Archive for February, 2006

Talk Radio Redux

Monday, February 27th, 2006

The_lionel_1 Thought I’d take this opportunity to follow up on a couple of my previous topics discussed here, like Lionel (who I discussed in detail 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.

What’s worse is the loss of Mike Malloy on WLIB. While often hyperbolic and quick to fury, Malloy provides an important function on the Air America talk show roster. Went I went out to a “meet and greetsession with Malloy in the East Village, I came away with one memory that encapsulates the Mike Malloy radio experience. I passed a couple walking away from the event and overheard the woman say to her husband: “I told him his anger helps me…”

Malloynyc_1And when you’re really pissed off about the American political landscape and the cavalcade of Bush Administration screw-ups, Mike Malloy can provide the perfect prescription. He can be harsh, but these are harsh times. If you’ve never heard Malloy, here’s a clip that kinda gives you an idea of his style, when he gets… serious.

Mike Malloy – Shining Star  0:25

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And here ‘s one of my favorite moments from his show. I wish liberal talkers would do more of this kind of thing…

Mike Malloy – Right-Wing Mike  19:18

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It’s Malloy pretending to be a right wing moron for a guest from the "Christian Action Network" who’s very concerned about homos frolicking through Disney World.

So, while Malloy continues in his late night slot on the Air America network, on their flagship station WLIB his show is now pre-empted by “The Satellite Sisters.” It’s happy helpful radio with a bunch of real-life upper middle class white sisters who chat about "lifestyle" issues. It makes the Al Franken show sound like wild-eyed pirate radio. Some of the urgent topics recently on the Satellite Sisters show– “As you listen to the weather forecast this winter, think what it means for your animals” and “Look a salesperson in the eye when you say goodbye,” and most importantly “Wipe down exercise machines and mats at the gym after using them.” I’m NOT kidding. I cut and paste this crap from this page on their website.

Sisters Before the Satellite Sisters landed a syndication deal with ABC/Disney, their chirpy show originated here at New York’s jumbo NPR outlet, WNYC. But even some public radio listeners (who should be accostomed to fuzzy and precious programming), were nauseated by the self-important yuppie sisters when they were on WNYC. An article in the New York Observer in 2002 said “so much invective about the show hit the WNYC Web site that the Webmaster posted a reminder that vulgar or overly personal attacks are not welcome.” That’s the difference. Malloy helps you accept and even appreciate your own justified anger at Bush madness. The Satellite Sisters in turn, needlessly enrage with empty sterile fluff in an era of bad news and bad governance.

The official Air America excuse is that ABC gave them an offer ($$$) they couldn’t refuse to steal the last couple hours of programming on Air America’s flagship station. The unstated reason is that Malloy’s show wasn’t pulling in Arbitron numbers. But they never promoted his show in New York either. And replacing the fire of Mike Malloy with an blithe Disney product that’s too cute for the NPR Irony crowd isn’t just bad programming: It’s insulting to their New York listeners and gives the impression that Air America is running away from their original convictions and intent.

Add to that the dopey sports and cooking shows they’ve brokered off on the weekends and a lame cruise giveaway promotion they’re running through the weekday programming, and WLIB just sounds much more desperate and unimaginative these days. You would think that the mothership station of Air America would have more vision and more guts.

Marc Maron, the driving force behind the once brilliant “Morning Sedition” on Air America is kicking off his L.A based nightly program this week on the network. Let’s hope that Air America’s flagship station can find room on the schedule to offer him some time. Of course, an infomercial featuring anti-aging supplements might bring in more quick cash…

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 10

Monday, February 20th, 2006

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.

While they don’t really have any features that haven’t been seen before, the BCL radios offer a unique combination of options that make it a lotta fun to scan the bands. The main difference between these radios and any other affordable receivers available today is that they offer analog tuning WITH a digital display. And the LED display is also relatively large and there’s a switch to lock the display light in the on position on these radios, which makes it great tool for searching out distant frequencies in the dark.De1103

And some will ask, if the display is digital why not just get a digital radio? Well, when I bought my first digital shortwave receiver a few years ago I quickly began to realize how much I appreciated analog tuning. Going through each 5 KHz step with a digital tuner gets tedious very quickly. And then if you want to zip across the band and get a feel for the reception available, forget it. Each step requires a fraction of a second to be heard, with a “phhht” sound as the radio renders each frequency up, and I believe it adds a bit of background noise as well. The alternative you get is a scan function, which silently automates the scanning process and the turner will stop when the radio’s software decides there might be a broadcast at that frequency. It ain’t the same. And as you might imagine, weak signals can be easily skipped and stray RF can be mistaken for a radio station.

