Happy New Beer. From our house, to yours.
Marla & I, last New Year’s.
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.)
“This is a strange and confusing world, and if you’re not careful, you’ll fall in love, find true happiness, and then a genuine sadness for the rest of humanity, mourning what they seem to have forgotten and no longer value.”
Trending Topic, huh? Yeah, that sure is a fascinating topic to post about, for sure. Oh look, maybe I can add two or three trends to my post, and jam up the Top Stories feed. You’ll be seeing my post as long as Trending Topic is relevant. Hell yeah. #TrendingWater
The incredible thing about living in the 21st Century is that we have access to information and media of which our early 20th Century counterparts could never dream. Not only taking into account monoliths like Apple who entirely changed how everyone consumes information in the modern era, but just the access to factoids that would be difficult to source even 10 years ago. We now live in the future, as difficult as that may be to fully process. Case in point: at any given moment I can listen to digital transfers of Edison Wax Cylinders, watch The Avengers on a massive screen, text a friend of mine in Istanbul, and take 1000 pictures of a cat sitting next to me, all through devices that are middle class mundanities in this modern world. The future, indeed.
As a media junkie, I’m always looking for new things to absorb, and with my mind on the very problem of and created by modernity, I stumbled across a CBC Radio broadcast of a program called “The Wire,” and the seeds of this show were first sewn. Our relationship with music today is entirely born out of music’s relationship with electricity, something that goes back to the end of the 1800s. As early pioneers discovered ways to capture music – an experience that, previously, required the listener to be in the same room with the performer – music entered a new kind of simulacrum, where mechanical objects were standing in for the real performance and “playing back” these sounds. Obviously, Edison is one of the movers and shakers in this revolution, but that is not to say that he was the only person fixing sounds to some object in space. However, his work set the template for the record industry that was to come, and in that sense, he is very relevant. Electricity is now married to music in a way that seems inseparable to the modern ear, and yet is in no way apparent when you are turning on a streaming service to help pass the time.
The idea for my particular punny spin goes back to 2011, when I first began to flirt with the “History Lesson” concept. I had done a number of shows where I was getting more and more experimental with the editing thanks to my interest in Negativland and Over The Edge, and in some ways my show from the very beginning was about de-contextualizing recordings against music and other forms of audio, but with a “radio” sensibility to the presentation. (I was, of course, still on the air.)
In 2011 I expanded the scope of these audio essays to a four-hour, two-part broadcast called “Before ’75,” briefly covering as much material as I could about the earliest days of the pre-punk music scene. However, I always felt as if that show was not enough. Four hours covered a ton of music, a number of artists, and included a lot of really good interviews and samples that drove the point home. But the beginning felt lacking. I always thought that, if you logically extend the story back further, punk rock only really has context if you tell the story that came before it. Act I of punk rock is the merger of electricity with music; distorted guitars and DIY cassette releases need the first 70+ years of music history to make their revolution son incredible. I immediately envisioned a new, bigger and grander idea for “History Lesson.” Let’s really take the listeners back to the beginning.
As we roll back the tape to the end of the 19th Century, the state of music was merely that of being in the same room as a music source: a performer. From there, we move forward through acoustic recording techniques with Edison, the major difference microphones had on the sounds you could record, and along the way present music that complements the story while driving the narrative from time to time. Later, we discuss the impact recorded music had on the film industry, and enter a discussion about how these factors lead to the birth of radio itself, a pastime so near and dear to my heart.
At this stage in the program we switch our audio samples over to another very different documentary, “The Empire of The Air.” This Ken Burns documentary of PBS covers the story of Radio through three men, interestingly enough glossing over Marconi, and omitting Tesla entirely. (For shame.) However, it does a good job of drawing a parallel to Edison and his relationship with recorded music: not only do the pioneers of radio develop amazing technology, they are setting the course for how radio would act in the public for generations to come.
And, along the way, there is music to help tell the story. And what a story it is.
When will I ever be able to say that I took advantage of this moment if not now?
As we wrap up our Detective Holiday Season with a Philip Marlowe story set on New Year’s Eve, we let Dexter Roland go for the year, to sober up and prepare for what lies ahead in 2016. Along the way hear tunes by The Agenda, They Might Be Giants, Ellen Cherry Charles, Fred Frith, Unwound and more. Available for stream or download.
