Bowie & Lemmy & Hundreds of Other People Who Weren’t Famous (Oh My)

lemmy-kilmister-tumor-cancerIt isn’t that I want to be the flea on a house cat, or just to be contrary, but there’s always such a mixed bag of emotions when someone well-known passes away.  I was absolutely broken the day Leonard Nimoy passed away, but found myself at peace when Lemmy’s death was announced.  (Probably because I had seen Motorhead live four times, and felt lucky to have done so.)  I remember spending hours watching Nirvana videos the day Cobain killed himself, crying and maudlin over someone I never met, but was almost filled with glee when I heard about Jerry Garcia passing, and actually celebrated when Ronald Regan finally died.  We all have our own group of myth-makers that we respond to, and my love of Captain Beefheart can’t measure up to that of Robin Williams, no matter what the Inter-Web-A-Tron thinks I should feel that particular day.

1976: David Bowie poses for an RCA publicity shot in 1976. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

It isn’t that I don’t like David Bowie.  I have a few albums, and there’s some songs of which I’m certainly a fan.  He was interesting, too, a character that was looking to create a certain kind of art, not necessarily art that was popular at the time, either.  He looked how he wanted to, acted how he wanted to, made music that reached and affected a lot of people, and made a huge impact.  I don’t want to deny any of that, or talk shit about him.  He was who he was.  He just wasn’t my favorite artist in the world.

And, even worse, not even the first well-known person to have died on January 10th of 2016.  A well known mathematician, two well known dutch sculptors (the other one is here), a well known writer, two additional musicians (American & Venezuelan), a LGBT activist, a footballer, a journalist, a politician, a businessman & an Australian yachtsman all died on the same day, and a few of them also went to cancer, too.  And that doesn’t even account for the scores of others that have already died in 2016.  Wikipedia’s Lists of deaths by year is quite eye-opening, and while that doesn’t mean that Bowie’s death isn’t a loss, or isn’t tragic, it is strange to consider all the other’s that are not being remembered as part of this event.

Humanity has never really done well when we try to cope with death.  The best we can do is invent an afterlife of some kind, speak to them as if they are still alive, and postpone the actual grieving until we are faced with the fact that this person really is lost, that they really are gone, that they are never coming back.  Sometimes we can process these kinds of events in real time.  But death is almost always sudden.  I didn’t go to bed on the 9th with any kind of preparation that I would wake up in a world without Bowie.  None of us did.  But it has happened, and we must learn to find a way to deal.

In a way, celebrity deaths are how we come to cope with the fact that humanity is dying.  The thought that there will never be any more Motorhead shows is a big thing to process, and it stands in for the fact that everything ends, eventually.  There was a time when there were never going to be any more Beatles, or Elvis, or Django Reinhardt, or Mozart.  But life continues.  Bowie has now been relegated to “old” culture status, and we will only now be able to live in a world that has lost that, and hundred and thousands of those who came before us.  Learning to live without new music is a bit like having to come to terms with Grandma dying, or the city we grew up in changing dramatically.

Yes, it is sad we lost him.  It is sad we lost everyone.  We should be mourning the loss of people, of those who were not famous but touched our lives anyway.  We should be learning to come to terms with everything that we might not ever see again, and not just new albums buy a guy who had done the bulk of his best work a few decades ago.  This should be an example of the amazing things that we have in front of us, and not a chance to dwell on the great things we used to have, that are completely gone now.

Nostalgia is great.  But it is too easy to feel steeped in it, to let it overwhelm us as we realize the thing we love is gone now, or different.  But celebrities will live on in our memory longer than our friends, or neighbors will, and rarely do we celebrate them with the same kind of grandiosity of a passed superstar.

No one will ever forget Bowie.  Who will remember everyone else that died that day?

Shaking Things Up

My First Polaroid Developing
“Shake it up.”

In the spirit of newness and change, I’ve decided that it is time to shake up the presentation here on the blog.  There are have been a number of ways this interface has taken shape over the years, and when I first started making websites and posting material to the Inter-Web-A-Tron in the ’90’s, I had a number of ideas about what I wanted to post.  The frequency of those posts, and the presentation of them has changed dramatically since then, but I’ve done my best to hit upon themes that I’ve always felt strongly about.  Often those themes involve art and girls, but that’s true of almost every person who has ever been attracted to either.

The most recent incarnation of this blog – and within that, the most recent reboot of it last year – has been an excellent place to post things that are in-progress, or half-formed, as a means of chewing over ideas that I know I want to see go further.  When I first launched a proper blog, just after moving to Portland in 2000-ish (which I’m trying to unearth for the anthropological exercise of it all), my first thought was that the Inter-Web made it possible to have more immediate discourse, or at least, more immediate than the letters I was getting from ‘zines.  I still stand by that idea, and I post to the web largely with the notion that all of this is a draft, that it might be revised and re-written before it finds a final home.  Text, as any writer knows, is always a living document, and even after they are printed, there is an urge to revise.

The idea to go to five days a week was, of course, fairly bold.  That’s a lot of writing, especially if I don’t want most of it to be filler, and especially considering the unforgiving environment that a large part of the web has become.  Fortunately for me, I have gone largely un-harassed during my tenure as a denizen of this electronic republic, which either means that I am so uncontroversial as to be worth little regard, or that the offensive things I have said have been met with an eerie kind of agreement by the public at large.  It would be ridiculous for me to assume that I have enough notoriety to warrant an enemy or two, but having been online since the ’90’s, I’m shocked that I haven’t found some truly horrible examples of humanity who have wanted to fuck with me for the fun of it.

