The Alternative Alternative

IMG_6315Let’s talk about music.

And the NPR borg takeover of a radio station that, in so many ways, helped shaped the person I am today.

Starting at noon today, June 26, WUSM, a radio station broadcasting out of what in urban legend is a college campus designed for the worship of satan, will cease to exist in its current form.

Six months ago, the NPR conglomerate purchased via what can best be described as fiat the rights to the signal from the University of Massachusetts. It’s a heap of bullshit, which is better desribed in detail here.

It’s a travesty on so many levels.

This post is a wake of sorts, a celebration of what once was. Because shit changes. And I believe in giving credit where credit is due.

Because frankly, without what was, pre-2006, WSMU, FM 91.1. North Dartmouth, I might not be writing to you today. I might be doing something completely different. I might be wearing pastels…

Okay, yeah, not a chance. But WSMU, and my involvement with it, was integral to the person I am today and the friends I still consider people I would fight a pack of wild badgers to save.

I started college in late 1989 at what was then Southeastern Massachusetts University, now University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, a space-age concrete compound jutting out of the land a smidge south of whaling-centric port town of New Bedford. Legend states the architect, Paul Rudolph, designed the campus around a central pentagram. But frankly, the real hellraising was happening on the second floor of the student center, which housed what was, at the time, the real hotbed of action and power: the college radio station.

I started my foray into broadcasting reading the news, which spewed reams of side-punched, perforated paper all day long out of an AP Wire machine located in the hallway. I’d dig through the miles of dead trees looking for interesting stories to read with a girl who was so friendly it scared me: Lori Ann Mullin. Her sunshine smile and happy demeanor terrified me, the black-clad art student. But I couldn’t resist her good nature, and found myself actually smiling once or twice. (It might’ve looked more like a grimace, or perhaps the face babies make when they pass gas. I can’t be sure so many years later…)

When my parents pulled me from UMass at the end of my first semester and forced me to attend UNC I rebelled, putting the U.S. mail through its paces. I’d hide under my blankets in my room with my round, pink 1980s tape recorder, telling her everything that was going on in my life, mailing the resulting cassette tape miles away to my beloved Massachusetts. She’d respond with a tape of her own, usually consisting of her radio show on WSMU.

The second I got the chance I moved back to North Dartmouth, living above the Mr. Tux store across from the North Dartmouth mall, in a room with no windows. In typical 19-year-old early ’90s fashion I decked it out in skulls, lace and a huge Joy Division poster, keeping the Cocteau Twins on constant replay on the turntable.

I met Mark DelLima my first semester as well, when we sat next to each other in figure drawing class. My first words to him? “You’re doing it wrong.” Mark and I have shared everything at some point or other in our lives: coffee, smokes, laughter, pain, DNA, not necessarily in that order. (His was the last face I saw when I flew away from San Francisco. I still wonder if I made a terrible mistake: I miss that “fucking stupe.”)

Anyone alive in the 1990s will remember the parties my roommate, Amy Dermont (perhaps the most tragic passing I’ve yet to experience in my life. Rest in peace Amy), would put on. She knew literally everyone, especially if those in one of the countless bands in and around the North Dartmouth/Providence/Boston triangle. Bands would converge on our barely habitable abode, and my friends and I would sit in my blackened cave, smoking Marlboro reds, drinking shit wine and talking music.

Always music.

I was the asshole deejay who bucked tradition in the early morning slot, bringing the signal up at 6 a.m. not with a smooth, mellow track to get the morning off to a slow start but the loudest wall of sound I could come up with at such an inhuman time.

I’m talking Chris Cornell humping the stage in nothing but jeans shorts and combat boots, hair and sweat flying, lungs expanding before releasing the feral, human equivalent of rough sex on a bed of nails.

The fact that I had a car and Amy made the deejay list meant I saw more bands than any single person should. Name a band touring in the early- to mid-’90s and I’ve probably seen them, or have forgotten I did.

I used to flip through the rolodex in the station office, calling Calvin Johnson of Beat Happening or, famously, Ian Mackaye, who immediately informed me I was saying his name wrong. (Touche.) In short, my early 20s were a time of complete assholery and debauchery combined with some of the most earth-shattering sounds coming out of the speakers at the time.

And it saddens me that the only way to listen now is online.

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Bearing Witness, Even When it Hurts

creativenonfictionSometimes I wonder if I am nothing more than a big ol’ narcissist who loves shoving her existence down other peoples’ throats via the written word.

I’m not exactly the kind of person who attracts a large, rapt audience on many, hell, any occasions, so I’ve just gotten used to telling my tales whether people want them or not.

No one’s writing crazy long sonnets, penning tales of adoration or toiling as the Dread Pirate Roberts on my behalf. Everything has always been up to me. So I write my own epics. Read More

It’s Been So Long

Dear Friends,

It’s been ages. Ages…

In celebration of the release of Duran Duran’s newest album, Paper Gods, and publication later this year of an essay that ties into and completes the following story, I’m reprinting my 2000 essay.

It originally appeared in Syracuse University’s Intertext, and can be found here — but be warned, it’s maddeningly formatted!

