New Home Stereo System

Netbook & Bluetooth Speaker

Audio is my favorite media form. Sound artists always have captured my attention and my imagination more fully than the visual arts.

Years ago I wrote an inspirational tech piece about installing a new hard drive in an old Fujitsu laptop. Finally the time came to retire that ancient device – but the ‘new’ hard drive still had plenty of viable life in it. I reformatted that hard drive and stuck it into this venerable Toshiba Mini NB205 Netbook.

Although my audio collection is vast, my conventional music collection will (mostly) fit on a 650 GB hard drive. Coincidentally, that is the size of the drive that went into the old netbook. I copied my music to the midget laptop. Next, I added a small Bluetooth dongle.

To the left of the little computer is a Logitech Mobile Boombox Bluetooth Speaker and Speakerphone. It is a one-point stereo speaker, with two one-inch drivers. This is a spectacular device! Wired gave it 9 out of 10 with a rating of “nearly flawless, buy it now.” I paired it with my phone as well as with the netbook. The sound is warm and clear across the frequency spectrum. Although one doesn’t expect much bass through speakers this small, this set delivers a surprising punch. From the other side of a moderately sized room the stereo separation is startlingly good as well.

Cylinder recordings Cal Stewart’s Uncle Josh made late in the 19th Century sound remarkably good on this 21st Century setup. Modern Internet radio stations such as Radio Suby Nice, Triple J from Australia and KUSC from LA are crisp and clear without being too sharp. MP3 files I made from my large collection of ECM Records releases from the mid-to-late 1970’s continue to delight me as much as they ever did. Classical music, jazz, rock, rap, international music and acoustic music of all kinds sound fantastic and are totally portable.

Sometimes it worth pausing a moment to reflect on how dramatic these changes have been. I remember being amazed by the idea that a C-120 audio cassette could hold two whole hours in such a compact way. Moving my music collection required transporting a couple of carloads of records and tapes. These days a USB hard drive about the same size as a Compact Cassette in its box can hold a terabyte of data. I’ve got easy access to a lifetime’s music collection anywhere I go in high fidelity…remarkable.

1976 KPUR Flashback

I admit I am tempted to write something fanciful and perhaps even less than truthful today. It may be April Fool’s Day, but I see no reason to compromise my high standards of journalistic integrity just for a few quick, cheap laughs.

Instead, return with me now to October of 1976. Here I am in Forest Grove, Oregon, the garden spot of the Pacific Northwest. I spent most of my time in the fall of ’76 talking into microphones or pointing them at other people who had something to say.

Here’s a recording from that glorious month. In it, your resourceful teenage reporter, thirsty for the truth, looks for a few honest words from the student body of Pacific University about a topic of great interest: the food service!

I’m sure you’ll be surprised to discover that the college kids of the Jerry Ford era were entirely satisfied with how kindly they were being taken care of.


Time Travel is Real

Is there visual evidence of a woman speaking on a cell phone back in 1928? This is a question that has caused some controversy in recent months, and it’s about time somebody looked into it, with sober determination to get at the truth. I’m pleased to report that my investigation advances the effort to resolve this matter once and for all. Not only am I going to offer a second example of a time traveler caught on film, I’m going to identify both of them and explain what they are doing.

Regular readers have come to expect some serious journalism from me once in a while. This is where a waiting world learned of the 1972 zombie invasion of Hollywood. Here the public finally received confirmation that the twin towers were moved to New York from West LA, where they were originally built. I also published compelling evidence that UFO’s are responsible for San Diego having the nation’s best weather. You don’t have to thank me; I consider it part of my duty as a citizen.

Here is a single frame from the famous video from the 1928 opening of Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 movie “The Circus.” Folks have been debating whether or not this woman is speaking into a cell phone. Obviously this is ridiculous, since there were no cell towers in Hollywood in 1928. The truth? She’s speaking into a satellite telephone! We all know that UFO’s have been a fact of life for centuries. Satellite telephone technology has been in use among select human beings since at least the time of Ancient Egypt.

I am prepared to suggest an answer to what is really going on here.  To begin with, let’s get one thing straight: this is not an isolated incident. For the first time anywhere, let me be the one to connect some very important dots for all of you. Our second example of time travel caught on film comes to us from Canada, in1940.  This isn’t some video off of YouTube, either – it’s a photograph from the Bralorne Pioneer Museum in British Columbia, Canada.