Okay, I know that with better digital tuners some of these problems aren’t as bad, and miserable Sangean ATS-505 isn’t the best example. However, I’d still rather do the scanning very manually sometimes.

Ats505 That’s not to say that digital radios aren’t amazing in other ways. Many have hundreds of presets, and if you know the frequency you’re looking for you can usually punch it up immediately. And for the most part, the best shortwave receivers made have been all-digital for quite a while now. While BCL radios are NOT the very best receivers in any technical sense, they are very easy to use and reasonably priced.

Besides not having presets, the BCL radios also don’t have another feature dedicated listeners desire– SSB. While I’m not going to get into a technical discussion I’m not qualified to offer, I’ll just say that SSB (Single-sideband modulation) is another way of broadcasting other than amplitude modulation which is more efficient in long-distance transmission and is popular with ham operators and some international broadcast services. Some listeners love to eavesdrop on the hams (if you don’t know what "ham" is, look here), and others just like to have all the options.

Tecsun_factory_1_1 The truth is, the BCL radio design borrows a lot of its layout and operation from a popular analog receiver from the 1970’s, the Panasonic RF-2200. While the RF-2200 did not offer a digital display, the template for the radio’s controls is very similar. And both are very good medium and shortwave receivers. Ideally, I would hope that future versions of the BCL radios would incorporate more of what made the RF-2200 great– like SSB, as well as the pop-up rotating antenna for AM, and dual conversion circuitry that would reduce the one other big complaint about the BCL radios, “images” from strong broadcasts popping up on other locations on the band.

The original BCL-2000 was released in China in two colors, black and a bright and cheery red shade. The U.S. version, the Grundig S350 was only offered in a utilitarian gadget silver. The initial release was plagued with “drifting” issues, as the tuning is a string and pulley affair where physics are at play on the variable capacitors and once you’ve settled on a frequency the radio would tend to drift off signal eventually. The Chinese Tecsun versions addressed this issue early on, and that fact combined with the more appealing casing colors made the Chinese version a popular item on ebay in the U.S., despite the fact they aren’t available in the stores here.

What’s interesting is how this radio was marketed in the U.S. BCL stands for “Broadcast Listening,” and that’s what the radio was meant to do, provide easy access to the old broadcast bands. In fact, the Tecsun version says “Enjoy Broadcasting” right on the face. The Grundig however, was called a “field radio” and was promoted for it’s “military” and “retro” look. Which makes you wonder why it didn’t come out in “camouflage” pattern, or at least in army green. Could the military marketing approach had anything to do with the current obsession with warfare and patriotism in the states? Makes you wonder.

Tecsun_factory_2_1 However, things have changed. While the original radios are still for sale, there are new versions available which have addressed the “drifting” problems in a more direct way. In America, the new radio is called the Eton (not Grundig, but it’s just a nameplate anyway) S350DL. Instead of adding all the technical features real radio fans might desire, (SSB, dual conversion) they’ve again gone for a more superficial approach. The radio is slightly bigger, with a larger speaker AND it comes with a set of headphones. And guess what? The S350DLs aren’t silver at all, but are RED or BLACK, just like the Tecsun versions. However, the knobs are silver now, instead of black. Not exactly an improvement.

The new Chinese version is no bigger and has no headphones. It’s called the BCL-3000, and now only comes in black. From everything I’ve read, these radios are no more sensitive than the previous model. There is a technical solution to the drifting problem which I’ve heard is problematic. When you stop on a station, the frequency locks. However, the locking is buggy and can be a pain in the ass when you’re trying to tune something in incremental knob nudges and the tuning locks up or jerks at inopportune moments. I’d rather deal with the slight bit of drifting myself.

