Category Archives: art

Humboldt County’s Nuclear Caviar

nuclear caviar

We have a long history of shortsightedness here in Humboldt County. I suspect that we’re as eager to throw our long-term assets away for a fast buck as we ever were, and the impending legalization of marijuana gives us another opportunity to do just that.

chase the fast buck

Right now, the black-market cannabis industry holds this county hostage, politically and economically. The illegal marijuana industry has already brought enough social problems to Humboldt County, problems ranging from poverty and homelessness to hard drug abuse, violent crime and murder. Feeding this disease, and fueling the destruction it causes, the misguided War on Drugs has turned a harmless, easy to grow weed into expensive contraband. Now that the tides have turned on the War on Drugs, politicians and drug dealers will try to convince you that marijuana is nuclear caviar.

bud-horz

Nuclear, meaning that they will tell you that marijuana is so dangerous that it requires as much government oversight, control and regulation as a nuclear power plant. Caviar, because they intend to concoct some scheme to control cannabis production, to keep the price of cannabis artificially inflated, so that good pot remains an expensive luxury that working people can ill-afford.

luxury marijuana

Cannabis is not nuclear caviar. Cannabis is a giant fucking ripoff. Until now, the price of cannabis has been highway robbery at the point of a cop’s gun. If the CA legislature passes the current passel of pending cannabis legislation, they will simply turn iron-fisted prohibition into a state sponsored racket. It will still be highway robbery at the point of a cop’s gun, and pot will remain a giant fucking ripoff. For now.

its-a-rip-off-its-a-scam

Still, dramatic changes, already underway in the cannabis industry, will continue. The marijuana industry of today looks nothing like the marijuana industry of 20 years ago. Humboldt County will probably produce more marijuana, this year alone, than it did in the entire two decades between 1980 and 1999, and the cannabis industry of the future will look nothing like the cannabis industry of today.

the future

The cannabis market will become more competitive, production will expand and automation will increase. Profit margins will shrink, leading to rapid consolidation. That means lots of people lose their jobs or go out of business. That’s how legal industries work. The cannabis industry is rapidly becoming a legal industry, full of businessmen who know how to run a business, and aren’t afraid to make tough decisions.

business-shark-

That is a dramatic change from the cannabis industry we all know and love. We like pot growers to be spendthrift fools who have no idea how much money they really make, buy everything retail, and drip money as they walk down the street. More than the cannabis itself, our local economy relies on the stupidity and shortsightedness of black-market dope growers who’s lack of business acumen lured them into this line of work to begin with. The black market takes money out of the hands of hard-working people, who might otherwise save it, and puts it into the hands of the people most likely to squander it. That’s how prohibition boosts the economy, and that’s what we see here in Humboldt County.

spendthrift economy

The fact is, no matter how legalization plays out, most of the people who benefit from the marijuana industry in Humboldt County today, will eventually get squeezed out. Will it happen in three years, or will it take five? That depends on a lot of things, but it will happen, regardless. A lot of people around here will have to find something else to do, and the sooner, the better.

find something better to do

The War on Drugs is a cruel racist policy. Mostly, the War on Drugs provides a legal framework for the violent control of minority communities, but here in Humboldt, we see another racist aspect to the War on Drugs. Here, the War on Drugs provided a relatively low-risk avenue to affluence for privileged white kids with no particular skills, talent or ambition. Hey, I’m a privileged, white, college drop-out myself. I certainly understand the attraction, but it’s still racist. It’s still wrong, and it’s still a huge fucking ripoff, but rest assured; that side of the War on Drugs, will evaporate too. The marijuana industry will no longer be dominated by white middle-class dilettantes looking for a low-stress, way to support their high-consumption lifestyle.

social_disease-horz

When you think about it, these are the people who make Humboldt County attractive and interesting, at least to me, the artists, performers and musicians, the idealistic art history, English and ancient language majors and the disillusioned scientists and engineers who decided they didn’t want to build weapons systems or devise new, environmentally destructive, products. For people like this, growing pot was a way to finance their art or their writing or their political activism, or their other interesting hobbies, without distracting too much from them. The cannabis industry of the future will have no place for these people.

no room for you damob

Instead, the cannabis industry will be dominated by greedy white farmers who know how to grow pot and run a business, but have few, if any, other interests. Greedy white farmers do not attract tourists. If they did, people would flock to Iowa to watch corn grow. Greedy white farmers drain rivers, kill fish and destroy habitat, and they use their political clout to make sure that no one gets in their way. That’s what greedy white farmers do everywhere, and that’s what they intend to do here.

