Friday, December 11, 2015

Show Notes for HMOTD 018: We Are Definitely Talking Cordoba

0:30 Intros. Oh, SideSHOW Bob.

4:18 FM. Guys, I love Steely Dan. Much as Rob tearfully and bravely confessed last season to liking country music, I love all this smooth shit from the 70s, unreservedly. Sure, a campy throwback-loving Generation-Xer such as myself might come at it sideways ironically through Yacht Rock. But then pretty soon, much like the creators of Yacht Rock, you're drawn in by the technical excellence and out-of-this-world smoothness of Messrs. Fagen and Becker. So I've been waiting and waiting to get the Dan on the podcast. FM is a weird little artifact, especially the soundtrack, which, as the commercial says, features tons of live performances caught on film. Apparently the commercial didn't rate Tom Petty and REO Speedwagon, which kind of makes sense in '78. The single, "FM (No Static at All)," was recorded in the same series of sessions that produced Steely Dan's legendary Aja. "FM (No Static at All)" saw Steely Dan put away their knives and record with The Eagles, no matter if the neighbors were listening or not.

4:50 The HMOTD Live broadcast! Hey, did you miss the live show the first time out? Don't worry, you weren't alone. But you can listen to it on our mixlr channel. The broadcast is in two parts here. And watch that space! It's our own live internet radio station and might be active at some point in the future...

5:30 Captain Mikey.
The story of Mikel Hunter and the Iranian radio station is pretty fantastic. Here's a set of broadcast clips from that period on NIRT. [Rob: Wow, those clips are great, and very WKRP-esque. Wish I had tracked them down to include in the episode. Something cool and surreal about hearing Wolfman Jack doing a shoutout to all his Iranian friends.]

11:10 ¿Quien es Mas Macho? This clip works great not just for this episode and the discussion of Ricardo Montalbán but also for HMOTD 016: Muy Dinero and our discussion of 70s hunks and macho.

13:05 Ricardo Montalbán and The Cordoba. Okay, first erratum this week: it was the Chrysler Cordoba, not Chevrolet. My mistake.

Some stuff on Ricardo Montalbán: his quite lengthy career encapsulates all the contradictions and challenges of being an "ethnic" actor in a less enlightened age. I remember a few months ago watching one of those retro satellite channels and seeing a Hawaii Five-O episode in which we are asked to buy him as a Japanese crime lord. Ugh. But he fought hard for Latino and Mexican representation and respect in Hollywood at a time when this kind of activism wasn't always smiled upon.

On the automobile front, '79 was the last year of the classic giant Cordoba; in the 80s, fuel efficiency concerns shrunk the Cordoba to a mid-size sedan... by modern standards anyway. Back in 1980, this was practically a compact. And yes, you should watch the original 1975 commercial. It's a trip. While we're 70s SNL-adjacent, these type of commercials always remind me of the SNL "Royal Deluxe II" commercial. [Rob: Yes, if you watch the whole commercial, the final title card makes a point of saying (in over-the-top calligraphy) "Cordoba: The Small Chrysler."]

[Edit: Hey, listener Cathy Sandifer helps us out, finding a commercial for the smaller 1980 Cordoba! "I like what they've done to my car." Sorry, Ricardo, you're a great actor but I'm not buying it. And that poor automobile engineer; he reminds me of the "scientician" from the Troy McClure educational film. "Uh."]

17:20 Arbitron. Here's a quick look at the corporate history of Arbitron.

20:35 Music ratings and Soundscan. Another little erratum: Soundscan (begun in March 1991, and the Billboard Hot 100 started using it in November 1991) didn't take effect the very week that Nevermind took over Number 1 from Michael Jackson's Dangerous (and notably Garth Brooks as well, January 1992), but Soundscan did play a big role in that sea change in the complexion (so to speak) of the Top 40 in late 1991 and early 1992.

21:21 Racial disparities in the census: A quick hit on how the U.S. Census continues to undercount racial minorities.

24:22 DJ 3000: Well, hot dog, we have a wiener! Never gets old.

24:55 M.A.M.M.A. Don't Allow No Guitar Players In Here. [Rob: Another erratum, and this one is on me. I have a vivid memory in my head of John Denver joining forces with the Electric Mayhem to drive M.A.M.M.A. to self-destruction, Kirk or Number Six style--but apparently that memory is a Nowhere Band / Don Pesola style hallucination: it was Dudley Moore, not John Denver, who brought the Music and Mood Management Apparatus to the Muppet Show, and Dudley was in league with M.A.M.M.A., not its enemy. How on earth did those wires get crossed? (As you can see, M.A.M.M.A. is pretty transparently a reskinned R2 unit--Kermit even calls it "a fugitive from Star Wars." Here's M.A.M.M.A's big musical number.)

