Friday, May 30, 2014

Down at the Courthouse

I spent all day in court today, and it was a fascinating experience.

 No, I wasn't on trial, I was on a jury.

Night before, I called the recording, to see if the trial whose juror pool I was in had been cancelled. Half the time, that happens.

Not this time. Come on down!

 I got there and found there were seventeen of us who showed up, for a jury of six. Pretty good odds I wouldn't get picked. But, to my surprise, after the questions from the judge and the litigants, I found myself in a juror's chair, impaneled for a criminal trial.

(I am not mentioning names here, to protect the innocent and the guilty, but it was so interesting I needed to share it.)

The DA was a lawyer, one presumes, but the defendant elected to serve as his own counsel. His right, of course, but perhaps not the best notion, since he didn't seem to have any grasp of the concept of law as I understand it.

Not that I was impressed with the DA, an obvious newbie who fumbled and spent a lot of time looking for things in a stack on notes without finding 'em. I kept thinking, You should ask about this. Or why aren't you objecting to to that?

I think the judge must have had similar thoughts, though he had a pretty good poker face. At one point, the judge looked at the DA: "Do you have an objection?"

"Uh ... Yeah?"

"On what grounds?"

"Uh ... Relevance?"


The crimes at issue were DUII, failure to produce a license, and resisting arrest. What happened was, one fine midnight last summer, a patrol cop saw a funny-looking license plate on a car in our town. Not a state plate, but one, it turned out, that had been privately produced

Here the concept of "sovereignty" arises; the driver was apparently one of those folk who believe that state and local laws don't apply to him. He kept demanding that the judge dismiss all charges since he had no jurisdiction; he was not driving, by his definition; and he wouldn't even acknowledge his name. Also, he allowed, the judge was committing treason.

It kind of went downhill from there ...

Meanwhile, back at the traffic stop: The officer lit his lights and pulled the car over. He approached, smelled alcohol, and found what he thought was an intoxicated and non-cooperative driver, with a female passenger.

The driver slurred his words and appeared to be swacked. The officer was sporting a recorder, and had cams going in his unit. We saw the vid, heard the recording, and while we couldn't see inside the car, we heard the conversation and saw the arrival of back-up officers, the suspect was arrested, and one of the officers found two opened bottles of whiskey in the car. Heard the officer say, "You are intoxicated, sir," and heard the defendant agree.

Among a lot of other stuff I'll skip over. ...

 The defendant said some fairly odd things in his opening statement, going to his interpretation of the Constitution, along with some admissions of past transgressions I wouldn't have brought up, including arrests and stints in solitary. And why he didn't show up for previous arraignments, because he was afraid of being killed.

I know clothes don't matter, but the defendant wore a baggy T-shirt and shorts and Nike sneakers. Even in Oregon, that seems a tad underdressed, but, we weren't trying his wardrobe.

The law says, the state has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, no matter how odd the defendant seems, so we sat back and listened and watched as they did just that. It wasn't a slam dunk, we had legitimate questions, but there was a lot of evidence.

The defendant had nothing, he blew a lot of smoke, and tried to impeach the city, state, and justice system. He asked that the entire population of Oregon be called as his witness.

 The judge denied that one, too.

 He put his girlfriend on the stand and asked her if the stop violated her (and his) constitutional rights. In her opinion, yes, it had.

The judge was good, more patient than I would have been, and at times, doing his job, and both litigants' jobs, too. He had to, since they weren't doing much with them ...

Eventually both sides rested, gave their closing statements, and we were instructed by the judge as to the law and our obligations.

We went off to deliberate. It didn't take long; we elected a foreman, we discussed a couple of technical points, but came to a unanimous conclusion, told the clerk, and went back to the court.

Gave our verdicts: guilty on all three charges.

We were thanked, and dismissed. Since the sentence was about to be delivered, most of hung around to hear it.  The DA offered recommendations, based on the defendant's record, which wasn't spotless, and the time was a few days in jail on each count, fines, and probation.

