Author Archives: john hardin

About john hardin

sometimes I'm joking. Sometimes I'm half-joking. Sometimes I'm serious. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference

The Return of Gulch Much

The other day, I found a business card in my mail box at KMUD.  The card was completely blank, except for one URL in the lower right-hand corner of the card.  gulchmulch.com was all it said.  Of course I knew what it meant.  This card meant that Paul Modic’s classic SoHum rag, the Gulch Mulch has been reborn in cyberspace.

MulchLogo

If you remember the Gulch Mulch, you can stroll down memory lane in the archives section, where you’ll find every issue of Mulch Gulch there for your perusal.

gulch mulch back issues

If you are new to SoHum, the Gulch Mulch is a great place to get the back story on all of the weirdness you encounter here.  Either way, I encourage you to check it out, and check back regularly, because Paul is back at it.

paul modic crop

That’s right, SoHum’s original desperate bachelor is back with more tales of sexual frustration, more gossip from the hills, and more humorous anecdotes about life in this Northern California backwater.  Check it out!

check-it-out


Make the Connection

the connection

By now you should realize that the 5th Sunday of the month means you should turn your radio on first thing in the morning for a stimulating, thought-provoking, in-depth discussion of the issues that define our times. If you are not already hip to The Living Earth Connection, and you have an IQ just slightly higher than the average garden slug, you owe it to yourself to listen to one of the most interesting hours of radio programming you are likely to hear anywhere at any time.

living earth connection

The Living Earth Connection airs on the fifth Sunday of the month, in those occasional months that have five Sundays, at 9:30 AM on KMUD, Redwood Community Radio. That’s THIS Sunday, March 29 at 9:30 AM Pacific Time. My partner, Amy Gustin, hosts the show. She does an enormous amount of research for her show. She usually reads 20 to 25 books in preparation for each show, and this one is no exception.

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For this upcoming edition of The Living Earth Connection, Amy examines the dynamic relationship between agricultural development and biodiversity. In 2014, the Living Planet Report cited a 52% decline in global biodiversity since 1970. In a discussion that encompasses biology, ecology, and island bio-geography, Amy reveals that the key to our collapsing ecosystems lies in the habitat requirements of certain “keystone species.”

keystone species sea otters

These “keystone species” tend to be relatively small populations of relatively large carnivores. Although few in number, as individuals, these “keystone species” require an enormous “home range,” and much of the biodiversity in their ecosystem depends, in one way or another, on their presence. Developing land for agriculture punches holes in the habitat that these animals need to survive. When development crowds out the “keystone species,” most of the natural biodiversity in the area disappears as well.

keystone species biomass

This is a show about natural science. I know you all like science when you get to watch them put a nuclear powered car on Mars, or when you think it means we understand how the universe works.

biodiversity cities

Are you still interested in science when it tells you that agricultural development is causing mass extinction on a global scale?

biodiversity basics

Does biodiversity matter?

biodiversity loss

Why?

Biodiversity laid off

That’s the topic. Please tune in.

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Advice for Adventurous Ears

ear to bell

It’s been a very busy week of radio work for me, so I don’t have much of an essay for you, but I strongly encourage you to listen to my latest radio show featuring a really great band from Arcata called Medicine Baul.

This will be the official debut of my new music-themed public affairs radio show called The Adventurous Ear.   The show will highlight music of exceptional originality, and focus primarily on musicians in our local area and region.  The Adventurous Ear will air on KMUD on Thursday, March 26 at 5pm, and on the fourth Thursday of every other month, alternating in that time-slot with my other public affairs show, which I co-produce with my partner Amy Gustin, called Wildlife Matters.

wildlife matters radio show-kmud

You may recall that I wrote this review of Medicine Baul’s performance at Jambalaya last year.  If you haven’t heard Medicine Baul before, you’ll get a chance to hear their music and listen to them talk about how and why they make it.  Every Medicine Baul performance sounds different because the band composes their music on the spot at each venue.  I recorded their performance at Synapsis in Eureka, CA on Dec. 13 2014, and interviewed them after their performance at Siren’s Song on the previous Nov. 3.

medicine baul 9c

Besides creating amazing music, I found the members of Medicine Baul I talked to,  Willoughby Arevalo, Ishan Vernallis, Vinny DeVaney, and Laura Corsiglia, all to be articulate, interesting and thoughtful people.  From talking to them, it is clear that they each bring a highly evolved sense of intent and purpose to their work, but they don’t compete with each other for control.  Instead, they value each other and honor the moment in a spontaneous collaborative effort.  As a result, the music is bigger than all of them, and encompasses the audience as well.  To fully appreciate their music, you have to be there to share it with them as they create it.

