I Support WFMU

In just about a week or so, radio station WFMU will begin its annual fundraising marathon. Lots of public radio stations are taking time out this time of year to hit up their listeners for money. Why is WFMU different? Why do I support this one and no other station?

Put it simply, WFMU gets zero corporate or government dollars. One hundred percent of their funds comes from listener donations. Well, OK, there are a few modest grants, their annual Record Fair, and some companies that have donation-matching programs, but that’s it. You’ll never hear “Support for this program comes from….” or “This broadcast is made possible by a grant from….”

What this means is that no one (other than the FCC) can tell the station what it can broadcast. It’s “freeform” – their volunteer DJs play whatever they want. Since they all clearly love their particular genre of music, the whole effect is that of having a bunch of good friends who want to share this love of music with you. There’s a gospel show, a 50s R&B show, international music, reggae…. And several talk and listener call-in hours to add to the variety.

They are also very supportive of the local music scene in NYC and northern NJ, with DJs hosting local events. And they’ve been innovative, too. In 1997, they started live online streaming of their broadcast, which soon led to them archiving their shows. There’s at least 100,000 hours of radio available! And that doesn’t include podcasts and their new “Web Only” streams! They’ve even begun curating a “Free Music Archive” where you can find all manner of free and “pre-cleared” music for your creative needs.

I’ve been supporting them for several years now, and the Marathons are very likely the most fun thing you’ll hear on the station. Most other public stations sound tired as they beg for your money; WFMU goes crazy with excitement, live performances, and goofy stunts as they essentially invite you to join in on the madness.

In addition to the load of swag (no mere “Thank You” gifts here!) that you can get for your donation, you can even buy naming rights to a part of the station or Adopt a DJ! Let’s see you do that, PBS!

Here’s a bit from NJTV News about a recent documentary, “Sex and Broadcasting”, about WFMU:

So check them out, give them a listen, and maybe join the Super Secret Club of Worldwide WFMU Fans by sending a few bucks their way!



Movie Review: Birth of a Nation (1915)

A centennial went by earlier this month with essentially no fanfare. On February 8, 1915, D.W. Griffith’s masterpiece, Birth of a Nation, premiered. Almost immediately there were protests about its racism. Protests and complaints have continued to this day, to the point where if you happen to include it in a list of Greatest Films Ever (for its many technical innovations), you are almost obligated to apologize for it.

I’ve wondered… The movie is a century old. Shouldn’t the passage of time have dulled its effect? Given that almost every time it’s mentioned, someone cries out “It’s EEEvil!” and tries to ban it from being shown, you have to wonder just how many of those complaining about it have actually seen it. If you’re going to try to keep people from seeing it, how are they ever going to know just how evil it is?

Well, the thing’s in the public domain. You can watch it in many places online, without fear of violating piracy laws (like that’s ever stopped you). I decided to see for myself just what all the fuss is about. So I loaded up my computational engine with coal, got myself a delicious beverage, and sat my butt down to watch it (and take notes).

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A Personal Cold War

It starts with a little tickle of dryness back in the throat. You figure it might just be low humidity or dust in the air, but it stays with you throughout the day as you move from one environment to another. Still, it’s not that much of a problem, so you don’t pay that much attention to it. But then you wake up the next day… Whatever glands there are in your throat have swollen to the point where it feels like they’ve clamped it shut. Your sinuses are packed full of…something. Your entire body feels tingly – and not in a good way, either. As you stumble out of bed and try to stand up, your head protests madly at this unconscionable disturbance.

There’s only one possible cause of all this torture.

You are under attack by the Common Cold.

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On Black History Month

It’s that time of year again, when America as a whole makes a lip-service attempt at atoning for past injustices in the hope that it will absolve them from actually having to do anything about current injustices…

Why am I not surprised that it is the shortest month of the year?

It is also the time when teachers all over the country give their students assignments related to the observance. Prepare book reports, essays, and other presentations on African-American people of historical importance, in the hopes of learning something about their struggle. Unimaginative students and teachers choose the same people year after year – Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, etc.

While not to denigrate those who do choose to study those great people, there are many others who deserve at least a passing look in the grand pageant of history.

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