Charlie Chaplin’s birthday occurs on April 16th, but really we can celebrate him anytime we like. Simply the greatest comedian on the big screen ever. Here’s a piece I produced that was broadcast today on WBAI’s Arts Express, WBAI.org, and on Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to listen.
I’ve been having a fun time at home with a DIY squaring the circle project. (Okay, for the 3-D purists, you’re actually turning a cylindrical tube into a rectangular tube.) There are no camera tricks in the image you see above. What you see in the mirror is the actual reflection of the object in the foreground on my desk.
Merri: “The Good die young, But evil is forever.” –John Donne. Hello this is Stale Air, and I’m Merri Boast. Today I’m interviewing our special guest, in this time of coronavirus, an expert in all things diseased and evil, The Devil. Welcome to Stale Air.
Devil: Hi, thank you Merri. Love listening to your show. Big fan of the station. Learned the name of so many different kinds of cheeses from it. And I just never get tired of those Car Talk reruns.
M: Thank you, but before we begin, how are you doing? Is the shelter in place affecting you?
D: Oh, thanks for asking, Merri. It’s tough being confined to the nether realms, 24/7, but I think we’re making do. Can’t complain. Keeping warm. Super busy. I’m very proud of this coronavirus project we’ve been working on. If you don’t mind me tooting my own horn, I think it’s one of the best things we’ve come up with in a long time. People understand now that the world is no longer in a state of limbo, but actually it’s Permanent Hell. And down here we’re pleased as punch to parade our brand–so to speak–parade our brand in front of the population as much as we can. And Oh and speaking of Hell—I want to thank Jeff Bezos , a real buddy, at Amazon for continuing to crack the whip.
M: Good to hear that you are doing well. I’m—I’m not quite sure how to address you. Is Prince of Darkness or Mephistopheles all right?
D: Well, we don’t like to use those names anymore, Merri. They’re kind of stuffy and old-school, and frankly just a wee bit pejorative. Prince of Darkness, really? To tell you the truth, Merri, I prefer Beel-ze-bub. Or for short, just plain Bill is fine. That’s a good Christian name…if you’ll pardon the expression.
M: Bill it is, then. Bill , we all recognize that this has been an unprecedented time—
D: –Thank you–
M: and most of us are wondering if the rest of us are going to make it through this coronavirus epidemic. Do you have any insight into this?
D: Well that’s a great question, Merri. It’s not as simple as it might first appear. Now some may say, what’s the problem, just spread the virus and kill as many people as you can. Clear win for our side. But actually I feel that’s short-sighted. It’s totally forgetting one of the tenets of our side, which is to maximize the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth for the greatest length of time. I’ve brought along a little graph here, cooked up by our art department—thank you Jared and Ivanka—and you’d see on the graph, if my ZOOM connection were better, how the line spikes upwardly very quickly over just a few days. Seems like a clear touchdown, but really, just about anyone can do that. I mean, any of your minor demons could probably have accomplished that. It’s not rocket science. We felt though, that we wanted to go the extra mile to extend the weeping and wailing and particularly the gnashing of teeth as much as possible. And that’s where really we needed to call in our staff, our entire team.
M: So you don’t work alone?
D: Oh, good Lord, no. There’s just too much to be done. I’m basically a hands on guy, and while I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty, I can’t do it all alone. I can’t be everywhere at once. I’m not a miracle worker. It takes a village.
M: I’m wondering, where do you find your staff? Aren’t people horrified when you call on them?
D: Oh no, not at all. We offer a very nice benefits package, 12 vacation days a year, 401K. Cafeteria with a hot foods buffet. Healthcare plan if you choose to buy into it. So we’re very competitive with most non-European enterprises. It’s true, though, that there have been some periods in history, I’ll admit, where it was hard to find people willing to come over to the Dark Side. It was touch and go there for a while during the Garden of Eden thing—and I want to give a shout out to The Snake: Thank you Snake, never gets old. Big Hugs. Now the 60s were tough, finding assistants to insert ourselves into the whole peace, love and anti-war movement was challenging, but we managed, and of course the whole post 9/11 era. Actually, I have to give you guys credit. We borrowed the embedded propaganda approach from you. So well done. And the mass illegal warrantless wiretaps?—really a stroke of genius on the part of your government. We couldn’t have come up with that one ourselves. It’s great to see stuff like that crowd-sourced.
M: This is Merri Boast for Stale Air and I’m talking with Beel-Zee-Bub, Master of Chaos. We’re discussing his plans to cause the maximum of pain and suffering for the greatest length of time. Bill, I was wondering if there was anything in your childhood that might have influenced your present life’s work? Were you an odd child?
