Saturday, November 22, 2008

Wither the Buggywhip?

I'm certainly conflicted on this proposed bail-out of the Big Three. It's certainly something unprecedented in my lifetime, seeing the CEO's of GM, Ford and Chrysler all but begging before congress for billions of corporate bailout to forestall the inevitable.

There's no winners in this end-game. And every one's to blame.

  • Union Management: I don't blame the worker--for what is wrong with wanting livable wages and benefits, health care and a good retirement. Isn't that the American Dream? Would we all be happier if these workers were Wal-Marted into $10-15/hour jobs with no health care and no retirement plan? It pains me to say this, as Union Member myself for the past fifteen years--in Texas, no less, probably the least-friendly place in the country to a Union worker--but let's point a finger at Union Leadership, who took, and took, and took at every opportunity (just doing the job they were elected to) and created a big benefit monster as a result that can no longer continue to be fed.
  • Congress: It does no one good to set fuel efficiency standards, then create enough loopholes to drive a busload of Big Three lobbyists through. We look to Government to lead us through crises, but for 30 years we've had a looming energy crunch and they've done nothing but superficially address the problem.
  • Big Three Management: They still don't "get it." They sat on their fat asses, adding layer after layer of management while the foreign manufacturers created technologies and manufacturing processes and cars that were more advanced, more fuel efficient, and cheaper to boot. Why does GM need a dozen sedans, all competing with each other? Why do we need both Chevy and GM trucks? Why do we need a Buick, a Cadillac, and a Chevrolet? Doesn't this duplication of effort erode any credibility that "downsizing" and "streamlining" talk that GM makes? Dispensing with Oldsmobile and Pontiac was too little, too late, and they they go around an create Saturn, a "different" type of car company, but, ultimately, produced cars were just as shitty as the ones Detroit built.
  • The American Consumer: We've lived on unicorns and pixie dust in this country for too long. We still believe in that rugged American individualism bullshit sold by Toby Keith and John Mellencamp singing about trucks. We don't want to believe that we're in a global energy crunch, and yet we continue to demand Hummers. What the fuck with that? Whatever happened to our own personal responsibility--that's part of American individualism, too. Just because you can afford it, do you need it? Do we still cling to the notion that you are what you drive? Just because you're an asshole, do you really need a Hummer? The soccer mom loves the feeling of security in a big Suburban, but then is the first to complain that high gasoline prices are making it tough to drive! Didn't you SEE that one coming, or are you so damned myopic with your limited world view?

It didn't take long--less than a generation--for the Big Three to piss away whatever advantage they had. Slow to react, the Big Three were ineffective in getting the wake-up call when foreign manufacturers flooded the US with good, reliable and cheap cars, then built their own factories in largely rural locations to take advanage of tax breaks on domestic manufacturing, negotiating better deals with the UAW to boot.

So, we're damned if we do, and damned if we don't in bailing the Big Three out. And there is the Catch 22. Millions of jobs are at stake. But giving an industry that hasn't proven it knows what their market is, is just pissing billions down a hole. Even if magically they can right the ship, are consumers in the mood to buy automobiles? We're told by the media we either a) can't get credit, or b)are too scared to take on any more debt in a time of uncertain economic news. So who are you going to sell these cars to, Mr. GM?

I wouldn't have imagined a world without GM, or Ford of Chrysler, but the acres of unsold pickup trucks and big SUV's accumulating west of downtown Fort Worth along I820 makes me believe that such a world is possible. There WILL always be American-made cars to purchase. They'll just be coming from Toyota. Honda. Nissan.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Essential Keith Olbermann

Get the latest news satire and funny videos at

I love Olbermann. He's an acquired taste, his bombast. If you don't have time to watch him everynight, here's a minute of him. You get the idea.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In praise of the Necco Wafer. . .

Is there any candy better than the Necco wafer? It's "the original candy wafer," after all. Thin and compact, I think of them as flavored communion wafers--the Catholic Church actually uses them as stand-ins for children practicing for the Eucharist!

Our household is stuck with a mess of 'em following Halloween, so this otherwise bland, nondescript candy got me wondering: Wherefor art thou, Necco wafer?