Silly Greedy Farmer

Yes, farming is boring and ugly and no one wants to see it, and the same is true of farmers, but we have something else here in Humboldt County that is worth more than all of the black-market marijuana we’ve grown here in the past, and all of the nuclear caviar we hope to produce in the future, put together. That is natural habitat.

natural habitat humboldt

Natural habitat has become remarkably rare around the world. I mean really rare, not artificially price-controlled, “rare,” but genuinely uncommon, and truly valuable. The Earth has lost half of its natural biodiversity since the first Earth Day, and the primary reason is loss of habitat. If we should treat anything around here like nuclear caviar, it is the natural habitat here in Humboldt County.

habitat loss

People want to see natural habitat, and they want to see it teeming with life.. Natural habitat attracts tourists. Biodiversity attracts tourists. No one will ever figure out how to produce habitat on the cheap and flood the market with biodiversity. Habitat will only become more rare and valuable. Pot, on the other hand, is easy to grow and cheap to produce, and it won’t be long before some state, like Nevada, Texas or Kansas, decides to get out of the way and open up the floodgates to an ocean of cheap cannabis.

habitat disregarded

That will leave us, here in Humboldt County, facing the same decision we face now, but with fewer options, and greatly diminished assets: Do we sacrifice our lives, and the natural habitat we love, in a vain attempt to compete with market forces beyond our control, or do we use our imagination, and learn to do something else, that harmonizes with the natural splendor of this unique place, and works for the kind of people who make up this community, and make this community special.

sohum people-tile


SoHum in August: Come for the Smoke, Stay for the Helicopters

Helicopter-Water-Drop

I love August in Southern Humboldt, triple-digit temperatures, the air hazy and thick with the ever-present smell of smoke and the hellish red tint it lends to the sunlight. Everybody’s nervous, nervous about fire, nervous about water, nervous about fish, nervous about their crop, and nervous about helicopters. Don’t forget the helicopters. Ya gotta love helicopters.

i_love_helicopters

Yes, to see SoHum in all of its glory, come in August. They say sunlight is the best disinfectant, and one August afternoon in Garberville will remind you why. Nothing can survive there. In Garberville, every fiber of your being will tell you that the sun wants to kill you. You will try to accomplish whatever you went there to do, but you will become ever more stressed, fatigued, irritated and confused, by the minute, as the sun steadily beats the shit out of you, until you finally realize you must flee for your life.

flee for your life

For miles around, the forested hills mitigate the harmful effects of solar radiation, but Garberville has the only substantial assemblage of concrete and asphalt in the area, and it concentrates sunlight like a magnifying glass. The locals have cut down damn near every last tree in town to insure maximum solar gain. They really don’t like people hanging around town.

Garberville welcome to buy

The proliferation of wildfires in our area seems like a wet dream for our local merchants. Every cafe and restaurant in town has a cue of at least six clean cut young men in uniform, just the kind of customer they’ve always wanted. Now they’re everywhere. I had to wait in line for lunch behind a whole platoon of regular Army GIs. I don’t think that ever happened to me in Garberville before.

GIs in line

2015 is shaping up to be an exceptional summer for smoke in SoHum. We love smoke in SoHum. As anyone who lives here will tell you, we have the best smoke in the world here in SoHum. Pot smoke, cigarette smoke, diesel exhaust or good ol’ wood smoke, whatever your favorite flavor, we’ve got plenty of it here in SoHum, and we’ll happily set fire to a car, a homeless person or an RV to spice it up for you.

