Sunday, December 5, 2010

Oedipus's Edifice for the Artifacts of Artifice

Alas, poor Google.
The European Commission has really got its knickers in a twist over the company's reportedly unfair competitive practices, which include not only the manipulation of search results (rankings as they appear, etc.) but also "quality scores" assigned to those results, scores which affect ad rates and give prominence to items with direct or indirect links to the company.

It's understandable - after all, when you're so big that your company name is a verb in common use by preschoolers, you're bound to face hurdles and lose focus as you try to figure out just who and what you are, especially as Web 2.0 is becoming Web God-Knows-What with every passing second.
The real story's not there, however. The real super-sicko development is the ubiquity of an offshoot of Google Maps called "Street View." Surely, many of you have - after zooming in on your neighborhood or block via Google Earth - been delighted (or perplexed, or amazed) to type in your address and, lo and behold, view your humble abode from street level.
To all appearances, vehicles simply, patiently trolled the streets, recording everything in a gee-whiz 360-degree panoramic view...the better to...the better to what?
What the hell purpose does Street View serve? Is it for bored cubicle jockeys to check out their house, their folks' house, whatever: Hey, cool, there it is!

Outrage, one supposes, would be so tired and predictable. It probably is. You can't ignore the 600 GB of data picked up by "mistake," by ambient leak. That's real, quantifiable, and no doubt comprises a slurry that's crammed with every manner of credit card number, ID info, and even plans for a few clandestine trysts.
Outrage, yeah, okay...the big thing at the moment is - no joke - websites which rank funny/bizarre/erotic Street View results. Yep. Be it a dog squatting on 13th Street in Brooklyn or a prominently breasted Indian girl walking to school in suburban Des Moines, the clips and blips are there and ready to entertain.

Speaking of rampaging gadgetry, the other day I found myself in the proximity of an airing of Back to The Future II. Fine and well. Trouble is, when Marty surveys the glaring new Mill Valley that the Doc has brought him to, there's one aspect of the city's bustling throng that the film missed. In all fairness, perhaps no one could have foreseen the omission in the '80s, concerned as the screenwriters no doubt were with Griff's bionic implants and giant, holographic sharks.

There were no cell phones.


The people aren't walking along while hunched over intently, rapt, transfixed, like a monkey with a new turd.
Maybe in the remake, eh?


Old Bricks, new Life
My old buddy Steve told me recently that after living in Indiana for quite some time he was making the move back to Michigan.
Michigan?! some (most) will say.
He's from Flint, and he's pretty damn proud of his Wolverine State heritage, so back he's gone. Commendations, backslaps and best wishes are in order, especially given his choice of locale - it's Sterling Heights, due north of Detroit. Only a short hop up Interstate 75 if he wants to visit Flint.
He could've gone anywhere, stayed where he was, found a swinging new town. He's an IT pro who's been doing it for almost 25 years, so the dude's got options. Back he went, though, and it really knocked me out. He's not wringing his hands about the state's fortunes, or up to any grandiose schemes involving some progressive, Birk-wearing "sustainability" jazz...that's not him. he just feels the need to go back, and hey, godspeed to him.

Puts me in mind of a Huffington Post item from a while back, which mentioned a recent Economist survey that ranked Detroit #40 in terms of livability (that's worldwide, gang), beating out London (#54) and New York (#56)! Make of it what you will, but sometimes things ain't as simple as they seem.
There are cities making handsome rebounds from dire times, with the prime example being Pittsburgh, now apparently a perennial pick for quality of life. Manchester, N.H. comes in with high marks as well, as another example of an area that's overcome the ghosts and stilled, cavernous infrastructure of its industrial past. Cleveland meets that standard as well: no more gritty rep as the "Mistake By the Lake" for them.
Certain areas are blessed with natural beauty, history, and thriving educational and creative sweet must it be to live in Portland?

Urban "renewal," "rejuvenation"...these can be words that summon up bureaucracies and arbitrary re-drawings with bloated budgets and ill-advised aims. I don't detract from midcentury urban renewal, especially as it razed dangerous, unmanageable slums, but the tradeoff often involved the disappearance of storied, richly historic neighborhoods. That's probably the main danger of renewal efforts, and definitely is its main critique. Where do the old and the funky fit in? What's wrong with a few rough edges? New Yorkers do have a hot new Brooklyn, but they've also got the decay of the Bronx. Gentrification can bring new and affordable housing, but also displace the things ( and the people) that give an area a little character.

