Lenghazi Is Upon Us, Folks, Buckle Up

So by now everyone and their mom has heard that our police chief, Saugus native Lenny Campanello, has been suspended while an investigation takes place. Lenny is known mostly for his innovative approach to heroin addiction and subsequent founding of PAARI, which has literally saved dozens of lives and is spreading compassionate treatment instead of locking up addicts. The Clam folk were really taken aback by this, as most of us across the city  were. We’re no stranger to the issues between law enforcement and the citizens they police, and we prided ourselves on having a caring, nonjudgemental, decent local police force. And now, the media trucks are surrounding our downtown, and it’s a huge goddamn letdown for all of us who care so much about this town and were just so, so tired of scandals and negative stories about Gloucester.

"It's JRM's problem now, suckers!" - Hiltz, probably.

“It’s JRM’s problem now, suckers!” – Hiltz, probably.

We like(d) Lenny, but this investigation is serious business. The initial knee-jerk reaction by a lot of people is that it was a “witch hunt” and no one should say anything until more comes out, and that people including the mayor just don’t like him and are stringing him up on false charges. Because Lenny could do no wrong, obvi. I can see why people believe that – he’s literally, again, saved lives. He’s changed an entire way of thinking. He has done a lot of good for the entire dingdang nation.

But it’s getting more clear that he did something wrong, or at least the very serious appearance of such. This isn’t a light discussion on his personal life. The probe will be led by a firm outside the city. He’s stepped down temporarily from PAARI. He seems genuinely concerned for a dude that claims to be real unconcerned. Well, his lawyer is speaking on his behalf now, for what it’s worth. A Sgt. Detective has also been placed on leave that may or may not be related, and the department is now in the hands of the fourth-in-charge, which at this point is just the guy who cleans the place on weekends when the normal custodian plays in a ska band.

BASICALLY THE CITY RIGHT NOW

BASICALLY THE CITY RIGHT NOW

And so the rumors have started flying. Since all of that is just it – rumors – there isn’t really much for any local media to go on and nobody’s saying jack shit on record, for good reason.  So we’ll just list them all here, in order of likelihood, or in no particular order. Who even knows. Most are probably vast conspiracy theories. Don’t trust us to get it right.

 

  • Lenny had an affair with a woman or was dating a woman shortly after leaving his wife and it went sour and there might be some domestic issues there. The former part isn’t a huge secret and may not even be a problem. I mean, shit happens, that’s barely enough to ruin somebody’s weekend these days. He may have done nothing untoward at all. But the latter part, if there was any truth to it, would be career ending. It may be something where the truth is never really known, because of the positions of power involved. 
  • Lenny drove drunk and crashed his car or someone else’s and there was some shenanigans. Well, it’s a theory floating around, that’s for sure, but one with no evidence. Again, however,  It would be career ending as well. I just assumed if you lived in Saugus you were contractually obligated to drink seven bud lights at a chain restaurant and bomb down the right lane all the way to fahkin’ Peabody, guy.
  • He was paying himself for time he wasn’t working, or was working at PAARI, or some other not-okay situation that doesn’t involve being a total asshole but still isn’t cool. 
  • He went to Midori for lunch buffet and totally used his hands to get bonelesss spareribs.
  • He wore crocs and socks for an entire work week.
  • He is personally responsible for why they tore down everything you love on Route 1.
  • 1983-1998- didn’t rewind. Once.
  • Had Star Wars Marathon. Started with Phantom Menace.
  • Walked his dog on Good Harbor Beach in the summer and didn’t pick up his dog poop.

Obviously, this is a big thing. And we like to cut the obvious tense moods with humor. We really liked Lenny, but this could be something that makes him not a good guy. And we may have to separate our feelings for what Lenny has done for our community and beyond from the actual human that the chief is. It’s sad, but the first thing I thought of when I saw the million “he couldn’t have done it!” comments was the similar sentiment that came out directly after Bill Cosby’s allegations. It is inherently hard for us to believe that someone we respected could be a bad guy.

