Arisia schedule (Panels saturday night + filking)

arisia-icon-2017.pngThis weekend is my favorite sf con, the always awesome Arisia in Boston. It's got something for everyone — sf, fantasy, print, film, anime, cosplay, music, the whole waterfront. By coincidence, it's at the Westin Waterfront, right next to the convention center. It's a full weekend of delightful geekery with all of the region's fandoms. I wouldn't miss it for anything.

I'm on a couple of panels (I'll also likely be hanging out in the filk room late into the night.) If you're gonna be there, hope to catch up!

Saturday, 7pm
Another Look at the Bad Old Days
Hale (3W), 7pm - 8:15pm
Jonathan Woodward (moderator), James Hailer, Heather Urbanski, Sarah Lynn Weintraub, John G. McDaid
A lot of SF has aged very badly. A lot of it bore appalling elements even for its time. There's some usual suspects, but let's look at the older works of SF with awful elements as a whole. Is there anything worth looking for in those stories? Who deserves to make problematic fave among the problematic horde? Are there lessons that are relevant to modern readers and authors to be found among the stories that make us wince?

Saturday, 8:30pm
The Prisoner at 50: Be Seeing You
Douglas (3W), 8:30pm - 9:45pm
Mark L Amidon (moderator), John G. McDaid, Michael A. Burstein, Justine Graykin, Jared Walske
Fifty years ago, *The Prisoner* helped redefine the spy genre and bring various counterculture themes of the '60s to the forefront in a groundbreaking science-fiction show. Attempts at reboots -- an '80s comic and a 2010 AMC series -- have failed to capture any of the magic of the original. What keeps this classic show so popular after so many years, and where (beyond obvious tributes like The Simpsons) can we see its influence in pop culture today?

LTE: Rhode Islanders are "doers," says Rep. Deborah Ruggiero

The Rhode Islanders I know are doers—successful business owners, technology entrepreneurs, community advocates, and passionate educators. They know technology is part of our everyday life—online banking, GPS, email, Skype, search engines, even online dating. Every business, large or small, has a website, email, and a digital footprint. It’s how we do business.

Over the past three years, jobs have been unfolding in Rhode Island in technology, advanced manufacturing, Information Technology, nursing, healthcare, digital graphics, and computer science. These are STEAM jobs (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math).

In five years, Rhode Island will have more than 4,000 jobs in computer science alone. So, let’s get our kids excited about jobs in the digital world. Rhode Island is the only state in the country to fund computer science (CS4RI) classes in grades K-12.

SENEDIA (Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance) is doing it. They’ve partnered with Real Jobs RI to develop internship programs for cybersecurity and undersea technology. They’ve developed an intensive cybersecurity training program with CCRI in Newport and this is an on-ramp to in-demand jobs in cybersecurity.

As co-chair of the Defense Economy Planning Commission, I’ll continue to support the Defense Sector. It generates $105 million in tax revenues for the state every year. In fact, the Defense Industry is the highest paying sector, with jobs averaging $94,000- $110,000. Recently, a public-private partnership at URI, Johnson & Wales, RIC and Bryant launched web development minors to prepare students for high paying jobs in software development.

Not every son or daughter is going to go to college. We also need electricians, plumbers and contractors to build things and get it done—on time and on budget. That’s why the PTECH (Pathways in Technology) pilot programs are so innovative pairing classroom work with real-world experience to succeed in a specific industry. On Aquidneck Island, SENEDIA (Defense Industry Trade Association) partners with Rogers High School on cybersecurity. In Westerly, Electric Boat teaches high school students to be welders and boat builders. EB has 1,000 jobs each year for the next several as Rhode Island builds submarines for the US Navy.

Let’s continue to educate and train our workforce so they can cash those paychecks earned (and spent) here in Rhode Island. Johnson & Johnson, a Fortune 25 company specializing in information technology and data analytics, plans to open its new health technology center in Rhode Island with 75 high-skilled positions. Wexford Innovation Center is creating jobs in our state from construction to computer science. Virgin Pulse, which recently bought a Rhode Island company ShapeUp, is expanding its operations in Rhode Island creating 300 jobs.

