The West Desert

Intro from Jay Allison: Scott Carrier explores "the basement" of waste in Western Utah.

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Utah Map
Map of Utah
NASA Photo
NASA Photo
Dugway
The Dugway Grid

Notes from Scott Carrier

I see “The West Desert” as a cultural history of the physical terrain more commonly known as the Great Salt Lake Desert. Here in Salt Lake City we call it The West Desert because we also have deserts to the south and north and east. The West Desert is different, culturally, because it’s a place that no one, or very few people, ever wanted to live in or own property. Because of this (and some environmental qualities that are discussed in the story) its become a place to put our poisons. In producing the story I tried not to take the position that the poisons should be put somewhere else, or that the poisons should not exist. The poisons do exist and will exist and the sad fact of the matter is that the west desert is probably the best place in the country to put them. In 1991, when I made the thing, I was realizing that the environmental movement was stuck in an “us versus them”, “good guys versus bad guys” pattern of ignorance. I thought that by showing this “garage” or “basement” I could make people think about how we are all implicated and responsible.

For instance, there is a magnesium plant out there which has been single-handedly responsible for earning Tooele County the highest EPA air toxicity rating in the country (I forget which years specifically). They pull water from the Great Salt Lake, which contains magnesium chloride as one of its salts. Then they separate the magnesium from the chlorine. The metal goes into bars which are used in alloys that make steel four times lighter and eight times stronger, like magic. The chlorine, however, goes into the air – mustard gas. After it goes into the air it eventually drops back into the lake or onto the desert floor, which is where it came from, which is a good way to get rid of it, but occasionally, depending on the wind pattern, it blows south over the small town of Grantsville and I-80. This sucks, of course, but I still don’t want to close that magnesium plant. There is magnesium in my golf club, the one I used to hit the ball in the story. There is magnesium in the engine of my truck, the one I used to drive around and record the interviews. I like magnesium, and I like that the plant makes it in such a simple way. I just hope that the people who work there are doing every thing they can to make it in the safest way possible.

Another example that isn’t mentioned at all in the story is that now some of the Goshute Indians are trying to get the contract for storing radioactive waste from the nuclear power plants around the country. I don’t like radioactive waste. I would rather it not be moved on trains and trucks through my community, but it has to go somewhere. We don’t use nuclear-generated electricity in this part of the country, but we have one of the best places to put the waste. Should we shut down the nuclear power plants? Maybe. I’m not even convinced of this. Given the choice of storing radioactive waste deep in the ground or having our troops occupying Saudi Arabia, I think I would choose the radioactive waste. At least then we are shitting in our own yard. My hope, again, is that the people who take care of the stuff will do the best job they can. I would, if I had the power, require those folks who work out there to also live on the grounds with their families. I would pay them well, give them lots of vacations, counseling, anything to keep them happy and very alert.

Conservation? Conservation? It seems to be a myth. The reality is that we burn everything we can afford and justify it as a God-given right. And perhaps one of the best ways to actually change this pattern would be to sit in our own filth until we think of a way not to produce any more of it. This radio essay was never broadcast nationally, although it’s been played here locally on KUER several times, and, strangely, still seems to be current even though I originally produced it in 1991. It’s a good story, one that I’m proud of, and I’m glad that Transom is posting it now. I could go on and talk about it, but I think the work pretty much speaks for itself. One thing I will say is that my intention was to piss people off, which may be the main reason it never played on a national program. Listen to it if you want. If you have any questions or comments I’ll try to respond.

Also, the opening lines are from Mark Twain’s “Roughing It.” He came through here in 1861 with his brother on the Overland Stage, en route to Carson City, Nevada.

As for credits–Larry Massett and Art Silverman gave me some very good advice on how to put the thing together, and the funding came from a CPB grant.

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  • Jay Allison

    9.23.02

    Reply
    The West Desert

    Transom mainly showcases work from new talent, but we also like to bring you experiments or work-that-doesn’t-fit from old talent. Our general intention is to push and widen and excite the sound of public radio, so… whatever it takes.

