Monday, August 15, 2005

Cookie's Story

For a couple of years we had no cat, and my mother and I would try to convince my father to get another one. Growing up we seemed to always have a cat. Ever since the time I was about 4 I guess, previous to that we had St Barnard, but that’s another story.
In 1990 the cat plot that my mother and I were nursing picked up momentum. We discovered we had mice in the basement. We referred to the “How To Do Just About Anything” guide, a constant reference in our house, and read that the best way to get rid of a mouse is the presence of a cat. Even the presence of cat smell, and hair would make the mouse reconsider. We put this to my father and he just about capitulated. Around that time, my mother had cut out a photo from the newspaper of the “pet of the week” from the local humane society, and hung it on the refrigerator. As best as I can recall, it was Cookie. But we didn’t get a cat right away, I was away at college, my father wasn’t entirely convinced, whatever the reason there was a break in time. Then we resolved to do it, and my mother and I found directions to the humane society, and set out to find it. After some effort we did, it seemed to be at the end of a dirt road or something, not easy to find.
As we walked into the office we saw Cookie. She seemed have the run of the place. She was perched on a high, carpeted cat perch thing, in the corner of the office. I remember saying she was beautiful. Then we went to look at all the other cats. They were in the next room in cages. There was about 4 or 6, I can’t recall, and we almost half-heartily picked what we thought was the best of the bunch. We went back out into the office to fill out the paperwork. As we waited Cookie just about jumped into my mother’s arms and my mother held her while we waited. The attendant came out, and asked if we found a cat, and we said yes, then my mother said, “but we like your cat better.” The woman thought for a moment, and said, well, she’s not really our cat I guess, it’s just that she’s been here so long,” and she thought, and said if we wanted her, we could take her.
She had been there for a while. She was about 2 years old. If the picture we saw was her, then it was months ago. Cats who are brought to the humane society, and are not picked up by people and usually put to sleep. Somehow she had charmed her way out of that and became their “office pet.” We took the cat and drove home. We stopped for some cat food and kitty litter, it was while cookie and I waited for my mother to come out of the store, that I noticed the first of her few eccentricities. She liked to stand on her hind legs.
We got her home, and as I recall she only pooped on the floor once, other then that, it was a go. She liked to scratch doorways as she sharpened her claws, to break her of this habit I made her a scratching post. And another, maybe bought one too, she was just gonna scratch wherever she damn well wanted to. We thought we’d rename her. I was going to give her a Russian name, because I had just started to study Russian. We tried a few names but she wouldn’t answer to them, so we decided to stick with Cookie. We later realized that she didn’t answer to that either, she just didn’t answer to anyone much.
My father eventually got to liking her. Although he sort of enjoyed his intolerance for cats at this point. He insisted he didn’t like her. But having retired it was he and her home all day. She would win him over. Her way of wining someone over was to sit in the room with them. Look at them, eventually wink at them. She was rather coy about it, perhaps shy, but this is the charm that probably saved her life, and eventually my father was even seen to pet the cat.
At my father’s funeral, about a year or two after we got the cat, I placed a single cat hair on he suit jacket. Not entirely realistic, because she shed so much that anyone who spent a moment with the cat would be covered in cat hair. Anyway, it was a jester that helped me say goodbye. Over the years Cookies hairs have been spread around the world.
So I was at college, planning to do a study abroad in Ukraine. But my mother was home alone now, very depressed having married very young and for nearly 30 years, she honestly didn’t know how to go on. Cookie became her company. She loved her, and they grew incredibly close. I was going to stay in the US, and not go to Ukraine, but my mother convinced me I should go. Before I went, I did what would become a ritual. As I left I went to see Cookie. Told her I would miss her, and told her to take care of my mother. I promised her, that if she took care of my mother while I was gone, then she would always be taken care of. I like to think I kept my end of the bargain, she did hers.
I made many trips to Europe in the following years, saying goodbye the same way, never really dreaming I would have to make good on my promise. By the time Christmas 1997 came around my mother became sick. And in January she was hospitalized, and it became apparent that she had rather advanced cancer. While she was in the hospital, I would go to her house and feed Cookie, morning in night, and then one day she said I should take Cookie to my house. It was then that she admitted to herself that she would not be going home. Anyway, we planned that she would move to my house for recovery; use the proceeds from her house sale to pay for it. Everything happened so fast, but when her condition deteriorated to the point when she needed life support, and there was a good chance that she would never come off of it, my mother decided she wanted nothing to do with it, she gave up her fight, took off her oxygen mask, and died later that night.
So Cookie was in my charge. I promised my mother on her deathbed I would take care of her, I promised Cookie, and that was all there was to it. Since then we’d seldom been apart. My mother’s ashes were delivered to my house, and cookie would sit with the box, as if she somehow knew. I took her to Seattle when I wanted to move there, and back when I changed my mind. For a few weeks she stayed with my friend Adam when I was homeless, at least she had a home, I slept on couches. But I was back on my feet rather quickly, and we were living together again. The window “kitty hammock” that my mother bought her was her favorite place to sit. She ate from the same food dish she had all of her life, I suppose after a few years cats forget the people in their life, but I like to think that she remembered my mother, and missed her like I did. She helped console me no doubt. As the years when by I realized that she was the one taking care of me. She was a constant companion; coming home always meant coming home to her.
Aside from a few sicknesses, she made it thought 17 years, that is more then I honestly thought she would. She was about 9 when she came to me, she was always very overweight, and a sit around house cat, I always thought our time together would soon come to an end. She had a few sicknesses, but I tended to her the best I can, ran up some big vet bills, but she always pulled through. And I was always rewarded for all my care by her presence. She was a lap cat, but only for me, a few other people maybe too, she was very picky. After a particular sickness she went deaf. It only seemed to make her more placid. Even though she lived for a long time, and our time together was nothing but positive, I was still shocked when the vet told me that her current illness was terminal. She advised me that it may be a good idea the euthanaise her. There were a few futile things to try, but even then she may only live for a month. When I got the phone call I cried like the idea of her leaving never occurred to me. I can say that I love her. I brought her home today, she still seems comfortable, at least for now, and I could not just give the order to put her down. So she came home with me, for at least tonight. She sits across from me, with a tired but dignified look on her face. She sits and purrs with me. To console me thought just one more passing, her own.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