Rhode Island has always been, and will continue to be, a state of innovators and doers—from the spinning wheels at Slater Mill to the spinning turbines off Block Island. This country’s first off-shore wind farm, the Block Island Wind Farm, is a powerful example of the state’s long-standing commitment to innovation and getting things done.

Rhode Island is home to world-class beaches, parks, and trails, but Rhode Island must also be home for innovators, entrepreneurs, and just plain doers. So, let’s get it done.

​​###

Representative Deborah Ruggiero- District 74 Jamestown/Middletown, is chairwoman of House Committee on Small Business and serves on House Finance.

RI Progressive Dems slam Invenergy Woonsocket water bid

ri_progdem.pngThe Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America announced their opposition to the potential water sale from Woonsocket to Invenergy, a Chicago based company proposing to build a fracked gas power plant known as the Clear River Energy Center. In a statement released late Wednesday, RIPDA also called for all RI Progressive Democrats to oppose the sale of water to Invenergy and to ask the Woonsocket City Council to oppose the pending sale as well.

The RIPDA Executive Board unanimously approved the opposition stating that the project is “not in the best interest of Woonsocket, northern Rhode Island, the state or the region. The potential sale of water to Invenergy will provide little to no benefit to the state or the region and may exacerbate existing drought conditions, produce higher potable water treatment costs, as well as increase health issues for those residents in the all along the Blackstone River watershed. Environmental injustice burdens small towns that don’t have the financial means to fight against well financed companies like Invenergy.” RIPDA also believes that the potential sale of water would reduce water flow and harm the existing and growing interest in the development of hydro systems which depend on a steady flow of water.

“In a time where alternative energy production sources are flourishing, to add a fracked gas power plant, destroy over 200 acres of second growth forest in an area hailed by environmentalists from all over New England is unconscionable. There is no substitute for clean drinking water or environmental diversity. This one power plant, according to Invenergy’s application submitted to the RI Energy Facility Siting Board on October 29, 2015, will use up to “one-million gallons of water” every day for the forty year life span of the power plant. Recent claims by Invenergy reduce the water consumption to as little as twenty-five thousand gallons per day. So we really don’t know how much water will be used by the power plant,” said Lauren Niedel, Deputy State Coordinator for RIPDA.

It is estimated that nearly 2 tanker trucks would cross the 17 miles every 6 minutes during a 12 hour time period, creating extra fiscal and environmental burdens on the region, a degradation of Woonsocket’s and North Smithfield’s roads, an increase of air and noise pollution and traffic congestion. The increase in particulate matter from both the fossil fuel power plant and the diesel fuel tanker trucks would worsen existing high asthma and other respiratory illnesses in the region. Woonsocket is one of  four “core cities” defined by the Rhode Island Department of Health where hospitalizations for asthma occur higher than state averages.

In addition RIPDA is in full support of the resolution by the  Burrillville Town Council opposing the siting of the power plant. The town already is home to a fossil fuel burning power plant - Ocean State Power - a gas compressor station owned by Enbridge Energy formally Spectra Energy and additional fossil fuel infrastructure. “This is a regional issue spilling over into Thompson, CT, Uxbridge, MA and elsewhere in those two states,” says Niedel.

RIPDA points to the Resilient Rhode Island Act and views the proposed fracked gas power plant as a direct contradiction to this 2014 Rhode Island law.

Editorial note: Written from a news release.

RI authors join nationwide "Writers Resist" event

WritersResistOn January 15, 2017, the date of Martin Luther King’s birth, more than a dozen Rhode Island authors will join writers at 70 events across the United States and worldwide, coming together for Writers Resist: Rhode Island, a “re-inauguration” of mercy, equality, free speech, and the fundamental ideals of democracy.

#WRITERS RESIST: Rhode Island will take place on January 15, 2017 at 2pm in the DiStefano Lecture Hall at Newport’s Salve Regina University. Hosted by Salve's Writer in Residence, Jen McClanaghan, the event will bring together a diverse group of Rhode Island writers, including Karen Boren, Adam Braver, Tina Cane, Mary Cappello, Darcie Dennigan, Theo Greenblatt, Christopher Johnson, Erica Mena, Julie Danho O’Connell, Patch Tseng Putterman, Kate Schapira, Susannah Strong and more.

