Saturday, August 15, 2009

Remembering A Rock Radio Legend

After a 41-year run, Boston’s iconic rock station, WBCN signed off the air for the last time this week, after CBS radio decided to replace it with an all sports station. Robin (herself a past member of the 'BCN family) spoke with Charles Laquidara, who hosted “The Big Mattress” while on from 1969-1996, and Danny Schechter, known as “the news dissector” on WBCN between 1970 & 1976.

Audio: BBC, PRI & WBUR's Here & Now. Host: Robin Young.

Learn about journalist "Little Bill" Lichtenstein’s WBCN documentary,
The American Revolution.”

Robin & Me

Some regular readers have noted my frequent inclusion of public radio's Here & Now and asked, "What's the deal with you and Robin?"

On my way into WBCN-FM for an overnight shift on October 20, 1973, I was listening to AM giant WBZ in Boston. My car had no FM radio.

6 nights a week there would have been a talk show during those hours, but Saturday was an aberration... Robin Young played music and that night told a story of how she'd been stopped for speeding on her way to work, but the officer laughed it off when he found Robin had her newly purchased Halloween Pumpkin riding shotgun... And buckled up for safety with passenger-side seat belt firmly secured.

She sounded like someone I'd want to meet, so once I arrived at my studio, I called hers and invited her to meet me for breakfast with the rest of the cast of "Little Bill's Teenage Madness." She said no, but not in a way that suggested she'd be washing her hair forever.

My plan to try again was derailed within days as my father faced a potentially fatal ruptured aneurysm.

A few weeks later, when I did meet Robin, she was already dating our mid-day guy, Tommy Hadges... A relationship that lasted until 1980.

Over the years, face to face encounters were rare. And perhaps the most time we ever spent together was back to back, typing... She composing a letter to college friends while I prepared a newscast. But my appreciation of her work grew, as did a shared perception that in mass media it was both rare, and increasingly difficult, to find a place to "be all that you can be." (Both the Dissector & Mattress Man would be apoplectic....'Did Mono just quote an ad for the Army?')

I love her curiosity, compassion, clarity, sense of fun and ease of connection. It may have started with a passenger-seat pumpkin riding shotgun, but long before her journey put her in the anchor chair at WBUR, Boston's NPR News Station, I came to respect Robin Young as one of the most gifted natural communicators I've heard.

And now, as someone whose own journey included working directly with not only the iconic figures of early WBCN but four National Radio Hall of Fame members in Los Angeles, I can say she's good enough to be in there, too.

Day One plus 40 (1)

Day One plus 40 (2)

Day One plus 40 (3)

Day One plus 40 (4)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Brothers In Arms

It was a long time between salutes.

On the opening night of Gulf War I, Spike sat parked at full throttle and exchanged the traditional "ready to launch" signal with his "yellow jacket."

Within a second the catapult he sat atop had thrown him off into the darkness... And for a brief moment the exhaust flame from Spike's Hornet became the brightest star on a moonless night.

Yesterday, August 13, 2009, TV cameras captured the precise slow-motion salute of six sailors in summer whites... It was held while family members approached the flag-draped coffin that held his remains on a runway in Jacksonville, Florida. And as they did, Jack explained Spike's dangerous mission of trying to disable radar-controlled Triple-A fire that enveloped the skies over al Anbar Province, how you could pull 9 Gs in evasive maneuvers trying to dodge SAMs, and the grief one felt at the loss of a shipmate.

Jack himself was a ground-pounder, a retired Army colonel and Vietnam era recipient of the Medal of Honor.

Mark had been career Air Force. One of the most naturally cheerful people I ever met, he operated and maintained flight simulators for fighters, mostly Eagles. But the most difficult duty he faced during his 20 year enlistment was burial detail. Whether or not it ever involved pilots he knew, it left him unable to attend civilian funerals long after his last tour.

Ed felt he was more cop than soldier. His 15 years in the Coast Guard had been spent in shallow and domestic waters. An excellent gunsmith, he could make repairs on weapons at sea that would've sent most boats back to the docks for days. The injury that ended his time as a Guardsman also prevented him from going into the field as a police officer, but he sought out that connection by applying as a dispatcher.

Tony was an edgy character. The 28 dog tags he wore around his neck explained most of it.

As a recon Marine he was honor bound not to disclose the nature of his missions, or even the continent(s) on which he served. But each tag was removed by its owner prior to deployment, usually in two man sniper teams, always on assignments where discovering the U.S. identity of someone killed or captured would ruin the "plausible deniabilty" which provides cover for those who ordered a mission just as "gilly suits" camouflage those who execute it.