The Interstate system contributed to the changing face of the country's cities as well, and left in its wake the seeds of gentrification's ugly cousin - homogeneity. Each highway interchange brings the same gas station/fast food options, the same retail giants, etc. etc. Not good. That's why - when I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1992 I fell in love with it - with the Midwest in general. It took a trip to Europe to figure out why. Here was a city that pre-dated the automobile...the scale of the place was human...I could walk most anywhere, down to the corner store (or bar) and see people I knew. Speak with them. Interact. It struck me as being completely natural and incredible. My son's day care center was like a mini UN, a benefit of living in a university town. Someday I, like Steve, will get back to that place where I feel the most connection.

Sad Eyes, Soaking Rain, Murder
In 2008 the young British illustrator and author Hannah Berry released Britten & Brulightly, her debut.
She brought her love of European comics and film noir to the table, and created a resonant, morose investigator named Fernandez Britten who's been beaten down by his line of work and the facts he must unburden himself of to his clients.
Britten begins the tale by waking up and preparing for yet another day of his glum profession, one that will apparently pass under unendingly pouring gray skies and sodden streets. He's retained by a woman who seeks answers in the death of her husband - suicide? Murder? And, ultimately, why?
Britten's world is superbly rendered in black & white, and comes to tungsten life in the story's color sequences, but it's when color, pale and tentative, bleed into the frame that Berry achieves something more. Her points of view are at once panoramic, sweeping, then locked in on a querulous face or a pair of wounded eyes, smarting with newfound and bitter knowledge.

Bitterness, pain, yes: as Britten pursues his leads, the weight of his career choice settles ever more heavily on his shoulders. Success in his queries leads to connections and revelations that - any more, it seems to him - bring his clients nothing but pain, pain with no redeeming niceties. A solved case is just another squalid, seamy trawl through dirty, felonious laundry. Berry must tread deftly here, and she does. The investigator, upon hearing his partner Brulightly's protracted, breathless assessment that "...there's enough there to ignite a hundred possibilities!..." merely notes glumly that "I lost another hat."
Ah, Brulightly. Well, here's the thing...Britten's partner is a tea bag. Yes, you read that right. As such, however, he's easily concealed and thus can be wherever Britten is. He's also apparently a bit randy, with a penchant for smut, admitting that while he's a tea bag, "I'm a tea bag with needs, Fern." He also gets in a few good lines, as after a narrow escape from a gang of toughs: "Look, I'm sorry: I infused in your waistcoat."
The young writer (still in her 20s) has skills beyond her years.
As Britten has been betrayed by a waiter contact at a tidy little cafe, he retreats to a greasy spoon, an "oily no-man's-land of drowsy static, caught between sleep and wakefulness." It's also in this little diner that Britten's thoughts wander. He slips out into the rain and back into his subject's offices. We're treated to two pages of stealth and shadow before the waitress jostles him back to reality with his order. So Berry goes, confidently ordering the little detective's world, and even its spare, unadorned and perhaps inevitable ending.

Berry's book fits into a pretty amazing continuum, this thing called the "graphic novel," a category where the history of the form, to say nothing of the term itself, seem to be good fodder for debate.
Earlier American examples of graphics with text include artier expressions such as the woodcut-illustrated stories of Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward (the latter the subject of a 2010 Library of America reissue series), as well as compilations of popular favorites like Tintin and longer stories from the major comics houses, even Classics Illustrated (still just comics, regardless of lofty aspirations).

Gil Kane and Archie Goodwin's Blackmark (1971), Richard Corben's Bloodstar (1976), Jim Steranko's Chandler - Red Tide (1976) were all referred to as "graphic albums" or comic novels," generally because they really didn't fit under any other heading as such. Along came Will Eisner's A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories in 1978, a collection that had Eisner plumb his Bronx youth to examine the immigrant community he grew up in. For whatever reason, Contract is often referred to as the "first" graphic novel.
Art Spiegelman began RAW in 1980, and it was in that experimental title that he first serialized his Holocaust tale Maus, which later appeared in two volumes in 1986 and 1991. Spiegelman delivered In the Shadow of No Towers in 2004. Frank Miller reimagined Batman in Dark Knight in 1986, and followed its success with Batman: Year One the year after. Alan Moore's astonishing Watchmen also appeared in 1987, and Daniel Clowes gave us the acclaimed Ghost World in 1997.
Marjane Satrapi's account of growing up in revolutionary Iran was the heart of 2000's Persepolis, and Ken Eichenbaum gave us a side-splitting Yiddish tour de force with Hoppel Poppel Kosher Comix in 2002. In 2009 David Mazzucchelli produced arguably the densest, most challenging graphic novel ever - the labyrinthine Asterios Polyp.
Simply put, today's comics reader has more choices than ever, from ambitious projects like Asterios Polyp to scores of compilation volumes and yearly highlight editions. Joining this welcome flood is Hannah Berry. I can't wait to see what she's got next.