The idea to have one day a week dedicated to video posts seemed like a cheat that could easily be forgiven, so long as the videos were actually good.  (And I’ve been largely successful in that area, I believe.)  Giving over another day a week to index cards was certainly a bit of a gamble, as I hadn’t really seen that being done anywhere else, and I wasn’t sure if it was even something people liked.  It was a new way of approaching writing, and seemed like something that could be a huge flop if not done right.  But like Twitter, the restriction is actually a nice way to force yourself to try new things, and hitting the right length to perfectly fill an index card is a bit of an artform.  I’m glad that I’ve gotten some positive responses on them, because I’ve come to really enjoy making them.

(I would like to make a small digression here, and mention that I entirely owe my interest in index cards – and the idea to use it as a springboard for my own writing – was at the suggestion and inspiration offered by Merlin Mann on his show Back To Work.  I sort of used index cards in College, to keep track of assignments, but never used them as a way to stimulate writing, or as a means of capture.  But Merlin’s observation of the index card as ultimately disposable was something that really stuck with me.  Often, we are too precious about our own writing, and we treat each new notebook as a place where treasured and important ideas will live.  But there is a need for a place to put ideas that just need to get out, and might not really need to live beyond that.  Incorporating index cards into the way that I collect ideas and focus my own writing has been a huge breakthrough for me, and I owe that to Merlin and his suggestions on that program.  He does a wide range of other work – including a fair amount of comedy that is priceless – and I recommend checking him out if you are remotely interested in writing, art, comedy, and enjoying life.)

Having accounted for two of the five days each week, I was confident that I could continue to post three new written items every week, and have them not be a rip off.  But for some reason, I structured the week in a way where Monday led with a video & Friday closed with an index card, and the good stuff was in the middle.  While that idea wasn’t bad, a lot of people pointed out that Fridays are low-traffic for all sites, and Monday is always the strongest.  When I started looking at user engagement with our site’s built in tracking tools, this confirmed that observation.  Monday was our biggest day, and it had the least to offer readers, every week.

So, we’re going to move the videos to Fridays.  This makes more sense to me.  You’re only putting in a half-day on Fridays anyway, you already ducked out early with the guys in the other quad for a “lunch” around ten, and you’re just killing time until your boss leaves so you can get out of there.  So a video is closer to the amount of time you have at your disposal, and we get it.  To accommodate this, we’re sliding everything up a day, putting our index cards out on Thursdays now.

We’re going to try this for a bit and see where it goes.  Again, I’m not entirely sure if it’ll stay like this, but if history has taught me anything, it’s that we can change the way we structure this site at least four more times this year and it still will not account for the total number of changes that I will not be able to predict coming.  So, we’ll try it this way for a while.

And we’ll see what happens.  I invite your feedback, please.

Earnest New Year’s Resolutions.

Earnest New Year’s Resolutions.calvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutions

1.) Improve Daily Diet & Exercise Regime.  (Will stick with this for the first week.  Will go to free gym attached to office and get into cycling for a few days.  Will tell everyone how are now exercising over salad lunch.  Will feel superior to everyone for those days.  Will wake up one day and feel awful.  Will not work out that day, and will return to binge watching Rockford Files for entire weekends.  Will not exercise again until Summer.)

2.) Loose 10 Pounds.  (Will begin to loose weight, will start to feel good about self, will start making plans about all the things will do when you are finally healthy, then will find the last few pounds to be too difficult to shake without actually working out.  Will dwell on the fact that resolution one failed so spectacularly, and will have gruesome images of impending death flash before eyes until Spring.)

3.) Read More Books.  (Will go to the library.  Will find that there is an overdue charge on your account from that Fantastic Four collection forgot to return last year.  Will pay the fee.  Will pace around the classics until grudgingly pick up Gulliver’s Travels.  Will look longingly at DVDs and Comics as checking out.  Will try to read book seven times.  Will return the book to library to avoid charge.  Will go home and have Max Headroom marathon, then re-read an old Conan comic.)

4.) Limit Alcohol Consumption.  (Will have made this resolution while drunk the night of New Year’s Eve.  Will wake up with incredible hangover and a sense of impending death.  Will have a beer that afternoon to take the edge off.  Will go to another party that weekend and get wasted.  Will have forgotten the resolution by the second week of January.)

5.) Limit Time Spent on MyFacester+ & TwInstablr.  (Will install a time tracking app on your phone.  Will make public posts about how you are limiting your time on Social Media.  Will set a date for your “last day” that is fairly soon, but not tomorrow.  Will spend a lot of time pimping out profiles to tell your friends how little you use these sites anymore.  Will promise yourself to only use e-mail, and to call when missing a friend.)

6.) Spend More Time With Friends.  (Before the end of Social Media hiatus, will reach out to friends requesting to arrange times to actually get together, irl, lol.  Will use Social Media embedded chats for communication to set up these meeting.  Will keep using Social Media to set up in person meetings.  Will not successfully arrange to see anyone new until Summer.)

