I’ll Make a Note for Next Year

I didn’t realize it was turn right in front of bicyclists without signaling day. Had I known that, I might have made other transportation plans.

The Venues of my Youth: Tingley Coliseum

In this country, going to your first Big Show is a rite of passage. For a pair of decades at least, almost every youth in northern New Mexico passed through the gate and became Experienced at a crappy barn of an arena called Tingley Coliseum.

By John Phelan – CC BY 3.0

The building was not designed for music. It was a hollow box with a concrete floor surrounded by something like 10,000 seats not designed for comfort. In some arenas like that, the powers-that-be would hang fancy acoustic thingies that would mitigate the echoes. Other places would at least hang heavy tapestries from the rafters to catch some of the echoes. Tingley didn’t even bother to hang moth-eaten airline blankets. If you liked the note the guitarist played, you would have ample opportunity to experience it several more times, as it mixed with the following notes to create sonic quicksand.

But Tingley was (is? I have no idea) where the bands played. It was such an unquestioned truth that when the Thompson Twins played Popejoy Hall (a lovely place for music) I found it exceedingly strange.

Ah, Tingley. The Experienced among us know there are two ways to enjoy a performance in an acoustically-hellish barn: from the seats or from down on the floor. Some might say that you are not truly Experienced until you watch an act from the floor. I’m not that hardcore.

My first Big Show featured .38 Special and Jefferson Starship. It was, as the Arena Rock critic Charles Dickens said, “the best of shows, and the worst of shows.” It was loud. Oppressively, crushingly, my-ears-hurt BUT HOLY DANG I CAN FEEL IT loud. I was not particularly well-versed in .38 Special’s oeuvre, but a couple of the songs had been getting radio play and not long after this gig they were the main attraction, not the opening act.

Then Jefferson Starship played, and more than once I thought, “hey! I know this song!” Then I learned about the obligatory encore, after a suitable period of shouting.

Among my friends, opinion of the show varied. One friend said, “.38 Special was rocking so hard I didn’t know how Jefferson Starship would match it. But then they blew them away.”

Me, I think the Good ol’ Boys sounded better that night. From this distant perspective, I think their music was just better-suited for the venue. Simpler. Happier in the mud.

My next Tingley Experience was Kansas, the Point of Know Return tour – or maybe the tour after that. I was excited; but they canceled. Welcome to show biz.

In my college days, only a two-hour drive from the venue (welcome to the Land of Enchantment) I saw a variety of bands. Bands big enough to play in arenas but small enough to stop in Albuquerque. (I learned later that it’s really useful to have a connect-the-dots stop in the middle of nowhere to keep the tour generating cash.)

From the seats I saw Golden Earring (“Radar Love”) open for Rush; I saw two horrible choreographed bland-metal bands open for Aerosmith (who didn’t distance themselves from the opening acts that much) (an abbreviated version of the puking story you can find elsewhere); I saw Cindi Lauper pump her WWF connections while trying to keep those on the floor from killing each other.

But even by the hardcore definition, I am Experienced; I have been to the floor. I have been close to the stage, in the crush of sweat and anger. The funny thing is, I remember the sweat and anger much better than I remember the bands. Or it might be more correct to say, I remember the sweat and anger, and I remember the bands, but they are disconnected. I have no idea which band it was when the guy started to push his way in front of me and I resolved to make that as difficult as possible. Pretenders? Yes? Kinks?

Probably not the Kinks. That was an undersold concert.

Another show. Here’s where the sweat and anger is most disconnected from the band. I was on the floor. The crowd was rowdy. The obligatory encore was executed, including of course some Big Hits held back from the regular part of the show because the first encore is really just another short set. The band left the stage, and the shouting and chanting commenced.

Usually this is a staged drama, with each actor playing a part. The band was not inclined to do any sort of REAL encore, so the harsh stadium lights came on. The surge of anger at that moment was real, and thick; you could taste it in your mouth. People — all the people on the floor, as a single mass — shifted one way, then the other, and the noise rose. The lights went back out and the band played a couple more songs. You’d think I’d be able to remember which band that was.

Huey Lewis did their obligatory encore, and the crowd kept chanting. He stuck his head out from behind the curtain and spun his finger around his ear: “You guys are crazy!” They came back out and did another set, very informal, just playing around. It was a treat to watch. The pop stars were being musicians! One of my favorite Tingley moments. So don’t go talking shit about Huey where I can hear you. Dude loves to play; the fame and fortune are a side effect.

It was the Yes performance, which surprisingly included no potentially-deadly rush to the stage when the doors opened, and had no opening act. When they brought the massive light bars down over the stage while the bass started that hammering riff in Starship Troopers (am I mixing up my songs? I could look this stuff up but I’m not going to), that I got my first total rock and roll overload. Fortunately breathing and heart beat happen without conscious direction or I might not be waxing so pleasantly nostalgic right now.

There were other bands — musically, The Pretenders might have been the best show I saw there — but this is about the venue. A terrible venue. A seminal venue. The sort of place every First Big Show should be Experienced in.


Who is Going to Make the Electric Miata?

Sooner or later I’m going to have to replace my little car. It is the second Miata I’ve owned, and I have no regrets. The car is fun to drive, inexpensive to own, and I’ve got some great memories tied up in that car.

I hope that I still have a few years of service left, but there’s another part of me looking at what’s going on in the automotive market, and I like what I see. Mostly. So I’ve been thinking more and more about the requirements for my next ride. I want a little car I can drive across the country with the top down (and be able to put the top up when necessary), nimble on curves, and other than that I want to score the most Hippie Points possible.

I want an electric Miata with access to charging stations all over this country.

Tesla seems like a candidate to produce this car, and they have an answer to the fueling issue (as long as I stick to major highways). In fact, there’s a charging station going up very close to my office. Free fuel!