And now I'll tell ya what I am - I'm the Repo Man...
Back in 1984, in the dim, pre-digitized past when expenses such as the cost of film stock were over-arching concerns for a fledgling filmmaker, there appeared a sharp, witty black comedy called Repo Man. It was a seat-of-the-pants production, had a promotional budget of virtually nothing, met with everything from indifference to critical scorn, and it's held up better than probably 90% of the films from that badly aging cinematic decade.
It opens with a fantastic title sequence, as a pre-comeback Iggy Pop delivers the abrasive title track over stark, red-on-black titles, themselves laid over a hopscotching green area map of the Arizona/SoCal badlands. In the opening scene, a highway patrolman stops a weaving '64 Chevy Malibu, opens its trunk and is vaporized in a blinding ray of light. Away the driver rolls, warbling "Clementine," and so begins a funky and quirky story.

Alex Cox was an aspiring young Brit, fresh out of UCLA and looking to make a film.
Two schoolmates, Jonathan Wacks and Peter McCarthy were beginning a production company, and Cox's second effort for the two was a lark called Repo Man, for which he consulted a neighbor, Mark Lewis, who was actually a car reposession professional. At UCLA Cox had created Edge City, shot over four years, and this fictional burg gave the city in his new screenplay a name.
Emilio Estevez had only two films to his credit at this time (one being The Outsiders, where he joined a strong ensemble cast), but he brought a lot of depth and knowing humor to his character, Otto.
Otto loses his crap job, his girlfriend, and a small nest egg in short order, and roaming the streets, encounters Harry Dean Stanton's Bud. Conned into his first (hilarious) repossession, Otto finds himself with a wad of cash and a new status: repo man. He drinks and snorts the nutrients of his new job, watching and listening as Bud shares such wisdom as the "repo code" with him. Otto meets Leila (Olivia Barash, excitable and driven) and is told about the true nature of the Malibu's contents. Or maybe not. As the old sedan is pursued, now with a value of $20,000, the story ramps up to a frantic oddball pitch with Otto hanging on for dear life.
It's no overstatement to say that the film was done out of nearly thin air. The repo office was built up from nothing on a vacant lot. A recurring visual motif, hanging pine-tree air fresheners, were actually provided by one of the movie's few sponsors, the other being a grocery distribution company that supplied the movie's priceless generic food and beer containers. The two elements add wonderfully to the already off-kilter air of the production.
The film's popularity is due in no small part to its L.A.-centric soundtrack, which features not only Black Flag, the Circle Jerks and Suicidal Tendencies but also Fear, the Plugz, Juicy Bananas and Burning Sensations (who cover Jonathan Richman's "Pablo Picasso"). Tito Larriva and Steven Hufsteter of the Plugz provide the outstanding score/incidental music.
As the movie's legend grows it's interesting to note the lives it's touched: for example, a man named Sam Cohen - who claims to have been on the development team for the Neutron Bomb - contacted Cox to rhapsodize about the East L.A. locales where the movie shot. The scenes brought back the '20s for Cohen, and the two reportedly shared a correspondence of sorts about the Malibu's eerie cargo. Neat stuff.

Speaking of graphic novels, a book called Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday appeared in 2008, in which Otto (now Waldo) reappears from Mars to resume his earthly exploits. Hmm.
Cox went on to helm Sid & Nancy, Straight to Hell and other fare, but it was this spry indie that he'll be most remembered for.

Burning Skies
As of a July 5th, 1983 concert at London's Hammersmith Palais, Bauhaus were no more. The band's arty, guitar-laced approach had helped lay the groundwork for scores of lesser lights, who proceeded to flog the bloated horse of "Goth" for long years after. Vocalist Peter Murphy went on to a short-lived experiment called Dalis Car while his bandmates, by 1986, were poised to break through the U.S. market as Love & Rockets.

That's not the whole story, however.

