Miscellaneous Musings & Opinions
I Thought The Digital Age Made Everything Faster: In 1953, John Christie murdered at least eight women. He "was arrested in March, tried in June and hanged in July. Justice was brisk back then."
Fast forward 60 years. Cars are much faster. Movies and television feature rapid cuts which makes for a quicker pace of storytelling. Publishing is instantaneous in cyberspace - no waiting for the lead to heat up on the ol' linotype machine.
Today, we have convicted murders on death row who grow old and gray until their many appeals are exhausted and justice is finally delivered decades later.
In some ways, the good old days were better. (posted 6/4/13, permalink)
Shoe Story: Gregory Sullivan noted that Sperry Topsiders - aka deck shoes - have a Sperry label inside but "Justin Brands owns it, and Berkshire Hathaway owns that. That's Warren Buffett's bailiwick. Warren Buffett only buys things that have some strategic advantage someone's missing out on. A "Made in Maine" tag seems to be all you need to sell boat shoes in Japan. Who knew? Then again, Berkshire Hathaway used to make shirts when Buffett bought it. If I was working in one of his factories, I wouldn't buy any green bananas."
"Maine used to make a lot of shoes and boots. It was the state's largest industry until very recently, when free trade killed American piecework dead. The state's current largest industry is selling oxycodone you stole from grandma's medicine cabinet, I think."
I bought a pair of faux Topsiders at a Dexter Shoes Factory Outlet in New Hampshire 25 years ago. I never found them to be that comfortable so I kept them by our front door. I only wore my Dexes when I walked to the mailbox at the end of our driveway.
Warren Buffett once owned the Dexter Shoe Co. and called it "his worst deal ever."
"In 1993, Berkshire paid $433 million for the Maine-based company. Rather than use cash, Buffett used Berkshire Class A stock to fund the purchase. That Berkshire stock is worth eight times more now, giving the Omaha, Nebraska-based insurance and investment company a $216 billion market value.
Dexter didn't make it that long. It ended shoe production in the United States and Puerto Rico in 2001, and Berkshire folded what was left into its H.H. Brown Shoe Group unit."
In a 2008 letter to Berkshire Hathaway investors, Buffett wrote, "What I had assessed as durable competitive advantage vanished within a few years. By using Berkshire stock, I compounded this error hugely. That move made the cost to Berkshire shareholders not $400 million, but rather $3.5 billion. In essence, I gave away 1.6% of a wonderful business - one now valued at $220 billion - to buy a worthless business."
I recently noticed that the Vibram soles of my Dex deck shoes had worn down far enough to be translucent. I'm surprised. Although they are many years old, my deck shoes definitely qualify as low-mileage footwear.
I guess I'll have to find some new mailbox shoes. I'm not expecting Dexter to offer a partial refund for premature wear. (posted 5/27/13, permalink)
The Kardashianizing Of America: Jim Geraghty recently wrote, "We've always been a diverse country, but I suspect that a lot of conservatives click on the television or web or look at the morning paper or magazine and see a country they just don't recognize anymore."
"How many conservatives look out upon large swaths of their fellow countrymen and feel as if they're dealing with someone from another planet, someone whose thinking, values, worldview, and priorities are so alien, they simply can't understand them?"
That caught my attention, since I had just finished reading the Letters to the Editor page in the local weekly, where one moron - claiming to be a "life-long Republican," although that might just be what he dresses up as on Halloween - posited, "Who is spreading fear in our country today? It is not Islam or the Boston Bombers but our own home-grown, radical right-wing people and they are worth fearing." If you really feel that way, pal, you should move to a right-wing-free nation, such as Pakistan. Or Syria.
Geraghty continued, "Our political differences and culture wars are a big part of it. But I think it goes even further. How many times can a conservative encounter the low-information voters who don't know who the vice president is, or watch the folks on the street get stumped by basic questions in Jay Leno's 'Jaywalking' segments, and not lose some faith in the American people as a whole?"
