music, technology & life in pasadena, california

Lurking in Long Beach

Musicians have always taken knocks for their oft-undeserved reputations as slackers and druggies, but now, thanks to the city of Long Beach and the Federal government, you can add terrorist to the list. The Long Beach Municipal Band which holds forth nightly during the summer months has been entertaining LB citizens for an astounding 99 years, a throwback to a time when municipal and regional bands playing in band shells was the core entertainment of urban life.

Some of the best musicians in LA and the South Bay play or have played in the band and it provides steady employment during the summer doldrums. A relatively recent requirement (as far as I know) for employment is the fingerprinting of each member. The Feds run a scan of the prints with results returned to the city. A recent scan of a band member turned up fingerprints that were a close match to a known terrorist. What happened next is not exactly clear but the player was asked not to return to work.

Now, obvious to everyone involved, this band member is not a terrorist. Fingerprints are unique; “close” isn’t something that should be a deciding factor. I was told that by the time an investigation could be completed, the summer season of the band would be over and until a report was made, the city couldn’t employ someone who was a suspected terrorist or didn’t have an “all clear” on their prints scan.

It’s hard to believe that the FBI can’t confirm a person’s true identity within twenty-four hours and allow that person to return to productive and much-needed work. In our strangely Orwellian post-9/11 society, we often hear accounts like this, but until it hits this close to home, its ridiculously sad consequences fail to impress.

August 30, 2008 | Link to this entry


Paul Viapiano is a guitarist working in film, television and live performance based in sunny Pasadena, California.

You can email me here.

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