Monday, July 31, 2006

Don't mess with Moosehead

Moosehead Tavern - on Dover Center Rd between Detroit and Lake - has great burgers and a great waitstaff. Trea them nicely, and don't steal their wallet, and driver's license, and especially don't go there and try to use the driver's license of the person serving you when asked for ID. Just a suggestion. (Link )

Friday, July 28, 2006

Grab an Apron

M_ is now writing about some classic recipes from days of yore, as they say over at her brand new blog, Grab an Apron. Definitely a tasty read.

A Lost World

A Lost World

In the mid-eighties I worked in a department store in E. Lansing, MI. It was a higher-end store that was clinging to the last remnants of the old style department store I visited as a child, like the Smith Bridgeman’s in Flint, or the Hudson’s in downtown Detroit. Jacobson’s was a treat to shop at.

They carried all kinds of products from kitchenware, to jewelry, to toys and furniture. Whenever my Mom took me there, I was always fascinated by the books of receipts the sales clerks used. Narrow burgundy notebooks with tissue paper copies of the sale slips they had written. They were always overstuffed with notes, secured by rubber bands, and each had their own table which allowed them to figure out the sales tax. Sometimes they decorated their books with special calligraphy of their names, or stickers.

They began the sale by asking the name of the customer, if the item was to be sent, the address and phone number followed. This was how they kept track of their customers and sent them thank you notes and reminders of upcoming sales. Also, for their special customers they would call and tell you when something the suited you had arrived in the store, then they would hold it until you could make it in.

In the mid 1980’s this style of customer service was fading from the retail world. Replaced by shells of the salesperson of old, the new breed was there only to scan numbers into a machine with a red lighted wand and deposit a product in a bag – most often without acknowledgement or a smile for the person giving up a portion of their allotment of currency.

Jacobson’s held on for as long as they could to the old way of doing things. They tried to fight back by opening various outlet stores to help them re-coup their outlay, they stressed their special, and now unique, brand of personal customer service, but to no avail. They lost the battle with big retail sometime during the mid-nineties. As we stand in line now, while the one (or maybe two, if we are lucky) cashier grudgingly rings up our purchase, those of us who remember a different world of retail, wax nostalgic once in a while for a time when the sales person knew us and looked forward to our visit to the store, they personally took a great deal of pride in being a part of.

* The preceding post was by Martha - due to blogger issues she's having trouble logging into her account on RW.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bobo blog

Our friend R_ now has a blog called Bobo, Bangles & Beads. Here's a sampler:
I wish I were any where but here. I wish I were in Rome....I wish I was drinking a lukewarm beer at the Bandana Republic (which, for any Rome bound travelers out there, is on the Via Ancona near the Piazza Porta Pia) - I wish I was walking down the Via del Corso crowded by tourtists and gypsies and roasted chestnut salesmen...
R_ was one of the major forces converting myself and my wife to West Side-ism in Cleveland.

Every day

Saw an interesting thought in a random spam this week...
How are u? Cope with this forever and watch other men in helpless distress.

I watch that every day, taking the train in to work. I use man in the generic sense, including women and those defining themselves other ways as well. Personally while encased in trains I like to read or contemplate, but the most popular occupation of the commuter is the cell phone conversation. I saw one woman who had taken a headwrap and secured it around her full size cellphone so it was affixed to her ear, making a kind of poor-man's bluetooth. I wonder if there might be a market for headwraps with pockets by the ears for cellphones? For those who laugh, store shelves are awash in popular products much dumber.

Despite the idea that modern life disconnects us from the world, people use tech to connect as much as possible. It may be that talking on the phone serves as the human equivalent of social grooming among our closets living relatives, the chimps. Chimps might have more sense than to allow themselves to be imprisoned for an hour a day aboard a poorly decorated metal box on their way to work for eight hours in a grey fabric cubicle.

