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.

Both WMBR and WFMU archive all their shows (as does WMPG), and I have certain shows on their program schedule that I’ll seek out and listen after they’ve been broadcast.

One of Rooks’ guests (I think it was Paul Jacobs) called radio, a “cock roach media.” I loved this descriptor.

If you know anything about cockroaches, you know that they’re damned hard to exterminate. There’s a long-running meme that cock roaches would be able to withstand a nuclear blast. I guess that makes them the ideal mascot for our age, especially given our “supreme leader’s” itchy trigger finger.

I found a couple of articles online referencing “cock roach media,” here and here.

One of the points made towards the end of the show cited a study that apparently indicates that radio listeners are happier with radio than they are with Zuckerberg’s invention. I can see why that would be. Radio is easy, and if you avoid Rush Limbaugh, most broadcast radio brings enjoyment. If it doesn’t, you can simply visit another spot on the dial. The study I found, done in the UK, is somewhat dated. I’m guessing the results wouldn’t be much different if done today, in the U.S. But I might be wrong.

I’ll just keep on listening to the radio,radio.

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

Some Have It—Most Don’t

There is this strange phenomenon. Maybe it’s uniquely American. We demand that others behave in a manner that’s more ethical, honest, and consistent than the way we live our own lives.

We’ve all heard this ad nauseum: “All politicians lie.” Well, according to Robert Feldman, whose studied how often people lie, we all lie quite a bit.

Then, there is this idea that while others fold like a “cheap tent” when pressure is applied, that you’d be the one righteous man/woman who would be willing to “stand in the gap” for truth. Bullshit!

Do You Have Integrity?

America has elected a pathological liar as president. So what if you didn’t vote for him? Donald Trump is now president and you are going to face the consequences for the actions of 62 million people who decided to inflict their anger and concerns about losing their white privilege, on all of us. Continue reading

Saving Earth

In case you missed it, the Trump administration announced a proposal that opens up large areas along the coastline of the East Coast, which includes Maine, to oil and gas drilling.

I don’t know how many Mainers know that we have 3,478 miles of coastline—that’s more than California (3,427), and over 5,000 miles of coast if you include all of the islands as well. Only Florida and Louisiana (mostly bayou) have more miles of coastline.

The Earth looks better without drilling rigs. [Old Orchard Beach, ME]

I thought that there was going to be an opportunity to offer public comments at the Augusta Civic Center today. I was planning to attend.

This morning, I found out that members of the public wouldnt’t be allowed to speak at this “listening session hosted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). Instead, advocates, like Friends of Casco Bay are urging activists and other concerned parties to submit comments via the BOEM website set-up for that purpose.

There will be future opportunities to speak and “lend our collective voices,” as well as other actions. In the meantime, I’d urge you to submit your own comments. Continue reading

Another Day, One Year Removed

According to this website, Martin Luther King Day is a federal holiday held on the third Monday of January. It celebrates the life and achievements of Martin Luther King Jr., an influential American civil rights leader. He is most well-known for his campaigns to end racial segregation on public transport and for racial equality in the United States.

On MLK Day a year ago, Mark was watching a parade in Chipley, Florida. He had six more days of walking ahead of him before he’d be hit and killed walking westward, along U.S. 90.

I started watching Mark’s videos back in October. This was just prior the beautiful event that Brown (Mark’s library co-workers and members of the school’s literary arts department) held on a perfect fall day that also happened to be Josiah Carberry Day.

Each day I watched and wrote through the fall, as I was navigating Medicare’s Annual Enrollment Period as an insurance rep, trying to supplement my income, selling Medicare Advantage insurance. I made several trips down the coast and back, working on a story about Bucksport and the closing of its mill. I began tutoring in September at Hyde School, a private boarding school nearby where Cher’s son attended, as well as Michael McDonald’s (of The Doobie Brothers) son. Continue reading

Barefoot Man Walking Across America

One year ago, a barefoot man (who was a son) was walking through Florida. Something out beyond the horizon kept pulling him westward, past tiny towns, abandoned historic buildings, and swamps and forests. On this particular night, his footsteps would be illuminated by the super moon. Days ahead, a woman driving an SUV would be waiting for him.

Back home, his father followed his progress via the GPS device he purchased: he didn’t want his parents worrying (as much as they did the first time). Emails went back and forth. Each day, the father waited for a video and a new blog post.

The barefoot man (who was a son) decided it would be better to sleep outside, rather than within shabby enclosures named “motel.” He kept walking, making videos, and writing poetry. He wrote this poem on Day 089, somewhere near Gretna, Florida.

A Poem (from Day 089)
The dirt / used to be / named / after /some old white guy /named jeff / he liked / to do / all the things / old white guys / named jeff / like / to do / including / violence / and / oppression / people / got tired / of / being reminded / of / violence / and / oppression / whenever / they looked / at / the ground / so / one day / everyone / asked / the trees / and / the skies / what the ground / should / be called / and / the trees / and / the skies / voted / for / dirt / over / other options / like / pasta sauce / and / crack

The father thought he’d like to listen to this guitar player while he was walking. The man walking barefoot (who was a son) emailed his father saying he was listening to the man playing the guitar. His father imagined his son listening to “Highway Anxiety” and “Country of Illusion,” while walking, bathed in moonlight.

Continue reading

A Year of Books (about grief)

An annual habit of mine since I’ve been blogging has been to compile an end-of-year reading recap. Each year I’ve done it differently: some years I got really involved with my reading recap blog post. Other times, like last year (2016), I simply “dialed it in” because I wasn’t really feeling much enthusiasm for that writing “assignment.” My reading recap in 2014 still stands as “the bomb” in terms of detail, depth, and length.