7.) Pursue More Creative Projects.  (Will go to Target and buy four notebooks, pens, dividers, storage bins, paperclips, printer cartridges, scissors, index cards, colored paper and paint.  Will take these supplies home.  Will realize you don’t actually have that printer anymore.  Will find that you have many of these supplies already, in various states and forms.  Will open up the first notebook.  Will write on the first page: “Project #1:”  Will tap pen on notebook for a few seconds.  Will pull out phone to see if any friends messaged you yet.)

8.) Go On More Dates With Partner.  (Will go online and make lists of places to go in your area.  Will drop hints, asking where partner might like to do x or y.  Measure responses, then will return to interweb to refine results.  Will look at calendar and find day that works best.  Will find self feeling unmotivated the week of the date.  Will find partner having shitty week at work.  Will look at each other that afternoon and agree to put on pajamas early and watch Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade again instead.  Will promise to go on more dates next month.  Will try again in July.)

9.) Get More Organized. (Will make a list.  Will look at the list.  Will wonder what to do first on the list.  Will tap list with pen.  Will make new list in order of priority.  Will congratulate self for clever idea with a beer.  Will look at list again.  Will pick randomly the easiest thing on the list that you added at the last minute anyway.  Will do that thing.  Will cross off the item on the list.  Will look at list.  Will think list looks gross with that scrawl in it.  Repeat several times a day.)

10.) Reduce Stress.  (Will take up yoga.  Will listen to relaxation tapes.  Will make mind placid with serenity.  Will wonder why it isn’t working.  Will start to worry about not being able to reduce stress.  Will start to worry about not being able to keep any resolutions.  Will consider seeing a therapist again.  Will go for a walk to clear head.  Will feel better for some reason but will fail to make any connection to why that may be.  Will try harder to keep resolutions tomorrow.  Will make note on list to try harder.  Will feel anxious about self improvement.  Will wonder if that kind of stress is bad, too.  Will get drunk with friends later to forget stress.  Will eat fried foods & will forget everything for a while.)

Our Holiday Letter

 Happy Holidays From The Capital Couple!

It’s that time of year again around the 1Capital Couple Hideout, and we’ve had an incredibly strange and wonderful year that we’d like to tell you all about. We began 2015 in the city of Salem, OR, where we had lived for much of 2014, and has become our new home. Not only does Marla’s family live here, but we both found new jobs that not only fit our new lives, but were working out quite well for us. Feyd, of course, has yet to find a job, and continues to take advantage of us, in spite of our best efforts.

We had some very big changes around the homestead, the first of which is that Marla & I now have a podcast. The Capital Couple (thecapitalcouple.wordpress.com). We’ve done seven episodes so far, and we talk about the things we do for fun, what it’s like here in Salem, and anything else that comes to mind. We have quite a bit of fun doing it, and we would love to urge all of you to check it out. On top of that, I celebrated my 40th Birthday in a fairly dramatic way, with a two-day show in Portland at Plew’s Brews and The Kenton Club, with music and friends. It was one of the most fun things I’ve had the pleasure of arranging, and you can see some highlights using this link: bit.ly/40thPlewsKenton. It was awesome.

As if turning 40 wasn’t enough, Marla and 2I also got married! Yeah, that was sort of a big deal, as we had been waiting for over a year to officially tie the knot. But the wait was worth it, as we had friends and family there to help us celebrate, and it was, without a doubt, the best day of my life. I want to thank everyone who was there and helped, as both of us had an incredible time, and I can honestly say I have never looked better, ever. You can find lots of unsorted photos at bit.ly/MarlaCodyWedding. (And, if you took photos that we don’t have yet, please send them along. We would love to see them!) I never imagined that I would ever be married, and I am finding that this life is not only worth the wait, but is something I didn’t know I would enjoy this much. All thanks to my amazing and beautiful wife, who said yes.

3As if that were not enough (and, in a way, it wasn’t), our Honeymoon involved a two-week trip around the American Southwest, something Marla named, “The Great American Road Trip Colon Southwest Edition.” We drove over 3500 miles, saw The Grand Canyon, Disneyland, Monument Valley and the Zion National State Park, and it was as good as advertised. We had an incredible time, and realized that it was the longest trip we’d ever taken together, and the most time we’d ever spent together, continuously. It was amazing, and I am STILL going through all the photos and video I shot. You can see some of the highlights using this link: bit.ly/MarlaCodyHoneymoon. It was one of those trips that proved that I made the right decision with Marla.

2015 had some other ups and downs, but strangely enough, things seem to have worked out pretty well. I made a decision to stop working in jobs that I don’t like, and have been pursuing writing and podcasting full time recently. (acronyminc.org; anywhereanywhen.com). I can’t say that I know exactly in what direction this will all go, but I can’t wait to find out. I enjoy writing and radio almost as much as my wife, and I’m looking forward to seeing where they take me, too.

That’s it from our house this year. We are looking forward to seeing what 2016 had to offer, as this year worked out quite nicely for us. Until then,

– Cody & Marla “Rocket Danger” Rich

Holiday Decorations 2015

IMG_3707It’s pretty hard to sit in a room with a lit Christmas Tree, a fire on the TV, and vintage holiday songs playing in the background soothingly, and while all of that is going on, frown and say, “man, fuck this holiday.”  Because, and this is something I can’t believe I’m saying as an adult male, this time of year can have a soothing effect on you if you let it.

