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.
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 Romero, 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…
President Trump is out of the hospital, has declared himself possibly “immune” from the coronavirus, and implored the country: “Don’t be afraid of Covid” (via Twitter, of course). Here at Frequency and Amplitude, we’re not too keen to go back to the days of peak Covid, the months of nonstop, cascading sirens from all directions, the days spent trying to locate missing neighbors in local hospitals.
As a reminder of what we don’t want to repeat, we present you with some peak-Covid police scanner audio from the Bronx. This recording, from mid-April, has a dispatcher relaying a report of an (alleged) improvised morgue at the site of an ambulance company. This was a time when the health-care system was so overloaded that hospitals were storing bodies in refrigerated trucks. Covid denialists still claim the numbers are exaggerated, a claim that is laughable to those of us who witnessed the toll firsthand. None of this is a secret: The location of the morgue site in this recording was mentioned in a story by The City, “Moving Trucks Carry the Dead as Funeral Homes Get Slammed.”
A note: the “Oh boy” used by the dispatcher is likely shorthand for a car number. Bronx EMS Station 20-B is nicknamed “O-Boy,” though we are unable to verify if there is any connection to this particular call.
We thank the anonymous reader who provided us with this recording, and encourage anyone to send interesting audio clips to email@example.com
Every day feels like a weird week has passed in our current state of virus time. But this week has been a doozy. A week bracketed by the New York Times expose on Trump’s tax evasions, and the President’s hospitalization for Covid. It’s hard enough getting accurate information as it is. Once the media learned Trump tested positive for Covid, it came up against the limits of the nanosecond news cycle. With a heavily controlled narrative, and a slow trickle of updates on the President’s health, major outlets were forced to report any bit of news, no matter how insignificant. The point is to get the people clicking or tuning in to keep coming back. CNN resorted to its old standby: looped footage of Marine One on the White House lawn, the latest in a long line of stand-ins for OJ Simpson in the Ford Bronco, shown on the screen ad infinitum.
A lack of information hasn’t stopped pundits, and it especially hasn’t stopped the usual AM radio talkers from working the jaws overtime to assure us the President is on the mend, in great shape, and all the rest. So let’s take a look at some of conservative radio’s response to the Trump tax story and the Trump Covid diagnosis/hospitalization. This dispatch was written by Jim Rawls, C. Bernieri, and R. Cleffi.
WABC’s Brian Kilmeade featured an interview with former Trump campaign managers Corey Lewandowski and Dave Bossey to hype their new book about their master and meal ticket. Kilmeade often has people close to the president on to set the day’s tone. He asked the two how they would go on the offensive over Trump’s taxes. It’s not a journalist’s job to give political operatives a chance to spin things, but talk radio hosts aren’t journalists. Lewandowski claimed the New York Times “just committed a felony” by publishing the information. Interestingly, he took an opposite view of Hilary Clinton’s hacked emails back in 2016. Lewandowski also denied the accuracy of the Times report, but blamed “Biden [who] wrote the tax law,” and declared if the President paid no taxes, “good for him.” Kilmeade also asserted, “we could call it depreciation. And we don’t know what it’s like to be in high-level real estate.”
On Friday, Kilmeade responded to the news of Trump’s diagnosis in an interview with White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow, who boasted about how great the economy was before it got shuttered by Covid.
On Trump’s Covid diagnosis, Sexton brought on Trump deputy Brian Morgenstern for one of the most “Our Great Leader” routines to be heard in quite a while. Considering that AM talk radio exists to fluff Donald Trump, this says a lot.
Sexton also seized on the news of actor Rick Moranis being punched on the street as a symptom of the decline of NYC caused by the radical left. Because no one ever got punched on the street in New York until Black Lives Matter and Antifa defunded the police.
An interesting ad heard on Sexton’s show: “Helping our Country, One Friend at a Time.” For only $9.95, you can purchase, and anonymously send to left-leaning friends, “a 210-page paperback that’s equivalent to listening to a week’s worth of Conservative Talk Radio.” The idea that a week of conservative radio would convert leftists is as misguided as the notion that conservatives would change their beliefs if only they listened to some Noam Chomsky lectures.
Rudy Giuliani (WABC 770) responded to the Trump tax bombshell by stating “What a garbage article. I can’t even read the whole thing, it’s so long.” Giuliani also played a Bill Maher clip that had the cable host saying Trump and his Supreme Court nominee have a shared opposition to condoms. Giuliani blurted out: “That’s disgusting. And anti-American!” He then went on a tirade about the persecution of Christians in the media, drawing a comparison to Islam, asking,“Can you imagine if someone said those things about a Muslim?” Giuliani regularly blasts Joe Biden’s mental capacity and cognitive health, which should be fair game in an election. Giuliani’s “Chat with the Mayor” show, hardly paints the ex-mayor as a portrait of sound mental fitness. He certainly doesn’t remember his own stance on key issues, or some of his more inflammatory statements.
