Exploring The Future

As I consider places where the stuff I make will live in the future, and as I negotiate over 20 years of internet traffic and websites, there are some problems that you just can’t overcome. Lost domains that have been taken over by someone else, multiple places to find various works, and as everything becomes further spread out, some services have died, other’s have changed, and some URLs are embarrassing to forward to folks, when you’re trying to look “professional.”

So, we’ll give this a shot. There’s a menu above; you should be able to find the various places I hang out up there. This will be where the old “ACRONYM” site used to be; not only did that idea become unwieldy, but the site has been plundered. We’ll see how the import goes.

More importantly, we’re going to try and move on. There’s stuff to do, and we don’t have time to fuck about. So this will be where you can find the things I do, easily, in one location. And I’m gonna do my best to keep it simple. Too many choices is etc. cliché and so on.

This will absolutely change over time. Hopefully we can both be cool with that.

I love you. I miss you. Let’s hang out in the comments, and on a call, sometime soon.

New Studio

Here’s what I did today: tore down my office tables and gear entirely, and built a little home studio.

I’ve certainly worked in / broadcast from worse locations, so meet the new Lava Lamp Lounge – Studio A. Since I’m not doing any live shows for a while, and since my own “home studio” is essentially any flat surface I set up on to record, I decided to use those turntables that kiisu gave me, and make this my home for the foreseeable future. (And: beyond?)

The iPad can be traded out for any other 1/8” jack device. I can also have a cord to swap out devices that need RCA and 1/4” jacks, too. I have a mic-stand / microphone that I can fly in, to use for situations like that. Tapes, CDs, records and digital… right now, I can play almost anything, and I even have that 16 Speed turntable and a reel to reel player I can hook up, if need be. (As I’ve said before: I dare someone to record a song on a format I can’t play.) It’s not ideal, certainly, and I don’t have real monitors or a real studio mixer. But it works, and I can swivel my chair around, stand up, and it’s there, ready to go. 

This will be where all future radio and podcasts are created and recorded, and it is also the same setup I use to perform live, with extra gear I usually can’t bring to shows. (Two turntables is just too much for the stage, given the space it all takes up.) So I can probably stream live, too. 

I haven’t figured out how to get the streaming sound quality to be as good as the recordings, and I think I might need some more sophisticated cameras / mixers / etc to really pull that off. (Possibly a second computer to manage taking the signal from the mix and putting it through to the streaming camera.) I’m pretty sure I can take calls and / or Skype too, but its not as easy as, “I hear the phone ring and I push a button and the caller is on the air.” I would probably have to hot-swap a couple of items to make it work, and I’m not sure I could mix music behind the call very easily, like I can do at a pro studio. I will be able to add delay or reverb, which will be fun.

It’s a start. I may try some broadcasting later, just to see how it works in practice. For now, you will have to settle for “room sound” on the stream when I do, until I can figure out how the pros do it.

(Also: anyone sitting on any old radio / studio gear that they need to part with? I could certainly use an actual studio board, or something a little beefier than my tiny six channel Behringer. Anyone wanna donate anything to the new studio?)

Hopefully this will help me get through feeling crazy for… however long this winds up being. 

Broadcasting

Artists and friends: Where are we with streaming services and delivering your work to fans? I have only ever used FB streaming, but it is decidedly “one-way,” and they get cranky about copyright. (Ditto for IG, but at least there you can have two-way interaction fairly easily. Can you add more than one person on IG, I wonder?)

I use Skype for straight conversations, and I have only ever used it for recording / playback, never for a live show. It seems like it might work, but I’m not sure Skype is ideal for a streaming / broadcasting service.

Marla used Zoom the other day, but it sounds like someone needs to either pay for the service, or have credits of some kind, to use it. But that allows any number of users to all interact, and I imagine there are other’s that don’t cost.

What I’m looking for: a free two-way (at least) service that I can use to send video / audio to any number of people easily (and publicly). I would also like to be able to “add” callers / viewers to the stream, and receive / capture the incoming audio so I can mix it into the show.

Preferably, I’m looking for a software / computer solution, and not a phone app, but I’ll be curious what anyone uses, and for what, regardless of the tech.

I’m almost to the point where my office is clean / re-designed, and I want to start broadcasting as soon as I am able. I have turntables, tape decks, and CD players (in addition to a number of digital options), so I feel like this would be a good time to get into regular broadcasts again. What are people using?

Unreasonable Opinions. 

I have a lot of unreasonable musical opinions. “I can’t stand arias. All country music after 1975 is crap. Shellac is good.” We’re all guilty of it, and we all say the most extreme inane untrue bullshit, partially informed by taste, and largely informed by how we FEEL at the moment.

What kind of unreasonable music opinions do you have? 

 


“Miller: A lot of people don’t realize what’s really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don’t realize that there’s this, like, lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. Give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly, somebody says, like, plate, or shrimp, or plate of shrimp. Out of the blue, no explanation. No point looking for one, either. It’s all part of the cosmic unconsciousness.

Otto: You eat a lot of acid, Miller? Back in the hippie days?

Miller: I’ll give you another example. You know the way everybody’s into weirdness right now. Books in the supermarkets about Bermuda triangles, UFOs, how the Mayans invented television. That sort of thing.

Otto: I don’t read them books.

Miller: Well, the way I see it, it’s exactly the same. There ain’t no difference between a flying saucer and a time machine. People get so hung up on specifics. They miss out on seeing the whole thing. Take South America, for example. In South America, thousands of people go missing every year. Nobody knows where they go. They just, like, disappear. But if you think about it for a minute, you realize something. There had to be a time when there were no people. Right?

Otto: Yeah. I guess.

Miller: Well where did all these people come from? Huh? I’ll tell you where. The future. Where did all these people disappear to? Huh?

Otto: The past?

Miller: That’s right! And how’d they get there?

Otto: The fuck do I know?

Miller: Flying. Saucers. Which are really? Yeah you got it: Time machines. I think a lot about this kind of stuff. I do my best thinking on the bus. That’s how come I don’t drive, see.

Otto: You don’t even know how to drive.

Miller: I don’t want to know, I don’t want to learn. See? The more you drive, the less intelligent you are.”