It’s funny how Christmas has, embedded within it, a narrative that goes on about how it has become too commercial in the current form, and must revert to that of some pure form that probably never was.  There’s some form of that in the story of Christ himself, and nearly every iteration of it retains some piece of the over-commercialization of the way the holiday is celebrated.  (The Peanuts Christmas special – arguably one of the first and best holiday specials to date, is about that very subject from the get-go.)  There is something about Christmas that has come to embody everything that is both bad and good about the spirit of spending money during the season, and the true meaning of the holiday is to find a way to embrace the contradictory ideas, and that there is intrinsic value in the experience of the season.  It just so happens that you must also buy and spend like Wilma & Betty on The Flintstones.

Christmas as a child is always so incredibly simple, and you have fewer years under your belt to really begin weighing the strangeness of this arrangement.  Good behavior throughout the year usually led to a boatload of presents being magically delivered to your home in December, and even with those draconian rules in place, you could often undo quite a bit of poor sportsmanship on your part through a hand-wavey explanation that it was in the spirit of the season, so long as you were good when your parents asked you to be.

But as the complexity of these experiences develops over the years, and layered meanings begin to create loaded holiday symbols that can cause even the strongest person to burst into tears.  It is one thing to love the tree that shows up when your parents return with it, and for presents to appear beneath it after a lot of build-up and waiting.  But when you remember all the holiday fights, the times spent alone, how you never really get what you really want anyway, and the overhanging threat that Santa is watching you at all times (with the surprise ending when it is revealed what is really happening as you get older), well… this time of year can take on a very different meaning.  Especially if you have lost a family member that played a roll in all of this.

IMG_3706When I began to live on my own, I made a few deconstructed efforts to participate in the holiday, and they were all met with equal parts derision and head-scratching.  As a kid, I had made a habit of finding a decorating very small trees in my bedroom with a more home-spun and Comic Book aesthetic, and this tradition for me continued through to High School.  On my own, my trees grew full sized, and soon accumulated beer cans and cigarettes as a sort of upraised middle finger to the spirit of the holiday.

Even this grew tedious for me after a few years, and soon Christmas was just became another day where I had to pay special attention to the bus schedule, had to get to the liquor store around this new schedule, but at least I might be able to earn an extra fat paycheck if I worked certain days in November and December.  Aside from a few random occasions, the time between my early 20s and my late 30s were often spent Christmas-less, tree-less, and only occasionally did I celebrate with family, when it was convenient for both of us.  I just couldn’t quite bring myself to get into the holiday spirit on my own, unless that spirit was bourbon.

While I have had girlfriends in the past who liked Christmas, right from the very first year we were together, my wife felt strongly about the holiday.  Before I could protest much, she had arranged for me to spend the holiday with her family, and it has been the way we have celebrated every year since.  Her dedication to the cool parts of the holiday, mixed with our mutual understanding that we prefer to leach out all of the religious elements of the holiday, has led to us developing a very nice collection of holiday decorations, and traditions that we both enjoy and love.

Included here is a photoset of our Holiday Photos going back to the first year that we were together, and it includes some of my favorite trees and decorations that we use every year.  We got a little ambitious this year, and wanted to set up more stuff than we were able to get to, but this often happens because of the hustle and bustle of the year, and we inevitably fall behind on this or that.  Obviously, we enjoy having a good tree, but there are some other decorations that we love putting up every year, too.  Here’s a few of them:

Blowmolds: IMG_3577Be it Halloween or Christmas, a good blowmold will attract our attention if we are out shopping.  When I first met my wife, she had one of the candles, but since then we have acquired the other three pieces.  Frosty is the most recent addition to the family.  However, the exceptional wind and rain this year made it a little difficult to keep these guys upright and in place.  Next year we’re going to use some loose gravel to weigh them down, along with ties to keep them from blowing over.

IMG_3710Stockings: If you look at the enlarged version of this photo, you can see that we have five stockings up on the mantel this year.  In the early days, we used the small red stockings, and added the small green one for our cat.  But I had the larger green and white Santa Claus stocking (on the right) from when I was a kid, and would bring it out occasionally as an extra decoration for the house.  This year, my wife surprised me by finding a matching stocking in the same style online (the white and green Santa Claus stocking on the left), and had it shipped to us for the holiday.  It was a very sweet thing for her to do, and now we have two sets of stockings.

IMG_3772Danish Paper Craft Decorations: I may have mentioned before, but both my wife and I are thrift store aficionados, and a surprising amount of holiday schwag will show up in stores, often at rock-bottom prices, to help the items move, quickly.

To that end, for a dollar each my wife found both of these Santa & Frosty Paper-Craft items.  Both of them came with these super-funky paperclips that not only spoke to their foreign nature, but how strange these
items are.

It is hard to cIMG_3773onvey how
strange these are in photos and text, but let me describe: in Frosty, the hathead, and body are interlocked folded constructions that rotate independent of each other, but also work together.  in Santa, the beard is a weird cardboard overhang that wraps around the face, folding out of the way when you collapse him.  They’re both incredibly neat and very weird at the same time, and they are excellent additions to our collection.

 

IMG_3738-ANIMATIONTiffany Glass Candle Holders: We see these at thrift stores fairly often, occasionally in their original packaging, and we now have five of them in our collection.  We struggled with how to light them at first, as burning actual candles was costly and didn’t quite work well.  (You would have to either buy short stubby candles, which were hard to find and did not burn long, or tall narrow candles, and let them burn down until they were the right hight, at which point they, again, don’t last long.  This year, my wife found electric candles that were the right height and diameter to fit into the candle holder in the back, and they now look great.  They not only light up very well, but they are much safer than when we had fires burning behind each ofthem.