There have always been stupid and misinformed people but it's seems that there are lots more of them now. I blame Honey Boo-Boo, the E! Network, profane rappers and lowbrow cable reality shows. But I'm old. I also curse the gathering darkness and shake my fist at the moon. And at Lindsay Lohan.
"I remember reading the joke, 'Far in the future, aliens will come and find the relics of our modern civilization and conclude that Kim Kardashian was our queen.' I really don't understand why I'm supposed to care about this woman, and I don't understand why it seems that I'm constantly being told things about her."
Of the Kardashians, Dennis Miller once said that "these people are charming grifters ... they know that we're an off-the-rack culture that likes to ogle a train wreck." And, in Kim's case, "the train has the biggest caboose of all time."
Regarding unrecognizable America, Jim Geraghty concluded, "Any American who worked their butt off through college and did the entry-level, low-pay jobs at the beginning of their working lives looks at the Occupy Movement and wonders how the heck someone can begin adulthood with such a ludicrous sense of entitlement." Amen. (posted 5/17/13, permalink)
Social Entropy: The recent death of Annette Funicello made me reflect upon the coarsening of American culture. Ms. Funicello may not have represented the 'peak' of wholesome America but she is certainly its poster girl. A good dancer, she readily admitted that she wasn't much of a singer but her smile and girl-next-door demeanor made Annette famous.
There was never a hint of scandal around Annette. Her virtuous image on screen combined with exemplary behavior in real life, set an positive example for her fans. This was the way the movie and television business used to operate. Any explicit behavior by Hollywood stars was generally kept quiet in back in those days.
Tallulah Bankhead, a flamboyant bisexual actress of the 1930s, '40s and '50s, was a loose and loudmouthed woman who was also a heavy drinker and consumer of sleeping pills. But she was the exception. More typical was Kate Smith, singing 'God Bless America' and doing ads for Jell-O and Pillsbury Mills in her spare time. She had a long career spanning five decades but always exhibited proper public decorum.
Celebrity behavior changed in the 1970s - for the worse. As did movies. I don't think there's a single movie made before 1970 which contained the F-bomb. In those days, the blood, gore, profanity and general perversion prevalent in every Quentin Tarantino movie would have kept his films from ever lighting up the screen of any theater in America. 'Casino' and 'Goodfellas' would have been banned, too.
The 1970s brought us Liza Minnelli, a consummate party animal, who once arrived at an event at designer Halston's apartment and implored the host: "Give me every drug you've got." Later there were public drug and/or alcohol fueled scandals and sham marriages. My wife and I saw Minnelli in Las Vegas in 1993. It was one of the worst performances we've ever witnessed. Drugs, we thought at the time. An episode of The Simpsons summed things up perfectly: Bart Simpson opens a casino for kids in his tree-house. In a panic, he kidnaps Robert Goulet to perform there because Bart "hired a Liza Minnelli impersonator who was awful. Turns out she was the real Liza Minnelli!"
Today, there is an ever-increasing coarsening of society, reflected in the outrageous behavior of celebrities. Entertainers routinely appear in sex videos. One "leaked" sex tape can make multi-millionaires out of otherwise untalented people. Paris Hilton is exhibit A; Kim Kardashian represents exhibit B.
In politics and political media, there are countless statements made by personalities and pundits which are downright rude, crude and hateful. Just tune-in MSNBC and observe Ed Schultz, who called former Vice President Dick Cheney "an enemy of the country" who should go "to the Promised Land."
We have become witnesses to the antics of no-talent people who show up at overpriced merchandise debuts for big appearance fees - the Kardashians, Nicole Richie, Snooki, Paris Hilton et al. Lindsay Lohan's drug and alcohol problems are gleefully documented by papparazzi who stalk the entrances of rehab facilities and courthouses. Meanwhile, Diddy called a press conference to announce that he's "not bangin' Kate Upton." Rhianna sang the sexually-explicit 'Rude Boy' at a Nickelodeon's Kids Choice Awards. Don't get me started on Charlie Sheen, whose atrocious conduct is worn as a badge of honor. Or the drug-addled slutty 'singer' known as Courtney Love.