For the record, your beloved The Clam recommends strongly never to put another human being on a pedestal, unrelated to this incident. Human beings, although capable of tremendous greatness are also The Worst. Trust us on this.

And we all hope he isn’t The Worst. While we joke – we don’t want to lose faith in the people whom we trust to impartially, and fairly, lead our city. It’s a huge disappointment to ourselves, our kids… it just sucks. If he is guilty of something, PAARI will continue without him. It’s a great organization run by phenomenal people. We know this.

So until further notice, I guess we all hope it’s that he really loves grabbing crab rangoons with his meaty chief hands.

 

 

 

A not incredibly detailed set of reasons for voting to elect Ed O’Reilly for Sheriff on Thursday

YES THURSDAY. SEPTEMBER 8

So we’re on a bit of a hiatus as we try and get our respective lives in order here at your beloved Clam. But civic duty calls and when the eleventy-fifth person asked us, “Who in the name of blessed Varda Elentári in her Great Hall of Ilmarin should I vote for to become Essex County Sheriff?” (and the denizens of the Clamiverse do talk like this, by the way) we decided it was our responsibility to find out who the best candidate is.

This turns out to have been a huge fucking mistake. There are more people running for Essex County Sheriff than can fit comfortably in a CATA bus. The big, new one. And the whole race is a total shitshow. Trust us, dear readers, you don’t want to dive into this mess without a gallon of absinthe and that tin full of flaky remainders of those hallucinogenic toadskins the weird old Najavo dude sold us on that aborted trip to the proto Burning Man festival in 1991.

But we rocked that turtle-neck-tweed combo pretty hard, as I remember

We rocked that turtle-neck-tweed combo pretty hard, as I remember

Here is just a sample of what we found:

  • One of the candidates running as a Democrat does not seem to have been a Democrat since before May.
  • One of the candidates will draw a pension from another government job while doing this government job, which we guess is cool since he earned it, but wow.
  • Some of the candidates are already managers of the corrections system and some are taking thousand-dollar-plus donations from their employees, which is also wow.
  • One of the candidates when asked about re-creating a similar effort to Gloucester’s Angel program in Lynn said something on the order of “addicts in Lynn don’t want to get clean,” and now his defenders say he was taken out of context which I can only believe if the statement before was, “A totally dipshit thing to say would be…”
  • One of them is apparently driving around in a truck with NH plates, as one does here in MA.
  • A bunch of the candidates want to privatize the corrections health care system, which is a mistake we’ll talk about in a second.
  • And other stuff. Lots and lots of other stuff.
  • Feel free to wade into this shallow pool of derp yourself and figure out who the best one is. Or do what I’m doing and vote for Ed O’Reilly on Thursday.

YES, ON THURSDAY

Did you know there was a primary on Thursday? There is. So go to your voting place and vote.

Ok, so Ed. I’ve seen him around the scene for a couple of decades now. First of all, he’s not an employee of the corrections system. He comes at this job from the other direction, from the people the system is set-up to serve.

Yes, serve. The corrections system is a service. It serves us, the public by carrying out the sentences handed out by juries and judges and it serves the people in the corrections system by offering them a safe and hopefully rehabilitory experience.

Like these guys, who when they get out will be the hottest flashmob talent money can buy

Like these guys, who when they get out will be the hottest flashmob talent money can buy

“Screw them, they committed crimes,” you might think. But you would be oh-so-wrong. Regardless of how you feel about what makes people commit crimes (and if the Gloucester Police Notes are any guide, the answer is: Being within 500′ of the Maplewood 7/11) folks caught up in the corrections system are not going away. Most of them are only going to be in jail for a short while, the average sentence is about 3.5 years. So if they go in and don’t get some kind of treatment, skills training, education, or something to prepare them for a normal life outside the walls, then they are going to be back in our towns and neighborhoods causing problems and costing the system more. So you’d better hope the system serves them and well.

