Amoeblog

Tears in your beers -- Country tunes for Tax Day

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 15, 2014 09:35am | Post a Comment
Krazy Kat and crew

Income taxes -- they're no fun -- especially when you're poor. 

There are few escapes from them, too. Most of the few countries which don't have them are located in Arabia, where massive corporate taxes on even more massive oil revenue make them unnecessary. In the US, on the other hand, corporate income taxes only account for about 9% of federal government receipts (we may have the highest nominal corporate tax rate in the world but the effective corporate tax rate is much lower) whereas individual income taxes account for about 41%. That might, at first glance, seem high but our individual income taxes are actually low compared to those of most countries. In the developed world, only Chileans, Mexicans, and Turks contribute less to their countries' GDPs... or something (my mind glazed over for a second). 



Enough about percentages and Arabia -- what if you want to stay in America but still avoid taxes. You could always go Unabomber or embark upon a black market career... as Big Daddy Kane told us, "pushers don't pay taxes." But Jesus wouldn't approve of either of those options. The Messiah made his opinions on taxes known in the Gospel of Matthew, and even got a little testy:

Ziv Television and a brief history of syndicated television in America

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 8, 2014 03:52pm | Post a Comment
Ziv Productions logo

Due to the rise in quality television and the sad, hopefully-not-irreversible decline of Hollywood films, any unbiased viewer of both would have to agree that television is entirely capable of producing great art. Much of the credit goes to cable (e.g. Breaking Bad and Mad Men) and online television (e.g. Homestar Runner and House of Cards). Then there's syndicated television, which came into existence literally to provide television filler 65 years ago this month, when Ziv Television's first production aired.

Ziv advertisement 1955

For the most part syndicated television's reputation for providing chaff is deserved. Syndicated programs have long been dominated by cheap anthology shows, court shows, game shows, variety shows, talk shows, celebrity gossip "news" shows, and other low-budget, low-brow, fare that at its best is enjoyable as a time-killers and guilty pleasures. Sometimes due to their peripheral nature, they're amazingly watchable for all the wrong reasons -- in many ways a television equivalent of the grindhouse cinema.

Back in the old days, neither the big four radio networks (ABC, CBS, Mutual, and NBC), nor the big three US television networks (CBS, DuMont, and NBC) offered a full day's dose of programming. Then as now there were television stations not affiliated with any network -- but even they rarely could produce enough programming to fill the day. In radio, syndicated programing, produced by independent companies had been the solution at least since the 1930s. The first American television company to produce syndicated programs was Ziv Television Programs, whose first program, Fireside Theatre, began airing back on 5 April, 1949

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The Rural Upsurge -- A Brief History of Country Cool and Uncool

Posted by Eric Brightwell, April 2, 2014 02:20pm | Post a Comment
Country Mouse and Town Mouse
Arthur Rackham illustration for The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

Since the US's founding, Americans have steadily moved from the countryside to the city but the story of our pop culture has always been the product of a dialogue between the two worlds, with urban and rural fashions coming and going. While being country might not be cool again, it does seem that American television's landscape is once again overwhelmingly rural in character -- a world populated by catfish scammers, catfish hand-fishers, Sasquatch hunters, morbidly obese Mennonite mafioso, bootlegging bigamist Baptist beauty contestants, and other cryptozoological specimens. 43 years ago the television landscape was similarly dominated by rural caricatures when, at the end of March, the so-called "Rural Purge" resulted in a deliberate shift away from rural-themed shows to those set in cities.
 

*****

Americans have long generally migrated to the cities and their environs, including the suburbs, and today the percentage of America's population who live in the country is at an all time low -- about 16%. However, it wasn't until the 1910s that America's urban population overtook its rural. 

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Sing a song of eiderdowns

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 26, 2014 05:12pm | Post a Comment
It's blustery and breezy in Los Angeles today. A barely measurable amount of precipitation fell which inevitably resulted in chaos on the county's concrete freeways. I climbed out of bed at 5:30, an act made almost Olympian due to the combination of pre-dawn darkness, drops and drizzle, and the warmth offered by my eiderdown. 

Little Nemo in Slumberland
Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland

An eiderdown (according to the Collins English Dictionary) "a thick warm cover for a bed, made of two layers of material enclosing a soft filling" and thus not necessarily stuffed with the epidermal growths of the Common Eider for which the garment is named.

Eider Ducks
Eider duck female and chicks (with their eider down intact -- source: Thomas Reich)


As I fried hashed browns and veggie bacon in a wok and brewed coffee in the French press, my thoughts returned to eiderdowns, and to the songs which have celebrated... or at least mentioned them. "It's an eiderdown kind of day," as they say.

VideoDisc Day -- An introduction to the Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED)

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 19, 2014 10:30am | Post a Comment
RCA Selectavision VideoDisc

On 22 March, 1981RCA introduced  a brand new but curiously retro analog video format, the SelectaVision CED VideoDisc system. Today the CED (Capacitance Electronic Disc) is all but forgotten but even at its most popular it wasn't well-known and was much widely-adopted than contemporaneous video formats like Betamax, VHS, and LaserDiscs

http://www.pcmuseum.ca/
CED collection, Ron Treverton of Brantford, Canada (source: Personal Computer Museum)





In early 1981, shortly before the VideoDisc (as it was "commonly" known) hit the shelves of roughly 5,000 dealers across the USA, the first stainless steel, gull-wing doored DeLorean DMC-12 automobile rolled off of an assembly line in Northern Ireland whilst nearby, in Her Majesty's Prison MazeBobby Sands embarked on what would soon prove to be a fatal hunger strike. Meanwhile in America, I was entertained by Joel Schumacher's film, The Incredible Shrinking Woman... a film which would ultimately be released on LD, VHS, and (in edited form) on DVD-R  -- but never VideoDisc
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