    Our new feature from Scott Carrier has never aired nationally:
    "One thing I will say is that my intention was to
    piss people off, which may be the main reason it
    never played on a national program.
    Listen to it if you want."

    I guess that would be Scott’s version of a forward promo.

    Scott’s relationship to public radio goes back a long way, and you can read/hear about it on Transom by clicking right there. We are always interested in what Scott is doing because he explores the borders of places, far from the mainstream. We are interested when public radio goes to those regions, and particularly interested when work goes beyond them, because we’re sure we can learn something by looking back from the other side.

  • Robert Wright

    9.24.02

    Reply
    West Desert

    I just listened to West Desert. I’m a huge fan of Scott Carrier and this wasn’t disappointing in the slightest.

    There are some excellent moments here. The interview with the laughing but miserable Indian who might need a battery jump. The subtle unfriendliness of the scientist who finally suggests that Scott attend a citizens advisory meeting.

    I’m glad Transom made this available. This isn’t just a good piece from a great producer. It’s a great piece from a great producer.

  • Alex Chadwick

    9.24.02

    Reply
    West Desert

    This is my all time favorite piece of radio by anyone. Every moment of it is unexpected – unlike anything else I hear on public radio, or certainly read in any mainstream publications. Every character is sympathetic, even the ones that aren’t, because Scott actually listens to what people say. And of course he is a great writer.

    Because of this piece, I bought a hat and wear it all the time so I can take it off if I run into Scott Carrier. That’s not actually true, but I think I’m going to Salt Lake next week, and I might buy a hat, just in case.

    Alex Chadwick (Scott’s first fan).

  • Jackson Braider

    9.25.02

    Reply
    All-time favorite!!??

    Phew! All I wanted to do was respond to this piece. Now I’m banging heads with Alex. But then, he’s never led a WGBH Learning Tour, so I guess it had to happen sooner or later.

    I really liked this — Scott, was there some of the narration you did out there in the desert? There was a kind of water-dry crispness to some of it that somehow added to certain portions of the piece. If only there had been a hint of wind, a vision of ‘Awrence coming back across the Devil’s Anvil.

    And if I hadn’t heard the golf story from 9/11 (can we have a link back to that?) the swoosh and thwock of the driver, the sound would have been more surprising.

    Which leads me to my question and possible critique: do people actually go out to the East/West/North/South Desert to practice their swings? Do the people of the Deseret see themselves trying to drive the ball into the nearest mirage?

    There’s a lot of ground to cover out there, and you’ve covered a lot of ground out there. But I worry: if that golf club is your golf club and not some indigenous golf club, then the whole Japanese tag, to my ears at least, falls apart. Better if there were some Zen group in SLC who had created a raked garden of stone and sand to the East/West/North/South, over which golfers practiced their drives. "Hey! Look at this! What a cute rock garden!" \

    Swoosh, thwock.

    I love everything else — the Indians, the guy at the incinerator, the polygamists. They are the people who make an otherwise uninviting stretch of ground intriguing. I like the description of the eagle giving you the eagle eye.

    Why golf? Why not skeet shooting?

  • Andy Knight

    9.25.02

    Reply

    I had the same 9/11 "Days That Follow" connection with the golf swing (which I found annoyingly missing from the Lost and Found Sound Sonic Memorial and the Days Of Infamy 9/11/02, 12/7/41 tribute show).

    What I don’t understand is: why isn’t this suitable for broadcast? Shouldn’t SavTrav, TAL, or some other story-based show be in the process of snatching this up?

  • scott carrier

    9.25.02

    Reply
    fore!

    I don’t know if there are other people who hit balls out there or not. Maybe. It just seemed like a good way to give the listener some image of the space involved. I grew up next to a golf course, that could be part of it, and I think Caddyshack is a very good movie, at least one of the best ever made–a movie that I would go to war over, or a movie I think should be sent to our enemies and then let them decide if they really want to fight us. The sound of the shot in the story is disappointing in that it just doesn’t transmit or broadcast very well, but so it goes. I used the sound in a story about driving across the country in the heat of the summer, but I don’t think I used it in anything having to do with 9/11. I ended the story with the line about the Japanese because I wanted to leave people a little upset, and because I couldn’t think of any other way to get out of it.

