I WILL DO WHAT SIMON SAYS!

When this writer was a youthful youth, I was obsessed with the biggest form of media that was available to the public at large: television. As that kid, I would sit in front of the TV set in the house that possessed the biggest screen. In this case, it was a Zenith black and white set that had a 21” sized screen. Although the Zenith brand was the first to offer their “Space Command” remote control device, the set we had only had a dial on its front where one can tune to channels two through thirteen by hand with an optional method to get those UHF channels (Channels 14-83) via a seperate tuner.

Anyway, one program I used to watch was the cartoon show Underdog. This cartoon created by Treadwell Covington, Chester “Chet” Stover, and W. Watts “Buck” Biggers, three “Mad Men” that created the series on behalf of their client General Mills to sell breakfast cereal, featured a dog who was a humble and lovable character named “Shoe Shine Boy”. He was really in secret, a superhero named “Underdog” that would take on the city’s villain, a mad scientist named Simon Bar Sinister that spoke in a voice that sounded like Lionel Barrymore, but was indeed a rather sinister “mad scientist” type.

One of Simon Bar Sinister’s plots was to take over the city by having its citizens under his spell. He created a method when anyone stepping into a phone booth would suddenly be in his control. The helpless victims would have their eyes in a spinning spiral pattern, have an Edison-type light bulb affixed on top of their heads all lit up, and would speak in a monotone voice staying “I Will Do What Simon Says!”.

Watching that episode way back when somewhat scared me, beliving that the evil SBS (along with his comical sidekick Cad) would take over all of the phone booths around town to possess people to follow his orders with evil intentions. Although what I was watching was a cartoon show that spent its commercial time selling Cheerios (that wasn’t sugar coated) or Frostios (that was sugar coated and had sported on each box a likeness of Chumley the Walrus from Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales), I could not figure out what was real or what was just a TV show. In spite of the fact that Underdog, along with the assistance of TV reporter Sweet Polly Purebread, would foil SBS at his own game where all would end well until the next episode airing the next week, I still was scared if something like this takeover would really occur in my own community.

This little scenario from a era long passed leads up to how things are in today’s post-modern world upon where cellphone are literally taking possession over its users. These little handy-dandy devices that thanks to having this gadgets as “smart”, can do more than imaged, from shopping for goods and services, to assist the user to get the items through a physical store or through an online portal, keeping in contact with people, places, and things, telling the user what to do, how to do it, when to do it, when not to do it, and countless other actions both real and imaged. Oh yes! These devices can also send phone messages and receive them, too!

Although this technology is great and wonderful for what it stands for, a number of questions remain. Is this source for information on hand (literally) serves as something that is for its good or for its bad?

The notion of cell phones taking over its users has been written, discussed, posted, texted, tweeted, and otherwise been brought to the attention of anybody and everybody for some time. It seems that anyone over the age of five–the same age yours truly was when I first tuned in to Underdog–has used a cell phone for whatever reason. Kids as young as eight have possession to cell phone devices that are more powerful then the one this same former five year old has in his hand or pocket, doing anything but making a phone call! The new marketing demographic called “Gen Z” that consists of people born from 1997 through 2005, 2006, 2007, or 2008 (depending on who you ask), has been called the “wired generation” that can’t recall a time when there was never a cell phone is sight, let alone knowing that once upon a time cell phones didn’t exist. They have been pushing the functions that make a phone device worth its salt thanks to various applications (“apps”) that were made famous through the “Millenniums” demographic (born between 1981 through 1996–give or take) in order to make their phones worth using.

Even though cell phones and its usage goes back some thirty or so years, it didn’t catch on right away for many reasons. First, it was the cost of the devices. The phones themselves that could only send or receive calls, were pricey, selling for hundreds of dollars. The phone service was rather expensive as well selling its usage by the minute rather than by the month. And phone signals were rather dicey, too. Those same signals would be coming in poor or would drop entirely, depending on where the user physically was. Generally, cell phones and its usage was only used for people that had to be in contact no matter where they went. These same folks were mostly high power processionals that used them for business purposes, such as doctors, lawyers, movie studio moguls, and so on.

Back around the turn of the 21st century, the folks at the Gallop Poll did a study on cell phones and its impact to domestic society at the time. The study, conducted in the Spring of 2000, asked “Do you currently own a cellular phone, or not? In no, do you intend to get a cellular phone for your own use within the next couple of years, within the next five years, at some point in the future or never?”

