austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Oh, that stuff is smooth as silk

My preferred old-time radio station has shifted formats a bit, where the first half of each hour is a scheduled program and the back half is filled with a ``weekday random play'', which can't be so easily forecast and takes the burden off their charmingly Geocities-in-1998-styled program schedule. The good part is this really does get a broader set of programs in, everything from Les Paul to the stand-up comedy of Don Knotts to the morning shows that don't have any fan bases. But since the station is also taking time out for the WCBS News Radio headlines and advertisement for various scams, the back half doesn't have time for the full shows and if they're not doing fifteen-minute programs or loose segments then the starts or ends of programs get cut off. So I go not knowing quite precisely what it was I just heard, which is close enough to the normal state of affairs it doesn't stand out too much.

Anyway, last week in one of those odd synchronicities considering I just saw Rango --- which has as a key plot point a town's water supply --- and was reading Cadillac Desert, the random play pulled up a loose biography of William Mulholland. I suspect this was the Du Pont Cavalcade Of America, or an equivalent show, as it's a wholly cheerful, uplifting, soul-stirring presentation of the events that could also be presented as Chinatown.

It's one thing to present Mulholland as just gee-whizzing and aw-shucking his way into high office by dint of extraordinary work, or to write off things like his not keeping any maps of the Los Angeles water system because it's just easier for him to keep it all in his head than, oh, make it theoretically possible for someone else to do his job. The treatment of the collapse of the Saint Francis Dam as, well, just one of those things that happen and how much Mulholland did to avoid it really caught me, since one of the major causes of that failure was Mulholland tossing a couple extra feet on top of the dam without regard for whether this was sustainable.

You can get a really interesting view of biography from old-time radio shows like this, one where nobody's ever venal or makes outrageously bad decisions. I wonder what it was I heard, anyway.

Trivia: The space shuttle Columbia's first landing from orbit was at 10:21 am, 14 April 1981, on lakebed Runway 23 at the Edwards Air Force Base. Source: Space Shuttle: The History Of The National Space Transportation System: The First 100 MIssions, Dennis R Jenkins.

Currently Reading: Stan And Ollie: The Roots Of Comedy: The Double Life Of Laurel And Hardy, Simon Louvish. And don't tell me that's not enough subtitles.


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