    Why it didn’t get broadcast is a very long story, full of paranoid theories having to do with some phone calls from Dugway to the Pentagon to Congress to NPR (which I know happened as I was told by the then director of news and information that they did) but, really, I just don’t know how it all came down. It was scheduled to air, up on the board, three times. The last time the host refused to introduce it because of the Goshute Indian section. She thought it was disrespectful of Native Americans. I didn’t think I was being any more disrespectful of them than anyone else in the story, in fact I liked them more than anyone else in the story (and I don’t see them as miserable at all).

    Ira Glass and Gary Covino did play the story on the Wild Room on WBEZ in Chicago.

    Oh, and I did record the narration out there in the desert. Good ears.

  • Sydney Lewis

    9.25.02

    Reply
    good news

    I listened to this piece before reading Scott’s comments. I listened as though I were floating through some strange and detailed dream. Where am I? Why am I here? I didn’t really care, I just floated along. And when I shook my head clear after that wild winding up music — I thought: what a great news piece. My kind of news piece. I got culture, science, economics, environment, history, public health, real life, and wonderful squawking sounds. I loved this piece and would have loved it had I heard it on the big air out there. I’m pissed off it didn’t air nationally. Plus, it stirred up all sorts of agitation in my head, particularly the chemical nerve agent section — I’m thinking, ten years ago, was that when we were selling such wares to Iraq? What have we done? is what keeps echoing in my head, and now having read Scott’s introductory comments, I say he succeeded in his goals. Scott, did you order the piece by feel of tape or by logical trajectory or both. Why that music at the end as opposed to some other. Your questions are so pointed and it works great to have you far from the mic, as though it’s a casual off-hand conversation, you just happening to wander through the dusty feeling streets of this town (least that’s how I pictured it). Is there any particular reason no women were in the piece? Oh, there’s a bee issue in the office, gotta move, not fortunately African Killer Bees or whatever they’re called.

  • scott carrier

    9.25.02

    Reply

    Sydney, I don’t know if the nerve agent in Iraq (if there is nerve agent in Iraq) came from here, but it has been reported that the anthrax that was spred around last year was milled at Dugway.

    Larry Massett helped me put the tape in order. It would have not been very good without his help. For instance, I had the Hallelujah Chorus after Jim Conrad, where you’d think it would go, but he said, no, put it after the guy talking about how everything’s gone to hell. It worked much better like that. I don’t think we had any plan for how to do this, just what would work better. I used that music at the end because I thought it hit the right emotion. And I don’t think I interviewed any women, so I didn’t have any tape with women to use.

  • Jackson Braider

    9.26.02

    Reply
    Thinking about space

    Scott: You used the golf shots to give a sense of the openness of it all. Wind does that pretty well. And to avoid giving a sense of tundra, you might catch frying an egg on a sidewalk.

    Of course, what’s his name — the Italian film composer guy who did all those Clint Eastwood films. Trust an Italian to give the musical voice to our deserts.

    In the course of your talk with the chemical guys, did quantity ever come up? Like, "How much of this stuff does it take to kill a city?"

    I have suddenly become concerned with how to convey scale on radio. Back in the happy-go-lucky 15th century in Florence, it wasn’t just patrons who hired painters, painters hired patrons, it seems. To determine whether a patron knew what he was seeing, a painter would confront a prospective client with a portrait of something like a barrel. "How big is this barrel?"

    With golf swings, a ball can go so many hundreds or even thousands of feet. Maybe make the dstance travelled by a golf ball a unit of measure.

    "6,000 swings outside SLC,"etc.

    Just a thought.

  • bw

    9.28.02

    Reply
    so that’s how it works

    "phone calls from Dugway to the Pentagon to Congress to NPR"

    while I enjoyed this piece I am now even more depressed and scared about what is in those leaking drums.. but then again maybe we already sold those drums to iraq!

    hah

    scott – do you have many pieces that are unreleased for various reasons? and how does that work.. I mean when do you give up on a piece..

