Welcome to Part Two of The Marching Morons by C M Kornbluth, our latest audio adventure in Tales for Our Time and a terrifying glimpse of a society mired in mass stupidity (as if there's not enough of that right now). I'm still working my way through your kind comments about our previous tale, G K Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday. Phil Beckley, a member of The Mark Steyn Club from northern England, writes:
I found the final episode very thought provoking, while the whole story is brilliantly entertaining; one aspect being in the reading being a tour de force in maintaining the voice characterisations. I'll be listening to this again. Many thanks to Mark.
Very kind of you, Phil. Hope I manage to do as well with this new story. In tonight's episode of The Marching Morons our visitor from the past is horrified to discover that television has gotten even worse:
"The show of shows! The super-show! The super-duper show! The quiz of quizzes! Take it and stick it!"
There were shrieks of laughter in the background.
"Here we got the contes-tants all ready to go. You know how we work it. I hand a contes-tant a triangle-shaped cut-out and like that down the line. Now we got these here boards, they got cut-out places the same shape as the triangles and things, only they're all different shapes, and the first contes-tant that sticks the cutouts into the board, he wins.
"Now I'm gonna innaview the first contes-tant. Right here, honey. What's your name?"
"Hoddaya like that, folks? She don't remember her name! Hah? Would you buy that for a quarter?" The question was spoken with arch significance, and the audience shrieked, howled and whistled its appreciation.
It was dull listening when you didn't know the punch lines and catch lines. Barlow pushed another button...
If that gameshow catchphrase - "Would you buy that for a quarter?" - sounds vaguely familiar, it's because in 187 the film Robocop appropriated it and adjusted for inflation: "I'd buy that for a dollar!"
There's another cinematic allusion in tonight's installment. John Barlow has been electrocuted into suspended animation and then restored to life centuries hence - which rings a vague bell with him:
"Like that movie," Barlow muttered. "Who would have thought it?"
The movie he's referring to is Just Imagine, a 1930 sci-fi musical starring Maureen O'Sullivan with songs by the famous team of De Sylva, Brown and Henderson ("Birth of the Blues", "Varsity Drag", "You're the Cream in My Coffee", etc). The film flopped, and the songs were forgotten, save for this one, revived in the late Sixties by Jim Kweskin - and do stay tuned for spectacular final-chorus ululations by my pal Maria Muldaur:
If you're not a Steyn Club member, I hope you'll consider joining us. It's not too grueling a schedule: we have a Clubland Q&A in which I answer your questions live around the planet and we also have some video poetry and live members-only shows if they are ever again permitted by the authorities.
Tales for Our Time started as an experimental feature we introduced as a bonus for Mark Steyn Club members, and, as you know, I said if it was a total stinkeroo, we'd eighty-six the thing and speak no more of it. But I'm thrilled to say it's proved very popular, and and we now have quite an archive. If you're a Club member and you incline more to the stinkeroo side of things, give it your best in the Comments Section below.
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