Saturday, August 25, 2012
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Looking for a little getaway place in Ocklawaha, Florida?
This unprepossessing place, on the shores of Lake Weir, is on the market.
The 2,016-square-foot, two-story home has four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Spread across 9½ acres, the estate includes 340 feet of waterfront on Lake Weir. Aside from updates to the kitchen, the home and its furnishings are unchanged [since] 1935. (Source: WSJ Online.)
It may not look like all that much. And that lack of updating since 1935 (January 16, 1935 to be precise) will certainly give pause to anyone who watches HGN regularly. (What, no en suite? No open floor plan?) As will, no doubt, the $1M minimum asking price.
But that’s a lot of acreage that could be developed, if and when central Florida real estate creeps back.
And, after all, you’re buying history here.
Because this cottage was the site of the 1935 shootout between Ma Barker and the remnants of her gang, and J. Edgar Hoover’s G-Men.
Ma Barker lost.
The house wasn’t Barker Gang property. It was a vacation rental by owner, the owner being Carson Bradford, who’d built the place in 1930. It’s been in the family all these years, but none of his descendants are interested in keeping/using the place. (The thought of vintage bathrooms – chain pull flush on the toilets, perhaps – and shrinky-dink little double beds with leaden mattresses on squeaky springs: ugh!)
Sotheby’s is handling the sale:
"There's unbelievable interest around the world in crime memorabilia. People have never seen a property where everything is intact from the time of the event," said Roger Soderstrom, a broker for Stirling Sotheby's. "We think the buyer could be someone who has a passion for crime memorabilia and who wants to build their own house (on the property) and keep this as a collector's house. It could be a bed-and-breakfast. You could have weddings there.'' (Source: UPI.)
Apparently, while the blood was cleaned up, there are still bullet scars. (Such fun!) So who wouldn’t want to stay at a B&B where a couple of America’s Most Wanted were taken down by G-Men with Tommy guns? (Didn’t they have tear gas in those days?)
And as for a wedding location…
Think of the fun themes: Men in 1930’s garb (including fedoras). Mini Tommy guns as favors. The mother of the bride could go as Ma Barker. Depression glass on the tables.
Maybe you could get all your guests to dress up as their favorite criminals. Bonnie and Clyde, anyone?
Maybe you could really get into the swing of things and register for 1930’s level wedding gifts. None of this Cuisinart nonsense. No $300 place settings. No 600 thread sheets.
You could sign up for an egg-beater. A linen tea-towel. A butter dish.
Or to keep in the Barker spirit – they were, after all, bank robbers – you could request all cash. As long as it was in small denomination, unmarked bills.
There’s actually some controversy about whether Ma Barker was really the tough broad, criminal mastermind that J. Edgar Hoover portrayed her as. Plenty of evidence points to her being just a plain old doting mom who happened to have raised a gang of criminals (all four of her sons were cons), and who liked to travel with her mama’s boys.
Anyway, bids are being accepted through Oct. 5.
Me, even if I actually wanted to have lakefront property in Ocklawaha, Florida, I would be taking a pass on this one.
A bit too eerie for my liking.
And $1M? Top of the world, Ma!
Today’s we’re asking the box a branding question about logo design.
Do I need a logo?
The truth is, despite the old adage, people DO judge a book by it’s cover. Your logo is the “cover” to your business. It’s the first thing a potential customer sees (whether it’s on your business card, a website or storefront signage). A logo promotes your professionalism and instills trust to your customer that you are a legitimate business.
Can a logo be just text?
Yes! Many companies have been very successful with a text-based logo. Be aware that certain fonts will convey different messages about your brand.
• A block font can express a clean, modern or assertive presence
• A decorative or serif font can express creativity, humor or elegance
Avoid using overly common fonts that can appear less professional.
What kind of graphics should a logo have?
Many business use a shape or graphic to establish a visual identity. Think of companies like Starbucks, Twitter and Apple. Their graphics are not necessarily complex but the images are distinct – in most cases a customer can identify the company without seeing the name . A word of warning, if you choose a generic image, be aware that other businesses could have your graphic too which will make branding more difficult.
What about color?
A good rule of thumb when creating your logo is to see if it passes a few color tests …
#1 Black and White – Reviewing how your logo looks in black and white can catch a variety of problems right away and will ensure that your logo can be easily transferred onto items like ink pens or shirts.
#2 Flat Color – This helps you look at how the colors are laid out without adding the details of shading. Reducing your logo to flat colors can allow you to pick up areas that are unclear or cluttered.
#3 Background – Inevitably, there will be a time when your logo needs to be displayed on a light or dark background. Try it out now! If you want to make sure your logo is only viewed on one kind of background, you may have to incorporate a shape, like a box or circle to make it easily transferable onto any color.
Do I need a graphic designer to make a logo?
Of course not! However, it’s important to note that a professional graphic designer knows how to convert your brand into a variety of print-ready formats including vector files and web optimized graphics. This is not as easy to do if you create your logo in a program like MS Word.
One final point…
Whether your logo is simple or complex – it should be memorable. It should stand out from your competition in the same way that your business stands out. Be sure to show your logo design to friends, family and current clients to get feedback. You’d hate to be memorable for the wrong reasons like these guys who ranked in the tip 10 worst logos online.
As always, let’s end with our high five review... a logo design should…
• Include text in a font style that matches your company
• Include a unique graphic or shape
• Pass color tests to ensure it can be used easily
• Be convertible to multiple formats that are print and web ready for future use
• Be memorable and get positive feedback from your customer base
We hope this video helps you to better understand logo design and how it can impact your business….