RV-on-fire-350x263

Personally, I really love the smoke. I know it’s killing me, but for some reason I appreciate the air more when I can see it, and I find warm smoky air particularly comforting.  It might remind me of something from my childhood. I vaguely remember that my grandfather smoked a pipe and kept the thermostat too high.

smokes a pipe

Speaking of too high. I love smoking weed so much that I hollowed out my toothbrush, and attached a bowl to it so I can smoke pot while I brush my teeth. That’s how much we love smoke here in SoHum, and we’ve become connoisseurs of the finest smoke. We’ve developed our appreciation for smoke to a high art. We prefer to call ourselves “smokiers,” rather than “smoke snobs,” but it’s just our way of celebrating the pure joy of breathing contaminated air.

breathing apparatus

And nothing compliments the light-headedness that comes from breathing contaminated air on a hot summer day like the ominous reverberations from the incessant beating of rotor blades. Few sounds strike more fear into more hearts around the world than the sound of an approaching helicopter. Locally, decades of conditioning by CAMP have effected us deeply. This year, the choppers are all fighting fires, but they remind us of our PTSD. …all day.

ptsd pot

So, please, visit SoHum in August and you’ll get a warm welcome. You’ll see us at our best, and taste the air when it’s thickest and creamiest.

Firefighters walk under smoke from fires along Morgan Valley Road near Lower Lake, Calif., Friday, July 31, 2015. A series of wildfires were intensified by dry vegetation, triple-digit temperatures and gusting winds. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)


Information On the Internet, Always Consider the Source.

consider the source

I hear a lot of people lament the enormous quantity of questionably researched, grossly speculative and patently false information posted on the internet, as though “quality of information” were the primary obstacle to making “smart decisions.” If you ask me, people don’t make bad decisions because they lack information. People make bad decisions because they lack courage and imagination. The blather they see on the internet distracts them from this fundamental truth, and that’s why they spend so much time looking at useless information on line.

useless websites

I’m not saying that the internet is a terrible thing. The internet is a terrible thing, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about information, now. Long before we had the internet, we had information. The problem with information, is that it is always, “in formation.” The truth never appears “in formation.” There’s always more to the truth than can fit “in formation.” Besides that, information only appears “in formation” because it has an agenda. Reality doesn’t become information without the intentional efforts of someone with at least a point of view, if not a scheme, and information always conceals at least as much as it reveals.

hide and conceal

The problems of information becomes compounded on the internet, because, with the internet, we increasingly replace reality with information, and increasingly, information becomes our most familiar environment. None of what you see on the internet is real or true. At best, what you see on the internet reflects reality, but not without distortion, and the distortion generally reflects the dominant misconceptions of our times. In other words, the internet reflects a view of the world, not as it is, but as the least imaginative among us, imagine it to be.

Of all the rabbits on Furbal Street, Lester was the least imaginative.

Personally, I don’t think we have a problem with good information vs bad information, I think we have entirely too much information, and we make dumber and dumber decisions all the time. In this avalanche of information, collectively, we are losing our grip on reality. Nothing makes sense anymore. You can’t trust anything you read, and everything is more complicated, and way weirder, than you can imagine. That’s the truth, but here are a couple of examples.

thats the truth

I bought a pair of shoes online. I had lots of “good” information” about the shoes. I knew how much they sold for in six other stores. I knew who made them, where they were made, and what they were made from. All of this information came from reliable sources. Most of it was verified by multiple sites. When I placed my order, I knew I had found the right shoe at the right price. Of course, when they arrived, they fit poorly and hurt my feet.

feet hurt

I had plenty of information about the shoes, good reliable information, convincing information, in fact. That is one big problem with information on the internet. Most of the solid, reliable, truthful information that you find on the internet, has no other purpose than to convince you to do something stupid, like buy a pair of shoes without trying them on first. Sometimes the devil is in the details, but sometimes the details just serve to distract you from the stupidity of the whole idea.

school is stupid

We should never forget that the “whole idea” behind the internet was to insure that the people in control of the US strategic nuclear weapons arsenal, and the rest of the US military, can send and receive coded commands from anywhere in the world, via a ridiculously redundant, high-speed computer network, mostly paid-for by the private sector. If that’s why we have the internet in the first place, how good can any of the information on it really be?

nuclear-casino-tile

On the other hand, before you knock the wacko, tinfoil hat wearing, conspiracy theorists you find online, consider this:

tin foil hat wearing crackpot

At the moment, I’m building a modular analog synthesizer, from scratch, at home, in my spare time. If you’ve never heard of such a thing, a modular analog synthesizer is a kind of electronic musical instrument. The original Moog synthesizer was a modular analog synthesizer.

Mine won't be this big.

Mine won’t be this big.

