Estonian Freedom Monument

August 20, 1991. Hardline Communist party members attempt a coup on the moscow white house. Boris stands upon a tank and the coup is pushed away but it was just enough time for Estonia to declare their independence again. On September 6 1991, the USSR agreed. Here is what stands today in memory of that

Freedom isn’t free people. It costs a buck-o-five

Mystery Broadcast from Russia

I’ve noticed that there seems to be a strong overlap between comedians and conspiracy theorists. Something about having an overactive mind which analyzes every it is given and eventually patterns form. If you believe it that is. I’m not a conspiracy nut, if the Freemasons do run the world then Im not too worries as long as I can still get my cup of tea each morning but today a conspiracy theory / mystery has stuck in my mind.

UVB-76 or "The Buzzer". Its a shortwave radio signal which has been broadcast from inside Russia (former USSR), constantly since 1987. No explanation was ever given by the Russian government or military and it would send these crazy loud buzzes down over the air at about 25 per minute. No one can explain what it was for. Does it contain coded messages to spies? Is is a dead mans switch for the USSR’s nuclear weapons (ie if the signal stops, meaning Moscow has been bombed, then send off the nukes automatically)? Does it contain a homing beacon so when Putin is up in his chopper putting out a few fires he knows which way is home? The weird thing is that this didnt stop after the end of the USSR.

As well as the buzz, throughout the years there have been incidents of a mans voice instead of the buzzer. Sometimes it sounded like coded information, names, numbers. Other times it seemed like random background chatter was being picked up by people in the broadcast station.

The location of the transmitter is well known, in Povorova, not so far from Moscow.

In fact it only ended about 3 months ago when the buzzer suddenly went silent. No explanation given. Everyone assumed the transceiver has been decommissioned. Then yesterday something started up again, not the buzzer but a mans voice. Giving names and numbers again. Of course we don’t know what they meant. Coded signal? if you plug the numbers in as coordinates then it points to a place in the Barents sea, where there may be Russian vessels right now. Whoa. No more buzzes though.

This stuff is great! What does it mean?

Theres a cool blog about UVB-76 at http://uvb-76.blogspot.com where you can also listen to a live stream of the signal. Also Wikipedia has lots of good info. Its kinda creepy. Its just static right now but when will the mystery person say something else? Who knows?? Right now there have been reports of random stuff for the last few days. The tone changes. It gets deeper. It sounds like knocking in the room. Wow.

This is some analysis of the signal. LOOK THE SIDEBAND IS CLEARLY SUPPRESSED!! CLEARLY SUPPRESSED! I have no idea what that means but its spooky right?

Actually there is also a very good theory that the transmitter is used for High-frequency Doppler method for ionosphere research. Bugger that, its a code, a code! Im going back to listening to it, the static is a good imitation of the audience after I tell my jokes.

Leap Of Faith

That Phil Schwarzmann is a clever dude. He made an observation about my jokes the other day: "the audience often has to make a leap to get your joke". Which I actually take as a compliment, hopefully it means I’m writing something which makes them think. When the audience needs to piece my two obscure references together, they feel satisfaction in getting the joke. The other side of that is if the leap is too large and audience cant quite make it.

I felt I had a good show at Manala the other night and on at least 2 occasions my joke was met with silence from the 70 strong crowd. If you tell a joke and its bad, usually some drunk will laugh half heartily and you will hear something but on these occasions I was greeted with an amazing, deathly silence. I kind of like these moments, to me they are liberating as a comedian as we can stop and talk about why this happened. To me, when there is utter silence, its not just a bad joke, the audience didn’t even grasp that it was actually a joke at all or they could feel it was a punchline but the leap was waaay too big for them to make.

Getting the right mix takes time. I have a few other gags which take the audience about 2 seconds for the joke to sink in. They are some of my favorite, there is that scary wait after the punchline has been delivered, that faith that in 2 seconds the penny will drop for these good people who have paid to see a decent comedy show. That 2 seconds can feel like an eternity on stage.  With luck it comes. If it doesn’t, you better have something else to say real quick.

Language

Its an overcast day in Tallinn and there isnt much to do today but work on my set. We had a great show at Varblane terrace on Sunday where it rained but the show went on, we had our headliner, Tomi Walamies, performing under am umbrella to audience huddled around the terrace. Still this guy managed to kill us for 30 minutes straight, it was real adventure comedy. This Wednesday we have a show at Drink Baar in Tallinn, Thursday is Manala English Comedy Club in Helsinki and next Sunday is Varblane again.

Hanging out in Tallinn for a few days I was thinking about language. You all know I am not a linguistic genius but I get by, my Swedish reading is passable and there was my Estonian study and my big 2 days of Finnish study. With a mix of these basics rolling around in my head Im like a child who grows up in a quad-lingual family, for a while all the languages mix together. I am fascinated by mixing of languages, when I was bar tending the other night in Prive a tall Viking looking guy came up to me and said "uks öl", the "uks" is "1" in Estonian and the the "öl" is beer in swedish/danish/norwegian. Still I got to him and replied "ei problem" in kind.

Tallinn old town is full of tourists from all over the world and they do like to have ago, Eric and I got stopped by some tourists wanting directions and when they spoke to us, I had the most surreal moment of understanding what they said, but not realising what language it was said in. They wanted to know how to get to Hotel Viru and I replied in English and they laughed and went on their way and after the fact Eric had to fill me in they were Fins trying to speak Estonian, Eric understanding Estonian far better than I can ever hope to.

It was only 30 seconds but it stuck with me. Everyone is concerned about preserving their language which I am very much in support of, however as an Australian and a native English speaker, maybe I am more accustomed to the power that diversity can bring, both in the people in my country and the wonderful way English is this amazing mash up of a bunch of other languages. I want everyone to preserve their language but playing with words is really a lot of fun.