Stay updated as we add new videos on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or see how we can make your business life easier at Qlixite.com
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
It wouldn’t occur to me to pay for something that cost, say, $2.39, with anything other than cash (or a Dunkin’ Donuts cash card). But I see “young folks” whipping out there debit cards to buy candy bars and lattes all the time. So I keep thinking that cold, hard cash is going to be yet another thing that goes buggy-whip in my lifetime. (Will panhandlers have to get themselves set up with some sort of card swipe machine in order to stem?)
On the one hand, it’s probably more convenient not to have to worry about having cash on hand. Take it from someone who remembers the pre-ATM era, there were times on weekends when you’d worry about running out. So you’d make a trip to the grocery store – whether you needed to or not – and use your check-cashing privileges to get $50 over the grocery tab. This was, of course, at a time when $50 could actually tide you over for while. (These days, I don’t even bother with $100 transactions at the ATM.)
On the other hand, if you’re spending cash that’s actually in and on hand, you do have a pretty good idea of how your supply is dwindling. Sure, you can always summons up your balance, but I’m thinking that it’s easier to lose track if you’re swiping your debit (or, heaven forbid, credit) card for every little transaction.
Yet there is, blessedly, still a demand for cash, so that us old fogeys can still keep some in our wallets and under our mattresses, even if there are no newspapers, and few books, to spend it on anymore.
A British outfit called De La Rue, “the world’s largest commercial banknote printer”, “involved in the production of one in five of the world’s banknotes“ benefits nicely from this demand.
It was De La Rue that got the new currency contract for Iraq in 2003, when legal tender no longer bore the mustachioed likeness of Saddam Hussein. This was no trivial matter. Iraq needed 1.75 billion new bills, and they needed them within two months. So De La Rue went into overdrive to make the deadline, and
…chartered 27 Boeing 747s to deliver the freshly printed banknotes. (Source: The Economist.)
De La Rue also produced the currency for South Sudan, when it gained its independence last year. (Now that’s probably a country that doesn’t have a lot of debit cards in it.)
And while I may think that demand for cash is down,
Low interest rates have cut the opportunity cost of holding cash. With banks looking wobbly, many prefer to keep their money stuffed in the mattress, creating extra demand for banknotes.
So bad is good for De La Rue.
What would really be good for their business, of course, is the dissolution of the Euro.
However lousy that would be for the rest of the world, all those countries scurrying around to regenerate a national currency.
Greece may need drachma – probably by the boatful if they end up with hyperinflation.
Once Greece is gone, baby, gone from the Euro zone, the Cypriots may need to get their pound back. The Portuguese their escudo. The Spanish their peseta. The Irish their punt.
While the Euro is vastly more convenient, currency was more interesting when each country had their own.
It was always entertaining to see whose mug made it on to the banknotes – and to see whether you’d even heard of them. (Most Europeans probably haven’t heard of Andrew Jackson or Alexander Hamilton, either.)
In truth, I can’t remember anyone depicted on any country’s currency, other than our own. And, of course, The Queen on British currency. (Still there: they never went on the Euro.)
I think that Irish punt may have had W.B. Yeats and/or G.B. Shaw, but I’m not entirely sure. Grace O’Malley? Queen Medb? Maybe. I remember the coins, however: lovely deer, salmon, harps.
While multi-Euro currencies were interesting, it was also a drag to have to convert and reconvert when you moved across borders. We probably average one European trip a year, mostly hitting one country, but sometimes more per trip. Euros are mighty useful for these treks. And, since we’re always planning another overseas trip, we just hang on to Euros from one trip to the next. No need to ask whether we’ll ever get back to Italy again in our lives.
Anyway, although they’re protected by being diversified – they also print passports and create holograms for credit cards - I’m sure that De La Rue is kinda-sorta hoping that the Euro goes down. Bet they’re watching every move Angela Merkel makes, dreaming about cranking out all that new folding green (or red or blue), figuring out how many planes they’ll need to charter to deliver the not so goods to Athens.
Until we go entirely cashless, it must be fun to be an honest to goodness money maker.
Bring out your ashtrays, your finials, your tongs. That is, if you “found” them at the Waldorf-Astoria before 1960.
A few months back, the Waldorf-Astoria initiated an amnesty program in hopes of getting some of the items that light-fingered guests have packed in their valises between 1893 and 1960. Among that goods that have found their way out:
…flatware, plates, bowls, creamers, coffee cups;…monogrammed napkins, towels, bathrobes; ashtrays, mirrors, wooden hangers, and lampshade finials molded into the shape of the Waldorf’s crest; etched Scotch tumblers, ice buckets, tongs, side-armed coffee-pots; table-top bells that once summoned bell-hops; autographed pictures of Herbert Hoover and Cole Porter and Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco, of little Anderson Cooper and his mother Gloria Vanderbilt;…silver soup tureens, brass candlesticks, huge copper room keys, glass bottles that once held relish prepared by the Waldorf’s erstwhile maître d'hôtel Oscar Tschirky, progenitor of the Waldorf salad. Etc. (Source: The New Yorker – subscriber content.)
