Easter Sunday 2020

It is Easter Sunday, 2020. The world has been different in many ways over the past several weeks, with an unknown end not yet in sight. The motif of rebirth into God during the reality of hunkering down for God-only-knows-what has had me spinning.

I still consider myself a Christian, but only to myself. I will no longer claim the label publicly. Not because I am embarrassed about who I am, but because I am appalled by the public behavior and policies being championed in the name of Christianity. I want no part of that, no connection to those aspects of modern American Christianity… I would flat out argue most of these behaviors and policies aren’t Christian in any way, and the clumsy semantic manipulations that pass for justifications for the label are as literal an interpretation of the snake in Eden as we are likely to discover.

So I don’t go ‘round advertising my Christianity right now… although I do still preach the gospel as I understand it with everything I say and do. Right now, preaching the gospel as I understand it; which includes helping the sick, clothing the poor, feeding the hungry, maintaining connections to the incarcerated or “cast out” of “regular” society; these things end up coming across as political arguments in our world, rather than the basic morally right religious tenets I hold them to be.

I have to come see this as natural and unavoidable, as much as we throw around separating church and state. Church comes from religion, from our need to understand our place in the grand scheme and to have a moral compass upon which to base our actions. The state comes from governments, people gathering to decide how to direct their actions as a group. One’s religion will always inform and direct one’s politics. Separating church and state cannot mean removing religious thought and attitudes from politics, but must mean removing state favoritism for one religion.

That seems obvious, doesn’t it? People have different backgrounds, educations, and worldviews, and different religions spring from that. Trying to limit some, or promote other, religions through political means simply guarantees denying some people their history, their culture, their sense of self. It is a recipe for constant disharmony and confrontation.

This is what we have made of religion, in America, of Christianity, in particular: a plan to continue to pit masses of the people against other masses of the people. Not that America deserves any credit for the concept, the history of religion is literally the history of dividing people based on their interpretations of the scripture, even to the point of what pieces, exactly, were “appropriately” scripture. Religion, for a concept so associated with peace and love, has a remarkable history of divisiveness and violence.

America, and the Republican Party in particular, does deserve citation for the level to which they have weaponized religion in the political arena. My reluctance to declare myself Christian has nothing to do with my actual religious beliefs, but is because declaring yourself a Christian in this space and time is declaring a lot more than your religious beliefs. Because of the deep seated connection between Christian American voters and the Republican Party’s platform, coming out as a Christian necessitates being in favor of authoritarianism. Calling yourself a Christian means you can and will ignore reality around you. Standing with the Christians is standing on the premise of whose sins are to be forgiven and whose are to be punished is a properly human decision.

I know a lot of Christians, and many of them would argue with those assessments of what Christianity means for them, which is fine and, in some cases, even demonstrated in their historical behavior. But I think it shows at best an alarming naïveté, and at worst silent approval, of the demonstrated policies and actions of churches and religious leaders… and political leaders that use religion to maintain a divided populace.

I have noticed something darkly humorous in our political/social current events. There are a lot of “reasonable” people pointing how how Trump’s policies have hurt the response to COVID-19… typically in conjunction with some appeal for support for the Democratic Party. Now, certainly, I absolutely believe that Donald Trump put Jared Kushner in charge of the coronavirus response team for the trinity of purposes of funneling supplies to Trump supporters, denying supplies to Trump detractors, and ensuring as much of any resulting business as possible flows through Trump related conglomerates. And yes, that’s awful and no, I don’t believe any Democrats would manipulate the system this blatantly.

But this predictable Trumpian chicanery is not the root problem of our collective crisis response. The root problem is an American health system designed for creating profit and not health results. The irony that these folks are promoting the Democrats as the answer to health service issues so soon after the DNC colluded to end Bernie Sanders, the only Democrat who actually campaigned on the promise of changing the for-profit health system, is not as lost on me as it seems to have been on them.

This irony is a symptom of the Democratic Party as a whole right now. The party has shifted right over the years. Few would try to refute that, but I think even fewer would admit to how far it has gone. Barack Obama once admitted in normal times, he would be considered a moderate Republican. Both Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren were literal Reagan Republicans in the day. Biden’s policies will be more of the same Clintonomic retro-neoconservatism that directly led to Trump’s revolution, a revolution that the Reagan Republicans set the table for in the first place.

