Twenty Four Years Later: PSACOT

 (A reprint of my annual anniversary item, with small adjustments).

As of Oct. 16, it's been 24 years since my online revival of this 52-year-old column. (As published, as a Typepad Entry) Twenty four years online! (with a small six-year gap in the middle). I’ve written 848 columns, successors to an idea born in MIT’s objectivist student newspaper, ERGO, on September 23, 1970, six days after my 18th birthday. (See entire first column here)


When I started this column online, "W" was still the second-rate governor of Texas, Sara Palin was busy running Wasila, and John McCain was angry. W is still second rate, Palin isn't running anything, and John McCain is gone.

I was still working for CMP (computer journalism company), and had a weekly podcast, back before Ipods (which definitely cut into our audience). My heart beat by itself and I weighed 270 pounds. In short, things were different.

In 1998, during the Clinton impeachment, I either had to start a column or check into a mental institution. PSACOT gave me a forum in which to express, to an audience (no matter how small) my feelings about that political circus. [As a one-time U.S. history teacher, I am forced to note that Andrew Johnson's impeachment was a rabid partisan witch hunt, as was Clinton's. Only Nixon's near-impeachment was bipartisan--and only Nixon resigned. And only Trump was charged twice for crimes he actually committed.]

The column/blog has since evolved into a combination of diary for my family and me and bulletin board for my clever friends--in short, a personal column. Like, but not as good as, former San Francisco Chronicle columnists Adair Lara or Jon Carroll. Or Doug Baker of the Oregon Journal.  Or, to take a national example, former New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen, considered the mother of the personal column concept (even though Stanton Delaplane and Charles McCabe of the San Francisco Chronicle actually beat her to it--but of course, if it hasn't happened in New York, it hasn't happened).

PSACOT is also a revival of sorts. My MIT readers would remember the original P.S. A Column On Things, which ran in ERGO, MIT's objectivist newspaper from September 1970 to March 1971, and The Tech, MIT's semi-official student newspaper, six times from March 1971 to May 1971. Those were among my happiest days as a journalist. If I had truly understood the fulfillment a personal column gave me, perhaps I would have fought harder to keep it when Bob Fourer killed it, or I would have revived it when I became editor-in-chief two years later, or tried to practice the craft as an adult (and become the father of the personal column).

In any case, I expect to still be doing this next October; I'll meet you here.

7 April 1971 / Broadway Plays, Resignation

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Once more, PSACOT turns its grime coated physiognomy away from the bright lights of Broadway. Although deafened by the roar of the greasepaint and repelled by the smell of the crowd (and a good part of the city), I managed to take in Fiddler on the Roof and Neil Simon's newest number, a boffo little item entitled Last of the Red Hot Lovers. (I use the term latest advisedly. After my Heinlein fiasco, I am not going to try and guess chronology anymore) The play will really tug at your heartstrings if you have ever opened a few oysters before a heavy date.

But in all seriousness, the play is not (in all seriousness); it is indeed typical Simon, with the same old kind of set, but the usual refreshing spates of one-liners which fairly crackle off the actors’ lips. I liked it.

The reports of The City's death seem to be premature: most of Manhattan is still there, the subways keep going somehow, the taxi's are still taxing, and David Frost and Dick Cavett draw tourists like flies.

All of which should, I would hope be re-assuring to you many NYC natives who passed up a chance to go home for Spring Vacation so you could spend more time at MIT, visiting with your books.

My second favorite topics next to NYC have always been WTBS and singers and performers from the Potluck Coffeehouse. This week, there was no PLCH, so we had the rare combination of folk (make that blues) singer and WTBS performer at the same time. Leo Jarvis (see picture) performed in the WTBS studio for 2 ½ hours, playing all sorts of blues himself, and bringing in several seldom known facets of the blues.

I am sure he will be back, hopefully soon.

