Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On Google+ and Coke Bottles "On the Beach"

If you're going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you're going to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some gentle people there - ©1967 John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas

Way back last century, a movie was made called "On the Beach". It starred Ava Gardner and some other people whose names I've forgotten. I could Google them of course, but why bother?

The point of my remembering "On the Beach" lies in one particular scene - the Coke bottle scene.

To explain - to those younger than 100 - "On the Beach" is set in Melbourne, Australia post 1959, after a global nuclear war has resulted in life being destined to be destroyed in a matter of months. People in Melbourne, including a number of Americans from various branches of the US military, are aware that most of the inhabitants of earth will soon die. Except that is, those at the very bottom of the southern hemisphere, although they too will eventually sucumb to radioactive poisoning resulting from the nuclear fallout. The idea being that, though started in the northern hemisphere, the radioactivity will move south due to gravitational pull (a bit suss ...). And so ... those people in Melbourne are still alive but are the last survivors and their end is nigh.

I remember when the film was being shot in Melbourne. We'd all grown up in a city that no one had ever heard of. A cultural no-man's-land. A nowhere place. Pre-internet, pre nearly everything. But here we were, courtesy of Stanley Kramer, at last, on the map.

The star of "On the Beach", Ava Gardner, on arriving in Melbourne was quoted in the Murdoch press as saying that Melbourne was "an appropriate city in which to film the end of the world". This was before Murdoch-gate and so we all believed her.

Anyway, I digress. There's a scene in "On the Beach" where the US military in Melbourne start receiving Morse code signals from a US military station in San Francisco. Yep, Morse code. Ancient history - Melbourne - a place I grew up in, getting end of the world messages! Who is sending the messages? The military men (there were no military women back then) scratch their crew-cuts. Could it be that San Francisco was not after all destroyed by nuclear war?

The men meet - and military-men-like - ponder. A DECISION is made. The Americans based in Melbourne are asked to volunteer to take a submarine to the Northern hemisphere to INVESTIGATE. And so the hero - was he Gregory Peck? - says goodbye to Ava Gardner. He and his men must depart. On the submarine, the "USS Sawfish", to see if there is anyone still alive in San Francisco. And WHO is sending the messages.

Of course, this means Gregory Peck will never see Ava Gardner again because the end of the world will happen before the sub can return. There's just enough time before the radioactivity kicks in, for the "Sawfish" to reach San Francisco to see who is sending out the Morse code signals.

The Sawfish arrives in San Francisco Bay and the best of the crew (in looks) volunteers to venture out in radio-activity-land, to find the source of the Morse code messages.

Half a Cinema-Scope day later, the brave marine volunteer locates the source of the signal. The neck of a Coke bottle has fallen into the pull-ring of a blind in an office window at Marine Head Quarters, and lying on the desk top the bottle is swaying slightly in the breeze (the window is open), hitting sporadically on a Morse code machine, causing it to transmit random Morse code signals.

So much for intelligent life.

Now if I were a film director, I'd do a re-make. I'd do the same Coke bottle thing but I'd set the Morse code machine somewhere in the Kalahi Desert. A Bushman would find the Coke bottle and would be in awe. He'd take it back to his small village and the village people would fight over it.

The Bushman would get worried about the trouble it was causing. He would then decide to return the Coke bottle to God - where he thinks it came from. A white school teacher assigned to the small village would fall in love with a white anthologist and have words with a despotic revolutionary. A clumsy biologist would fall for the teacher but would not think he had a chance against the despotic revolutionary. All good stuff. Meanwhile the Bushman would look really cute and get into lots of adventures. Eventually the clumsy biologist would win the affections of the white school teacher and - well you get the picture.

But I digress again ....

Back to reality. The reason I got stuck on the Coke bottle image this week is that I joined Google Plus.

I set it all up. Did my profile thingy. Set up my "Circles", although I did not have enough people to make a "Huddle".

And then I waited.

And nothing happened.

It felt like something, but what was it? I'd been there before ... I wondered how to describe my "status" my 140 characters. My geo-location. My whatever.

I wracked my brains. I posted threads, strings, snippets. To no avail. No one was listening. No one replied.

And then all became clear.

I was like the Coke bottle in "On the Beach" in San Francisco last century - emitting meaningless syllables to a place 12,000 miles away.

When was "On The Beach" made? In 1959 according to IMDB. That's about right.

1959 - 2011. Nothing much has changed.

... - .- -.-- - ..- -. . -..


Anonymous said...

Ectually the Coke bottle was in...Bremerton, Washington State and it was in the Navy Comm Center. How do i know that? 'Cause my mind is chockablock with trivia. And I passed thru Bremerton just a week ago. Did i see any Coke bottles? Nope, but lots of trash.

Vanessa said...

Well, could be worse, could be Pepsi, or even worse, Mountain Dew!

sent from my new cheapo netbook

Anonymous said...

"Thank you Vanessa."

Precious One.

Ron Beckett said...

The radio station in the movie was the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (Australia) HF Transmitting Station (aka Beam Wireless) at Rockbank in Victoria, Australia. I joined OTC(A) in 1965 as a trainee radio tech and knew quite a few of the techs from Rocky.

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