THE UNREALITY OF FINDING YOUR WAY HOME – BY TOM CURLEY

AND because this is absolutely relevant to the previous story … here’s one by Tom Curley.

I’m not a fan, I’m a zealot. I’ve read all his books. Listened to all the BBC radio series. And watched both movies of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.”  The first one done in the ’80s with the original BBC radio cast was actually a TV series. It was done on a budget of maybe 25 bucks, but it was great.

The Disney movie was okay. Mostly, because Douglas Adams was the producer. Unfortunately, he died before it was finished. Even if you didn’t like the movie, it was worth watching just for the opening musical number “So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish”.

While Hitchhiker is my favorite Adams work, I also loved the Dirk Gently series.

One of the things in the book always stuck with me. Whenever Dirk was lost he would simply follow someone who looked like they knew where they were going. He found that he never got to where he was going but he always ended up where he needed to be.

I used that concept once. I was driving home from work one night and I was on the local road that leads to my house. I came upon a police barricade. The road was closed.

There were no detour signs. I only knew that one road. So, I did what Dirk did. I saw a car in front of me turn off the road. He/she seemed to know where he/she was going. So I followed him/her. For the next 20 minutes to a half-hour, we wound our way through twisty back roads in the bowels of Southern Connecticut. I had no idea where I was.

Suddenly, the car in front of me turns on to the main road again. Past the barricade. I couldn’t believe it! It actually worked! But here’s where it got weird. The car in front of me turned off the main road and on to the road I live on. OK, I thought. Makes sense. There are a lot of houses on my street. This person was obviously going home too. But then the car turned into my driveway! That’s when I realized it was my daughter. I should have recognized the car, but I didn’t put two and two together.

The really funny part was that my daughter had just spent the last 20 minutes or so completely freaking out because this mysterious black car had been following her, turn for turn and then followed her to her house! True story.

I know Douglas Adams was smiling.

TOP 40 RADIO – Rich Paschall

Top 10, actually, by Rich Paschall

When we were in our later grade school years, owning a transistor radio was just about the coolest thing ever. You did not have to stay home and listen to a radio that was plugged into a wall, you could actually carry the radio around with you and listen to it just about anywhere.  Yes, the reception was not real good everywhere you went, but it was still better than having to stay in one spot.

Imagine, walking around with a cordless device and listening to your music!  This little device could fit into large pockets and was powered by a rectangular 9-volt battery.  Life was good.  The radios were so cheap you could save up for one, or annoy your parents until they got you one.

A good model came with an earphone. It was much like the earbuds they give you on plane rides, except it only had one for one ear.  Apparently, technology had not yet advanced to the two ear stage. It didn’t matter back then, as long as you had one.  If you got a model that would fit in your shirt pocket, and then you stuck one earbud in an ear, you might resemble someone with a “hearing aid.” No matter, you were still cool.

Your radio only received the AM band. You still had to sit at home to listen to FM radio. That was unimportant as there was nothing on the FM band for teenagers. There may have been some jazz stations, and a classical station or two, and a lot of stations you had trouble tuning in.  Who needed that when we had advanced to the age of the transistor?

The AM stations played the popular music of the day.  Two of them were very popular with teenagers and cool people all over our town.  One was WLS (World’s Largest Store, as in Sears) that had welcomed rock and pop and everything cool, man.  The other was WCFL (as in Chicago Federation of Labor).

Yeah, it started out to be something else.

These top 40 stations were groovy. They introduced us to the best acts: The Dixie Cups, The Serendipity Singers, The Shangri-Las and The Trashmen (seriously). Oh Yes, and we heard those other acts we still hear today: The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Four Seasons, Jay and the Americans and someone named Barbra Streisand.  It was the good old days. We just didn’t know it then.

At night when you were supposed to be in bed sleeping, you could put the radio under your pillow and listen to one of your stations through the pillow. This muffled the sound enough so nosey parents could not hear it. You could then stay up past 10 PM and hear the late night DJ.

