Listening to pirate radio

Telegraph Avenue was rained out today, so I stayed home and started editing the next issue of the zine — something I can't possibly wring an interesting story out of.

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The radio was on in the background, and the only station that's not a 24/7 insult to anyone's intelligence is Free Radio Berkeley, the local pirate station. Every other station is commercial crap or public piffle, but FRB plays what they want to play, with no concern for ratings, advertisers, or underwriters.

Imagine it — they broadcast what they believe in, and even when I disagree with what they air and sometimes I do, you can't dispute the passion. All art should be driven by passion and nothing else, and FRB is art.

Last night, for example, they played a fascinating, crystal-clear, uninterrupted tape of the last speech given by Malcolm X before his life was snapped short. Life snapped short is what always happens when anyone starts making too much sense. 

This morning, Free Radio Berkeley played two hours of punk rock that sounded like music. To my ear, a lot of it doesn't, but FRB played some really good stuff by bands I'd never heard of, Kaspir and Sublime.

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I can't listen to FRB non-stop, though, because there's a downside to a station run by passion. Not caring whether the audience likes it or hates it means that sometimes I can't be in the audience.

Yesterday, one DJ did her entire tire tire show show show with ith ith echo cho cho effects fects fects switched on, and I'm sure she thought it was very entertaining ning ning but no, it was just frustrating ting ting, and unlistenable bull bull, so I turned it off.

When I turned the radio on again an hour later, they were playing genuine rock'n'roll and I was pumped to hear more, but between songs they played two minutes and 45 seconds (I timed it) of an automobile idling. Does anyone like listening to that sound?

If you're a complete idiot with a radio show and no idea what to do with it, maybe that qualifies as a bright idea or an artistic statement. But why would anyone choose to listen?

When I turned it on again half an hour later, they played a fine piece of fresh, local music, and then where you'd expect the announcer to tell you what you'd just heard, instead we got six minutes of two people coughing. It might've been more than six minutes, but I couldn't stand it and clicked it off again. And what's really frustrating is that I might've wanted to buy the rock song that came before the coughing, if they'd ever told me what it was.

Allowing long enough for the next host to get seated and comfortable, I turned the radio on again, and found a DJ promising some music I'd really like to listen to — a jazz trumpet solo, a campy vaudeville number, and a symphonic "Blue Danube." As I got my hopes up, though, the DJ explained that he'd be playing all three pieces at the same time, and the cacophony began. Three works of musical art became one audio wall of rubbish.

After that came a fundraising appeal for a new pirate station coming on the air in El Salvador, but the announcement was read with the echo device switched on again. It must be FRB's new electronic toy:

"So so so please ease ease if if if you you you can can can help elp elp call call call six six six six six six five five five seven ven ven one one one five five five six six six. It's zits zits important ortant ortant. That number again…

Clicked it off, and put Pink Floyd on my record player instead.

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Give some people a microphone, and they'll promptly prove they have nothing to say, is what I wrote to end my rant for today.

On re-reading it, though, much the same criticism could be made of me and my zine. What is Pathetic Life, really, but a fat guy with an audience, entertaining only himself, but on most days having nothing to say? othing to say. othing to say.

From Pathetic Life #21
Sunday, February 4, 1996 

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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