"Endangered Sounds"?

Well, let’s see. No, wait. Let’s listen instead. “Now I will do nothing but listen, / To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute / toward it.” Walt Whitman wrote these lines. What are the notes to the song of my self? What are the echoes of my everyday? What do these sounds have to do with me?

When I moved to Wales, far from the hubbub of Manhattan, I had to get used to a whole new soundscape. I haven’t quite gotten used to it yet; particularly not to the howling of the wind. These days, there is a new sound in the living room. Yet it is so old, Whitman might have heard it. It is not a Welsh sound, but one made in Brooklyn. It is the sound of our Ansonia clock, anno 1881 (pictured above), which is now part of the ambiance in which I breathe and move.

I have been listening to the BBC Radio 4 documentary “Endangered Sounds.” What might that be, an endangered sound? In my adolescence, I began to wonder about the perishable fabric of my sonic everday. I began to record noises and voices in an attempt to capture where—and who—I was. I did not trust my archival mind as a storehouse of sonic markers of place and time. We tend to make records of our lives in words and images rather than sound. The image seems to be more desirable as a keepsake—more reliable and persuasive. It dominates our senses. Is it any wonder we feel out of touch with the past if we insist on turning it into graphic objects.

I remember sitting in Central Park one afternoon, thinking how serene my environs were. I recorded the sounds of that afternoon and played them back at home, only to realize how noisy that spot had been. The images were so powerful, they drowned out the sounds of the metropolis—the cars rushing by just behind the trees, the buzz of commerce puncuated by sirens. I took no notice of what was out of sight (though hardly out of earshot); I did not hear what the eye fooled me into believing absent. I listen for them now that I am gone. I miss them more than the sights, stored in my mind, preserved on paper, and displayed in this journal.

“Endangered Sounds” provokes thoughts about our changing environment, about noise pollution, about the loss and luxury of silence: the nostalgia for our silenced past, the awareness that, as technology advances, we lose ourselves soundscapes whose sameness is robbing us of our identity—an alienating, Kmartian sub-urbia, a generic soundtrack as mind-numbing as Muzak. For all this, “Endangered Sounds” frustrates as much as it intrigues, especially since it does not resound with many of the authentic sounds it declares to be on the brink of extinction, some of which were recreated in stock recordings, others crushed in musical beats.

Rather than preserving sound, the program serves as a reminder of loss; it is a memorial service for our silenced past. It suggests that, in the near future, technology will permit us to deaden what we do not wish to hear, to create bubbles of choice sound and tranquility distilled from the din of civilization. Manufacturers of sound are hard at work to sell us back what commerce and progress has robbed us of.

Do we really need highly sophisticated computer technology to create our individual sound spheres? When I lived in Germany and dreamed of New York City, I would listen to the sounds of streets and avenues I had recorded while away from what was not truly home. The sirens, the footsteps on the sidewalks, the babble of the passers-by—they provided more comfort than the electronic tunes I merely consumed. Unlike the artifice of those purchased sounds—a sonic anywhere to take the place of the here and now—the metropolitan noises I had recorded were real and concrete. My feet had touched those steps, my shoulders had brushed against those voices, my nose had taken in the fuel with whose burning the traffic resounded. That was somewhere—a there I felt—and I knew I had to go back there to stay.

These days (owing to the electronic blasts of the past, no doubt) I am somewhat hard of hearing; but instead of deadening my everyday in specious phonics or phoney silences—some New Age orchestrations of an assembly-lined existence—I seek and find comfort in sounds whose source I can identify and take in with my other senses—the fire I feel against my skin, the yawning of our none-too-pleasant smelling dog on the carpet, and the clock on the mantelpiece (which, in the picture above, reflects both me and the dog on its surface); and instead of losing myself in the folds of a custom-made soundcarpet, I wrap myself in this resonant quilt and know myself to be . . . at home.

Dr. Mabuse, Terrorist

Now that Hannibal is rising again and even The Shadow is being cast anew in another attempt at translating radio’s invisible terrors to the big screen, I wonder how long it will take for Hollywood to rediscover Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse, a pulp character combining the ruthlessness and intelligence of the former with the mental powers and omnipresence of the latter. In this age of urban terrorism and surveillance, of cynicism and weaponized paranoia, Mabuse would be just the figure to capture the Zeitgeist. A few days ago, I re-encountered him in the 4 ½ hour, two-part silent thriller Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (1922) and its masterful talkie sequel Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (1933).