Lessons From D&D

This common bit of wisdom from my early days as a young gammer has been on my mind a lot lately – “Health Is A Team Resource” – and I’m surprised that someone else hasn’t already made a meme.

This was, of course, advanced thinking to a lot of gamers. So many are focused on just themselves, and so they don’t consider the health of others. Often, these kinds of characters don’t last long. They don’t know how to act as a group, and so they often die under embarrassing circumstances. Largely because they didn’t put the group over their own desires.

Here’s my take on a meme for our time.  I have a feeling someone else could probably do something a little more concise, but at least the sentiment is there.

Mail Call

I’m assembling packages / mail to go out. If you ordered a t-shirt, a zine, or are in any of the music exchange groups, and you are expecting something, it should be in the mail by the end of the day.

Did I overlook you? Do you want some mail art? Or, even, just a letter in the mail? I’m not sure if we should worry about costs at this time. Let’s just make sure the people who want something in the mail are getting it.

I’m happy to send you something. No one needs to suffer from the “no mail” blues.

It’s funny how slow social media is when social distancing was enforced. 

untitled by Austin Rich
untitled by Austin Rich

A lot has changed in a few days.

I hope I can change enough myself to keep up.

I’m considering hosting some organized streaming events, to give us something to do with this technology we all have in our pockets.

It would probably have a host who organizes the event and manages a calendar of who is doing what when. The host would DJ and introduce the performers, tell people where the next stream is and how to find the music to purchase, etc. And then you could have performers log on throughout the show, and do their thing.

If nothing else, it would incentivize a lot of us to clean our offices or practice spaces.

Welcome To Apocalypse

When I discovered punk rock in the early ’90’s, one of the things we talked about was how we were living in the apocalypse already, and the rest of the world hasn’t yet caught up. (Cathead even had a song about it, of which this is the best recording.) Most subculture seems to have been “hip” to the notion that all of THIS <waves hands around our civilization> could just <snaps fingers>, and then we would have to live with what it’s like when people stop being nice and start being… well, untethered to cultural references, anyway.

So, there is a tiny part of me — a very, very small part, I should underline — that feels like I’ve seen this coming for 20 years, at least. The writing was on the wall when The Ramen City Kid and I realized that Eugene was no longer viable, and as we looked around, all of our options were… bad. The punk in me always knew that all of this was temporary, even the rock and roll paradise that Portland seemed to be when I got there.

Anyway, in light of this crisis — this very real, very bad, and very-likely-to-have-LONG-TERM-consequences-that-we-have-not-really-fully-thought-through crisis — there is a part of me that keeps thinking, “Well, how is this different from how punks and weirdos have always seen the world?” We’ve been catastrophizing everything for decades, screaming at walls and coloring our hair as brightly as possible, to try and wake all of you up into looking past what you expect to see.

It’s like, the rest of the world needed this many catastrophes and crises to happen before they finally see the world the way punks do.

Welcome To Apocalypse

Deliberation

[untitled] by Austin Rich
A more or less full day ahead of me. Olsen Twins Ghostlight Ensemble rehearsal early, and closing Salem Cinema tonight. Current virus and panic concerns sort of throw a little wrench into things. Who knows what today will hold? Perhaps there will be a live stream?

Sometimes, I want to put everything on hold and just do nothing for a few days. But the moment I sit down to take a break, I just start working instead.

If only I knew how to relax.

Looking In All The Right Places: White Shark Shivers, Porest & Sir Richard Bishop at Turn! Turn! Turn! (26 November 2016)

There is a long history of you and your friends piling into a car and driving well into the night in order to catch a show that is not coming to your home town.  While the traveling performer is a very old trope in our world, it is only with the advent of national radio – where audiences could get to know artists before they ever made it to the town they play in – that listeners were in a position to know what a show might be like before they went.  Of course, by then the lines of communication were open so you could promote shows like this, and suddenly, all the pieces were in place to develop a culture where not only space could prevent you from seeing something you want, provided you could get there in time.

A much more modern tradition revolves around the weekend after Thanksgiving.  As people are visiting family and friends for that holiday, they are usually casting around for something to do on the days leading back to that Monday, when you return to work.  Bars fill up and, if you’re lucky, a few bands will tune up in the corner to help pass the time.  The folks at Turn! Turn! Turn! certainly had that in mind this year, and to that end, a select handful of us found ourselves huddled around a brand new stage as we took in one of these shows, bolstered by booze and food and a sense that, for whatever reason, this was what we wanted to be doing instead of standing around the kitchen as we cast around for the last few things we’ll be saying to each other before we go home tomorrow.

hjmxi8y8ynsrqbebpjmkuconzyof883xusgvtawb4d9ic_soj7cclbn5wn6jsimjfofztuovpzjjq85rbn9qk-r1zhcoqmvjmq2jis635jut2l3it65_o7nrlrqlij1hk2aqgpfzzpckuttwvt4vx5p9dsxrlydb4yyg3syocfjahvuaiqfv3sa_yu6guikqe4b_wyvWhite Shark Shivers started the show, an ensemble born out of various Thinking Feller’s Union Local 282 projects, with a large horn section and two guitar players, delivering something that had some of the same spirit as that long lost band, while creating a much more specific tone and mood that is not only more appropriate for a gloomy, raining evening, but felt in line with the current national mood.  While this seems to be an extension of Mark Davies’ 1994 solo project The White Shark – and the set certainly included some of those songs amid some covers and originals – this seemed like a new ensemble made up of old friends that is capable of so much more.  If we can’t have the Feller’s back, White Shark Shivers is absolutely the next best thing.