I know it’s been a little while. When was the last time you reconsidered The Flaming Lips?
“I saw the worst bands of my generation
Applied by magic marker to dry wall
I should be allowed to shoot my mouth off
I should have a call-in show.”
It’s like someone said, “I know who would really love our music,” and they started a band for me.
01.) Turn It On * The Flaming Lips * Transmissions From The Satellite Heart
02.) Excerpt Part I * Ben Brooks * The First 50 Years of Radio Part One
03.) Edited Excerpts * Mike Staff * How To Become A Radio DJ
It’s easy to defend The Flaming Lips when they put out a great album, and have a hit song like, “Do You Realize?” and everyone is excited about festival concerts and the extreme production value they bring to their shows. But the cruel eye of hindsight is not so kind to them at times. While their output is treasured by hardcore fans, they become increasingly panned as the flops start to add up. This particular era of the band – we’ll call it the “Don’t Use Jelly” years – was not their strongest, to be perfectly frank. They had not yet written Clouds Taste Metallic, and where quite a long way off from The Soft Bulletin. In many ways they have become a bit of a cut-out-bin band, a novelty act that puts out Zaireeka (an album where you listen to all four discs simultaneously), or their absurd “7 Skies H3” (a 24 Hour Long Song), not to mention the song-for-song cover of Dark Side of The Moon, and “Christmas On Mars,” a holiday movie that is as inscrutable as it is terrifying. I can see why some people find them a problematic start to any story.
I don’t want to argue about their relevance or importance; I don’t want to claim that they are essential or a must for any smart psychedelic music fan; I don’t even want to convince you that you need to own or listen to anything else by them.
I just want to ask: have you ever heard anything as uplifting and strangely funny as “Turn It On” with these Mike Staff samples?
I gotta say, it’s better than it should be.
Now that you’re reconsidering The Flaming Lips, let’s get into it for a bit. I can’t change your mind, but they began to click for me when I had a better understanding when I considered the time and place. Mid-West in the early ’80’s, where the rules of punk rock were trying to set fire to the entire pre-history before The Ramones. Punk insisted that the bullshit excess of rock music from the ’60’s was completely valueless, and that only when we get loud and fast do we break out of the norms that had become “standard practice”. The past had nothing to teach us, and in the name of punk, we could only look forward to getting drunk and fucking shit up. The loudfastfuckyounow of punk awoke in their fans a rigidity of thought and uniform, behavior and musical ethos. Its narrowmindedness is often better summarized as a rejection of everything else rather than an articulate analysis of what they didn’t like about… well, anything.
The Flaming Lips understood that punk rock was due for an infusion of something new to save it: psychedelic rock. The story of punk had, ironically, been paved when rock & roll discovered psychedelia, spinning out of it a million permutations on a similar three-chord idea. Punk was a revolution, to be sure, but was insular and defined by negation, following a narrow aesthetic ideology. It had stagnated without anything new to expand it, and the fascistic denouement of all other things became a hinderance. The Flaming Lips never planned to create psychedelic punk per se, and even still, The Butthole Surfers beat them to the punch. But the Lips were such students of psychedelic rock and punk that their ideology was equally in those two worlds. In essence, the heart of the Flaming Lips is their curiosity about music in these varied forms and structures, and they have dedicated their lives to it.
Their early work borders on avant guarde, as the band is clearly still learning how to be a band. But after a handful of albums like this, a thread starts to emerge, and they get good at playing and writing songs. As the ’80’s closed, The Lips were a fairly strong band that could get a crowd, keep ’em, and put on a fun show the whole time. As the ’90’s began, they released records when everyone was watching for the next big alternative act. In the wake of this, Transmissions From The Satellite Heart hit stores, an album that not only summarized their sci-fi / earnest aesthetic in a nutshell, but wove a radio metaphor into the very fabric of their music, specifically the album opener, “Turn It On.”
