fucking Dennis Hopper

fucking DIED the stupid FUCK, Dennis Hopper DEAD at 74, fucking shit, he fucking DIED before I got a chance to meet him, offer him a hit off my spliff and shake his hand. I don’t even smoke pot. Fucking asshole, Dennis Hopper, went and fucking died on me, how fucking rude of him, fuck him, fucking fuck, asswipe, asshat fuckhole Dennis Hopper DEAD at 74, fuck.

Mammoth Erection – sneak preview

artist Joe Holliday w/ Mammoth

2010.06.01 – CANCELLED DUE TO I HAVE NO IDEA – original post below…


East Jesus is growing. Come help us saw our own legs off, lest we continue to grow. Or help us grow, and gnaw your own limbs off in envy.

The gyst of the matter is this: two large sculptures are being drawn by mule to the muddy banks of East Jesus, to be displayed in all their glory for the two or three “eccentric,” wayward visitors we receive every season. And, of course, for you. One is a full-scale replica of the now-extinct Mammuthus primigenius, or wolly mammoth to you Philistines. What’s a Philistine? Ask Iggy Pop. If he’s wearing a bonnet and stirring up a slow-cooked pot of beans with possum and spices in it. The other is Cosmic Steel’s magnum opus, Cosmos. Gosh darn, that almost rhymes. Or what do they call that… alliteration? Anyway, they will be erected here for your viewing and worshiping pleasure, until they are sold to the highest bidder. And when they’re gone, you’ll have the memories of having seen them, possibly even touched them, to share with your grandkids when we’re all driving Buicks to the moon.

Looks like there’ll be some other surprises of the artistic kind. Shhhhhh!

Cosmos, by Royce Carlson / Cosmic Steel

Um, and I think a couple of up-and-coming legends in their own time will be crooning their dulcet tones ‘neath the voodoo moon (in alphabetical order:)

Delta the Troubadour
DreadCrew of Oddwood
Fancy Space People
Grapes and Nuts

Insects Versus Robots
Last Round Down
Riz Orkestra
The Funderstorm
The Tleilaxu Music Machine

Weasels Exist

Like you, I had never heard of any of them until I spent a moment cruising the Great Information Superhighway and found that not only does each act boast its own lame MyFace or SpaceBook page, they are all *actually pretty good.* And today, that’s saying an awful lot. My personal favorite is Grapes and Nuts, who have the stupidest name for a band I’ve ever heard, but are surprisingly sophisticated in a prog-rock-jazz-self-asphyxiation kind of way. Last Round Down list themselves as hard-drinkin’ skunk country-bluegrass on Sterno, but forget to mention they sound an awful lot like the better UK drunkard ensembles like The Pogues and the Whiskey Priests. [As an aside, I’ve served as FOH mixer for both. The Whiskey Priests were total assholes.] I’d have expected DreadCrew of Oddwood to be an embarrassing hippy-RenFaire dilution of pirate bandoneon, but I just couldn’t navigate away from their webstream. Last on the list are the estimable Weasels Exist, another somewhat stupid name for a really amazing group. Honest. I could probably come up with something clever for every last one of these acts, but I’m running out of steam. The lineups at NIMBY (1.0) back in the day were rarely this good (unless the Extra Action Marching Band was involved.) And, of course, I will be exercising my rights as mayor and founder of East Jesus (Pop 1, Elev 75) and premier number one musical act no matter how much I may suck, and do the traditional Leonard Cohen gig: closing the show, playing depressing and beautiful acoustic songs long after all the druqks are gone, you’ve finished rioting and have long since gone to bed. The piano will be in tune, and when all the live musical talent has headed back home to Illinois, we will extend the pains and pleasures of listening with a Jandek marathon. Rumor has it Tom Waits will show up out of the blue, play a few songs, and disappear. Honestly, I have no idea if any or all of these acts will be performing during Mammoth Erection, but the list was passed on to me in good faith by someone who Knows Such Things and Who Shall Remain Nameless.

