Showing posts with label Apocalypse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Apocalypse. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Plunging into the ruined, moldy heart of a metaphor

Vintage FCC 'history card' for WJAR radio

Last month, an urban explorer trekked into the wilds of East Providence, R.I., in search of adventure and long-abandoned places.

Wielding nothing but a video camera and a respirator, "RnK All Day" brought his YouTube viewers along as he pored through the ruins of radio stations WHJJ, WHJY (94 HJY) and WSNE that once broadcast from the crumbling building at 115 Eastern Ave. He got more than he bargained for -- as did we.

What the intrepid archaeologist of urban abandonment found was a moldering, unsealed time capsule of mid-market AM and FM radio, circa 2002. It almost seemed as if, going on a couple of decades ago, the DJ on 94 HJY was playing Lenny Kravitz's latest CD while the talk guy on WHJJ argued with a caller about George W. Bush . . . and then the apocalypse.

The lights blinked. The phone went dead. A blinding flash. Someone spied a mushroom cloud in the distance.

Then everyone ran from the building, in a panic and in search of a fallout shelter. No one ever came back.

Yes, scavengers would go through the place from time to time. But they were looking for canned goods, cash and booze. Maybe some forgotten weed from the HJY wing. Broadcast electronics held no attraction for nuclear survivors worried more by the threat of irradiated zombies.

Fate had left these postmodern ruins amazingly intact, save for the smashed windows, some trashed rooms . . . and the mold that was everywhere.

THIS WAS the result of no nuclear detonation and the sudden collapse of civilization, though. This was another kind of apocalypse -- a corporate apocalypse.

There were no glowing zombies staggering through deserted streets searching in vain for human brains. The survivors of this apocalypse were the ones who brought it about -- the business-attired men and women walking crisply through cubicled offices in search of shareholder value.

Sometimes, they spat out glib clichés about "thinking outside the box" and "It is what it is." Other times, they merely moaned "EBITA! EBITA!"

A few years ago, one of this country's tens of thousands of "downsized" (or "right-sized" . . . or "redundant" . . . or "laid off" . . . or whatever) radio professionals -- I was told it was a disc jockey fired about 2003 -- cornered a regional program director outside the offices of a "station cluster." He just wanted answers to a few questions.

Would he ever feel useful again?

Was his training -- were his talents --  now useless?

The man in business casual was silent.

"Will I ever fucking work in my profession again!?"

Quoth the Craven "Nevermore."

Yet the suits could move three stations out of one building into another building with new equipment . . . and just abandon all the old. Utterly. Hundreds of thousands of dollars, at the time, of "utterly."

That waste represents "shareholder value," no doubt. Efficiency and belt-tightening, don't you know?

OK, I LIED about the tale of the questioning DJ. I don't know that it happened. I'll bet it probably did somewhere, however. I didn't lie about the apocalypse part. What's befallen radio -- and to a lesser extent, TV -- since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 ushered in the Lord of the Flies is an apocalypse. In ancient Greek, "apocalypse" meant "an unveiling." In modern English, it can mean a prophetic revelation . . . or an inferno . . . or a great disaster.

The tens upon tens of thousands of cashiered broadcasters say, "Take your pick, man. Hard to go wrong." And millions of listeners across the land might agree.

Once, WHJJ was a big deal in Providence. Before 1980, the call letters were WJAR, and for much of its history, it was a pretty big deal in the Northeast. After first taking the air in 1922, WJAR became a charter affiliate of the National Broadcasting Co., in November 1926.

And legendary NBC announcer Don Pardo (of Saturday Night Live and every-damn-thing-else fame) got his start at WJAR in 1938.

SO LOOK at the mysteriously, confoundingly abandoned studios, once the pre-ruinous home to the jewels of the Franks Broadcasting Co., Inc., beginning in 1980. Before Franks Broadcasting, the old WJAR was the pride of The Outlet Company.

Outlet owned WJAR for six decades. Franks owned it for a few years. Then it gets consolidatingly confusing until you end up at iHeartMedia, a crapload of assumed debt and -- how do they put it? Ah . . . yes. Efficiencies, economies of scale, elimination of redundancies and . . . "right-sizing." 

It sounds so much better than "You're fired." But it still means "apocalypse." And the abandoned, fully equipped ruins in East Providence still make for a hell of a metaphor for an entire ruined industry and an entire unraveling country.

What you hear wafting across the ether today is substantively denuded. The happy-clappy corporate speak of besuited Visigoths is risible -- especially if you jack up your eyelids with toothpicks, turn your radio on and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to the stupid in the air.

. . . and listen to th. . . .

SORRY. The program server had a bit of a meltdown, nobody's in the building after 5, and I had to drive in from home to reboot it.

Next time that happens, just go online and call up the iHeart station in (fill in the blank). It's playing the same damn thing -- probably at the same damn time. How're you liking those "economies of scale"?

The legions of former radio people -- the first casualties in the apocalypse, the ghosts inhabiting our East Providence metaphor in ruins, the men and women who have radio in their blood and nowhere to show it, the ones who talk incessantly about the old days on Facebook because there are no more new days -- they're not liking those "economies of scale" at all.