A short reading will be followed by an open forum/open mic.There will also be a fundraising raffle for a local charity, but the event is free and open to the public.

Simultaneous Writers Resist events will happen in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Oakland, Austin, Portland, Omaha, Seattle, London, Zurich, Hong Kong, Singapore and many more cities. The Manhattan event, to be held on the steps of the New York Public Library, is co-sponsored by PEN America and features some of the best-known writers in America.

These worldwide events originated from a recent Facebook post by poet Erin Belieu, co-founder of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Belieu challenged writers to organize to reclaim democracy, which led to the Writers Resist organizer’s forum now boasting over 2,000 members, out of which over 70 events rapidly emerged that feature countless prominent literary voices. Belieu believes the events are a first step in focusing public attention on the ideals of a free, just and compassionate society. “This is only a starting point in raising our voices in defense of democracy," said Belieu.

Writers and interested public who want to attend can visit writersresist.org for a list of cities and contact information for local organizers.

Writers Resist is a national network of writers driven to #WriteOurDemocracy by defending the ideals of a free, just and compassionate democratic society. Links: Facebook, Twitter.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

Sen. Jim Seveney sworn in as General Assembly convenes

RI State Senator James A. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton) was formally sworn into office Tuesday, Jan. 3, as the 2017-18 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly convened.

Senator Seveney was one of 4 new members of the Senate who took the oath of office, which was administered to all 38 Senate members by Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.

The Senate began its legislative year with a program of activities that included the re-election of Sen. M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) as President of the Senate. Elected to the post in January 2009, President Paiva Weed began her fifth two-year term today with an address to the Senate members and other assembled officials and guests.

Senator Seveney is a retired Navy officer. He graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1972, earned a bachelor’s degree from Rhode Island College in 1976, a master of science degree from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1990, and an MBA from Salve Regina University in 2005. His father, Gardiner F. Seveney, served four terms in the Rhode Island Senate, from 1979 to 1986.

He resides in Portsmouth with his wife, Valerie. They are the parents of two children, Sarah and Matthew.

Editorial note: Written from a state house news release.

RIDEM issues deadline, threatens fines in Portsmouth landfill capping

Screen Shot 2016-12-20 at 11.21.47 AM.pngThe clock is ticking for the company capping the old landfill in Island Park. Yesterday, the RI Dept. of Environmental Management issued AP Enterprise a "Notice of Intent to Enforce" for allegedly failing to complete the work in the timeframe specified in their original agreement, according to an e-mail sent to interested parties by RIDEM's Mark Dennen. Here's what Dennen said:

"[W]hen the site did not complete closure by the September 2016 deadline, it was referred to our Office of Compliance and Inspection for Enforcement Action. That Office has issued the attached action regarding the site."

The attached Notice of Intent to Enforce (NIE) demands a written response in 15 days, and requires that the capping work be completed within 180 days of receipt of the notice. It goes on to note:

"If respondent promptly and satisfactorily complies with the requirements of this NIE, then DEM may decide to forego the assessment of administrative monetary penalties. Continued non-compliance, however, will result in the issuance of a Notice of Violation and Order, which will include the assessment of an administrative penalty, which may be as high as $25,000 per violation for each and every day that violation continues to exist."

Read the full Notice of Intent to Enforce here.

The sad farewell of Brian Edwards

2016-12-06 11.36.24 HDR.jpg
Chris and Mike at Brian's grave. Click to embiggen.

It's a cold, raw afternoon in Loomis Hill Cemetery outside Syracuse. A middle-aged woman parks a dark blue SUV near a tin-roofed gazebo and approaches the two men standing by a casket.
"Are you family?" she asks. "I saw the hearse pulling into the cemetery with no cars following it, and I said to myself, 'Nobody should be buried alone."
"We're just friends," I say. "His name was Brian. Brian Edwards." I offer her my hand. "John."
"Sheila."
"Sheila, thank you so much for stopping." At this point, I had to turn away; I had something in my eye.

