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A Nation Of Sheep

January 31st, 2014

It’s all getting to be just a bit much…

Are you a cat person or a dog person?
Righty or Lefty?
Packers or Bears?
Catholic or Jew?
Red State or Blue?
Legal Pot or Not?
South Park or Simpsons?
Equal Rights or Man & Woman?
Yankee or Southerner?
Introvert or Extrovert?
USA or Canada?
Liberal or Conservative?
Country or Rock?
Pro-Choice or Pro-Life?

We have unlimited divisions and labels we put upon one another; so many that we no longer need Orwellian war mongering to fill our hearts and heads with anxiety or fear. Corporate media poses simple questions on difficult topics so we can democratically “participate” with intentionally polarizing polls that increase ratings and lessens our hope as we stand divided on yet one more thing; usually separated by the thinnest of error margins, in a far from scientific survey. But we can put all our differences aside at primetime for the latest hit reality show, The Housewives of Pekin, Illinois. Oh, how I hate that Margaret…

What happens when we rise above an insecure, immature need for others to agree with our perspectives and opinions? What if we made greater effort to find common ground and unity with one another and could let countless divisions roll? I’m not wanting to hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” with anyone, but it feels that we are nearing a point, with our hyperconnectedness and increasing intelligence where we could have more (some?) dialog about what’s being to delivered to us as news and politics and information. If we discover the value of one another, and start to defend the importance our differences, what kind of changes could be made together?

“A Nation Of Sheep Will Beget A Government Of Wolves”
Edward R. Murrow


End of Oceanside Double Wide and the Start of Something New

December 16th, 2012

As the holidays become histories, a new year turns and yet another birthday approaches, my priories shift as new projects and ideas dominate my thought process. When I began ODW this past May, the goal was to capture a new genre of music I had discovered (surf pop/dream pop) and share the best of it (in my opinion) with anyone else interested in the same. And while I discovered some amazing songs by several great bands, the reality is that my musical tastes so frequently extend beyond the bounds of just a genre or two that I found myself handcuffed and needed to WORK to seek out something just for ODW, and that became a chore when I would rather be listening to something else entirely.

Further, as the 10 year anniversary of Joe Strummer’s death approaches I’ve found myself studying his own BBC radio program (London Calling) and discovering excitement within the more global perspective that Joe’s weekly mixes provided. A big part of my new music obsession wonders; What Would Joe Be Listening To Now? Almost simultaneously with the renewed interest in Joe’s radio show, and his one-off video show with Dick Rude, Global Boom Box , my favorite music discovery site, BandCamp.com, gets even more social and adds me to their beta test group. I discovered powerful new social features that allow even GREATER exploration of musical genres by new, purely do-it-yourself (DIY) artists that Joe, and the organization that followed his death, Strummerville, work so diligently to support and promote.

My new project path is clear. Taking inspiration from Joe’s ‘London Calling’ program, starting next week I will be creating a weekly, 28 minute radio show (and podcast) exploring a vast variety of great music from various points around the globe, while also stepping back in time occasionally to feature artists that provided the fundamental musical architecture we continue to enjoy today. Special attention will be dedicated to today’s true DIY musicians utilizing BandCamp, SoundCloud and other affordable web tools that reduce the barriers and costs between artists and fans. Having recently read David Byrne’s book, ‘How Music Works’, I was stunned to see how little artists actually earn -even once formerly “big” stars as David was while leading the Talking Heads.

This chasm between artists that create and release the vital music that improve the quality of our lives and their ability to pay the simplest of life’s expenses like rent, utilities, a child’s education and health insurance, has caused me to repeat a phrase from a well known Quentin Tarantino film; “Cough Up a Buck, You Cheap Bastard”. It is clear that the majority of self-proclaimed “music fans” feel very comfortable in taking the music they want without regard for payment or compensation to the artists or the countless others involved in the music making process. And that’s why I find something like the “Name Your Price” model that BandCamp.com makes so easy and convenient for artist and fan alike, so very intriguing as a potential to shift the economics for musicians today.

And so, while my vision for a weekly radio show is clear and I stand prepared to record my first episode live next Sunday (the 10 year anniversary of Joe Strummer’s passing), what I struggle with today is a name. While it’s easy to wear my Joe Strummer influences on my sleeve and call this weekly radio program “Strummer’s Boombox”, I also like the more abrasive and confrontational “Cough Up a Buck, You Cheap Bastard”. The second name might not prove to be beneficial for expanding into the public radio spectrum, but I have fewer concerns about that than I do about choosing a name that listeners would identify with and will allow for growth into additional media channels (like TV & videos). Please share your preference for a name below, as I already own domain names for both and started to create some Twitter accounts too.

Thanks in advance for your opinion and listening support going forward!

#ODWRIP

Strange Days Indeed

October 13th, 2012

Looking back one week ago and looking forward one week, we have three somewhat strange and yet similar anniversaries we are celebrating, or at a minimum paying respect to.

Last week was our one year anniversary for our move to North Carolina. You know what they say about time flies when there’s rum, well that theory has been proven true. I know I’ve spelled it out previously here and in other places and in other ways, but living near the ocean simply changes things. The people we are surrounded by have lived in other parts of our country and in other parts of the world. It’s amazing to chat with people at a restaurant or pub and say “I would love to go to X”. And almost always you will have someone who either lived in X, holidayed in X, spent months studying in X, surfed the shores of X, stormed the beaches of X back in ‘42 or just sold their cottage in X. But they still have friends there, “so if you want to visit for a month or two… “. When you are surrounded by people who aren’t from here, everyone seems friendlier and helpful. Whether it’s a new subdivision being built, like we had in Wisconsin, or here on our tiny island full of transplants most everyone, including the actual locals who’ve lived here the entire life, seem open.