Responding to Trump testing positive, Giuliani denied media reports that the President is obese. He repeated the standard talk-radio line that Trump never even catches cold (a claim Rush Limbaugh also made) and claimed he has “no comorbidities.” Whoever in the White House who coordinates the daily talking points for these guys might want to lay off the exaggeration a bit.
Giuliani seemed unusually energized, ripping Bill de Blasio for “his ridiculous adherence to a failed ideology of the 19th Century.” He noted that he always had BdB pegged as being in the “submoronic category,” and of the current mayor’s support for the Sandinistas in the 80s, “I would’ve put him on a watchlist.” There is something almost comical in his rants against Biden, the “major, major crook,” and the army of “slip and fall lawyers” sicced on Trump by the deep state.
WABC has cynically monetized the “Back the Blue” campaign, running “WABC Backs the Blue” spots advertising Ramsey Mazda.
WABC’s Sid and Bernie in the Morning is one of those shows that even we have a hard time listening to. The morning Trump’s Covid diagnosis was announced, the two hosts hyped the Prez’s employment figures, noting, “the numbers are really, really good.” Trump getting sick with Covid doesn’t seem to have spurred any reflection from these two; in the same show they referred to mask restrictions as “totalitarianism out of control.”
The Len Berman and Michael Riedel in the Morning show on WOR reacted to the Times Trump tax story by interviewing Sean Spicer. One of the usually obsequious hosts chided Spicer, “You are no longer employed by the president, you don’t have to spin for him”
Bill O’Reilly(WABC 770) did not mention the Times Trump tax piece until the second hour of his show. But then he got down to business. He started hour two with the salvo: “The New York Times is a hate organization.” Then the apologia started, “it’s not a really a story…Trump took every tax advantage he could, I am the CEO of my own corporation, anything it says I can do, I do, the money I save I give to charity, “ he continues, “I pay millions to the government…so you know if I can take a deduction, I take a deduction, I assume that’s what Donald Trump does.” O’Reilly then proceeded to attack the leaker of Trump’s tax info, calling them a criminal. And then the Times again: “I know that the Times had this story and waited till last night to put it out…Debate week.…I also know that they have other stuff on Trump and that they are gonna wait till the weekend before the vote.. BANG!…and put it out…. the Washington Post also, holding stuff back to make Donald Trump look bad.”
After O Reilly came John Batchelor “with his signature.. “Good evening to you” but then he made not a mention of the Times piece during his entire four-hour show.”
Curtis Sliwa is increasingly merging his mayoral campaign with his radio show. More campaign mentions have crept onto the air, and the WABC website is running front-page videos like “Can Curtis Sliwa Trust the NYC Board of Elections?” Sliwa’s campaign on his own Reform Party ticket is still considered a long shot, but a radio host with a perch on one of the strongest signals in the Tri-State Area would seem to have quite an advantage over competitors.
Some other things of interest we’ve heard this past week.
WNYC reporter Beth Fertig filed a piece on the difficulties Latinos have getting political representation in Brentwood, Long Island. Since Brentwood is technically part of the town of Islip, its candidates are forced to run in town-wide elections, making it impossible for them to win (Brentwood makes up over a third of the population of Islip). Fertig delves into the complexities of this, and interviews the disenfranchised and people who enjoy things the way as they currently stand. You can listen at WNYC or read the print version of the story here.
WFMU had station manager Ken Freedman filling in on Tectonic this week. Regular host Mark Hurst really puts in the work on this science/tech program, and it shows. Freedman seemed like he was just doing a last-minute fill-in. Quite a shift from the usual weekly guests who are the top experts on issues of tech and surveillance to an impromptu discussion on the pros and cons of Spotify. Freedman did play some interesting audio, but the show was marred by some annoying callers who derailed things. To his credit, Freedman did take one caller to task when he started talking about how he could never wear a mask. Techtonic is one of the best things on the radio, period; this isn’t the type of show where winging it is an option. Airing a re-run of an older episode might have worked better.
