Wow, what a brave – or not – world we live in. I left out the “new” part of that cliche because there’s not that much “new” about things today. “WHAT??” you may scream in disgust…”of course this a new and different world, a future that nobody ever imagined, even 20 years ago, so what the hell are you talking about?” – well, what I’m talking about is that, ok, yeah, sure, technology has so rapidly advanced – in fact, there’s even some “scientific”(?) theory about this that goes something like this: “technology will rapidly improve, doubling every year…” or some such thing as that. Which, if you look back on the past two decades, sort of bears that thesis out. Even in the early 90s, for instance, cell phones were still somewhat primitive, comparatively, of course. I remember in, even 1997 or 98, that cell phones, for instance, had an antenna on each one. Now, users of those will remember that one didn’t always need those antennae when making a call. You’d turn on the phone, then pull up the flimsy, plastic black thin thing that was pulled by grabbing onto the round top of it and raising it up, and you’d make your call. Thing is, I remember using those phones and sometimes forgetting to pull up the antenna and – guess what? The call went through anyway! So, they weren’t that important. Maybe they helped in tight spots, say, if you started to get a bit out of range or something, it might help in picking up some needed extra radio waves, etc. But for the most part – just like if you still have an AM/FM radio – you don’t always need an antenna. Well, actually having one does help for the radio, I know because I also remember disassembling an antenna altogether from one and then losing the reception altogether, but screwing it back into the base brought the signal back and you were able to pick up the radio stations again.
Once you at least had an antenna connected to the receiver in some way, you didn’t need to unlock it from it’s “down” position and pull it up – but, if you were trying to get one of the only (nowadays) radio stations worth listening to, i.e., college-based radio stations that were broadcast out of particular universities/colleges, the ones I was most familiar with were KUSF, in San Francisco, which was based at the University of San Francisco (as opposed to University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), just like there’s a UCSD in San Diego, but there’s also a University of San Diego as well). The other great one that I remember was in Los Angeles, at Loyola Marymount college/university, which ran KXLU – like KUSF, both had the most excellent music programming from-get this: 2AM until 6pm (weird timing, huh?) and then, after 6 (BOTH stations did this) there would be Chinese-language (or sometimes Vietnamese) programming starting at 6:00pm. Now, of course, I speak neither Chinese nor Vietnamese, so listening to their broadcasts would be fruitless for me, unless I just wanted to hear that foreign language as if it were a form of music, etc. (example: when I listen to a Wagner opera or Mozart, I don’t speak German, yet the music and the singing are SO beautiful that I actually, for some reason, prefer the way they sing in their foreign tongues. Same thing with Italian operas: Verdi, Puccini, Rossini -just to name a few, I know there are myriad other examples. Anyway, so that’s that- I tune out at 6:00pm and, since they don’t sing at all, but drone on in a completely alien language to me, I don’t have a reason to listen. Of course, I never woke up at 2:00am to hear the college students start their first “new music” set, as they referred to it. But, when I was working and I’d get to my office, if I didn’t have a CD player (this was before MP3) on which to play my own selections, I’d have to fine-tune the radio until I was able to get the very hard-to-get signal of these small transmissions of the colleges. And, of course, they were always, as Paul Westerberg once noted in song: “Left of the Dial”, meaning their frequencies were always below 90 – once, in Minneapolis, there was one, KFAI, that was, I think, 90.1 or 90.3, but usually it was more like 88.9, 89.3 or 89.9 (KCRW, in Santa Monica has a frequency similar-I think it’s 90.1 or 90.3, but I don’t count KCRW as a “college” station, since they’re NOT a college station-they’re a “member-supported” station that has a few music shows that are, um, all right, but more in the direction of “world beat” and “neo-folk”, etc. But beyond that, there was something that just didn’t sit well with me – no, they weren’t getting corporate money (as far as I know), it was pretty independent – meaning the DJs could fool around a bit and introduce new stuff now and again, but mainly, I think what it was, was that it did have a structure to it that turned me off – they’d have various, hour-or-two (or 3?) long shows, hosted by one particular chap; NO, NO, NO – it was not one of those obnoxious jerks who would make jokes about big tits and rag on callers, or do nutty things for attention, etc. (I hate Howard Stern!!) What I mean is that KCRW would have a “set” program each morning on which they’d play music by “new” bands. But they weren’t scrappy, unpolished, punk, DIY or even garage-rock bands. These were songs by bands who were, for lack of a better comparison, not unlike Cowboy Junkies, Ani de Franco and Victoria Williams (although the latter, I respect for her verve). Then, they’d have some other, structured show about 10 or so, and on it went throughout the day. I remember having a listen a couple times, but I came to dislike it fairly quickly. Now, if you wanted great, left-wing politics, as exemplified by the nationally known, now-on-tv and a truly great legend, Democracy Now! hosted by the legend herself, Amy Goodman, the place to go was your nearest Pacifica station, which, sadly, are very few & far between: the flagship, which was started back in the 50s, is Berkeley’s KPFA, 95.7 or something close to that, which is extraordinary to have a frequency as high as that.