If you’re wondering what a “side-armed coffee-pot” is – as I was – here’s a picture found on eBay of a side-armed Waldorf-Astoria tea-pot that’s for sale on eBay for $149.99. That’s where a lot of Waldorf-Astoria goodies reside (at least temporarily), including plenty of demitasse spoons, serving platters, a decanter, and a set containing 54 pieces of flatware. (Now that valise must have weighed heavy when it left the prem. Not to mention jangled, unless all those forks, knives, and spoons were wrapped in a W-A towel. Why not: hung for a sheep as a lamb…)
Not all the stuff on eBay was necessarily acquired through five-finger discount. There’s one very cool Waldorf-Astoria patrolmen’s badge for sale for $100. How cool is that: a hotel had enough cops to issue numbered badges that ran into the 600’s. (Too bad it wasn’t Badge 714…)
Matt Zolbe, the Waldorf’s marketing director, sees all sorts of Waldorfian stuff for sale on eBay all the time, but doesn’t want to start paying folks off for things that are rightly the Waldorf’s to begin with. (Sort of like dealing with terrorists and kidnappers.)
While plenty of the purloined items that the Waldorf hopes to retrieve were in plentiful supply – like hangers, ashtrays, and demitasse spoons - some of the things that went missing are one-offs.
I’m assuming that the picture of Anderson and Gloria is on that one-off list, but there’s also “a mural of an Asian emperor addressing his subjects” which someone cut out of its frame in a public dining room and walked off with; and a two-foot tall bespoke silver trimmed crystal vase commissioned for the hotel’s 20th anniversary in 1913. The “owner” had it appraised for $30K and is willing to sell it back to the Waldorf…
I’ve stayed at the Waldorf a number of times, but never before 1960. (I don’t think I was in any hotel before 1960.) For the times I did stay there, I have nothing to show for it.
Other than an occasional wooden hanger I might have ripped off, back in the day before so many hotels started using the kind that you can’t make off with unless you dismantle the entire closet, I’ve never actually taken stuff from hotels. Other than the mini-shampoos and the cute little jam and ketchup jars that come with room service.
Maybe stuff was just cooler – and more monogrammed – in the olden days, but there’s never really been much in a hotel room that I found much worth stealing, even if I were so inclined.
One time, we did come home from a hotel stay in Portland, Maine, with a pillow. We had gone up to L.L. Bean and done a lot of shopping, and had tons of stuff in our room. So we used one of those carts to put all our luggage and shopping bags on. Somehow, a pillow made its way onto the cart. The bellboy packed the trunk, and it wasn’t until we got home and unpacked that we noticed that we had a pillow with us. (You’d think that bellboy would have noticed and said something, but maybe he thought it was ours.) Anyway, the pillow was nothing special, and we didn’t bother to return it: too much trouble, and probably not worth much more than the cost of shipping it back to them. It eventually went the way of all pillows.)
I do remember, years ago, going to a party at a colleague’s house, where she had a very funky, art deco-ish drink cart. At some point during the 1930’s, her parents had drunkenly wheeled off with it from their hotel. But that was, I believe, from the St. Regis, not the Waldorf. (Just checked on eBay: it’s not there.)
Not that I’m so 100% honest that I’ve never taken anything.
When I worked for Durgin-Park (famous old Boston tourist spot), I lifted a crudely and cheaply framed placard that was hanging in the waitress cloak room, that read:
If you work for a man, in heavens name work for him!If he pays you wages that supply you your bread and butter, work for him speak well of him, think well of him, stand by him and stand by the institution he represents. I think if I worked for a man I would work for him. I would not work for him a part of the time, and the rest of the time work against him. I would give an undivided service or none. If put to the pinch, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness.Elbert Hubbard (Source: QuotationsBook.com)
This bromide was particularly inapt. When I worked at Durgin-Park, the owner was a viciously mean, borderline insane, drunk-as-a-skunk lout who made everyone’s life miserable. No way anyone but the most supreme toady would “speak well of him”.
I may have the placard around somewhere; maybe not. (If I do come across it, I’ll drop it off at Durgin if they’ll let me see whether the waitress cloak room has been updated since 1973. At that point, it hadn’t been touched since 1873…)
I must confess, as well, to having taken a plaque that was a bit more valuable than the words of Elbert Hubbard from the Union Oyster House, another venerable Boston establishment where I waitressed while in college. The plaque was some sort of oil painting with a haute-relief of a sailing ship on it. I can’t remember what my motivation was for lifting it off the wall of the booth one evening. Bad tip night? A near miss stepping on a rat? (When I worked there, the place was crawling with them. Screaming when one ran across your feet was a firing offense.) Parting gift?
Anyway, I passed it on, and I believe it still hangs somewhere. Just not in a booth at Union Oyster House.
But hotel pilfering? Not me.
So I’ve nothing to contribute to the Waldorf amnesty program.
Apparently I’m not the only one.
To date, the amnesty program hasn’t yielded much. A young woman who works in sales at the Waldorf surrendered a sterling salad fork her grandparents had cadged on their honeymoon in 1949. (Ah, romance.)
Monday, August 20, 2012
There was an article on boston.com the other day on folks who are taking part in the “latest trend in dying: the self-written obituary.”
Having done all they can to dictate exactly how their funerals will go — down to playlists, menus, and off-beat hearses — baby boomers, and some members of the Silent Generation, are now taking control over the story of their lives.
O, obit. Why not?
Who wants a boring old obituary with “just the facts”? And, let’s face it, most of us aren’t born great, haven’t achieved greatness, and will die waiting for greatness to be thrust upon us. Which means that there’s no behind the scenes NY Times obituary writer with a file chock-a-block full of bits about our lives, just waiting for the word so he can truck it out to commemorate us.
But I must say that, while I won’t be granted a free, this is news, death notice, I also don’t want anyone paying to publish my obituary, either. (Talk about the ultimate in vanity press.)
Which is not to say that I don’t want to have a final word or two.