If a mainstream band wore their heart on their sleeve more in the ’90s than The Lips, I’m hard pressed to name them at this time. “Put your life into a bubble / we can pick you up on radar / hit a satellite with feeling / Give the people what they paid for.” They have chosen this life, have dedicated themselves to being artists on display for us. We, as listeners, have a chance to pick up the signal they are sending, and fortunately for us they are the kind of band who will “hit” us with a feeling that is as real as possible. For the Lips, there is no better experience than that of celebration, or raising your voice to sing along to a song you hear on the radio, to Turn It On and On and WAY UP, and share that moment across the country at the same time and moment connecting us all in a positive expression of loving a simple rock and roll song.
How cool is that?
You can see that thread throughout all their work: this idea of sharing a celebratory feeling with a large number of people to create a magical moment, even a sad one, or a mundane one, and share that feeling through these transmissions, these records and songs The Lips have been making for almost 40 years now. Their perspective is so much a radio metaphor that, while it might seem crazy at first, they are the perfect band to kick off any story about radio.
This particular mix – with the Mike Staff Samples – comes from another audio essay I made in 2009, “A Sound Salvation.” I was rummaging through the library and came across this self-help tape by a NuRock style DJ, Mike Staff, who was going to reveal his tips for those who wanted to become successful professional DJs. This tape was perfect to mix with songs about radio and DJs, and the show wrote itself. While I don’t usually like to listen to individual songs from a show like this one (as I think the show works great as a whole), there is something about the way the mix during “Turn It On” worked that really sounds good to me. Mike Staff is over the top and full of himself, but his voice has that tone that makes you want to believe what he’s saying. And, for all his cheese, he makes a good point: Your Dream is Important to you, and can guide you if you will let it.
Dude, we’ve been FB friends for four years now. Time flies.
I am the luckiest man alive.
I’m having trouble sitting down and not doing work. Who wants to force me to relax?
Can’t sleep, can’t sleep.
Don’t care, don’t care.
Wow. I totally cleaned up this year.
Happy Birthday, Robert Ripley! Born on Christmas Day, 1890, this man of another era brought up “Ripley’s Believe It… Or Not?” starting in 1929. Here’s to a wonderful and fascinating character.
I don’t want to alarm anyone, but did you know there is a Star Wars movie out now? In the theater. And it’s new, too. And – get this – it’s pretty damn good, also.
I know, spoiler alert, right?
One year ago today.
The Capital Couple present our annual Holiday Letter for 2015. Read all about our normal, everyday, ho-hum life. Just the way we like it.
Happy Holidays From The Capital Couple!
It’s that time of year again around the Capital 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 I 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.
As 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
It was nice to see the name Bad Robot in that blue font.
Early holiday gift from Marla. #ThriftScore
I wish my friends who are having a hard time right now can find SOMETHING to smile about at least once today.
Even if that something is someone bending over and you see their butt crack for a brief moment.
We like to decorate our house for three Holidays every year: Halloween, Christmas, and “I Can’t Be Bothered To Clean Right Now” Mas. Here’s a run-down of our favorite decorations this year, plus a link to more Holiday Photos of years past.
It’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.
When 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: Be 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.
Stockings: 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.
Danish 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
It is hard to convey 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.
Tiffany 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.
Late ’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 when 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.
Ralphie Radio: My 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.
A 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.
Here’s a few words on my experiences with our most tried and true legal institution: Jury Duty.
Fun fact: I have devoted six hours to this chore in 40 years.
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.
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.
I 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.
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?
Still haven’t seen Star Wars.
Like, the last three of them.
I want to be young enough to imagine all the novels I haven’t written yet. I want to be able to think the albums I haven’t yet made. Creative naïveté, where I can’t imagine having made anything else yet.
A perpetual state of having infinite possibilities.
I just can’t bring myself to watch.
I’m going to spend time with my loved one and enjoy the time together instead. She’s making cookies and there’s liquor.
Hey. You okay?
The first performance of the original Nutcracker Suite was on this day, in 1892.
People are gonna be mad when they find out that Voldemort is now leading the Empire in the new Star Wars. At least Cary Elwes is reprising his ‘Man In Black’ to teach the Young Youngs the power of finding the Holy Grail before the Nazis do.
I want to write a text adventure game.
Five years gone
But your mind lingers on.
