Every Tuesday morning from 8 - 9 am Pacific Time, Mike Kaspar and Nathan Callahan rattle the airwaves from KUCI on Weekly Signals — their reality-based KUCI Talk radio program. Writers on Writing's Barbara DeMarco-Barrett caught up with Mike and Nathan recently for this interview.
Barbara DeMarco-Barrett: When and how did Weekly Signals come about?
Mike Kaspar: Nathan and I have been doing Weekly Signals ever since we met in the early '90s. We're always talking politics and culture. We just never bothered to broadcast it. Then KUCI offered us two microphones and a transmitter. Our first show broadcast on September 30, 2003.
BDB: How did you choose to co-host the show?
MiKe Kaspar: We had no choice. We pretty much co-host our lives.
BDB:: What about the show's format?
Nathan Callahan: It's a combination of Democracy Now (the long-running lefty-liberal Radio Pacifica interview and news program hosted by political activist Amy Goodman) and Most Extreme Elimination Challenge (the Spike TV jackass competition show with Takeshi Kitano and Kikko Matsuoka overdubbed as Vic Romano and Kenny Blankenship). Mike is a cross between Amy and Vic Romano. I like to think of myself as a Kenny Blankenship/Paul Krassner hybrid. The format goes like this: Mike introduces the show. I tell a personal story relevant to a pressing international concern. Then it's time for Weekly Signals Weekly Review — a reality-based mash-up of contemporary events, ripped straight off the newswire. After that, it's on to the interview. We've been extremely fortunate in that no-one we've interviewed has discovered that Mike and I are incompetent fools.
MK: What other kind of fool is there?
NC: Indeed. In spite of that, we've had some of the most interesting people in the world on our show. You can find out all about them at weeklysignals.com; author and radio legend Garrison Keillor; the director of Eight Men Out, John Sayles; editor of Harper's magazine Lewis Lapham, Thomas Frank, the author of What's the Matter with Kansas; New York Times columnist Paul Krugman; Terry Jones of Monty Python's Flying Circus; Academy Award-winning documentarian Errol Morris. best-selling author Anne Lamott . . .
MK: …the man Richard Nixon burglarized, George McGovern; the most informed and reliable journalist on Iraq, Robert Fisk; political columnist Barbara Ehrenreich; gubernatorial candidate Arianna Huffington; ambassador Joseph Wilson, he of Nigerian yellowcake and Plamegate fame; Daniel Ellsberg of The Pentagon Papers; British member of Parliamient George Galloway…
NC: Mike told Galloway that we were going to two-time him . . .
MK: Yeah, Galloway said it was the best offer he had all day.
BDB: You've been podcasting your show for some time. Has this drawn many more listeners to it?
MK: We started podcasting July 26 of last year and listenership has been building ever since. I love it. KUCI broadcasts to a limited area, but our live web feed goes everywhere in the world. However, if you live in someplace like, say, Sydney, Australia, our show is on 3-4 am. I know that it can be difficult waking up and listening to Nathan and me at any time, let alone 3 am. But with a podcast, Australians can have a good night's sleep and listen to our show over ostrich eggs and Fosters.
NC: As I did today.
BDB: Mike, you're the Public Affairs Director at KUCI. You're in charge of the "talk" programing. How is that going?
MK: KUCI Talk has a treasure trove of great shows every year. This year was no exception: Sarah Pauly's interview on her show Peace by Peace with alternative medicine guru Bernie Siegel; Tani Tinuviel talking Jesus and Middle Earth with KFI producer Neil Saavedra on What Would Arwen Do?; Mark Hardt going head to head on Hardt to Heart with Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute; Privacy Piracy's Mari Frank with Dian Black, Founder and Director of Calegislation; Deanne Crane and Jessica Blanchette introducing dozens of groundbreaking organizations on Non-Profits For Us; Patrick Healey discussing Memory and Emotion with Dr. James L McGaugh on An Owner's Guide to the Mind; Cameron Jackson with Orange County Sheriff Lt. Bill Hunt, the challenger to Sheriff Mike Carona on the OC Variety Hour; Serena Sharp quizzing us on the hot topics: "Is being in the closet a privacy right?" "Should I use crazy glue to perform my own surgery?" "Can a psychic help with Britney Spears' marriage woes?
NC: I sure hope so.
MK: Don't bring your private life into the workplace, Nathan. Anyway, you can podcast these shows from kuci.org/podcasts or you can also find out about upcoming guests and listen to KUCI Talk on Demand at kucitalk.org. That's where you'll find Jarret Lovell on Justice or Just Us? interviewing Joseph Heath, author of Nation of Rebels; Joy Hought's talk on The Politics of Food with Jude Fanton, director of Seed Savers Network; Subversity's Dan Tsang reviewing the Hoang Tan Bui Case; Planetary Radio's Mat Kaplan with Alan Stern, the recent co-discoverer of Pluto's two new moons; UCI Sports on The Blue and Gold Report with Mark Roberts; Minuteman Founder and Congressional Candidate Jim Gilchrist with David Waldram and Ben Holck of The David and Ben Show; and of course the lovely and talented Barbara DeMarco-Barrett and her ever popular show, Writers on Writing. You're interviewing T. Jefferson Parker this March, right?
BDB: Yep. We'll be talking about his upcoming book, The Fallen.
MK: Parker is Orange County's master of noir.
NC: Don't forget the KUCI Talk special program series, Mike.