An interesting WFMU show that we’ve been catching weekly is Music of Mind Control. DJ Micah brings listeners an“exploration into the musical output of religious cults, new religious movements, and individuals of a spiritually inspired and divine nature.” That’s a wide brush for the tarring, and some of the spiritually inspired music he plays was made by musicians who have nothing to do with cults (hell, even the actual cults claim they aren’t cults). This week he played selections from an aborted Bill Graham-produced rock opera based on the work of Carlos Castaneda. I have no idea where he finds this stuff, and some of it is quite good.
Quote of the week:
“Slower than a wet turd sliding off a dry rock. You can edit that out.”—“Mike the Barber,” describing the current state of his business during a story on NPR’s Marketplace on the Los Angeles neighborhood of LaMeirt Park, Thursday, 10/1).
Quote of the week, first runner-up:
Heard on Dr. Jeremiah Simmons’s “Turning Point” on “The Mission,” 570 AM: “Christianity is the only religion in the world that sings.” (9/28). Not quite a wet turd on a dry rock, but still Grade-A bullshit.
Quote of the week, second runner-up:
Ben Shapiro (ABC 770) referring to the Biden/Trump debate as an “s-show,” because he’s too squeamish to say “shit show.”
The more things change…
NPR (via WNYC) ran an interesting piece on the 1970 race riot in Augusta, Georgia. The archival footage of Black residents voicing their concerns with their treatment at the hands of the police sounds nearly identical to the grievances of contemporary Black Lives Matter activists. The segment was excerpted from a podcast, Shots in the Back: Exhuming the 1970 Augusta Riot, which we look forward to delving into.
The campaign to portray Kyle Rittenhouse as a hero/Contested election ahead?
Two NPR pieces heard on WNYC in the last few days highlighted the frightening potential for more bloody political conflict and a contested election. The first dealt with the public relations campaign to paint Kyle Rittenhouse as a champion of law and order. The piece touched on efforts by Rittenhouse’s defense team to shape public opinion about their client. Rittenhouse is the 17-year-old who killed two people during the Jacob Blake protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Video footage of the events surrounding Rittenhouse’s actions has triggered a Rashomon reaction, with viewers drawing entirely different conclusions along ideological lines. I’m not sure why Rittenhouse’s mother thought it was a good idea to drive her son to from Illinois to Kenosha so he could “protect” businesses whose owners he didn’t know and who didn’t request assistance. People don’t generally bring a loaded AR-15 into a tense situation without expecting to potentially fire the thing.
I was hoping some of the conservatives I know, who place such a heavy premium on individual responsibility would question the actions of someone incapable of making rational adult decisions. I’ve watched as much of the footage of the incident as I could stomach, and yes, it does appear that the first of Rittenhouse’s (unarmed) victims physically attacked him first (what led to this confrontation is unclear). The two other people shot by Rittenhouse appear to have been trying to disarm what they thought was a mass shooter. Anyway, this isn’t what this post is about. The NPR segment contains a clip by Rittenhouse’s lead counsel, John Pierce, who opined to Breitbart that the teen “had a God-given right” to have inserted himself into the tense situation. We hear Pierce saying “But I will tell you—and there’s no doubt about this—that if every law-abiding American showed up in the city that they love with an AR-15, the chaos would stop immediately.” It sounds to my ear as if Pierce is calling for mass murder.
The second NPR segment that ties in here was a short profile on Trump campaign manager and senior counsel, Justin Clark. An election lawyer who got his start working for Al Gore during the 2000 election, Clark is a seasoned tactician who helped prevent challenges to Trump during the 2016 Republican primary. Last year, he was caught on tape seemingly instructing a group of Republican lawyers on voter suppression methods. NPR’s Tamara Keith summed it up nicely: “It sounded like he was saying Republicans worked to suppress the vote, but Clark and the campaign have insisted his remarks were misunderstood and he was just talking about false allegations leveled against the GOP. Either way, as Clark said, Republicans are going on offense this year, building an army of lawyers and volunteers to have on hand in key precincts as people vote and as absentee ballots are counted.”
Friday’s Democracy Now (via WBAI) had Barton Gellman of the Atlanticdissecting the Trump campaign’s election strategy and possible outcomes. Gellman reiterates many of the key points in his recent Atlanticarticle on the topic: President Trump is pursuing a strategy that doesn’t include accepting a loss. Even If he is defeated soundly, Trump may never concede. The point is to throw the legitimacy of the election into question. The Democracy Now segment and Gellman’s Atlantic piece are both worth spending some time with. There is no reason to believe we won’t soon hit a new level of national insanity. A year ago a pandemic shutdown would have been unthinkable. Now an end to the plague feels unthinkable. The unthinkable shifts into the “new normal” rapidly—often more quickly than we can process these things.
