Let Them Speak

Losing a child is an experience that alters your life forever. Parents never get over it. I know this firsthand.

Last Wednesday, 17 students lost their lives in Parkland, Florida. The grief and loss that follows parents burying their adult child brings with it shock, and a host of other powerful emotions. The only solace they might feel in the days, weeks, months (and beyond) often comes from the kind and empathetic people that come alongside them and share in their loss.

When a tragedy has a public component, then this means the media comes calling. Parents, along with fellow classmates, will be asked an incessant line of questions—some of them invasive and even, just plain heartless and worse—stupid.

My son wasn’t gunned down with an assault rifle, but when the car impacted his body along U.S. 90 in Crestview, Florida, killing him immediately, he was just as dead. My wife and I have been picking up the pieces of our lives ever since—we’ve now passed the one-year anniversary, and continue counting.

I’m not going to say I know exactly what the parents of the 17 classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland are feeling today and have been for a week. I will say I have a sense about what the pain feels like—for me, it felt like my heart was ripped from my chest.

When a son or daughter is murdered like their children were, and the media turns it into a circus primarily to enhance ratings (and sell advertising), anger is never too far away. In my case, I ended up telling a writer from a major newspaper to “fuck off” when all she cared about was including Mark in her story about people crossing America who had been killed after being hit by a vehicle. She was heartless.

I have been amazed by the strength and resolve of students like Emma Gonzalez and Cameron Kasky, some of the more prominent classmates (among many), in speaking out forcefully in the aftermath of the mass shooting at their school. Not sure if the adults plan to follow their lead.

Students have become the leaders in Parkland, FL [Photo-Saul Martinez/NY Times]

Rachel Catania, 15, a sophomore at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland said she got a lot of non-answers from the politicians she spoke with Tuesday.

“I know it’s going to be hard, but I know we can do it,” she said. “We’re not going to be the school that got shot, we’re going to be the school that got shot and made something happen. A change is going to happen.”

Then there are those, like Bill O’Reilly, a major media figure who is obviously short on the empathy side of things, offering counsel and a critique of a media that he did his darned-well-best to run into the ditch.

Apparently now is not the time to interview students and let them have a say because “Mr. Empathy,” O’Reilly, questioned whether or not  the media should be promoting “opinions by teenagers who are in an emotional state and facing extreme peer pressure in some cases?”

Bill O’Reilly knows best [not!]

Yes they should, Bill. You know why? Because what they have to offer is authentic and not scripted like the talking points you trotted out for years on your program from ideological hacks that you curried favor with, most of them politicians.

Lastly, the main issue isn’t culture or mental illness. Listen to the students. The issue is guns.

Here’s some advice: if you’ve never lost a child suddenly and tragically and are like most—incapable of providing anything approximating empathy—then it’s all-too-easy to offer up Monday morning quarterbacking that’s wrong, useless, but extremely hurtful to those who are grieving and those who know something about grief and loss. How about just shutting up and letting those that know something (because they’ve earned that right through experience), speak.


Media’s Cock Roach

Living in Trump’s dystopian nation (if you haven’t ingested the Kool-Aid), sometimes you can forget that this American life sometimes delivers treats, too.

Last week, it was #InternationalClashDay. This afternoon, while listening to Maine Calling, hosted by Maine media vet, Jennifer Rooks, I found out it’s #WorldRadioDay. Hot damn! I love radio, so why not celebrate the hell out of the day? The verdict of Rooks and her guests was that radio’s still going strong and will continue to survive.

I grew up when you could still hear rock and roll on the AM dial. Now it’s the domain of conservative talk dirges and hosts positing an alternative version of America vastly different than the one I grew up in. Wanna’ make America great again? Flush Rush from the airwaves and play some music!

Happy families listen to the radio.

When I’m home and working, I stream music via several dial-based stations that I can’t pick up in Maine. This is one of the wonders of the internet and technology in my opinion. Here are my top four.

  • KEXP (Seattle, Washington)
  • WMFU (East Orange, New Jersey)
  • WMBR (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
  • WMPG (Portland, ME)

I can pull in WMPG’s signal on my stereo receiver and of course, in my car. I am a fan of their weekday afternoon “rock blocks,” especially Wednesday’s Radio Junk Drawer, with David Pence. More and more, I’m apt to be streaming KEXP most afternoons that aren’t Wednesday. Continue reading

Combat Rock

It’s difficult sitting here in 2018 Trumpworld, recalling how another hated politician spawned a musical revolution. But back in 1975, when Great Britain’s longest-serving post-WWII prime minister took office, the fury of the then-nascent punk scene hadn’t yet been funneled her way. Punks’ anger and rage found an able target in Margaret Thatcher just two years later.

Thatcher climbed atop her conservative perch, two years prior to the release of Never Mind the Bollocks, the Sex Pistols’ punk “shot heard round” the music world. Britain would never be the same, as Thatcher (much like Reagan in America), turned her attention to dismantling much of the country’s social infrastructure. And Trump seems hellbent on scrapping what remains of America’s.

While the Sex Pistols received the lion’s share of attention from the media for their outlandish “manners,” sneering frontman, Johnny Rotten, and McClaren-esque media savvy (not to mention their shot across the bow, “God Save the Queen”), it was a group of working class twenty-somethings from Brixton who embraced an incendiary ethic of rage, channeled through punk sensibilities and three-minute song structures, that would later evolve and incorporate reggae, rap, dub, and funk, demonstrating that punk could be more than three chords structures, played at breakneck speed. Continue reading

Fire, Then Fury

Michael Wolff has made a career of skewering powerful people, newsmakers like Rupert Murdoch. That is his journalistic M.O. You can look it up. To expect anything different from him re: President Trump, is mistake number one in your thinking.

A profile of Wolff was written back in 2004 for New Republic. The writer, Michelle Cottle, wrote that he “is the quintessential New York creation, fixated on culture, stye, buzz, and money, money, money.” Perhaps better, Wolff might be a quintessential American creation of sorts, mirroring America’s obsession with flash, trash, and cultural detritus. A writer “willing to dish the dirt.” Of course, it’s dangerous to hold the mirror up to others—especially if the mirror reveals their idol/president/emperor is a cartoon cutout. It pisses them off, too. Say what you will about Mr. Wolff: he’s been laughing all the way to the bank for a while.

Since Wolff’s pretty well-known in what he does, the fact that the current handlers of Mr. Trump, and Trump himself, must have known that Wolff was going to write what he saw and what he thought he saw. And yet, they feign indignation. Didn’t something tip you off when he was playing a fly-on-the-wall, talking to a gaggle of inner-circle cronies? He spoke to Trump, too, for God’s sake!

Michael Wolff on the Trump White House.

That’s why for me, it rings incredibly disingenuous when ideological Kool-Aid-drinkers get indignant about Wolff’s book. Kind of lame, in my way of thinking. Continue reading