The judge started, but the defendant began reading a prepared statement/manifesto that indicated  the whole proceeding was naught but a sham. Judge told him to be quiet. He wouldn't shut up. The judge had officers come and stand the guy, handcuff him, and hold him. Again, the judge started to offer the sentence, whereupon the defendant collapsed to the floor as if he'd been pole axed.

Juror next to me leaned over and said, "He's faking!"

My exact thought.

The police called for paramedics. The judge allowed as how he would postpone sentencing until Monday, whereupon the supposedly-unconscious defendant sprawled on the courtroom floor said "I object!"

I left then, just as the FD's EMT's arrived in their truck ...

Never a dull moment ...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sax and Violins ...

Another gun control debate popped up on a site that I frequent, and I decided not to engage, save for a passing reference to crazy people running amok. 

I think I'll amplify that here, though. I'm not the first to address this aspect of it, won't be the last, but my take on it ...

Guns are an effect, not the cause. Yes, undoubtedly if all boomware just ... went away tomorrow, there would be a lot fewer of us slaughtered, in war, or on the streets and in the bedrooms, no question. 

We are a violent species, and in America, more so than most "civilized" nations. Violence is the first tool a lot of us reach for when a problem arises. If we are ever to get past our primal natures and pointed teeth, we have to deal with who and what we are. Tribal, violent, not far from the killer apes, driven by prehistoric urges and old, old hardwiring. There's no quick fix for this.

We kill each other because that is our nature. Guns are more efficient tools for doing what we do.

Take away guns, and I guarantee you that people will still kill each other. It will be harder, because offing somebody with a knife means you have be close enough to get blood on yourself, but killing won't stop until the urge to slay goes away, or somehow gets re-channeled. 

Take away a would-be killer's gun, you take his ability to do it wholesale with little training. If he really wants to do it, he has a plethora of weapons, from blades to automobiles to Molotov cocktails. To pressure cookers.

The site I mentioned is mostly full of liberals, many of whom with hearts that bleed even more than mine. (They think, some of them, that I am a jackbooted right wing thug.) 

During another discussion, somebody started a list of desert island movies–those you'd take along if you could pick a dozen. 

Some great movies among 'em, some less so, but I checked about a hundred of them at random, and you know what? Almost all of them are dripping with violence, and much of that killing violence, necessary to resolve the story. 

I heard Harlan Ellison give a talk once about the original Star Trek, back in the early seventies. How many of the episodes are resolved without violence? How many have no physical violence in them at all?

There are a handful of comedies or coming-0f-age or loves stories in the favorite movies lists in which somebody getting bashed, or shot, or threatened with either (or both) aren't part of them.

What does that say about liberals? What we find entertaining? From Zulu to Star Wars to Casablanca, people being bashed or shot are front and center.

Kind of like saying you love animals while you chow down on bacon-wrapped sirloin steak. Different kind of "love ..."

I'm not claiming any purity there, what I write features a lot of fisticuffs and firearms, I am not holding myself up as the example of anything  ... well, save somebody who's noticed that such is the way of things, and is hereby pointing it out ...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Inadvertent Accident Prevention

Walked over the local Safeway for something out of which we ran. The intersection of Murray and Allen is a good way to die, so I always wait for the crosswalk sign, and even then, it's risky.

Standing there, and a guy with a red-tipped white cane comes up next to me. Got some sight, I can tell, but he's checking for the curb. 

I pushed the crosswalk button. Waited.

Light turned red, we got the walk sign, I started to step off, then saw that the woman barreling down Allen wasn't going to stop. I pointed my finger at her, and pissed off, yelled "Whoa!" rather loudly.

I am talking, wake-people-up-from-a-coma loud. Scare-away-the-werewolves loud.

She looked at me–made eye contact–and blew right through the light, never slowing.

Those are the times when you wish you had a zap ray that would freeze a car's engine into a block of dry ice. Along with the driver ...

The somewhat-blind guy next to me said something, and I realized that if I hadn't yelled, he probably would have stepped in front of the car.

