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Joe Robinson’s Response to “The Theory of the New Deal”

I found the most interesting aspect of this piece to be Berle’s discussion of income inequality during early 20th century America and how it contributed to the Great Depression.  The unequal distribution of wealth in the U.S. was the source of as much debate then as it is today.  Although there was no single factor that caused the Great Depression, the “vicious spiral” described by Berle certainly played a significant role.  As Berle explains, an insufficient population of consumers resulted in the closings of plants, which lead to layoffs and wage cuts that further reduced the customer base and decreased industrial production.  FDR attempted to redistribute some of this wealth through the National Recovery Administration, which would ensure that “the national income goes not into stagnant pools of unneeded investment but into the hands of people who need goods.”  Although our current economic state is not nearly as poor, recent efforts to increase the minimum wage bear some resemblance to the New Deal’s goal of reducing the income inequality in this country.

I also enjoyed reading about Berle’s alternative to the New Deal, in which the federal government would have done anything in its power “to satisfy the perfectly legitimate needs of a huge mass of people, all of whom were entitled to their right to live.”  This even included the possibility of a Soviet-like government takeover of the entire U.S. economy.  Berle is quick to point out that something like this would have only occurred if the New Deal failed, but it’s nonetheless interesting to consider.  At the time, the New Deal was the greatest exercise of government power in American history.  However, as Berle indicates, the New Deal was not nearly as radical as other economic recovery plans conceived by the Brain Trust.

I wonder how successful this plan would have been, especially in the U.S. where we seem to value economic freedom above all else.  Although it’s hard to imagine the American public being receptive to such a radical proposal, the crippled economic state might have left them with no other choice.  On the other hand, if the New Deal had failed, I doubt there would have been much faith in Roosevelt’s ability to turn the economy around.  We’ll never know whether or not there would have been resistance to Berle’s more extreme alternative.  However, America saw a certain degree of governmental control over the economy less than a decade later with the WWII mobilization effort, an effort which many have attributed to propelling the United States to the top of the industrial world.

Patrick O’Neil Response to Leuchtenberg

During his passage on the New Deal, William Leuchtenberg criticizes the cyclical nature of capitalism, claiming that this market is too inefficient in correcting imbalances of supply and demand. The cost of this inefficiency is human lives being torn asunder for years as entire industries adjust at once to changes in market conditions, leaving millions without jobs at the same time, for prolonged periods. However, his government-control “solution” introduces the exact same problem! The passage “This is why, though all of us will undoubtedly have moments of discouragement at the slowness of it…” can be applied with equal validity to the existing industrial system or the proposed government takeovers of the “levers” of the economy.

Leuchtenberg bases his argument on the completely unproven theory that the government will be able to control these levers much better than the private sector has been able to, using  recent economic failures as his “proof.” In retrospect, this theory becomes laughable when Leuchtenberg touts “efficiency at least as great as that which we now get out of the United States Postoffice,” an institution losing over billion dollars  a quarter currently. In addition to putting too much trust into the government, Leuchtenberg further disproves his own theory by bringing up the unwillingness of the American people to accept the federal government commandeering the levers of the economy. He admits that “people do not change their habits easily,” yet there is an implicit expectation that the government will be able to bend them into compliance for this overhaul.  Unfortunately for Leuchtenberg, this assumption, much like all the other ones in this article, is unfounded and detached from reality.

Sacco and Vanzetti Trial

Once I started reading Frankfurter’s account of the Sacco and Vanzetti Trail, there was only one thing that came to my mind: My Cousin Vinny. I would find it hard to believe that movie is not based on this trial. Two young Italians who are accused of committing murder and fleeing into a car, arrested later for driving a similar car. A lawyer from out of town who is unfamiliar with the biased judge. If only Sacco and Vanzetti had Vinny to be their lawyer…

On a more serious note, the handling of what should be regular police matters in the context of the Red Scare seems troubling in today’s context. When they were first arrested, they were asked all kinds of questions, like when Vanzetti was asked by Chief Stewart if he was a radical, anarchist, or Communist, and if he “believe[s] in the government of the United States.” For being arrested for a crime that was initially suspected to be mob-related, this line of questioning is potentially troublesome. While the two were known to be radical, nobody ever thought that there was a connection between that and the murders.

It seems, then, that the two are sentenced to death not actually for committing murder that there was overwhelming evidence that they did not commit, but for just being radical during the Red Scare. The legal system is sort of thrown out the window, with the judge leading a Dedham jury of upper-class non-immigrants to convict the foreign duo of Sacco and Vanzetti to view the evidence in a biased manner. In the same way that Bill and Stan are tried for being young New Yorkers, Sacco and Vanzetti and tried for being young foreigners.

