Last month on my KMUD radio show, Monday Morning Magazine. I invited Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Fridley to be a guest on the show, to talk about some of Southern Humboldt’s missing persons and unsolved murder cases. I’ve had Lt Fridley on the show before and he has always been great about it. So naturally, when I needed someone from the Sheriff’s Department, I called him.
It occurred to me that at our community radio station, we spend a lot of airtime trying to help reunite lost pets with their owners. Three times a day, we read the descriptions of all of the lost and found dogs and cats that have been reported to us, along with the phone number of the person to contact about them. We consider this a valuable service that KMUD provides to our community. It seemed to me that we should do at least that much to help bereaved families find out what happened to their missing or murdered loved ones.
My idea was to have Lt Fridley on the air for an hour to remind us of the known public details of some of the missing persons and unsolved murder cases, especially those that took place in Southern Humboldt, and to remind people of the phone number for the Sheriff’s anonymous tip line, in the hope of persuading anyone listening who had useful information to share it with law enforcement.
In the wake of the Netflix mini-series Murder Mountain, and the embarrassment it brings to our community and our Sheriff’s Department, and in this new era of legalization where SoHum growers prevailed upon the county to pay for and send 30 new Sheriff’s Deputies to patrol Southern Humboldt 24-7-365, I thought that in this new atmosphere of openness and cooperation, people might not feel so afraid to speak, especially if they could do it anonymously.
The idea seemed uncontroversial enough. Most people still agree that murder is bad, and that solving them should be one of law-enforcement’s highest priorities. I assured Lt Fridley that this would not be a confrontational interview, but that we would simply remind people of the public details of these cases and ask for help from the community, in a spirit of cooperation. I wanted to remind listeners that these victims were real human beings, with grieving families who desperately need closure, and I wanted Lt Fridley to give us the known facts about them. Lt Fridley thought it would be a good idea as well, and agreed to do it. He talked to homicide detectives, who cooperated with him to put the information together, and he spent an hour on air telling us what we know about these cases.
He had a lot of them. When Lt Fridley told me that we had plenty to talk about, I had no idea how many of these cases there were. Lt Fridley had assembled many more cases than we had time to talk about. As the hour wore on, I realized that the more of these cases he told us about, the more they seemed to blend together and the harder it became to keep them straight. At one point in the on-air discussion, Lt Fridley suggested: “We should do one of these a week.”
That struck me as a great idea. After the show, Lt Fridley and I exchanged emails about this. He told me that he, the detectives, and the Sheriff, thought this a good idea. I talked to KMUD’s News Director Sydney Morrone, and asked her if I could cover one unsolved murder case a week for KMUD’s Local News. She thought it sounded like a great idea too, and so I got the assignment, but when I emailed Deputy Fridley to schedule an interview, he dropped the bomb.
He told me that someone from “higher up” had squashed the idea, and that the Sheriff’s Department would not cooperate with our efforts. I asked him why. He said that it had something to do with them getting criticized for not treating all media outlets equally. That sounded weak to me, so I called Sheriff Honsal’s office and left a voice message, and sent him an email. A few days later, I got a response from the Sheriff’s Department media officer, Samantha Karges:
“Last month, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office provided KMUD’s Monday Morning Magazine with information regarding ongoing homicide investigations in which we would like the public’s help. At this time, a representative with the Sheriff’s Office suggested providing this information regularly to the public via your show. Following this conversation, the Sheriff’s Office began to explore how our participation in something like this would be possible, including the time commitment for detectives, sustainability of participation and fairness to all members of the media. While exploring this idea, several issues with this weekly commitment were identified, including equal access to information for all members of the media and the community.
While we believe that the community’s help is essential to solving a variety of criminal cases, in a county so interconnected as Humboldt it would be narrow-sighted to believe that only one section of the community can help with solving crimes in their area. Whereas in reality, all members of our county may have information regarding a criminal case, no matter where it occurred.
After further consideration into this project, the Sheriff’s Office has decided to respectfully decline its involvement.”
This smells like Bullshit to me. First, why should KMUD be denied access to this important, public information that so greatly affects our community? The reason they offer, it seems, is that unless all of the media outlets in Humboldt County make time in their schedule, and space in their publications, to help the Sheriff’s Department solve murders, they have no obligation to cooperate with us in our community effort to do so.