Perhaps you know a little more about “␀” character problems, and how to fix them? Because I’m stumped.
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.
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.
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.
Ima repost. Cool?
The Incan Princess with a five octave range, here’s an introductory blurb to the wonderful world of Yma Súmac.
“The problem with The Church of Rock ‘n’ Roll is that all of the prophets die young, and their messages are soon lost on the young Aphex Twin fans.”
After a while, all the stories people tell about the music world start to sound the same. This white guy started working at this studio and the artists they found were great. This guy started writing songs with his friends and they became famous. It’s all so formulaic that it starts to get a little boring, and you start to mix all those white guys into one amorphous nerd who is hunched over some guitar or studio for way too long. So even the existence of Yma Súmac, the Peruvian Princess descended from the last sovereign ruler of the Incan Empire, Atahualpa, is a joy to discover in a world of white sameness.
Born in 1922, when she was 20, Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chávarri del Castillo took the name Yma Súmac, and began performing with her incredible five octave range to stunned audiences. Recording a grip of songs in Argentina at a radio station in 1942, she parlayed these recordings into a deal with a local label, which garnered her popularity locally, making her the most in-demand act around. But Yma had bigger plans: America.
She married a composer, and together they set out for NYC in 1946, performing around town in local clubs as a trio, with her cousin rounding out the group. Four years of gigging started to build their reputation, and the reputation of her incredible range was enough to make Yma an important act to be seen in the early ’50’s for anyone hip. Capitol Records finally came calling and signed her, thinking that she would make a good pair with this other kook they had, Les Baxter. And, in a rare turn of events, someone at a Record Label was right. Together they made her first album, Voice of the Xtabay, which not only introduced America to a new form of music, referred to as Exotica, but introduced the World to her incredible talents.
Her fame was instantaneous. She performed at incredible venues: The Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, The Royal Albert Hall, The Roxy Theater, Las Vegas nightclubs, The Mikado Theater in Japan. She landed roles in film and on broadway. She toured South America, Europe and Africa, performed for The Queen of England, and did shows with Frank Sinatra, Danny Kaye and Marlene Dietrich, where they opened for her.
She was, after all, an Incan Princess, a fact that was supported by the Peruvian government in press releases, no less! Her record contract was immediately lengthened, and she continued to belt out records that spoke to the Tiki zeitgeist that was moving through the country at the time, during the golden age of velvet paintings and mixology. She was the perfect combination of sex and chanteuse, a beautiful and delicate bird that would sing songs that were so fantastic that it would send chills down your spine, and make you couldn’t help but dance.
While her husband was always there for her, initially Capital didn’t want him composing the work Yma released, which was a pity because when he was finally given that chance in 1954, it was clear that the resulting record – Mambo! – was one of the high water marks of her career. It was the perfect balance of traditional music with a US perspective, and embraced the current fads of mambo and exotica in a way other, whiter artists were unable to grasp. “Chicken Talk,” while not being particularly about chickens, is like much of the music on that album: Yma sings using her incredible range, with incredibly hip and danceable music backing her along the way.
This lifestyle worked perfectly for Yma, and straight through to 1961 she toured extensively, and released seven fantastic records. The years were not great to her career in the end. As the sixties began to be dominated by rock music, exotica lost sway among music fans, and she spent much of the rest of her life in and out of vogue, depending on the trend of the moment. She would perform here and there, and even put out a couple of albums when nostalgia began to grip the culture, but it was clear that The Princess was ready to retire, letting new divas take the stage and the throne, for better or for worse.
In a way, she had conquered the world for a brief period of time, had traveled through most of it and had surveyed her people and their customs, and having ruled it as well as she could, it was time for her to retire to her mansion in LA, always a princess, and to this day, the woman with the biggest range in history.
When’s THAT movie coming out?
Confession time: I’ve never seen Episode II or III of The Prequels, and I’ve only seen Episode I when it came out.
So, I’ve got that going for me.
I think about the times we used to share. How great it was, to be young and to have fun. I see your posts online and it makes me smile. For a moment, I wish it was then, again.
Time to move on.
Breakfast, Job Interview, Radio Meeting, Dinner Plans, & X-Mas Light Viewing to cap it all off. You’d think I was a busy man in a big city by that itinerary.
