10 febbraio 2010

In morte di un DXer - John H. Bryant

La posta elettronica di questa mattina ha portato, complice il fuso orario, una notizia molto triste dagli Stati Uniti. L'altro giorno è morto John H. Bryant, uno dei grandi nomi del DXing, la forma più tecnica e hobbystica del radioascolto, un bravissimo appassionato della radio specializzato nell'ascolto delle stazioni in onde medie molto lontane (qui un suo documento sull'ascolto e l'identificazione delle stazioni in onde medie giapponesi). John, che faceva un mestiere bellissimo - era docente di architettura, ormai "emerito", della Oklahoma University - era un pioniere delle cosiddette DXpedition, le sessioni di ascolto effettuate in luoghi isolati e lontani dalle sorgenti di rumore metropolitane. La sua destinazione preferita era la foresta di Grayland nello stato di Washington, ma la DXpedition più famosa, che resterà nella storia dell'hobby, John la effettuò a Rapa Nui, l'Isola di Pasqua. La sua dedizione, l'entusiasmo e l'intelligenza che metteva nell'ascoltare, la generosa disponibilità a condividere le proprie conoscenze e il gusto che provava nel trasmettere agli altri, da autentico maestro, la sua esperienza, erano leggendari. Dalle prime notizie sembrerebbe che John sia rovinosamente caduto da una scala a pioli e purtroppo non è sopravvissuto ai traumi subiti. John scrisse e fu co-autore di diversi libri e pubblicazioni, tra cui una bellissima serie di libri sui ricevitori Zenith Trans-Oceanic.
Nella comunità internazionale dei DXer, sorprendentemente poco numerosa e quindi relativamente unita, John godeva di una fama meritatissima ma naturalmente pochi di noi lo hanno conosciuto di persona. Credo tuttavia che nessuno possa dire di non essersi sentito suo amico "vero", compagno e sodale nello spirito transculturale e senza barriere, della radio. Poco fa, tra i tanti ricordi che arrivano in queste ore sulle mailing list che rappresentano il sistema linfatico dell'hobby, è arrivata la rievocazione di Mark Connelly, radioamatore e DXer, grande designer di accessori per ottimizzare l'ascolto. Non credo di aver mai letto parole più belle ed eloquenti, un ritratto più accurato del DXer "visto da dentro".
Sono in inglese, ma non voglio tradurle perché non riuscirei a fare un lavoro all'altezza. Sono sempre in grande difficoltà quando mi chiedono di spiegare che cosa vuol dire essere DXer, per quale motivo ho cominiciato a praticare questa astrusa passione. Mark è il primo che è riuscito a mettere nero su bianco il motivo per cui questo è l'hobby più bello del mondo.

I am truly saddened to hear of the loss of John Bryant, a DXer of rare skill, enthusiasm, and willingness to help and teach others. I had the pleasure to meet John at one of the Boston Area DXers meetings about 10 years ago. He had just been up to Newfoundland so we had quite a bit to talk about from that.
In the 1980's I became aware of John through the Fine Tuning Proceedings books. These still stand as some of the best hobby writing ever. Though, after 20+ years, techniques, equipment, and target stations have changed a lot, the Proceedings books are still great "motivational reading". The later works such as "Emerging Techniques of High Tech DXpeditioning" embody the same level of writing skill and they form the signposts along the road the radio hobbies have taken. John's writings, like those of the late Gordon Nelson, will be the important chapters when, many years from now, historians try to sort out what we were doing in DX listening.
John, as a professor of architecture, reveled in fine industrial design. This was true whether the object of attention was a building, a sports car, or a radio. His review of the SX-28, that old World War II classic, is a must read. A spin of the hefty well-balanced tuning knob becomes the passport to unique pleasures on several levels. This is like a good car reviewer's write-up about a Ferrari: it's about so much more than just "getting from A to B".
The knowledge in each article was always first rate and thoroughly researched but John's writing style was never stuffy and academic. Each paragraph "pulled you in" and exuded enthusiasm for the look and feel of a great receiver, the "wow" excitement when an antenna project met or exceeded expectations, and the joyfulness about the sights, smells, local culture, etc. of exotic DXpedition sites. The loggings, technical details, etc. were always in there of course - and in splendidly accurate detail - but also there was the human interest side. A new radio was greeted the way a kid would experience opening presents on Christmas morning. A DX locale was described not just in technical terms but also in respect to how all the DXpeditioners got along (their good as well as their odd or irritating habits). There were wonderfully insightful narratives about local people, languages, customs, art, food, and music. The articles always had great photos and drawings (and, in later times, audio and video clips) to enhance and illuminate the whole experience.
DX stations were not just appraised in dry terms of frequency, call, strength, and time heard. There was a distinct interest in using each broadcast logged, whether the long-appreciated Indonesians or anything else, as a way to get into the culture of people around the world. Many DXers do some research about characteristics of different countries but (even before Google made it easier) John took this to a whole new level by taking the time to figure out who the politicians, entertainers, sports figures, etc. were in many lands, as well as amassing much other vital information allowing a much more rewarding and informed "DXperience".
He was truly a king of the DX hobby and will be missed greatly. Those of us who are left will be well served by re-reading the massive amount of John's material out there on the Web and in printed form that can be obtained through various clubs. We should take things from John's work to help us be keepers of the flame - not just expertise (which he had in spades) but the more visceral thrills to be had in the pursuit of each tidbit of culture that comes through our headphones and speakers from places quite different from home.
I know that a year or two back he hosted a 50th high school reunion celebration that was especially important to him. How sad that it was the last time most of his former classmates saw him.
Mark Connelly, WA1ION

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