You may come and enjoy this godawful mess with us. But you must be prepared for very warm weather, as in three-digits-Fahrenheit and only as much shade as you bring yourself. We will have “sanitary facilities” for your convenience (and ours.) Bring everything else you think you might need or want, and take all your garbage out with you. FREE overnight camping available. Behave yourself. If you are an asshole, you will be asked to leave at gunpoint. I’ll be cooking up a survival guide of sorts that explains how to check your panties for scorpions before lifting them to crotch level, and such. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 18: pre-party music, heavy drinking, sunburned orgy
Saturday, June 19: The Real Deal. Worship the Mammoth, gaze upon Cosmos with awe and wonder, enjoy live musical performances, dwarf tossing, projections, UFO sightings / abductions, etc.
Sunday, June 20: Jandek marathon and warm beer for the survivors. Pack it in, pack it out.

T-Mobile, or, Why I Secretly Wish I Were Amish

if you’re not in the mood for a hate rant, go read another blog…

the only family-friendly thing I can say about T-Mobile is they copulate with swine. in no particular order: bogus international call charges, failure to inform me that my broken G1 phone was still under warranty while I desperately combed all of southern CA for a new one (finally a friend doing some scouting for me in the San Diego area met up with an honest dealer who clued us in,) days upon days of non-contactability (as reported by many parties trying to reach me) despite good connectivity; an infuriatingly stoopid customer service phone labyrinth. the only way i’ve found to get through asap to a human is to speak as if i had cerebral palsy. which the system sometimes recognizes as Ebonics with consonants radically omitted.

sometimes I really wish I lived in an Amish community. they are not Luddites per se, as many people mistakenly think – rather, they take a good, long, in-depth, analytical view of any technology offered to them, weighing the pros and cons, impact on their lifestyle, etc. – and reject most of it. they turned down internal combustion engines, power lines, cell phones and television. right on! but some communities were quick to embrace solar power. plus, they make the best junk food in the world.

why ham radio is not dead (part three) – Amateur Extra, MARS, mobile operation and digital modes

Did you know that you can send and receive email to anyone anywhere in the world using just radio equipment? Even if all other global communication networks – including the Wide Web Interworld – are down for the count? I’ll get to that later.

Back to the books…. and the scientific calculator.

As usual, radio silence in the blogosphere has indicated extreme radioactivity in meatspace. I have been busy. The fruits of my labors have culminated thus: upgraded to Amateur Extra (the highest amateur radio license class, with privileges on all frequencies,) became a full MARS (Military Auxiliary Radio System) member (Department of Defense meets amateur radio for whatever emergency or disaster comms may be necessary – not only do they train you in military-style radio operation, you get a nifty glow-in-the-dark decoder ring,) conducted my usual radio business for three days from my car out in the middle of nowhere and finally, today, after weeks of trying and failing and troubleshooting and tweaking and adjusting, began operating in digital modes. MT63 and WINMOR, to be precise, both of which are used in MARS. There are about a dozen others I’m dying to get my hands dirty with – RTTY, PSK31, Olivia, etc. – but these two, being the ones I need to be able to use on a daily basis, were what I chose to start with.


One day I found these in my P.O. box…

WINMOR is a protocol under development primarily for use with Winlink2K, that radio-only email system I mentioned in the beginning. Needless to say, complex systems under development are not the most user-friendly. I am pretty sure that if I hadn’t given up alcohol for the coming hot summer, I wouldn’t have had the patience or sharpness of mind to get it all working properly. In fact, my attention span has expanded immensely since I put down the whiskey. Never fear, dear reader, you’ll hear none of this “sobriety” gibberish from me – I hate that word and I don’t care for 12-Step programs (one step is all I need, thank you) and I will someday return to my infamous and invariably amusing, hard-drinking ways, but first I need to lose about 40 lbs and survive a long summer in the Slabs without dying of dehydration. In the mean time, I reasonably expect to get about ten times as much done as usual.

