Author Archives: Thomas

Remembering “The Professor:” Micheal Pool, radio zealot and host of WFMU’s Audio Kitchen

Michael Pool, aka, “The Professor,” circa 1985. The photo was taken at a record shop where, he wrote, ”I really began my journey in music.”

Regretfully, I’ve had to bid farewell to few radio friends in the past few months.  But until very recently I never dreamed I’d be saying goodbye to my great friend and radio arts mentor Michael Pool, known to the radio world as “The Professor.”

Michael was an interesting individual, to say the least.  His curiosity in humanity had no bounds:  he could find the interesting in the so-called mundane. Moreover, he was brilliant, his mind a quirky work of art as well as complex and intricate repository for a broad spectrum of facts, particularly of the radio-related. This was, no doubt, the source of his professorial “title.”

Moreover, Michael’s lifelong interest in radio, and indeed all the radio arts––especially AM broadcasting––led to his becoming an audio and radio archivist; over the years he assembled a vast collection of off-air recordings, band scans, and air checks, a curated collection of audio which he loved sharing with the world. Besides broadcasting, Michael was passionate about music; he could guide you into the depths of almost any genre, but he was especially fond of soul and R&B.  I know my own interest in these genres was enhanced by his knowledge of them.

Much like his vintage radio receivers, Michael seemed to have no filter. If he thought it, he said it. And perhaps, partly as a result of his combination of astute observation and frank speech, Michael was also a published poet.

Michael, who was feeling great throughout most of December, admitted himself to the hospital in the latter part of the month when he began noticing that his breathing was labored. Doctors soon found that fluid was building up in his lungs.

When Michael called to tell me he was ill, he broke the news indirectly and thus gently. He had been in the hospital for a week or so already; in his typical lighthearted delivery, he told me how he’d learned to finagle an extra cup of coffee from the nurses, how he managed to save his sleeping pill until he actually wanted to sleep, and how no one there really understood the “spaceship” aspect of his bedside table set up, which included a computer, hard drives, radios, and speakers. He called it his “on-site HQ.” If anything happened to him, it was clear he intended to go out with his boots on.

On the phone, Michael had me laughing pretty hard for a good twenty minutes before I was able to ask, “So what did you have…pneumonia?” He replied, quite casually, “Turns out I have stage four pancreatic cancer.”

I sat in shocked silence, groping for words.  Noting my silence, he took up my part of the exchange almost cheerfully. “You know,” he continued lightly, saying what I was unable to voice, “I’m not sure it could be a worse diagnosis.”

Michael was in and out of the hospital for the next few weeks, but somehow remained positive, setting up his HQ wherever he was, writing poetry and long humorous emails to friends. Even when he finally entered a hospice center, he remained positive, somehow at peace with this very unexpected turn of events.

I’ve struggled to pull together this post about Michael.

Like his other friends and his family, I’m still in a bit of shock. There’s no way I can summarize his life. But I can say that my life was richer and more interesting because Michael was in it.

I’m going to miss him.

Michael and I shared a love of archiving off-air radio recordings and he has entrusted me with his collection. I’ll make sure these recordings are curated, archived, and shared online.

Some readers may know Michael as a radio host on WFMU: his show was The Audio Kitchen, in which he featured “an hour of homemade recordings freshly liberated from thrift stores and junk shops, as well as some amateur audio spirited away from the closets and computers of their creators.”

If you want a flavor of what it was like to hang with The Professor, I encourage you to listen to some of the archived shows on WFMU.  They’re definitely worth a listen:

https://wfmu.org/playlists/AK

Michael was also a regular contributor here on the SWLing Post, and for many years, hosted his own websites called, appropriately, “The Radio Kitchen” and “The Audio Kitchen.” I have some of his articles in an archive, as well, and plan to post them here over time.

I had planned to visit Michael when I fly to Philly next week. Still, on Saturday morning, I sat down to compose a long newsy email to him, musing on dreaming in other languages and various other audio experiences, among other things.  I had just finished writing it and hit “send;” when my inbox refreshed, I found a message from a family friend that Michael had died the previous night.

