Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Tales from the Land of DIY

I came across a couple of stories today of folks taking a home grown approach in areas you might not imagine, with varying degrees of interference from the government. One is thriving thanks to Federal regulatory largess, while the other operates under the specter of rarely enforced Federal criminal law.

From the New York Times comes the story of KXZI radio, which broadcasts from a front porch in Montana. No kidding:

[Scott] Johnston’s antenna, out by the big cottonwood trees that line the road, is not as fortified as it might be either. Unsupported by wires, it sways in the wind, so that when a storm front strikes northwest Montana, the station’s signal fluctuates. And even in the best of times, 100 watts go only so far — the music cannot be heard even in nearby homes because the signal does not penetrate walls very well.

Mainstream media it is not.
KXZI, which is also available online, is one of about 800 low-power radio stations created during a lull in FCC regulations to try and stimulate some competition in the increasingly integrated radio market. Not that Johnston and KXZI are a threat to Clear Channel, but he does provide an outlet for "jazz, blues, folk, bluegrass and more" as long as it tickles Johnston's fancy. A new bill in Congress could double the number of low-power stations.

As someone who blog has a similarly selective appeal (ha!), I appreciate where he's coming from. Often times the only places with prog-friendly programming are Internet stations.

While Johnston and his ilk are flourishing thanks to relaxed Federal regs, another group of DIYers are engaged in a little bit of cloak and dagger. Following on from folks who make their own wine or brew their own beer, Salon reports about the resurgence of DIY booze - moonshine. The scene is flourishing - websites offer stills and folks gather to swap tips and tales - in spite of the fact that:
Distilling homemade spirits is a felony. Unlike wine or beer, which you're allowed to make at home for personal use, making any sort of untaxed spirit on an unlicensed still remains very much illegal, punishable by a federal fine of up to $10,000 and five years in jail for each offense, plus state penalties.
Indeed, my office had a case earlier this year that started off as a moonshine investigation. The largest 'shine bust in history came in 2001, not during Prohibition (or the early days of NASCAR). It is very much a crime, although one that is not high on the list of law enforcement priorities (rightly so).

Still, if you want to test your luck, there's enough in the Salon piece to point you in the right direction. I wouldn't recommend it, though. If you want to be creative with homemade alcohol, you can always brew beer in your robot.

1 comment:

Media Mentions said...

Speaking of the radio, here is an excellent article that I think will be worth your time: http://www.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/showlink.aspx?bookmarkid=DC7IWIQVIS98&preview=article&linkid=b47053a9-4b3f-460a-8e1d-c6754e8d6317&pdaffid=ZVFwBG5jk4Kvl9OaBJc5%2bg%3d%3d