Friday, July 24, 2015

Show Notes for HMOTD 011: Pig versus Fish

1:20 "It's like something out of Grant Morrison's Animal Man..." I'm thinking specifically here of the famous issue "The Coyote Gospel," where the archetypal Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner dyad is posited as some kind of great cosmic statement. This deconstructionist analysis of the issue is pretty good.

3:30 Raoul Plager. Raoul Plager anagrams to "Legal Uproar," "Argue Pallor," and "A [sic] Oral Gulper." So I dunno.

10:10 James Gregory. He really does look a lot like Jerry Hardin.

10:45 "Gravelly-voiced character actor Jerry Hardin": The death of Deep Throat in Season 1 of The X-Files... still can't process this 20+ years later.

11:35 "How are you getting on with your hotel inspector?" Probably to my mind the worst episode of Fawlty Towers, but you can't deny it's always great to hear Prunella Scales snap, "BASIL!" And here's the Army Recruitment Office sketch. The slapstick deconstruction really kicks in at 5:53.

15:00 "And then when the pig comes out of the stall..." The look on the WPIG pig's face, even though yes, you can't see his face... it's just all so delightful. And the "guy who plays the pig" is Lee Bergere, another Hollywood and TV stalwart who had a guest spot on Hogan's Heroes as... German Major Wolfgang Karp. WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS

16:30 "I'm a giant carp, Andy!" Frank Bonner is earning his keep in this episode, let me tell you.

17:30 Creepy old Halloween costumes: This is a good sampler of creepy Halloween costumes. I especially like the literal Sir Francis BACON costume in number 2.

18:20 "My Mom always made us these great Halloween costumes." [Rob] Cute, creepy, or uncanny valley? You make the call.

"... And that is definitely not Miss Piggy."

[Mike] This... this explains so much, Rob.

19:00 The Golden Age of Mascots/The San Diego "Famous" Chicken: You have to read the San Diego Chicken Wikipedia entry because the story of the Chicken is really the story of America. Cartoon character for, yes, a local radio station becomes real-life mascot. Mascot actor becomes famous and wants to take the character with him when he has a conflict with the station. Replacement mascot is booed off the field. Character is then literally reborn in a ritualistic ceremony at the ballpark. And since then, it's been nothing but peaches and cream for the "Famous" Chicken. I remember him fondly from The Baseball Bunch. Also, yes, Rob just had to taint my innocent childhood memories of the San Diego Chicken with the ad that Ted Giannoulas cut for Anthrocon, the nation's number-one fursuit and furry lifestyle convention. No, I'm not linking to Anthrocon here.

Edit: Hi guys, Mike here. I feel bad I didn't do my due diligence on the secret occult history of mascots, because mascots LITERALLY HAVE a secret occult history:
The word mascot has been traced back to a dialectal use in Provence and Gascony in France, where it was used to describe anything which brought luck to a household. The French word "mascotte" (Proven├žal version: "mascoto") means talisman, charm, and is derivative of the word "masco" meaning sorceress. 
The word was first popularized in 1880, when French composer Edmond Audran wrote a popular comic operetta titled La Mascotte. However, it had been in use in France long before this, as French slang among gamblers, derived from the Occitan word masco, meaning "witch" (perhaps from Portuguese mascotto, meaning "witchcraft"), and also mascoto, meaning "spell".
22:10 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Of course, let us not neglect to note that the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders became such a pop culture phenomenon that, yes, the inevitable porn movie inspired by them was released and became fairly legendary.

23:00 Alfie's: Rob, I hate to say this, but I looked up Alfie in the "Queen's Encyclopedia" and... dude looks like Albert Fish.

24:00 The Phillie Phanatic: Yes, the Phillie Phanatic is a product of, well, a committee, Poochie-style, between the Harrison/Erickson marketing agency (Bonnie Erickson, the founder, is better known as the designer of Miss Piggy, Statler and Waldorf, and several other more humanoid Muppets) and the Phillies' marketing department.

