The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'radio'
There is, indeed, nothing new under the sun. 74 years ago, people in America were besieged by unsolicited advertisements for dodgy medical products, financial scams, gambling, drugs and "dubious pleasure activities". Only rather than cluttering up their nonexistent email inboxes, this spam took the form of powerful radio broadcasts from transmitters in Mexico and/or aboard ships, jamming the signals of existing radio stations.
Apparently the Mafia used a radio station in Naples to send instructions to hitmen encoded in song requests.
According to former RRR announcer Cousin Creep (since working on US radio), the latest thing in radio formats in the US is a format called "Jack". The Jack format appears to consist of the equivalent of an iPod full of songs from various incompatible genres put on shuffle, with prerecorded "short patronizing voice overs with lame postmodern attitude" between the tracks (whatever that means); apparently it appeals to the ever-shortening attention spans of the public or somesuch, and also means that stations don't have to employ DJs.
Could the radio format which only plays "the best 30 seconds" of each song be far off?
The Belle & Sebastian live-to-air on PBS this evening was good; they played two songs from Dear Catastrophe Waitress (Step Into My Office, Baby and I'm a Cuckoo), one old one (Like Dylan in the Movies) and did an AC/DC cover, in the name of strengthening Australian-Scottish musical ties (which worked reasonably well; it wasn't quite as balls-to-the-wall as AC/DC, of course, but it was true to the spirit (or so I imagine, not having heard the original), rather than being an ironic twee/fey reimagining of it). In between two songs, one member threw something to another, and they joked that the fey, twee image they had been saddled with came from their lack of throwing skills.
I managed to record a MP3 of most of it (well, from some way into the first song to 45 minutes after it finished; I did the recording unattended). Now to find a MP3 trimmer (one that doesn't decode/reencode) and cut the rest of it off.
Instructions on turning an iPod and a radio transmitter into a pirate radio station. Not quite a latter-day Radio Caroline, but enough to pull various pranks, such as jamming obnoxious motorists' boom cars (hang on, don't most of those bring their own music; after all, if it's about showing what a mackdaddy you are, you want the beats you blast from your ride to be the absolute illest, and not necessarily what FOX-FM is currently playing) and transmitting bogus news reports over CNN at your local gym. It doesn't mention that, in this climate, doing any of those things could probably get you charged with terrorism, or at least ten kinds of crap pounded out of you by the gorilla whose boom box has suddenly started playing birdsong or Icelandic glitch-pop or the Village People or whatever. Not to mention that, in some jurisdictions (such as the UK, where an undeclared war between spectrum cops and yardie garage radio stations has been raging for years), unlicensed FM transmitters are actually illegal to obtain, regardless of their power. (via bOING bOING)
The Quiet Zone is a rectangular area the size of Massachusetts and Connecticut combined (however large that is) surrouding a radio-astronomical observatory in West Virginia. In this area, by law, radio transmitters are restricted, providing with enough blessed electromagnetic peace and quiet for an ultra-sensitive receiver to detect faint signals from space. Except when an electric fence malfunctions or the area is invaded by radio-tagged squirrels or tourists with mobile phones:
The subjects of radio astronomy are astronomically large, but the signals they produce are astronomically weak by the time they reach Earth. These emissions are measured in Janskys, named for the father of radio astronomy, Karl Jansky. A Jansky is based on 0.00000000000000000000000001 watts - and that's a big signal at Green Bank. Even a musical greeting card playing at the base of the telescope could produce anomalous spikes in the data of an unlucky astronomer trying to study stellar gases. If the interference is strong enough, the telescope's ultrasensitive first amplifier - cooled by liquid helium to minimize internal noise - shuts down.
Although just about any electronic or electromechanical device can blind Green Bank's telescope, the biggest culprit in the first category is the observatory itself. After all, it's a high tech operation crammed with sophisticated electronics and PCs. Green Bank director Jewell believes that some of the steps taken to mitigate interference at the facility may someday be adopted in the wider world, such as innovative circuit board designs and extensive shielding. The cafeteria's microwave oven is kept in a shielded cage. Large chambers designed to absorb radio waves - including a 5,000-square-foot conference room - have been built to make sure that, as Sizemore tells it, "radiation generated in the building stays in the building." Outside, spark plugs are notorious radio-frequency emitters, so Green Bank maintains a fleet of diesel-powered, electronics-free '69 Checker cabs and '70s Dodge trucks.
Needless to say, keeping the Quiet Zone quiet is getting progressively harder.
The radio in the office next door is tuned to a commercial radio station. Despite my well-stocked Archos Jukebox and set of PC speakers, I cannot escape this. Part of this is bad music, middle-aged rockers howling out bland MOR ballads, like some meaningless ritualisation of what was once a mating call. But most of it is ads. Annoying, intelligence-insulting, in-your-face ads. They tend to fall into three categories:
- The dialogue between two characters, acting out a drama. One character has some problem, and the other knows the solution, which involves the advertiser's product. The main character development involves the other character becoming enlightened as to the beneficial properties of the product, and the advantages of buying from the advertiser. The voices are invariably exaggerated, with all the realism of a Punch and Judy show, but realism isn't the goal here.
- A bloke shouting out a monologue about the product, hitting you, the listener, with reasons why you should "CALL NOW". You can tell he's excited about the product by the way he raises his voice.
- The female equivalent of b): some saccharine-voiced woman, speaking through a smile as wide as her face and as natural as phenylalanine. "Call us now, on oneeighthundred eighthundred onetwothree", she coos, breathily, as if to seduce your credit card out of your wallet with her siren-song.
One thing one notices about commercial radio is the way all the advertisers (and the announcers) constantly speak with that "I'm Excited! Ask Me Why!" tone of voice; their voices are always raised, sometimes to the point of shouting, and each syllable sounds like the start of a new sentence.
Why anybody would willingly choose to subject themselves to this, I do not know. Though I have some theories; perhaps the constant sugar-rush of excitement in the advertisers' voices is contagious, acting as a subconscious stimulant, helping the average working stiff through their otherwise tedious and/or exhausting day with a plastic smile on their face, and keeping them from realising the all-pervading emptiness of their life and collapsing into black despair? It's just a theory.
As for me? I'll stick to 3RRR, thanks.