A site dedicated to radio? Why now? We are well aware of the paralyzing complexity of life under quarantine/pandemic, widespread social unrest and an upcoming election. We live in a time of permanent crisis. There is likely to be no “good” time to set this project in motion. Even if COVID-19 were to miraculously disappear, we are still facing the impending horror of the climate catastrophe and ascendant fascism.
We write about radio because we listen to that medium far more than any of us would admit. Radio is still a major source of information for most of the population—if we believe the numbers put forward by Nielsen, 89% of Americans over 12 listen to “terrestrial” radio at least once a week. There are few better mediums for good music and, if you know where to look, quality information. And yes, there is a sea of shit out here as well. We have surveyed the wrack and the rot. What follows is a very modest attempt to distill a small amount of what is out there. We make no particular claims to “expertise,” aside from having listened to thousands of hours of this stuff.* A few of our contributors believe we should all be listening to some degree of AM radio right now, in order to understand the ascendance of the contemporary right and its designs on power.
Our project is by no means comprehensive. We realize a radio site is of little interest to most, but we do hope we will find some willing readers, and possibly spur some conversation. If nothing else, perhaps the text contained here will offer some snapshots of a crumbling civilization.
We are primarily looking at what is too often referred to as “terrestrial” radio in the NYC area, though, as Dick Alexander notes in his roundup, there is plenty of interesting fare to be had via “DXing.” In some cases we refrain from listing the date and time a given show airs; program run times change regularly. This info can be found on the various stations’ websites.
*To read the musings of people who know far better than us, check out Radio Survivor.
This dispatch won’t be too extensive. If you follow this stuff, an obvious pattern begins to emerge: the right-wing radio hosts will largely defend Donald Trump at all costs. We will present the more notable moments, and the notable exceptions. Curtis Sliwa and Juliet Huddy, for instance broke from the normal narrative, with Huddy displaying a refreshing courage.
We are focusing on NY-based hosts here, including a few with a national audience. We aren’t looking at national radio figures like Rush Limbaugh, who claimed the mob action was manipulated by democrats and sell-out republicans who “want a political coffin” for Trump. Aside from the predictable rhetoric, his response was near-identical to most of the hosts we survey here. We also aren’t including Ben Shapiro’s reaction, as he isn’t based in NYC, and no longer appears in the New York radio market. As we were getting this dispatch ready to go up, the New York Timesreported that Cumulus media warned its radio roster to stop “dog-whistle talk about ‘stolen elections,’ ‘civil wars’ or any other language that infers violent public disobedience.” (The Times article used info from the paywalled site, Inside Music Media, which reported Cumulus’s actions as an act of censorship.)
While all the hosts condemned the storming of the Capitol building, almost all of them engaged in whataboutism (“What about Black Lives Matter?”). Several hosts openly worried about the optics the mob actions would have on “the movement.” We heard this sentiment expressed by Buck Sexton, Brian Kilmeade, Lidia Curanaj, Sid Rosenberg and Bernie McGuirk. Much effort was made to understand the “legitimate” concerns of the DC protestors, who were repeatedly referred to as law-abiding “victims,” driven to the boiling point by the left. We were told repeatedly that as bad as the mob was, at least they didn’t burn any buildings, they were all Antifa anyway, and whatever nonsense helped run down the clock at any given moment. Many of the groups participating in last Wednesdays protest, like the nefarious Proud Boys are violent thugs. This was an attempt to overturn a democratic election. The deluded throngs chanting “Stop the Steal,” as they attempted to steal an election are only slightly less despicable than the mob that stormed the Capitol building. It’s beyond disingenuous for conservative radio hosts to claim the Capitol-storming mob was out-of-character for a pro-Trump rally.
This argument is especially absurd coming from the likes of Rudy Giuliani, whose radio show attracts callers who rail against Jews and promote white supremacist groups like the National Alliance (see audio clips below).
Some of these same radio hosts bear some degree of responsibility for the mob action at the Capitol building. Rudy Giuliani actually spoke to the crowd shortly before the barricades were breached. Many of the other hosts have been egging their audiences on since November, telling them the election, and the country itself had been stolen from them.
On Wednesday (1/6) Rudy Giuliani addressed the crowd in DC, imploring to engage in “trial by combat.” Within hours, he was back on his “Chat with the Mayor” slot on WABC. We only caught the last 20 minutes of the show, which was mostly a rehashing of the same “stolen election” conspiracy theories; he’s got video, there is still evidence no one has seen! Same old same old. At the very end a caller denounces an earlier caller who called Giuliani a coward. “Giuliani offers to meet the caller “in an alley somewhere.” The former mayor and the caller proceed to paint the DC mob as a Soros plot. For some odd reason, this program does not appear in the WABC archive, perhaps there was some concern that Giuliani’s rhetoric could be potentially actionable? We recorded the final chunk of the show (see excerpt below).
On Thursday morning, WOR’s Len Berman and Michael Riedel brought on former New York governor (and former WOR radio host) David Patterson. Patterson struck a measured tone, calling for Joe Biden to respond to divisions in the country by “maybe taking a couple suggestions by Mitch McConnell,” and pushing for “legislation that conservatives might like.” In short, by taking a centrist tack. Berman and Riedel also brought on photojournalist Michael Nigro, who detailed how lax Capitol security was compared to the many other DC protests he as covered.
On Friday, the two hosted former NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton, who approached the DC mob from a tactical perspective. He blamed the Capitol Police.
Mark Simone (WOR) blamed Washington DC mayor, Muriel Bowser who he claimed, “defunded the police.” He then then insinuated the mayor let the whole thing happen to make Trump look bad. Simone blamed Antifa infiltrators, and engaged in the usual whataboutism, asking why Black Lives Matter is praised by democratic politicians. He also repeatedly played the last few words from Joe Biden’s speech denouncing the mob. The audio sounded slowed down. Simone pointed to this as evidence that Biden is unfit to serve. As an example of Democratic Party double standards, Simone pushed the fake story from 2000, claiming the outgoing Clinton administration trashed the White House and removed the letter W from all the computer keyboards.
WABC’s Sid and Bernie engaged in their usual blowhardism, claiming the DC protests, like Charlottesville were hijacked by the far right and Antifa, and that “99.9 percent of the protestors had legit concerns.” Like WOR’sBuck Sexton, they asked, “What’s next for the movement?” they opposed the excesses or the bad coverage. The two also interviewed MAGA organizer “the Real Tina,” who spouted about the DC protests, and promoted an upcoming anti-Covid-restriction rally in NYC.
Brian Kilmeade (also WABC) pushed the narrative that the wannabe insurrectionists were pushed to take action. “Mr. and Mrs. Johnson from Wisconsin who loves [sic] the president have never been a problem. In fact they’ve been victims. They show up with their families to support Trump, to be at a rally, a lot of times they end up getting beat up or threatened. This is the first time, right? Where were the riots November 4th? They didn’t happen because Trump people don’t riot. This time they snapped, many of them. No doubt there was probably some infiltration there, but so much went wrong leading there.”
Over on WOR, Buck Sexton expressed this same sentiment: the protestors went too far, but they were pushed. Sexton, an old money Manhattanite who claims to have been in both the CIA and NYPD, portrayed the Trumpers as the forgotten working class being punished by the elites. He claimed the democrats were “using lockdowns as a tool against Trump….There’s a sense among many Trump supporters that there was a willingness to…use lockdowns as a tool to make the country miserable and vote for Biden and they made people suffer more than they had to so that Joe Biden would win…” Like most of the other hosts, Sexton spent much time delving into the DC protestors’ “legitimate” grievances. For what it is worth, we have never heard any of these guys pose the same question regarding any other group, especially not the Black Lives Matter protestors they complain about daily. Sexton interviewed Will Ricciardella of the Washington Examiner, who omitted the fact that the DC protests were held to demand the overturning of a legitimate election. Ricciardella claimed the protests were responding to the pain inflicted by “Democratic governors [who] hijacked the economy” to hurt Trump. “…look at the past 5 years, these are the people that elected Trump…the opposition party created a dossier with no evidence, basically there was a coup…the people felt like they voted him in…then you get into the Ukraine debacle…and when they were fighting against masks, they mocked them…this was a big giant powder keg, they feel frustrated, they don’t feel like they are being heard.”
WABC’s Lidia Curanaj alternately condemned the Capitol storming and attacked Black Lives Matter. She warned not to allow the mob to “tarnish the entire movement, the push for democracy…job growth, making America great again.” Immediately after a caller referred to the DC mob as “patriots” protesting a “stolen election,” Curanaj compliments the caller on his “excellent point,” asking “how many stores were looted yesterday, how many buildings were burned?” The DC rioters did kill a cop, and smeared feces all over the walls of Congress, but when your entire career has been predicated on defending Donald Trump, you learn to make excuses.
Credit where credit is due department
Curtis Sliwa and Juliet Huddy, hosts of WABC’sCurtis and Juliet show consistently criticized the DC mob action without engaging in whataboutism. We have criticized Sliwa multiple times on this site, but we must credit him with a principled response to this situation. What does it say when NYC AM radio is so over-the-top that Curtis Sliwa comes across as one of the few voices of reason? Juliet Huddy, for her part rose to the occasion, actually pointing to the infiltration of various law enforcement agencies by white supremacists and other far-right groups (audio below).
On WCBS, the tone was also much different from the usual AM talk radio blowhardism. Marla Diamond, reporting from Downtown Brooklyn, got a quote from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, comparing the police response in DC to the treatment dished out to Black Lives Matter protests last summer: “Where were the rubber bullets yesterday? Where was the tear gas yesterday?” Adams, a former NYPD officer was speaking outside Department of Justice headquarters alongside Black clergy and other electeds. He called for “a commission like we had after 9/11 to be convened to determine how these people were able to easily breach the Capitol yesterday and who is responsible.” Diamond also recorded NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who said the responsibility lies with the president.
Bill O’Reilly, also on WABC, flipped the DC riots back on the Democrats. “Ok let’s get to the political aspect of this. There is a major villain emerging and that man’s name is Senator Chuck Schumer from New York. He now is calling for the removal of President Trump using the 25th Amendment, the 25th Amendment is that the president is unfit for office.” O’Reilly used this occasion to engage in one of his favorite activities, plugging one of his books, by mentioning that he wrote about it extensively there. He then asks, “Why would you put the nation through another hateful exercise? Why? Because Schumer doesn’t care about you or me or the country, he is and always has been a rank ideologue who worships at the altar of power, he has been senator here in NY for decades, he has done nothing, nothing, to help this state which is in a disastrous position right now, so Schumer publicly is calling for Donald Trump to be removed using the Constitution, That’s not going to happen, ok, now President elect Biden should stop this immediately and show some leadership, he should come out today and say ‘We’re not going to do that because that divides the country even further and creates hatred, Donald Trump will serve out the next thirteen days and then I’ll take over.’ I would respect Joe Biden if he did that, will he do it? No, unless he sees me right now and he may get a transcript and then changes his mind and wises up a little bit but if he did that if he shut Schumer up as he should, if he really want’s—Biden—to represent all of the people, points his finger at Schumer and says, ‘Button it!’”
This dispatch was compiled by Jim Rawls and R. Cleffi.
Brian Kilmeade of WABC painting the overall protestors as peaceful (“Mr. and Mrs. Johnson from Wisconsin…who snapped”)
This clip of Buck Sexton of WOR interviewing the Washington Examiner’s Will Ricciardella is a good example of the way conservative radio covered the Capitol building riots. Sexton (who condemned the riots) puts the onus on the Democratic governors and Covid restrictions. Ricciardella claims protestors were “working class Americans,” responding to Covid restrictions, saying “stop laughing at us, stop mocking us…they feel they have no voice.”