MK: Oh, yeah. KUCI has it all and then some. A broadcast of the director of Blue Velvet and Elephant Man, David Lynch's appearance at UCI. The Congressional Candidates debate for the seat vacated by Chris Cox.
BDB: Speaking of Congress, Nathan. Apparently, ex-Orange County, California Congressman and U.S. presidential candidate Bob Dornan called you a Marxist homosexual activist. Is there any truth to that?
MK: Dornan knocked a hat off my head.
NC: Calm down, Mike. Wait your turn. You see, Barbara, Mike and I are the anti-Dornan. Forget about Loretta Sanchez. Forget about Michael Moore. Mike and I are the ones who drove the ultra-conservation radical right-wing nutcase, "B-1" Bob, from political office. We dogged him though most of his Congressional career in Orange County in the 1990s. And about that gay Marxist thing: In 1995, the Dallas Morning News quoted me in a feature article on Dornan. I called him "a walking encyclodpedia," but noted a difference: "All the facts in Dornan's brain are, in essence, dumped into a Waring Blender," I said, "and so they come out scattered and bizarre." Dornan was not amused. He harangued the paper for over an hour on the phone, calling the article "a vile piece of crap" that made him "want to puke." Dornan even suggested that homosexuals should not be quoted regarding his career. He was a guest on the Victoria Jones talk radio show in Washington DC and said I was a gay Marxist. What-ever. Ms. Jones invited us on her program the next day. I told her that as much as it may disappoint Congressman Dornan, the only man's penis I've ever held in my hands is my own, and I intend to keep it that way. I also told her that, for lack of a better alternative, I'm a greed-free capitalist. I put my trust in an economic system controlled by individual idiots rather than one controlled by a government of idiots. Soon afterwards, Dornan was voted out of his seat in Congress.
MK: Yeah. Nathan and I produced an anti-Dornan fundraising video filled with clips of his ugly performances on the floor of the House of Representatives. We published a book with the repugnant title "Shut Up, Fag!": Quotations from the Files of Congressman Bob Dornan and promoted it on TV and radio news and talk shows. We wrote the national newsletter Dump Dornan and printed and distributed anti-Bob Dornan Baseball Cards at the Democratic Convetion. They were a big hit. The LA Times loved them. So, long story short, Dornan came over to my house, unannounced and threatened me. He huffed, puffed, babbled incoherently and then knocked a baseball cap off my head. I reported the incident to the police. Last year, Dornan called me and asked to be a guest on Weekly Signals. We extended an invitation, but he never got back to us.
BDB: Mike, you've also been a political consultant. In what way?
MK: I've been involved in a gazillion campaigns — from managing congressional candidates to organizing direct mail for statewide initiatives; from writing presidential campaign press releases to glad-handing donors. I also consult on fundraising for charities.
BDB: Nathan. You're the author of, what-three? books.
NC: If you count my introduction to the Dornan quotation book, three. There's a collection of essays I wrote for the OC Weekly called Suburban Manners: An Irreverent Look at Politics, Wealth and Culture in Orange County, California. It's a potpourri of pieces on the rich and powerful, the sexually challenged, the religiously restricted, William Burroughs’ ghost, Donald Bren, the Clinton Administration, daredevils, dogs, and the dead. There's also a book of my commentaries about the interviews we've done at KUCI. It's called Interviews. I made up the title myself.
BDB: How do you spend your time when you're not at KUCI?
NC: I drink lots of coffee and write. My latest article is called Eating Ingrid Newkirk. It's an interview with the president of PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — and my plans to eat her flesh. You can find it at nathancallahan.com. Right now, I'm working on a piece about the lighter side of immigration policy and undocumented workers. I also publish an online political cartoon, petpresident.com, with my good friend and artist Bob Aul. Then there's my graphic design work. Recently, I've produced a series of child safety posters for the Academy of American Pediatrics.
BDB: How about your spare time, Mike?
MK: I like to watch moving pictures.
BDB: You've lived in Orange County for most of your lives. Have you ever left with a vow never to return? What keeps you here?
NC: Orange County is one of the most interesting places in the world. Its Disneyland luster and loony political underbelly are a great superficial grounding for the OC crowd, but the underbelly of Orange County is Fellini-fascinating. Where else could I have found Watergate co-conspirator Donald Sengretti casually signing autographs and eating apple pie at a coffee house? Or a bake sale across the street from the site of the first California hate crime that resulted in a death penalty? Or the birthplace of Bob Flanagan — first a cystic fibrosis poster child and then the world's champion super-masochist. OC is the home of one of the biggest metropolitan bankruptcies in American histoy; national headquarters for the ultra-influential hot-shot billionaire developer Donald Bren; hatchery for Steve Martin and Diane Keaton; breeding ground for Noble Prize winners and right-wing political zealots; birthplace of Richard Nixon and Little Saigon; site of Christopher Isherwood's commune. It is where Charles Keating worked his nationally disastrous savings and loan deals; where America's most famous master-planned community of the 1960s and 70s — Irvine — sprouted out of ranchland; where auto designer, John DeLorean, made his Back-to-the-Future sports car; where Christian huckster Benny Hinn and the Fox TV of religion (the Trinity Broadcasting Network) broadcast their worship hours; where a turned-on Timothy Leary was finally arrested; where American icons Reverend Robert Schuller and John Wayne settled down and called home. It's a mind-boggling cabaret of millennial madness. And the weather's great.
MK: We live in the Promised Land.
NC: Right you are, Mikey.
BDB: What else should we know about you and your show?
NC: Weekly Signals. Every Tuesday. 8-9 am.