My take on file sharing on the web

File Sharing

Is It Stealing?

Is downloading music stealing? Yea, probably, but the phenomena of “file sharing,” where music gets packed into mid-fi easily storable digital files and shared easily without regard to the copyright holders, seems to be here to stay. It exists in that gray area with getting undercharged for your meal at a restaurant, or the story about you or your friend who moved into a house and the cable was already on: you’re getting away with something, and it’s not the rightist of things, but it’s sort of fun, and it seems a victimless crime. The truth is there are a lot of gray areas involved.

The popularity of downloading is partially due to a hypocrisy in the corporations that own the very same record companies who are crying fowl. For example, 5 years ago Sony began advertising their “multimedia friendly PC” the VAIO, right around the advent and rise to popularity of the bootleg MP3. Then along came little things to play MP3s on, and advertising campaigns that encouraged people to download music from the Internet. There were at that time almost no, what is now called, “legitimate digital music” sources, that being the industry nice way of saying “for pay” services. But the idea of it sold newer and faster computers, and the blank CDs (that were for a long time $3 each), and CD burners. Did Sony really think everyone was backing up gigabytes of Microsoft Word documents, and emails? No, but the bottom line was there, now their Music division supports the RIAA lawsuits, and clams their financial troubles are in large part due to the downloaders and home burners. Now DVD doing the same thing, they still want to sell you the burners and the blank discs, and then tell you not to use them.

