Episode #696: Even Square
First Broadcast: 3/23/15
We start by discussing the work of the late Albert Maysles, who, along with with his brother, David Maysles, helped define the look of the modern documentary. In Primary, Cut Piece, Salesman, and Gimme Shelter, you can see the form take shape in ways that are still being used today. We also discuss the late Harve Bennett, who was instrumental in reviving the Star Trek film franchise from near death, and also produced The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman, two of the most influential science-fiction series of the 1970s. We finish up by mentioning Sam Simon, who helped turn The Simpsons into the phenomenon that's still generating new episodes with no end in sight. Did I mention something about George Lucas's sale of Star Wars to Disney as well? "Quickly! There's no time!"
Episode #697: Still or Sparkling
First Broadcast: 4/6/15
A coyote was spotted on a roof in Queens! This is only the latest in a long, long line of coyote sightings in New York City, which makes us wonder: How did a coyote get into the city in the first place? We move from there to how winter isn't going out without a fight here in the Northeast, while summer and drought appear to be the only seasons California will know for a great deal of the forseeable future. With that in mind: Why is Nestle allowed to export bottled water from California during one of the worst droughts in California's history? Is it true that most bottled water from the U.S. is essentially dressed-up tap water? Do you prefer drinking water with or without bubbles? How bad will it be for U.S. agriculture if California's drought doesn't end? Suddenly, I feel kinda thirsty...
Episode #698: KaBang
First Broadcast: 4/20/15
Enjoying the warm weather, now that it's finally here? Hopefully, the nice part of the weather will last longer than a few weeks, but I won't hold my breath. Though, with the effects of anthropogenic climate change upon us (despite what all the deniers and people pointing at past scares might think), I suppose we New Yorkers should be thankful that we're not suffering from the same drought and other water problems as California at the moment. However, if we allow a new natural gas pipeline to be built near the Indian Point nuclear plant, New York City could end up facing a radiation threat that's every bit as deadly as the one currently affecting Fukushima, Japan. Then again, if the radiation leakage into the Pacific Ocean from Fukushima isn't stopped, isn't it only a matter of time before that radiation washes up on everybody's shore around the world? Things like this keep me up at night...
Episode #699: Fight Crime
Intended First Broadcast: 5/4/15 Even though this episode was submitted on time, MNN repeated episode #667 instead for some reason.
Actual First Broadcast: 5/11/15
When we taped this episode, there were still a few unanswered questions about what happened to Freddie Gray, the young black man who died a week after his spine was severed while he was in police custody in Baltimore, Maryland, in April of this year. Since then, Mr. Gray's death was ruled to be a homicide, and all six officers involved with his apprehension have been arrested and charged with crimes ranging from misconduct in office to second degree depraved heart murder. Given what David Simon has to say about his years reporting on the Baltimore police, these facts don't really seem surprising. This passage in particular stood out:
Then at some point when cocaine hit and the city lost control of a lot of corners and the violence was ratcheted up, there was a real panic on the part of the government. And they basically decided that even that loose idea of what the Fourth Amendment was supposed to mean on a street level, even that was too much. Now all bets were off. Now you didn't even need probable cause. The city council actually passed an ordinance that declared a certain amount of real estate to be drug-free zones. They literally declared maybe a quarter to a third of inner city Baltimore off-limits to its residents, and said that if you were loitering in those areas you were subject to arrest and search. Think about that for a moment: It was a permission for the police to become truly random and arbitrary and to clear streets any way they damn well wanted.This, to me, sounds a lot like the "free-fire zones" in Vietnam, where basically anyone in them was considered to be an enemy target by American troops; or the current policy of the Obama administration, which treats (almost) anyone on the receiving end of a drone attack as being a terrorist until posthumously proven innocent. This presumption of guilt has apparently been pervading American politics at every level for an excrutiatingly long time, and it has got to change if the psychological and social damage from these policies is ever going to stop. Maybe change at the very top is what's needed? Leadership from a genuinely honest politician, if ever there was one? It sure as hell couldn't hurt at this point.
Episode #700: Revolution
First Broadcast: 5/18/15
Repeated: 6/22/15; 10/5/15; 3/14/16; 11/28/16; 5/1/17; 5/28/18; 10/8/18
We started this program way back in January, 1994. Seven hundred episodes later, we're still here! How did we commemorate the occasion? By going back into the street to find out what's the biggest change New Yorkers have seen within the last 20 years! Some answers might surprise you, and some might not, but we think they're all interesting. Tune in and see for yourself!
Episode #701: Low Rent Guests
First Broadcast: 5/25/15
This week, after some brief speculation about the so-called "mile-high club," we salute David Letterman's retirement from television after 33 years of late night talk shows across two different networks. Unlike the anarchy provided by Tom Snyder's guests amidst his befuddlement on The Tomorrow Show, Letterman provided anarchy by confronting the world around him with his unique sarcastic eye. Almost every late night show on the air today displays some of Dave's influence, and we thank him for that. I wonder if Free New York will last just as long?
Episode #702: Starfish Regenerate
First Broadcast: 6/8/15
We jump all over the place in this episode, starting and finishing with Mad Max: Fury Road and its stunning editing and cinematography. In between, we mention Community, Starburns, Cinema Village, the old Hong Kong Film Festival, Police Story: Lockdown, what's-his-name from On Deadly Ground, and a bunch of other things that flit through our minds in the moment. What does it all mean? Tune in and find out! >br>
Episode #703: Emergency Detention
First Broadcast: 6/15/15
Tonight, we talk about Punishment Park, a little-known fiction film about the counter-culture of the 1960s & 1970s that makes Easy Rider look like Beach Blanket Bingo. To put it another way, the differences between Easy Rider and Punishment Park are analogous to the differences between "Imagine" and "Working Class Hero": they're both very good, but one features a much more unvarnished look at the world as it is than the other does. Perhaps the scariest thing about Punishment Park is that even though it's fiction, the law that inspired it (the McCarran Act), was very real, and many of the attitudes and incidents dramatized in the film had equally genuine real-life analogues. The "Punishment Park" itself in the film can be seen as a metaphor for many things that existed when the film was made in 1970, such as the draft for the Vietnam War; but the conflict between authority and resistance is so timeless than it can also easily work as a metaphor for many things today, such as the bail and plea-bargaining system that results in so many convictions for poor people who might otherwise be acquitted at trial; or the criminally negligent system that drove Kalief Browder to suicide after he spent three years in Riker's Island without charges, with most of that time in solitary confinement. The film has been suppressed for many years because people have been afraid that showing it would be too inflammatory; but wouldn't we all be better served by seeing a reflection of ourselves as we are, rather than running away from it and pleading ignorance? Anyway, I recommend you go watch it. You might be disturbed by it, but you certainly won't be disappointed.