So maybe one of these days I’ll get around to pulling together something or other for someone or other to read at my funeral, errrrr, the celebration of my life. (I believe I’ve already made it clear that a smidge of my ashes should be strewn in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Leicester, Massachusetts, where I’ll be with four generations of Rogers-Trainors; another smidge tossed in Galway Bay; and a final soupçon left in Fenway Park. (On this final destination for my final destination: if the Red Sox continue their pathetic ways, please spit in the ashes, muddy up a baseball, and hurl it at someone. But please don’t let my brother Rick be the one to do the hurling, as he’s likely to actually hit a player.)
And if I’m still blogging - if blogging, indeed, still exists – I should leave a final entry, a ghost-post as it were, with instructions on how to publish it. (Hey, it’s free!)
As a writer of sorts, I won’t have any problem pulling together my swan song, but for those looking for a place to start, there’s Susan Soper’s ObitKit, who’s dying to help folks “put the fun in funeral.”
Actually, no one of Irish descent, who grew up poring over the Irish Sports Pages (i.e., the obituaries), needs to be told how to put the fun in funeral. Why, even at the funeral of my well-beloved Aunt Margaret, whose sudden death (okay, she was 85) devastated those of us who loved her, a number of us blew whistles as we got in our cars for the procession from her church in West Newton to her burial in Leicester. (To anyone curious about funeral processions that process for 50 miles, the cars do stay together on the Mass Pike, but they go the speed limit, resuming funeral pace when off the Pike.) You may ask what we were doing with whistles at a funeral. Well, we didn’t ask the funeral parlor where Margaret was waked to have baskets full of glow-in-the-dark whistles (with the funeral parlor’s name and address embossed on them) in the ladies room, did we? I mean, if they didn’t want us to take them, they wouldn’t have been there. And what good’s a whistle if you don’t go and blow on it?
As for owning your own obit:
Statistics on the number of seniors working to meet the ultimate deadline are hard to come by, but obituary-writing courses are being offered on-line and in workshops, and informal obit-writing sessions are popping up at book club meetings and girlfriend reunions.
Why discuss Hillary Mantel’s Bring Up The Bodies, when it’s so much more enjoyable to work with that most scintillating and engrossing of topics: me, myself, and, of course, I.
Auto-obituary writers should not let themselves get too carried away.
The [Boston] Globe charges $10 a line for a death notice, which is about 35-40 characters, plus an $18.50 fee to put the notice on Legacy.com for one year. At the New York Times, a death notice costs $55 per line, which runs about 28 characters, and the paper’s Legacy.com fee is $55.
The Globe is a regular bargain, but when you do the math, even things there can get pretty pricey. A 500 word story-de-moi would translate into 2,000 – 2,500 characters. Let’s go with the lower end of the range here. At 40 characters per line, that’s 50 lines. So your death notice would cost you, well, not you-you, but someone who knew you-you well enough to get your obituary into the paper, would have to fork over $500 – plus extra for that year on Legacy.com. So obituary writers had best make sure that they put aside a few bucks if they want to make sure that they get published. (As opposed to having your grieving relict say, “$500 bucks to get this load of crap in the obituary section? No way. I’ll just mimeo copies and hand them out at the funeral.”)
The Times, as befits the country’s Paper of Record, is far costlier: 5.5 times per line – and that’s for a shorter line.
Even if you got your story down to a tweet, for five 28 character lines (hitting the tweet 140 max), you’d (again, not you-you) would be set back $275. And that’s for a tweet.
With this self-obituary-ing craze, the high cost of dying seems to have gotten a bit higher.
My sister Trish sent the link to this article to me, so a doff of the shroud to her.
And just to see what you could pack into 140 characters (this is 135), here’s my death tweet:
Daughter, sister, wife, aunt, cousin, friend, colleague. Worcester girl. Red Sox fan. Loved Ireland. Pretty darned funny. A reader. Should have been a writer.
This is subject to change, of course. If the Red Sox keep going the way they’re going…
About one-third of the comments that appear on Pink Slip are spam. Once in a blue moon, if they are especially ridiculous, I let them through, but mostly I mark ‘em as spam and get rid of ‘em.
As I did with this one:
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Does anyone actually own a Snuggie?":
Excellent beat ! I would like to apprentice at the same time as you amend your web site, how can i subscribe for a blog web site?
Well, agreed, Pink Slip does have excellent beat! But I’m not taking on any apprentices at present, even though I really should amend my web site.
The account aided me a appropriate deal. I were a little bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided vivid clear idea scott a. tucker dancing
Well, it didn’t provide me a clear idea. What, pray tell, is Scott A. Tucker dancing?
Then there was this part of the comment which included a couple of links to various Scott Tucker sites. (I have removed the links; don’t want these spammers getting credit for anything.)
scott tucker amg
scott tucker kansas city star
My web page - scott tucker
That Castro Oil ranking of auto racer Scott Tucker revealed him to be 133 in the world, by the way. (We’re Number 133! We’re Number 133!) The other was to Scott Tucker, artist and performer. Could this be one and the same guy? If so, what a polymath!
I found Scott Tucker, racing driver, on wikipedia. While he didn’t appear to be the arting and performing Scott Tucker, he had quite a checkered history that went beyond his recent checkered flag exploits.
In 1991 Tucker was convicted of felony mail fraud and making false statements to a bank and imprisoned for a year. Tucker is currently involved with the private-equity firm Westfund as well as the payday loan company AMG Services. In 2006 Tucker began his interest in motorsports, first participating in the Ferrari Challenge series.
On April 2, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission filed charges against AMG Services. The charges revolve around excessive fees and interest charged to borrowers, in addition to loan terms not being fully disclosed at the time loans are initiated. Tucker was specifically charged in addition to the firm itself.