The record industry had come to grips with piracy after the advent of the cassette and allowed it to exist, thusly making us as a society believe it wasn’t that bad. Who didn’t have a copy of a cassette in the 70’s and 80’s? Once again, the electronic manufacturers made machines specifically designed to copy cassettes, even ones that would do it quickly. There was an unspoken law that as long as the user was not selling the product then it was kind of, ok. And copyright laws also have clauses for instances when it was ok to copy a tape or record. Copying music it became a part of everyday American life.

Many artists being music fans as well, have owned bootlegs and tolerated bootlegging as a fact of life. Members of the band Uncle Tupolo once said to fans, not to buy their early CDs, copy them, because their record company had never paid them a penny in royalties. Which brings us to another major justification in the minds of swappers. Many artists see very little of the 16 or so dollars that the average CD costs, so it is plausible to believe that by downloading music you are ripping off those who ripped off some of your favorite artists. Everyday working people around the world can not be bothered with the wealthy getting upset that their money isn’t rolling in fast enough, because that is after all most of who holds these copyrights.

It could be said that the sharing of digital music files goes against the very capitalist structure of America. The big question how you do steal something that doesn’t exist.
With the advent of digital music the “artifact” has been removed, and the information can now exist and travel without a significant physical manifestation. The pre 21st century economy and its concept of supply and demand may in this case become irrelevant. For instance, if I have two apples and I give you one, I have on apple. If I have two MP3s and give you one I still have two MP3s. This takes the scarcity out of the exchange, and along with it, the capitalist transaction. It makes the transaction into a simple statement of generosity rather then a capitalist transaction. Here, have some music. This makes corporations very nervous. Music is in the air and it’s free, we listen on the radio for “free” we listen in bars and restaurants for free, and TV, anywhere someone has a speaker plugged in it appears to be free. There is also a lot of legal downloading on the Internet, taking all this into account it’s no wonder the line is blurred.

If You Must Download, Be Safe.

So, to sum up, is “file sharing” against the law? The answer is still in most cases yes. But like millions of people all around the world you may not let this stop you. So if you must download here are some tips.

Got Kazza? Get rid of it. Kazza is riddled with spyware and adware, and is responsible for computers crashing all over the world. Spyware and adware are the new computer scare jeopardizing your security, and generally annoying the hell out of you with pop up
ads, solicitations, and eventually some sort of computer malfunction. Has your computer gotten viruses lately? Acting funny? Chances are it’s because of something that rode in on Kazza. So for Kazza users, relocate your downloaded files folder in a convenient place that’s not under the Kazza folder. And “uninstall” the software. Then you have to remove any nastiness that may have snuck in. You need to run a spyware remover (try Spybot Search and Destroy a free download at and a registry cleaner to make sure there’s no damage to your operating system. Then and only then, if you must reinstall Kazza, search the Internet for Kazza Lite. It should be a free download. That is a version of Kazza without the spyware and adware, and a bit of a firewall built in. Limewire and Win MX are less popular sharing program, but are much less invasive then Kazza.

Want to download for free, always look for the song in a legitimate free download site. and other music network sites have them, music magazines suck as Rolling Stone and Q also offer free files. Even “for pay” sites like iTunes now offer some songs for free. Also check your favorite artist’s web sites, many will have songs there (sometimes rare non album tracks) for download. By supporting legitimate free downloads you also send a message to the music corporations about your music listening habits.

Ever ask yourself, “Why don’t people want to share music files with me?” Have you tried downloading music files to find that people have not been swept up in the concept that it is better to give then receive? There are two big reasons for that. First outgoing files take up Internet bandwidth and processor time, and some people don’t want to make that sacrifice. This dates back to the freewheeling days of the original Napster, and this is part of a larger social concern, those who don’t play well with others. The other reason, which has popped up more recently, is the distribution of the copyrighted material is the actual offence that people are being sued for. If you don’t offer songs to share, your chances of being caught or sued are diminished.

Will you get sued for sharing? Maybe. The RIAA has been suing music fans regularly lately. Some are egregious copyright violators and people who occasionally download have been for the most part unaffected. But that’s no guarantee and the future is uncertain. Although the dust has not settled, there are many industry forces that want a zero tolerance policy for sharing.