His genre-defying Testament having been banned by the Nazis, who read it as a comment on their hate-mongering and fear-founded regime, Lang later returned to West Germany to direct an Orwellean update titled Die Tausend Augen des Dr. Mabuse (1960), which then metastasized into a spy and crime movie franchise akin to the lurid and hugely popular Edgar Wallace chillers that lured German teenagers, my father among them, to the movie houses.

I was about five years old when I first heard his name, by which time Mabuse had long ended his box-office reign of terror (sporadic resurfacings in movies and audio books notwithstanding). It was during a walk around the neighborhood of the bleak industrial satellite of a town I was obliged to call home, when my father pointed out a walled-in plot of ground and told me, with an air of mystery escaping his breath (which in later years would merely reek of distilled disillusionment), that that was the garden of Dr. Mabuse. Ma-boo-ze. Now, there was no ready image of this figure in the inventory of my mind; but those three syllables alone were so rich in romance and intrigue that I could not wait to be lifted up to see just what was lurking behind that unassuming row of bricks and mortar.

Gnomes. A whole colony of them. Common enough in the horticulture of the petit bourgeois, these forms took on a magical, even sinister aspect. Had they been ordinary folks—small children, perhaps—petrified into subhumanity, the playthings of a scientist or some such latter-day sorcerer? Later, it occurred to me that my father might have confused the place with the Island of Dr. Moreau or the secluded playground of Dr. Cyclops, whose very different experiments I still associate with the mobsterism of Mabuse. At any rate, I don’t even recall the story Papa had made up in an effort to make a dull walk in dispiriting surroundings seem like an adventure (eventually fading superheroic powers for which I loved him). All I remember is that, from that day on—until we finally moved to the alternate dread of middle-class suburbia—I always insisted on seeing those garden features whenever we passed that wall; and long before I spotted him on television, Mabuse was a prominent if indistinct figure in the imaginary landscape of the mind—which is precisely where he roamed after losing his own.

Based on a serialized magazine story by Norbert Jacques—as the documentary extras on the DVD release of the 1922 film will tell you—Mabuse continued to terrorize the world long after he had been locked up as a seemingly harmless imbecile. In the silent film, he is a man of many disguises; in the sequel, he inhabits the bodies of whomever he chooses as executors of his will. He was modernity’s first indiscriminal, a proto-fascist who sought to force the multitude into submission or blow them to bits, if necessary.

Operating his ministry of fear by giving orders both telephonically and telepathically, the all-seeing, all-knowing Mabuse was a shape-shifting Big Brother, The Thing with a method and a masterplan. His terrorist network is an ideal setup for an open-ended series of thrillers that can withstand the death of its central characters and the departure of its leads. Will Mabuse return? Or has he altogether demolished our shelters of fiction, free now to menace the streets of metropolis, the hallways of big business, and the corridors of political power? Perhaps, we all are gnomes in the penal complex of his walled-in garden.

On This Day in 1949: US Listeners Are Transported to Mexico

Well, it might just make it after all. Our elm tree, that is. It was uprooted and replanted over a year ago and did not take kindly to the forced relocation. This morning, when I replenished the birdfeeder that dangles from its bare branches, I noticed a few tentative buds. Encouraged by those signs of life, I am going pay more attention to this horticultural casualty over the next few weeks. The uprooted and transplanted don’t always adjust well to their new environs. Sometimes, they seem altogether out of place. Take Miss Marple, for instance.

Last night, a new dramatization of Agatha Christie’s Sittaford Mystery premiered on British TV channel ITV1. Now, what was Miss Marple doing at Sittaford? She sure wasn’t sent there by her brainmother, who created Sittaford without Marple in mind. Nothing quite fits together in this adaptation, which tries to update Christie’s early 1930s séance mystery with noirish touches and hard-boiled wit. Transport the story into the 1950s, throw in an ex-James Bond (Timothy Dalton), a dash of Indiana Jones, a taste of not-so-sweet honey (an enigmatically skeletal Rita Tushingham), and some hints at lesbianism—and, voila (now I am being Poirot), you’ve got yourself a caper with a serious identity crisis.

I have always been driven by and torn between two impulses: to stick to what I know and try to stay away from it. The familiar can be comforting and reassuring. In my readings, for instance, or in my appreciation of drama, I tend to be downright Victorian in my tastes. As much as I was intrigued by the story of (or behind) Bennett Miller’s Capote, with which I caught up this weekend, I would have preferred it to be a little less analytical. I did not get to feel for or identify with any of the characters, as fascinated as I was by the situation in which they found themselves.

