Viridian Note 00277: Khaki Green Wind-Up Radios

Bruce Sterling []

Key concepts: wind-up radios, Trevor Bayliss, Afghanistan

Attention Conservation Notice: Grim warfare coverage includes cool Viridian T-shirts and Hindi Bollywood dance movies!

(((We Viridians are not be ahead of our times at the moment, but we can still break the tiresome rhythm of daily events. Normally we shy away from selling Viridian T-shirts by mail, because it is way too much work. Never mind that now. This is clearly the proper moment for us Viridians to use the mail services.

(((Twenty dollars will buy you our new Viridian T-shirt. This shirt comes in two colors/ sizes, the large, Khaki Green version, and the Xtra-Large Involuntary-Park Forest Green model. Both shirts bear a large white logo of our beloved Viridian mascot, Big Mike. They sport the address of our website in a Viridian-approved "Decaying" font, and brandish the catchy and accurate slogan "WE KNOW MORE ABOUT THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT THAN YOU HAVE EVER BEEN ALLOWED TO LEARN."

(((Twenty dollars is a lot for a T-shirt, but this inflated sum will underwrite international mail for global Viridians. If your government is in NATO, feel free to mail me twenty euros. I don't know what I'll do with these euros, but I'll think of something. Cash and checks only, please. If you want one, send email and I'll give you the full particulars.)))

Fiza: The Feel-Good PsyWar Hit of the Season!

"Fiza: In Search of Her Brother" directed by Khalid Mohamed, starring Karisma "Lolo" Kapoor as "Fiza," and Hrithik Roshan as "Amaan."

(((In this directorial debut by Indian film critic Khalid Muhamed, Fiza is a disco-dancing, college-educated Bombay feminist whose brother Amaan is a Mujihadeen terrorist. This movie lasts four long hours, is all about touchy Indian communal politics, and it's in Hindi. As a Viridian, you'll probably want to watch much of this epic with your finger on the fast-forward button. However, you definitely will want to slow down to see former Miss Universe Sushmita Sen do her guest-starring, hijab- stripping, MTV-India music-video routine for the sizzling number "Mehboob Mere." If you are female, you will merely gape in astonishment at this edifying cultural spectacle; if you are male, you will probably want to watch Sushmita do her thing four or five times in a row.)))


(((Meanwhile, in deepest Afghanistan, renewable energy goes to work in the service of psychological warfare.)))


"Wednesday, 10 October, 2001, 12:03 GMT 13:03 UK "Clockwork warfare

"Afghans rely on radio more than any other medium

    "It started as a few cogs and springs in the hands of an eccentric inventor. But now the wind-up radio is a secret weapon in America's battle for the Afghan airwaves, writes BBC News Online's Jonathan Duffy.

    "It's a battle for the air and the airwaves.

    "As well as dropping bombs and food ration packs into Afghanistan, military strategists in Washington have a new secret weapon in their war on terrorism: the wind-up radio.

"American C17 planes have been making drops into Afghanistan

    "The Americans have reportedly been air-dropping hundreds of small wind-up radios into Afghanistan as the first step in what promises to be a battle for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people.

    "The radios are thought to be specially commissioned fixed-frequency models that will automatically tune into information broadcasts issued by the US military.

    "Washington is relying on the work of its renowned Commando Solo unit to reach Afghans over the airwaves, and maybe also to block out rival broadcasts by the Taleban, according to an expert.

    "The six EC-130 planes that make up the Air National Guard's Commando Solo fleet serve as flying radio stations. The unit has a record of operating in US conflicts such as those in Panama, Bosnia and Haiti.

'Now the genie is out of the bottle, I only hope it is not used for evil' Trevor Baylis, inventor of the wind-up radio

    "As well as efforts by the US military to air-drop radios, relief agencies are also working to supply commercial wind-up models to refugees, many of whom have fled their homes because of severe food shortages in Afghanistan.

    "Freeplay, the company which pioneered wind-up radio technology through British inventor Trevor Baylis, says it has recently had orders for 'tens of thousands' of radios for the region.

    "But unlike those dropped by the Americans, these will not be locked on to a single frequency and so will be able to pick up broadcasts from independent media such as BBC's World Service and Voice of America.

"Television ban

    "The whole thing has Mr Baylis, who struggled for years to get backing for his invention, quite overawed.

    "'To think when I was sitting there with a load of springs and cogs and wires that one day this technology would be used by the American military to help fight their wars is quite astonishing,' he says. (((We Viridians have been watching Trevor for years. Frankly, I don't think we find this development all that astonishing. We'll be particularly impressed if his wind-up mine detector finally goes into full-scale production.)))

    "Radio is seen as a key weapon in the current conflict, since it is one of the few forms of media available to Afghans. The ruling Taleban forbid television, and with high levels of illiteracy, newspapers command only a select audience.

"Radios few in number

    "By contrast, a survey carried out by the BBC before the current crisis found that on an average day more than 60% of the population listen to World Service broadcasts in Pashto and Persian.

"BBC World Service:

"Broadcast to Afghanistan in Persian for 60 years and in Pashto for 20 years

"Doubled hours of output to Afghanistan since start of crisis

    "But radios are relatively scarce and worsening poverty combined with recent disruptions mean that fresh batteries are both hard to find and expensive, says Kristine Pearson, of the Freeplay Foundation.

    "Hence the need for wind-up radios.

    "'Information is absolutely vital in a humanitarian crisis,' says Ms Pearson. (((Uhhhh... okay.)))

    "'In this situation, it is even more crucial because of the disinformation and misinformation that's rife. These people need to be able to rely on balanced and reliable broadcasts.' (((I know I'll heartily agree on the day that somebody drops a renewable radio on me.)))

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