Which brings us to the privatization issue. Private companies want to save money. The way they do this is by minimizing expenses. These companies make more profit if the people in their care for a few years don’t get diagnosed and treated for chronic issues. And then these folks get back outside where the public and private systems have to deal with them at much higher cost. Good call in opposing this Ed, because it’s dumbass.

As I said, Ed has been around for a bunch of years. I see him at all the right things, public service events, education events and so on. His angle at the Sheriff gig is coming from the right direction, and as we’ve learned with the Angel program- focusing on the people with the problem rather than the massive public edifice we’ve built to contain it and only ever winds up perpetuating it, is the right approach in my book.

But my last reason to vote for him is the most Clamtastic. I was cranking down a portion of my daily hogshead of coffee at Pleasant Street one day when Ed walked in. Being an obnoxious wag, I said, “Ed, if you’re running for sheriff, you should dress like one. You know, hat, chaps, the whole deal.”

Or, as the Clam crowd would no doubt prefer, go all "Sheriff of Nottingham"

Or, as the Clam crowd would no doubt prefer, go all “Sheriff of Nottingham”

He brushed by me toward the people he was meeting and without missing a beat and said, “I save that for the bedroom.”

Huzzah, good sir. You have my vote.

 

Gloustec Podcast

Hey there nerds.

Did you know there are nerds in Gloucester? Did you further know there is all kinds of geeky crap happening here all the time? Too often folks don’t talk about all the crazy technology and science stuff going on locally because we are overshadowed by those dorks in Cambridge doing stuff like finding a workable fusion solution or curing cancer.

Screw those guys, there is plenty of locally awesome science, tech and geek culture going on right here.

So one day Myself and Joey C of Good Morning Gloucester and our own beloved Len Pal got together and said, “What if we did a podcast where we talked about geeky stuff as it relates to our crazy little island? And also bikes and how to best watch Game of Thrones without a TV and Len’s crazy trip to perform for Neil Degrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawkings and the guitarist for Queen who is also an astrophysicist (a real thing that happened) and electric cars at City Hall and all that? And we could drink beer and eat pizza.”

The question is obviously rhetorical and thus here it is. It’s funny, it’s informative and it’s mostly three dudes shooting the shit about hopefully interesting topics.

Click Here to go to the Podcast on Good Morning Gloucester

glosteclogo

Innovative Addiction Treatment Program Promises to Aid Local Artists

GLOUCESTER—Starting in July, concerned Gloucester residents will try out a new program for managing a pervasive and seemingly intractable social ill.

“This addiction is tragic—and it’s a blight on our city,” said Dorothy Pendleton, president of the Rocky Neck Art Colony, one of several local groups supporting the experimental initiative. “But rather than stigmatizing the victims, we’ll give them the help they need.”

Pendleton delivered her remarks on Tuesday at the Cultural Center at Rocky Neck, where artists and other representatives from Gloucester’s creative class had gathered to announce their plan.

“I know all too well how easy it is to slide into a fixation on nautical themes and marine imagery in one’s art,” she told the audience, which responded with a chorus of amens.

“It starts with a lighthouse, a lobster trap, or a gaily colored dinghy bobbing in the harbor,” she said, her voice rising to a fever pitch. “And you think, Just this once. Just to score some easy cash.”

ColorfulDinghy[The grim consequences of addiction]

Pendleton trained as a sculptor at Montserrat College of Art, graduating with her BFA in 1977. For years she occupied a studio on Rocky Neck, where she produced sleek, minimalist works in aluminum and epoxy.

But when the market for such conceptual sculpture collapsed in the mid-1980s, things went downhill.

She explained: “On a lark, I used some leftover resin to fashion a stylized anchor. It was hideous—and just so cliché. But I hung it in the window, and a buyer walked in the same afternoon.”

“That was my gateway to homogenous beach art,” Pendleton said, shaking her head at the memory. “Within six months, I had sold off my old materials and begun to churn out whimsical mobiles from driftwood and sea glass.”

DriftwoodMobile[Rock bottom]

According to Daniel Sizemore, a painter and board member of Cape Ann Artisans, stories like hers are common, especially in Gloucester.