yokvbx1pqfpq4emq9rd2astju8zol6y6gh0u8nxtp8b-lbmfyf7hxnhswlndex5nujynmoczn7yiblvj_wyrrwcxqvtwzzhrffm1cbqc4ndord56qkxgj2cy7l8dua4y10hvudkrfljjbibac_m6cdkhvu8jcsdj5lsd__zygwfvja1ibgwnpdz29gchnldjdxxoy-iCompared to the crowd on stage for the first act, Porest’s two members was certainly an interesting juxtaposition, to say the least.  Having not played in the US for almost 10 years, this was one of two shows that were happening on this continent, and when you listen to some of the songs Porest is known for, it actually makes sense.  While mining some of the collage / experimental territory that Negativland loves to explore, Porest takes their political tone and runs wild with it, intermixing comedy and collage with deconstructive lyrics that might explain why Mark Gergis has been living outside of the country in recent years.  “Soapbox Cutter” is a scathing indictment of US policy and politics, delivered from his “karaoke soapbox” that so conveniently is the form of his stage show, “Diplomat Smile” continues to explore these themes, in a way that pre-saged the recent election, and yet seems to be commenting upon it, too.  “Keep fighting the fight,” seems even more ironic, and yet hopeful, when delivered to a crowd of dancing, happy fans.  Mix this with some on-stage destruction, comedy, and slick dance moves that accompany a song against smoking, and it was most certainly worth it to catch this rare artist in his natural environment.

f8ol_hdpflgycidxcnnruhzycj4gmzcmcts8xpon8tsdfk2b_fgkf6gn4tmq5w0xafiypcifzqhwddupgccsiny0g4a2vuszpewk1nwlxbvr-7jxlofizzel9u3nbhml39ftzc3r_pptqijurhjpwd2dupdomuyhd7vd6wecp5f8x7_mj2rhwzufhkhvpoefdyxo9tuTo close the show, Sir Richard Bishop of The Sun City Girls took the stage, and amid protests that we’d already seen the best, and that he was far too wasted to play well, he continued to deliver acoustic originals and covers that felt celebratory in a way we all desperately needed.  While his improvisational sonic explorations are always contemplative, he wasn’t beneath throwing in a few jokey covers like “Fly By Night” and an incredibly earnest version of “If I Only Had A Brain.”  We swayed, we rocked, we laughed and we cajoled, but it was mostly because we didn’t want it to end.  We still had an hour drive home ahead of us, and the liquor soaked joy and pot-tinged celebrations seemed to be just starting as Richard insisted that we had already gotten our money’s worth.

But as we blasted back down I-5 to return home, it seemed the perfect endcap to an incredible evening.  If seeing them, as Richard insisted, was about getting our money’s worth, then he’s being incredibly disingenuous.  Porest didn’t come to this country just to play for a small crowd in Portland for the money, and it seems odd that Mark Davies would assemble a group like his because there was certainly money in it.  Rather, this was another one of his jokes.  When it comes to shows like this, none of us are getting together in a small club because it is “worth it.”  Rather, we’re coming for the comradery, we’re coming to get away from our families for a few minutes and enjoy ourselves.  We’re looking for something else in the night, in the rain, in the darkness, in this November at the end of a year that has beaten us down, insulted us, degraded us, and made us feel like there is no hope.

We’re looking, for a few hours, for some music.  And, fortunately, we found it.

 

 

 

Felled By Illness.

imgresThere is no amount of technology or improvement in our culture or way of life that can erase how helpless and meaningless everything seems when we get sick.  There are moments, when we are awake at two AM, delirious, confused, feeling gross and insane, and your mind travels down a repetitive loop of nonsense that is both impossible to focus on and your entire reality – moments like that, where you suddenly remember how debilitating even the smallest illnesses can be, and how when someone says they aren’t feeling well, what, exactly, that can mean.

I felt it coming on Saturday morning, and while I wasn’t exactly sure at first, by the time we had decided what we wanted to do that day and were out in the world doing it, I was sure that the rest of my day would be awful.  We finished our errands, got home, and I went to bed, and have failed to get sleep ever since.  I’m sure I have dozed off for an hour or so, but nothing truly restful, or substantive.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the bathroom – and I will not give any detail as to why – and while I am often hungry, everything I put in my body does not seem to enjoy the experience.  But, if I had to say anything is really the worst part of all of this, it is not being able to sleep.

I am so bad at taking care of myself anyway that it is not at all surprising when I do get sick, but the fact I don’t spend more time sick is either a testament to the human body, or my own genetic mutation thereof.  But as I get older I have started to realize that all my terrible habits and non-considerations of things that are fairly worrisome should probably be reversed if I don’t want to experience an untimely departure.  Our days are numbered as it is, and it would be embarrassing if there were something I could do to keep that end day at bay, and I did nothing.

Of course I don’t think about these kinds of things except when I am sick, or not feeling well, or some other aspect of health comes knocking on my door.  Our minds are incredible tools, and allow us the ability to enjoy amazing leisure activities.  But it is terrible at reinforcing good habits, or breaking bad ones and forming new ones, too.  This largely has to do with how easy it is to find (and enjoy) things that are fun, and in doing so, ignore all things that we don’t think of that way.  You’ve probably heard this elsewhere, but the key is to “gamify” your own health in a way you enjoy.

But, of course, doing that is fairly difficult, too.  We are creatures of habit, and if you have any bad ones in particular, then you know how tough it is to change.  I smoked for years and years, so much so that I had to quit several times before I was able to fully give up cigarettes.  (And even that still hasn’t caused me to fully give up wanting to smoke.)  I took me a long time to give up drinking every day, and as I give up one bad habit, I see a huge foundation of others beneath me that I still need to give up, too.  How much self improvement is safe to undertake at any one time?

It is weird when you have to start guessing about what will and will not be good for you as you try to heal yourself.  Will this stay down if I eat it?  How far away from a toilet should I lie down?  Should I just take some aspirin, or a sleep aid, or should I just let nature run its ugly course?  And, is it okay to have just one cigarette, or glass of wine, too?

I think I’m on the other side of this particular illness, but the thing that was driving me crazy this time – and it is a concern I have struggled with my whole life – is not being able to sleep.  Since High School I have struggled with this, and while for many years I could blame staying up late and ingesting too much coffee / cigarettes / drugs / whatever as the primary culprit, even at this advanced middle age, where many of these things have been given up, I still suffer from not sleeping well.  Of course, this is largely because I’ve come to find that there is a bottomless well of sleep hygiene tactics that I should be employing if I really want to get to the bottom of all of this.  There is only room for improvement, but you will never get there entirely.

