foot tidal surge had erased the whole town.
My ludicrously self-effacing entry went something like, "I'm no hero, but I drove -- not unlike a hero -- 1500 miles, 300 0f which was through devastation that someday people will say 'looks like Hurricane Katrina.'"
I'm not blaming "Kathleen" whose story is recounted in this typically histrionical Don Cuddy story. I'm blaming the Standard-Times copy editor for believing that any old scary words belong in a headline. Even if you snag them, without comprehension or context, from a quote.Yeah, Katrina's office, maybe

Monday morning, I realized that I had a doctor's appointment to get to about 15 minutes before I was to be there. It wasn't an important appointment, but I hopped into the Tonka and wheeled out of the South Dartmouth estate into what the Mayor of New Bedford eventually called The Hundred-Year Storm of 2008. Which leaves us wide open for Thousand-Year Storms and Several Decades Storms.
Yes, streets were raging torrents that crested at intersections and surged against vehicles, some unlucky enough to stall and submerge.
But I had an 11:15 appointment and so I drove to that appointment, surmising that nearby development had temporarily rerouted some underground vein of the local aquifer, following my regular route, the one that goes right past homes whose basements were suddenly floating in their living rooms because of The Hundred-Year Storm of 2008.
So, while I was explaining to a health care professional that my creatinine levels were stable, a waterspout was splashing down not once but twice in my own watery neighborhood.
And me without my camera and phone.
(I made it safely home just in time to open up the windows and let in the bright sunlight and lovely breeze. I checked the overflow moat in the wine cellar, and everything seemed fine, including the collections storage area. Slight musty smell, but a couple dessicant-in-a-cans will leave the logbooks and lithographs unmolested.)
So, that's why I don't have any pictures of the cool storm the other day.
Thank you.
(If you have a moment, here's a Letter To The Editor that everyone should read.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Renaming A Boat

Wry former South African John Vigor writes many little boating books filled with practical minutiae because he is one of those sailors who actually has a practical wisdom about frippery and formidability alike, having sailed pretty much every boat everywhere. Which you get to do when you charm or embarrass a few editors with your writing skill, sailing prowess, and personal backstory.
Arm an enthusiast with a few statistics and a fetching yarn or two, and you've made a sailor of any ilk very happy. Vigor's books appeal to the daysailer and armchair mariner crowd, and can lead to some heated post-regatta palaver over the vodka-tonics among the madras-short and yachting-cap crowd at The Club. One remarkable and oft-quoted almanac of his is The Practical Mariner's Book of Knowledge, which I excerpt here. I also direct you to a more thorough source for Vigor's Interdenominational Boat Denaming Ceremony and the subsequent Christening, from the magazine 48ยบ North.
Why should I feel concerned about renaming a boat? No, I haven't gone off and purchased a sea-bound debt bucket.
I just happened to hear about the re-monickering of the training ship for the nearby nautical training school, The Massachusetts Maritime Academy ("MMA" or "Mass Maritime"). Yep, through an act of Congress, in order to pay tribute to a famous Massachusetts family. U.S. Representative Bill Delahunt is shuffling papers around in order to change the name of T.S. Enterprise to T.S. The Kennedy.
Even though I am not one of those who feel that superstition and esoteric trivia will make up for crappy sailorship, I think this may be a time when engaging in ritual may be called for.

from The Practical Mariner's Book of Knowledge: 420 Sea-Tested Rules of Thumb for Almost Every Boating Situation by John Vigor. International Marine division of McGraw-Hill (1994). I think I know, howbeit, where to get the champagne.

Everything I Need To Know
I Learned From The Rockford Files

I don't know how I came about an iconoclast's mindset. Parents who were upstanding pillars of the community, a neighborhood full of bankers and industrialists, schools that employed dedicated and skilled professionals. Even the Catholic ones.

But something about the Rockford Files' insistence that most figures of authority were somehow suspect appealed to me. James Scott Rockford had enough common sense to know that a Korean War vet with a prison record had to be a lot sharper than the lieutenant and sharper than the all the titled hacks around him. He knew that he kept his friends by always being there, if on a long leash. And, with the amount of insouciant disdain he demonstrated toward "authority," his unabashed love for his dad and those friends redeemed him for all time, no matter what lock he picked or zany alias or plot he concocted to bring justice and sanity to the crazy world surrounding his Malibu trailer at 29 Cove Road, the roads around which he traveled in his Pontiac Firebird over six seasons and a bunch of TV-movies.

One of the people Jimbo introduced to us was his "ex-roommate" Gandolph Fitch. The character of Gandy was all about redemption: seeking it, missing out on it, helping others achieve it, the romance of it. And not one actor in Hollywood could have fumbled through the characterization better than Isaac Hayes, a man who embodied soul right up to his tired eyes that seemed to be looking through slides of indescribable sadnesses and then right through you to something else, something he could never explain to you. Shaft. 'Nuff said.