24:25 Wally the Green Monster: We could tell the story of the time my wife saw Wally the Green Monster, much like this episode of WKRP, struggling in the ladies' room but I'm afraid any more details as to where and when would out that Wally and get them in trouble for violating the Mascot Code for taking off the headpiece of a costume in public. So instead I'll link to one of my favorite SportsCenter mascot-related commercials.

24:50 "A friendly-looking oriole mascot": Here's the history of the Oriole on the cap of the Baltimore Orioles. It seems like 1978 and 1979 were the time of mascots hatching all over America left and right, because the Oriole mascot debuted in... yes, 1979.

27:15 "All I could think of was the Manson Family": It was actually the Gary Hinman murder that featured "political piggy" written on the wall in blood, while the Sharon Tate murders featured just "pig" and the LaBianca murders had "death to pigs." The Manson Family: missing the self-incrimination potential of trademark M.O.s since 1969.

27:45 Weird animal masks: Let's go for a double Grant Morrison reference here; The Invisibles featured a memorable, disturbing scene with men in animal masks. (By the way, here's a series of articles that link up the aesthetic of The Invisibles with hauntology, which I've blogged about here before extensively, and which in Part 2 mentions the animal masks in the window of the House of Fun.) And of course this much-maligned current season of True Detective has more sinister men in animal masks doing horrible business. Obviously, all of this goes back to the pagan holiday progression tradition expertly and hauntologically evoked in the 1973 movie The Wicker Man.

28:05 "Of course you've heard of the Central Intelligence Agency..." MKUltra and the story of Frank Olson are probably old hat to a lot of you in the audience.

28:55 "Every comedian has a preacher character..." Mark McKinney also played a preacher in another of my favorite long-form Kids in the Hall sketches, Sex Girl Patrol.

33:00 Haystack Calhoun: You can (and probably should) call him "Haystacks" Calhoun, which I did not know.

37:00 Rain down toads: One of my favorite stories about the making of Magnolia was how the movie's climactic rain of frogs, which Paul Thomas Anderson put into the movie as an explicitly Fortean event, was put into Biblical context for PTA by Henry Gibson, who handed him the verse in Exodus (8:2) which PTA then proceeded to put everywhere in the movie as Easter eggs.

39:00 Championship belts: The history of the championship belt is actually cloaked in secrecy and mystery; surely, the belt has been an emblem of power dating back to the legend of Hippolyta's girdle among Hercules's labors, but the modern boxing championship belt dates to the 1820s in British bare-knuckle boxing.

39:20: Vince McMahon: Edit: Check out this quote from Vince on the WWF's rise. It's positively Game of Thrones-ian:
In the old days, there were wrestling fiefdoms all over the country, each with its own little lord in charge. Each little lord respected the rights of his neighboring little lord. No takeovers or raids were allowed. There were maybe 30 of these tiny kingdoms in the U.S. and if I hadn't bought out my dad, there would still be 30 of them, fragmented and struggling. I, of course, had no allegiance to those little lords.
All hail Vincent, first of his name.

42:10 The Mountain Goats: I read probably every article about the Mountain Goats' Beat the Champ when it came out; as the Mountain Goats are my favorite band and secret pop culture history is kind of my bailiwick these days, I couldn't wait to listen to it. I'd recommend checking out this article on John Darnielle's favorite wrestling promos if you want to get a sense of his wrestling fandom.

46:30 John R. Brinkley: This is not a story I was familiar with prior to this episode of the podcast, but Rob does have a Research skill specialty in quacks, kooks, and crackpots.

48:45 "All of these preachers have their downfall..." When the top pop culture icons of religiosity all end up falling within a 1-2 year period, and you're 11, 12 years old and God-fearingly Catholic... let's just say you remember these events crystallinely well.

51:10 Randall Balmer: This article, "Jesus Is Not a Republican," I remember reading when it first was published about 10 years ago.

55:07 Hard Times: And again, let's square the HMOTD circle, (while apparently studiously committing a wrestling pun) by combining wrestling, preaching, and the economic collapse of the blue-collar working class in the early 1980s in one wrestling promo. Ric Flair put hard times on Dusty Rhodes, just how another pompadoured showman put hard times on the American people. Now I can't stop picturing Ronald Reagan going "WOOOOOO" after firing all the air traffic controllers.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

HMOTD 011: Pig versus Fish

Mike & Rob praise "Fish Story" and wrestle with "Preacher," the last two episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati's first season.