Next week is our 15 year anniversary of marriage. We’ll be visiting Charleston, SC for the very first time, just a few hours south of us. We’ve heard many great things about this city and can’t wait to explore it while celebrating our very special occasion. While we have certainly experienced a lot together over these many years, what’s remarkable is how many people who were a part of our wedding, immediate family and friends, that are no longer with us. Just think about 1997. It doesn’t really seem like THAT long ago, but how much has changed in your life? Who isn’t here any more that was here then? I’m guessing that there have been at least a dozen people that were part of our wedding that are no longer living today. We will be thinking about them and remembering them especially this coming week.

Speaking of which, also coming up next week will be the three month anniversary of the death of one of my best friends, a high school buddy, a true mentor and groomsmen from my wedding. At the age of 45, he died because of a tragic accident while working on his car. While it remains difficult for me to really express how saddened I am to lose him from my life, I can’t even fathom the loss that his kids must still feel. He was a powerful person with a super sharp mind, cutting wit and yet a tremendously kind heart. As the saying goes, he did not suffer fools gladly. He did not surround himself with people who were disrespectful, lazy or negative. Frequently now I find myself thinking, what would Dave do in this situation or what would Dave think about this person, how would he respond? WWDD? Somehow, after working for and with Dave for over twenty years, I don’t think I’ll ever shake the influence he’s had on the person I am, nor do I want to.

Dave and I shared many passions; cigars, the water, driving fast, coffee, Jamaica and always music. I can’t even give a good guess on many concerts we’ve been to together. When I began my career as a club DJ in the late 80’s, Dave was there to support me,even though it was clearly a distraction to my day job (where he was my manager). When I became a radio DJ in the early 90’s, once again Dave would show up at some of the remotes we would do and he even stopped by the studio during one of my ridiculously early morning shifts (starting in radio you almost always need to work a shift from 12am-6am Sunday morning). When I launched 80s Airwaves at midnight on May 1, 2004, Dave and his wife were there, yet again, despite the fact that this new 24/7 radio station of mine would clearly be a distraction from my important position within his now much larger multi-million dollar franchise company. Even after we closed our online radio station late in 2005 and I left his company in June of 2006, we continued to talk about music – what we liked, who we were going to see and always keeping that passion for music going. At one point in 1998, during the dawn of the mp3’s, when I returned back from the MP3.com “fest” he suggested we start a record label. How I truly wish we would have done that together - imagine that stories we would have today!

As all of these past events seem to collide now, I can’t help but think back to times in my life when music wasn’t an integral part of me. My earliest memories are of my uncle playing his Beatles and Bee Gees records, and the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar. My mom giving me some of the 45s that she listened to and the most recent K-Tel album she bought. Following t Dave’s funeral services friends from high school would tell me about the cassettes they still owned that I made them (fondly called “Shit Tapes” by Dave because it was always a mix of “all kinds of different shit”). Even when I quit WCBR in 1991, I almost immediately began producing a musical tip sheet (sent via fax) for other radio stations to introduce and educate them on new/upcoming bands, called Radio’s Dead. Don’t know why that didn’t take off… Rarely has there been a point in my life where I’m not surrounded by music.

And these days are no exception. This past May 1st, eight years to the day after we launched 80s Airwaves, I launched Oceanside Double Wide (ODW). While it began on Facebook as a place for me to post up new music that I was enjoying, it has since evolved into its own website (at OceansideDoubleWide.com) and very shortly will be evolving again into a weekly audio podcast.

Now, let’s talk about the music! Since moving to the island a year ago, I have become intrigued by surfer culture. The idea that people truly live to surf was new and unique to my Midwestern roots where it seems the majority live to work. The notion that someone would work a low-paying, yet somewhat flexible hourly position so they could escape when the surf was good was very entertaining to me. But time and time again, in restaurants, retail stores, shops and pubs, you would find great people, young and old, who worked what they needed to work just to cover the rent on whatever low rent space they could find and put some food in the fridge, only so they could focus on surfing. Where the lived or where they worked, didn’t really matter so long as they were close to the water. This is where the idea for Oceanside Double Wide came from. They have their own community and will frequently look out for one another. They don’t just keep each other informed about pending storms and wave conditions, but who’s hiring and who was fired, where to get a mixologist license, who has the cheapest beer, or the best pot or a scooter they can borrow to get off the island for a concert tonight.

As I grew to genuinely admire this loose network and this new lifestyle, I started to discover music that seemed to be in alignment with this ethos. Free flowing, glowing warm and yet open wide and expansive. Many music blogger describe this music genre as “surf pop” or “beach pop” or “chillwave” or “dream pop” but the lines are very blurry at times, and that’s a GREAT thing! Because as I explore these music “tags” using Tumbl, SoundCloud and BandCamp, we start to expanding into other genres like “surf rock”, “surf punk” or just plain old “surf”. Many of these tags overlap and are frequently cross-tagged with genres like “skabilly”, “lo-fi” or “garage rock” or “rockabilly”. Clearly these are not new musical genres, but they do represent a new means to explore great new musical artists. And my goal with ODW is simply to bring the best of this mess to the surface.

In the upcoming weeks I will be attempting to find a way to do an hour-long weekly show, taped live (probably on Sunday mornings) and then released as an mp3 podcast (via iTunes and the other top podcast channels). I truly look forward to this project and sincerely hope to maintain my commitment to the once weekly schedule. Once again, I think Dave would not just support my direction with this, but would likely appreciate some of the music as well. If it sounds like something that might interest you, I’ll hope you will take part as we roll forward.

