CNN had a story about people pouring Russian vodka down the drain, the “freedom fries” sideshow of this news cycle. One of the targets: Smirnoff. Uh - no. It’s been a long time since it was owned by Russians. Stoli is bottled in Latvia by an expat. But it’s too closely tied to Russia, in its mythos, so it’s joined Corona Beer in the hall of Brands Damaged by Unfortunate Events.

They showed a bottle of Russian Standard, which is indeed Russian. In more ways than one, perhaps. Wikipedia:

The marketing claims that, "In 1894, Dmitri Mendeleev, the greatest scientist in all Russia, received the decree to set the Imperial quality standard for Russian vodka and the 'Russian Standard' was born",  or that the vodka is "compliant with the highest quality of Russian vodka approved by the royal government commission headed by Mendeleev in 1894."

By 1894 Smirnoff completely dominated the market. I remember reading a biography of the spirit, and how they'd send ringers into villages who'd go to the local watering hole, and ask for Smirnoff. Upon being told there was none to be had, the ringer would leave, and everyone would be astonished: given a choice between Smirnoff and no vodka, he chose . . . NO VODKA? It also had a reputation for purity, which helped. YOU WILL NOT BE BLIND TOMORROW is a potent selling point.

Back to Russian Standard's Mendeleev backstory:

This, however, is based on a popular myth that Mendeleev's 1865 doctoral dissertation "A Discourse on the combination of alcohol and water" contained a statement that 38% is the ideal strength of vodka

I think we're stretching the definition of "popular myth" here.

and that this number was later rounded to 40% to simplify the calculation of alcohol tax. However, Mendeleev's dissertation was about alcohol concentrations over 70% and he never wrote anything about vodka. Furthermore, the 40% standard strength was introduced by the Russian government already in 1843, when Mendeleev was nine years old.

There's room there for a "young genius" bit, though. He was only nine when he codified vodka!

The story broke for a commercial, something I originally saw during theg Superbowl. I remember when I heard the end of it: wait hold up, rewind that, seriously?

Suddenly it’s 1978 again. Skinny thrift-store ties! (The late 70s and the early 80s were the absolute zenith of thrift store fashion, as old parents closets were emptied in the thrift stream.) I first knew Wreckless Eric from the Stiffs Live album, where he sounded absolutely drunk and barely competent . . . but fun! This was his big hit, and I'm sure he's thrilled to get the checks for this.

All it took was a few words and notes and a particular quality of the sound. Music burrows into your brain when you're young, and you might forget about it for 30 years. A note brings it all back. The brain brings it up from cold storage in a trice, fast as the little fibers can spark, and you not only know the song, but the look of the room in which you were living.

Next ad was a 7 second clip for the Bourdain doc, and again: hold on, wait, rewind that. I didn't even have to wonder if I'd heard it correctly; I knew.

Hear it? Okay, computer, enhance. Or rather, rewind and take a better audio recording . . .

  It really is 1978 again.

Do you recognize it? I sent it to Daughter, and she got it right away, She knew the piece; I had played it for her long ago, during those periods when you think you have a chance of impressing your musical tastes on your progeny.

I guess it worked.

Answer tomorrow. Unless I forget, in which case, DM me on Twitter.










I stopped watching TV news a long time ago. Not because THEY’RE ALL LIARS !! but because . . . I can watch it on my computer. If there’s something that needs a network’s reach and resources, I can call it up in the browser. But watching a TV half-hour news broadcast? No. Watching one of those personality-driven shows that cycles the same story with different chattering heads? No.

I don’t miss it. But I miss the days when it seemed essential.

You can say there’s no point in missing a time when you had your brain stage-managed by a handful of media orgs, but there was something different about the Evening News in the old days. There’s potency in thinking you’ve been told that’s the way it is. There’s familiarity in the anchor you like and trust.

I was too young for Cronkite. I watched NBC for a long time, because I liked Brokaw and John Chancellor, and I really liked Overnight. Is this the annual recollection of Overnight? Hmm . . . looks like it’s been years.