While the BCL-3000 is still roughly the same price, around fifty bucks plus shipping from China (roughly 80 some dollars total). The S350DL however, is now $150 dollars, a jump or fifty bucks from the list price for the S350. And just to keep your radio buyin’ eyes off of China, there’s been some arm twisting over at Tecsun headquarters and all newly manufactured BCL-2000 and BCL-3000 radios are no longer labeled in English. They’re covered with Chinese text, and you may need to refer to the translated manual to figure out the knobs and switches. The controls aren’t that complicated, but it is an annoyance for the non-Chinese radio consumer.

IS350dl_2 ’ve not only gone in detail about these radios because I happen to like them, but I also think they are very good entry level DX radios. The AM performance is actually a little better than shortwave and FM reception is very good. But what they do offer the shortwave listener is an intuitive analog interface to the tuning, while providing an accurate digital readout of the frequency in real time, which can be strategic in trying to identify a station in the shortwave jumble of frequencies. No presets, it’s true. But a little knob twisting will get you anywhere you want to go. One other plus– these radios run forever on 4 D cell batteries. The digital portables suck power at a much higher rate.

Okay, on to the audio clips. These stations were received in the evening in upstate New York on the weekend of September 11, 2004. And although I was using my BCL-2000 I did not make notes of the actual frequencies received. I’ve never been one to keep logs, or collect QSL cards. But all my respect to those who do. Suffice to say most of the signals received were probably in the 49, 41 01 – Sweden Todaand 31 meter band. Possibly the 25 meter band as well.

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01 – Sweden TodaySweden_2  4:09

It’s Radio Sweden International broadcasting in English for North America at 6010 KHz in the 49 meter band. (Thanks Mr. Announcer) It’s a news magazine program and the lead story is about one of the unexpected side-effects of the European Union– more intoxicated Swedes.

02 – Voice Of Turkey  18:08

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While Radio Sweden notes a unplanned downside to being a part of the European Union, on the Voice Of Turkey broadcast you hear repeated references to how strong the desire is for the Turks to merge their country into the EU. Over and over again in this extended segment you can hear how Turkey has been bending over backwards to satisfy their European’s neighbors that they are worthy of Turkey_logo_2membership in the Union. It’s not only mentioned in every element of this extended clip, but there’s even a regular segment here specifically focusing on the latest news regarding Turkey’s application to join the EU. It is so odd in this era to hear such yearning on  behalf of a Muslim nation to join into such an intimate relationship with western powers.Turkey’s shortwave service runs a strong transmission to North America, and I’ve heard some great music there more than once. The reception on this recording requires a little patience, but it’s all there. And it’s traveling over 5000 miles.

03 – Deutsche Welle-Inside Europe  25:06

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Deutschewelle1 More on EU issues in this clip as well. Not the kind of news you’re likely to hear much about in American media. Deutsche Welle offers an excellent English service, and sadly they recently made the same decision as the BBC World Service made a few years ago– to dramatically curtail their broadcasts to North America. The statistics of U.S. shortwave radio listenership aren’t exactly a motivating influence for international broadcasters. And cutbacks in funding toward broadcasting to North America from overseas has made the Christian-crazy packed U.S. shortwave scene a little less interesting lately. It’s a goddamn shame.

The big story here is about halfway into this file. While Turkey is jumping through flaming hoops to entice the EU to let them in, while the Prime Minister, a devout Muslim, was trying to pass a law at the time making adultery a crime. See the conflict? If you just heard the Turkish broadcast before this you might guess what happened next. There’s a couple small drifting/tuning issues in this recording. The off-frequency moments are brief. The reception is fair.

 04 – Catholics & Protestants  2:20

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Ewtn_sisterMost of the Christian prescience on shortwave is decidedly Protestant. A lot of King James Version faithful who offer you the choice between the fluffy clouds of heaven and the fiery pits of hell. However, EWTN’s Global Catholic Network is a little more chatty than their Protestant counterparts. Instead of preaching, they talk about stuff on EWTN. On this clip you hear the spiritual wisdom of “Dan.” He sounds like he’s at least 17 years-old. And then two more Protestant type stations. A hymn and little pulpit thunder.

