Weird Scenes Inside The Goldmine


I have no idea what I’m going to write about, so this is an experiment of sorts. I suppose I could start by relating my not-fun weekend, which was all Microsoft’s fault. (At the end of this tale, some of you will no doubt blame me for my own problems, but since I’m sitting here and it’s always easier blaming someone else…)

See, I’m on this list that Microsoft has so when a new Beta version of Internet Explorer 5 is produced, I get notified and I can go download it and play with it. For any nerds out there jealous of that fact, hold your judgment until the end and then see if you still think it’s such a sweet deal. So, I guess Friday or something I got email notifying me that release, like, 1038 or something was out and I could download it. I’m not sure how their numbering scheme works. Does 1038 mean that this version contains 1038 fixes? Does each problem increase the release level by one? And should I feel comforted that 1038 bugs were found and fixed, considering that version 930-something came out only a week before? At any rate, I decided to download it because I read somewhere that this was the release candidate for Public Beta 2 so it should be pretty stable.

I also believe in Santa Claus!

So I try to download it and Microsoft is so protective of this stupid thing that they issue two separate passwords to get access to the download site and to actively download it. (Microsoft’s “Active” download means you initially pull down this little set-up file that looks around your hard drive and then links to a Web site to pull the other 152 million megs of crap.) And they don’t tell you which password is necessary for which part of the download (I would eventually enter one three times and the other one twice!) and you can’t cut-n-paste passwords! So I had to keep switching between the browser and the email that contained the overlong passwords until things started downloading.

Trouble was, it never finished.

Idiot Savant

So I tried over and over to just download the thing. And it would keep coming to a part that would tell me it couldn’t install some parts of the browser, and that I should reboot and try again. And again. And again. And then I couldn’t uninstall the stupid crap because the computer said I had never installed it. And then the desktop started doing that totally annoying thing where it forgets what it’s there for and turns white with the link saying “restore my active (that word again) desktop” and when you click it. you get “Do you really want to restore your Active desktop settings?” and you scream “Work! Work you bloody machine! Work, damn you!” and then it resets the desktop but now your system tray is empty and so on and so forth.

It became quickly clear that this software just hated me. It would not install no matter how hard I tried and, after a while, the Web site started refusing my password, too. So here I was with a half-installed “final Beta” of IE5 that would neither put itself on my computer nor pull itself off. Plus whatever piece I had managed to get in my system really hated my Active Desktop and kept turning it off. So what was left to me..?

Yes, I spent the wonderful, 70-degree, sunshiney weekend reloading my computer.

The really stupid part? I didn’t even get mad.

Think about what we accept about this technological world we now inhabit. We know that software will not work as promised. It will have bugs. There will be “fixes” that we’ll have to download. We accept that the hardware will eventually fail. We know it will. At some point, the hard drive will grind to a halt, an interupt will interfere with another interupt, the monitor will go kaflooey, the keys will start sticking, the mouse curser will jump willy-nilly across the screen. This is all par for the course.

In what other facet of our lives do we make such compromises? Do we buy cars knowing they’ll be outdated in six months? Do we buy books knowing that they’ll be missing a page here and there, so we have to go back to Borders and get the missing pages? Do we watch the TV waiting for the day it fails? I mean, I know this is hardly a new argument, but I amazed myself when I was digging out my CD ROMs and registration numbers and drivers and plug-ins and ZIP disks of, um, “borrowed” programs that I was taking it all in stride. It wasn’t even the fact that a Beta program had caused this problem, it was just that it seemed inevitable.

Feeling Clean Again

One good outcome of the two-day spectacle (it didn’t really take two days, I took breaks for meals and such but the repeated reboots started really irritating me) was that I felt like my computer had been cleaned off. All the little data strings polluting my registry and hard drive from rejected shareware and outdated applications was also being purged. And once I got the Web access back (which was really annoying because the Ethernet card wouldn’t recognize the network until the HP SCSI drivers and the… WAKE UP!!!!) I could cruise to the hardware sites and download all the latest drivers for my graphics card and audio card and mouse and so forth, so I had an “all new” computer in the end.