IMG_3708Late ’50’s Paper Print Wall Hangings: As estate sale junkies, another place to find excellent holiday decor is in a place where someone old has passed on.  It is part of the natural life-cycle of material goods: the young pilfer cool shit from the elder folks that pass away, and we horde it until we pass away, and let some other young person pilfer all our cool shit at some far point in the future.  My wife is much more tuned into that part of the resale market than I, but this hasn’t stopped me from being impressed with the stuff she comes home with.

These two prints were together IMG_3709when she found them, and while we don’t know the exact
provenance of where they came from, we know that they have been around at least since the late ’50’s.  On the back of the prints, one of the previous owners has carefully written out the years that these were hung in their house.  It’s not only a great added feature to these images, but it tells an entire story of a family in a few scrawled years and dates on the back of these prints.  I have become obsessed with these ever since my wife found them, and I’m very happy to have them in my home.

IMG_3681Ralphie RadioMy wife and I have very different tastes in music, but one thing we can agree on is that older is often better.  And to that end we like to listen to Ralphie Radio when this time of year comes around.  I discovered this several years ago, and found that this is the perfect kind of holiday music because it is from the 1940’s (or, in some cases, older), and that helps when you are listening to the same pop pap that is often circulated this time of year.  The premise is that the music is appropriate for the time period in A Christmas Story, a detail that not only makes it more appealing, but sort of preps you for that movie, anyway, which everyone will see at least once this year.  While I would hope that you are listening to my Holiday Podcast Feed in iTunes, it would make sense that if you are not listening to that, you would want to listen to Ralphie Radio instead.  While I find the commercials on Live365 to be very annoying, and the interface for most programming in not ideal, the quality of the music on this station is well worth tuning in for, even for a little while.

Screenshot.46410.1000000A Digital Fireplace: When my wife and I bought our first TV (and a Roku to go with it in 2011), we discovered that Roku had created a holiday Yule Log, a digital fire with Christmas Music that played along with it.  (You could also just turn off the music and have the fire.)  We loved it so much that we’ve been trying to recreate it ever since Roku discontinued their version of the Yule Log a couple years ago, and in the place of it, they introduced other, much less impressive holiday programming.  Fortunately, nearly all streaming devices now have YouTube embedded within them, and finding a digital fireplace is easier than ever.  (Netflix also has a pretty decent one, too, but I find the YouTube ones last longer.)  Just play your favorite holiday tunes while you watch this, and you have the ideal environment for celebrating Christmas, without having to add logs or stoke the fire.

* * * * * *

The two things we did not get to this year was our Christmas Village – which we got started on, but just could not finish – and our outdoor lights, which were hindered by the rain and wind, making it difficult to get them up at a time when we were free to spend a lot of time outside anyway.  But there is always next year, and I look forward to trying again then, too.

I never appreciated how enjoyable the holidays can be when you get to celebrate it exactly the way you want to, and with the people that you care about most.  Now that I have someone like that in my life, this time of year means more to me than it ever used to.  Hopefully, however you prefer to celebrate, make sure that you do it with someone who you actually want to spend time with.

And, if you can, hang up a stocking or two.  It’ll help you get in the right mood.

Jury Duty: The Short Version. Really.

shutterstock_94093495I Mean This When I Say: Sometimes Democracy Needs More Upraised Middle Fingers That Clean Up Nice.

I often like to argue that I am more of a patriot than most, because I am the first person to jump at the possibility that the entire system is broken, and needs to be rebuilt in a decentralized way, run by women and minorities, preferably.  The right combination of influences, friends, drugs, music, and intellectual journeys I made as a late teen / 20 something bred in me this notion that most systems are flawed by default, and to tear them down in favor of something else – sometime, anything else – is always preferable in the end.  As time went on, I started to see the folly in much of that thinking, and more pointedly, exposure to other ideas and systems of thought – filtered through this hypercritical bullshit punk rock perspective – only led to me to having a much more well rounded point of view by the time I graduated from college.

That being said, I have come to believe that most systems are still flawed, yes, but that by asking questions, and trying to understand these broken systems, you can interject into them the kind of meta-analysis that might cause others to think.  This does not mean that I have often been successful or right when I’ve had to navigate local government or bureaucracies.  At least I feel as if I’m not compromising my own principles when I behave that way, as artificial and arbitrary as my ever-evolving principles might be.

All of this is a long was of saying that I’m absolutely in support of attending and participating in Jury Duty when you get called.  I would only hope that there would be a skeptical ex-weirdo who can put on a shirt and tie on my own jury if, for whatever reason, I wound up in some sort of trial. That’s not to suggest that I’m the kind of guy who would end up in a trial on a regular basis, just that I would want someone to be “of my peers” if I were in their shoes, so it only stands to reason the opposite would be true.  I feel it is my responsibility to be the agent of question-asking and curious weirdos in public, and that applies to Jury Duty, too.

 

Flashback.  Portland.  2002.  

I was called for Jury Duty one other time in life, over 10 years ago.  What I remember most was a lot of waiting and reading, an eventually I was sent home, and I never heard from Multnomah County again.  I was single at the time, and my job paid for me to go, so why not participate in the world of law in a meaningful way?  And, so what if I wasn’t called for a case?  It would all happen again, and I was happy to be a cog in that wheel.  Eventually I would actually participate, the next time I was called, and that would be fine.