Bauhaus's lanky, languid guitarist Daniel Ash had - in 1982 - begun knocking around a few tunes with the band's gear wrangler, a fellow named named Glenn Campling. The two knew each other from Northhampton Art School, got on well, and when they poached Bauhaus drummer Kevin Haskins their side-lineup was complete. This made sense, as Ash and Haskins were the germ of a band called The Craze, which had formed in 1978 with David J. (Haskins). Ash subsequently met Peter Murphy and the act renamed itself S.R. After one more name tweak, (Bauhaus 1919, named for the German design movement), they became simply Bauhaus.
A one-off recording for Indie label Small Wonder resulted in "Bela Lugosi's Dead"/"Boys," then it was on to a label called Axis to record the first proper singles and LP. Axis became 4AD, and the band released In the Flat Field and moved to sister label Beggar's Banquet and growing notoriety.
It was in May, 1982, while his main band was on Beggar's Banquet that Ash released - on 4AD - the first four-tune 12" which was called simply "Tones on Tail." It was the first of six single/EP releases for the band, most of which had both 7" and 12" versions (the latter providing four selections instead of two), and what a statement it made.
Ash drew from a deep well of undeniably compelling riffs, and the three lay out a hazy, stoned, yet expansive and dynamic set that echoes the Bauhaus aesthetic while pointing toward something new and altogether different. Campling, handling bass and keyboard duties, augments Ash well on these earliest of their collaborations, including "A Bigger Splash," "Means of Escape," and two engaging instrumentals, "Copper" and, indeed, "Instrumental." It was a strong debut with only the shadow of a hooded figure on its sleeve accompanied by the words TONES ON TAIL (that name having been born from a note from Bauhaus engineer Derek Tompkins - that the reference tones were on the tail of the tape he was delivering).
Follow-up "There's Only One" brings the band's natural danceability to the fore with a thumping bass intro, while a dub version provides the flipside, "Now We Lustre." From May of '83 comes Tones' most brilliant EP, a haunting and rhythmic piece of impressionistic dreampop led off by the smoky "Burning Skies." As if in a trance, Ash plays out "...the air was alive with piercing sound, and burning skies - the horror did me good, the magic was on my side..." Lyrical ambiguity laces the staccato hook of "O.K. This Is The Pops," one of the band's most gripping, insistent tracks. Side two offers up the mysterious sound collage "When You're Smiling" and instrumental "You, the Night and the Music": all rushing winds and ghost guitar overlaid with Ash's snake-charmer sax. (Of note to collectors is the fact that this EP appeared on BB sister label Situation Two. All the house labels were thereby covered).

By 1984 (and seeing as how Bauhaus was gone) it was time for an LP, and the band delivered the diverse and uniformly strong Pop.
The synth-pulse of "Lions" gets things underway with restraint, because Brits instinctively know that you don't need to come out of the gate like a swinging sledgehammer to make your point. Ash's facility with lyrics and wordplay never got in the way of a dancefloor-filling beat, as evidenced by the stomping three-beat hook of "War." Elusive and ambiguous, "Happiness" (" success. Success brings hope, hope - it's no good...") compels in its coyness. The album is a wonderful palette for creative muscle-flexing, as with the dreamy "The Never Never (Is Forever)" which overlays Ash with Campling's crosshatched synth, and a stream-of-consciousness exercise called "Slender Fungus," itself punctuated with mouth-generated rhythms and a capella trance refrains.
The shadowy companion pieces "Movement of Fear" and "Real Life" are both enlivened by Ash's superb playing, especially the plangent acoustic of the latter. The effort is topped off by "Rain," a piece that collects slowly in pools of synth, surges like droplets falling on a misty ocean shore, then coalesces as one aching sadness which hovers, circles, then fades.
The band nail something special on Pop. Music of this caliber is no "side" project.

A tour of sorts began, though it only ran from May to October 1984. The boys played 27 dates, spread over 15 U.K cities and 10 in the U.S.
Writer Skot Kirkwood notes that in spite of the odd technical problem, the band were well-received, especially by American audiences hungry for more of the intriguing sounds emerging from the U.K. of the day. Campling recalled the reception as being "very warm and positive."

