Thursday, September 1, 2011

Portrait of the Pirate as a Young Dog

"We are the wretched refuse. We're the underdog. We're mutts! Here's proof: his nose is cold! But there's no animal that's more faithful, that's more loyal, more lovable than the mutt." --John Winger, Stripes

The wisest commentary written about the late unpleasantness in the North American shortwave pirate radio scene might be forgotten if the Forlorn Rabbit's Nest, down for the third time this year, doesn't resurface.

And that will not do. So I'm taking the liberty of quoting it here:

Radio Animal

August 09, 2011 22:14

"I see pirate radio as just a big kid, one day it's stormy, but the next day we can all go for ice cream, and everything's fine.

I don't even think there's been much of a change in the scene at all really, even though I've gone through thinking that everything has changed too.

When the scene was like 5 of us and we got together, pumped up on our ideals of free radio, that was a special moment. The scene got much bigger a few years later, I got to thinking that the intimacy and goals of the early scene was getting lost to ops picking on one another, and fighting rather than broadcasting.

Later I realized that free expression was more important, and what I was thinking about was conformity, something that I wouldn't want anyway..."

Radio Animal is - or, rather, was - best known as the fellow behind WKND and as the builder of the low power AM "Grenade" transmitters used by several pirate radio operators since the 1990s, including Radio Free Speech, Radio Pigmeat International, WBNY and others.

During the 1990s, what little I knew of Radio Animal came from an article or advertisement in a radio hobbyist publication. The only fellow I'd ever known named "Animal" was a grizzled fellow who ran a biker bar. "So," I tell myself, "self, just add to the biker image a thick pair of wire rim spectacles, a pocket calculator, a soldering iron and, presto - there's your proto-Radio Animal."

Wrong. Spectacularly wrong. How little I knew of the delightfully eccentric fellow.

"I had that problem with some of the Furries when the story of my name change broke. They got mad when I responded to the media, how dare you give your side of the story, they said. The problem is, there's no real definition of what a 'Furry' is, it's as unique as the individual who calls themselves one.

People achieve a certain level or knowledge in the Fur scene, and they think they know the truth, but their 'truth' is based on something that can't be defined anyway, so it's kind of doomed, you know what I mean? They try to hold on to defend that shaky ground, and it just makes a mess of bad feelings and drama..."

If you hadn't already guessed where this is going, after the above quote, you may have experienced a Sheila Broflovski "Wha-wha-what?" moment. That was written by Boomer, the canine behind WKND (We're K9 Dog), also known as Radio Animal, the builder of the low power AM "Grenade" transmitters used by several pirate radio operators including Radio Free Speech, Radio Pigmeat International, WBNY and others.

To quote from this article:

"After a long hiatus from the pirate/free radio scene, Radio Animal resurfaced in August 2010 after a Pittsburgh court rejected his bid to legally change his name to Boomer the Dog, which he sought to reflect his unique fursonality and canine identity. The media spotlight and YouTube videos briefly captured the attention of the internet, although his affable personality seemed to thwart trolls who appeared to lose interest when they couldn't engage Boomer in online flame wars."
That last sentence is a bit of an understatement. Some of the comments on his YouTube channel were hostile and ugly - even by the low, muckraker standards of Tales of Radio Paranoia.

Having grown up around radio stations (including sheltering in the basement of a radio station during a 1960s hurricane - a peculiar tale in itself), I've seen firsthand the reasons for the expression "A face made for radio", and that was years before realizing the mellow-voiced Garrison Keillor looks like Stephen King's evil twin.

Cosmetically challenged, overweight, blind? No problem. Eccentric, peculiar, even weird? Who cares, history will forgive you. A jackass behind the scenes? Just show up on time for work and bring that golden throat with you. Voice getting a bit wobbly? No worries, as long as you're good at what you do. As with the apocryphal quote about the early Colt percussion cap revolver - "God created men. Colonel Colt made them equal." - radio is the great equalizer.

And those are just mainstream radio personalities. Why should we expect pirate radio personalities to be any less eccentric? Hell, why would we even want them to fit some arbitrary definition of "normal"? The moment I saw that news video from 2010 where Boomer talked about his "puppy ears" I thought... dayum... how can anyone not like this guy? He even defies the self-imposed strictures of some in the furry scene - which is all kinds of ironic. Hell, I dropped acid with more eccentric freaks and hippies in the 1970s. How many of us really dare to be who we are, so openly, and put our money where our mouths muzzles are?

"That's why I like the pirate scene right now, it still seems to value and promote the individual over group thought. I don't know if it always will as it grows, but it's worth thinking about, that if we're here for free radio, free expression could go along with that, the ability to define what's cool to you, and then go out and do it. We still have that, you know.."

--Boomer the Dog

I could blog about the shortwave pirate radio scene for years and never approach Boomer's level of wisdom, tolerance and genuine understanding of what it really means to be ... yourself.

Best of luck, Boomer!

Video zeitgeist: Émilie Simon wants to be your dog


  1. Boomer's awesome - he's the original mad scientist of the porta-transmitter phenom! :)

  2. no offense to boomer intended

    a dogs outlook on life
    if you can't eat it
    you can't screw it
    piss on it

    so piss on the frn

  3. I heard I got a mention over here. Any publicity is good publicity.

    Boomer is great. I'm proud to call him my friend.

    Here's something ironic for you characters to ponder,the final group of the first Bunny Code transmission,was "Boomer Says Arf."

    This hobby is more incestuous than a Kentucky wedding.

  4. "This hobby is more incestuous than a Kentucky wedding."

    Gee, you say that as if it's a bad thing.

    Got a link or spare audio clip from that early Bunny Code programme? I couldn't find it online.

  5. I may have it stored away somewhere. Those were one off transmissions.

    "Boomer says Arf." was a homage to the guy who built the transmitter being used.

  6. Someone told me about this being here, that was very nice. I had posted that before the FRN went down, and was wondering if anyone had seen it.

    It's interesting about the Bunny Code too, I hadn't heard that. 'Sit Ubu, sit would be good too.


  7. There's a link to an mp3 of the WBNY numbers transmission here:

  8. Thanks Sealord, I try my best..

    I just thought of the post's title, does that mean that someone in Radio Paranoia is into Ramjam, Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Ram?

    That would be cool because the cover has a mutant ram creature on the front. Good and progressive album too, 'Stuck on the turnpike, it took me days to hitch hike..'

    I'm glad that someone is getting something from the things that I write.


  9. @Anon, 9/11/11 1:10pm: D'oh! I already had that bookmarked at forgot about it. Thanks!

    @Boomer: Good to hear from you! The only Ram Jam song I was familiar with was their radio hit single "Black Betty". The title of this blog entry was just a riff on Dylan Thomas's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog," which I read as a kid. I've never been able to wade through any James Joyce novel, including his "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man."


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