Tag Archives: Humboldt County

The Crackle by Totter on The Adventurous Ear #3

the crackle by totter cov

Really, thus isn’t a music blog, but I can’t say too much about music. Music probably precedes language in human evolution, and I would say that music exceeds language in shaping human culture. We live in a peculiar culture, from that perspective, in that we exalt the more primitive forms of intelligence, that is, language and reason, more than the higher forms like music, art and humor.

intelligences gardners eight types

In other cultures, we would expect our leaders to sing, dance, and play musical instruments. We would expect them to tell jokes and stories. In fact, their duties would include such things, and they would have become leaders by doing those things well. Their passion would speak to us through music. Their truth would resonate in their stories and they would demonstrate their powers of observation, sharp intellect and quick wit though the jokes they told.

tribal leaders dance

Our culture worships the rational mind, the lowest form of intelligence. The rational mind has its place. It helps us secure food. It helps us design traps. The rational mind helps us capture prey. Don’t ever forget that. The rational mind is there to help us turn other beings into lunch. The rational mind is not uniquely human. Chimps have it. Dogs have it. What makes humans exceptional, with regard to the rational mind, is that humans are the most doggedly rational creatures on Earth. Symbolism, abstraction and language became natural extensions of this tactical form of intelligence.

leakey quote

Still, the rational mind is all about stalking and setting traps. We decide legal cases through the adversarial system. Two lawyers argue opposite sides of a case. We assume they are both equally competent at stalking and setting traps, but, we also assume, the truth will favor one side or the other. Political campaigns work the same way. Each side makes an argument, each side attacks the others argument and the people decide at the polls, who they thought was more convincing. We spend our days trapping each other and being trapped, and we call it “the economy.” The rational mind is constantly setting traps, and constantly falling into traps. That’s why you should never trust reason when it comes to making big decisions.

ViolentPoliticalRhetoric

When it comes to making big decisions, you need to know what you love, because the closer you are to what you love, the happier you are going to be. I love music. I know a lot of people do. It doesn’t make any sense. There’s no rational explanation for it, but I feel very strongly about music, and not just music in general, although I like music in general. Some music I like a LOT more than other music.

music-time quote frank-zappa

Some music takes some getting used to, and all music takes a few listens to appreciate, but it’s worth the effort, because the more you know about what you love, the more you know about who you are, and what you are doing here. This Thursday I have the rare opportunity to share with KMUD’s listening audience a new album that I really love. I realize that listening is something of a lost art, but it is such a rewarding exercise. I do hope you’ll listen.

lost-art-of-listening

On Thursday May 28th at 5pm KMUD will air the third installment of my new radio series called The Adventurous Ear.

the adventurous ear

This time The Adventurous Ear listens to The Crackle, the latest album from Totter.

totter the crackle-horz

I met Totter at a Summer Solstice gathering at Heartwood a couple of years ago. I played didgeridoo at the opening of the event and Totter played sax and flute with the headline act whose name escapes me. I think he was the only guy at the event with a beard longer than mine. We exchanged CDs. It was a weekend of New Age, spiritual, vegan bliss. When I got home, I put on The Crackle. Wow!

Totter Todd at House of Blues, Chicago

Totter Todd at House of Blues, Chicago

There is not one bit of New Age vegan bliss in The Crackle at all. The Crackle is dark and bloody and hard. It was like watching a horror movie after church. Definitely not what I was expecting, but it blew me out of the water. Great playing, terrific lyrics, astounding vocals and gripping music that doesn’t let up. An hour later, I’m shaking off a cold sweat, hoping this album doesn’t give me nightmares.

totter white face

This isn’t music to liven up your party, though a few cuts could work that way. This is an album to listen to from start to finish. Totter has taken the pains to weave a rich tapestry of musical artistry that is well worth your precious time. Take the time to appreciate Totter’s dark portrait of Gothic Americana, and celebrate it for the masterful work of art that it is.

totter2

You can hear a 28 minute preview of The Crackle, along with snippets of an interview I did with Totter about the album, last month at KMUD’s studios in Redway. Totter is a local SoHum guy, at least part of the time. His music keeps him traveling, but I see him around town from time to time, and he was gracious with his time for the interview. I think the show came out great, and I’m really excited to present it. I hope you’ll tune in. That’s Thursday May 28th at 5pm on KMUD, Redwood Community Radio for The Adventurous Ear, featuring The Crackle by Totter.