Orson Welles- “The War of The Worlds, 1938″

After reading extensively about this radio broadcast in other American Literature course, as well as in other history courses I felt compelled to finally listen to it myself to see what the fuss was all about. What radio broadcast I’m talking about is, Orson Welles 1938 production of H G Wells 1898 novel “The War of the Worlds”. The broadcast was aired as a Halloween special for the Mercury Theater on the Air.  Orson Welles, as well as Frank Readick, Kenny Delmar, and Ray Collins all starred on the Halloween broadcast- which was particularly interesting because I was always given the impression that it was just Welles narrating the novel. However, the entire 58-62 minutes consisted of these “journalists” interrupting one another giving their interpretations as to what was happening “where they were” at the time of the attack. I can now understand why there was such confusion and even fear for listeners who may have tuned in mid broadcast. I also read that the Mercury Theater on the Air was known for playing music, so it would be common for listens to just tune in at any times in hopes of hearing some music. Instead they would have been alarmed to hear this schizophrenic “news broadcasting” of aliens attacking Earth.

war-of-the-worlds-by-orson-wellesListening to it myself, I was obviously not used to the crackling of the radio, which made me have to listen closer to hear what the men were saying during the broadcast. I was also impressed as to how convincing they seemed, given that as listeners you could only hear what was happening, but all the interruptions and acting gave a sense of realism. What added to this realism was the fact that unlike other broadcasts, there were no commercials. After being announced in the very beginning, the show ran right through the hour long program. This made it seem like the breaking news of today, where they will cut commercials or give less commercials when something important is happening.  Though I know this was just a reading from H G Wells’ book, I found it entirely understandable for the confusion that people may have felt while tuning in. Other than the beginning and the end of the broadcast, it would have been difficult to tell, unless you were familiar with the book “The War of the Worlds” to know what was going on.


Strange As It Seems- Radio

Strange As It Seems Episode 18.

The episode began with about 2 minutes of a commercial that was solely related to a laxative and its ability to treat smoothly. After this, it went into an intro, just like an other television today. It truly reminded me of the ‘Twighlight Zone’ without the visual. This episode was about the transport of a huge diamond across plains, deserts and oceans. Its journey was from South Africa to England for King Edward.

I can not tell if this radio episode intrigued me because of its entertainment qualities or because how it is a form of entertainment I haven’t necessarily interacted with before. I was thoroughly surprised with the dialogue that existed in these programs. It wasn’t just narration, but it consisted of interactions between characters. I could see how the country became infatuated with the radio, for I can even see it rivaling modern day cinema and other forms of entertainment.

I did not initially realize that this episode would have multiple stories in it. It did a very good job at keeping the attention of its audience. I did not necessarily suspect that it would be able to keep my attention for 20 minutes, and this is one of the main reasons why I think it became such a successful form of entertainment in the early 20th century.

The second story of this incorporated a story about Robert E. Lee and provided some insight about his spot in history. I think this was an interesting concept because while subtle stories still may exist, this episode went out of its way to explain the historical relations of this. It implemented a rudimentary form of mass education. Its third story also taught its audience how to tell the temperature by the chirps of a cricket. This casually morphed into a thermometer ad, and then back into the laxative ad. It was an interesting ending, and I feel as though the commercials were just as pestering back then as they are now.

Patrick O’Neil Radio Response – Bing Crosby

For my response, I chose a Bing Crosby Woodbury Soap Show from the mid 1930s.  The introduction was a two minute long advertisement in which a host touts the benefits of Woodbury Soap as not just a regular soap, but a beauty product guaranteed to improve women’s skin. The host talks about the product for the first part of the commercial, and spends  the second part talking to a man who apparently has two daughters who use the product.

The meat of the program consists of musical numbers, much like the FM radio we know today.  However, instead of blocks of songs bookended by commercials, between each song is a brief interlude with a host introducing the song, sometimes engaging in banter with someone else in the studio (or Crosby) . Every so often, a longer interlude will occur, usually about 90 seconds, which is another Woodbury Soap advertisement.

At the very end of the program, the host plugs Woodbury Soap one more time. Based on my relatively limited knowledge of early TV and radio programming, the setup of this program seems relatively standard. A title sponsor provides advertising revenue, and a celebrity provides name recognition. There were relatively few ads during this 25 minute program, and I imagine that someone with knowledge of popular 1934 singers would have enjoyed the amount and variety of music that this show provided.