In essence, a modular analog synthesizer is a collection of electronic circuits that either produce an audio signal, or change an audio signal in some way, all mounted in a box so that you can easily configure them any way you like.

mine won't be this fancy

mine won’t be this fancy

There are thousands of different circuits that produce or change an audio signal. The process of building a modular analog synthesizer involves building a collection of these circuits that will work together to create the palette of sounds that you want to hear. To build the circuit, it helps to have a schematic.

circuit_diagram

This is exactly the kind of project where the internet can be enormously helpful. I found thousands of schematics online. However, one of the circuits I want in my synthesizer is a white noise generator. White noise sounds like the wind when it’s filtered properly. It also adds breathiness to flute-like sounds and can even replace a snare drum hit when it’s gated right. I found about a dozen schematics for white noise generators online.

white noise-tile

Several of these schematics came from very reliable sources, including colleges and universities. Apparently a lot of students have been assigned the task of building a white noise generator, which they use later in the semester as a piece of test equipment. Unfortunately, none of the white noise schematics I downloaded from these prestigious sources, worked, when I built them on a breadboard.

breadboard frustration

These were not complicated circuits. I know I had them wired exactly as shown on the schematic. I tried five different noise circuits, five different ways, and I could not get one of them to make a speaker go “Hisssssss.” like it was supposed to. Frustrated, I went back to the internet to look for some more schematics, and I found this one.

white noise plan

This is the only white noise circuit I’ve seen that uses an LM386 audio amplifier chip. That caught my attention because I’m familiar with the LM386, and just happened to have one lying around. I used one as the on-board amplifier on my “record-breaking guitar,” and lots of electronic toys use them because they are loud little amplifiers for their size.

lm386

The LM386 is a little noisy for a lot of musical applications, but for this particular one, noise is what we’re after, so I built it on the breadboard, and it worked. I was thrilled! I tweaked the design a bit to suit my application (mine will be the only white noise generator I’ve seen with “overdrive”). Once I had the noise circuit working the way I like it, I soldered it together on a piece of circuit-board.

circuit board

I found that schematic by doing a Google “image” search. Google presented me with a page full of schematics, completely removed from the context into which they had been placed. Ecstatic to have finally completed a working noise generator, I became idly curious about why the designer of this circuit showed it connecting to a radio antenna rather than a speaker or an amplifier, so I visited the page where the image originated.

white noise plan red wire

As I read the text on the page I discovered the reason why the designer of this circuit chose to attach a radio antenna to a circuit built for the audio frequency range.  He observed that when he attached a loop antenna, instead of a speaker to this device, the white noise generator caused interference on his radio, throughout the AM band. He then reasoned, rightly, I think, that if this audio circuit caused interference to an AM radio signal, it must produce white noise that extends well beyond the audio frequency range, and that the LM386 must be capable of amplifying signals at frequencies far above those of normal human hearing, and well into the radio frequency range, something I did not know.

bro i didnt know

He installed this device in his home, attached to a large radio antenna, to scramble the Very Low Frequency and Low Frequency radio waves that he believes are being used, against his will, to reprogram his mind.

electronic_mind_control

Apparently, a lot of people believe that radio waves can be used in this way, and that someone, or something, is using radio waves in ways that cause some people a lot of psychic distress. Some of these people line their walls and ceiling with foil, or wear tinfoil hats to block these unwanted signals. This syndrome is so common that it has become a stereotype, even an archetype. Who hasn’t heard of the tinfoil-hat-wearing crackpot?

tin-foil-hat_

This man chose a more rational, science-based approach to the problem of unwanted radio-waves than Reynolds Wrap, and instead, designed and built a very clever, original, device from common, easy to find parts. Myself, I’ve never met a radio-wave I didn’t like, and have never experienced the problems these unfortunate people describe, but I can attest to the fact that his machine really works.

hey it works

If I had read his web page first, I probably would not have built the machine, but because I built his machine first, and it worked, I think he’s a pretty bright guy, and consider him a reliable source for technical information. After all, he solved my problem and taught me a thing or two about electronics in the process. If you, or anyone you know experiences distress caused by Low Frequency or Very Low Frequency radio waves, I recommend you try his device.