OK, now take a look at the above image.  Can you identify the time traveler? It’s worth noting that this photograph had been available for years as part of an exhibit “Their Past Lives Here” before anybody noticed the conspicuous guy from the future.

Who are these people? Why have they chosen to go back in time? It’s quite simple, really. A couple of intrepid, determined radio artists are doing everything they can to bring their listeners pristine examples of ancient recorded music! They go back in time to collect old discs and cylinders to bring back to the present for the entertainment of their listening audience. Let’s take a closer look at each image:

A careful look at the 1928 image strongly suggests that our first time traveler is not a woman at all! Scroll back up and take a look at the full image. Look at how big “her” feet are! It seems pretty obvious to me that, for whatever reason, Andy Senior felt the need to dress as a woman while talking on his satellite phone in Hollywood, back in 1928. He must have had his reasons. Maybe he felt the need to try to avoid being too conspicuous, which is more than we can say for the second time traveler, isn’t it?

Radiola is a weekly, two-hour podcast that features jazz and pop music from the 20’s and 30’s. Most, but not all of the music featured on this tremendous program comes from the “electrical era.” The sound quality of the recordings Andy presents is spectacular. It’s pretty obvious that he’s playing pristine copies of records he bought in Hollywood during trips back to the 1920’s and 1930’s, isn’t it? Incidentally, the Radiola shows offer subtle evidence that frequent time travel might be harmful to one’s health. That might explain how “Wake Up, Chill’un,” by Willard Robison and the Ipana Troubadours, was chosen as the show’s theme song.

The Antique Phonograph Music Program, on WFMU, is presented by Michael Cumella. In the color photo, Mac is explaining the fine points of acoustic recording without electricity to Nipper (the RCA Victor dog).

Mac clearly isn’t afraid of publicity, as proven by the nice article about his show from the Wall Street Journal.

The Antique Phonograph Music Program specializes in acoustic-era records and cylinders, played on original equipment. This is another brilliant program, where music from 100 years ago comes to life as if it had been recorded a few weeks ago – because, in fact, that’s how old some of the recordings really are!

It’s evident that Mac was caught on camera when he was visiting Canada to join the crowd at the famous cylinder record liquidation sale that was held in British Columbia in 1940. Once again, it’s not hard for a trained listener with a good ear to be able to tell that, although the recordings played on the Antique Phonograph Music Program are authentic, neither the cylinders, the discs, nor the record and cylinder players Mac uses are very old at all. On occasion Mac brings his son on to co-host the show. Rumor has it that, technically, Mac is younger than his son, the consequence of a birth control accident in a time machine. If true, this would be only the second documented case. (The first was Zaphod Beebrebrox.)

As one who appreciates the lively timelessness of good old recordings, here is one of my favorite spoken word pieces by Eddie Cantor, recorded at the very end of 1929.


Nature Radio

I’ve been making field recordings in nature since the 1970’s. Here’s a free player from a company that sells nature and nature/music audio. Now it’s possible for you to take imaginary holidays from the comfort of your computer work area. Just don’t let your boss see you levitating above the desk!

Great Radio from Australia

You’ve obviously got a lot of time on your hands. Admit it. You wouldn’t be reading this if you were doing what you’re supposed to be doing. It’s cool. I’ve got more important things to do than write this. But if you’re going to be a slacker, you might as well be a zealous, all-out slacker, right? Or would that be applying a Protestant Work Ethic to laziness?

Sorry, if we’re going to waste time together, we shouldn’t concentrate on philosophical issues.

Maybe you’re busy at your job while you’re reading this. If so, congratulations! You are getting paid for screwing around. Pat yourself on the back my friend, you’re living the American Dream. Of course, if you had shown a little more initiative and made it higher up the food chain, you’d be reading this on your iPhone or Blackberry while kicking back at some island resort or ski lodge, but never mind.

Regardless of your social status, good music will improve your life. You should be listening to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation right now. They provide better radio than you have. I find I do some of my best work – and slacking – with one or another of their brilliant stations going in the background.