They're still AMERICAN MADE, for one thing, in Revere, Mass., by New England Confectionery Company, which has been turning out treats such as Clark Bars, Sweethearts (a traditional Valentine's candy), and Thin Mints since 1847. I imagine these things getting cranked out in a big, old New England-style brick factory, hard along a river with a hard-to-pronounce name, but actually Necco moved into a new factory in 2003.

The Necco Wafer is part of history, a vital component of the nation's industrial development, as well as Arctic exploration, according to Necco's website:

"1912: Explorer Donald MacMillan takes Necco Wafers on his Arctic expedition, using them for nutrition and as rewards to Eskimo children."

I can't vouch for the nutritious nature of the Necco wafer (although the packaging does boast that it is FAT FREE), but I guess if you're north of the Arctic circle, beggars can't be choosers. Out of salted meat? Good thing we brought this case of Necco wafers along! Wikipedia claims that Admiral Byrd took two and a half tons of Necco wafers to the South Pole, or nearly a pound a week per member of his expedition on their two-year trek. I'd imagine that was the last time any of them wanted to see a Necco wafer again.

Their indestructable nature (allegedly--a good portion of those I extract from a package are broken) led the US Army to divert a portion of Necco's production to the military during World War II.

Two more fun-facts about Neccos:
  • Wintergreen Necco wafers, like wintergreen LifeSavers, will create visible sparks when snapped in half or crushed in dim light due to triboluminescence.
  • Necco Wafers contain gelatin, an animal by-product.
Today, the Necco wafer is beloved--in fact, to commemorate Necco's 150th anniversary, the company's water tower was painted to resemble a Necco wafer roll and has "become a treasured part of the Boston/Cambridge skyline."

But I digress.

If you've never had a Necco wafer, you're in for a treat. Stacked like a roll of nickles and wrapped in a cylinder of brittle tissue paper, each roll of wafers is a like a crap shoot--maybe you'll get a roll with lots of the colors you like, maybe you won't. Inside are random (I assume) combinations of eight colors, each a different flavor--although I'd be hard-pressed to tell you what flavor is which, besides the chocolate and licorice.

Some folks see Necco wafers as art. Others rhapsodize on the "dust" these wafers give off. Myself, I just like to eat them. Well, a few of the colors, anyway.

Oh, Necco wafer, how do I rate thee?

  1. Grey (licorice)
  2. Purple (clove)
  3. White (cinnamon)
  4. Pink (wintergreen)
  5. Brown (chocolate)
  6. Orange (er, orange), yellow (lemon), green (lime)--these sort of taste the same to me.

Which is YOUR favorite color?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Halloween Sugar Blast

I. provides a scary face to accompany our display of pumpkins. My contribution, of course, features the head wound, "x-ed out" dead eyes, and puking guts.

We had a great Halloween eve. I brought my dad over from Plano to spend the night, and took that day off work. Dad handed out candy to neighborhood kids while M. and I took the boys out collecting candy; afterwards, we went over to our neighbor's house, where they were throwing a Halloween party, complete with a bounce house on the front lawn. It was a great chance to meet some of our neighbors (and examine their drinking habits), which I hardly have a chance to do on weekends as I'm usually working.

The next morning, we all headed over to the ball fields for I. and E.'s baseball games, then he hit Braum's for lunch (my Dad, the fast-food hamburger connisieur, surprisingly had never visited Braums before) before I drove him back home that afternoon.

E. dressed up as a Chicago Cub baseball player (that was easy; he already had the uniform). I. went at Linny, the Guinea Pig from Wonderpets (parents of small kids will know what of I speak). M. made Linny's blue cape and put little ears on an orange cap to complete the outfit.

My dad, wearing a hat that suggests his costume is either Don Imus or Lucinda Williams. E. is dressed as a Chicago Cub, and I. as the Wonderpet Linny.

Our neighbor Tommy (who gave us the Obama sign) donned this rubber mask, scaring our Republican neighbors.

Trepidation approaching a house and asking for treats. . .

Worth it! A big haul of sugar snacks. Now, go to bed!

History Requires A Permanent Record

We bought two.