The D.I.Y. Aesthetic at Work in American Education

by E. S. Brath

The American middle-school system has imbedded in my brain that writing sucks. From an early age I was bombarded with assignments, and texts, and papers, and — the worst — term papers. There is nothing more ominous than the threat of a looming term paper just when the hell of another half-year is almost over. It’s cruelty at its finest. Read More

The End Result

Another byline in print, another clip to add to the roster, and a lot more information learned.

Such is the end result of my information-gathering expedition on CIOs and CTOs, the dudes (and dudettes) who run the technology show at just about any company modern enough to own a computer.

(Not sure what company wouldn’t be digitally hooked in at this point, but I bet they exist … and they’re probably a lot less pressed for time!)

You can catch my newest article in Certification Magazine’s May issue.

And now, as always, back to work!

CIO & CTO a-go-go!

They say March comes in like a lion. Well, it brought work with it this year, a blessing in this economy.

One of the projects I’m working on is a magazine article about the challenges facing CIOs and CTOs in the current economic and business climate.

I’ve tapped some great minds who occupy these positions. But, as I look at the overall piece, I realize I need more.

More voices, more experiences, more examples of what those in charge of wrangling a company’s technology in today’s workplace are going through, and how that might be different from what they’ve experienced before.

The other thing I want to know is who, exactly, holds these positions. When it comes to the latest in technology, so much of what’s the latest and greatest is scattered in hard drives of young geeks across the country. But, CIOs and CTOs occupy the C-suite – positions traditionally held by those with the most tenure.

With the exception of the youth-led dot.coms, who holds these positions, and why?

If you or someone you know has CIO or CTO in his/her job title, I want to hear from you. I’m putting a call out to the network for anyone interested in becoming part of my article, or just giving me background info, to email me at esbrath@gmail.com. And soon – I’m wrapping the piece up in the next few days.

Thanks! Now, back to work…

Another Year Uploaded!

Pop the cork, it’s time to celebrate yet another year of crazy copy writing and editing for my favorite long-term client, Bodek and Rhodes.

For those of you not in the know, I left my 9-to-5 corporate gig in the spring of last year to go all freelance, all the time. B&R made it possible with its annual project, a behemoth catalog featuring the corporate, casual, performance and activewear the company sells and imprints for countless companies around the globe.

This year’s paper catalog clocked in at a whopping 417 pages, of which yours truly put her personal stamp on each and every number, character and space on each and every page! It’s a massive project, but the people at B&R are some of the most wonderful, talented and truly amazing people I’ve ever had the good fortune to work with.

And continue to work with. So, I’m about to take a long-needed break for my pixel-shaped eyes, but it won’t last long and I’ll be back to the ol’ freelance grind … in between preparations for the upcoming holidays, of course.

I may be a word nerd, but my first love is art, which I’ll be expressing in the form of hand-made gifts for all my loved ones.

My beloved puppy Bunny, in the first sweater I crocheted for her.

My beloved puppy Bunny, in the first sweater I crocheted for her.

Is this something any of you out there do as well? Especially in light of the current economic climate, is this the first year you’ll be exploring the adage, “It’s the thought that counts” and forgoing the mall, or is this something you do every year?

I’d love to hear from readers out there. In addition to holding a BFA, I’ve always dabbled in a variety of arts and crafts, and these days it’s primarily for my own enjoyment.

But lately, with sites like Etsy.comout there, I’ve been toying with the idea of going legit and selling my creations online. Has anyone had any success, or has maybe thought of taking your creations public, for fun and/or profit?

As someone who has always followed her passion while others followed the money, I’ve had some truly hard times. In the end, however, keeping true to what inspires me always works out. Many people I’ve known have had other reasons or responsibilities that kept them from following a so-called less traveled path. But as 401ks falter and jobs seem to simply disappear into thin air, has anyone taken the opportunity to say, “Well, now what have I got to lose? There’s nothing holding me back any longer: I’m going to do XXX, something I’ve always wanted to but never was able to.” ?

I’d sure love to know, because in all the gloom-and-doom tales pervading the news today, there must be at least a few silver linings. Or, if nothing else, a few holiday creations that would otherwise have been lost in the hustle and bustle of 9-to-5.

Roxborough, Pa., Revitalization, Part I

They always tell you to write what you know…

So what better place to start than in my own backyard? A few weeks back I was trolling craigslist, checking out the community boards for yoga studios. I’ve taken on the form of human Jell-O in the last year, thanks to a crazy work schedule, some surgery and the resulting hiatus from roller derby.

So I figured I’d better get moving and, considering how hectic my schedule is, I figured getting all Zen-pretzel-like a few times a week would do me a world of good. I found what I was looking for: a new yoga studio opening right in my neighborhood! I wandered over there, chatted with the owner and started  looking through the information pamphlets and sheets she’d given me. And one jumped out at me.Apparently she and a group of other like minded individuals were attempting to get more “green” businesses to move to the area.Now, I should begin by stating that the main drag ’round these parts has seen better days. While it’s nowhere near as trash-strewn and dilapidated as my old stomping grounds in West Philly, it’s also not the kind of place that screams, “Stop! Hang out here!”

It’s not crime: there’s very little of it here. And it’s not all that bad. It’s just not as good as some other places that have, for example, a place to buy locally-grown organic food, books and magazines, or clothes and shoes. 

After a bit more talking, I discovered there’s a contingent of people who want to make it that kind of neighborhood. Cool!

Needless to say, the journalist in me took over, pitched the piece, and the first results can be found online.