Archive for the ‘Livin’ in the USA’ Category


Here, at minimum, are the posts that we’ll put up over the next month or so:

  • A review of Neal Stephenson’s masterful, very thought-provoking new near-future sci-fi novel Fall, or Dodge in Hell, that’s in many ways is reminiscent of his near-future political thriller Reamde;
  • Quite possibly one or two other sci-fi book reviews (we tend to review only books that we love or those that particularly irritate us);
  • A long look at the reasons why the USA has ended up with a grotesque authoritarian as president, and who and what’s to blame;
  • Excerpts from both of our upcoming nonfiction titles, Death Wins All Wars: A Memoir of Draft Resistance in the 1960s, by Daniel Holland (September 2019), and The Great Evil: Christianity, The Bible, and the Native American Genocide, by Chris Mato Nunpa (October 2019);
  • A long look at economic inequality in the USA, and how those who do useful work are systematically screwed;
  • A good-sized excerpt from Zeke Teflon’s sci-fi sequel to Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia;
  • Anything else we find both funny and/or insightful (preferably both).

Stay tuned.


Yep, that’s $155 combined for the guitar and the amp. Both were made in Meridian, Mississippi back in the late ’70s to mid ’80s, and the guitar cost me 75 bucks, and the 55-watt amp $80 off of Craigslist.

And they sound fantastic, proof that you don’t need a $2000 boutique tube amp and a $2000 ultra-high-end boutique guitar to sound good. I think my $155 rig would beat the crap out of any such combo. (Check out the video of tonight’s gig — which should be coming within a day or two, friends willing.)

What are the magic ingredients? A slightly upgraded Peavey Patriot solid body electric guitar, with SuperFerrite pickups (a beginner-level bolt-on solid body with ultra-hot, quiet pickups) and a slightly downgraded Peavey Bandit 65 solid-state amp. (“Downgraded” refers to the speaker.)

Tonight, I played a gig and ran into the guy I bought the Patriot from seven or eight years ago. He did me a huge favor by selling me that guitar for 75 bucks; he wasn’t mercenary, and decided to do some random guitar player — me! — a solid. I love the guitar: it’s fantastic; since then, I replaced the original crappy toggle pickup switch with a high quality knife switch, replaced the scratchy volume pot, and had it professionally set up. That’s all. Another 75 or 80 bucks.

As for the amp, it cost me 80 bucks off of Craigslist about ten years ago. These things originally had very high quality Sheffield Scorpion speakers, with heavy magnets. For no apparent reason — I hadn’t played it above about “5” and no one else had touched it — the speaker started buzzing a couple of years ago. I disassembled it, reassembled the magnet assembly a couple of times (yes, you can do that with these speakers), and the buzz didn’t go away, so I pulled the speaker, checked out what I had on the shelves, and replaced it with the only one that’d fit: a cheap, no-name 12″, 50-watt Chinese speaker (yes, lower wattage than the 55-watt Bandit’s rating) from a complete piece of shit Crate tube amp (but I repeat myself) I’d cannibalized years earlier after the power supply blew up because of construction defects. (As an aside, don’t bother with the more recent Peavey “trans-tube” models.)

Anyway, if you’ve ever heard an old Silvertone Twin from the 1960s, with tiny output transformers that super-saturate very easily, and deliver an incredible blues-distorted tone, this rig with the shitty Chinese Crate speaker essentially delivers the same. This is probably a one-off, so please don’t buy a Bandit and pull the high quality Sheffield and replace it with a random piece of shit speaker — you’ll likely be very disappointed. Bandits typically go on Craigslist for between $75 and $150, and they sound way-good as is.

As for the guitar, the Peavey Patriot comes in two flavors: one with two single-coil pickups, the other with a single bridge pickup, which is as useless as you’d suspect. (Anyone who’d buy such a guitar is forgiven as a 14-year-old moron who might eventually learn better, but it’s useless nonetheless.) Look before you buy. You should be able to find one on Craigslist for somewhere in the $100 – $250 range depending on condition and on whether it has a case.