WTBS, as you know, broadcasts the music of the PL Coffeehouse live every Friday night starting at 9:30, right after the news, at 88.1 MHz.

By the way, Leo is a grad student in Linguistics, and he casually mentioned the word ostensive in defining the Blues. For those few of you not already using the world daily, it means (roughly) a concept which needs to be pointed at, for it can be described (basically) in no other way. Like colors. Or the Blues...


Or so they say. WTBS is presenting its spectacular of the year (possibly of the decade), a 90-minute original "Musical-tragedy" entitled Sam Patch, The Greatest Story ever told, so far...

I am producer of this star-struck spectacular, which is being presented this Saturday on the occasion of WTBS' tenth anniversary (pure coincidence. It just happens to be the first Saturday after spring vacation.); believe me, it will be worth your time to listen to it. It will be great, in all modesty.

It seems there’s something I left out. Oh yes.... the restaurants. More about that next time.

It is with deep personal regret that I announce my resignation from ERGO, effective with this issue.

HUMOR ISSUE 1 April 1971

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Some people around this fine institution of higher learning, the groaners, malingerers, complainers, and faculty, have, from time to time, and in various. places (including of course, the numbered buildings which given a pen, a piece of paper, and transfigure fair MIT from end to end  and corner to corner, in a manner to which I would not like to become accustomed) have or will or plan to or are in the process of making noises (which sound very much like complaints, but are for the present, perhaps more like the bleating of sheep) of opposition, both written and verbal (some or the written noises are positively stunning, and will serve as the basis for a future photo essay in ERGO); and in some cases amazingly so, with regard to both the syntax and the grammar (and of course, all the appendages thereto, including punctuation, parenthetical phrases, and vocabulary) used in this column by this columnist; but not being satisfied with simply attacking that, they go on to attack my very ability to construct a simple English sentence of less than ten words (as one correspondent plaintively scrawled in black crayon on tablet paper, "y [sic] cant [sic] you write simpl [sic] English in your colum (sick, sick,sick)), a charge which you regular PSACOT readers would of course reject out of hand as ridiculous, since I am sure you all remember a sentence of mine less than ten words long which appeared in the ERGO of September 25, 1970, as part of my regular column, but before the name changed: in reply to which (that is, in reply to the contention that there exists some minor fault in my grammar, syntax, word choice or ability to construct a simple English sentence without resorting to all sorts of verbal pyrotechnics) I can only say, with a heavy heart, and all sincerity that I would like to make one thing perfectly clear; I do not now, nor have I ever or for that matter intend to, admit that this column can be faulted for the reasons already stated (stated twice as I recall); that in point of fact, I am actually using perfectly clear, normally understandable English in a way that anyone could understand, after about three hours.

Next week: PSACOT presents two sentences in one column.

17 Mar 1971 / New England Weather

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Spring is nearly here, and in the public interest, I present the following warning, based on a sad personal experience: Don't go around making predictions about the weather.

One day last week, I foolishly said out loud, "Gosh, it must be spring already. The weather is warm, and the snow is all melted..."

Friend of mine” "There'll be snow on the ground by next Monday."

Damned if there wasn't. And usually-reliable sources (people who have lived in this state for years) tell me that winter isn't over until the end of March or "beginning of April, no matter what the calendar says, or what it's like Outside. The only thing I have trouble understanding now is, given the truth of their statements, why anyone would live in this state for years ...

Speaking of Robert Heinlein (you all remember Robert Heinlein, author of such famous novels as The Rolling Stones and Stranger in a Strange Land), and who isn't these days, it’s about time that A Column on Things tackled his current literary triumph, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

I would start off by pointing out that mine is not the only review of this book destined to appear in these pages: others will follow.

Many people seem to me to have been mildly surprised by the political philosophy the book expresses which has resulted in the introduction of the phrase TANSTAAFL (say it tawn'-staw-full) which means "There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch") into American usage.

