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17 December, 2011

Card Carrying Member of KAOS

I written about radio before, and am starting to suspect that it's going to be an altar in the temple of my curmudgeonhood. At the coming of aural autonomy, my preference was cassettes, probably because they let me record other peoples' music (piracy was more labor intensive in those days, but for every hardcore 7-inch 33, there were an ungodly number of cassette copies), and because radio offerings sucked at the time.

Now, that's different. Partly because the same social outcasts' flat out refusal to be told No led to a wave of low power stations, many of which fizzled, but enough of which survived to get their DNA on the air, where it has replicated ever since. The airwaves of 1980s Virginia, badly infected with commercials or stuck in chronic classical, are banished to space, where aliens hearing them may decide that there are no signs of intelligent life.

Living in Olympia and working statewide, the radioscape around me offers not just a pretty diverse genus of public stations, but community operated broadcasts. From Spokane to Skagit, on down the road through Everett, Seattle, Olympia and Portland, volunteers give voice to their place. People playing things you'll never hear elsewhere, people getting a chance to express or explore something that matters mostly in that small patch of earth. To have a station that adds diversity to their community invigorates culture and Culture. 

The local identity and grass-roots operation of most community stations are also, I think, important for democracy. Radio broadcasts reach people beyond wi-fi hubs and fiber umbilicals. Transmitters not owned by Clear Channel can air views unfettered by corporate mores. And if the time comes, know that the revolution will be televised, but only in between commercials, and you'll get better news on the radio. Oddly, the elder media spent much time this Arab Spring fawning on the democracy facebook and youtube, but radio remains and effective and cheap tool for freedom lovers.

Not free, though. Which is why I am a member at KAOS, Olympia community radio. Because it's not just that the call letters are hands down the best in the nation (sorry, KBOO), or the discounts kicked back at me from local bidnesses--I really do want to make sure community radio stays on the air.

KAOS brings us Democracy Now and other shows that would not be broadcast otherwise. They have not just Native News, but a great 4 hour block of native programming on Sundays; is there another station like that? And I cannot count the number of times I've cooked dinner listening happily to View from the Shore or Chant Down Babylon. The last thing I hear driving away from Olympia is usually static-scratched Amy Goodman. I tune in at random other times and get introduced to music from around the world, some of it so new it's live, but some harvested in the early days, most of it efficacious and restorative. 

So yes, I am proud to be a Card Carrying Member of KAOS. Are you?

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