Valley of Smoke
Audio documentaries of Southern California: microcosm of human experience, crossroads of everything.
info_outline 008 Buttons or Keys? Part 1 05/21/2018
008 Buttons or Keys? Part 1 The story behind one of the largest accordion schools in history, how impressionable young children were once recruited into esoteric pursuits by strangers appearing at their front door, and the rise and fall of the piano accordion in the USA.
info_outline 007 No Direct Flights 05/15/2017
007 No Direct Flights Two urban metropolises almost exactly opposite on the globe are each home to over 14 million people. Each sits at the southern foot of a mountain range, and is infamous for traffic, smog, and a hot, dry summer. Each entered their modern age in the 1770’s and came into their own with explosive growth in the 20th Century. Each has been enabled by impressive feats of aqueduct engineering. And one has become a nucleus of the other’s diaspora. The personal narratives of four people whose homes have included both Tehran and Southern California reveal glimpses of ever-shifting but consistently-lopsided cultural connections over almost 70 years of history. A taste of what it is to straddle societies, histories, and language. Especially when one of the cultures remains willfully oblivious of the other.
info_outline 006 Our Closest Neighbors, Part 2 01/23/2016
006 Our Closest Neighbors, Part 2 By the late 19th Century, just when there aren't many wild predators left, we turn away from rural living. The deer are happy about this, and reproduce accordingly. And strangely enough (or perhaps, obviously), we then proceed to take animal tourism to a new level, being especially fond of paying money to see large carnivores from other places, both on film and in person. The boom-boom years of the jungle film mean Southern California is, for a time, a mecca for animal tourist attractions. But things don't go well, especially once Walt Disney hits the scene.
info_outline 005 Our Closest Neighbors, Part 1 12/13/2015
005 Our Closest Neighbors, Part 1 The urban areas of The Southland are only getting more popular with the local wildlife. As coyotes and mountain lions become resigned to–if not delighted by–urban living, distinctions such as wilderness and civilization fall away. Scientists are beginning to study the city as natural habitat and are discovering biodiversity far beyond expectation, including brand new species literally in our backyards. Here, underfoot and on the power lines overhead, are the animals we live with but are not pets, the ones we track with sophisticated technology, the ones we kill and the ones we pay to see.
info_outline 004 Working Without A Net 10/09/2015
004 Working Without A Net An essay on personal and collective responsibility amid shifting economic sands and elusive safety nets, focusing on one of Los Angeles' great economic engines: creativity. Aerialists, singers, musicians, visual artists, science fiction writers, film directors, and special effects specialists are herein represented in the quest for a healthy professional life. Woven through the stories of these small business owners and entrepreneurs is the history of California's contributions to the development of health insurance in the US. Risk comes in many forms; managing it demands many strategies. Are freelance artists the coal mine canaries for a large portion of our economy? Embrace the uncertain, accept the pain, and pick up some ideas about what to wear to the upcoming semi-formal economy.
info_outline 003 Your Boyfriend's No Rocket Scientist, Part 2 09/17/2015
003 Your Boyfriend's No Rocket Scientist, Part 2 We've been in space for over fifty years, but it still requires enormous resources and risk to get there. As part of the quest to change that situation, Mojave, California–the small desert town with an oversized airfield–has evolved from a training ground for Marine flying aces to the first private spaceport in history, although it's been a decade since the last succesful round-trip. While the private companies based there struggle to make acheiving orbit routine, NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, located in an arroyo at the edge of Pasadena, continue refining and operating the robots that are exploring outer space.
info_outline 002 Don't Want to Complain 09/16/2015
002 Don't Want to Complain The very personal story of the Siegel family, exploring the struggle of communicating bad news to loved ones, especially as the bad news piles on. Among many other things, here may be found: glimpses of Los Angeles through the later decades of the 20th Century, the minty-fresh smell of City Hall, Antonioni's SoCal movie and his weak attempt at heaviness, and yet another reason to appreciate rock'n'roll.
info_outline 001 Your Boyfriend's No Rocket Scientist, Part 1 09/15/2015
001 Your Boyfriend's No Rocket Scientist, Part 1 Southern California was perhaps the world's single most important location for the development of the industry that came to be known as aerospace. Starting in 1910 and steadily building for three decades, the region came into its own in World War 2 and continuined through the entirety of the Cold War. And then disappeared. Most of its traces were quickly erased, and few people are aware of the industry's history here, but it was a prime factor in the development of Los Angeles County.