December 11, 2006

Modulating

Ka1103panel For those of you who have followed my “Adventures In Amplitude Modulation” posts here at Beware of the Blog, I want to let you know that the regularity of these posts here is over. And frankly, my weekly posts on BOTB will not continue as well.

However, I’m a guy who likes to keep my options open (and somebody who hates saying goodbye) and this doesn’t mean I’ll never publish here again. I’m looking to take on another project or two, and (especially given my tendency to be a bit of a long winded blogger) I won’t have the time to keep up a weekly grind here as I have.

Nonetheless, I do plan to get together at least one more “Amplitude Modulation” post in the coming weeks, as soon as I can spend some quality time away from my RF infested apartment and roam the world again with one of my portable radios. And I'm leaving my options open to add futher entries in this series when I have the time and have a good scan to offer. Actually, I’m a bit gassed up to take my radios into the countryside after finally getting my 2007 edition of “Passport To World Radio.” I really should have purchased one of these a while ago. In working up these posts it would have saved me a LOT of internet hours stalking station ID’s. While the web is quite an amazing tool for figuring out a reception log (and international broadcasters can and do change frequencies without notice), it’s still much better to have a book like this in front of you when you’re slipping up or down the dial. If you have anything more than a passing interest in shortwave radio it would be a good idea to pick up your own copy of “Passport.”

Dx_book While I’ve had a lot of fun posting here, it’s been especially rewarding for me personally to publicly delve into my own fascination with DXing. It’s also given purpose to my habit/hobby of recording dial scans, and perhaps along the way I've informed some folks about radio beyond FM, local stations (and the new broadcasting technologies). In over thirty posts I’ve learned a lot and offered some people who will never turn on a shortwave radio (or hunt distant signals out of the atmosphere) a chance to hear what it sounds like to pick up overseas broadcasts the old-fashioned way. And what’s great about this blog (and the way WFMU operates in general) is that all the posts and the accompanying audio will remain available (and subject to search engine hits) for some time to come.

I have yet to find anybody online who is posting realtime dial scans or random shortwave tuning recordings. It’s always baffled me that there isn’t more interest in such things, but through this series I’ve been able to share what I hear with headphones in the middle of the night with you. And it was nice you didn't laugh.

Continue reading "Modulating" »

November 21, 2006

Adventures in Amplitude Modulation - Part 32

Radios These shortwave bandscan recordings are the last I'll offer from my trip to the Catskills at the end of September. This is from September 29, 2006, and the recordings start just before midnight. Officially, this first scan starts out at about 0344 UTC (11:44 EDT). The audio can be found after the jump.

This is the first time I tried to record two scans at once. And I'm using the radios I've used most in this series - the Tecsun BCL-2000 and the Degen 1103. As I've previously discussed, I like a few things about the BCL radios (specifically analog tuning/digital readout, a nice big sound and a bright always-on display), but the Degen is a much better portable and you hear that in these scans. The Degen is a digital receiver (also known as the Kaito 1103 here in the states) which is available for around the same price, or cheaper, than the BCL-2000 (which is known in the US as the Grundig S350 or the Eton S350DL). I bought my versions of these radios directly from China via ebay, which even with the shipping is a considerable savings over their counterparts branded for America. That said, if you happen to have a problem with a radio you bought from China you might have a harder time getting it fixed or replaced. But I took that risk.

These radios are comparable in that they are recent products from the growing and maturing Chinese electronics industry, and are innovative in the fact that they marry elements of digital and analog tuning. And compared to radios in the recent past, they offer more bang for the buck. Specifically, the Degen 1103 is probably one of the best shortwave portables to retail for less than a hundred bucks. The BCL radios are quite sensitive, but there is no filtering of wayward images of strong stations. The Degen is a dual conversion radio, which greatly reduces the chance of hearing signal "images" at places they don't belong on the dial. And it can be a little confusing and annoying to find out you're actually hearing a station from another band instead of a broadcast at the frequency you're scanning. (Reader Ralph did a nice job of explaining how this happens in the comment section of this post.)

Continue reading "Adventures in Amplitude Modulation - Part 32" »

November 14, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 31

Catskills Here’s another foray into the AM band, as explored in the middle of the night. This recording begins just before 1AM local time, and was captured in the Catskill mountains of New York on Sunday October 1st (or the 2nd officially). Usually I start a scan recording at the low end of a band and work my way up, but this time I’m going the other way. Usually when starting at 530kHz and moving up the AM band, I never quite reach the end of the band, so this sample of broadcasting starts at the ass end of AM, and then I roll backwards through the dial.

I don’t spend that much time DXing though the higher end of the AM band. There’s less powerful stations, and especially here in the city there are far more ethnic talk outlets up that way. But unlike the previous post where I offered a taste of these frequencies, this reception was snatched from the sky out in the country away from the RF noise and the bullying strong local signals of the megalopolis. In fact, there are really no local AM stations in the central Catskills where we stayed that weekend. By day, the AM dial was basically silent all the way across the damn thing. Of course, once the sun went down there was some kind of noise or better at every 10kHz stop. Not a bad location to DX medium wave. And this was recorded with my Tecsun BCL-2000, a very sensitive, but buggy analog radio, which should have been on its best behavior on AM without powerful local signals stirring up annoying images across the dial.

Again, this starts from the right and the dial moves slowly to the left, stopping at every place a radio station that might be something, and then listening. The first station I found was in rural Michigan. Here's the audio...

Catskills Late Night Medium Wave Scan 10-02-06 A - 1590 to 1410 (Download MP3)

1590 - WTVB Coldwater, MI

The_coldwater_cardinal_3 A good way to start, with a solid (if faint) station ID from a distant low power station. It’s a one kilowatt oldies station in south central Michigan broadcasting in a directional pattern (to the northwest!). Station identification comes right before the top of the hour. It’s just about 1 AM EDT.

1580 - CKDO Oshawa, ON

An oldies station broadcasting from the other side of Lake Ontario. Starts out with some syrupy 1970's EZ pop song (sounds like Hall & Oates meets Smokey?) that I’ve never heard before. Maybe it’s some of that “Canadian contentthe government forces their music stations to integrate into their playlists. Then “Green Onions,” still one of the greatest insurgent instrumentals around. Sounds great with static too.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 31" »

November 07, 2006

Progressive Talk vs. Fast Food, Gasoline and Box Stores

Chuck_d Very soon, the Air America radio network will either be sold or "so long." The word on the street is that if somebody doesn't come forward and bail out the network by December the bankruptcy proceedings will move into Chapter 7. Liquidation. The end. And if that does happen, it will be sad to see a brave media experiment crash and burn so quickly, but it won't be tragedy. However, if after the votes are counted the opposition party long championed by Air America doesn't take at least the House, if not the Senate, THAT would be tragic. If some folks from the other side of the aisle can't put some reigns on all these ongoing runaway disasters the Republicans have brought on, then we got trouble. Big trouble.

And please, if you disagree with me politically on this, just leave me alone. To say I'm tired of getting embroiled in such online debates would be an understatement. This is a post about radio, not the start of an argument I'm willing to engage in, or will host.

As before, I'm admittedly repeating a few unsubstantiated rumors as I have in earlier Air America commentaries. And what I've heard is that Air America does indeed have some solid leads on finding a buyer, and the brain trust is making plans for 2007. Then again, I’m not going to underestimate Air America’s potential for making mistakes (or worse). There's very little time, and the possibility that Air America Radio may soon be a memory is still very real.

Hartmann However, if it they do survive the year I”m happy to pass along that one of the supposed decisions that should soon follow the anticipated sale of the network is the departure of Al Franken from Air America. While I'd hate to dismiss all of Franken's activism, authorship, and (for lack of a better word) comedy over the years, it's increasingly obvious by the day that Franken is out of his element, and chronically tedious on the radio (beyond brief and tightly formatted guest appearances). Whether you liked Franken's show or not, you ought to be glad to see it go as well. Not only is his yawn inducing program a high profile disaster, but the huge drain on the now bankrupt corporation is intolerable. It makes no sense. Thom Hartmann would make a fine replacement.

Continue reading "Progressive Talk vs. Fast Food, Gasoline and Box Stores" »

October 31, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 30

Catskill_shack_1 Here’s the second half of the scan of the 25 meter shortwave band following my post from last week. And to be honest, I’m including it for completion rather than for compelling content. It’s international broadcasting, and almost none of it is intended for North American listeners.

And speaking of last week, I mentioned that a site I've depended on for identifying shortwave broadcasts, hfradio, has disappeared. Well, I'm happy to say it's only temporary. If you try to pull up their site you get a (MS version of MySpace) page explaining that they took the server down for some maintenance and upgrades. Should be back up in a week or two. I'd personally like to thank the proprieter of the website, Tomas Hood, for all his fine work and service to the online radio geek community.

Almost all the radio reception in this series has been recorded at night, when radio waves get the best bounce out of the atmosphere. But the 25 meter band has more life during daylight than most, and reader Ralph offered his own recorded adventure of these same frequencies a few weeks ago (which you can read and listen to here).

More than most radio recordings offer here, this is more for geeks and completists. No great music and very little English language content. However, if you were to tune in the world one afternoon you might hear voices like these, and radio noise like this.

This scan was captured around the five o’clock hour EDT on my Degen 1103 portable. The first segment of this radio adventure (in the last post) has some swell music and an interesting roundup of the weekly news from Cuba. This is mostly just foriegn language garble. But no less REAL. Most of these signals are being transmitted from overseas. However, I heard them in the Catskill Mountains. And so will you, if you download this file...

Segment 2 - 25 meter band 10-01-2006 (download MP3)

11795 - Deutsche Welle (Germany)

English service for Africa. Not coming in well, and stepped on by an adjacent station.

11800 - Radio Habana Cuba

In Arabic, with a Cuban accent. Reception isn't too bad. Wonder what they're talking about?

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 30" »

October 24, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 29

Cabin_table Okay, I'm back again with some shortwave reception. I made a number of bandscan recordings when I was in the Catskills around the beginning of this month and that's where this entry was recorded. And as usual, the audio (and the discussion of it) follows the jump.

While I had hoped to duplicate some of the luck I had upstate while perusing the 31 meter band last June (discussed here in these two posts), that wasn't possible this time around. One of the main reasons shortwave radio is both intriguing and frustrating is that propagation varies so damn much, depending on the weather of our solar system. One day or night a station (or a smorgasbord of stations) will be heard at a certain time, and on another date at the same time you've got radio silence, something else, or just RF noise. And on that weekend, two fairly dependable bands, the 31 and 41 meter band, were clear of many of the stations I hoped to find there in the evening.

The 49 meter band (the most dependable evening shortwave band) was chock full of broadcasts that weekend. However, this piece of spectrum typically offers fewer surprises, and lots of U.S. Christian garbage along the way. However, as far as shortwave listening the real action I found that weekend was on the 25 meter band during the late afternoon. Right when it's gotten dark across the sea, and much of what I found was coming from over there. And as Ralph mentioned in his guest post, most of the overseas broadcasting you hear on the 25 meter band at these hours isn't intended to be heard in the US. Programming meant to be heard in here (and there is sadly less of this all the time) typically starts up a little later.

Rcas This band is interesting because it swings both ways. Depending on atmospheric conditions the 25 meter band can provide better propagation during either the day or night. 25 meters roughly covers the 500kHz on each side of 12000kHz (or 12MHz). And as a rule of thumb, the bands with frequencies above 25 meters  (which have lower meter numbers) are better for daytime broadcasting and listening (22, 19, 15 and 13 meter bands). The bands below 25 meters (with higher meter numbers) are generally used at night (31, 41, 49, 60, 75 and 90 meter bands). So, if you turn on a shortwave radio and wonder where all the stations are, try the bands that fit the time of day. In general, I've always had the best luck with the bands between 5000 and 15000kHz (60 to 19 meters).

Okay, enough of the geeky stuff. It just always seems like a good idea to give a little background for people who might one day dip their toes into the world of shortwave listening. I imagine many readers either will never turn on a shortwave readers and then again some of you know far more about these things than I do.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 29" »

October 19, 2006

The Last Of Lassiter

Lassiter_smile The Mad Dog has been silenced. After six years of rapidly declining health, talk radio giant Bob Lassiter passed away Friday morning October 13, 2006. His died in his bed, unconscious and without pain. And while Lassiter didn't choose to suffer as he did over the last few years, he did manage to die as he had wished (considering the circumstances). And an integral part of that process was discussing his impending death with his fans, or anybody who cared to read about it. For over a year he blogged his slow demise.

Lassiter had turned 61 just days ago. Although the official cause was kidney failure brought on by diabetes, Lassiter was also a heavy smoker, a junk food enthusiast, and somebody who carried around a lot of bottled up frustration and anger. All life-shortening habits. Up until the end, Lassiter did what he wanted to do the way he wanted to do it. Sometimes being headstrong can be fatal.

Younger than most of the 1960's rock stars still working the oldies circuit, Lassiter died of old age. If there is some mercy in all of this, it’s that Bob’s radio career was marked by an impatience and disdain for old feeble callers, and he became elderly rather quickly and in private. And thanks to the blog he kept right up until the end, it was plain to see that he never lost his edge.