Click this link to hear an mp3 of the show right now.

and visit www.tottertodd.com for more about Totter and his music


A Springy Bass and the Humboldt Horn

big horn

People seemed to like the Harp Project last week, so I thought I’d lay a couple of my other new homemade instruments on you.

homemade creations

I built this electric bass from a hunk of 2×4 I extracted from a shipping pallet, and the cast-aluminum housing from a long-dead car-stereo amplifier.

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This bass uses vibrating springs, salvaged from expandable curtain rods, instead of strings, and additional sympathetic springs, concealed within the body, increase the instrument’s resonance.  More springs attached to the outside of the body increase the instruments sonic potential.

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This bass has two piezoelectric pickups, one designed to pick up vibrations from the long springs stretched over the neck of the instrument, and a second that allows the body of the instrument to be played like a drum. A single potentiometer allows the player to balance between the two.

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It’s really a very crude device. I had a lot of trouble getting decent sound to video, and I’m just beginning to explore what this instrument can do, but compared to, say a washtub bass, I think this instrument has a lot of musical potential.

I feel strongly about working with salvaged junk. I hate to see the natural world sacrificed to produce disposable consumer crap, but one distinguishing characteristic of our time is this abundance of exotic materials that would have been unbelievably rare, or completely non-existent only 100 years ago.

junk

We live in an age rich in garbage. All of the earth’s natural beauty, and life-sustaining abundance, has been ravaged, transformed, consumed, abandoned, and discarded. There it is, our stolen future, on the curb, in the rain, free for a generation of dumpster-divers.

dumpster-dive

Here in Humboldt County, this black poly-pipe waterline grows wild in the woods. I find it everywhere, along with chicken-wire, buckets, flower pots, tarps, water tanks, soil bags and worse.

pot grow garbage 1

These woods are strewn with the detritus of thirty years of guerrilla growing, including enough abandoned poly-pipe waterline to reach a grow on Mars. Talk about an embarrassment of riches. Prohibition may soon end, but the miles of black poly-pipe in our forests will last forever.

black poly pipe

“Let it sing.” I say.

singer

I made the Humboldt Horn out of waterline and a flowerpot.

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I cut the mouthpiece off of a cracked and discarded vuvuzela I found while cleaning up a property in Ettersburg. I reinforced it with a bit of electrical tape, and adapted it to fit the horn.  vuvuzela

I can vary the range of the instrument by substituting longer or shorter lengths of waterline. The flowerpot acts as a resonance chamber, and has an omnidirectional microphone mounted inside.

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Because the flowerpot is turned upside down and rests on the ground, the instrument is very quiet, but the microphone inside the flowerpot provides a strong signal to drive amplifiers, effects and/or recording equipment. While not particularly attractive, I find the Humboldt horn both expressive and versatile as a musical instrument. Give it a listen.


The HARP Project

haarp-facility

Many Americans, as well as millions of people around the globe have expressed their outrage at the top-secret experiments taking place at a US military base in Alaska. This nefarious program, code-named “The HARP Project,” builds on the groundbreaking work of Nicola Tesla, and seeks nothing less than complete control of global weather patterns through the use of high-frequency electromagnetic fields.

tesla

The HARP Project utilizes an enormous antenna array, and transmitters capable of pumping millions of watts of radio-frequency energy into the stratosphere. These transmissions create changes in the Earth’s ionosphere that extend around the globe, and the amplitude of these signals distort the shape of the atmosphere, and effect the Earth’s magnetic field.

haarp Strange_Clouds

The HARP Project remains shrouded in secrecy,

haarp_1a warning

…but this week, the LYGSBTD Center for Investigative Reporting acquired exclusive, TOP-SECRET video footage that reveals, for the first time, exactly how it really works. This video reveals the exact frequencies of operation, resonance gradients, harmonic characteristics, and radiation patterns of the energy field transmissions. This video allows viewers to see, and hear for themselves, the effect these energy fields have on the atmosphere. WARNING: This two-and-a-half minute video will change your life FOREVER!!!!!!

See, you are now two-and-a-half minutes older, and you’ve seen the newest addition to my growing collection of crude musical instruments made out of junk: The HARP Project. Technically, a musicologist would remind us, this instrument is a lyre, but I’ve called this instrument “the HARP Project” from the moment I conceived of this contraption, and I’ve only subsequently learned of the subtle difference between the two. For the record, a harp has only three sides, while a lyre has four.

harp_to_lyre

The voice of this instrument emanates from an aluminum bundt cake pan I found lying in the mud while cleaning up a property in Ettersburg. I knocked the mud out of it and tapped it a couple of times to listen to its ring. I thought it had a pleasant ring, and considered using it as a resonator on the guitar I recently built, but the geometry of the guitar just didn’t work that way.

