Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sex and Broadcasting - Lorenzo W. Milam

For anyone who has read through the Dover catalogue (all of us at one point or another) and thought "Wow, there's an audience for obscure 14th century Danish textile arts!?" (some of us at one point or another) and marveled that Dover is out there guarding and shepherding this great ship of ephemera, history, vitally important information and weirdness... Here's another goody.

The original versions of this book (there were 3), were ostensibly a guide to the intricacies and bureaucratic hoop-jumping necessary to obtain a non-profit community radio station license, and were first published in the early 1960s through to the third edition in 1975. Large portions of the book deal directly with things and hardware which are completely obsolete at this point.  That doesn't make them irrelevant.  My father was an electrical engineer and radio enthusiast/engineer so the archetypes which Milam (the author of this book) describes (engineers, bureaucrats, volunteers, etc) are part of my childhood and shared history.  They still resonate.  Even without my background (back in the 60's I made jewelry out of cast-off wire which I found around my dad's workshop), the history of community access and historical radio are important to preserve and understand.  We can't possibly understand how we got 'here' without knowing at least something about where we came 'from'.  This is especially important for the engineers and radio nerds who are coming up through the ranks today.  (My son among them).  Now that DAB (digital audio broadcasting) is replacing/has replaced traditional broadcasting, only historical records will be available.  (Here's where Dover deserves a universe of good karma for preserving and producing and letting us mortals see and understand and access this otherwise-surely-lost info)!

History essay (and why it's important) aside.  This book is darned funny.  It's irreverent and tongue in cheek and sarcastic as hell.  As far as I can reckon, the voice is unique in my experience, however, it reminds me a lot of what you'd get if you locked Hunter S. Thompson, William Burroughs and the Monty Python crew in a room with unlimited booze for a few days straight.  Surreal and slightly anarchistic and weirdly wonderful. It's a brick of a book - Amazon clocks it in at 352 pages.  The illustrations are zany.  Everything from woodcuts of obscure mammals to Edwardian advertising copy.  

This book hit me personally at a time when media and news is controlled, drip-fed, spun, wrung out commercialized and overwhelmingly bad.  I needed to read something about broadcast media that wasn't so cynical and depressing.  This book fit the bill.

I understand that the potential audience of historically interested broadcast nerds is probably pretty small, but my heavens, for the few thousand of us out there... this book is great.

I wish I could let Mr. Milam know that he really knocked it out of the park.  What a cool book. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.

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