Also on WBAI, I caught a short chunk of the Jimmy Dore Show, only to tune out after a few minutes of the host screaming—this isn’t hyperbole, that’s part of his shtick. Dore’s a comedian with a left-populist bent who is actively discouraging people to vote for Joe Biden. Dore’s show is kind of the left equivalent of Curtis Sliwa’s daily stultiloquence on ABC Radio. I could see the appeal of this sort of thing for people who resent the professorial tone heard on much of public radio, but to me, this stuff sounds like so many drunks ranting at a bar. I also think claiming there is no difference between the political parties is reckless and irresponsible.
A warning: WBAI is currently doing one of its fund drives, which entails station management pitching all manner of health cures and self-help motivational claptrap.
Brian Lehrer hist the 31-year mark at WNYC
Friday marked Brian Lehrer’s 31st year on the air at WNYC. Lehrer expressed little enthusiasm when the anniversary was brought up by Bill de Blasio on his “Ask the Mayor” feature. I’m surprised de Blasio still does the segment. It really is a unique pairing of two opposites: the measured, principled Lehrer and de Blasio who is, well de Blasio. Mayor de Blasio is smooth when dealing with non-contentious topics. When pressed, he tends to adopt a passive aggressive, snide tone. If you want to keep up with the dreadful state of the Republic, the Brian Lehrer Show is one of the best things on the radio. Lehrer’s program is an example of what a rational, educated current-events program sounds like. Maybe if major networks had programming like this, the electorate would be a bit better informed. Then again, if a thoughtful, even-mannered host like Lehrer turned up on one of the bombastic talk radio stations, the usual listeners would probably question their hearing abilities.
Reportedly Lehrer will be hosting NPR’s coverage of the upcoming Biden-Trump debate. I can’t think of a better host to steer listeners through the tumult.
Radio essay as art form
Also on WNYC, Sara Fishko’s Fishko Files looked at the live music-audience relationship. This is the audio essay as an art form. WFMU has been running interesting audio essays lately as well, including some by Weird New Jersey editor Mark Moran. I listen to so much radio that I should probably be jaded by the medium, yet somehow I’m continually amazed by some of the innovative things people pull off. Listen to Fischko’s “Concert Piece” here. Appears irregularly on WNYC 820 AM/93.9 FM.
John Schaefer’s Gig Alert highlighted saxophonist Charles Lloyd’s newest trio, set to debut tonight (9/26) at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. Lloyd will be playing alongside Zakir Hussain on tablas and guitarist Julian Lange. Listen here. Appears weekday mornings during news coverage on WNYC 820 AM/93.9 FM.
This afternoon (9/26) NTN Radio, which simulcasts on WSNR 620 AM and 89.1 in Georgetown, Guyana had a nice tribute to DJ Frontline, who was killed in a traffic accident in Queens last week. The 40-year old DJ’s mixes often appeared on the NTN Saturday program. NTN plays traditional and popular Indian music as well as Indo-Caribbean rhythms. WSNR 620 AM, Saturday afternoons.
Guest radio dispatch from Portland, Oregon
We bring you this Portland, Oregon radio dispatch, via our friend Morgan Hobart
Xray FM’s (KXRY 91.1 and 107.1 FM respectively) Backroad to Nowhere on Sunday evenings has been pretty tried and true of late. DJ Tom Humphrey always brings insightful curations of striations of his voluminous musical history, always inspiring. On his past show he included a rare Woody Guthrie recording singing about 45’s father Fred, in a rather disparaging manner. They have a whole host of other great programs. Sundays pretty much across the board, as well as plenty of sonic curiosities both new and old, sublime frequencies, bollywood classics, tropicalia, you name it. (Other favorites include Melted Radio, Galaxy My Dear, Optic Echo, Radio Bandolero, Welcome to the Neighborhood, and plenty of informative local resources and information, the list goes on.)
The Numberz 96.7 FM is a really great local station representative of Portland’s Black community, with shows presenting local old school and current hip hop trends, always fresh and engaging material. Run up the Numberz is a great local news source in Portland’s current tumultuous moment.
KBOO as well, for insight into local progressive politics, Democracy Now, jazz and reggae.
Freeform Radio has a host of experimental and varied programming week to week. We’re pretty spoiled here in the Northwest if you are within range of the metro area at least, although I tend to stream them online more often than not, as the reception can be patchy in Northeast.
