Friday, July 14, 2017

Show Notes for HMOTD 041: Spraying For Lizards

0:29 "There is, indeed, power in a union." Kick off our union-focused episode with a couple of modern alternate takes using the title of Joe Hill's classic labor anthem: Billy Bragg and the Mountain Goats' John Darnielle.

1:39 "Don't worry! I can be 'cool,' as you say." I've been noticing in Season 4 that Gordon Jump is just continuing to (still!) surprise and delight me with his line reads and facial expressions. This little sequence is a particular favorite; that little "as you say" just feels so Simpsons-y, like something Principal Skinner or indeed Mr. Burns might say.

5:18 "Mr. Carlson says that he's planning on giving everybody a raise." Excellent observation here by Rob.

11:00 "Unions are as American as apple pie." I regret we didn't talk about agrarian populism on the podcast with respect to Les and his distrust of unions. I wonder how Les would feel about Bailey quoting, say, someone like William Jennings Bryan. The failure of the Populists provides a lot of lessons for today; their shift to expressly racist and nativist rhetoric in the aftermath of the failure of the Democratic/Populist fusion movement of the late 1890s was perhaps inevitable. One has to believe a fusion of rural white (and black) Populists and urban immigrant Socialists would have been a tough ticket to beat in 1896 or 1900. But maybe Rob's a better person to talk about this, given his Gilded Age bona fides.

[Rob: No, I think you've got it. How much we should / should not romanticize the original Populists has been one of the ur-questions for United States historians, with no consensus and every historiographical generation flipping one way or the other.]

13:28 "Look for the union label!" This is the commercial Rob used for the podcast. It's from 1981, the year of this WKRP episode, and as Rob says, the campaign began in 1975, the year I was born. I pretty much wept when I heard it used in the podcast, and I wept again when I finally saw the commercial itself. Of course I love TV commercials from this period, and I love when labor unapologetically uses emotion and patriotism to appeal to the vast middle's better nature, so this is pretty much Mike-bait. I'm a total mark for this stuff.

And this is a great little media culture tidbit (thanks to @Oda_CM on Twitter for this fun fact):

(They've of course done a YouTube commercial compilation for the ads that appeared during the Star Wars Holiday Special. Of course. The ILGWU commercial appears at 2:45.)

[Rob: That is outstanding! I considered using that version of the song but went with the peppier 1981 remix. I had no idea it was from the Holiday Special.]

14:20 The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire: America's great urban industrial tragedy. The Wikipedia page is very good; lots of primary sources way down at the bottom of the page. Reading the Italian and Jewish names of the victims (and realizing that many of the women in my own Italian family were factory workers 70 or 80 years ago) makes me realize again that there was a time that non-WASP ethnic immigrants were at the center of left-wing agitation in this country. And I sigh once more.

17:35 "The NPCs of WKRP": I did love how Johnny lampshades this. Here's a few images of the "...and the rest" at the station.

22:10 The International Sisterhood of Blonde Receptionists: Someone really needs to mock up that INWO card. The UFOs were always my conspiracy of choice. Schwa forever!

23:22 Reagan and the air traffic controllers: Some detail on that. Also going on in 1981 were a Major League Baseball strike (many thanks to listener Hank Wellman on Facebook for reminding us; we will be making mention of the strike later this season on the podcast) and in '82 an NFL strike, both of which would scuttle large parts of their respective seasons.

28:28 "Yeah, but Satan is awesome!" Our extended Eden/serpent metaphor for labor organizing: I was also especially proud of spinning this out into larger themes of Western capitalist patriarchy. It is better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.

29:29 Mike's struggle session. As I may have suggested, I don't really beat myself up too much about my past as a stooge. If anything, it gives me an insider's view as to how capitalism actively works to alienate us from solidarity and our own power as workers. But I am an effete cultural critic, and when the tankies take over I absolutely expect to be either publicly shamed and crowned with a dunce cap, or indeed, sent off on a boat somewhere.

Rob's later comments about wanting a wide tent for unions is something I absolutely agree with. White collar unions, especially in IT, would solve a lot of our social problems right now.

[Rob: The Ken we mention briefly here is of course the brilliant and awesome game designer, writer, podcaster, alternate historian Kenneth Hite, of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, Pelgrane Press, and many other cool things.]

34:38 "God's up in his country club with his polo shirt on." I thought this was a pretty clever d├ętournement of "God's in his heaven..." but did you notice my Mr. Show reference there? "All TV must be NICE! For the NICE people!"

36:07 "It's just like his fantasy sequence in the 'Daydreams' episode!" I have a theory that the daydreams in "Daydreams" were all somehow prophetic of what would happen to the characters in Season 4, like the "Restless" episode of Buffy. I'll try to bring this crackpot theory back over the course of this season.

