November 18, 1993

This happened 20 years ago today:


Cameron D’Ambrosio had his free speech rights attacked last month. The obvious reason? Paranoia and fear following the Boston Marathon bombings. The official reason? He wrote a song in which he boasted about how the bombings were nothing compared to what he would do. Authorities (not of the moral variety, clearly) claimed he was a terrorist or some stupid, trumped up horseshit charge like that. The grand jury wasn’t buying it:

An Essex County grand jury declined Thursday to bring an indictment against Cameron D’Ambrosio, 18, so prosecutors will formally file a motion to drop the charge of making a bomb or hijack threat, said Carrie Kimball Monahan, a spokeswoman for the district attorney.

She declined to comment on the grand jury’s decision.

Neither D’Ambrosio nor his lawyer could be reached for comment Thursday night.

Authorities said D’Ambrosio was arrested May 1 after police learned that he had posted a message on his Facebook page that read in part, “Ya’ll want me to [expletive] kill somebody?” and “[expletive] a Boston bombing wait till you see the [expletive] I do.”

The posting did not say where any bombing would occur and did not single out any person or group, but it also allegedly referred to the White House.

D’Ambrosio pleaded not guilty the following day in Lawrence District Court, and he was held without bail.

In a statement, Methuen Police Chief Joseph Solomon said his department disagrees with the decision but respects the ruling.

“Several judiciary levels have confirmed the probable cause in this case, as it has worked its way through the criminal justice system,” said Solomon. “We will continue to take all threats against our community seriously.”

Fuck you, Joseph Solomon. If you took your job seriously, you wouldn’t target the First Amendment rights of high school kids. Indeed, had D’Ambrosio been a successful rap artist with gobs of money, you never would have gone after him. The only reason you ignored the constitution, you fuck, is because you thought he was a soft target you could use to make a point. You wanted to send a chill down the spine of anyone who might think of expressing themselves in a way in which you disapprove, so you tried to set a brand new, anti-speech precedent by arresting a kid. Your actions suggest you wish for us to be less free. I find that scummy, you scumbag.

Evan Greer of the Center for Rights, an Internet freedom and civil liberties group, praised the grand jury’s decision in a statement.

“While today is a major victory for Cam, the chilling effect that this case has already had on free speech cannot be undone,” Greer said. “It’s imperative that we send a clear message to all government officials that attacks on freedom of speech will not be tolerated.”

What I would like to do here is use some overt play on words where I suggest that Joseph Solomon’s phone line becomes inundated with calls, except instead of “inundated” I use some phrase like “phone bombed”. It’s sort of like photobombing or, say, rapping about a bombing. It has nothing to do with using any actual explosives and anyone who thinks otherwise is a mook. Unfortunately, I find myself chilled. Who knows what will happen to me if I use my First Amendment rights in a way that upsets anti-free speech crusader Joseph Solomon?

Now he’s bored and old

Kurt Cobain would be 45 today.

Nevermind – 20 years later

As of today, Sept 24, it has been 20 years since Nirvana’s Nevermind was released. (I have this post set to be published at 3am EST – midnight in Seattle.) I was only 6 at the time the album came out, a month shy of 9 when Kurt Cobain killed himself (April ’94), so I missed out on the moment. Sort of. I may have been too young to realize the importance of the band, not to mention too young to yet have a distinct interest in music, but with all the interviews, writings, and, ultimately, songs, it would be impossible for anyone to not feel like they were right there when it was all happening.

My introduction to the band came via my brother. He was a fan from either just before Cobain’s death or just after. Either way, he would listen to his Nirvana albums constantly. I didn’t take to them right away, probably in part because of a traditional sibling rivalry (it must be bad if my brother likes it, right?), but then I saw a special on MTV. First they covered a little bit about the band, about Cobain, about his burn out. I was intrigued. Then they aired Nirvana: Unplugged in New York. I was absolutely blown away. I immediately “borrowed” my brother’s album of the show and listened to it again and again and again.

I didn’t know that a bunch of the songs were covers (like the one above by Meat Puppets), but that didn’t much matter. The performance is what counted to me. And it was an incredible one. From David Bowie covers to Lead Belly tunes to Nirvana originals, I couldn’t get enough. I searched listings and watched The Preview Channel constantly in hopes of seeing more Nirvana specials and repeats of performances. (This was before DVRs and, as far as my house went, Internet access.)

(If there is one video you watch from this post, make it the above. Pay close attention to the moment – and it is a moment – at 4:39.)

It wasn’t long before I started moving into the other Nirvana albums – especially Nevermind. Literally every song on that record is a gem – any one of those “Top 100” or whatheveyou lists of the best albums of the 90’s which does not place this at number 1 is invalid. Come As You Are, Lithium, Polly? The assemblage of songs Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl put together back in 1991 can’t be beat. Yeah, I love a lot of other albums – Revolver has one of the greatest string of three songs I’ve ever heard in Taxman, Eleanor Rigby, and I’m Only Sleeping (plus a lot of other great hits) – but the dozen songs on Nevermind will never be topped as far as I’m concerned. (I’ve never had the honor of hearing an original album featuring the hidden 13th song Endless Nameless.)

This was one of those life-changing bands. Cobain’s more liberal views, his detestation of macho bullshit, his love of art, it all influenced me. I grew a distinct feeling of empathy over the idea of rape, something from which I am otherwise relatively insulated. I came to realize there’s nothing wrong with being gay. I picked up the guitar when I entered high school. The course of my life has been shaped in large part by the fact that I started listening to Nirvana back in 1998. That satisfies me immensely.

Freddy Mercury

Google has made an awesome logo in honor of what would be Freddy Mercury’s 65th birthday. And I am posting this video:

Really listen to the guy’s voice. It’s the best one to have ever graced rock.