Sunshine Recorder


Peel Sessions
"I’m the one who comes on Radio 1 late at nights and plays records made by sulky Belgian art students dying of tuberculosis." — John Peel
This was how John Peel introduced himself to a family audience, on one of his occasional forays into British television. He can’t always have been graying, or bearded, or balding, but this is how most people continue to visualize him. He seemed, to those of us who listened to him, to have been born avuncular. For nearly four decades, until his death in 2004, Peel shared his musical enthusiasms with the ever-changing audience of his late-night show on BBC Radio 1 and made his personal collection into a truly representative historical document, like a latter-day Alan Lomax. Except that in this case, the field came to him: homemade cassette recordings sent from across Britain, and beyond, to Peel’s door. This didn’t mean that no hard work was involved. Peel listened to them all, working through an avalanche of audio slush, with a heroic commitment to the aesthetically new.
Now, though not for long, we can experience the chaotic variety of Peel’s taste. Over the course of the next four months, the first hundred records for each letter of Peel’s alphabetized and rigorously ordered collection of 26,000 are to be presented online, replete with their owner’s personally devised catalogue number and, occasionally, remarks. The John Peel Archive has been supported by the Arts Council and curated with the assistance of Sheila Ravenscroft, Peel’s wife. For each letter, Ravenscroft has selected an artist of special significance to Peel, such as Dick Dale or Fairport Convention, and hosted a short corresponding film. There are links to Spotify as well as to short films, video footage, and audio files from the famous sessions recorded for his show, including an early performance by David Bowie.
Peel resisted fashions, even as he shaped them. While looking out for world-music records—things like David Lewiston’s Balinese gamelan anthology, Music from the Morning of the World—I found a surprising number of albums from some geezer called J.S. Bach. There were no apparent rules governing the content of the show. Actually, there was one rule, but it could never be mentioned. In Suffolk Comforts, a fiftieth-birthday tribute film, Peel squirms while trying to describe his taste: “At the heart of anything good there should be a kernel of something undefinable, and if you can define it, or claim to be able to define it, then, in a sense, you’ve missed the point.” Undeterred by the Pavlovian associations that make country, punk, rockabilly, reggae, prog, folk, rave, hip-hop, indie pop, dubstep, grime and grunge all mutually unacceptable subcultural experiences, he prepared playlists that were guaranteed to offend, enlighten, and satisfy in drunken disproportion.

Peel Sessions

"I’m the one who comes on Radio 1 late at nights and plays records made by sulky Belgian art students dying of tuberculosis." — John Peel

This was how John Peel introduced himself to a family audience, on one of his occasional forays into British television. He can’t always have been graying, or bearded, or balding, but this is how most people continue to visualize him. He seemed, to those of us who listened to him, to have been born avuncular. For nearly four decades, until his death in 2004, Peel shared his musical enthusiasms with the ever-changing audience of his late-night show on BBC Radio 1 and made his personal collection into a truly representative historical document, like a latter-day Alan Lomax. Except that in this case, the field came to him: homemade cassette recordings sent from across Britain, and beyond, to Peel’s door. This didn’t mean that no hard work was involved. Peel listened to them all, working through an avalanche of audio slush, with a heroic commitment to the aesthetically new.

Now, though not for long, we can experience the chaotic variety of Peel’s taste. Over the course of the next four months, the first hundred records for each letter of Peel’s alphabetized and rigorously ordered collection of 26,000 are to be presented online, replete with their owner’s personally devised catalogue number and, occasionally, remarks. The John Peel Archive has been supported by the Arts Council and curated with the assistance of Sheila Ravenscroft, Peel’s wife. For each letter, Ravenscroft has selected an artist of special significance to Peel, such as Dick Dale or Fairport Convention, and hosted a short corresponding film. There are links to Spotify as well as to short films, video footage, and audio files from the famous sessions recorded for his show, including an early performance by David Bowie.

Peel resisted fashions, even as he shaped them. While looking out for world-music records—things like David Lewiston’s Balinese gamelan anthology, Music from the Morning of the World—I found a surprising number of albums from some geezer called J.S. Bach. There were no apparent rules governing the content of the show. Actually, there was one rule, but it could never be mentioned. In Suffolk Comforts, a fiftieth-birthday tribute film, Peel squirms while trying to describe his taste: “At the heart of anything good there should be a kernel of something undefinable, and if you can define it, or claim to be able to define it, then, in a sense, you’ve missed the point.” Undeterred by the Pavlovian associations that make country, punk, rockabilly, reggae, prog, folk, rave, hip-hop, indie pop, dubstep, grime and grunge all mutually unacceptable subcultural experiences, he prepared playlists that were guaranteed to offend, enlighten, and satisfy in drunken disproportion.