Death is disorienting. There's always that moment where you scan the subject line in the e-mail, see the caller ID from a friend at an odd hour, and suddenly your timeline bifurcates into pre- and post. I don't think it's the dying who see their lives flash before their eyes. That's just projection. It's those left behind who begin to wander mentally, like Billy Pilgrim or Dr. Manhattan, through an ensemble of flickering moments, emerging from the rubble of Dresden, remembering a cold glass of beer amid the strangeness and charm...

Brian Edwards died "at home" on November 16. Having no fixed address and no living relatives, the Onondaga County Medical Examiner did their best to find someone to contact. Finally, they put a death notice in the Post Standard and scheduled interment at the Loomis Hill Cemetery, the burial place of last resort. The process is documented thoroughly and clinically on the Department of Social Services web site.

It is just before 11am on Tuesday, December 6, and I'm standing in the cemetery with Chris Doherty. This is clearly an indigent facility; no gate, no office. No staff. We have to call the funeral home to be sure we’re in the right place. The whole north end has no headstones, only tiny metal name plaques, flush with the ground. The last row is freshly turned earth dotted with green plastic frames, each containing a name. There's a tin-roof rectangular gazebo with a church truck partly unfolded beneath. Next to the road sits an uncovered outer interment receptacle with its lid on the ground a few feet away. An empty concrete shoe box. Two roller bars span the open shell.

Funeral director Matt Klinger from the Frazier-Shepardson funeral home pulls up in a late-model hearse, climbs out, approaches us.
"Are either of you Brian Edwards' brother?" he asks.
We tell him we're not, just friends. He offers condolences, retreats back to the hearse where four of the guys from the cemetery crew have appeared to hoist out the pale blue fiberboard coffin.
"Over there?" one of the guys indicates the gazebo.
"No, just here." Klinger points to the concrete liner where they roll the casket to a stop.

It is May 9, 1981, and I'm sitting with Brian and Tom Boyce outside the Carrier Dome, yelling "US guns killed US nuns" as Secretary of State Al Haig is given an honorary doctorate at commencement. We had just busted our knuckles raw hauling a keg of beer down from the house many of us shared on Clarendon Street to support the protesters. We set up at the back of the physics building and began pumping. It being the 1980s, the police were remarkably restrained, simply telling us to stay out of the way of foot traffic. Brian had to run down to M Street to resupply cups when we ran low. We sat on the ledge at the back of the building, chanting and dispensing refreshment until now-Doctor Haig was bundled up in his limo and whisked off.

It is sometime in 1980, and I'm with Brian and a gang of our friends in the front row of Gifford Auditorium, watching the all-night Ape-A-Rama. In the days before Netflix, DVDs, or VHS, the University Union Film Series was the way you could see movies, and we were part of the crowd that hung out and watched them. All of them. The programming was wildly eclectic, with Syracuse debuts of foreign features cheek-to-jowl with Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Head, and The Stunt Man. On this evening, we had settled into the front row with a carefully concealed case of Schmidts to watch all five of the original Planet of the Apes films. It was about three in the morning when someone got on the stage to sheepishly announce that the distributor had sent the wrong film. Instead of "Battle for the Planet of the Apes," the film cases contained a print of "Rabbit Test." I remember watching Brian laugh hysterically at things that I don't think the filmmakers intended.

It's the night before the burial, and Chris and I are at Mike Schafer's house north of Syracuse, on a soggy isthmus between a lake and a swamp. Mike is a musician and one of the founders of the post-punk/grunge/noise band "Mechanical Sterility." Brian used to do lead vocals (and I sat in occasionally) back in the early 80s. His house is pleasantly stuffed with books, toys, 20,000 records, and an enormous range of musical instruments (there are entire milk crates of "untuned" and "tuned" toy instruments, something Spike Jones would appreciate.) We sit in his living room, jam desultorily on our old standards, and talk about Brian. Mike hadn't seen him in a while. He'd been trying to keep Brian connected, picking him up for a weekend so that he could shower, sleep in a bed, and have a couple of square meals every few weeks. The rest of the time he was living behind stores, on benches, in a nest where the reporters from Syracuse.com found him, or sometimes in a crack house with street friends. Not a situation that seemed to have any future to it.

