I sent a version of this newsletter to California Committee members back in April, when Alexis Madrigal was, for a week, a guest host of Forum on KQED: the central, essential radio program of the San Francisco Bay Area. This version is updated to celebrate the news that he will be the permanent host of the show’s 9 a.m. hour.
A bit of background:
I met Alexis in 2008 at a dinner organized casually via Twitter. It’s a bit dizzying to remember how different that service was then; how much smaller and more insular, for one thing, which made this other thing possible, its use as a social coordination mechanism as much as (more than?) a broadcast channel. It was nice! Anyway, a ~blogger~ coming through San Francisco advertised his interest in having dinner with … whoever was reading the tweet? Sure, I was interested, and so, it turns out, was Alexis. The blogger’s followers squeezed themselves around a table in a shadowy SOMA tavern whose name I forget. On that cold night in October 2008, I sat across from Alexis Madrigal and Sarah Rich, and I have been friends with both of them ever since.
More recently, Alexis and I shared an office space in South Berkeley, a ramshackle bunker that we dubbed the Murray Street Media Lab. Alexis wrote a whole book in that lab! I did not write a whole book, but I did a bunch of other stuff. It is the MSML’s library wall that provides the backdrop for the little inline videos I’ve been putting in my newsletters lately. Alexis’s books amassed over that year still occupy the top two shelves, a collection of cross-cutting regional histories: race, labor, ecology, technology … everything.
Alexis and I have a lot of interests in common —
When Alexis told me he would be joining Mina Kim on Forum, the news felt both exciting and … inevitable? I mean, who else would you want to be the voice beaming across the water, ghosting through every tech office and every co-op bakery, every container crane and every microscope, animating the whole substance of here, revealing it, day by day, to itself?
Then, I repeated the news to a friend. She did not reply, “Oh, how great for Alexis” (although it is, of course); her first impulse was instead to say:
“How great for the Bay Area!”