Well. One of the things the early 80s had were shows that seemed made just for people of a modern sensibility. Letterman was part of it. Overnight was the other. Two anchors in a half-occupied newsroom. Linda Ellerbee with her enormous glasses and cigarette-roughened narration; Lloyd Dobbins, an unlovely, angular-faced man who seemed sometimes like he could barely contain some inner contempt. (He was later replaced by Bill Schechner, who seemed a bit friendlier and less intense.)

The quacking-duck theme told us we were among the special folk who were up late, and loved what this show was trying to do.


What was it trying to do? Stretch out; tell other stories that never made the nightly news; amuse; and shade it all with a distinctly liberal bias. If you were in sync, it was wonderful: see, what we believe is true! The smart people on TV in the news department agree with us. Everything does suck and Reagan is bad and doesn’t care but on the other hand, there’s hope in this small Alabama town where a lady is baking pies for hobos, or something.

It had a fierce following, but it didn’t last.

While I lived in DC I watched the network news, because it was closed-channel information for a company town. I hung on the news during the Gulf War II; how could you not? But I remember the day they toppled the statue of Saddam - I had picked up Daughter from her Nanna Nancy, because I’d gone to the office. For some reason she was blinking, a lot, and I had a fear of some sudden strange neurological condition. At that moment I suddenly cared less about anything else. I don’t think I watched the news after that. Something snapped, something changed, and I shifted my consumption habits.

Never miss it. To this day I hear that GONG that announces BREAKING NEWS, and I scowl. Stop winding me up.

But I’ve been watching it again. Walter Kirn tweeted an interesting question: if you didn’t trust the news before, why do you trust it now?

Because there is no “The News” anymore. There hasn’t been for some time.



Believe it or not, I didn't plan this. But:

It’s 1978.

Ooooh, the warehouse sale! That’s where they really drop the price, because . . . because it’s a warehouse!

Schaak Electronics was a local stereo et al store, and if memory serves, it was founded by a guy with the great name of Dick Schaak. Googling . . . Yep.

Schaak Electronics was a consumer electronics company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The company started in the early 1970s with audio products, then expanded to personal computers and other electronics. Although it was the largest company of its kind in the region, it became defunct in the mid-1980s.

Schaak Electronics was originally an audio-related products company headed by Richard L. (Dick) Schaak which expanded to personal computers (Digital Den) and other consumer electronics from the early 1970s to about 1986, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Schaak Electronics had its origins in a small radio and television repair shop in South Minneapolis, begun in 1957 by Leander Schaak. In 1960, his son Richard, known as Dick, dropped out of school and began working for his father. Dick soon took over the business when Leander died unexpectedly that October.

On Valentine's Day, Friday, February 14, 1986, Schaak Electronics abruptly closed its remaining 21 stores and let 250 employees go. Their entire inventory was purchased by the Sound of Music, precursor to Best Buy. They held a huge sale at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds on April 25, 1986, and took in about one million dollars of sales that day.

There is little public information as to Dick Schaak's activities once his company closed.

He just went into the sunset.

#7: Ah, the D3 Dishwasher. They’re on D4 now. You’d think it would be higher.

Hush that inter station noise! It’s 1978! There’s no reason you should put up with that!

I don’t know how quite to explain this, but the tone here is somehow influenced by National Lampoon and SNL. At least you know the person who wrote it read NL and watched SNL and probably “Firesign Theater” albums.

Preebs seems to have died in 2008.

I have reasonably good memories of 1978. It was a year of changes and successes. While remnants of the 70s mostly horrify, this doesn’t.


It’s Jay North after half a year in the camps:

Cut ‘em out and hand ‘em out.

I wonder if anyone did.

Finally: fashion.

"Imported sweaters" doesn't quite mean what some people thought.



That'll do. We say farewell to Fireball now.

See you tomorrow. Slava Ukraini. Heroyam Slava.





blog comments powered by Disqus