Monday, February 05, 2007

Airwaves (Not a Dream)

An entry from back around 1996 or 1997, as is recorded in my Book of Dreams:

New Year's Eve some very odd discoveries combusted on this terrestrial plane— as if out of an old recurring dream of twenty years ago and more— both having to do with one of my special lifelong interests, the airwaves.

Believe it or not, this one was not a dream.

First of all, fiddling around with the radio, I discovered, for the first time, a station broadcasting in the new 1610-1700 kHz range. Some far distant station on 1660. Mostly music. I recorded the station identification at the top of the hour, but it was too weak to decipher. As it was the only station broadcasting on that frequency, it could have been from anywhere in the country.

Then Steven discovered something even stranger. A new TV station in Madison. Or rather (since it is listed in the Yellow Pages under "Television Stations") a TV station whose very existence we have somehow managed for months to miss.

And a very bizarre TV station, at that. "Channel 8, WO8CK, Madison, Wisc." Programs simply airing without further announcement or interruption, except for fancy station identifications which run for three or four minutes every half hour. Extremely amateurish production values. All the programs are like something right out of the bargain basement of videotapes, all of them ten and fifteen years old, and more than slightly funky.

Some strange holistic health program, with commercials (among the few that aired) for the "Life Force Newsletter," and news about reincarnation. The Christophers, and a priest interviewing a paraplegic police officer. A half hour of third-rate rock videos, all from the same "Sparrow Communications Corp."

And to top it off, presentations of some mystic "spiritual master," Gilligan with a Hawaiian lei around his neck. Chanting, chanting, chanting while various scenes play across the screen. A man surfing the waves. A road between rows of trees. A woman working an old-fashioned hand pump. Gilligan chanting on the beach. Children watching doves in the park. A shot of Jesus in Gethsemane, which fades to a blue-skinned Hindu goddess with a fawn at her breast. Gilligan chanting atop a rock. Quotes from the Bhagavad-Gita and the Psalms. And all the while, the chanted background refrain of "Gopala Govinda Rama, Madana Mohana..."

After about fifteen minutes, the entire sequence began all over again. It re-ran with only minor variations: a fastbuck leaping in rhythm with the chanting, which fades to Gilligan and his crowd, all leaping in rhythm with the chanting. A different set of Bhagavad-Gita quotes.

And then a third fifteen-minute re-run. This time, more variations in the sequence were introduced, as the whole presentation took on the air of a Laplace transform of itself. A new sequence inserted about Socrates. A sun over water scene with quotes from some philosopher about "living in the machine age." Variations in the order of old shots.

And then a fourth fifteen minutes, this time everything old and new, well shuffled and transmogrified. Holy spinachia!

Then an hour (part of which I skipped) of Gilligan discoursing on the New Year, and "people who have tasted the bitter nectar of this world." This wrapped up at midnight with a reprise of selected shots of Gilligan, the fastbuck leaping, crowd chanting, and then several minutes of station identification, "WO8CK Madison, Wisc.", after which, without further ado, the station went off the air.

Talk about bizarre... And like I say, this one was not a dream...

Eerie overtones of a recurring dream I used to have back round and about my teenage years— of coming down early in the morning, turning on the TV, tuning around, and discovering a mysterious "Channel 29," with surreal dream-logic shows featuring a robot named Candlestick Parker, and the Secret Spy with the Soda-Straw Camera which "took" not photographs but cartoons. I remember how that dream came to symbolize for me the sense almost of awe, which I came in those years to connect with the practice of tuning around on the airwaves. A sense of awe which led me to realize, even at that age, that not all synthetic a priori's are listed in Kant: to space, time, number, logic, causality, qualities, we must add at the very least the radio dial. Cassirer, who guarded so fiercely the mutual independence of his various symbolic forms, would have understood.

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