Over time you spend many hours of your waking life with this gaggle of strangers, most of whom you don't know by name. There's the short order cook, who sleeps most of the way over to the west side, before making his way in black and white striped pants to serve food all day long, a weariness in his step before he even gets to the restaurant. A woman in front of you dresses in business attire, two kanji characters tattooed on the back of her neck, that you keep meaning but never have translated. The horse racing fan, looking much as he likely did in 1974, the vintage of his clothing style, discusses the days winnings and losing with anyone nearby.

To avoid conversations that grate your mind, you wrap yourself in prose and read during the whole trip. Is milling about with fictional characters less social, or a cry for an author in your life, directing the plot so it is not a needless series of train cars with not a memorable line of dialog to awaken the ear? The wings of literature are hard-pressed to lift you from the train sometimes, as gum snappers and unidentifiably sticky floors grind at your attention.

In seeing only the negatives, is your mood made as bad as the ones mocked for the bad taste in pants - angry plaid -, bad taste in books or simply for sharing the space in which you cannot escape?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Lip Glossy claims

So I decided to write my own guess at the story behind the headline:

Lip Gloss Claims To Curb Women's Appetite

My first thought was they are finally putting bacon into lip gloss.

How sad was it when I found it was not so.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

On vacation

I'll have precious little net access for the next week - be back blogging by Monday July 24th. For interesting reading, sample the blogroll on the right hand side of the page, it's my reading list as well.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Western Black Rhinos

The Western Black Rhino is now thought to be extinct. The cause is poaching and civil conflict in it's remaining haunts in Cameroon.

I wonder what the last Rhino felt as it wandered in it's final days? Hunger, fear, in a land empty of any of it's kin? Animals may not have the same awareness of the future as humans, so it may have merely surveyed the landscape for food. It is very likely that the last few were killed by poaching. It may have felt nothing, but it remains another footprint the human race has left behind, never to return.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Soviet Chess

An old idea - the Soviet dominance of the chess world - needs to be taken down a peg. Some used to accuse the Soviets of conspiring to win tounaments...
...Charles Moul and John Nye, both of Washington University in St. Louis, argue convincingly that the Soviets did just that. In the famed Candidates tournaments, they argue, Soviet players would intentionally play each other to a draw and then try really hard to beat non-Soviets.

via Stephen J. Dubner at Freakonomics(link)

Blogging from somewhere

George Nemeth writes about a blog called OH02 - his question is about the fact the writer of it does not live in the district of OH02. There's a lot of vitriol in the comments on this one, which I don't know the backstory on and won't get into....but I don't think you have to live in a place to blog about it. I blog about politics and can't vote in the US (yet), I talk about Cleveland, but live in an inner-ring suburb. Is attacking OH02 argumentum ad location?

Update: 2:40 PM: George commented:
Not sure how asking my readers how they would feel if I blogged about Cleveland from Columbus is an attack. Apparently, Chris Baker thinks it is. There's obviously a range of opinions about that, and I'm still wondering what people think.

By the way, until two years ago, I lived in Lake County...

To clarify, the attacking I mention is happening in the comments of the aforelinked post, not in the post itself. BFD is the nexus blog (in my humble opinion) of Northeast, if not all Ohio, and I note there are a lot of bloggers and other writers joining the discussion there as well, which probably makes it the best spot to debate the issue.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Shorter IMDB comments

This is old news, quite old actually, to the Turkish action movie "Valley of the Wolves", let me summarize most of the comments: "I don't see why you think it's anti-Semitic, besides, the US made 'Midnight Express'". (link)

Ahem. From a positive review of the film (bold is mine):
On the one hand, the basic format is peppered with some pure trash-exploitation elements, such as a strung-out U.S.-Jewish doctor (Busey) at Abu Ghraib who's trafficking inmates' organs to London, New York and Tel Aviv.
I can't see why we'd think it's anti-Semitic, right?

In-laws to avoid jumping in lake

My father-in-law and his two sons are going to sail a forty-two footer in the Port Huron to Mackinac Race next week. With my Nova Scotian borne sea skills, I will, of course, be ferrying cars up to the end of the race and perhaps securing a few seats in the bar. Gordon Lightfoot called me up to see if I would be sailing this year, but upon hearing of my land-based course, said he looked forward to writing a song about the first time I would be racing, one day.

