By Dennis Hartley
(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on October 15, 2022)
So I was channel surfing last night, and happened upon an airing of Sidney Lumet’s Network on TCM, just as “the mad prophet of the airwaves”, Howard Beale (Peter Finch) was launching into his “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” tirade, a call to arms (borne from a “cleansing moment of clarity”) for viewers to turn off the tube, break the spell of their collective stupor, literally stick their heads out the window and make their voices heard. It’s an inspired set piece.
I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there’s nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there’s no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.’
Back in 1976, this satire made us chuckle with its outrageous conceit-the story of a TV network that hits the ratings g-spot with a nightly newscast turned variety hour, anchored by a self-proclaimed “angry prophet denouncing the hypocrisy of our time”.
46 years on, Network plays like a documentary (denouncing the hypocrisy of our time). The prescience of Paddy Chayefsky’s brilliant screenplay not only foresees the onslaught of news-as-entertainment (and “reality” TV)-it’s a blueprint for our age.
Not that you need me to tell you things are bad…or that a dollar buys a nickel’s worth:
Almost half of US families surveyed by the Census Bureau found the recent rise in consumer prices “very stressful” — and the vast majority of the others were also worried about inflation.
The Census Bureau included a new question about the impact from soaring prices in its regular household poll. The result shows that nearly everyone was at least a little stressed by inflation, and particularly so in fast-growing cities like Miami, where the cost of living has surged.
The survey also highlights disparities among ethnic groups. More than half of Hispanic and Black respondents found inflation “very stressful,” compared with about 43% for Whites and about 38% for Asian Americans.
Stress can lead to health problems such as elevated blood pressure and heart disease.
The number of respondents who have difficulty paying their bills is increasing amid rising interest rates and economic uncertainty. More than 40% of households report having a hard time covering usual expenses in the latest survey, conducted from Sept. 14 to Sept. 26. That’s up from less than a third two years ago.
Then there’s all the other…stuff going on now (just watch a newscast, if you dare). But, dear friends (if I may borrow from the Firesign Theatre) …it’s not my intention to add to your anxiety, or elevate your blood pressure; in fact (pull the curtains, Fred) right now I invite you to kick back and de-stress with this (hopefully) “chillaxing” rerun…
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(The following was originally posted on Hullabaloo on April 4, 2020)
You’ve heard the old chestnut about cockroaches and Cher surviving the Apocalypse? Here’s one you can add to the list: Maxell UD XL-II 90 cassettes. I was going through some musty boxes the other day and found a stash of mix tapes that I’ve had since the 70s and 80s. I’ll be damned if they didn’t sound just as good as the day I recorded them (My theory is that they are manufactured from the same material they use for “black boxes”).I was into putting together “theme sets” long before I got into the radio biz. My mix tapes were popular with my friends; I’d make copies on demand. I would name my mix tapes. One of my favorites was “The Oh My God I am So Stoned Tape”. I don’t believe that requires explanation; I mean, it was the 70s and I was a long-haired stoner music geek.
45 years later, I’m still putting together theme sets. It is my métier. It’s kind of sad, actually (grown man and all). Anyway …turn off the news, turn down the lights, do some deep breathing, and let “The Oh My God I am So Stoned Tape 2020 Redux” wash your pandemic anxiety away. I’ve sequenced the songs in a manner designed to evoke and sustain a particular mood-so for maximum effect, may I suggest that you listen to it in order. Enjoy!*
*Herbal enhancement optional
King Crimson – “Book Of Saturday”
Weekend – “A View From Her Room”
Mark-Almond Band – “The City”
Budgie – “Slip Away”
Robin Trower – “Bluebird”
Robert Fripp (f/Daryl Hall) – North Star
Jimi Hendrix – “May This Be Love”
Be-Bop Deluxe – “Crying To The Sky”
Ambrosia – “Nice, Nice, Very Nice”
Heartsfield – “Magic Mood”
kd Lang – “Outside Myself”
Glen Campbell – “Wichita Lineman”
Terry & the Lovemen (aka XTC) – “The Good Things”
Buggles – “Astro Boy (And The Proles On Parade)”
Japan – “Taking Islands In Africa”
Aswad – “Back To Africa”
Laura Nyro – “Smile” / “Mars”
Todd Rundgren – “Boat On The Charles”
The Beach Boys – “Surf’s Up”
Kate Bush – “The Morning Fog”
Jade Warrior – “English Morning”
The Who – “Sunrise”
It’s a Beautiful Day – “White Bird”
Circus Maximus – “Wind”
King Crimson – “Peace: An End”