We are following the wrong carrots… it is not panic that has us running in circles, that path is simply where our chosen carrots continue to lead us. I wonder how much people see this… how much they look for patterns like this. I wonder if that Democrat I knew back in the eighties realizes that now she is standing for the policies and tendencies she fought against when she was young… wonder if she realizes she’s changed and chalked it up to “maturity,” or if “the Democrats” will just always be the white hats in her cowboy story, no matter if they are using the methods and means of the black hats and bandanas… to the same ends, ultimately.

So rebirth. Easter. Rolling away the stone and stepping into the light of God. How do we do that? How do I that? The institutions to which we turn for support and direction are compromised. Jesus would never get around to any miracles, he’d be so busy turning over tables.

He’d have to find a place without those tables to settle down to work. That’s how I do this, that’s how we do this. The light I’m stepping into is a new church. Easter 2020 is the start.

 

Discuss this post on the jjewell discussion boards

The Most Recent Jumpstart

As is tradition, every so often I find myself ”returning” to the website with “renewed energy.” This is of course code for something far darker… I had another little breakdown and simply didn’t care about the website for weeks at a go. Through a cocktail of means, I am looking at things in a “do things right, make things better” mode, again.

This is the mode I want to be in, the mode I believe human beings are “supposed” to be in. And one better: “do things right, make things better… learn and document all you can.”

I have mentioned before that I intend to start a new religion and a new political party… and I realize I need to do one better on that, as well… but I’m not as clear on what to call that final organization. School, university, library… junto, administration, congress… research, data, knowledge… not sure which way to go on that one, yet. But that’s a bridge for some other day’s burning, as I’m already having a tough enough time figuring out what to do next with the two I’ve already named. Recently, when I’ve tried to write about the religion or the party, I find myself drawn back to a basic message… and I took that basicness as a sign that i had simply not developed it properly. So I spun, trying to think of something to write that didn’t boil down to the same old drone.

I saw an article on the web today, I’ll not link it because it was basically an advertisement, but the gist of it was interesting: the presenter drew attention to the ways “cults of personality” used their message to their audience that were different from a “typical” advertiser: the product was the result of the underlying identity, rather than the product promoting some identity. The presenter used Apple and Donald Trump as examples… suggesting that we all were more willing to accept Apple’s music player than, say, Dell’s, because Dell was thought of as a computer company jumping on the next product bandwagon, while Apple was thought of as a “Think Different” company that made some good computers, so why not music players? Trump’s popularity in not in the results of his actions, but rather the complete confidence that ANYTHING he does is to “Make America Great Again,” regardless of the action’s inherent flaws and failures.

So, I decided to take thus as a positive sign: my fixation on centering all this on “doing things right and making things better” is actually a positive form of branding and advertising.

I am looking forward to presenting new Tie Dyed Church and Tie Dyed Party material soon. I feel as though a recurrent theme that I was once afraid was holding the concept back is actually going to be a positive in the presentation of the whole package.

jjATR HC The Atari 1040STe

Spelunking

I am refining my process.

As I rediscovered my Ataris, I first went through the ST/TT/Falcon series, plugging things in and seeing what worked, getting what data about them that I knew was interesting and that I knew how to get easily. As I went through the 8-bits, I went a little deeper on each machine as I had it out, and figured out more things that were important and more ways to find out things. I’ve got jjATR HC summaries posted for the VCS and the XL series, and  summary for the XE series is in process. The 800 summary will be last for various reasons.

Now I’m going to make a second pass through the ST/TT/Falcons, and I’m trying to get ahead of the game by planning my summaries and scouting for what information I may want and how to get it.

The 8-bits dropped themselves into categories fairly easily along VCS/800/XL/XE lines. By that token, ST/TT/Falcon seems like the logical summaries, but there’s the complication of the Megas and the ST varietals, in particular the STe. I haven’t decided yet whether to group based on on the physical architecture (ST/Mega/TT/Falcon) or hardware capabilities (ST/STe/TT/Falcon). I do think I want to avoid the ST/Mega/STe/Mega STe/TT/Falcon over-encumbered solution. And if it’s physical architecture, then the STf, STm, and STfm models would rate their own summaries. I think I’ve just convinced myself.