Miller seems to have taken a Terrence Rattigan approach by trying to concretize ideas rather than plots and characters. Such attempts are, perhaps, best left to essays, writings in which blossoming ideas are more likely to reach maturity and take root in the mind of an audience to whose efforts in abstraction any singled-out specifics might be distracting.

And yet, the familiar can also be stultifying and stifling, making the getting away from it seem a matter of life and death. On this May Day—the celebration of spring and renewal, that, not altogether inappropriately, shares its name with the internationally recognized distress call—I am looking westward, toward my former home, observing how the subject of immigration develops in the country of immigrants, and how US-Mexican relations received yet another blow, as millions are encouraged to stay away from work or refuse the purchase of US goods. However contentious the subject, it is not one to be avoided; and, rather than being a vehicle for escape, old-time radio, once again, serves as a reminder of some of Mexico’s other migratory misfortunes.

On this day, 1 May, in 1949, listeners of You Are There, a series of fictionalized radio documentaries, were given the opportunity to witness the assassination of emperor Montezuma, presumably by his own people. Among the voices from the past “interviewed” for the program, Canada Lee can be heard as an Aztec prince, the oppression of African-Americans being thereby likened to the life of the Aztecs under Montezuma.

Also on mike to give her views of the situation is the emperor’s daughter, who vows to leave Mexico with her husband, the invading Spaniard Cortez: “If the house of my father must be overthrown to deliver my people from hideous darkness, I say let it be overthrown.” That Cortez returns to Mexico to plunder its treasures is offered as a “footnote” at the conclusion of the broadcast.

On that same day, conceited skinflint Jack Benny went down to Mexico (or some Hollywood simulacrum of it, such as the above scene from Masquerade in Mexico) in hopes of a better life—one enriched by foreign gold or by a shiny Oscar—in an irreverent take on The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. He neither succeeded in the quest, nor in its dramatization, but delighted his audience as he died trying.

The radical tourism we label “immigration” has frequently been romanticized as adventurous or trivialized as opportunist; to criminalize it now will do still less to explain, let alone discourage, such wayward and often desperate acts of displacement. I, for one, have not set foot on my country of origin for nearly sixteen years. Anxious to fall away from the family tree, to take root elsewhere or rot, I migrated to New York City. A decade and a half (and some degrees) later, I moved on, to Britain, a country that seems stranger to me than I had anticipated.

Many who leave their native land are not unlike that elm tree in our garden, struggling and unstable; but I know that whatever it is that uproots us must be stronger than that which holds us in place.

A Case for Ellery Who?: Detecting Prejudice and Paranoia in the Blogosphere

Well, only a few short hours ago I was writing about the constitutional freedoms that US citizens enjoy and the appeal American writers like Pulitzer Prize winner Marc Connelly made to 1940s radio listeners of the The Free Company (and “The Mole on Lincoln’s Cheek” in particular) to cherish and defend such liberties. I suppose that includes the freedom to sever one’s connections to anyone we realize to be incompatible or determine to be objectionable, regardless of any interests or passions we might otherwise share. Now, I don’t wish to make a Brokeback Mountain out of a molehill; but I have to confess that I am rather dismayed at the length one of my former readers went to in order to disassociate himself from my ramblings, sentiments he previously appreciated and endorsed. Allow me to expound.

I am always eager to read about and hear from others who, like me, are interested in early-to-mid 20th-century American popular culture; they need not be like me in other respects or feel themselves to be other, like me. Now that I am outside the academy and live somewhat remotely, I am thrilled to communicate with those who are drawn to the neglected yet fertile fields of silent movies, pre-code Hollywood, and old-time radio. As may have become clear to the few who visit this site with some regularity, I am neither nostalgic nor flippant (or camp) in my approach to such marginalized topics. Nor am I a historian. The chief reason for keeping this journal is to share what I think matters to a few, regardless of how immaterial it may be to the many. Just who are these few, I sometimes wonder. And sometimes I get an answer that is disheartening if not, upon reflection, entirely uncommon.

Yesterday, I decided to add another online journal to my short list of links (see right). On said blog, I had left a comment about the sorry state of many old-time radio recordings, a remark that was kindly and publicly acknowledged, and received one in return regarding the career of actress Lurene Tuttle.

Pleased to have come across another old-time radiophile (I dislike lazy acronyms and refuse to stoop to letter combinations like OTR), I sent a message to the Tuttle expert, inviting him to be linked on my page. The response so startled me that I decided to drop today’s feature—much to my regret of disappointing an admirer of screen legend Kay Francis —and write instead about this sad case of blogophobia, the fear of being linked to and associated with someone as repulsive as myself.