The context of the statement's introduction is one of the characters is speaking with the narrator in a bar. The narrator points out a sign which says "free lunch", and mentions to his guest that "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch"; that in fact everything else is more expensive to make up for the so called "free" extra service.

If it surprises you to hear it from Heinlein, then you haven't been reading his books carefully over the years. They are nearly all filled with characters who are self-reliant, independent, and contemptuous of such concepts as "mass responsibility or mass decision making".

The entire book is an exciting fast paced story, told in a well-written narrative style. It contains all the details of the revolt by the lunar colonies against the tyranny of the Earth-side administration which rules them. The plot revolves around three people and a computer with self-awareness (of some interest to you A.I. hackers), all of whom (including the computer) are developed into interesting individuals during the course of the story.

Heinlein, ever the master of character development, is up to his usual form in this book, and if his political statements are a little less subtle than usual, it hardly matters, because his politics have usually been so subliminal as to be invisible.

 If you want to see what TANSTAAFL really means (and perhaps why some of us find it so strange to see it on a THURSDAY booth in building 10), and gain an insight into libertarian view of future life, read Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

"Why should I subscribe to ERGO when I can get it free almost any place at the Institute?" I have been asked this question more times that I care to count. Mostly by faculty, (who are soon to be the target of an extensive subscriptions drive by all three student papers) but sometimes even by perplexed students. It should be clear that any member of the MIT community is not saving money if he pays for a $3/year institute mail subscription to his office or a $6/year first class mail subscription to his home.

So, it should also be obvious that thrift is not the basis upon which we sell our subscriptions. A subscription is, purely and simply, an expression of support for ERGO, if not for its ideas, then for its right to try to exist.

In short, if you believe in it, now is the time to buy. Not only that, if you just like to read ERGO, our increasing popularity may lead to its fast disappearance in the halls, since we distribute at most one paper for every 2 people in many of our circulation areas.

Starting next week, and continuing there-after, A Column on Things begins a subsection on nearby restaurants.

If you wish to suggest a favorite, write "Hungry Schindler", ERGO, W20-443. And, if you get a chance, stop by our new office and say hello.

Maybe you will even want to say, "I would like to work for you paper.”

We wouldn’t mind that at all.

Submissions are welcome.


10 Mar 1971 /First Squash Game

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I was exposed to squash for the first time during the MIT-Yale match (No, I don't know the results. There is another paper on campus that uses its space for that kind of frivolity. If it's numbers you want, read them.), and found myself most favorably impressed by the sport. The MIT team plays a good game of squash, and the action and movement of the sport make it exciting for me to watch.

If you have never seen the sport before, let me try to describe it for you. Imagine yourself and your opponent entirely enclosed in a room painted kind of blinding white. The only other occupant of the room is a little black ball which the two of you try to hit with your racquets after it has bounced off one of the walls.

But only on the first bounce. Except at the very, uppermost championship levels, the game has no officials or referees; it was explained to me that squash is a "gentlemen's game."

 One can assume from this that either the two players are perfectly honest with one another or that the game is so simple that it is nigh onto impossible to cheat a guy who is standing right next to you and has as good a view of the shot as you do.

In addition, the people who thought up the court included an ingenious

device on the front wall if the shot goes too low, it makes a loud clank when it hits a loosely supported piece of metal flush with the front wall.

You might watch an MIT squash match sometime if you get the chance: ask the athletic department when the next one is, and where. That should cover the ERGO sports department for this issue.

Speaking of sports, I know one very good one, whose name is Tim Phegley. On two prior occasions this year, Tim has sung at the Potluck Coffeehouse (the MIT folk singing-free cider and doughnuts affair now carried live on WTBS Friday nights, starting at 9:30). On the first occasion, I misspelled his name as I explained that I had not stayed to hear him. On the second occasion, I stated that I would review his act, and then didn't.