Scene tries some gags

This very long article on Cleveland TV reporter Tom Meyer had a multi-page spread and cover feature back in June in Cleveland Scene. To quote:
With hidden cameras, Meyer followed the councilman as he partied in the Warehouse District. On one night, the alarming footage caught Reed sucking down six whole drinks, enough to kill a very small houseplant. Meyer's cameras also captured the "playboy politician" committing an even graver offense: making out with a white chick.
Ok, so now we have motive. Next, the story moves on to visit various locales and make up silly items about Meyer:
But take a look at Meyer's house. That's right: no hoop. Not a portable one. Not one mounted to the garage. Nothing.

There's only one conclusion: Tom Meyer hates black people.
Sadly, that's about the funniest thing in the article, which vexates between a neo-serious tone and making over the top observations so that you will know they are joking. I wonder if it would be possible to instead interview people Meyer has ambushed on camera to see if any of his stories have another perspective, to see if anything was overblown in a sweeps-week bit his news program covered. But instead, we get a series of overloaded implications and jokes about him both visiting Chritie's strip bar (which is written in such a way as to show he never actually goes there) and implying vaguely he may be gay. I think the tone is meant to mock his reporting style - I haven't really watched enough of him to say. It might have been funnier if each few paragraphs they went so far over the top as if to say "please don't sue me, this is all really hilarious". I wonder if this piece was sitting waiting for a week when Scene had no real investigative pieces, or didn't want to actually do a real story on Meyer, but a joke. I would have liked it to be edgier as a joke, but there's not accounting for my weird sensibilities. Was it in revenge for his story on the councilperson? Maybe CS's rival crosstown paper Free Times could take a look at that angle, since they never stop sniping at each other in their anonymous gossip columns.


The public library serves as a great equalizer, to those who cannot afford to purchase all the books they need to learn about the world or garner a bit of entertainment from books - they serve as a lifeline to that which elevates the human race above ants in a communion with the written word and one of the few ways generations thousands of years apart will ever have words with each other. But some libraries are nervous about the homeless
...the Worcester (Massachusetts) Public Library, which recently announced a policy reducing the amount of books homeless patrons can check out to two at a time. People with homes are allowed to check out up to 40 books.
Are the homeless not returning these books in numbers in comparison with the homed? Is there a practical reason behind this, or is a library board member sitting at home in their leather chair, shivering to themselves over the thought of some person without a house reading three books at once? The linked story in the Bookslut linked above says the library claims this has curbed losses, but offers no data to support this claim.


Interesting post at Brewed Fresh Daily by George Nemeth. A participant in an ad network they have set up is unhappy with one of there advertisers, who from what I can tell offers business cards for mothers which basically state her profession as mother of her offspring. Aside from limiting the apparent role of mom's to just being the bearers and caretakers of kids - a whole other debate, the question is the ability to limit who can advertise on your site when you are part of an ad network. It used to be the question for magazines and newspapers was if the advertisers controlled your content, but this runs the opposite direction, where the medium decides what it will run or not. It's good - I suppose - that it's a rebellion beyond editorial controls. It's not inconceivable a blog could be unduly influenced by who advertises on it. Boing Boing is a site I cannot live without, but their defense of Suicide Girls ownership during a dispute last year made me wonder if we were getting the blog's usual candor.

At least if you carry ads you often should disclose the relationship when describing in a post events relating to your sponsor. Newspaper writers also disclose prior relationships and jobs when talking about news items involving their old jobs. In an ad network, you'd have to keep up on all the ad buyers to make sure you knew who is paying for your audience, or arguably, for your blog. It's an economic question, of course. Unless you're retired or rich, a blog will either be a hobby - meaning not getting the majority of your work-time - or a semi-supported profession. In the world of blog ads I wonder if advertisers realize how much micro managing bloggers will want to do over micropayment ads and which ad shows up on their masthead? I won't tell people what to do with their blogs - mine is so sporadic I would feel bad about having advertisers and not trying to market my work on here more and drive them more traffic. But I don't see that as a noble, neo-socialist commentary on advertising, for some sites, content simply needs to be supported by ads, otherwise we'd have a lot less to read out there.