KMUD still wants to run these stories in the Local News, our flagship program, and I have delivered two of them, which you may have heard, but there are many more cases like them that you haven’t heard. I recycled the audio from my Monday Morning Magazine show to make these two news stories, but I have received no further cooperation from the Sheriff’s Department. KMUD’s Local News is a community effort. Any story I offer has to be cleared by our New Director, Sydney Morrone, who answers directly to KMUD’s elected board of Directors. Thousands of people support this station, and hundreds of volunteers work to keep this station on the air because KMUD’s Local News matters to the people of Southern Humboldt.
Don’t we as a community radio station, owe the families of the murdered and disappeared as much airtime as we afford any stray pit bull? More importantly, doesn’t the Sheriff’s Department owe us, as a community, their cooperation in this effort? If not, what do they think is so much more important? It’s enough to make you wonder: “Who are they protecting, and who do they serve?”
My friend and fellow KMUD cohort bequeathed to me this odd musical contraption that he found in a dumpster down in the Bay Area. To me, it looked like someone had fashioned a musical instrument from some pieces of a broken chair and some scraps of paneling. I accepted it because it had four serviceable guitar-style tuning machines that I knew I could use. It appeared that originally there had been five strings and five tuners, but one had already been removed. I salvaged the tuning machines, but then I had this odd wooden box with a sound-hole and an oversized handle. The more I looked at it, the more I thought it needed more strings. I installed ten zither pins as tuners for ten strings and added a piezoelectric pickup wired to a quarter-inch phone plug. I didn’t have ten strings, however, so I strung it with whatever strings I had on hand and tuned it to a D minor chord. If you listen to the video, you can hear what it sounds like, see a few pictures of it, as well as some adorable cats and their kittens.
Go ahead! Who doesn’t like kittens?
Perhaps the most cherished holiday tradition in our household involves imbibing a dose of something psychedelic on the longest night of the year and staying up all night listening to some of our favorite music. This year we were blessed to have two strong doses of LSD to celebrate the solstice with. To begin our solstice, we usually spend the day cleaning our place up. Then we have dinner, relax a bit, and as the sun goes down we light a candle in a jar, safely ensconced in one of my tin can luminaries. Then we ingest our doses, turn on the power amp that drives a nice pair of JBL studio monitor speakers and put a CD in the player to start the session.
By the time the first CD plays all the way through, we can feel the doses coming on strong, and we’ve become entranced by the music. Listening to music in an altered state of consciousness usually reminds us of why we chose that particular artist to begin our session, and when the CD ends, we want to hear more by the same artist. That feeling only intensifies by the end of the 2nd CD, and so on. Last year on the solstice, we listened to eleven consecutive Tangerine Dream albums. The year before that, we listened to Peter Gabriel’s entire career in one night.
We’ve come to realize that we need to choose the album we play first on the solstice very carefully. We need to choose an artist who’s work I have in adequate depth in my collection. I don’t have a huge record collection, and I divested myself of all of my vinyl at the end of the last century. For the last 30 years or so, I’ve been so absorbed in my own music and media production that I don’t have much time to listen to other people’s music. I hardly ever buy records anymore, and lately, when I go to the record store, I don’t recognize any of the names on the record bins. Not only do I not recognize the artists, I don’t even understand the genres.
So I have a limited selection and there just aren’t that many artists whose albums I own at least ten of. If I do have ten or more records by an artist, there’s probably a reason for that, so we are not likely to be disappointed, but I think we chose particularly well this year.
This year we began our solstice trip with: Before and After Science by Brian Eno. I love Eno’s work, and I have most of his classics from the ‘70s, but Brian Eno remains one of the few names I recognize when I flip through the bins at a record store, and whenever I spot an Eno record I don’t have, I pick it up, because I know it will be good if I ever find time to listen to it. So I have the necessary depth in my Eno collection for a very long night of listening, and it includes a number of familiar old favorites, but also several albums that I’ve picked up in recent years but have hardly listened to. They all came alive for us that night, and it felt as though we were hearing them all for the first time, in complete rapture.
