Ray Bradbury Theater – To the Chicago Abyss (S3E9)

Against boredom even gods struggle in vain — Friedrich Nietzsche.

I have heard that phrase all my life but was never interested enough — or bored enough — to look up the context.  So RBT is, at least, contributing to my education.

From Nietzsche’s The Antichrist (1895).  The gods are indeed bored, and that is the reason for the creation of man.  Of course, being gods, they are right, and “man is entertaining.” But now man himself is bored — doh!

The know-it-all gods have an answer for everything, so they create animals to entertain men.  But men are not entertained by animals — at least not until YouTube.

“He sought dominion over [the animals].”

I don’t see these as being mutually exclusive — man can use the dominion over them to force bears to ride bicycles, tigers to jump through flaming hoops and monkeys to really do anything, including being eaten by a bear riding a bicycle — that’s entertainment!

The gods aren’t too concerned about the boredom of the animals, so they take another crack at curing man’s boredom.  Not that they made a mistake the first time!!!  No siree, these are the best and the brightest, the gods, infallible, omnipotent beings, our moral and intellectual superiors in every way.

“So God created woman. In the act he brought boredom to an end — and also many other things!”

I’m not sure what he’s getting at there other than watching TV in your underwear and drinking milk from the carton.  Then Nietzsche really goes off the rails.

“Woman was the second mistake of God — Woman, at bottom, is a serpent, Heva — every priest knows that; from woman comes every evil in the world — every priest knows that, too.”

He then goes on to blame woman for the rise of science, as if that was a terrible thing.  Cuz you know, someone’s gonna put an eye out with the science.

Rrrrright.  I think someone needed a Fraulein.

But that is all from Chapter 48.  Maybe I am still not understanding the context.  Maybe Chapter 49 is called, “Found my Meds, Did I Say Anything Stupid Yesterday?”

Next Week: Where are those mills, and how exactly do they grind so exceedingly small?

But back to Ray Bradbury Theater which bored me in the first place.

rbtchicagoabyss01Harold Gould is scavenging in a trashy possibly post-apocalyptic city when his attention is caught by a woman knitting with real wool — obviously a rarity in this world. He sees a young man lighting up a freshly rolled cigarette and begins wistfully reeling off the names of cigarettes from his youth, presumably our present.

He then goes on in classic Bradbury-is-meant-for-the-printed-page soliloquy about Butterfingers, limes, oranges. The young man roughs him up for reminding him of better times; like before he started speaking.

When he leaves, another man helps him up, saying he had heard of him.  He warns Gould of dangerous memories, sneaking him into an abandoned building where he lives with other like-minds.  Gould is stunned that the man offers him wine.  Cops bang on the door offering canned good for information about Gould.

Despite the temptation, the do not give him up.  The police begin to leave, then turn and up the ante with, “Beans.  Soup.  15 cans.”

The man doesn’t give in.  He seems like a good egg despite calling his wife “Wife” and calling Gould “Old Man.”  He sends Wife to round up their neighbors to hear Gould’s stories of the old days.

And Bradbury lets loose with more of his signature rambles about motion picture houses, popcorn, Orange Crush, phonograph records, dial telephones, harmonicas, kazoos, Jew’s harps, dashboard dials on a Cadillac, etc.

As he goes on, the police bang on the door of the meeting.  The man hustles Gould out of site, and down the fire escape.  The man gives him a ticket on the only remaining train which will take him to the titular Chicago Abyss where the city used to stand — now a crater.

He takes the train, which makes Snowpiercer look like Acela.

Harold Gould does a great job, standing with David Ogden Stiers as the only ones to really make Bradbury’s flowery words work on the screen.

In truth, this episode was no worse than many others, and was certainly better than The Haunting of the New.  In fairness, the rant about boredom would have been more appropriate there; but the cumulative effect is wearing me down.


  • I’m not sure if it is a coincidence that Gould and Stiers were so effective in their delivery, and the stories were so similar.  Both take place in a fascistic future society where simple pleasures like taking a walk or being nostalgic are criminal offenses.
  • RBT got themselves a real director for a change.  Randy Bradshaw has 40 credits including 21 Jump Street, Goosebumps and the 1980’s Twilight Zone reboot.

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