Salem’s KPAM 860 (formerly News talk 860 and now rebranded “The Answer”) was airing a lot of speculation about Biden’s mental health, churches getting shut down if he wins, and had an interview with Bill O’Reilly regarding to his colonial manifest destiny-pumping revisionist book about Crazy Horse. Apparently Roger Stone was scheduled for an interview later in the day, although I didn’t quite have the wherewithal to stay tuned. (Read our review of Salem’s two NY-area stations, “The Answer” and “The Mission” here—Ed.)
Good days and bad days, says Hesiod, forgetting that all days are alike—Herakleitos
I finally got around to seeing a doctor for a long-overdue check-up. While going down the mental-health checklist—depression, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, despair—the croaker looked up from her clipboard and said, “But do you have any symptoms, you know, aside from the general malaise that goes with being alive right now?” The good doctor’s comment came back to me as Tuesday succumbed to Wednesday and I’m in my usual spot in the kitchen, trying to knead jumbled text into prose just like Angry Sal at Spumoni Heaven down on Avenue U when he smooshes his fist into that pizza dough to get the pan of squares in order.
So there I am, and right around Midnight, WKCR is playing James Brown’s “Night Train,” followed nicely by Lightning Hopkins. We’re in Tuesday’s Just as Bad, territory, a show technically devoted to blues. Like KCRS’s other main blues show, Something Inside of Me, Tuesday’s is also named for an Elmore James song. Things generally start on the acoustic side, and then ease into the heavier stuff (read: early Elmore James, Memphis-era Howlin Wolf). But like most programming on WKCR, the hosts aren’t shackled by neat categories, hence the inclusion of James Brown. So I was thinking of that trip to the doctor, and her prescient questions, and how we all, as a people, probably have a case of the goddamn blues. 89.9 FM, Tuesdays/Wednesdays 11:30 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.
If you get your seasonal blues shot over at KCR, you don’t have to wait too long to get another taste: Matt Fiveash over at WFMU will hit you off with Weekly World Blues. WWB is billed as “An antidote to the moribund, corny and/or humorless blues programming generally found on the radio.” Excepting the abovementioned WKCR shows, that’s a pretty apt description. There’s much overlap between the playlists on Weekly World Blues and the KCR shows—Blind Willie McTell, Hopkins, etc. The WKCR and WFMU blues programming is alright by us. You could do a lot worse. You can’t do any better. 91.1 FM, Wednesdays 7 p.m.
John Coltrane Birthday Broadcast
By the time this post goes live, one of our favorite holidays will be underway. The John Coltrane Birthday Broadcast on WKCR is wall-to-wall Coltrane, including the modal years with Miles, the sessions with Cecil Taylor, the Monk recordings, and the way-out stuff no one plays anywhere. KCR also tends to have live archival recordings that don’t exist anywhere else. Late Coltrane biographer Eric Nisenson once wrote of Trane’s Crescent and A Love Supreme albums: “I don’t know what more to say about these two magnificent works of art, except that they are on that list of things that make life worth living.” That might sound a bit hyperbolic or maudlin to some, but I think it’s a pretty fair assessment of John Coltrane’s more powerful works. I actually feel stations like WKCR, in their finer moments, can contribute to your quality of life in a really important way, though that’s neither here nor there.
Out to Lunch, KCR’s daily jazz show pushes forward, still with Eric Dolphy’s “Out to Lunch” as opening theme every weekday at noon.
Allison Stewart’s All of It (WNYC) is smart and still able to fluently discuss current arts and culture issues. Stewart’s recent coverage of the NY Film Festival was particularly interesting, with considerable focus on the dynamics of putting together a distanced, outdoor film festival. 93.9 FM/820 AM, Weekdays 12 p.m.
WNYC’s the Takeaway had a segment on the firing of Minnesota Public Radio’s only Black classical music DJ, Garrett McQueen. Terrence McKnight of New York’s WQXR also appeared on this show, giving a glimpse into a vital but under-covered part of the radio world. Weekdays 93.9 FM 3 p.m.; 820 AM 9 a.m.
Over on WFMU, we were happy to hear Jesse Dorris’s Polyglot show pop up in a weekday fill-in slot. Jesse’s show usually runs Tuesdays 3 – 6 a.m, so we usually associate it with being up either far too early or way too late. Polyglot worked well in a daytime slot, and Dorris brought us to a mellow, happier place where forget for a while what time or day it was. Check schedule.
Michele with one L plays some really good stuff on Feelings. She mixes songs together in a way that always seems to work. This week she played clips from one of those “How to Pick up Girls” guides, and soon after the blitzy-trippy Headroom, and she even fit Bad-Moon-era Sonic Youth in there somehow. You know that saying about writing about music being like dancing about architecture? Try writing about radio, it’s like shoplifting about arson. Take my word for it, this is a quality show. WFMU Thursdays 12 – 3 p.m.