And they don't much care for your station, or for bombed-out radio studios full of perfectly good equipment being perfectly ruined.

Neither, I suspect, do they care for metaphors. Unfortunately, it seems as if metaphors are the only damned thing we have left in this sad, sad land.

Don't forget to call in your request to the studio line. No one will answer.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

What is the candidate's position on bodily fluids?

I could be mistaken (no, not really), but isn't nuclear annihilation a pro-life issue?

Because now it's on the table, thanks to the Republican presidential nominee.

On MSNBC's Morning Joe today -- and this followed several minutes of various iterations of "Oh, my God! Oh, my, God! Oh, my God!" in the subtle manner of the four-star Air Force general, CIA director and National Security Agency director that Michael Hayden used to be -- host (and former GOP congressman) Joe Scarborough related the following. Quote:

Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on the international level went to advise Donald Trump, and three times he asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times, he asked, at one point, ‘If we have them, we can’t we use them?’ That’s one of the reasons why he has, he just doesn’t have foreign policy experts around him.

Three times, in an hour briefing, ‘Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?’
End quote.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's the end of the world as we know it

There are fewer than nine days until, well . . . you know.

So, tell me, how are you coping with onrushing doom? Are you doing anything special in these days, our planet's last?

Are you begging the Mayans for just one more week? Have you retreated to a monastery for a final week and change of desperate prayer and earnest reflection?

Have you resolved to drink to excess because, like, it really doesn't matter now, right?

Or are you just trying to get laid?

Lemme know. I need suggestions on how to go out in style.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Jim Cantore: Sign of the Apocalypse

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Don't look at me, it's in the Bible.

Somewhere in the back, as that great theologian Homer Simpson has duly noted in the past.
And I saw when the Lamb opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it were the noise of thunder, one of the four beasts saying, Come and see.

And I saw, and behold a white satellite truck: and he that stood at its side had a microphone; and a Weather Channel rain slicker was given unto him: and he went forth into the gale from lower Manhattan, and into the Great Flood.
BASICALLY, I think what the Lord is trying to tell us here is that if there is a great wind and a mighty tide over the horizon, and Jim Cantore appears on your shoreline, perhaps you need to make your peace with Him -- God, not Jim -- before putting your head between your legs and kissing your ass goodbye.

And when that shoreline is lower Manhattan, well. . . .

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The incredible shrinking god of Harold Camping

Flannery O'Connor -- Southerner, literary great and faithful Catholic -- once wrote to a friend that "these things are mysteries and that if they were such that we could understand them, they wouldn’t be worth understanding. A God you understood would be less than yourself."

That would reduce the deity of Family Radio's president, Harold Camping, to something on a subatomic level. You have to go pretty low to be understood by the 0-fer king of apocalyptic prognostication.

Monday was a day for irrationalizing in the Camping camp as the 89-year-old demonstrably false prophet explained that May 21 was a "spiritual" Judgment Day, and that we'll still all be Krispy Kritters come Oct. 21, just as he originally forecast.

Huh? As The Associated Press reporter no doubt discovered, a Camping you understand may well be a cause for alarm:

The globe will be completely destroyed in five months, he said, when the apocalypse comes. But because God's judgment and salvation were completed on Saturday, there's no point in continuing to warn people about it, so his network will now just play Christian music and programs until the final end on Oct. 21.

"We've always said May 21 was the day, but we didn't understand altogether the spiritual meaning," he said. "The fact is there is only one kind of people who will ascend into heaven ... if God has saved them they're going to be caught up."

It's not the first time the 89-year-old retired civil engineer has been dismissed by the Christian mainstream and has been forced to explain when his prediction didn't come to pass. Camping also prophesized the Apocalypse would come in 1994, but said later that didn't happen then because of a mathematical error.

Camping's hands shook slightly as he pinned his microphone to his lapel, and as he clutched a worn Bible he spoke in a quivery monotone about listeners' earthly concerns after giving away their possessions in expectation of the Rapture.

Family Radio would never tell anyone what they should do with their possessions, and those who did would cope, Camping said.

"We're not in the business of financial advice," he said. "We're in the business of telling people there's someone who you can maybe talk to, maybe pray to, and that's God."

But he said he wouldn't give away all his possessions ahead of Oct 21.

"I still have to live in a house, I still have to drive a car," he said. "What would be the value of that? If it is Judgment Day why would I give it away?"

WHILE THE GOD of Harold Camping might be infinitesimal, so as to be understood by your average loony, my God is as big as the universe. (And I don't claim to understand Him. At all.)

And this little piss-ant of a false prophet -- he who has wasted big money and caused such widespread grief for those foolish enough to heed his mad teachings -- is going to have a lot of explaining to do upon his End of Days.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Half past the Apocalypse

It's half past the Apocalypse, Omaha time, and apparently we're all still here.

Omaha is strangely intact, and the awful, massive earthquake strangely absent . . . and I'm strangely unraptured. Don't they know it's the end of the world?