Disclosure section: I don't have any ads per se, not being sure I want to have one at the top of my page at all, although I link to my wife's jewelry site, and a link to my sister's chapbook site - neither of which is a paid ad, and might be ascribed to husbandly and brotherly pride more than anything else.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Oboe free

Patricia Mitchell wonders what makes someone search for "oboe free", and if it means the same as ___ free in the office vernacular of the day. I'd love to work in an office so lush with oboes and those playing them in cubes, that a few anti-cultural types were demanding oboe-free zones. Which brings up the point, why aren't modern office cubicles set to allow for musical instruments? There's barely room in mine for a trombone stand. Why should I be denied the ability to reply in sound to those who whistle tunelessly all day long, much to my sorrow?

Gaza status

Meryl Yourish rounds up some Gaza news, noting:
Forty terrorists have been killed so far in Operation Summer Rains. One Israeli soldier has been killed, possibly in a “friendly fire” incident. These are the kind of numbers that drive the Israel-haters crazy, but they are also the kind of numbers that get a point across to the terrorists.
The terrorists do not respect any institution of civilization, so the sword is what they deserve.

Reading is a frill?

Toledo wants to ban city workers - whoops, make that blue-collar city workers who have to work outside - from reading newspapers on their breaks.
Bill Franklin, director of the Department of Public Services, said officials want to improve residents' pride in their work forces.

He said taxpayers might be irritated to see city workers reading, because they don't know when employees are on breaks.
Utterly moronic. Actually, if I were a Toledo resident, I might find my irritation growing that Bill Franklin has time to come up with such an asinine rule to apply to outside workers only, making sure then can only stare at the pavement on their breaks. I would be pleased of the potential money savings to be had by eliminating what is clearly an unneeded management position, though.

Something Familiar

According to this blog, (Bartholomew's notes on religion) another blog, Stop The ACLU published the name and address and phone number of a Jewish family that was suing over excessive proselytising in their school. Eventually, the family had to leave town. The STACLU director's reaction? "...I am pleased that we had an effect in this case." He declines to call it a pogrom, however. The important thing is apparently that whatever the ACLU is for, they are against. Even if the posting had no effect whatever on the family, I am not sure I like the idea that by publishing personal contact information you are adding anything to the debate, as opposed to leaving open a way for folks to get harassed. Public humiliation used to be a favoured punishment in Europe in the Dark Ages, and it's not something I am eager to see return.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Canadian invasion soon?

You might as well surrender now, America. I know you are still pumped from the fireworks last night. Much like the fellow I saw standing with his family in the street, taking digital photos of the fireworks with the flash on. He was, needless to say, shirtless, though the low visibility left me unsure if he had a mullet, my guess is that he did. Most of the crowd returning from fireworks were pretty excited as they passed by M_ and myself on our front porch. The people pushing their infants down the middle of the street sure seemed excited, if perhaps a bit oblivious to the cars trying to whiz by at the usual speed on our street of fifty miles an hour. The fireworks in Lakewood were impressive and echoed off the walls of the city, remembering the odd notion of freedom that for over two centuries seems to be working pretty damn well here in the US. For those who doubt, witness Jazz, baseball, and Spring Break. Everything good about the land as well as some truly appalling hair cuts all comes in one large ham-like package that some might call Americana.

But nonetheless, the hour of the doom of America is at hand - Tim Horton's is coming.

Put away your footballs (or at least start playing with three downs), pick up a set of skates and a hockey stick, and prepare to order two maple dip doughnuts, a large coffee, and the essence of Canadian identity.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Tom Tomorrow

The gifted cartoonist encapsulates the media's infatuation with those who can only be described as nutbars. (You might have to watch an ad to view this if you don't have a Salon subscription, but it's worth waiting to see).