As the years went on, it became clear that not only was I not going to get called again, I just got sadder about how this vestige of democracy was within my reach, and yet so far away.  I was convinced that I was a perfect candidate, but I was just never called into action, and never given a chance to give my particular assets a chance to shine.  Another case of the super-hero who could have saved the day, save for the world’s inability to recognize the power he could wield, if they would only let him.  This seemed to be so symbolic of my relationship with so many things, and it just made me feel bad to think about what that might mean for how broken the system really might be.  Or legal fate is not through carefully reasoned measurements of truth, but given over to random chance.

 

49af8f8eb7c25f21cdb0bb12caf942a5Now, In Present Day Salem, OR.

My wife got a jury summons a while back, and I was immediately jealous, until I got my own summons a couple weeks later, in late November.  It made sense.  We moved to a new county, then got married, and our names were now in the system, anew.  We have heard, through the grapevine, that Marion County has a system that usually turns over every two years, without fail.  My wife went in for her chance to serve, and was not picked, and came home quickly.  It did not bode well for my own chances.

As instructed in my letter, I checked in for duty online, and as further instructed, returned to check on the website if I would be needed for the summons in the morning of the day I was supposed to attend.  I didn’t think much of anything, as I was kind of excited about going, and skimmed the site.  I didn’t see anything that overtly read “don’t come in,” so I took it as read that I was to do as instructed in the letter, and show up before 8 AM.

So, prepped with a lunch and fortified with a few cups of coffee, I arrived on time, filled out the paperwork, and was happy to go to the front desk only to find that, as part of the trial jury, since it was so close to the holiday, my services would not be needed.  “Unless you want to volunteer to be a part of the Grand Jury,” he said.

I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but I eagerly jumped at the chance to do it, having already gotten myself down to the courthouse dressed in respectable clothing before 8 AM.  (No easy feat, mind you.)  He explained that it was a two week commitment if I was selected, and I could be in the courtroom for up to six days during that period.  The more he explained, the more I got excited about it.  While never seen in the movies or on Perry Mason, a Grand Jury gets to decide if there’s even a reason for the case to go to trial, which is itself a very important function that is unglamorous and little known, on top of all of that.

While I won’t drag out the climax for too much longer, in less than two hours I was sent home, being thanked for my service in spite on not getting selected to do anything.  While I did see that it was absolutely random that I was not selected, I was disappointed to get to a courtroom finally only to be sent home because they were not going to need my help.  (The bailiff and Judge chose jurors from a fanned-out set of papers that represented all of us.)  Fortunately, the city of Salem provides you with a bus ticket good for the day that you are serving Jury Duty, so I was home so early that I didn’t even get a chance to want to snack on my lunch early, as I could have prepared myself an entire meal at home and still have time to spare, considering how early I was out.  It was such a whirlwind, I barely even noticed the inconvenience it might have been.

 

Some Quick Observations

Everyone I met at the courthouse was not only friendly and kind, but seemed a little desperate for levity and a smile.  It was a Monday morning, and it was close to Christmas, so I’m sure there was a little lightness in the air that was not there normally.  But whatever the case, I had positive interactions with everyone, and a smile really went a long way in terms of getting a nice laugh or exchange out of them.  On the other side of this, the people who had all been called for Grand Jury seemed like a huge group of sourpusses.  No one looked like they wanted to be there, and I could understand, in a way.  I have no idea what their personal lives are like, and I don’t know what they are leaving behind at home.  But no one looked happy to be there.

The process is pretty quick.  There is certainly some down time, but I’ve waited longer for instructors to show up for appointments, so I felt pretty good about those intervals.  The Judge was nice a friendly, and once he got started, the courtroom ran efficiently while I was there.  I was sort of shocked, but then again, they do this five days a week, every week, so they have it down.  Even the security check at the entrance of the building seemed far too simple and easy to get through to be that much of a problem or hassle.  As with a lot of public places like this, they ask you to turn off your phone, and remove your hats, which I thought was an interest request.  (Probably to avoid having hidden recording devices.

jury-dutyI did find it a bit weird that most of the people I was in Jury Duty with were women.  The men were outnumbered by a factor of three.  While not completely hard to explain – that’s just the way the random number thingy worked that day – I did find it odd.  There was one other guy who was in his 20s, but I was still the second youngest man in the room.

I should also add, while I’m at it: I’m surprised at how understanding The Judge is with regard to people who just don’t feel like doing it.  Now, I’m not here to be judgmental about the way other people spend their time.  I probably don’t have the greatest management of my own time.  But I barely believe in systems of any kind, and would rather see bullshit from the past be burned down than reinforced by bureaucracy at this late date, Twenty Fifteen.  But I was a little astounded at how bad the excuses could be for people to be let off the hook for serving.  I understand that missing even a day of work can be a hardship for a lot of people, and it is not my place to judge anyone who is in that situation.  It just seemed strange to hear excuses like, “I would be tired to try and fit it in,” and, “It’s hard to get here,” as legitimate excuses that the Judge will accept.  Yes, I’m tired early in the morning too, and now that you mention it, compared to my bathroom, this was very hard for me to get to.  Where’s my parade?

