Category Archives: Art

Lunch with a friend (and a hearty side of enabling)

That’s BJ on the left and me on the right at our favorite burrito joint.

A few weeks ago, I had lunch with my good friend, BJ Leiderman.  If you ever listen to public radio programming, especially NPR, you’ve probably heard BJ’s name.

BJ is a musician, singer, and composer, and has written the bulk of the theme music you hear on National Public Radio (NPR). His music is hard to get out of your head. Every time I listen to NPR shows like Marketplace, Morning Edition, Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, Car Talk, or Science Friday, I hear BJ’s catchy tunes.

Moreover, BJ is an awesome fellow.  But it’s dangerous hanging with him because he’s also…well, an enabler, when it comes to sound gear.

Often, when we hang out, I walk away from the meet-up with a new app, a new song in my head, or the sudden need for a new piece of kit.

Friday was a prime example.  You may notice that I’m wearing headphones in the photo at the top of the page. Here’s how this played out…

BJ asked if I had seen one of his latest animated music videos–one that is was featured on his new album, “BJ.”  Instead of simply showing the video to me on his phone and/or playing the music through his iPhone’s speaker, BJ ran to his car and came back with a set of Bose Quiet Comfort 35 Noise-Cancelling headphones, then handed me his phone with the video queued up.

We were in a crowded, noisy restaurant during the lunch hour, but when I put on the headphones, all ambient sounds were instantly and utterly squelched. As his video played, it sounded like I was sitting in a recording studio listening to monitors. Absolutely phenomenal.

The headphone’s noise-cancelling technology is so good, in fact, I could barely hear my own voice as I spoke.

The audio fidelity was spot-on, too––there’s a nice balance from bass to treble.  Though I’m sure your audio player’s EQ could customize this.

I walk around all of the time with a cheap pair of in-ear headphones in my pocket for use with my phone, radios, or simply to decrease ambient noise while I’m trying to work or sleep.

Here’s the video BJ shared, by the way:

Click here to view on YouTube.

BJ, being the cool and compassionate character he is, had this fun song animated by young adult artists with autism at Exceptional Minds Animation Studios in LA, with the support of Howard Hoffman. 

In real life, his dog Maizey is a sweetheart, and certainly BJ’s fuzzy brown soulmate.

You can check out BJ’s album on his website, and if you like it, there are a number of ways you can purchase both digital and physical copies. Click here to buy a copy.

And BJ, if you’re reading this––thanks a lot for spending $300 of my hard-earned cash on headphones.

And I get accused of enabling––?  Karma, I guess.

Shortwave: A new psychological thriller

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares the following review of a new movie called “shortwave”

Movie Review – Shortwave (2016) // Flickering Myth
https://www.flickeringmyth.com/2017/10/movie-review-shortwave-2016/

Shortwave, 2016.

Directed by Ryan Gregory Phillips.
Starring Juanita Ringeling, Cristobal Tapia Montt, and Kyle Davis.

SYNOPSIS:

Isabel and Josh, a young couple dealing with the recent loss of their child, move to a remote home that Josh’s work has can study mysterious radio signals. As Josh hones in on the origin of the signals, Isabel begins to exhibit strange behavior, which leads to the pair confronting their painful past as well as their bizarre present circumstances.

Though it is a smaller, more intimate film, writer-director Ryan Gregory Phillips’s Shortwave will evoke inevitable comparisons to this year’s It Comes at Night. The two films both feature small groups of characters in isolated forest settings being terrorized both by mysterious forces and each other. And both share a fondness for dream sequences and ominous red lighting. But where It Comes at Night was frustrating in its evasiveness and its refusal to embrace most of the tenets of its genre, Shortwave is mysterious yet forthright about its science fiction and horror DNA.

The plot is set into motion when Josh and his wife Isabel (Cristobal Tapia Montt and Juanita Ringeling) are sent by his employer to live in a remote home, where he can continue to study the origins of mysterious radio signals. Their relationship is under extreme pressure for a multitude of reasons, most significantly their disappearance of their child. As Josh gets closer to discovering the origins of the radio signals, Isabel begins to act very strangely.

There is no doubt that Shortwave is a low-budget film, but it uses that to its advantage. It’s setting feels like a real home in an isolated forest, and the fact that most scenes feature Isabel and/or Matt and no other actors allows the viewer to focus on their relationship, which is really the epicenter of the film. Ringeling and Montt both give excellent performances in roles that require a full range of emotion, and Phillips wisely gives them room to operate, even within the film’s slim 85-minute runtime. The two actors have excellent chemistry as well, making them believable as a couple even when the script has them at odds with one another.