It's sad to reflect that head-shaving Britney Spears, a frequent patron in drug rehab centers, was once a Mouseketeer. That's why I miss Annette. And the nice-person culture she represented.
I have posted more on Annette Funicello here. (posted 4/19/13, permalink)
"You Might Be A Winner!" I've often fantasized about what I would do if I had a big monetary windfall. I may soon find out. Now, I don't want to write too much about this for fear of jinxing the deal, but it appears I may soon find my personal finances moving to a significantly higher level.
You see, I received a notification last week that I may be entitled to "$5,000 a week - forever!" I have been provided with a number "provisionally deposited on the Winner Selection List" on form I3115e - according to controller Michael Collins and executive vice-president Deborah Holland. They also indicate that "payment funding is guaranteed." When I read that, I must confess that I got goosebumps.
This notification came from Publishers Clearing House. Like most of you, I've heard from them many times before. I remember when I used to get letters from Robert H. Treller, a guy who always signed his name in blue ink and used his pen to write lots of notes on the margin, like "You don't want to miss this!"
In the latest missive from PCH, Mr. Treller is conspicuously absent. It turns out that ol' Bob is a fictional character, like Betty Crocker. And, I guess, he's been retired. Or downsized.
Publishers Clearing House began in 1953, in the basement of founder Harold Mertz's house in Long Island, NY. The firm pioneered the idea of a sweepstakes as a way of selling magazine subscriptions. By 1991, the company had 700 employees, not including Mr. Treller.
The magazine subscriptions from PCH were never moneymakers for mag publishers, because the subscriptions were sold at deep, enticing discounts, but they did increase the magazines' circulation. Betting on the future, publishers hoped for profits from renewals.
PCH also helped boost circulation, so a magazine could charge advertisers more based on healthier ABC circulation data - on which ad rates were based. Back in the day, a magazine earned about 75% of its income from advertising.
Customers benefited, too. In those pre-internet days, you could buy magazines at newsstands for full retail price, save a little - sometimes very little - by buying a subscription or save lots of bucks by getting your favorite mags from Publishers Clearing House. The one disadvantage was that PCH sold odd subscription durations: 37 issues of Newsweek or 9 issues of Car Life.
The magazine biz is in quite a funk these days, as more and more people get news and information online. Time, Inc. just announced that it will lay off up to 700 staffers - almost 9% of its workforce - due to declining revenues.
"Time's stable of 21 U.S. magazines and 25 websites includes Time, In Style, Fortune, People, Entertainment Weekly, Sports Illustrated and Real Simple. It has over 100 titles worldwide." Today, there are few newsstands remaining to display these colorful rags. But many dog-eared, germy examples can be found in various physicians' waiting rooms.
"For the third quarter, subscription revenue dipped 6% and advertising revenue eased 5%, echoing trends across the traditional publishing world as consumers digest information in new ways. Digital advertising and expanding readership on tablets and other mobile devices hasn't made up for losses elsewhere."
The latest dispatch from Publishers Clearing House has lots of offerings - leather purses, elastic turquoise bracelets, rainbow scissors and various As Seen On TV products but not a single magazine. Since the print business is dying, I guess that Publishers are Clearing their own Houses.
One PCH offer was for red, white and blue "patriotic" malted milk balls - at an alarming $25 per pound. But they can be had for Four EZ Payments. What kind of person would buy candy on the installment plan? Probably the same kind of person who doesn't worry about things like our $16 trillion dollar national debt and went into a voting booth last November and voted for Democrats. Enjoy your sweets now, pay later. Or let your children and grandchildren settle your bill someday.
Publishers Clearing House knows its market and doesn't waste its printing presses and postage on items which are not popular sellers. Now you know how Obama won reelection and why so many people are eating not-yet-paid-for candy.
Even though I enjoy malted milk balls, there was no encouraging margin note from Bob Treller telling me that I "don't want to miss this!" So, I decided to pass, opting to continue purchasing those much cheaper, Communist-brown ones instead.