Regardless, I don’t believe anyone was really trying to take advantage of a gullible system, but again, they did not need all of us, and I guess the system is designed to include a padding that will account for lazy jurors.  They could easily afford let a few people go because they don’t “feel like it,” and still have plenty of people leftover.  I just want it on record that I did not try to pull out any kind of excuse, but instead, decided to throw my lot in with chance, and was randomly not picked.  So much for taking a shower and putting on shoes.

 

Conclusions

Having only devoted six hours total to the task of Jury Duty over the last 40 years, I can only say that I have yet to have an experience other than feeling like I wasted everyone’s time, since most of those six hours were spent waiting, filling out forms, and being told that I wasn’t needed (somehow being rejected three times in the two I’ve been called).  However, I’m probably being a little dramatic to think that this system must be broken in some way, only because I haven’t had a chance to be involved in a Murder 1 Trial.

It makes total sense that the people who want nothing to do with it are all sighing and making excuses, and the guy who wants to people involved can’t get a sideways look to save his life.  But, who am I to Judge?  This must be the system in place because it works, right?

I Have A Computer Problem That No One Seems To Be Able To Solve. Maybe You Can?

imgresI Did This To Myself.

The problem goes back to 2007 or so, in the final days of my dedication to file sharing and downloading, but even my history with that goes back to 2000, when I started having a continuous Inter-Web-A-Tron connection.  As soon a it was possible, I got into Audiogalaxy, and spent ages collecting albums and tunes that I could not find anywhere else.  This continued through Limewire and, finally, Soulseek, but when school began to ramp up and I needed to focus more on other projects, the time spent downloading was not worth the time trade-off.  Before long I had given up, and had moved on to actually listening to my music, which was quite nice.  Without an external drive to help me out, I burned off everything I had collected up to that point, put the discs in the basement, and forgot about them entirely.

Flash-forward, and I’m getting rid of the rotting discs in my basement.  These days, I do have a few external drives offloading files, and I decide it is better to consolidate these CDRs into a massive, digital archive, and toss the discs.  And the process has been fun.  I’m rediscovering music I’d forgotten about.  But I finally came across my .mp3 discs, and therein lies the problem.

When I was collecting music via downloading, I got very systematic about things I was searching for, and largely pursued things I couldn’t find in stores.  (I was at the tail end of my $200 a month record store habit in these days, so spending money on music was never the problem.)  To that end, I went after the Killed By Death series, which follows in the Nuggets tradition, and collects rare punk 45s of every variety.  Some of the Killed By Death records are really amazing, and it was incredible to hear this music that I had only read about.  Of course, getting these songs from various users, a number of files came from a variety of sources, too.  A few files contained the “␀” character, as the source of these files was from a Windows machine.  In 2007, iTunes seemed to have no issue reading those, playing them for me, and letting me load them on various devices.  I was even able to burn all the .mp3s to a disc.

Now, the state of Mac products in 2015 is fairly stable, and fairly high-end.  I rarely run into a problem I can’t easily troubleshoot, and furthermore, anything that is really complicated is easily Google-able.  And, Mac systems are pretty intuitive, for me.  So, imagine my confusion when I tried to load the files on this .mp3 disc into iTunes, only to find that they wouldn’t copy.  I opened the disc in Finder, and could not only preview the files, but could copy them to the Desktop.  But they still wouldn’t load into iTunes.  I did notice that I could open the files in Audacity, and decided that I would attempt to convert the files to another audio format that iTunes could also read.  And, while I was at it, I’ll save these new files with a better name.

So far, so good.  These newly converted files read and load just fine, and iTunes likes them great.  So, I put everything where it goes, and get ready to delete the files I had copied to my Desktop, the ones with the “␀” character at the end of each name.  These, for some reason, would not delete.  As a consequence, this has sent me down a rabbit hole of problems that I still have not resolved.  And not being able to delete things is only the beginning.

 

9599059_75eb70edf3_bWhat I Think Is Happening.

Let me be clear: I have no real idea why these files won’t delete.  I’m not an expert, I didn’t get a CS Degree, and I have focused my energies into other areas outside of computing.  I just don’t have the background to full understand exactly what is happening.  As I have pieced together from random Googling is:

There is a different range of characters that are available for use in many Windows-based file systems, and because of that, Mac OS systems have trouble interpreting those characters, and rendering them in a way that makes sense.  This results in a problem with the way the file is created: the “␀” isn’t really there in the eyes of a Mac, and yet because it can’t render that character, it can’t sufficiently name the problem in order to get rid of it.

This makes sense to me in a sort of 19th Century Psychiatry sort of way, but it is merely speculation on my part when it comes to what the real problem might actually be.  I would love to understand why this is happening on a more granular level, and what causes this, but now I would also just like it to be solved so I can move on.  If there is anyone with a more technical background who knows why a file like this won’t delete, please contact me.  I would love to chat.

 

The Thick Plottens

If you have stuck with me this far, then you must really want the gory details, and for that I thank you for going on what is has to be a techno-slog through a music hoarding problem.  Here’s what keeps happening:

I am running El Capitan.  (Perhaps this is relevant?)  I put the files in the Trash.  These files are originally located on the Desktop, having originated from an .mp3 CDR I made on my Mac laptop in 2007.  I empty the trash.  And I get the following message:

“The operation can’t be completed because an unexpected error occurred (error code -50).”  