MT63 is another digital mode which performs quite well under poor band conditions by dividing its content into 64 tones stretched over time. In fact, it’s so immune to noise that you can use it without any fancy interface between your radio and your computer. Assuming your ‘puter has a built-in microphone, you can just let the audio from the radio’s loudspeaker get into the mic and under normal conditions this should work fine. For some reason, though, I had trouble receiving through a MacBook Pro’s internal sound card (which I understand is actually par for the course,) so eventually I just decided to put a dedicated computer in place and use a ham-radio-friendly sound card for interfacing. Since $300 buys an awful lot of computer these days, it wasn’t too big a deal. The robustness of MT63 still amazes me – my first trial reception with the new setup yielded 100% copy under just about the worst, noisiest HF band conditions possible.

HF/VHF/UHF mobile installation… in an art car.

Now, all this began around the time I was wrapping up my training for MARS and eyeballing an upgrade to the Amateur Extra license class. I had ARRL’s study guide for the latter collecting dust somewhere and one day grabbed it and started studying. It wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but by no means the toughest, and after about ten days of dedicating three to four hours per day (sometimes a little more) to working through the question pool and filling in the gaps in my knowledge, I was passing practice exams in my sleep and figured it was time to take the plunge, scrape up $14 and go for the real thing. Not too surprisingly, I passed, though when I returned from the rest room as my answer sheet was being graded signed, some of the examiners were muttering things like, “It’s OK, he can take it again on the 24th….” within earshot, just to yank my chain.

Of course, I haven’t had a lot of time to go play radio on all the new elitist real estate within the ham bands that is the exclusive domain of the Amateur Extra – nope, I’ve been potty-training computers and sound cards, building a chicken coop and moving some actual poultry into it, moving trailers and art cars around to make room for new, and finally getting those disgustingly heavy and huge Pb/Ca batteries into their permanent home:

700lbs of lead-acid love….*each*… and 24 of them.

Rabbitt camp: East Jesus, Pop 2

Rabbitt and friend Jinni in "SoCal Gothic"

Sculptor / Cacophonist Michael Rabbitt strikes while the iron is hot and grabs a prime piece of surreal estate in the East Jesus hinterlands. Clean it up, it’s yours! The trash-ridden site pictured here was once a nice little camp with a garden, shade trees and two small trailers that got picked apart and left to rot when its former inhabitants went “on vacation” for a little too long. Hopefully soon it will once again be a pleasant, shaded camp…

dome, finished

The dome crew were unable to complete the bottom-up assembly of the dome due to its high apex and our collective lack of tall enough ladders. It was also ascertained that one of the vertices was the wrong length. For these reasons, and because I had trouble sleeping at night with an unfinished dome in the yard, I performed an experiment to see if one Charlie, solo, could dis- and re-assemble the whole thing from the top down without the use of ladders or scaffolding.

purdy, ain't it?

Dis-assembly was relatively easy. The errant vertex was found to be an A strut cut two inches too long, so correcting this was no problem: re-cut, pound flat, bend, drill. Re-assembly was possible and not terribly difficult, even upon the soft, uneven ground at this location. Using only a Hi-Lift farm jack, a 4′ length of 4×4, a small hammer, c-clamp, vise grips, open-end wrench and ratchet, I nailed this puppy together in about a day. A 3V dome is easy to understand in terms of vertex mapping – the A struts are always and only the radials of pentagons; the C struts are likewise the radials of (regular) hexagons, and the B struts “frame” both. Simply arranging the A, B and C vertices into (very carefully) sorted piles is enough; no need for color coding or banding for identification. I did, however, double-check the length of each piece before using.

Next: a 4V half-dome with a radius of perhaps 8′ for a sweat lodge. Back to the nifty calculator at desertdomes.com…


Last weekend, Cheesy Bob and krewe descended upon East Jesus in vast numbers, bearing Girl Scout cookies, many gallons of homebrew, good cheer, firearms and dome-building tools and supplies. Everything needed to build three geodesic domes from scratch arrived on a single pickup truck pulling a small trailer: 10′ sticks of 1″ EMT, hardware, tools, generator, everything.