Nevertheless, I remain hopeful that my first $5,000 check will arrive any day now. (posted 1/14/13, permalink)
The Only People Who Want To Move To California These Days Are Mexicans: In the 1950s and '60s, California was perceived as America's dream, especially Southern California - a land of warmth and sunshine, blue ocean and beaches not far from the city. Then there were the palm trees, modern freeways, interesting and novel (for me) architecture and lithe, tanned people dressed in sharp clothes who drove gleaming, desirable autos. Just watch old '50s television shows set in the Golden State - like '77 Sunset Strip'.
Unfortunately, the Golden State has fallen on hard times, with a poverty rate that is now twice as bad as West Virginia's and substantially worse than the rates of poverty in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Texas, according to a new measure of poverty developed by the federal Census Bureau.
"Democrat-run California earned its last-place rank under the federal government's new measure of poverty, which incorporates more detailed analyses of welfare payments and the local costs of food, gasoline and housing.
The state's costs are boosted by its environmental and workplace regulations and by 38 million residents' competition for housing close to the sea. California snatched the last-place prize from Mississippi."
That's what being ruled by leftists and allowing the unrestricted flow of illegals will get you. It is extremely sad to see a state so rich in natural resources (especially its fertile farmland) be destroyed by politics.
According to the Census, in 1970 the "Non-Hispanic White" population of California was 78%. By the 2010 census, it was 40%. Over the same period, the 10% Hispanic population quadrupled and caught up with whites.
Remember the old saying, "As California goes, so goes the nation"? We better hope it's no longer applicable. (posted 1/2/13, permalink)
2013 Rose Parade: Is it just me, or are all of the floats becoming cause-centric? I seem to remember when parade floats didn't have politically-correct, guilt-inducing messages, just giant dogs made of flower petals or huge bears in helicopter beanies with waving arms, with hair made of dyed long-grain rice.
This year, there was 'The Global Face of AIDS' float, which - I am not kidding - was awarded 'The Queen's Trophy'. Not that there's anything wrong with that. They didn't say what florial items were used in its construction but I'm guessing pansies. I kept hoping that The City of Hope 'Journey To Cure' float would sideswipe the AIDS float, spilling vats of pharmaceuticals on it, while the lab-coated people on the Hope float yelled, "Die! Die! Die!" But, alas, such drama was not to be. Nor was my other wish that the unfortunate Indiana high school marching band - the one that ended up stuck behind the AIDS awareness float - would don rubber gloves and surgical masks while performing.
Farmers Insurance presented 'The Love Float' and actually married a couple before an audience of millions. Oh well, at least it was a man and a woman.
'The Nurses Float' inexplicably spotlighted forest animals - owls, raccoons and birds - constructed from various floral materials and grains. I expected it to feature a giant catheter made from crushed white carnations.
The Lutherans had a float with a live Jesus on it - a bearded dude in a white tunic. Next to him was an Asian fellow in a white puffy coat - at first, I thought it was Psy. Oh man, our Lord and Savior is now Gangnam Style. The night before, I saw Psy on ABC's 'New Year's Rockin' Eve Without Dick Clark', performing with Hammer. I thought, "Take a good look at MC Hammer, Psy. This is your future two years from now. Start saving." And where did Psy get that white outfit - from Elton John's rummage sale?
The Morgantown, West Virginia marching band featured a comely lass wearing an Indian headdress. How did the California PC police let her through? I bet next year she'll be replaced by a craggy-faced, pot-belied Native wearing a worn flannel shirt, hitting up the crowd for smokes.
Disney's 'Cars Land' float was cool and featured tow truck Mater coming to the rescue when the float 'broke down'. The RFD-TV giant farm tractor float was awesome and was what the Rose Parade used to represent: big, fun, decorated platforms-on-wheels presented without a guilt message.
All the floats won trophies, except the last one - a flatbed truck with a giant mountain of manure from all those parade horses. It didn't get an award even though it had a nice sign: '2013 - Pile It On'. Thanks, Obama. (posted 1/2/13, permalink)
More 'Musings' can be found here.
copyright 2013 - Joseph M. Sherlock - All applicable rights reserved
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