So now here it is, the non-awaited event of this or any other week: my Tim Phegley review. Phenomenal, in a word. Tim has a good voice, knows how to play guitar, and writes most of his own material. What he sings is blues that are honest and seem to come from the heart. How he managed to become a senior at the institute and maintain a creative soul is beyond me (Ed: your chance is coming Paul.), but clearly he has: more power to him. His repertoire is consistent, so if you like his music, you'll like him. His musical quality is consistent: high. If you get a chance to listen to him, do.

3 Mar 1971/ Looking for New People

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ERGO is on the lookout for new people, as you can tell by the ad elsewhere in this issue (or at least, there is supposed to be, as of Sunday, an ad to attract new ERGO staff members elsewhere in this issue). In particular, I am looking for a literate, semi-regular reviewer of books, to appear on the Finer Things page. Just get in touch with the ERGO office (soon to be in the student center), and give us a sample of your material. As it used to say on our masthead, there is room at the top on ERGO's staff. Just Think! You could be head of ERGO's entire book review department! Turning to sports, (elsewhere in this issue, see an advertisement placed by Lena's Sandwich Shop on Mass. Ave.) there is a sub-eating contest coming up soon, with trophies being offered to the winners, and free tee-shirts to the contestants. Although the contest is only a week old, response from other schools is already coming in, whereas the response of MIT living groups located nearby has been minimal. One group from Emerson claims to have the contestant who "Has the whole thing wrapped up. No one else really needs to bother entering". I for one feel that the M.I. of T. which has more varsity sports than any other university, should certainly be able to field a contestant from any of several living groups. The trophies, by the way, are on display at Lena's. Go over and take a look (the winner's name gets inscribed free on his trophy). As a final note to top off this week's general sweep kind of column, I pluck off a favorite pet peeve of mine which has, through some oversight, not yet been aired in my column MIT's fixation with numbering everything. "212- 56-4708 is going to 26-100 or 6.251 at about 2100," and so on. Everything with a number, and a number for everything. All courses, rooms, subjects. After a bit you get used to it, they tell me; to the point where one even expects or accepts the practice. Just the other day, as I was slaving away on some frivolous project. I said: "Gosh, if I don’t get a move on it, I'll be late for calculus."

 "What?" said one upperclassman. "Why don't you call it by its number?"

"Its just as easy to say the name."

 "So what?"

And I say unto you: "So what?" is the attitude of far too much of the MIT community (as little as there is that could be called an MIT community). People all over this campus express concern, maybe two times during their four years, over the fact that we are all numbered.

"Its more efficient that way," and less human. People don't say "I'm a physics major," (at least not very often) they say "I'm in course 8.”

 Well, as hard as it may seem to believe, there are actually freshmen at the Institute w will give you a puzzled look if you rattle off some not so well-known number, like 17 or 13. Even the classrooms are all efficiently numbered here, so that every student knows about 26-100 or 10-250, or the lobby of building 7. Very damn few people around here call any building by its name, with the possible exception of the Green Building or Walker Memorial. It might change a lot of people's attitudes if they talked about going over to the lobby of the Rogers building, or planned on a class in the Huntington Room, or rushed over to their math class in the Compton Lab lecture hall. Hey You People Out There, don't you feel that the real you is being stifled?

WTBS Highlights

Wednesday: The first live broadcast of the Human Sexuality Lectures: Dr. Margaret Mead on "Trans-cultural views of Sexuality." 7:45 PM

Saturday: Premiere of "WTBS Presents... This week: The Strange story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. 9:30 PM

Friday: First live broadcast from the PotLuck Coffeehouse. This week: Tim Phegley. 

24 Feb 1971 / Politically Inconsistent?

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Regular readers of this column should have noticed over the first few weeks of this term a lack of a certain something. They may have noted a dearth of garbled sentences and confused syntax, even unto a lack of what had previously been a veritable plethora of parenthetical phrases, which had been the style for which (Among other things) this column was both known and liked (or disliked, as the case may be). It turns out that the pressures of the second term weighed heavy on my mind, as did several bouts with the creeping jungle virus. I plead guilty to a bit of mechanical writing in the past two issues then, as we here in the ERGO office have been whipping things into shape for another term of service to the MIT community (and ourselves). Of course the service is in exchange for value received: Our advertisers receive the value of your patronage, and we receive the value of your exposure to a set of ideas that would in all probability, not normally be exposed.