In Los Angeles, Pacifica was represented by KPFK (90.7 FM), and they had some excellent stuff too – my favorite, though, of KPFK, LA, was the all-night show done Sundays through Thursdays (actually, it was really Monday AM through Friday AM), called Something’s Happening with your host, Roy of Hollywood. This guy (whose real name is Roy Tuchman) was (it’s been 12 years since I lived in LA and I haven’t heard Roy or Something’s Happening in quite a while, so I don’t even know how they’re doing) a great host – he was kind of the stoic, network-anchor archetype: someone who was “objective” (although, regular listeners knew from where he came)-maybe “objective” is not the right word, but he had a talent for not hyping things or praising or damning things (at least not more than a bit of excitement on nights when there’d be Alan Watts recordings of Alan speaking and further into the night, other Eastern-sprituality speakers (I mean, who, in their right mind, couldn’t love Alan Watts?). But, for the most part Roy would be the guy who queued up tape after tape of recordings, both recent and vintage, which would make someone’s ‘overnight’ a joy. Instead of blathering idiots on talk radio (Art Bell) talking about UFOs and conspiracies or cattle mutilations and having guests who were total crackpots, giving their gospels of aliens that built the pyramids or fake moon landings or that one lady who would phone up from time-to-time, oh yeah, Linda Moulton-Howe (real wacko) and give an update on the latest cattle mutilations that had been occurring in the last few weeks (this was in the late 90s or so, when cattle mutilations were (sort of, kinda maybe) a -well, a thing. Something’s Happening was a much beloved alternative to the wasteland of talk radio in general but especially the wasteland of Art Bell and various Art Bell copycats in various, unsyndicated formats in local areas. Each night S.H. was on, there’d be a different topic, same every week, like for instance, on Tuesdays, it would be stuff like health & fitness, etc. & one of the big guests would be Gary Null, a guy with this soothing, flat voice whose tapes would be played a lot on which he’d go on about various stuff that was anathema to the AMA and “establishment” medicine. He wasn’t a raving lunatic, but he’d really go after big Pharma, the corporatization of medicine and the way that many so-called doctors of “Western Medicine” were loath to get off the path of the aforementioned propaganda which dominates the US medical establishment, while at the same time, millions keep on dying and/or not getting better. One of the things-simple,really, Null talked about was just eating the right diet; staying away from stuff that it’s common sense to stay away from, like refined sugar, fast-food restaurants, trans-saturated fats and so forth. He was an accomplished D.O. who had a thriving practice in NYC. He’d also do his best, each week (from his home in NYC) to call into the show, live, to chat w/Roy & take a few calls. But he also had more to him than just the better-health-guru. I heard lots of tapes and live stuff where he would excoriate the drug co.s who are (still) dealing directly w/doctors to try their new pills, give out samples to pts., etc. And also, even worse, the over-medication of children in the US-especially, or specifically, psych drugs for such nonexistent things as “ADD”, “hyperactivity” which is now part of ADD – called ADHD, etc.-in fact, teachers see these kids in schools and-well, they’re KIDS for chrissakes, of course they’re going to have some “disciplinary” problems, or disrupt a class here and there. SO what? that’s all about growing up and being a kid – in fact, that is the only time in life when you have the chance to be that way – act out (to a reasonable degree-not kill people or be violent, etc) in harmless ways: being boisterous, running in the halls (oh no!), and all kinds of things that, when I was in school, 1st-6th-8th grade, was typical -not everyone, but a lot of kids were figuring out who they were, what limits they could get to, which ones to test, etc. and back then (when I was a kid in the 70s & early 80s), teachers didn’t tell the kids’ parents that their children were “mentally ill”, i.e., had “ADD” or “ADHD” or some kind of silly diagnosis by someone who had ZERO medical training-they’d tell the parents, since the teachers felt that they were around the kids more each day then the parents were (which wasn’t really true) and that they needed to see a shrink!! – then the parents who were not-very-educated themselves or just gullible & worried about their beloved Johnny, brought them to a dr. who saw the kid for maybe 15-20 min. and almost always ended up giving the kid a prescription for either Prozac, Zoloft, etc. or else METHAMPHETAMINES like Ritalin, usually Ritalin, but Methedrine was also prescribed. Of course, if you really have a brain that is hyperactive, etc., taking those speed pills will give you the opposite effect of what a “normal” person would feel (the former wouldn’t feel all spun out & wired). It doesn’t matter – these kids are still getting the over-medication as a first resort! Of course, now they’ve changed things so that SSRIs like Zoloft, Prozac, Paxil, etc aren’t given to kids under 18. This was really interesting to hear Gary Null talk about at about 3am on a Wednesday morning, But sometimes he would really go further and start getting into really far-out things, like conspiracy theories, etc. But, honestly, I usually fell asleep, involuntarily even, by about 3-4, since I’d be listening in bed. Then there was Dave Emory, an almost robotic-sounding guy who would send in tapes of his talks every week or so and in those 2 half-hour talks he’d go on about the most bizarre things sometimes. I don’t remember much of the stuff he said, but the one thing that I really agreed with him on was the thesis that all these kooky UFO people – the ones who swear they saw something or worse, the freaks who claimed to have been abducted, etc. were being duped, actually, by a secret arm of the govt. – the govt. was doing this to cover up what they were doing – stuff that was below-the-radar, shall we say. Secret, experimental aircraft, but a lot of people know that whole story – that the Air Force has the UFO cover story to distract and discredit people from finding out what’s really in the skies. It’s a whole box-within-boxes, doors that open to other doors, etc.