Gandy wasn't slick in the way Jim was, nor did he have Jim's gift for punchy repartee. But Gandy embodied the Rockford disposition, doing the best he could with the limited resources available.

Only appearing in three episodes with Rockfish and nearly disastrously spinning off with co-star Lou Gossett Jr (I suppose an atempt to capture some jive buddy vibe), Gandy did ultimately seem to find a clumsy kind of redemption as Isaac Hayes turned his brief sojourn as entertaining diversion into a place as an important substantiating and show-legend-building character actor.

Which is a pretty good way to go out.

Friday, August 8, 2008


    I will freely admit that "reality" and I are not close. The same way some people are, oh, skeptical about "God" and "global warming." (They may not be the same people and your mileage may vary.) But as the world spins into its gunk-filled vortex of honest fact-lacking absurdity -- or McCain's campaign --- I just thought...
  • Call me old-fashioned, but I think that presidents should at least walk around every so often in tails and a top hat. Or at least have a little class. On the other hand, I've been to Sturgis. Not during bike week, but, I've been there. And it's a beautiful, though unoceaned section of the oceanless interior of our once-great nation...

    ... and for the most part, I was sure to not invite my companions into any "Miss Buffalo Chip" pageants. Is this part of the "Vote for the Guy You'd Have a Beer With" thing?
  • Hey, enjoy the whittled-down officially-not-Portuguese, but probably still Country and certainly plenty carny Fall River DecidesItBetterDoSomethingBeforeAnyoneThinksIt'sNotPartofAmerica.
  • $3 a day, since charging more would be "putting on airs."
  • I'll be at the Rotch-Jones-Diff House Museum enjoying the antics of my mates The Dancing Dogs as we benefit the Waterfront Historic Area LeaguE.
  • Oh, and Gallery X's Public Hanging -- the show with the coolest logo so far this year -- opens this weekend too.
  • So, some idiot who runs "attractions" in Salem wants a Lizzie Borden Museum. Let 'im, I say! He's not a member (in ANY kind of standing) of the American Association of Museums, so I won't work for him.
  • Go to Methuen and open a Jack the Ripper Museum. Or _someplace else that doesn't make any sense_ and open a __something else you don't know anything about but might be able to put on a T-shirt__. (fill in the blanks with your suggestions)
  • And then generate a bullshit lawsuit story so you generate headlines and get everybody's attention and...
  • Why doesn't Fall River have a Whaling Museum? I mean, there were whalers that sailed out of Fall River. So now, Fall River can capitalize on whaling and whale oil and they could get a modern oil company to sponsor it. You know, like Hess Oil for instance, and...
  • Um, never mind.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

"Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem vile"
- Albany, King Lear

Some shipmates might recall the director/star of The Fall River Little Theatre of Fall River's only ever production of a Shakespeare play, the leaden Hamlet. He stamps his little feet and whips out his quill and goatskin to give My Artless Town of Dartmouth a smack with his baldrick. The Herald News felt it appropriate to share his act of unhingement -- possibly mocking him by not editing it. I reproduce it here sine vicissitudo, although I have truncated a portion of the blahblahblah because "brevity is the soul of wit."
And this letter needs all the soul it can get...

Sometimes power (and the laws that are often used to enforce it) is used for good; too often, it is used for bad; and, unfortunately, sometimes it is used foolishly, and nothing good comes of it. Events unfolded for us in Dartmouth recently that might make one question in which way power was used in this instance.
I run a Shakespeare company in my spare time. It is truly is a labor of love, and not a business venture. I plan the next summer’s season months in advance, and spend my own money and time bringing the show together. The actors that work with me share my love for theater so much that they commute from as far away as Providence, Boston and Worcester, and rehearse three or more days per week, for no compensation. Like most artists, the love of the art drives us, along with the chance to share that art with others.We prefer to perform in outdoor venues, because Shakespeare wrote most of his plays for a venue in which there was an open roof and little scenery. The power of the words carried the performance. We also like the idea of taking theater out of stuffy interiors and into the open air, where families can come, have a picnic and enjoy good family entertainment for a reasonable price.
Last summer, we performed at three local vineyards, including Dartmouth’s Runningbrook Vineyards, for two weekends, and it was a great experience for all. The crowds were small but enthusiastic, and everyone benefitted. This year, we will have performed at two, but not at Runningbrook. This year, everybody lost, due to rules and regulations that, as applied, make no sense and serve no good purpose.
On July 21 (four days before our play was to open), I received a phone call from the manager of the vineyard, telling me that the inspector for the town had arrived, and ordered that no events take place there because of “violations.” This was news to us, as we performed in the same spot last year, without incident. Among these “violations” were:
— No toilet facilities. There is a port-a-john. At other locations this is enough.
— It is not an “accepted use.” That’s a funny term usually applied by a bureaucrat. How many times have “unacceptable” uses been overlooked by Dartmouth? For instance, if you hold a party at your house with a band, and more than, say, 50 people attend, you are violation the zoning laws! The inspector told me that the event could not be held in a “residential area.” For those of you not familiar with Old Fall River Road, it is residential in name only. I have a good throwing arm, and I could not hit a house from Runningbrook Vineyards. We’re not talking about a loud concert here, or thousands of patrons. We are talking SHAKESPEARE.
— Lack of handicap access. A performance in a flat field is not acceptable by whom?
— Parking issues. The stage and parking areas are both more than 50 feet from the road.You can see where I am going with this.