What is the Future?

One thing is for sure, the Internet is here to stay, and all the Sabots and Ludites can’t stop it. And music flows easily over the Internet, a little too well for some people’s tastes. File sharing is here forever. If there were an industry built up around the letter with a bad joke, then they would probably object to everyone emailing bad jokes to everyone they know with one click, but their isn’t, the battle is over music. Those who market and sell music just can’t let go of the good old days when they charged you good money for a plastic disk that you couldn’t live without. Those days are gone.

On a personal note, I wish it didn’t happen. I wish we all still listed to 12-inch records and they cost $6.98. We all had one of a kind copies of a master, not an identical master copy, and despite the fact that by today’s technology stands it was primitive, it worked so well it etched a place in our hearts, and make fortunes for those in the business. My only prediction is those days are gone. Don’t worry for the music, music will survive this struggle, I guarantee it. So, download for free, pay for a download, rip those MP3s, buy an over priced CD, burn your friend a copy (I won’t tell on you). The important that is missing from this debate is: whatever you do, keep music in your life.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

King Tiki - June 1st 2002

King Tiki - June 1st 2002

This night was a last minute gig addition to play with the band Junior, they asked late and we jumped at the opportunity, they’re friends of ours, and we like their music too. The gig was at King Tiki in Portsmouth NH, it was for one set, and it paid nothing, although I think we got half priced PBRs, so once again, the more you drink, the more you get paid. There was also the addition of “American Werewolf” for an opener. That band features Roger on drums (who some of you will remember from Brian and my “old days” in Jupiter 2) and Jimmy on guitar. Mostly an instrumental duo, no bass, and Jimmy sings some too. Well, they went on what we thought was an hour late at 10, it was a cool set, rusty and out of tune, but great energy. Jimmy puts the savvy in idiot savant, paying simple instrumentals, and screaming out the vocals.
Then we were on. The place was literally the smokiest room I have ever been in. Trapped in the fire hazard of a basement with only one exit, or way to daylight up the stairs. I hear a rumor that they’re not even supposed to have music there because of fire codes. Anyway, our last gig there as something out of Spinal Tap or the Blues Brothers to me. The kind of gig you would be better off staying at home. We were packed in a corner behind a pole. There were some gorilla/jock types who tried to steal the microphone and sing, and most of the people there seemed bothered that there was a band there. I vowed never to play there again. Apparently to get paid we were supposed to have one of “our people” pass the hat, so we made no money, and had a bar tab at the end of the night. I think we walked out on the bar tab and called it even. Anyway, there we were back at King Tiki. The first band was very loud, so we kind of kept up the energy. We played a short set of maybe 8 songs, I don’t even remember, there were gear problems, but the crowd was great. We cut our set early so that Junior could get on at a reasonable hour; it was 11 30 or later by the time we got off. They had been drinking, it was loose, but really great, lots of great song and great feels.
This is where is started to get weird. We re-commenced drinking (because of New Hampshire’s strict drinking laws there was no drinking, no open drinks, or no thinking of drinking on stage). There was some sort of Bacholorette party going on consisting of about a half dozen really drunk women, one of whom came down the stairs, grabbed the microphone and began to sing what I thought to be improvised country lyrics, out of tune and completely out of key with the band. The band took it well enough, but when they because confident that they were not getting their mic back, they ended the song. Then she began to sing a cappella, and the band broke into a minute of a bluesy improve, and stopped again. Pete, the singer was trying to physically pry the mic away from this woman, who was by someone’s standards good looking, and as she sang, performed PG rated stripper moves. Once Pete got the mic she grabbed on to him and gave him an incredible, wet, sloppy, tonsil diving kiss that lasted upwards of a minute. Afterward he explained his dispassionate expression during this by saying “. It was gross, she had the worse breath.” The band began again, and she ran up again, this time going for the backing vocal mic. Fortunately, or unfortunately, that mic was either not on, or not up enough, so she became discouraged and left. It’s hard to express how bizarre it was. Anyway, the band finished up with about an hour’s worth of music, and it was hang around time.