medicine baul 7c

Still, I think you’ll enjoy this episode of The Adventurous Ear.  You’ll hear a range of sounds from Medicine Baul’s 75+ minute set, interspersed with snippets of interview.  In one half-hour show, I offer listeners a pretty good introduction to the band and their approach to music.  I hope you’ll tune in.

medicine baul drummer4


My Record-Breaking New Guitar

record-breakers

I just finished building myself a new guitar. In itself, I don’t think that sets any new records, except perhaps for some personal records for myself. For instance: This new guitar, with four strings, has more strings than any instrument I’ve built so far. I don’t expect that record to last long, because I’ve already begun work on a crude electric harp. This is also the first stringed instrument I’ve built that has a fret-board, although I didn’t set the frets, and it’s the first electric stringed instrument I’ve built that has a built-in amplifier.

personal record

Aside from these personal records, I can’t even claim to have recorded any new records with this guitar. I just finished building it, after all. I’m just getting to know the instrument. I wanted to build an instrument with a unique sound, and I’ve achieved that, but I expect it will take a while before I learn to speak its language fluently enough to compose music for it. Although it has a unique sound, I can’t say it’s uniqueness breaks any records.

unique2

You could see my new guitar as a kind of phoenix, rising from the ashes of an older, if not unique, at least unusual guitar. My new guitar began with an listing on the SoHum Buy-Sell-Trade Facebook page where I let people know that I was looking for junk guitar parts, especially tuning machines. Felix Omai responded to my ad by generously offering to give me the remains of an old Harmony brand arch-top, four-string, tenor guitar. I was delighted to receive it.

pheonix

The guitar was in pretty sad shape. It’s arch had fallen, the back of the body had come off, the front of the body detached from the sides, and the fret-board fell off of the neck. One of the tuning pegs turned to dust between my fingers as I tried, for obviously the first time in many years, to turn it.

crumbled tuning peg1

I googled the guitar online, and found a nice picture of what it must have looked like in its heyday, and I have to admit that it was a pretty sharp-looking guitar, considering that it retailed for $79.00 in the Sears and Roebuck Catalog. Even in 1962, that was a pretty cheap guitar.

harmony_tenor_guitar

The online reviews, however, all panned the guitar’s sound as “muddy,” “undefined,” and “bottom-heavy,” so I didn’t feel bad about salvaging the parts I could use to make a new and unique instrument. After I reattached the fret-board to the neck, and replaced the broken tuning peg with a little slab of deer antler, I salvaged the whole neck assembly, as well as the tailpiece and part of the rosewood bridge.

headstock tuner-horz

I replaced the body with a crude rectangle of wood I salvaged from a shipping pallet.  I built an electric pickup of my own design using an upcycled mint tin, a piezoelectric disc I salvaged from an electronic toy, some compression springs I got at Scrap Humboldt, and the rosewood string saddles from the bridge of the old Harmony. This unique acoustic-electric bridge pickup, with built-in spring reverb gives the guitar its unique sound, at least partially.

mint tin pickup

My new guitar’s other secret weapon is its on-board amplifier, with a speaker mounted directly beneath the strings. I built the amplifier around an LM386 8-pin amplifier chip, and powered it with a 9-volt battery.

lm 386 amplifier

The amplifier has an on-off switch, input volume, and gain control, which allows me to play it as an “acoustic’ instrument, that is, without plugging it into an external amplifiers, and to overdrive the amplifier producing distortion and feedback, whether it is plugged into an external amplifier or not.

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Still, I did have to break two records to build this guitar, and no one will ever listen to this copy of Iron Butterfly’s 1960’s rock anthem, Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida,

inna gadda da vida

or Billy Crystal’s hit single You Look Marvelous again.

you look marvelous

Instead, you can listen to to me play them like this:


Star Trek Predicted, Mr. Spock Inspired

StarTrekCast

We all mourn the passing of actor, photographer, and singer, Leonard Nimoy. But let’s face it. Were it not for a single role he played, on a short lived TV show from the ’60s, most of us wouldn’t give a rats ass about Leonard Nimoy.

leonard nimoy piano

Mr. Spock, however, the eminently logical, half-alien, science officer of the Starship Enterprise became a role model for a whole generation of emotionally distant men, and Star Trek’s vision of a bright, high-tech future captured our imagination and defined our aspirations as a culture.