Given the levels of classification, Tony never knew whether a mission had succeeded or failed, only that members of his unit had never returned to reclaim their tags, and that the Corps had failed in respect to its own credo: "Leave no man behind."

Alan was supposed to "come home" as part of the wave of POWs led by John McCain. His Air Force F4C has been shot down over North Vietnam, too... October 18, 1965.

He arrived back in his hometown, and via a family friend I asked to interview him. Word came back that he wasn't himself yet, and a few days later he had taken his own life... His fragile grip on sanity loosened by his realization that what he thought at the time was part of the torture by his captors was true.

His brother Rob wrote: "His own countrymen went beyond being against the war; many supported those he understandably viewed to be the 'enemy.' This was not some philosophical or political concept for him. The enemy were the people who had beaten some of his comrades to death."

For decades his family maintained the young MIT aerospace student who entered the Air Force with dreams of becoming an astronaut had died "a victim not just of the North Vietnamese, but of the inability of so many in his own country, during that horrible war, to separate the war from the warriors." And by an act of Congress, Alan's name was added to the Wall.

Spike, Jack, Mark, Ed, Tony & Alan: Brothers in arms.

Of those who serve, not everyone makes it back alive, or at all.

Those who do are forever changed.

Les Paul, dead at 94

Watch CBS Videos Online


Bonnie Raitt - I Can't Make You Love Me
w/ Bruce Hornsby on piano

"I Can't Make You Love Me" is a 1991 popular song, written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin and recorded by Bonnie Raitt on her "Luck of the Draw" album from that year. In August 2000, Mojo magazine voted "I Can't Make You Love Me" #8 on its The 100 Greatest Songs Of All Time list. It's on my short list of contenders as the saddest.

Sock Puppetry

Reading commercials is different than things a radio host may say on their own. It's still your own voice, but there's someone else's hand stuck in a place that makes your mouth move... Just like politics:

Let The Fur Fly

Disclosure: Mono was once eployed by KGB-FM, the radio station whose mascot became known as the San Diego Chicken.

The Seven Words Revisited (NSFW/NSFK)

As of 8/13/2009 George Carlin's original seven words have 822 definitions at urban dictionary. Here's a 1978 take on the subject:

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Of the 16 recipients honored this year, Nancy Brinker was the first called to accept the "Presidential Medal of Freedom."

She's not as well known as her late sister: Susan G. Komen, in whose name people "race for the cure" and have raised over a billion dollars donated to breast cancer research. Yet despite such efforts, I've seen the fraction change with the denominator getting smaller... Meaning more women are catching it. But there are also more surviving as treatment improves, like my classmate Ellen, now in her 9th year.

Worldwide, breast cancer is the second most common type of cancer after lung cancer and the fifth most common cause of cancer death. In 2004, breast cancer caused 519,000 deaths worldwide (7% of cancer deaths; almost 1% of all deaths)... My sister, Jean, was one of them that year.

So while we cherish those we know who've been touched by fate's cruel hand, let us work toward a time we'll need some as yet unwritten reference to remember Nancy Brinker, and why she matters to our daughters yet unborn.

See also: Grace For The Cure, from May 3.

The Fighter Still Remains

Alison Krauss, Shawn Colvin & Jerry Douglas at the Paul Simon Tribute 05-23-2007

Follow-up Questions 1

Craig Miller shown confronting Sen. Arlen Spector on Tuesday night's news appeared on Wednesday's "Morning Meeting" with Dylan Ratigan. Note the policeman moving into frame is not there to remove the protester, but to restrain the white-hatted man who took it on himself to play "bouncer":

Miller attacked the usual suspects vilified by Fox News & talk radio, accused Spector of accepting bribes, called for Presidential impeachment, and criminal charges against most of Congress... Taking about 6 minutes to espouse what I recounted in a single sentence.

Now that you've heard him, do you honestly believe a Senate staffer would promise him 5 minutes to speak? Admittedly he picks up the pace when riled, but he's really not ready for Twitter's 140 character limit.

Follow-up Questions 2

Guest hosting on Hardball, former Senate staffer Lawrence O'Donnell asks Pennsylvanian Katy Abram about her "political awakening" and consistency of logic:

Socialism didn't exist as anything but Utopian political theory as the Constitution was framed. And although Marx & Friedrich Engels used the terms "socialism" and "communism" interchangeably, as put into practice by Lenin, what emerged in the Soviet Union wasn't exactly what they had in mind. And for that matter, modern American style capitalism isn't theoretically pure, either.

What emerges over time is a "social contract" about who does what, and how, to make a country work... And of the thirty industrialized nations in the world, only the United States has not included universal health care in our contract provisions.

As he observed a then 50 year old America, Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville wrote that the United States occupies a special niche among developed nations in terms of its national credo, historical evolution, political and religious institutions and unique origins... Later this type of thought evolved into what's known as "American Exceptionalism."

