Thursday, April 16, 2015

Whither My Favorite Radio Show?

You might have guessed that this week's show is really not about my favorite radio show.  It's just a conceit that will let me play songs that have names or talk about "my favorite ______."  That's all.

I've had a lot of favorite radio shows, & many of them are on WRFL.  In the past, I've felt that I was in some way competing with them, which is a terrible way to feel.  I can be very critical of things, & a lot of that probably comes from some insecure place in me.  Once I find myself putting those feelings aside, I very happily find that I like what I am listening to.  In a real sense, good radio is not something I compete with, it's something I try to add my own radio show to.  Too often I fail.  That's my fault, not theirs!

This will be the third-to-the-last Self Help Radio on WRFL.  My gosh!  It'll air from 7-9 am of course, on 88.1 fm in town, online at wrfl dot fm.  Later on I'll put it up at the Self Help Radio website.

It's going to be a lot of fun.  & there are only three episodes of Self Help Radio on WRFL left!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Preface To My Favorite Radio Show: What Is My Favorite Radio Show?

I'm amazed that a whole generation or two of young people have grown up without radio.  I know most  radio is terrible (probably including my dumb show), but I have such happy memories of growing up with radio.  & when I discovered community radio, it was the gateway into the world of music I love now, most of which doesn't get (& has never gotten) played on commercial radio.

But I'll tell you one story about radio being important to me.  It was probably when I was in eighth grade, so I was twelve or thirteen or maybe fourteen.  My mother had given to me & my little brother two radio/tape recorder units that weren't quite boomboxes, but very handy, because I was taping music from the radio by holding a little cassette recorder up to a speaker.  I would record television shows the same way before VCRs.  The sound quality was awful.

We got these sorta-boomboxes for Christmas, & it wasn't long after we got them that, because it was retractable & we didn't remember to do retract it, the antenna bent & broke off.  Which meant it could be used as a kind of dueling implement.  Which meant the other antenna was promptly broken off so it could be used to duel the other dueling antenna thing.

During the summer I would sleep on the sofa so I could watch television late into the night, & I would often have my radio/tape recorder right next to me.  One of Dallas's two classic rock stations at the time - I believe they were Q102 & KZEW "the Zoo" - would, at eleven o'clock each night, play an entire album all the way through.  If I were smart enough to catch it on time, I could get a record I couldn't afford to buy & get it on my own tape.

I was obsessed then with the Beatles.  I had taken from my older brothers the Beatles records they had - Sgt. Pepper, the Blue + Red Greatest Hits releases, Let It Be - but of course I knew I hadn't heard all their songs yet.  I would tape Ringo's Starr's show Ringo's Yellow Submarine on Sundays & I was amazed there were songs I didn't even know existed.  My friend Russell had told me that his favorite record was called The White Album.  I so wanted to hear it in its entirety.

One night, they played it all the way through on that eleven o'clock spot!  I had my tape ready.  But there was one snag: because the antenna had been torn off, I had to put my finger on the space where the base of the antenna had been in order to hear the station without static.  This meant that for as long as the record played - & the station played commercials in-between sides - I had to leave my finger on that spot.

It was worth it.  That record blew my mind.  I didn't know you could do such a thing as that record, & of course nothing had prepared me for "Revolution No. 9."  I listened to the tape constantly, & for years, after I had bought the record myself, & then the CD, I would expect to hear the static from when, because my arm was tired, I shifted my finger.  I also never got the hear the entire ending of "Long, Long, Long" because the deejay put an ad in way before it finished (it has a long, long, long fade).

Later on, I would discover KNON in Dallas, & then a late-night show on KUT in Austin which, in the mid- to late-1980s, played college radio type music.  KTSB, the precursor to KVRX, started around that time, but they only broadcast on cable FM, & of course no one knew what that was.  I did my first show on KVRX on cable FM & I still don't know what that is.

But as much as I loved the radio up until the end of high school, when I discovered music that was never played on commercial radio, it wasn't inevitable that I would actually one day become a deejay.  I sort of daydreamed about it, like one does, but even when I went to KVRX in the summer of 1994, I wasn't thinking about going on the air.  I was thinking about finding new music, & I left there with a handful of CDs to review.

Hmm - I guess I didn't say what my favorite radio show was, did I?  Well, rest assured, it's not Self Help Radio!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Nerd Stories

A friend asked me yesterday if I were enjoying the new Daredevil series on Netflix.  I had only seen the first seven episodes, but I was liking it a lot.

It shouldn't surprise you, but I am a comic book nerd.  What hadn't occurred to me until yesterday was that other people might not have grown up with comic books the way I did.  I see every damn comic movie & I watch every damn comic television show because that mythology has grown inside me as I have grown.  An example: I am probably the only non-teenage-girl who watched all ten seasons of Smallville.

It doesn't mean I like everything out there - nerds have standards! - but I like more movies & shows than my friend does, & something made me ask him when he started reading comics.  When he said he was in his teens at the time, it somehow explained his significant lack of interest compared to mine.  I'll bet if you asked me at five years old what Daredevil's secret identity was, I would've said, confidently, "Matt Murdock."

Comics were around the house all through my childhood.  My older brothers worked at the same convenience store, called Orchard Hills Grocery, as my mother, & they brought comics home.  (I'm almost certain they didn't pay for them.)  Orchard Hills Grocery, by the way, still exists in Garland, Texas, & today it looks like this:
I don't think there were poles to stop cars in the front, nor bars on the windows, when I was a kid, but otherwise it's the same damn building.  My mother worked there in the mornings, & the elementary school I went to was a block or two behind the store, so we often stopped there to say hello to her (& get candy for lunch) during my fourth & fifth grade years.