spock live long and prosper

Star trek provided us with a vision of the future that we could look forward to. We had solved all of our Earthly problems, managed to have friendly, cooperative relations with thousands of other civilized high-tech cultures from far-flung galaxies. We had plenty of resources, and the technology, to send 5,000 young people into deep space on a giant spacecraft capable of traveling several times the speed of light, just to see what kind of trouble they could get into.

star trek USS_Enterprise_(NCC-1701)

Star Trek showed us that we could go anywhere in the galaxy, at any time of year, and we didn’t even need to bring a sweater.

star trek landing party

Star Trek taught us that the universe was full of intelligent alien species who were, inexplicably, sexually compatible with humans, and spoke English, and Star Trek demonstrated how hairspray had become ubiquitous throughout the cosmos.

star trek alien women-tile

It’s an attractive fantasy, but a fantasy nonetheless. Today, in honor of the, by all accounts, warm, loving, and emotionally secure Leonard Nimoy, who, through his timeless portrayal of Mr. Spock, inspired so many naïve young men to become lonely sociopaths, we look back at Star Trek to see just how well it predicted the future. For instance:

spock generation of sociopaths

Star Trek correctly predicted that we would have wireless communication devices that fit in the palm of our hands. They had these devices in Star Trek, yet somehow, they did not play with them all day.

star trek kirk communicator

Star Trek correctly predicted that we would talk to our computers. However, on Star Trek, the computer understands what they say, and responds. We mostly just curse at our machines when they crash.

spocks computer

Star Trek correctly predicted that we would all wear ugly polyester uniforms.

star trek shore-leave

Star Trek could not have predicted how we look in them.

fat person in polyester

Star Trek correctly predicted that we’d always be at work. You never see anyone wearing civies on the Enterprise. They’re always in uniform, and they’re always on duty. Get used to it America.

overworked employee

Star Trek correctly predicted that, women would have to wear mini skirts to work, and take orders from an asshole like William Shatner, if they want to earn a living. Who would have imagined?

star trek kirk uhura

Star Trek correctly predicted that doctors would have better things to do than see patients. Look, doctors are the only people who can afford to do what they want in this society. If you could afford to do whatever you wanted to do, would you choose to preside over an endless parade of sick people complaining about their illnesses. Fuck no! You’d be like, “Gimme a phaser, Jim, and let’s go check out the local action.”

star trek spock mccoy guns

Star Trek correctly predicted that everyone would be single. I believe that Mr. Spock’s parents were the only married couple ever depicted on the show. Other than that, everyone in the show was single. Today, for the first time ever, more American adults are single, than in a committed relationship, yet oddly….

star trek spocks parents

Star Trek correctly predicted that no one would have sex. In Star Trek, it’s like everyone is so impressed with their own intelligence and sense of purpose that they’ve lost all connection with their genitalia. Maybe “getting fixed” is a prerequisite for admission to Starfleet Acadamy, but a crewman on the USS Enterprise is at least 20 times more likely to be killed by hostile aliens than get laid. I’m afraid that’s true of most of my friends as well.

Star-Trek crew

Star Trek correctly predicted that in the future no one would cook. On Star Trek you never see a kitchen. Instead, they take a lump of inedible inorganic material, put it on a plate, and place it inside of a high-tech box for a few seconds.

star trek food synthesizer

Miraculously it comes out looking something like food. Yes, Star Trek predicted Hot Pockets.

star trek hot pockets

As you can plainly see, a lot of things that looked cool on Star Trek, kinda suck in real life. If you think about it, a cheesy sci-fi TV show is a pretty stupid thing to build a cultural mythology around, but its a pretty stupid culture, or as Mr. Spock would say, “Highly illogical.”

spock highly illogical


Garberville’s Visionary Artist Ron Machado

visionary artist The-Witness-By-Adam-Scott-MIller

Surrounded by lush forests in rugged mountainous terrain, in the southern quarter of Humboldt County, lies the sad little town of Garberville, CA.

Garberville welcome to buy

Infamous as a global drug trafficking hub, Garberville has become Mecca for drug dealers, and drug addicts alike who flock here in droves to pursue their lifelong ambition to make money and get high. The huge sums of money associated with the illegal drug trade, draws other unsavory characters to this little burg as well.

Unsavory-Characters

Real-estate agents, bankers, and greedy businessmen eager to hitch their wagon to the prohibition gravy train, line Garberville’s main drag offering overpriced mediocrity served with heartless indifference. In recent years, Garbervile’s pathos has become even more famous than its pot, and with good reason. After all, you can grow good pot anywhere, but watching the stagnating black-market economy turn this self-selecting community of callous, greedy, small-minded people into a cauldron of seething resentment, open hostility, and violence evokes that special blend of pity and disgust like no place I’ve ever been before.