Join me right now and listen to one of these two stations.  The link will play the audio through your default player. ABC Classic FM is one of the most fun and intelligent classical radio stations on Earth. Dig Music is a great jazz station that will have you stretching toward the speakers like the RCA Victor Dog. Enjoy! You can thank me later.

Rolling Probable Cause


Back in 1989, my 1979 Chevy Camaro Berlinetta was, as a friend’s ex-wife once said, “a really bitchin car.”

You don’t get the full effect unless you’ve got the t-tops off and you’re going down the highway very, very fast and listening to Free Wheel Burning very, very loud.

A lot of people thought the license plate was a political statement. In fact, it was merely a reminder of my ice hockey position. Didn’t you know I was a big ice hockey player? Yeah, that’s right. We played it every summer at West Hollywood Park.

I had a C-120 cassette tape most of the Grateful Dead’s October 9, 1989 show from Hampton, Virginia in this car that I listened to more than any other single recording. For no extra charge, here’s the show! To recreate the experience, start with cut 11.

RIP Professor Whitebread

Charles Whitebread died a few days ago at the age of 65. He never smoked cigarettes but lung cancer killed him anyway. I knew him at USC and in the bar review business.

Professor Whitebread was one of the best lecturers I ever watched and listened to. He joined the faculty at the USC Law School in the summer of 1981, which is when I started my first year at the same institution.

I took three classes from him: Criminal Procedure, Gifts Wills and Trusts (GWATS), and Juvenile Law. His classes were packed and people didn’t skip many sessions.  Each 50 minute lecture was a model of clarity and precision, engaging and entertaining. This guy loved and respected his students. He showed up prepared and he inspired everybody to care about the material the way he did.

Here is a drawing of Professor Whitebread that I put on my folder for Gifts, Wills & Trusts back in the spring of 1983. I respected this professor, but I developed a fierce contempt for law school. The only thing about law school that was an improvement over junior high was the fact that it was OK to drink alcohol in class.

Listen to Charlie tell a quick story about a marijuana dealer, a fleeing felon, and hot pursuit.


Hillary Clinton Concedes

Senator Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign this morning. Although I did not support her candidacy, I recognize the historic importance of her speech. Watch and listen to it: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Full transcripts available here.

Alexis did not get to watch or listen to the speech live, as I did, so I got to sit in the background while she took it in on-line. Alexis thought the speech was pitch perfect. I think it was brilliant. Sadly, I remain profoundly disappointed with the Democrats for their failure to serve as a true opposition party. I find myself appalled at the power of corporations and frightened by the disintegration of Constitutional law in this country. It seems to me that the Ralph Nader and Ron Paul campaigns have far more intellectual and moral substance than do those of Obama, Clinton and McCain.

At the same time, I recognize the importance of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and I respect the enthusiasm that it has generated among several generations of American women. I have no doubt that this speech will be quoted for many years to come. For those whose work on Senator Clinton’s campaign has been their first taste of political activism, this address by their candidate will serve as a continuing inspiration.

Although I handed out bumper stickers for the Bobby Kennedy campaign when I was nine years old, I didn’t put any real time and effort into a political campaign until the McGovern candidacy of 1972. Sometime between now and election day, I’ll publish the campaign literature that still sits in my files, including the piece put out within weeks of Watergate, entitled “Bug Nixon Before Nixon Bugs You.”

I remember election night,1972. Everybody knew that Nixon was going to win a gigantic landslide victory. I spent that night alone in my room, with a cheap black and white television set and a cassette tape recorder. Even today, I still remember the hot tears on my face as I watched and listened to George McGovern’s concession speech, just days before my 14th birthday. I dreaded the future under a second Nixon administration. Little did I suspect at the time that Richard Nixon would leave a more progressive legacy than would any of his successors.

Have a listen to Senator McGovern’s fine speech from that miserable November evening more than 35 years ago, and imagine the sort of world we would live in if fine people like McGovern had been leading the executive branch of government instead of the ones we ended up with. As I listen to this speech again today, I recognize that McGovern was hardly the perfect candidate – yet his words and and the substance of his career continue to inspire me today.


No doubt Hillary Clinton’s speech will do the same for untold numbers of young women who for the first time have tasted politics, and political disappointment, with Clinton’s campaign of 2008.