Here, Sexton asks Ricciardella what the protestors want. While Sexton asked about the election certification results, Ricciardella omits mention of the fact that the protests were demanding the election results be overturned.
Here’s Juliet Huddy calling out far-right and white supremacist infiltration of law enforcement agencies.
Rudy Giuliani responds to a caller railing against “perverted Hollywood,” and George Soros the “international Jewish communist.” Giuliani questions the use of the term “Jewish,” saying Soros’ “connection with Judaism is questionable,” but that it shouldn’t be used against Soros. Claiming “This is the first time I’ve heard that.”
Here’s Giuliani saying, “we can meet in an alley somewhere” in response to an earlier caller who criticized him. He also claims Trump rallies, and “the so-called bad boys did nothing,” that the Capitol storming was a “left wing provocation,” which goes back to “Engels and Marx,” and of course, George Soros.
We present to you a clip from a few months ago, in which a regular “Chat with the Mayor” caller, “Joseph in the Bronx,” gets greeted like an old friend by Giuliani (“I missed you!”). Joseph recommends a video by the late Nazi William Pierce on “gun control” (the video is light on gun control, and heavy on eugenics). Giuliani responds, “Once again, you’re making a point I forgot to make, and it’s an excellent point!”
WABC’s Lidia Curanaj pulls a “both sides” on the Capitol storming. This clip is pretty indicative of Curanaj’s time on WABC’s airwaves: rantish, uninformed bloviating.
Fire catches up with everything in time—Herakleitos
…Yet it is a great mistake to suppose that the only writers who matter are those whom the educated in their saner moments can take seriously. There exists a subterranean world where pathological fantasies disguised as ideas are churned out by crooks and half-educated fanatics for the benefit of the ignorant and superstitious. There are times when this underworld emerges from the depths and suddenly fascinates, captures, and dominates multitudes of usually sane and responsible people, who thereupon take leave of sanity and responsibility. And it occasionally happens that this underworld becomes a political power and changes the course of history…
—Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide, 1966
No matter how much we would like to wish them away, conspiranoid Q-Anon crackpotism, antivaxism, election-result denialism, Covid denialism, climate skepticism and other general insanity have fully burrowed their way into the American discourse. The above quote, taken from a history of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, holds much truth for our current moment. The dismissal of the “half-educated” reeks of elitism—this website for instance represents the toil of underground thinkers. There is much familiar, though about “pathological fantasies disguised as ideas,” which are “churned out,” and embraced at the expense of sound thought. The Q-Anon theory, in many ways is a rehash of the Protocols—in both form and substance, a plagiarized forgery concocted of ludicrous conspiracy theories. (The major crackpot theories circulating today have all been amplified and spread by Trump associates, if not by the president himself.)
The Internet is rife with debates about free speech. What’s less discussed is quality of speech, and quality of information. While free speech, and access to information is something to defend, it’s worth asking, what happens when the quality of information available has no basis in reality? Sure, there is the question of who gets to decide what constitutes quality information, but as a starting point, we can work from a definition of things that are factually true and things that are blatantly false.
When trying to make sense of this mess, it helps to go back to the writings of the late media critic Herbert Schiller. This was someone who devoted much of his life to a critique of the impact of government-aided corporate consolidation of the media. He repeatedly documented how giving away a public resource (the airwaves) shaped the limited content available. Schiller saw the few independent voices allowed into the mainstream eclipsed by apologists for corporate power. In the introduction to his 1996 book Information Inequality, he warned: “As independent voices in the national political theater are eliminated or ignored, unabashed antidemocratic views and practices proliferate” (p. xiv).
A perpetual degradation machine
Schiller wasn’t naively calling for a return to some nostalgic golden age. He was fully aware of the media’s history and its inherent limitations. The scholar did witness a shift from information that helped inform democratic decision-making to a different type of cynical content. “Increasingly the voices that reach national audiences are those that secure the support and the financing of the moneyed crowd. Not surprisingly, therefore, a growing number of radio and television broadcasters. reviewers and writers for the most influential newspapers and magazines, novels selected for the big promotions, films given the blockbuster production budgets, and social theories popularized in the media exhibit a marked preference for detailing the flaws, imperfections, and antisocial behavior of human beings” (p. xiv).
“A mean and dark view of human nature,” he continues: “one that emphasizes its rigidity and inherent defects, underpins a current unwillingness to entertain even minimally the prospects of social cooperation and human solidarity. Crime, delinquency, broken families, political and economic corruption—whatever the social ailment—are explained by pointing to individual weakness and inadequacy. Such a diagnosis conveniently removes malfunctioning institutions from scrutiny and discussion” (p. xiv). Informative media programming gave way, first to endless television shows about cops and criminals, and later, reality TV, a perpetual degradation machine, several steps below pornography in terms of quality. (The type of content prevalent on YouTube or popular websites like World Star Hip Hop take the debasement to new levels still.) In this context, the outgoing reality TV star president is less an abomination than a culmination of decades of these destructive forces.
To get a sense of the toxic cynicism at play here, you only need to tune in to your average conservative AM radio host during a natural disaster. When the California wildfires hit last fall, AM radio hosts near-unanimously blamed the fires on anything other than climate change or poorly regulated land-use policies. It was an Antifa plot. It was Black Lives Matter. It was whichever convenient enemy that would prevent listeners from taking a nuanced view of the situation. These same radio hosts have been as deliberately irresponsible throughout the entire pandemic, often telling their overwhelmingly high-risk (retirement age) listenership that Covid is a hoax.
“A sheer lack of common reasoning”
There’s this feeling of disbelief we sometimes encounter, knowing the right thing to do, and watching the national response. The great American cultural observer Luc Sante discussed his own take on the situation last summer: “I feel shamefully naïve. I guess my version of ‘there are no atheists in foxholes’ was ‘when the flood comes, everybody helps pile the sandbags.’ It’s true that the whole course of the Republican Party since Reagan has led to this moment, and the last four years have been non-stop catastrophe. Even so, I didn’t expect quite that combination of ideological rigidity, radical selfishness, and sheer lack of common reasoning—lack of a sense of cause and effect. I thought that the instinct for self-preservation would win out over the delusion of ‘individual rights’ in a pandemic, that the right would be forced to see that we are all connected.”
It hardly takes someone as smart as Luc Sante to see that something’s wrong here. The problem is more easily identified than articulated, that’s where these philosophers and poets can provide some illumination for the rest of us. And the problem doesn’t just lie with the wretched Republicans. None of our political establishment has any real solution to the current crisis. The religious hypocrites are all the more loathsome for their inability to comprehend such communistic doctrines as “I am my brother’s keeper,” and whatever other nice-sounding shit so many of us had drilled into our heads in Sunday school. And the Republican mainstream has abetted fascism right up to the storming of the Capitol. Yet the status-quo worshipping corporate Democrats provide little alternative to these cynical zealots.
Herb Schiller noticed this problem decades ago. In an earlier book, Information and the Crisis Economy (1986) he laid out his observations on the transition to an information-based economy. He provides a prescient quote from the then-rector of the UN University in Tokyo: “Today, the whole international system itself is in a state of crisis and the cohesions—political, economic, social and otherwise—which have held it together, are coming unstuck at an alarming rate” (p. xii). Shiller also shared a quote from Indira Gandhi that now seems both obvious and prophetic: “I entirely agree that we can’t solve our economic and financial crisis within existing international structures. I go further and say that none of the present structures or even thought-processes are capable of providing satisfactory answers to the large crisis of our civilization” (p. xii). Ghandi wasn’t exempt from her own critique, as her legacy shows. Still, the message was valid then and more valid with each day as the two major political parties have shown an absolute inability to provide a worthwhile relief package for a country with 20 million unemployed.
Call it “capitalist realism.” Call it what you will, the message pushed on down from the elites and echoed so loudly on the airwaves is “You’re on your own.” It’s rugged individualism for most of us, juicy bailouts for a cynical smidgeon of elites.
When Herbert Schiller was writing, there was no serious organized opposition. There are currently several competing tendencies, though few have had any serious impact or have exhibited any ability to slow the economic and environmental free fall. As Schiller wrote in the 90s, without this opposition, “…the belief is cultivated that there can be no alternative to what exists….National governors, experiencing no apparent need to improve the quality of life and lessen the glaring economic and social inequalities that are increasing across the nation allow the already existing social fissures to deepen.” Deepening inequality has risen coevally with the prevalence of junk information. The airwaves are still, to some extent a public good—with the exception of the large chunks auctioned off to private interests for a pittance. The corporate elites and their political handmaiden who sold the spectrum don’t believe in the notion of “public good.” Or as Schiller warned: “Instead, in a myopic pursuit of still greater private return the corporate-directed economy, methodically is eliminating the institutions, structures, and the very idea of the common good…The larger purpose, and its supporting practices, which hold the social enterprise together, are being down-sized. In the drive for private gain, functions that require and enlist the support of the full community are being privatized and stripped of their social characteristics. Activities once community-based and identified as public are being detached from their social moorings and either turned into “profit centers,” left without adequate maintenance, or eliminated” (p. xv).
Schiller saw some of the uglier aspects of the “gig economy” two decades early: “In the United States of the 1990s, the notion of community has become mostly nostalgic. Every facet of living is being, or has been, transformed into a separate, paid-for transaction. The development is especially observable in the media/informational sphere…”
In the above-referenced interview, Luc Sante was asked about a possible worst-case scenario. His replied: “What we have now—a police state, a corporate economy, a ruling class indifferent to the fate of the rest of us, systemic racism, gun culture, galloping idiocy—further exacerbated by the climate emergency moving toward its end-stage, as low-lying cities are abandoned and hundreds of millions of displaced people search for safety. That we will enter a state of continual daily street-level war.”
Things don’t have to go this way, though it seems more likely than not. American history is filled with examples of segments of the population embracing nonsensical horseshit when facing a steep cliff. In the period following the Civil War, gold and silver currency theories became a substitute for the “great war-nurturing issues of racial and state-federal relations [such as]…the absorption of immigrants, the mushrooming of large businesses, the dissatisfaction of farmers, workers, and city-dwellers, the headlong growth of cities.” For a significant chunk of the population, “Convoluted states-rights arguments became a gigantic euphemism for slavery before the war; convoluted monetary rhetoric became a surrogate for social problems after the war” (Nugent, p 21). Less than ten years ago, such an analogy would have seemed fanciful—at the very least a bit of a stretch. Would anyone doubt the pertinence to our current moment, as we are all really, really glad the year 2020 is over, yet at the same time we are terrified at what each successive day could bring?
Your average ten-year-old has more access to information than could be found in the great libraries of previous eras. Yet, remedying a perpetual political/social/economic/climate crisis with junk facts is akin to treating a cancer patient with Twinkies and Big Macs. It’s not unusual for those of us who have spent much of our lives engaged in serious research and study to have our arguments dismissed by people who have “done the research” of watching a few unhinged YouTube videos. And while the absurdity of these types is stultifying, such people are no worse than political party hacks, or any others who uphold any of myriad ideologies, whether of the ossified Leninist cult variety or any of the tired know-nothingism so prevalent these days.
