Thursday, October 26, 2006

I Answer Your Letters!

As an incredibly obscure & virtually unknown minor programmer on a small community radio station in Austin, Texas, you can bet I receive more mail than princesses or death-row artists. So I thought that, for a regular Thursday feature (well, it's Friday morning now, but I haven't had time to write today, & anyway, who's paying attention but me? nyah), I'd answer the mail that I receive. Feel free to write me with your pressing questions about me, my show, my meshow, my showme, or my meshowshowme. Clicking here will allow you to access my super-secret email address, which is slug at mail dot utexas dot edu. Shh!

My inaugural letter comes from Jimmy, who says he lives "on the other side of Hyde Park." Jimmy! Don't make yourself so easy to find! Here's what Jimmy writes:

Frankly I am a mess. I tuned into your show because its called Self-Help Radio but instead you were just talking about bikinis one week and then motorcycles the next. What the hell? I need Self-Help man!!! Why cant you just have a Self-Help radio show instead or playing all that music and shit???

First of all, Jimmy, it's Self Help Radio. There's no dash between the Self & the Help. Please don't make that mistake again.

Second of all, I totally feel your pain. I understand that many folks, in desperate need for a stranger to tell them simple ways to solve their difficult life problems, often wander over to my website or my radio show expecting me to be waxing prosaic like Dr. Laura Phil. I cannot believe I have been hurting so many people by simply being ironic.

So in the near future, I will announce the Self Help Minute on Self Help Radio. It will be sixty jam-packed seconds of condensed self help which, when added to your wet brain, will be like four or five hours of those other guys, without the commercials. I will scour the self help sections of used bookstores & the self help sections of used websites to find the information that is most appropriate to your life.

Problems will be solved. Answers will be discovered. Souls will be scrubbed clean. Teeth will return to their pearly whiteness. Hair will be made firm & bouncy. Women will be loved. Men will be loved. Not necessarily in this order.

Thanks for the letter, Jimmy. My eyes are open to my listeners' needs. Watch for the Self Help Minute. It'll revolutionize the time you spend listening to the radio for an entire minute.

Then, you know, back to the music & the inane chatter.

Tomorrow: Halloween show 2006! Whoo-hoo!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Whither Monsters?

Halloween shows can be a bitch. First off, I don't like playing the same song more than once. I can't say there's a philosophy behind it, but I think I can make up one which may well be the truth, & it would sound like this:

I'm on the radio ninety minutes a week. I have a few thousand records in my collection. Most of the time, people who listen to the radio hear the same thing over & over. Why not dedicate my show to playing as much different music as possible?

In general, though, most radio - even the wonderful programs on KOOP - is generally the same thing over & over. So, on Halloween, you can usually expect the same thing over & over. Most people like this, of course. I'm just trying to be difficult.

Second off, I do a show that's themed. I pick goofy themes to challenge myself to find stuff I haven't played before, & to give myself a context so I don't repeat myself all the time. But there are limited themes to Halloween: candy, trick or treating, vampires, wolfmen & wolfwomen, Frankenstein, zombies, outer space aliens, haunted houses, being scared. I've probably just listed my themes for the next few years on Halloween (except vampires - I did those last year). Besides, even when I do regular themes (like I talked about yesterday) I don't repeat myself. So why not do the same with Halloween?

Third off, there is no third off. I think I've conveniently answered my own question to my complete satisfaction. (Now I know what Donald Rumsfeld feels like.) I picked monsters because it seemed like a viable theme. What else is there to say?

Trouble is, there are a lot of monsters, Frankenstein notwithstanding. I have songs prepared for Friday about ol' Frankie, abominable snowmen, the blob, Bigfoot & others. It's a broad, cowardly topic. I hate myself for it. But what's done is done.

On Friday, four days before Halloween, you'll get to hear lots of songs about monsters, some of them imaginary & supernatural, others more down to earth. There'll also be some treats I'll give away on the show - no tricks! - but you'll got to listen to find out what.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Preface to Halloween 2006: There's A Monster In My Radio!