Most peculiar mama…

Double Wide Oceanside

February 13th, 2012

As I come within spitting distance of my 45th birthday, I really can’t help but wonder about my life and how it might compare with others my age. Is anyone who’s 45 today really living the life they thought they would have 25 years earlier at the ripe age of 20? Below I’ve detailed about fives hours of my life from this past Saturday, a very small snippet of all my years so far, but I believe that I have a very unusual life.

Following my fifth workout of that week, for the fifth week straight, and now ready to celebrate two off days in a row, we decide to visit Jack Mackerel’s Island Grill in Kure Beach for lunch; barely a mile away from our little beach rental. During the quick trip to the restaurant, we pause to take in some of the new “for rent” signs on a few of the homes and trailers along the way. We are in the process of negotiating a rent-to-own agreement with the current owners of our duplex two blocks from the beach. While things seem to be moving in the right direction (progress!) with negotiations, there is still a possibility that our rental term will end in April and we’ll find ourselves temporarily homeless. Driving south from Carolina Beach to Kure Beach there is an odd combination of million dollar oceanfront homes adjacent to $40,000 trailers dropped on lots decades ago – almost all of which are in Carolina Beach. Kure Beach is cleaner, consistent and very AARP. As we contemplate our various housing possibilities, I remind my wife of a new term I’ve adopted since living in Carolina Beach; Double Wide Oceanside. I go on to suggest that just as we use to be “broadcasting live from a bonus room over the garage” for 80s Airwaves, back in Wisconsin, when I win that third of a billion dollars on Powerball tonight, my new country/surf/reggae radio station will broadcast live from a “Double Wide Oceanside”. Welcome to the Redneck Riviera!

As has become a new habit for our weekend lunches at Jack’s, we begin with the Jack’s Punch – an exciting blue boat drink that comes with an unnecessary yet attractive orange slice. This greases the rails for frank discussion about what to do with the third of a billion that’s just waiting for the mere formalities of drawing bouncing balls and then writing an oversized check in my name. We determine pretty quickly over our hummus platter (highly recommended) that our wants are really pretty narrow: eliminate debt, once again (getting out of Connecticut did not come cheap), buy a home on Cape Cod, get a decent size boat that would allow us to swiftly travel from Carolina Beach up to Cape Cod or out to the Bahamas or potentially even down to Cuba, once it’s legal, of course. I don’t know ANYONE who would travel to Cuba these days. And finally, we would travel often, beyond the boat that is. There’s lots to see and do and as I’ve said at least four times, you won’t know if you don’t go. Aimee would of course keep doing her personal training via Skype thing and I would launch Double Wide Oceanside as a local/global radio station for our little Carolina Beach island community (and the one million tourists who visit our burned-out boardwalk every season).

After decimating my medium-rare BBQ Burger, along with a pair of Rolling Rocks (just $2 on Saturday’s!) we start our journey north to Wilmington. We’ve agreed to visit our new artist friend Drew during the “Art for All” show set for the Brooklyn Arts Center (BAC) on Fourth street in ILM. During the drive I outline a strange need to have outdoor movies again. While living in Wisconsin we had several nighttime, neighborhood bonfires where I set-up a projector borrowed from work, along with a portable DVD player and some wireless speakers and a long-ass power cord and we would show movies on the side of a neighbors shed. I’ve even used the back of my large 80s Airwaves vinyl banner as a screen, hanging from two fiberglass ladders, purchased especially for this outdoor movie purpose. But as per usual, I focus on naming/branding/domains first… The city of Carolina Beach already does free “family” movies in the park during tourist season. But I want something for adults – I want to show The Shining or Jaws or Zombieland on a rooftop somewhere or on the north end beach (Freeman Park) at 11pm at night. After running through a few name combinations, Aimee mentions “Zombie Surf Cinema” – which I think I like best.

Then our casual car conversation turns serious. The day before, I had left late in the morning to visit with Rich, the executive director of the same Brooklyn Arts Center we were now traveling to. My meeting was a follow up to an email I had sent them, which was a follow up to an email I had sent to the management team of The English Beat (and lead singer Dave Wakeling). Those of you who’ve followed my Twitter account or are friends of mine on Facebook know what a fan of Ska music I am and the many times we’ve seen The English Beat while living in CT. Now I have made it my mission to bring the Beat to Wilmington, come hell or high water. Unlike the larger surrounding cities of Charlotte, Raleigh or Myrtle Beach, Wilmington has a number of pubs, clubs and event spaces for concerts, but is usually passed-by the larger national musical tours. My goal is to change that, singlehandedly if necessary, starting with The Beat. And there are really two places to host such an event with about 200-400 of my new closest friends: the Soapbox Laundro-lounge (a combination of trendy night club and functional laundromat) or the BAC. My hour-long Friday meeting with Rich is highly informative and sheds new light on the concert event business that I’ve never known despite several years in radio and attending well over 100 concerts personally. Rich takes me on a personal tour of his 125 year old church that has been turned into a “world-class concert venue”. His quote, not mine, but I believe him. A week earlier Third-Eye Blind entertained over 700 Wilmingtonians in this same room.