Just another day in Paradise ...

Monday, May 19, 2014

Down at the Pub ...

Went yesterday to an open blues/rock jam at a pub on the West Slope, twixt Beaverton and Portland, off Canyon Road, place called The Lehrer. Probably fifteen players, mostly guitars, but there was a sax, harmonica, keyboard, a cello, and a soprano uke to go with my tenor.

The venue features live music most nights, and business is apparently not all that good, but it's a nice-sized place, pool tables, pizza, burgers, like that. You are in the neighborhood, drop by and support them ...

Good selection of songs, ranging from "Nobody Knows You When You Are down and Out," to "All Along the Watchtower." Couple of little kids with their father, a teenage girl who had a terrific voice, and players older and younger than I.

Somebody would offer to lead a song. They'd write the chords on a whiteboard, and then we were off. Had to figure out when to switch chords on your own, and you either knew the words or not, but the group was surprisingly tight. 
I didn't take a solo, nor did I get up and lead a song at the mike, but I strummed away pretty good, put a couple of scratches on the uke, wabi-sabi ...  

Aside: Wabi-sabi, a Japanese concept about aesthetics, is fascinating. Three basic tenets: Nothing is perfect, nothing is finished, nothing lasts ...  

Next time, I'll try a solo break, and maybe even offer to get up and lead a song. Hubba, hubba ...

Acoustic, in that most of us weren't plugged in save the keyboard and a bass player, but the song leader had mikes for vox and whatever instrument s/he played.

Fine time, good dark beer, three hours. My beautiful spouse sat at a table nearby, nursed a beer, and crocheted ...

Thursday, May 15, 2014


Our jam group, the Closet Musicians–and no, the name doesn't mean we came out of the closet, that's where most of us kept our instruments for years before dusting them off–is doing another gig in a couple weeks.

In an attempt to be ... something, we decided that maybe it was a good idea to get T-shirts with our band's logo on them.

The logo, though it's hard to tell, is a cabinet door, i.e., the "closet door ..."

The problem is, while everybody thought the idea of a T-shirt was fun, agreement on anything else was ... well, there wasn't any agreement. First, was deciding what the logo should be. Then, some of us wanted the shirts in different styles, because we range in size from toothpick-thin to extra-hefty. Some of us wanted the logo big and centered on the front, some liked the idea of a pocket logo, some wanted it down the side or on the back. And leave us not even get into colors.

When, at one point, I allowed as how the logo ought not be be as low on the front as somebody suggested because when you tucked in your shirt, that would hide part of it, I was told that nobody tucked in their shirt except me ...

So, to the end of trying to satisfy everybody, I bought a couple boxes of T-shirt transfers. Here's the deal, I said. I'll send everybody the .jpg of the logo. You print it out, and iron it onto whatever style or color of shirt you want, and wherever you think appropriate. We will be the rainbow coalition ...

Not exactly Solomon, but hey, we try ...

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Fellow Travelers

At the World Horror Con in Portland this weekend, I finally met a woman writer with whom I have been corresponding for like, fourteen years. She had a boyfriend and I had a buddy, and they were the same, which is how we met online, way back when. Shortly thereafter, she and he went their separate ways, and while I hung on for a longer time, I came to sympathize with her position pretty quickly as I found myself  headed toward the same place. Took me longer to get there.

I'm not mentioning names here, in a thinly-disguised attempt to protect the guilty. 

We met up at the con, had lunch, and spent much of it trashing our old ex-friend, who was, when you got right down to it, no two ways about it, a self-centered dick. We continued to be amazed at ourselves, that it took us so long to realize that's who he really was ...

As I have learned more than a couple times, the truth waits for eyes unclouded by longing.

Or, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest. 

And the same thing said a little differently: None so blind as those who will not see ...

What I tell you three times must be true.

That projection one does of the characteristics we want  in somebody can be a very thick, self-generated fog. Hey, he's really a nice guy, people don't know him as well as I do, they miss his good points. 