Silver Dollar Survey

Top 40 radio was just an idea, a concept. It seemed like they did not actually have 40 songs.  You would hear the top songs many times throughout the day.  Approximately 10 songs were in heavy rotation.  If you loved one of the top songs, you did not have to worry about missing it.

WLS AM 890 did actually count down the top 40 every Friday afternoon.  In an era of 2 and a half-minute records, it was doable in the afternoon drive slot.  Many of us would rush to a nearby record store to get a printed copy of the “Silver Dollar Survey.” Then we would have the top 40 for the week, although we were unlikely to hear the ones at the bottom if we missed the countdown.

The survey was allegedly based on record sales.  Local acts seemed to do well. Perhaps they were not big outside the midwest.  We didn’t care. If a group we had heard of was playing at a high school “sock hop,” then that was the place to be. Radio gave us our music and our cultural interests. I guess it was not hard to sway a 14 or 15-year-old  toward certain records.  It is the same today

Now the top 40 stations are on the FM channels and streaming services.  Again, they are not really top 40, but a handful of songs in heavy rotation.  Turn them on now and listen to Post Malone, Cardi B, Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, Halsey, Panic! At the Disco, Drake, maybe even Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran. You may ask, why do I know this handful of stars and their songs?

It seems that everyone 25 and under who rides in my car has also anointed himself the music director.  This may mean a change to B-96 or 93.5 Latino Mix! If there are too many commercials, we can also choose 103.5, I Heart Radio which contains a lot of commercials for themselves. In the afternoon, we can catch the ubiquitous Ryan Seacrest.

The format is the same.  Young people sing and/or dance along to a handful of songs.  Stations try to lead you to their favorite stars.  If people 15 to 25 buy singles, they are downloads, not 45s.  If they buy an album, that too is likely a download rather than an album on vinyl or a CD.  They may forego that to purchase a streaming service, although many are free.

The technology has changed, but the appeal of Top 40, which is really Top 10 or so, has remained.  With all of the music options, the release, and ranking of songs, whether if be on FM or online, seems to be important to the demographic that buys music in one form or another.

Top 40 is where we developed a love of music. It is those songs that harken us back to the “good old days” when we were able to carry our music around with us. Radio was then, and still is to many, our portal to the music that will stay with us.  The Beach Boys said in their 50th-anniversary album, “That’s Why God Made The Radio.” It’s a good song by a group that remembered why they made music 50 years earlier:

If you want to see the Beach Boys perform the song on the 50th-anniversary tour, click here.

Note: Today WLS is conservative talk radio, and WCFL is no more.  That frequency is WMVP, ESPN 1000.

SPEAKING OF SMART PHONES … Marilyn Armstrong

Word Prompt Xmas Zombies

You’d think one day with Bank of America would have sufficed me for the week, but you’d be wrong. Having also finally signed on with Sirius for the absolutely lowest price we could get for a year’s subscription, I discovered the ONLY way I could turn the radio on was to call them — on a smartphone — from the car.

The Renegade

Lucky me, I charged the phone the other day because even though I have it turned off, the battery gradually weakens, so even if it looks good, when you turn it on, it will drain really quickly.

As we pulled into the driveway, having completed — or Garry having completed — a trip to the dentist (I forgot to take my antibiotics, so I have to go back in January), I said: “Gee. I hope I have Sirius’ telephone number in my contact list.”

I might have if I ever turned the phone on so it could synchronize with our computer. But it’s pretty much always off, so when I finally turn it on, it beeps, jangles, dings, twitters and occasionally makes some other noise I don’t recognize.

Maybe that’s the sound it makes when it rings? I’ll have to check on that.

Phones

Anyway, I finally made my way to Sirius website where they had no record of my ever having signed on with them and they wanted my password.

Did I have a password? Our little Google phone does not offer the full Gmail experience, so I have no folders and cannot look anything up. I opted for “I forgot my password” because I not only forgot it, I’m not sure I ever set it in the first place. It isn’t unusual for me to sign up with something, but never log into their website. I figure they’ll email or call me if they want to get in touch, but then come these moments when it’s obvious — I need to “be in touch.”