I also looked ahead at the web to see what kind of info I might like to gather, and I’m glad I did because it turns out, for instance, that on the Falcon series, the serial number possibly never matches from the case to the motherboard. And because these machines tend to have lived with so many techie tinkerers over the years, there’s no guarantee that the case serial has even a passing resemblance to the “real” serial number on the running motherboard. So I’m going to be opening all of them along the way.

I already have my original 520STfm, stuffed with 2.5 megs by my own hands, running in the bedroom office, and the TT030 running in the music workstation. The first machine I’m looking at in depth is a 1040STe with 4 megs on board.

jjATR 1040STe serial number label
jjATR 1040STe serial number label

I mentioned that fact that this machine had 4 megs on board, and my time with the XLs has me attuned to quirks in these labels… the first thing that jumps out at me is the 4160STE in the FCC ID… perhaps this ST came with 4 megs installed from the factory? Quick Googling doesn’t immediately confirm this suspicion, but does tend to lend it some authenticity.

jjATR HC 1040STe SysInfo screen
jjATR HC 1040STe SysInfo screen

I picked this machine to be up next for a couple of reasons… first, as a 4meg STe in the old school form factor, it’s a prime choice to be my workhorse ST system. Second, although it currently has TOS 1.06, I do have a set of 1.62 ROMs I wanted to put in. Finally, I wanted to see what was up inside, because after booting several times to get info and test screen resolutions, it started three-bombing on me just as I was getting ready to pack it up. That indicates a bus error, so I was thinking I knocked something loose on the floppy drive. Now, though, it’s coming right up, again. Mojo electronics.

Related models

Mega STe – My poor Mega STe, the STe with the heart of a Mega and the body of a TT, has a missing F10 key on the keyboard.

jjATR HC MegaSTe
jjATR HC MegaSTe

Here’s a readable version of that SysInfo screen.

jjATR HC MegaSTe SysInfo screen
jjATR HC MegaSTe SysInfo screen

Boundaries and Expectations

I admit it: I have an addictive personality. When I find something cool, I want to find out all I can about it and how it got that way… and I want to see and understand the variations. Although I feel this has ultimately served me well in my life, there are times when it can become a stumbling block. The best idea is to approach these things with some idea of your limits in mind… not to mention an idea of what you actually want to get out of the interaction.

It’s like I keep trying to tell my kids, “You can do anything you want, but you can’t do everything you want.” As I’m rebuilding my website to better reflect and serve my life, I’ve realized that some boundaries and expectations are in order.

The Roles of jjewell.com

In my personal life, I have tried to use some of Stephen Covey’s methods to be and do more. One of the main ideas I pull from Covey is that of Roles: we each play a certain number of roles in our life, and there must be a balance among and between them when it comes to our attention and effort. In that same way, I am expecting jjewell.com to serve several roles for me.

Information Repository – I want to be able to easily store and access all types of information and data that is important to me.

Connection Interface – I want to be able to easily share and enable collaboration on all types of creative projects that are important to me.

Neocapitalism – I want to be able to easily buy, sell, and trade my own goods and services in ways that avoid pitfalls associated with modern capitalism.

Information Repository

At one point, jjewell.com featured a MediaWiki installation focused on my life. I started making entries about certain events or topics of interest, with the intention that slowly but surely, everything I ever knew and loved would be connected and accessible through my website.

The wiki is not an aspect of jjewell.com that has been revived, at least as of yet. With that wide open a mission, there were just way too many rabbit holes to start down. These are the rabbit holes that I need to block off before we spelunk that cave, again.

I do have some idea of things I definitely want to have curated here. Most importantly, I want to create a repository for personal media: the photos, recordings, videos, documents, and other digital bric-a-brac I want to hold onto for personal reasons. I want to be able to add to and access the data wherever I am at the moment, and I want the access and backup options to be under my control.

