I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx


by Thomas Michalski
March 21, 2018
To say Jacqueline Susann’s 1966 sensational novel Valley of the Dolls was a bestseller is something of an understatement. By the time of the author’s death from breast cancer in 1974, the Guinness Book of World Records had certified it the best seller, as in “of all time”. The success of the novel, which chronicles the sordid private lives of a trio of pill-popping young starlets, long rumored to be based on real life actresses, was almost instantaneous, and it followed that Hollywood, always looking to cash in, came calling soon after. With a sizable built in audience of bored housewives and other vicarious trashy thrill-seekers awaiting the adaptation, Mark Robson’s 1967 film of the same name was almost guaranteed to do brisk business at the box office, but unsurprisingly, the critics, including Roger Ebert, who later co-wrote the 1970 sequel/parody Beyond the Valley of the Dolls with the breast-obsessed director Russ Meyers, panned it, just like their peers had done the book. They did however, have reason to, the film is a confused, clunky experience, but that didn’t stop a small but devoted audience, especially among the LGBT community, from repeating its endlessly quotable dialogue and keeping the faith at screenings. Put short, it’s a cult classic, but not an unlikely one; in fact, there’s no way this movie couldn’t have become one...
Thomas Michalski is a writer and radio host from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. You can keep up with his comings and goings over at http://www.voodooinspector.com/

by Brian Correia
March 20, 2018

“This is the true story... of eight strangers... picked to live in a house...work together and have their lives taped... to find out what happens... when people stop being polite... and start getting real... The Real World.”

You know what it is. With one measly sentence, the world was introduced to what would become known as “reality TV.” And what better place for the format to debut than MTV (Music Television), a station that until shortly before The Real World's 1992 debut, primarily played new wave music videos? Well, that's what the show's co-creators Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray thought, anyway. We have them to thank (or blame) for 20 years of sex, booze, and bitch slaps (not to mention my favorite reality TV image, Survivor champ Richard Hatch's pixelated penis.) But the truth is, the network that today drags TV down to new depths with trashploitation shows like My Super Sweet 16 and, of course, Jersey Shore, was once a magnet for young (and weird!) artists with fresh voices...

Brian Correia is a budding computer scientist and aspiring writer from Boston, Massachusetts who couldn't decide which hip-hop lyric to put in his byline. The top three, in no particular order, were as follows: “cooler than a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce,” “spiced out Calvin Coolidge loungin' with six duelers,” and “I got techniques drippin' out my buttcheeks.” He is on Twitter (@brianmcorreia) and Tumblr (brianmcorreia.tumblr.com) like the rest of the kids.

by Joe DeMartino
March 10, 2018

There’s an old joke about the problem of writing in space.  Traditional ballpoint pens can be used only with difficulty on a rocket or space station -- there’s no gravity to pull the ink toward the tip of the pen, so there’s a lot of shaking and frustration involved. As they were both sending men into space in the same general time period, NASA and the Russian space program set out to solve the problem simultaneously. NASA threw several million dollars worth of research into developing a kind of Space Pen, which utilized complex engineering in order to funnel the ink in the proper direction. It went through several trial phases, experienced numerous setbacks, and ended up being behind schedule and over budget, but NASA eventually found itself with a working Space Pen, which it made standard issue on all subsequent flights.

The Russians used a pencil...

Joe DeMartino is a Connecticut-based writer who grew up wanting to be Ted Williams, but you would not BELIEVE how hard it is to hit a baseball, so he gave that up because he writes words OK. He talks about exploding suns, video games, karaoke, and other cool shit at his blog. He can be emailed at jddemartino@gmail.com and tweeted at @thetoycannon. He writes about sports elsewhere. The sports sells better.

by Jake Goldman
March 1, 2018

Not long ago, I attended an exhibit featuring the work of comic book artists from the 40s, 50s and 60s.  Not knowing a whole lot about comic books, I found myself awestruck at the wall-sized prints depicting Captain America beating down a gaggle of Nazi soldiers.  Captain America first appeared in 1941 by Timely Comics (who would later become what we now know as Marvel) [1] as an over-the-top tool of propaganda.  In fact, in that very issue, you will find Captain America socking der Fuhrer right in the kisser. 

Of course, comic book artists weren’t the only folks using their medium as an exploitative platform.  Disney famously made Der Fuehrer’s Face in 1942, an anti-Nazi propaganda film starring Donald Duck which won an Oscar [and which you can watch on Network Awesome - ed.] [2]  Still, not everyone could afford a trip to the theater and not every household owned a television.  Comic books, for that reason, had a somewhat larger pull than the more advanced mediums of the time. And even more, they knew exactly who they were reaching out to: the future of America.  Future soldiers.  Future leaders. The young men who would want to suit up for the red, white and blue were the ones holding those thin pages, staining their fingers black.

Jake Goldman is a writer and a teacher. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.  Occasionally he writes songs.  If you are so inclined, check out Internetdogfist.com for words and Otsego.Bandcamp.com for music.

by Lindsay Long
Feb. 22, 2018
One of the more enigmatic and unique sounds to emerge from England’s burgeoning 70’s punk scene was the female fronted X-Ray Spex. After witnessing an inspirational Sex Pistols performance, former flower child Marianne Joan Elliot-Said decided to form a punk rock band. In late 1976 with help from her boyfriend/manager Falcon Stuart, she took out ads in Melody Maker and NME seeking “young punx who want to stick it together.” Shedding her real name for that of Poly Styrene, she installed teenage saxophonist Susan Whitby, Paul Dean, Paul B.P. Hurding, and Jack Stafford to hurl her anti-consumerist lyrics into the faces of London’s rebellious youth. The sax lent an atypical approach to the three-chord aesthetic of classic punk rock with slightly funky tinges and a definite new wave angle. Alongside Jak Airport’s soaring guitar and Poly’s (at times abrasive and shrill, rarely melodic and sweet) voice, the band was able to become an overnight sensation. Only their second live appearance was onstage at the Roxy and they even managed to take up a near residency at local Man on the Moon pub. Recording companies were eager to cash in on the punk rock craze, and X-Ray Spex released their first single “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” on Virgin. The song became a proto riot grrrl anthem and is still heralded as one of the finest punk singles released. Although Poly claimed the song actually stressed strong anti-consumerism views rather than remarks on sexism. It is still no mistake that she became widely recognized as an innovative feminist figure in an aggressive scene dominated by nihilistic young men. Born of British Somali descent and unabashedly wearing braces, Poly Styrene was an audacious archetype for rock n’ roll front woman. Denouncing the idea of being conceived as a sex symbol, she in turn became a punk poster child, often receiving more recognition than the actual band itself. Whitby, better known as Lora Logic, was replaced early on by Glyn John then eventually Rudi Thomson, but also must be credited as a crucial role in the early incarnation of X-Ray Spex. Being only fifteen at the time, Logic left the band to pursue her education. She would later go on to form Essential Logic and work with several influential acts throughout her own interesting post-punk career...
Currently holdin’ it down in the dirty south city of Atlanta, Network Awesome contributor Lindsay can be found frequenting house parties, punk rock shows, seedy thrift stores, or glued to her computer screen unearthing the endless gems today's internet offers. A self-proclaimed fan of all things vintage, including the nudie mags of yesteryear, she possesses an insatiable appetite for anything visually mind-blowing or just totally tasteless. Notorious B.I.G. sums her up best with a line from ‘Gimme the Loot': ”Dangerous. Crazier than a bag of f*@#$%g angel dust.”