Put the Needle on the Record is one of the better hip-hop shows still on the radio. This past week, I tuned in and heard Smif-N’-Wessun, and multiple Pete Rock tracks. DJ Billy Jam weaves a lot of interesting instrumentals together in a way that keeps things fresh. This show needs at least another hour or two to really allow the DJ to stretch out. WFMU Fridays 7 – 8 p.m.
Speaking of hip-hop, Hot 97 has been doing its 97 minutes of commercial-free music on weekdays. Aside from the station’s morning show, this is one of the only times the station is really worth listening to these days. The radio-edit of Cardi B’s “WAP” does some ingenious FCC-outmaneuvering by swapping an “s” for an “h,” to ensure the radio-listening public gets its helping of “pushy.” Occasionally the prurient interest is the public interest, you know.
Hot 97 Morning hosts Ebro, Peter Rosenberg and Laura Stylez have been having some deep discussions on issues like the Supreme Court, the Census and Kanye West’s role as political spoiler and all-around buffoon. You can get far better informed listening to Hot 97 than you can from taking in the MAGA mind rot taking up so much space on the AM dial.
The AM scene.
We’ve been laying off too much AM radio the past few days. Some things that we’ve heard follow.
Over at WSNR 620 AM, Nazi Hal Turner popped up briefly on Monday night, only to disappear after the 20-minute mark. Sources tell us Turner is no longer getting airtime from WSNR. Apparently the in-studio engineer cued the wrong feed.
Zev Brenner’s Talkline show featured an interview with the head of “Jewish Voices for Trump” this past week. Brenner offered to help set up a pro-Trump rally in NYC, in the name of promoting ideological diversity, of course.
Too much Heshy
Another right-wing Jewish show on WSNR is Just Enough Heshy. Readers might remember Heshy Tischler as the self-proclaimed “park buster.” This is the guy who, at the height of the lockdown, “liberated” playgrounds in ultra-orthodox areas with bolt cutters so the kids could spread what he calls “the fake corona” more quickly. Heshy, whose radio delivery is as smooth as a rusty playground swingset, is running for city council. He claims to be a “regular guy,” who is elected, will eliminate “Nazi pig” building inspectors (and isn’t that everyone’s top issue?). Heshy might not be much for radio; though it is entertaining to hear him try and figure out how to work his show’s phone lines. Heshy should get some credit for the recent spike in COVID cases in orthodox neighborhoods. Disgraced former NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik is the scheduled guest for September 23. Wednesdays 9 p.m.
Last week, Rudy Giuliani endorsed the insane QAnon conspiracy theory. After saying “I think some of their ideas are way out,” he launched into a tirade about the validity of the conspiranoid theory of the secret Deep State plot to unseat Trump. Giuliani then ranted about one of his favorite topics a Black Lives Matter “circular” that calls for the destruction of the nuclear family (9/16 episode). I’m pretty sure Black Lives Matter doesn’t have circulars like they do at the supermarket, but after having been forced to endure three decades of tabloid stories about the former mayor’s divorce proceedings and bad treatment of spouses, I think it’s pretty clear that Rudy has done his share to contribute to the destruction of the nuclear family.
Expert on female sexualityBen Shapiro has been recently complaining that the New York Times won’t listen to him on COVID management. Shapiro wants to reopen everything in order to force a herd immunity, a response that would likely kill large numbers of people for an immunity that has yet to significantly emerge. This is even more arrogant to suggest as the US COVID death toll tops 200,000. The question isn’t why the New York Times won’t listen to Ben Shapiro, but why anyone would listen to this creaky pipsqueak.
Bill O’Reilly is back on the air. Your editor has not been fortunate enough to catch the Falafel King. Thankfully we’ve got a review up from Jim Rawls. Spoiler alert: he was unimpressed.
Billy O and Crazy Horse: Rust Always Creeps
Barf! barf! get the sick bags out, accused sexual harasser Bill O’Reilly is back on the air. Thankfully you won’t have to look at his face because he’s only on the radio this time. We just caught a few minutes of his new show on WABC this evening. O’Reilly is in good, make that bad company at WABC which is and has been home to some of the most odious right wing crackpot/zealots on NY radio over the years. By the sounds of it he’s broadcasting from home possibly from his bathroom, if the audio quality was anything to go by. In between the pro-Chump pep rally talking points and the predictable attacks on Joe Biden he’s also self-promoting his new book about Crazy Horse, exclaiming just as predictably about how incredibly well it is doing. Oddly enough we heard him on another AM station last week, not a NY market station but drifting in on the late night AM signal actually being interviewed about his new book, and he was not saying very nice things about Presidente Chump on there. Seems to have made a quick turnaround in a very short time. Is somebody waving a checkbook in his face?