There’s a near-equivalent model, which should sell for about the same: the Peavey T-15, which has a slightly shorter neck and slightly different body shape. Other than that, they’re identical.

As for the other Peavey “T” models, the Peavey T-60 has become fashionable in recent years, is the most in-demand, and typically sells in the $500 to $600 range. It’s the guitar Jerry Reed used on the “Smokey and Bandit II” album — with the great cut “East Bound and Down.” It has the two SuperFerrite humbucker pickups, but with a split switch to give you a single-coil tone if you want  it. The downside is that these thing play great, sound great, and, unless you’re young, strong, and will learn better by the time you’re 30, they’ll give you major back problems. The weight varies, but they’re far heavier than Les Pauls, with some weighing over 13 pounds. If you have the money and will use it only in the studio, get one. For day-in-day-out bar gigs, get something lighter, unless you have masculinity issues.

As for still other “T” models, I’ve owned Peavy T-25s, T-26s, and T-27s. I didn’t like any of them. The Strat-like T-27 (I believe, could be wrong about the model number) wasn’t good — equivalent action, but noticeably worse tone than my standard Strat. I’m rebuilding the one with SuperFerrite humbuckers (I believe the T-26), and, once I have new tuning machines in it, will set it up for slide (which is about all humbuckers are good for). Sorry for the confusion about the “T” Peaveys — the only ones I like are the 2-pickup Patriot, T-15, and T-60.

Enough for now. Time to pull apart my Peavey Classic 30, see why it’s howling, and fix it.

Cheers, Chaz

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Zeke Teflon (aka Chaz Bufe) is the author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia (pdf sample here). He’s currently working on the sequel and an unrelated sci-fi novel, and is the author of An Understandable Guide to Music Theory. He also was the guitarist in Ass Deep In Hippies (in San Francisco), Pinche Blues Band (In Tucson), and is the guitarist in an upcoming a yet-to-be-named blues/rock/jazz/country band, mostly featuring old bandmates and both originals and covers in Tucson. Should be huge fun. For a sample of the originals, click here. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the free mp3s.)

Free Radicals, by Zeke Teflon front cover


(Here’s a slightly updated version of one of the first pieces we ran on this blog back in the halcyon days of 2013.)

Free Radicals front cover

by Zeke Teflon, author of Free Radicals: A Novel of Utopia and Dystopia

Long, long ago, in a far away place—so long ago and so far away, in fact, that the statute of limitations has expired—I had the privilege of serving as a staff engineer at pirate radio station KDIL, “The Big 16.”

Shortly before KDIL went on the air in 1972, its CEO and main announcer, Ray the Reptile, was browsing through the religious paperbacks at the annual Visiting Nurses Book Sale when he laid his pudgy paws on the book he was destined to immortalize: “Dildo Torture,” by Arthur Fox. Not only did the book provide KDIL with its call letters, but it proved invaluable during KDIL’s short time on the air: It provided an entire graveyard shift’s worth of programming, as Bob the Gimp and I read the entire book over the air one hot August night, stopping only to punctuate its steamy passages with ads for Globe Shopping City’s narcotics department (“This week’s manager’s special: Blotter acid, two hits for three dollars for school children with I.D.!”) and Black Sabbath’s “Live in Jerusalem” LP, which we assured listeners had been recorded at Gethsemane at Easter sunrise.

But KDIL was more than porn and pranks—it was a textbook example of how not to put together and operate a pirate radio station. Perhaps the only thing right about KDIL was its location—an old, secluded mansion with overgrown grounds, surrounded by other mansions, in downtown Phoenix. There were two primary advantages to this: 1) KDIL’s site was in a white, affluent neighborhood, and cops (in this case FCC inspectors) are always more reluctant to kick in doors in such areas than in poorer neighborhoods; 2) the site was secluded and covered with vegetation, which not only made observation of our activities difficult, but also allowed us to hide a half-wave dipole antenna approximately 300 feet long in the eucalyptus trees surrounding the house.