The Gift Everyone Wants: More Music
wtbc.bandcamp.com. Our entire discography, for only $13!
We know what you’re thinking. You have that person on your list who is hard to shop for. They like music, but you don’t know what they’re looking for these days, and the thought of going into a record store to find something for them is probably the most intimidating idea you have ever had. If there was just a way that you could get a wide variety of tunes for a fairly low price that was guaranteed to make a wide range of people happy…
Well, you are in luck. For the holiday season, you can get all eight WTBC Radio releases for one low price, and save 35% when you do, too. This is the perfect gift, as we have a wide range of punk, experimental, rock, country, glitch, metal, noise, pop, and avant garde, giving listeners a chance to infuse their collection with a ton of new music to be enjoyed at their leisure. This price includes unlimited streaming via the Bandcamp App, and high-quality downloads of everything we’ve got!
This includes: Journey Into Space (an Austin Rich / Ricardo Wang Collaboration, originally performed live on What’s This Called? as a tribute to the late Don Joyce), The Ways of Ghosts by Ambrose Bierce (a Halloween spoken word album by Austin Rich), The Shindig Shakedown (a compilation featuring over 80 artists, including music, video, zines, photography, and a host of other goodies), Live At Habesha Lounge 13 April 2013 (with music by Overdose The Katatonic, The Holy Filament, Death Pact Jazz Ensemble, Abusive Consumer & The Dead Air Fresheners w/ Austin Rich), In Loving Memory of Harold (Expanded Edition) (by the long-lost Eugene avant-punk act, Cathead), Lost In The Supermarket (our first compilation, featuring 20 of our friends and companions from over the years), and No Contact (a live Performance by Moth Hunter, of music broadcast on our podcast in 2012).
Too often the holidays are complicated. This is not. You can pick up our Bandcamp Holiday Bundle, and help support us, while you get some great music. (For yourself, or other! Or Both!) You can even pay more, if you’re feeling the Christmas Spirit.
It’s music. And it’s cheap. And we’ve worked hard to bring it to you.
Happy Holidays, From Our House, to Yours!
This is really, really good.
Joe Dante is probably my favorite mainstream director.
December is for power-loading old Incomparable episodes. Wow. 2010 seems so long ago now.
I think I over Glögg-ed last night.
I have ennui.
Hive Mind: I’m having a heck of a time solving a problem on a Mac, running El Capitan. I copied some files to my computer that have a very unusual character in the name. Now, I cannot delete them, or rename them. I’m not done yet googling answers, but if anyone ha ever had a similar problem, or knows of this problem, could you talk to me? I’m really getting frustrated.
Sometimes, it’s all I can do to stop myself from crying at every song.
Just lost power. Hmmmm.
My phone is having schizophrenic seizures, and is in some sort of reboot-loop that is not responding to getting plugged into a desktop. Preparing for the worst: cope without a phone for a while.
This one cracks me up.
I still miss him, a lot.
Chicken Grabber * Nite Hawks * Lost Treasures! Rarities From the Vaults of Del-Fi Records.
Upon first listen, it is easy to say that this song is only known for its appearance in the 1997 cut of Pink Flamingos, and leave it at that, but the nature of the “rarities” on this collection is that these were songs that fell between the cracks of popular music in the late ’50’s and early ’60’s. Each of the singles featured hear are prized among collectors for their weirdness, the performances, and the incredibly precise recording techniques, something that few studios in LA were able to achieve as bands became more sophisticated. The glue that holds this compilation together is the exotica and surf undertones, and Bob Keane knew that when he assembled the disc.
Getting “Chicken Grabber” in the new cut of a John Waters flic sent that message from the get-go, and while the disc does not contain a single song by any of the artists on Del-Fi that did have hits, that is the genius of the collection. Most of the hits Del-Fi had were over-comped even contemporaneously. But these tunes are rarely heard, not only because the discs retail for $150 on the open market, but because the bands were never popular enough to demand their inclusion on previous compilations. Like Del-Fi records itself, this compilation was trying to bring other bands to the masses, and not just the Ritchie Valens‘ of the world.