05 – Parking Lot Miracle – Ukraine Signs Off  4:33

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Jesus_cracks_up Here’s little slice of band-scanning, going through some Jesus-casters and ending up overseas. It starts off with a mind-blowing miracle involving God expanding a church parking lot just in the nick of time. Also some gospel passion and World Harvest Radio’s offer to ship you a free Bible so you can play along at home.

And then there’s Radio Ukraine International signing off at the end of their broadcast to North America. While I can’t speak authoritatively about Ukraine’s English shortwave service, I always love hearing it. There’s something home-baked about it, lots of Ukrainian culture, history and music, and it sounds like radio from decades ago. For some reason, it’s like radio comfort food for me, and hearing it on the internet just wouldn’t be the same.

06 – (Unknown Station) Christian Election Advice  2:28

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Bush_kerry_2 This saddened me at the time. It’s some type of Christian talk show, slightly paranoid in the shortwave tradition. Talking about the upcoming Presidential election, one co-host remarks to the other that voting for the “lesser of two evils” is wrong for Christians.  And while I could have been pleased with concept of Christians boycotting an election en masse, the idea of telling people not to vote because each candidate is imperfect just plays into the hands of political smear tactics in general. Like so many ideas brought up every day on Christian radio it’s the product of immature thinking and lacks moral clarity.

 07 – WBCQ-More Timtron  14:28

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Last week I featured a bit of Radio Timtron Worldwide, arguably one of the best shows on shortwave radio, broadcast on WBCQ in Maine. This is part of another show (The Real Amateur Radio Show/Piss & Moan ) he hosts which is always some discussion of his life in radio, and a few tips and tricks for listeners as well. And it’s like nothing you’ll hear anywhere else.

Another show on WBCQ that offers colloquial details on the outlaw-fringe side of radio broadcasting is “Allan Weiner Worldwide,” hosted by WBCQ founder Allan Weiner. Allan’s program is an informal “around the house” kind of talk show, with Allan talking about the station, the state of radio, or whatever’s going on in his life. And he does take calls, but it sounds like it’s really just a small group of chronic middle-aged geeks who haunt the phones. But when you listen to these shows you become privy to the realities of seat-of-the-pants broadcasting that is both  infectious and inspiring. They both have GREAT stories of both their pirate radio days as well as anecdotes about the everyday goings on with maintaining WBCQ. Just the offbeat techno-slang and vernacular they use when they talk about their years of pirate radio shenanigans, or relate the behind the scenes details of maintaining a bunch of high-power transmitters. Just listening makes you feel like your part of things up there in Maine, and in the process you learn a few things about the business and science of radio.

And that’s what you get here with Timtron, technical talk with attitude and a bent sense of humor. Maybe only on shortwave would the esoteric musings of radio engineer be so appropriate and so entertaining. He makes advanced radio engineering sound as easy as putting together a high school science project. Just another reason to check out WBCQ. By the way, online archives of WBCQ programs can be found here.

 Thanks for listening.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 9

Monday, February 13th, 2006

Bcl2000_1 My original intention was to get to the end of that medium wave band scan I’ve been featuring the last three bandscan posts, but I’ve changed my mind. I want to get back to talking about shortwave again. While AM DXing is fun, the shortwave bands are inherently more exotic. However, navigating these frequencies something does require something not everyone has these days– a shortwave radio. And just so you know, it’s not nearly as difficult or expensive as you might think. 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. Here in Brooklyn, with the sun shining through the front windows– I was impressed. The subcontinent really is on 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 opinions of mythical Jesus and all his miracles, 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. (What were you going to do with it anyway?)

Tecsun_factory The radio I used to make these recordings was a Tecsun BCL-2000, otherwise know as the Grundig S350. While not perfect, it’s a great tool for scanning the bands. It’s sensitive, cute and offers something hard to find– analog tuning with a digital display. This is great for shortwave, because analog operation gives you a much better feel for what’s out there while the digital display gives you an accurate readout of where you actually are on the dial. I’d recommend it as a starter radio for anybody willing to spend 80 to 100 dollars to invest in a decent AM/shortwave receiver that’s easy to use.

Okay, and now to my friend’s front porch twenty miles outside of Albany back in 2004. It was the weekend of the third anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The porch was well furnished, and the batteries were fresh. Most of the reception I was digging into was from the broadcast bands that are the most lively at night– the 49 meter band (5.9-6.2 MHz), the 41 meter band (7.1-7.35 MHz) and possibly the 31 meter band (9.4-9.9 kHz).