Perhaps we should reconsider whether it's always a good thing to stand so alone, and use our "indoor voices" as we remember the phrase "united we stand, divided we fall," and decide where that stand should be.


Video: CBS Evening News, August 12.

All Jacked Up

The title song from Gretchen Wilson's 2nd album (2005).

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


The gas-electric Chevy Volt will get triple-digit mileage, including an estimated 230 mpg for city driving based on methodology for electric vehicles developed by the Environmental Protection Agency. General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson explained GM's recent stealth advertising campaign on billboards and during baseball games in a news conference Tuesday. Expressed in electrical terms, the performance will be 25 kilowatt-hours for 100 miles.

Dancing Queen

Dan, The Man

Perspective from a guy who has seen a few demonstrations:

CPR - Home At Last

When I had the pleasure of seeing CPR play live in May 1998, I was aware of the father-son relationship of David & James, but I walked away totally in awe of Jeff Pevar as what I characterized as a "Steely Dan" caliber guitarist:

CPR: David Crosby, Jeff Pevar & James Raymond
with Steve Distanislao (drums) & unknown (bass.)

Escondido, California 1997

Have A Holly Jolly Tamborine Man

Too Late

My partner in crime backstage in the early daze of "The Big Mattress," Tom Couch, exclaimed "Back To Mono!" during his appearance with first-decade program directors Sam Kopper & Norm Winer on the final day of WBCN's 4-day on air remembrance.

Even though I know I've quoted him out of context, I'll take it.

We've known the day would come.

I know I'm biased toward the early era... And I can't help but think if the kind of energy shown in the final hours had been evident over the past few years, we wouldn't be talking in past tense. But newer waves continue to wash ashore, "and so castles made of sand melt in the sea, eventually."

Goodbye WBCN. Time for me to go soak my head.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


photoshop caduceus/screw

Labelled as 24 carat gold, this clever but uncredited photoshop caduceus/screw image is circulating widely among blogs and emails opposing Congressional health care proposals specifically, and the Obama presidency in general.

What does this image mean to you?

(More a few posts from now.)

Disavowing Diatribes

Rhetoric has consequences:

Denouncing Disinformation

He's really wound up:


This image was sent in by contributor Dan McGrath, an Ohio conservative who, like most bloggers who've posted it so far, envisions it as an image of what will happen if "socialism" is voted in by Congress. Medicine will get screwed up.

Ruth, a former registered nurse, thinks health care "American-style" already is screwed up... So badly, in fact, that when we first met in 1995 she was ready to walk away from medicine entirely. Financial pressures on hospitals had reduced staffing levels to the point she felt she couldn't adequately care for the increased number of patients for which she was nominally responsible over a 12 hour shift.

Tom knows about costs. He got an MBA with a concentration in health care. In the field since 1975, he currently serves as CEO at a non-profit regional medical center. He knows he must ask his employees to work very hard, so recruiting people who will (while working well together) is of prime importance.

He'll concede improving technology is a never-ending expense as the "state of the art" advances, but the cost trend he found most alarming in a 2003 interview was the rapidly rising price of drugs. He was skeptical of changes reducing costs, too... And pointed to repeated failures of planning to meet that objective.

In a more recent email exchange, Tom expressed opposition to a Canadian-style "single payer" insurance system. Because while the federal government was his largest source of revenue, Medicare & Medicaid only reimbursed his facility for 70% of cost.

Steve is among the casualties... Being on the losing end of a car-pedestrian accident landed him in the hospital for 15 weeks. His Fortune 100 company, had dropped the most comprehensive health care option it had offered in prior years, and the best plan available (2/3 company contribution, 1/3 payroll deduction) guaranteed the company's entire workforce would be "underinsured," and left him with staggering out of pocket costs... Had the insurance carrier actually paid anything.

When the company administering Steve's short-term disability was unable to extract information from a care provider within a "timely" period, they disallowed the disability, and the main insurer rescinded coverage retroactively. Steve was wiped out, "medically bankrupt."

Now crippled & permanently disabled, Steve is a "thousandaire" at best, who could be wiped out again with less than a 5 day hospital stay. He's generally in favor of change, but thinks opposition forces have the money and political momentum to prevent it during his life.

Little Blind Fish

CPR: David Crosby, Jeff Pevar & James Raymond
with Steve Distanislao (drums) & Andrew Ford (bass).

Live from the Montreux Jazz Festival (1998).


Not Amy.
I stumbled across this photo a few days ago, and ever since I've been dreaming of getting shot by Amy Smart...

CBS promo photo for the TV series 'Smith' (2006-2007)
And not minding... At all.