“Our city has a long and sordid history as a hotbed of maritime art,” he said, pointing at a framed print of two schooners skimming over a choppy green sea.

“Fitz Henry Lane was the original kingpin,” Sizemore said, his eyes narrowing. “With his rakish frock coat and luminous sunsets.”

Pendleton elaborated: “Lane and his minions established a culture of nautical addiction in this town. So it’s difficult to escape the motifs—coiled rope, billowing sails, mirror-calm coves lit by low-slung crescent moons—that have dominated the vocabulary of the Gloucester artist for almost two hundred years.”

FitzHenryLane[Lane, plotting the consolidation of his artistic cartel]

Others place the blame on the steady stream of money coming across the Piatt Bridge.

“We wouldn’t see this habit-forming behavior if it weren’t so lucrative,” said Dexter Gee, a member of the Gloucester Arts Guild and a recovering photographer of the relentlessly pounding surf.

He explained: “Tourists from New York and Boston generate the demand. They come to Gloucester, waving their platinum cards, clamoring for low contrast images of breakers rolling onto Bass Rocks.

“And if the Twin Lights loom in the background, they’ll pay double or triple,” Gee continued, his shutter finger twitching restlessly. “For a photographer who’s barely getting by, it can be hard to resist.”

According to Pendleton, the cumulative effects on a community can be devastating. “Rocky Neck Avenue is starting to look like the hallway of a Motel 8 in Ocean City,” she said.

Sizemore admitted that for years he and other artist-vigilantes had tried to shame the creators of maritime kitsch into reforming their ways. “We’d drive to their known hangouts—the Back Shore, Eastern Point—and heckle them as they captured the sunlight staining the clouds crimson.”

But it never worked—and now, rather than shunning the nautically obsessed, Pendleton and her partners are extending a sympathetic hand.

“We are inviting all affected artists to come down to the Cultural Center here on Wonson Street,” she said. “And with no judgment whatsoever, we’ll begin the rehabilitation process together.”

That process entails the safe disposal of finished beach art, as well as any associated paraphernalia. Pendleton listed some possibilities: “Watercolor sets, moveable easels, and floppy straw hats for those tawdry plein air sessions.”

PleinAirArtist[Image obscured to protect privacy]

Gee elaborated: “The Cultural Center will also pair you with a patron from the community who has agreed to purchase your first piece of clean, cliché-free work.”

“It could be almost anything,” he said. “An abstract canvas. A photo of a squalid gutter. Heck, even a naturalistic portrait.”

“Except no hoary sea captains,” Pendleton interjected.

Gee confirmed that their program is based on other local initiatives, which have used a compassionate approach to successfully address more significant addictions.

“If it can work for black tar heroin,” he said, “then there’s a chance it might work for pastel-tinted nautilus shells.”

Most exciting of all, according to Pendleton, is the potential for growth beyond Gloucester.  Artists’ collectives throughout the region have expressed interest in the plan’s radical, outside-the-box methodology.

“We’re getting calls from lots of seaside towns struggling with the same issue,” Pendleton said. “Apparently, the compass rose is absolutely rampant on Cape Cod.”

Gee described just one disappointment with the plan’s design and execution thus far. “We approached the Rockport Art Association as a potential partner,” he said. “But they insisted their town doesn’t have a problem. In their minds, the addiction is ‘only a Gloucester thing.’”

Imacon Color Scanner[Green and purple regions untarnished in any way]

Fear of a Black Hole: A Starmus Travelogue

By Len Pal, Clamrespondent and Co-Host of MC Hawking’s Podcore Nerdcast

Last week I wrote a piece for the Clam about Ken Lawrence’s MC Hawking project, and how it led to an invitation to perform for Stephen Hawking and over a thousand other delegates, including eleven Nobel laureates, and many of the most brilliant scientists of our time. To recap, while playing around with his computer’s text-to-speech software, Ken realized it sounded a lot like Stephen Hawking, so he used his background in musical composition to make it rap. The resulting songs got pretty popular online, Professor Hawking’s people heard and liked them, and sixteen years or so later, it led to an invitation to perform at Starmus, a prestigious conference celebrating science, music, and the arts.