acoustic heterodyne mind control-tile

So, the next time you find yourself deriding the veracity of information you find on the internet, remember that the truth is stranger than you think, crazy people aren’t necessarily stupid.  Then ask yourself what the hell you are doing online.

what the hell are you doing1


Make it to The Makers Fair This Weekend

5th Annual Humboldt Makers Fair, Saturday August 1, Old Town Eureka

humboldt makers fair

This Saturday, August 1st, I’ll perform at the 5th annual Humboldt Makers Fair.  This event celebrates Humboldt’s DIY culture and creative self-expression.  The streets will be lined with booths for local artists and craftspersons to show off their talent and sell their unique products.  The festival also includes entertainment on two stages.

humboldt makers fair

I will begin the entertainment with a performance on electric didgeridoo….

photo credit bob doran

Photo by Bob Doran

 from 12 noon to 1pm in front of the Romano Gabriel exhibit on 2nd St.

romano-gabriel-wooden-sculpture-garden-

and then I’ll play again, from 2-3pm in front of the Gazebo in Old Town Eureka.

gazebo old town

I’ll scare the pigeons away

You can also hear Dogbone,

dogbone

Cliff Dallas and the Death Valley Troubadors,

cliff dallas dvt

Kindred Spirits

kindred spirits

The John David Young Conspiracy,

john david young conspiracy

Companion Animal,

companion animal

…and many more.

I hope to see you there.


Making Dots in Shelter Cove

bird a1 This past weekend, I participated in an art workshop for kids in Shelter Cove. The event was sponsored by SCARF, and held at the “Community Clubhouse” right next to the airstrip and the golf course. I have no idea what SCARF stands for, Shelter Cove Arts and Recreation Foundation is my best guess, but whatever their acronym means, they have some pretty cool stuff going on in Shelter Cove. kanga snakes ct1 cp Any kid could attend the workshop, free of charge. They served free pizza and juice boxes, and SCARF provided all of the art materials, including an envelope full of take home art projects for each kid. Paige Wygant led the workshop, all about painting with dots.

paige wygant dot painting workshop crop

Paige Wygant leading dot painting workshop

She showed the kids some Australian aboriginal dot paintings, and talked about some of the symbols and colors they use in their art. dot painting She also brought a poster of the famous painting by Georges Seurat: Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, and talked about pointillism and impressionism. Georges_Seurat_-_A_Sunday_on_La_Grande_Jatte_--_1884 Paige invited me to to the workshop to play the didgeridoo and talk a little bit about it. I’m always happy for the opportunity to play for people, but until now, I’ve never done an educational presentation about the didgeridoo. I play the thing because I like the way it sounds. I don’t really know much about the culture that spawned it. As soon as she told me about it, I knew I wanted to do it because I wanted to learn to paint with dots, so I had to put together a presentation about the didgeridoo.

didge presentation sc2

photo courtesy of Paige Wygant

I’ve never been to Australia, but I have a library card, and occasional access to the internet, so I looked some stuff up. The kids ate it up. Kids love the didgeridoo. It really speaks to them, and kids are especially open to it. I started by playing a bit, and that immediately got their attention.

didge presentation sc3 crop

photo courtesy of Paige Wygant

After a little opening jam, I told them that music was probably older than words, and that before we had language, people communicated through music. That set the tone for a talk that was more about our shared musical heritage, of which I know a little, than about Australian aboriginal culture, about which I know almost nothing. It went over OK.

didge presentation sc5

Photo courtesy of Paige Wygant

I explained that the fossils we find from prehistoric humans are usually made of rock or bone, and that a wooden didgeridoo or a wood and skin drum would decompose rapidly, so we have very little fossil evidence of early musical instruments, but the didgeridoo was undoubtedly one of them. I explained that although we think of the didgeridoo as an Australian instrument, we know there must have been something like a didgeridoo in our distant cultural past, because we have instruments like trumpets and trombones and tubas. Those instruments must have evolved from something like a didgeridoo. Makes sense, right? I played a little more. The kids seemed to buy it.