That seclusion and privacy is what ultimately saved our butts, as, after selecting our site, we did virtually everything else wrong. That started with our choice of co-tenants/co-conspirators. Unbeknownst to most of us, one of them was a junkie who normally kept small amounts of heroin in his room. If the FCC had ever tracked us down, he (and we) could have ended up in jail for years as a result of his (and our) stupidity. As well, we were in the habit of smoking dope and occasionally dropping acid in the control room. That, and our roomie’s smack use, wouldn’t have mattered but for the fact that we were ignoring an elementary safety precaution (legal variety) by having our studio and transmitter in the same place, in fact, in the same room. Thus, if the FCC would have found the transmitter, they would have found us (and god knows what in the way of drugs), as well as our studio, and they would have seized all of our equipment.

In itself, that would have been a disaster. What would have made it doubly disastrous was the fact that a good part of our studio equipment was stolen. At the time we put KDIL on the air, all ten or so of us involved in the project were working as either DJs or engineers at local radio and TV stations, and to equip our studio several of my compatriots simply helped themselves to “surplus” gear sitting in various stations’ storerooms.

(My compadres felt no compunction about liberating equipment from the faceless corporations that owned the stations; it only aggravated matters that they hated the stations’ managers and the commercial sleaze those managers were foisting on the public. My friends were well aware that the FCC mandate that stations operate in the public interest was [and is] a sick joke.)

And of course those who equipped the station didn’t bother to eradicate the serial numbers on the equipment, so all of it could have been traced easily.

The down side of this was that we were exposing ourselves to a horrendous amount of danger for no good reason; the up side was that we were better equipped than some of the commercial broadcast stations in town. We had cart machines for playing commercials and PSAs, broadcast turntables, and even a compressor/limiter. About the only thing in our studio not of commercial origin was our control board, but even that wasn’t a problem as Blue Cheese, one of the other engineers, had built an ugly but quite functional board in a couple of weeks of his spare time.

So, prior to going on the air, we made the following mistakes: 1) we had our studio and our transmitter in the same place; 2) we were using drugs in the studio; 3) we were using stolen equipment; 4) we hadn’t eradicated the serial numbers on it.

We then proceeded to compound our mistakes through our operating practices. Rather than occasionally and sporadically appearing on different frequencies using a low-wattage signal, when we went on the air we did it in a way calculated to attract maximum attention—with 24-hour-a-day broadcasting, on a fixed frequency (1600 KHz), with a relatively high-wattage signal. I had modified an old 200-watt ham transmitter to work on the broadcast band, and it, combined with the dipole strung in the trees, was powerful enough to cover the entire metropolitan area of our city, an area of over 2,000 square miles.

Amazingly, it took the FCC nearly a week to home in on us. (They had been alerted by one of the bootlickers — a category which covers a curiously high number of broadcast engineers — at a local TV station.) This was no thanks to our station IDs, which declared that our studios and transmitter were located high in the Mormon Tabernacle in beautiful downtown Salt Lake City—that hadn’t fooled anyone, not even the local Mormons, as we were hundreds of miles from SLC—or, alternatively, that we were broadcasting from the Satanic Tabernacle of Wickenburg. (One of our IDs was “KDIL, getting it said for Satan!”) The reason the FCC was so slow in tracking us down was that we weren’t reported for a few days, and it then took the FCC personnel some time to rouse from their bureaucratic slumber, load their direction-finding gear into their cars, and drive the several hundred miles from their regional office in L.A. to our town. Once there, they were on to us in no time. But they never found us.

What saved us was our secluded location, hidden antenna, and that we saw them before they saw us. As soon as we spotted the white car with the telltale direction-finding loop, our DJ, the Yuma Llama, went into a short rant about censorship, commercial monopolization of the airwaves, and the fascism of the war on drugs (yes, it was a social blight then, too). As the Llama’s vitriolic verbiage faded into the ether, we disconnected the transmitter, lugged it down to the basement, hid it in a hole in the foundation, lit up a joint, and settled back to watch the FCC car pointlessly scurry up and down our street on its fruitless search.

