Monday, March 5, 2007

Invading your earspace

I've hosted a radio program at WFMU since 1975. Thirty-two punch-drunk years.

WFMU is a non-commercial, Free-Form station—one of the charter FF outlets, being entertainingly anarchic since 1968. We play anything—popular/obscure, new/old, good/bad; the tasteful juxtaposed with the creepy. We're an aural curio shop, and "Genre" is a poltergeist who got discouraged and went a-haunting elsewhere. A typical WFMU program sounds like an overactive iPod shuffle. The station has a four-decade reputation and retains an eccentric identity, with an unpredictable and Fun approach to radio. In the late '60s, there were dozens of such adventurous stations. Today there are—well, let us know of ANY for whom the three-letter 'F'-word is a guiding principle.

WFMU is not partnered with any Public Broadcasting system. NPR, PRI, MPR, APM, and PBS stylistically comprise the Starbucks Radio Network, a standardized upscale chain whipping up audio lattés for affluent Boomers. We're head-scratching lower primates—like you! We're not owned by a university (Upsala College, from whom we purchased our license, went out of business in 1995). We own ourselves. In fact, we own our headquarters (a.k.a. the Magic Factory) situated in a tony Jersey City enclave. We bought when real estate values were down. We have a tenant. A realtor. THEY pay rent to US.

And no, we're not a bunch of aggrieved Pacifica burnouts—we're a Breughelesque swarm of misfits and malcontents scratching out risk-taking radio on the cheap. Air staff does not get paid. Our operating expenses are covered by the checks and PayPal accounts of listener-supporters (many of whom volunteer in our offices throughout the year). No commercials, zero gov grants, no corporate underwriting. Two weeks a year are devoted to an on-air fundraiser called a Marathon: a ragtag rent party, auguring fourteen days of staff self-abasement. Our devoted audience invariably comes through, because we're part of the primeval food chain in which LISTENER = MONKEY, WFMU = BANANA.

What does this have to do with Jim Flora?

Over the years, WFMU has adapted Jim Flora art on bumper stickers, T-shirts, hoodies, a fund-raising mailer, and elsewhere. Not because the art was offered free of charge (it was)—but because WFMU appreciates Jim Flora. His mischievous images befit WFMU's idiosyncratic character.

The WFMU 2007 Marathon begins Monday, March 5, and concludes Sunday, March 18. You can listen, you can volunteer, you can donate. WFMU has always been a quirky phenomenon that works in practice, but not in theory. Flora has made a posthumous artistic contribution. While you're still alive, you can contribute financially.

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