Yes, I do. Indeed.
It goes on, filled with more possibly Herald News errors and other mistakes surely fomented by artist's umbrage, relentlessly blaming some unseemly "politics" or an artless "bureaucrat" or some annoying "law" or something else that needs "scare quotes" or someone or something other than the actual unprepared and self-involved director/manager/star/Prometheus who was moved to such verbosity that even logic seems to cower in fear and not show its calming presence.
Haha! Overwrought prose: Two can play at that game!
And certainly, I can't deny the temptation to type "The lady doth protest too much."
Because maybe the Hamlet reference might help this SHAKESPEAREAN ACTOR/DIRECTOR/PHILANTHROPIST.
I know that it's hard to be an artist in a world that thinks that the talent that it sees on America's Got Talent is actually, er, talent. I know that we all worked really hard learning to emote like an egg in a slowly-warming pan, and that some of us like to learn all the words and recite them out loud to people other than immediate family or medical professionals.
And not just at karaoke.
And I admit -- because I have been one -- some people like to conceive, engineer, and present amateur theatricals in non-traditional spaces. But please:
(1) think about the rest of us people out here who actually bother to look into the community's legal requirements before staging a legitimate production, and then
(2) don't be a spoiled brat who thinks he can act with impunity because he's doing something that he claims will "enrich a few people."

We get enough of that from the current President.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

When a Thing Dies

There is one breath that is clear:
Plaintive and convincing,
Filled with the shadow of
A promise that once was,
And dark with anticipation
or acceptance
of what will
-- or will not --

So that's my requiem for quality radio in Fall River. In other parts of the world, if a radio habitant gets a new job, there is no big story in the paper. But around here, there is so little radio of quality, losing one talk host throws the whole place out of plumb.
Everybody's eulogizing Kerianne Rodrigues today. Lefty, James, the Fall River Community blog, and Inquire Fall River, and I'm sure others...
I wrote that above bit while having one of those melodramatic film montage moments -- you know, the ones where the cello swells to the tympani roll while scenes from the last five seasons jumpcut to a lingering closeup of something significant falling out of the character's hand and then: "Rosebud."
Or something.
And I also remembered the last heartfelt moaning exhale of one of my cats.
For vessels that aren't tied off in this particular harbor, let me remind you of WSAR, Fall River.
Last century, I worked at WSAR. Twice. First, I was fresh out of school and thought that broadcasting would be a career. WSAR was the first place to hire me, beginning my ill-fated foray into dealings at various broadcasting facilities filled with walking examples of textbook personality disorders. And then I went back there under the current ownership, which finally convinced me that broadcasting would not be a career as much as it would be a hopeless, endless, downward spiral of masochistic exercises in self-loathing.
I've worked in toxic environments over a large portion of my life, because I was brought up in the manufactory-infused atmosphere of Fall River, where everyone concedes that there's a reason why they call it "work."
Because you're not supposed to enjoy it because it's not "play."
Along with that Puritan disdain for pride in performance. And the Catholic guilt. And a fear of wealth. And the cultural incredulity about the benefits of any manner of sophistication, including education.
And that's WSAR. The Perfect Storm of all those disastrous fallacies.
I watch with morbid interest the goings-on at that place. I listen to hear some glimmer of quality. Because I still believe that local radio is the visage that a community presents of itself to itself and to the world at large.
And I can't decide whether I'm disappointed as WSAR freely and proudly displays Fall River as a slovenly, technically-inept, poorly-prepared, uncomprehending, doddering moron.
But then I heard Keri.
Because she made it sound as though the ol' station were about to motor toward a new course, one that was fresh, contemporary, uncompromising, with a relentless curiosity and drive for quality and honest detail. With a compelling and entertaining sense of flair.
And she wasn't faking it.
And I'm sure that she scared the daylights out of that swamp.
And I'm glad that now she's working for the District Attorney's office -- child abuse and senior abuse prevention advocate -- not just because I have more friends there than at that radio station. I hope she might be able to get some free legal advice about how to address the obvious civil rights' violation "not allowed to blog" thing.
I am sincerely glad that she'll be in a field where she can use her considerable talents in ways far far FAR more consequential than that stupid radio.