I also want a repository for a more public type of media… things I want to curate for use beyond my own brain. In my case, this kind of media includes songs to practice and perform; recording tools and data; emulation tools and data; and comic books, art, and animation. These are things that I want to have access to for myself, but that would also be useful and of interest to others. Again, I want to be able to get to the files from anywhere and control access and backup.

Connection Interface

A sometimes overlooked aspect of our technological present is our ability to communicate, work, and play with people separated by distance. I am a musician, a writer, a collector, and a cook, among other roles, and all of those roles benefit from collaboration with others. I want my website to to an enabler of this collaboration.

Neocapitalism

Some history: I came of age during the 1980’s in America, a time when making money seemed easy, desirable, and honorable in and of its own right. Even at that stage, it seemed to me that “business” was being used as code for, and rationalization of, selfish greed and a lack of human morals and empathy. I equated the words “sales” and “marketing” with “lying long enough for the check to clear.” My work history is filled with 1 to 5 year stints where I systematically lost faith in the good intentions and nature of every employer I ever had. Early versions of jjewell.com featured a Capitalism Capitulation page… where I acknowledged the need to involve yourself in capitalism to some extent in order to simply survive.

I’ve decided that almost all of that is the wrong attitude. Despite the glaringly audacious greed of the owning class and the systematic destruction of the working class as featured in Modern American Capitalism, the concepts of using capitalism as a basis for trade in organized societies are sound.

We aren’t going to replace capitalism. But we do have to fix what is broken about it.

And that’s what I mean by neocapitalism: doing business the most “fixed” way possible can in what is undoubtedly a broken system.

Moving Forward

I will be building the website with those basic expectations in place. I know that a personal photo library with automated backups will be a part of the plan. The restructuring I’m doing of my physical environment has meant that my vintage hardware, particularly Atari computers and games, has taken a primary spot in my focus.

Perhaps most importantly, as I uncover artifacts in my garage and life, I’m going to create a model of both the boundaries and the expectations of jjewell.com in the structure of the website itself.

Discussion thread for this post on the jjewell forums

Technological Amnesia

A first step in changing my life is changing my surroundings, organizing my belongings, environment, and habits to make the most of what I have and expand upon that foundation. All that makes “dig through a bunch of old boxes” sound almost noble. Excavating my own history has gone, in one way, much as anyone would expect: old comics, toys, and games; old musical instruments and recordings; old technology of all varieties. What I didn’t expect was a different way of looking at these artifacts and forebears, and an examination of why they are actually important to me.

I started feeling the discomfort with comics… and it actually happened years ago. Collecting comics had been the great passion in my life for decades, but a change in my financial situation first left no budget to collect, and eventually led to a massive liquidation of the heart of my collection. Complete runs of Fantastic Four, Amazing Spider-man, The Uncanny X-Men, The Avengers, basically every Marvel Silver Age first appearance and key issue… it was necessary at the time, but the experience took a toll on my love of collecting comics. Although I hear the call of old comics, the thought of starting over on a collection just isn’t appealing. I did miss a lot of the stories and characters, though.

A few years ago, I discovered a thing called Marvel Unlimited. Long story short, for a pretty reasonable yearly subscription, I get access to thousands of issues of Marvel history… even through my iPhone, wherever I am. I like this service. I get to re-read all my favorite stories whenever I want, and even try a lot of new-to-me comics that I wouldn’t have gotten interested in, back when reading the story meant tracking down back issues in comic stores and conventions scattered across this great land of ours. In many ways, technology has left the physical comic book behind; paper comics aren’t well-suited to modern methods of distribution and consumption. Comic books are still what they always were, but the essence of the stories and characters are traveling so much faster and more widely through digital means. The books weren’t able to keep up with things changing around them… almost like an anterograde amnesia, comic books couldn’t process or adapt to the inevitable future.

