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Here Be Monsters

An independent podcast about fear, beauty and the unknown. Since 2012. Hosted by Jeff Emtman and others.

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HBM150: Cold Water

The origins of Julia Susara’s chronic fatigue are hard to pin down.  She still doesn’t know exactly how it started but suspects that a deeply broken heart had something to do with it.  She spent about three years going through some excruciating physical sensations: immense chills, brain fogs, pregnancy nightmares and the feeling that her blood was about to boil through her skin. Doctors weren’t able to figure out what was wrong, nor were the array of alternative healers she visited. Feeling that no one was able to help, she was at the edge of giving up. But, at her brother’s suggestion, she reluctantly visited a hypnotherapist who gave Julia instructions to swim daily in cold water.  So she started jumping in the ocean each day and felt a strange and near immediate change in her symptoms.  If you’re feeling suicidal, here are some numbers you can call to speak with someone who will listen. USA Suicide Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255UK Samaritans: 116 123Canada Crisis Services: 1.833.456.4566Japan Tell JP:  03-5774-0992Australia Lifeline: 13 11 14Denmark Livslinien: 70 201 201Other countries: check the list available at suicide.org~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~This episode marks the end of Season 9.  Season 10 is coming, but the date is currently unknown.  Stay subscribed!  And keep an eye on the HBM Patreon page for an upcoming message with a season debrief and some musings about the show’s future.  That post will be public, so no need to be a member to read it.  Also, please note that due to some summer busy-ness, Jeff will not be able to run an HBM summer art exchange this year.  Sorry about that.  Thank you for all your support through Season 9.  It is such a pleasure to make this show. ~~~~~~~~~~Producer: Jeff EmtmanMusic: Julia’s choir group and The Black SpotSponsor: AnimasusEmilius Martinez is an illustrator and designer who runs Animasus.  Animasus can help you design email campaigns, websites and improve the overall branding for your business.  Speaking of which, Emilius designed the new HBM t-shirt, which is wonderful. Thank you Animasus for sponsoring Here Be Monsters!

40mins

1 Jul 2021

Rank #1

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HBM149: The Daily Blast [Neutrinowatch]

A short episode from the new show Neutrinowatch: A Daily Generative Podcast.  Each episode of Neutrinowatch changes a lil’ bit every day.  This episode, The Daily Blast, features two computerized voices (Wendy and Ivan), who share the day’s news. To get new versions of this episode, you’ll need to either stream the audio in your podcast app/web browser, or just delete and re-download the episode.  It’s updated every 24 hours.  Note: Due to Spotify’s policy of downloading and rehosting podcast audio, this episode won’t work very well on Spotify.  Most other podcast apps should handle it well though. Neutrinowatch is a project of Jeff Emtman (Here Be Monsters’ host), and Martin Zaltz Austick (Answer Me This, Song By Song, Pale Bird and others). If you’d like to know more about generative podcasting and the story of Neutrinowatch, listen to So What Exactly is Episode 149? and Jeff’s blog post called The Start of Generative Podcasting?Neutrinowatch is available on most podcast apps, and as of publish date, there’s currently 6.5 episodes available.  Each updates daily. Producers: Jeff Emtman and Martin Zaltz AustwickMusic:The Black Spot

2mins

16 Jun 2021

Rank #2

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So What Exactly is Episode 149?

Episode 149 is an odd duck for sure.  It changes every day due to some coding trickery that is happening behind the scenes. That episode is a part of a bigger project, a new podcast project that’s potentially the first of its kind.  It’s called Neutrinowatch, and every day, each episode is regenerated with new content. But this is a conversation between Jeff Emtman (Here Be Monsters’ host), and Martin Zaltz Austick (Answer Me This, Song By Song, Pale Bird and others) about the hows and whys of Neutrinowatch: A Daily Generative Podcast (available now on most podcast apps 😉)

25mins

16 Jun 2021

Rank #3

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HBM148: Early Attempts at Summoning Dream Beings

As a teenager, HBM host Jeff Emtman fell asleep most nights listening to Coast To Coast AM, a long running talk show about the world’s weirdnesses.   One of the guests stuck out though; one who spoke on his experiences with lucid dreaming.  He’d learned how to conjure supernatural entities and converse with his subconscious.  Lucid dreams are dreams where the dreamer knows they’re asleep.  Some sleepers become lucid completely at random, but lucid dream training can drastically increase the frequency of their occurrence.Months ago, Jeff put out a call for dream prompts on social media.  He asked if anyone had questions for an all-knowing being to be conjured in a forthcoming lucid dream.  Some of the questions are heard in this episode.  While training for this episode, Jeff used two approaches to trigger lucid dreams.  The first was an audio recorder by the bedside.  Each morning, Jeff recorded his dreams (lucid or not).  The second method was a series of “wakefulness checks” throughout each day, stopping at random times to test reality, and to make a determination on whether he’s currently awake or asleep.  This tactic is useful as it may eventually trigger the same behaviour in a dream.  In this episode, Jeff attempts to lucid dream to answer listener questions, but finds the progress slower than he hoped.  Here Be Monsters is an independent podcast that is funded entirely by individual sponsors and donors.  You can become a donor at patreon.com/HBMpodcastProducer: Jeff EmtmanMusic: The Black Spot, Phantom Fauna, and Serocell. Sponsor: Sleep With Me PodcastSleep With Me is a podcast that helps you fall asleep.  Host Drew Ackerman tells tangential stories, reads old catalogues, recaps old Charlie Brown specials and does other calming things all in pursuit of slowing your mind down and letting you drift off to sleep more peacefully.  Subscribe to Sleep With Me on any podcast app. 