It seems a bit pointless to recap all I've written about Lassiter while he was alive (you can read my Lassiter posts at BOTB here, here, and here). In his own strange way, he was a talk radio giant who continues to have a huge effect on those who recall his program, as well as those who continue to hear his work via the growing archive available on the web. And when Lassiter’s blog occasionally opened for comments from readers (as it has now at its closing) the onslaught of listener accounts of changed lives and his influence were astounding. Having such power always seemed to baffle Lassiter, who once said: "It makes no difference if I change anyone's mind, or influence anyone to do something. It's not the point of my show."

Lassiter delighted in making listeners look at issues and ideas from a different angle, to break open clichés and tired narratives to re-examine the contents. For me personally, I know that after listening to Lassiter's show for a while I’ve never heard (or thought about) talk radio the same way. 

Continue reading "The Last Of Lassiter" »

October 14, 2006

Bare America

Frankenmug_1 Perhaps you've already heard the shocking news. Air America Radio has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Gosh, and things seemed to have been going so well...

Okay, all joking aside. Anybody who's been been paying much attention to the ongoing situation at the left-wing talk network knew this was coming. Despite the fact that "progressive radio" is proving to be a profitable and timely radio format, two and a half years of bad management and poor decisions have savaged the radio network that had a rocky start to begin with. Lefty website "Think Progress" predicted bankruptcy was imminent weeks ago, and perhaps Air America was trying to hold out until after the mid-term elections. But just too many people were NOT getting paid. (Take a look at the long list at the Smoking Gun website).

For now, AAR has received court permission to dig into a nine-hundred grand pile of dough from a group calling itself "Democracy Allies LLC" who agreed to lend AAR the cast to keep them in business as the legal proceedings continue. It's not clear if any of the "Allies" money will pay Franken any of the $360,750 he's owed (according to the court filing), but the money could certainly be better spent.

And while Franken salary has climbed to an ungodly two million a year (and the better part of another million per year for his bloated staff) he probably can't be blamed entirely for Air America poverty. While it's easy to understand why this may have seemed to be a good idea to promote AAR at first, after Katherine Lanpher left the program Franken's foray into talk radio quickly proved to be not only an embarrassment, but a HUGE drain on the struggling company. Apparently, the Air America executives haven't figured this all out, and Franken's ego is so huge that he can't see it (or hear it) for himself.

For better or worse, Franken's rubbery mug has been the face of Air America from the very beginning (In fact, I think every story I say online today regarding the bankruptcy filing included his name), and since he's personally responsible for sucking away millions from the Air America's coffers you'd think that on the day of the court filing he'd come forward on his program and deal with the issue. Fat chance.

Continue reading "Bare America" »

October 10, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 28

Mmmm_ham_2 At the end of September, I escaped the big city again. And at a little cabin in the Catskills I unwrapped and unzipped a couple radios, my recorder and all the assorted cables, batteries and cassettes and set up another little DX outpost for the weekend. Hey, it's how I have fun...

The reception wasn’t nearly as impressive as the last time I got a chance to scan upstate, but I had some luck on the 25 meter band in the late afternoon with my DE1103. I also had a chance to conduct a couple somewhat simultaneous band scans with the Degen and my analog Tecsun BCL-2000. The results were interesting and somewhat predictable. However, I’ve just gotten all that audio dumped into the computer and haven’t had a chance to go back over it yet. Somewhere in the next couple entries in this series I’ll dig into some of these recordings.

Instead, I'm serving up some ham radio today. Late on Friday (September 29) I had already gone through what seemed to be happening on medium wave and the 49 meter band. I had heard quite a bit of sideband activity as I prowled around, so I decided to turn on the SSB and dig on into that action. The two hot spots I'd come across were the 40 meter band (just above 7000kHz) and 20 meter band (just below 4000kHz) bands. That's where I came across the reception below.

Ham_radio Amateur radio operators, or hams, are licensed independent broadcasters who talk to each other on specially reserved chunks of the radio spectrum, a number of which are within the shortwave (or high frequency) range. Some hams still use Morse Code for communication, other’s have added digital technologies, and some are actually broadcasting television these days. But all I know anything about are the guys who talk to each other, over the radio.

From what I understand (and I don’t know that much), hams typically bond together into roundtable groups for “ragchew” sessions (yes, that’s the term they use). At certain times or days or frequencies, people who have over time become part of a group will look for each for a chat on some agreed schedule. There’s bigger moderated operations called “nets” where large groups of people check in on some frequency and a big radio powwow ensues.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 28" »

October 03, 2006

The Reel Night John Lennon Died

Lennonprofile After all the online interest and controversy surrounding a particular audio file posted on this blog last December, I suppose that posting the original MP3 and providing a bit of an explanation is long overdue.

So, first off let's get the download out of the way.

The Unedited NYC FM Dial Scan from 12-08-80 (Download MP3)

The Unedited NYC FM Dial Scan from 12-08-80 Dial-up version (Download MP3)

On the 25th anniversary of John Lennon's assassination (December 8, 2005) Station Manager Ken posted a "dial scan" of New York radio from the night of Lennon's death. And then the linking began, and the controversy. What Ken didn't know at the time is that there's an uncut version. And here it is.

The audio Ken originally posted came from a Two-CD set I put together for WFMU in 2004- Radio Archival Oddities Vol. 2, a collection of strange and entertaining aircheck material. One disc featured little gems of WFMU history and the other was a candy box assortment of unique radio moments. Folks making those substantial "mouse" pledges during our yearly fundraising marathon can still score a copy of this set as part of their prize package. Or you can just buy one, while they last.

Teac Anyway, I had missed Ken's original post at the time (it was quite short with no picture) and it was weeks (maybe months) later when he mentioned posting the track and that a bit of a controversy bubbled up in the comments. Some thought it was fake, with bits of real radio from that night edited together with some Beatles songs. Others insisted it was obviously edited and likely a hoax.

I didn't think much about it at first. While I don't actually know where it came from (I'll get to that in a minute), I believed it to be real the first time I heard it. And I still do. However, a while later I came across this blog post where a HUGE debate raged over the authenticity of this dial scan. And then I remembered, I had indeed edited it (and should eventually post the whole thing). But fooling anyone was the last thing I had on my mind.

Continue reading "The Reel Night John Lennon Died" »

September 26, 2006

Adventures in Amplitude Modulation - Part 27

Deck_view_4 Here’s the second installment of an AM band dial scan I began a couple weeks back at BOTB. This little radio safari was recorded while I camped out on the deck of a beach house on the Connecticut coast near Bridgeport in late August.

Serious DXers favor the eastern coast of North America for picking up AM stations broadcasting from Europe and Africa (although a location right on the Atlantic Ocean rather than Long Island Sound would be preferable). However, the best time for that would be early evening and the best results would include employing an external antenna. I’d love to try this sometime, but was hardly equipped to do so on this excursion. One day...

This upcoming weekend I’m headed out of the RF noise of the city for the Catskills Mountains where I plan on scanning the international shortwave bands in search of interesting and exotic programming to feature in this series. With these two posts I’ve made a point of getting back to exploring the AM band again, because it remains the heartland of amplitude modulated broadcasting and sometimes it’s just fun to hear traffic reports from other regions of North America.

Oinky I gotta say that I think we may be coming into a prime season for some compelling and strange content on both U.S. AM radio and international shortwave. In a few days we’ll enter October, a month preceding a national election in this increasingly bizarre country of ours, and the polls still hint that the Republicans are at risk of losing the house and possibly the senate. It might just be prime time for a big political firestorm... I mean, a BIG surprise. And it’s not just the constructively paranoid types predicting it. Word is King Pig Karl Rove himself is promising something special for the faithful. So do stay tuned.

Continue reading "Adventures in Amplitude Modulation - Part 27" »

September 19, 2006

Air America vs. The Truthseeker

Malloy_portrait_2 After carrying on at length here at BOTB on the state of Air America over the last month or two, I thought I’d just shut up and let AAR do what they were going to do and see what happened next. I wasn’t all that hopeful, but I was frankly tired of thinking about the whole mess. Then while working on another post I happened across the Air America website, and I had to laugh and then shake my head. And so here I am again, blogging about the sad state of affairs at the struggling progressive talk network.

Yesterday, a new and revised on-air schedule went into effect at Air America radio. And although I happened to post an almost identical schedule (which I heard through the grapevine) here as a comment on one of my BOTB posts four weeks ago, and to my surprise I appear to have been the only one to actually promote the line-up. Sure, a few folks reposted and linked to the schedule I posted, but for some reason Air America never officially publicized their programming reshuffle until the day it actually took effect.  Very strange.

Sunday night, only hours before the new schedule became operational, the old one was still on the AAR website. However, If you spent some time digging deep into their site you could figure out that “The Young Turks” were taking over the network six to nine morning slot (not in NYC), and that Sam Seder and Rachel Maddow would now have new time slots as well, but there was no big announcement online or on the network itself touting the programming changes. I had assumed that after the line-up make-over there would be some major revision of the website to clean it up and add more current information. But so far it's a turning into a poorly maintained online fossil.

And I got to wondering. Are they trying to keep their programming and decisions a secret for some reason? Or are they just so incompetent or short-handed that they’re not able to publicize (or define) themselves efficiently?

Continue reading "Air America vs. The Truthseeker" »

September 12, 2006

Adventures in Amplitude Modulation - Part 26

Deck_view_1 The geek that I am, when I found out we were invited to join our in-laws for a few days at a beach house rental on the Connecticut coast at the end of August, I wasn’t so much looking forward to sun and sand and seagulls. I was thinking more about the DXing possibilities.

Having a huge body of water at your backdoor is typically a fine place to set up a shortwave set to snatch wandering radio waves bouncing unobstructed from beyond the horizon. While this wasn’t exactly the open ocean, it was Long Island Sound, and it all seemed rather promising. However, from moment I powered up my Degen that first evening I began to realize that this quaint little cottage was NOT going to be the dream radio shack I had hoped it might be. Oh, the reception was pretty good, that is for the stations that were strong enough to overcome the WORST RF noise I’ve think I've ever had to deal with. I'm not kidding when I tell you that it was the worst chorus of buzzing and bleating across the shortwave dial that I’ve ever heard throughout an entire house. And the deck and yard were no better.

The problem? Technology of all sorts in every room. Every light in the house was on a dimmer switch, which are notoriously RF noisy. And entertainment gadgets were everywhere, even a TV (and video equipment) in the bathroom. Not only that, but these beach houses are crammed together on the sand, and I suspect most were loaded up with electronics and gizmos. Hell, from the deck I could see that the people next door had a monstrous billboard-size TV blasting living color chase scenes up on their wall.

Listening Fortunately, the AM band wasn’t so rudely affected by the inadvertent roar of high frequency broadcasting. So, the dial scan I offer in this post is medium wave reception from my first night there (August 28, 2006). I was near Bridgeport, with a nice view of Long Island across the way and waves crashing just a few feet from the stilts supporting the deck. Actually, sitting right on the coast of a continent provides a lot of excess noise as well, but the roar of the sea can easily be overcome with a set of headphones and doesn't affect the recording.

I was determined to overcome my RF predicament without sitting out in a parked car again, and later that weekend I walked down the beach away from all the gadgetry and recreational housing and recorded a somewhat eventful shortwave scan or two. However, after a couple hours of having a sea wind of twenty miles an hour or so blast you in the fact gets a little tiring after a while, and eventually got a little impatient sorting out faint signals. If I have time I’ll sort through those recordings and see if they are worth offering here as well.

Continue reading "Adventures in Amplitude Modulation - Part 26" »

September 05, 2006

Air America vs. Reality - Part 4

Billboard_2 September has arrived, and so far almost none of the changes I prognosticated for Air America (to coincide with their leaving WLIB) have come to pass. At least not yet. However, I did clearly state that I was offering rumors and guesses, and reports of decisions probably still in progress. But with great sadness, I can confirm I that Bush administration toady Armstrong Williams is indeed co-hosting the morning show on New York’s new Air America affiliate, WWRL.

Also contrary to what I reported here, Randy Michaels has not gotten a foothold into New York City’s progressive talk scene, either by taking over WLIB or making a deal with Air America. Although it had been reported in radio trade journals as a done deal, Mr. Michaels and Inner City Broadcasting were either in negotiations, and or had a tentative agreement that fell thorough. Instead as September arrived WLIB switched to an all-gospel format, and Air America jumped to WWRL-- where they now have significantly less coverage in the New York market and fewer hours of the broadcast day to open to their programming.

The upcoming new schedule I posted here isn't valid yet. Check the current one here, (here's a PDF of it today, to see when the link is updated) on Air America’s site. And here's the current WWRL schedule (again with a PDF here to see once the page is updated) In fact, the weekday line-up is EXACTLY the same as before, with one big exception. Mike Malloy is history.

Last week, Malloy was filling in for the vacationing Randi Rhodes for the entire week, obviously enjoying the opportunity to vent and profess in a more conspicuous time slot. Then on Wednesday afternoon, driving on the expressway to the studio his cell phone rang. His friend (and Air America honcho) Jon Sinton suggested Malloy might want to pull over for some bad news. Then on the shoulder of a suburban Atlanta interstate highway, Mike Malloy was fired. If you’d like to hear Malloy's version of the situation, check out this interview of Malloy on a California Air America affiliate the other night (download MP3 here).