(Full show notes appear at Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser two days after each episode is released. All audio clips are the properties of their owners/creators and appear in this work of comment and critique under fair use provisions of copyright law.)

Check out this episode!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Let's All Have Another Drink!

Well, here we are: the final episodes of WKRP In Cincinnati's first season, "Fish Story" and "Preacher." And appropriately, the penultimate podcast episode of this first season of Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser. Episode 11 will be up this Wednesday. (Remember, we have our Season Review podcast going up in a couple of weeks.)

When Rob and I started this project, we were really entering into uncharted waters. I'd rarely even listened to podcasts and had certainly never done any kind of audio editing or engineering. Sure, I can hold a 50-minute conversation about one of my many niche interests pretty well, but who knew if anyone would listen to a dozen or so such conversations between Rob and myself (and our capable, engaging guest hosts) about our own niche interests, which you've probably noticed by this point are not solely limited to WKRP.

A lot of you did. And you spread the word. And we've come to the end of our first podcast season having learned a lot. I listened to our first five episodes this week at work and man, we have grown in leaps and bounds since we started recording in January.

So I want to take this opportunity to thank you, the listeners, for your support, advice, and as always those important clicks. Here's looking at you.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Show Notes for HMOTD 010: Rock Throw, WV

Reminder! You have exactly two more days to get listener mail to for our Season 1 wrap-up episode!

2:30 Arthur Dies at the End: I will direct you to Jeff Wikstrom's author page on Amazon where you should pick up all five parts of Arthur Dies at the End. I give it my enthusiastic Medievalist Seal of Approval.

5:20 "You're also a Mystery Science Theater fan." Here's the Shout! Factory MST3K tentpole page.

5:40 "It was Della and the Dealer and a dog named Jake..." "Della and the Dealer" hit Number 17 on the Country charts in 1979, and this was Hoyt Axton's first single off his 1979 LP A Rusty Old Halo. Also, to link up this note with the previous one, Hoyt wrote the theme song to classic MST3K movie Mitchell and "Della and the Dealer" appeared as a reference in at least two episodes of MST3K. It's a bit earwormy if you let it into your head. Damn you, Hoyt, and your affable avuncular country stylings.

11:10 "Fly Me to the Moon..." Home Theater Forum commenters, thou art avenged! Also, I love that Johnny can make a joke about Hare Krishnas just hanging out in the lobby of Jennifer's building. Also also: my top 3 favorite Jennifer appliances: 1) peanut butter maker, 2) the "hot dogger," whatever that is, and 3) the blender, for the Big Guy's sight gag, and for daiquiris, of course.

15:10 Rock Throw, WV: A digression here! We had to cut a very long discursive discussion inspired by a book by David Hackett Fischer, Albion's Seed, which looks at the four great waves of British immigration to the Americas as founding cultures of the United States: Puritans, Cavaliers, Quakers, and Scots-Irish. The Scots-Irish settled in the Appalachians and named their towns in very insouciant, casual ways:
Other backcountry names showed a spirit of improvisation which differed from naming customs in other regions. Back settlements were called Thicketty and Saltketcher (both in South Carolina), Licking Creek (Tennessee), Big Sandy, Kerless Knob, Tater Knob and Teeny Knob. A relaxed attitude toward naming in general appeared in Aho, whose founders were unable to agree upon a choice, and decided to take the first sound that was made in the new community. Other names in the same vein included Why Not, Odear, Shitbritches Creek, Naked Creek, Cuckold’s Creek, Stiffknee Knob, Big Fat Gap, Ben’s Ridge and Bert’s Creek and Charlie’s Bunion Mountain. This casual nomenclature was far removed from the naming ways of Puritans, Quakers and Cavaliers.
So Rock Throw sounds actually super accurate. I bet Hugh Wilson drove through tons of Appalachian towns like these going up and down the dial in his radio career.