A portable geodesic dome factory

In between sips of American wheat beer and sangria, everyone took turns cutting, flanging, bending, drilling and fine-grinding the vertices. As soon as enough of them were available, assembly began.

Work began at 7am. Before 6pm, two domes stood complete and a third, by far the largest, was *almost* finished. But not for lack of effort; it turns out the apex is higher than any available ladders could reach. Just about that time, rain came down and continued all night and all day Sunday, which brought a cold, soggy end to things.

The East Jesus 5/8-3V Dome.

This is it. Mine. MINE! Hee hee. It’ll be here a while. I’m going to experiment with grapes and morning glories for natural shade, maybe a misting system to keep said vegetation happy…

On the other side of the sculpture garden, there were other Tower-related activities… note the new chair encrusted with doorstop springs hanging in the 2nd level and the new 3rd level deck and “railings.” Most of the tower crew arrived shortly before the rain, though, so less was accomplished there that we were hoping for, but still a good effort with plenty to show for it.

The Tower, as of this morning.

Thanks to everyone who came out and helped. This place is beginning to take on a mind of its own, and it’s because of so many people who truly get it.

words are easier…

…than photographs. at least when it comes to blogging via dialup speed…. harumph!

hf, or why ham radio is not dead (part two)


You can spend thousands, even tens or hundreds of thousands on this hobby. Some call it a rich man’s game. I got into it more for the thrill of cobbling together circuitry for under $20 using scrounged electronics, Altoids tins and scrap wire. Nevertheless, the seduction of fine equipment is stong. In my irrational exuberance following receipt of my FCC license, I treated myself to what I thought was some reference-quality HF equipment – for reference purposes, of course – to help in the design, construction, testing and operation of the aforementioned Altoids tins crammed full of hand-wound coils and transistors stolen from abandoned TVs.

The expensive stuff never really worked. Well, at least not terribly well. I spent a lot of time learning the ins and outs of the mighty Yaesu FT-1000, even the features I never thought I’d use. I spent nights scanning the bands during the long lull between sunspot cycles 23 and 24, when the airwaves were practically dead from 160m all the way to 6m. Whether it was just the absence of sunspots, the antenna or the transceiver I’ll never be completely sure. At nine months old, the antenna – an MFJ 1798 multiband vertical – took wind damage and seemed to have given up its ghost. The transceiver may have been damaged at that point, too. I’m sure at one point I tried the automatic antenna tuner which, if activated without an antenna connected, would have certainly put the final hurts on the Yaesu. In any case the HF rig sat in disuse for about a year before I tired again in vain to receive any signal using a variety of antennas and finally realized its front end was shot.

Anticipating, however, that I would one day start riding the low HF bands again, I spent a rainy day picking through some bits I had been collecting over the months, components of wire antennas – insulators, romex wire, antenna rope, and a flagpole pulley, cleat and halyard – and whipped up a simple 80m dipole. I knew at some point I’d just break down and buy another HF transceiver, probably something portable to augment the heavy, base-station-only FT-1000.

At the Yuma hamfest I had spotted some interesting (and affordable) screwdriver antennas and asked the designer to demonstrate one. We went out after closing to the RV camping area, a few acres of mobile stations of all kinds bristling with roughly a bazillion antennas reaching for the zenith. He showed me how the antenna was mounted, how the motor controller was controlled by an aftermarket antenna tuner that was, in turn, controlled by his HF/VHF/UHF radio: an Icom IC-7000. I watched in amazement as that small antenna, just a few feet off the dirt, tuned itself to perfect 1.0-to-1 SWR on any frequency I could name – from 1.84 MHz all the way up to fifty-something. Granted, you had to tune it again every time you dialed in a new frequency, but the worst SWR I saw was about 1.2-to-1, which was far better than most anything I had ever used. I was sold. the next day I bought a complete copy of that rig: radio, antenna and tuner, plus some mounting brackets and adapters I needed to stock up on.