Of all the criticism that has been leveled at this column (and there has been a great deal), that which I find most revealing is the charge that "A Column on Things" is politically inconsistent (something akin to treason in objectivist circles); with itself, and with the rest of the paper (or the rest of the world for that matter). I AM NOT AN OBJECTIVIST. My political beliefs are an amalgam of all the political thought that I have done or been exposed to for my 18 years, and I do not now accept another's political philosophy lock, stock and barrel. I will always adapt my philosophy to my own view of the world, and within a stretched definition of "consistent" or "logical", apply that personal philosophy individually to each situation I encounter in a most consistent and logical way Some of my views are close to those of the current management of this pape r (only partially due to the fact that I am part of the current management); they are not identical. Does that make my effort worthless? Don't read it if you think so.

Now some people contend that reason, logic and the objectivist political philosophy lead to only one "Real, correct" view of art, exemplified by romanticism in all forms of artistic expression. I like romantic music; I like romantic art and photography: I also like other styles. There are rational reasons for this opinion (I'll spare you the gory details). All you need to know about me is that my reviews and articles spring from a unique base: my own. I favorably reviewed the "Earth, Air, Fire and Water" exhibit (for example) because it used technology (which I consider to be basically beautiful) to make beautiful abstractions of its basic principles. So much for art and me.

Now let's call our memories. Ah, but what? They don't take kindly to insults you know...

The Independent Skiing Period is over now, and of course, in spite of some rumors to the contrary, the students of MIT are human. With the normal tremendous pressure to attend to their "academic" development temporarily lifted, chances are that nearly two or three undergraduates took advantage of the opportunity to attend to their personal development (that is, their development into real people as opposed to whatever it is that MIT turns out). The rest of the students used the hiatus, I'm sure, for some well earned R&R, or perhaps as a chance to pick up a little extra bit of money. If you consider the good news delivered just before finals week by the Finaid office, the lastidea is probably the best of all. Assuming of course that continued presence at MIT with a minimum of debt is desirable.

Too many scoffed, I thin, at the idea of relaxing and enjoying IAP. Some of those in power will no doubt consider the experiment a failure (as will some students) if the upcoming statistical extract now being prepared does not show that most of the students participated in the academic options which were made available. This is utter rot, and very similar to saving "This experiment will he a failure if the students do not react to the free situation in the same way they react to the normal nominally free situation." If the tools of the 'tute did not just pretend that IAP was 4 weeks of a normal term, if they "voted with their feet" against the standard MIT environment, I would hope that the gesture will he analyzed as a failure of the MIT system rather than as a failure of the IAP concept. It is my own feeling that this is probably the major thing which the IAP could show us: Is the MIT student in general satisfied with the way things are? If the pressure was really off, would lie continue to attend classes as the now exist? Or as they were modified over IAP?"

Some aspects of the usage in my column this week should be clarified to avoid misunderstanding. I realize that classes, as they occurred during IAP are not the same as those which occur during a term. And 1 know that there is no overt pressure during the regular term to attend an class, with the exception of PE.

Most students however, myself included, cling to the concept of attending class as a method of having knowledge imparted to us. The student who is here with the serious intent of graduating from this institute of technology can certainly be in non-attendance of many of his classes without serious penalty, if he exercises reasonable caution. So the question of pressure to attend classes is still valid, context considered. To conclude, let us consider the argument which yie1ds weight for many; "IAP was still part of the first term you know. You're paying tuition for it, you might as well learn something". This of course implies that the only wav to learn something is to learn it in the classrooms of MIT. I, for one, am a firm believer in the old saying "Half of your education takes place outside the classroom." Learning to Ski is just as much learning as learning Calculus, and for the most part, is quite a bit more enjoyable.