There were more singles in store.
Album track "Performance" appeared in a different mix, coupled with another dub treatment, which resulted in "Shakes." And as the flipside of "Lions," a song appeared which was immediately embraced by DJs the world over, and is known even now through exposure on endless '80s compilations and TV commercials: "Go!," introduced by a fuzzy snake of guitar, Haskins' surgical percussion, and a brilliant throwaway bit of vocal gibberish. Speaking of brawn and bombast, the last single is "Christian Says," and it's a storm-cloud of banshee synth and guitar made all the more ferocious by the jazzy surf vibe and breathy pleasure of the flip, "Twist."
As might be expected, Pop was bowdlerized for foreign markets. No new tale to tell, as it were, since the U.S. and almost everyone else have chopped up Brit releases and repackaged their contents since the Beatles' and Stones' first releases. A few key album tracks were retained for The Album Pop, but these were joined by "Twist," "War" and "Go!," the better to top-load the platter with lots of energy. Oh well. The advent of the CD did allow for the release of the collection Night Music in 1987, but it wasn't until 1998's Everything! that all the band's material was finally available together for the first time. Disc one contains Pop, and disc two all the EPs. (Further note to collectors: the promo disc Something! contains a few other tracks, such as alternate versions of "Go!," "Twist" and "Burning Skies").

Daniel Ash said later that "...out of the three bands that I've been in over the years, that's my favourite...[it was] the most original. There was no commercial consideration there...and it was my baby."
Lasting words about a striking band, itself sandwiched in between two other striking bands.

We should all be so lucky.


Excellence as a Standard
First things first.
Last time I around I stated that Vanity Fair had been in print for longer than any other U.S. magazine title except The Atlantic. Not so. Apparently, Scientific American appeared in 1845, and so it takes top honors! Very well. And Vanity Fair doesn't get the #2 slot, either, right before The Atlantic - that honor goes to this installment's subject publication, the evergreen known as Harper's, around since 1850.
It began life as Harper's New Monthly Magazine, and was a sibling of the long-running Harper's Bazaar.
Over time, it has set as its goal the publication of the finest social and cultural critique it can muster, and has accordingly published (at the risk of dropping yet another laundry list of estimable worthies) Horatio Alger, Theodore Dreiser, John Muir, Bernard DeVoto, Woodrow Wilson and Norman Mailer. The tradition continues today as the mag enjoys, just as is the case with several of its storied fellows, circulation numbers that bode well for its continued availability. Hopefully I may say that, at the risk of stating the flamingly obvious, that as society seems to still want to wrench itself away from print, we may still immerse ourselves in a good read from time to time.
Lewis Lapham must of course be mentioned when one discusses Harper's, as he is as part of its spirit in a way that only a few other people are associated with a magazine - William F. Buckley and National Review come to mind, for instance. The polymath Lapham was Managing Editor from 1971-75, then Editor from 1976-81 and 1983-2006. His introductory piece could be about anything that struck him, and it set the tone of inquiry and scrutiny for the issue. (Anyone seeking a collection of his writings may look for Imperial Masquerade, a 1990 collection that discusses the kaleidoscopic Reagan era and its broad-brush sensibilities).
The current issue is a typical bounty, and is begun by Thomas Frank's investigation of the emergence of "content," a word now in vogue that refers to what people read, watch, hear. Content - contents - go into a package, and what happens to a package? It gets marketed, sold, it's put out there into the thrall. Frank zeroes in on this ever-changing, ever-growing phenomenon and its shredding of the membrane between journalism and commerce.
His piece reveals that the trend has only escalated with the rise of the Internet, where there is seldom a block of text without a sidebar, where pop-ups flash and strobe, and worst of all, there are those things that print can never provide - video ads.
He examines those who've been sucked in to providing content on a freelance basis, thus increasingly shifting payroll dollars from salaried professionals to scrambling freelancers. And though such piecemeal writing gigs do provide a degree of experience and gratification, Frank characterizes these story grinders as hamsters, toiling ceaselessly on wheels that churn forth text.
His closing comment neatly addresses not just the state of contemporary journalism but the overarching germ of Capitalism as well: "The only real solution to the hamster-wheel problem is to be the guy who owns the pet store."