But now reality was setting in for my usually highly supportive wife. She had begun asking questions on Friday afternoon about how many tickets needed to be sold, what kind of marketing had to be done, who pays for those things, where does the money come from and why do I need to be involved. All very good questions, and now, a day later, I am reminded of the serious financial state we are in. That as nice as it would be to bring The Beat to Wilmington, if its going to cost us thousands, we may as well travel four hours to Charlotte and see them the Saturday before (March 24th). Further discussion ensues but I am successful at postponing any promises or commitments until she actually experiences the BAC first hand for the art show that day.

Lucky for me, immediately after paying our cover charge to view Wilmington’s best local artists, wine and beer is available just inside the door. Beyond easing the tension between people and their pocketbooks, my new friend Rich is likely capturing 100% of this “net bar”. I provide a rough duplication of the tour for my wife that Rich graciously gave me the day before, but now with much more to see and do. I show her the upstairs “VIP” balcony where I would charge $50 per ticket for up to 50 people who want a “top-down” vantage point of the show (Republicans who can’t dance or be seen sweating) along with their own personal bartenders. I take her backstage – actually it’s more a side stage. Actually, it’s really side HOUSE, because a narrow passage way takes you to a 100+ year old house which functions as the dressing room(s) for the bands lucky enough to play the BAC. From the floor I point up to the beautifully draped cathedral ceilings and explain the LED lighting system that allows us to set the mood and color of the neutral drapes quickly and easily. And I also show her the back courtyard; an ideal space for a pre-show party or potentially even a separate event that might combine food and music for hundreds for a separate ticket price. Or maybe a meet and greet for the VIP ticket holders… The concert opportunities are endless and the wife seems duly impressed.

We venture back to meet up with our new artist friend Drew (“Andrew”, as his mother and father named him properly). I had been bothering Drew, in various states of drunken stupor, for months to paint an homage to Hunter Thompson for me. While he clearly doesn’t want to do commission work, he is a big fan of HST and, as it turns out today, is wearing a yellow t-shirt with a Ralph Steadman portrait of the good doctor. After our initial hello and discussion of his shirt – where I intentionally do NOT bring up wanting him to do an HST painting – he’s actually in the process of selling Rich and his wife one of his works. Something about UFO’s and Rich’s connection between his in-laws and UFO’s. Not sure I made the connection while downing my Yuengling tall-boy, but I’m happy to see Drew as a successful artist at this show. The social drink and artistic atmosphere seems to be working its effects on us as well, as we purchase a special rendition of the “Screamer” that Drew created last year. While we still aren’t even sure if we’ll have walls to hang it on three months from now, at least we’ll have something very cool and unique to hang in our tent. The wild canines that roam the North End beaches are certain to appreciate Drew’s work.

As we bid our friends adieu, fifty dollars poorer and slightly more spirited than when we started, we decide that heading back to the island doesn’t make sense given that we are already in downtown Wilmington. Intending to visit The Cellar, a pub that’s successfully eluded our hours of operation with theirs, we decided to hangout for a bit at the Pour House. After much discussion about Zombie movies and TV shows with a few of the local patrons/staff, and the Run For Your Life 5k zombie marathon, we stumble further down the block to discover that the Cellar still isn’t open. I remember that Orton’s pool hall, famous for being a part of Wilmington’s Haunted Pub Crawl (because it’s haunted) and because it was home to the pool table where Willie Mosconi set a world record run of pool balls (300+ I believe) has reopened. Late last year the place was closed due to “remodeling” and I am quickly disappointed to discover that remodeling included the removal of Willies world record pool table. Hopefully they didn’t remove the ghosts here as well. Is there a Ghostbusters franchisee in Wilmington? Aimee and I shoot some free pool and down another drink before making our way back to our little island home.

So now, after spending nearly 2,000 words describing roughly five hours of my life, I need to ask any forty-something friends: What the hell? Does your life resemble this in anyway? Are you having conversations about creating strange new radio stations, rent-to-own agreements for beach condos, screening zombie movies on rooftops or first time concert promotions with your spouse? I’m certainly not looking to live a “normal” life, but at the same time, this outside perspective seems a bit out there.

By the way, what are you doing on Sunday, March 25th?
I may have a great concert that you will not want to miss!

-pjc

A New Year for You

December 31st, 2011

Today is the one day during the past 364 that people take a look back on their lives and reflect, while tomorrow will be the occasion we spend the most time thinking about the future. Coincidentally, today also happens to be the first anniversary of the death of a close friend, Jim Bean. I’ve written about my “ALS Friend” on this blog previously, but this may be the first time I’m naming names. Jim’s confidence, attitude and public bravado in dealing with such a debilitating disease will never be forgotten by me. He never seemed too concerned about himself, his primary concern was for his daughters and ensuring they had a good education. As my 45th birthday prepares to meet me in just six weeks, I can’t help but think of Jim only making it to 45, or my father making it to 53, or another friend lost this past September, Craig Pound, at just 43.

One person certain to be a part of “those remembered” TV specials and top ten lists of all kinds is Steve Jobs. While many think of the Macintosh introduction in 1984 as the start of Apple fan-boys, my appreciation for Apple goes back even further. Upon arriving as a freshman to WHS in 1981 (Good god, have I really been diddling with computers for 30 years now…), I was genuinely intrigued by these interesting black Bell & Howell computers being used in the library and for gaming/warring conventions (this was also around the same time as my brief foray into Dungeons and Dragons). It turns out that these computers were basically Apple II’s in slight disguise and so began a 20 year admiration for just about everything Apple and certainly a strong respect for Steve Jobs and Woz as founders of the company. To this day, I still believe that Woz (Steve Wozniak) was really the brains behind the creation of the very first Apple and Mr. Jobs was always about sales and marketing (and eventually design at all costs). And if I’ve said it once, I’ve probably said it 13 times, if you know how to market, you can do just about anything.