Inside the Russian Short Wave Radio Enigma
From a lonely rusted tower in a forest north of Moscow, a mysterious shortwave radio station transmitted day and night. For at least the decade leading up to 1992, it broadcast almost nothing but beeps; after that, it switched to buzzes, generally between 21 and 34 per minute, each lasting roughly a second—a nasally foghorn blaring through a crackly ether. The signal was said to emanate from the grounds of a voyenni gorodok (mini military city) near the village of Povarovo, and very rarely, perhaps once every few weeks, the monotony was broken by a male voice reciting brief sequences of numbers and words, often strings of Russian names: “Anna, Nikolai, Ivan, Tatyana, Roman.” But the balance of the airtime was filled by a steady, almost maddening, series of inexplicable tones.
The amplitude and pitch of the buzzing sometimes shifted, and the intervals between tones would fluctuate. Every hour, on the hour, the station would buzz twice, quickly. None of the upheavals that had enveloped Russia in the last decade of the cold war and the first two decades of the post-cold-war era—Mikhail Gorbachev, perestroika, the end of the Afghan war, the Soviet implosion, the end of price controls, Boris Yeltsin, the bombing of parliament, the first Chechen war, the oligarchs, the financial crisis, the second Chechen war, the rise of Putinism—had ever kept UVB-76, as the station’s call sign ran, from its inscrutable purpose. During that time, its broadcast came to transfix a small cadre of shortwave radio enthusiasts, who tuned in and documented nearly every signal it transmitted. Although the Buzzer (as they nicknamed it) had always been an unknown quantity, it was also a reassuring constant, droning on with a dark, metronome-like regularity.
But on June 5, 2010, the buzzing ceased. No announcements, no explanations. Only silence.

Inside the Russian Short Wave Radio Enigma

From a lonely rusted tower in a forest north of Moscow, a mysterious shortwave radio station transmitted day and night. For at least the decade leading up to 1992, it broadcast almost nothing but beeps; after that, it switched to buzzes, generally between 21 and 34 per minute, each lasting roughly a second—a nasally foghorn blaring through a crackly ether. The signal was said to emanate from the grounds of a voyenni gorodok (mini military city) near the village of Povarovo, and very rarely, perhaps once every few weeks, the monotony was broken by a male voice reciting brief sequences of numbers and words, often strings of Russian names: “Anna, Nikolai, Ivan, Tatyana, Roman.” But the balance of the airtime was filled by a steady, almost maddening, series of inexplicable tones.

The amplitude and pitch of the buzzing sometimes shifted, and the intervals between tones would fluctuate. Every hour, on the hour, the station would buzz twice, quickly. None of the upheavals that had enveloped Russia in the last decade of the cold war and the first two decades of the post-cold-war era—Mikhail Gorbachev, perestroika, the end of the Afghan war, the Soviet implosion, the end of price controls, Boris Yeltsin, the bombing of parliament, the first Chechen war, the oligarchs, the financial crisis, the second Chechen war, the rise of Putinism—had ever kept UVB-76, as the station’s call sign ran, from its inscrutable purpose. During that time, its broadcast came to transfix a small cadre of shortwave radio enthusiasts, who tuned in and documented nearly every signal it transmitted. Although the Buzzer (as they nicknamed it) had always been an unknown quantity, it was also a reassuring constant, droning on with a dark, metronome-like regularity.

But on June 5, 2010, the buzzing ceased. No announcements, no explanations. Only silence.

Link: Radiolab: Famous Tumors

In this hour of Radiolab: an unflinching look at the good, bad, and ugly side of tumors. Say hello to the growth that killed Ulysses S. Grant, meet Tasmanian Devils battling contagious tumors, and get to know the woman whose cancer cells changed modern medicine.

Devil Tumors: To start, Robert tries to touch—literally touch—the tumor that killed President Ulysses S. Grant. But will its keepers (Dr. Adrianne Noe and Brian Spatola) let him? Next, writer David Quammen explains an unsettling discovery in Tasmania. When wildlife photographer Christo Baars noticed strange lumps on the Tasmanian Devils he was photographing, scientists jumped in to figure out what was going on. Dr. Anne-Marie Pearse found a shocking answer—the lumps were infectious tumors, and they were leaping between Devils. How could this happen? Jad and Robert talk to cancer biologist Carlo Maley about the improbable sequence of events that allowed the tumors to take flight.

Magic Tumors: Can a tumor ever be a source of good? Neurologist Dr. Orrin Devinsky thinks so. He recalls the true story of a man, his tumor, and a euphoric reaction to safety pins. Next, Mark Salzman reads from his novel Lying Awake. When a nun develops a brain tumor, she finds the spiritual communion with God she’s been seeking. But what will happen when she’s forced to choose between physical health and religious enlightenment? It turns out Dr. Devinsky sees many real patients like this fictional nun, patients who miss their deadly tumors once they’re gone.