Of course, WSAR will go on, as it always has, with all of its mispronunciations and misapprehensions and multiple public service announcements playing at the same time and the network feed drowning out the news and long-past-retirement-time radio veterans and patronage hosts and recycled or stolen ad campaigns and oddly-semiliterate newsreaders and humorless callers and self-congratulatory smugness, still believing that "you can't please everyone" is a good enough excuse for wanton incompetence.

August 6th: the 63rd anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Is A Rudimentary Knowledge of Anything -- Especially History -- Really Necessary ?

Once, on a particularly bad-weathery bow watch on a well-outfitted full-rigged movie prop, a hand of the third watch, about fifteen years of age, grumbled to me in a cranky clench-jawed growl from under a miserably soggy rain bonnet:

"I really don't give a shit about this history crap."

The fact that under better conditions she looked a lot like Sarah Vowell, recalled in hindsight years later, is beautifully ironic.
That cruise included about two dozen of her peers, also in varying states of damp history-despising misery. We regular hands were all charged with training, so I guessed that it was up to me, as a history-minded officer (I think that was my actual title: ThirdMate and History-Minded Officer) to impart a little Love of History.
I ran through the old chestnuts: "If you don't remember it, you're doomed to repeat the mistakes of it." And, "This is your heritage, your history." As well as: "You're part of the great tradition of great women sailors. You remember the captains we've met, and the stories from training, that song about Jane Thornton and even the pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read." And still: "You're seeing things and doing things the other kids from Swansea never could." And, finally: "This watch is responsible for four hundred tons of boat and everyone and everything aboard until eight bells. That's our purpose. Act responsibly."
To which she answered: "It's cold, I'm wet, it's late, it's dark, and I have my period. So you go right on pretending that you're Captain StupidEveryBody's DeadAndWhoFuckingCaresAboutHistory or whatever because I just wanna go downstairs and go to BED!"*

Sometimes, when I see how the study of history is maligned and how much of history is simply ignored and forgotten, I hear a little of that exchange.
Like when I read something recently in the local paper about Friends Academy, past which I drive everyday, a school founded by Quakers almost 200 years ago, whose principles and history I admire. And I have friends who are alumni.
So when I read this sort of thing, I get urpy.

I know what you're thinking. "Thirteen 'colonies'? Weren't they 'states' by 1810? And weren't there at least seventeen states by then?"
Yes. The original thirteen colonies had declared their sovereign statehood -- one by one, until Rhode Island finally signed in 1790 -- under the United States' Articles of Confederation. No longer colonies, they were all states by 1790. And not to put too fine a point on it, Vermont, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio became states before 1810. That's seventeen. States.
And, yes, I'm aware that some people still call the United States "The Colonies."
But I wouldn't be aware of that if I didn't give a crap about history. You'll probably notice the books over there. Mostly history. And that "old" feeling around the quarterdeck. What with the old fonts and all.
A little background in history is something that I thought would be a prerequisite for someone who has to write a clever and overlong "historical" intro to a piece that would be fascinating on its own merits, with a little information about a school that is a significant part of the culture of our region. Without hiding the lede under a few paragraphs of pointless filler.
Without identifying James Madison as a "fledgling."
Oh, wait: James Madison was the fourth president of our fledgling nation. I get it. Not "fledgling fourth president" of the nation.
That's what I mean. If it's your article, like your watch, you have to be responsible.

* Yes, I did correct her. "You mean you want to go 'below' to your 'bunk.'" And she did just that, shouting "Aye-aye, sir!" on her way. And I bet that she stopped in the kitchen before going to the bathroom, too.

Monday, August 4, 2008

A Message from The Fifty-Seventh State

If you are the son, daughter, grandkid, or husband of the crazy old bitch who keeps calling C-SPAN and talk radio stations to claim that "Barack Obama thinks that there are 57 states," please please PLEASE tell her to belay that tired doperope.

I hate to think that I'm living in the stupid of the two Americas.
When I first heard about this, I thought, "A politician with a sense of the absurd is over-exaggerating for comic effect."
Then I saw the above clip and realized that he was just tired, and probably said "fifty" instead of "forty." (I assumed that he was referring to the 48 contiguous states, "save one," since he mentioned Alaska and Hawaii.) You, see, I was listening critically.
Anyway: Happy Birthday to Malia and Sasha's dad.
That 57? Iceland, for anyone still reading, ratified the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) with the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 26 June 2000. Iceland is the fifty-seventh State to ratify the CTBT.
Maybe he was talking about that.
Mmmm... Iceland... 6 minutes in Iceland...