Michael Pool skipped the light fandango and departed this world on Friday, February 15, 2019. All too soon…But be at peace, my friend.

A post script.  In one of Michael’s recent emails, not long after he received his devastating diagnosis, he sent the following poem he’d written.  Hopefully, he will not mind my sharing it with you here, because fortunately for me in this moment, it says what I cannot:


A Brief Winter Examination

The future is so hard to find. It’s not yours
And it’s not here. Of course you could go for a walk
And not come back, but the mindless highway has no predictions.
That seeker? That’s me with a measurement problem, almost looking ahead.
The other day as old folks made their way to their bus seats, I realized
they are
Already in the future. Although a decrepit body Is a poor outfit for a
time traveler, it fits.

For me, these days are going somewhere,
But I just have less to say about it. Yesterday I performed
A test. I opened my eyes and noted the time, Not long after
I took another look at the clock. The readout of minutes had increased.
Why I did I think it might be any other way? I had to do the math to be
sure
I wasn’t going back in time. But give me the opportunity and I just
might do just that.

Tonight I’m all Ellington with my orange cat.
I opened the door a few minutes ago, to see the rest of it.
About an inch of snow. I had no idea. But I’m out to enjoy this era
Of surprise. I don’t know or guess or ponder as I have, I let the facts
come to me.
Call me primitive. Or just call me if you get this message. Our
conversation isn’t over.
It never will be, but I’d like to do some more work on it. The
meandering is the best part.


 

 

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Guest Post: Bolivian Miners’ Radio Station Documentaries

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Tracy Wood (K7UO), who shares the following guest post:


Bolivian Miners’ Radio Station Documentaries

Bolivian mine workers’ radio stations have long held an affinity among these Altiplano communities. Many were stations were targeted for shootings, bombings, etc. by forces loyal to earlier dictatorships. Today, few stations remain as the mining sector has declined in importance and newer generations migrate to the larger cities and lowland farming regions.

Radio Nacional de Huanuni and the Catholic church’s Radio Pio XII are two of the remaining miners’ stations with some long-standing shortwave presence; others like Chocaya’s Radio Ánimas permanently signed off with the mining center’s closing.

Two documentaries have been made about this earlier Bolivian miners’ broadcasting movement. The first one is a 30-minute 1983 UNESCO documentary entitled “La Voz del Minero” (“The Voice of the Miner”). This grainy 16-mm Spanish-language documentary fortunately has been ported to YouTube. The film features audio and video clips from several stations including Radio Nacional de Huanuni, Radio Pio XII, Radio Ánimas and Radio Vanguardia. Sharp eyes will notice at the 26-minute point a console-mounted Hammarlund HQ receiver in Radio Pio XII’s studios.

The second documentary is from 2017 but remains in limited release. It includes many interviews/images. The film is called “Las Voces del Socavón” (“Voices of the Tunnels) by Argentine filmmakers Magalí Vela Vázquez and Julia Delfini.

“La Voz del Minero”:

Click here to view on YouTube.

“Las Voces del Socavón” (trailer)

Click here to view on YouTube.

(interview on ATB TV)

Click here to view on YouTube.

Here are some mining station URLs:
http://www.radiofedecomin.com/
http://www.radionacionaldehuanuni.com/
http://radiopio12.com.bo/

Listening to the Huanuni station you will hear 1970’s-era taped IDs listing the shortwave channel. Evenings and Sundays are the best times for those flashback moments.

For further backgrounder Don Moore published a 2004 Monitoring Times piece which can be found here: http://www.pateplumaradio.com/south/bolivia/miners.html

A larger complex topic read is the 2004 book by Alan O’Connor titled “Community Radio in Bolivia: The Miners’ Radio Station.” (Edwin Mellen Press Ltd, ISBN-13 978-0773463929).

