Admittedly, I have many times before in my life had the desire to set something on fire. Mostly as a way of constructive yard maintenance, however, and not in the obliterative and malicious sense.
Fire is an act of cleansing; it permanently "disappears" something. It consumes and then disintegrates its host. Completely. If done correctly... if not it still leaves an ugly mess.
It is also making a most powerful statement when fire is applied to something whether it be an inanimate object or a living, breathing thing.
Arson is most painfully demonstrative to this point.
Arson is the ultimate Dear John/Jane letter:
"Farewell, my Love, I will forever be gone missing from you and everything else in this life and on this planet. Permanently and for good."
KOOP 91.7 FM is a local community radio station based here in Austin, Texas.
KOOP is much like my old radio "alma mater" M.I.T.'s WMBR 88.1 FM in Cambridge, Massachusetts; a place that allowed complete strangers to wander in from the area and help grow a set of beliefs, enjoy great benefits of independent broadcasting and create and listen to outstanding music, commentary and news. It was a privilege to be a part of such an organization. We made it work ... for free. We were all volunteers. We did it for no financial gain whatsoever (or any expectations of such a payout - ever) but out of unadulterated, and often times unrequited, love.
It seems there was a spy in the house of love here at Austin's KOOP-FM back on January 5th, 2008.
Paul Webster Feinstein, a twenty-four year old station volunteer, became upset the night before.
Upset over something that might stun the average person. It went like this: The station "goes dark" after a certain hour and begins an automated playlist of music programming for its overnight internet "broadcast" services. This is a necessary function of most non-profit, understaffed community oriented radio operations.
Feinstein is a jazz lover. He produced a show out of KOOP called "Mellow Down Easy". A jazz show.
Not heavy metal. Not punk rock. Not rap. Jazz.
Duke, Benny & The Count.
All their own unique brands of gorgeous, smoky, contemplative, after hours rhythm and fire - the good kind. Lovers of the mystery and beauty of the soul.
Feinstein, the dubious jazz lover, apparently had his hands in the creation of the KOOP overnight playlist. Jazz music was his vision for the station at these hours: 'This is what should be played here off normal broadcast hours. You see? Trust me on this...'
Somebody else, probably the Program Director, didn't trust him enough on his decision making though or just thought better of it. The playlist was changed to another format as a result. So, let's move on then shall we?
But this infuriated Feinstein.
So inconsolably enraged was he that he poured an entire canister of gasoline over two of the control room mixing boards.
Then set fire to flames.
Up went scores of peoples' hard work. Peoples' passions. Peoples' dreams. An estimated $300,000 dollars worth of damage resulted to the station. KOOP had to relocate to another facility to continue its mission.
For the third time.
Yes, this was the third time in two years KOOP had caught fire... one caused by an electrical malfunction the other ruled "accidental".
But this third time ... this must have been the hardest hitting.
"I'd sooner catch fire than lose my desire."
-- Gino Vanelli, Jehovah & All That Jazz
-- Gino Vanelli, Jehovah & All That Jazz
I no longer question a person's motives like I once did. I once thought all people could be reasoned with.
I have learned over the last half a dozen years alone (and a lifetime...) that human rationale is on vacation. Some folks are plainly just shutting down. They refuse to take in any more information (I gather) or responsibility for their behavior. All this stimuli, this media, this multitasking, this careerism, this scheduling of parenting in, this worldly weight, is becoming too overwhelming for our still too primitive, delicate bags of water selves to keep up with. The conscience mind seems to instead simply go blank with all the overload. Some now irrepressible part of us suddenly is taking over and uncontrollably rebels against our better judgment.
We set fire to flames without even raising an eyebrow.
This has made me cautious with many of my fellow species to the point of passivity in many circumstances. No, not being a "Wimp", per se, but now, more than previously, treading ever so carefully around the even slightly suspect acting John & Jane Doe's of the world. Remember the days when you settled a school yard argument with a bloody nose and a few tersely chosen words. Not now. Now we use Guns. Gasoline. Gargantuan acts of grossly gratuitous gumption. Preemptive retaliations for our oxy-moronic times!
Paranoia? Perhaps, but nothing in need of serious medicating (yet...) I assure you.
The following is one example (of maybe more than a few) that might help clarify my stance...
I have been the victim of unprovoked road rage before. I suppose, and blatantly working against my defense here, I must have been driving too slowly in the fast lane ... for the 110mph fastly approaching from behind lunatic in the Camaro one afternoon while on Route 128 near Dedham (Dead'em?), Mass.
The driver took it upon himself to pass me in a madly screaming, finger-raising huff, swerve wildly in front of my car and then slam on his brakes to, in all likelihood, speed-trial (and at that point premeditatedly) murder me.
Fuck up your ass hat mad dash joyride did I?
I am an excellent defensive driver, and it is for that reason alone I am now sitting here and writing about this episode.
Events like these make you view things very differently the moment after they happen.
One minute I am the average driver on his way home from work. The next moment I have discovered to my horror that an absolute stranger wants to make road kill out of me. Why, I had no idea that I had signed up for the Army Reserves during wartime! If that be the case, then why on earth are the guys on the supposed same team trying to frag me now, too!?