Radio Response- Joe Robinson

I listened to two episodes of a comedic detective program called The Adventures of Detectives Black and Blue, which aired from 1933 to 1935.  In the first episode, “the world’s dumbest and luckiest detectives” work a case involving a missing shipment of sugar.  The choice of sugar as the stolen object is an obvious attempt at product placement.  According to the archive’s website, Folgers Coffee was one of the major sponsors for the show; one of the detectives also states that the brand of stolen sugar is Domino, which leads me to believe that Domino was another sponsor.  I found it interesting that many of today’s advertising techniques were being used by marketers as far back as the 1930s.  I think this program is also a great example of how the advertising industry capitalized on new technologies such as the radio to market products to an increasingly commercialized society.

The run time for The Adventures of Detectives Black and Blue is 15 minutes, which is similar to a modern TV show without commercials.  I noticed that nearly two and a half minutes of the program consisted of intro and outro musical arrangements, where opening and closing credits would normally appear for television.  I couldn’t help but wonder why so much time had been dedicated to the introduction and closing portions of the program, especially since it did nothing to inform audiences of who was involved in the production.

I enjoyed listening to the show and can understand why radio programs of this genre were popular in the 1930s.  Prior to the 30s, I imagine one of primary forms of home entertainment was reading.  The element of sound would have made detective stories such as the ones from The Adventures of Detectives Black and Blue that much more entertaining.  Some of the sound effects from the show were surprisingly realistic, which is an impressive feat given the technology of the era.  Although I enjoyed the program, I can’t imagine anything like it existing today, because modern audiences are so reliant on visual stimulation.  I think many viewers would find it difficult to concentrate/follow the storyline without some sort of accompanying visuals.

Radio Response – Christian Cherau

I listened to two episodes of the Adventures of Detectives Black and Blue, which was a 15 minute syndicated program that aired on the radio from 1933 to 1935. The show was branded as a comedy on the archive.

Commenting on the content of the show itself, the broadcast did an excellent job of telling a quick story complete with all the descriptions necessary for it to make sense to the listener. The first episode set up the back-story of the duo, as inept grocery warehouse workers who get their start investigating when inventory numbers reveal that some sort of burglary is occurring. They discover the night-watchman is helping thieves make off with bags of Domino sugar, and the episode ends with Blue knocking over a can and the two being found by the night watchman. This twist is not resolved in the next episode. The next episode available ended with Blue falling through 5 floors of skylights in a comedic fashion, however given that the series continued for a long period afterwards, it suggests that the series focused more on the slapstick comedy than on continuity.

In terms of messages relayed by the show itself, there were two avenues of messages being presented to the listener: advertising and common sense. The advertising was fairly blatant: the program was proudly sponsored by Folgers Coffee, and product placement of Domino Sugar was prominent through the first episode. More interestingly, however, was the drops of seemingly common sense advice being offered in between the plot and comedy in the conversation between the characters. At one point, Black offers Blue investment advice, urging him to put his money into savings accounts that earn interest rather than his typical investment in pyramid schemes

On the whole, I enjoyed immersing myself in the early radio world. To my modern ears, it was almost akin to listening to a book on tape, where my mind can wander and build the fictional world as I listen.  Episode 46- The Perfect Crime

What I found to be most interesting about this clip wasn’t the content, though I will get to that in a moment, but the advertising involved in the show. The show, a police detective drama called Calling All Cars, is sponsored by an oil company, Rio Grande Oil, which had fairly lengthy ads before and after the program itself. When the opening ad came on, it sounded like it was going to be the show itself, featuring police officers pulling over a suspected gas station robber who turned out to be someone looking for their brand of oil. The advertisement after the program went even further, featuring an induction into a Rio Grande Oil  youth police force for one of the actors. Yes, it was that ridiculous. I thought it all tied in nicely with today’s lecture regarding advertising.

Onto the content of the show. After the racism in the voices during the conversation between the German doctor/evil scientist and his Mexican companion, the program was interesting in showing the conversation of the crime itself followed by detectives attempting to solve the mystery. It was ultimately solved, though, not by detectives, but by the family who was inadvertently harboring the scientist during his escape. The overarching theme was clear (and stated outright): crime doesn’t pay. It seemed to be marketed towards children, oddly, despite the oil advertisements, but this may just be my perceptions of the program. It didn’t contain anything too intellectually stimulating or even particularly entertaining, I thought. It took conscious efforts to not multitask.