But there was another part to my comic collecting. Yes, I liked reading the stories and spending time with the characters, but in the days before instant global full-video communication, there was much more of a thrill of the chase to it. I finally found my last Fantastic Four, issue #15, when I was set up at a small local convention, and a guest was looking to sell this and some other books, and another dealer who knew I was looking for it pointed me out to the guy. I had been looking for it for years… it wasn’t because I couldn’t afford it, I didn’t have the book in my collection because I had simply never come across one in all that time of looking. That was part of comic collecting, and comic dealing, knowing about who wants what and making connections. Knowing your business. You can now buy and sell pre-graded, plastic-sealed comics that you can never actually touch or open, without leaving your chair. Completing a collection is less about archeological detective work, and more about having a credit card without a limit. Modern comic collecting, actually buying old comic books, has become less about knowing the comics than about picking the right lottery ticket. In our zeal to make the transfer and sale of comics easier and faster, we lost a certain amount of institutional knowledge: collectors at the highest levels are often investors or speculators in a stock, and not necessarily a fan, advocate, or expert on the actual comics. The modern methods of both casual consumption and high-end collecting have forgotten important aspects of their history… they suffer from retrograde amnesia.

All that had been floating around in my head for awhile, and I’d thought about it in different directions trying to make sense of it; trying to figure out the essence of what drew me to comic collecting. It was only more recently, as I’ve been curating various old computers, tvs, stereos, and music instruments, that I started thinking about tech in those same terms. For instance, I have paid for at least five different copies of one of my favorite songs, Man Out of Time, by Elvis Costello: vinyl album, cassette tape, CD, and digital download. At several junctures, I realized that I was paying for something I already “owned,” in principle: when I bought that first vinyl album, I bought the right to listen to that song as many times as I wanted for perpetuity; but I rationalized the purchase as a fair trade of dollars to avoid the time, hassle, and expense of acquiring and operating the equipment necessary to do a quality conversion. The formats of their time had anterograde amnesia, and couldn’t continue to function with excellence as time and tech went on. The next greatest formats always had retrograde amnesia, and my tape player forgot about all the music my record player knew, as the CD would in turn forget about my institutional knowledge from the tape.

Everything came neatly together for me when I got to the computers. I got my first computer in 1981, an Atari 800… and I still have it and it still works. Everything about it is just as amazing to me as it was almost forty years ago: the games are still fun, the applications still perform their assigned functions… but that fun and those functions have not stood the test of time, were not adaptable enough to stay relevant, to keep up with the current and move ahead. Anterograde amnesia. I got my second computer in 1987, an Atari ST… and I still have it and it still works, too. That was an interesting time for me, because I “needed” to have two computers running: I depended on software on the 800 to do things in life, and that software would not run on the ST. The ST had retrograde amnesia, and forgot the institutional knowledge that came before it. I had to buy new programs for the ST to serve the same function… often enough  called the same title and written by the company or individual who wrote the one for the 800.

Computers are particularly gifted at battling retrograde amnesia. The ST wasn’t too old before a clever programmer wrote a program that could pretend it was an 800. You could actually run those old programs written for different hardware on this newer machine through this emulation program. By overcoming the amnesia, the ST gained the 800’s institutional knowledge.

Emulators are now a part of our everyday lives; computer evolution favors those who are able to retain or regain that institutional knowledge. One of my favorite emulators makes my MacBook Pro think it’s an Atari 800. It’s amazing to be able to play the best games of my youth here on my regular computer anytime. But I still have an 800 (several from the line, in fact) and I still use it sometimes. Emulators are cool… but there are differences in the way a wireless PS4 joystick interacts with an emulator than the way an old-school 9-pin joystick interacts with an 800, not to mention the differences in the way a modern computer interacts with its monitor compared to the way old computers interacted with analog tv sets. Long story short, although the emulators are amazing, there is something tangible lost in the translation.

I like to think that I am becoming more self-aware; that I am considering my tendencies and motives to improve in every way I can. So when something like this spends so much time in my headspace, I try to figure out the lesson. There’s a primary layer to this, which reflects a certain bitterness about things that were once important to you losing their meaning: perhaps my best songs includes the line “Your passions turn to clutter there in front of your eyes;” I’ve felt this disconnect between what I thought I was and who I actually am for some time. I’m realizing how relatable the amnesias are to this thought: it’s not so much that I’ve lost interest in an activity, it’s that some kind of amnesia has gotten in the way of my connecting to my past, or in the way of learning more capabilities for the future… and that frustration, that miss, that lack of connection… is what leads to the activity becoming less important to me.