It won’t be long before this is in my rear view mirror.  My wife will be well again, and we’ll be back to our routine, and even the clean-up will be done.  It won’t take much, even.  By Friday the house will be clean, and we can joke about the gross parts, and make fun of those around us who are still suffering, the way family does when they genuinely love you, but want you to be in as much pain as they were, just so you understand what they went through, too.

Of course now that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, part of me wonders if getting sick and being reminded of our frailties is all part of the plan.  Perhaps we benefit from knowing we’re very close to being almost entirely incapacitated by a small germ, or some dishes we didn’t clean.  What kind of lesson does this weakness teach us?  Can we gain any kind of insight into ourselves, or our life, or the lives of those around us from the few moments we spend, hunched over a toilet, willing to say almost anything if it means we will feel better?

Last edited by Austin Rich on 24 February 2016 at 3:41 am

UntitledDo we ever really know ourselves?  Is it possible that we will surprise ourselves, up to the very end, only to have our expiring notion be something along the lines of, “I never imagined.”

Because you can’t.  You won’t.  You shouldn’t.  To really consider the variable I’s that you inhabit throughout your years is just too much to handle at any one moment.  We coalesce around a version of who we are saying we are, and project backwards and forwards in an effort to create continuity, and we are lucky to have this tool – language – that comes built in with narrativity, all used as a means of describing ourselves.  So much is stacked against us that we have to consider the self with a three-act narrative arc.

But the thing that is not discussed – this notion of identity, or being and self – are not described by a narrative arc.  More appropriately, there is a stuttering, stammering quality to the way identity is truly expressed.  Every moment we are reforming who I is, and who I will be in the next iteration, each time drawing on the versioned elements of our personas that stretch forward and backward in time.  There are so many things about ourselves that are difficult and complex to keep in our own consciousnesses, that in many ways it is easier to grab onto cliches and uniforms to help create visual and mental shortcuts.

I look at the me of today, and I wonder if I would be recognizable to any other me that I’ve identified with.  I don’t know what I thought my future would be like, and it is not something that I necessarily spent a lot of time concerning myself about when I was younger.  The work I wanted to do was more clearly defined, but the “me” that I thought about when the future occurred to me was once so ill-defined that in many ways I didn’t exist.  There was always a name attached to a novel, but who that name was supposed to represent was never clear to me.  I can only imagine what this ghostlike perception of self has led to as time has marched on.

I haven’t turned into a horrible person, or at least, I don’t think I have.  I can be difficult and neurotic and hard on myself, but I don’t think I’m particularly awful.  But I can see the compromises that this me doesn’t feel bad about, but I may have once taken issue with.  At 19, there are certainly things I never imagined I would ever do, in spite of not having a vivid impression of this future life I might live.  The problem with tomorrow is that it comes so quickly that you often don’t realize that you are there, and have even moved on to the thing after that, and that, and that, and that.

Firmly in middle age, it isn’t that hard to find where things went wrong.  It is the natural state of the middle aged man to find fault with everything – himself especially – and I can very easily look at the man I have been and lay out a dissertation on the missteps and failed calculations.  But this blurring of identity – this realization that we have dynamic mes that shift and chance from day to day – suggests that this person I remember is someone else completely.

A past me.  A me that cared deeply about keeping everything, a me that smoked cigarettes with a passion.  A me that worked for six years in a bookstore, who considered the hobby of “musician” to be an occupation at one point, in spite of the fact that it was anything but.  This person loved punk rock and chasing women and thinking deep thoughts and being self-righteous about half-formed bullshit.

An uneducated me.  An awkward me.  A scared and lonely me.

It isn’t that I have become someone I would hate.  Rather, it is that I wish I could be friends with who I once was, because he seems like someone I could relate to.

The path I’ve chosen is fine.  There are no great opportunities that I was offered that I virulently turned down.  If anything there were things I pursued that I soon realized I was never suited for, and I was better off, in the end, never becoming the person I briefly imagined I might have been.

The problem I have now is that I want so badly to find out who the person I am, now, actually is.  I can only look in the mirror so many times before the image looks foreign again.  We are, if anything, defined by what we do, and waiting for inspiration and pacing back and forth is not exactly something I want to be known for.

Nostalgia is powerful, and the me I once was has an allure and a charm that I am often very attracted to.  Who doesn’t want to believe that something you can’t have again was secretly better than anything you can have now?  At least that way, you never have to worry about happiness again.

But, just suppose, we had to be happy now.  Is is possible?  Could we find something in the present that isn’t backward or forward looking, but is content with the me of the present?  And, does my own future now look so ill-defined, so amorphous and dim?

More importantly, how will I reflect on this, years from now, when the person I’ve become looks back, and wonders, “What the fuck is this guys thinking?”

Or, perhaps, all of this is another mental exercise, a way of framing identity in an altogether different way, so I can continue to avoid addressing the underlying issue that is at the heart of all of this, the question that really wakes me up in the middle of the night, that sends me to the keyboard so I can hammer out something else, this urge that makes me anxious and confused most of the time:

Why is it so hard to be happy?

Happy Holidays From WTBC Radio

WTBCHolidayHappy 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.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy 5741_50102_844_thanksgiving_cards_funHolidays from your friends here on the Inter-Web-A-Tron.  We hope that your holiday is off to a great start, and that you enjoy spending time with and / or avoiding your family.  We know that you made the right choice – whichever one you made – and we hope that you get to spend the rest of the day in a food coma, hopefully drunk.

If it is entertainment you’re looking for, you should check out our previous Thanksgiving Leftovers programs, which usually feature stuff that we just didn’t get a chance to play the rest of the year.  (Plus: we throw in some other thematic bits and bobs.

You can also enjoy my #NaNoWriMo2015 Novel, You Spin Me Right Round.

And, when you’re done with all of that, I recommend you check out archive.org’s amazing collection, “100 OTR Thanksgiving Holiday Shows,” which features an amazing collection of old radio programs of every variety, from the late ’30’s to the mid ’70’s.  It is not only worth your time, but is a great resource to have on the web.

And that’s it for the day.  I mean, it’s a holiday, for fuck’s sake.  What else do you want me to do?

 

You Spin Me Right Round (9): Lady Luck.