It ended in Family Radio's bank account.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

The upside of the End of Days

Look on the bright side: Harold Camping could be right, and we might be raptured before a certain Omaha songwriter and
YouTube maven can compose again.

Son of a bitch.

The Tribulation has started ahead of schedule, and there may be no saving us now.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Post 9/11 Apoco-porn

The latest film from "Independence Day" director Roland Emmerich doesn't feature space aliens trying to destroy humanity.

Whew. . . .

Instead, God does the job. And much more thoroughly than the space aliens, who could only blow whole cities up.

Oops. . . .

You see, God can blow Los Angeles up and then make it slide into the sea. While bringing down the Vatican on top of Catholics praying for salvation. While wiping out the Eastern Seaboard with a giant tsunami and dropping the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy on top of the White House.

My God is an ironic God.

This isn't a new meme for Emmerich -- in "The Day After Tomorrow," a new Ice Age followed California tornadoes, Tokyo thunderstorms with football-sized hail, a massive New York tsunami and a flash-freezing, 150-below vortex sweeping across the Northern Hemisphere. On the other hand, it may be the end of the line --
where can one possibly go with this genre once you've destroyed the whole freakin' planet?

WHAT I WONDER, though, is what all this means? Not the whole "End of the World: 2012 . . . Because the Mayans Said" phenomenon -- we've had such and Nostradamus, too, for ages -- but instead Hollywood's (and our) fascination with catastrophe on a global scale.

What does it mean that this persists in the aftermath of 9/11, when we got to see the real thing "up-close and personal"? And when we got to see how horrific that is when removed from the sanitary confines of films like Emmerich's.

Why the continued fascination? I ask this as a self-confessed aficionado of "blowed up good" movies who finds this latest one to be a collapsed bridge too far.

In 1998, columnist and author Peggy Noonan tackled a similar cultural meme in a piece for Forbes ASAP:

Here goes: It has been said that when an idea’s time has come a lot of people are likely to get it at the same time. In the same way, when something begins to flicker out there in the cosmos a number of people, a small group at first, begin to pick up the signals. They start to see what’s coming.

Our entertainment industry, interestingly enough, has plucked something from the unconscious of a small collective. For about 30 years now, but accelerating quickly this decade, the industry has been telling us about The Big Terrible Thing. Space aliens come and scare us, nuts with nukes try to blow us up.

This is not new: In the ‘50s Michael Rennie came from space to tell us in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” that if we don’t become more peaceful our planet will be obliterated. But now in movies the monsters aren’t coming close, they’re hitting us directly. Meteors the size of Texas come down and take out the eastern seaboard, volcanoes swallow Los Angeles, Martians blow up the White House. The biggest-grosser of all time was about the end of a world, the catastrophic sinking of an unsinkable entity.

Something’s up. And deep down, where the body meets the soul, we are fearful. We fear, down so deep it hasn’t even risen to the point of articulation, that with all our comforts and amusements, with all our toys and bells and whistles . . . we wonder if what we really have is . . . a first-class stateroom on the Titanic. Everything’s wonderful, but a world is ending and we sense it.

I don’t mean: “Uh-oh, there’s a depression coming,” I mean: We live in a world of three billion men and hundreds of thousands of nuclear bombs, missiles, warheads. It’s a world of extraordinary germs that can be harnessed and used to kill whole populations, a world of extraordinary chemicals that can be harnessed and used to do the same.

Three billion men, and it takes only half a dozen bright and evil ones to harness and deploy.

What are the odds it will happen? Put it another way: What are the odds it will not? Low. Nonexistent, I think.

A LITTLE LESS than three years later came the horror of 9/11. You'd think that would have changed us somehow -- at least culturally. You'd think we would have emerged from that Lower Manhattan dust-and-debris cloud a little more serious . . . a little more selfless . . . at a minimum, a little less seriously devoted to the utterly unserious.

If anything, we're even worse. Consumed by Kanye, M.J., Jonandkate and David Letterman's stupid-human tricks, now our depraved popular culture is cinematically hurtling toward the Apocalypse.

I wonder what that's saying about our cultural subconscious, circa 2009?

Well, if I had to hazard a guess -- and I'm operating in full-Noonan mode here -- I'd say that maybe Peggy was off just a little bit. Maybe we're not afraid it's all going to end, and perhaps us with it.

Instead, maybe we want it all to end -- and perhaps us with it.

OH, OF COURSE we have John Cusack, one of 2012's stars, quoted about how the film celebrates people transcending their "normal capabilities and normal morals" in difficult situations.

But isn't that the case with every single disaster flick? Besides, you don't have to spend nine figures to make a movie about the transcendent power of the human spirit.

No, if you want to call 2012 (and the deep cultural current that spawned it) anything, call it a death wish by a terminally ill culture looking for God -- or the cosmos -- to assist in its suicide. Could it be that's the deepest subconscious desire bubbling to the surface of the Superfund site we call a culture?

Otherwise, what percentage would movie execs see in what amounts to a $200 million snuff film?