Del-Fi Records got its start in 1958, but the man behind Del-Fi – Bob Keane – was an entertainment business figure going back to the late ’30’s, when he put together a big band that he led via the clarinet at the age of 16. In yet another example of radio playing a major roll, when KFWB in Los Angeles broadcast one of his band’s performances, he got an offer from MCA, the first of many deals that would never seem to last for very long. MCA promoted him as “The World’s Youngest Bandleader” for exactly three years, when the dropped him out of fear that he would get drafted for the war.
Bob took this in stride, and decided to beat fate to the punch, and offered his services to the Army Air Force. I like to imagine that, in some obscure way, Bob and Vyacheslav somehow crossed paths, and where completely unaware. Bob was eventually let go from the Air Force due to a lung infection, so he returned to LA to heal. When he was well enough, he returned to music, and worked as a clarinet for hire until 1955. Occasionally he got work in radio, but they asked him to change his last name – Kuhn – out of fear that audiences would think that Bob was black when he was introduced as Bob Coon. From 1950 on, he used the name Bob Keane.
There are several versions of how Bob Keane & John Siamas met, but one thing is absolutely clear: in 1955 they discussed the idea of getting all the talent that they run into on the club circuit, and putting out their records. They would each tell the other that they see people who are 100 times better than the records you could buy in stores. If only the people they played with had a record label where they could come and cut a session, they would be in business. Sometime after these conversations, they shook hands, pooled their resources with Siamas’ brother, Alex, and decided that they would release a record by an artist that mattered. They immediately turned to an artist that Bob had been raving about, in spite of the Siamas brothers having never heard of him: Sam Cooke
The first release on Keen Records was “Summertime” b/w “You Send Me” in 1957, part of Sam’s three-year contract with Keen. It got decent enough airplay, but when DJs discovered the b-side, the single began to really move in stores, and on 25 November 1957, the record hit #1 on The Billboard. Keen Records was raking in the dough.
Like any smart businessman, Bob when to John and asked how he wanted to structure the business of Keen Records. John pretended he had no idea what Bob was talking about. John offered a session musician’s paycheck for finding Sam, and countered with another offer to let Bob buy into Keen Records with a $5K investment, which Bob could not afford. The label was named after him, but Bob walked away, and before John was done laughing with his brother, founded had Del-Fi Records later that same month.
While Bob was litigating the Siamas’ over their assholedness, he turned to the next artist he hand gotten to know on the club circuit, Henri Rose, and rushed a recording of “Caravan” b/w “September Song” on 45 under the Del-Fi label in early 1958. Bob had intentionally picked Henri because they were friends, and gave Henri the most flexible contract he could devise, on purpose. He knew that someone would come calling in an effort to buy-out Henri Rose once anyone with half-a-brain heard what Henri could do, and Bob only had to wait for the call to come in.
By Spring, Warner Brother’s Records waved an $8000 check in front of Bob for Henri, just as a settlement check was already deposited into his account. Bob considered that revenge enough and moved on to his next trick: Making Del-Fi the epicenter of LA cool.
There are two distinct periods in Del-Fi’s catalog: the early rock ‘n’ roll period, and the later surf period, but in the roughly 10 years Del-Fi existed, they alway managed to have a very agreeable policy when it came to checking out new bands. Bob knew from experience that the guys that were best on the club circuit worked hard every day, no matter how little money was on the line, and often those were the best artists. But it would often take a little while to find this out about these incredible artists, and it was better to let everyone have a chance rather than hold out for a guarantee.
With that philosophy at his disposal, Bob Keane did the unthinkable and assembled an incredible line-up of artists that he discovered in that 10 years: Ritchie Valens, Chan Romero, Little Ceasar and the Romans, Ron Holden, Johnny Crawford, Brenda Holloway, Frank Zappa (in his Doo Wop phase), The Bobby Fuller Four, The Surfarias, The Lively Ones, The Centurions and, Barry White. (Barry was actually made the A&R / Producer for a subsidiary of Del-Fi, and Barry handled all the artists on the Bronco label, under Bob’s Guidance. In fact, Bob was one of the few people who instantly got both surf music and R&B, and would listen to virtually any band that came through his office.