Recently, someone at the station who peer-evaluated my show said that, although they liked it, it seemed like my themes were "arbitrary." I liked that comment, because it's not that it seems that way. It is that way. I come up with themes at a moment's notice, sometimes, when something strikes me. For example, just today, I was listening to my iPod on shuffle & Darren Hanlon's wonderful song "(There's Not Enough Songs About) Squash" came on, & I started thinking about a show about obscure or little-celebrated sports. & that's an example that's got a reasonable beginning. Some of them are so random & inexplicable, I can't remember why or when I thought of them. (That's when I make something up.)

But there are shows that I do & have done every year since Self Help Radio began four years ago. Those shows are:

1) A Christmas show. But just one. Christmas music is fun, but too much is hard to swallow. Plus, people who do Christmas shows play all the same songs every year. Sometimes for the entire month of December. One Christmas show per year. That should be a law.

2) A "best of" [insert current year here] show. Sometimes it's hard to do, but I feel I should be trying to keep up. You know?

3) My birthday show. I was born in 1968, & three years back, on the week of my birthday, I played songs from my favorite albums from the year of my birth. The next year, it was from 1969, etc. This January, it'll be 1971.

4) A Valentine's show. I didn't get to do one this year (since KOOP had burned down & we were off the air). But I'll hopefully get to do one this next year. (The theme this year was going to be "breaking up." I don't know if I'll revisit that for 2007, or think of something else.)

5) A South By Southwest Show. As a public service. Especially if you, like me, don't really want to pay for the wristband or stand in line for all those shows.

6) An Arbor Day show. I love trees! (Okay, that's not true.)

& finally:

7) A Halloween show.

This year the theme is Monsters. I didn't want to just do a theme about Frankenstein's monster, although there are plenty of songs about him. I wanted to do a theme that talked also about humans becoming monsters. Or human who are monsters. & I take as my text for this venture this passage from John Steinbeck's East Of Eden:

I believe there are monsters born in the world to human parents. Some you can see, misshapen & horrible, with huge heads or tiny bodies; some are born with no arms, no legs, some with three arms, some with tails or mouths in odd places. They are accidents & no one's fault, as used to be thought. Once they were considered the visible punishment for concealed sins.

And just as there are physical monsters, can there not be mental or psychic monsters born? The face & body may be perfect, but if a twisted gene or a malformed egg can produce physical monsters, may not the same process produce a malformed soul?

Monsters are variations from the accepted norma to a greater or a less degree. As a child may be born without an arm, so one may be born without kindness or the potential of conscience. A man who loses his arms in an accident has a great struggle to adjust himself to the lack, but one born without arms suffers only from people who find him strange. Having never had arms, he cannot miss them. Sometimes when we are little we imagine how it would be to have wings, but there is no reason to suppose it is the same feeling birds have. No, to a monster the norm must seem monstrous, since everyone is normal to himself. To the inner monster it must be even more obscure, since he has no visible thing to compare with others. To a man born without conscience, a soul-stricken man must seem ridiculous. To a criminal, honesty is foolish. You must not forget that a monster is only a variation, & that to a monster, the norm is monstrous.

Yes, don't forget! It'll inform the show Friday. More about this tomorrow.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Weekends Haiku Wrap-Up

It's eerie. I did a show about weekends last Friday, &, as if by calendaric magic, I got a Saturday & Sunday in quick succession afterwards. I tried to do a weekends show today, in the privacy of my little cubicle at work, but all I got was the promise of a Tuesday, &, if I was good, maybe even a Wednesday so just shut the fuck up & get back to work.

But nicely poetic & poetically nice folks wrote nice, poetic haikus for the show. As always, I tell you there are great rewards for writing haikus for Self Help Radio. Just ask these four fine folks:


I love the weekend
Even though I'm unemployed
& I sleep all day


So the week must end
We dance over its dead body
Like we have no choice.


The weekend's too short
Make Saturday two days long
Hey! Now you're talking!


Swimming, drinking, rest
Dancing, partying, yard work
Movies, sports: week end.

This week's the World Famous Self Help Radio Halloween Show. This year's all about monsters. If you have a haiku in mind, do share it with us.