Shortwave also has some commonalities with this year’s excellent indie A Dark Song in that while it is unapologetically a genre effort, it isn’t afraid to really dig into the foundation in which is plot is based. In the case of both films, the foundation is two damaged people dealing with loss and grief under extraordinary, partially otherworldly pressures. Given the grim subject matter, Phillips wisely keeps the pacing brisk and the runtime short. As a result, Shortwave, while serious, doesn’t overuse its ability to raise questions about loss and grief. Instead, it balances them in with solid scares and creative mysteries that seem to have a lot more backstory than what is explained here.

There should be more films like Shortwave, as its successes come as a result of sharp ideas and well-executed direction and performances rather than a huge budget. It manages to carve out a unique perspective in a saturated genre, and triggers the heart and mind in addition to the adrenal glands. Though it ends a bit abruptly, it still manages to feel like a complete experience, and has some genuinely scary moments. Shortwave is definitely worth watching as horror film, as a domestic drama, and as a showcase for the talents of its stars and its director.

Mike McClelland

Click here to read the review at Flickering Myth.

Click here to view “Shortwave” at the IMDB.

Radio exhibit at the Tate Modern

Photo credit: Rebecca Crysdale

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ed, who writes:

An old friend of mine just emailed me from London after seeing an extraordinary modern art exhibit at Tate Modern. The exhibit, according to my friend Rebecca Crysdale, “is about how we are being overload by communications, particularly digital communications.” She says, “It was a very thought provoking exhibit.”

Photo Credit: Rebecca Crysdale

[H]ere’s a link to Tate Modern’s web page for the exhibit. There appears to be lots of shortwave and other radios in these large sculptures, and SWLing Blog readers might enjoy trying to identify them. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/meireles-babel-t14041

Many thanks Ed and Rebecca for sharing! I just checked out the Tate Modern site–brilliant installations! I love the Tate Modern, but have never had the fortune of seeing a radio-centric exhibition. Amazing!

Shadows of the State: a photobook about numbers stations

RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus (Source: Lewis Bush)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, James Jordan, who shares a link to this article in Wired magazine:

IF YOU TUNED into just the right shortwave radio frequency in the 1970s, you might hear a creepy computerized voice reading out a string of numbers. It was the Cold War, and the coded messages were rumored to be secret intelligence broadcasts from “number stations” located around the globe.

Photographer Lewis Bush is obsessed with these stations to “an almost irrational degree” and hunts them down in Shadows of the State, featuring 30 composite satellite images of alleged number stations from Germany to Australia. The series took two years and endless research. “It’s a difficult project to quantify in terms of man hours wasted on it,” he says.[…]

When Bush finds what he believes to be a station, he takes up to 50 close-up screen grabs and stitches them together in Photoshop to create one high-resolution image. He also listens to frequencies where broadcasts supposedly still happen on radio listening software, taking screen shots of the software’s spectrograms, graphics depicting the sound spectrum.

The final images try to visualize something largely intangible. No government has ever confirmed the existence of numbers stations, and Bush himself isn’t completely certain of their locations. No one can be sure what these scratchy codes really are. And that’s precisely what makes them so intriguing.

Shadows of the State will be published by Brave Books in December 2017. Bush is also raising funds on Kickstarterfor an interactive companion website.

Read the full article at Wired.

TW Communicator spotted in “The Avengers” TV series

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Andy Howlett, who writes:

Some while back I spotted an elderly ‘TW Communivator’ in use the a late episode of The Avengers TV series. The episode in question is called ‘All done with Mirrors’.

Studio Canal are a bit touchy about people nicking stills from their videos, but I sent my screen-grab to the website ‘TW Radio’ which is a site dedicated to Tom Withers and his products. The owner got permission for a one-off reproduction.

You can see the photo by going to http://www.twradio.uk/page98.html

Thanks, Andy! The Avengers is one of my favorite action/adventure TV shows of the 1960s. Lately, I’ve been waiting for a used DVD box set of the series to appear at a local retailer. The fact that I’ve always had a crush on Diana Rigg (a.k.a. Emma Peel) has nothing to do with this. 🙂

Check out other radios spotted in film and TV series by clicking here.

Click here to read more about The Avengers.