Around 1967 things began to fall apart for the music industry. It was clear that 45s were now “singles” off of LPs, which was the real product, and with psychedelic starting to really take over, Bob’s “dinosaur” perspective on the music industry didn’t seem to gel with modern bands. When The Bobby Fuller Four broke up, Bob knew that Del-Fi was over. He banked what he could, and decided to merely manage his own songs as The Keane Brothers, while selling burglar alarms to the people of LA.
The story would probably end there, but curiously enough the time between 1967 and 1987 did wonders for Bob’s status as a legend. Since he couldn’t afford to release any new records, the collectability of Del-Fi releases went through the roof, and artists in his roster began to get relegated to the “classic oldies” status. While this had no way of affecting Bob’s income, when the La Bamba film came out in 1987, it was clear that interest in what Bob had done was back in the public consciousness.
Bob began to assemble collections and compilations of Del-Fi classics, repackaged for public consumption. This was only helped by the success of Pulp Fiction, which not only came at a time when surf was coming back as a genre, but when interest in the original bands of Keane’s era was in high demand. Keane released collections of his records (with a few new bits here and there) for several more years, but in 2003 he realized that he could not sustain the work on his own. Again, Warner Brothers came to his aid, and in a very cool turn of events, they relegated the work of managing Del-Fi’s catalog to Rhino Records, who has the rights to “Lost Treasures,” along with everything else Bob Keane did in his career.
The Night Hawks were also a group that Bob met on the touring circuit, and their story is also fascinating. The group was let by Nesbert Hooper Jr., also known as “Stix” Hooper, and The Night Hawks evolved quite a bit, into the Jazz Crusaders, and the just The Crusaders, taking the exotica / R&B sound of this tune and becoming a very accomplished Jazz group that lasted until 2003. They did not last long as The Night Hawks, but there is something very cool and Del-Fi about this recording.
The thing that Bob Keane was, perhaps, best at was finding artists that complimented the Tiki culture of the late ’50’s, and Del-Fi is, in many ways, a document of that early music scene in LA. in addition to all of that, Bob Keane best represents the kind of producer that they do not make anymore. His openness to artists, desire to be honest in all his business dealings, and his focus on fostering an environment where the music came first was rare in the music industry, and almost everyone he worked with spoke highly of him as a person. As the digital age creates new kinds of hassles that artists and businesses are constantly negotiating, reading about Bob Keane reminds us of an earlier time, where people made records because they, too, loved listening to them.
I’m very sad about this. Please, Nardwuar. Get well.
Two major forces were also at work in this early era of American history. Film and, later, radio, were on the rise in the US, and as this fledgling music industry worked to develop it’s structure and form, the relationship film and radio had with one another was immediately parasitic. As sound pictures began to develop, they were immediately married with songs, and radio could not only play records on the air, but promote film stars as well with drama and comedy. These three media forms grew to become dependent on each other, and while film will undoubtedly get left out of this story (to be saved for some future series), the story of music and art in the 20th Century cannot be told without covering the subject of wireless telegraphy.
As the program moves into it’s back end, I decided to pull out a handful of songs that were not only about radio, but embrace the real center of this argument: the story of music is also the story of radio. The Spirit of Radio could, in fact, be music. There is something spellbinding about good radio, something I’ve been obsessed with for my entire adult life. As soon as radio was self aware enough to do so, it started playing music for audiences, and I love exploring the subject of radio in a radio format. It just seems fitting.
I’m not really that familiar with Jimmy Vigtone, and it’s possible that there was only the one 45 ever released. However, I do know the Hyped To Death Compilations, which are all full of incredible gems of punk, post-punk, power pop, and other oddball records released all over the place. I went through a phase around 2005 where I became obsessed with these collections, and every now and then I can find a song that is just perfect. This one in particular gets stuck in my head all the time, and it really feel on the nose to me.
13.) Shikaku Maru Ten (Radio Waves) * CAN * Cannibalism 2
This track also works very well as something that runs behind vocal samples, obviously, but comes from a CD I found in a Goodwill here in Salem, and was singular in the kind of band it was, and for the kind of women that worked in the place. I was very happy to pick it up for 50 cents, and it has entertained me well ever since. At times listening to CAN feels like radio waves, rolling in.