Over the next few years, KDIL resurfaced sporadically as a late-night, 1-watt FM station operating from the Cheese residence. But the thrill was gone, as were most of the people involved, and KDIL breathed its last in the late 1970s. Still, even though it’s gone, it’s not entirely forgotten. One day in the mid-1980s, while in the FCC’s Los Angeles office on business, Ray the Reptile walked into a stall in its restroom. As he settled on the throne, the first piece of graffiti to meet his eyes was “KDIL Lives!”

The point of all this is that despite doing a number of monumentally stupid things, we, KDIL’s staff, got away with it—because we took a couple of elementary precautions. You can get away with it too. (Well, probably—there are no guarantees.) If you put a pirate on the air and take reasonable precautions (especially having your transmitter and studio in separate locations), your chances of being busted by the FCC are probably no greater than your chances of being struck by lightning or eaten by hogs.


Chris Hedges just put up a fantastic, fearless post on Truthout about the libeling of those of us who oppose Israeli brutalization and murder of Palestinians as “anti-semitic” (e.g., 200+ murders and thousands of deliberate maimings by Israeli snipers of protesters on the other side of the fence in Gaza during the ongoing “right of return” protests — and just ask yourself, how desperate must people be to deliberately expose themselves to murder and maiming, while the corporate press dishonestly excuses that slaughter — sniper shootings at hundreds of yards — as “clashes”? ). I just wish I could repost Chris’s piece here.

Hence an inadequate but claratory definition from The American Heretic’s Dictionary about what “anti-semitism” means currently in the U.S.:

Anti-Semitism, n. 1) A blind, unreasoning hatred of Jewish people by those who fear, with good reason, that they are inferior to Jews. (This is not to say that Jews are inherently superior to anyone else, even anti-Semites; rather, that Jewish culture encourages self-responsibility, social responsibility, learning, dedication to goals, and individual achievement—things sorely lacking in the mainstream of American culture. Hence Jews tend to be perceived as threatening “overachievers” in comparison with average, “fetch me another beer, Bubba” Americans.); 2) As defined in the United States for well over half a century, the unspeakable act of criticizing the oppression and murder of one Semitic people by another (Palestinians by Israelis). Needless to say, this leads to gross confusion of those who seek social justice with actual anti-Semites—which is precisely the intention of those who use the term in this manner. (Curiously, the ethnicity of all of these individuals is apparently Irish, as they invariablyh respond to the name “McCarthy.”)

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—from The American Heretic’s Dictionary (revised & expanded)

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PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, n. 1) A pathological liar suffering delusions of grandeur; 2) An office which confers upon its holder vast coercive power as well as the means to commit mass murder—an opportunity of which all recent U.S. presidents have taken advantage. Because of this, some observers have concluded that only the worst type of individuals seek the office of president. This unkind assessment is, however, incorrect. It is more realistic to conclude that only the worst type of individuals are elected to the office.

 * * *

—from The American Heretic’s Dictionary (revised & expanded)

ahd-144-a

(Note: When I wrote these definitions decades ago, Bill Clinton was in office, and the first definition was shocking. It made you think. And it was funny. No more. Now it simply states the obvious. I hope you still get a chuckle out of the second definition.)


At long last we have enough suitable material for another one of these “interesting and marginally useful” posts. This one is fairly heavy on the interesting (and funny) side, so we’ll start off with the most marginally useful sites we’ve stumbled across recently.

