HBM119: An Episode of Pebbles and Twigs

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The end of our seventh season draws near! Just one more episode until we hang up our podcasting hats for a few months.

Content Note:
Sexual references and bodily injury

We don’t want you to miss us too much though, so on this episode, we’re tying up some loose ends, answering some questions, and sharing ways that you can stay connected with us even when our podcast feed is quieter.

Five ways to help us out this summer

Country of Birth data from the VOICE FOIA dataset. Visualized by Ahnjili Zhuparris. Interactive Version

  1. HBM Summer Art Exchange.  You like to make art?  You like to get art? Exchange something with a fellow HBM listener.  All you have to do is fill out this form. It’s free (well, except for postage).

  2. Merch. Did you know that we have HBM shirts, stickers, art prints, books, sweatshirts?  Already have those?  Fear not, we’re working on a something new for next season.

  3. The VOICE Hotline Dataset.  In 2017, Jeff FOIA’d Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the records of the calls made to their VOICE hotline.  The (heavily redacted) spreadsheet contains 5,164 calls with many pieces of metadata for each call record.

    Google Sheets Version. This is a version that we’ve cleaned up a tad, added some useful analysis to.  You can view and comment collaboratively here.

    CSV Version. This is a version that you can use offline in software like Excel and Tableau.

    ICE FOIA LIbrary Version.  This is straight from the source.  Our FOIA is listed under Reports → VOICE Log: Apr. 2017- Oct. 2017

  4. Super Secret Facebook Group.  We have a top secret Facebook group.  If you want to be a part of it, just find it.  That’s the only test to get in.

  5. Voicemail Line.  Call us anytime.  Tell us your stories or record strange sounds, or ask us questions.  We love it when you call. Our number is (765) 374-5263.

More reporting about the VOICE Hotline on Splinter and the Arizona Republic.

Many thanks to the data scientist Ahnjili Zhuparris for the help with the VOICE dataset.  She created a whole slew of data visualizations for us here.

Producer: Jeff Emtman
Editor: Jeff Emtman
Music: The Black Spot

HBM112: Negative Space

Back when HBM host Jeff Emtman was a photographer, he used to solve his problems with walks in the woods.  There, he’d see the ways that branches frame the sky. As an artistic concept, negative space gets hogged a lot by the visual arts.  In this episode, Jeff attempts to wrestle the concept into the sonic world; address his current problems by listening to the spaces between words and by listening to the ambiences of a semi-empty, possibly haunted hotel.  

Below are some excerpts from Jeff’s ~2011 photo series called Portraits without People and the original version of HBM021: Potential Energy…the version with words.

Producer: Jeff Emtman
Editor: Jeff Emtman
Music: The Black Spot

HBM095: The Bats that Stay

Not all migratory bats migrate.  We don’t know why some choose to stay behind at their summer roosts.  But according to the University of Washington’s Sharlene Santana, the bats that stay tend to die.  

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Content note:


Language (fleeting)

In this episode, HBM host Jeff Emtman attempts to make a metaphor about bats and humans.  Perhaps it’s anthropomorphic, perhaps it’s unnecessarily poetic, or perhaps it’s a fair one.  

Jeff leaves his home in Seattle to move cross-country to Boston.  Along the way he takes a five day layover in Colorado to meet up with an old friend (Helen Katich) and her girlfriend (Laura Goldhamer).  The three drive from Denver to the San Luis Valley of Central Colorado.  They visit Valley View Hot Springs and walk to the mouth of an abandoned iron mine 10,000 feet above sea level called “The Glory Hole.”  

The Glory Hole houses an estimated 250,000 Mexican free-tailed bats each summer.  These bats migrate in from Central and South America to eat bugs and raise their pups.  They fly together at dusk in gatherings visually similar to the murmurations of starlings.   This bat species, also known as the Brazilian free-tailed bat, is extremely social, and perhaps nature’s most gregarious mammal species.  

A preserved Mexican free-tailed bat at the welcome center of Valley View Hot Springs

Helen Katich

Despite this, their social and hunting calls are completely inaudible to humans.  They produce ultrasounds, sounds too high pitched for human ears. But some audio equipment (see below) can still record these sounds, then computer algorithms can pitch them down into human-audible sounds.  

One evening, Jeff and Helen and Laura hike to the mouth of the mine.  At this vantage point, they watch some of the bats flying out and Jeff manages to record some of their loud, ultrasonic vocalizations, before the storm forces them back downhill.  The next day, Jeff flies to his new home in Boston.

Jeff Emtman produced this episode.  He recorded the bat calls with a Tascam DR100MK3 at 192kHZ sample rate and an Echo Meter Touch 2 Pro at sample rates of 256kHZ and 384kHZ.  The calls were recorded at frequencies of approximately 21kHZ to 36kHZ and time/pitch-shifted with Elastique 3.2.3 Pro.

Music: The Black Spot ||| Laura Goldhamer

HBM080: The Ocean of Halves [EXPLICIT]

Remi Dun enjoys her job. She's good at it, she makes good money, and she generally enjoys her clients’ company. And although her job rarely gives her sexual pleasure, one client with a curious tongue gave her two surprise orgasms. Another client doesn’t know that she stops making sexy faces as soon as he can’t see her. And another client simply wants companionship—his dad died recently and he’s still emotionally raw. And yet another client wants a rubber band around his balls—the thick blue kind you find on broccoli in the grocery store.

Please Note: This episode is about sex. And there’s swearing.

Remi is a part-time sex worker.  She uses pseudonyms.  She’s not out.  She worries that her friends would see her as destitute and her parents would convince themselves they’d been bad parents.  Still, Remi finds joy and security in her secret second job. She hopes to someday be out and proud, like the ones who have inspired her.  

The contents of Remi’s bag, laid on a bedsheet.  Contents include coconut oil, wet wipes, money, mouthwash, hosiery, lube, tampons, pepper spray / mace, condoms, cell phone charger, deoderant, eye drops, and cosmetics.

The contents of Remi’s bag, laid on a bedsheet.  Contents include coconut oil, wet wipes, money, mouthwash, hosiery, lube, tampons, pepper spray / mace, condoms, cell phone charger, deoderant, eye drops, and cosmetics.

Balancing her “daytime” and “nighttime” selves is part of a bigger plan: to create a financial stability, to be fierce, to practice her feminism, and to develop her own romantic relationships with partners outside of work.  Though, sometimes she feels lost in her identities, swimming in what she calls “the ocean of her halves.”

Remi contacted us to share her secret.  We mailed her a recorder for several months to record diaries and sounds from her life.  If you have a secret you’d like to share, please get in touch.

Bethany Denton and Jeff Emtman produced this episode. Our editor at KCRW is Nick White.  We are a part of the Independent Producer Project of KCRW.  

Music: The Black Spot   |||   Serocell

Episode art by Remi's partner. 


Want to help us design our next round of HBM merch? Submit a t-shirt design! If we pick your design, we’ll give you a couple of shirts and $450.

We’re on Season break!  We’ll be back with Season 6 starting in the fall.  Thank you for your supporting comments on Twitter, your reviews on iTunes / Apple Podcasts, and your likes on Facebook.  We’re already working on Season 6.  It will be even better.

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?