(A Detective imgresDexter Roland Adventure)

9: Lady Luck

Fish glared at Fred, and without a word Fred grabbed me and walked me into Miles’ office, pushed me down into the nearest chair, and said, “I would stay here if I were you.”  Fred shut the door behind me and I looked around to see if anything had changed since the last time I was here.  Aside from a few files and stacks of records having been moved, there was little different in the office.  But, as Miles was missing, it was also likely that he was the one who was on the gurney.

I didn’t get a chance to really see anything on the way in, but I saw Robert, the outline of a woman I couldn’t recognize, and another gentleman in a suit who was pacing around in the store.  It appeared that an officer was in Johnny’s old office, but I couldn’t make out much else that seemed odd to me.

I stood up and listened at the wall that was shared with the bathroom, but couldn’t make out anything.  Listening at the door did me no good either, but it was apparent that no one was in any hurry to talk to me.  I relaxed and wandered around Miles’ office leafing through his desk, to pass the time.  An envelope labeled “Marcus Little” caught my eye, partially sticking out of a lower drawer, and in it was $200 cash and four more joints, all of which I pocketed.  But aside from Miles’ office stash, there was little else of real interest to be found.  My phone buzzed but I ignored it, and began to glance at the photos on the wall.  I recognized Angie from a Dig Your Grave flier, and there were a few other musicians and artists mixed in.  I remembered the “Photograph” index card suddenly, and scanned the wall that was at eye-level when I was in the room before, and found a shot that read, “You Spin Me Right Round Staff Party.”  There was one woman with her arm around Miles, and she was the same person I saw talking to “T A” the morning previous.

I paced the room a smidge, and glanced at my phone.  It was a message from Carla saying, “Uhm, why did you give me a Weeknd CD last night?”  I glanced at the message a few times, but wasn’t sure what she could mean by it.

“Don’t you mean ‘Mission of Burma’?”

She responded with a photo of the CD.  “No, this is what you gave me last night.”

Something didn’t add up.  I had given her the Mission of Burma tape for safe keeping, as I assumed she would never get rid of it, and most likely it was a clue.  But now this?

I hammered out, “What are you up to later?”

“Working and avoiding you.”

“Can you bring the CD?  I want to look at it.”

“Bring cash.”

I paced some more, then fruitlessly sent a message to Sam, asking when I could see her next.  But I suspected that she would be contacting me the next time we would get together.  A slight twitch in my goin reminded me of some of the things we did last night, but if I had my way, we wouldn’t be so drunk and horny this time.  Still, the thoughts were fleeting and pleasant, but by no means caused her to write back.

After a few minutes of working off the remaining nervous energy, it became clear that Detective Fish was going to be a while before he was going to talk to me, so I started futzing with a phone and rolled a J out of some clippings in Miles’ stash.  I assumed that I would be in no more trouble than I already was, and Miles’ office always smelled like weed anyway.  (And, if my guess was right, he wouldn’t be missing it at this point.)  I started to feel a little sad about him getting knocked off.  Miles was a nice enough gent, ran a good store, and seemed like the kind of guy I could be friends with in another lifetime, or under other circumstances.  Up until now I assumed that he had a small case on his hands, internal fraud or an insubordinate employee.  But now it was clear there was more going on than I suspected, and now that the stakes have been raised, I was wondering if I would be able to sort this out before I risked my own life.

Screen-Shot-2015-02-06-at-10.05.15-PMHaving worked up a pretty good buzz, I lit a cigarette and turned on the radio.  Frankie was already in the middle of his morning block, where White Lion and Whitesnake were doing a back-to-back set that made my stomach crawl.  As the songs ended, Frankie’s voice came on:

“That’s right, KLOW rockin’ it a loud as me can with our Metal In The Morning, as I paint myself into a White Corner of The ‘80’s.  The hair may be receding and the spray has washed out, but the hair bands of your childhood roam the airwaves every morning on K L O W, with your fantastic DJ-tastic air-spastic host, Frankie Diamond!”  I was almost ready to retch.  “Now, we’ve got some terrible news, and this next track goes out to the friends and family of You Spin Me Right Round Records, who have suffered enough this month.  It is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to Miles Dangerfield, the owner of said palace of platter, who has been added to the great cut-out bin in the sky.  You’ll never know how much you were missed here in this world, but let’s hope where you are are the turntables never stop.  Now, here’s ‘Landslide’ in honor of this incredible force in the local scene.  Some of us built our entire record collections around you, and we are afraid of loosing you and changing our lives completely.  Here’s to the crew at You Spin Me Right Round, here on K L O W.”

At first I let Frankie’s bullshit wash over me, but as I started to piece together what it was all about, Detective Fish threw open the door.  “Put that out, and turn off that crap.  What are you, a teenager?”

I looked Fish up and down and said, “Well, at least I still look good enough to pass.”

Fish began to pace and said, “Well, have you got your alibi, or should we just take you back to the station with us?”

“Does drinking count as an alibi?”

“Where?”

“Oh, here and there.  I don’t spend a lot of time in The City.”

Fish rounded on me, and leaned in.  “I’m sort of glad you think this is a game.  It’ll make pinning all of this on you all the more sweet.”

“What exactly are the rules to this game?  I’m a little slow.”

Roadblock3_zps4dd22fcfFish’s arm twitched, like he was going to slap me, but he relaxed and went back to pacing.  “It’s funny, you show up at two of my crime scenes, and both times you’re looking for the person I was called in about.”

I shrugged.  “Guess I’m a comedian.  Is he alright?”

Fish turned around.  “What do you think?”

I sighed.  “He was a nice guy, he didn’t deserve this.”

“Tell me about it.”

“And he was found in Johnny’s office?”

“Excuse me?”

I pointed to the office next door.  “Where the boys in blue are working.”

Fish shook his head.  “You seem to know a lot about what happened here.”

“And I saw a lot on the way in, too.  So you think I did it?”

Fish cleared his throat.  “You’re a suspect, for sure.  Where’s Sam?”

“Is she a suspect too?”

“Cut the crap.  Where is she?”

“How should I know?”

“Weren’t you wish her last night?”

“Who told you that?”

Fish’s eyes narrowed, and then turned away.  “Nevermind, we’ll find her soon enough.”