didge presentation sc4 crop

Photo courtesy of Paige Wygant

Then I told the story of how the instrument got its funny name. This is a true story, and it surprised me to learn it. The term “didgeridoo” was coined by a guy named Herbert Basedow writing for Smith’s Weekly magazine in 1925, who published the following sentence: “The aborigine has no music in him, save for the infernal didgeridoo, which makes but one sound didgery, didgery, didgery, ad infinitum.” Didgeridoo_player I explained that this was a mean-spirited and untrue thing to say, and that the British were not very nice to the aboriginal people. I told them that the aboriginal people have lots of music, and that they can do things with music that we can’t. I told them that the aboriginal people know how to use music as a GPS device, or like a map, and that they use songs to find their way around. I swear! I saw it on a Discovery Channel documentary. I found it in a book too, but hey, if anyone wants to straighten me out about this, I’d love to hear from you. arunachala I played a little more to remind the kids that didgeridoo music sounds pretty cool, and to gracefully change the subject. I told an aboriginal dreamtime story of how the instrument was created. NOT the one about the giant’s penis. I found a family friendly didgeridoo creation story without any reference to genitalia. I’ll save it. I played a little more, and then talked about how to play the instrument, and played one more piece to finish. A whole room full of kids sat quietly and listened for half-an-hour, so I guess it worked. cu2 Then it was time to paint! square crop2 They gave each kid a nice canvas panel that Paige had prepped for them. Some panels just had a background coat, and some, for the younger kids, had a cool kangaroo design marked out on them. kangaroo4 The older kids, including me, I was the oldest kid in the class, by 40 years or so, picked from a selection of Australian themed designs and transferred them, with a pencil and graphite paper, to the canvas. We used fabric paint, which comes in little plastic squeeze bottles perfect for squeezing out tiny drops of paint. snakes3 I had a lot of fun painting with dots, and so did the rest of the kids. Paige did a great job, and I applaud SCARF for helping to make it happen. cu1 Thanks to them, I have a new shtick: didgeridoo presentations for kids. If you’ve got a room full of kids and you need to kill some time, give me a call. dot cartoon1


SAMF 2015

SAMF-2015 poster

I really didn’t intend to write about this, but I ran into Randy Clark, the drummer for the Garberville Town Band recently, and he recounted his horror story about trying to unload his drums at Summer Arts and Music Festival this year. He said it was the worst experience he’s ever had at SAMF. I had to concur. When I told him my story, he recommended I write it up and send it to Jimmy Durschlag who was handling this responsibility for the Mateel Community Center.

mateel sign

Cool, I thought, Jimmy’s a musician. He’ll understand. So, I wrote this letter to Jimmy Durschlag, who plays in at least three bands, hosts two radio shows on KMUD, and is now apparently, the designated shit-catcher for the Mateel too.

Shit-Catcher-Job

It turned into a kind of a long letter. I’m sure he’s got nothing better to do. Now that I’ve gone to the trouble of writing it, it seems like a pretty good blog post. Since I haven’t got anything better for you this week, here ya go.

here-ya-go

To: Jimmy Durschlag
From: John Hardin
Re: SAMF 2015

Hi Jimmy,

I don’t want to make a big deal about this, but…

a big deal1

Amy and I arrived at SAMF right around 5pm for our 9pm gig in the Belly Dance Tent. We anticipated parking complications, so we arrived early with a positive and flexible attitude. The first person who approached our vehicle on our arrival informed us that we wouldn’t be allowed on-site until 30 minutes before our stage time. OK, whatever, we still needed to check-in. I was finally able to convince them to let me into the temporary lot.

Let-me-in

At check-in they told me I wasn’t on the list. Not at all. No one by that name, no one listed in that time-slot. Sorry. An oversight, I’m sure. I explained that I was listed in the program guide, and offered to show it to them, but luckily, someone we knew, Kelley Lincoln was there to vouch for us, so we got our wristbands.

not on the list1

I asked about load-in, and got the same story I heard from the parking guy, that they would not let us take our truck on-site until 30 minutes before our stage time. I asked if we could leave the truck on-site while we played. The answer was “No.” I asked if I could go unload early so I would have time to find someplace to park off-site, and then walk back. That answer was “No.” At that point I began to think: “Maybe they have enough entertainment at this festival. Perhaps we should go home.”

maybe we should just go home

So, we drove back to Garberville, with all of our gear, to weigh our options. I was booked as John Hardin Electric Didgeridoo, but Amy was going play Theremin and sing a few tunes as well. All together, it’s not ton of gear, but it’s more than we can schlep in one trip. It’s always fun to bring out the Theremin, even if it is a bit unpredictable, and Amy and I have some good material that we do together, but, through a decent sound system, I sound amazing, all by myself. I have more than enough material to fill the set. We opted to leave the Theremin and its accessories, in the car, parked in G,ville, and the two of us schlepped all of the stuff that I needed to play solo, to the site, via the shuttle bus. It was as much as we could carry and it was awkward to wrestle it on and off of a crowded bus, but we managed to get on-site with enough gear to play a gig.