16:00 "...Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother": Jeff shares this proviso with us: "I will note that I broke an unwritten rule of television criticism: I acknowledged the existence of How I Met Your Mother without mentioning the awful series finale and how it retroactively made the entire show that much worse."

18:30 Buzz Sapien: Here's Buzz Sapien's IMDB; he's done a lot of directing and very little acting, but damn if he doesn't steal that scene in the elevator. It's a corollary of our theory about Jan Smithers' naturalistic line reads being just what is needed in certain scenes.

[Rob:] Also, "Buzz Sapien" is a terrific name. He sounds like a character from Tank Girl, or 2000 A.D.

19:50 "I like country." One of the cuter scenes from a very cute episode of Lost, "Some Like It Hoth."

21:13 "A small number of my friends are gonna be closed-minded and reject me..." [Rob:] I've already caught some (good-humored) flak on Facebook for my confession here. What are you gonna do? Kris Kristofferson, tied with Willie Nelson as my favorite of the 1970s outlaws, makes the case for capacious musical tastes here.

22:00 Outlaw Country: Hey, Wikipedia will hook you up with a very good summary of the Outlaw Country movement.

23:15 "Joy to the World (Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog)." Unsurprisingly, Three Dog Night seem rather ambivalent about the success of their arguably most famous song.

23:50 "The counter-revolution of neotraditional country." Another possible example of the reactionary impulse of Reagan America to the malaise of the 1970s perhaps? Certainly. Another possible piece of support to our overarching HMOTD theory that WKRP charts the crucial point at which the country went from Carter to Reagan? MAYBE.

24:25 "I had to... make sure that Hoyt Axton was not the same person as Jim Stafford, or Roger Miller, or Roy Clark." Jim Stafford is the comedic country star who starred in the MST3K episode "Riding With Death." Roger Miller was King of the Road and yes, Alan-a-Dale in Disney's Robin Hood. Roy Clark was the host of Hee-Haw and that's all we'll say about that.

24:50 "I grew up in North Alabama back in the 1970s..." I mentioned "The Three Great Alabama Icons" in Monday's blog postSouthern Rock Opera, Drive-by Truckers. Seriously, give it a listen today.

27:22 "When I was in high school..."  [Jeff:] I related this anecdote expecting it to end up on the cutting room floor, alongside the description of a town called Evening Shade.  However Rob and Mike thought it was funny, so, sorry ASMS Class of 1997.

29:05 "Bubba didn't have an ironic bone in his body." [Rob:] I would also like a ruling on how offensive this was.

29:40 "Billy Carter threw up on Prince Sihanouk." From the "Tornado" episode. We couldn't find a place for it there, but boy, it fits in right here. This humorous fake news item also very eerily prefigures the moment of downfall of the first Bush presidency: the moment where George H.W. Bush vomited at a Japanese state dinner.

31:10 "He's such a little... skinny... tiny... half-man." Now you guys know why we wanted Jeff as a guest host on the podcast.

34:20 "There was a poll, who was your favorite Friend?" Yes, here it is. Also check my comment in the comment section where I ask the Gif Oracle to "gif me the most unlikable paleontologist in new york."

36:15 "Oh Agent Starling, you think you can dissect me with this blunt little tool?" Whew. What can I say about Thomas Harris? His rehabilitation began with the surprising revelation that David Foster Wallace was teaching him in his writing classes. I think that 50 years from now, he'll be considered a writer of the Southern Gothic at the level of a William Faulkner or Flannery O'Connor or Truman Capote or Tennessee Williams. Harris writes cops well, and Southern cops well, and understands the ins and outs of Southern culture in this New South moment in the late 70s/early 80s. Red Dragon, an artifact of this WKRP period, is well worth a read and also well worth a critical re-appraisal. The entire novel, with the exception of a sojourn in Chicago at Freddy Lounds's National Tattler (see? late 70s/early 80s tabloids, another hobby horse of mine!), occurs in Southern or border states, including the memorable flashback coda at Shiloh. The Hannibal Lecter of the books is a witty observer of the cornpone authority figures he has to deal with in his captivity, to the extent that I cannot imagine TV Hannibal, the Dane Mads Mikkelsen, being able to deliver these lines about Clarice's West Virginia roots with the arch irony and self-awareness that Anthony Hopkins did in this scene from Demme's The Silence of the Lambs. (I still like bull-necked Brian Cox's Hannibal "Lecktor" in Manhunter best, though.)