Instead of an ending
It’s easy to feel paralyzed by powerlessness. I write this from a worn table, listening to the slosh of traffic down below, the juncture between one of the major corridors for truck traffic from Flatbush Avenue to the Prospect Expressway in one direction, and the road that leads to JFK airport in the other. The truck route is terribly outdated, a narrow street with a propensity for gridlock every few hours. The street suffers from an outmoded design; the weight of the trucks causes the blacktop to buckle, with snaking berms up to two-feet tall appearing on the side of the road. The things have the appearance of something you might have seen in a cheap sci-fi flick, like the early stages of monster larvae that breaks the surface and eats the city whole. The real monster is the outdated design, so ingrained in the way things are that no politician would dare ever challenge the set-up. Every year or so, the city replaces the road, merely shaving the bizarre bumps under the surface, only to have the things reappear a few months later. They make cycling near-impossible and are the cause of regular traffic accidents. When the city most recently repaved the road, truck traffic was stalled for hours. A routine bit of infrastructural maintenance effectively crippled a good chunk of the supply chain that relies on that very infrastructure. From my perch, the disruption mostly manifested itself in prolonged horn blaring, a symbolic cacophony that continued long after its useless pleas were ignored by the work crews. The honking was, predictably, drowned out by the ubiquitous ambulance sirens, which soon gave way to police sirens. I did what anyone would do. I closed all the windows and turned up the radio. Much of what I heard was useless garbage, though some of it was good. In the end, it was a deafening racket. Sometimes that’s all we’ve got to work with.
Life circumstances have kept us from updating this site as often as we would like. As long as we are required to spend a large portion of our waking hours chasing money, these labors of passion get relegated to the backseat. In our ADHD-addled age, content often takes priority over quality prose. In 2021, we’re hoping to increase our output while continuing to improve our quality. While sticking to our original mission of analog radio, we’re going to be incorporating other features, including some music reviews, more radio-related prose and verse (including fiction, and other texts). In the meantime, we present our latest dispatch.
Now that the election has come and gone, we’ve been focusing less energy on AM talk radio. Your editor has logged enough hours on that medium to last a lifetime, and a good break can do wonders for one’s sanity. With Donald Trump receding into a non-presidential role, the news cycle feels a bit more banal. No central figure exists that can singlehandedly command as much media attention. Neither the Covid crisis nor the economic crisis are able to inspire the chatter like Trump did. Joe Biden sure as hell isn’t taking that kind of focus. Democracy Now (WBAI) has been looking at Biden’s cabinet picks, which are pretty much what you would expect, corporate democrats and Blackrock types down the line. Conservative AM radio hosts will need to adapt a new line from the old saw that Biden is pushing a total socialist takeover, a canard completely removed from reality.
How bad is it?
Things are bad right now, with mainstream politicians unable to offer any solutions to the current economic malaise. As this NPR spot shows, the number of Americans relying on credit cards to make rent has increased by 70%.
If the commercials on commercial radio are any kind of indicator…
Heard advertised on WABC’s Cousin Brucie show: “Newgenix,” some sort of testosterone enhancement. Someone has got to realize the similarity to “eugenics,” right? Or is that part of the appeal?
This past Saturday (12/5) a caller requested Cousin Brucie incorporate old commercials into his show. The legendary DJ responded, “I think we have enough commercials already!”
Heard on WBLS: a McDonald’s commercial toting the fast-food chain as an ideal stop between your 2nd job and your side hustle. WBLS has also been running a Heineken spot suggesting a six pack as an ideal Christmas gift. Stations like WBLS are a far better barometer of the dire economic reality experienced by millions of people than you are likely to hear about on any NPR Marketplace segment.
David Rothenberg devoted much of his Any Saturday show on BAI to an interview with human rights lawyer Steven Donziger. The case of Donziger belies the argument that fossil fuel companies will gradually transition to a non-extractive economy out of their own rational self-interest. These companies are willing to expend unlimited resources (in this case, over a thousand lawyers and countless money) to keep themselves from being held accountable. The lawyer, brought up on racketeering charges in retaliation for suing Chevron in Ecuador, has been disbarred and under house arrest while awaiting trial. This show doesn’t appear in BAI’s archive, but more info on the case can be found on Donziger’s website. 99.5 FM, Saturdays 8 – 10 a.m.
But enough. We already know things are bad, let’s get to the good stuff.
Musical gems, “lost,” gone, and way out
WKCR’s Mitch Goldman rebroadcast (12/7) his “Deep Focus” program that had drummer Billy Cobham giving context to rare Tony Williams Lifetime bootlegs and other gems. Hearing some of the best musicians in history describe the work of their peers is one of those things that provides much sustenance during a bleak plague winter. Fortunately on WKCR, this is the standard Monday night fare. Mondays, 6 – 9 p.m.
Some great attention to lost/obscure musical recordings has surfaced on NPR and WFMU. The first, a piece by NPR’s Peter Breslow focuses on Pastor Juan D. Shipp, former DJ at KWAM in Memphis. In the early 70s, Shipp began recording unknown gospel acts at a local studio and launched two record labels Some of the recordings from these imprints are finally being reissued, under the title The Last Shall be First. Shipp and music historian Michael Hurtt were able to rescue some of the original master tapes from a dilapidated shack on the verge of foreclosure. This piece has it all: Memphis radio, vital gospel-soul, a search for lost recordings and some wah-wah pedal.
John Allen at WFMU recently ran an interview with Hasan Shahid of the Black Unity Trio, coinciding with the reissue of that group’s 1968 album, Al Fatihah. This independently released album operates at a Coltrane-inspired intensity few artists achieve. You just can’t fake this stuff. As Shahid explains to Allen, his drumming replicated the sounds of the times: the National Guard gunfire, the cities burning, the war. Shahid’s voice and speaking style transmit the same urgent depth as the music. The Al Fatihah recording was a bit legendary, but I had never actually heard it before Allen’s show. Sometimes “lost” albums don’t live up to your expectations; this one really shines. Allen’s interview with Shahid covers his time at Howard University, the importance of John Coltrane, the formation of SNCC, and the legal difficulties faced by the percussionist resulting from his resistance to the Vietnam War. This program is exactly the reason we keep listening to, and writing about radio. JA in the AM, WFMU, Fridays 9 a.m.-noon.
Also heard on FMU: Billy Jamfeatured as a guest the militant hip-hop pioneer Paris this past Saturday (12/6). Billy played tracks from across the rapper’s career, going back to the Scarface Groove days. He had much to say about the challenges of toiling as an independent artist in a hyper-gentrified city (Oakland). It’s good to hear Paris continually expanding his musical and lyrical styles. His militancy isn’t of the touchy feely encounter-group variety. The new album title, “Safe Space Invader,” isn’t the work of someone worried about pissing off the easily offended. Fridays, 7 – 8 p.m.
Contrast this with Busta Rhymes, recently featured for an entire 3-hour Saturday night slot on DJ Bent Roc’s show on WBLS. Busta is doing a full-court promotion for his “Extinction Level Event Pt 2” album. The music’s not bad, but it sounds exactly the way you’d expect for a sequel to a 22 year-old recording. Basically, Busta Rhymes made a 1990s NY hip-hop album. Perpetually pigeonholed as a sideman, he’s actually a talented rapper. The record has some moments, and its share of high-caliber guests (Rakim, M.O.P.). If nothing else, it proves that Busta isn’t irrelevant. He’s appeared a few times on BLS and Hot 97 to talk about the album, but it’s unlikely either station will give much airtime to Busta’s new songs, which don’t have the same type of commercial appeal as most of the stuff they’ve got in heavy rotation. The youth-obsessed culture industry doesn’t really have much need for aging rappers. Before the plague hit, you could occasionally catch the Sugar Hill Gang playing at a park in the Bronx or something. At some point these artists get reduced to novelty status, so much Grand Funk Railroad at the county fair. The occasional anomaly with an independent distribution network and unique social relevance who pushes new musical boundaries can avoid this fate (see Paris above).
Todd O-Phonic Todd has been doing a nice job filling in for Clay Pigeon, weekday mornings on WFMU. It’s interesting hearing Todd away from his usual slot, playing to a more general audience. He seems to be enjoying himself. Steering away from excess showmanship, he keeps the delivery lean, with just enough artist info to set up the track. There’s a certain command of the craft at work here that comes from really knowing one’s shit and having the timing and ear to pull it off.
Brilliant forgeries, better than the real thing?
Reveal, the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX’s stellar show on WNYC recently re-aired its brilliant expose of the biggest artworld scam in recent history. This story details how an enterprising operation in Queens churned out masterful forgeries that were then sold through Manhattan galleries for over $ 80 million. Reporter Giselle Regatão masterfully grills some of the biggest art-world phonies, catching them lying about their culpability on tape. Predictably, the only person sentenced in the scheme was the person who brought the paintings to the galleries, a Queens woman who now works in a restaurant. Don’t miss this trenchant takedown of the world of galleries, and art-as-a-commodity. It’s hard to feel much sympathy for a banker distraught over shelling out $ 6 million for a fake De Kooning. I’d like to hear more from the artists who pumped this stuff out in Queens, that takes a real mastery of craft.
It’s Christmas time, over and over and over again.
At least two NYC stations are thoroughly saturated with 24/7 Christmas tunes (mainly 106.7 in NYC and 97.5 on Long Island). I like the schmaltzy, wall-of-sound stuff with the Bing Crosby-type crooners at the helm. It gets old quickly, as they repeat the same handful of songs, over and over and over and over again.
Hail to the king?
DJ King Singh continues playing some unique tunage on WSNR (AM 620) on Saturday afternoons. This past week, he was introduced as “the world’s most interesting DJ.” That’s a bit of a stretch, but we do keep going back to the joint Saturday broadcasts with 89.1 NTN Radio in Georgetown, Guyana. Singh spins a lot of Caribbean dance and Soca, with a good deal of Indian sounds working their way in. WSNR, 620 AM, Saturdays, 11 am – 2 p.m.
Editor’s note: we present our first piece of radiofiction, May He Rest in Peace by Peter Rugh. There is much to chew on in this tale of love, loss and a community radio fund drive.
Mother always complained Father was a loudmouth. He wouldn’t shut up when he was dead either.
He enjoyed making noise, you see. He was like a kid in that way, like a problem child who gets a thrill out of negative attention. I suppose it was his way of refusing to grow up, despite all his responsibilities. He got a big kick out of walking back and forth through the sliding glass doors of the Dollar General and triggering the automated greeting.
“Hello, we are happy to serve you. Hello, we are happy to serve you.” It pleased him to no end to set off that voice, which announced your arrival whether you were coming or going, and never lost its gusto.
The staff—dejected old men, immigrants and pregnant teenagers—must of heard it all day. They kept their mouths shut. They were numb to it. As far as they were concerned it was one more insult at a job that was full of insults. The pay was insulting, for one, the work beneath anyone with a prefrontal cortex, and the customers curmudgeons, penny-pinchers and thieves. They weren’t happy to serve anyone. At least the disembodied voice saved them the trouble of having to muster the enthusiasm they so vigorously lacked. Sure they heard it again and again, the taunt, the mantra, but what is one more prick in the ass, one more nail in the coffin, another bit of edging off the soul when the soul is already dying a slow death, pickled under halogen, amid aisles of carpet-by-the-roll, single-ply and stale Sour Patch Kids?
I started dreaming of that place after Father died. I’d wander the aisles, trying to remember what I was looking for. Father asked me to get it for him. He was waiting by the cash register. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember what it was. If I didn’t find it, I was a dead man.
Father always said I would wind up working at the Dollar General. Any grade below an “A” would set him going.
“You’re casting your die in with the Dollar General lot,” he’d say, shaking my report card in my face, spit flying everywhere. It landed in my eyes, my inner earlobes. It would have landed in my mouth but I was taught to keep my mouth shut in Father’s presence, as much as the things he did might have set it agape.
It got so Father could imitate the Dollar General voice perfectly. He must have practiced in the shower. Once a year he manned the grill at the company picnic and he’d parrot it for his employees while he slapped burgers on their buns. “Hello, we are happy to serve you,” he’d say.