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Still, I thought this bundt cake pan had a nice ring to it, and realized it would be easy to attach a piezoelectric pickup to it as well, so I started to look at it, and think about how I could best harness its acoustic properties. I checked a few books out of the library, and I looked up some stuff on-line. At some point, I found a picture of a harp made out of a roasting pan. I took note of how it was constructed.

roasting pot harp-559x419

created by Bart Hopkins to see more of Bart’s amazing instruments click this pic

Zither pins. Until this point, my collection of homemade string instruments has been limited by the availability of tuning mechanisms. I once got a music store to sell me a few old guitar tuning machines for a dollar each, but I haven’t come across a deal like that since. Zither pins sell for about a dollar each, new. With zither pins, I could build an instrument with 20 tuned strings, and stay within my budget of $30.

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I built the frame of the instrument from an old shipping pallet, and I found a piece of copper pipe just the right length for the bridge.

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You already know about the bundt cake pan.

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I made the strings out of a spool of stainless steel wire I’ve been carrying around for over a decade.

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The piezoelectric pickup came out of my Bratz brand toy drum machine that worked long enough that you can hear it on my last album, Um… Uh… Gum Eh?, but died shortly thereafter.

bratz drum fingers

I got eight great sounding piezoelectric pickups out of that toy, including this one, and the one in my record breaking guitar.

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I paid one dollar for it. A quarter-inch phone jack and a volume pot with a brushed aluminum knob complete the Harp Project, and make it convenient to amplify or record.

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I really like the way it sounds. Now I have to learn to play it.


Humboldt “Farmers” Go to Sacramento

dope yuppies go to sac crop

Recently, a group of area dope yuppies visited the State Legislature in Sacramento to lobby lawmakers on behalf of local marijuana growers.

HCCC b

While addressing their representatives at the State House, these cannabis cultivators wore green T-shirts emblazoned with the words, “I am a Farmer,” which I suppose, served as their excuse for wearing T-shirts.

what am I a farmer

Surrounded by business suits and power ties, these alleged “farmers” explained how important prohibition-era profits have become, not just to them personally, but to the numerous BMW and Harley Davidson dealerships around the state, not to mention ski resorts, gun dealers and real estate agents in Costa Rica, to name a few. “Who else pays $200 a yard for dirt?” They asked, adding that “California’s cannabis cultivators are the ‘suckers of last resort’ who have kept the state’s economy moving forward by buying enormous amounts of stupid crap while the rest of the state just tightened their belts and suffered through the recession.”

buy more crap

They reminded lawmakers that local businesses in Humboldt County rely heavily on black market cannabis profits. First, a lot of Humboldt County “businesses” operate as “fronts.” These “fronts” allow cannabis cultivators to launder large sums of cash without actually serving anyone’s needs. The remainder of Humboldt County’s businesses pay exorbitant rent prices, because of the high demand for commercial space for indoor marijuana cultivation, and have trouble finding help, because people can’t afford a decent place to live because of the high demand for residential space for indoor marijuana cultivation. As a result, most Humboldt County businesses cater to drug dealers who can easily afford the ridiculously high prices, while they ignore the needs of the rest of the community. Despite the poor job they do of serving the community’s needs, these businesses all pay taxes.

pay taxes

Of course, meeting people’s needs is the last thing anyone at the State House cares about. At the CA State Legislature, it doesn’t matter if you are a lawmaker or a lobbyist, a department head or a dope yuppie dressed as a farmer, everyone wants something, and everything costs money. The State Legislature essentially acts as the pimp for the state of California. Anyone who wants to fuck the people or rape the environment, legally, in the State of California has to pay them for the privilege. The State House is where they negotiate the price and terms.

pimp-and-a-prostitute

Marijuana prohibition was just such a deal, struck between powerful corporate interests and corrupt government officials, and they’ve screwed the American people with it for almost 80 years.  Today, the American people have had enough, and they demand change. Right now, state legislatures all over the country are wrestling with this one question: How can they preserve an economic system forged by the War on Drugs, while phasing out the criminal penalties for drug possession and sales.