I assure you, this is not a case of a bruised ego. I always assumed the most repellent aspect of broadcastellan to be its syntax and diction, its subject being merely inconsequential to most. It turns out, however, that the invitation was rejected as a direct response to . . . my blogroll. According to the e-missive sent to me, one of the sites listed on the right is so offensive that said Tuttle-tale decided not only to refuse the link, but to erase the two comments I had left on his blog, even if doing so meant having to delete the posts to which they were attached—one of which journal entries having welcomed my “intelligent” remarks (about Vic and Sade) and greeting me as the first reader to leave a response. However obliging, I won’t go so far as to delete my essay about Ms. Tuttle in order to assist in this erasure, an obliterating not only of the former association but of the prejudice behind its severance.

What has this to do with Ellery Queen, apart from the double entendre intended? Well, even during the McCarthy era, in which small-mindedness reached its peak in the US, programs like The Adventures of Ellery Queen encouraged listeners to be open and embracing of those whose constitutionally protected beliefs, creeds, and pursuits of happiness differed from their own. Here, for instance, is the message attached to “One Diamond,” first heard on The Adventures of Ellery Queen on 6 May 1948:

This is Ellery Queen, saying goodnight ’till next week, and enlisting all Americans every night and every day in the fight against bad citizenship, bigotry, and discrimination—the crimes which are weakening America.

Should you find this message offensive and the people I chose to include in my blogroll abhorrent, I ask you—kindly but resolutely—to turn away and divest yourself of any associations with broadcastellan you might have sought or tolerated until now.

Milestone Reflections; or, Who (Besides Me) Is Blogging about Old-Time Radio?

Well, this is my 100th entry into broadcastellan, a journal commenced, slowly and tentatively, one afternoon in May 2005, at which point in my life I decided to reintroduce myself to the world in the guise of “The Magnificent Montague.” Posting such a collection of essays over a period of eight months on matter I ventured to term (or perhaps mislabel) “unpopular culture” is not a particularly impressive achievement, to be sure, but one that might nonetheless serve as an occasion to sum up or, however uncharacteristic of me, look ahead.

Instead of going on about myself, however, I will lean against my soon to be toppled milestone to survey the so-called blogosphere in order to find out who else is blogging about these days. According to technorati, there has been at least one mention per day of the term “old-time radio” for the past thirty days. During three of those twenty-four hour periods, more than ten posts have been devoted to some aspect of this comprehensive subject. While not the most impressive display of interest, there sure are enough listeners out there to get a conversation going. Listening, to me, has always been an intimate experience. I much prefer headphones over loudspeakers, for instance, to take in the voices of comedy and the sounds of mystery.

Writing too, has long been a private matter, a momentary or prolonged exclusion of the world for the purpose of gathering thoughts and expressing ideas. While working on my dissertation, it took me years to compose something approaching a draft I felt confident enough to share. But now that writing and publishing happen almost simultaneously on the internet, I have become more eager to discuss and debate than to churn out a series of more or less engaging essays for the benefit of myself and the amusement of strangers.

Recent posts about old-time radio include the suggestion of listening to old mystery programs in the dark, reminiscences about a childhood enriched by the theater of the imagination, and an account of a first-time encounter with the Mercury Theatre‘s “The War of the Worlds.”

While other web journalists marvel at the dubious scientific advancement of breeding glow-in-the-dark pigs, this one describes the joy of taking The Great Gildersleeve, Jack Benny, Fred Allen, and The Shadow for an airing on his mobile phone, and this one provides a link to an internet tv channel featuring radio shows like The Saint. Someone else relates how pleased he was to have made a small investment in order to download recordings of programs like Inner Sanctum from the internet; and yet another confesses her love for the voice of Gale Gordon.

For the most part, these listening experiences are merely shared in passim rather than at any great length; but perhaps this is going to change as radio plays are becoming more readily accessible and more a part of everyday culture again. I sure hope so. In anticipation of such developments, I shall retreat to get some melodrama, comedy or variety streaming into my ears.

So, what’s on your iPod (or on whatever gadget you choose to catch up with old-time radio)?

In Bed With Orson; or, How I Got the Wandering Ear

Elsa Maxwell, Claudette Colbert and Orson Welles

What I didn’t get to tell in Etherized Victorians, my doctoral dissertation, is how I love to cuddle up with a good voice. Aside from being rather too intimate an aspect of my passion for old-time radio to be shared in an academic paper, the sensuality and sway of the human voice, regardless of the words it conveys—seemed to be decidedly beyond the boundaries of my vocabulary.