17 Feb 1971 / Moog, Merchant of Venice

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There are two events coming up this weekend and 1 continuing event which you should endeavor to see in the near future. The First Moog (pronounced like Vogue) Quartet will perform Friday night at Symphony Hall, while the MIT Dramashop will be back with "Merchant of Venice" on Friday and Saturday nights. In addition, there is the final centennial exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts: "Earth, Air, Fire and Water," and the Tsai Cybernetic Sculpture Environment at the Hayden Gallery.

Starting first with the last mentioned, we find ourselves close to home: the Hayden Gallery is located on the ground floor of the Humanities Building (building 14). The new works being shown in the exhibit were done at the MIT Center for Visual Studies. This is definitely a place to avoid if strobe lights give you headaches. But if they don't, you will find the several vibrating artworks are a minor wonder to behold. The principle which makes these viewer-interactive (an important concept in Art these days) is their reaction to sound.

Electronic music is played from a tape recorder much of the time, to keep the exhibits moving. But a microphone(s) also picks up speech, whistling or clapping, and changes the strobe rate in proportion to the sound. I found the whole thing to he a very worthwhile effort to combine modern technology (much of it developed at MIT; you hear Doc Edgerton's name mentioned a lot as you walk around the room) with creative imagination and display techniques. More details on the exhibit, and some pictures from it will appear soon in ERGO. My opinion of the artwork may have been colored by the background however, as I happen to enjoy electronic music thoroughly (when it is well done, as this music is).

Some very well-done electronic music is due in Boston this Friday evening, when Gershon Kingsley's First Moog Quartet will perform at Symphony Hall. As admitted a moment ago, this columnist has a weakness for electronic music, but if you view this performance, you may well develop one yourself. Many have said that the Moog was not a concert instrument, that its complex programming routines, its general inability to synthesize chords, and its wiring requirements would keep it off the stage. No doubt those of you familiar with the Moog will recall that even Walter Carlos of "Switched on Bach" fame said it couldn't be done. But apparently, a full house crowd at Carnegie Hall was convinced: newspaper reports called the bravos "overwhelming". Cershon Kingsley seems to have found the technique: the fact that there are four synthesizers on stage may be a part of it. Again, referring to previous reports, it seems that the set up (programming) between selections is kept to a minimum, while the superb sound performs at its maximum best. The Moog Quartet itself will be joined by Drums, Bass and Soprano for this performance. Kingsley's credentials are impeccable, as he was among the first to see the Moog's true potential as an independent instrument. lie has won awards for his radio and TV commercials which used the instrument, and in addition has (lone a score for many Jewish synagogues around the country, entitled "Shabbat for Today". By all means, broaden your horizon and go see it.

'The Merchant of Venice" was performed 3 times this week, and is due for two more performances this Fridav and Saturday evenings. I witnessed the dress rehearsal, and found the costumes, sets, and performances to be uniformly well done, although I did not have much of a chance to get the "flow" of the play. It did seem that the changes made in the standard performance would improve it. But a schedule clash rendered me unable to see the Opening Night performance, the only night my reviewer's ticket was good for. In my stead, I sent my good friend, a long time Shakespeare aficionado, Jim Lin.

You probably noticed the article last week on the Boston Museum of Fine Arts exhibition "Earth, Air, Fire and Water". There is really not too much that I can add, except to say that the pictures do not really capture the essence of this moving, glowing, breathing, kind of art exhibition; You have to be there to see it. And maybe that is the best kind of art there is the kind that can't be captured in a photo or a half hour TV news special. The museum is on Huntington Ave. and the Fenway, and you can get there either by foot or by the Green Line-Huntington Avenue car. Plan on spending at least an hour there, or you will have no hope of really seeing the exhibit. Admission is $1 to the museum, a donation requested to see the exhibit. Unless of course you were bright enough to buy a student membership which, for a mere $5, entitles you to as many admissions as you want in a year.