Continue reading "Air America vs. Reality - Part 4" »

August 29, 2006

To My Favorite Octoroon

Luis_bw_2 It’s a sad story. A kid grows up tough in a low-rent suburb of New Orleans. He's repeatedly beaten and abused by a sick drunken excuse for a father who steals his money to spend on booze and whores and brags about it. And his mom? She escapes her hellish marriage via Jesus and the Catholic church. And for a while the boy probably sought solace from the church as well, that is until a priest or two sought their own personal comfort by digging around in the kid’s trousers when no one was looking.

Living through crap like that can mold one bitter teenager, and this one escaped all the bullshit in Louisiana one day and scammed a ride to New York to scrape together a new life. Call it self-medication, youthful hedonism or just plain inevitable, but the streetwise kid was soon abusing drugs and causing trouble on the streets of the sleazy underbelly of the mid-80's Lower East Side, where it made sense to be wild and young, and either fucked up or angry. And now he’s dead.

That said, you’d think this guy probably met his demise at the other end of a gun, knife or needle. Or maybe was just a victim of some awful medical problem brought on by years of self-abuse and self-hatred? Nope. Nothing like that. Not even close.

Lakeside_1 When I met Luis Fernandez de la Reguera he was a bartender at the Lakeside Lounge. It was 1997 and I had just moved to the into a cheap little East Village sublet that happened to be right next door to the place. I spent plenty of nights on a Lakeside barstool, often enchanted and entertained (and occasionally disturbed) by the antics and anecdotes of Luis. And as I’m writing this I wish I could remember more of his wild ass stories. But quite often, our time together at the Lakeside would last far beyond closing time and some of the details are rather blurry.

Continue reading "To My Favorite Octoroon" »

August 22, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 25

The_city In this outlay of shortwave reception I’m back to the band I believe I’ve featured most often here– 31 meters. I guess I’ve had particular luck finding interesting broadcasts there, along with the least interference. In retrospect, that's how it's panned out  (at least in the hours I tend to listen).

And if you look at (or listen to) the reception offered in these posts, you’ll see that there’s quite a variety of broadcasts be to found in this frequency campground from North America. None of the logs I've posted from scanning this band are even close to being identical to any others. One reason of course, is that all the recordings are from different days of the week and unique times of the evening. But propagation (and local RF) is the biggest factor. Some nights you can catch Stations from the Middle East and Africa. Other nights European and North American stations are most of what you find. And now and then, a few South America signals show up on the dial. In general after dark, mainstays like KOL in Israel, the Voice of Greece, Cuba (in general), CRI, Deutsche Welle, Radio Netherlands, and Spain are usually out there and can be easily heard on this band with little effort. And then there’s always Family Radio. (As if you’d want your kids to hear that...) On this particular Friday evening scan I happened across Iran’s “Voice of Justice” (their nightly English program) for a little while. AND you can almost hear everything they’re saying through most of it.

As a shortwave listener, I must admit that I'm at a particular disadvantage. Not only do I live in a huge megalopolis full of throbbing RF. But in reality, the very worst radio noise culprits are the electronics and wiring in my house (or almost any house these days). I’ve always had the best results listening to a shortwave portable outside. Unfortunately, if I happen to be serious about DXing from home I have to park myself under the bright streetlights illuminating our stoop (with funny looking audio equipment around me), or I’ll end up crouched in some awkward postion out on the fire escape, hoping the landlord doesn’t come out to put something on the clothesline and wonder what the hell I’m doing up there.

So, when I was here at the station here in Jersey City the other night I made a point of bringing my Degen 1103 and a cassette recorder to accompany a meal I brought with me to enjoy on our back deck. (Tomato soup from a Polish deli and a cheese sandwich, if you’re curious.) Then for an hour I slowly worked all the way up and through the 31 meter band (in its slightly expanded form on the Degen-- 9000 to 10000 kHz). And well, here’s what happened:

Segment 1-31 Meter Band (9330 to 9495 kHz) 08-18-06 (Download MP3)

9330 - WBCQ - The Apocalypse Chronicles

Apocalypse_a_comin Perfect name for a U.S. shortwave show. So much of the religious and “patriot” type programming has this inherent lust for the end of humanity. I guess it must be an exciting life.

All you get here is some detailed information on how to hear the Chronicles (make sure you have a paper and pencil on hand to jot down the details).

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 25" »

August 15, 2006

Air America vs. Reality - Part 3

Aato1600 It’s been three months since I've discussed Air America here at Beware of the Blog, and there’s some fresh news to report. But Perhaps more significantly, there’s rumors aplenty flying around town here regarding the lefty talk network these days. In May, I predicted there would be “some drastic changes” at Air America this year, that seems to be coming to pass. And some other prognostications and hopes I tossed around regarding AAR in these pages may bear fruit as well. But one big alleged “fact” that I passed along here seems to have been either misinformation, bad reporting, or that a certain deal was never final in the first place..

I’ll explain.

First, the big headline is that Air America is in fact jumping frequencies here in New York City– moving from 1190 WLIB to 1600 WWRL on September 1, 2006. And like Humpty Dumpty’s tumble from his perch, the results of this fall (note: the broadcast range of WWRL doesn't quite have the coverage of the audible radius of WLIB) may result in local and network AAR programming in a bit of scramble. At least that’s what I’ve been hearing. As you read on, realize that while I’ll link to online sources when I can find other sites that back up what I’m asserting here, other hearsay I’ll offer here is based on innuendo and whispers I’ve heard from people I trust. That said, I also am led to understand that negotiations are ongoing with several of the parties concerned and possible changes being spoke of today could turn into something else over the course of the next two and half weeks when Air America actually makes the switch. If you've listened, you'd know that Air America has always been a New York-centric national radio operation, and if there's going to be a changes in what will be offered here it will probably alter the media footprint of Air America nationally as well.

Now, onto how I have probably misled readers at BOTB when I was basing my commentary on “official” online sources. Contrary to a news story I linked to and discussed, it now does not appear that (the former CEO of Clear Channel) Randy Michaels and his new lefty talk company, Progress First, is actually going to be doing very much, if anything, with WLIB. Yet, at the end of April that was the story and I based what I wrote what I understood to be fact. Then, it was strange. For many weeks, there was no news whatsoever the supposed P1 takeover. As memory serves, when Michaels launches a radio project, he launches big. He's not a coy operator. Something was fishy.

And then early this month Air America announced they were actually going to leap over to WWRL. on the date the story about P1's deal with WLIB said it would have to abandon the frequency. And new reports appeared that Michaels Malloy_in_nyc_2005might be interested” in leasing the station, but no longer affirming that it was a sure thing. It makes you wonder where the initial story that P1 was certain to take over WLIB (in MediaWeek and Billboard) came from in the first place?

And now on to get into some more of the unsubstantiated rumors I’ve heard. You know, I know people who know people and I spend too much time Googling the fate of Air America. And from what I understand, the only sure thing about Air America’s move to WWRL is that Al Franken and Randi Rhodes will certainly be broadcasting at 1600 AM in New York come September 1. And that’s not all! According to Mike Malloy’s website, his powerful program will also be returning to late night New York radio with the big frequency switch in September. Good news, but I hear that just like WLIB, WWRL is going to hold onto the six post-midnight hours, as well as the morning drive spot. Which is fairly canny for WWRL I suppose. If they part ways one day as WLIB is about to do, they can maintain their on-air identity in the meantime.

Continue reading "Air America vs. Reality - Part 3" »

August 08, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 24

Calypso Since I kicked off this blog series late last year I've not only talked about broadcast band (AM & shortwave) listening, but I've also provided audio with every post so you can hear the reception yourself. So far, all the recordings have been created by me and my dial twirling fingers. No longer.

In recent posts, I've asked readers to submit AM and shortwave recordings as content for discussion in this series. And it finally happened. Somebody came through big time. And reader Ralph didn't just provide the audio and some notes (which was all I really asked for), but also offered up informative commentary with his scan of the 25 meter band (from June 28, 2006). Thanks so much Ralph!

So, in this post you'll not only get some shortwave reception snagged by someone with more international radio experience and wisdom than me, but you also get a chance to hear a high-end tabletop receiver in action.

Scottyellin It's an extra treat that Ralph took the time to write about the reception he offered, as well as talk about his shortwave radio experience in general. While this is a wonderful bonus, if you're thinking about offering your own bandscan or radio recording, I'm really only requesting the audio along with some logging if you have it. But it sure was nice to get this whole package from Ralph, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Plenty of international voices in these archives, as well an excerpt of old Gene Scott showing why he's the still the most normal and manly evangelist on shortwave radio today, even if he's not a living being lately.

But that's only one short moment in these recordings, which are divided up into four segments (for download) from this one listening session. Frankly, this is the first scan of a shortwave band that I've heard that I didn't make myself. I love the pure happenstance of shortwave tuning, and the sport of it (listen to Ralph try to make sense of a Syrian station with his gadgetry). The truth is you can really hear stations from around the world on shortwave, but unless you're local to a transmitter there's no guarantee that you'll be able to hear almost any station (clearly) at a given time. While the reception here isn't always solid here, the scan is rich in international signals. Although it's a fact that shortwave broadcasting (especially for listeners in North America) isn't what it once was, there's still quite a bit going on out there.

More information about submitting recordings for this series at the end of the post. Meanwhile, here's Ralph...

********************************************************************

I've been listening to WFMU, the coolest radio station in the world, for something like 20 years, and was delighted when the station started its own weblog. I was delighted and surprised when The Professor started posting about shortwave radio, one of the geekiest, uncoolest hobbies on Earth.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 24" »

August 01, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 23

Scansketch_1 In the last week, I went over the tapes from my upstate NY listening session and found another interesting scan to post here. This time it’s a night hike through the 41 meter band. Audio follows the jump.

This recording is from the beginning of June, which seems like years ago as far as world news goes. With the Mideast on fire and Castro in the hospital, now would be good time to sample international news and opinion on shortwave. I wish I had the time to take a listen. Maybe this weekend. Unlike most media, shortwave radio listening can take some time and patience. And for a city dweller like me it takes some effort and dedication to escape from all the RF interference. And weather as it is, it ain’t such a swell time to sit outside with a radio either.

Next week, a special treat. Finally, a reader has actually offered up a recently recorded shortwave dial scan, along with extensive notes and commentary. And it’s a good one. Thanks Ralph!

Shortwave_moon After asking listeners to contribute radio recordings for this blog series, Ralph was the first one to come through. I had talked about what I was interested in hearing in this post, and if you think you might have something to offer (or would be willing to record some radio from wherever you might be) please send me an email. And thank to Ken Kopp in Topeka for mentioning this series on his blog and in Glenn Hauser’s DX Listening Digest, and for asking readers there to consider submitting audio for this project. Appreciate it.

Meanwhile, back to the third of June, near Catskill in the Hudson Valley, where this recording occured. That weekend the reception was strong and steady on my new Degen 1103. In the last post I offered from that listening session offered very readable reception from Madagascar, and this one touches on Southern Africa as well. But almost more significantly, I came across WBCQ in Maine coming in loud and clear after midnight (something I haven’t heard here in a while), as well as a Christian shortwave broadcast from Utah. That might not sound like much of an accomplishment, compared to picking up signals from the Indian Ocean, but it’s not always easy for me on the east coast to receive shortwave stations in the Northern Hemisphere transmitting from the continental divide and beyond.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 23" »

July 25, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 22

Michigan_backyard_1 As I mentioned in my last post, I spent a week around the July 4th holiday in Michigan. And many of those evenings were spent in my brother’s backyard scanning shortwave and the AM band for this blog series. Although I’ve yet to dig into all the tapes I recorded, I must admit that I don’t recall that any particular shortwave scan I snagged there to be as compelling as most of the ones I’ve already featured here. To me, what makes a broadcast band tuning adventure memorable is ultimately a crap shoot. It's a roll of the dice under the influence of atmospheric conditions and the happenstance of coming across interesting content. The radio dice weren't so kind this trip.

That’s not to say that in twenty or so hours of recording I didn’t capture some intriguing and revealing broadcasting along the way. But I was ultimately disappointed that most of scans didn't stand out as being blogable or as significant audio artifacts. To me, there’s several factors that make a particular scan worth posting and discussing here. While it’s always exciting to come across viable signals from very far away (or from countries I’ve rarely if ever heard on shortwave), this is an English language blog and it seems imperative to present some radio English content in the mix (although foreign music programs often have a powerful charm all their own). I think it’s safe to say that just discussing the origin of multilingual chatter isn’t what I had in mind when I started this series. And I’m sure most readers would agree.

Of course, exotic non-English programming is part of what makes shortwave so interesting. But in the end radio is supposed to be a communication medium. When I turn on a shortwave set to explore I want to receive information and ideas from around the world, as well as log some far off programming I can’t understand. Actually my recent listening sessions upstate (for only two evenings) yielded more interesting scans, and I may return to those recordings in the next few weeks. Like I said, it’s always a crap shoot.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 22" »

July 18, 2006

How I Love My Country

Country_music A couple weeks ago I went home. Not exactly, but close enough. I went to Michigan. We were subjected to the incredible hospitality of my brother and his family and had a great visit. I spent many hours in their suburban backyard listening to the radio with the recorder engaged, scanning the broadcast bands for my radio series on this blog. As I ford through those tapes and digest all the reception, I thought I’d share something special I found on the AM dial there– WCXI. (Extended MP3 airchecks can be found at the end of this post.) 

