Today's Washington Post includes a delightful article by David Segal on one of my favorite spectres of the spectrum: those mysterious shortwave stations whose broadcasts consist of a voice reading a series of numbers:
The stations had personality, if you listened long enough. One always began with a few bars of "The Lincolnshire Poacher," an old British folk song. On another you could occasionally hear roosters or echoes of Radio Havana in the background, as though someone had forgotten to turn off a mike. One starred a young lady with an exotic accent who dramatically read words from the International Radio Operators alphabet, somehow making inscrutable phrases—"Sierra. Yankee. November."—sound life-and-death urgent.
A man named Akin Fernandez assembled his recordings of such transmissions into a four-CD set called The Conet Project, which I'm a little proud and a little embarrassed to have heard of already. (I would have bought it, in fact, if it didn't cost nearly $70.) This leads us to our public-policy angle: Wilco sampled Conet without Fernandez's permission, and that led—yes—to a copyright suit.
But that's not why I'm recommending the article. I'm recommending it because it contains more sheer dada than anything else the Post has published in the last few years. Here's one last excerpt to whet your appetite:
A few things you should probably know about Akin Fernandez: There's the basic background stuff—that he's the son of Nigerian-born parents, that he grew up in Brooklyn and moved to London when he was 15 years old. He calls himself a geek. He believes UFOs are real. More mysteriously, there appear to be grooves carved into his clean-shaven head, the origins of which he politely declines to discuss.
[Via Bryan Alexander.]