The Charlotte News
Friday, June 23, 1939
Site Ed. Note: To show that shows of shows shone no less the lights of grumbling from the galleries then in 1939 than now, we include the following letter. A'grousing we will go. Yet, we watch and listen, we do. What are we missin'? What are we missin'? Anything worth watchin'?
Thinks Radio Programs Are Pretty Sorry
Some years ago, when moving picture theaters were in their infancy, they started out as an advertising medium and the public soon got very tired of reading advertisements in a place where they went to be amused, and the moving picture people saw the error of their ways and cut out the advertising. Now, we are in the radio circle and what you hear over the radio at the present time is an insult to the intelligence of the American people, especially when you get into the cheap wit of some of the male and female performers on the radio. A great deal of it is disgustingly common and some of it bordering on the immoral. I know I can turn the radio off, but I put the radio in to hear something that will be beneficial, and especially to the younger people of the present day, and not keep their minds inflamed with this stuff that is broadcast. The intention of the radios when they first started was to be an educational medium to the whole people, and not to cater to the minds of a very few as they are doing at the present time. If anyone does not agree with me about this I would like to hear from him.
J. B. O'Meara
Allright, Mr. or Ms. O'Meara, from across the vast ocean of sixty-six surfside years we say through the warp and woof-woof of time, you haven't heard anything yet, and so prepare your ears and eyes for the worst, both the real and unreal--a talking mule not far away, a talking horse to follow, later still a talking pig, not even an animated one--the events of the day and that which will slay you, all set before your eyes in years to come. You're back there, way back there, Mr. or Ms. O'. We see you and hear you, even if only faintly now for all the static and wow-zee waves intervening. Listen to our programme. It forescares, perhaps, and will tear somewhat your sense of the ordinary, as you sit in your study looking out on a freshly cut June lawn, through the arras that is your hedge, bending light by your eyes in the swelter curling off the burning pavement running by you to somewhere a few miles distant out in the country where you grew of age amid the potpourri that was your mother's garden of okra and tomatoes and cantaloupe, making the whippoorwill coo in the slow relenting of late afternoon, realizing to evening shadows in which cool breezes take salty dampness off your brow. So listen to our programme, as you fan yourself there on the porch, J.B., reading your afternoon News.
Within ten years or so you will be watching some of your despised and disgusting and immoral radio programs, but probably somewhat hypnotized and still unable therefore to dial elsewise, as your teenage children watch with you; within twenty, you will see some of it in "living" color, watch, sitting in your lounger in your impressive new post-war television room, all those old movies you saw during the thirties in the grand old, ornately rococo theaters with the musty odors of carpet cleaning fluid mixing with popcorn pervading the hollow cavern, while you sipped the thick, syrupy tasting cola--and, don't worry, you will thrill still in black and white to your old Boris Karloff, the same you saw in the movies a few years back as the Monster, weekly now scaring your young grandchildren's wits from them, while also seeing the perfectly functional families portrayed to dissociate you from the reality of the less than perfect surrounding collective brood; in thirty, you will see it all in color, quite commonplace by now in all but the more artistic oeuvre, and daily watch theatre real showing you dysfunctional families and societal misfits doing things so badly and immorally in that tube that they have to be from some other world, not from your neighborhood surely, making you therefore feel much the superior and more secure for it now in your not so badly dysfunctional environs after all--while feeling from the events of the day you see, a little disseated, a little anxious, a little dissociated yourself, maybe; in forty, you will probably see the futility of it all and be ruefully cynical in your old age, realizing that your grandchildren, seeing their political heroes either killed or exposed as mendacious rascals, have turned to rueful satire as the only escape from the vicious circle of mediocrity and aberrance surrounding you lo these many decades; in fifty, with you still living on the miracle health plans they have developed (as long as you stay at home when you're sick and can pay your mounting medical bills for pills), you will be watching mainly news and news satire, and movies a few months old, even renting newer ones from down the street as your great-grandchildren come by to say hello, your whole family except the very youngest and most callow having given up long ago on other programming as mindless grabble-babble, and you will have sixty or so stations from which to choose, but still not enough, except very occasionally, to satisfy your sense of the missing aesthetic you longed for fifty years back in 1939; and sixty years out, you will be glad the impeachment nonsense is over and you will wonder what that was all about--all those sixty years--and you will ask yourself inevitably what will the next decade of radio and movies and their brash offshoots bring you should you live so long. Will the mystery of who tipped Watergate be unraveled, who murdered the President? Could there be anything new under the sun to come which you haven't seen pass by your years?