During past visits, I hadn’t paid much attention to WCXI. Years ago, a contemporary country station with those call letters at about the same place on the dial was a mainstay in the Detroit market, and when I came across it I just assumed it was the same station. It isn’t. The old WCXI ceased to exist in the early 1990's, and their AM frequency (1130 kHz) is now the home of yet ANOTHER sports talk station. This WCXI, based out of Fenton, Michigan (just southwest of Flint) broadcasts at 1160 on the dial, and grabbed up the old call letters in 2000 to help brand their new “classic country” format in southeastern Michigan. And six years later, in an era where AM dial music stations across the country have been almost completely replaced by talk, news, sports and ethnic brokered programming, WCXI is bucking this trend and doing it the old fashioned way.

Old_wcxi_bumper_sticker I don’t know exactly when classic country became a format, but I suspect it occurred in the early 1990's, coinciding with either the rise of Garth Brooks or the runaway success of Billy Ray Cyrus and his “Achy Breaky Heart.” Country music was changing (ugh), and traditional artists and old classics were increasingly left behind on newly popular “hot country” stations to make way for the new sound. While never a big player in the U.S. radio scene, the classic country format filled a niche out there for an (aging) audience who wanted to hear fiddles, pedal steel guitars, mandolins and rollicking Nashville rave-ups coming out of their radio. And who could blame them.

Continue reading "How I Love My Country" »

June 27, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 21

Porch_bright_1 This the final installment of the 31 meter band scan (audio after the fold) I began two weeks ago, recorded June 2, 2006. As I said before, it was a rewarding romp thorough one of the dozen or so allotted shortwave bands and seems to portend that there will be lots of eventful DXing to come with my new little shortwave portable (the Degen 1103).

People around the station think I have a lot of radios at home. And I do, I suppose, compared to most people. Just looking about my room here, I  see over a dozen or so. And there’s certainly more than that tucked away as well. I’d guess that two thirds of them have shortwave, as well as AM and FM. To me, a radio isn’t all that special if I can’t turn in on and hear more than just local stations. Any radio does that.

But I’m not a big collector. I don’t have the space, money or time for that. In fact, it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve gotten some decent receivers. I’ve almost always had at least a couple of radios that received shortwave around, but they were typically Radio Shack portables, or boomboxes with shortwave bands. You can certainly whet your appetite for shortwave and DXing with any number of nominal receivers, but without spending a lotta dough you can graduate up to a more sensitive set or two and be assured you'll find some interesting signals from far over the horizon now and then. And I’ve had a lot of fun doing just that working on these blog posts over the last few months.

I’ll be taking a short summer hiatus from the blog for about two weeks after this. Meanwhile, I’ll be DXing out in the midwest, recording some reception to be posted here. I’m bringing a few radios and lots of batteries. And I’ll hope you can join me here again at that time. Meanwhile here’s most of the rest of that dial scan. It’s the high end of the 31 meter band, recorded the evening of June 2, starting where we left off last week. Here's the first link... 

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 21" »

June 20, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 20

Porch_hill This post returns to a band scan I started to post last week from a listening session I recorded June 2, 2006 near Albany, New York. It's a slow cruise through the 31 meter band (9400 to 10000kHz). As with all the posts in this blog series, there’s MP3 audio you can download so you can listen along. And each frequency is listed (or my best guess), along with a brief description of each broadcast.

This was the first chance I had to play with a new shortwave portable (a Degen 1103) away from the radio interference of city life. And in this one long sweep of this band (in just a few hundred kilohertz) I picked up nearly fifty stations. I was impressed.

A good shortwave radio is truly a world receiver, and the Degen is just that. Although the fidelity of signals coming from thousands of miles away is never quite as crisp and steady as a local AM or FM station, many are quite listenable. And certainly some are difficult to hear or understand, but just knowing that they are coming through the air from so far away can make you curious to linger and try to figure out where they’re coming from, and perhaps what they're saying as well. This is DXing.

Early_1103 So, here’s some casual DXing from the East Coast. I’m not using as extra external antenna, and I haven’t researched any particular station or country to hunt out. However, I do plan to print out some pages from websites like this one and try to track down some far-flung English language broadcasts when I get a chance.

As far this scan recording, I skipped a few weak and relatively insignificant signals I happened across, and the first MP3 (or two in this post) picks up where the 31 meter band started to get interesting again.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 20" »

June 13, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 19

The_porch It was a brief foray into upstate New York, but a week ago I was able to spend a weekend away from the radio noise of the big city with my new Degen 1103. Sitting on my friend's porch overlooking the Hudson as the rain fell, I was quite impressed with the lively shortwave reception (with very little buzzing and static). I wasn’t able to spend as much time scanning as I would have liked, but even late at night there were plenty of voices to pluck out of the ether.

In fact, the first band scan I recorded (a meander through the 31 meter band on Friday night June 2, 2006) was full of broadcast. So the recording I’ll offer in this post will kick off at the first readable signal on this band and continue on for a half an hour in real time. I'll follow up with more of this scan in the next post (and perhaps beyond that post as well).

A few readers have expressed continued curiosity about my hands-on experience with the DE1103 (which I talked about in the last two post in this series, available here and here), and I have to report that I’m really happy with this gadget. It is a very sensitive little receiver, and once you get used to the odd interface it’s quite easy to maneuver the controls. Besides shortwave, the medium wave reception is quite good as well, and FM reception seems to be better than any radio I have at the house. WFMU comes in well with regularity here in North Brooklyn, and no other radio I have here dependably picks up FMU in a listenable way. 

Although the only bands easily accessible via the main controls are AM, FM and ten of the major shortwave bands, via direct entry of the frequency (on the keypad) the DE1103 picks up all frequencies between 100 and 29999 kHz. Long wave (below 540 kHz) in the U.S. isn’t really a broadcast band in the U.S., but I was digging around down there here in Brooklyn and all I was able to fish out were images of powerful New York City stations at predictable mathematical intervals. The same thing happened when I ventured about just above the U.S. AM broadcast band (1720 kHz and up a few hundred kHz). I have yet to identify images like this on the standard AM and shortwave bands.

Besides these anomalies, there’s those audible blips when cruising through busy bands and the digital edge the radio adds to some standard shortwave noise. (Though I have to admit I’m starting to become fond of how coming out of a strong frequency occasionlly sounds like you're drowning the signal or the announcer.) Other than these minor annoyances (for an analog radio fan) I have very few complaints so far. And considering I gave up less than seventy bucks (via ebay) for the DE1103, I really have nothing to grumble about at all.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 19" »

May 30, 2006

Adventures in Amplitude Modulation - Part 18

1103_2 After doing almost twenty posts in this series, my impulse is to assume that by now readers who are interested in shortwave and AM DXing are following this blog thread, and others are passing it by for less geeky content on the WFMU blog. But in case you've just come across one of these posts for the first time and you're curious, I'll quickly mention again what's going on here.

Listening to the old broadcast bands for information, sport or adventure isn't so popular in this U.S. these days, for many reasons. And since I’ve started writing these posts, I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve talked to about DXing who can more than feign an interest in listening to lo-fi audio signals from faraway places. I mean, if you experience your media from cable TV and/or through a speedy multimedia computer with a broadband connection, why should you care about complicated radios that offer sputtering static, strange noises, and people speaking in all sorts of languages you don’t understand?

For better or worse, some of us still have fun with this old technology. While it’s easy to be overwhelmed by so MUCH radio content available today– besides AM & FM, there’s internet and satellite radio and many thousands of podcasts flooding the mediasphere every week. However, there's a minority out here who continue to listen to radio the hard way and test the capabilities of our receivers. And with shortwave, it’s remains the only way to hear direct communications from distant countries without somehow going through some corporate communication infrastructure. And you throw in the entertainment value of Christian kooks who have infested the U.S. shortwave frequencies, and a few clandestine operators and shortwave pirates lurking about, you’ve got an eclectic, and often exotic, mix of programming to sample that you'd probably never hear any other way. And it’s important to mention that what has become a fringe medium in America, is still a very popular and important way to hear news, information and music in the developing world.

Tia During the cold war, back in the days before the world wide web, there was no way to hear the OTHER side, except on shortwave. Now we have other strange political and economic forces that are again dividing up our world, and creating many “others” who have disagreements with the west, especially the U.S. (For example, the English language programming on Radio Habana Cuba is NOT available on the internet.) If you REALLY want to balance your news and information intake these days, shortwave is STILL a good way to go. And your listening habits will not be logged or noticed by John Poindexter, or any of his friends. Something to think about.

Continue reading "Adventures in Amplitude Modulation - Part 18" »

May 23, 2006

Bye Bob

Bob_lassiter1_1 I was in the middle of working on another radio piece for this blog when I took a break to eat and trolled a few blogs for some dinner reading. I guess I was feeling a bit braver than usual and ended up at a blog I've been avoiding lately because the content there has gotten increasingly painful to read. That’s when I found out that Bob Lassiter has signed off.

No, he’s not dead. Not yet. But the running theme of Lassiter’s blog has always been about the rapid approach of the end of his life and the thoughts and reflections inherent in being aware during the process. In his last blog entry (May 21), Lassiter says: “I am faced with both a certainty that cannot be denied, and an uncertainty that consumes me. I choose to make the remainder of the journey in privacy...” 

In a way, Lassiter’s blog has been a long goodbye letter to his fans, and that’s never been more true than this last post. You can read it here.

In this profound period for Lassiter, it’s as difficult for me to write about him as it ever was. Lassiter is a such a paradoxical character. He’s a brilliant high school drop-out, an introvert who loves attention, and a man who debated great spiritual and intellectual issues with callers just to entertain and attract listeners. On any given show you might hear a raging provocateur, an obsessed geek, or just a sentimental fool.

As I’ve said before, Lassiter was one of the greats of talk radio. A host like no other who sought and created adversary listeners, demanded intellectual honesty over belief, and was often audibly bored or uncomfortable when embraced over the phone by fans or folks who agreed with him. There was nobody like Lassiter in talk radio before, and there won’t be another anytime soon.

Continue reading "Bye Bob" »

May 16, 2006

Adventures in Amplitude Modulation - Part 17

Postage_1 Well, my Degen radio finally arrived from China this week. And I do like it. At the bottom of this post you'll find a few samples of shortwave reception I snagged with it on Sunday, but first I’ll offer a few first impressions of the radio itself.

As I mentioned in the last post in this series, I’ve long been eyeing this shortwave portable on the internet for over a year, and finally decided to go ahead and order one. A recent invention, the Degen 1103 is the same basic radio as the Kaito 1103 that’s marketed here in the states. After paying shipping and insurance from China via ebay, the Degen is still twenty bucks cheaper than the Kaito version. And I’m all for that.

After coming across so many fawning reviews online, I was already convinced that this radio was probably going to be a good performer. It is. That much I could tell from the moment I turned it on. Not only is it sensitive, but the digital tuning is as graceful as you’re going to find on a radio at this price. Of course, scanning the band isn’t quite as organic as using an analog tuner, but it’s damn close.

After pulling it out of the box in the early afternoon I tuned to medium wave and found a couple of fringe AM stations I hadn’t noticed before. And although I have picked up WPHT at 1210 in Philadelphia here in New York during the day before, the Degen also picked up WBZ in Boston at 1030 just past one in the afternoon. Impressive. Then later in the early evening, I found Kuwait and Ukraine coming in clean and strong on shortwave, along with plenty of other stations I didn’t bother to log.

Continue reading "Adventures in Amplitude Modulation - Part 17" »

May 09, 2006

Air America vs. Reality - Part 2

Air America reminds me of Hillary Clinton. Why? Because both are so despised by the right-wing media machineFrankenclinton that it makes you feel you’re in bed with the theocrat-warmonger zombies just to utter any criticism of either in public. However, there’s a really big difference between folks who put Bush, the Republican party and the cloud being above all logic or morals and everybody else. Some people actually use reasoning skills and have opinions that don’t follow lock-step dogma and aren’t interested in sycophancy to raw Machiavellian power.  And this is a big dilemma for most folks who aren’t on the far right, is that we DIFFER on issues and ideas and that is often used against us.

I’ve never really had much of an opinion of any previous American “First Ladies,” (except a bit of sympathy for Pat Nixon), but the spew of bile from the right against Hillary Clinton during her husband’s administration did make me come to her defense over the years. And when she talked about a “vast right wing conspiracy” that morning on the Today Show I thought she was brave to say it. (Read David Brock’s “Blinded By The Right” to hear how right she was from one of the actual “conspirators” of that era). But since that time, her election and subsequent cowardice in not standing up to the Iraq War in the Senate has changed my mind completely. Rush Limbaugh is obviously a scumbag, but no matter how much he trashes Clinton I’m no longer a fan. And NOWI read that ultra right-wing ultra media mogul Rupert Murdoch is hosting a goddamn fundraiser for her re-election to the Senate in July. Ouch.

Aa_oreilly If Mrs. Clinton happens to get the Democratic nomination for the Presidency in 2008 I may likely hold my nose and press her lever (and I pray it IS still a lever), but I do hope that’s not the choice we’re given.