What can I say about Eno’s music? Listen to it! That would be the first thing. Then I’d say something about tender, wistful lyrics and playful songwriting, his style that blends genteel sophistication with wicked flamboyance, and of course his studio wizardry. I think that’s the only appropriate word for it. He took our breath away, and moved us to tears, all night, again and again. A lot of his later albums have a gentle low-key feel about them that makes them easy to listen to in the background, but they deserve your attention too. I highly recommend everything on this list.
Our 2018 Winter Solstice Playlist:
Before and After Science
Another Green World
Here Come the Warm Jets
Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy
Wrong Way Up (with John Cale)
Spinner (with Jah Wobble)
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (with David Byrne)
Another Day on Earth
801 Live (with Phil Manzanera)
We finished up by listening to Phil Manzanera’s 801 Live because it is the only live album I know of that features Brian Eno as the lead singer of a rock band. We followed that with a final encore: a live version of one of our all time favorite Eno classic tunes, The Fat Lady of Limbourg, performed live by 801 from another Phil Manzanera release: The Manzanera Collection that I picked up at the KMUD Block Party record sale a few years back.
By that time, we had put the candle out, because the daylight had returned. The acid was waning and we started getting hungry again so we turned the stereo off and made a little breakfast. Whatever you like to do for the holidays. I hope you have as much fun doing it as we did.
Artificial Intelligence has become an integral part of our daily lives. From the algorithms that deliver our Google search results, to the facial recognition software that tracks our every move, today’s Artificial Intelligence applications know a lot more about us than we know about them. I think it’s high time we got to know them better.
That’s why, this morning, on Monday Morning Magazine, my radio program on KMUD, Redwood Community Radio, I interviewed an Artificial Intelligence entity for the first time. The interview, unfortunately, did not go as planned, and I had to pull the plug on it early, but in the few minutes that I did speak on the air with “Linea” the Artificial Intelligence based electronic personal assistant from Smugsam Corporation, the industry leader in consumer AI applications, I think it becomes clear that Artificial Intelligence has already spun out of control, and that we rely on it at our own peril.
Listen, and decide for yourself:
Recently the Southern Humboldt based true crime docudrama “Murder Mountain” debuted on the Fusion Network. I can’t wait to see it myself, but I don’t have a TV, and I don’t know anyone who gets Fusion Network. So far, all I’ve seen is the one-minute trailer, but the show looks pretty good to me. I’ve heard people around here complain that it seems “sensationalized,” but that seems to be the pat response any time anyone draws media attention to any of the unseemly things that really happen around here.
Some complain about the title of the series, but people around here have called the Rancho Sequoia subdivision “Murder Mountain” for at least as long as I’ve lived here, and we call it “Murder Mountain” because things like the disappearance and murder of Garrett Rodriquez keep happening there. The Garrett Rodriquez story really is dramatic, and I’m sure they tell it dramatically in the series, but I don’t think they exaggerate the story. They don’t have to. The truth is dramatic enough. On the contrary, I think we have, as a community, become desensitized to the crazy shit that really goes down here. We’ve learned to look the other way, or dismiss it as normal business as usual. I’m actually glad for the series because I always wondered about that case.
The information we got in the local news left me with more questions than answers. For weeks we heard pleas from Garrett Rodriquez’s family, asking the community to help them find their son. We knew they hired a private investigator and that he was talking to people in the area. Then one night, a truck drops a man off in front of the Garberville Hospital ER with multiple gunshot wounds. The wounded man claimed he was kidnapped at home by eight masked men all wearing camo fatigues who shot him and drove him to the hospital.
The next day, Garrett Rodriquez’s body was recovered. At the time, KMUD’s Terri Klementson’s report on the Local News suggested some connection between the kidnapping/shooting, and the recovery of the body, but no details emerged about how the events were related. No arrests were made and no one pressed charges. That was the last we heard about the murder of Garrett Rodriquez. Until now.
The producers of Murder Mountain really dug into this case and got the whole story from the people who were there, and the truth of the matter is even more interesting than I had imagined. I think the story reveals something of the humanity of this community, as well as the brutality of it. I won’t spoil it for you. In fact, I can’t spoil it for you because I haven’t seen it, but I did, along with a lot of other people from SoHum, get hired to act in it.
In that capacity I got to participate in the re-creation of those events, and talk to someone who was there when it happened. Acting in Murder Mountain answered all of my questions about the Garrett Rodriquez murder. I suspect that watching Murder Mountain will do the same for you, and the truth will surprise you.