27:15 Nielsen Boxes: A few weeks ago, I did yet another in my series of TV Guide close readings on my Facebook. In this particular issue there was an ad, repeated several times, for a news story on the nightly news about a box that could "make you one of the most powerful families in New England." It was weird-looking, with a bunch of multi-pin sockets, and while my instinct screamed Nielsen box, it didn't look quite right. Well, leave it to Friend of the Podcast and guest host Chris Tatro to find that it was indeed a Nielsen box, and that Nielsen boxes have always been frickin' gorgeous pieces of retrotech. Check out that link to the 1970s and this one to the 1980s in Nielsen's history.

29:43 Max Headroom: Wow, what is there to say about the Max Headroom TV series on ABC? There was a moment, kids, in the late 80s/early 90s, when ABC did some weird shit on TV. Between Max Headroom, Twin Peaks, and the sorta underrated Wild Palms, ABC was definitely on the cutting edge, taking chances, laying the groundwork a generation before the New Golden Age of TV. Max Headroom was undoubtedly my first exposure to the cyberpunk genre, and I honestly don't want to know what William Gibson would think of that. On that note, yeah, Rob got some good "ratings" on this Tweet, and justifiably so.

41:05 Barbara Walters/Local women broadcasters: We didn't include a clip from Anchorman but you can slot your own favorite one with Christina Applegate in here. Say what you want about Will Farrell and Adam McKay, but at the core of the silliness of Anchorman was a real story about how local television news changed in the mustache-and-sportscoat era to allow for women reporters and eventually anchors to take the stage.

43:13 NPR Voice/This American Life/Ira Glass: So my tiny brush with NPR fame is that for about a year back in the early 00s, I was a web intern at WBEZ in Chicago. (LONG story.) I saw George Wendt in the hallway one day and saw Ira at the office Christmas party once... and yeah, that's pretty much all the brushes with fame I had there.

44:50 Alec Baldwin: Delicious Dish: definitely an underrated series of SNL sketches.

46:00 Received Pronunciation: One of my favorite Received Pronunciation references was in Will Self's future dystopia The Book of Dave where the people in the provinces speak "Mokni" and the priestly caste in "Nu Lundun" speak "Arpee." And as far as the "generic Iowa newscaster's accent," it's called "General American" which is just great.

47:35 Vocal fry: Here's a good look at vocal fry from NPR's Fresh Air, and Naomi Wolf's controversial Lean In-esque anti-vocal fry Guardian piece.

[Rob: And here's the NYT story on NPR voice, the vocal fry segment of TAL, the episode with Fred Armisen as Ira's doppelganger, the episode of Alec Baldwin's Here's The Thing with Ira.]

50:00 Valley Girl speech: We all say "awesome" and "like" now, and a lot of us uptalk now... it's true, and has been true for 30+ years.

54:00 Monetary Policy in the United States: Here's Thomas Mayer, and of course that clip is Ben Stein, another casualty of the Nixon/Ford White House. The less said about Ben Stein over the past decade-plus, the better.

56:00 Coffee Commercial/Wonder Bread: The original Yuban coffee commercial from '72, and Rob's Wonder Bread ad from 1929 below. We need more treasures of this kind from your hard drive, Rob!

Here's the Wonder Bread ad, along with an equally shady "prey on your insecurities" ad for Listerine, both reproduced in Roland Marchand's Advertising the American Dream.
59:13 Porkopolis: [Rob: The book to read on these topics is William Cronon's Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. It's a massive, magisterial work of business and environmental history and the chapter on meat will simultaneously enlighten and nauseate you. Not a quick read, but I learned more from it about how the machine that is America actually works than from umpteen presidential biographies.]

1:04:49 Alternate History: [Rob: To tie this back to another recurring theme on our podcast, the history of American comedy, if we came up with a pork-centric alternate history where Cincinnati became the second city of the United States, would it also become the home of Second City?] Mike: That is totally what I'm sayin'!


  1. Rob/Mike I dig the idea of an alternate history of American comedy where Cincinnati becomes the Second City in place of Chicago. What I can't seem to find are the Cincinnati-born comedians to make the history work. My cursory search only dug up Tom Segura, Katt Williams and Gary Owen as stand-ups of note from the Queen City. Among the women, there is Julie Hagerty of Airplane! fame and very little, unless you count Carmen Electra as a comedienne, or if you include Phyllis Diller, who actually hailed from Lima, Ohio. On another tangent, my brief research uncovered a weird cross-over into the secret origins of Venus's kiddie TV show alter ego - Sailor Ned. There was a local Cincinnati children's TV show hosted by a guy named Glenn Ryle, whose persona was a steamboat captain named Skipper Ryle! Skipper Ryle = Sailor Ned? You decide! (p.s. Glenn Ryle was white and not a DJ).

    1. Hee! Stick around, Terry - that's the kind of obsessive alternate history building I respect. Now, I don't know what proportion of the Second City gang actually hailed from Chicago, and on Earth-Pork, Cincinnati's population would presumably be higher, so I don't think a dearth of Cincinnati comedians here on Earth-Chicago wrecks the proposition. Though an American comedy tradition flowing entirely from Phyllis Diller and Carmen Electra is a weird thing to think about.

      I keep conflating Sailor Ned with Handsome Pete ("he dances for nickels!").

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