Following Steve’s death this past year, there were so many tributes, quotes, Youtube videos, commercials, magazine covers and such that it became just a bit too much. While the old advertising adage says “sex sells”, so to does death. Probably the most circulated, or viral video following his death seems to be Steve’s commencement address in 2005 to a graduating class at Stanford, two years after his diagnosis for pancreatic cancer. Here’s the quote from within that speech that I posted on my Facebook wall on Oct 6th:

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

-Steve Jobs (2005)

Are you following your heart? What are your dreams for your coming years? I don’t care about what your goals were when you were 8, 18 or 28, but what is important to you now? Just a few months ago, Aimee and I fulfilled an important dream by moving to North Carolina. And, even beyond that, moving to Carolina Beach, NC – a great coastal community with a strange, almost artistic mix of full-time residents and tourists. We truly love it here and have absolutely no regrets about the compromises or costs that have been made in order for us to be here every day. We sometimes feel guilty about shopping for Christmas trees in shorts and flip-flops, or Coastal Carolina BBQ for our Christmas dinner or even today, Dec 31, when the high will likely be near 70. But that guilt doesn’t last for long. As someone wise, probably a southerner, once said; God doesn’t give extra credit for living in crappy places.

As the new year arrives, and another year gets added to our lives, please remember that your life is now. Take some time on Sunday, January 1 to restate, commit to your dreams by writing your top 5 or 10 life goals; print them out and post them on your bathroom and closet doors. Do something every day that gets you closer to at least ONE of those goals. Each time Aimee and I took one more step to help us get to NC, I would state out loud: “Progress!” or “Momentum!” until it actually became a joke between us. Your true goals need to become projects, high priority projects, because they are really meaningless unless you are actually proactive about their accomplishment. There may be a lot of little bumps and shifts that eventually lead to a titanic change, but this is your only life.

Happy New Year Friends.

-pjc

PS: The stars must be in alignment again as I start to think about online radio again and the top five things I did wrong with 80sAirwaves as a business. Wheels are turning, but very slowly. Stay tuned!

Island Living

October 29th, 2011

When we moved 1,000 miles, from Wisconsin to Connecticut, we really made two mistakes: The first was not moving to North Carolina instead and the second was buying a home too quickly. This was in the later Summer of 2006, things were still pretty good with the economy and we had just turned a tidy profit on the sale of our Elkhorn home. Given that the first few months in CT were trying, we really craved the comfort of OUR home, with OUR stuff and a place where we could truly lock in for our first New England winter. We ended up in a great neighborhood, in a nice enough town, but within several more months we really came to realize that we jumped too soon.

Within the past month, we sold our CT home and have once again moved nearly 1,000 miles south to Wilmington, North Carolina. Not Wilmington proper, mind you, but close enough so that most people outside NC are ignorant of where Wilmington is, so we can say we moved here and people nod unknowingly. And now, having learned our CT home lesson, we are taking our time to get familiar with the areas in an around Wilmington and the personalities of the people here.

But before I get too in-depth about the geography, let me address the “why” question you may be asking. “If you have your own businesses, and can live and work anywhere, why in the world would you choose Wilmington?” Glad you asked. Over the past 10 years, we’ve been visiting NC and hitting the major cities (Charlotte and Raleigh) and many minors ones too. We’ve spent time down in South Carolina and traveled through the eastern seaboard enough to establish the following:

Florida is not even an option – too much heat, too much age (I actually saw two cars collide in slow motion during a not-so-recent business trip).

Georgia has a bit of coast, but with the time spent in Savanna and Tybe Island, it seemed small, both mentally and physically.

South Carolina is just a bit too much “south” for my liking. People are still fighting mental wars there and keeping the rebel flag alive, along with all of it’s psychological misgivings.

While some parts of Virginia are “south” enough, it’s proximity to Washington DC (and especially New Jersey) make it a haven for the summer parade of minivans wrapped tight with bikes, boards and crying babies.

But each of our vacation trips to North Carolina never ceased to draw us in with it’s low cost of living, friendly people who are culturally diverse and weather conditions that make is possible to not own a window scraper for each car. Wilmington, NC itself is a very historical port town – meaning that it’s haunted as hell and still has some amazing homes and beautiful buildings from the civil war era. It’s a college town too (UNCW) – meaning that you have a wonderful mix of pubs, boutiques, art galleries, theaters (stage & film), book and music stores, cafes and amazing restaurants. And similar too San Antonio’s or Savanna’s riverwalks, many of these downtown establishments are either along and steps away from the Cape Fear river. Which is at its most scary when you can actually tides, waves and ripples all moving in opposite directions!

But beyond the Cape Fear running along the Western edge of Wilmington, a 15-20 minute drive east can put you into a variety of beach communities, including Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach and Kure Beach (pronounced “cur-ray” by the locals). And if there’s any prerequisite we have, for where we live long term, it has got to be near the water. Really not sure if it’s our astrological signs (I am an Aquarius so that makes immediate sense), but we’ve always migrated toward the water and have always been happiest when large bodies of water were close by.