-kind of thing – but the gist of it is that there is a conspiracy of sorts – but it’s more about being secretive and since it’s hard to keep secrets-especially today – just a few trusted men (women?) know exactly what’s happening and use the clever UFO ploy to lead all these gullible people down a totally different avenue and away from what is actually occurring. Like Roswell, for example-I don’t claim to know what sort of games were being played with that whole bit, but I am sure it had nothing to do w/aliens crashing to earth and subsequently having the military find the wreck and recover the dead alien corpses & take them to a top secret lab somewhere and keep ’em on ice – dry ice. What’s been the most recent, rational explanation may come closest to the truth, but still who knows? Now they’re saying that this Roswell business was “nothing more” than a new, sort-of experimental balloon – but not the kind of balloon you’re thinking of, but a very elongated one, shiny, with reflections or lights, etc. whose sole purpose was to get to as high an altitude as possible and drift to just the right place in order to detect the presence of radiation of some kind – gamma rays, etc, I am not sure; basically they were trying to find out if the USSR was testing nukes. OK -so if that is the final answer on this – and the public knows about it – you and I – you can bet that there was probably much more to the story than that – and it had nothing to do w/UFOs – and, no, I’m not saying that in this infinite universe that it’s impossible for their to be any other life – whether it be plant life on up to sentient beings, the point is that if there were sentient beings and they even had the ability – it would take generations, centuries, to get from one part of just this galaxy to us – because we’re talking light years here – so, say something is 1000 light years from here – that means that – going at the speed of light – 186,000 miles per second – it would take 1000 years to get from one place to the other and in many cases we’re talking about 100s of 1000s of light years or millions even. So the idea that some civilization could get here from that great a distance-so far that the human mind can just barely comprehend it-is pretty much impossible – the only possible way that could ever happen is if these beings traveled on some kind of ship that was basically equivalent to their home and, since it would be 1000s of years before they got here, they’d go through many, many generations of travelers just to get close. That scenario just doesn’t seem all that plausible – and is it really worth it? So, think about it!
Sorry, I got off on a tangent. What I started out writing was that, in essence, although times ARE a-changing, so to speak, a lot of things aren’. In fact, you’ve heard the term: “The more things change, the more they stay the same”, right? Well, that is exactly what I am talking about. Sure, the current generations are way beyond the wildest dreams of the people, even in the 1950s or 60s (or 70s) – but that is technology. I’m not quite sure that the human mind, that is, what some call “human nature” has caught up with all these new media, which Marshall McLuhan, referred to as merely “extensions of the human body” (that’s what media are) – for example -1st bicycles and then cars, etc. became extensions of our feet. Instead of having to use our feet to get from place to place, we use a car now – which is something that actually has multiple media in it – but a simple bicycle could be the purest form of the extension of our feet. A modern car, however, has so much to it nowadays, that there are many extensions of ourselves in it – not just for our feet, but -for a primitive example – a horn is an extension of our voice. There are so many more complexities here that I won’t detail them all for the space I already took up. But when you get to where we’ve been since McLuhan wrote his famous book Understanding Media (from where the famous saying “the medium is the message” came), he was then talking about the new electronic revolution – and this was in the early 60s – so we’re talking then about the comparatively crude computers to television, telephones, automated systems and so on – what McLuhan was saying about all this, in a simple way, was that things like the TV, the computer – very prophetic, because today what he said back then is even more relevant! – they are extensions of the nervous system itself – the brain, And with the total plugged in, wireless but electronic life that we inhabit today this is more than ever something that we need to understand – and that is also something that a lot of critics of new media and what it has on it – aka its “content” – to outmoded ways of thinking, which are quite widespread, it’s not just dumb hicks who’s minds haven’t literally caught up to this new electronic paradigm where the nervous system has been the blueprint – or the waveform – of the media of today. It’s not what we watch on TV or what websites we look up, it is that the different modes of communication – the electronic revolution vs. the old paradigm of print, which was an extension of the eyes, for example, represent the fact that not only has the media changed – that is obvious – but in creating new extensions of ourselves and by creating the extension of not only our nervous systems, but of our very beings in some cases, we’ve also changed the message as well! – Anyway, there is something for you to think about. PLEASE – send in your comments, questions, answers and feedback!! Thanks -KM.