I got their telephone robot. Of course, I got their telephone robot. They are waiting for me wherever I go. They line up secretly in hallways, waiting for a brief glimpse of me so they can ask me the same questions repeatedly and when I answer them, they can tell me they didn’t understand me.

Do the people who program these things do it on purpose? Can all of this be accidental? I’m like Garry with slow drivers. He is sure they have drones watching for him and blocking the roads on purpose.

After a while, I just sat there saying AGENT AGENT AGENT and at some point later, I got one. An agent. This one seemed to speak some version of English and I could mostly understand him when he slowed down enough. Otherwise, it was just jumbled noise at high speed.

He asked me — again — for radio’s number which I gave him, no problem as it was printed across the radio’s face. In very big letters. Then I had to spell it out, one letter at a time. With extra backup words if I thought there might be confusion.

He then said he was going to send a signal to the radio to tell it to turn itself on and wanted to know if we had a clear sky above us (“Garry, look up. Can you see the sky?” “Yes.”)

The sky was seen and declared free of flying debris and trees.

Next question: “Is your telephone (incoherent mumbling).”

“WHAT? Can you slow down? NO idea what you just said.”

It turned out he wanted to know if my phone was connected to the radio. I gagged at the thought and said “NO.” He then said he was sending a signal, but it might take up to five minutes to work, but no problem he’d stay on the phone while we waited.  After which he immediately hung up.

I don’t think he was on the phone for a full minute before hanging up. I redialed the number. I got another representative. Gave them my name. Again. Spelled Marilyn. Again. Then I had to spell “ARMSTRONG” which usually, I don’t have to spell because it’s Armstrong and everyone knows how to spell it. Except for this lady who I guess needed to make sure I used the usual number of consonants and vowels. Nothing weird like ending it in a double “G.”

In fact, I had to repeat every single thing I had said on the previous call. She said she was sending a signal too and would, of course, stay on the phone, not to worry.

Then she immediately hung up. But by then the first signal had come through, so I hung up.


NOTES FOR NEXT YEAR:

We now have Sirius radio which we got for $3.99/month for a year. Plus taxes and other weird charges, so it’s more like six dollars and when the year runs out, I’ll go through the same siege again. I’ll reject the price. They’ll beg me to stay and lower the price by a buck. I’ll still refuse because their basic price is obscenely high. I’ll tell them to just turn it off. Who needs it anyway? 

Just before next Christmas, they will email a better price, but not good enough. I will reject it out of hand. They will call me. Beg me to sign up, but only when they offer me another year at $3.99, will I take it. 


It took about an hour to set up the radio, what with two phone calls and repeating the same information one letter at a time, then using it in a word so they couldn’t misunderstand me. It takes a long time to spell out a 10 letter code. And of course, spelling “Armstrong” was a bit of a high point.

I made Garry sit and listen to this because he can hear now, so sooner or later, he is going to have to deal with this. He needs to learn the ropes.

I do speak clearly. I got a degree is in speech and drama and I used to be on the radio. Even relatively recently, I was on TV and radio. At no point in any TV or radio appearance did I have to spell out the words. I have a standard Bachelor of Arts. It’s not a valuable degree, but at least it means I speak clearly. I had to learn to speak clearly. It’s part of the degree program.

So, why is it that none of these people or their robots ever understand anything I say? Are they keyed to mumblers so that people who speak clearly are at a disadvantage?

Or are they just screwing with me?

SOMETHING ALWAYS HAPPENS – Marilyn Armstrong

When Garry came into the bedroom, I was staring at the radio. Garry takes his hearing aids off at night, so we have bedtime conversations at high volume. Shouting, really.

“Why are you staring at the radio?”

“I’m trying to figure out if it’s on. Oh, it just started to make noise. It’s on.”

“But why are you staring at it?”

“I thought if I stared at it for a while, it would start to play. Or not. One way or the other, I would find out what the red light means.”

“What red light, and why are you staring at it? How will staring at it help?”

“That’s how I figure things out. It didn’t come with instructions.”

Pause. “Have you taken any drugs?”