“What about Angie?”

“What about her?”

“Seems as if she’s connected to KLOW and this store, too.”  I pointed to the photo on the wall, to which Fish turned.  While he looked away, I cast a spell and hammered something out on my phone.

Fish looked at the photo, then his pocket buzzed.  He pulled out his phone and glanced at it briefly.  “Shit.”  He typed away on his phone, then turned to me.

“Where’s Sam?”

“The Sham?  Probably in the used LPs.  Here, let’s take a look.”

Fish came over and grabbed my by the bow-tie.  “Look, dipshit.  I’ve seen you two more times that I would have liked to see you today, and you are lucky that you actually are a detective, or your ass would be downtown quicker than you can say, ‘Black Mask.’  So, while we’re on the subject, maybe you just give up this case right now before we get to three strikes, at which point I’ll no longer be responsible for what happens to you.”

I said, “But Miles was my client.”

Fish growled.  “Of course he was.  Well, he paid you in advance, didn’t he?”

I nodded.

“And if I know you, some of his stash has been ‘lifted.’”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Right.”  Fish mulled this over.  “I’m probably making a huge mistake, but just so we’re clear: if your phone rings, and its me, you answer, or so help me, it will be worse than going downtown when I catch you.”

“You have my word.  I’ll be waiting for your call, all night long if I have to.”

Fish grunted and walked out, leaving the door open.  I snapped a close-up of the woman on Miles’ arm, then re-read the message I’d sent Fish (forged from a “neighbor” as per the spell): “I looks like your car was stolen.  Cops just showed up.”

I gathered up my stuff and leisurely followed him out.  I glanced over at Johnny’s office, but saw that the uniforms were largely done.  I looked in.  Evidence markers were in one part of the room, and a small splatter and hole in video monitor (and the wall behind it) was clear on the far side of the room.  The other monitors were on, and from there you could largely see most of the various sections of the store, save for the front counter.  I glanced around some more, but aside from a spent condom (presumably from Angie’s rendezvous’) and a box of LPs that looked like crap mostly, there appeared to be little else of interest in the room.

I made my way to the store proper, and walked behind the front counter.  I knew I didn’t have much time, as the guy in the suit made me and was heading over.  I found the camera that was pointed on this spot, and then looked around the frame of what would have been visible to see what would have been in the monitor’s screen previously.  Obviously, the register would have been visible, but mostly likely there wouldn’t have been any money there at night.  There wasn’t anything behind the counter either, or at least nothing missing.  But someone went back there after the screen had been shot out to make sure they weren’t captured on the surveillance camera.  For what, exactly, seemed unclear.

I glanced around briefly, then noticed that beneath the counter there were stacks of items on hold for customers.  Once shelf was empty, and sitting on it was a QR code.  I ducked down and saw that it was similar to the other two I’d found.  It seemed as if there had been other items there, but where now missing.  I palmed the QR code just in time for the man in the suit to appear behind the counter.

“Who the hell do you think you are?” he asked.

“Marcus.  Marcus Little.  I’m a friend of Sam, but I see she’s not here.”

“Yeah, she doesn’t work today.  Why are you behind the counter?”

“Who are you?”

“Look, I can just go and get the police and see if they can get you to answer.”

“I’m sorry, let me move to the floor.  I guess I knew I shouldn’t have, but I was looking for another copy of this tape I was supposed to buy.  Sam had set it aside for me.  A Mission of Burma live tape?  I paid over the phone… my name’s Marcus?”

The guy in the suit looked me up and down.  “She’s not here, and given the current situation, you’ll have to come back another day.  We’re closing.  Maybe for a few days.  I hope you underst-.”

hqdefault“It’s just that I already paid over the phone, and she promised me the tape.”

The guy in the suit rubbed his temples.  “Then let me give you a full refund.”

“I’d much rather have the tape.”

“And I’d much rather that you leave.  Someone has died here, or is your perpetually dazed and confused mind so addled that you can’t see that?”

“That’s awful, for sure.  And I’m not trying to be insensitive, believe me.  But it was a Live video that I was really looking forward to.  Can you tell me when she’ll be back?”

There was a buzz, and the guy in the suit reached for his phone.  “Shit,” and he answered it, “Angie, I’m in the middle of something, I’ll call you back!” in a sort of whisper.  Suddenly, I recognized his voice.

The guy in the suit pulled out his wallet and took out a $20, then put it on the counter.  “How much was the tape again?”

“The cost isn’t -” but he took out another $20.  “Sir!”  I insisted, but when he put down a third I scooped up the money and left before he could change his mind.

All in all, it was a pretty good day.  Usually I show up at a record store stinking of weed, and drop $260 on vinyl.  But I had never score drugs and a $260 payday, merely by getting accused of murder.

“I watched it for a little while / I like to watch things on TV.”

Mystery-Science-Theater-3000-silhouetteIn The Not Too Distant Past: The Last Great Cable Access TV Show of The Golden Age

For most of us these days, our exposure to the kind of localized television that Horror Hosts grew out of was an incredibly idiosyncratic, mid-western program that was as difficult to describe as it was to see early on.  When I first heard about it in 1994, there was essentially one video tape – Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, recorded by a friend of mine – that I could use as a reference point.  In spite of searching (and finding) plenty of people online who each had scores of these kinds of tapes in their personal collections, the idea that this was a show, and was on week after week, absolutely perplexed me.  