The only part I messed up was when I archived my email it didn’t take anything previous to July so some of my “keep forever” messages were erased, and I forgot to copy across some of the .TXT files that had registration numbers in them so I had to write the companies and tell others of my complete stupidity. But all in all I was fairly lucky, especially considering my hard drive didn’t tank, it was just my OS that was having hissy fits.

And then there was the time change.

That’s a really stupid thing, too. Daylight Savings Time. (Gee, I’m starting to sound more and more like Andy Rooney, aren’t I? “You know what I hate? Breathing! Why can’t someone figure out how to go through life without all the trouble of exhaling? Know what else I hate? The sun! D’jever notice how it’s always up there in the sky?”) Turn the clock forward, turn the clock back. Turn the clock forward, turn the clock back. And what’s the deal with Leap Year? Why couldn’t we figure out a way of making it through life without sticking in that extra day? Who’s running the Universe, anyway? Can’t they get with the program?

Usually I like “Falling Back.” You get an extra hour of sleep, unless you challenge your body to catch up and stay up the extra hour “because you can” and waste it entirely on a Sunday night when there’s fuck all to do with it. I ended up going to sleep at 11 anyway, which was 12, but it wasn’t (because 12 was really 11 all along) and I woke up at 6:30 instead of 7:30 (yeah, I know, sue me, I enjoy a pretty cushy life—aside from the wasps in my kitchen) and got to hear the joyous sounds of the children who wait for the schoolbus in front of my house and pass the time by screaming at the top of their lungs such gems of insight as “My hair does not look stupid!” and “No, you’re the stupidhead!” thereby renewing my faith in the ability of human beings to insult each other from an early age.

The Unbearable Lightness of Beating

Also the Big Wigs from the company who bought the company I work for are here this week. I was told, “don’t wear jeans!” Because, see, they wear IBM Regulation Clothing, meaning navy blue suits and white shirts and fat ties with subtle designs on them. Very corporate. Very dressdown. Very fascist.

My reaction was to listen to X in the car. The reason is that the Sundance Channel was showing “X: The Unheard Music” over the weekend and I was reminded that there is absolutely no one on the planet cooler than John Doe. I remember watching that documentary with my friend RB and there’s this scene where drummer DJ Bonebreak is displaying his ability to syncopate one beat (say, 3/4 time) with his right hand while playing another beat (say, 7/8) with his other. It was way out insane. And then there was Billy Zoom, the blonde guitarist who’d stand there with his wide stance, grinning like a movie star at the audience while he played. And of course, Exene and her two-tone hair and weirdly fitting harmonies, singing the words she penned as poetry.

But John Doe was it, baby. John Doe defined cool. What made the film especially interesting to me was how much what was happening then—this was probably around 1982, 83—is happening now. The music scene was rife with over-produced, empty-headed tripe (not that I didn’t enjoy it, I just didn’t recognize it at the time) and bands like X and The Germs and the whole L.A. scene at the time brought on a Renaissance of sorts. They weren’t really rebelling, they simply didn’t care. They were making music for the sake of making music. I don’t doubt that they would have enjoyed commercial success, but they never actively sought it. They toured endlessly so people could hear their music since radio would never play it, except Rodney Bingenheimer on KROQ who’d play basically anything.

So here we are again in the age of The Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys and N-Sync, bands factory assembled, surrounded with a marketing sheen, producing candy floss music no one will remember next month. So I shoved the double album “Los Angeles/Wild Gift” into my Honda Accord’s CD player (and, no, the irony was not lost on me) and went back to the days when Melrose was not a TV series and you could go to Aardvark’s to pick up your used clothing essentials, and skip over to Aron’s for used albums or Vinyl Fetish for the latest imported 45’s and then hop in the huge sedan your mom handed down to you and cruise back to the apartment in Westwood and play “White Girl” until your ears bled clean.

Anyway, clean clean. Clean out the drives, clean out the cobwebs…

I play too hard when I ought to go to sleep
They pick on me because I really got the beat
Some people give me the creeps

Every other week I need a new address
Landlord landlord landlord cleaning up the mess
Our whole fucking life is a wreck

We’re deperate
Get used to it*

October 26, 1998

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