“No. See, there’s the red light. I didn’t if know the red light means the CD player is on or off. I had to wait to see if it started playing. I was pretty sure a blinking red light means pause, but I wasn’t sure what a steady red light means. I waited when there was no light. Nothing happened. So I tried it the other way. Now it’s making noise. Therefore, the red light means it’s on. It’s slow getting started.”

I wasn’t trying to be funny, but Garry started to laugh and couldn’t stop. “That’s the sort of thing I would do,” he said,

“Well, how else would I know what the red light means?”

He laughed some more.

Garry thinks I know a lot of stuff I don’t really know, especially about technical issues. I push buttons. If staring (and waiting) doesn’t fix what’s broken, I push another button. Or push the same button again. Or hold the button for a couple of seconds and see if it does something different.

While I’m waiting, I watch. Intently. Maybe I’ll get a message. Isn’t this how everyone fixes stuff? I used to look things up in the manual, but since no one supplies a manual anymore, it’s more art than science.

My husband finds this hilarious.

I spend a lot of time staring at computers, waiting for something — anything — to happen. Hoping an idea will occur to me or for the system to reboot. To see if a blue screen will recur, or the diagnostic will tell me there’s no problem, even though I’m sure there is.

I am waiting for a message.

I must be doing something right. Beethoven is playing on the CD player/radio. And most of the time, the computers work.

THE ” WAR OF THE WORLDS ” MYTH – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I went to a presentation celebrating the 80th anniversary of Orson Welles’ 1938 radio broadcast of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds”. The reason this particular broadcast has lived on in history and is still remembered and talked about today is really quite interesting.

Orson Welles broadcasting “The War of the Worlds”

The radio play starts with a typical program playing music from a live band. This fictional program is then interrupted by a realistic sounding “newscaster” reporting an increasingly destructive invasion by Martians. The Martians wipe out New Jersey and proceed to annihilate Manhattan. They are reported to be landing all over the east coast of the United States. The U.S. army is reported to be vanquished and the audience is told that we have no defenses left.

Rehearsal of War of the Worlds

Newspapers the next day, including the New York Times, headlined a nationwide panic that made this incident the most notorious event in broadcast history. The unprecedented mass hysteria was talked about in newspapers, books, articles and radio and TV shows for the past 80 years.

The day after the broadcast

There were reports of thousands of panicked calls to police and radio stations across the country. There were stories of traffic accidents, near riots and hordes of panicked people in the streets and on the roads, fleeing the Martian invasion. There were even reports of suicides and deaths due to the hysteria caused by the broadcast. It was claimed that the stories continued in the newspapers for two weeks, with over 12,500 articles about the panic.

The day after the broadcast

Today, however, this version of history has now been debunked and fallen out of favor. The current belief is that whatever panic occurred, it was small and not widespread. Most listeners understood this was a dramatization. While some may have been scared by the story, few panicked. Evidence shows that at the time of the event, newspaper reports of the story actually stopped after a day or two, not weeks. The story was not the long-lasting, national headline grabber we believed it to be.

In addition, far fewer people heard the original broadcast than most people believed. This fact makes the magnitude of the reported panic much more implausible. A rating service the night of the broadcast reported only 2% of listeners were even tuned in to The “War of the Worlds.” This was true, in part because Welles was scheduled opposite one of the most popular shows on the air – Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.

In addition, several important CBS affiliates, including in Boston, didn’t even air Welles’ show. Instead, they aired local commercial programming, which further reduced Welles’ national audience.

History does show, however, that the story grew in magnitude and in detail as time went on. So the 1940 claim that one million people heard the broadcast is grossly exaggerated.

Just as the size of Welles’ audience has been inflated, so have the reports of mass hysteria. There is no documentation of any deaths or even hospital visits, as claimed, due to the shock of the broadcast. In reality, there were almost no contemporaneous news accounts of mobs in the streets or highways jammed with fleeing people. In fact, people later reported walking through the streets of major cities at the time of the broadcast and finding them as empty as usual at that time of night.

There is another piece of evidence used to counter the mass panic scenario. If the terror and chaos had been as bad and as widespread as reported, CBS and Welles would have been severely reprimanded or even punished. But no sanctions were levied and no official rulings or regulations were promulgated by the FCC.

