BRAND-SPANKING-NEW EPISODE! “A Confederacy of Douchebags (Part Three)!”

BRAND-SPANKING-NEW EPISODE! A couple of things. Jay-Z needs to seriously shut up. You shot your big brother because he took your chains. Anthony Weiner needs to seriously stop showing us all of his short-comings. Your wife is an idiot. Liberals need to stop being frightened. Nobody’s gonna stop you from having abortions. Conservatives need to stop being paranoid. Nobody’s gonna take your guns away from you. Beyonce envisions a future where her multi-millionaire children will have as many opportunities as white people. I have an unofficial rule as part of our social contract. Blacks get to be bald, and whites get to have tattoos, and never the twain shall meet. We all look better that way! As Mos Def would say, “Fuke dot sheet!” Don’t get me started on Trump! I’m done.

This incredible album art was designed by Bronwyn Knox!

Recorded November 5, 2016

http://www.blissville.net
http://www.blissville.net/

This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended.

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Vintage Cable Box: The Atomic Cafe, 1982

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“We thank God that it has come to us, instead of to our enemies.”

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The Atomic Cafe, 1982, Libra Films

It was an unexciting, routine mission until they saw the damage. New Mexico, normally a parched, barren section of little Earth; sand and dust, before and after, shows no real effects until you throw in the half-constructed homes and livestock. The “Trinity” Test yields an image of great beauty, often repeated, but as beauty can be a drug with effects that diminish over time, the first mushroom cloud, the report of the first bomb detonation arouses the scientific community, and the first parties of people involved are labeled “mad-men” and “lunatics”; it’s eerie and strange how those voices were silenced over the ensuing years.

Not long after, Harry S. Truman appears in newsreels announcing the destruction of two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which effectively end the war on the Asian continent.  The information is edited to remove the consequences of the attacks, but “The Atomic Cafe” pulls no punches.  We see the singed earth resting beneath stacks of bleached bones and graphic depictions of horrifying injuries sustained by the survivors.  The delicate sensibilities of pre-Eisenhower nuclear families that had no truck with unimaginable violence were too tender to witness the actual effects of the primary blasts, let alone the ash-ridden winters and radiation poisoning.

“PEACE!  It’s Wonderful!”  This is the post-war boom of America; the prosperity and the marching majorettes, returning soldiers, and dancing in the streets.  Operation: Crossroads begins with the “Bikini” Test, July of 1946.  The natives of the island sing “You Are My Sunshine” as the bomb is dropped, and an unbelievable cloud appears over the island.  The next year (1947 – “The Year of Division”), a new cloud forms headlining the “global struggle between East and West.”  In other words, Soviet Russia versus the United States.  The Cold War begins.

Propaganda films are quickly produced to demonstrate the threat of communism (like a virus) as it spreads throughout Europe and threatens to land on our shores.  Our “values,” or “freedom of speech” will be diminished, censored, and destroyed, and ideas like “humanity” and “emotion” are considered obsolete in Soviet Russia.  To counter this philosophy, our propaganda sells capitalism to the hilt as an antidote to the concept of communism.  Americans are encouraged to buy products, visit newly-built shopping malls; eat, marry, and reproduce – beef up our numbers.  Truman warns of atomic tests in Russia.  Protective devices, including boxes, suits, and bomb shelters are tested and then sold.  The police are militarized.

In 1950, as our government has enormous confidence in the ability to end any war with an atomic bomb, Korea is invaded.  The populace remains uninformed as to the true dangers of these new war technologies, and this is where the programming starts – by misinforming the public.  A character actor I recognize as James Gregory appears in a training film, wherein those preaching peace are ridiculed by the Military and civilians alike.  Paranoia reigns supreme; the impetus of which seems to have started when the Russians began testing their own atomic devices and then Senator Richard Nixon suspected espionage.  Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are sentenced to death for selling secrets to the Russians.  These initial bursts of fear snowball, or mushroom into a full-fledged witchhunt.  HUAC proceedings begin, and those who question our government’s actions, or display sympathies that go against the grain of nation-worship are blacklisted, their lives threatened and their actions monitored.

Ladies and Gentlemen – I give you the Hydrogen Bomb!  Even more awesome destruction is guaranteed, but Russia remains one step ahead and develops their own Hydrogen bomb.  Testing of animals near bombing sites is accompanied by “Atomic Cocktail”, a jaunty Django Reinhart-like ditty, and then there are badly-acted training films made to assauge and calm fears of devastation and radiation sickness.  Fallout shelters are constructed with emergency preparedness kits, and rudimentary haz-mat suits become the norm for fashion.  This new age of paranoia even has a mascot – Burt the Turtle.  Burt comes with his own theme song, “Duck and Cover.”