In the brief time we were listening in this evening It didn’t sound like he was taking phone calls, instead he was reading out comments from listeners and then either agreeing or disagreeing with them. At 71 seems he has either lost a yard or is out of practice because that quick-fire verbal style that one usually associates with him was not in evidence tonight and his delivery sounded oddly amateurish and pedestrian. Maybe he’s just not that suited to radio. Either that or maybe he’s been advised to slow down his rapid fire delivery so the poor gullibles that believe his nonsense can get a grasp of this latest round of psycho babblery. Probably the former.—Jim Rawls
Hatemonger Hal Turner pops up on the AM band/Radio and survival in a burning world/American anxiety, bipartisan Sinophobia and the trade war/DX update/recommended radio history
First, some breaking news: Noxious White Supremacist Hal Turner surfaces on WSNR
White supremacist and FBI informantHal Turner has popped up on WSNR620 AM (weeknights 9 p.m.). Turner spent this Monday’s show (his station debut) divagating between claims that Covid is a hoax and that the FBI is involved in a cover-up to suppress the role of Black Lives Matter and Antifa in starting the West Coast wildfires. Turner announced that his slot on WSNR was a trial run; most of the callers appear to have been listeners to Turner’s online or shortwave show from places as far as Colorado. The two callers from NYC blasted Turner, who seemingly triggered, responded with even more bombastic babble. Oddly, WSNR management put Turner (a known Holocaust denier) in the slot immediately following Talkline Communications, a major Jewish-interest show.
Update 9/16: Turner was not on WSNR last night. A WSNR listener has forwarded an email from station management stating they were duped by Turner and will not be continuing his show. We will monitor this situation and update accordingly.
Across 110th Street—the soul is back on KCR
Now some good news: The gold standard of soul shows, WKCR’s Across 110th Street is reportedly up and running live once again. In the pre-Internet days and before every bit of obscure vinyl was dug up and reissued, Across 110th Street was one of the best (and only) places to hear heavy funk and classic and obscure soul (Felix Hernandez’s Rhythm Review was also really important). The editor of this site spent many hours of his formative years taping that and other KCR shows on a cheap boom box. The show has had more hosts than we can keep track of, but has never wavered in quality. Saturdays 12 p.m. WKCR, 89.9 FM.
Some Thoughts on radio and survival in a burning world
West Coast friends tell us that the radio has provided a key source of information on the horrific wildfires engulfing the region. In many ways radio has the potential to be the perfect medium for climate crises/natural disasters. When you can’t leave your home or temporary evacuation center, you might not have much luck getting online. Try calling your cable provider when the grid is blown. And the local newspaper (likely a hollowed-out shell gutted by private equity owners) might not be printing in the wake of flame or flood.
A decent portable radio with a sufficient battery supply can be a lifeline during a crisis. These days, you can even get a solar or hand-crank jobber for less than $30. Don’t get us wrong, we’re hardly survivalists. The idea of garroting your neighbor over who gets the last rat kabob holds little appeal for us. We’re far more interested in helping to build a world worth living in. Still, at a time when each diurnal crisis sets the whole house of cards teetering, it doesn’t hurt to keep yourself alive.
Of course, access to information won’t do you much good if the information isn’t any good. The best example of this is the 2002 Minot, North Dakota chemical spill. When a train transporting toxic fertilizer derailed, local authorities were unable to get the word out through any of the 5 local radio stations which had all been gobbled up by Clear Channel. While thousands of local residents were getting poisoned, the Clear Channel stations played the usual vapid canned content. Media expert Matthew Lasar broke it down back in 2010, when he wrote: “So chances are that when the Big One comes, we’ll drop our fancy mobiles, get in our cars, and fire up our AM radios. Here’s hoping that six months later we won’t be following debates about why we heard nothing but Rush Limbaugh and adult contemporary pop.”
How it’s all getting covered on NYC radio:
Back on the local radio front: WNYC and WBAI have been providing crucial coverage of the California wildfires. WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show had a Monday segment entitled, The Wildfires Are Making the Climate Crisis Impossible to Ignore. Later the same day, President Trump visited California, where he doubled down on ignoring the crisis, dismissing the state’s National Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot. Trump claimed the climate would “start getting cooler,” and quipped “I don’t think science knows.” Democracy Now has also been focusing on the context of the “California Climate Apocalypse,” with special attention given to the role of prison labor in fighting the fires.