Tragic Pathos

Rising like a lotus from this cesspool, one artist dares to defy the vortex of darkness with his singular creative vision.

lotus

Ron Machado challenges this small town’s image of itself with assemblages of found objects which spring defiantly from the oppressive landscape of commercial exploitation. Like Banksy, the famous, albeit anonymous London street artist, Machado eschews the rarified atmosphere of galleries and museums, preferring instead to transform the stifling homogeneity and crass utility of the small Northern California town he has called home for more than two decades.

ron machado3

Machado’s artworks often appear overnight, in unexpected, but very public places, usually in Garberville’s business district, where he carefully reveals the madness concealed within the mundane. Machado’s angular, assertive and unapologetic artworks occupy parking spaces, take over vacant lots, and sometimes even appear in the middle of major thoroughfares. They look almost functional, but overflow with playful frivolity, physical non-sequiters and mind-bending juxtaposition.

ron machado crop

Like many artists of exceptional vision, Ron Machado is mocked, misunderstood, and unappreciated in his hometown, where he is more often described as a homeless, mentally-ill, pain-in-the-ass, than as an artist. Local townspeople have repeatedly removed and destroyed Machado’s artworks, and this past week, an unknown assailant attacked Ron Machado physically.

assault

The assailant sprayed Ron’s face, and his belongings with flammable liquid, and attempted to set both on fire. Fortunately Ron escaped serious injury, but the ensuing blaze engulfed Ron’s belongings, filling Garberville with the acrid stench of burning plastic for most of the afternoon.

burning tent

While Ron has been arrested numerous times, and is well known to police for making public art, the arsonist who attempted to murder Ron remains at large, blending into the community, who appear to be protecting his identity. Undaunted, Ron has returned to his work, and continues to create art in Garberville with the reckless passion of a true visionary.

ron machado2 bright crop

I encourage all art enthusiasts to make a trip to Garberville to see Machado’s latest work. To view Machado’s work before local townspeople dismantle it, it pays to arrive early in the morning. It is hard to know where a Machado original will pop up next, but in a town mostly devoid of interesting art, Machado’s installations stand out conspicuously against the dull backdrop of repressive commercialism.

capitalism boring

Pack a lunch, because the restaurants in Garberville mostly suck, and don’t bother shopping, because the prices are ridiculous, but Machado’s creations make the trip worth while. While you’re up this way, be sure to visit Eureka, one of America’s great small art towns, only 65 miles or so to the North. With lots of public art, many fine galleries, and a vibrant local art scene, not to mention better restaurants and lower prices, Eureka is a great place to spend the rest of the day, and your money, after a Machado morning in Garberville.

Eureka_artsalive-tile

Arts Alive, held on the first Saturday of every month in Eureka

 


Wildlife Matters #5 Debuts Today, Thursday, Feb 26 @5pm PST

Sea otters

Today, Thursday, February 26 at 5pm, KMUD Redwood Community Radio will air the latest installment of Wildlife Matters.  On this month’s show Amy Gustin and I will talk about Sea Otters, and the crucial role they play in maintaining healthy coastal ecosystems.

sea otter hurray

We’ll hear from sea otter biologist Dr. Jane Watson

dr jane watson

…and noted ecologist Dr. James Estes.

dr james estes

They talk about sea otters’ peculiar adaptations which allow them to flourish in the chilly waters of the North Pacific.  they’ll teach us about “trophic cascades,” a fancy word to describe the consequences of eating habits on ecosystems, which explains how sea otters can turn a barren sea floor inhabited by nothing but sea urchins, into a lush kelp forest teeming with biodiversity.

sea otter eats urchins

Wildlife Matters airs on the fourth Thursday of the month on KMUD, and is available to all Pacifica Affiliates through audioport.org.  In the future, wildlife Matters will alternate the fourth Thursday at 5pm time-slot with my other new radio show called The Adventurous Ear.

ear to bell

Next month, The Adventurous Ear, a radio show highlighting music of exceptional originality, will bring you the music of Arcata based improvisational ensemble Medicine Baul.  I hope you’ll tune in today at 5pm for Wildlife Matters, and March 26 at 5pm for some wild music on The Adventurous Ear.  Just remember the fourth Thursday at 5pm as the time for something wild on KMUD Redwood Community Radio, or listen online at http://www.kmud.org

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