Or, as it sometimes happens, not having a horse in that race to root for, they view it more objectively, and they do see something you have elected to overlook ...

He's really a nice guy? Naw, he's a self-centered dick ...

Anyway, what it does when you finally have the Come to Realize Moment is make you wonder why the hell you didn't see it a long time ago? Makes you feel stupid ...

Ah, well. Water. Bridges. Lots of the former under the latter ...

It was great to finally see her in the flesh. The only disconnect was, that after years of email hither and yon, her voice wasn't quite what I expected. Since I hadn't heard her speak but once, on the telephone, a dozen years and some back, and then only for a few moments, having an expectation of her voice was based entirely on seeing her words in print. You miss the cadence, the tone, the inflection, the funny accents. 

I liked her before, and more so now. 

And our opinion of our ex-boyfriend, ex-buddy? Still a self-centered dick, as far as we are concerned ...

Monday, May 05, 2014

Marylhurst Hand Made Instrument Show 2014

We did our annual visit to Marylhurst this past weekend, always a delight. There were the usual instruments: Classical, acoustic, harp- and electric guitars; violins and violas; mandolins; flutes, banjos, harps, ours  and even a guy making harpsichords. There were some vintage instruments on display, old resonator guitars and a uke, even a pedal-steel from long ago. People selling instrument wood, inlay material, tuner buttons, shop gear.

And a few ukulele makers.

Talked to a few makers, admiring their art and craft. Had a fascinating conversation with the harpsichord maker. Touched base with Woodley White, who not only remembered that I bought a uke from him last year, but who wondered if I was still playing it in Low-G.

Typically, my wife and I make a couple passes through the showroom, then head over to the music venue, in the hall next door. This year, the old chapel had been redone, new floors and carpets and chairs, even new glass doors. The acoustics stayed great.

We listened to three of the fifteen-minute mini-concerts: Peter Zisa and Doug Smith playing classical and steel-string acoustic guitars by John Mello; then Travis Stine and Dane Lum Ho showcasing guitars and ukuleles by Kerry Char and Mark Roberts. Terrific players, all, and SRO to sit and listen. Maybe ... seventy-five, eighty people listening quietly.

Travis and Dane, who play in a local group, Dope Kine, did standards, jazz, and Hawaiian stuff, and were most impressive. Travis is our local version of Jake, and most adept. He rotated through instruments by Char and Roberts, three tenor ukes and a baritone, and they all sounded great under his fingers.

A few images ...

Above, Lute, by Ken and Emrys McWryn

Sunday Concert List

Harpsichord in progree, Byron Will

Ukes, by Kenneth Senn

Dragon, koa uke, by Woodley White
(Image is wood-burned in)

Koa uke, Kerry Char

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Old Pro

Got invited to the WHC, to do a workshop. I thought they made a mistake: You want my daughter, I said, she's the horror writer.

No, she's already coming, we did mean you.


Well, when I first started, I did dabble, wrote a few shorts with horror motifs, but nobody remembers those. 

How about Aliens and Predators

Yeah, okay, science fiction, but an element of horror. 

What about Indiana Jones and the Army of the Dead? Wasn't that about, you know, zombies?

Um, yeah ...

Maybe I will get that T-shirt ...

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Uke Book Goes Live ...

I just listed the uke book at, should be live in twelve hours, so they say. Also going to be on Smashwords, which will, in theory, allow it to be on iBooks. (Though Smashwords is so anally-retentive that they kick back files and refuse to list them in their premium catalog if there is a crooked comma. Generally, I give that a couple shots and then give up. I don't sell that many books there anyhow, and is a lot easier to deal with.)

About 37,000 words, a short memoir, full of my usual blather and odd bits of this 'n' that. I don't expect it will set the world on fire, but the spew helped me ease the obsession a little.

Something on your mind and you are a writer? Lay it out, that's the best way to exorcise it ...

I tried a new format on the upload, be interesting to see how that comes across. 

Now, back to fiction ...