Brian was one of those "nonstudents" who hang around a university, much more common I suspect in the late 1970s than these days. He came into our group through science fiction, frequenting a used bookstore that Chris ran on Geddes Street downtown. That plugged him into the campus sf group that used to get together and watch the original "Battlestar Galactica." I first recall meeting him in 78 or 79, probably at some sf film in Gifford, maybe "Dark Star" or "Silent Running." He was smart, funny, always carried a sketchbook (as many of us did in those days before smart phones) and liked the same stuff. Over the next few years, we hung out, jammed, wrote stories, used whiteout to repurpose comic books, recorded tapes, created weird art, listened to the Grateful Dead, lay in Thornden Park watching the stars rotate around the Earth, and generally did stuff which I'm glad is not recorded on social media.

But then there was a commencement and Al Haig, and some of us moved on.

Brian, well, did not.

I remember looking at a line he had copied down in a sketchbook, "I promised I would drown myself in mystic heated wine." It's from a Doors song, "Yes, The River Knows." Folks may think it's Jim Morrison, but was actually written by Robby Krieger, who admitted in an interview that he was channeling that dark, nihilist vibe that runs through Morrison's stuff. And while Brian was a wide-eyed optimist (his favorite song was Lennon's "Imagine") he was ill prepared for the grim meathook realities of the 1980s. He struggled with inner demons that he never spoke about but which showed up in his artwork. And I think it’s fair to say that he had a complicated relationship with alcohol and other substances. In many ways, he was both Jim Morrison and Syd Barrett. Inventive, clever, and wry, but somehow not quite a match for the rigged game where we all find ourselves, for better or worse, playing cards dealt by an invisible hand.

It is sometime in 1983. I am jamming with Brian and Mike in his apartment on 109th Street in New York. Most of our crew had moved to New York City, as one did in those days when one was young and looking for work in creative fields. We are riffing on Lennon's "Oh, Yoko" making up new lyrics about Ronald Reagan. Brian is side-splittingly funny. There may be a cassette tape somewhere. But as Mike says the day before the burial, "Man, we used to buy such cheap tapes. Four for a dollar. If we'd just spent more on the tapes, we could actually listen to them now." Such is time and technology and crisis of capital. Brian only has enough money to stay in New York for a few months. Bouncing around Manhattan filling out job applications. On the day he's already planned to move back to Syracuse, an offer at a video store finally comes through. But it's too late, he's already committed to leave.

Matt Klinger looks at his watch. It's 11am. He stands at the head of the casket and reads a committal service prayer from a small, stapled pamphlet, then looks significantly at us. I reach out, touch the cool blue cardboard and recite a bit from the Tibetan Book of the Dead. "Follow the Clear Light." Chris mumbles something that I don't catch. Then we both take a few steps back, looking away, not catching each other's eyes, which are leaking.

"This is as far as we can go," says Klinger. "The cemetery workers will take it from here."

And they do. Chris and I retreat to our cars, parked on a gravel swale just west of the gazebo, as the workers slide straps under the coffin and lower it into the concrete container. They bring in a backhoe, which picks up the lid and hoists it into position. Then they spread a sling around the vessel, two loops, one lowered over each end, secured only by friction, and pick up the entire ensemble for the short trip up the road to Section M, Row 1, Grave 25. The backhoe lowers Brian into the grave.

The years after Brian moved back to Syracuse had ups and downs. For a while, several of our gang would head up to Mike's house and jam. I was off in the world of full-time jobs, never had the time to get there. I'd listen to the tapes that Mike sent, full of weird music and Brian's infectious laugh. Then the first decade of the 21st century took its toll on the group. Our friend Tavis, who played kick-ass lead guitar, drowned in a rip current off a south Jersey beach. Was that an inflection point? It hit us all hard. Mike’s ex, Mary, also a vibrant, clever writer, passed away. It’s September 26, 2009, and I’m standing with our friends at the surfline of Coney Island. Mary loved the dilapidated charm of the boardwalk, the delightful dive vibe of Ruby’s, being in the Mermaid Parade. We are tossing roses into the ocean.

The backhoe has finished filling in the grave and now repositions to smooth out the fresh earth.