So I’m going to try to be more like a computer. I am going to confront my retrograde amnesia, and build whatever emulators I need to process the value of my past. I am going to expect my anterograde amnesia, and remain open to whatever adapters I can use to process new value the future offers.

Discussion thread for this post on the jjewell forums

Success Story Number Two

Multiple small successes rolled into one: I have an online shop for physical items, I have, again, finally, online forums, and I’m running a website primarily from iOS. The website from iOS thing was primarily the purpose of the fireapplered.com web address… not sure what I’ll do with that at the moment, since I’m now accomplishing its purpose here.

This is a particular victory for me at the moment because I’ve been working through some depression… and things haven’t seemed worth doing, recently. Making some visible changes is a good sign.

Success Story Number One

OK, so. I’ve got the tools set up to write anywhere, at any time. I’ve got a 22 year old domain name ready to host writing. I’ve been given the time. I actually have quite a few ideas, in notes, drafts, or other similarly skeletal forms of things to write about. So why don’t I write?

I’ve heard an unexamined life is not worth living, but I am acutely aware of the dangers of over examining. When I ask myself, why don’t I write, I already know the main reasons that flummox most people… those things are already automatically out there as possibilities. So it’s really easy to pick one of those that sounds logical. I do know I have perfectionist tendencies… and that is something that holds some people back: the thought that “it’s not ready yet, I need to work on it more…” But I’m not even getting to that point. It’s not a type of feeling that I can’t do good work, I’ve done in the past, there continue to be bursts of which I am particularly proud and I can see the quality of what else is out there: I’m ready to actually post something.

 So why haven’t I been writing? Other things seem more important at the time. When I think about sitting down to write about something, a whole list of things pops into mind, passes in front of my eyes, is on the iPhone somewhere. And I keep going around in circles doing that: it seems to be the common thread is not following through on anything, hell, barely getting started on anything… because I keep feeling like something else is more important… that my time would be better spent doing something else, even if I don’t know what that is. Maybe a different way for me to think of Attention Deficit Disorder: I can’t wrangle attention enough to carry through with things. Over the past two weeks I’ve bailed out on watching Archer, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, and playing Minecraft because it just didn’t seem like I had the attention span to make it through the next episode or the next five minute Minecraft day.

So, success story number one on the way back: this is getting written. It’s only being written because I put things in place earlier on the phone to be able to do this. I am currently driving, but dictating into my iPhone. I like Apple’s iOS voice recognition just fine, but it quits listening after a brief time. So I installed a dedicate dictation app that will listen indefinitely and send the text over to my writing workflows… I have actually written this entire piece while I was driving back home from running errands today with dictation. 

This was a manufactured success: I want to highlight to myself that getting this posted was the result of looking at what wasn’t working and establishing different patterns that do work. First brick down. 

jjewell.com X – Rock Bottom Edition

jjewell.com has been around since the summer of 1996. It has changed formats and platforms and hosts and topics, reflecting changes and realities in my own life over that time.

And here we are. This is Rock Bottom. I don’t feel like enumerating failures or negative mileposts right now, plenty of time for that as this goes along if it seems as though it will help.

This is the start of my story out of here.

Re-presenting The jjewell North American Tour 1998

I first established the jjewell.com domain in 1996.  I can’t really remember what it looked like, right at first, and neither does the Internet Wayback Machine.  But when 1998 brought the closing of the manufacturing plant where I was working and provided me with a severance package, my fledgling web empire became the home of my first weblog (although they weren’t even called that, yet… much less “‘blogs”), the story of the jjewell North American Tour 1998.

And actually, the Internet Wayback Machine doesn’t even remember what that looked like… but I do.  It was raw html coded in notepad.  At first it had a dark grey marble background image with bright text in blue, green, and yellow.  Yeah, I know: that didn’t even last the length of the tour, it ended up in more classical looking greys and navys by the time I returned home.

At any rate, those updates from a cross-country road trip contain some of what I consider to be my most entertaining writing, and I’ve wanted to repost the series somewhere.  I finally decided that jjewell.com was where they were born, jjewell.com is where they should dwell.  So I’ve retroactively posted all the NAT updates here.

Now… between these old posts and the Wayback Machine, it’ll be days before I find time to do something useful… Start here…