The wiki categories he’s listed under include both “24 Hours of LeMans Drivers” and “American Fraudsters”. No mention of “Artist” or “Performer.”
On closer inspection of the other Scott Tucker, I found that he was much younger than Scott Tucker, American Fraudster and 24 Hours of Le Mans Driver, and was, indeed, a Texas-based artist and performer. (He’s a member of a “neo-psychedelic band.”) He’s also a movie buff, who’s faves include:
La Dolce Vita, The Great Gatsby, Blow Up (sic), Dead Poets Society, Honey and Clover, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Casa Blanca (sic)
Which one would not expect on the fave list of Scott Tucker, 24 Hours of Le Mans Driver. (Maybe Steve McQueen’s LeMans…)
And gratuitous note to Scott Tucker, artist and performer. It’s Blowup (or Blow-Up) and Casablanca. Sheesh…
Minor spelling glitches aside, Scott Tucker, artist and performer, has plenty to say for himself:
James Joyce, and even Rod Sterling have all been figures in his work. Tucker believes Western Society lives in a fantastic sort of material chaos only upheld due to a lack of personal objective consciousness.
I double dog dare you to deconstruct that!
“The world of technology has changed our social and moral landscape onto a zoo. My work combines elements of mass consumption, sex appeal, terror, and nostalgia; all four exist together in an orgy we call pop culture. As an artist, I feel it is my duty to illustrate their sociological effects in my work.” Scott Tucker (Source: a site called theartmenu.com)
Ah, the orgy we call pop culture…
But Scott Tucker, artist, performer, and zoo landscaper, is also Scott Tucker, Jr., who’s son of Scott Tucker, Sr. (no relation to American Fraudster/24 Hours of LeMans Scott Tucker), who’s the founder and jefe of Artworks, which:
…is a world class faux finish and specialty mural company started 30 years ago by artist Scott Tucker Sr.
Which, if you’re in the market, produces stuff like this:
Someone in Boston is, apparently, in the market:
Within the next two weeks we will be flying out to bid a massive project in Boston that will most likely fill our entire fall schedule.
Go for it, Scott Tucker, Jr. and Scott Tucker, Sr.
But, if it’s you and not the American Fraudster paying for someone who’s paying for someone whose command of English ain’t so hot to do your search engine optimization for you, you’re at least somewhat wasting your money. If you waste enough of it, there’s always the other Scott Tucker for a pay day loan.
And if it’s Scott Tucker, Number 133 in the Castro Oil rankings, who’s hired these nincompoops to do SEO, well, I guess it’s not true that it takes a fraudster to catch a fraudster.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
A Philadelphia couple came in for a bit of a shock in Italy recently when they stopped into a shop in Garda, Italy, and saw wine with Hitler’s face on it on the shelves. Not something that most decent folks would want to see displayed, but in this case, matters were made worse. The wife of the couple is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, and had grandparents and an aunt murdered at Auschwitz. (Source: Huffington Post.)
I’m actually not surprised.
When in Rome this past April, we saw a number of souvenir stands selling Il Duce fridge magnets and other Benito Mussolini paraphernalia.
And, in fact, the Lunardelli winery that offers wine with Hitler on the label – in dozens of different versions, including one with the cover of Mein Kampf on it – also sells Mussolini wine. I strolled around the site a bit and also found a combo Adolf-Benito version. As well as one sporting a coy picture of Eva Braun, and others featuring Goering, Himmler, and Hess.
Why let good taste and common decency get in the way of wringing a buck out of someone lacking in good taste and common decency?
It’s axiomatic (or almost) that if someone’s willing to buy it, then someone should be able and willing to sell it. (I say almost axiomatic because there is, after all, kiddie porn and snuff which, while they do have an audience and represent a “market” of buyers, should really and truly have no sellers.)
So there shouldn’t be a law against selling Fuehrer wein. And there shouldn’t need to be a law – other than the implicit rules of taste and decency. And apparently there isn’t a law:
Prosecutor Mario Giulio Schinaia spoke with news agency ANSA, saying the "only crime that could be currently attributable to this is that of apologising for fascism ... At this point, though, it would be opportune to invent the crime of human stupidity."
I actually disagree with Schinaia here. This isn’t a “crime of human stupidity.” It’s a crime of being willing to go pretty darned low to make money.
The owner of the supermarket that sold the wine defended its sale, saying it was a part of history, "like Che Guevara."
It is certainly true that both Adolf Hitler and Che Guevara are, indeed, part of history. And both wore facial hair. But beyond that, there really isn’t a whole lot the two had in common. And whether you worshipped at Che Guevara’s altar, or thought he was the devil incarnate, Che did not bear a good portion of the responsibility for World War II, nor was he responsible for the deaths of millions who weren’t collateral damage from the war itself, but were victims of genocide, singled out specifically for their religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
Thus, while lack of decency and taste should never be a surprise, it was still pretty surprising to read that:
Last month, a woman told European gay news site Pink News that she was ejected from a London gay bar when she objected to a bottle of wine adorned with the image of Adolf Hitler.
Have we become such hip, jaded, cool, raised-eye ironists that someone stocking the shelves in a gay bar would think that this was a good thing to do?
Hitler wine, by the way, has been around since the 1990’s. A decade ago, vintner Lunardelli noted that Hitler was his “bestseller, moving more than 30,000 bottles a year.
And it’s not just Hitler wine in Italy.
Sales of wine and schnapps with Adolf Hitler on the label are increasing all over Austria.