To be fair, I am not the Rush fan I probably should have been. I am the right age, and they were absolutely popular (and even played in my home by my parents). You couldn’t avoid them. But I never really was interested in them the way I liked Pink Floyd and The Doors. But in time I would feel the power of what they were getting at, and while I can appreciate certain aspects of them, I’m not bound by any nostalgia or early childhood memory to enjoy them in spite of their other musical crimes.
However, this song (and a handful of others) are just incredible, and The Spirit of The Radio is really where all of this was leading. Perhaps in an exploration of the form I will find new meaning in it all? It is possible. There are plenty of subjects I have not been able to cover in a radio form, and I feel as if Audio Essays are only beginning to be understood as a way of telling a story, but at a slower pace. Like Rush, maybe I’m entering territory that no one else has. But to me, making radio like this makes me happier than I ever have been happy before, and as I work on this series, I hope that some of that excitement can rub off on the show, on the listener, and the world around us.
After all, its a Sound Salvation.
So, what should I be scared of today?
Have you been looking for the right kind of “Holiday” music that isn’t full of treacle, pap, or that other sugary crap that usually get’s on the airwaves this time of year? Then you are in luck, because WTBC Radio in Beautiful Anywhere, Anywhen has launched our “Holiday Memories” podcast feed, available in iTunes or other devices you might use. Catch almost 17 years of radio shows from Guitar Shop Radio Show, What’s This Called?, Closet Radio & WTBC, all from the comfort of your phone. Happy Holidays, from our house to yours.
Happy Holidays From WTBC Radio
Free in iTunes: bit.ly/WTBCHolidayiTunes
Or Another Podcatching Device Using: bit.ly/WTBCHolidayMemories
With December in full swing, and with the holidays on everyone’s mind, it’s always a challenge to find something to listen to that isn’t the usual holiday fare, but is still on point. In the tradition of TVLand re-running all their Christmas Episodes of classic shows between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Our “Holiday Memories” podcast feed features all of our Holiday Programming, going back to 1998.
In this feed you’ll find every Holiday-Themed show I’ve done, and great shows by Ricardo Wang, DJ Victrola, and Miss Rikki. We promise that you will not get your usual Holiday fare when you tune in to these vintage retrocasts that are the perfect cure for too much Burl Ives.
So, fire up a few Yule Log videos and enjoy hours and hours of holiday programming that rocks a little more than your average “X-Mas Show.”
WTBC Radio, In Beautiful Anywhere, Anywhen.
Now Open For The Holidays.
I do enjoy that superheroes and comic book stories have become very mainstream, because there’s more of it to enjoy. But I also worry that the kinds of stuff I liked about those stories have gone completely in favor of highly decompressed stories with a focus on grittiness. Some of it is amazing. But I long for old school Justice League style adventures where there were villains and heroes and fight sequences and goofy costumes.
Yes, I’m a white middle-aged man, why do you ask?
For the month of December, Detective Dexter Roland has taken over WTBC Radio in Beautiful Anywhere, Anywhen. Last week Johnny Dollar came and revealed a holiday story that still weighed on his mind. And on Tuesday, Dexter drops by the Blue Note bar for a holiday story involved Flashgun Casey, the Crime Photographer. It’s all happening on WTBC Radio: Wanting To Be Cool. Check it out.
Holiday Porch scene.
I like the life you have chosen for yourself. It really works for you.
Well, this is promising.
Time for Rankin/Bass’ “Rudolph.”
I say this periodically, but I catch a few new ones each time: I suspect you have a creative side, and you express it online, somewhere.
Can I get a link?
Bias. A hardcore conservative band.
Funnier every year.
A cover band called The Availability Heuristics.
I probably hum a Tom Lehrer song to myself at least every day.
Well, I failed another one of life’s little tests.
Specifically, the knowledge test at the DMV.
I tripped over three memes on the way to this post.
Two trees ago.
Here’s a special bonus episode for you this week: David Duncan of the NW Tech Show on KMUZ had me on as a guest yesterday, where we talked about tech news. Here’s the show, as it was heard at 12 Noon here in the mid-valley, now available for stream or download. Enjoy!