  • scott carrier

    9.29.02

    Reply
    the living dead

    bw, The last two stories I worked on didn’t find a taker. I thought they were both really good, but no one liked them except me. Jay has offered to help me with one of them, and I think this will solve the problems that I can’t, for some reason, deal with. The other, I guess, will be chalked up to experience, or maybe I’ll figure it out eventually. I never really give up on them, because I can’t get them out of my mind until they finished. And they aren’t finished until they get aired. Then I don’t think about them anymore. I wish somebody would play The West Desert, as it’s become like a zombie.

  • Jackson Braider

    9.29.02

    Reply
    To air is human…

    Scott: I find your response to bw kind of wild, but that may be due to my novitiate level of experience in radio. Then again, my years in print may have hardened me, inured (as opposed to injured) me. Print, God knows, is not radio, but there are similar constraints — describe 20 different musical works in 750 words or less, for instance. But then in print, there are so many levels that the piece is going to go through before it achieves print — the rough edit, the line edit, the copy edit. And when the final piece appears, you feel kind of happy that you recognize some of your own words — hey! they didn’t cut out that bit about turning the orchestra up to 11.

    But radio…

    It is a difficult form. You have to be attuned on so many different levels, skilled both technically and aesthetically in capturing sound. And then there’s all that other stuff, like writing and voicing. And whose story is it, anyway? Does it belong to the person who sees it, or is the story just there, like the walrus in the Eskimo stone?

    Upon listening again, and having read your responses here, I understand why you included the golf and the Japanese bit at the end. I can live with the golf, but I would bag the Japanese thing. The Japanese are not a part of the world you’ve described in the course of the piece — they may have been in 1991, but Scott, that was over a decade ago. W wasn’t even a gleam in Rummy’s eye back then.

    Had David Lynch butchered "Dune" at that point? I wonder because of the rumbling that sets the table at 0:00. And you made such a curious choice in having a woman read — and read very well — the Mark Twain at the top.

    But maybe it’s the tune at the end — you’v e pushed so far here, but it’s so loud, so jarring. It may be of the place — a bar band (assuming they have bars) in SLC — but it comes so out of the blue, like the Japanese thing, that as a listener I sit here wondering what have I done for this?

    I don’t mind the quasi-dig at environmentalists ("Of course, environmentalists…"). But maybe your ending has come too late in the piece. Why don’t you end with the beachfront property business? The sound of surf and seagulls. The Beach Boys. The West Desert as it might be, in spite of absolutely everything we do. Not that we shouldn’t be proud of our capacity to turn Gaia on her ear, but still…

  • Robert Wright

    9.29.02

    Reply
    transcending journalism

    This piece deserves to air nationally. It’s a crime if it doesn’t. Somebody call Ira Glass.

    I like it for it’s poetry, not it’s journalism. What stays with me is not information about the environment, but the complex motives and personalities of the people Scott talked to.

    The people are not what you’d expect. In a typical public radio piece, the Indian would protest being colonized, the chemist would provide a wealth damning facts, the native historian would be be nostalgic for the way it used to be. But in this piece, the Indian is jolly, the chemist is snotty and evasive and the native historian is glad that the chemical waste brought it more jobs.

    I was listening to it and I thought, "Wait a minute. This isn’t stock journalism. This sounds real." Real and very interesting.

    Scott isn’t going to produce propaganda for environmentalists anymore than he’s going to produce heartwarming stories for the Friendly Man. Scott breaks out of every formula he finds himself in. And where does he go? Farther than we expect. What a kick to be able to go with him.

  • scott carrier

    9.30.02

    Reply
    the line in the alkaline sand

    Jackson, the thing is that I’m glad you’re uncomfortable with the ending. This is what makes me not want to change it, and anyway I wouldn’t change it at this point, not a bit, for any reason. I do cave in to editor’s demands, all the time, because I think I need to show some respect for the relationship, or because I just want to see the thing finished, or because, shit, they have a better idea. But sometimes the line needs to be drawn, and if that means the story doesn’t get aired or printed then fine. This is a case of the line having been drawn. It’s okay if you don’t like it. I have some other stories I could show you.