Back home, somewhat exhausted from absorbing so much new information all weekend, I crammed through the IC-7000 manual and did a smoke check on it with the 80m dipole – straight, no chaser, no tuner. I was blown away by all the signals I was hearing now, many of them on bands that this particular antenna shouldn’t even be receiving at all! Let the fun begin! I listened to everything from domestic and Mexican AM broadcasts to 80m, SW (Taiwan, Portugal, The Vatican, Cuba, etc,) and 40m, 20m, 17m…. With a CW contest in progress, every band seemed to be gushing waterfalls of Morse code. I was tempted to make a call out but decided to just go to bed, let the magic of a good night’s sleep do its work on my weary hippocampus, and take on the world the next morning.

The following day brought some landmark events. I made my first HF QSO with a station over 600 miles away (somewhat embarrassingly, this took place at a frequency my General Class license does not permit me to transmit on, which fact was gently and politely pointed out to me by the others,) and promptly checked in to two local ARES / RACES HF nets (with less-than-perfect signal reports, but who said the first time had to be perfect?) immediately afterward. Next was the big hurdle, the actual driving force behind my race to get back onto 80m: a MARS training net at 0100Z.

MARS (which stands for Military Auxiliary Radio System, a long-standing symbiosis between the various military branches and participating volunteer amateur radio stations) uses frequencies not regulated by the FCC; they are administrated by the Department of Defense. Your garden-variety amateur radio equipment is typically tx-blocked at these frequencies to prevent “accidents.” But acceptance into the MARS program, even as a trial member, costitutes permission to *legally* hack your radio to allow transmission on non-ham frequencies. You’ll just be dealing with Military Police instead of the FCC if you do a no-no.

I knew the out-of-band mod for the IC-7000 was fairly straightforward – removal or at least disconnection of a single diode. I quickly found the necessary info online and effected the tx-unlock with only a few cuss words and moments of head-scratching. Since calling for a radio check on military frequencies was something I wasn’t sure I was authorized to do, I’d have to wait until the training net began to know if I’d hit the sweet spot or not. To my great relief, everything worked fine. I checked into my first MARS net, was able to read all stations but could only be heard by a few. The protocol is quick and dry and business-only and not something I was yet used to, but I seem to have gotten through it OK.

So, four “firsts” for me in HF operation, all in one day. That ain’t bad. Oh, and I think the point I was trying to make was this: all of this was possible due to a hastily thrown-together, UN-tuned, UN-tweaked, simple wire antenna made of about $15 worth of parts.

hf, or why ham radio is not dead (part one)


Yuma Hamfest 2010, Yuma Fairgrounds: one by one, military aricraft make their landing descent just above our heads as we look up, perhaps with the same curiosity and bloodlust as NASCAR fans at once dreading and anticipating a deadly crash. Last year someone in military garb passed out leaflets at the hamfest, giving bogus orders to keep transmission power to 50 PEP or below on all frequencies. An exhibitor with one side of his family tree in the Marine Corps and the other in the FCC, told them politely, and quite rightfully so, to kiss off, unless this directive came from the FCC or a state of martial law had been declared. They seem to be punishing us as a group for last year’s transgression. Without fail, all day long, all weekend long, we must cover our ears every five minutes.

As soon as I reach the dirt parking lot of the fairgrounds, I recognize Hector’s Mexican call sign on California vanity plates, XE2K (while on American soil, he must sign as WT6J; the Mex call on US plates is a subtle irony.) I’m glad to see he’s here. Hector designs and installs antenna systems of all flavors for a living – data, ham, police, whatever – both in Mexico and in the U.S. Every time I meet him, I get at least one moderately mind-blowing lecture on some aspect of radio I never even knew existed. It’s exhausting, like a 3-hour workout in the gym is exhausting, but the long-term effects are invaluable. To quote a favorite line from a favorite movie, “The man’s enlarged my mind.“ And I’ve barely known him two months. Useful things, like how to use a satellite dish to improve cell phone reception by up to 20dB; how to set up a wireless internet bridge over tens of miles; how to get wire in the air and make it talk. Despite our scientific domestication of the electromagnetic spectrum, antenna theory still has the bulk of its wisdom cloaked in murky black magic. Hector is a brujo. His hidden agenda seems to be to get me active on 6m, the Twilight Zone of the ham spectra. On the elusive cusp of HF and VHF it’s neither fish nor fowl, but it swims and flies.