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Produced at the absolute height of United States fear and suspicion, where even my generation was indoctrinated to hate Russia and the principles of communism and socialism, The Atomic Cafe is a devastating documentary comprised of newsreel footage, Military training films, and flimsy speeches about safety, and broadcast news, as well as preaching the doctrine of capitalism and false analogies of free speech, and religious exceptionalism.  I have friends (my age) to this day who still possess a strange, undeviated, irrational hatred (read: fear) of anything that is not uniquely American, including our system of government, accepted systems of religion, and finance.  Why?  Why would they still continue to feel this way?  If they (as I) feel that our Nation, our system of government, and our potential for wealth and prosperity are unmatched in this world, they should have no fear.  Yet, the dogma persists.

As Americans go to the polls tomorrow to elect a new President, keep this in mind (as evidenced by The Atomic Cafe): politicians yearn for war, but soldiers pray for peace.  Politicians thrive in division, to keep us fighting each other instead of questioning our government’s practices.  Politicians exist to keep themselves employed; all of them, regardless of religion, race, or gender, with no exceptions, no Party rules, and no compunction about dropping mindless, soulless bombs on innocent people.  We’re capable of so much more than this.  Keep that in mind.  Please.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

“Parallel Planes”

Written by David Lawler
Additional Commentary by Andrew La Ganke
Original Music by Alex Saltz, APS Mastering
Introduction Music: “Smash The Mirror” by The Who (from 1969 album, “Tommy”).
Audio Clips: Family Guy “Love Thy Trophy”, Star Trek “Mirror, Mirror”, “Mirror Image”, “The Monster Are Due On Maple Street”, “The Misadventures Of Sheriff Lobo” (Jimmie Haskell) by Frankie Laine.

Recorded December 13, 2015

© BlissVille, David Lawler copyright 2015 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Lawler and selected guests each episode. Original Music © Alex Saltz copyright 2015. This podcast, “That Twilighty Show About That Zone” is not affiliated with CBS Entertainment, the CBS Television Network, or The Rod Serling Estate. Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All music clips appear under Fair Use as well. If you’re thinking of suing because you want a piece of the pie, please remember, there is no actual pie. We at BlissVille have no money, and as such, cannot compensate you. If anything, we’re doing you a favor, so please be kind. I do this ’cause it’s fun, and nothing else.

Running Time: 37:10 Direct Download

Vintage Cable Box: “WarGames, 1983”

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“Mr. McKittrick, after very careful consideration, Sir, I’ve come to the conclusion that your new defense system sucks.”

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WarGames, 1983 (Matthew Broderick), MGM/UA

The entirety of John Badham’s thriller, WarGames is encapsulated in the personal anguish of John Wood’s programming genius Stephen Falken, who had tried (and failed) to make his computers understand the concept of futility (citing an analogy to the game Tic-Tac-Toe); that eventually we give up, and thus would never knowingly annihilate each other. When underachiever and computer savant David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) accidentally breaks into a supercomputer known as W.O.P.R. in order to play what he thinks are video games that turn out to be real nuclear war simulators, he launches our military’s path to World War 3.

After David is arrested by Government authorities who have tracked his computer activities in Seattle (not coincidentally, an early nerve center for computer programming), he meets Falken’s colleague, John McKittrick (played by reliable eighties prick Dabney Coleman). David “Macgyvers” his way out of custody, hooks up with his girlfriend, Jennifer (amiable Ally Sheedy), and sets out to track down Falken to get his help shutting down a program which is on a countdown to global thermonuclear war.

WarGames was made in 1983, at the height of U.S. and Soviet paranoia. I remembered hearing all sorts of terrifying news reports about the nuclear arms build-up, stockpiling weapons of mass annihilation and people like Reagan and Brezhnev playing “chicken” with warheads. These were real fears. It was the end of the Cold War and ultimately the Soviet Union would relent, but if you think about it, there still are hundreds, nay thousands, of missiles still out there, just waiting to be detonated.

Check out my Imsai
“Check out my Imsai!”

Granted, an extremely frightening scenario, WarGames is incredible fun. It is clever; using philosophical arguments (arguments that could never be made by real computers) to communicate the need for wisdom in the higher ranks of command where our defenses and nuclear capabilities are concerned. It is a sobering idea to consider that we exist at the whim of a perpetual military arrogance: that the better bomb brings swifter peace. That sense of ludicrous tragedy exists in Falken’s character.

John Badham, as a Hollywood outsider, had an eclectic career of iconoclasm. A couple of months before WarGames premiered on HBO and Cinemax, his Blue Thunder (also made in 1983) debuted. Another fun movie about technology run amok, but it is technology at the hands of amoral military operatives. Later, he would direct Short Circuit (also with Ally Sheedy) about a cute robot that goes nuts (figuratively), Stakeout, and the under-appreciated Nick of Time with Johnny Depp.

WarGames was an “unofficial” brat-pack movie for it’s inclusion of Broderick and Sheedy in the cast, but this was before The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. WarGames is a Dr. Strangelove analog for Generation X, notably contributing to my generation’s despondency and apathy when it came to all matters apocalyptic or nihilistic, and where our parents’ generation relied on love, faith, and hope to solve all of these incendiary problems, we turned our backs and used indifference and sarcasm to keep us sane and make us realize that Tic-Tac-Toe would eventually save our lives.

Be sure to check out Mark and Christopher’s discussion at VHS Rewind!