    Robert, to be fair, Ira did play it on the Wild Room, which was only a Chicago show, but still he put it on when others wouldn’t, and that meant a lot to me at the time. I’d like it if he’d play it on This American Life, but it’s his show and his decision, and he’s saved my ass so many times that it may be getting old by now. I doubt I’d still be working in radio at all if it wasn’t for Ira. The place it needs to air is ATC. Maybe when hell freezes over.

  • Jay Allison

    9.30.02

    Reply
    direct to stations

    Scott, there has been some station interest in this. I’ll forward it to you. This is exactly the kind of work which listeners are now missing, and which will benefit from the Public Radio Exchange, once we get it built.

  • scott carrier

    9.30.02

    Reply

    Jay, I think the Radio Exchange is a very good idea. I hope it does well, and I’d be glad to have this story available there.

  • Robin Amer

    10.02.02

    Reply
    japanese golf clubs

    I really liked the ending of this piece because it was unexpected and absurd and yet made perfect sense in context. After the initial surprise, I was bemused at the idea that there *is* probably someone out there that really does want to turn the West Desert into a golf resort. or who would think it was a really good idea. of course, that would be just as damaging to Scott’s sense of the place as turning it into a nature preserve…ironic considering the golf course people and the national park people are usually on opposite sides of the "what to do with this land" fence.

    One question for Scott: how did you get clearence to record in that chem lab? were there other "high security" places you wanted to record in but got turned down because of "security issues" or classified information? (i guess that’s 2 qs)

    thanks. I really enjoyed the soundscaping too.

  • Ben A

    10.02.02

    Reply

    Hi Scott, hi everybody,

    This piece reminds me a lot of your Battle Mountain story. Only with Battle Mountain I felt like I got a better feeling for the wide open spaceness of it all — and the people who lived there. Maybe because there were more of them? Or maybe a wider variety? I think also because of your description of some of the scenes, esp. the scene in the bar when you almost get in a fight and then don’t, and then go back to fight and then don’t. And then the last scene in that story works great for me because it ends the story with a period (.) by the four-way stop. I feel like this story ends with an ellipse (…) … or even with a question mark (?).

    "I ended the story with the line about the Japanese because I wanted to leave people a little upset, and because I couldn’t think of any other way to get out of it."

    I believe the first part of that sentence, but I don’t want to believe the second part. That sounds a little like a cop out and I don’t want to believe that you cop to anything.

    I guess, what I’m thinking is this: one of my favorite things about your stories, Scott, are your endings: The Test, the Green River series, Football Haiku, Cambodia, the trip to India and back you just did for Savvy. I’m not convinced this story is all the way done.

    all from me,
    Ben

  • Ben A

    10.02.02

    Reply
    mp3?

    Is anybody else getting really weird artifacts in the mp3 version of the story? It sounds like an alien echo off the face of the moon, it actually sounds pretty cool, but I’m not sure it’s supposed to be there.

  • operations

    10.02.02

    Reply
    MP3

    Unintended sci-fi coolness aside, we have fixed the MP3. Thanx for your patience.

  • scott carrier

    10.02.02

    Reply

    Robin, It took six weeks of phone calls and letters to get the interview at Baker Lab on the Dugway Proving Grounds. I tried to visit the Tooele Army Depot, where they keep the nerve gas, but it was off limits. I took a tour of one of the hazardous waste incinerators, very clean.

    Ben, the ending….well, there was just nothing more to say. The story I’m working on now has a similar problem. I like the ending but everybody else says it’s not enough. It kind of ends like a film breaking in the projector, which is fine by me. I think the underlying problem is the structure of the story, probably with the beginning. Some beginnings have endings built into them, and I guess others just start and never end. So I’m going to have to manufacture something, like with some epoxy and fiberglass, and stick it on there. The West Desert, however, is truly finished. Maybe it has this flaw, but I love it and am prepared to accept the consequences.

