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Published: 9/16/2000

Nothing but 'Net: See the Golden Days of TV on your computer screen

BY TOM GEARHART
BLADE FEATURES EDITOR

Of all the great places to visit in New York City, one of the city's lesser-known gems is the Museum of Television and Radio on West 52nd Street. You could easily spend a full day browsing the museum's exhibits and listening to or watching wonderful old shows that ushered in the Golden Era of broadcasting. Failing a trip to the Big Apple, stop by MTR.org, the museum's Web site, to see its current feature: videotaped interviews with some of television's ground-breaking newsmen, producers, and stars. In crisply produced video clips, they talk frankly and entertainingly about their television experiences.

Eleven people are interviewed, but instead of having to watch the interviews in their entirety, an index of the various topics discussed by each person lets you choose what interests you.

One of the highlights is filmmaker John Frankenheimer, who discusses the radio mysteries and adventures that influenced him, and his days directing live TV on such programs as Playhouse 90, Philco's Studio One, and Omnibus. Among his accomplishments at Playhouse 90, for example, were The Comedians in 1957 and The Days of Wine and Roses in 1958. All the shows, well-rehearsed and often beautifully performed, nevertheless could be harrowing experiences. “It was like performing summer stock in an iron lung,” Frankenheimer said, what with the lights, cameras, and other fancy equipment crammed into a small studio where they were liable to fail at any minute, leaving the actors scrambling to improvise on live TV.

Steve Allen recalls his years as first host of The Tonight Show in 1954; comedian George Carlin talks about how computers have improved the quality of his writing, and Ken Burns discusses the popularity of his hit PBS series, The Civil War. Mike Wallace, Bernard Shaw, Dan Rather, and French chef Julia Child also have their say, as does Mary Tyler Moore. Her delightful interview takes us from her $80-a-week role in Richard Diamond, Private Detective, in which only her mouth and legs were visible, to the glory years on her fabulously successful series, The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

http://www.mtr.org/perspectives

Bon mots

Looking for a smart retort or the perfect expression of logic and wit? You're sure to find it at Aphorismsgalore.com, a Web site that teems with sayings notable for their humor and common sense. For instance: “You can run with the big dogs or sit on the porch and bark“ (Wallace Arnold). Or, “A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman's birthday but never her age“ (Robert Frost).

The aphorisms are sorted by author - Aristotle to Woody Allen, Jefferson to Einstein - and by subject matter, including Love and Hate, Men and Women, Life and Death, Art and Literature, Food and Drink, and Science and Religion. Two of my favorites: “Women like silent men. They think they're listening“ (Marcel Archard), and “Wine is bottled poetry“ (Robert Louis Stephenson).

http://www.aphorismsgalore.com

Wrapped in bubbles

If Sigmund Freud were around to ask, he'd probably tell you that the tactile and aural sensations derived from bursting the bubbles in the packing material known as Bubble Wrap are rooted in all sorts of erotogenic or Oedipal impulses. Whether or not he'd be right, most people can't deny just how addictive Bubble Wrap can be: Once you start popping these babies, it's hard to stop. If you're among the obsessed, you'll be happy to know that there's a Web site devoted to Bubble Wrap that takes the bubble-bursting phenomenon to new heights.

There is a category listing bubble nicknames (snappers, hardcores, duds, etc.), plus discussions of the methods and styles of bubble-popping (fingers, feet, elbows, handful-crushing, body rolling); etiquette (Don't pop other people's bubbles without permission); and a Virtual Bubble Wrap page that lets you pop bubbles with the click of a mouse. (Advisory: Virtual popping doesn't hold a candle to doing it for real.) The site is run by a Web designer who calls herself OpalCat, and among the links she lists is the Web site for the Sealed Air Corp., which holds the patent on Bubble Wrap. And an emphatically humorless Web site it is; you're better off sticking with OpalCat.

http://fathom.org/opalcat/bubblewrap.dci

Dead and Dying

Any Web site whose slogan is “Kick 'Em While They're Down” has to be worth at least one visit. The site is Dotcomfailures.com, and boy, what a trip. This is a graveyard of dead, almost dead, rumored dead, and dead-but-they-don't-know-it-yet Internet companies. It dishes up lots of news about the see-sawing stocks of tech companies, as well as gossip about who may be next in line for the scrap heap.

The home page is loaded with newsbytes about companies such as APBnews, a top-notch crime site that recently was forced to fire most of its staff and now is auctioning off its assets, and Furniture.com, which appears to be on the ropes as well. With the fall of so many high-tech ventures on the stock market, Dotcomfailures has its hands full just keeping up with the cemetery watch. There's a “Dead List” page, polls asking your predictions about likely candidates for failure, and a category devoted to rumors. Internet capitalists may want to click onto the site themselves, just to see whether they're on the hit list.

http://www.dotcomfailures.com

If you have a Web site to recommend, send an e-mail to tgearhart@theblade.com.



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