Category Archives: SoHum

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.

DSC_0005

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:


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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Sour Diesel

sour_diesel_pump crop

I’m the kind of guy who’s happy to have weed, and I’m happy to have whatever kind of weed I happen to have.

weed befrore and after

I like weed, but there are plenty of things I’d rather do than pursue weed, so I don’t try a lot of the popular new strains. Only recently did I have the opportunity to sample the strain, or by now, whole class of strains called “Sour Diesel.”

sour-diesel super silver-horz

Sour Diesel enjoys much popularity with commercial marijuana cultivators, and has become a staple in the industry.

staples

I can understand why people grow it: It’s heavy, hashy, and it gets you real high, but who wants pot that smells like diesel fuel? Sour Diesel reminds me of working in a garage, and smells like a greasy truck engine, or an environmental disaster. Does anyone really like that smell? How did we make pot smell so awful?

smell bad

I thought they called it “diesel” because of its suitability to that kind of off-the-grid, indoor grow scene, dependent as they are on big, diesel fuel guzzling, generators. I had no idea that the pot itself stank like diesel-fuel, and if I didn’t know better, I would have assumed the bad smell was the result of exhaust fumes in the grow room. Not so. The “Cali Sour Diesel” I tried was grown organically, outdoors in the fresh clean country air. Still, it smelled like a New York City bus station. Why?

Bus_Station

Pot can smell like so many different things. Pot can smell like pine trees, or blueberries, or bubblegum, or pineapple, or even fresh baked cookies. Why do we grow so much pot that smells like diesel fuel? People around here grow a ton of it, or more accurately, many tons of it, and an accurate scale may well be the key to its success.

accurate scale

What Sour Diesel lacks in bouquet, it makes up for in mass. For some reason, the greasy-truck-engine-smell makes pot weigh more. Why do people care more about how much pot weighs than about how nice it smells? More pointedly: What does this tell you about the marijuana industry when so many people in it obviously care more about quantity than quality?

quality-vs-quantity

Remember Sour Diesel the next time someone tries to sell you this bullshit about how the marijuana industry is developing luxury niche markets for the true cannabis connoisseur.

cannabis connoisseur

The marijuana industry doesn’t care if pot smells like a truck stop men’s room, so long as they can put more of it on the scale. That’s because the marijuana industry knows that, thanks to prohibition, marijuana consumers generally have very little choice in what they smoke.

we-have-no-choice-but-to-carry-on

If you know someone who deals herb, whatever herb they deal is the herb you’re going to smoke. If you don’t know someone who deals herb, you have to pay money to see a doctor, and then go to a dispensary where you may have more choices, but you’ll pay more than if you knew somebody. Unless you grow your own, you pay through the nose for herb, and you pretty much have to settle for what you can get, even if it smells like it’s been stuck in traffic for hours.

stuck in traffic

The marijuana industry still depends on an artificial shortage, created and perpetuated by expensive government oppression, intimidation and violence. The products they sell still reflect this paradigm. Overpriced, bred for weight, not for flavor, grown according to economic principles, not ecological principles, and marketed for maximum profit, rather than maximum benefit. No wonder it smells like diesel fuel. If you wanted to make marijuana smell any uglier, you’d have to frack it.

Frack-cartoon

What’s next, pot that smells like money? Obviously it already smells like that to too many people.

smelling money


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