The results? Some 60% that has a cell phone at the time was aged between 30 through 49, and 58% of those with a phone was aged between 50 through 64. Those that were aged 18 through 29 consisted of 41%. Those 65 and up were the lowest amount of cell phone owners at 29% Generally, some fifty present of those 18 plus were cell phone owners.

When asked if they were going to get a phone in the near future, 41% of those 18 through 29 entertained the idea of grabbing one of these devices. Those 30 through 64 were in the 20% through 22% range. (They already had a cell phone, thus the lower numbers!) Those 65 and over consisted of 19% of possible future owners. (A quarter of all adults noted about the idea of future ownership.)

Here’s the interesting part of this report! When asked if they will never get a phone, 18% of the 18 through 29 demographic said “no”! 17% of those 30 through 49 gave their nix, and 21% of the 50 through 64 age bracket consisted it as a thumbs down. Half of those 65 and over appeared to be happy with phones only as land lines. (23% collectedly stated “no” to ownership!)

That was then! As of this month, some 5% of Americans over the age of five does not own a cell phone at all, mostly through choice or circumstance. And 54% of those asked in another Gallop Poll (conducted in 2015) noted upon answering the statement, “I can’t imagine my life without my smartphone”, 54% agreed to this fact! It would be interesting to discover what people would say in today’s age! As with anything that’s connected with high tech, any device that is two years and older becomes “out of date”!Those snazzy iPhone 5s and 6s that was hot s#it in 2015 has since been replaced with something newer, faster, and shinier!

It’s been many decades when yours truly would tune in to Underdog every week. The old 21” has been replaced by newer TV sets three times over. Frostios has long disappeared from the grocery shelves although Cheerios is still around, and I don’t watch TV anymore! But as a dumb five year old, I was within the same stance to today’s five year olds when it comes to the gadgets they have access to. I never knew that there was life before television, as well as the fact that I would later become obsessed with TV–the same method to people’s obsessions with their cell phones! So what goes around, comes around!

And I never need to fear because Underdog is here! (Right?)
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NEWS AND REVIEWS

Art Shulman’s WHOOPSIE-DOOPSIE, a mini comic saga of a young man’s decision on what he should do when the love of his life announces the results of their loving making, performs for a limited run at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre in North Hollywood.

This is the tale of Billy and Joannie (Mima Rad and Camille Aragon). Billy’s just a lad still of high school age. Joannie is his number one. She tells Billy that she’s pregnant. Billy was careful by using a condom. But he wasn’t careful enough! The questions he asks himself is what to do next. Should Joannie keep the child, or to dispose of it? She suggests to abort their results. He must choose to either keep the child or to dispose of it. As his mind races in all different directions, he visions the people around him (real or imaged) giving their side of the saga on what may happen or not. But as he imagines, his confusion grows for the best or for the worst. Will Billy become a father figure for the rest of his life? Will Joannie give birth to the child? Will the unborn child remain unborn? This is Billy’s real “whoopsie-doopsie” from his “making whoopie”!

This one act play written by Art Shulman (who also directs) is very funny, witty, and quirky. It shows the Billy character dreaming up these scenarios from the process on receiving the news to the end results of possibly keeping the child, icing the kid, and what those around this couple respond that brings the issue in a clear yet out-of-focus manner–to Billy anyway! An ensemble of performers project these characters as seen through the mind of Billy, reminding him that if you can’t be good, be careful! The players that appear in this production (Jesseal Amelia, Ellen Bienenfeld, Mary Alice Farina, Warren Hall, and Casey Hunter) present their roles in a comical cartoon-esque fashion, making this show even funnier.

The entire production itself is performed with a black backdrop i.e. no real sets. With only using a few props (designed by Charissa Clark), it brings the audience closer to Billy’s world magnifying the outcomes from his little fling. Steve Shaw provided the sound design that uses bits and pieces of music beds, along with a few cartoon sound effects for better measure that add to the comedy.