38:15 "The workplace sitcom is ideological body armor for capitalism." YES. This is extremely my shit.

40:15 "Johnny's into Pat Benatar." He wasn't the only one. The boys at Ridgemont High were, and so, oddly, was my dad. I can remember my mom teasing him back in the '80s for his little crush. Sure, she was a pre-Madonna sex symbol in late '70s/early '80s America, but goddamn her discography is full of solid jams and really interesting cover choices! The Beatles' "Helter Skelter"?? "Wuthering Heights" by Kate Bush???

41:45 Tattoo You: What a mishmash; I had no idea it was basically an odds and ends compilation.

[Rob: I misspoke when I said "Start Me Up" was just the same two chords as "Brown Sugar." "Start Me Up" is just the same two chords as the opening lick to "Brown Sugar." "Brown Sugar" has a verse-chorus structure, a bridge, horns and piano, Muscle Shoals production, a sweet alternate version with Eric Clapton on slide guitar, and a dank stew of messed-up lyrics that a dozen earnest podcasts couldn't de-problematize. "Start Me Up" is basically just that riff, over and over and over again. Which is why the clip following our discussion is "Brown Sugar," not "Start Me Up." Don't @ me, fellow Dad-rockers. :)]

49:24 Bailey in Johnny's t-shirt: Here's your fanservice, folks. Also, does it seem like Frank Bonner flubs his line here, perhaps confronted with the raw sex appeal of Jan Smithers in mom jeans?

51:30 "It's Early Cute, but I like it." Yeah, I fell in love with all the little set decoration choices they made in this scene (see below). And here's some info on the Sea Shepherd.

54:00 Black Death Malt Liquor T-Shirt: [Rob: You too can have your very own! But I must warn you, after ordering mine, I don't just get WKRP- and malt liquor-themed spam from Etsy (including Colt '45 mirrors, just as Mike surmised), I also get Black Death-themed spam, as in, the actual Black Death, the 14th-century pandemic: Plague Doctor crow masks and the like. Hipsters, amiright?]

58:37 "You remember, uh, a couple of years ago?" Clever clip use by Rob here to introduce this discussion. Continuity is so important! You can go back to our Monday Post to see what we had to say about this, but it's very interesting to see them mining past continuity in this episode as well, between Johnny and Bailey and this little interchange between Johnny and Herb at the episode's outset.

1:05:47 Sam Anderson: Sam Anderson is so great in all his WKRP appearances. I still have a soft spot for Immigration Agent Anderson, but Rex is pretty great. I kind of wish he would've been a returning occasional guest throughout the last bit of Season 4. I think he would've fit perfectly in the cast; an unctuous DJ is the missing character on the staff. Rowr. *pours Perrier*

You can also go back to our Monday Post to see our four-quadrant Sam Anderson political compass.

[Rob: Full kudos to Mike both for the idea (demented) and the execution (perfect) of the Sam Anderson political compass. I also like all the left-wing slang he rattles off here: "tankies," "Ancoms" ... not bad for a former crypto-fascist puppet of the managerial elite.]

1:10:00 "Please check out my episode of Netflakes on Room 237!" Seriously! Please check it out! :)

1:10:42 Lazarus Lizards: I appreciate that this explanation appeared in the advice column of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Any Cincinnati natives have any experience with the local Lazarus Lizard?

Kudzu was officially declared an invasive weed in the 1970s but was introduced with the best of intentions back at America's centennial in 1876, part of an exchange with Meiji Japan. I remember being obsessed with the 3-2-1 Contact episode that discussed kudzu as a kid. The last word in killer, or Africanized, bees is definitely the breathless In Search Of... episode about them from 1977.

1:15:15 Alternative 3 and the Ian Thomas Band's "Pilot": Definitely a special thrill when I discovered all this stuff about Ian Thomas's love of Alternative 3 the night we recorded this episode. Alternative 3 was a mockumentary intended to be broadcast (or "transmitted" as the Brits would say) on April 1 as an episode of a fictional East Anglia TV series called Science Report. In it, it was theorized that a recent British "brain drain" of engineers and scientists was due to this secret program to evacuate the Earth due to impending climate collapse. (This idea of an alternate society being constructed by abducted earthlings on another planet is of course an old idea, being at the center of Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan from 1959, and one that's gained purchase in the rise of the anthropocene and the theorizing over a "plutocratic exit strategy.")

It's no surprise that Ian "Tranquility Base" Thomas would dig this idea, and he's talked about it on his discussion forums and in this video! Amazing. Here's the link to the Ian Thomas Band's doubleshot on SCTV, with short cameos from the McKenzie Brothers and I think Johnny LaRue? Love that jazz flute, man.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, who better to judge Mike's chances of the gulag than a dispassionate observer with no dialectical dog in the fight? Muggeridge called the outcome of 1917 rather better than Wells did, after all.