[Rob:] Nice choice of clip, Mike. Now I want somebody with a good Anthony Hopkins impression to redub that bit so he's talking to Jennifer: "While you could only dream of getting out, getting anywhere, getting all the way to W... K... R... P!"

37:15 "How hick became hip." CB radio. "Convoy." Li'l Abner. Barney Google and Snuffy Smith. The Beverly Hillbillies and the eventual largely-CBS Rural Purge. Deliverance. Smokey and the BanditThe Dukes of Hazzard, awfully timely lately, and its antecedent, the more brutal hixploitation movie Moonrunners. And the New South. The Rural Purge Wikipedia article also points me to a Roy Clark song called "The Lawrence Welk-Hee Haw Counter-Revolution Polka," which pretty much squares the circle of the first ten episodes of Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser in one song.

[Rob:] Mike's thoughtful Monday post already explained how this podcast was recorded before the heinous murders in Charleston, South Carolina triggered some overdue conversations about the Confederate Battle Flag. By no means the least surreal part of that conversation was the spectacle of Bo Duke and ex-Congressman Ben "Cooter" Jones weighing in to defend the flag. Me, I go back to what I said in Episode 2, about "Les on a Ledge": when you're dealing with history, you have to handle the idea that Things Can Be Both. The Dukes of Hazzard was a silly, lovable kids TV show (even Ta-Nehisi Coates loved it), AND that flag is an irredeemable symbol of white supremacy and hate. Both.

40:58 "The South is this weird appendage..." [Jeff:] I'm pretty sure I lifted this insightful cultural analysis from Lewis Grizzard circa 1992. [Rob:] I thought you might be riffing on the historian Ed Ayers, who has observed (he can't be the only one) that the South is simultaneously held to be distinct from, and the most American part of, America.

41:35 "Here's all of the rich people making fun of all of the poor people." [Rob:] While I always enjoy a good dig at Andy, to me this is the line where Jeff totally earns his keep.

42:46 "Except over here in the corner there's the bit where they sing the theme from Rawhide." [Jeff:] Rolling rolling rolling... [Rob:] Talk about segregating country music from the rich American stew of which it is unquestionably a part. They literally perform that number in a cage! (Also, the Rawhide theme is really not country music. Hmph.)

[Mike:] But Jake and Elwood also play Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man!" Which ends up winning the crowd over! Which gives me an excuse to link to the KLF's "Justified and Ancient" for no good reason.

45:15 "Is this the worst episode of WKRP?" This is really just a rhetorical question.

48:00 Gas leak episodes. Noted Community fan Jeff will surely get on me if I do not acknowledge that Season 4 of Community was commonly termed "the gas leak year."

1:02:58 "The kid is not into the music on WKRP." [Jeff:] My wife pointed out that Young Master Carlson turns off "Soul Man," a song that's part of the soul/R&B/rock/jazz black American tradition, in favor of the whitest music possible, John Phillip Sousa.  Which makes this gag even more problematic, yay!

1:04:45 "A tax is a terrible... hairy... liberal monster." Probably my favorite bit of this week's episode. Generation-X Demonic Republican Changelings in your crib! There's a book/movie/RPG to be written here, kind of an American version of Village of the Damned/The Midwich Cuckoos.

1:07:50 "You can't do that!! You cannot do that!" Rob here assiduously refuses to deploy the H-Bomb.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

HMOTD 010: Rock Throw, WV

Rob & Mike enlist the help of noted Community fan Jeff Wikstrom in navigating two unloved episodes of WKRP: "I Do, I Do... For Now" and "Young Master Carlson."
(Full show notes appear at Hold My Order, Terrible Dresser two days after each episode is released. All audio clips are the properties of their owners/creators and appear in this work of comment and critique under fair use provisions of copyright law.)

Check out this episode!

