Monthly Archives: June 2014

In memory of Casey Kasem

Every Sunday through much of the 1970s, my radio found it’s way to 98 WTRY for at least part of American Top 40 with Casey Kasem. When I started listening, I was maybe ten or eleven. My parents listened to WGY–which I considered old people radio–except when they had the trivia show at night and after Joe Gallagher came…another story for another day.

Anyway, Casey Kasem’s voice was like butter. And though I didn’t know it at the time, it was listening to him and guys like him that made me aspire to work in radio. As a kid, I was a freak–I played at radio, recording songs on my cassette recorder, then announcing and back announcing them. In the fall of 1981, I got to sit in front of a live microphone and say things that beamed out to other people–albeit probably no more than a couple miles away. WGFR was the 10-watt station at Adirondack Community College, with stacks and stack of wax and wax. And though we brawled internally about what to play, it was a hell of a lot of fun.

By then, I was past Casey Kasem and AT40, though I shouldn’t have been. Even though I still listened to what my co-horts at 92 Rock considered top 40 shit, my musical boundaries were expanding. I even knew that Eddie Van Halen was what made Michael Jackson’s Thriller album extra special, though personally, I was into Billy Joel (for one thing, Michael Jackson didn’t have Christie Brinkley in his videos).

And with the advent of MTV, who needed some stupid four-hour countdown each weekend? Alan Hunter was cooler than anyone on the radio, and Nina Blackwood and Martha Quinn were way hotter.

A few years ago, I got to hear the reconstituted American Top 40 with Casey. But it wasn’t the same. That voice–that amazing, wonderful rich voice that filled my memories, was thin and thready. And really, Casey Kasem back announcing Eminem was just wrong somehow. All it did was point out how much time had gone by.

It was important to me not to like old things when I was a kid. I thought big band music was stupid. And by the time I discovered Eddie Murphy, Fonzie was stupid (and an ass). Winnie the Pooh was for babies. And American Top 40…who liked that?

Right about the time I realized my childhood passed.

As it turned out, I did. Listening to the classic countdowns (otherwise known as reruns) on I Heart Radio and hearing that velvety voice again takes me back to a time when everything was simpler and in some ways, better.

Casey Kasem has been sick for a while. And it’s been a few days since it’s been obvious he was at the end of his life. Obviously, I never knew him, but listening to him every week made me feel like I did–like he was a gentle uncle who liked the same type of music I did. It brought home the first thing I learned about radio, on the first day of my broadcasting class that fall–that radio is and was a personal medium.

As you grow older, one of the things you experience is when the things you took for granted as a kid disappear. Another one just did.

Damn I’m getting old.

Fat Shaming, Fit Shaming, and Self-acceptance

I recently read a story on Buzzfeed by a woman who said she used to be a bodybuilder, then quit bodybuilding because even as a body builder, she hated her body. The upshot is that woman–and presumably everyone–should love their bodies no matter what shape they’re in. For the former bodybuilder, an Australian named Taryn Brumfitt, not fit is better. Since she quit bodybuilding, she’s gotten a better image, she loves her body more.

That’s good for her. However…

Before I make myself the ultimate villain to approximately half the population, a few disclaimers:

  1. Fat-shaming isn’t right. Whether it’s a guy or a woman, that person is still a person. Calling someone a disgusting pig because of their weight is wrong and not helpful.
  2. As I’ve posted a couple times on Facebook, that really obese person you see jogging in the mid-afternoon heat (because they don’t want to be out with the fit people) is doing something harder and more amazing than if I did ten Insanity workouts in a day. That person is courageous.
  3. Body weight should not be a determining factor in your acceptance of yourself. Everyone, everyone has worth. And everyone has things they can work on.

That having been said, I think it’s okay to be unhappy with the current state of your body. I was in 2010 when I couldn’t walk up stairs without horrible knee pain because I weighed 285 pounds or so. I won’t generalize here, but I was fat because I was horribly unhappy. I poured that unhappiness into spiced gum drops and pizza and alcohol, among other things. Or, more correctly, I poured those things into me. As a result, I was disgusted with my body.

Granted, I’m a guy. My approach was Geez, I’m such a fat pig…I wonder if the Mets are on. I didn’t dwell on it. I didn’t cry. I didn’t define my worth based on that. Guys aren’t culturally pressured that way (hint that we’re a bad provider, though, and we go absolutely bonkers).