And if you’ve followed the news stream on Air America over the last couple years, there’s been a disturbing trend in the criticism of the network, ESPECIALLY online. Instead of just denouncing content, or questioning the opinions offered on Air America, there’s always been a loud choir of voices in the media predicting (and cheering for) the demise of the network. And some wingnuts, like Bill O’Reilly, have even called for the arrest of Air America hosts and/or employees. You know, just the fact that these morons hate Air America so much they want to destroy it tells you Air America MUST be doing something right.

Continue reading "Air America vs. Reality - Part 2" »

May 02, 2006

Air America vs. Reality - Part 1

Neil_2 A little over two years ago, talk radio legend Neil Rogers offered his appraisal of the impending launch of Air America, a new liberal talk radio network.  "I wish them luck,” he said, “But I don't see it succeeding... Hard-core conservatives gather around the radio to listen to Rush. Liberals are too busy having a life for that."

Was Neil right?

Maybe. Maybe not. While it seems that liberal or “progressive” talk radio has a discernable future in AM talk radio, whether the network that brought the idea into the mainstream can survive is whole ‘nother question.

Air America was founded in a flurry of idealism born out of frustration. In fact, it’s safe to say that without the mass proliferation of right wing radio that burgeoned during the 1990's there never would have been an Air America at all. Air America was a reaction. A thoughtful one. However, much of the idealism has given way to damage control, inaction and a general spirit of compromise. Especially here in New York.

Wlib_1 As Evan Davies mentioned on this blog a few days ago, Air America is losing their grasp on WLIB here in New York City. This story was reported as gossip in early April, and then denied by the involved parties until the other day. Now it’s true, and this is a HUGE disaster for the Network. They had a long-term lease with WLIB’s owners (Inner City Broadcasting Corporation), but apparently Air America screwed up somehow and Inner City took advantage of some clause in their contract and opted out of the whole deal. Oops. Wonder how that happened?

Continue reading "Air America vs. Reality - Part 1" »

April 25, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 16

Soviet_r311a This week back to shortwave radio-- a backwater of broadcasting in the U.S., but still a dynamic medium around the world. Although it's a relatively antique technology, shortwave still offers unique programming from distant locations on the globe with a little effort. In this post I've included the audio from the beginning of a scan of another popular shortwave band– 31 meters (9250-9995 kHz). This recording is from a week ago Sunday. Easter for some.

Again, I’m using the BCL-2000 at my kitchen table. It’s not the best receiver I have, but it suits the purposes of this series. I have a number of other analog radios I’d like to use to record these shortwave band scans, but the work of deducing the origination of foreign language broadcasts without being able to discern the exact frequency would make it even more problematic to tell you with any confidence where these broadcasts are coming from. Which leads to a bit of a confession. I’ve succumbed to a bit of gadget lust and purchased a new radio which may offer a digital band-scanning alternative to the analog BCL.

1103_face I’ve mentioned my interest in the Degen (or Kaito) 1103 in a couple of comments I’ve added to posts in this series. Along with the BCL radios, the DE1103 is a 21st century shortwave receiver that has generated a respectable positive buzz in the shortwave community over the last few years. The 1103 in general gets higher marks than the BCL series across the board (although a number of people gripe about the odd control layout). Look at some of the reviews of the radio here, here and here. Just as the BCL melds digital readout with analog tuning, the DE1103 has digital AND analog readout with digital tuning. It also has a quiet noise floor and no “chuffing” or “chugging” when traversing shortwave in 1 kHz steps. In reviews, owners say turning the tuning knob (or jog wheel) is as close you can get to manual analog scanning you can get in a digital receiver without spending the big bucks.

So, I ordered one from the commie-capitalist kingdom across the sea. When it shows here up I’ll crank the gadget up and see if it really is the band scanning tool it’s made out to be. No doubt, it seems to be a solid digital shortwave receiver, and I’ve never really owned one I actually liked. I look forward to punching in presets for favorite frequencies and fooling around with contemporary radio technology. And if this little unit lives up to half the hype I’ve read on the net, it should be a lot of fun DXing with this it out in the sticks.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 16" »

April 18, 2006

A Few More Podcast Suggestions

Goofy_podcasting_imageA couple weeks ago on this blog, I mentioned a number of podcasts related to shortwave and DXing that I've been sampling. While I don't have time to listen to as many I'd like, I thought I mention a couple other podcasts I try not to miss. 

If you don’t already know, “podcasting” is a very simple method to “subscribe” to an ongoing radio show or audio program and have your computer automatically download each new one as it is posted online. For years, it’s been possible to capture or digitally record streams and snatch audio archives from the internet-- IF you knew what you were doing. Now it's much easier. I use a PC program called iPodder (which is now called “Juice,” I hear). Very simple. There’s others I haven’t tried, but in general it’s not hard science. However, if you don’t have an “always on” broadband connection it could be problematic. With dial-up, you won’t be able to subscribe to many programs, and downloads could take a lot of time (and cost you some bandwidth).

Podcasting allows you to time-shift listening to radio shows you can’t usually catch, and gives you access to all sorts of amateur programmers who are going online with a wide variety of good, bad, and ugly programming. While lots of mainstream radio content is either unavailable as a podcast or requires you to give up some money to do so, there’s PLENTY of choices when it comes to subscribing to free podcasts. Too many really.

Continue reading "A Few More Podcast Suggestions" »

April 11, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 15

Rf2200_dial If you’ve followed this blog series at all, you know that it’s based on audio content, specifically radio reception I’ve recorded. After featuring shortwave radio in the last four posts I was ready to go back to some of the sounds of medium wave (AM) again. However, recordings I had thought I would feature were either of poor quality, not all that interesting, or missing in action. What’s worse, it took a few hours of listening and searching to figure this out.

Actually, it would have been easier to comb through some shortwave recordings I have ready to go, but now and then I do want to talk about AM radio in this series as well. While it isn't as exotic as shortwave, the AM band is very 20th century-- an era I’m still rather fond of. Instead of spending additional hours digging through boxes full of cassettes and trying to find something compelling I decided to do the obvious– turn on the radio.

In previous posts where I’ve gone over some AM stations, I’ve barely touched the higher half of the band. There’s a reason for this. A big chunk of the AM up that way is allocated to local and regional broadcasting. In other words, there aren’t any far off high power stations to clearly hear and savor. And unless you’re near one of these minor signals at each 10 kHz stop on the AM band all you usually hear is a cacophony of low power stations meekly throbbing from afar.

Radiostations Just for fun (and to generate some content for this damn blog post), I decided to explore this AM wilderness late Sunday night (the wee hours of April 10) and record the results. There are no 50,000 watt powerhouses from 1230 to 1490 kHz (and none past 1680 kHz (including the medium wave band extension up to 1700 kHz in the U.S.). And frankly, there’s not much compelling English language programming to be found from New York City on this segment of the AM band. During the day, once you get past WLIB (Air America’s home base/NYC outlet) at 1190 kHz almost everything is in another language. Mostly Spanish. At night it’s not a lot different except that multitudes of non-local low power stations fill the holes on the dial. You’ll hear a lot of that in this recording.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 15" »

April 03, 2006

Adventures in Amplitude Modulation - Part 14

Brooklyn_window_1 This entry ends a four-post arc in this series offering a station by station breakdown of 49 and 41 meter (shortwave) band reception in Brooklyn March 1, 2006 (which started with this post). The recording offered here features the second half of the 41 meter band, a very active segment of the alloted shortwave frequencies for international broadcasting. This recording takes place from just after 8:30 until around 9 p.m. EST (about 0133 to 0220 UTC). The radio I’m using is the cute and inexpensive BCL-2000, an occasionally drifty receiver with “image” issues, which happens to offer analog tuning with digital readout of frequency. Nothing fancy.

As far as the real world a month later, I’ve had rather a hectic week and the only significant time I’ve had to concentrate on shortwave or DXing has been spent reviewing the radio recording for this post. However, I can say that in my brief dips into radio reception around here that the difficulties I've had receiving many of the monster AM clear channel stations has returned to normal over the last week or so. And shortwave reception seems to be pretty good too.

Oh, and one other thing I wanted to pass on before getting right to the audio for this post. I ran into a Usenet thread in the rec.radio.shortwave group that might be of interest to some readers of this series. First contact with a shortwave radio can be a frustrating and/or disappointing experience. The reason people with an interest in shortwave radio spend so much time Yb400 researching propagation and frequencies (as well as actually logging reception), is because getting to know your way around the shortwave bands and scoring difficult to receive broadcasts is sort of a craft, a sport, even an art. But as I’ve repeatedly said, if you have a decent radio and follow some basic rules you won’t always be disappointed, and eventually you could be amazed. Rather than go into all the problems with location, interference, propagation and radios in general, you might want to take a look at this Usenet discussion. It's launched by an earnest and diligent newbie who has just purchased a Grundig Yacht Boy YB-400 (a fairly inexpensive Chinese-made digital portable) and was NOT having a rewarding shortwave radio experience up in his New England condo. And in this thread (over 70 messages long) all sorts of savvy shortwave listeners offer tips, suggestions and personal experiences that cover almost all of the main points of what it takes to get a little performance out of a shortwave radio. Recommended.

Continue reading "Adventures in Amplitude Modulation - Part 14" »

March 27, 2006

Adventures in Amplitude Modulation - Part 13

2010_1 This episode of this series continues from my evening of scanning the shortwave bands March 1, 2006. This time it’s the next hour and the next band. This is the 41 meter band (7100 to 7350 kHz), another popular chunk of the shortwave frequencies. Again, this recording is an unedited slow motion frolic through the signals using my BCL-2000, sitting at my kitchen table in Brooklyn.

And I want to again thank reader Ralph who contributed some edifying comments in last week’s post. Now I have a better grasp on tracking down “images” of stronger signals which pop up on nearby erroneous spots on the dial. This is perhaps the greatest fault of the BCL radios, and an inherent problem in single-conversion radios in general. Dual conversion sets effectively filter most images and are generally a bit more expensive.

A couple years ago, when I was shopping around for a higher end old portable I was scouting ebay and I had pretty much decided I was going to hunt down one of two classic receivers– the Panasonic RF-2200 or the Sony ICF-2010. Both are discontinued, and in good shape they generally go for about the same price on ebay– about two-hundred bucks (although a mint 2010 in its box could go for a hundred or two more). My analog instincts led to me to go after the RF-2200 and I don’t regret it. It’s a hell of a rig and it pulls the weak signals out of the ether, and is a great radio to DX the AM band. It's also dual-conversion. However, after the 2010 was mentioned once or twice in the comments section here, it's gotten me to take a second look at it. The 2010 is not as nearly as handsome the 2200 and doesn’t have that golden glow of frequencies, but I’ve come to realize that the 2010 is just one amazing device. And now my gadget lust has launched a little feedback loop in my radio heart. I want one. I really want one. However, I really don’t have the cash handy right now. But I’m looking at ‘em on ebay... Someday. You can read some reviews of this mighty little digital gadget here, here and here. It's 1984 technology that Sony happened to really get right (It was manufactured for almost 20 years!). However, If you've got some cash on your hands and you want something new, many think the new Eton E1 improves on this radio's legacy.

Continue reading "Adventures in Amplitude Modulation - Part 13" »

March 20, 2006

Adventures in Amplitude Modulation - Part 12

Brooklyn_air_king Well, it’s been a frustrating week here at my little Brooklyn Radio HQ. The main reason is that AM & shortwave reception has been just TERRIBLE. To be honest, I haven’t really dug into the shortwave frequencies much over this last week or so, but several stations I expected to quickly find haven’t been there and others are barely readable. And I can tell you definitively that reception on the AM band has been really awful. Dependable clear channel stations across the dial from places like Louisville, Baltimore, Toronto and Charlotte have been sadly difficult to discern out of the noise. Then again, there also seems to be a number of competing stations stepping on these AM giants, and barely audible stations I’m not familiar with have been showing up at other spots on the dial too. As I've made clear, I’m no radio scientist and I've decided not to spend a bunch of hours researching what's going on out there so I might seem to know what I’m talking about. But what I can tell you is that for the last week or two there’s been a BIG change in radio propagation out there on medium and shortwave, but I'm sure that will all change again soon. If you’re interested, there may be some information on what’s been happening in outer space that’s altering radio reception here and perhaps at a few of these links here as well.

Continue reading "Adventures in Amplitude Modulation - Part 12" »

March 13, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 11

Kitchen_radios1 In a real way, this post finally begins to realize the intention of this series. I come to you after a number of recent safaris of shortwave listening, and now if you’ve got a few minutes to listen a humble radio travelogue is about to begin.

In other words, a couple weeks ago I had a chance to finally spend some quality evenings at my Brooklyn apartment with a couple of radios and logged what I found. And as usual, I recorded the results. Over the course of the next few posts in this blog series you’ll be able to hear some of these dial scans.

While I’d rather do this kind of listening far from the big city, that hasn't been possible for me lately. So instead, I set up a listening station on my kitchen table, which is about as far from my computers and household electronics as I can get here. Yes, there was some residual RF-- a bit of buzzing, and whirring and crackling from time to time, but I was pleasantly surprised how most stations really overcame the noise once I got a hold of them. But I do love the rural glory of hearing SILENCE between shortwave frequencies.