It wasn’t much later that the local FOX affiliate in Eugene, OR ran The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Hour on Sunday’s, not only giving me a chance to actually see this show, but to become a fan, too.  By the time the Movie came out a bit later, I was hooked.  But I came into the show nearly at the end.  By the time I was seeing new episodes as they were being aired in the late ’90’s, Mike was the host, the voices of all the bots had all changed, and the Mads were a whole new group of characters I was sort of unfamiliar with.  And the clock was running out.  Their riffs and jokes were not only so insular as to make it slightly impenetrable for people unfamiliar with the show and their many running gags and jokes.  (Not to mention the rapid-fire pace they would lob jokes at you.  It wasn’t long before they would be canceled, not even able to make it into the 21st Century, let alone to the 2990’s.  

imagesStill, MST3K managed to synthesize all the lessons of localized television and brought us a show with that kind of sensibility, which not only made it to cable and, to some degree, mainstream acceptance.  It owes everything to the home-spun aesthetic that was pioneered by people like Ghoulardi & Vampire, but with their own sci-fi take on what is funny about shitty movies and TV.  The sets were laughable.  The robots were made out of junk-store parts.  There were essentially three people making the show for most of the time it was on the air, with a handful of writers and crew members to make sure there were scripts and props and whatnot.  This hand-made quality not only endeared fans, but spoke to the heart of the show: we are going to evoke huge, sci-fi concepts with a few cheap sets and a whole lot of imagination, just like the movies we show.  In a sort of post-modern version of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, MST3K (somehow) managed to last for 11 seasons, almost 200 episodes, and spread out over three broadcast homes.  It’s an impressive feat for such a unique show, born directly out of Horror Hosting and late night features.  

While MST3K is not a Horror show in particular, nor is it even that scary of Halloweeny (their holiday of choice is Thanksgiving, where you can sit around and gorge yourself on bad movies), there is a long tradition of Science Fiction getting lumped in with horror, and I usually try to squeeze in at least one “invaders from space” movie ’round this time of year.  Their dedication to the same kind of aesthetics and ideas of a Horror Host, however, are present in every aspect of the show, and they may well have been the last of their kind to start in cable access and make it to the big time.

For those who have not seen it, it’s premise is a sort of hybrid of Silent Running and Robinson Caruso (in Space).  “Joel Robinson” works for Gizmonic Institute, a place largely managed by Mad Scientists, who then launch Joel into space in order to inflict terrible movies on him, in a search for the worst film imaginable, with which they can use to take over the world.  Joel, to help beat the loneliness, has built four robots out of various things he found around the spaceship, tenderly named the Satellite Of Love.  Joel turned this dire situation into a weekly show for the audience at home, and joining him are Crow, Tom Servo, Gypsy & Cambot.  

MST3k_Scrapbook_pic_1Each week, the Mads send a movie, and Joel and the bots watch it, cracking wise as the movie plays on from their silhouettes in the corner of the screen, using the occasional breaks they’re given to sing songs, act out skits, or otherwise pontificate on their plight and the movie they’re watching.  People like Ghoulardi used to insert himself into movies he was showing, and people like Woody Allen were experimenting with a version of interacting with movies, to various degrees of success.  But it was the MST3K crew that developed this style of “riffing” comedy, based on the idea that Joel and the robots would be hanging out together while the movie played, in the same way a group of friends would make dumb jokes as the movie went on in the same room.  It was the crew at Best Brains that realized that the Horror Host was there throughout the whole movie, so why not have them joke around with the film?  After all, who’s really watching the terrible movie that closely, really?  

While certainly inspired by the kinds of Shock Theater! duds that would fall between the cracks of Frankenstein and Dracula, by the time the ’80’s had rolled around, an entire culture of people dedicated to “Bad Cinema” was starting to crop up.  Kids raised on the kinds of late-night, drive-in style films that were being made in the ’60’s and ’70’s had grown up into a group of connoisseurs that understood what make movies truly bad.  Filmmakers caught on, and production companies would rush something that might get a reputation for being terrible, and thus, might be a back-door into Hollywood for a desperate creator.  And, for many, it worked; one only need to look at the work of people like Roger Corman – and the stars that grew out of working with him during his 60+ year history in cinema – for evidence.  You might be in a real stinker today, but tomorrow you might be directing The Last Picture Show, and could become a creative sensation.  

1980 saw the introduction of both The Golden Turkey and The Golden Raspberry Awards, born out of this same class of filmmakers who were willing to make things on a shoe-string and with no discernable stars, and by the ’80’s had rolled around, the US was steeped in Sci-Fi disasters, monsters where you could see the zippers, cheaply made thrillers, teenage schlock, and everything in between. 

Kukla_fran_ollieWhile the work of “horror hosts” had an influence on MST3K, there are three specific pre-cursors that are worth mentioning, as they had conceptual bits that this crew would use as the backbone of their work.  CBS Children’s Film Festival ran from the late ’60’s to 1984 (in some form, often under a different name), and showed terrible movies (edited, of course), hosted by Kukla, Fran and Ollie (a puppet team).  Still, no one was making fun of the movies full-time until Mad Movies with the L.A. Connection in 1985, which used the sort of Woody Allen style overdubbing to mock the duds they found.  (Hosts would mock the films between the reels, but the LA Connection made jokes while the film was running).  The Canned Film Festival in 1986 managed to feature comedic skits woven into (and between reels) of a longer film, another element that MST3K was particularly good at.  But in all three cases, these elements were not used to their full potential, and more pointedly, only CBS Children’s Film Festival was actually seen by any of MST3K creators.  

hqdefaultThe essence of MST3K was born out of Joel Hodgson’s stand up routines, where much of the background material of Sci-Fi gags and prop-comedy elements were already at work.  Joel was building contraptions and robot-type characters to use in his act, largely out of junk store bits he found here and there.  When Joel met Trace Beaulieu, Josh Weinstein, Jim Mallon and Kevin Murphy at KTMA, it was clear that his hare-brained comedy might be able to find a home at their station.  

Joel had a number of ideas that were difficult to explain, and ultimately shot a pilot with them – The Green Slime – which involved a rough approximation of what he (and, now, they) had envisioned MST3K could be.  The station was impressed enough by the cheap budget and the amount of time a show like this could fill, and give them free reign to make 13 episodes, all produced in house, to be shown when there was little else to interfere with their other programming.  With a premier on Thanksgiving Day, 1988, there wasn’t much else to compete against, and KTMA didn’t see the harm in letting them air two episodes, back to back, as they had little else to offer.  The show was an immediately hit, and grew to be so popular that what started as an experiment was expanded to 21 episodes.  By the end of their first year on air, the show was being courted by cable TV.  

