Toxic Sediment, 20th Century Media, and spelunking for gems amongst it.
Craving Canon: https://thejaymo.net/2020/04/10/136-craving-canon/
Episode 1815 – Speed Gibson: https://permanentlymoved.libsyn.com/301-1815-speed-gibson
The 10th Man: https://archive.org/details/OTRR_The_Tenth_Man_Singles
Permanently moved is a personal podcast 301 seconds in length, written and recorded in one hour by @thejaymo
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The Tenth Man
I finished up an essay on ‘Cultural fracking: Dispatches from the content mines.’ for Oasis Mag this week. I have no idea if it’ll be published, but I’m glad it’s submitted. If you’re new around here I’ll point you to my essay ‘craving canon’ on my blog for context. Link in the show notes.
The theme of the issue is ‘extraction’ so I pushed the metaphor of cultural fracking a little further than I’ve done previously and took it to its conclusion: Toxic Sediment.
Before I get to that. Since finishing the essay. Four separate threads have been attempting to entwine themselves in my mind over the last few days.
The first All the old 1940’s radio plays slash shows I’ve been listening to during lockdown.
The second: The UK’s media class patting itself on its back for tackling racism by editing or removing blackface from a show that was only made 10 years ago. The people who greenlit those shows and thought it was acceptable to put on air are still working in the organisation presumably.
The Third: Jeannette Ng’s 2019 Campbell Award speech where she said that a “tone of science fiction that still haunts the genre to this day. Sterile. Male. White. Exalting in the ambitions of imperialists and colonisers, settlers and industrialists.“
And Lastly: Copyright.
Toxic Sediment is what I’m calling the tailings from the last 100 years of the culture industry. We have these vast archives of material from the 20th Century, all under copyright. If you are someone like Disney, you can just buy the whole of Marvel Comics and its back catalogue and frack the best of the material into fuel for a movie series in 2020.
I can feel myself in danger of launching into a copyleft rant from 2003. Plus I’ve talked about how we should be telling shared tales together rather than fixed stories elsewhere. SO instead let’s say that in my head when I now think of 20th century recorded culture I picture something like Onkalo, the deep geological repository for spent nuclear fuel in Finland. Vast underground vaults full of hazardous material secured for the life of the author plus 70 years.
But for the rest of us. These vast archives are (in general), inaccessible to the general public. We are unable to remix, reboot, or re-interpret the material. We can only explore.
During lockdown I’ve been spelunking on archive.org again. Listening to old radio shows . You may remember me talking about Speed Gibson years ago in episode 18-15. I’ve listened to X-minus one. A half-hour science fiction radio drama series that was broadcast from 1955 to 1958 with many of its stories being taken from Astounding Science Fiction magazine. I remind you again of Ng’s Sterile. Male. White comment if you dive in for yourself.
And also the first few episodes of Bright Star from 1952. A radio drama about the comings and goings of a struggling newspaper called Hillsdale Morning Star. The main character is an idealist star reporter who often conflicts with his editor over stories. The radio dramas are very engaging.
But the radio drama that blew my mind last week is called The Tenth Man.
“The Tenth Man is the one man in ten in your community that will need emotional guidance. Yes, one out of every ten persons in this country needs or will need some form of psychiatric care or treatment. What kind of treatment are they getting in your community?”
Written and produced by The National Mental Health Foundation in 1947, The Tenth Man was created to raise awareness of mental health issues. Each episode presents “dramatic mental health situations”.
The first episode tells the story of activist Dorothea Dix and her commitment to help the care of the mentally ill in America and abroad. Born in April 1802, Dorothea Dix exposed the horrors on the mental asylums of the day when mentally ill people were beaten, chained, and locked away.
Whilst some elements of the show haven’t aged that well, it’s an amazing format and interesting show. The dramatisations are effective in creating empathy and quickly build an understanding of others’ situations that are very different from one’s own.
Each episode dealt with a particular area of mental health, ranging from children’s issues to issues dealing with the elderly. And covered topics in mental illness ranging from depression, loneliness, social phobias, and even discrimination against people who have received mental health treatment.
It’s a fascinating time capsule. And is very interesting in the context of post WW2, the GI Bill, and America’s social welfare movement at the time.
Listening to all these old radio shows makes me think about podcasting as a medium. Currently 10% of the UK population listens to 1 podcast a week. There still is huge room for growth. There is also room for huge amounts of innovation. Inspiration being found for me amongst the Toxic Sediment of the 20th century. The Tenth Man for example has a 13-14 minute running length.
I hope as the medium continues to grow there will be an explosion in formats and people experimenting with new or old form, lengths and approaches. I hope this show is contributing to that in some way.
The script above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in audio due to time constraints.