In my latest Guardian column, What Canada's national public broadcaster could learn from the BBC, I look at the punishing cuts to the CBC, and how a shelved (but visionary) BBC plan to field a "creative archive" of shareable and remixable content could help the network lead the country into a networked, participatory future.
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Houston Retro Radio has MP3s of newscasts, shows, and airchecks from Houston radio stations from the 1960s - 1980s. Radio was much more fun back then. They've also got some good photos from Galveston in the 1980s, like the one above.
Carl Malamud sez, "This 1966 military film on good style in sending Morse Code is a real hoot. 38k views on YouTube and another 3.6k on the Internet Archive. This video was made possible by a crowd-sourcing appeal on Boing Boing in 2009 (and in the case of this particular DVD, a donation by Mary Neff ... thanks Mary!)"
Wired visited the home studio of Radiolab's Jad Abumrad. It's a minimal set-up, and I dig his appreciation for vintage synths like the Moog Sonic Six and Roland Juno-60. "Sound Scientist: Inside the Home Studio of Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad"
BBC Radio 4 has kicked off a new season of the amazing science show The Infinite Monkey Cage, and the second episode of the series is a wonderful panel discussion on consciousness called Through the Doors of Perception. This episode is greatly enhanced by the presence of Alan Moore, creator of Watchmen, Lost Girls, From Hell, and many other standout comics. Moore's contributions on the relationship of art and magic to consciousness are the most interesting parts of the show -- though the whole thing is fascinating (Download the MP3).
Zack writes, "In 1947, Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, the Road Runner and other beloved cartoon characters had his own radio show spinning out of his appearances on Jack Benny's program, where he played a fix-it shop owner. More than 40 episodes are available to legally download for free on this page."
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Last year, Joshua Brady of Matoaca, Virgina convinced a man named Herson Torres to rob banks in the Washington, DC area. Brady said that he was a CIA agent and this was part of an undercover operation to audit bank security. Brady wasn't actually a CIA agent though. He just thought he was. And as George Costanza once said, "It's not a lie if you believe it." BB pal Jon Ronson tells Brady's story for This American Life. In this terrific piece, Jon delves into delusional disorder, a rare psychiatric condition usually characterized by delusions that are within the realm of possibility. It's like something from a Philip K. Dick novel where reality is in the eye and mind of the beholder, until it isn't.
"You Can't Handle The Truth" (This American Life)
Ronson learned about Brady's bizarre tale from Tom Schoenberg's excellent Businessweek article, "In Virginia's Fairfax County, Robbing Banks for the CIA"
At The Kernel, James Cook writes about UVB-76, a "numbers station" emanating from Russia at 4625 kHz, broadcasting weirdness so perfect as to invite disbelief. One recent thrill: "Command 135 initiated," uttered on January 24, 2013.
The modern popularity of UVB-76 can be traced to /x/, 4chan’s non-archiving message board devoted to discussion of paranormal activity and unexplained mysteries. Just as 4chan created memes like Pedobear and Rickrolling, the online image board served to bring UVB-76 before the eyes of a host of internet users. Online chatter about the signal increased in 2010, as bizarre broadcasts were issued on an almost monthly basis. Snippets of Swan Lake were played, a female voiced counted from one to nine, a question mark was transmitted in Morse code and strange telephone conversations were overheard by the receiver.
I hope that it's somehow a performance, an art-hoax that's gone on for decades. But evidence points to Russian intelligence, going about its business.
The Black Museum of Scotland Yard is a cabinet of crime curiosities. Founded c.1874, it contains evidence, contraband, and artifacts ostensibly displayed to help educate new law enforcement officers. The collection includes the above letter allegedly written by Jack the Ripper and sent "from hell", umbrellas outfitted with secret guns, and the pots (in a kitchen crime scene recreation) that serial killer Dennis Nilsen used to boil his victims. Unfortunately, the Black Museum is closed to the public but that may be changing. Meanwhile, please enjoy this 1952 radio series hosted by Orson Welles, featuring an item from the museum each episode and a dramatic retelling of the dark tale behind it. "The Black Museum" (Internet Archive)
In 1940, my grandmother graduated from the Central High School of Commerce in Toronto. As a condition of graduating, she had to write a book-length thesis project, and hers was called "RADIO," and was a history of radio to date, with emphasis on its applications to business. My grandmother pulled this out at a family gathering last year, and I passed it on to Bobby Glushko, who was working with Hathi Trust at the time on a book-scanning project (he's since landed a plum gig at the University of Toronto), and he arranged to have the book scanned and uploaded to the Internet Archive under a CC-BY-SA license. I think it's a fascinating read, especially considering my grandmother wrote it when she was 17 years old.
This week, This American Life revisits the question of patents (a subject they did a very good job with in 2011), a move sparked by the attempt to shake down podcasters for patent royalties for a ridiculously overbroad patent from a company that went bust recording magazine articles to cassette and putting them in the mail. The new episode revisits the main stories raised in the earlier broadcast (don't worry, it stands alone), and does a remarkable job of making the case for substantive patent reform -- and pierces the veil on Intellectual Ventures, Nathan Myrvold's notorious patent-troll-that-insists-it-isn't-a-troll.
NPR reporter Laura Sydell and This American Life producer/Planet Money co-host Alex Blumberg tell the story of Intellectual Ventures, which is accused of being the largest of the patent trolls. Executives at Intellectual Ventures insist they are not trolls, but rather, promoters of innovation. They buy patents from struggling inventors, which encourages those inventors to go out and invent more stuff. Intellectual Ventures offers an example of such an inventor, a man named Chris Crawford. But when Laura and Alex try and talk to Chris Crawford, it leads them on a long search, culminating in a small town in Texas, where they find a hallway full of seemingly empty offices with no employees.
I got to join in on a great conversation this morning on Minnesota Public Radio's "The Daily Circuit", all about the Higgs Boson and what it means for the future of physics.
This is a fascinating issue. Finding the Higgs Boson (if that is, indeed, what scientists have done) means that all the particles predicted by the Standard Model of physics have now been found. But that's not necessarily good news for physicists. For one thing, it would have been a lot more interesting to break the Standard Model than to uphold it. For another, we're now left with a model for the Universe that mostly works but still has some awkward holes — holes that it might be hard to get the funding to fill.
Daily Circuit host Kerry Miller, Harvard physics chair Melissa Franklin, and I spent 45 minutes talking about what is simultaneously a beautiful dream and a waking nightmare for the physics world. And I got to make a "Half Baked" reference in a conversation about particle physics, so you know it's a good time, too.
Listen to the whole conversation at Minnesota Public Radio's website.