Henrietta’s Tumor: We end with the extraordinary story of Henrietta Lacks. Though she died of cervical cancer in 1951, she unknowingly held the key to unlocking medical advancements (from polio vaccines to chemotherapy drugs) in her tumor cells. After taking a biopsy of Henrietta’s cervical cancer, researcher Dr. George Gey and his lab assistant Mary Kubicek, discovered that Henrietta’s cells could not only reproduce, but THRIVE outside the body—a breakthrough that would change modern medicine. Later, Dr. Stanley Gartler found that Henrietta’s cells were even capable of jumping out of the petri dish and colonizing other cell strains. Now, decades after Henrietta’s death, her cells are still alive. But who was the long-obscured woman behind these famous cells? And how did Henrietta’s family feel when they learned that part of their mother was still alive? Writer Rebecca Skloot takes us on a journey into Henrietta’s world, with Henrietta’s daughter Deborah as the guide.

Link: Radiolab: Patient Zero

The greatest mysteries have a shadowy figure at the center—someone who sets things in motion and holds the key to how the story unfolds. In epidemiology, this central character is known as Patient Zero—the case at the heart of an outbreak. This hour, Radiolab hunts for Patient Zeroes from all over the map. We start with the story of perhaps the most iconic Patient Zero of all time: Typhoid Mary. Then, we dive into a molecular detective story to pinpoint the beginning of the AIDS, and we re-imagine the moment the virus that caused the global pandemic sprang to life. After that, we’re left wondering if you can trace the spread of an idea the way you can trace the spread of a disease. In the end, we find ourselves faced with a choice between competing claims about the origin of the high five. And we come to a perfectly sensible, thoroughly disturbing conclusion about the nature of the universe … all by way of the cowboy hat.

Link: WNYC's Radiolab: War of the Worlds

This hour of Radiolab: an examination of the power of mass media to create panic. In our very first live hour, we take a deep dive into one of the most controversial moments in broadcasting history: Orson Welles’ 1938 radio play about Martians invading New Jersey. “The War of the Worlds” is believed to have fooled over a million people when it originally aired, and it’s continued to fool people since—from Santiago, Chile to Buffalo, New York to a particularly disastrous evening in Quito, Ecuador.

One of my favorite Radiolab episode!

Link: The Suicide Paradox

There are twice as many suicides in the U.S. each year than murders. And yet the vast majority of them aren’t discussed at all. Unlike homicide, which is considered a fracturing of our social contract, suicide is considered a shameful problem whose victims — and solutions – are rarely the focus of wide debate.  In this hour of Freakonomics Radio, we’ll push back suicide taboos, profiling who is most likely to commit this act (and least likely), and what we know about them. African-Americans, for instance, commit suicide at half the rate of whites, for reasons tied to everything from racism to faith.  And we’ll consider the opinion of those who see suicide as a rational act. The biggest surprise – the suicide paradox – is that suicide rates rise as does a country’s standard of living.

Link: WNYC's Radiolab

Just in case you don’t know Radiolab, you should seriously consider listening to it because it is an amazing radio show. Probably one of the best I have ever listened to. Radiolab is a radio show that discusses a wide range of scientific and non-scientific topics in a unique form. Each episode explores one big idea through research, anecdotes, science, humor, and lots of beautiful sound design. The audio of the show is brilliant, integrating interviews, sound effects, music and narration in a really innovative way. They use sounds and soundscapes to play with their ideas and to create a truly immersive experience. I have learned a lot listening to their archives for the past few years, some of which has forever changed the way I look at the world. It’s deep, insightful and always entertaining. I highly recommend everyone to check it out!

Inside the Russian Short Wave Radio Enigma

Somewhere in Russia, a shortwave radio station transmits a buzzing sound nobody can decode.

From a lonely rusted tower in a forest north of Moscow, a mysterious shortwave radio station transmitted day and night. For at least the decade leading up to 1992, it broadcast almost nothing but beeps; after that, it switched to buzzes, generally between 21 and 34 per minute, each lasting roughly a second—a nasally foghorn blaring through a crackly ether. The signal was said to emanate from the grounds of a voyenni gorodok (mini military city) near the village of Povarovo, and very rarely, perhaps once every few weeks, the monotony was broken by a male voice reciting brief sequences of numbers and words, often strings of Russian names: “Anna, Nikolai, Ivan, Tatyana, Roman.” But the balance of the airtime was filled by a steady, almost maddening, series of inexplicable tones. Read more.