Ground beef was either a mass of myoglobin or a pile of ash in his charge. When he wasn’t looking, his workers either slipped the foul fare into the garbage or under the picnic tables where their dogs didn’t deign to lick it. Father didn’t pay attention. He didn’t care. He wasn’t eating the filth he fed his people.
He himself had more expensive tastes. He’d skimp on toilet paper and splurge on food. The anus was of far less importance to him than the mouth. But Mother always said he was too loud to make the most of the instrument. He had so much to say he couldn’t wait to swallow. Half-noshed duck, beef Bourguignon, gratin dauphinois accompanied his every opinion and complaint. He had lots of those. Dental floss, for instance, was just a scam to pedal surplus thread on the masses. Each meal found Mother and I wiping bits of his discharge off our persons while we digested his take on world affairs. We didn’t interrupt. Servants came and mopped up.
After dinner one night, I found Father dead.
I was delivering his polished wingtips for his inspection when I came upon his lifeless body in the smoking chair he loved so well. His fly was open and so was his mouth. It was twisted in a grin, as if in ironic regard for the plot of the program on the television. It concerned a clique of crime-solving strippers. The strippers lived together in a mansion with a jacuzzi that they bathed each other in. They were hot on the trail of a sociopath who was out to kill strippers because the only woman he ever truly loved left him at the altar. She was a stripper. She was the first to go. He threw her in a fifty-gallon steel drum, welded it shut, and rolled her into the Pacific Ocean. The tide carried her away.
I zipped Father up, folded his hands over his death erection and laid his shoes at his feet. We watched the rest of the film together, even though I’d seen this one before. I sat beside him, cross-legged on the marble flooring, as I often did when he was alive.
The strippers nabbed their man using the power of seduction, along with a bit of cunning and luck.
The first stripper, you see, the one that broke the killer’s heart, it turned out she was alive and well. A kindly fisherman heard her cries for help and fished her out of the barrel. He and his wife nursed her back to health. This involved a lot of ointments. Then the three of them rolled around together a bit. Once the stripper was well she found the other strippers and they hatched a plot together in the jacuzzi but we didn’t know what it was until it came to fruition.
One of the strippers lured the killer back to their mansion. The killer made like he was reaching for a condom in his wallet but instead pulled out a razor blade. He was about to strike when the stripper he’d sent to sea called his name. She was made-up pale to look like a ghost and was wearing a wedding dress. This confused and bewildered the killer. Another stripper, one who had previously expressed a lack of self-confidence to her housemates because she thought her glasses made her look ugly, brought a vase down on the killer’s head.
The tender caresses of her housemates had done little to reassure the stripper who wore glasses of her beauty, but delivering that decisive blow sure did. Together they bound and gagged their prey.
The police soon arrived at the mansion. They criticized the strippers’ unorthodox methods but complemented the results and hauled the culprit away. Another case solved. The credits began to roll. I shut Father’s eyes for him. I tried to close his mouth but it wouldn’t budge.
The cops came to our house too. And paramedics. Nobody was in any rush. There wasn’t anything anybody could do for him. Everybody knew Father’s end was near. We expected what there was to expect. Mother, me, the local P.D. that Father kept in his pocket, and the shareholders in the bank that he possessed a majority stake in and which he ran for forty years.
He was proud of that bank and zealously guarded it like money under a mattress from threats internal and external. He was widely respected in the industry for being among the first to discover that you could charge your poorest customers the most exorbitant overdraft fees. “A deadbeat can be a cash cow,” he’d say.
A bit of a hullabaloo followed Father’s death. You can imagine. There was the funeral, the wake. Notices submitted to the press. Mistresses and long-lost relatives, rheumy-goggled, greedy and sentimental, came out of the woodwork. A feast of tears, veils, valium. Lawyers and event planners, oppressively attentive. It was a good thing Father’s wingtips were polished, I thought. They were on his feet when we lowered him into the ground.
Once the circus was over, I went back to visit him by my lonesome. His plot was on the outskirts of Queens, the graveyard quite dignified. Rows of gothic angels and women in Nasarean gowns rose from the grounds in weather-worn stone. They mourned the certainty of death in the shade of weeping willows and of cherry blossoms that cast their pink petals on the dewy green where the expired reclined, filed and catalogued.
It was a sunny September day, the cemetery empty, the sun busy at work burning away the last of the morning’s fog. Father had opted for a tombstone free of accouterment with a simple inscription below his name and dates. “What’s robbing a bank compared to owning a bank?” his grave asked the visitor.
I knelt on the soft, soggy grass, bowed my head, clasped my hands and began an “Our Father.” It was then that the voice came to me, a great booming voice, cheery, dripping with dedication and confidence, not unlike the voice that greets you at Dollar General. It came from the bowels of the earth and interrupted my prayers.
“Can you hear me Nassau?” it spoke. “Where are you Throgs Neck?”
I put an ear to the ground. “Father is that you?”
“Are you out there Boonton?” the voice replied. “Gerritsen, Gravesend, Bullshead, Sheepshead, Ridgewood, Norwood, Spuytin Duyvil? We’ve got a transmitter on top of the Empire State Building broadcasting far and wide. We’re in every crack and crevice of the New York Metropolitan area, spreading the word. Uncle Barry Bowles, M.D. knows you can hear him, Seagate, Tottenville, Monmouth Junction. I’m depending on you Totowa, Pompton Lakes. Let Uncle Barry Bowles, M.D. know how much you appreciate programming like this, how much you appreciate WEFU. Right now, for a limited time only, we’re offering the rare herbs and phytonutrients you need to stay young and spry. Make the most of this special offer and pledge today. Call up and give now and Uncle Barry Bowles, M.D. will send you his personal wellness pack. It’s chock-full of ginkgo biloba, turmeric dust, sea buckthorn flakes, nopal cacti, mangos teen and raspberry ketones. An army of volunteers is standing by to take your pledge right this instant.”
The voice recited the station’s telephone number several times slowly.
“Support this station and make a commitment to health, life and longevity now and I’ll even throw in my special DVD,” it said. “The wellness tips on this special DVD will last a lifetime. You won’t learn of them from any other station. The pharmaceutical industrial complex sees to that. This wisdom and these healing properties are not available in stores. This limited offer is only available to EFU members. Give now, and we’ll even include an EFU tote bag for you to carry your extracts, distillations, and essences everywhere you go. Operating a transmitter at the top of Empire State isn’t cheap, folks. The Food and Thug Administration is chomping at the bit to silence us. We will not be silenced. I repeat, we will not be silenced!”
I called up the cemetery’s front office from the highway back to Westchester. A fugue by Bach played in the background while I waited on hold. Finally, I got through to the cemetery’s warden.
“Father chose his plot because he thought it would offer peace and respite,” I told him. “Instead he’s stuck listening to a community radio station during pledge drive week.”
“Ah yes, yes” the warden said in a heavily affected mid-Atlantic accent. I’d met him twice before. Once when I’d accompanied my Father to pick out his grave and once when my Father was buried in it. He was a rather corpulent fellow, I recalled, attentive as a small dog. There were always plenty of small dogs in Father’s orbit, hoping to sit on his lap or to fetch a few scraps that might fall from his table. I didn’t not want to look at the man, otherwise I would have visited him personally. I could hear him on the other end of the line cracking nuts and putting them in his mouth. He mumbled and huffed through his nostrils while he chewed.
“Yes, I’m aware of the matter,” he apologized. “We’ve received several complaints about your Father from other customers already. The dear ones of our customers, that is. The boys are quite fond of that Uncle Barry Bowles, M.D., you understand. They have nothing but praise for his moringa pulp and lychee concentrates. I have half the mind to ask them for some of the doctor’s cat’s claw capsules myself. They tell me clinical trials conducted in Argentina have produced miraculous results in reducing blood pressure in rodents. The boys have been quite distraught since the loss of their radio. It seems they allowed your father to take it with him into the afterlife, you understand. Once they realized the gravity of their error, they have taken their lunch at your Father’s tombstone every day since just to sit and listen.”
“They’ll have to dig it out of there.”
“Would we if we could, my son. That was their first impulse, and, I must confess, mine as well. Upon a period of reflection, however, it occurred to me that surely this isn’t a matter worth disturbing the perished over any more than necessary. Tell me, what sort of music did your father enjoy in life?”
It was a baffling question. “if you must know, he was a Ted Nugent fan,” I said.
“Splendid. My suggestion is that before you retire this evening, light a candle and put on an Amboy Dukes record. In this way, pay tribute to your father. Think not of the voice from beyond his grave. The batteries in that thing will perish eventually as all things must. Soon your father will meet the silence of eternity that finds each and every one of us at the beginning of our next journey.”
The warden shoveled some more nuts in his mouth. Peanut, I’m guessing. “Believe you me, the boys will have to wait a while before they earn back their radio privileges,” he said.
Rather than listening to the Nuge, aka Motor City Madman, I turned the dial to EFU. I listened to it from my Buick all the way home and put it on in the house after I parked. I was up much of the night and the days that proceeded listening. In a strange way, it was the only remaining link between Father and me. Knowing we were both tuned to the same station made him feel close once more. I tried to channel his spirit.
In addition to Uncle Barry Bowles, M.D. the station offered an array of programs catering to different ethnic groups and constituencies. Haitians, Irish, Filipinos, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Arabs, and North Africans each had a program. There was a show for Marxists, anarchists, feminists, Black nationalists, hackers, queers, for listeners with legal problems, money problems, sexual problems, computer problems, for Rastas, necromancers, birdwatchers, and finally, at three a.m., for fans of the Grateful Dead. All the people Father never associated with in life were keeping him company in his grave. They were bringing Father and I together.
I sat in the dark with the radio on, losing track of the dawns and dusks coming and going past the curtains. Gospel followed by low-budget, left-wing news programming greeted the day. Then Uncle Barry Bowles, M.D. was at it again. He had something like a six-hour slot.
Periodically, Mother wrapped on the door with a plate of something in hand. As soon as Father went she became just as attentive and resentful toward me as she’d been toward him. She fired all the help in order to fully devote herself to the task. Even with the radio on, I could hear her mouse-like footsteps approaching from down the hall, accompanied by the familiar stampede of her pack of Lhasa Apsos at her heel. Whereas Father had people pawing at him, she contented herself with pooches.
“No, thank you,” I’d whisper if I was conscious. I was busy considering what Father would do were he able to aid his own plight. Channeling him through the airwaves, I drifted in and out of a trance-like state.
Either way, Mother left the food at my door. There was a stack of it, rotting on the china, waiting for me when I emerged from my cerebrations. The plates were smeared around their gilded-edges with the tongue prints of Mother’s Lhasas who, once she was asleep, returned night after night to lap up the opulent helpings she’d deposited at my altar.
One thing was certain, I’d decided by then, Father was a man of action and would therefore act decisively. I gave Garthright a ring, or, as Father used to call him, Barfright. Barf for short. There was heavy breathing on the other end of the line. “Barf, are you there?” I said.
A wearied, guttural “yes” came back after a pause.
“You really ought to announce yourself.”
“I’m here, man.”
Barf was the neighbor kid, only by now he was the neighbor man, if you could call him a man. He still lived with his mother. Father would give him a quarter to perform odd jobs around the house, little tasks that I couldn’t do or couldn’t do alone for one reason or another. Once Father gave him a nickel on accident. Barf never complained, so Father just kept giving him nickels. I started giving Barf nickels myself when Father assigned me chores. The night Father died, it was Barf who shined his shoes. Barf wound up being one of his pallbearers. He nearly dropped him.
Working with Barf was a little like fucking yourself. On the one hand, it was convenient because he was always around. On the other, you were still just fucking yourself. Yet he only cost a nickel.