What makes this different from all my previous shortwave listening, is that for the first time I’m getting a real idea of where many of the foreign language broadcasts I find are actually coming from. I’ve enjoyed shortwave since I was a kid, but I’ve never seriously logged what I’ve heard, or spent much time trying to ID non-English broadcasts. Doing this blog series has given me a good reason to research the overall potential of shortwave listening. And it’s been interesting.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 11" »

February 27, 2006

Talk Radio Redux

The_lionel_1 I’m giving my DXing series on the WFMU blog a rest this week, because this last weekend has been my first opportunity to really test the reception possibilities here in Brooklyn. With the rest of the family off on a Florida vacation, I’ve set up a radio listening post in the kitchen for the last couple of nights. I’ve even been serious enough to keep a log of sorts. Over the coming weeks I’ll go over the recordings, and sort it out for future posts.

So, as I’m dumping the cassette audio into my laptop for all that, I’d like to talk about some of my more conventional media intake for a moment. In fact, this post is a follow up to a couple of my previous posts regarding AM talk radio that I actually care about. Like Lionel. I’ve said enough good things about Lionel’s show on this blog, and you can read the posts here and here. His program has been has been as sharp and manic as usual, and I continue to recommend it. However, I’m just mentioning him again here to let you know that WOR is now offering a FREE podcast of this show. It’s a commercial free hi-fi MP3 delivered to your computer within hours if you subscribe with this link. Or you can just download the individual hours of each show on the this page. Check it out.

Rhodes_1 On the other hand, Air America just started charging for their podcasts. They now require that you subscribe to their “premium” service to subscribe to their podcast (like Rush). And if you get lucky, you might be able to stream a live video of Jerry Springer doing his radio show right on your home computer! Now that’s entertainment.

Speaking of that, experiencing Air America on WLIB here in New York lately has gotten kind of depressing in general. Both Al Franken and Mark Riley sound lost without the original co-hosts who gave their show weight and substance. And somebody must have told Randi Rhodes that her recently perfected George Bush impression was either accurate or humourous. Because it’s neither, but she just continues working it into her monologs. I have to turn the radio off.

Continue reading "Talk Radio Redux" »

February 20, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 10

Bcl2000wbcq As promised, this post is a continuation from last week’s shortwave listening sessions from September 2004. These radio recordings offered here were received on a Tecsun BCL-2000, and the location of reception was a small town on the Hudson River not too far from Albany, New York.

As before, after the jump you'll find more MP3 samples of shortwave reception to sample, but first I want to talk specifically about the radio that I used to make these recordings. It's a practical gadget that's not too expensive.

The BCL-2000 itself can only be purchased in the U.S. via ebay. However, a couple of almost identical radios under the Grundig (or Eton) name are available in North America at a somewhat higher price and are only slightly different . Just to avoid confusion, from here on in I’ll describe these receivers as the BCL series of radios, and point out differences when appropriate.

The BCL series is a recent invention, developed and built in China and first released in 2002 (the American version, the Grundig S350 went on sale in 2003). Just like almost every other new electronic gadget, most shortwave radios are now made in China. While purists loudly bemoan the loss of new European and American receivers in the marketplace, the Chinese are making some damn good radios these days and often at an affordable price. Although the trend in shortwave has been toward digital tuning for years, the BCL radios buck this trend and have proven a popular alternative to the abundance of digital shortwave sets for sale.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 10" »

February 13, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 9

Bcl2000_1 My original intention was to get to the end of that medium wave band scan I’ve been featuring the last three entries in this series, but I’ve changed my mind. I want to get back to talking about (and presenting some) shortwave radio again.

While AM DXing is fun, scanning shortwave is frequently much more exotic and occasionally even exciting. It also requires a little more patience and something not everyone has-- a shortwave radio. However, I always want to emphasize that purchasing a shortwave radio that can pick up a lot of international broadcasting is not necessarily expensive. I just received a new tiny shortwave radio the other day that I had purchased on ebay for twenty six bucks. The next afternoon it was sitting on the table next to my computer offering a readable signal of All India Radio out of its little speaker-- some compelling music coming from the other side of the world.

As with other posts in this series featuring shortwave, I’ll be offering highlights of particular broadcasts, rather than contiguous band scans as I have with the AM posts. The main reason is that while I’ve recorded these listening sessions as band scans the same way, but there are so many foreign language stations, tedious Christians, unreadable signals and a wide variety of static and noise in between the English language programs that I can easily identify (and that you might find interesting). And besides all that, how much Christian propaganda can you handle?

Bcl200_guts So, I’ve been combing through the shortwave radio I recorded while on a weekend trip to upstate New York in September of 2004. And in the process I've excised a number of lo-fi radio nuggets for your listening pleasure. As I’ve mentioned before in these posts, late at night is not the best time to DX shortwave. While China, Russia, Cuba and a few other stations offer English broadcasts after midnight, most shortwave transmissions to the US in our native tongue can be heard from late afternoon until 10 or so Eastern Time. And during this trip I was able to squirrel away some hours during that part of the day to listen. Of course, if you wanna hear about the alleged opinions and miracles of the Christian cloud being, there’s a couple dozen stations here in the U.S. who offer that kind of programming on shortwave every hour of every day, in English and some other languages as well. They want your soul.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 9" »

January 30, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 7

Radio_shack_power_2 This post resumes where the last one left off, scanning the AM broadcast band in northern Michigan late at night August 23, 2001. I  recorded this dial scan at a campsite located on a peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan. Far from urban and residential radio interference and situated in the midst of a giant body of uninhabited water, it was a promising location for receiving distant stations.

For those who are interested in such things, my equipment was an adequate workman-like setup, using a Radio Shack ripoff of the GE SuperRadio and the Terk AM loop antenna. I’m not a fan of Radio Shack by the way. However, for many years their stores WERE practical dealers of relatively inexpensive radio gear-- especially if you had the patience to wait until certain items went on sale. But as I mentioned in the last post, this has changed.

Located just 740 miles shy of the exact center of the continent, my picnic table was a good location geographically to scan AM broadcasts at night. And the time placement was significant too. This session of radio monitoring occurred at the late end of the summer news lull preceding the onslaught of the endless media storm of fear and terror that we still can't get enough of.

On the hot seat that evening-- Gary Condit. The spooky centrist Democrat from California suspected of murder had just faced the television scrutiny of Connie Chung that evening on ABC. You may recall, there was no issue more worthy of our attention at that time. You heard some of the talk radio discussion of that TV incident in the audio presented with the last post.

But before I get into this radio reception of that evening, I wanted to say something about the practice and appeal of DXing itself, and perhaps about the art of it as well.

Ge_superadio In writing this series of blog posts (with audio) concerning a relatively obscure hobby, like DXing, I guess I’m hoping these will primarily be read by people who would never do such a thing, but are still interested in lo-fi old fashioned mass media. But I'm trying to make sure I have an idea of what I'm talking about because these will also be read by folks who also search out distant radio stations (Many who probably know about DXing than I do). As I stated in my first post, I’m a casual DXer at best and it’s my amateur enthusiasm for the avocation that I hope to pass on to readers here, more than any claim of expertise or knowledge. And in writing about a little known and possibly dying craft, I’d hope that a few readers might expand their radio diet, and that others might renew their interest in fooling around this way.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 7" »

January 23, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 6

Milky_way If you think you’ve got a decent AM or shortwave portable, but you’re not receiving much beyond local stations and static at night, there’s one easy way to give it a chance to perform. Take it outside. Most houses are full of RF (radio noise) generating devices and signal blocking material. Big buildings are often worse.

Of course, what’s better is to get away from all the buildings and electrical devices altogether. That’s why I like to DX on summer camping trips, and that’s where the dial scan I’m featuring on this post was recorded. I was in northern Michigan at a state park located on small peninsula extending out into Lake Michigan. Call me a fool, but give me a nice campsite, a few radios, a picnic table, and a few beers on ice and I’m gonna have a good time. That evening the nearby roaring fire was a bonus, as well as the black sky full of stars overhead. The sliver of a moon didn't rise in the sky until several hours after sunset and the Milky Way was a magnificent white smudge across the sky. I haven’t seen it that distinctly since that night.

Campfire I was listening to my Optimus 12-603A, also known as a "Tuned RF AM-FM Extended Range Receiver." What it really is a Radio Shack ripoff of the excellent GE SuperRadio. It’s a good receiver, not quite as super as the original GE model, which can be found easily online for around forty bucks. Both have great sound and reception, but only AM & FM. No shortwave bands.

I also had an external Radio Shack's loop antenna (15-1853) hooked up to the radio as well. Like usual, this was a Radio Shack ripoff of another (probably better) product, but it’s a powerful device for thirty bucks. Requires no batteries. You adjust its knob to the frequency you’re tuning in, and then you rotate the antenna to get the best copy of the signal. In a good DX situation like I had that night, it’s quite possible to find two or possibly three separate readable stations at one frequency by just rotating the antenna. And remember, if you're going to try this yourself the AM antenna is a typically ferrite bar INSIDE the radio (usually mounted lengthwise across the top), so you need to turn the radio itself to improve the reception, not the extended aerial which is for FM and shortwave.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 6" »

January 21, 2006

CNN Hires Right-Wing Radio Bozo Glenn Beck

Nice_sweater_glenn The other day in the fifth installment of my “Adventures In Amplitude Modulation” series I included a clip of “The Glenn Beck Program” and briefly discussed my general dislike of Beck’s radio persona and my aversion to his show. Apparently, some of the bigwigs over at CNN found Beck's glib schtick a little more charming than I did.  He just signed a contract with the cable news network and will soon have a show of his own on their “Headline News” channel.

While I don’t really watch television, it saddens me that Beck’s sleazy radio work has advanced his presence in the media. Under fire from the Fox News ratings juggernaut, CNN (from what I’ve read) has made a number of compromises to their programming to make their content more glossy and Republican friendly. But this might be new low.

Along with right-wing talk stars Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Beck’s program is syndicated by Clear Channel’s “Premier Radio Network.” Now based in Philadelphia, Beck is widely heard (on about 200 stations) in the U.S. Nationally, he made his biggest splash as the ringleader and keynote speaker for Clear Channel’s pro-warRally For America” gatherings around the country in 2003.

While Beck political spiel falls in line with the armies of right-wing talk hosts who infest the American AM dial, he’s best known in talk radio circles for routinely making outrageous and psychopathic offhand remarks and discussing world issues in a rather cheeky jingoistic manner. A reformed alcoholic, Beck is reminiscent of a barstool loudmouth with a mean streak. However, instead of just being a tavern nuisance, Glenn Beck is broadcasting to a national audience. And now, the once respected cable news giant CNN has seen fit to add Beck’s flip sophomoric hyperbole to their prime time line-up.

Continue reading "CNN Hires Right-Wing Radio Bozo Glenn Beck" »

January 16, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 5

Rf2200_guts_1 This post features a few highlights from a few listening sessions from the second weekend in October of last year. I was holed up in an efficiency cottage south of Albany, and it was the last time I really had a few days to scan the bands. As I said before, when I get out of the city is when I try to listen to radio in a more meaningful fashion. For one, there’s more time without the interruptions and diversions of being home. But more importantly there’s less radio noise in lower population density areas which makes picking up distant stations more likely.

I’ve made a couple trips upstate since October, but each time I’ve stayed at a chain motel that seems to be impervious to radio waves. I assume under the concrete the damn thing was a steel building. I have actually featured radio I heard on those trips in this blog series, but if you must know the truth I recorded those listening sessions in a car sitting in the motel parking lot.

I know, I AM a geek. I kept envisioning a cop rolling up and wondering what I’m doing with a slightly exotic radio and a tape recorder out in a parking lot on a winter night. Probably receiving instructions from Al Qaeda...

Anyway, I didn’t really tune into anything especially amazing or unprecedented on that trip. Listening/recording sessions in years past have been more fruitful (and I hope to go through some of those tapes for future posts). But that weekend the noise level wasn't so bad, and the dial was full of voices. And I heard some interesting and disgusting radio, a little bit of which I will share with you here.

Soundtronic On part three of this series, a reader left a comment that he had been given a shortwave for Christmas, and was “kind of disappointed,” remarking that even late at night most of what he was able to pick up was “Christian stuff or Spanish language stations.” And that kind of thing can be a real problem for somebody who is curious about shortwave radio and tries listening to it for the first time.

For one thing, a majority of what you’ll hear moving across the dial (besides static from gadgets and wiring) is either not in English, or is some Christian garbage you wish was in an unfamiliar language. That’s because shortwave in America is mostly Christian propaganda, AND most of the rest of the world uses shortwave for information and entertainment, and most of the world's listeners aren’t native English speakers.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 5" »

January 09, 2006

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 4

Radio_post_1 Indulging in television or FM radio may be recreational behavior, but it isn’t a hobby like listening to distant stations on medium and short wave. The main reason is that DXing and broadcast band listening takes a little work-- as well as some curiosity and patience not necessary when tuning into clear, predictable and popular local VHF signals.

And it’s kind of a sport. Like fishing. The propagation of radio waves changes from month to month and day to day, and besides the local stations that are always there it’s always a bit of a mystery what you’ll find on the dial on any given evening. But perhaps the biggest draw for many of us who scan the AM & SW dial by night is the allure of novel and exotic broadcasting.