So now that we have moved to our ideal state, living in our ideal area, where do we actually want to live? The good news is that we found an off-season rental here on Carolina Beach, allowing us another six months before tourist season starts up again and we need to vacate our 3 bedroom, 3 bath, 3 floor duplex on “stilts” that sleeps 17, and is just two blocks from a very beautiful public beach. While six months should be enough time to determine our future “living” location, already in our first four weeks we’ve done a lot of exploring and are already starting to form biases and opinions:

Downtown Wilmington: One important detail missed while describing Wilmington earlier is a vibrant television and film industry entrenched here, mostly thanks to a Screen Gems Studio getting started many years ago. While most notably the home for the current TV series One Tree Hill, this past week it was announced that most of Iron Man 3 will be shot within our local studios, which was exciting news for most people here. I add this in because the cast of characters within the downtown area is a strange mix of college students, retirees, tourists, artists, homeless, Hollywood actors and film types, as well as pretty normal folks who find the rest of the other folks intriguing and interesting. There are certainly some shady parts of the downtown, but for the most part it’s a pretty peaceful and pleasant place to be. Would I want to live there full-time? The jury’s still out.

Suburban Wilmington: While the “metro” area of outside of Wilmington is pretty average, the eastern suburbs (including areas such as Masonboro, Bayshore and Ogden) all feature the expected trappings of a suburban life: large strip centers (Mayfaire), McMansions and import car dealerships with the 2012’s in-stock now to one-up those damn Jones’ next door. Along with the increase in incomes, comes ever-expanding subdivisions of new homes. Follow Masonboro or Greenville Loop roads and you’ll find a wide range of subdivisions, with typically the lesser expensive area on the left (west) and the closer to the water options to your right. You can spend hours just driving each of these little pockets of homes, and we have, to determine which one suits you and your lifestyle. Or maybe the answer is none.

Carolina Beach: With just four weeks of residency on this island town, we’ve already gotten to know many locals by name, are being recognized at our favorite shops and restaurants and may have already planted the seeds for a friendship or two. Historically Carolina Beach (CB) has been referred to as “Redneck Beach” and it doesn’t take long to understand why. Amongst a few 10 story, Oceanside hotels, you’ll find $750,000 beach homes standing proudly next to $20,000 trailers dropped as “new” on lots back in 1972. Being in a small community like this (less than 6,000 permanent residents) we have the ability to ride our bikes in order to handle most of our day-to-day tasks. Riding by bike also allows us to see numerous empty lots for sale, spec homes going up and more new “tropical” neighborhoods being developed. At least they seem more tropical than what’s being established on the “loop” roads, but maybe its the preponderance of freshly planted palms. But as we slowly move out of the tourist season we are quickly being embraced by the local community. And community is truly the best word to describe the openness and happiness witnessed on a daily basis within CB. We’ve truly lost track of how many strangers, upon hearing of our recent relocation, have welcomed us to North Carolina and told us how much we will love living here. If this is redneck hospitality, I’m all for it. Just don’t ask me to hang a rebel flag from my Jeep at any point soon. Now a Jolly Rodger on the other hand…

Monkey Junction got its name back in the day as a bus-stop that had a make shift zoo to keep tourists and enlisted soldiers entertained (with Monkey’s as it turns out). Today, there are still many businesses and local references to Monkey Junction, but for the census department, map makers and other government officials mostly refer to this area as Myrtle Grove. This is basically the last designated area before crossing the Snows Cut bridge to get on to Pleasure Island (and into the city of Carolina Beach). This may be an ideal spot as it still presents easy bicycle access to Carolina Beach (though it would require a trip over the massive bridge (which might be dangerous given our widely fluctuating levels of sobriety)) as well as being a few minutes closer to downtown Wilmington. Just like many other areas outside of Wilmington, new subdivisions have started to regain momentum with very affordable new homes starting as low as $125,000.

As we continue our exploration and adventures over the remaining months, it’s likely that these opinions will shift and change, but our underlying happiness remains. We are where we want to be and whether we’re purchasing soon, building new or continuing to rent, our joy about being here certainly borders on bragging to our friends and family back in New England and the upper-Midwest. When asked “how are things going?” it’s very difficult not to share the excitement and happiness we have. We have really determined that no matter where you are, you will always worry about having a good job: If you have your own business, you will always worry about having enough customers/clients and what the competition might be doing. But if you’re living where you want to live, then those worries are lessened and you work that much harder in order to stay where you really want to be.

Physical Love

May 15th, 2011

Several months back, in The Edge of Scarcity, I tried to define my “process” for targeting rare, out-of-print music DVDs, CDs and books, the tools I use and explained my rationale; as thinly logical as it was. Over these past months, I can’t help but wonder about the eventual death of physical media for books, music and movies given these recent events;

1. Borders: When I learned that Borders was closing stores early in the year, I was relived to learn that the location near my work place had survived the cut. That was short term. Today, that former Borders is another empty hole in a strip center with a “For Lease” sign covering the windows. While I generally used Borders as a newstand to buy the latest issues of my favorite magazines, the books, DVDs and occasional CDs I still purchase mostly come via eBay and gently used Amazon resellers (describe in December). The closing of all national Borders should be a concern to everyone, but so far only employees seem displaced and disgruntled by the turn of events. Personally, I think there would be a place for $5 book, CD, DVD retail store (used & new blended like Half-Price Books does so well) to compete with the likes of… Well, who was the competition for Borders? Barnes & Noble? Wal-Mart? Amazon and their Kindle? Do people read any more anyway?

2. Roku: For Christmas, Mrs. Claus (my wife), bought me a shiney new Roku box for our TV. The Roku tied into our high-speed wireless network immediately and within minutes I was selecting channels from my new toy. Current Roku “Channles” include; Amazon Instant Video, Revision 3, Weather Underground, Roku Newscaster, My Damn Channel (I LOVE Cookin’ with Coolio), Khan Academy, The TWiT Network, Vajra TV (go Buddhists!), Chow, TED, blip.TV, UFC, Hulu Plus and Crackle (reruns of Good Times cannot be underestimated!). So between Netflix offering 12,000 movies available instantly and Amazon Instant providing hundreds of the most current rental options (we’ve seen The Fighter, Inception & Black Swan) and our Hulu Plus queue keeping our TV reality current with Shark Tank, Food Revolution and 30 Rock, we now watch about physical DVD/Blu-Ray once a month, maybe.