So, that happened. It was pretty amazing, and I’m back to tell you about it.

The Undisputed King of Theoretical Gangsta-Astrophysics

Artist rendition of MC Hawking

Starmus was founded when Brian May went back to school to complete his PHd in astrophysics, which was on the back burner for about thirty years while he was busy with his own musical side project, a band named Queen. His thesis advisor was Dr. Garik Israelian, who also happened to be a musician. The two struck up a friendship and realized that music and science should be celebrated together. The first Starmus festival took place in 2011 with about 200 attendees. The second, in 2014, hosted nearly a thousand, and the third in 2016 had nearly 1600.

Starmus featured three days of lectures by speakers like Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Kip Thorne, Martin Rees, author and futurist Robert J. Sawyer, cyber-security expert Eugene Kaspersky, Richard Dawkins, and astronaut Chris Hadfield, to name just a few. And I’m going to be honest and admit that at times, the science was a bit over my head. But that doesn’t matter – I came away with enough of a taste for it that now, I want to keep learning more about all of it! More than that, I want to make other people want to learn about this stuff!

Like, maybe you already knew that LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatories operated by Caltech and MIT, use intersecting laser beams two kilometers long to detect alterations in spacetime when gravitational waves pass through them. Just last month, their two observatories, located in different parts of the United States, detected gravitational waves caused by the merging of two black holes. For real, that happened.

You probably also knew that the science in the movie Interstellar was actually accurate. Astrophysicist Kip Thorne came up with the idea behind the movie, and worked closely with director Christopher Nolan (as well as his special effects team) to make a science fiction movie about black holes that actually got it right, both in terms of the plot and in the visualizations. Top of my to-do list now that I’m home is to watch the movie again with a greater appreciation for what I’m looking at.

interstellarblackhole

One of these shows what a black hole really looks like.

I could write pages and pages about the different amazing lectures, but I won’t. (You’re welcome.) Honestly, there was just too much and I’m sure I’d get the science wrong anyway. Suffice it to say that every speaker made me want to run out and buy ten books about whichever topic they were presenting.

The trip was not without drama. On Wednesday, we arrived at the conference venue several hours early to have a tech rehearsal for Ken’s performance, but security wouldn’t let anyone in the building. We finally managed to text someone with enough clout to come get us. After the rehearsal, we ran into Deborah, Stephen Hawking’s personal assistant (whose idea it was to have Ken bring an MC Hawking performance to Starmus). She informed us that earlier in the day, Stephen’s daughter alerted the police to a number of e-mails and tweets the professor was receiving from a woman who said she was nearby in Tenerife, planning to kill him. Deborah seemed mostly unfazed, telling us that Stephen gets “stuff like that all the time”, but that they still have to take it seriously, which is why security was heightened for the rest of the week. We later found out that the woman, an American who appeared to be both a religious fanatic and mentally ill, really was attending the conference and staying in a nearby hotel. They arrested her and found the professor’s itinerary along with detailed plans for his murder in her possession.

Ken started his performance with a brief speech introducing himself and how he came to be known as “MC Hawking”, and then showed a seven minute mockumentary entitled MC Hawking: A Brief History of Rhyme, narrated by voice actor Dave B. Mitchell. The film provided a fictional biography of Stephen Hawking’s origins as a gangster rapper, until a scientific breakthrough tragically pulled him away from rapping and back into theoretical astrophysics. Within the film, scientists were shown with their faces blurred and their names changed to protect their identity, but the crowd roared with laughter to see Dr. Harick Gisralean, Dr. Feel the Grass Bison, and Dr. Myron Bay (Garik Israelian, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Brian May, respectively) tell stories about Stephen Hawking as a rapper.