I am hardly one to shy away from lexical experimentation; but I felt that I could not approach the subject—the mystique—of the vocal with the clarity and precision I aim for in all my linguistic playfulness. How, for example, could I describe the lush, seductive performances of Ann Sothern (as Maisie) and Natalie Masters (as Candy Matson), the sinister melancholy and paroxysmal fury of Peter Lorre (on Mystery in the Air, for instance), or the tender, tattered quavering of Gertrude Berg (matriarch of The Goldbergs) as I listen to them burble, groan, hiss and whimper, as I hear them snarling at or whispering to me?

How could I intellectualize the suave and mannered cadences of Vincent Price as the Saint or the hammy bluster of Orson Welles as Harry Lime? Some passions are not to be explained, to be argued out of existence. They are to be reveled in, secretly, in the shelter of darkness.

There are many such pleasures to be had listening to recordings of US radio broadcasts of the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s, a period during which voices were trained for and attuned to the special demands of the microphone. For me, they can be found and felt when encountering a friendly and well-groomed speaking voice of an announcer like Harry Bartell; a distinguished, eloquent recital like Ronald Colman’s (as in his D-Day reading of Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Poem and Prayer for an Invading Army”); a tough, noirish delivery like Joseph Cotton’s (on Suspense); an unsentimental everymanliness like Joe Julian’s (on Corwin’s An American in England); a glamorous, sultry purring like Marlene Dietrich’s (as the peripatetic adventuress of Time for Love), Ilona Massey’s (as a spy-catching baroness in Top Secret) or Tallulah Bankhead’s (in her memorable role as hostess of the Big Show); a warm, avuncular drone like Nigel Bruce’s (as Sherlock Holmes sidekick and narrator Doctor Watson), a smart and charming lilt like Claudette Colbert’s (frequently heard on the Lux Radio Theater; above, in bed with Welles and etiquette maven Elsa Maxwell) or a queer pomposity like Monty Woolley’s (in his role as the Magnificent Montague).

Quite often, these voices had to convey lines better left unspoken, words unworthy of the actor’s talent. Yet through the magic of timbre and intonation, gifted performers could imbue almost any line with feeling, subtlety, or sly innuendo. And I’m not even talking about the suggestive reading Mae West lent to her characterization of Eve that got her banned from the airwaves. Last night I went to bed with Dane Clark. I didn’t quite get through his performance of John Andrews in a NBC University Theater production of John Dos Passos’s “Three Soldiers,” but his voice still lingers in my mind’s ear this morning.

Ever since I got my first radio, as a child, I have gone in search of voices, soothing, thrilling, enticing. I was eavesdropping on a hidden realm the passage to which was the canal of an eager ear pressed close against the speaker. It was my keyhole to the world about which I knew yet little, a world to which I did not yet belong. It was a levitating grown-up table, an off-limits chamber made of air and furnished by my imagination. Today, these disembodied voices come to me mainly by invitation. Whom, I wonder, am I going to take upstairs with me tonight?

Charlie’s Chance; or, How Not to Blog

Blog like hothouse flower: Must blossom for anyone. That is how the incomparable Charlie Chan might have expressed my present dilemma. I am not at all pleased with the previous entry into this journal. Rather than sharing what I love, I exhausted myself, and, no doubt, the good will of others in a tiresome, impersonal rant. I had wanted to make that in which I delight relevant to those unfamiliar or reluctant to catch on to it by availing myself of a prominent, topical hook; but instead of writing about the wit of satirist Fred Allen, my favorite US radio writer-comedian of the 1940s, I ended up going on about the latest foray into UK television by Jerry Springer, whom I despise.

It is quite easy to write a diary (if you have learned how to be honest with yourself and have come to terms with the level of intimacy you can handle when writing about your innermost thoughts); but once they are being made public, those private thoughts are expected to matter to others. They must have a purpose other than self-indulgent expression.

What I am still struggling to reconcile in this journal is the public and the private, being at once intimate and out there. That is, I have not yet assumed a persona I can trust at the microphone as I broadcast these thoughts from home. Those who seek fame or monetary gain are generally quite sure of themselves and their chosen medium. I, who have nothing to lose but face am less self-assured. Only of this I am certain: I want to write what I know best and love most. Do I care whether anyone else shares whatever views I express? Would I like any of those anyones to let me know? Sure I would. Still, the telling must come first.