33mins

2 Jun 2021

Rank #4

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HBM147: Chasing Tardigrades

With much of the world shut down over the last year, HBM host Jeff Emtman started wondering if there were smaller venues where the world still felt open. In this episode, Jeff interviews Chloé Savard of the Instagram microscopy page @tardibabe about the joy of looking at small things, and whether it’s possible to find beauty in things you don’t understand.  Chloé also gives Jeff instructions for finding tardigrades by soaking moss in water and squeezing out the resulting juice onto slides.Producer: Jeff EmtmanMusic: The Black SpotSponsor: Pod PeoplePod People is an audio production and staffing agency with a community of 1,000+ producers, editors, engineers, sound designers and more.  Pod People helps audio professionals find amazing job opportunities, and they're also  building a network of support that connects their members with other audio producers, educational workshops, events, and more.Pod People is free to join. After a short onboarding process, Pod People will send you clients and work opportunities that are a good match for your specific skills and interests. Join Pod People

21mins

19 May 2021

Rank #5

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Theodora is @hypo_inspo

A brief follow-up to last episode: you can now follow our AI-powered friend Theodora on Twitter! She tweets several times a day, giving bad advice, good advice, and some strange poetry. Her account’s called Hypothetical Inspiration. Give her a follow.

2mins

5 May 2021

Rank #6

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HBM146: Theodora

How does a computer learn to speak with emotion and conviction? Language is hard to express as a set of firm rules.  Every language rule seems to have exceptions and the exceptions have exceptions etcetera.  Typical, “if this then that” approaches to language just don’t work.  There’s too much nuance. But each generation of algorithms gets closer and closer. Markov chains were invented in the 1800’s and rely on nothing more than basic probabilities.  It’s a simple idea, just look at an input (like a book), and learn the order in which words tend to appear.  With this knowledge, it’s possible to generate new text in the same style of the input, just by looking up the probability of words that are likely to follow each other.  It’s simple and sometimes half decent, but not effective for longer outputs as this approach tends to lack object permanence and generate run-on sentences. Markov models are  used today in predictive text phone keyboards, but can also be used to predict weather, stock prices, etc. There’ve been plenty of other approaches to language generation (and plenty of mishaps as well).  A notable example is CleverBot, which chats with humans and heavily references its previous conversations to generate its results.  Cleverbot’s chatting can sometimes be eerily human, perfectly regurgitating slang, internet abbreviations, obscure jokes.  But it’s kind of a sly trick at the end of the day, and, as with Markov chains, Cleverbot’s AI still doesn’t always grasp grammar and object permanence. In the last decade or two, there’s been an explosion in the abilities of a different kind of AI, the Artificial Neural Network.  These “neural nets” are modelled off the way that brains work, running stimuli through their “neurons” and reinforcing paths that yield the best results. The outputs are chaotic until they are properly “trained.” But as the training reaches its optimal point, a model emerges that can efficiently process incoming data and spit out output that incorporates the same kinds of nuance, strangeness, and imperfection that you expect to see in the natural world.  Like Markov chains, neural nets have a lot of applications outside language too. But these neural networks are complicated, like a brain.  So complicated, in fact, that few try to dissect these trained models to see how they’re actually working.  And tracing it backwards is difficult, but not impossible. If we temporarily ignore the real risk that sophisticated AI language models pose for societies attempting to separate truth from fiction these neural net models allow for some interesting possibilities, namely extracting the language style of a large body of text and using that extracted style to generate new text that’s written in the voice of the original text. In this episode, Jeff creates an AI and names it “Theodora.”  She’s trained to speak like a presenter giving a Ted Talk.  The result varies from believable to utter absurdity and causes Jeff to reflect on the continued inability of individuals, AI, and large nonprofits to distinguish between good ideas and absolute madness. On the creation of Theodora: Jeff used a variety of free tools to generate Theodora in the episode.  OpenAI’s Generative Pre-trained Transformer 2 (GPT-2) was turned into the Python library GPT2 Simple by Max Woolf, who also created a tutorial demonstrating how to train the model for free using Google Colab.  Jeff used this tutorial to train Theodora on a corpus of about 900 Ted Talk transcripts for 5,000 training steps. Jeff then downloaded the model locally and used JupyterLab (Python) to generate new text.  That text was then sent to Google Cloud’s Text-To-Speech (TTS) service where it was converted to the voice heard on the episode. Producer: Jeff EmtmanMusic: LianceSponsor: Liance Independent musician James Li has just released This Painting Doesn’t Dry, an album about the relationship between personal experiences and the story of humanity as a whole.  James made this album while he anxiously watched his homeland of Hong Kong fall into political crisis.Buy on Bandcamp. Listen on Spotify.