Keeping a reading list is another lesson I learned from Mark Baumer. He thought it was important to keep track of the books he read and he encouraged his parents to do the same. Like him, I had a website, so I incorporated my annual reading compendium into my blog/website. Like son—like father. Mary kept her list in a journal/notebook, as well as noting it on the Goodreads site.

When Mark was killed in January, I couldn’t read for most of the next month following his death. Grief affects you in a host of ways, and I experienced a sort of cognitive dulling that made following a narrative difficult, if not impossible. This concerned me, especially if it meant that something essential in my life like reading would get snatched away from me, just like Mark had.

I was grasping (and gasping) for understanding without much success in the days and weeks following Mark’s death. This was when I picked up a book written by a friend and someone I had worked with (as had Mark) in helping her publish that book. Linda Andrews wrote a beautifully-honest book about coping with the death of her husband, Jim. Her own experiences with many people’s inability to cope with what you are going through was oddly comforting. Coming back to Please Bring Soup To Comfort Me While I Grieve offered me a much richer appreciation for what she accomplished in writing that book. It also offered me the ability to make my way back to an important practice of reading.

Grief and an existential sadness have become daily companions during 2017, the year I’d soon like to forget (Mark was killed on January 21), or perhaps be offered some kind of do-over. I spent the final 11 months looking for other books that might offer solace and support. My experience became one where books offering insight and understanding of my new landscape of grief and loss and a world turned upside-down weren’t as readily available as I would have thought they would be. Maybe a better way of articulating that is to say that the kinds of books that spoke to me, personally, weren’t something I could just look up online or pick off the bookshelf at the local library. Finding them necessitated work and investigation. I’m still not sure why. Maybe it’s that the books that dot the self-help section dealing with grief and loss simply aren’t addressing the kinds of things I’m living through. Also, as much as we try to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to “healing” the grieving, everyone grieves differently. I’m not looking to simply compartmentalize my feelings, or to make others more comfortable in my presence, which is often how it seems like we’re expected to process death in America. At times, feeling like I had to measure up to this unrealistic expectation made me angry. Continue reading

Birthday blog-34

[Note: I spent much of the weekend thinking and writing about the bond Mark and I shared around writing. We certainly bonded around sports and simply from spending time together when he was in his formative stage. But that doesn’t always guarantee a closeness later in life.

The driver who hit and killed Mark robbed his parents of many things. She robbed me of my only son, and a relationship I’ll never replace. She also took the brightest of personalities, one with passion (and compassion) from a world sorely in need of people like him.

As difficult as 2017 has been, one of the things that keep us going is knowing that Mark had a passion for Earth, other people (and bringing them together), and of course, writing. We founded the Mark Baumer Sustainability Fund earlier this year. We’re happy to announce that we are now a 501(c)3 nonprofit. We also have a brand new website that just went live. Check it out. Also, today would be a great day to remember Mark by making a contribution to the fund. It’s now tax-deductible and a great end-of-year gift to give for a cause that will support causes and organizations that cultivate traits that were part of Mark’s philosophy of life—love, kindness, and working towards building a better and more equitable world for all people.-jb]

 

Birthday Blog, Thirty-four (34)

 

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Developing any craft requires diligence, attention to it, and maybe more than anything else—a dogged determination in cultivating it—regardless of how many people flock to your doorstep. I think this an apt application for both writing and music, too.

I’m not a musician, but I’ve had a passion for various kinds of rock-rooted musicology dating back nearly 50 years. I know a thing or two about it, and what I don’t know experientially, I’ve gleaned from a longstanding tradition of reading what once was known as “rock journalism.” While no longer as prevalent as it once was given the demise of print, there are still outlets where this genre of writing resides.

Since we’re on the topic of writing, I think I can weigh-in on this with definite ink stains on my hands, or perhaps better, a worn keyboard on my laptop. It was 2001—I had read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Afterwards, I decided not to be some occasional dabbler. I set a goal—I wanted to get published. Following King’s prescription, I got up early before work and wrote something every day. After a year of doing this, I got an essay published in Casco Bay Weekly just like King said would happen. I’d really become a writer. Continue reading

SEO, Googlebots, and Still Missing Mark

I don’t really know what to write this morning. I’ve been spending time each day, writing about Mark, using his videos from a year ago as writing prompts. This process of “writing into grief” is never easy.

Sometimes when I look at my blog stats, I want to stop blogging. Then, I’d become just another vacant and boarded-up storefront on the interwebs.

Mark would tell me, “don’t pay attention to your stats, dad.” He gave me lots of advice. Most of it was spot-on.

The other day I stumbled across a blog post from a local marketing firm that calls itself a brand collective. Not sure what the hell a collective of brands does. Well I do, but it doesn’t really jive with my own vision of what a collective should be about.

Given that my blog stats have returned to the paltry level they once were before Mark was killed, I decided to read one of their posts titled, “What is SEO?” for shits and giggles. According to the blogger, I’d fallen down in cultivating a warm relationship with the friends of SEO, the GoogleBots. I guess if I want people crawling all over my content, then I need to get cracking on my keywords. Keywords are the key to capturing eyeballs. Or something like that, I think.

I kind of got fixated on this for a bit longer than I intended. Let me share just a bit more, something that this collective of brands doesn’t really deserve here on my own personal site that I created as the antithesis to this kind of SEO-craven way of writing, blogging, and branding. Continue reading