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here be pirates

for me, there will always be something fascinating about radio. it's not just that i used to be involved. the fascination goes back to when i was very young. no matter what was going on in my life, the radio always seemed to be there, making the soundtrack. my childhood is punctuated by the sounds of the cbc. i believe i can repeat, almost verbatim, the cbc news introduction from the day after the 1980 sovreignty referendum in quebec. when i hit my teens, the chief use i had for my walkman was burying myself under the covers when i was supposed to be asleep and listening to shows like brave new waves, or broadcasts of british shows, where the music seemed much more interesting than what was available locally (it was).

always, what fascinated me was the idea that i was hearing someone i didn't know and couldn't picture off there in the distance, someone with whom i shared an interest in music. somewhere out there was someone, opaque to me, who was unaware of the fact that they were making me happy.

doing a radio show is something that one would normally think would have dismantled the mytery of that process fairly effectively. but it didn't. even though i have now seen first hand that radio, particularly community radio, is produced by people who are not mysterious but who are very much like me, it doesn't lessen the effect that listening to a well-constructed show has on me.

the problem now is that it is becoming harder and harder to find radio that really catches my interest. there are still community stations (n fact, earlier this week, i had one of those serendipitous experiences in the car where i heard a track and was compelled to call up the dj to find out what it was), but eventually, a girl gets to craving something a little different.

internet radio, is, of course, a very viable option and a good way to find out about new music once you find a station that lines up nicely with your tastes, but its seamless mix of tunes removes exactly the human element and local flavour that always made radio appealing for me.

happily, the internet also grants access to radio stations, many radio stations with actual hosts and schedules and variety, that stram online. this includes a healthy selection of pirate stations, who in pre-internet times would have had audiences limited to the very dedicated or the very lucky. now, these latter days thieves of the radio waves can enjoy international audiences.

radio history has always been populated by mavericks who worked outside the broadcast laws of the time, often for political ends. but pirate radio doesn't have to be overtly poltical, because it is political by its very nature. its existence is a challenge to political entities like the crtc and the fcc, whose mandate is specifically to impose conditions on the ability to broadcast.

in europe, these sorts of broadcasts are made easier by the fact that it is possible to broadcast across international borders and, hence, dodge areas that have stricter laws. in north america, where it is easier to catch and prosecute offenders, the endeavour is a little trickier. there are examples, of course, like the adorably named pirate cat radio, which seems to be run entirely by unrepentant post-punks who never forgot either their music or their politics. (if you find them a little too pretty for your tastes, you might want to check out their bay area neighbours, western addition radio.) the nice thing about stations like this, for me at least, is that it offers not merely the opportunity to hear enjoyable music, but to hear the voice of someone else who is enthusiastic about it, someone you've never met, but with whom you share a common interest. now how often does that happen?

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