    Okay, I’ll explain what I was thinking when I wrote the ending. There are some places on this planet where people just don’t belong, and the west desert is one of them. But this notion, that we don’t belong there, really bothers us, so we try to come up with a solution, we try to force the issue, and the results are always bad. So I went for an absurd idea, which seemed to make sense, and still does to me. If I would have said, "There are some places where people don’t belong, and maybe we should leave this place alone…" then I would have been taking a stand, as if I knew the answer, and I didn’t want to do that because it would have been a lie. I thought it would be better to leave the listener wondering, well, how are we going to solve this problem, because that thought hurts, and I wanted it to hurt because it’s much closer to the truth.

  • Steve Schultze

    10.03.02

    Reply
    I don’t know why I like Scott Carrier…

    …but I really do. I think.

    It was easy to start listening to his voice while I was lying on my back in the dark, trying to fall asleep. But something else happened… something about seducing and disturbing, perhaps.

    I can’t stop hearing the low ambient sound at the beginning. I don’t think it’s going to go away.

    It reminds me of the oscillating frequency in The Ghost of Mark Twain… first calming, then unnerving. And persistent.

    The ending is a cop-out that turns out not to be a cop-out at all.

  • Ben A.

    10.03.02

    Reply
    I have a hard time understanding

    because Chicago, where I grew up, also seems a place where people don’t belong. Especially in February.

    Yes, this makes good sense to me now, and thanks for explaining. Actually, the more I listen to this story, the more I like the ending. It’s pretty hilarious. This story has a great sense of humor to it, which is also funny, given what everybody’s talking about over in the Krulwich conversation.

    I think it brings up a good question though: I like to leave stories open-ended sometimes, and my editors always say, "But I have this major question at the end, it just doesn’t work out." And I say, "Yes. Exactly." And they always think it’s too subtle and "no one will get it" and then they make me change it. If you ask me, it’s the whole "show and don’t tell" thing exploded outwards. But, I think I lot of people (myself included) don’t always get it.

    But maybe that’s the point?

  • Sydney Lewis

    10.03.02

    Reply
    wrapping it up

    I wonder if our discomfort with unwrapped endings isn’t the American maleness of our culture at work — men like to fix things, bim-bam, clear-cut solution; women are more comfortable with the loose threads in life. I’m on the ground learning and feel not much good at anything, but it’s inspiring to read all kinds of wonderful transom postings about the creative process and figuring out how to at least attempt to do extraordinary work and challenging yourself and being brave. What’s great, too, is hearing Scott, whose work is layered and special and unique to his sensibility, or Krulwich whose work is likewise, say that sometimes, what it gets down to is this tape feels happier next to that tape and that’s that. And that this ending is what feels right and maybe ATC can’t live with it, but the creator can’t live without it. I have to listen to this piece again because my mind wanders back to it even now, a week later, when I’m not reading transom, when I’m say washing dishes. I don’t really have a point, I’m just happy this piece is up, and proud it’s here.

  • Jackson

    10.04.02

    Reply
    There are venues and there are venues

    Scott, I too want to thank you clarifying the rationale behind the ending, though I still don’t buy the song. Of course, I am a musical luddite (and proud of it: What? no Beethoven? Ode to Joy wudda been perfect!).

    You leave me wanting to know more about Utah — and not just where the name came from. I spent some formative years in Cooperstown, near Cherry Valley, the first place where there was a massacre of Mormons, so the subject touches a curiously deep place with me (call it eastern perverseness or perversity).

    How much has the land shaped the people? My sense is that Joe Smith and the gang went there so they wouldn’t be disturbed. And it seems to me that the West Desert is the place where people who don’t want to be disturbed by people who don’t want to be disturbed go to hide.

  • Ben A.

    10.04.02

    Reply
    Hey Scott —

    Is that Battle Mountain story on the web anywhere? I think people would definitely dig it if they liked this one. Is there a link you can post?

    Thanks, dood.