You might also want to see the Lowell Institute Lecture Series, held Tuesdays at 7:30 in the Lecture Hall. This week MIT's Gyorgy Kepes, director of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies will explore the interrelationship of art and nature. R. Buckminster Fuller is another of the several distinguished lecturers due between now and April 6 (no lecture March 16).

COMING NEXT WEEK: Who knows? I sure don't.  

10 Feb 1971 / Looking For Radio Help

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The two most popular series run in ERGO last term, determined by popular opinion expressed to this reporter, were Ted Kochanski's series on the MBTA, and this column. Ted's series was well presented, tightly written "objective reporting", whereas my column was more along the lines of reasoned (?) opinion. Or at least, no doubt, you would agree that it was opinion. Some seem to think that the two are mutually incompatible: I hold up ERGO as living proof that they can work together. It even says so on our masthead. But their seeming great polarity does bring up the question: which would you like to see more of in ERGO? News or opinion? The editors of this paper do not like to make decisions in a vacuum, any more than the editors of the Daily Reamer do.

As for I am Curious (BLUE): after seeing it, I would say that is is clearly not worth 50 cents, without an LSC audience to provide extra dialog, inappropriate laughter, and auxiliary sound effects. Anyone who saw it for $3 has my deepest sympathy. Perhaps the unending search for a good skin flick is just that, unending.


Shakespeare, that most durable of playwrights in the English language will be dusted off again by the MIT Dramashop (and I do mean dusted off). They have upcoming performances of "The Merchant of Venice" advertised elsewhere on this page. Considering the level of Dramashop performances 1 have seen so far this year, the production promises to be a good one, well worth the time and the money. A review of one of the opening performances will appear in this same column next week. Go, have a good time, see a good play!

Those of you who have eyes like eagles will have noted by now that the author of this column is the very same person who ran an ad in ERGO last week asking for radio scripts. As of now, the response has been minimal, so I shall repeat the request here in m column, adding in some juicy details for the un-initiated. In addition, I'll show you just how easy it is to write a radio script, in proper format.

I am the producer of "WTBS Presents....". In case you are not familiar with WTBS organizational procedure, all that means is that I have a program concept which I have sold to WTBS Program Director Larry Rosenblum, who has approved it and allotted air time for it. It is up to me to fill it with technicians as well as music, sound effects, actors, and all in all, radio plays. Although it would be nice if I could, I cannot do it alone. I need help, with both scripts and actors.

What I do not need, necessarily, are people with very strong voices, (unless they can keep them down), or people who have marvelous gestures or expressive faces. What I do need is people who can really express an emotion with their voice alone Experience or no experience, I would appreciate it very much if you would try out. As soon as I get enough people to express interest, I will set a try-out date, put you in front of a microphone, and PRESTO! A Star is Born! Co-eds should not shy away; you are not only wanted but needed. If you want to try out, leave your name and phone number at WTBS. And tell me when to call.

Now a word for the budding script writers in the audience. If you have ever written a serious (or comic for that matter) short story, it should he adaptable for radio with a minimum of effort. Its colorful language can be maintained, as can the scenes, as long as you remember that radio is an aural, not a visual medium. Complex philosophical meanderings, long sentences such as this, and prolonged conversations between only two people in a quiet room tend to either confuse the audience (in the first two cases) or frustrate the sound effects man (in the last case).

 It is also useful to keep two things in mind which the beginning script writer tends to lose sight of:

  1. a) Do not overuse the announcer-narrator. Have him shift scenes only if it cannot be done with music or dialog. Or have him speed the story up or provide background information.

Do not resort to him (or to flashbacks, for that matter) excessively.