Next week I’ll continue this radio excursion, but I hope to do some DXing in the near future and offer you some current shortwave reception again. I’ve recently purchased a couple of radios that I’m anxious to take for a ride, and perhaps I’ll post some SW unedited band explorations here too, just to offer up some flavor of what a jaunt across a shortwave broadcast band really sounds like– including static, foreign tongues, non-stop loony bible-beaters and everything else in between.

01 – The Voice of Russia – Moscow Mailbag  08:43

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Joe_adamov_1 As long as I’ve been alive, Joe Adamov has been the host of “Moscow Mailbag” on the English service of Radio Moscow, which is now called “The Voice of Russia.” Anybody who listened to the Soviet Union via shortwave from the U.S. over the years has heard Joe answer all sorts of listener’s questions about the goings on in the U.S.S.R. And although it seems a bit quaint these days to hear old Joe respond in detail to a listener’s question about the most popular breeds of dogs in Russia, you have to remember the realities of the cold war era that gave birth to this program. To Americans, much of everyday life behind the “iron curtain” was a big mystery, especially in the grey and repressive Soviet Union. In those days, the jovial Mr. Adamov offered curious listeners a peek behind the curtain that both informed and ultimately served as a propaganda tool of the Soviet government as well.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Adamov spoke openly on his program about what he could and couldn’t say during the Communist era, and his role as a friendly propagandist during that time. Before and after glasnost, Moscow Mailbag was always an entertaining listen, both for Adamov’s breezy warm style and the questions from listeners around the world– from the most mundane topics, to some serious political subject matter. While Moscow Mailbag continues on the Voice of Russia, Adamov is no longer around to give us his insights on Russian life. He passed away in 2005. However, archives of some of his broadcasts can be found on this webpage.

02 – WHRI (World Harvest Radio) – Radio Liberty  14:11

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Dr_stanley_monteith Stanley Monteith does a lot of radio– like five hours a day, five days a week. He’s retired physician, and his show covers some serious topics and some arguably kooky ones as well. With a good-natured yet righteous style, Monteith is more or less a right-wing Christian talk host. However, in the shortwave realm that can mean something much different than the lock-step Republican AM talk radio hosts who pollute the airwaves across America. Listen to Monteith talk some serious common sense with this caller about the idiocy and futility of the Iraq War.

While you’ve heard me speak in disgust regarding the mundane and dogmatic nature of Christian programming all over shortwave, that’s not to say that an avid Christian can’t be an enlightened and spiritually mature broadcaster. In this clip you’ll hear Monteith explain how he was a member of some Christian group who anointed Bush as the official Jesus candidate for the 2000 Presidential election. It’s heartening to hear that he and one other member of that group didn’t buy into Bush then, or his supposed Christianity. In general, it’s refreshing to discover a Christian talk host who doesn’t blindly accept authority and one who talks openly about the horror of war and our current government’s policies of death, destruction and despair. And I have to say I’ve never heard any proselytizing or threats of the lake of fire on Radio Liberty, Instead, in this clip you’lI hear plenty of insight and some important facts about this insane Iraq war.

03  – WWCR – Karen Mortimer  01:45

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Now, here’s some more typical Christian shortwave radio. The manic and rabid Ms. Mortimer is ready to convert the world. And martyrdom? Bring it on baby!

04 – (Unknown Station) Flag Worship  03:11

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Flag_2 Grab a Hostess apple pie, put your hand over your heart. This jingoistic rant on the American flag. Kind of makes you wanna wrap yourself in the red, white and blue and kill some foreigners somewhere. And what’s interesting about this broadcast, and other “patriotic” programming that emanates from Christian shortwave stations in this country is that the FCC considers all shortwave outlets here to be “international radio stations” and the FCC is very specific about the rules for programming on such a station. To be exact– “It should be noted that an international broadcasting station is intended for broadcasting to a foreign country and is not intended for broadcasting solely to the United States.” Look it up.

Kind of a strange rule, I know. But if some moron is going to be SO blatant about breaking the law, maybe somebody should turn him in.