  • scott carrier

    10.04.02

    Reply

    Ben, Battle Mountain isn’t on the web, but maybe Barrett will put it on hearingvoices.com. I’m glad you like it. That part about the jello wrestlers and the miners in the bar always makes me smile.

    Jackson, You’re right about the Mormons moving to Utah in order to be left alone. They were true radicals back then, now they are mostly right-wing conservatives.

  • Jackson

    10.04.02

    Reply
    So what do Mormons call other folk?

    Christians have heathen, Jews have gentiles, still others have infidels, Red Sox have Yankees.

    How other is "other" out there?

  • scott carrier

    10.06.02

    Reply
    new laboratories

    Jackson, the Saints of these Latter Days call everyone else gentiles.

    I don’t know if anyone else has heard about this, but there are plans to build a bunch of new level three and four laboratories, similar to what now exists only at Dugway and Fort Detrick, Maryland, at sites around the country. Here’s the list.

    1.LLNL, Livermore, CA, DOE, new BL3
    2.LANL, Los Alamos, NM, DOE, new BL3
    3.Plum Island, NY, USDA, BL3 upgrade
    4.Rocky Mountain Labs, Hamilton, MT, NIAID, new BL4
    5.UTMB, Galveston, TX, new BL4
    6.Texas Tech, Lubbock, TX, new BL4 (proposed)
    7.Univ. of NM, Albuquerque, NM, new BL4 (proposed)
    8.Kansas St, Manhattan KS, USDA(?), new (upgraded?) BL3
    9.DPG, Utah, 200% activity increase, lab upgrades
    10.UTHSC, San Antonio, TX, NIAID, BL3 or 4 (proposed)
    11.U. Cal., Davis, CA, NIAID, new BL3 or 4 (proposed)

  • Jackson

    10.06.02

    Reply
    Follow up?

    Scott: One of the things I keep gravitating towards — not so much in this story as in the story of this story (if you catch my drift) — is the fact that the content is some 10 years old and you still fight for it. AND YET, I hasten to add, there is no need (apart from certain editorial quibbles mentioned elsewhere here) to change it.

    People have been knocking at the door about this piece — Goodness, people! Where were you before Scott became rich and famous on Transom? — but the list above suggests extracting material from the story and expanding upon it with visits to other sites.

    Granted, "finished" for you is when a piece airs to an appropriately significant audience, but as your list suggests, maybe what this story suggests is really, for the rest of us, a lot of unfinished business.

  • cw

    10.09.02

    Reply
    new bl3 and bl4s

    that’s a lot of labs for one state- texas

  • cw

    10.09.02

    Reply
    i don’t agree that b.s. is inevitable so why not build a local economy on it

    that to me has always been a silly argument. the state i live in, louisiana, has made an industry off of being a dumping ground and attracting that particular industry hasn’t done a whole hell of a lot to raise the per capita income here. so here is one female common man saying that anecdotally and otherwise i think that argument is bunk, so to have it as a cornerstone in this piece is shakey at best

    not that i didn’t find this piece to be entertaining.

  • Jackson

    10.10.02

    Reply
    Sorry? b.s.?

    It means so many things in so many different places. What does it mean to you, CW, or you, Scott Carrier?

  • cw

    10.10.02

    Reply
    b.s. obviously inexact/silly word choice, sorry

    i mean the continued high rate of certain toxic emissions, magnesium or otherwise (the rate/amount of emission is allowed by design/not pre-ordained)

    also of course i mean the continuing creation of tons of radioactive waste (and, in LA, pvc waste etc)

    i think the fact that we would take an area of the country that we have godforsaken-desert beliefs about and try to stash many toxins there is the more interesting part of this piece. i just don’t agree with the "people have to have jobs" line of reasoning (thus it’s okay if we keep strip mining or installing asbestos or producing and emitting vast amounts of whatever here) as a justification for any and every decision so i guess when i say b.s.— i’m also referring to the mind set in this country of letting chemical, nuclear, and petroleum companies dump indiscriminately and us calling it inevitable (so why not send yr kids to college on it)? that to me seems totally cynical and bankrupt

  • Jackson

    10.11.02

    Reply
    Not In My Compost!