  • If you’ve ever tried to explain to an imbecile that there’s a difference between correlation and causation, you can relax; you can forego such exercises in frustration from now on: just point imbeciles at the Spurious Correlations site. No matter how dim people are, there’s at least a chance that a 25-watt bulb will flicker to life in their craniums once they see the near-exact correlation between — my favorite — Per capita cheese consumption and The number of people who died by becoming entangled in their bedsheets in the years 2000 through 2009 (statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The Spurious Correlations site features many other such correlations; a good one is that between US spending on science, space, and technology and Suicides by hanging, strangulation, and suffocation in the years 1999 through 2009.
  • You’ve probably heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is essentially the maddening phenomenon — currently on spectacular display in American politics — in which the more ignorant a person is about damn near anything, the more convinced they are that they’re knowledgeable. Psychologist David Dunning, who supplied half of the name for the effect, was recently interviewed by Vox reporter Brian Resnick. The interview bears the promising subtitle, “How to fight the Dunning-Kruger effect . . .” Unfortunately, Dunning’s advice does seem only marginally useful (those who need it most won’t take it), but it’s worth reading nonetheless.
  • We put up a post about this a month ago, but can’t resist plugging Nihilanand once again. It’s a gag/serious site concerning the criminal activity known as parenthood, and features over 100 memes, some outright hilarious. We put up one of them last month, and here’s another. (But before we go on, do check out the BBC article, “Indian man to sue parents for giving birth to him.” It’s almost as funny as the memes.)

Nihilanand meme

  • Banksy’s Dismaland is long gone, but if you missed its very limited five-week run in 2015 at an “abandoned lido” (whatever the hell that is), there are still two great photo tours of the “bemusement park”: Colossal’s “Welcome to Dismaland” and (yes) Business Insider’s “29 Photos from Banksy’s Twisted Dismaland.” (Note: “Welcome to Dismaland” is slow in loading.) Here’s one of the tour photos:

  • Finally, the Miami Herald just published (and kudos to them for not hiding behind a paywall) a piece titled “Florida is just full of weirdos,” which is a list of the supposedly ten best Florida Man Twitter posts, a Twitter feed that has over 400,000 followers, and which concerns weird news in Florida. We’d strongly disagree that these are the ten best Florida Man posts — it looks like they selected ten at random and labeled them the “best” —  though we do like the one about the dimwit who was “released from jail on an auto theft charge” and was immediately rearrested after trying to break “into another car in the jail’s parking lot . . . with a deputy behind the wheel.” If you like this sort of thing, we’d urge you to check out the Florida Man Twitter feed, which almost always has something to rival the above. The one in the current batch of tweets that caught our eye was a headline from the Florida Times-Union (in Jacksonville) reading, “Florida man kidnaps neighbor’s dog, has sex with it in his trailer,” which brings up the always pertinent question, how is it possible to kidnap a dog?

And as we’ve said before . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . That’s all folks!

Porky Pig


There’s a standard psychological list to assess psychopathic tendencies, The Hare Psychopathology Checklist. It’s a list of 20 traits common to psychopaths.

The traits are ranked on a scale of 0 to 2, with 0 being entirely absent, 1 being somewhat present, and 2 being strongly present. The Checklist ranks someone as a psychopath if their score is 30 or above out of a possible score of 40.

One of the points on the Checklist “revocation of conditional release” is entirely dependent on class status (doesn’t apply to the rich — they’re never in the system in the first place) — and another is almost entirely so, “juvenile delinquency” is almost entirely class-dependent (the rich get “diverted” and their records erased), so let’s disallow those two criteria. That leaves 18 checkpoints. Let’s see how Trump does, taking a score of 27 (75%) as indicative of psychopathy:

  • glib and superficial charm
  • grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
  • need for stimulation
  • pathological lying
  • cunning and manipulativeness
  • lack of remorse or guilt
  • shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
  • callousness and lack of empathy
  • parasitic lifestyle
  • poor behavioral controls
  • sexual promiscuity
  • early behavior problems
  • lack of realistic long-term goals
  • impulsivity
  • irresponsibility
  • failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • many short-term marital relationships
  • criminal versatility

My best estimate, based on abundant public evidence, is that Trump scores 33 out of 36, well up into the psychopathy range.

What’s your estimate? Why? (Please leave a comment.)

And why isn’t the press addressing the urgent matter that we have an apparent raving psychopath with his finger on the nuclear button?