By then, incidentally, you will be accessing whole libraries of books out of a little box sitting on your desk, able to access all the classics since Gutenberg first set the little blocks down, all the news fit to print and more, arcanery from and about all of history and all of culture known to human kind, and read all of it right there on a little television screen, like the one they have at the World's Fair there in New York in your 1939--and all by your own choice of content, almost infinite, from the sublime to the ridiculous, created by anyone with time and will to do it, no special degree or permission or even edition required.
Yet, without discernment, as always, Mr. or Ms. O'Meara, without personal responsibility for what you believe or don't, it's still going to be a bit dissatisfying to you perhaps, still by and large catering to the lowbrow in us, still causing giggles 'neath the rose among your great-grandchildren, and guffaws at the shows by your grandkids grown of age bemoaning the mediocrity of it all, (between their recalcitrant grimaces and grins), just like you in 1939; yet still only occasionally lifting you from that morass from which you long to climb.
Now, and for several decades, you haven't even needed to move from your chair to do it--not that you had to in 1939, but the picture sets got so big and cumbersome they had to be not so close as the warming tubes of the radio were--to create that discernment, that little move of the dial or the click into the eccentric to perform silence at your beckoning.
But you know about some of that evening stuff even in 1939.
And for all of that, J. B., the entertainment gained most inoffensively by leading one's eyes over the adventure of gleaning discernment from those little contrasting figures making curly-cues and slowly pitching form to the cerebral cortex, some gathering wisp of impression, some image of something, perhaps fanciful, perhaps never imagined by anyone else, even the person who set down all the little curly-cues, extrapolated, interpolated, memories scattered once, regained, in a mirror somewhere, painted by a host, treated by you as guest and then host back around--that entertainment has really yet to be equaled by all this other thing to come in those decades ahead of you.
It's easier the other way, hearing it or viewing it dramatized all out there for us, explained appealingly to, and so we are leaned into that easier, more crowded station, away from the more ample complex of making sense of the little designs informed by the little curlies, sending special signals through the electricuitry in our synaptical jump-jump canyons, all on our own alone in there feeding from the monstrous, the divine, the pedestrian, the informed, the laconic, the moronic, the formed, the free, and the malapropped little figures in contrast to their backdrop, glazing your eyes, hazing your eyes, amazing your eyes, or lazing your eyes. But you know all about that, Mr. or Ms. O'. You know it from your place there in 1939.
And that really is what you and we complain about.
That we are taking the simpler way, too much of the time, the way where everyone else is traveling, to feel less alone, and leaving the way less and less traveled, the way of the curlie-cues made to sense, to become a fainter and fainter trail into the past--the way of our own, alone, but not quite, stimulated by nothing more arcane than a little bit of old time typeset hitting the ocular nerve, sometimes in ways intended by the setter, sometimes otherwise, fainter to, fainter, but yet still there amid it all.
So fear not that future ahead of you, J. B.; that radio, or what it has now become down the road sixty-six surfside years away from you, has yet not taken from our view that which you can still see from your window as you typed to us your letter there from the greens of Charlotte in June, 1939.
Among The Missing*
Remember All That Brave Talk About "Economy?"
The House passed a bill appropriating for the Agriculture Department and farm relief the enormous sum of $835,118,613. The bill went to the Senate.
The Senate, where an economy bloc is rampant, took the bill under consideration, amended it and upped the appropriation to $1,218,666,572. The bill went to conference.
In conference the House accepted virtually all of the Senate's additions, and the bill came out containing appropriations of $1,205,147,133.
Economy, where are thou?
Huey's Ghost Lines Up Things For Another Horse-Trade
Huey Long is in his grave, but his ghost still manifestly rules his old satrapy of Louisiana. It made Richard W. Leche Governor of the state almost before the Long clay was cold, and it has continued to dominate the Senators and most of the other politicoes down that way, save only in New Orleans, where the city machine had such a grip of on the boodle that not even Huey in the flesh could break it.
Yesterday the ghost was very busy. At its plain suggestion, Governor Leche suddenly decided that his arthritis imperatively demanded that he resign, with the end of his term eleven months away, and make room for Brother Earl Long, the Lieutenant-Governor, to mount the throne. What lay behind that, in the first place, was almost certainly the disclosures to the effect that Governor Leche has been using WPA funds and labor for the fattening of his private purse. And the fact that a WPA investigation hangs heavy over his head.
