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I can't go for that (no can do)

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Navy personnel on the Bikini Atoll in advance of nuclear testing on the island as seen in "Radio Bikini" from 1988.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Originally aired on January 7, 2015, ABC’s hit show Modern Family highlighted a situation where the Dunphy family is cruising along while Hall & Oates’ 1981 hit “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” is cranked and, while distracted, family patriarch Phil nearly crashes into a truck with the words “Mata Service Hauling” painted on it. ("Mata" may be street slang, as noted here).

It was an episode titled “The Day We Almost Died” and that line “no can do” comes up a lot, and makes for a good punchline, particularly when spoken by the amusing Eric Stonestreet, who plays Cameron Tucker. 

After their near-fatal car crash, the family members vow to "change their ways" and be better people after a close brush with death.

Anyway, while I was in the car the other day, I thought about that episode as “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” came on. My companion and I laughed about it and wondered just what was it that Daryl Hall and John Oates would not do. You know … “no can do.”

And while John Oates has given his explanation (here), I think it’s a song that is open to interpretation.

So, early the following morning, I was watching the truly upsetting 1988 documentary Radio Bikini, about the U.S. government’s decision to use the Marshall Islands – and Bikini Atoll, in particular – as a nuclear testing ground for their powerful new radioactive weapons.

There are interviews with Bikinians and a serviceman named John Smitherman – who, you learn later in the documentary has been horribly disfigured by being exposed to nuclear radiation during the tests, a fate that befell many Marshallese during those years of using those peaceful people as “guinea pigs” for their monstrous ends.

Anyway, while incorporating old footage from (it appears) 1946, when the powerful “Able” test was being readied for "Operation Crossroads" on Bikini. You see signs put up by Navy personnel, including one, nailed to a coconut tree which says "NO CAN DO!" The name of the nuclear bomb, oddly enough, was "Gilda," after (bombshell) Rita Hayworth's character in the film Gilda, which was released that same year. Orson Welles would later recall that Hayworth, to whom he was married at the time, was not happy about her likeness being placed on the atom bomb.

Said Welles: "Rita used to fly into terrible rages all the time but the angriest was when she found out that they'd put her on the atom bomb. Rita almost went insane, she was so angry. She wanted to go to Washington, D.C. to hold a press conference, but Harry Cohn wouldn't let her because it would be unpatriotic."

A clip of Gilda appears in the Monkees film Head, interestingly enough. And then there is the whole David Lynch connection. In his 2001 film Mulholland Drive, Laura Harring's character, who is suffering with amnesia, assumes the name of 'Rita' after seeing a poster for Gilda. With the Buenos Aires, Argentina connection to Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Twin Peaks: The Return, clearly Lynch is very taken by the themes in Gilda and some of the underlying, esoteric connections to that 1946 film noir. In fact, PopMatters.com, a site for which I have written, takes a deeper look at Gilda ... 

But I digress ... 

What was the purpose of that NO CAN DO! sign? Just what would they not do? We now know that the U.S. government flat-out lied to the Bikinian people about their tests being for the "good of mankind" and that the Bikinians and other Marshallese people would be taken care of. That did not happen - and many, many people suffered and even died. 

And here we are, in 2017, on this 72nd anniversary of the senseless atomic attack on Hiroshima, Japan (and a few days later on Nagasaki) and a nearby neighbor of Japan - North Korea - is allegedly threatening to send a nuke to the U.S. and send the planet into a pointless death spiral. And for what? Truly insane people are running the world and no one seems to be doing anything to stop this madness!

Nuclear proliferation? More war? I can't go for that - NO CAN DO!

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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