The Reviews find Lorin Stein discussing a new study of Emily Dickinson, and a new scholarly work called Modernism in the Magazines: An Introduction wherein Ezra Pound and others put
popular print under the microscope. Nathaniel Rich critiques a new Library of America series of Saul Bellow's mid-period novels, which find Bellow flexing his considerable descriptive and narrative powers.
There is again a selection of writings culled from our cultural streams, including an IM'd exchange between a father and his son, stationed in Afghanistan and caught in a particularly perilous situation, and a portion of the screenplay for the never-shot follow-up to Easy Rider. Rachel Aviv reports on the DSM and the ongoing, often baffling, battle against mental illness.
Of course, the Harper's Index is a treat. The Index was a creation of Lapham, and seeks to present wildly diverse data to provide a snapshot of our collective aspirations, foibles and behaviors.
These range from the interesting (Percentage change in the U.S. suicide rate for every 500 meters above sea level: +17) to the dismaying (Rank of carbonated beverages among the best-selling grocery items in the United States this year: 1) to the sublime (Chance that an American believes Ramadan is the Jewish Day of Atonement: 1 in 10).
Then there is the fiction.
Javier Marias gets into the head of a married man who receives letters that cause his mind to wander, Annie Proulx watches the comings and goings of the natural world at her home on the North Platte River, and Don DeLillo looks in on a white-collar criminal who ponders his fate and his status as meek requirer of only minimum security.
Magazines such as Harper's feed something in oneself...sometimes by the simple fact that they continue to appear.


A Little "Night" Music
Few television writers - maybe none - every got at the wormy heart of human desire better than Rod Serling.
After proving his mettle in the medium's dim early days he was rewarded with The Twilight Zone, a vehicle for his immense gifts and prodigous energy and one for which he shone brightly. After five seasons of having produced the great bulk of the screenplays he took a break, and except for a failed Western series called The Loner (1965-66) he was on hiatus until he got the itch to try another anthology series.
Television was now in color, production values were a little more advanced, and Serling had the name and rep to craft a program the way he wanted. The result aired on NBC in 1969 and was called Night Gallery, owing to the pilot program, in which Serling discussed a series of paintings which then introduced the episode's stories. The pilot featured Roddy McDowell and Ossie Davis in a tale of cross and double-cross, and Joan Crawford as a vicious millionairess who wants eyesight - at any cost. The Crawford segment, "Eyes," marked the directorial debut of Steven Spielberg and was, accordingly, an exciting piece visually. Serling never backed away from heavy subject matter, and "The Escape Route" featured the flight and eventual damnation of an aging Nazi war criminal.

As of the 1970 season, the program's title sequence featured a series of images which tile outward toward the viewer and draw him in for the intro. Serling appears, hair voluminous in late-'60s fullness, walks thoughtfully among the images hanging in the gloom, faces the viewer, and gives his intro monologue. It's as compelling as the old Twilight Zone setup, because with Serling and the writers at hand the story was a safe bet to be a good watch.
The show shared something else with its storied predecessor: its star power. It was a who's who of TV star wattage, and featured performers such as Cesar Romero, E.G. Marshall, Agnes Moorehead, John Astin, Patty Duke, Bill Bixby, Jack Cassidy and Carl Reiner. Serling again adapted works from writers like Algernon Blackwood, H.P. Lovecraft and Richard Matheson (whom he'd also worked with on Zone).

It was back to the typewriter for himself as well. He wrote 35 of the 98 stories, and even garnered an Emmy nomination for "They're Tearing Down Tim Riley's Bar," in which a fading, alcoholic executive watches as the world he knows slips away from him. And though the stories sometimes dealt in sci-fi much as Zone had, such as with the doomed lunar expedition of "The Nature of the Enemy," most often Serling and his writers plumbed the depths of everyday people and their often extraordinary desperation.
These flawed human subjects often cast their own die, as with the crewman from the Titanic who escapes by posing as a woman. The "Lone Survivor" finds himself at the confluence of personal fate and capricious chance, with hideous recompense for his actions.

For its first season the program rotated in NBC's lineup with three other shows, but for 1971-72 it achieved autonomous status. Yet despite being an hour long for its first two seasons, it was cut to a half-hour for its third (and final) season. Making matters worse was that upon entering syndication, its hour-length episodes were often cut up to fit, sometimes other footage was dropped in to pad a segment, and so forth.
As he'd ceded his Executive Producer status to try to roll back the pressure on himself a bit, Serling found himself at odds with Jack Laird, who'd assumed the role and was responsible for much of the patchwork. Complicating things further was the fact that Laird wrote fully 16 of the episodes himself. Enough was enough. Serling left, only to die of a series of heart attacks in 1975. He was 50.
Columbia House released the show piecemeal on VHS, but thankfully Universal saw to it that the show was released on DVD, beginning with Season One, in 2004. And so we're left with one man's final contribution to out popular culture, and that blessedly from a time when TV still meant something, when a man could trump commercials for dish soap and lowbrow variety shows and leave behind something with insight, something real.

Ongoing thanks for your interest.
To my Russian friends, da svidaniya!
See you again soon as we confront - *gulp* - 2011.

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