I don’t really know what to expect. This is my first ham thing. A weekend of overweight, aging men (mostly) and awkward, pimply boy scouts peddling everything from CB garbage to newfangled, sparkly technology some NASA engineers are probably envious of, with the feel of a mad scientist flea market and an American Legion spaghetti dinner, with ambulances, cops, military personnel (retired, for the most part) and a few “young” and bright-eyed freaks like me all played out on the virtually abandoned but carefully manicured fairgrounds that point to a recent past much more prosperous than the present uncomfortably stepping into its shoes. Permanent buildings for livestock, “the arts,” Shriner Clowns, 4H Club, etc. with vast, trimmed green lawns and desperately empty parking lots.

The call-in frequency seems to be dead, but a dutiful yet friendly woman’s voice comes right back at me when I toss out a casual request for a radio check on my HT. Someone has set up a repeater on 2m just for the fest. My first walk through the grounds takes me past several tents with stuff for sale – some antique keyers, decrepit hard drives, a drill press, a shiny Yaesu FT-1000; one large setup has a complete selection of Pb/acid batteries in more shapes and sizes than I even knew existed, plus cable, connectors, tools, vacuum tubes, variable capacitors, military surplus oscilloscope probes vacuum-packed in mylar bricks. In five years, about half the items I see today will be scientific heirlooms worthy of awe and wonder. Today they are still just junk, except to the discerning (and caring) few. Like the portable microbeam scope, ca 1947. Belongs in a museum, but you can have it for $25 without haggling.

In the main hall, I’m guided by some inner force to a vendor selling connecting aluminum/fiberglass poles. $2 each. What? I’ll take all of them, I tell the seller. While he’s busy talking, still trying to sell me on an item I’ve already bought, another buyer grabs the bag out from under me. Too late. I still have a chance to purchase ten of them in a loose pile, just enough to get the two ends of a pathetically low-to-the-ground 80m dipole (my first home-brewed antenna, by the way) a bit higher off the lossy ground. Exactly what I needed, and for twenty bucks.

I’m hooked.

It’s Friday, and the big day is tomorrow. I’m just here to get a basic feel for the event, and to double-check the seminar schedule. There are three or four seminars I’d like to attend tomorrow: Satellite Communications on 2.5mW; Kraft-Ebing Psychopathology of Disaster Sites; Introduction to Deadly Orgone Radiation; Hazmat & You, Post-9/11; Emergency Preparedness for Massive Electromotive Disruption. And of course, there’s the annual Buzzard BBQ.

I make a point of visiting every booth, if only briefly. Most of the exhibitors seem all too eager to tell me everything about every single product or service they’re hawking. Perhaps they’d tell me all about their spouses’ colonic biopsy or a buddy recently gone Silent Key (the most elegant and noble euphemism for death in any field I’ve come across.) But along with the sense that many here are clinging to a long lost glory I can never understand, I can smell the funky, fertile manure of a future about to emerge, bloody and screaming, from the teenage transhuman uterus of the present. In this boneyard of outmoded crystal oscillators, manuals for long-deceased radio circuits and analog forgottenhood, the mind-bending fungus of The Inevitable is developing with a will of its own, the nascent nervous system of an undocumented and unexpected Singularity: a global nerve net consisting of technologically fluent, warm-blooded human beings who know how to communicate, who know how to build transmitters from spare parts scrounged from burned analog TVs and who play well with others, with total strangers, be they from foreign countries, different generations, or distant galaxies.

to be continued….

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