I don’t get it. Maybe I can’t get it. I would never subject myself to shoes that look like torture devices and make my feet bleed because they look good. It simply isn’t that important to me.

But if society pushes women to a place where they judge their worth solely on appearance, that’s obviously a bad thing. And when things progress to the point where women have to be encouraged not to say, “I’m a good person, but I really don’t like my body weight right now,” that’s doubly bad.

Admitting that I’m not a woman and I maybe don’t understand, it seems to me that it ought to be okay to not love your body–to accept it and yourself, but to want to improve it. And then to exercise the power you have to do just that. Real power comes from identifying what you want and then working to attain it, whether it’s a Master’s Degree, a strong and stable family, or a healthy body. (Notice, the word was healthy, not size zero.)

This isn’t intended to be fat shaming. If you’re happy with your body, good for you. If you aren’t, you have to decide whether you ought to be happy, or whether you want to change something. (And if you’re fit and still unhappy with your body, maybe your body’s just a proxy for the thing you really are unhappy with.)

This is my point of view. I’ve never had to deal with what it means to live as a woman in current society. I’ve never had someone pinch my butt. I’ve never been so devastated by what’s in the mirror that I stood in the shower and cried. So if what I write seems wrong to you, enlighten me, please.

But to me, the key isn’t the ability to accept what you are, not matter what, but also the freedom to say that you’d like to work on some things without it being a personal indictment.

Why Christianity doesn’t suck — the New Revised Chris Translation (NRCT)

A while back on Facebook, a friend posted something to the effect that she doesn’t like Christianity because it starts with the premise that each individual human sucks. You and I are worthless, bad, and evil and only through some kind of divine intervention can our worthless, badness, and evilness be overcome.

And there’s good reason for that. The penitential act in the newest revision of the Catholic Mass includes the phrase “through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.” In the new revised Chris translation (NRCT), that’s “I suck; I suck; I really, really suck.”

In my former men’s group, we spent a good deal of time on Thomas A Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ, which includes a strong dose of how much we really, really suck. Maybe for some, that’s the path to God, but not for me.

I don’t need Thomas A Kempis, the Mass, or a hair shirt to remind me of where I’ve fallen short. I have a mirror for that.

Hitler, Stalin, and Walter O’Malley have probably out-sinned me, but I know the areas where I’ve fallen short. They are legion, for there are many of them.

You can’t live to adulthood without having certain things that spring to the top of our consciousness some dark night at 2 am when you can’t sleep. I have things to work on. Anyone who doesn’t lacks self-awareness.

Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son

But that’s me–that’s not God and that’s not what I believe Christianity to be. Our youth pastor today brought that to light in the best Bible story there is–the story of the prodigal son. If you aren’t familiar, here’s the NRCT version. This guy decided his father was a doofus and didn’t know jack so he says “Dad, you are a putz. You are dead to me so give me my inheritance now because I long for adventure, excitement, and the love of a good woman or four.” So that father gives him the inheritance and off he goes.

Surprise, surprise! The son burns through all his money and winds up destitute and all the friends he assembled while he was paying for everything forgot him. He winds up feeding the pigs–a low calling indeed for a Jew who things pigs are unclean. As he struggles to subsist above starvation, he figures out that his dad’s servants fare better than him, so he’ll go back–wiser and heartbroken at what he realizes–that he’s sworn off his father and wasted his father’s stuff. But maybe, maybe, his father will take him on as an employee.

As the story goes, the father, who had every right under Jewish law to shun, ignore, beat, or make his son watch Gigli, instead runs to him and welcomes his back into the house.

I don’t suck any more than anyone else, but I have made mistakes. I’ve hurt people. I’ve been a hypocrite. Although that doesn’t define me, ignoring it is lying to myself about myself.

So how cool is it that I am welcome anyway?

It’s not that I suck. It’s that I’m flawed. And my dad doesn’t care. He welcomes me.

I still am what I am. I still fail and I still fall short. I still hurt people and owe people debts I probably can’t repay. I’m not perfect and I still do things that add weight to other peoples’ loads. But I can’t reduce the habits that cause those weights by defining myself by my faults. I reduce them by seeing possibilities beyond them.

I have been an asshole. Ask people who worked with me ten years ago. God values his creation and would prefer that I am not an asshole to it–including to myself. But he can look beyond it, if it helps me be better and to lighten others’ loads.

Maybe that makes me weak and foolish. So what? It works for me. It has helped me be better.

I’ve been noodling with this for a few weeks, trying to figure out the best way to say it. Maybe this is it.