A bus is driven past a market in Maidan Shahr, capital of Wardak Province, July 5, 2009.  REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov (AFGHANISTAN SOCIETY) - RTR25CAL

A bus is driven past a market in Maidan Shahr, capital of Wardak Province, July 5, 2009. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov (AFGHANISTAN SOCIETY) – RTR25CAL

At 8:40pm, 20 minutes before the start of my performance, the last troupe of belly dancers finished their set and cleared out, right on schedule. I moved my gear in and started setting up. My rig isn’t super-complicated, but it takes a few minutes to hook it all up and make sure it works. To be heard at all, I needed to play through a sound system, and there was one there, but the sound-person was nowhere to be seen.

meow mix

Sunshine Tresidder, of Lakshmi’s Daughters Belly Dance Troupe, welcomed me to the Belly Dance Tent, as she poured out some rose petals on the ground in front of me. I thanked her for that. Then she proceeded to tell me: “When you’re done, you need to put the tarp up in front of the tent. You’ll have to move these speaker stands back inside the tent, because, you know, if we leave them out, they’re liable to walk away. So, let me show you where we keep the rope that you’ll need to use to hold the tarp up, and there’s this special way that it attaches, and I need to show you how to do it.”

Lakshmi's-Daughters 2015 l

At that point Amy, who, because of the load-in hassle, had nothing better to do, followed Sunshine around, taking note of how we were supposed to close down her tent. This responsibility came as a surprise to us. We did not volunteer for it, and we were not asked to do it, politely or otherwise, but, you know, we’re flexible, positive, helpful people. We don’t like being talked to like unpaid employees, but whatever, it’s a festival and I wanted to play.

I came here to play crop

Still no sound person. I asked Sunshine, as she was walking away, if she knew who the sound person was, and where they might be. She replied: “Oh, she’s gone. I don’t know when she’ll be back.”

aint-no-sandwich-when-shes-gone

At that point I noticed that it was getting dark. I spotted two clip-on utility lights that I assumed were provided for my nighttime performance. I tried to turn one of them on. Nothing. I followed the cord to the end to discover that it was not plugged it. Then, I started looking for an electrical outlet, one for the light, but I also needed one for my music rig. I found myself staring at a 12 channel PA board resting in a puddle of cables.

mess of cables

Every single electrical outlet had something plugged into it, and every single channel of the mixer had something plugged into it. I didn’t want to screw anything up, or mess with someone elses gear, but I was supposed to play through this system in about seven minutes, and I needed some light to see what I was doing.

need some light

In the fading light, I spotted a portable CD player with a wall-wart AC adapter that was plugged into both an electrical outlet, and the PA. I knew that I didn’t need a CD player for my set and figured that I could easily unplug the CD player, from the electrical outlet, to free an outlet for my rig. I also began to think that if I could find the right adapter, I might even be able to tap into the PA through the CD player input, if I had to. Still no sign of a sound person. I was expecting the sound person to provide me with two DI boxes that I could plug a pair of 1/4” phone plugs into, but I saw no DI boxes, and no open channels.

DI boxes

I carry an assortment of adapters. It took me a while to figure out how to make it work. Finally, I made the connection using a 1/8th” female to female stereo headphone adapter. Do you carry a 1/8th” female to female stereo headphone adapter? If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to play.

female to female headphone adapter

Amy figured out how to turn one of the lights on, and I asked her to stand out in front of the house to check the levels.  The volume was good without my having to touch any of the sliders or knobs on the PA. My lucky day! I used my own headphones for monitors and pointed the floor wedges at the audience to prevent feedback.

floor wedges

Then I rocked that place for an hour-and-a-half. I channeled all of the frustration I felt about how we had been treated, into high-energy dance music. The audience got so hot and sweaty that I had to tell them to take a break and get some water because I thought they might hurt themselves.

