Passage #99: 25 May 2011

Transmission Impossible

The radio, it is speaking to us. And listening to that disembodied voice, we may feel just slightly disembodied ourselves, vaguely aware that we are members of an audience that is sharing an experience everywhere simultaneously. It evokes a sense of placelessness borne of its very omnipresence. The radio, we might say, is not "here." The radio is pure now.

But of course, the radio is not completely placeless, nor is it rooted so firmly in the moment. There are physical anchors that tie everything in place and limitations that rein it all in: microphones, antennas and receivers; wattages, impedances and lines of sight. And each moment takes place within a longer timeline, with debts to the past and responsibilities to the future: regulations, traditions, revenues...

And perhaps this all sounds glaringly obvious when one comes right out and says it (so obvious, in fact, that one must wonder whether this whole pretense of placeless now-ness is just a bunch of rhetorical hokum). But then perhaps one turns on the radio and is carried away, and things become a great deal less obvious indeed. Perhaps?

In any case, this week, we will be visiting several sites of historical radio interest: pirate and commercial, superpowered and micropowered, secular and religious, foreign and domestic.

And we're going over the hill this week too, which is appropriate, considering that the mileage is also pushing 40 (Get it? Get it? Oh, we're hilarious), but there is a red line bailout point for the nervous or time-constrained. Really, though: hills; distance; be ready.

Route Map

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