My friend Mike came to visit from NYC, along with Rebecca from Boston. They were as drunk as I’d seen anyone by the time the band was done. We all milled around and enjoyed hanging out, having a few drinks, and having a laugh over all the little mishaps of the night.
We thanked the band and said goodbye to Pete who was returning to NYC the next day, and then we set out for the Friendly Toast for some late night eats. A bit more then halfway there we ran into some trouble. We were in front of a jewelry store (which as some of you may know could be anywhere in Portsmouth), and some drunken jock/gorillas were walking by us. One of them could not see where he was going, and bumped into Mike. Probably due to the fact he was an asshole, and augmented by his drunkenness, he began to push Mike and yell, just for fun apparently. At which time the drunken Mike put a big kiss on his cheek, kinda like bugs bunny would do, why we may never know. He DID NOT like that, and he became hysterical. Now Mike is not a big guy at all, and apparently has move balls then brains, because as the guy said, “you can’t kiss me” he said something to the effect of: “boo hoo hoo.” The guy began to swing and punch and as his friends tried to pull him off I went to pull Mike off, however, Mike didn’t need any pulling off, because he wasn’t really doing much at the time. At this time, Adam popped in and was promptly pushed down, so quickly that I didn’t even notice. So the guy cornered Mike in a stairway, and I went from pulling Mike off of him, to assisting this guy’s friend in pulling him off. At this time Mike was doing some damage to this guy’s fist with his face. The guy not very happy to be pulled off of him, and as we backed up, his friend pulled him away, and I was left standing alone oddly enough, Mike was standing there next to me also unbothered, a feeling that he later described as becoming “invisible,” and now this guy was turning on his friend for interfering with his efforts, he spun around and clocked him. Adam had gotten up, and I said,” lets go, come on.” Mike wanted more, why I don’t know, but I pulled him away, picked up my guitar and we started walking away at a leisurely pace. From what I can tell, the guy and his friends were now fighting without us. I think they did something to set off an alarm at the Jewelry store, probably by slamming each other up against windows, a loud bell started ringing. We were still walking away, Mikes face covered in his own blood, and just then two cop cars that were sitting in an ally heard the alarm and began to respond to the alarm, as they passed us Mike yelled out, “don’t arrest him, I LOVE HIM…”
We entered the Friendly Toast, but I had to go to them ATM machine. On my way back, I saw the “scene” now with 6 cop cars (every car Portsmouth had as far as I know) some sort of riot going on, and that guy and his friends being stuffed into the back of cop cars. I didn’t hang around to watch, incase someone would see me and yell; there’s one of them! Or something like that. I went back to the Toast and started eating. Mike insisted he was “fine” although the cut above his eye was big, and his eye was swelling up. Charlie showed up late, as usual, and when we filled him in on what he missed in the street, he seemed quite upset to miss it. We ate, paid and I headed home.
As I walked down the street I heard someone call my name, I looked up and it was Sid and Pete from Junior on the roof of Bull Moose Music, with about 4 other people. I went up to Sid’s apartment, crawled out the window and across a building and jointed them. I started by telling them this story. We sat around listening to “the Eagle’s Greatest Hits” and then a couple of guitars came out and it turned into an Eagle’s Greatest Hits sing-a-long. The roof was covered in rubber and was quite comfortable, and it was a nice night out. We then sang some other songs, and did “Junior” style versions of songs by Cyndi Lauper, and Tommy Two-tone. Then it began to rain, but not hard, so we kept singing. We were out of beer and it was getting close to 4am, then Pete said, “…Are we sick of getting rained on yet?” Which was the rhetorical question we’d all been waiting for and we headed inside, and then I headed home. I got home at about 4:30.
Would I do it all again? Of course I would. The only thing I’d change would be I’d bring my guitar in a hard case instead of a gig bag, so I could use it to beat up the Drunken Jock-rillas up with. Thanks to Junior for a fun night out.