    I was hearing about a "tremendous" breakthrough in GM plants (not the car factories, but the Frankenfood kinda thing) where you could grow a kind of cabbage that would leech the arsenic out of the soil at, say, an old gold mining plant and store it in the leaves.

    Somehow, I wouldn’t want to see one of those cabbage leaves end up in my compost pile.

    So, imagine all that water being poured out in the Utah equivalent of the Cadillac Desert to grow these cabbages to get rid of the filthy industrial leftovers so that the water will evaporate to nothingness while more people will move out to Utah because it is now clean and Mitt Romney has vowed to come home and bring the X-Games with him and give them more "would you like to supersize that?" jobs which will mean the additional people will need more water so the cabbage won’t get watered as much …

    Hmm. Anti-Matter Gaia in app. 100 words.

  • Jake Warga

    10.12.02

    Reply
    Interruption for a compliment

    Scott,
    I’m a big fan of yours and wanted to thank you for this story.
    I’m curious though, why radio? I mean, if you had any other medium at you disposal (as well as an income to support), would you still choose radio to tell this story? Smaller audience than TV (a more sophisticated one I hasten to add), no glossy distractions from a magazine, no fluff from a fictional frame story…etc.

  • scott carrier

    10.13.02

    Reply

    Jake,
    As far as this story goes I wouldn’t want to do it in another medium. I’ve written enough magazine stories now that I feel fairly certain that print wouldn’t have been as satisfying. Print is good for setting a scene quickly and making a point and moving on, but nothing is better than radio for getting into another person’s head. I would like to start producing videos, just because they are so much fun to watch and it’s true that a picture can be worth a thousand words, but it’s harder to hold a specific line of thought with pictures and then there’s no place to sell the kind of video or film stories that I would like to produce. I just don’t think I could make a living at it, and then for this story it wouldn’t have worked as well because it would have come out much flatter. Or actually I just don’t know. It’s a good question but probably not possible to answer.

  • Jackson

    10.13.02

    Reply
    The video thing

    They keep saying a picture’s worth a thousand words. I may have quibbled early on about the golf shot at the opening — but how would video allow such imagery?

    It’s ironic — all those pictures and not a drop of metaphor.

  • Mary McGrath

    10.17.02

    Reply
    Thwack!

    I admired this piece ( and as a golfer I was very impressed with the sound of your tee shots). I was wondering about the opening. Was the woman quoting someone? I was wanting to know where that came from and why you didn’t tell us what it was.

  • scott carrier

    10.17.02

    Reply

    Mary,
    The lines in the introduction are from Mark Twain’s "Roughing It". I intended for it to be mentioned in the host’s introduction, but as the story never aired there is no host’s introduction. Twain came through Salt Lake City in 1861 or 1862 with his brother on the Overland Stage. From Salt Lake the stage went across the west desert and into Nevada.

  • Colin K

    10.28.02

    Reply
    Viral Simulant

    At just before the 11 minute mark, a segment starts where Scott is inside a lab that is working with infectious disease. The man he is talking to refers a couple of times to "viral simulants" that don’t cause disease. I was wondering if anybody out there knows what exactly is a viral simulant is and how it’s being applied in the context of the segment. (I’m just wondering why they would want to work with a simulant of a disease that doesn’t cause disease.)

    I listened to this particular segment over and over again, because it has an industrial type creepiness to it, with the hum of air-conditioner, and the evasive way the interviewee addresses his questions about yellow fever and anthrax.

  • Andy Knight

    10.29.02

    Reply

    >I’m just wondering why they would want to work with a simulant of a disease that doesn’t cause disease.

    This is how many vaccines work. They stimulate the immune system so that they are ready to attack any similar virus that comes along.

  • Colin Kawakami

    10.29.02

    Reply
    Huh. Me no unnastand bionology

    Ok, that makes sense. But what exactly is a viral simulant? A viral simulation of another infectious agent?

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