Tesla hinted about creating a new 2-seat convertible, and they intimated it would be absurdly fast. (“Maximum Plaid”) Also, therefore, very expensive. Lately the company has announced that their new roadster is on the back burner, because (not in their words) it’s a niche vehicle. There are few willing to pay for maximum plaid.

I don’t need a supercar! I don’t even want one. Mazda (and MG and Alfa Romeo before them) demonstrated that people drawn to this mode of transportation don’t need thrust to push their eyeballs out the backs of their heads. They need adequate performance and a nimble little chassis. This is not rocket science. Well, batteries are heavy, so there is some rocket science. But that’s solvable.

I widened my search. I found other electric convertibles, and they fell into two distinct categories: golf carts and supercars. Detroit Electric, Future Mobility, BMW, and others all seem to have forgotten who drives convertibles in this world.

Side note about the word “convertible”: I don’t consider a car to be convertible if you have to decide before you leave the garage whether the top will be on or off for the duration of your trip. That makes top-down road trips impossible. That important distinction pretty much clears the table even of supercars. There’s just nothing left. No electric convertible at all.

If Mazda plans to make an electric Miata, they’re doing a great job looking like they’re completely behind the curve. Volkswagen is probably my best hope, perhaps under the Audi or Porsche badges. Or there’s the rumored Beetle Electric Cabriolet.

But none of those companies are building the charging network that Tesla is. Tesla really understands this part of the automotive experience. Road trips should not require internal combustion. But Tesla doesn’t get that road trips are better with the top down.


Knives Episode 32 Published

This is a gentler episode than we’ve had lately; if this were a heavyweight boxing match this would be one of the rounds where both boxers’ ears are ringing from blows in the previous rounds. Martin is not one to stand toe-to-toe with an opponent, so perhaps this is for the best. He is also not a team player, and that may show a bit this time around. Elena and Katherine have an accord, but how deep does it run?

From a writerly viewpoint, in this episode I’m working more on the connective tissue of the story than on the meat or the bone. But the best stories have great ligaments — the connections between characters and events that turn a travelogue into a story. So I’d best pay careful attention to this stuff. I wasn’t feeling terribly creative this afternoon, but I had a great time going back over the draft and adding another layer of detail to the descriptions. You learn a lot about a character by what they observe.

Some stuff I thought I’d cover in this episode has been pushed back; I’m not trying to be coy about The Thing From The Well, but there are more immediate problems to solve first.

Behind the scenes, progress on the next two episodes was, it turns out, greatly exaggerated. But the good news is that I had an idea today that totally ties the room together, but I hadn’t included in my plan.

So please enjoy Episode 32: What Needs to be Done

All for $500

I’m not the most connected social media guy. I tell you this honestly: I’m more interested in talking than I am in listening. The only thing that separates me from the rest of the social media world is that I admit that fact.

When I started hearing about the United Airlines kerfuffle, I assumed it was a tempest in a teapot. I assumed that some asshole had been forcibly kicked from a flight and that, absent context, the Internet had got all riled up. So I ignored the whole thing.

But Internet, this one time I have to say that you were right. And I have to acknowledge that the ubiquity of video cameras is a powerful force for social justice. For all we know, this sort of scene was common, back in the day.

Note to Airlines: if you want to get people off the plane for minimum cost, the reverse auction model is perfect.

So United Airlines did the math, and after no one took the offer of $800 to take a later flight, they stopped bumping the price. Technically, they could have pushed the payout by more than $500 (oddly there is a limit to how much they can offer), but at that point they decided to play hardball. It was time to throw people off the plane, by force if necessary.

The cost of that decision will never be measured, but it’s more than $500. Then came the lame-ass corporate responses. “We’ll try to not be such giant assholes, but we’re going to keep doing the same things.”

Had United Airlines asked me (they did not), I would have advised them that there was only one way forward. A way forward pioneered by Jack-in-the-Box in the face of a set of food poisoning cases: That’s not who we are, that’s not how our process works. We’ll fix it. A few years later when a tainted meat scare hit the United States, JIB was affected less than any other fast-food outlet. They were honest enough about fixing their food safety problems before that the vague, ill-defined public perception of them turned them into a stalwart of public safety.

United Airlines fucked up that day, but sometimes decisions made in the moment backfire. Now they’ve had plenty of time to figure out how to deal with this, and they continue to fuck up. All for $500.


Ah, Spring

On the patio, working on fiction while the sun slides toward the horizon, sipping inoffensive Canadian whiskey and watching the doves bang..


Now With More Security

In the case of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas, the increased security protects only me, but these days some mobile browsers are refusing to connect to sites that aren’t protected by encrypted connections, even if those sites don’t handle sensitive data. We can’t have that, so bring on the encryption! Now you need never fear again; the comments you post will be carefully guarded from snoops and ne’er-do-wells — until they are shown on the screen for the world to see.

You should see a little lock icon by the Site name in your navigation bar now; for a while some plugins I use were violating the security policy, but I think I have them all whipped into shape.

For the curious, I set out to use certbot from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but found that it didn’t play well with CloudFlare, which I use to speed up the site around the world and to block massive chunks of the Internet from trying to spam me (when CloudFlare blocks them, my server doesn’t have to lift a finger — it doesn’t even know the blockage happened.)

It turns out in the time since I last checked, CloudFlare has begun offering free SSL services even to their lowly non-paying customers. So I got that all set up today and started the process for Knives and the other sites I host.

Other folks who host Web sites: if you don’t use CloudFlare or a competitor, the EFF now makes it free to get encryption certificates and they have what looks like a solid tool to keep those certs up-to-date. ALL Web hosts should check out certbot