27mins

28 Apr 2021

Rank #7

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HBM145: The Juice Library

Like so many others, Amanda Petrus got a bit lost after college. She had a chemistry degree and not a lot of direction.  But she was able to find work at a juice factory in the vineyards of western New York.  Her job was quality control, which meant overnight shifts at the factory, tasting endless cups of fruit punch and comparing them to the ever-evolving set of juice standards that they kept in the “juice library.” She calls herself and “odd creature”, especially for the time and place: she was a woman working in a factory dominated by men, she was openly lesbian (and yet still rebuffing advances from her coworkers), and she was a lover of Richard Wagner’s—sometimes dressing up as a valkyrie.Unfortunately, much of her time at the factory was characterized by the antics of her juice tasting colleague, Tim, who, in some ways, mirrored the traits of her favorite composer.  He was incredibly gifted at understanding the flavor profile of fruit punch, able to predict the exact ratios of passion fruit, high fructose corn syrup, and red 40 needed to please the factory’s  clients.  But he also shared Wagner’s xenophobia and misogyny, with his own brand of paranoia, too.  Often, Amanda was a target of his outburstsThis came to a head when Amanda was suddenly fired and escorted from the factory after Tim levelled an incredible accusation of conspiracy against her. After this incident, Amanda got into grad school, and started her path towards teaching.  She is now a professor of chemistry at the Community College of Rhode Island.  She also runs the website Mail From A Cat where you can order mail...from a cat. Producer: Jeff EmtmanMusic: The Black Spot, Serocell, Ride of the Valkyries (performed by The United States Marine Band),Overture from The Flying Dutchman (performed by University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra), Prelude from Parsifal (recording from the European Archive). Sponsor: Esoteric Bumper StickersEsoteric Bumper Stickers sells waterproof vinyl stickers can fit any feeling.  Not just for cars, Esoteric Bumper Stickers can show the world your knowledge of the briny deep, your passion for flora, your love of claws in the dark, etc. 

25mins

14 Apr 2021

Rank #8

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HBM144: Keeping A Place

HBM Host Jeff Emtman has always been afraid of losing his memories. Places he cares about keep getting torn down.In this episode, Jeff bikes around Seattle recording the sounds of a popping balloon to capture the sound of places he likes: Padelford Hall’s Parking Garage, The Wayne Tunnel in Bothell, his old house in Roosevelt, The Greenlake Aqua Theater, and his front porch on a snowy day.  The sound of a popping balloon can be used to re-create a space digitally.  These popping sounds are loud ‘impulses’, and the space ‘responds’ accordingly.  These impulse responses can then be fed to an audio effect called a “convolution reverb” which interprets the impulse response and applies it to any incoming sound.  Rick and Kathy Emtman are heard on this episode.  Forrest Perrine helped with some of the recordings.  Support Here Be Monsters on Patreon! Producer: Jeff EmtmanMusic: The Black Spot, August Friis, Serocell, Phantom FaunaSponsor: Walk in the Woods ZineWalk in the Woods is a free mini zine that you can get in the mail! Zine-maker Flissy Saucier writes and draws about her experiences walking in the woods in this monthly+ publication. You can donate to keep the project going and get additional benefits.

29mins

31 Mar 2021

Rank #9

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HBM143: Laughing Rats and Dawn Rituals

Animals sometimes make noises that would be impossible to place without context.  In this episode: three types of animal vocalizations—described by the people who recorded them. Ashley Ahearn: Journalist and producer of Grouse, from Birdnote and Boise State Public RadioJoel Balsam: Journalist and producer of the upcoming podcast Parallel Lives.  Joel co-created a photo essay for ESPN about the “pororoca”, an Amazonian wave chased each year by surfers. Kevin Coffey, Ph.D.: Co-creator of DeepSqueak and researcher at VA Puget Sound and the University of Washington.  Kevin co-authored the paper DeepSqueak: a deep learning-based system for detection and analysis of ultrasonic vocalizations in Nature’s Neuropsychopharmacology journal. Also heard: calls of the Indies Short Tailed Cricket (Anurogryllus celerinictus), which may be the perpetrator of the so-called “sonic attacks” recently reported in Cuba.  Sound sent in by HBM listener Isaul in Puerto Rico.  Producer: Jeff EmtmanMusic: The Black SpotSponsor: Chas CoChas Co takes care of cats and dogs in Brooklyn (especially in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Bed Stuy and surrounding neighborhoods). Chas Co welcomes pets with special behavioral and medical needs, including those that other services have turned away.  They offer dog walking, cat visiting, and custom care arrangements too. Visit ChasCo.nyc to book an appointment. Thank you Chas Co for sponsoring Here Be Monsters. Please consider becoming a patron of Here Be Monsters at patreon.com/HBMpodcast/

25mins

17 Mar 2021

Rank #10