Moments like Tuesday night's historic election of Barack Obama require a newspaper.

Not to read; oh no, we've moved beyond that since the advent of the World Wide Web Internets. No one reads newspapers anymore for NEWS--for that, we go to a

But Wednesday morning, newspapers once again proved their relevance--as a keepsake of nostalgic times. No longer something you'd open to keep up with the world's events, buyers snapped up every available copy--and then some--of major newspapers, primarily to stash them away in a box to record the historic event.

Amid nothing but gloomy news on the Editor And Publisher website (" 'Knoxville News Sentinel' Eliminates 50 Positions, 'Boston Globe' Cuts 42 in Ad/Circ, Marketing, E.W. Scripps Swings To A Q3 Loss -- Suspends Dividends" ) came one bit of increased circulation: one buyer in Bellingham, Washington, purchased 10,000 copies of the Bellingham Herald's Wednesday edition. At $.50 a copy, he spent $5,000. But he figures that, someday, he could make a profit. (Having spent two years in Bellingham as a college journalism student, an familar with both the newspaper and the recreational pursuits of some of the area's residents, I have to wonder if that guy is smoking something: WHO will want someday to buy an old copy of a shitty small-town Gannett newspaper, even with the historic news on its front page?)

Historic days should happen more often, for the Newspaper Industry's sake.

I can't imagine too many folks were archiving the home page of Wednesday morning to preserve for their children, but I could be wrong.

A Country Divided

Obama supporter? You think?

University of Texas kicked lunkhead backup center Buck Burnette off the football team after he posted racist remarks on his Facebook page following the Obama victory.

Burnette wrote: "all the hunters gather up, we have a #$%&er in the whitehouse"(not wanting to offend, he didn't use that actual word, but rather put in the @#^%#$'s in the appropriate places). Burnette issed an apology saying that his actions were "immature" and that "I'm not a racist. . .I grew up on a ranch in a small town" and that, anyway, it was wrong to write that "publically" (guess it's still okay to write it in private).

Just goes to show you that we're not as cool about the race issue in this country as some would think we are following Obama's election. While certainly an electoral landslide, Obama's election is by no means a "mandate" outside of a small geographic portion of the United States . Check out the county-by-county map of the United States and see where Obama's support comes from, and you can easily pick out places where the population is overwhelmingly urban, or young, or hispanic, or college educated, or wealthy. Look at Idaho: Amid a sea of red, blue blips register in Blaine county (that mostly-liberal, wealthy crowd in Sun Valley) and Moscow (University of Idaho--young voters). The rest of the nation--the Flyover States, rural america--voted overwhelmingly for John McCain.

Where I live, in mostly-urban Tarrant County, Texas, voters went with John McCain, something like 56-44% over Barack Obama (and I'm guessing Obama won the popular vote within the Fort Worth city limits). Travel not too far west of here, the population is much whiter, and more rural, and generally less educated, and Obama's support drops like a rock: 22% in Parker County, 18% in Stephens county, and keep going west, out to Borden county in west Texas, and only 11% of the population voted Obama--88% went for McCain.

If you think such overwhelming support for a candidate that "looks like me" is just a white, rural, redneck thing, you're wrong: it goes the other way, too. District of Columbia, whose population is overwhelmingly African-American, voted 93% to 7% for Obama. Exiting polling found that black voters, nationwide, voted similarly.

We've got a long way to go in this country to heal our racial divide. And I'm not entirely sure that Obama's election helped the healing, or will drive a wedge deeper with those who absolutely do not like the black man--or the white man, for that matter.

In the meantime, Texans seem to be following Buck's lead and stocking up on guns and ammo.

Sign The Petition: No More "Saved By Zero."

You can't escape it: the horrible "Saved by Zero" ad campaign by Toyota that spews forth from your television set every few minutes. The whole premise of the "Saved By Zero" hook is absurd. You think anyone that needs "saving" can actually qualify for 0% financing? If your credit is that good, you can probably pay cash.

Now, I'm no huge fan of the Fixx, but, PLEASE, Toyota, enough already: END THIS AD CAMPAIGN IMMEDIATELY. You've permanently ruined what was a marginal song to begin with.

If you agree, go here.