The day before the funeral, I employed him to pack some of Father’s belongings into a warehouse that I procured beside an Olive Garden in White Plains. I parked the U-Haul by the loading dock, handed Barf the keys to the warehouse and walked next door where I ate shrimp linguine accompanied by a lovely white zinfandel. When I returned, the truck was empty, the warehouse stuffed. It looked as if Barf’d done a bang-up job. Orderly too. The medieval weaponry and Victorian sex toys Father purchased from the most prestigious auction houses in Europe, the dozens of appliances he’d ordered from Sharper Image and never removed from their packaging, his National Geographics and vintage smut rags—it was all stacked and organized.
Father’s big-game kills, the full-body stuff jobs, not the ones already mounted to the wall, were given a pile of their own. Predator cat mounted cowboy-style upon predator cat. Mother was glad to see those go. They frightened her Apsos. She’d pleaded with me to get rid of “all this gewgaw” the morning after Father keeled. It was no skin off my back. This way, I and I alone would know where Father’s treasures were hidden.
Naturally, I gave Barf a nickel and was so pleased with his efforts I would have thrown in a twenty-cent tip, were I not afraid of reversing the precedent. I sang Barf’s praises until I dropped the steel curtain to lock the place up. I felt in my pockets for the key and recalled, with trepidation and dread, that I’d left it in his care. A tragic mistake. It took us hours to uncover it among the parts of a disassembled trebuchet against a back wall. The sun was setting by then. I bought Barf dinner. What was I supposed to do? Sit there and eat my Lasagna Classico while he stared at me?
Strange to think the kid in the ringer tee who sat across the table—heaving unctuous morsels of pasta, dripping with milt-textured white sauce, into a hole in his face—was only maybe a year or two younger than me. Maybe we were even the same age. Nonetheless, I always think of Barf as a kid. Always have. Always will. Maybe cause he’s always calling me “man.” It seems a childish thing to do. Come to think of it, Barf is something of a younger brother to me.
“I got something for you, kid,” I told him over the phone. “You’re going to help me find something, and I hope to God you do a better job then you did with that key. Meet me at my place and bring a shovel. We’re heading to my Father’s grave tonight. There might be a quarter in it for you.”
“You people,” he scoffed. “It’s always something with you. You think I come around for the money? This shit is going into my memoir, man.”
The Rastas kept interrupting the music while we dug, me with my shovel, Barf with the trowel he’d turned up with. Before we could start shoveling to the rhythm, the disc jockeys would whip the volume down on the music and start babbling over the bass beat. This went on every twenty seconds or so. Then they’d throw on a new track and interrupt that. I could only guess what Father must have been going through in there. We were interrupting the ground, I suppose, intruding upon the work of its insects and garden snakes. It was hard to understand what the Rastas were saying but evidently they were fans of the good uncle-doctor’s berry bowls too. The pledge drive was ending and they really pushed the stuff. They were just $8,000 shy of their goal. It went on for an hour. By the time they finished they were just two grand shy.
Next came an old man who played opera music on a wind up gramophone, followed by a jockey who must have known everything about Charlie Parker there was to know. I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew what color drawers the Bird was wearing on June 7, 1944. He knew so much, that he hardly got around to playing any of his music. This programming failed to bring the station any closer to its goal. We were still pretty far from ours, as well, what with Barf pecking away with his meager instrument.
Then came punk music. Awful stuff, yet it somehow made Barf work faster. I smiled at the prospect of locating the racket before daybreak. I relished the thought of smashing the radio to smithereens. But something funny began to happen. The more we dug, the fainter the abrasive malodies eliminating from below became. There was more distortion too, but I couldn’t tell if that was the music or the radio itself. Perhaps the batteries were giving out. I mentioned something about it to Barf.
“It’s freakin’ weird that this thing is picking up a signal at all,” he said.
He had a point there.
“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Barf,” I told him, “than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
“I believe in the church of Heaven on Earth, man,” he snorted, whatever that meant.
The more we dug, the more elusive the object of our digging became. I began to become concerned our labors were for naught.
“Alright,” said the disc jockey, as the garbled sounds of guitars screeching and jackhammer drums faded out. He kinda sounded like Barf, half-awake and dissatisfied, only his voice gurgled static. “Did we meet our goal?” he asked. “Brad’s telling me, ‘No, we didn’t meet our goal.’ You guys know Brad. He’s the night manager around here. He’s shaking his head. How far we got to go, Brad? Oh, yeah, Brad. That’s a lot of scratch to round up in the ten minutes we have remaining in this pledge drive. I’m not going to tell you how much scratch we need because if I did it would just depress you. What I will say is every little bit counts. If you listeners wouldn’t mind getting up and turning over your couch cushions, please write us a check for any change you find. We promise we won’t cash it right away. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already given. I’ve still got plenty of Descendants ’84 van mixtapes to handout, and, for you big money givers, a pair of tickets to my annual pub-rock-pre-punk-post-punk-rockabilly-rocksteady-new-wave-two-tone-mod party. It’s next Tuesday at that craphole on Delancey.”
He recited the number to call like a sardonic prayer.
“Or don’t give a dime,” he said. “Me and myself will go together. Now back to the—no, Brad’s telling me I have to pitch some more. Well, I will say this, if you listeners want to know what the sound of EFU off-the-air sounds like do yourselves a favor. Go into the bathroom, draw a warm bath. Stick your head underwater and scream at the top of your lungs. That’s the sound of the voice of the people being silenced. How’s that, Brad? Good enough for you, Brad? Okay, that was good enough for Brad.”
The disc jockey sounded like Barf alright, caustic and lackadaisical, but he had more to say than Barf ever had. Well, he spoke more, at least, although he might as well have been coming through on a dusty VHF out at sea as far as he reached us. Soon the lazy voice and the auditory violence it summoned would die on us. My shovel might as well have been a paddle if that happened, since I’d be up shit creek.
“Here’s a little ditty from Thee Headcoats off their Messerschmitt Pilot’s Severed Hand record,” the jockey informed us. “I’m going for a cigarette.”
I gestured to Barf for him to quit pecking at the ground with his trowel so that I could better trace the clangor.
“Punk rock ist nicht tot, punk rock ist nicht tot,” went the refrain. The singer’s German, if you could call him a singer, was an insult. There was no hiding his cockney accent, despite the foreignness of the words he hollered and the crackling, imminent death of the charge behind them.
Barf propped himself up on the edge of our hole, broke the seal on an energy bar and began chewing at his leisure while I bent my back toward the furtherance of our goal. How like a chimp Barf seemed, peeling back the wrapper like the peel on a banana. I was chin deep in Father’s final resting place. “Punk rock ist nicht tot,” the ground beneath me proclaimed with a religious fervor that was becoming swiftly inaudible, despite its vehemence. “Punk rock ist nicht tot, punk rock ist nicht tot.”
“I’m coming, Father,” I whispered, barely louder than what I was hunting for. It was close at hand. If I didn’t find it now, it would be there forever. Barf took a final bite from the energy bar and tossed the packaging below. Peanut butter, oatmeal, raisin. His legs dangled over the hole we’d accomplished. He looked comfortable up there above me, watching me struggle. I almost envied him. I dug a heel into the shoulder of the spade. “Once and for all, Father, I’m coming.”
Editor’s note: This latest hardware review by Dick Alexander comes with an appeal. For years, the Grundig S350 was my main radio, until the adapter died a decade ago. If anyone reading this has an extra 6V adapter they are willing to sell, please drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In my last dispatch, I reviewed a Bluetooth receiver. This time out it’s a Bluetooth transmitter: The Miccus Home RTX 2.0 Long Range Wireless Audio Transmitter. This unit can also function as a Bluetooth receiver, here we are focusing on its transmission abilities. If you are interested in a Bluetooth receiver that we recommend, see our review here.
A Bluetooth transmitter is a useful piece of equipment and can be used for a variety of purposes including wirelessly linking a TV to a pair of Bluetooth headphones, allowing family members or roommates quiet time while you watch TV. It actually allows simultaneous pairing to two sets of headphones, so a couple of gamers can do battle without the sounds of explosions and other audio intrusions killing the living room for others and there is also an option for listening to your TV via wired and wireless Bluetooth speakers simultaneously. I use it for hooking my turntable to my portable Bluetooth speaker allowing me to listen to my vinyl tunes anywhere in the house.
The RTX 2.0 is tiny: 4 1/2” wide, 1” high and 2 1/4” deep. It is supplied with a variety of cables to enable all hookup options. At rear are the hookup ports: 3.5mm audio output/input and optical audio output/input. Hookup and pairing are easy, I ran the RCA outs from my turntable pre-amp to the 3.5 mm audio input on the Miccus with the supplied cable. Following instructions in the manual the pairing process with my speaker took thirty seconds. The Miccus range is up to 300 ft line-of-sight and up to 160 ft through walls. While an audiophile may balk at the idea of listening to vinyl via Bluetooth, the audio quality of this setup is crisp-clean and sounds great. If you love vinyl and like to listen to your tunes throughout the house via Bluetooth, then this unit is perfect for you, add to the list the other options mentioned above and you have a very handy (and tiny) piece of gear at a reasonable price.
What we love here at Freq-Amp is an analog radio, we also like food, and seeing as it’s holiday season, we will be spending a lot of time in the kitchen accompanied by our trusty sidekick and kitchen receiver: The Grundig S350 FM/AM/SW. According to eHam.net this radio is still in production. It is certainly widely available on eBay. I got mine on Craigslist for $40. The S350 is powered by a 6v dc transformer or by four D cell batteries, among its features are an LCD digital display w light plus alarm clock and a host of controls including: two band select knobs, volume and separate bass & treble. The large tuner dial is dual functioned for slow and fast tuning. On the side panel are separate mono/stereo audio outs, and a headphone jack plus an SW low-pass filter switch. At rear is a coaxial jack for an external FM antenna and jacks for AM/SW antenna and a ground.
The S350 has an excellent ability to pull in FM signals, it has a very long whip antenna for this purpose and for shortwave (42”). Listening to WFMU in Brooklyn which is out of Jersey and doesn’t have the strongest signal it gets perfect static free reception. This is also a well-respected radio for its SW abilities, while shortwave is not my thing a quick spin across SW1 the other evening brought in many stations including a number of religious freak shows including one beaming in loud and clear from Glendale, CA. I generally only listen to Mets games on the AM band on this radio, I do my AM listening and AM DX’ing on other radios elsewhere in the house and while not known for its AM DX abilities it does have a very handy feature: the RF Gain knob below the tuner dial allows tightening of the signal reception and volume boost on AM/SW bands. When atmospheric conditions allowed I have tuned in Zoomer Radio out of Toronto Canada on occasion. The S350 is regarded as a portable radio but at 11” Wide by 7” tall it’s another radio you won’t be sticking in your pocket, but solid, sweet and a very good radio it certainly is.
Editor’s note: As we were getting ready for this dispatch to go out, the New York Times ran a short blog on how conservative radio hosts are covering the contested-election story. The Timespiece largely relies on the number of times certain terms like “fraud” appear in a show’s transcripts. They contrast Limbaugh and Hannity with NPR. This is interesting, but we find it helps if you actually listen to this stuff, get the rhythm down. It’s a shame that most newspapers cut their radio columns years ago. A paper as influential as the Times doesn’t even have a reporter covering the format millions of Americans rely on as their main source of information. The elite newsrooms could save a lot of money on sending reporters to cover the mysterious Trump voters in coal country by just tuning in to AM radio.
Contested election? Or contested reality?
Nothing illustrated the stark divisions between radio at its best and worst more sharply than Joe Biden’s defeat of Donald Trump.