Welles facing the press the day after the broadcast

So why was the mass panic story started and why did it survive for so long?

One credible theory is that newspapers were to blame for the origins of the story. Radio was still a relatively new medium in 1938 – only 18 years old. But already radio was taking advertising dollars and audiences away from the newspaper industry. So the newspapers seized upon this opportunity to trash the radio as an unreliable source of news. A newspaper trade journal at the time wrote: “The nation as a whole continues to face the danger of incomplete, misunderstood news over a medium which had yet to prove …that it is competent to perform the news job.”

You can’t trust the radio! Fake news!

People are now debating why this myth has persisted for so long. One answer is a man named Hadley Cantril. He wrote a scholarly book in 1940 that gave academic credence to the panic. He used numbers and statistics that made his story seem plausible, but which have subsequently come into question.

He had no hard facts to back up any of his assertions. And he is the only legitimate academic source that claims there was a sizeable panic. Yet his writing has kept this version of the story in textbooks, as it still is today.

There is a more philosophical explanation of the persistence of the mass hysteria myth. In 2000, Northwestern’s Jeffrey Sconce wrote an article called, “Haunted Media”. In it, he suggests that the “War of the Worlds” myth captures our unease with mass media and the internet’s power over us. We all fear, on some level, the media and the internet “…invading and colonizing our consciousness.” The myth is “…a cautionary tale about the power of the media.”

Jeffrey Sconce

Radio opened up a new means of mass communication and shared experiences. Now the internet is doing the same thing. Sconce states that “…today the internet provides us with both the promise of a dynamic communicative future and dystopian fears of a new form of mind control; lost privacy; and attacks from scary, mysterious forces.”

This is particularly true with today’s epidemic of fake news, foreign intervention, and manipulation of the internet and domestic political dirty tricks. We deal with political misinformation being spread to millions of people every day. A national panic may not have occurred because of a radio broadcast in 1938, but it is more likely to occur today because of the abuse of the internet.

NOSTRADAMUS OF NONSENSE – TOM CURLEY

A couple of weeks ago, Ellin and I watched the Golden Globes.

Normally we don’t much care who wins or loses, but for the past few years I’ve been getting “screener” copies of all the movies nominated for all the award shows. We watch as many as we care to watch and can always watch the ones that win.

So, we watched the show. Near the end of the show Oprah Winfrey was given the Cecile B. DeMille award.

It’s their version of a life-time achievement award. The winner gets to give a speech without having to worry about the dreaded “music” telling them to shut the fuck up and get off the stage before they get “the hook.”

In 2017, year the winner was Meryl Streep. She gave a speech eviscerating our “So called Commander-in-Chief.” This year Oprah didn’t specifically name the President at all. Even so, she gave a presidential speech and by most accounts, a pretty good one. In the middle of it, I paused the show and said to Ellin. “Holy crap, it sounds like she’s running for president.”

And sure enough, that was the headline the next day.

I’m writing all of this, not because I support or oppose Oprah Winfrey running for president. I’m not writing this because if he’s done nothing else, Cheesy MacCheese Head has proved the old adage we were taught as children: “Anybody can grow up to be President.”  More importantly, he’s proved that just because anybody can be president, not everybody SHOULD BE!!

No, I’m writing this because I predicted that Oprah Winfrey would be president 28 YEARS AGO!!!

Don’t believe me? I have proof. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far … well actually, it was this galaxy. I wrote a show called “A Half Hour Radio Show.”

The premise of the show was that two hosts, me and my partner Jeff, would present a half hour of witty, satirical bits, and skits. The problem was, we never ever did any of them because something would always happen. We would never get to our actual show. In the first episode, the radio station we were on was sold during the opening music and they installed an instantaneous ratings computer that computed ratings in real time. Every time we went to commercial, the format would change so we never got to our show.

After that, things got much weirder.

In one episode, Jeff and I got sent 30 years into the future to do a show with our future selves. Why? Well, we still had the show 30 years in the future and we realized one day that we had no show for that week.