NYC-area AM talk radio has predictably discussed the California fires absent of any coverage of the climate. Across the board, hosts have taken up Trump’s claims that the fires stem from forest-management issues, and “democrat leadership.”
Some other interesting things heard this week: American anxiety, bipartisan Sinophobia and the trade war
WNYC recently started season 4 of its United States of Anxiety. The show launched shortly after the 2016 election, and was marked by a strong sense that we were in the midst of a rapid descent. Recent episodes featured sports author (and Pacifica radio host) Dave Zirin, and a reexamination at a 2016 segment on the role of suburban fear in US politics. Host Kai Wright does an admirable job navigating it all. Sundays 6 p.m. 93.9 FM/820 AM.
The BBC World Service has been doing some interesting reporting on the view of the US election from China. While the Chinese Communist Party pushes its own strategic interests, both Trump and Biden are trying to paint each other as weak and incapable of dealing with China. The BBC segment includes a snippet from a Biden campaign commercial deriding Trump for having “praised the Chinese 15 times in January and February as the Coronavirus spread across the world.” It’s doubtful that xenophobic rhetoric grouping China with COVID will peel Trump voters away, but it does show that team Biden has no qualms going low when it seems beneficial. This segment also contains an interesting discussion on the mechanics of the US China Trade War. Heard on WNYC, weekdays 12 a.m. – 5 a.m. (Biden campaign clip can be found here, at the 5:25 mark: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3csz7jt).
On the DX front: 900 AM CHML out of Hamilton, Ontatio has been coming in loud and clear in Flatbush Brooklyn after 10 p.m. Thus far, we’ve only hear Canadian news, and are unable to vouch for the non-news programming. The Canadian news casts seem measured by American AM radio standards.
Some interesting programming can still be found on shortwave bands, though this requires wading through tons of Christian fundamentalists, open white supremacists (including nazis) and other assorted kooks. With the ascendancy of streaming radio over the last two decades, shortwave has lost many of its non-hardcore followers. Now that the mainstream conservative movement has gone fully fash, much of the content and ideas previously heard only on shortwave can now be heard on regular AM radio. One interesting development in the Shortwave world has been the ascendance of WBCQ. Station owner, former pirate-radio rebel Allan Weiner’s cynical practice of providing airtime to anyone with money recently reached comedic proportions, as the station constructed an entirely new transmitter for a religion based on the notion that the earth is flat. Perhaps the flat-earther end time church seems tame after Weiner’s decades of dealing with characters like white supremacists Pete Peters and Hal Turner, or notorious grifter/creep, the “Last Day Prophet of God,” R.G. Stair.
To get a handle on the arbitrary abstraction known as “classic rock,” we dispatched Brendan Byrne to see what lurks between the beer commercials and the songs that sound like beer commercials—Ed.
Entering a bagel shop in deep Queens several mornings ago I was greeted by the blare of “Fat Bottomed Girls” at levels unconducive to communicating with staff through face mask. This was almost certainly not radio: there was no DJ connective tissue between Queen & the next solid gold classic, but it brought back, with an unProustian violence, the experience of every lunch counter and mom & pop retail joint I frequented in the aughts. Highly differentiated from bars (whose jukeboxes were often overridden by pissed-off bartenders with direct access to the stereo), this wasn’t music you were supposed to listen to, it was music meant to reassure you that you knew where you were. I worked at a bookshop in the West Village for a length of time uncertain to even me, where Q 104.3 was chosen for expressly this purpose. After a time, you were able to block it out, except for the commercials, which were designed to cut through even the most strident aural defenses and penetrate the soft brain tissue.
This was nostalgia, or something like it.
Outside of B&H, which just as often has the radio off these days, I never hear classic rock radio anymore. The other lunch counters have died, and the mom & pop shops have given way to the gentrified urban-mall experience, “local” chains with the affect of start-up studio spaces, haunted by soft AI-curated Spotify playlists. And, of course, I have been in Manhattan exactly twice in the last five months.
Prompted, I exposed myself willingly to Q104.3, which is now a subsidy of iHeart, the wonderful internet radio station well-beloved for its labor practices. I was greeted with a solid 5 minute block of commercials, which I no longer have even the most modest defense against, rolling right into traffic, and then “Free Bird.” That, I felt, was sufficient.
107.1 The Boss, which did not exist in the aughts, was playing The Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979,” which was, when I was 19, the kind of music that cool kids who did drugs listened to. I assume they all have children and financial wellness newsletters now, but I cannot believe they listen to radio.