An Austrian website was selling bottles with portraits of Hitler and the swastika. The site offered sales of spirits in “nostalgic bottles of former historical greats.”
The man selling the wine and schnapps was identified only as Roland M. Legal officials say he was motivated by profit, not ideology. (Source: Weekly World News.)
Profit, Profit, Über Ideology.
That makes it better. I think…
Other uses of the Hitler “brand” include a “Nazi-themed” clothing line that was withdrawn last year by a Hong-Kong clothing company.
Asia is apparently a hot-bed when it comes to the use of Nazi imagery, which figures, I guess, since there aren’t a lot of relatives of Holocaust victims floating around to object. According to Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League:
“They [Asians] don’t really have a concept of Hitler. I’ve seen a lot of really bizarre things [in Asia] — like [advertisements for] ‘German pianos at Jewish prices.’ It’s bizarre. There’s a bar named after Hitler.”
This all raises a lot of questions around when, where and how it’s okay to start commercializing rather than demonizing horror shows like Hitler and Mussolini.
Personally, I think it should wait a few generations, when there are no longer any actual and once- or twice-removed victims to be horrified by a commercial use of their victimizer images. Thus, I’d wait a few more decades before going to town with a line of Hitler anythings.
Meanwhile, it you want to have tasteless wine, that’s probably tasteless in both respects, there’s always Vlad the Impaler and Genghis Kahn to grace your labels. Nobody around to remember those bad boys!
I think it’s absolutely okay to make fun of Hitler and Mussolini. Along with ignominy, it’s exactly what they deserve. (I love The Producers.) But using the name and image to turn a profit by encouraging those with no sense and/or taste, or – how ghastly that would be – those who are genuinely nostalgic for the good old days of fascism. A pox on their vineyards!
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
All you slobs out there probably think that it’s pretty darned easy being ultra-wealthy.
Well, let me tell you…
Even when you get beyond the fact that so many of the clearly envious great unwashed are clamoring for them to pay their so-called “fair share” of taxes, there’s the day to day problems associated with being a job creator for those faceless, thankless minions in China and India for whom jobs are being created. And the even more pedestrian issue of finding good help-around-the-house(s) who won’t go yapping (on their blogs, in their tweets, to the National Enquirer, in tell-all books) about you and your private, personal, wealth and job creating lives at the first chance. (You know, one good thing about the illegals. Not only do they work cheap, but a lot of them don’t speak English. I’m telling you, it just gets harder and harder for the rich.)
Then there’s coping with the hangers-on who probably just pretend to like you in hopes that you’ll give them a used tiara, or something.
In truth, being wealthy may remove a teensie-weensie bit of anxiety about whether you’re going to be eating cat food in your old age and/or sleeping over a heating grate. And it may enable you to buy a raft of swell stuff without fumbling around trying to find the price tag without making it obvious to the sales person that you’re fumbling around trying to find the sales tag.
Come on, who wouldn’t want an iPad in every room, in every home? Who wouldn’t want 2,000 thread count sheets? And cashmere dust rags?
But big money can also buy you big trouble. And some of that big trouble’s social-media related. Especially when your poor little kids are using it.
Take the situation that the children of Michael Dell have found themselves in.
Alexa, a recent high school grad, went and posted a picture of her 15 year old brother Zachary on this tremendously interesting and relevant Tumblr site called the Rich Kids of Instagram. (Seriously, as an aside, you should absolutely go and wander through RKOI. You will regret that you ever doubted for a New York minute that it isn’t difficult being the scion of someone who’s well to do enough to allow you to take private helicopter rides around San Tropez. Truly, you will stop channeling your inner Robespierre and start feeling a whole yacht-load of sympathy for those poor rich folks.)
Anyway, the picture of Zachary that Alexa posted on RKOI – now, alas, taken down – was of young Master Dell scarfing down a lush buffet while seated in the family jet, heading for a no-doubt well-earned vacation on Fiji.
Anyone with a bit of curiosity could see that Alexa had posted the picture on Instagram and pointed to it via her Twitter account. On that same Twitter account, Alexa happily detailed her every move, including the exact days she would arrive in, say, New York, and where she was shopping. She also put up such things as her high school graduation dinner invitation that foretold where (time, date, location) Michael Dell and his wife would be in a couple of weeks’ time. (Source: Business Week.)
Which would not be that big a deal – my sister Trish updates her FB when we’re sitting in the bleachers at Fenway Park (this year, given how crapoid the team is, there’s nothing going on on the field that’s all that riveting) - if, unlike my sister Trish, Michael Dell wasn’t spending:
…about $2.7 million a year for the security protection of his family, according to Dell regulatory filings.
Which, I guess, must mean that $2.7 million worth of security is part of his compensation package. But it also means that Dell is paying $50K a week for security. Which seems to translate into quite a few reasonably well paid, round the clock security folks watching out for Dell, his beloved, and his possessions. $2.7 million a year in security! Presumably, if you’re paying it, you’re needing it. Now that, my friends, underscores the point that a life of financial ease is not necessarily a life of personal ease.
Given the security outlay,
…you can imagine how pleased [Dell] must have been to see his children’s jaunt to Fiji detailed on a catchy website and his daughter providing an online diary of her life, replete with GPS locations dished out by her cell phone.
Alas, Alexa’s Twitter account has been shuttered. Dell is mum on whether it was because of security concerns, but the speculation is that security’s the reason.
Jason Thorsett, a manager at a bodyguard company, figures that Dell’s security team went bonkers when they saw the Dells’ locations being given away.