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Duality of the Northern Thing

As I write this post, I'm listening to the Drive-By Truckers' "The Three Great Alabama Icons."

It's a track that's spiky and edgy, but still kind of jazzy, mellow. It's a great distillation then, in words and music, of the paradoxes of growing up in the South, white, in the 1970s. It's not something I know about nor would assert I could comfortably talk about. So I'll let Patterson Hood do it.

In the last few months, as we've done this podcast, I've been diving into 1970s history and, in a lot of ways, my own family's history. And not just funny childhood photos, either, but real tangible ways in which my family intersected with history.

"You know, racism is a worldwide problem, and it's been since the beginning of recorded history, and it ain't just white and black, but thanks to George Wallace, it's always a little more convenient to play it with a Southern accent."

Patterson Hood, "The Three Great Alabama Icons"

"[In the 1976 Massachusetts Democratic Presidential primary] Wallace came in third with 17 (though he scored 68 and 61 percent respectively in South Boston's two wards)."

Rick Perlstein, The Invisible Bridge

"My cousin was a speechwriter for Louise Day Hicks."

email from my mom, June 14, 2015, after reading The Invisible Bridge

In 1974, the year before I was born, the busing crisis in Boston began. Desegregation was going to come to the insular Irish enclaves of Boston — Charlestown, South Boston, and to a certain extent Dorchester — by hook or by crook. And this is where the pure, unfettered racism of the citizens of my city, Boston, was laid bare. This was the time of stones thrown at school buses, of rampant threats to city officials, of men assaulted with the American flag.

I grew up knowing this. I grew up with these images on TV 10, 15 years after this spasm of violence and racism. I lived in a suburb, lily-white and Catholic. Archie Bunker Land, the tightly-packed, bathtub Virgin Mary-bedecked homes of Nixon's aspirational "silent majority," who all became Reagan "Democrats" in 1980.

My parents and I didn't talk politics a lot as I was growing up; when I was a senior in high school and Bill Clinton was running, I was so full of adolescent indignation of 12 years of Republican rule that 1992 was my political awakening. And to be sure, my parents instilled me with a lot of fair, equitable values that I like to think I internalized at an early age.

And yet. And yet. There were the racist jokes from extended members of my family at barbecues and "times" and holiday gatherings. There were the racist rhymes chanted on the playground that I naturally parroted in an effort to fit in and not be further bullied. And there was the revelation, all the way in 2015, more than 40 years after busing, that members of my mom's Irish family were actively involved in the effort to keep Boston schools segregated.

The hand behind that American flag staff was, essentially, my family's own.

"Somewhere out there beyond the firmament, past the asteroid belt, there were other worlds where children did not regularly fear for their bodies. I knew this because there was a large television in my living room. In the evenings I would sit before this television bearing witness to the dispatches from this other world. There were little white boys with complete collections of football cards, their only want was a popular girlfriend and their only worry was poison oak. That other world was suburban and endless, organized around pot roasts, blueberry pies, fireworks, ice cream sundaes, immaculate bathrooms, and small toy trucks that were loosed in wooded backyards with streams and endless lawns. Comparing these dispatches with the facts of my native world, I came to understand that my country was a galaxy, and this galaxy stretched from the pandemonium of West Baltimore to the happy hunting grounds of Mr. Belvedere."

"Letter to My Son," Ta-Nehisi Coates

We recorded this week's podcast before the events in Charleston, South Carolina. Before the sweeping wave of... seriously-delayed awakening? Collective guilt? led to people taking down the Confederate flag everywhere... by hook or by crook. But this podcast episode — yes, a podcast that is generally about a disposable sitcom from the late 70s and early 80s — this particular episode is also about the South, and Southern culture, and yes, to some extent the racism we see in a young kid of that generation, MY generation, and the reaction we three white guys, from Canada, and from Boston, and from Arkansas, had to it in 2015.

It's a minefield, one scattered with studio audience chuckles and guffaws, but one that I've been sometimes scared and ultimately pleased to navigate. This silly little podcast has led to me diving into history I lived through, surely most of it as a kid, but looking at it critically. Directly. Not looking away. Seeking where exactly my hand lies on that flag staff.