Archive for May, 2008

Conet Project / Numbers Stations

Saturday, May 17th, 2008

Reading through my new favorite site, DamnInteresting.com, I came across some things for which I’ve been searching a couple of years now: the collected recordings of the Conet Project, an out-of-print assemblage of numbers station broadcasts.

Numbers stations are repeated, anonymous, apparently encoded shortwave broadcasts emanating from various points across the world in various languages. The most likely explanation for them is that they carry encoded messages for use in espionage. Given the permanently looped nature of many of the transmissions, it’s likely that they’ve been abandoned and are still running only because they haven’t lost power. Prior to today I’ve only heard a few examples, but thanks to DamnInteresting.com, a link to mp3′s of all four discs of the Conet Project was provided at the end of their article on the subject.

Disc 1
Disc 2
Disc 3
Disc 4

So I downloaded all of them and have been listening to them for an hour now. Spooky stuff. It’s fun to wonder about their sources, who set them up, what they mean, and who receives them. And, given that I’m the type of person who tends to have sympathy for inanimate objects, I find a certain romance in the idea of a small transmitter, sitting in the middle of nowhere, lost forever, constantly sending out its odd little signal.

Escape to Los Angeles

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Here is the run-down on last week’s trip:

Tuesday – Landed, went up to this house where my cousin David‘s girlfriend was house-sitting. Turns out the house belongs to Hyde from That 70′s Show, and it used to belong to Chuck Berry. I touched a guitar signed by Chuck Berry! And I played bass by a hot tub in which I’m sure Mr. Berry committed felonies numerous and varied.

Wednesday – Went to the House of Blues to see two guitarists of whom I’ve been a big fan of since 9th grade but I’ve never seen them play live: Paul Gilbert and Richie Kotzen. And I was surrounded by LA guitar nerds, the ones who love to cross their arms and pontificate about who rules and who sucks. I’m glad I don’t live near them.

Thursday – David and I went to Amoeba Records to find my mom a Leonard Cohen DVD (she asked for it specifically because that’s how cool she is). Then we watched I Am Legend on David’s Blu-Ray hi-def wide-screen T-V and afterward we freaked out on Lost, ’cause it finally got back to Locke’s storyline.

Friday – I took the bus and walked all over town because I forgot that my Arkansas driver’s license expired in March. I let it because I figured, hey, when am I going to need to drive a car in NYC, right? Oops. Rental car agencies frown on expired licenses. I’ll get that taken care of next week, though. Anyway, I walked up La Brea, where I passed Jason Lee and his wife looking at furniture. I then had lunch at Barney’s Beanery where I sat a few booths over from Jason Schwartzman. After that I met up with my friend Meredith and we saw a really terrible band somewhere.

Saturday – Here’s a fun story. Some years ago my friend Randall gave me a CD by an Austrian guitarist named Alex Machacek (pronounced “MOCK-a-check”), and I became a big fan. He’s as underground as it gets, so few guitarists even know about him. To anyone else, he’s just another jazz-rock-fusion guitarist in LA, but to me he’s on a higher plane from pretty much every other guitar player I know. I’ve talked with him a few times via email and MySpace, and so last week I sent him a message asking him if he had any shows going on. He said he didn’t, but I was welcome to come over for coffee and hang out. So I did. He made me a couple fantastic cups of espresso and we talked about music and guitarists, and he gave me a guitar lesson. The whole thing really made me realize the dichotomy that is Los Angeles: most people freak out over meeting famous people, when perhaps they should be freaking out over truly phenomenal people – artists who do things few can, who push the boundaries of their craft, who represent the pinnacle of what can be achieved in a given medium. For musicians, Alex Machacek is such an individual. I uploaded one of his tunes to Muxtape, so check it out there. I don’t think I’ve mentioned Muxtape yet, so take a look at them, too. I have another playlist uploaded here.

That night, David and I went to see the LA Galaxy play the New York Red Bulls. I sat with the Riot Squad, the officially sanctioned corner of the stadium populated entirely by authentic football hooligans. Good times, even though the Galaxy lost. I told no one I was from NYC. For once it was better to say I’m from Arkansas.

Sunday – We went to see Rush in Irvine. I realize of course, as someone who is occasionally paid to write about rock music, that I am almost obligated to say that Rush sucks and progressive rock is a pox on the face of authentic rock and roll, but to that I say quite simply: Bite Me. If you can’t enjoy the refined Canadian flavor of Awesome that is Rush, then you can’t enjoy anything in life without wondering if someone is going to think you’re uncool.

Monday – Flew home. Took all day. Special note to Virgin Airlines: the little TVs in the seats are nice but $7 to see a movie on a tiny screen with headphones? $8 for airline food? No sale.
At least give me a bag of peanuts or something!

Here are some other photographic highlights from the trip:

Pink’s Hot Dogs are apparently spectacular
Billy Bob at Guitar Center?
Giant Magnatone amp on Sunset
The biggest Indiana Jones poster ever
99 Cent Store window display
Very old candy
Old Simpsons promo statues
Vintage Film editing console
Vintage Coca-Cola machine
GORT!
German Muppets
Bungalows
The 50′s live on…
…in Culver City
Refurbishing LAX