3. HDMI Laptop: The second shift was when my former laptop took a turn for the worse at the start of the year, I began researching my options and ended up with a Toshiba with a HDMI output. With a 12′ HDMI cable and a dual monitor setting, I can write this post on my laptop screen while our 32″ LCD displays a wide-variery of YouTube videos, full online episodes of Amazing Race & Celebrity Apprentice (not available on Hulu directly) and any other movies or videos I happen to downloading using… OTHER services. Plus, the same laptop is connected via USB to a hard drive dock that contains a total of 3 terrabytes of storage. Why did I download all seasons and all episodes of the Odd Couple? Because I can. And because they weren’t available yet on Netflix or Crackle.

4. Netflix: While we had Netflix on the Nintendo Wii for many months prior to getting the Roku box, the Wii does not provide high definition out. A single HDMI connector handles both high-definition video and full-surround sound audio with ONE cable! Further, for whatever reason, our Wii seemed very forgetful about our local wireless network and so it sits collecting dust, waiting for us to check our weight and balance with Wii Fit. But the Netflix service continues to expand the available selection of instant, on-demand movies and TV shows. While not available for my Andoid (yet), my wife’s iPhone can tie in with our Netflix queue and pull any of that same content from wherever we are. While not as popular as Pandora for her, the idea of streaming music, movies or TV shows to a small device, like a phone, iPad or highly portal Roku box keeps us entertained anywhere we so desire.

5. Rdio & Google Music: While I was impressed with my former trial period of Rdio perviously, and how cool it was to tell my android to play a song, and it did, it simply wasn’t worth the $4.95 per month charge. But I really like the idea of being able to stream any music, in good quality whenever I wanted. Both Google and Amazon have recently announce a beta launch for a new music services that promises the same, plus more. Not only can you stream your music on demand, but with the Google service you can “pin” music to your device which uses your local storage to save your most important music, audio books, etc. to the device directly for flawless playback regardless of data network coverage.

So now, as me and Mrs. Claus prepare to move our entire lives again, I’m taking a long hard look at these hundreds of movies, music DVDs and CDs and wondering, what REALLY matters? What would NOT be available through these various services?
The surprising answer is… not much.

The edge of scarcity

December 10th, 2010

I always get nervous whenever my wife starts looking at my amazon wish list with the intent of buying me something for Christmas or my damned birthday. It’s not that I don’t want the things on my lengthy list (9 pages now), it’s that I have apparently created a complex system for what I buy and when.

The first step, as they say, is admitting you have an issue. Been there, done that. So I have an obsession, addiction, predilection, fascination, call it what you will, but I am a pure at heart music fan. My disposable income, which seems like a term that is dangerous to use these gray days, is mostly focused on biographies of musicians (books), CDs, music DVDs, “limited” edition box sets of sorts or some combination of the three. While this would probably be an acceptable hobby if I were just focused on a particular artist, say Bruce Springsteen, or a particular genre, say Ska, life would be okay as I would grow old with my strange fandom and highly obsessive “record collector” like state. But I am way too distracted to be interested in any one of anything for any prolonged period of time.

So, down to my “process” for buying what and why: Most of my casual web browsing time is spent looking through the music bios & DVDs currently being auctioned on eBay. That’s where things tend to start. I almost never pay any attention to the buy-it-now prices unless they are substantially below the $5 or $10 marks. Probably 90% of my individual purchases are less than $10 each. These constant auctions of music bio books, CDs and DVDs allow me to see whats coming up and I will tend to peruse within the next 24 hours of auction endings. When I find something of interest with few or zero bids that seems to priced reasonably, I’ll flip over to my Amazon tab.

While the world knows about Amazon as a resource for buying anything NEW, fewer know they also have a good history of things that were new 25 years ago and are no longer available. Vintage paperback, hardcovers, CDs and DVDs that are now long out of print with details about page counts, running times, photographs and illustrations and, to some degree, publishing dates of both the original hardcover and paperbacks (where applicable). Beyond these pertinent details, Amazon also provides user ratings. So while there are always cheap books, if the publication isn’t worth the paper it was printed on, I don’t need it for my shelves either. I only want the best of the bunch, given my affliction and my limited budget.

So I will ping-pong back and fourth between eBay’s auctions ending soonest and Amazon’s reviews and ratings to help me identify what is most likely a value. Frequently… okay 50% of the time, those “deals” that appear on eBay are actually cheaper when researched on Amazon. And almost as often, not only is the item cheaper, but its from a more reputable seller (Amazon’s used products feature Seller rankings similar to eBay).

Before continuing further, please let me remind the kind reader that I do NOT consider myself a book collector. To reiterate, I am a music fan and I don’t get too stressed about first editions or hardcovers vs soft. Honestly, the condition of the book is not a major factor, though most of my actual purchases are at least Very Good condition or better. And yes, I am disappointed when I receive a book that was formerly a library book if the description didn’t mention that important detail… but I’m not a book collector. Got it?

