I suppose no news was good news on April 18, 1930. At 6:30pm during the regularly scheduled news bulletin slot, the BBC News announcer turned on the mic and said:
"Good evening. Today is Good Friday. There is no news."
Piano music followed.
In my weekly segment on KCRW's “Press Play” news program with host Madeleine Brand, we listen to Elon Musk wax poetic about artificial intelligence and whether life might be a dream--and his plans to send humans to Mars by 2025.
Boing Boing pal Isabel Lara writes to give us a heads up about a new NPR series, “Changing Minds.” NPR launched the project this week and it looks at stories of people who’ve changed their positions in what has become a cultural moment of partisan polarization and extremism. The stories so far focus on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Who stuffed this microwave antenna to the bursting point with 300 pounds (about 35-50 gallons) of acorns?
On November 9, 1965, a massive blackout impacted more than 30 million people over 80,000 square miles in the Northeast United States and parts of Canada. This is a live recording of the weirdness that Dan Ingram, a DJ on NYC radio station 77 WABC, experienced as the voltage drop slowly wreaked havoc on the audio system. From Wikipedia:
An aircheck of New York City radio station WABC from November 9, 1965 reveals disc jockey Dan Ingram doing a segment of his afternoon drive time show, during which he notes that a record he's playing (Jonathan King's "Everyone's Gone to the Moon") sounds slow, as do the subsequent jingles played during a commercial break. Ingram quipped that the King record "was in the key of R." The station's music playback equipment used motors that got their speed timing from the frequency of the powerline, normally 60 Hz. Comparisons of segments of the hit songs played at the time of the broadcast, minutes before the blackout happened, in this aircheck, as compared to the same song recordings played at normal speed reveal that approximately six minutes before blackout the line frequency was 56 Hz, and just two minutes before the blackout that frequency dropped to 51 Hz. As Si Zentner's recording of "(Up a) Lazy River" plays in the background – again at a slower-than-normal tempo – Ingram mentions that the lights in the studio are dimming, then suggests that the electricity itself is slowing down, adding, "I didn't know that could happen".Read the rest
Michael writes, "The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Future Tense hosted a panel discussion on post-USA/NSA controlled Internet possibilities. The United States has signalled its willingness to give up its unofficial stewardship role of the Internet. Who should take over, and who will?" Read the rest
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. Read the rest
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" Read the rest
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." Read the rest
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" Read the rest
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. Read the rest
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) Read the rest