While I admit that hearing news and commentary from Atlanta, Havana or Moscow on the radio is still a little exciting to me (even in this era where you can almost do the same thing via internet streaming), it’s the fringe broadcasting, especially on shortwave, that I continue to find compelling and often humorous. And this is where the epidemic of Christian broadcasting on shortwave in the U.S. can actually get interesting for a minute.

Bcl2000 Most of audio samples I’m offering in this post are programs broadcast on the monster U.S. Christian shortwave stations. The big ones that come to mind– World Harvest Radio, Family Radio and WWCR (World-Wide Christian Radio) are really more networks than stations, with multiple frequencies broadcasting simultaneously and covering the entire country and much of the world with Christian propaganda, as well as a few shows focusing on listener fan letters and the DXing hobby, AND a startling number of programs that specialize in fear, suspicion and raw paranoia.

While shortwave doesn’t appeal to very many Americans, there’s a significant portion of the existing audience that does exist who are isolated and disenfranchised out in the heartland. And they are afraid of a lot of things most of us don’t spend a lot of time worrying about-- like the U.N., Freemasons, homosexuals and space aliens. Much of this consternation is lumped together in overwhelming concern over the coming "New World Order."  I've never been quite sure of what that the heck that is, but from what I've heard it's going to be a lot less pleasant than the old world chaos we've enjoyed over all of these years.

Continue reading "Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 4" »

January 02, 2006

New War's Eve

Shock_and_awe The beginning of each new year often invokes feelings of anticipation in a human being, and occasionally warrants one to brace for changes to come. Remember six years ago when the Gregorian odometer lined up three big zeros in a row? Many of us in the city bought up canned goods and bottled water in fear of that dreaded Y2K bug. But thankfully the Giuliani administration welded up all the manhole covers in Midtown and everything turned out all right. Kinda like how the invasion of Iraq has prevented any further terrorist attacks here in New York. I guess it’s similar to burying pennies in the garden to get rid of warts. You don’t know exactly how it works, but somehow it does.

But seriously, as the dead pile up in Iraq and you might scratch your head here in 2006 wondering how we somehow attacked and occupied a defenseless country. And in less than three years our country has been responsible for the death, wounding and maiming of thousands of people AND has fired up a civil war over there with no end in sight-- ALL based on false intelligence. It might be interesting to look at a different kind of eve– The EVE of the Iraq war as heard on right wing talk radio.

Conflict Almost three years ago on St. Patrick’s Day 2003, there was a different kind of celebration going in America. Instead of a yearning to gulp some bubbly and kiss somebody, a lot of Americans were all pumped up to kiss a regime goodbye. And they were thirsty for blood. Iraqi blood.

The Bush Administration convinced enough of us that Saddam Hussein had huge stockpiles of “weapons of mass destruction,” possibly nukes, and the time had come to go to war against him to save ourselves. There was an epidemic of war fever in the U.S. of A. By March 17, 2003 thousands of American and British troops were ready at the Iraq Border, and Bush was about to give a speech that evening that everybody knew was going to be a “final warning” for the Iraqi government. Thankfully, the evil French weren’t going to get in our way this time.

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December 27, 2005

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 3

Rf2200_2Very few Americans listen to shortwave radio these days. Except for a brief popularity of including shortwave bands on late 70's and early 80's boomboxes, almost no general purpose radios sold in America receive shortwave. If you’re interested in hearing shortwave radio you need to go out and purchase a special receiver just for that purpose. However, before the rise of the FM band in the 1960's, shortwave was a standard feature on many everyday radios in the U.S. Around the world shortwave radio remains a viable and important part of the media landscape. In some African countries almost every home has a shortwave receiver of some kind. And in many European and Asian countries well over half of the homes have a radio with shortwave band coverage.

Before satellite communications and the internet, the only way regular folks could hear broadcasts from around the world was shortwave radio. While AM (or medium wave) broadcasts reach a radius of hundreds of miles at night by bouncing of the ionosphere, with shortwave the effect is greatly increased and signals may travel thousands of miles, and even around the world. It's not all that difficult to pick up international broadcasts from Australia and New Zealand here in the U.S.

Unfortunately, most of the shortwave stations now operating in the United States are Christian propaganda outlets (although some do feature some non-religious broadcasting on their schedules). However internationally, shortwave remains an important source for news, information and Sackville_towers_1 cultural features. Many countries (including the U.S.) have state run international radio networks that broadcast in many languages. And although there are fewer than there used to be, many are still operating powerful transmitters that can be heard broadcasting English language programs that reach North America..

While in future posts in this series I may talk about some of the more obscure and annoying broadcasts out there (as well as a possible disscussion or two about the receivers themselves), this post will just include the audio from a few stations I picked up Christmas night twisting the knob on my Sony ICF-7600A up in the Hudson Valley. I wouldn’t call any of this DXing. Except for The Voice of Russia, all the radio I've archived here originated from the North American region. For example, the Chinese and Japanese programs captured here were broadcast from relay transmitters located in Sackville, New Brunswick.

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December 19, 2005

God, Blob & Forgiveness

Neil_1 Last week a minor miracle occurred on Miami radio– Two prickly old talk hosts were nice, to EACH OTHER. For Florida listeners who remember the on-air feud between Bob Lassiter and Neil Rogers a dozen years ago (an WSUN and WIOD), it was an unprecedented radio moment. Two of the greatest talents in talk radio who are not known for grace or forgiveness exhibited large helpings of both qualities to each other live on the radio. While much was made of Letterman and Oprah patching things up a couple weeks ago, THIS was the real thing. There was nothing superficial about it.

I lived in Florida back then, and listened for weeks on end as Rogers and Lassiter fired daily salvos at each other during their respective programs. Rogers’ show from WIOD in Miami was syndicated on WSUN in St. Petersburg at the time, and If you were listening in the Tampa area Lassiter would follow Rogers at two in the afternoon. As it dragged on, most days were filled with cruel jokes, accusations and ad-hominem attacks. Neil would kick it off in the morning, and Bob would follow up for hours. It was both compelling and kinda pathetic.

Young_bob_1 And what exactly was all this hostility about? Good question. From what Lassiter says, it started each host with serving up their own brand of indignant talk radio schtick to each other and somewhere along the line it turned into an ugly and real radio slap fight. As a listener, I really don’t remember the specific points of contention (and I haven’t heard any recordings from that time to help me remember). Of course it was a while ago, but what I do recall is two talented radio misanthropes going at each other with very little mercy. The argument at hand really became beside the point. It obviously wasn’t a joke.

But last Thursday, for over ten minutes, Bob Lassiter was back on the radio for the first time in six years. However, it wasn’t quite the same hearing Lassiter’s big voice on a little bleary phone line. But considering his health and the awkwardness of the moment, Lassiter sounded as warm and strong as I could imagine. And Rogers’ unstoppable string of insults were particularly good natured.

Neil_billboard_1_3 Here’s an MP3 of their short conversation. Besides being kind of touching, the call features Lassiter and Rogers discuassing the glory days of Lassiter’s meteoric career. And for completists, here are MP3's of part one and two of the entire Neil Rogers show from that day. Bob is the topic of conversation for almost half the show.

A side note– although Neil’s show is broadcast on WQAM in Miami, when he mentions a foot of snow outside it’s not the coming ice age. He’s doing his show from his home in Toronto. He stays away from Florida as much as possible, and beams his show in from Canada or Amsterdam. When you can do that, you know you’ve hit the big time in talk radio.

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December 12, 2005

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 2

Holiday_icf7600a_2It was heartening and reassuring to get so many favorable comments (and emails) after my last post (which was part one of this series and can be found here). The topic at hand is the avocation of DXing-- taking advantage of the extended range of AM & shortwave broadcasts at night and listening to discover what can be heard over the radio  from your location. For better or worse, it's one of those habits most people dabble in when they're alone at night. And most of us who participate in this habit have close friends and/or partners who would probably be bored to tears or just openly annoyed if subjected to the challenging listen of trying to read a far off radio signal.

Once in my room I was sitting with a friend having a beer and just for the hell of it I switched on my old Trans-Oceanic and quickly zoomed into a faint English broadcast from Albania. For some reason I thought he would be half as curious about the discovery as I was, and for a couple of minutes I was hanging on to every word trying to hear the news from the Balkans over the noise floor in my apartment. Then I saw the pain in his face, and shut it down and put the music back on. He thanked me.

Albanian_qsl_card While there’s no shame in it, scanning the AM and shortwave dial for sport and recreation is an acquired taste. You have to be willing to put up lots of static, whistles, buzzes and some really stupid and boring radio. But it’s an offbeat way to sample some free (and sometimes fringe) media from around the country and around the world. And when you power up that receiver you never really know exactly who, what or WHERE you’re going to hear.

Winter is better in general for DXing the broadcast bands, and lately I’ve been getting better than usual reception. Since I recorded this scan of the NY upstate AM dial in late November, I’ve gotten strong readable broadcasts in New York City from several stations that eluded me that evening. But the reality is that every night is different That’s part of what makes it interesting.

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December 05, 2005

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation - Part 1

This is the first post in a series inspired by my personal radio listening habits. However, you can relax. I won’t be offering up a “connoisseur’s” list of my favorite radio stations or bragging about my personal taste in music. At least, not exactly. Often I listen to radio as an explorer of sorts. and occasionally I record some of these aural ventures. In this post (and others that may follow) I’ll offer a taste of where I go and what I hear on these radio hikes, such as they are.

Sony_icf7600a_2 Other than the Internet and my occasional purchases of the New York Times, my main source of information & entertainment comes from radio. However, what makes my media intake more esoteric than most is that I exclusively listen to AM radio and shortwave broadcasts. I don’t watch television and almost never listen to the FM band. Generally, the TV content I do take in, I now gather from the Internet. And to be honest, I occasionally do hear WFMU in the car, but at home I pick up WFMU on the computer. With 128K MP3 stereo streaming, it’s far better than the reception I muster with my radios here in north Brooklyn.

I suppose if I didn’t have all these albums, CD’s and cassettes laying around I might listen to FM more often, or even subscribe to (god forbid) satellite radio. For now, when I want music I listen to my own. When I turn on a radio I want something else. I want novelty, mystery, and most importantly something human. Every commercial music station on FM feels like it’s programmed by a committee of consultants. And even NPR sounds safe and tested these days. On AM and shortwave you're more likely to hear ad libs, idiosyncrasies, mistakes and raw conspiracy & rumor that isn’t always processed for pure potential profit. Oh sure, there ARE agendas and ulterior motives everywhere, probably just like where you work. Bottom line, most of U.S. FM radio is all about mindless listening and shameless profiteering, (Oh, and there's usually a few interesting non-profit stations at the end of the dial.) But AM and shortwave is about power, language, and cultural & ethnic identity. The “word,” whatever that’s worth these days still holds power on the traditional static-ridden bands that carry signals far distances. I like that.

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November 28, 2005

Long Live Lassiter

Lassiter1 While it wouldn’t be accurate to call Bob Lassiter the best talk radio host of all time, it would be fair to say that he’s probably the least famous great one. In the metro areas where he took calls on the radio (Miami, Tampa and Chicago) he’s still loved and loathed by those who remember his work, but everywhere else he’s mostly known by those who collect and trade tapes of arcane and unusual radio. That is, except for some lucky WFMU listeners who have heard us rebroadcast some of Bob’s radio shenanigans (and yes, there are archives).

So, why am I writing about a local Florida talk host who hasn’t been on the air for six years? And what would make recordings of a talk show collectable in the first place? And more significantly, why in the world would we play portions of his show on WFMU? Simple. When Lassiter was good, he was REALLY good. He could make your jaw drop, make you curse the radio, or maybe just pee your pants.

Unlike other talk hosts who hope to change the world (assert an agenda) or want to be liked, Lassiter's was always driven to simply grab and hold the listener's attention. And he would do whatever he could get away with (or whatever amused HIM at the time) to shock or awe listeners into becoming addicted to his program.

A key element to what made Lassiter’s radio work mind-blowing was how he consistently generated confrontational calls and turned them into compelling radio theater.  Every other talk host I’ve ever heard usually gets off on like-minded callers, but not Bob. In fact, he was often quite impatient with callers who agreed with him. As a master contrarian, phone-in fans and callers on his side merely bored him. They were just getting in the way of the pissed off listeners who were steaming on hold, waiting for their chance to take on “The Mad Dog.”

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November 21, 2005

Air America's Next Big Mistake (part 2)

Rachel_sorts_papers

(Read pt. 1 of this post here)

     "Has anyone ever heard of Rachel Maddow?"
                                               - Rush Limbaugh

Yeah Rush, we sure have. And by now, so have of you.

That little quote has been an oft-played sound bite at the beginning of The The Rachel Maddow show since it debuted on Air America last April. And the fact "El Rushbo" hadn't discovered Ms. Maddow last spring can probably be based on two things-- For one, Limbaugh most likely knew nothing about Air America, beyond that fact that TV stars Al Franken and Janine Garofalo were a part of it. And the other reason Maddow was probably off the Limbaugh radar back then was his comment came at the dawn of Maddow's new sub-career as a liberal TV pundit. And it isn't hard to imagine that most of Limbaugh's media intake (beyond the likely emailed orders from Rove staffers and the heralded "stack of stuff" his staff prepares) would come only from television.