No sooner than it was clear Donald Trump had no real path to an electoral college victory, the conservative talk radio hosts began spinning any false narrative they could find. Conspiracy theories were floated and quickly discarded for the next made-up claim. Some hosts put forward multiple contradictory claims at the same time. States that had finished counting votes needed to continue the count. Other states that were still counting ballots needed to stop immediately. It was the voting machines! Dead voters! Whoever coordinates the daily messaging failed to get out a coherent narrative. As bizarre as the entire spectacle was, it was fascinating to hear the narrative forged in real time.
None of this should be surprising for anyone who listens to AM radio. The tone for most AM hosts is set early in the morning when members of the Trump administration appear to suss out talking points. Rush Limbaugh (WOR 710) helped get things rolling on Monday when he said: “if presented in the right way,” the various conspiracy theories could have a real impact. Buck Sexton attacked Fox News. Ben Shapiro and Brian Kilmeade asked leading questions to Trump campaign officials. Predictably, this continued undeterred, even as officials from Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security declared the election to be “the most secure in American history.” We have been listening to Rudy Giuliani’s radio show regularly for long enough that we have heard and evaluated all of the Trump campaign’s arguments. We have found the former mayor’s claims to be yet another meritless attempt to stay relevant. The whole spectacle was more excruciating than several months of MSNBC Russiagate coverage condensed into a single week.
No station had as much at stake in the election outcome as WABC 770 AM. Station owner, billionaire-landlord and NYC GOP boss John Catsimitidis pushed the voter fraud line on his Sunday morning “Roundtable,” a show whose opening theme consists of multiple people talking about how great the bossman is. Catsimitidis continued this during a special Veterans’ Day co-broadcast with “The Answer” AM. Months ago, we predicted Answer host Kevin McCullough was auditioning for a spot on WABC by having Catsimitidis as a frequent guest. On the Veterans Day segment, the two spun election-fraud theories while Catsimitidis railed against an “algorithm” responsible for Trump’s defeat, announcing that ”People who don’t believe fraud exists are dumber than dog doo doo.” There is something odd about a guy who owns a station that appears to exist solely as a campaign arm of the Republican Party being too tepid to use a term like “dog shit.” Bill O’Reilly, in his own I’m not saying the election was stolen, but it was probably stolen bit on WABC noted that the 70 million Trump voters said a collective “Blank You!” to the political establishment. The FCC and FEC are so unregulated, these guys should give up the phony G-rated shtick. For what it’s worth, Catsimitidis, who may be running for Mayor of NYC again in 2021, was introduced as “the man who is New York.” The billionaire brought out his new weekend host Tony Orlando to talk about their friend “Donald.” As excited as we were for Orlando’s arrival on WABC as a music jock, his debut was lackluster. There is really no excuse to play the same handful of songs you can hear on any of the other “oldies” outlets. Oh great, “Life in the Fast Lane” by the Eagles. At least Orlando has a pretty good delivery. Catsimitidis, on the other hand, has the distinction of being only slightly better than Heshy Tischler.
One of the more bizarre shows on WABC is the new “Lidia Reports,” with Lidia Curanaj, who is billed as the station’s “investigative journalist and Editorial Content Manager.” Curanaj started her Sunday evening show by playing Queen’s “We are the Champions,” and then saying Trump couldn’t have possibly lost because his rallies were so enthusiastic. She would carry on about the stolen election, and then revert back to the whole “I’m not saying it was stolen” line. Curanaj has been appearing on the Curtis and Juliet Show as a news commentator. Curanaj’s spots contain about as much “news” content as a can of tuna fish, which is to say not much at all.
Juliet Huddy actually countered false election narratives on the Curtis and Juliet Show. That didn’t stop Curtis Sliwa from repeatedly insisting countless dead people helped throw the election to Biden.
WABC morning hosts Sid and Bernie claimed that once the election was called for Biden people were “dancing in the streets” in Beijing. Sid Rosenberg went on to complain that he would probably have to start paying more to fill the tank in his SUV.
Rudy Giuliani, now in charge of Trump’s entire election legal strategy, has been approaching the contested election line the same way he approached the Hunter Biden laptop story: nonstop, and with vague, conflicting information. Giuliani pushed examples of fraud from people who have since recanted their stories. He rails against poll workers delivering “ash cans” full of ballots. Giuliani also claims that the voting machine company beams vote results overseas, where they are then tabulated on foreign soil. Iran, China, Spain and other countries have been hinted at as possible locations. Like the Biden laptop story, Giuliani gives snippets of information, dashing from point to unrelated point—claiming the election was stolen by Dominion (a voting machine manufacturer), the Chinese government, Nancy Pelosi, the Deep State—usually ending his rants with a plea to tune in at a later date for the real juicy evidence. Giuliani’s treatment of the Hunter Biden laptop largely revolved around an email the Biden son had sent to a sibling complaining that he paid more than his share in the family. I don’t think any high-level politicians should be trading in their connections for lucrative jobs. But Giuliani failed to deliver the evidence, and instead wound up having callers weigh in on pictures on Hunter Biden’s genitals. Giuliani has never uttered a peep about Donald Trump’s family using the office of president for self-enrichment. The airwaves at WABC will never broadcast foul words like “Hatch Act,”and “Emoluments Clause.” Since Giuliani is working for Trump and his campaign, his show is essentially an infomercial for the president, yet another in-kind campaign contribution by John Catsimitidis. Tune in and hear callers tell Giuliani he was sent by god to save Trump (yes, this happens).
Rudy Giuliani audio. Caller blasts Rudy: “You lied about the air quality at the World Trade Center. You cross-dressing perverted drunk”
Let’s take a brief respite from the unfunny clown show for some comedic relief. Here’s Rudy Giuliani, shortly before the election getting blasted by a caller identifying as a retired NYPD detective. The caller demands Giuliani present actual evidence of the Hunter Biden laptop allegations before saying: “Our unions got you elected and reelected, you rewarded us with zeroes. You lied about the air at the World Trade Center. You cross-dressing perverted drunk.” Giuliani dismisses the caller as “probably sort of a Biden fan of some kind of another.” (For the record, we don’t oppose Giuliani for his alleged “perversions,” we oppose him for his bottomless venality, his hypocrisy and his disastrous tenure as mayor of NYC, when he effectively banned dancing, yet traipsed around in drag performances).
More Giuliani audio: Rudy “both sides” Trump’s attacks on John McCain
And here’s Giuliani dismissively responding to a veteran who suggested Trump may have turned off voters. Rudy “both sides” Trump’s attacks on John McCain, who he claims was a good friend of his.
Brian Lehrer and WNYC bring clarity in a time of crisis (yet again)
To see the opposite approach of how radio can be done, we can turn once again to Brian Lehrer at WNYC. Lehrer has featured multiple top election-law experts to make sense of the Trump campaign’s various lawsuits. On Monday, Lehrer interviewed Richard Hasen, of the University of California, Irvine. In response to Lehrer’s questions about the merits of the election-fraud cases, Hasen responded: “Let me just say the fact that Rudy Giuliani rather than one of the A-list Republican election lawyers is in charge of this that tells you all you need to know. If there were a credible legal case that could be brought the people who’d be out front would look very different.”
WNYC’s On the Media—excellent as always—takes on the alternate-facts hype machine yet again. The latest episode, “Another World Entirely,” distills the Trump administrations attacks on data and democracy. The episode is worth listening to in its entirety. Brooke Gladstone’s conversation with former conservative journalist and Newsbusters founder Matt Sheffield is at once a look at the rot at the heart of contemporary conservatism and a scathing critique of out-of-touch elitist coastal media outlets whose condescension towards regular people alienates much of the population.
Reveal, heard on WNYC talks with a Black election worker in Detroit, who breaks down the hostility she faced from poll watchers attempting to disrupt the vote-counting process. When asked if she felt there was a racial element to the poll watchers’ work, she asks, “Why didn’t they go to Ann Arbor?… Why Detroit?” This same episode has a segment produced in conjunction with 100 Days in Appalachia which follows a Black legislator in West Virginia who faces so many death threats, she is forced to wear body armor. The audio footage of heavily armed counterprotesters shouting the n-word and other epithets at that state’s Black Lives Matter protest is chilling. Reveal carries some of the better reporting found on the radio.
For your consideration
WNYC has a new daily 20-minute podcast, “Consider This,” featuring selected NYC-based and national stories, sourced its own pool of reporters and NPR. (We have not yet heard this show, look for a possible future review).
WBGO steps it up
WBGO has been running some great segments on its website (it’s unclear if these also air on the radio). This piece (with audio) by Greg Bryant and Nate Chinen on Herbie Hancock’s visionary Mwandishi unit is great read/listen.
Play it again and again and again
WFMU’s Put the Needle on the Record has been top-notch, every Friday night. If you haven’t caught the show, check out Billy Jam’s recent revolutionary rap special. DJ Fine Wine’s Downtown Soulville, followed by NY Underground with Ray Boogie keep the good beats flowing up till midnight. On the commercial end of the FM dial, WBLS has been playing some great stuff. This past Saturday night, DJ Bent Rock did a tribute commemorating Notorious B.I.G’s induction into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. It was nice to hear special guest Lil’ Cease of the Junior Mafia back on the NYC airwaves again.
Whole Lotta Legends: Cousin Brucie and Tony Orlando on WABC Saturday Nights
This time around we’ve got mostly good news. Since September, Bruce “Cousin Brucie” Morrow has been back on the air at WABC AM, after a 45-year absence. Morrow is one of the all-time-great rock ‘n roll disc jockeys, and it’s a pleasure to hear him in his element on Saturday nights. The Cousin’s career developed coevally with a really important phase of rock history. He likes to play mostly 50s – 60s-era classics: sparkling soul, some Doo-wop, lots of majestic Burt Bacharach/Phil Spector Wall of Sound production. At any rate, Morrow, who is in his 80s, sounds like he’s having a lot of fun. He knows how to set up a song, he helped invent the format. Judging from the high volume of calls, the audience loves it, too. Aging boomers phone in to share their medical gripes and memories of how they used to listen to Brucie in their teen years. It’s really touching to hear listeners (the “cousins”) talk shop Brucie with about the best home jukebox.
Last Saturday, legendary crooner Tony Orlando called in to announce his upcoming show following Morrow. The two talked about how they have known each other over 61 years, and the love and affection was genuine. Orlando also credited Brucie with helping to start his career, giving him his first-ever shot on stage when he was a teenager (hear it out here, around the 59-minute mark).
For its part, WABC radio is barely promoting Tony Orlando’s Saturday night spot. Their website doesn’t mention it at all, which is a shame. Morrow and Orlando both credit station owner John Catsimatidis with setting up the roster. It’s unclear if this is yet another vanity move on the billionaire’s vanity station, akin to gobbling up a rare work of art. Catsimatidis is willing to push programs that have few listeners when he agrees with their message (just check out Rudy Giuliani’s weekday program, which often has more useless public service announcements than paid advertisers). In the case of quality music, WABC could probably attract actual advertisers—though Morrow’s show currently carries ads for life insurance, and an occasional conservative political book. For a a solid chunk of time every Saturday night, one of the worst stations in NYC is transformed into something that is quite good. Check out Cousin Brucie, Saturday nights, 6 -10 and the Tony Orlando Show, premiering this Saturday, Halloween, 10- midnight. WABC 770 AM.
Here’s some classic Tony Orlando & Dawn to whet your appetite.
Bacharach is back
Speaking of aging Rock n’ Roll legends, Burt Bacharach just released a new tune at 92 years young. Bacharach’s “the Great Divide” tackles the American conundrum, and as a result, will probably get zero airplay on WABC radio or on similar outlets. Bacharach’s work with Dionne Warwick is some of your editor’s favorite music, period. The fact that he is able to create work of such a high caliber at 92 years is mindblowing. Not sure I’m crazy about the vocalist, but to his credit, he doesn’t over-sing, as so many contemporary vocalists seem to do.