“I’m sure they called the dad and shut it down,” he says. “It’s innocent on the kids’ behalf, but social networking has become the bane of our existence. They undo a lot of hard work on Facebook and Twitter.”
All those 140 character bread-crumb trails leading kidnappers to their targets.
“Twitter is the worst because it’s so instantaneous,” Thorsett says. “You get that GPS location of exactly where you are. It’s just insane.”
What did I tell you?
It is SO not easy being ultra-wealthy.
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
Michael Kinsley had an interesting post over on Bloomberg the other day on predictions about what might change, in terms of moral (and other) perceptions and behaviors, over the next 20 years.
The list of things that Kinsley and his readers came up with pretty predictably included attitudes towards gay marriage, climate change, and eating meat. But readers also suggested a few less sweeping but perhaps more interesting ideas about what might happen a couple of decades out
No more lawns, one came up with.
This is an interesting one, and a two-fer, as it hits at both environmentalism (leeching all that water that could be used more productively elsewhere, and oh, those chemicals leaching into the leeched-out aquifer), plus the scarcity of time to hover around your lawn. (Hey, I have to be inside, online reading about two-headed kittens and missing birth certificates.)
While I realize that they are unnatural, fussy, and water-wasting, I actually like the look of a nice green lawn, and would hate for them to die out entirely. Lawn care was, more or less, a hobby of my father’s, especially the front lawn, which was mowed by hand mower (power mower for the larger, less pampered back yard) and only by my father. The front lawn also had a higher-end watering system: flat hoses with tiny holes in them that sprayed a fine mist, vs. the whirling sprinklers out back. I don’t remember ever seeing any crab grass out front, but weeds and dandelions (front and back) were anathema to my father. Watching my father as he went on lawn patrol, I learned that a screw driver could and should be used to rout out dandelions.
As the result of my father’s care, the front lawn was a green velvet carpet. Nothing felt better than barefooting on a summer night in the aftermath of a watering.
So, while I recognize that green lawns are something of an environmental disaster (not to mention a time synch) I have a certain fondness for them.
But, hey, I don’t have a personal dog in this hunt, as I live in a downtown area where personal lawns don’t exist. If you want to see grass, you go to the Public Garden or Boston Common.
Still, I think the best route here would to encourage lawns to fade away in places – like the sandy parts of Cape Cod and most of Arizona – where there isn’t enough water to support a lawn without going to extremes. But maybe we can let them survive in the environs where water is (for now, anyway) in abundant supply. But about those chemicals…
Another Kinsley reader predicted that high-heeled shoes would be a thing of the past, like whale-bone corsets.
Despite the fact that high heeled shoes are hazardous to foot health, I wouldn’t bet on this one.
As long as high heels are considered sexy, sweet young things who want to catch a man’s eye are going to be forcing their feet into them and stumbling around.
Since I am no longer a sweet young thing, high heels are not my worry.
That said, I did slip up recently and order a pair of nearly 3 inch heels to wear to an upcoming wedding. What was I thinking? I tried them on and, while they looked good when I was standing still, when walking I could do no more than totter around, leaning so far forward to keep my balance that I looked like Groucho Marx. Zapped them babies back to Zappo’s. I’ll have to go with one or my more sensible alternatives, two of which, thankfully, are not entirely clunky.
One Kinsley respondent forecast that private car ownership might be illegal twenty years out. Given where and how most people live in this country, I would have to characterize this as wishful thinking, even if most people become telecommuters. But I’m certainly a poster child for how to live carless.
The key has always been living in a city with walkable neighborhoods and good public transportation, but the emergence of Zipcar has certainly aided this cause. (Zip is an entirely automated, short term rental car service that garages cars in convenient city locations.) Although my preference is always to take public transpo, if I need a car for a short hop, I do Zip. In the past year, I’ve used Zip to pick up my Christmas tree; get my niece home from her commuting-challenged suburban high school; meet with clients; have dinner with friends; and fetch a coleus, impatiens, and mulch to spruce up our front “garden.” (Too bad the impatiens, which was a bit water logged to begin with, got doused by a major thunder-boomer shortly after I planted them. Should have lasted through October, but sadly all gone…)
Great as Zipcar is, I don’t think I’ll see death to car ownership in my lifetime.
Kinsley also published a comment from a reader that did not quite enter into the spirit of the futurama discussion:
Another says: “It could be that Mr. Kinsley will be completely discredited as a polemicist of any note whose ideas and questions for discussion will be forever ridiculed.” I wish I could predict that in 20 years, rudeness on the Internet will be considered just as impolite as rudeness to someone’s face. But I doubt it.
Which raises an issue that is a complete bugbear to me: nasty, mostly anonymous comments on news sites and blogs.
While I don’t get tons of comments, I have noted over the years that, when I am posting about something that’s in the news and somewhat controversial, I do attract more short-terms readers. And comments. Invariably, the ones that go on the attack tend to be unsigned. I can understand why someone might not want their full name attached to a comment, but to not even come up with a handle?
But the real problem is not the ad hominem attacks I occasionally draw. It’s the level of discourse (if that’s the right word) in the real public idea domain.
It’s, of course, no surprise that the greater the anonymity of the commenters, the far greater propensity of the comment to be negative, scurrilous, and cretinous. What is so surprising is that so many chose this (cowardly) approach.
Most commenters to articles that appear in The New York Times are “signed” with real names and are, thus, more like little (and sometimes not so little) letters to the editor, only with the ability to do point-counterpoint. I’m not saying that these comments are always devoid of negativity, but there is a general level of welcome civility in the tone and word choice, even when people disagree vehemently with the article or one of their fellow commenters. Just thinking about the comments to NYT articles makes me think I really should subscribe online, rather than just keep on cadging the 10 free articles a month I’m allotted.