Ken, MC Lars, and I were backstage, nervously awaiting the crowd’s reaction while watching the film in reverse on the back of a large projection screen. Ken said “if we get some laughs at the first joke, we’re okay”. Our worst fear was that the crowd would be offended by the idea of the professor as a trash-talking, bling-wearing, gangster rapper. But even just thirty seconds into the mockumentary, the crowd was hysterical.

When the film ended, a backing music video started playing the first verse of the MC Hawking song, a brand-new track entitled Fear of a Black Hole. The “Stephen Hawking” voice sang the first verse, and then Ken and MC Lars went on stage to sing the chorus. Lars sang the next verse, backed up by Ken, followed by another chorus, and then I handed Ken his guitar for a solo.

I need to give Ken props here. Any musician might feel intimidated performing in front of a fairly large audience. Probably even more so performing in front of an audience that included the world’s foremost scientists and astrophysicists, as well as some Nobel Prize winners and at least eight or ten people who have spent time away from Earth. But Ken had to contend with all of that in addition to seeing Brian May, one of the greatest guitarists of all time, staring up at him from the front row. Ken told me later that at one point he looked down and saw Brian smiling at him and bobbing his head to the music, and he had to look away, or else he might forget to keep playing.

After the guitar solo, Ken and MC Lars finished with another chorus, during which Lars shouted “Get your black holes in the air!” The crowd as one all threw up a hand gesture mirroring the one Lars and Ken were doing, of a hole made by thumb and forefinger, pumping to the beat. From behind the stage curtain, I watched Brian May gesturing along with everyone else. Mind blown.

After the performance on Wednesday, all of the pressure was off and we could just have fun. We didn’t have to point at Ken’s conference badge to get into the VIP areas anymore; now everyone knew who we were. The lecture series ended on Wednesday, so we took Thursday off to snorkel with some sea turtles. Around the hotel, we hung out with scientists and celebrities.

IMG_5488

Ken and me with Dr. Feel the Grass Bison (wearing Ken’s E=mch bling)

On Friday, the conference moved to an auditorium about an hour north for the six-hour Sonic Universe concert. For the first hour or so, Hans Zimmer conducted an orchestra while Sarah Brightman sang. Rick Wakeman played piano while astronaut Chris Hadfield played guitar and sang David Bowie’s Space Oddity, just like he did on the International Space Station. Rick Wakeman then played Bowie’s Life on Mars on piano. Anathema played about an hour-long set, with Stephen Hawking on stage with them to provide narration during their first song, and eventually ending with Queen’s Who Wants to Live Forever. A pretty ballsy song choice actually, with Brian May sitting in the front row. During the intermission, Ken got to spend a few minutes with Professor Hawking.

 

kenhawking

Are you serious? That’s tight!

At the start of the final segment of the concert, astrophysicist Kip Thorne took the stage and briefly explained how he came up with the idea for the movie Interstellar, and how he worked closely with director Christopher Nolan and his team to create a science fiction movie that actually got the science part right. Effects artists Paul Franklin and Oliver James then explained how they took Kip’s direction and created visualizations for the film that showed what a black hole really would look like up close. This would have felt out-of-place in any other concert, but especially after a week of scientific lectures, nobody fidgeted in their seats.

The point of the lecture was to explain the visualizations that were shown next. Hans Zimmer returned to the stage with a couple of guitarists, a violinist, and a string quartet. He played a keyboard along with the musicians in a band he called “Kip Thorne and the Black Holes” while beautiful (and scientifically accurate) visualizations of black holes and neutron stars played on the screen behind them.

Nothing I’ve written or could write would do justice to the amazing experience I’ve had over the last week. I’m at nearly 1600 words and I feel like I haven’t scratched the surface. Back here in the “real world”, there are people who don’t believe in climate change or vaccinating their kids, let alone show any real interest in the science that is all around us. I’m starved for it now, and you should be too.

I’ll leave you with this challenge. This summer, go to the Museum of Science. Read Bang! The Complete History of the Universe or A Brief History of Time. Watch Cosmos: A Spacetime Oddessy, and also watch Interstellar. You see where I’m going with this, right? Get out there and learn something.

 

— Len Pal, July 5, 2016