Along the same lines, avoid an abundance of radio broadcasts that coincidentally give all the information the characters have been looking for (After all, these are the mistakes I made at first, and there is no need for you to duplicate them. Spend your time making new mistakes!)

  1. b) Be imaginative in your choice of sound effects, but not, overly so. On our budget($0) there are finite limits to the sounds we can produce, find, or create. If you know a common ordinary garden variety sound which approximates what you are looking for, by all means annotate your script accordingly.

For those of you who have never seen a radio script, I will here provide a profusely exaggerated imitation of the desired format.









Pretty simple, huh gang? Makes you feel like you've been reading the stuff for years. By way of explanation, you can write lines the length of a regular typewriter page. Its just that we had to use short lines to make them fit our column. Be sure to double space, and be careful of your tab set. Music and sound effects should be underlined; name abbreviations should be short and clear. OFF is a technical term meaning that the line is delivered from further away from the microphone, so that it sounds further away from the microphone (funny how that works out).

You should now have no legitimate excuse for not submitting a script to "WTBS Presents...", 50-030 or 3 Ames Street; ATTN Paul Schindler. 

3 February 1971 / NYC Again

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Having once more returned safely from the only museum in the world with 10 million people living in it, New York City, I can safely say that walking down the sidewalks of New York does not seem to be any greater risk to life and limb than blowing into a fireplace full of ash and inhaling; the effect of breathing New York City air being similar.

This time around, I will not bore you with the kind of paens of praise which I oiled on the city in general the last time I wrote of it. This time, I will bore you with heaps of praise for the Theatre.

It was-my very pleasant experience to see 1776 and Two by Two while I was in NYC, in addition to viewing two game show tapings, some movies and some museums. Let me start off by saying that there is no reason whatsoever to spend a lot of money in this city, in spite of the somewhat popular belief of some. The city's many free museums (especially the American Museum of Natural History), and the reasonably priced art museums (including the Whitney which also shows excellent films) and its incomparable sights, sounds and smells are an inexpensive treat for the tourist. The subway, once you have mastered its intricacies, is reasonable transportation at a palatable price. Or, as one native so aptly put it, infrequent and overpriced transportation, which the directors of the transit authority never have to ride.

This statement of low cost by the way is dependent upon your having a friend in New York to provide housing and help with food. Otherwise, goodbye money..... Back then to the shows. 1776 richly deserves the praise and large audiences with which it has been blessed. The music is purely incidental, and it seems that the people who produced the show had the accidental good sense not to push it to the forefront. There are only two songs really worthy of note: the humorous "Sit Down John," sung by the congress to John Adams, who admits that he is "Obnoxious and disliked"; and the all too true song, "Molasses to Rum,' sung by the delegate from South Carolina (which comments on the smell of hypocrisy from New England). The rest of the time, the accuracy of the account and portrayal is fascinating, and the dialog fairly brings the house down. There are at least an even dozen lines which should be classics in our times. The music is incidental here; the play's the thing. At the St. James Theatre.

Two by Two = Danny Kaye. The Richard Rodgers music is amusing, but certainly not inspired or brilliant or any of the other things that it is accustomed to being. There seem to be signs of age, and of sugar coating showing through the seams in the play. The concept of a musical about Noah and the Ark is novel, as is the humorous treatment of the material. Several of the other actors turn in reasonable performances, especially Walter Willison, who played Japheth, Noah's younger son, and Madeline Kahn, who performs as the clean-cut musical equivalent of a breasty harlot. Surprisingly enough, the play is well written, and makes a couple of off-color remarks come off very funny. But without Danny Kaye, I'm afraid there wouldn't be much to the thing. If you are one of his particular fans, then this is the show. If you can't stand the man, you won't like "Two by Two," at the Imperial Theatre.

To put it another way, as one New Yorker in the subway put it to me, when I asked why there were so many high school students out during the day: "The purpose of the American Federation of Teachers in New York City is to protect the teachers. From people who want to get an education.