sweaty dancers

After about a half-hour, the sound-person showed-up. I knew she was the sound-person because she just stood there for a moment, staring at the PA, with a puzzled look on her face. Then she came over and gave me a hug, while I was playing, and said “You’re amazing!”

youre amazing

“That’s looking on the bright side.” I thought. And on the bright side, the sound system must have sounded good because the audience dug it. As a 53 year old man in a committed long-term relationship, I don’t get that many opportunities to get hot and sweaty with a bunch of nubile young women. I think I appreciate that even more now, than I did at 23. I had a great time playing and really enjoyed the time I had to perform.

had fun playing crop

After finishing my set, sweaty and exhausted, I packed-up my gear. Then Amy and I moved the speakers, got out the rope and hung-up the tarp, as we had been instructed, and after that, we schlepped all of my gear back to the entrance to catch the shuttle. It was about 11:00pm by the time we got to the end of the enormous line of drunk people waiting to catch the shuttle back to G,ville. We waited in that line until 12:30, when we finally boarded the bus. That was a long fucking time to wait for a bus. I was scheduled to engineer at KMUD at 8am the next morning, I could have used the extra hour of sleep.

long line

I enjoyed the applause, and making hot young women sweat. I made $50 in tips and CD sales, as well as some nice nugs from appreciative listeners, not a bad gig from that perspective, but sheesh! We had planned to go back to SAMF on Sunday, just to enjoy ourselves, but we were so put off by the way we were treated on Saturday that we decided we didn’t need any more abuse.

no more abuse

That’s what happened to us at SAMF this year. It sucks to have to recount it like this, but I know that you are a musician, and I hope you understand. I don’t expect to be paid, and I don’t even expect to be fed, although that would have been nice, but Summer Arts and Music Festival is supposed to be a celebration of our local art and music scene, and the Mateel is supposed to be a local arts non-profit.

treat plumbers like musicians

If the Mateel does nothing else to help local musicians the rest of the year, they should at least treat us with respect at the one festival each year where they invite us to donate our time, energy, expensive specialized equipment and years of preparation. It is in the Mateel’s best interest to cultivate an appreciation of music within the community, and one way to do that is to set a good example by treating generous local musicians, and their music, with the respect they deserve.

respect

The Mateel makes a lot of money from SAMF these days, and they provide free food, camping, a T-shirt, and admission to the festival for all of their volunteers. As a performer, donating my time and effort, as well as my unique musical expression, all I got was a wristband, and I only got that because I knew somebody at the check-in booth. Festival staff were not at all accommodating to my needs, and instead, we were treated like domestic servants.

treated like servants

Last year, the Mateel treated us very well, and we looked forward to performing again this year. I realize that what happened to us was not intentional, and that everyone involved was doing their best under the circumstances, or at least, just being themselves. Like I said, up front, I don’t want to make a big deal about this, but this seems like an area where there is some room for improvement. Thanks for listening.

thanks for listening

Sincerely, John Hardin

John Hardin electric Didgeridoo

photo by Bob Doran


A Busy Weekend

too busy

This will be a busy weekend for my partner Amy and I.

john and amy

Starting Saturday we will perform on electric didgeridoo and Theremin at the 39th Annual Summer Arts and Music festival at Benbow Lake State Recreation Area.

SAMF-2015-

We are scheduled to perform starting at 9pm in the Belly-Dance tent.

Bellydancers

No, we won’t belly-dance, but you are welcome to. If you haven’t heard us play before, this is a great opportunity. The belly-dance tent has a nice sound system, and we’ll rock the place like nothing you’ve ever heard before.

lets_rock_this_place

I hope to see your bouncing belly-button there.

belly button

Just a few hours later, we’ll be at KMUD’s studios in Redway for Amy’s radio show: The Living Earth Connection.

living earth connection

Amy will read a great monograph by visionary author Daniel Quinn called The Book of the Damned.

book of the damned

The Book of the Damned will change the way you think about culture, civilization and the future. Please listen.

please listen

Then, early Monday morning, I’ll be back at KMUD to engineer Monday Morning Magazine from 7-9AM with host Pat Higgins, after which, I’ll have a new essay to post.

writing gif


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