HBM049: Sam's Japan Tapes

When Sam Parker went to Japan to celebrate his mother's 60th birthday, he brought along a handheld audio recorder.  For the next few weeks, he recorded every sound that he could find, attempting to capture as many audio snapshots of Japan as possible. 

Sam doesn't really take pictures.  Without his glasses he's legally blind twice over.  So, to remember and share his trip, he created five beautiful audio postcards.

On this episode, Sam Parker and Jeff Emtman discuss the merits of deep listening and whether it's possible for a sound to be truly ugly.   Sam also shares three of his audio postcards. 

You can download all of Sam's postcards at observance.bandcamp.com (also embedded below).

Sam and Jeff met in college while working at KUGS-fm, a student operated station in Bellingham, Washington.  Sam taught Jeff how to listen closely.  

Music: Sam and Jeff made all the music on this episode using a guitar and a synthesizer, respectively.

Photos Courtesy of David Parker and Juliana de Groot.

This episode contains postcards 1, 3, and 2 (in that order).  Here are Sam's liner notes:

Postcard 1 (begins 08:30)

My dad being a smart-ass on top of Mount Omuro, Izu Peninsula.

Old-school drone at the Meiji Shrine gift shop.

Crowds at the Osaka aquarium

Samurai re-enactment at Himeji Castle.

A private onsen in the town of Ito.

Mystery music coming from out of the woods at Yoyogi Park + my mom explaining directions for purifying yourself pre-shrine.

Birdsong from Miyajima, one of the most serene places I have ever been to.  You should go.

Postcard 3 (begins 11:40)

A television playing an old Donald Duck cartoon in Shimokitazawa.

Lunch-time rush hour at Shibuya station - each beep is a person going through the gate.

A bucolic little tune being piped through speakers in a light-post.

The performance artist Morimura Yasumasa re-enacting the final words of author Yukio Mishima.

Windchimes at Daisho-in temple, which was maybe the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to in my life, no hyperbole. 

Postcard 2 (begins 15:00)

An ATM transaction in Harajuku

Music in the lobby of a hostel in Miyajima

The best laugh I heard all trip, Narita airport.

An anti-militarization/nuclear warfare protest in Osaka. The current Prime Minister (Shinzo Abe) is a hawk and has authorized an expansion of US military bases in Okinawa.

While in Miyajima, I walked by a building and someone had left a portable CD player with a speaker on a staircase. It was playing this song on repeat. This was pretty typical of Miyajima. There are also some wind chimes playing very low in certain places. Maybe you can hear them?


HBM043: Last Chance To Evacuate Earth

Marshall Applewhite met Bonnie Nettles in 1972, and together they built a religion. It was called Heaven's Gate, and it drew heavily from the bible, astrology, and Star Trek. Applewhite and Nettles believed they were placed on Earth to deliver a holy message. They were the leaders of their new religion, and they changed their names to Do and Ti (pronounced "doe" and "tea"). After Nettles' death, the group developed a larger, stronger following, its doctrine evolved—incorporating more and more elements of outer space and astronomical phenomenons. In 1997, Heaven's Gate became known to the public as the world's most infamous UFO cult, when 39 members (including Applewhite) ate poison and died in their Californian mansion.  They believed that the comet Hale Bopp was their exit to a higher life.  

But before all this, Heaven's Gate supported itself financially through web design. The cult created a small company called Higher Source, and together, members of the group would travel to different businesses and build them their first websites. It was through Higher Source that Heather Chronert met the members of Heaven's Gate. She was an employee of the San Diego Polo Club, and it was her job to work closely with two Higher Source web designers on the design and execution of the polo club's website.

Steven and Yvonne Hill of Cincinnati, Ohio found Heaven's Gate online. The two were unhappy with their lives in Ohio, and when they happened on heavensgate.com, it seemed like they'd found a religion tailor-made for them. Steven and Yvonne abandoned their lives in Ohio and moved to California to join the cult.  Steven was one of the last people to defect from Heaven's Gate before the comet lit up the sky and the believers of Heaven's Gate killed themselves. 

If you're feeling suicidal, or know someone who is, help is available for you. Suicide is preventable.  We recommend reaching out to The Samaritans, who operate a 24 hour hotline at (877) 870-4673.  Callers outside of the US can look at organizations available in their country on this list from Suicide.org

For background on this story, Lina Misitzis emailed a living representative (or representatives) of Heaven's Gate.  This document is their correspondence.


This episode was produced by Lina Misitzis.  The episode was edited by Jeff Emtman, Bethany Denton and Nick White.   Special thanks to Amy Isaacson. 

Music: Flowers ||| Swamp Dog ||| Serocell ||| The Black Spot  

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