Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Radio for Spies

Our Fresh Look on Life crew traveled to England to profile a London eccentric.

Sort of.

I've thought, in the age of webcams and digital camcorders, a television feature reporter should be able to interview anyone anywhere in real time.

My first attempt to go international was a musical profile of three airplane sickness bag collectors.

Trying to find people who were both computer savvy and passionate about barf bags turned out to be a challenge. So I had a German doctor/collector and a Dutch man with the world's largest bag collection videotape themselves and mail me the footage.

And our Boston affiliate interviewed Steve Silverberg of

This time I was a little closer to the spirit of the experiment. I interviewed Akin Fernandez. He has been obsessed with numbers stations.* These are cryptic shortwave transmissions of numbers and/or letters that are broadcast around the globe without explanation.

They're assumed to be messages being sent by governments to their spies. Fernandez, a man prone to fixations (according to the linked article, as a child he collected comic books...and cards with poems advertising London prostitutes), recorded these broadcasts and assembled a four-CD numbers stations collection called "The Conet Project." (Conet is Czech for "end," a word heard in some of the transmissions.)

I spoke with him via Skype. I recorded audio (with Audacity). While we talked, he videotaped himself and later transferred the file through Swapdrive. Not an elegant arrangment, but we got the story. And there's no singing involved. I promise.

*To hear numbers stations for yourself, listen here and here . Or, if you've got a shortwave radio, you can consult the Spy Numbers Station

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