But this belies the point somewhat.
In a similar act of unthinking aggression Paul Feinstein premeditated a murder of sorts. By setting a radio station on fire, a community radio station, he set out to kill something. A place that is built by people who believe in an ideal and who love something, and are passionate for its representative free spirit. He, for whatever insipid reason, wanted to kill that off.
That was unwitting on his part I suspect, though, and is what I find so damned-ably frustrating (I'll get to this in a moment)!
He committed this act for a very stupid reason.
Dumbfounding and incredibly stupid.
In an act of revenge over a music playlist decision.
The number one rule (are you listening, Mr. Feinstein?), the number one lesson impressed upon me from my media classes all throughout college was this one simple notion: "Never fall in love with any one piece of audio tape, film footage, written word or story idea; it will most likely end up on the cutting room floor." The idea being: mourn briefly any loss, then move on even more quickly!
If you are genius enough to thwart this viewpoint ~ go for it!
Gasoline, my friend, is not genius... you are a shame to the industry.
Oddly, Feinstein had no prior criminal record nor had he registered any psychological trouble of any kind before this outburst. In fact, most of his peers, in both academic and social networks, spoke of him very highly.
What possibly could have happened to have him set fire to his flames?
A crime of passion..?
Although his punishment should fit the crime (fines & jail time, no doubt) I hope he also receives a type of counseling human society hasn't seemingly invented yet. A counseling that works itself around the premise that we have all been mysteriously traumatized somehow (for Americans, that bugaboo 9/11 again and its ilk perhaps? No, much deeper than that...this has been a long on-going affair I believe) and, as a result, become unthinking cows. A therapy that might, in theory, pick one's psyche apart, find its modern alien invader, excorcise it (cast it out!), then reconstruct the mind to a new stage of blissful enlightenment (any ideas on how to do this, class?).
My, my now.
Suggesting some 1950's era study in social engineering should ensue again are we? A smidge of brainwashing perhaps? A form of mental torture that's not really torture? I understand there's a position in the U.S. Department of Justice opening up shortly...
(ed. - we're now told that "waterboarding only feels like torture", by the way... Huh?!?).
Rather this uninvented therapy would merely tweak the knobs of our own mixed-up mixing boards. It would simply instill the same sense of passion we have for committing completely witless acts, into a sense of appreciating those same actions' for their far reaching consequences (does the concept of reciprocality mean anything to anyone?).
Not remorse for a past action, either, a foresight to undermine acting upon self centered, ideologically reactive behavior (not to suggest quashing any revolutionary mindset, mind you, but redirecting its ill-used, bastard-child energy form we frequently see on display).
Because when dear Mr. Paul Feinstein set fire to KOOP-FM earlier this month more than just a radio station went up in flames.
(Of course, I think I might be asking for too much...)
The following is the Associated Press report on the incident:
Man Sets Station on Fire Over Playlist
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Austin, Texas (AP) -- A volunteer at a community radio station set fire
to the station because he was upset that his song selections for an
overnight Internet broadcast were changed, police said.
Paul Webster Feinstein, 24, has been charged with second-degree
felony arson for the Jan. 5 fire that caused $300,000 damage to the
studios of 91.7 FM KOOP. He faces from two to 20 years in prison and
a $10,000 fine if convicted.
Feinstein told investigators that he was "very unhappy" about the
changes to his playlist, said Austin Fire Department Battalion Chief
Greg Nye. The songs were intended for an Internet broadcast that
occurs when the station is off the air.
"He had a dream of a career in radio and was very disappointed about
where it had led him," Nye said.
An attorney for Feinstein could not be reached for comment.
Station president Andrew Dickens said Feinstein had been in a dispute
with another volunteer about what kind of music should be put into a
digital library for the Internet program.
Feinstein was a jazz fan and his Internet program was called "Mellow
Down Easy," Dickens said.
"We knew there was a disagreement, but I would characterize it as a
little clash of personalities over types of music to be played and
not a big blowout," Dickens said.
Feinstein, who had volunteered at the station for about a year, quit
a week before the fire, saying he was going to do other things,
"He seemed like somebody who was young, enthusiastic, had a life, was
a professional and was educated," Dickens said.
Nye said Feinstein acknowledged making a copy of the station key and
then waiting for the station to clear out on the night of Jan. 5.
Feinstein poured gasoline on the control panels in two studios to
start the fire, Nye said.
The fire department's trained dog smelled gasoline at the scene,
tipping investigators to the arson, Nye said.
Nye said Feinstein had no previous criminal record.
The fire was the third the station has dealt with in the past two
years. The first was ruled accidental. The second was caused by a
malfunction in a heating and air-conditioning unit of a nearby
business and forced the station to move.
This month's fire knocked the station off the air for 19 days. It
resumed broadcasting last week in donated space.
"We are kind of worried that people will look at us like a bunch of
idiots," Dickens said. "This is really just one of those out-of-the-
blue situations. Who the hell would have thought somebody would have snapped?"