The Pop Culture Road Trip

A piece I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks just broke on AOL News. There’s just something about her – it’s strange – that pulls many of us in…

In any event, here you go...


We all know what happened at Dodger Stadium last week – the tragic beating of a Giants fan in the parking lot after the game. Dodger owner Frank McCourt called it a “random act” (as opposed to the calculated attack that it was) and the Dodgers are now in full PR press mode – holding press conferences with the mayor and letting it be known to every single person entering the stadium that this sort of violence will not be tolerated.

As if it were more than about the 5% of the fans that cause this mindless brutality. It’s the dirty little secret the Dodgers would have you believe does not exist – that this event was more than just an anomaly. But many of us know the truth and it’s why we no longer go to Dodger Stadium – the place has changed dramatically and for the worse in the last 5-7 years or so.

Or rather, some of the fans have – and they’ve taken the stadium with them.

Some will say it’s the influx to the park of gang members but that’s just a part of it. There are enough drunken louts of all creeds and colors roaming that park, looking for prey. This is not a race thing. It’s an alcohol thing. It’s the mass-marketing of violence thing. And it’s, in general, a disintegration of the family thing.

And it’s not just Dodger Stadium. But we notice it more, because of what Dodger Stadium used to represent. Like once-innocent small towns that now find graffiti spray painted on buildings. Like fresh-faced suburban kids flashing gang symbols. It bothers us more because we remember a kinder, more civil time and place – and watching these places and people get raped, pillaged and corrupted is extremely unsettling.

The death of innocence, replaced by a savage-nation mentality, is worth noticing – and that’s all that’s happening at Dodger Stadium. Sure, the Dodger management would rather you believe the stadium environment is just how it always was. But it’s not.

They’ll say arrests are down – without saying that security was also cut back on. The violence is there – it’s just not getting dealt with.

They’ll play the part of concerned, responsible people in charge and place cops all over the place, as if we are all capable of almost killing someone for no reason. But that’s not dealing with the problem. That’s a band aid – not a cure.

What would be dealing with the problem? End beer sales. Metal detectors and strip searches. An on-site prison. Lifetime bans for first violent offenses. Random breathalyzer tests. And more. Harsh solutions, I know – but desperate times demand desperate measures.

But that won’t happen, because to implement those things would be to admit there’s a problem that, while not exactly widespread yet, will no doubt get worse in a hurry. And nobody wants to do that, because admitting that means that lots of time and money must be allocated to make it better.

And judgements about morals and values and ethics would also need to be dealt with – and people seem to run fast from those issues today, especially politicians.

There are many “Dodger Stadiums” today – many places we cherished because they made us feel good and represented the best there was. But little by little there are being eaten by societal termites – crumbling before our eyes as the vulgar, violent minority tramples over all that the law-abiding majority once held dear.

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On this, the eve of the tour, I thought I’d share this.

Back in January, I interviewed Claudio Sanchez about Coheed and Cambria’s upcoming tour –  going back to their roots, playing ‘The Second Stage Turbine Blade’ in its entirety (along with a special acoustic set and an additional electric set).

It was a for a piece I was writing and my son, a very serious Coheed fan (who got me into the group) was with me.

Beyond the amazing music, what always impressed me about this band is how they treat their fans. The shared loyalty and dedication is a fantastic thing to watch. Coheed makes the experience so interesting for its fans – keeping them involved and rewarding them with some of the most intense, inspired concerts being played today – and a thoroughly interesting, eclectic and challenging body of work.

To this awesome group of musicians – best of luck as you hit the road – and for the fans, here’s hoping you enjoy this part of our conversation.



Four decades after recording his emblematic song “Peace Train,” Yusuf Islam (also known as Cat Stevens) released “My People,” a free download available on and digital platforms worldwide.

The just-released single ‘My People’ also includes a unique chorus quilted together from the hundreds of voices sent in from across the globe by fans who participated through an open invitation on the artist’s Facebook page.

Stevens, who initially stopped performing after his conversion to Islam in the late 1970s, in recent years has taken to the stage once more performing new songs inspired by his faith along with his greatest hits from the 1960s-70s. He’s touring Europe this summer, and a video for ‘My People’ will soon be released.

Though Yusuf Islam has found himself occasionally embroiled in controversy over the years stemming from comments he’s made in regards to his faith, he has always clearly defined himself as a man of peace.

Immediately following the 9/11 attacks almost ten years ago, he stated: “I wish to express my heartfelt horror at the indiscriminate terrorist attacks committed against innocent people of the United States yesterday. While it is still not clear who carried out the attack, it must be stated that no right-thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone such an action. The Qur’an equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of the whole of humanity. We pray for the families of all those who lost their lives in this unthinkable act of violence as well as all those injured; I hope to reflect the feelings of all Muslims and people around the world whose sympathies go out to the victims of this sorrowful moment.”

In a recent conversation I had with him, Yusuf discussed his newest creative effort, and also reflected on his career and faith. Good natured, funny and self-effacing, he’s fully comfortable once more with the “Cat Stevens” career that continues to touch millions of people around the world.

Here is the piece I wrote about it.

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