For most people, Maddow's program airs when they're unconscious. On the radio from five to six in the morning from the Air America studios in New York, The Rachel Maddow Show is a hot coffee jolt of headlines, breaking stories, and some news almost no one else is talking about. And twice each program, you get 2 off the wall satirical newscasts from Kent Jones. The hour goes by fast, and by the end you feel a little smarter. She's like that.

Rachel_show_bannerRachel Maddow is a unique and powerful new media entity, and a young honest voice in the age of Bush II who offers challenging facts instead of raw malice against all the madness the administration propagates.  Maddow is a Rhodes Scholar and a proud "out" lesbian who comes across on the radio as warm, sincere and a little fierce. Her approach to radio has a paced athletic quality that makes her a bit of a current events trainer on the radio. I imagine it's the perfect show to accompany a gym regimen. Maddow never goes over the top, but the pace is rapid, and to the point with context. She maintains good humor and spirit in the face of bad news and strange times. Combined with the sharp humor of Kent Jones, her program is an informative and practical way to deal with the onslaught of nauseating news, and to keep up with the bad guys.

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November 01, 2005

Air America's Next Big Mistake?

Maron_emotes_1It looks like Air America is about to lose one of their best on-air personalities, Marc Maron. There's been no official announcement, but on his show, Morning Sedition, Maron has repeatedly said he's probably on his way out. And yesterday he said it's unlikely he'll be part of the Morning Sedition air team (with radio veteran Mark Riley) after this month. And they're promoting their live remote at O'Neal's in the Upper West Side this Thursday as their "last live appearance."

Why would Maron leave? Or why would Air America let go of the funniest guy on their talent roster? Best guess-- deadlocked contract negotiations.

Maron_rileyWhen Air America went on the air over a year and a half ago, a lot of us in radio were dismayed that a new talk network would go on the air with so many air personalities and writers who made their mark in television instead of radio. Not that media cross-pollination in general is such a bad idea, but just that when a start-up radio network was trying to do something SO new (a national liberal talk network) AND they were also attempting to reinvent the medium at the same time by leaning so heavily on TV talent instead of loading up the schedule with radio veterans.

The big exceptions were South Florida's leftist talk bulldog Randi Rhodes who's held down the late afternoon slot since the beginning, and then a few months later acerbic career talker Mike Malloy who was tacked onto the late night end of the schedule. Those programs were the only ones done in the traditional talk radio manner--  one host on the air brings up issues, vents, and takes calls. All the other shows were more experimental-- with multiple hosts, many guests, and only a few (if any) calls. And all these programs featured one or more hosts best known for their work in TV or film.

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October 27, 2005

The Intimate Audio Gadget

Red1Really portable music is a wonderful thing. It's both empowering and comforting to have a shiny music machine in your pocket that plays a variety of your favorite tunes at the whim of your finger on a little wheel. It's futuristic technology that has made listening an intimate experience... for over FIFTY years.

Back in the early 50's a company called Texas Instruments was making good money churning out piles of newfangled little transistors for military applications, but they envisioned a wider public marketplace for the little buggers. And in 1954 the TI engineers created a prototype transistor radio. It was small, it worked, and it seemed like a great idea. However, Texas Instruments wasn't in the business of manufacturing consumer products back then, so they shopped their concept around to several big radio makers of the day. Surprisingly, RCA, Sylvania, and Philco all said "no thanks" before a small outfit in Indiana (the Regency Division of Industrial Development Engineering Associates) took the bait.

Blue_tr1_3Within a matter of months the first commercial transistor radio was a reality. Besides being cute and colorful, the TR-1 was the very first mass-marketed transistorized gadget. It was made here in the U.S.A., and in that spirit the it was prominently on display in stores across America just in time for Christmas 1954. The price? A whopping $49.95. Adjust the cost for inflation and you're lookin at almost $350 in today's dollars, not far from the $399 price tag on that first iPod.

Meck_tube_portable_4Before the TR-1, any portable radio you might buy had a "luggage" quality, with big top handles and a bit of heft. They just weren't all that portable thanks to the warm glowing vacuum tubes they contained. These days, audiophiles and technical stick-in-the-muds properly laud the aural beauty of the "tube" sound, but the glass casings and inner workings of vacuum tubes are rather fragile and they need a protective case, as well as some large batteries to power up. And of course, the tubes themselves aren't all that tiny either.

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July 25, 2005

A Week Imagined

Mike_6If you're old enough to recall seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan (as I do), or If you remember when it was widely accepted that marijuana would soon become a nationally decriminalized (and ultimately legalized) substance, YOU know– the world HAS changed.

But no matter what age you are, you can turn the clock back a few paradigms and get a taste of that more daring and open era by watching a few episodes of the Mike Douglas Show-- Specifically by taking a look at a week of programs from 1972 when Douglas invited John Lennon and Yoko Ono to co-host his afternoon TV show.

Mike Douglas, former big band vocalist and all around affable guy, was no hipster. And his weekday program (syndicated nationally from 1965 to 1984) was produced by future right-wing media guru and now the head of Fox News, Roger Ailes. However, the world was a much different place 33 and a third years ago, and letting a former member of the fab four and his avant-garde wife take over your popular TV show must have seemed like a pretty good idea at the time. And the fact that Rhino has released the entire week as a box set of videos pretty much proves that the entertainment value of the unlikely match up of Mr. Douglas and the arty celebrity couple has actually appreciated over the years.

LennoncarlinThrough the week of shows, Lennon and Ono chain smoked their way through conversations with Ralph Nader, Black Panther Bobby Seale, George Carlin, Yippie Jerry Rubin and many others. Although he never pursued it seriously, Lennon had a natural talent for broadcasting (listen to him on the radio in 1974 here), and he has a blast playing talk host and bringing some pretty radical politics and ideas to a nationwide audience.

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June 29, 2005

Another Lionel Double-Shift

Lionel1_1If you live within the radio reception realm of New York City, you might wanna check out Lionel today. (Or you can stream here.) He’s filling in for crusty old talk radio legend Bob Grant again on WOR (710 AM) from 4 to 6 this afternoon (broadcasting now as I write this post), and also doing his regular show which starts at 11 p.m.

It’s kind of a throwback to Lionel’s glory days when he took Bob Grant’s slot on WABC in the mid 90's. While it probably won’t be as wild and wooly as all that, it’s always entertaining to hear Grant’s rabid right wing callers interact with Lionel’s mischief. Today he’s taking apart the Bush speech from last night. Bob Grant must be rolling in his... Oh, I’m sorry. Bob’s still alive.

If you’re unfamiliar with Lionel, he’s a unique and slightly twisted talk host who I talked about at length in a post last month, which you can read here.

I was listening to Lionel’s show the other night and I almost thought I was back in Florida listening to Lassiter again. For a taste, here’s an mp3 of 2 calls from that show– a clueless Christian, and a drunk and excited Lionel fan.

I wish Bob Lassiter would fill in for Bob Grant every once in a while.

June 17, 2005

The 911 Operators

Wtc_2Almost everyone agrees, September 11, 2001 was a really lousy day in America. Thousands died horrible and violent public deaths– in airplanes, in burning and collapsing buildings, and by jumping out skyscraper windows. All of us around New York City who watched two of the tallest buildings in the world burn and fall will never forget seeing something macabre and previously unimaginable take place that morning.

It was easy to take it personal around here-- Photocopy posters everywhere bearing the photos of the missing, people spontaneously sobbing on the street on in the subway, and the sick smoldering stench that lingered around here for months. It wasn’t until weeks later that I realized that people all over the country were probably just as affected by the replaying of slickly edited movie-trailer style videos of the day's disasters on television. (You can download and watch a couple mpg versions here and here)

While the smoking hole downtown is gone and most of the mess was cleaned up years ago, the memory remains ugly, distinct, and powerful. And what’s worse, despite Bush’s promise to “smoke” out the “evildoers” responsible for all the American death that day, nobody has been caught or tried for those ghastly crimes. Sure, we were immedietly told the attacks were the work of a vast network known as “Al-Qaeda” led by a guy named Osama Bin Laden. but the billions spent there hasn’t been any fresh leads on capturing these alleged terrorist masterminds since our forces inexplicably let Bin Laden escape from Tora Bora over three years ago.

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June 03, 2005

For Fun And Prophet

ProphetForget the news. Aren’t you sick of all the reports of U.S. torture of foreign nationals, and how our country has been caught red-handed launching an illegitimate war? And who hasn’t had enough of the all the news cycle sucking sideshows– the runaway bride, the Motown Pedophile and the recent revelation of the real “Deep Throat”? It’s all so depressing and messy.

If you’re as distraught about what's going on in the world today as I am, then I may have some good news for you. The saucers may finally be on the way.

That’s right. All the painful political bickering and mind-numbing non-news may soon be reduced to forgotten trivia. The mother of all current events may be on the horizon– first contact.

A man who goes by the name of “The Prophet Yahweh” (a.k.a. “The UFO Summoner,” or just “Ramon Watkins”) claims that over the next few weeks he’s going to call down a bunch of spaceships over Las Vegas, and America, for the news media to film and fawn over. And while it all sounds kinda fantastic, the prophet did offer a taste of his powers to an ABC affiliate in Vegas the other day. And well, whatever happened it’s a pretty wild bit of news video. Download the windows video file here. And to really find out what this holy guy is up to, you can read his press release right here.

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May 24, 2005

Wall Of Hair

Phil_1After over two years of running around on bail, legendary rock producer Phil Spector is finally on trial for the murder of B-Movie babe, Lana Carlson. When D. Boon of the Minutemen sang about a “Little Man With A Gun In His Hand” he could have been talking about Spector. Skinny and 5-foot-7, Spector was known to pack heat everywhere he went. Legend has it he fired a gun in the studio when he was working with John Lennon in the 70's, and according to Dee Dee Ramone, Spector held him hostage for at gunpoint for two days during the production of “End of the Century.” Obviously a little nuts, Spector has admitted in recent years that he’s been taking medication for schizophrenia.

Well, on Monday a judge ruled that prosecutors in his murder trial can present evidence of four separate incidents where Spector allegedly waved or pointed a loaded weapon at women he’d been dating. Nice, eh? Not only that, but the judge decided against allowing the presentation of evidence involving six more women who also may have found themselves on the business end of Phil’s affection.

As you can see, he’s a scary guy. When police raided his home in February of 2003 they took away nine guns and plenty of ammo. Perhaps they should get another warrant, and make a return trip for the blowdryer-- before somebody gets hurt.

May 19, 2005

Testicles + Truth = Hope

Galloway_1On Tuesday, British MP George Galloway came before the U.S. Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations to deny his alleged involvement in the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal. Instead of meekly defending his honor to the big bad senators, in his opening statement Galloway delivered perhaps the most powerful, eloquent and concise condemnation of the Iraq War that any group of war lovin’ American politicians has ever had to sit through. (Excluding the floor speeches of Robert Byrd, who may be eloquent and powerful but is rarely concise)

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May 17, 2005

Wartime Lionel

LionelLionel is funny. And in talk radio these days, funny is hard to come by.

Sure, if you get your jollies hearing jokes about environmentalists, the poor, and the disenfranchised you probably can’t stop slapping your knee during the Rush Limbaugh program. But in general there’s not a lot of wit on talk radio lately. For the most part, the talk radio format has become a humorless void of political grandstanding and smearcasting. Blame the right wing morons for turning an entertainment medium into a barren kiosk of propaganda.

Lionel’s show originates from WOR-AM here in New York City, but it’s syndicated nationwide. In fact, the radio mega-corporation Clear Channel has been gradually creating new “progressive talk” stations, which feature Air America programming, and Lionel’s show is often tucked into the schedule. Which is strange in a way, because Lionel isn’t really a political talk show host at all.

He makes it clear on his show, he is NOT a liberal. However, he is most certainly a lawyer and an eccentric raconteur with a wacky vocabulary and an acid wit. On the side, he takes on a few stand-up comedy gigs too.

I’ve listened to Lionel for a long time, and traditionally he focuses his quirky intellectual laser beam on legal issues in the news, as well as sex and “news of the weird" kind of stuff. Actually, almost any topic is fair game. If it’s strange, titillating, or pisses him off, he’ll talk about it. But lately, Lionel is a little less lighthearted than he used to be. The war in Iraq and the war-promoting lockstep rightward march of talk radio has REALLY pissed him off. Yet, it seems to have made his show a little better. He may have the perfect temperament for relaying really bad news and trying to make sense of it.

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May 12, 2005

Better Skies Through Chemistry

Chem_01_2Clouds are so damn inspirational, all those rows and floes of angel hair way up yonder. Always something to look at. In fact, in recent years I’ve found the the sight of a stark blue cloudless sky to be a bit disconcerting. Maybe it’s the memory of the morning of September 11th, 2001 around here. Not a cloud in the sky. Just one big plume of smoke. 

Not to worry. Looking up, I’ve been observing many a threatening clear sky has been fluffed up by some thoughtful planes. Have you ever noticed too? Sometimes a deep blue morning sky turns into a criss-crossed haze by mid-afternoon, all thanks to some kind of airplane “exhaust.”

The picture here, as well as these shots here and here, were all taken late aftrnoon in Brooklyn last Sunday. And here’s one of the planes in action that day, lacing the sky with some feathery manmade garlands.

Sure it’s pretty, but what’s really going on here? Art? Darned if I know.

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