Check out this gem from Bacharach and Dionne Warwick and ponder: how the hell did humans make such beautiful sounds?
Tom Robbins, Deadline New York
This past Monday, investigative reporter Tom Robbins, also a legend, launched his Deadline New York: Tales of New York from a Veteran Reporter. Robbins has broken stories at the Times, the Daily News and the Village Voice, and knows NYC politics as well as anybody. The maiden broadcast featured a round table of heavyweight reporters discussing their roles covering president Trump since his early days as slumlord and developer. WBAI, 99.5 FM, Mondays, 5 p.m.
Democracy Now, heard on WBAI had an informative segment with reporter Ari Berman on what this week’s Supreme Court rulings on mail-in ballots might mean in terms of how your vote may or may not be counted. Weekdays, 8 a.m., WBAI, 99.5 FM.
Hardware Review: Bluetooth Beauty and the DX’ers Dream, by Dick Alexander
While we are generally focused on analog radio here at Freq-Amp we realize that some readers may be listening to the radio via their phones or other devices or heaven forbid even listening to their own music collection from their computer. With that in mind the first piece of gear up for review here is a Bluetooth receiver with very flexible output options that can be connected to a component system or pretty much any audio setup. The Dayton Audio BTR01 is a Bluetooth Audio receiver, which offers excellent lossless audiophile high fidelity with sampling rates of up to 48kHz/24-bit at a very reasonable price in a very small package. This powerful little unit is 4″ wide, 1.5″ high and 2.5 inches deep. It is powered by a 12 V DC wall wart, and has three separate output options, analog out via RCA cables, and two digital outs via an optical out and a coaxial out. The front panel has a power button which doubles as a switch between analog and digital outs. I just purchased this unit for $57, including shipping from Parts Express and can honestly say I am thrilled with the results. Listening to the new Lee Perry dub album, Heavy Rain right now on my home stereo from the computer via the RCA output option into the amplifier, the results are quite stunning with super warm bass response and delicious highs and mids. There is truly a round analog quality feel to the audio. Definitely a sweet little piece of gear at the right price.
Next up we have the C Crane CC Radio-2, a four-band analog radio with AM, FM, 2 meter VHF band and weather band. Dimensions are 11″ w x 7 ” h and 4″ deep, while it is regarded as a portable radio it’s not going to exactly fit in your pocket. Renowned with DX’ers for its ability to pull in distant AM stations, it consistently scores at the top or near the top of side-by-side long distance AM comparisons with the best radios. The 2-meter VHF band is a good way for the novice to explore Ham radio. Audio quality is pleasant with separate bass and treble controls. Powered by AC or alternatively 4 D Cell batteries. For FM reception there is a long telescopic whip antenna and it has two points at the rear for an external AM antenna and a ground. Also there are an aux input which allows use of the speaker by an external device and a line out. Five large buttons across the top are for station presets.
For tuning there are two buttons: up and down, hold down a button for more than 5 seconds and the radio will begin scanning plus there is a large dial for precision tuning. A small screen, which gives a digital read out of the exact frequency tuned, one of the few criticisms I have of this radio is that after 10 seconds this screen goes blank so you cannot see which station you are currently tuned to without touching the dial again. This screen has a light with a switch that is entirely independent of the power switch and so can remain on when the radio is powered off. Another excellent piece of hardware, this radio is suitable for a desktop or possibly pride of place in the kitchen, nothing like listening to some chill tunes on Zoomer radio from Canada while prepping the dinner.
Today’s dispatch is going to be a short one. We are reluctant to give obnoxious blowhard Heshy Tischler too much attention. Those of us who put this site together are grateful for our readers, and we don’t want to subject any of you to endless posts about unlistenable programming. We have already covered Tischler’s antics and his “Just Enough Heshy” show here and here. This new development, however, is worth reporting on, as a warning. Here’s what we hope is the last post for a while on Heshy Tischler.
Upon tuning in for a quick listen to Tischler’s show last night, we heard a caller identifying himself as “David from the Proud Boys,” greeted with enthusiasm by the host, who asked “Are you coming to the rally, David?” The Proud Boy assents, stating, “We have a lot in common, Heshy.” A fawning Tischler tells the caller, “I love you, David.” The rally Tischler referred to is a pro-Trump event at Trump Tower this Sunday. Tischler and his guest, MAGA activist Jen Remauro, discussed the plans for the rally throughout the show. As we noted in our last review of Tischler’s show, lacking a large base of popular support, the demagogue would likely turn to increasingly desperate political stunts. Now Heshy’s prostrating himself at the base of Trump Tower, a great way to get the attention of the MAGA mediascape (he’s already been featured in Breitbart-style websites as a representative of “New York Jews,” a claim that is beyond absurd).
Despite Donald Trump’s attempts to paint them otherwise, the Proud Boys are a far-right gang. Their members routinely assault people. As Tischler’s caller notes, some Proud Boys are currently serving prison time for their violent attacks.
It’s too early to tell what shape the Heshy/Proud Boy alliance could take. Will they bro down at Trump tower, swapping hugs and high fives while assaulting journalists and counterprotesters? Or, more likely, will Tischler point out attack targets, letting others do his bidding, as he can allegedly be seen in video of the assault on journalist Jacob Kornbluh? Embracing a group of violent brawlers certainly doesn’t bode well for Tischler, who claims he is a man of peace, unjustly charged for his role in the attack on Kornbluh.
At the end of the show, a caller asks Tischler if he can bring the Proud Boys to Boro Park. Tischler claims this is in the works. It’s easy to dismiss Heshy Tischler as a mere buffoon. This is a luxury not available to those who have been targeted by Tischler’s rhetoric, including the Boro Park residents who don’t support him or the journalists who wind up on his “snitch list.”
The sound quality of these clips isn’t great. The Just Enough Heschy show is plagued by endless technical problems. Together with the bombastic host, this makes for difficult listening.
Caller identifying as “David from the Proud Boys,” tells Tischler, “We have a lot in common.” They discuss plans for an upcoming rally.
A caller asks if Tischler can bring the Proud Boys to Boro Park. Tischler says this is going to happen.
Harold “Heshy” Tischler finally got a taste of the fame and attention he’s been working so hard to attain. Tischler’s role as an erstwhile leader of the raucous Boro Park protests that saw the burning of face masks got the host of Just Enough Heshy international press coverage. This was a step up from the attention Heshy got shutting down Department of Health outreach sessions, or his exploits affixing a yellow star to his chest in front of a Covid testing site where he urged Jews to not get tested for the virus. Tischler, who is running for City Council in District 41, may not have the slightest idea what a council member’s job entails, any more than he understands what makes for basic listenable radio programming. But he was clever enough to see an opportunity after getting arrested for his role in inciting a crowd to assault Jewish Insider journalist Jacob Kornbluh. This was too good to pass up: Now Heshy would show them all, he would emerge as a martyr.
The Boro Park protests were underwritten by a perception that the City, and the State are over-enforcing Covid restrictions in Ultra-orthodox Jewish neighborhoods located in “red zones” where infection rates have risen to “cluster” status. Much of the resentment and anger is based on an idea that an anti-Semitic government is targeting Jews, while coddling “other” ethnic groups, mainly Blacks and Latinos. This sentiment has been repeated by the New York Post, conservative talk radio hosts and leaders like Dov Hikind, who otherwise condemned Tischler’s behavior. This isn’t to say there aren’t reasonable gripes against Covid enforcements, and Ultra-orthodox Jewish communities are by no means the only people who have flouted restrictions—there is a difference between legitimate critiques and the white-grievance cop-out arguments regularly made by Tischler and the like (multiple Jewish groups and the Brooklyn Catholic Diocese are currently suing the State over Covid restrictions on religious gatherings).
The All Lives Matter defense
Shortly after Tischler was released from jail on Monday, his lawyers Sara Shulevitz and Mindy Meyer took to friendly territory, Zev Brenner’s Talkline on WSNR. The pink-clad legal team made clear that they were pursing a public-relations defense, casting Tischler in the persecuted martyr role. They hinted that a lawsuit might be in the works over Tischler’s treatment at the hands of the NYPD (he claims to have been handcuffed for two hours). Meyer asserted that the arrest “orders came from a higher power,” and “in the last couple of months, you had all the looting and rioting in New York City and no one was charged, and here you had a peaceful protester who was charged.” This is patently false, as hundreds of Black Lives Matter demonstrators have been beaten and arrested by the NYPD. One couple charged with attempting to torch an empty police van is facing life in prison on federal charges. Left out of this discussion are the facts that BLM demonstrators have consistently worn masks, and that Boro Park protesters were allowed to harass law enforcement officers with complete impunity. In response to a question from a caller as to whether Tischler was targeted for being a Jew, Shulevitz responded, “all lives matter.”
Later in the week Tischler’s attorneys appeared on the Just Enough Heshy show, in a blatant attempt to keep the host from incriminating himself. Tischler proceeded to forget and mangle his counselors’ names, and was unable to stop himself from blabbing about his arrest. While Heshy’s program might be difficult to sit through, it does reveal that he doesn’t seem to have a very big audience. A handful of people call in to praise Tischler, but it’s not unusual for callers to voice frustrations with the host. Tischler responds to the criticism by screaming things like “Idiot!” at these callers, as he did this past Wednesday. He rails against the police who arrested him while attacking anti-police violence protesters, and later boasts he will unite with Black Lives Matter to advocate for a vaccine for a virus he claims doesn’t exist. He urges the audience to support his City Council bid and to write him in as a State Senate candidate, and suggests de Blasio appoint him deputy mayor in charge of Covid. For someone who claims to be a martyr for the Jewish people, he breaks down when faced with criticism for comparing Covid restrictions to the Holocaust.
Heshy Tischler is skilled at agitating crowds of frustrated young men during the heat of a protest. Though he might struggle channeling his recent popularity into political power, considering his general incoherence and the fact that he got less than 4% of the vote in his last City Council bid. In the absence of political clout, Tischler will likely resort to increasingly desperate media stunts. Unfortunately, we may have yet to see “Just enough Heshy.” (Just Enough Heshy, Wednesdays, 9 p.m., WSNR 620 AM)
One of Tischler’s lawyers claims his arrest was ordered by a “higher power,” implying he was politically targeted (10/12).
Tischler’s lawyer Sara Shulevitz on Zev Brenner’s Talkline, casting Tischler as the victim of government repression, and stating “all lives matter” (10/12).
Zev Brenner, host of Talkline, asks Tischler’s lawyers if Heshy can sue the NYPD (10/12).
Here’s Heshy’s sidekick Soya Radin comparing de Blasio to Hitler, followed by a caller telling the host “you are never gonna get elected, you’re a moron,” and then, finally Radin blurting out “Call him the N-word Heshy!” (9/30).
In a bizarre rant, even by Heshy standards, the host claims he’s going to link up with certain members of Black Lives Matter to march on City Hall for access to a Covid vaccine (this is particularly odd, since he often claims Jews can’t get Covid, and that the virus doesn’t actually exist) (9/30).
Heshy gives de Blasio an offer to appoint him Deputy Mayor in charge of the Covid crisis. This clip gives a good glimpse into Tischler’s rambling, incoherent style (10/14).
A caller identifying himself as Schmuely Tersy tells Tischler he is making Jews look bad. Tischler and his lawyers respond by drawing a comparison to the Covid restrictions to the Holocaust. Teschy then demeans the caller as an “Idiot!,” and suggesting he “get out of my community” (10/14).