Anyway.  Lots of comics all the time.  I read them constantly, but I think, by the time I was in seventh grade, I had started to outgrow them.  I had come to like science fiction (like Star Wars) (although not the Star Wars comic book) & movies better, & certainly had begun to read classic literature like Dickens & Jack London.  Comics didn't seem childish or anything to me, I just felt like they weren't as interesting as when I was younger.

(I can't say for sure.  I was twelve years old.  Who reflects on their life like that when they're twelve?)

Then something happened.  My littler brother had a classmate named Gus who, out of the blue, contacted me because he knew I had a lot of comic books.  He asked me if I knew who John Byrne was.  (Who is John Byrne, you may ask?  He was an artist who came into his own on The X-Men comic, making it the most popular comic at the time, in the early 1980s.  Here's his Wikipedia page.)

I had no idea who John Byrne was, which probably bothered me.  I could identify Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, John Romita, Curt Swan - pretty much any artist from before 1980.  Who was this upstart?  & why was he making a kid who not only was younger than I was but who was also a sporty type (Gus played football) talk to me about comics?

It turns out that John Byrne's X-Men comics were in such high demand that back issues started to be "worth something."  The same thing happened later with baseball cards.  Gus's interest wasn't in the content, but I - I was a reader.  I recognized that something different was happening in comics.  & I was sucked back in.

While I don't think I would have abandoned comics entirely, I am glad I got back into them in the early 80s, because I probably would've been in the middle of high school & hearing about a comic book called The Watchman & paying lots of money I didn't have to find copies.  (Collecting them in graphic novels was not a thing yet.)  One of the things I was fortunate to discover is Frank Miller's Daredevil.

Frank Miller has become something of a polarizing figure these days.  He is criticized for his somewhat anachronistic tough-guy protagonists in stuff like Sin City.  I confess to not liking or following a lot of his later stuff, but I did like his Daredevil & his Dark Night Returns.  Again, I might have not come to them at the time if a kid who knew my little brother hadn't daydreamed about getting extra cash by buying & selling funny books.

My re-entry into that world was pretty quick.  I had discovered a book store on Shiloh road that sold used comics pretty cheap & was about to start selling the new "direct market" releases.  But I didn't ignore the classic newsstand comics.  Around this time, my mother worked at a convenience store down the street from Orchard Hills - this one was called the Time Saver - & one day she let me take off the rack (when the boss wasn't there, my mother assumed that things were free) an issue of Daredevil - I think it was this one:
This is from 1981, so I was 13.  I grabbed it, I took it home, & I read it - & what Chris Claremont & John Byrne's X-Men suggested was confirmed by Frank Miller: something new was happening in comics.  I rode my bike around town to find small, independently owned convenience stores, to see if earlier issues were still available.  (They left comics on the rack far longer than stores like 7-11.)  I was able, with the help of the comic shop, to get all of Miller's entire run that way.

(The Time Saver is not there any longer; a different convenience store was built over its ashes.  The used bookstore that also had comics closed some time in the 1990s, after I had left Garland for Austin.  According to Google Maps, what's there now is a medical supply place.)
Frank Miller's run on Daredevil highly influenced the Netflix series.  Characters he created are prominent, as is Daredevil's adversarial relationship with the Kingpin.  Much of this is why the show thrills me so.  My wife, who did not grown up with comics like I have, is not in the slightest interested in the show.

Which brings me back to my discussion with a pal about the series & comic book movies/shows in general: one reason I do things like watch ten years of Smallville is because my attachment to these creations is deep.  In a real sense, they were friends of mine when I was young.  When I rediscovered comics in my teen years, I became an object of ridicule to my peers.  I would wear a Walt Simonson Thor t-shirt in gym class, & to the others in the class that was grounds to mock me.  But I was fine with the things that I loved.

When I watch a show like Daredevil, I'm doing it to be with an old friend.  When it turns out to be as good as it is, I'm as thrilled as when someone I love has done something wonderful with his or her life.

When it isn't all that good, well: I'm still pretty supportive.  Because we're very old friends.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Timetable Change!

Remember about a week ago when I made an announcement that I was moving away from Lexington & that there would be only five more episodes of Self Help Radio on WRFL?  Well, you know what the Close Lobsters said, right?  "Let's make some plans 'cause they can go wrong."

Because of renovations in its current space, WRFL is moving.  It's a massive undertaking & I don't envy the students there that run the station.  But because of the move - which is happening the first week of May - there's a chance that my last show, which I had scheduled for May 8, might be pre-empted.  Since I will be leaving the city very soon after that, I might not have a chance to do an actual last show in Lexington.  That's probably not important to you, but it is to me.  I need closure, damn it!

So the timetable has changed.  My last show on WRFL will be my May 1st show.  Which means there are only three (3) episodes of Self Help Radio left on WRFL.  Oh no, I may get a little emotional here.

But wait!  I will be subbing another of WRFL's shows, the one called The Bindle, which is also theme-based, on April 20.  For some reason, people at WRFL told me I should do a show about "grass."  Something about April 20 suggested grass to them.  Maybe because spring is in full flower?  Anyway, even though it isn't an episode of Self Help Radio, I'll still do the show pretty much the same way I would do any theme-based show.  As a technicality, then, there will be four (4) more episodes of Self Help Radio sort of.

When will Self Help Radio return?  Ha ha!  I don't dare to set a date for that just yet!