Inhuman Swill : October 2014

Broadcasts from a nightmare world

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The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations I find something deeply unsettling about numbers stations.

I suppose I must have encountered the concept at some point reading spy fiction, but my true introduction to numbers stations came earlier this year from my friend Anthony Atamaniuk. When he played a few examples at a party, I was instantly transported to the nightmarish world of my earliest childhood memories, where the universe beyond my bedcovers seemed to vanish with the fall of night, and every half-heard or half-imagined sound was like a transmission from a cinder planet light-years dead. To me the recordings sounded like outer space, like eternal night, like death.

If you don't know, numbers stations are the shortwave frequencies on which spies regularly transmit coded messages. In 1997, Irdial-Discs released The Conet Project, a 4-CD collection of numbers-station recordings. The whole thing is available as a free download, but you can also purchase a re-release that adds a fifth disc of more recent recordings.

If you have any interest in the history of espionage, or just in very creepy recordings that probably influenced many a horror movie soundtrack, you have to take a listen:

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The Accidental Terrorist (charity auction edition)
I never expected it would take so long to make this announcement, but my Mormon missionary memoir The Accidental Terrorist will be published by Sinister Regard in 2015.

Although it might end up with a different title. And the cover definitely won't look like the one below. And Sinister Regard is actually me.

I'm very excited, nevertheless.

It's hard for me to pin down exactly when I started work on this book. The events it chronicles took place mostly between September 1986 and March 1987, when I was a Mormon missionary serving in Alberta. But before that time span had even ended, I was already learning to tell bits and pieces of the story to an audience. In 1988, I told the full story to a few fellow missionaries—with a tape recorder running. Here's an excerpt, in which you can hear me at age 20 with my Utah accent still fully intact:

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It's been several months since I posted an Ella video, so I figure we're overdue. Here's one I took this past Saturday at Astoria Park during off-leash hours.

Ella spies a squirrel foraging far out on the meadow. For a while she just watches, until I nudge her into action (about 0:27). The thing to note is how Ella bends her trajectory not directly toward the squirrel but to where she predicts the squirrel is heading. She trying to cut it off before it reaches its tree.

Spoiler alert: She doesn't catch the squirrel, but I still hope she will someday.

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October's mix of the month

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The Writing's on the Wall It's been a long time since I posted a mix of the month, but the CD Mix of the Month Club hasn't been mixing it up very often lately. A few of us convened for karaoke earlier this month, though, so I figured that was enough of an excuse to whip up a new mix.

My contribution for October, most emphatically not a Halloween mix, is called The Writing's on the Wall. Eleven of the fourteen tracks are available on Spotify, so you can check out a good 78.6% of the mix below:

(The story so far.)

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Today is the 200th anniversary of the London Beer Flood. I'd tell you all about, but Kyle Thiessen explains it far better than I ever could (and the Boston Molasses Flood too) in his Fake Month at the Museum series:

So wherever you are, raise a glass today to the empire where the suds never set!

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[Amazon customer support chat session in progress]

Me: Thanks for the help.

Amazon: awesome and tell me, is there anything else i can do to make you smile today?

Me: You could tell me a joke. Otherwise, that's all.

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The Bone Clocks: A Novel by David Mitchell
This post about The Bone Clocks contains mild spoilers.

When grappling with works of genre fiction, most mainstream literary critics can be counted on to demonstrate a peculiar tone-deafness. Take the case of The New Yorker's James Woods, who calls David Mitchell's new novel The Bone Clocks "weightless," "empty," and "demented." So "frictionless" does Wood find it, in fact, that it prompts him to call into question the soundness of such earlier Mitchell works as Cloud Atlas.

Upon reflection, I have to admit that The Bone Clocks is probably my least favorite of Mitchell's novels (The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet being the only one I haven't yet read). But I found it for the most part extremely engaging, even thrilling, and I dispute Wood's contention that "the realism—the human activity—is relatively unimportant" when stacked up against the novel's science-fictional premise.

The Bone Clocks is built, like much of Mitchell's work, around a structural conceit that passes the duty of first-person narrator, like a baton in a relay race, to a new point-of-view character every hundred pages or so. Each of the book's six sections becomes, in essence, a novella of its own, conveying the overall narrative from its intensely realistic beginnings with a runaway teenager in 1984 to its apocalyptic, post-oil conclusion in 2043.

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

Signed editions
cheaper than your
local Mormon
missionaries.

Order yours now!

William Shunn

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