05 – Radio Prague  03:40

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A Czech doctor had bet a bunch of money that George Bush was going to win the upcoming 2004 election. Maybe he has some friends at Diebold. This little clip features the end of the Radio Prague news and the beginning of a news magazine program. Nothing amazing, but fairly representative of the standard European shortwave broadcast you might hear in English– chatty, upbeat, and focused on regional issues and people.

06 – WBCQ – Radio Timtron Worldwide  08:49

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A while back, there was a comment left on one of these posts asking why doesn’t a station like WFMU start a shortwave service. Well, there’s about 245 reasons, but if there is any equivalent to WFMU on shortwave it would have to be WBCQ, every once in a while..and just a little bit.

I’ve talked about WBCQ here because it is (at least potentially) the most interesting shortwave radio station in America. They feature a wacky live talk show from Brooklyn, a program that features old Edison cylinders, reruns of old Jean Shepherd shows and a number of other strange and eccentric radio shows. They also feature a lot of crap. Why? Money.

While WBCQ has a few self-produced shows, just like the Christian shortwave stations they sell their broadcast time to pay their bills and perhaps make a small profit. For better or worse, most of the people who are interested in broadcasting on American shortwave are crazy Jesus people, or just plain crazy.

Timtron_2003_1 Radio Timtron Worldwide comes the closest to freeform radio than anything else I’ve heard on WBCQ. It’s nice to know that his program is reaching the jungles of Africa and South America and the frozen shores of Greenland, as well as other exotic locales like Florida and San Marino. I wish there was more programming like this on WBCQ. Go ahead and check the current schedule for all four of WBCQ’s transmitters here.

More of this collection of shortwave reception from September 2004 will be featured here in the next installment.

Thanks for listening.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)

Adventures In Amplitude Modulation – Part 8

Monday, February 6th, 2006

Wcub_am_ln Since I started blogging about DXing, I’ve gotten quite a few emails and comments that all say basically the same thing– that after running across these posts he or she has been inspired to pull on old radio out of the closet or off the shelf and start twiddling the dial to seek out some distant signals once again. Well, it’s had the same effect on me.

And when I do get a break from everything else I pick up one of my radios to hear what’s out there. Just recently I discovered I can listen to the first hour of Lionel’s show on WCKY in Cincinnati, and I picked up Kuwait on shortwave for the first time in ages.  But I haven’t had time to reserve a few hours to actively listen and record the results. And adding to my desire is the fact that I recently a replaced a radio I’d previously had a lot of fun with and I’m trying to figure out how to reserve a future evening or two just to play with the damned thing. But the truth is I haven’t had enough meaningful spare playtime lately.

Meanwhile, to write this I’m listening to more of the medium wave dial scan recording from August 2001 that I’ve featured in the last couple posts. Two weeks ago, the audio kicked off at top of the AM dial, at 530 KHz or so. By this week I’m up to the middle of the band, nudging the knob from 910 KHz up to 1060.

Remote_1Not having any idea I’d ever showcase this recording, I now hear instances where I wish I would have fought harder to pull in a station or other notches on the dial I seem to have passed over in  haste. But that’s the thing, when you’re DXing with a decent radio it’s easy to get frustrated with the ghostly echo of an almost impossible to read signal when a broadcast less distant, but more entertaining and intelligible, is probably just a slight turn of the knob.

At this point, I’m tempted to reach for some grand metaphor comparing the DX experience to something more meaningful, but I’ll resist. In some sense, scanning the medium and shortwave bands is no more of a significant cultural act than sitting on the sofa with a remote and flipping through the cable TV channels. It’s another type of self-appointed journey through contemporary media content. However, it is more of a challenge and a far less popular form of leisure.

Unlike cable TV or the internet, a radio receives its input out of the air. And getting a viable audio from hundreds or thousands of miles away without going through a satellite or hard wired connection is still a difficult miracle. I guess the magic of that is still a bit of a thrill to me. And the things about radio itself that used to be so important– an approach of reaching out to individual listeners, and a sense of service to their broadcast target area, are still ingrained in much of what occurs on AM & shortwave.

Waugoshance_pointSo, here’s chapter three from this AM radio listening session from August 23, 2001, recorded near the top of the lower peninsula of Michigan on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. The audio from the last post left off at CHML at 900 KHz in Hamilton, Ontario. So the section of the recording featured here begins at 910 KHz.