We thought it would be funny to get our selves from 30 years ago to come to the future and do a show together. Then they remembered that they actually did do that, so now, they had to do that. So, they did.

If that confuses you, it should. If figuring out time travel doesn’t give you a headache, you’re not doing it right.

The point of that particular show was to look at the world 30 years from then. Our young selves asked our old selves about what life was like. We learned things like:

  • There were 5000 TV channels. Today, cable, satellite, fiber, etc.
  • Every song had its own channel. Today, it’s Pandora, Spotify, etc.
  • There was a commercial channel. It only played commercials. Today, it’s on YouTube.
  • When asked who was the President of the United States, our older selves answered: “Oprah Winfrey.”

It’s on tape. You can listen to it here.


Not only did I write it, I wrote it the in early 1990s
when 30 years in the future was 2020!


I was JOKING!! I was trying to be FUNNY!  I thought that was all CRAZY stuff! Considering what’s been going on, maybe it’s not so crazy after all.

I wanted to make the future as funny and absurd as I could. I never thought I’d become “The Nostradamus of Nonsense.”

PUNCHLINES AND PROPHECIES – BY TOM CURLEY

So, last night Ellin and I were watching the Golden Globe Awards.

Normally we don’t that much care who wins or loses. But for the last few years I’ve been getting “screener” copies of all the movies nominated for all the award shows. We watch as many as we care to watch and can watch the ones that win. So, we watched the show. Near the end of the show Oprah Winfrey was given the Cecile B. DeMille award.

It’s their version of a life-time achievement award. The winner gets to give a speech without having to worry about the dreaded “music” telling them to shut the fuck up and get off the stage before they get “the hook.”

Last year the winner was Meryl Streep. She gave a speech eviscerating our “So called Commander-in-Chief.” This year Oprah didn’t really mention the President at all. Even so, she gave a presidential speech and by most accounts, a pretty good one. In the middle of it, I paused the show and said to Ellin. “Holy crap, she’s running for president.”

And sure enough, that was the headline the next day.

I’m writing all of this, not because I support or oppose Oprah Winfrey running for president. I’m not writing this because if he’s done nothing else, Cheesy MacCheese Head has proved the old adage we were taught as children: “Anybody can grow up to be President.”  More importantly, he’s proved that just because anybody can be president, not everybody SHOULD BE!!

No, I’m writing this because I predicted that Oprah Winfrey would be president 28 YEARS AGO!!!

Don’t believe me? I have proof. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far … well actually, it was this galaxy. I wrote a show called “A Half Hour Radio Show.”

The premise of the show was that two hosts, me and my partner Jeff, would present a half hour of witty, satirical bits, and skits. The problem was, we never ever did any of them because something would always happen. We would never get to our actual show. In the first episode, the radio station we were on was sold during the opening music and they installed an instantaneous ratings computer that computed ratings in real time. Every time we went to commercial, the format would change so we never got to our show.

After that, things got much weirder.

In one episode, Jeff and I got sent 30 years into the future to do a show with our future selves. Why? Well, we still had the show 30 years in the future and we realized one day that we had no show for that week.

We thought it would be funny to get our selves from 30 years ago to come to the future and do a show together. Then they remembered that they actually did do that, so now, they had to do that. So, they did.

If that confuses you, it should. If figuring out time travel doesn’t give you a headache, you’re not doing it right.

The point of that particular show was to look at the world 30 years from then. Our young selves asked our old selves about what life was like. We learned things like:

  • There were 5000 TV channels. Today, cable, satellite, fiber, etc.
  • Every song had its own channel. Today, it’s Pandora, Spotify, etc.
  • There was a commercial channel. It only played commercials. Today, it’s on YouTube.
  • When asked who was the President of the United States, our older selves answered: “Oprah Winfrey.”

It’s on tape. You can listen to it here.


Not only did I write it, I wrote it the in early 1990s
when 30 years in the future was 2020!


I was JOKING!! I was trying to be FUNNY!  I thought that was all CRAZY stuff! Considering what’s been going on, maybe it’s not so crazy after all.

I wanted to make the future as funny and absurd as I could. I never thought I’d become “The Nostradamus of Nonsense.”