Mike drives up. He's had trouble finding the cemetery and couldn't reach us on our cell phones. He's wearing a long black coat. "I went through my closet trying to find something, and finally put this on," he said, "And when I looked in the mirror, I heard Brian saying, (imitates commercial announcer voice) 'What the well-dressed man is wearing to funerals this year.'"

It is, truly, exactly what Brian would have said.

RIP Brian Jay Edwards

brian_photo.jpgBrian Edwards, one of my good friends from undergrad days at Syracuse University, passed away last month. I only heard from friends this afternoon; the obit has no detail. The funeral will be this coming Tuesday. It's just awful.

Brian was amazingly creative with both words and images. He always carried a sketchbook, and drew clever cartoons and elaborate, trippy designs. When we'd all get together and jam, he'd sing, or verbally doodle lyrics in a style that few but Jim Morrison have pulled off successfully. He was clever and creative and always seemed like he was just about to laugh -- usually at something absurd in the world that he would gleefully point out.

He was a kind and gentle soul. His favorite song was Lennon's "Imagine." He could put that on repeat and sketch for hours.

Life threw some tough stuff at Brian, and Syracuse is a hard place to find work. Over the last few years, he didn't always have a place to live.

Our friend Steve Shapiro posted a slide show on YouTube featuring music by the band Mechanical Sterility that Brian used to play with back in the early 80s; that's him on vocals. (As the name might suggest, the sound is post-punk/noise/grunge, so content warnings and all...)

Brian was special person and a good friend. It's a poorer, sadder world without him in it. My thoughts are with his family and friends.

An evening with Edgar Allen Poe at PHS this weekend

poe.jpgThink current events are scary? For real terror, take in an evening with the master of the macabre, Edgar Allen Poe, performed by the Portsmouth High School Drama club. Witness the Tell-Tale Heart, the Cask of Amontillado, the Oblong Box and other blood-chilling tales from the pen of the writer who invented the genre.

The show opens tonight and runs through Saturday. Curtain at 7pm and tickets are $10/$5 student and senior, available at the door.

Hope to see you there!

Full disclosure: Our son Jack in in the cast. No objectivity here.

RIP Bill Rosen, musician and friend

bill_rosen_facebook_selfie.jpgBill Rosen was a talented singer-songwriter, a brilliant, funny guy, and someone who cared deeply about others. This week, in San Bernardino, my college friend was murdered in the parking lot of an apartment complex where he was staying. There was an ambiguous but worrying post on his Facebook page, and when I reached his cousin, she gave me the terrible news.

Bill's murder showed up in local news items as just another crime story: San Bernardino County Sun, KABC TV. I hadn't known Bill's circumstances for a while; thanks to the false sense of transparency of Facebook, it seemed everything was going okay.

We had done theater in college, back at Syracuse University. We'd jammed together on guitar and shared enthusiasms for Loudon Wainwright and Steve Forbert. I still remember one afternoon in the summer of 1979, he pointedly played me "Thinking'" from Forbert's "Alive on Arrival" when he estimated that I was being particularly obtuse about something. He was the kind of friend who would do that. He told me that I needed to up my guitar playing in no uncertain terms, and I owe him. Because he then started showing me how to do hammer-ons and pull-offs. It's a rare friend who can tell you difficult truths in a helpful way.

We lost touch for a while after college. I bumped into him in Greenwich Village in 1982; I was on my way to a gig and carrying my guitar and we chatted for a while. Then we lost track of each other again. That was easy to do in those days, before the web and Facebook and mobile phones. A long gap. Then, out of the blue, in 2005, I got an e-mail saying that he'd looked me up and found my web site.