As an aside, perhaps the most esoteric cinematic reference to shortwave can be found in Kiro Russo’s 2016 Bolivian mining-themed movie “Viejo Calavera” (Dark Skull). In one nighttime scene, Radio Pio XII (Siglo XX) plays in the background with announcer mentioning Pio XII is broadcasting their shortwave call-in show and getting DX reports from Sweden. (Sorry, this cool background banter is not subtitled to English.)

Finally, both documentaries feature the haunting song “El Minero” by Savia Andina sung in Spanish and Quechua. The best YouTube video of the song with Quechua-to-Spanish translation is found here:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Musica.com has the lyrics.

Celebrating UNESCO’s International Year of indigenous Languages with shortwave radio!

– Tracy Wood (K7UO)

Thank you so much, Tracy, for sharing these fascinating documentaries!


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FY 2019 NIST budget looks good for time stations

WWV Chief Engineer Matt Deutch. (Photo: Thomas Witherspoon)

Many thanks to the number of SWLing Post readers who have forwarded this article from the ARRL News that notes the WWV Special Event Station, planned for later this year, is a go. This is great news indeed.

With regards to the FY2019 budget uncertainty surrounding NIST radio stations WWV, WWVH and WWVB, the ARRL notes:

“The NIST budget for WWV, WWVH, and WWVB will remain level for FY 2019.”

As I mentioned in a recent post, this is the feedback I’ve received as well–that the portion of the budget that includes NIST radios station will remain the same as it was last year. Last year, the NIST internally-allocated funds for the stations and it appears it will this will happen again! Brilliant news, indeed.

With that said, I do wonder if the next budget request (which is only a few months away) will include all of the NIST radio stations.

Time will tell…

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International Space Station SSTV Event Feb 15-17

(Source: Southgate ARC)

Space Station Slow Scan TV Event Feb 15-17

ARISS is planning another of their popular Slow Scan Television (SSTV) experiment events from the International Space Station on February 15-17

Transmissions on 145.800 MHz FM are scheduled to begin Friday, Feb. 15 at 08:45 UT and run through Sunday, Feb. 17 at 17:25 UT.

SSTV operations is a process by which images are sent from the International Space Station (ISS) via ham radio and received by ham operators, shortwave listeners and other radio enthusiasts on Earth, similar to pictures shared on cell phones using Twitter or Instagram.

When this event becomes active, SSTV images will be transmitted from the ISS at the frequency of 145.800 MHz using the SSTV mode of PD120 and can be received using ham radio equipment as simple as a 2 meter handheld radio or a common shortwave or scanner receiver the covers the 2 meter ham band. After connecting the audio output of the radio receiver to the audio input of a computer running free software such as MMSSTV, the SSTV images can be displayed.

Transmissions will consist of eight NASA On The Air (NOTA) images (see https://nasaontheair.
wordpress.com/
). In additional, four ARISS commemorative images will also be included.

Once received, Images can be posted and viewed by the public at
http://www.spaceflight
software.com/ARISS_SSTV/index.php

In addition, you can receive a special SSTV ARISS Award for posting your image. Once the event begins, see details at https://ariss.pzk.org.pl/sstv/

Please note that the event is dependent on other activities, schedules and crew responsibilities on the ISS and are subject to change at any time. Please check for news and the most current information on the ARISS Twitter feed @ARISS_status or the AMSAT Bulletin Board

The SSTV images will be transmitted in PD-120 on 145.800 MHz FM using the Kenwood TM-D710 transceiver located in the Russian ISS Service module.

Note the ISS transmissions use the 5 kHz deviation FM standard rather than the narrow 2.5 kHz used in Europe. If your transceiver has selectable FM filters try using the wider filter. Handheld transceivers generally have a single wide filter fitted as standard and you should get good results outdoors using just a 1/4 wave whip antenna.

ISS SSTV links for tracking and decoding Apps
https://amsat-uk.org/beginners/iss-sstv/

You can receive the SSTV transmissions by using an Online Radio (WebSDR) and the MMSSTV software:
• Listen to the ISS when it is in range of London with the SUWS WebSDR http://farnham-sdr.com/
• Listen to the ISS when it is over Russia with the R4UAB WebSDR http://websdr.r4uab.ru/

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