Tischler poses the question: “Was I arrested because of the gay people”? (10/14)
A caller chides Tischler for comparing the Covid restrictions to the Holocaust, conceding that the politicians in charge are “morons” and “liberals.” This sets Heshy and his legal team off, though they never answer the question (10/14).
Giuliani unravels “scandal of the Century”?
Rudy Giuliani: “They tried to destroy me” for unearthing the “scandal of the century”
Rudy Giuliani made the news once again last week as the New York Post ran a story based on emails and incriminating images from a laptop allegedly owned by Hunter Biden. Giuliani is the putative source behind the material, and the former mayor dealt with the information in typical Giuliani fashion, referring to it as “the scandal of the century,” telling his audience, “they tried to destroy me.”
The veracity of the emails have not been determined. Team Trump claims they show that then-Vice President Joe Biden did have some knowledge of his son’s business dealings in Ukraine. Interestingly, Twitter initially blocked sharing of the Post story on its platform, claiming it is misinformation. In response, the Republican National Committee filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) alleging suppression of the story amounts to an “illegal corporate in-kind political contribution” from Twitter. The irony here is a bit delicious, as the majority of content on AM radio is wall-to-wall Trump campaign infomercials, defacto in-kind political contributions. Take WABC Radio, owned by Manhattan Republican boss, John Catsimatidis. The billionaire runs the station as an aural monument to Trump’s greatness, with a sycophancy that rivals even Fox News. (The FEC has been without a quorum for years, and is unable to enforce such matters.)
The alleged Hunter Biden laptop reportedly made its way from a computer repair show to Steve Bannon, eventually landing with Giuliani. Why the Trumpers couldn’t find a better conduit than Giuliani is anyone’s guess. Don’t take our word for it—tune in to Chat with the Mayor, and hear him hailing Trump’s economic numbers, regardless of the actual facts. As US weekly jobless claims hit 898,000 (with over 25 million officially unemployed), Giuliani claims the numbers reflect a record increase in employment. That’s just one example, but a pretty good indicator of how reality, as promoted by Giuliani reflects reality as perceived by his boss.
Giuliani: “They tried to destroy me”/”scandal of the Century” (10/14)
Giuliani: “The comeback from that [the Pandemic] is now setting records. Three months in a row of record job growth. Three months in a row of record job growth.” Giuliani made this claim on October 16, the day after the US Department of Labor announced that jobless claims for the week hit 898,000 (with over 25 million collecting unemployment benefits).
WABC’s “Back the Blue,”an attempt to boost sagging ratings?
WABC 770 AM has stepped up its “Back the Blue” campaign. The campaign has corporate sponsors, which makes for awkward segments praising cops who died on the job, followed by the kicker: “sponsored by Ramsey Mazda.” On Thursday, the station held a live press conference featuring leadership from all the major NYC police unions, announcing a campaign to distribute 100,000 blue ribbons and the launch of a website that leads to the WABC 770 homepage (backthebluenyc.com). Rudy Giuliani, for his part, interviewed his former driver and disgraced police commissioner, the convicted felon Bernard Kerik. The vociferously pro law enforcement crowd continually asserts that the majority of cops are unfairly tarnished by the actions of a few “bad apples.” The public might take this claim seriously if the Back the Blue types didn’t embrace some of the worst of the bad apples, like Bernie Kerik or someone like Giuliani, who, for his endless staccato of cop worship, sure got a lot of cops killed during 9/11.
Is WABC’s Back the Blue campaign a cynical attempt to prop up the station’s ratings, which have continually sagged lower than Rudy Giuliani’s goiter over the buffet table at Mar a Lago? It’s hard to tell, given the endless cynicism permeating so much of AM talk radio.
Curtis Sliwa: Let us Now Slander Dead Rock Legends
The Curtis and Juliet show did its part to launch the Back the Blue campaign with an interview with the daughter of a police officer killed on the job. Curtis Sliwa proceeded to offer unsolicited career advice to the woman, telling her she should join the police force. He also claimed that Black Lives Matter demonstrators are dishonoring her mother’s memory. The previous week, Sliwa had no such concerns for legendary rock guitarist Eddie Van Halen. In response to news of Van Halen’s passing from cancer, Sliwa asked listeners to call in and chime in on whether the guitarist might have contracted throat cancer from “hitting the meth pipe” or “coony-lingus” (cut him some slack, those are a lot of syllables).
Curtis Sliwa is another odd selection to push a pro-cop campaign. When commenting on the Boro Park arrest, he stated that he hates the NYC sheriffs, and guffawed and yukked it up relating the story of how the out-of-control mob chased members of the department.
Sliwa ponders the cause of Eddie Van Halen’s cancer (10/6).
And here Sliwa jokes about “Jews in the news,” and proceeds to refer a staff member as a “Jewish princess, and then pushed the line that Boro Park demonstrators are justified for protesting Covid restrictions because the police turn a blind eye to Black Lives Matter protesters (10/7).
Sliwa Backs the Blue by stating that he hates NYC sheriffs (10/7).
Paul Matzko on AM Radio on NYT Opinon Page
The New York Times recently ran an op-ed about talk radio as a format for right-wing populism. The piece, written by Paul Matzko, author of The Radio Right: How a Band of Broadcasters Took On the Federal Government and Built the Modern Conservative Movement. Writing about AM radio for the Times audience is akin to relaying news of an undiscovered tribe in a remote patch of rain forest. The Times, like most newspapers, abandoned its radio columns long ago. When the readership of record wants to understand the motivations of Trump voters, they are likely to turn to patronizing accounts like Hillbilly Elegy, when they could merely turn on the radio. Matzko puts it aptly: “Yet talk radio still somehow manages to fly below the national media radar. In large part, that is because media consumption patterns are segregated by class. If you visit a carpentry shop or factory floor, or hitch a ride with a long-haul truck driver, odds are that talk radio is a fixture of the aural landscape. But many white-collar workers, journalists included, struggle to understand the reach of talk radio because they don’t listen to it, and don’t know anyone who does.”
Skeptech by Techtonic
Mark Hurst of WFMU’s Techtonic is hosting Skeptech: Smile for the Camera (via Zoom) on October 22. Skeptech “will explore surveillance, drones, and cameras—a world in which we’re watched all the time, even as we can connect in new ways.” Check it out here.
WBAI’s hacker show, Off the Hook had a recent interview with author Corey Doctorow discussing his latest book, Attack Surface, which covers the dynamic of good people who get stuck in banality-of-evil jobs at big Tech/Surveillance firms. Worth a listen.
Speaking of hackers, WFMU’s Morricone Island ran a two-part interview with film composer Simon Boswell, who scored Hackers, and countless other flicks. DJ Devon E. Levins was really in his element here. Morricone Island presents soundtracks and film scores, and Levins always keeps things interesting. Tuesdays, 7 PM, 91.1 FM.
Majestic Pirate Soul
And finally, some majestic soul sounds have been emanating from pirate station Irie Storm Radio at 107.9 FM, broadcasting somewhere out of Flatbush, Brooklyn. The Irie Storm online feed can be found here.
I had always regarded Sunday as being a great radio day before the march of time took two of my favorite broadcasters away. However that being said, it’s still a good day. At noon on WFMU 91.1 FMThe Glen Jones Radio Programme featuring X Ray Burns is still going and still titled thus after the passing of the hilarious X Ray Burns. Truth be told X Ray was the reason I listened to the show, he had an encyclopedic knowledge of the most unlikely subjects coupled with an acerbic wit, while we certainly didn’t agree with his politics or his gun-loving ways, listening to the show was like being a fly on the wall at a New Jersey tavern where two fifty-something hard partying head bangers who had known each other since childhood sparred, bantered, and regaled us with endless tales of their crazy youth in between sets of Jones MOR “only a hundred songs exist” musical choices. On the occasional Sundays when one of them didn’t show up, the other would have to carry the load as it were and the show would generally be an un-interesting sprawl. Like a brilliant band they were greater than the sum of their parts.
But the show must go on and Glen Jones, a seasoned broadcaster himself, initially struggled without X Ray to make the solo format work but he has figured it out and righted the ship, and while he is still tethered to the same old songs, his monologues make for an entertaining listening experience. I love his crazy egotistical ranting and ravings which he bursts into every now and then…“ I am The Last Man Standing…an American original…the Franchise…The last of the DJ Cowboys…and lately he has a new custom which he calls “The Two O’ Clock Toast” where he and his wife toast all and sundry including their heroes and a long list of friends of the show, he then suddenly morphs into Burgess Meredith’s The Penguin and comes out with a sequence of whoops and hollers “Wa Ha Ha Ha Ha, Wooooh. It pays to drink the finest!” he exclaims, as he downs a jigger of Scotch.
Often on Sunday evening I listen to Max Schmid and his Golden Age of Radio show, WBAI 99.5 FM (8 p.m.). Max has been at WBAI for many a year and is one of their finest broadcasters, his Golden Age show generally features old time radio plays of which it seems he has an endless supply. Many of these are from an era before television when radio was the only game in town, often featuring the crème de la crème of Old Hollywood talent. These plays are often brilliantly executed crime dramas with great sound effects and well-heeled plots. Don’t be surprised to be listening in on Bogey and Bacall where the excellent writing and audio magic spurs your imagination to conjure up a shadowy underworld of gangsters, molls and hard boiled detectives hot on their heels.
After Max Schmid, switch over to the AM band and check out Le Show with the very talented Mr. Harry Shearer—WNYC 820 AM (10 p.m.). Harry is well known to many in one guise or another, among other things he co-created and starred in Spinal Tap and he provides the voice for many characters on The Simpsons. Another feather in his cap, Le Show is a roundup of the political and other happenings of the week. If the AM dial is generally an ash can of right wing crack pots, lies, propaganda and couched and not-so-well-couched hate speech, Harry’s show is the foil for all this. With his entertaining delivery and comedic talent he is well suited to calling out the hypocrisy of the politicians, polluters, propagandists, corporate crims, big tech and the religious freaks. Keep an ear out for The Weekly Apologies segment “a copyrighted feature of the broadcast,” as he reminds us each week, to which he has recently made an addendum— “Facebook Apology of The Week” where he calls out Angel Faced Zuckerbug’s latest cold blooded skullduggery and the inevitable follow up, “we’re sorry, we’re so sorry.”
Interspersed with all of this are his amusing topical tunes of which Harry is the crooner and you have an hour’s worth of excellent radio.
In the past I didn’t have to touch that dial because following Le Show was Joe Frank. But as alluded to earlier Joe is another of my favorite broadcasters that is no longer with us. WNYC kept his show running for some time after he passed but alas it is no longer on the air. He was one of the most talented and unique broadcasters to ever grace the airwaves, spinning the most insane, surreal outrageous yarns over wickedly hypnotic beats, with an equally atmospheric and hypnotic voice he would draw you in and have you riding the edge of whatever wave he was surfing at that particular moment in time. If you have never heard Joe then I highly recommend checking him out, one of his finest pieces, “ Eye in the Sky ” is available here: https://www.joefrank.com/shop/eye-in-the-sky/
On the DX front, Zoomer Radio out of Toronto, Canada AM 740 is a station I sometimes find myself listening to in the evenings, it’s format is light entertainment, oldies and such but it has some interesting hosts including the whispering Ziggy with her seductive style and you can also catch more golden age radio plays there, weekday evenings at 10pm. On Sunday at 11 on Zoomer is Richard Syrett and his weekly tall tales Conspiracy Show. Syrett has a mild manner and a pleasant demeanor, while some of the subjects covered would have to be seen to believed, and it being radio I can’t see them so I don’t believe them, his broadcast chops, Canadian brogue and depending on the particular topic at hand make listening in worthwhile at least some of the time…