Moving beyond a well rated book and a valid price point from a reputable seller, the last bit I’m looking for is scarcity: In other words, is this still available NEW from Amazon? If so, my interest is lessened. Clearly books, CDs, DVDs and now even Blu-Ray’s will go out of print (OOP) for a reason and by doing so, that factor usually increases the future value of that item. And while I’m not buying these items for future value or investment, it is reassuring to know the book you bought for $2 last month is now selling for $30 because everyone’s realized that they are not likely to re-print that import biography on Peter Gabriel again.

So there we have it. To review this now concerns me. At one point I shared an office with a woman who was an obsessive shopper and she literally made me ill with all that she bought for the sake of a “good deal”. Hopefully I’ve not offended others in a similar way. Regardless, I have other important issues to attend to… like listening to some good music and curling up with a good book!

Facebook Wastes Nearly 400 Lifetimes Each Day

July 24th, 2010

Many years ago I picked up on a barely humorous saying about “infinite spare time”. Someone would say “can you take a look at this in your infinite spare time.” It was an acknowledgment that we realize that our time is short, and we are all busy, but whatever “it” was, it was important of the time you could spare to look at it. When you’re overloaded at work and someone throws on a major project, you’ll think about your infinite spare time.

So having been following author Clay Sharky since his impressive 2008 gel appearance that I began to take interest in his theories and writings. His latest book, Cognitive Surplus, does a great job of detailing what we do when there’s nothing we NEED to do. According to Clay, the world has over a trillion hours of free time each year to commit to projects. So what actually takes up our time and why? In the decades past we have become masters of consumption, but we also like to create and we like to share (enter Facebook).

The jury may still be out on where Facebook ranks on that scale of rewarding versus useless activities, but given my recent awareness of Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus, and my initial refrain and then submission to Facebook, and being a technologist at heart, I couldn’t help but sink my teeth into this technical story and interview with Facebook’s Systems Engineer, Tom Cook. The story is a bit dated; it’s before their recent 500 Million member milestone, but that’s probably a benefit to my point. But the two important facts about FB mentioned are in the first bullet point and the paragraph just above it:

200 Million Users Use FB every day.

Those users spend 16 Billion minutes on FB every day.

That means the average FB user spends an hour and 20 mins on FB each day. Not that impressive; as a nation the USA still spends more time in front of the TV. But 16 BILLION minutes per day, collectively on FB. If I did my math correctly;

16 billion minutes is equal to 266.66 million hours.
266.66 million hours is equal to 11.11 million days.
11.11 million days is equal to 370 thousand months (at an average of 30 days each).
370,370 months is equal to 30,441 years.
And, if according to Google, the average life expectancy of an adult is 78.5 years; 30,441 years would equal 387.79 adult LIFETIMES.

So, yes, nearly 388 lifetimes daily spent, wasted, enriched, fulfilled, shared, whatever, on Facebook. Personally, I think it’s probably best if we all go back to watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island while drinking gin.

-pjc

Are you a Blessing or a Curse?

July 17th, 2010

Within the past few days a variety of events with friends and family have happened to get me thinking seriously about the impact we have within one another’s lives. In three different scenarios with people close to me, its become apparent that so many of us are completely oblivious to the idea of legacy or fairness or kindness. It seems that some have become so self-centered and selfish that they either refuse to see their negative impact on others or maybe do see the impact and simply refuse to concern themselves with it.

Clearly my four years (and counting) here in Connecticut have caused me to be a bit more thick skinned, fast thinking and self-important than what the midwest was capable of instilling in me after nearly 40 years. Nonetheless, I haven’t lost any sense of the plain facts that the words we chose, the actions we take and the decisions we make send ripples of effect across our small worlds. We always have the ability to choose between being kind, being neutral and being mean. Not just with others, but even with decisions we make for ourselves and the responsibilities we either take on or ignore. A failure to accept our own personal responsibilities seems to be a plague for our current times. A friend recently told me about a couple he knew that, while married adopted a child, but upon separation, both simply abandoned this young person.

And while no one actually makes the right decisions all the time, or engage in their lives responsibly for all of their lives, past performance should not be an indicator of future performance. Change can happen at any time and this IS your life. Just because you were a bitch to your son for 60+ years doesn’t mean you need to continue that habit to the grave. Just because you were a financial burden on your family for the past 50 years, doesn’t mean that you need to continue that trend and force your poor habits and decisions on your children. Just because you’ve been estranged from your son/daughter/mother/father for 15 years doesn’t mean you can’t pick up the phone; believe me, I know. Further, if you were to look at your life without your handy rose tinted glasses, you just might see an opportunity to actually leave this place and these people in a better and positive way.

This is also a good time to call on the perpetual victims as well. Facebook and Twitter seems clogged with so many martyrs who spend their time talking about all the great things that they are doing for others despite the fact that no one ever does any favors for them. They quietly seek your sympathy, pity and attention while submitting themselves to more self-fulfilling punishment and humiliation. What’s really unfortunate about these folks is that there are too busy attempting to get attention to notice that everyone else is living their lives, dealing with the troubles and heartache that is a part of life and they are spending their life waiting for some perceived redemption and reward for all the terrible ills they’ve suffered. Newsflash: it’s not happening. Find your spine, take care of yourself because no one else will and become independent and not co-dependent. If your spouse, parent or significant other does’t come home today, what is Plan B? Do you have one? Have you tested that plan already? Are you happy with it?

Despite the call for more personal independence, the bottom line is that we are all connected. Decisions you make will effect your immediate family, your circle of friends and the ripple continues from that point out. Please stand up, take responsibility for your mental, physical and financial well-being. Do your best not be a burden on anyone for as long as possible and then go one step further to insure that you are a true blessing to those you know and love, not a curse.

-pjc