But what lay behind it in the second place, was probably something more important. Rather, two things. First, the local need in Louisiana itself, of rapidly disassociating the name of Leche from the machine and rallying the wool-hat boys to its support--a thing which the magic name of Long is admirably calculated to do. And secondly, the hope that, with Leche out of the way, the Administration in Washington can be persuaded to come to terms and forget about that investigation. The ghost has reason for that hope. Once before the Administration went after the Long gang, and it looked as if a lot of its chieftains were bound to go to jail for income tax dodging. But an election came on, and the Administration conveniently let its case slide in return for the support of the machine. Another election is coming on, and the Roosevelt forces are going to need the delegates from Louisiana in the Democratic Convention. So it will be interesting to see if the ghost doesn't pull through again.
The Republicans Merely Hamstring The Army's Air Program
By the narrowest squeak the Administration yesterday escaped having 1,283 planes clipped off the 5,500 it had already got authorized for the Army Air Corps. The vote was on an appropriation bill in the House. And on the first roll call an amendment to reduce the number by that figure was actually passed. Only swift work in rounding up supporters from the cloakrooms saved the day.
Those dratted isolationists again, eh? Of course not. There aren't enough of them. And besides, with a few exceptions, they have generally been strong for the idea of a lot of planes for home defense. No, it was our old friends, the Republicans, led by Hon. Mr. Powers from New Jersey, and voting almost solidly on party lines. Because the whole body of them believe honestly that we don't need those planes? It is incredible. The military and naval authorities, who know more about it than anybody else, are unanimously agreed that they are necessary to the safety of the nation. No, it was simply for the main, that this measure was sponsored by a Democratic Administration and that the boys still hope to sell their party to the country as the party of economy and peace, as against the spending and war-mongering Democrats.
In partisan circles, that kind of play with the nation's defense is called good politics. But it smacks unpleasantly of something that in other circles goes by a less polite name.
Isn't Going To Cost A Cent (During This Administration)
We had begun to think that the President was about out of white rabbits and couldn't borrow a silk hat, anyhow, to pull them from. But no. But no indeed. He announced yesterday the forthcoming appearance of a three-billion-dollar rabbit. And this time he's not even going to need a hat.
They're going to be self-liquidating, you see, these huge loans he recommends. They're to be made by various Governmental agencies: by the U.S. Housing Authority for low-cost housing; by the REA for rural electrification projects; by the FSA to farmers to enable them to buy farms and equipment (40 years to pay); by the Export-Import bank to foreign governmental customers; and by somebody to local governments for public works, to the railroads for equipment. And it isn't going cost the Government a cent.
The various agencies are going to issue their own bonds and sell them direct. The Government will only guarantee them. And what, did we hear some bright boy ask, will happen if the debtors fail to pay back the agencies and the agencies are unable to pay back their bondholders?
That's for somebody else to worry about since by that time Mr. Roosevelt will be far away. We hope.
The Sillypots Take The Stage As The Heat Plays Its Tricks
In Washington Mr. August Radimsky, a Yugoslavian, patented a bathtub in which you may go to sleep without getting your head underwater and fattening the morticians.
In Memphis some kind-hearted dredge workers who had seen a man come down to the water's edge night after night, put on pajamas and go to bed on the ground, went over in a boat to offer him a job. He said no politely, and that he had fled from St. Louis to escape work. Which maybe wasn't so nutsy after all.
In Raleigh Constable Rommie Upchurch worried his head as to how to find the unidentified Dora Doe against whom a lady had issued claim and delivery papers for the recovery of her stolen false teeth.
In Forest City a man turned up as "relief manager" for a chain store, cleaned out the cash registers, and departed.
In Lancaster, Pa., John Snyder killed two land turtles when he caught them milking his cows. That's what we said.
In Somerville, Mass., a man leaped out of an automobile, kissed Mrs. Eugene O'Brien, snatched her handbag and, vanished.
In Santa Fe, N. M., a woman shrieked into the telephone that Indians were on the war path, and the gallant cops dashed out to find a movie group shooting battle scenes.
In St. Louis Miss Billie Todd asked her boy friend, Virgil Vinson, for a kiss while they were out riding. Virgil, the churl, refused. In protest Billie screamed, and the judge fined Virgil $5 for disturbing the peace. Which probably served him right.
In Charlotte the heat flirted with the idea of breaking a hundred for the sixth successive day. Beneath our window they loaded up a slot machine and pensively carted it away. And up here in our ivory and platinum tower, with the solid sapphire air-conditioning going full blast and forming icicles on the ceiling and the edges of our desk, we looked out upon the sweating world and the sweaty reporters in our city room and laughed to think that the silly season was here again and that we alone of all the world remained quite sane. Turn her up ten degrees, Oscar! We are beginning to get a little cold.
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