Being a diligent user, I Googled the error code, and found a lot of message board posts that relate to errors involving saving to (or deleting from) an External Hard Drive.  I guess that might track – perhaps the system thinks the files are still “on” the disc, and not the Desktop?  Regardless, I had such a hard time finding a single other user who experienced a similar error code when the files went from the Desktop to the Trash.

At this point I decided it was time to use the Terminal, which I’m quite rusty at, but again, can use Google fairly well.  I found a number of pages that suggested I try to use “sudo rm -f” to force the file to delete, which was unsuccessful, returning “invalid argument” in response.  I found a number of people online who did encounter files that would not delete because of a character out of place, and in all the cases I found online, using the Terminal and this command worked.  However, after trying a number of variants and hitting dead ends on forums, I only ever got “invalid argument.”  Just to make sure I wasn’t going crazy, I decided to test other files, to make sure it wasn’t my entire system.  But I could easily remove, delete and copy other files with normal characters in their name.  Just not these “␀” files.

I found a few pages (like that one) that were dedicated to utilities that claimed they could rename files, and force documents to remove these characters that are causing the error.  However, none of them have worked for me yet.  Name Mangler and OnyX were ineffective.  I’m sure there are others I can try, but I’m starting to think that I have a fairly unique problem that 3rd party apps might not be able to fix.  I suspect it may take something bespoke.  Using the Terminal, and using some basic commands to force the Trash to empty, should work.  And yet it does not on my machine.

 

As If That Weren’t Enough.broken_computer

The problem has also developed in Audacity, in another way.  I have been a strong supporter of Audacity since the early 2000s, and it is an incredible audio editing / mixing / producing utility that continues to impress me with how simple it is.  One feature that has saved my ass a number of times is the Project Recovery utility.  If Audacity crashes, it captures everything as best as it could from the temp files, and keeps them until you try to load the program again, when it will ask you if you would like to restore the Project.  Much of the time Audacity can save almost everything, and most things are not lost when using that program.

Since I used Audacity (ver. 2.1.1) to load the pernicious .mp3s (to convert them), Audacity has developed a hiccup whenever I try to load the program.  Because of this “␀” character, Audacity was unable to close properly when I was done converting those files, and crashed.  I didn’t think of it at the time, but now when I try to reload Audacity, I get the Recovery Screen, asking to recover all these files with “␀” characters.  And, of course, I can’t.  So it churns through all eight of these non-existent files, trying to load them, and failing, before it finally gives up, and sputters to life.  There eight open files with no recovered data, all of which need to be closed.  And, when I’m done using Audacity, it cannot “close,” but merely “crashes,” causing this recovery screen to pop up again every time I load Audacity.  This adds at least 60 seconds to the loading process, as it cycles through these eight files that can’t be recovered.

At first I thought I could just delete, reboot, and reinstall Audacity to fix the problem, but even after that, Audacity would go through the same cycle.  Naively, I thought I could navigate to a temp directory and find a file that Audacity was trying to restore, but there was no such file, anywhere that I could find.  (I did have to use the Terminal to turn on hidden files to do this, and even then, I imagine I’m not seeing everything.  But I gave up after an hour of searching directories and trying to Spotlight something.)  As a last resort, I rolled back a few versions of Audacity, hoping that an older one would point to a different tempt folder, and not try to restore these files.  But every version I can get successfully loaded onto this machine keeps trying to restore.

When Audacity is loaded onto a computer, it is clearly putting meta-data somewhere, that it then refers to with nearly every version of the software, that contains the information about restoring projects during a crash scenario.  But how I can clear that cache, and where that meta-data is stored, is beyond this user to figure out at this stage in the game.  I should add that Audacity is not entirely useless to me.  If I am willing to wait through the process of it trying to recover everything, a cycle that takes a good minute, I can use Audacity – eventually – provided I’m willing to put up with it being more unstable and crash-prone while using it.

In other words: I can’t get attached to my editing on this machine anymore.  Half the time, I don’t get very far.

 

Now.  Deep Breath.  

I have not yet exhausted the possibilities.  There is, very likely, a solution out there somewhere, and with enough patience and Googling I could get to the bottom of that.  Part of the problem is how to define it.  Searching for the error code brings up problems that are like mine, but not the same.  Searching for “␀” characters issues gets at some of the problem, but not entirely.  Searching for files that won’t delete gets me part of the way there again, but these “invalid arguments” that I keep encountering are driving me up the wall.  There is a taxonomy to this problem I have yet to learn, and because of that, I have a “␀” character in my own understanding of the issue.  I can’t even get at it until I learn what that is, and that is not going to come with a few minutes Googling here and there when I have free time, but with a deep-dive into how these things work on a very granular level.

I’m not computer illiterate.  If I have a set of instructions I can follow them, and I usually have no problems fixing basic problems with easily understood symptoms.  But this problem very quickly escalated to well outside of my expertise.  I would love to be able to spend a few years learning this stuff in and out, and I have some ideas for Apps and software that I could make if I were to ever go down that road, and I could leverage that into an item I could offer in conjunction with my writing and radio projects.  But that’s not the hobby I signed up for.  I want to write, not learn computer science, as interesting as it is.

My hope is that someone out there reads this, knows the solution, and would be able to get in touch with me.  I would like to have Audacity back, and I’d like to be rid of these files (short of a Nuke & Repave, which I am considering).  I don’t have much to offer as a way of saying thanks, but I would gladly send you some home made granola if you could fix my problem, and I would immortalize you in a blog post as a means of thanks.