The Comedy Channel (later Comedy Central) picked up the show, to be retooled for a first “official” season, with a modest budget and actual writers joining the team.  As time wore on, Joel and the gang hit on a formula to maximize the jokes-per-episode ratio, and ironed out the production side of things to a well-oiled machine that lasted for a number of years.  Their dedication to interacting with fans, keeping everything in-house, and making props themselves added to their reputation as something special, and even after Joel left and Mike transitioned from head writer to host, they managed to keep their grass roots (and fans), becoming one of the hippest shows on TV.  Tapes were incessantly traded among fans in a pre-digital world, and with a movie contract on the horizon, it seemed as if they were on their way to an eternal hit.  

mst3k-behind-the-scenes-writers-roomIn 1996 when Comedy Central canceled the show, it was clear that the future of the program was becoming uncertain.  Fans rallied, started a letter writing campaign (in the tradition of other canceled Sci-Fi shows), and soon enough the Sci-Fi Channel (now SyFy) showed interest.  But this relationship did not start off well.  Sci-Fi gave notes on the show – and the changes that they insisted on making signaled that there wasn’t much of a future for the team.  Part of the problem was a dedication to the craft; the writers and producers – even at the very end – wanted to keep doing what they had been doing well, knowing a good thing when they saw it, playing to their strengths as the show changed and evolved.  The Sci-Fi Channel, however, imposed a number of demands, scheduled the show at strange times, insisted that the bots have story arcs from episode to episode, and in the end made it difficult for the crew to work on MST3K the way they wanted to.  When the word came down to cancel the show (again) in 1999, it seemed like a very natural place to end what they had begun, with almost 11 years of work under their belt.  

While it has been a tough time learning to live in a world without new episodes of MST3K being made, the influence and impact of this show is immeasurable.  We now live in a world where things like Sharknado are not only made, but celebrated, and our culture’s dedication to terrible movies has only increased in the years since.  Both Joel and Mike have their own spin-offs – RiffTrax and Cinematic Titanic, and there are even rumors of a MST3K revival at some point.  (Fingers crossed.)  

16663More importantly, they kept alive this idea of home-made TV, something that could take a cable access aesthetic and bring it into the rest of the world.  This persists now in a number of outlets online, and YouTube is littered with DIY type endeavors that are direct descendants of the chaotic (and charming) world.  The technology has changed the way we see and interact with these kinds of shows, and their formats are very different than they used to be, for sure.  But without seeing their dedication to both the idea and to the campiness of their craft, these creators and DIY makers would have had few inspirations available to help them see that any idea – no matter how crazy, could work.  Your idea may be silly.  It might even look ridiculous.  But with a little love and care, that thing can be as hilarious as Tom Servo, and that’s an incredible feat for anyone.  

It’s Time To Enter THE PORTAL

The Portal
The Portal

Now available for the first time ever in a digital form: The Portal!

In the mid ’90’s, during the rise of ‘zine culture, The Portal emerged as a completely nonsensical, barely coherent collection of comics, inside jokes, occasional political insight, with elements filled in from things found on the streets of Eugene, Oregon.  While their output was very minimal, and their influence even less so, they trod ground that few other publications had, and fewer will ever consider, no less.

Join us for over 150 pages of drug-damaged ‘ziney goodness, made the old-fashioned way: with pen, paper, and a lot of free time.  All six issues exist, and many pages are available in color for the first time, ever.

Re-live the adventures of Pete The Junky Duck, The Church of Blasphuphmus (Not Jesus), The C.I.A., yet another mysterious entity named ‘bob,’ and a host of other oddities and text that almost, but not quite, makes compete nonsense.

It’s time to enter The Portal*, available digitally for the first time ever.  Enjoy the ’90’s in a way almost no one has ever enjoyed.

* C Actually Helped The Puppy

Naked Trees Point To The North Star

Naked Trees
Naked Trees

Naked Trees Point To The North Star

A New Book From A.C.R.O.N.Y.M., Inc.

Many of you have probably noticed that I haven’t been very social recently. Here’s one of the reasons why.

Part Novel, part ‘Zine, part essay & part Short Fiction, Naked Trees Point To The North Star is my newest creation, and is available now for the first time ever, in both print and electronic forms! That’s right: now you can enjoy the heady thrill of reading, be it through printed text on paper, or the PDF reader of your choice!

Over 90 pages of text spanning time, space, genre & believability are presented within.  Comedy, tragedy, wordplay & abject misery are presented in twelve interlocking stories, culled from the last several years of work, creating a dense and unwieldy collection of prose no mortal can resist!

Additional features include:

A.C.R.O.N.Y.M., Inc.’s Newly Patented “Thought-Experiment Soundtrack”A List of featured content, corresponding to accompanying page numbers, allows for ease of use when looking for a particular piece of text!A Single Page Of Meta-Text allows you to know everything you ever wanted to know, from that pesky copyright notice, to production information… free of charge!

Occasional images break up the English-Language content! Truly a wonder for the visual senses!

Available with or without staples!

Hundreds of obscure references are contained within, making Wikipedia a virtual necessity while reading! (Pun intended!)

It’s all here, with over 40,000 other carefully selected and arranged words, making this the largest project of this kind ever attempted by the author.

If the leisure-pursuit activity of your choice includes the decoding & ingesting of the written word for the sheer enjoyment of mental exercise, then this is a book you can use to that end!

Naked Trees Point To The North Star. It’s my new book. I’m really proud of it. Check it out!

(Product Information: 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ staplebound. 96 Pages, black & white, with images. Electronic or print versions. The later is free with purchase of the former, and vice versa.  Send orders to: austinrich@gmail.com or 2595 Brooks Ave. NE / Salem OR 97301.)

Read what other readers are writing about this book! (Very meta!)

“It was really good! I’m not much of a literary critic, all I know is I enjoyed reading the stories a lot.”

– Karly Rich, paid family member. (I swear, the check’s in the mail!)

“I liked it! A title is a very important component. No phrase was left unspun, and a great job of writing the ‘fairer sex.’ To Be Concerned is Good is my favorite; I thought the boss’ typo-laden letters were hilarious.”

– Lans Nelson, local female & paid staff member.

“It was a weird reading experience; there’s such an odd mix of humor and despair, intelligence and bafflement, acceptance and frustration, kindness and desperation. Very hard to characterize!”

– Heidi Stauber, Austin’s High School English Teacher, who has received no financial compensation for this statement… yet.