Comments on boston.com (The Boston Globe online), on the other hand, use pen or, rather, screed names. Some use their real names, but most use a handle. I’d say that, depending on the topic, the comments to articles in the political-social realm are typically at least half (and this is multiple choice): racist, homophobic, anti-feminist, anti-Obama, and willing to characterize the “other side” as lacking in decency, patriotism, intelligence, and moral fiber. (In this universe, everyone’s a wingnut or a moonbat, and I will note that the local commentary seems to attract more wingnuts than moonbats.) Oh, yes, and as often as not off-topic.
So many of them froth on about how Massachusetts is the worst place in the world to live, that I find myself gathering rebuttal points (education, health, wealth, divorce rate, gun deaths…) that I want to just package up and put in a signed comment pointing out that this really is, cost of living aside, a pretty good place to live. (While grinding my teeth and really wanting to write, ‘If it’s so awful here, why don’t you just pack up and move to Mississippi. And don’t let the door hit your arse on the way out, you moron.)
With Kinsley, I have my doubts about whether commenters will become less rude over time.
Maybe it’s good to have the anonymous commenting world out there to drain some of the tension and venom out of “the system.”
Still, I wish that the Boston Globe would put in place a commenting system that was more like that of The New York Times, where, comparatively speaking and absolutely, civility, perspective and intelligence reign. If they wanted to preserve what they have now, boston.com could keep it in place. Just run the signed commentary in parallel. Signed commenters could post on either side, and those who wish or need for whatever reason to remain anonymous could register with their real name, but with the ability to post as pseudonymous commenter on the signed side. This would be like the letters to the editor used to have “name held on request.”
But let the frothing, mean-spirited, crazed and moronic venom spewers go at it in their own space.
I’m sure I’d be tempted to make an occasional foray over into the muck pit – it’s just way too alluring – but the world would be a better place if, when people made their points, they did so knowing that they their name was going to be associated with it.
Monday, August 13, 2012
The Student Loan Fiasco’s Getting Uglier…(Seemed like a good idea at the time to borrow that extra $10K)
I was fortunate to attend college at a time when it didn’t cost all that much. Even when I went to business school (1979-1981) at a high-end school (MIT), I don’t think tuition was more than $4K-$5K a year. I did borrow a bit of money for Sloan, as I had earlier for my one year of grad school at Columbia. The sum total of my borrowing was, maybe, $5 - 6K.
School in those days, of course, was nothing near as fancy as it is now. When I went over to Sloan (MIT) during my 25th reunion year, I was astounded by how nice the facilities were, when compared to the rather minimal digs we had when I was there. (The student hangout between classes and for lunch was pretty much two large round tables in a sort of no man’s land on the floor that housed the administrative offices.)
And, hey, it was worth it.
But the average loan burden that a student graduates with is far in excess of $6K. It’s somewhere in the $30K range. And that’s the average.
I’m of mixed emotions here.
I do think it’s worth having some skin in the game to get an education, and borrowing to attend college is skin.
I also think that a liberal arts education is (or at least can be) worthwhile, even if it doesn’t translate into a brilliant and lucrative career. It’s actually kind of sad that, whether we like it or not, this sort of an education is turning into a luxury item that only a few will be able to afford. (The good news, of course, is that online education – and I’m not talking “I Am Phoenix” here – means that those who love learning can easily and cheaply become life-long learners. Real schools, good schools – MIT is one of them – have lots of course materials on line for free.)
On the other hand, it seems really and truly crazy to borrow a ton of money to major in, say, women’s studies or “communications” or 20th century film or Baltic languages at a third tier college where you’ll graduate with a degree that has limited value, and where you won’t have (gag, but I have to say it), built the sort of network that can help your find a decent job. Better you should major in something that has at least a vague chance of translating into a job where you’ll make enough to pay off those irksome and heavy-duty loans. Or find a less costly state school than the charming little private college you have your heart set on, without the pocketbook to follow your heart.
Especially when you consider that, unlike a mortgage on which you’re underwater, you can’t walk away from student loans. No bankruptcy. No no-can-do. No death do us part.
In fact, there’s now a new wrinkle to the student loan problem, and that’s that the parents who co-signed for their kids (or grandkids), or who directly took out loans for their kids (or grandkids), are finding that their Social Security is being tapped to make good on those loans. Also being hit are some retirees who are paying off their own loans – including mid-life-change-of-career-back-to-school debt. (Source: Smart Money.)
According to government data, compiled by the Treasury Department at the request of SmartMoney.com, the federal government is withholding money from a rapidly growing number of Social Security recipients who have fallen behind on federal student loans. From January through August 6, the government reduced the size of roughly 115,000 retirees' Social Security checks on those grounds. That's nearly double the pace of the department's enforcement in 2011; it's up from around 60,000 cases in all of 2007 and just 6 cases in 2000.
The government can withhold up to 15%. Given that the average Baby Boomer has done a pretty abysmal job saving for retirement, and is heavily reliant on Social Security, having 15% clawed out is going to hurt.
Roughly 2.2 million student-loan debtors were 60 and older during the first quarter of 2012, and nearly 10% of their loans were 90 days or more past due, up from 6% during the first quarter of 2005, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
This is going to be short-term ugly and long term worse.
Pink Slip’s been on the student debt hobby horse in the past. Early post on borrowing to go to law school. Another one on young folks who think Debt Is Cool, and yet another about a young woman who borrowed an extra $10K to live in a fancy-ass dorm.