Segment 3 – Northern Michigan Radio 08-23-01 (910 to 1060 AM)  12:41

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910 – WSBA York, PA (probably)

It’s CBS News. Ohio is getting electric chair warmed up for the first time in decades.

920 – (Nothing Intelligible)

Might have been able to find something here if I would have been patient.

930 – WBEN Buffalo, NY

Ugly situation in the news. Angry suicidal vet, Samuel Bobo waged a homicidal attack on a Buffalo Veterans Hospital. Said if he was going to die, “he was going to take somebody with him.” While there were no fatal injuries, you gotta wonder why people like this guy don’t go ahead and commit suicide first and then see how they feel before causing more trouble.

If you’re in the mood, pinch your nose and sing along with the lame Willie Nelson impersonator on the Isuzu SUV commercial included here.

940 – (Passed Over)

950 – WNTD Chicago, IL (probably) and WWJ Detroit, MI

It’s simultaneous reception, with the big Detroit news station right underneath a louder Spanish language call-in show. While both broadcasts are directional at night, WWJ is broadcasting at ten times the power of WNTD. The expected coverage map of WNTD favors my location, and the monstrous inland body of water offers an ideal reception path.

960 WSBT South Bend, IN

Rick_1 As I said before, I don’t really keep logs, so it can take a bit of detective work to figure out some of the stations received in these old listening sessions. Even more frustrating here is that the call letters are there, but almost unintelligible. After repeated listening I heard mention of meteorologist "Rick Mecklenberg" who I discovered via Google that he predicts the rain down in South Bend. Then when I heard a mention of South Bend buried in the radio noise and I knew I’d figured it out. This station is also not far from the southern lobe of Lake Michigan.

970 (Several Stations At Once)

980 WCUB Two Rivers, WI (probably)

Just across the big lake. A souped up version of “Brown Eyed Handsome Man.”

990 (Unknown)

Two women talking, one on the phone. A hard-core DXer would have stuck around to figure this one out. I didn’t. I guess I was weak.

1000 – WMVP Chicago, IL (probably)

It’s sports again. Can’t get away from sports. The topic for an upcoming call-in segment? What now-famous person did you play against in little league? That’s a TOPIC? Maybe I didn’t spend enough time in little league, but I don’t remember name of any of those kids, let alone whether any became celebrities.

In the early 70’s when I was a Detroit area teenager, this same outlet (as WCFL) was a favorite rock and roll station after dark. Bob Dearborn was in charge.

1010 – (Nothing Intelligible)

1020 KDKA Pittsburgh, PA

Call in show, didn’t stick around long. I believe the hamster dance is played in some way. Not coming in as well as usual. This station claims to be the world’s first radio station, and it just might be true. Either way, they’ve been broadcasting since 1920.

Wbzlogo 1030 WBZ Boston, MA

I really like WBZ, at least what I know of it from overnight listening. It’s a conversational talk station with a local and eclectic focus. I wish more clear channel AM stations put out programing as unique and professional as WBZ overnight.

That said, this isn’t an amazing clip, just what I happened across that evening. It’s the Steve Leveille Show. Apparently his show has united listeners Ellen and Rosie. Nice. And there’s some more legal guesswork on the Gary Condit/Chandra Levy situation from listener Floyd.

1040 – WHO Des Moines, IA

It’s a Trucker show. Although WHO plays “Coast To Coast” overnight these days, I seem to remember that they ran a trucker show in that slot not that long ago. And in my experience, WHO has been the westernmost reliable AM clear channel catch from Michigan.

From the sound of it, some guy named Keith Bissell caused a lot of grief for truckers passing through Tennessee. And the host here also bemoans a plan to save some Salmon in Washington state. It’s typical righteous talk radio fare, along with a low-grade piercing whine for your enjoyment.

1050 – (Nothing Intelligible)

1060 – KYW Philadelphia, PA

KYW was one of the first all-news radio stations. The tradition continues here, with a another flavorful slice from Chung’s TV news spectacular featuring Gary Condit under fire.

Thanks for listening.

(This post originally appeared in Beware of the Blog.)