He was doing corporate communications at the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and I was periodically working out of an office in NYC, so we got together for lunch a few times. Usually al fresco in one of the vest-pocket parks in the East 50s, over bagels or sandwiches. He was the same Bill -- a bit older, a bit road-weary and dented here and there by life as we all end up being in our forties. Over lunches, he shared his story. He had tried to make it as a musician, lived in LA, wrote and recorded demos, and come close. But there are just a lot of folks aiming for a very limited number of slots in the fame machine. Even in giving up on that dream, though, he netted a wonderful story. I'll let hime tell it, as he shared in an e-mail:

The Forberts.jpgHere's a quick Forbert story: I lived in L.A. for 5 years (the 10 longest years of my life!) pursuing a career in music. (Things went well, but not fast enough for me, so I bagged it.) After letting go of the dream, I made my way back home, driving cross country in an 18-foot Ryder truck. On our way back to NY, my girlfriend and I were driving though Meridian, Mississippi (Steve's childhood home), and, after a series of phone calls, located Steve's parents and stopped in for a visit - pulling up in our 18-foot truck. (They probably thought we were there to clean out the house.) 5 minutes after getting there, and sitting in the den watching Mr. Forbert read the newspaper, I turned to my girlfriend and mouthed, 'What the fuck are we doing here?' Shortly after that Mrs. Forbert brought out a tray of Gaucho cookies and Coca Cola and the conversation took off - no doubt due to the half-pound of sugar we all powered down. 4 hours and countless photo albums of Steve as a child later, I finally had to insist that we had to hit the road. All in all, a nice visit. I exchanged Xmas cards with the Forberts for several years afterwards. A few years later, I met Steve following a show at the Bottom Line and I mentioned this story to him and asked if his parents had ever mentioned it to him. They had. But he was far from impressed. If anything, he reacted as if I were a lunatic. Oh well.

We carried on an e-mail conversation for a couple of years, and we talked about music and shared a few tunes back and forth. Here are two of his songs I particularly admired. Here's how he pitched them...

As for my music, much of what I was writing back at Syracuse was folk-rock, with a heavy emphasis on the lyrics and no emphasis whatsoever on the music. Music was nothing more than a vessel to carry the lyrics. I never really abandoned folk-rock, but my music evolved (or devolved, depending on your point of view) into rock 'n' roll. Attached is the first of two songs from the late 80s along along with lyrics. I’ll send the second in a separate email. Both were recorded in my home studio. I'm playing all the instruments and doing all the vocals.

This one is "After All," and you can see the lyrics here.

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And this next one is my favorite Bill Rosen tune, "Never Have Time for it All." It is a truly great song, and Bill knew it. So, apparently, did other folks in LA, as he told me in an e-mail...

'Never Have Time for it All' was going to be my 'meal ticket.' A half-dozen different artists were interested in recording it; it was going to be the theme song for a show on NBC; it was going to be included on the soundtrack of no less than three films. Lots of promises, but in the end, none of them happened. Such is show biz.

Here's the song, and the lyrics.

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And here's how he explained how the song came to be...

I wrote 'Never Have Time...' a couple of years after 'It's the End of the World...' and a year or so before 'We Didn't Start the Fire.' Of course, by the time mine was getting heard, there were some who thought I had ripped off Billy Joel. There's that 'timing is everything' thing again. In truth, it wasn't supposed to be a song and I certainly didn't model it after anything. I was laid up with a pinched sciatic nerve for a few weeks and I simply made a list of all the things I had said over the years that I wanted to do in my life. When I was all done, I had this completely ridiculous list of things, many of which I'd never live long enough to do and realized 'Hey, this might work as a song.' But in order to get it all in under 4 minutes, I had to speed up the delivery. (YAWN) And that's the completely uninteresting story behind the song.

I feel so sorry that Bill never had time to do more of the things he wrote about. I will miss his quick wit and clever turn of phrase. His wonderful music. I will mis his grit and optimism. Even after being laid up following a horrible bike accident, and the loss of his parents, this summer he got a tattoo with Seamus Heaney's last words, "Noli Timere" (Latin for "Be not afraid, as Heaney texted his wife following his heart attack.) But mostly, I will miss knowing that somewhere, out there on the other coast, was a king-hell guitar player who would always tell it like it was and be a true friend. I will miss you, Bill.

Here's a picture Bill took during the August, 2003 blackout of the Northeast US, You can see the original on "Astronomy Picture of the Day" for August 18, 2003.

nymoonmars2_rosen.jpg

Editorial note: This has been a tough post to write. I wish Bill's family and friends peace and healing, knowing just how difficult those are in these awful circumstances.

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