Granted, a decision of what to do with an unplanned pregnancy is far from anything funny if it occurs in so-called “real life”. But since this topic has been utilized before in various sitcoms (some memorable, others long forgotten), then the comedy license has been long granted. For an hour’s time, WHOOPSIE-DOOPSIE is just as fun as a roll in the hay! (Well..almost!) Perhaps the moral of this story is if one is going to engage in going upstairs to look at some etchings, make sure you visit your friendly neighborhood drug store beforehand and get something besides an ice cream cone! Otherwise, there will be a bun in the oven for sure!

WHOOPSIE-DOOPSIE, performs at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre, 4850 Lankershim Blvd. (one half block north of Camarillo Street at Vineland Avenue), North Hollywood, until April 22nd. Showtimes are Monday nights at 7:30 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 2:00 PM. For ticket reservations or for more information, call (818) 202-4120, or via online at http://www.ZombieJoes.tix.com
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The Sacred Fools Theatre Company rounds out their 21st season of theater with the world premier of Kenley Smith’s AKUMA-SHIN, a tale about the destruction of one of the world’s great communities, and the aftermath that resulted from this tragic episode.

Set in a parallel world, the city of Tokyo in 1956 faced its biggest challenge since the dropping of the A-bomb nearly a decade before. A giant mysterious fire breathing beast from unknown sources devastated this city, wiping it off the map. This impact of its devastation would last for generations. Some twenty years later c.1976, this chapter of human history was being discussed on a talk program airing on PBS hosted by news correspondent Nancy Dickerson (Stasha Surdyke). Her guests for that video session are William F. Buckley, Jr. (David Wilcox), Truman Capote (Amir Levi) Norman Mailer (Paul Parducci), Dr. Joyce Brothers (Libby Baker), and Mason Burr (Tony DeCarlo). Mason, a news correspondent, was in Tokyo when the kaiju (Japanese for “monster”) made its presence during that faithful time. He, along with fellow Americans George Serizawa (Ruben Uy), and Billy Childers (Eddie Goines), tried to control the beast with their warnings to the world through radio transmission. Mason and Billy were the only survivors. Each one present in the talk program mused on what occurred and how this episode changed how elements as such were taken into perspective. But how much of this change is yet to be reckoned. Then again, would such a tragic exploit arrive again, and how will this moment of conquest face humanity as its known if such knowledge even exists?

This single-act stage piece takes upon familiar bits of popular culture, personalities from another era, as well as a few individuals from history (placed in different perspectives) that were shaped from that moment of devastation, and brings such an interlude in face, only to curtail to what may happen next. The production is told in a semi-linear pattern that first brings on what brought Tokyo to its demise (although how this kaiju would up in the Land of the Rising Sun was never really explained) to the round table discussion of personalties that have minimal stance with one another in the style of a David Susskind-esque TV talk program, in addition to the reaction of the natives once existing within the megapolis. All of these elements as projected show that this play has just as many comical scenes then serious moments. A tragic adventure with death and destruction is usually played out as serious matter. Then again, how can one take on the fact of a giant lizard shattering a dense city with a real sober attitude?

In addition to the above noted cast, Victor S. Chi, Adam Burch, and Corinne Choony, appear, in addition to the voice of Kazumi Zatkin as a Tokyo Emergency Announcer.

Joe Jordan provides the set design, Jennifer Christina DeRosa provides the costuming (including some period fashions from the 1970’s), along with original music score by Michael Teoli, Curt Bonnem’s video graphics and Emily Bolka’s video animation that illustrates what occurred way back when.

Directed by Scott Leggett, AKUMA-SHIN is told with a number of suggested meanings and metaphors that speak for domestic society that exist in today’s post-modern era. It may not be within the same sense to what may one find contained in a Japanese monster movie that was once the fodder of second run movie houses and drive-ins from not so long ago, let alone watching talk programs airing on public television. However, one must take heed to what didn’t really happen as depicted on stage. It may occur in another form. What that form may be is still yet to be experienced for the better or otherwise!

AKUMA-SHIN, presented by the Sacred Fools Theatre Company, and performs on the main stage of The Broadwater theater, 1076 Lillian Way (off Santa Monica Blvd., one block west of Vine Street), Hollywood, until April 28th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM. For ticket reservations or for more information, visit the website at http://www.SacredFools.com
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ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE (C) 2018 Linear Cycle Productions. All rights reserved. The views and opinions are those of the writers, and not necessarily of the staff and management. ‘Nuff said!

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