D: Ha. Well Merri, that’s funny you should ask that. I was talking with some friends about that the other day, and they were making fun of me because as a child, believe it or not, I didn’t lie. I mean I just could not lie. Every time I thought about lying, I would just get this funny feeling in the pit of my stomach and I would just clam up.
M: Well you certainly seemed to have gotten over that.
D: Thanks, Merri. I say immodestly perhaps, we feel we’ve come a long way. Interning for Mark Zuckerberg did wonders for us. And I want to acknowledge, too, the great work you folks at your station have been doing. We’re just so darn proud of the lies your station has spread. The whole lead up to the Iraq war, the consistent demonizing of the Venezuelan socialists, and the ongoing excuses for the worst depredations of capitalism, all coated with a veneer of hip humanity, really brings joy to my heart. It makes me feel appreciated, and like our work has not been in vain. So kudos to you.
M: Thank you. I’d like, if you don’t mind, to get back to this coronavirus situation. You spoke about maximizing the pain and suffering. Could you tell us a little more about that?
D: Sure. Our team felt that we didn’t want it over in a day or two. So we tossed around the fireball a bit to brainstorm how we could draw this thing out. And I don’t remember who it was, but one of the team members—might have been Mnuchin or Miller, I forget right now—suggested that we have an out. In other words, don’t let people die right away, but hold out the possibility of some hope to extend the timeline.
M: And that’s where you got the idea of social distancing.
D: Exactly, Merri. It is a genius plan, but you see there’s the danger you can go too much the other way, too.
M: Meaning what exactly?
D: Well, meaning our plan to offer up hope might work out too well. What if social distancing actually worked and the virus was completely wiped out?
M: That wouldn’t fit into your plans would it?
D: It certainly wouldn’t, Merri. So we had to figure out a way to provide mitigating circumstances and yet make sure they were not too mitigating.
M: And that’s where the President came in.
D: Yes thank God for him. He really did such yeoman work in sending out mixed messages as to whether social distancing really worked. He made sure that some of the population would quarantine and some wouldn’t. Really perfect to extend things. Oh, and the masks! I don’t mind telling you I LOL’d when I heard him say that he personally would not be wearing a mask. Genius. Keep the people in a state of total confusion as to what works and what doesn’t, and this thing can extend out to the Second Coming.
M: The Second Coming?
D: Slouching towards Bethlehem, Baby, Slouching towards Bethlehem.
M: Thank you, Bill.
D: Thank you, Merri. I’ll be seeing you real soon, okay?
M: I’ve been speaking with Beel-ze-bub, co creator of the coronavirus, The Macarena, and The Ellen Show. Next week we’ll be talking with Vice President Joe Biden about his no-malarkey recipes for grilled cheese. This is Merry Boast …for Stale Air.
(And in a bit, I’ll have the Arts Express audio production posted.)
It may seem as if Americans have never been more polarized than they are today. But America has always been full of splits, and Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro has written a new book, Shakespeare in a Divided America, which explores those conflicts in a unique way. He examines how Americans responded to Shakespearean productions at key times in American history, and his investigations are full of insights and surprises.
Click on the triangle above to hear my interview with James Shapiro as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI 99.5FM NYC, WBAI.org, and on Pacifica affiliates across the country.
The one time Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly danced together on the big screen (except for the That’s Entertainment series) was in the 1946 film The Ziegfield Follies. Just sublime. Take a look at this utterly delightful clip.
Last week , I posted Part One of an interview with Dr Ken Paul Rosenberg, the creator of the book and film documentary, Bedlam. He talked about the present crisis state of mental health care in the US. This week we continue with the final part of that conversation as we talk about political considerations —-and Dr. Rosenberg’s personal stake in the story.
Click on the triangle above to hear the conversation as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI 99.5 FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the country.
Monday morning, shoes off, no one beats Josh Turner when it comes to arranging Beatles songs on acoustic guitar . Paul McCartney once said it was the one song that John Lennon had ever complimented him on writing.
In his new documentary film and accompanying book, Bedlam, Dr. Kenneth Paul Rosenberg, presents a moving portrait of what it means to be a person living with mental illness in America today. And in his quest to find the truth about others, he had to confront difficult aspects of his own history, and America’s history, of dealing with people diagnosed with serious mental illness.
You can hear part one of my interview with the fascinating Dr. Rosenberg, as broadcast yesterday on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI NYC and Pacifica Radio affiliates across the country, by clicking on the triangle above.