I could tell you about the most amazing coincidence, and how it was pieced together from someone in Thailand and London with me in Minnesota in the middle, but I’ll save that for another Friday. Besides, it has to do with old radio, and Lord knows there’s enough of that below. It’s one of those things that makes you glad there’s the internet, because it balances out the things that make you annoyed in every possible nerve fiber, teeth included, that there is an internet.

For example: the only reason Apple pulled the Civil War apps from the store was fear of the internet - specifically, fear of the worst part of the internet, where lack of reason is balanced by an excess of enthusiasm. No rational person would complain that there were Civil War sims. No sensible person would believe that society would be improved by demanding their removal. No emotionally stable person could think that they were safer now because someone, somewhere, would not get updates to a game they purchased that allowed them to fight as the Union Army but contained the sight of the Confederate flag. Anyone who would believe these things is tethered to reality by a frayed strand of dental floss, and while they may live in a comfy bubble where everyone believes the same things and has at least two friends who are doing very important work in the field of instructional graffiti, most people are stable enough to resist the siren call of the Stars and Bars, even in the form of a picture on a phone.

But. The loud people may complain. The company would have to explain. An explanation would be seen as a justification.

Of course there are nuances to this; Apple is working with developers to use a different, earlier flag, according to some reports. Because that’s the issue, right? Finding an acceptable flag to represent a slave state? As I noted elsewhere, the app store still has a game that lets you simulate the USSR, including an in-app purchase that lets you fine-tune your oppression settings. One could say this is okay because the USSR was an equal-opportunity killer, just as the repression settings in “Tropico” are hunky and / or dory because you’re putting the screws to your own people. If that’s the case, then they have decided that American Slavery is not only a unique historical event, but something whose magnitude and uniqueness sets it apart from every other act of state oppression and governmental violation of human rights. The enslavement of an entire population is not offensive, per se, because it’s color-blind.

I mean, sure, go ahead, make that argument. And if that’s the case, then my Roman Slave Merchant Sim should get brisk approval, because the Romans didn’t care who they enslaved, and also had the option to buy your way out. They practically invented the in-app purchase, in a way.

If people in the South decide they don’t want that flag flying in public areas, fine. I don’t care and I have no love of the flag. On the contrary. But if that game is offensive, then the people who play it are participating in a hurtful portrayal, and isn’t it possible that some of those people may be in positions to hire, or fire, or promote, or approve loans, or otherwise have an impact on people’s lives?

Shouldn’t we know who’s buying those games? Of course we should. And that’s why Apple had better cough up a list of purchasers, or they’re enabling the maintenance of systemic deprivations. It would also be necessary to provide the names of the people who worked on the games, and google-bomb ‘em so their sins pop up the next time an employer does a background check.

For the record, I don’t want Amazon to ban Che shirts or Stalin flags or Confederate books or USSR simulators or games that let you pretend you’re Fidel, any more than I want to ban Big Gulps, the phrase “land of opportunity,” the inhalation of water vapor in public, or shelf-stable partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. My “List of Things We Must Ban” contains one entry, and that is “Lists of Things We Must Ban.” I know, I know: pure hypocrisy.


It’s all LISTEN today, coast to coast! Stem to stern! Fore to Aft! So.

Synchronicity, or ubiquity? Or just coincidence?

On the way to the office I was listening to the Old Time Radio channel. It was Paul Frees’ birthday, so they were going to play a “Whistler,” one of the “Escape” shows that were about, well, Escape, and a Gunsmoke where he played Doc because Howard McNair was indisposed. Paul Frees, the unnamed, unknown voice behind so many childhood cartoons or record albums. The guy I never wondered about, because you didn’t wonder about such things - until you remembered them years later when you heard them in another context.

William Conrad, for example, I first heard from Rocky and Bullwinkle. William Conrad, for example, I heard this morning when I listened to a “Gunsmoke” while working.

The episode was called “The Cast.” It was one of the rare hopeful ones with a happy ending, and no gunfire. Doc had to see to a woman who’d swallowed a nail. She died. The woman’s husband didn’t take with no doctors, and commenced to feudin’ with Doc. As you expected, he would need Doc in the end. It’s a variant on another episode. There were really only four or five plots on that show.

Then I listened to an X-Minus One, which had a dry, sarcastic, bitter voice I have come to recognize as perfectly emblematic of the Fifties: William Renfield. It’s hard to describe how he belongs to the 50s and not the 60s, or why his voice makes me think of the grown-up Holden Caulfields filled with trite tight rage over the flaws of modern life. But there he was again, and I’d forgotten how the story ended. So I listened.

As I said, I was in the car later. Paul Frees on “The Whistler,” an episode that showcased his ability to mimic other voices. I’d never heard it. Had to leave in mid-show, since I was downtown, but no matter: I have the entire “Whistler” run at home. In the evening I checked the XM listings, got the title -

Hello. The Frees Gunsmoke after “Escape” was “The Cast.”

Checked the date, checked my collection; sure enough, it was a reused script. Very, very odd to hear Frees as Doc.

How odd? Here's a snippet of the original, with Howard McNair.

That's our doc.

The Frees version:

And this isn't.

Anyway. Found the “Whistler,” and started to listen. It wasn’t Frees. Checked my collection; there were two episodes with the same name. Listened to the second: not Frees. Compared the two: same episode. So the XM radio version was a Whistler episode not available via the usual sources; the canonical “Whistler” archive, assembled and curated by the Old Time Radio Researchers group, had a dupe. In fact, googling around showed me that every instance of this ep credited Frees, when it obviously wasn’t him.

Listened to the ep anyway. Lackluster, but Frees had made it work. At least the few minutes I heard.

Now, the meaningless conclusion: in the evening, after work was done, I sat down to watch an “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” The villain:

William Renfield.

Here's that ur-50s voice.

Oh but there’s more. The Hitchcock show starts in a train station. On the loudspeaker:

He was everywhere.

Conclusion? I don't know. Synchronicity. Coincidence. Last flashes of bygone ubiquity.

Construction update: here's the new housing unit going up on my old parking lot.

Building a wall no one will ever see again.




As usual for Friday, the Music Cues. Of course we begin with the Couple Next Door, with its cheerful soundtrack of the mid-century domestic scene.

CND Cue #556 The "Curb Your Enthusiasm"-like theme again, but now -finally - we hear where it ends up.

CND Cue #557 Mildew in the big city!


CND Cue #?? I have this one tagged as "Owl Under the Bed." You can see why.

Moving along with the innumerable Gunsmoke cues. Like the show itself - all different, and all the same . . . or so I used to say. The cues went with a full orchestra, heavy on the echo, and now we got Copeland-style Western stuff- with a discordant feel.


Gunsmoke #94 You stay out of this! The orchestra is confused enough already.


Gunsmoke #95 Matt's warning that sleepy-eyed hound from the latter-50s Warner Brothers.



And again, the miracles of poultry:

Chicken Delight, part 2.

From the Frank Chacksfield dupe-job for English ears:

Git 'em up, round 'em up, whip 'em hard, something something





Thus concludes our week at the Bleat; see you Monday. Sixties update works this week. (Sorry.)



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