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

“Hope Is Living Her Dream. What About The Rest Of Us?”

Living Her Dream

It’s funny, I can’t find one single reference to this commercial on the Internet. I can’t find a picture. I can’t find a video. I have to go from memory when I talk about this commercial, which isn’t hard. The commercial plays non-stop on prime time television and features a smiling, ebullient lady (I can only assume is Hope) taking video with her phone while swiveling in her task chair in order to display a rotating panoramic view of her place of work at Cowan Studios.

It occurs to me, a fella can feel pretty lonely on the old Facebook. He sees his friends having such fun. Such fun! They’re out there scuba diving. They’re in England. They’re in Scotland. They’re taking pictures and sampling the local color. They’re out drinking with other friends, other people you know. Parasailing, for crying out loud! Meanwhile you’re scratching your ass because there’s a pesky itch that refuses to go away. There’s too much to do in the day, but you’re not up for it. You’re too tired.

Then there’s Hope, and her smug expression and her swiveling chair. I sit in a chair that doesn’t swivel. She obviously must think she’s better than me. Why? She doesn’t know me. You don’t know me, Hope!

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I know this isn’t Hope’s problem, and it isn’t Hope’s fault. She’s among the very fortunate, the very few who are “living their dreams”. There it is again! Here comes the anger rising up in my gullet like so much partially-digested brie. Why do I have to receive updates about other people’s happiness? Sometimes I ask Bronwyn why she doesn’t post updates on her Facebook page. She runs out of the room and stage-whispers, “It’s personal!” Bronwyn will put up some art-related stuff, or a song she likes, but she doesn’t get personal.

Back to Hope. It occurs to me she really wants us to know what’s going on in her life. She wants everybody to know that she has a new job. She wants everybody to know she’s starting her own business. She wants everybody to know that she’s the boss. She wants everybody to know that she has a swiveling task chair. Why?

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The commercial itself appears to be a total fabrication. Hope doesn’t exist. I’m not being deep here. I mean the lady does not exist as a physical entity. She does not occupy space. She does not breathe oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. She does not reproduce. She is The Flying Dutchman, Krampus, and the Easter Bunny all rolled up into one! She doesn’t exist*. She can’t exist.

Hope is the culmination of a dream. The dream began with owning a small business. I’m not sure what business Hope is in, but I assume it involves art, or something like art. She has a large space to work in, a number of desks and a handful of employees, based on the rotating panoramic view. Did I mention she’s positively giddy not only about the whole enterprise, but the notion of being a boss? I wonder what that guy shuffling about behind her thinks of this? You think he’s screwing around on his phone updating his status to say, “This is my Boss!” and then show Hope’s excited countenance. Yeah, when you’re done swiveling around in your task chair, you wanna help us swing a hammer, Boss?

All of this is fantasy. If starting a small business is, in itself, prohibitively difficult, then maintaining it is comparable to a forced march in Hell while wearing Crocs. The median yearly salary for people under the age of 40 drops off three percent every year, down to $34,000. Of course, those figures don’t account for incredible luck. The only way Hope could start a small business would be with a group of investors (aware that they’re going to lose money for at least five years) or because she has rich parents. I don’t know why but her smug little smile tells me Daddy cashed in one of his blue-chip stocks to finance her “dream”, which is fine, but don’t act like you earned it, Hope! Sorry if I sound bitter.

Did Facebook help Hope? Help Hope. Help Hope. That’s hard to say. Maybe she got some friends together and said, “Hey how would you like to have me as a Boss?” and they said, “Sure!” Because why not? A year later she’s in her swiveling task chair, she got the rolly on her arm and she’s pouring Chandon, and she rolls the best weed ’cause she got it going on!

Back to my point. Facebook, when it first started, seemed to me to be an interesting sociological experiment wherein we could study the public yet personal interactions of people based on their changing moods, their changing desires, their romances, their hang-ups, and most importantly, pictures of their cats. It seemed a perfect forum for the exchange of ideas, conjecture, and debate.

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Of recent (I would say the last three years), Facebook has become like every other societal microcosm, a petrie dish for growing ideas of liberal rage, trending frustrations, and random psychological experiments. Researchers gather information about user habits. Intrusive software monitors our browsing habits, reminding us we are being watched at all times. Facebook now arbitrarily decides what manner of ideas can be labeled as “hate speech” and then take action to delete those ideas. Case in point: the recent flap over the lion-killing dentist, and Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Facebook users have routinely threatened these people’s lives, and that appears to be acceptable. But try making a Bruce Jenner joke and watch the fun!

As we should remember, Facebook itself is a microcosm for our society; a world unto itself, but still following the rigid rules of our cultural construct. Jokes will not be permitted. Dissenting opinions and the aquifer of ideas and debate will not be tolerated, and because of the increasing presence of smart phones and tablets in our lives, our every movement, however trivial, will be monitored. So the message seems to be: “SHUT UP AND SMILE”. Better yet, sit down on your swiveling task chair, and start bragging about being the boss.

*My apologies to Hope (if you do exist).  Damn, Girl!  You hard to find!