War-on-Drugs

It’s like the transition between the Vietnam War and Reagan’s Cold War. The public demanded an end to the Vietnam War, and the draft, but not an end to military spending. No one liked spending billions of dollars on nuclear weapons, but people weren’t rioting in the streets about it. The Cold War preserved the profits of military contractors who would have otherwise had to find productive work in a peacetime economy. The people still got fucked, but at least they stopped screaming and squirming so much.

arms race

That’s what’s going on in Sacramento right now. It makes sense that Humboldt County’s Drug War profiteers should join the negotiations. Cops, prison-guards, lawyers, and drug dealers all want to continue fucking us over, and now Wall St. investors want a piece of the action too. It’s a feeding frenzy for social parasites.

social-parasites

They all know that without a multi-billion dollar eradication  effort, the price of marijuana will drop to $0, as this hearty weed quickly colonizes every vacant lot, ditch and roadside in America.

marijuana-leaves-

Wouldn’t that be great? The time has come to make it happen. All we need are seeds. That’s why it is so important for everyone who cares about cannabis, and wants to see it free and legal, to grow seedy pot. To hell with the State House, and to hell with greedy dope yuppies.  We’ve waited for them long enough already. Now it is time to free the weed, and spread the seed, because we’re sick of the greed.

grow seedy pot FTW


Two SoHums

SohumLogo[1]-horz

The bluffs between Redway and Garberville have been closed for a few weeks now. This two mile stretch of road hugs a sheer cliff of crumbly sandstone which descends precipitously into the churning waters of the Eel River below. With this narrow pass closed to all traffic save kayaks and canoes, these two tiny towns, Redway, and Garberville, which once orbited each other like binary stars, now face separation and isolation.

bluffs closed REDWOOD DRIVE

More than just a major inconvenience for everyone in Southern Humboldt, this severed link may forever mark a division point in SoHum culture. Evolutionary biology and island bio-geography can tell us a lot about what happens to populations and cultures who become isolated from each other. They tell us that subtle differences within connected populations, can lead to marked differences between closely related, but isolated populations.

galapagos finches

Today, the subtle cultural differences between Eastern Southern Humboldt, including Garberville, and everything that drains into it down the Alder Point Rd, and Western Southern Humboldt, including Redway, and whatever hasn’t already fallen into the ocean West of it, seem small. For instance, people from Eastern Southern Humboldt are more likely to push a junk car over a steep cliff, whereas people in Western Southern Humboldt generally set fire to junk cars along the roadside. Over time, however, and in isolation, these minute differences often evolve into distinguishing characteristics. Unless the bluffs are repaired soon, the difference between East and West SoHum may become as stark as the difference between North and South Korea.

North-KOrea-Vs-South-Korea minerals

Today, the differences are subtle, but noticeable. In Garberville, for example, when someone sees someone else passed out on the sidewalk, they call the Sheriff. They say: “There’s someone passed out cold on the sidewalk in Garberville. Isn’t that illegal? Can you come down here and arrest them?”

cop with drunk

Whereas is Redway, if someone comes across the same scene, an unconscious person in the sidewalk, they would call an ambulance and say something like: “Hey man, there’s, like, somebody laying here unconscious on the sidewalk. I just thought that this kinda seems like one of those health-things that you guys help out with.”

ambulance

Over time, these subtle differences may become magnified. In the future, Garberville may get 35% of the electricity it uses from the alcoholics it incinerates, while everyone in Redway will get CPR certified, but hope they never have to use it because they were pretty high when they took the course.

smoke pot

Another subtle difference between G,ville and R,town has to do with self image. Garberville is a much more image conscious town than Redway. I think there are about five guys in Garberville, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses who wear a sport-coat and tie. Karen Miclette and her crew at Karen Miclette Insurance always dress professionally, as do the people at the banks and credit unions. When you add them all up, that’s a whole bunch of people in uncomfortable shoes and stiff scratchy collars, wondering why the rest of us can’t make more of an effort to look presentable when we’re in town.

dress-for-success

Besides the people who “dress for success” around town, there are quite a few people who have an idea about what Garberville, and specifically, people in Garberville should look like, and they put a lot of effort into keeping up appearances.

keeping up appearances

Redway, by contrast, just makes itself comfortable. The polyester uniforms worn by the employees at the Shell station might be the most formal attire you’ll see on your visit to Redway, where most people can’t even keep their ass-crack covered.

ass crack

In the future, Garberville might have hidden cameras all over town, and big screen monitors on the back-side of street signs. When you pass one of them, you will see the least flattering picture they took of you with a caption like, “Do you see what you’d look like on TV?” or “What would your mother say if she saw you dressed like that?”

looking bad in town on tv

Eventually, bouncers will come and escort you to the the edge of town. Meanwhile, Redway will look like a clothing optional retirement community with lots and lots of dogs.

let the dogs out

These are just a few of the ways that long-term closure of the bluffs between Redway and Garberville could negatively effect our unique SoHum culture. We need each other, East and West, to survive, and thrive as one whole community. Redwood Drive must be repaired, now, before it is too late.

redwood drive bluffs loader


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


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

 


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