“Little things tell story,” as Chan reassuringly put it. I am very fond of the man, whom I first encountered on German television when I was in my early teens. Back then, I felt envious of his No. 1 son (and all his numerous offspring). I did not have a close relationship with my father; so, the sleuthing, world-travelled “Oriental” with the gentle touch and a houseful of kids became a guardian to fantasize about.

Today, in this politically corrected and lawsuit-controlled climate, Chan doesn’t have much of a chance as hero and model. role model or heroic figure (a talked-about Lucy Lui project notwithstanding). In his prime, he was loved even by the Chinese, although no fellow countryman portrayed him on the screen. His wisdom, delivered in what is known as Chanograms, blossomed for anyone. Yes, Chan was once again on my mind this week when I came across and purchased the Chantology DVD set (pictured)—which is what makes my reference to him topical and relevant to me. Whether it matters to anyone else—whether anyone cares to know or share—is another matter, a mystery as yet unsolved.

I think I now know how not to blog. I am just not sure yet how . . .

Castles in the Air; or, No, No, Nostalgia

I am moving in.  At last I am beginning to feel more at home sharing my thoughts in this way. It seems somewhat daunting, at first.  If not altogether arcane, the internet as a communal space, an event in which to partake rather than a means for the taking or the taking in is still unexplored territory to me.  How can I file my claim in a land whose boundaries I do not yet grasp?

I am not calling this journal broadcastellan for nothing.  The past to me is not a dungeon cluttered with artifacts, nor a fortress to be taken.  It is a castle I am building with materials I gather while listening.  Tuning in, belatedly, to live broadcasts of the 1930s or ‘40s, I seem to be living on recycled air; but what I come across can still feel like a fresh current, not an atmosphere that is stagnant or miasmic.  Catching a reverberation of the past, I am breathing it in and breathe in it.  This stronghold is well ventilated.

I have always been suspicious of both history and nostalgia as motivations for looking (or listening) back.  History is the effort to make sense of the past, a figuring out—rather than a figuring forth—of it; nostalgia, by comparison, strikes me as an act of self-absorbed pillaging, a heedless appropriation.  If the former lacks creative freedom, the latter means taking liberties rather too freely.  In a review of a friend’s book I once called “nostalgia” the “fruitful reverie of a past whose text is a history of longing.”  Now, even I don’t quite know anymore what that might mean—but I can still feel it ringing true.

Nostalgia is a longing for an elusive and largely undefined bygone, while history is a longing for knowledge of what has truly been going on all along; but neither approach enables us to achieve a sense of belonging as we behold or hold on to the past.  Listening to historic broadcasts, I dwell on air; I do not linger in a vacuum.  I might be the creator of this castle, but its stuff—the found matter that is its foundation—has to be weighed, handled and shaped with care and understanding.

What is my place in this castle I am constructing? What is the responsibility of a broadcastellan—the present keeper of a home for live records of the past?

Unpopular Culture; or, the Return of the Magnificent Montague

Popular culture is generally understood to be the mass-market consumer culture of the present.  As the culture of the everyday it is especially vulnerable to obliteration.  What happens to the popular of the past, to the dime novels, movies, television programs or radio entertainment no longer of interest to a larger public, no longer deemed marketable or relevant? Does it become fodder for historians? Is it fuel for nostalgia? I am going to investigate this heap of discarded objects, review products of a by now “unpopular culture,” and relate them to my here and now.

This attempt at a blog is an unacademic continuation of my doctoral study Etherized Victorians. It will chiefly concern movies, television and radio programs that may have fallen out of favor or are favored by the few only but are still available to anyone using contemporary media (TV, radio, and the internet; as DVDs, mp3s or in plain old print).

Unlike my academic writing, this journal will allow me to broadcast my findings immediately upon discovery and to share my impressions with others who, like me, are passionate about presumably stale pop, whatever their cultural or educational background.  It also permits a more personal approach than did my dissertation, in which I never referred to myself in the first person singular.

My [initial] signature, “The Magnificent Montague,” [was] appropriated from a US radio sitcom (1950-51) of the same name. In it, a hapless and proud thespian (portrayed by Monty Woolley) finds himself stooping to radio work to make ends meet. This obscure reference [was] meant to express the confrontation of cultures high and low, of trends and traditions, of personal predilections and public personae—confrontations broadcastellan will bring about in the months to come.

[As I became more confident writing about myself and saw the need to lay claim to my own words, the “Montague” cloak became cumbersome and worthless.  It was retired on 24 October 2005].