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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Made in America: What's good for General Bullmoose (ref. Al Capp) isn't--necessarily--good for the USA anymore.

ABC's World News with Dianne Sawyer recently produced a segment called "Made in America." The several-part piece has astounded us as to how few of the things we commonly buy are actually made in America. It is a surprise, but it shouldn't be.

Al Capp was the incredible, satirical genius behind Li'l Abner, a very cool, used-to-be comic strip that you have to be over 50 to remember. General Bullmoose, an early character, was Capp's personification of General Motors, an industry giant of the time. (But times change, don't they?) General Bullmoose knew how to make money... the American way, by ingenuity, boldness, dominance and opportunism... sort of the way Capp--and others--saw GM, the world's leading automaker and industrialist of the time.

America was the icon of the universe... the most powerful of the superpowers, the one all others looked to when something... anything was needed. We were the export kings... the breadbasket... the shining example of what everyone else wanted, as we still are, in some of the same and many new ways. Our capitalistic bent said supply and demand was the rule... we were the supply... and everything American was in demand. So what was good for General Bullmoose was good for the USA--more in truth than many were willing to admit.

Ah... it's good to be king.

But that was then. This is today.... America still standing tall and still greatly admired by most.  But if you read Thomas Friedman's book, The World is Flat, you have an interesting history of how things have changed... and they have. That's evolution for you. Things change, we adapt.

Supply and demand have changed. Best single example: Walmart. Most products are not made in America but we buy them-- making Walmart the world's largest retailer--because we find stuff there that we want/need, and it is usually competively priced, having been made--here and everywhere in the world-- and delivered to their shelves at a most competitive price point. We create our demand, the flat world supplies it.

Today, we are consumers, by 2/3 to 1/3 over what we export.

Made in America is still a great thing... but far from the only thing. Made in China, made in Japan, made in Taiwan, Germany, Portugal, etc. is so today. Picture the world as (forgive me) one big Walmart. General Bullmoose is dead (and so is Al Capp, in 1979).

Think I'm kidding? One look through your closet... your garage... your house, will tell you I'm not. But there is more:

San Francisco is rebuilding its Bay Bridge, the link between 'The City' and Oakland. And that bridge, honest, is being built in China. Two dozen giant sections-- each as big as half-a-football field-- were built there and shipped 6,500 miles to Oakland for assembly. California says it saved hundreds of millions of dollars and obviously, believes quality will serve its citizens well.

China, reports the New York Times, is also 'building' copper mines in the Congo, high-speed rail lines in Brazil and huge apartment complexes in Saudi Arabia. China also builds your iPad, toys, jetliners and lots and lots of other products. Want to have a look at what we import and from where? Check this out. Pretty interesting.

Yes, we still make stuff. Yes we still innovate. Yes we are still really good at lots and lots. But the world is larger, smarter, flatter... and much more productive. Has to be. World population has grown from 2.5 billion in 1950 to 6.1 billion in 2000 and will be around 9.3 billion by 2050! Prolific little buggers, aren't we?

General Bullmoose is dead... we are not. But we sure are different.

Last note: The pendulum swings. Lately, some American companies are bringing production back to our shores. Capitalism's rules mandate that where it's made and how much it costs will always be changing variables.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Death never comes easy in the movies

I saw a guy die once... actually, a guy, his girlfriend and a fetus. He was 'hot-dogging' and tried to pass a car--his sister's car-- on a hill.  I saw it all through my windshield as I was driving toward him up the other side, about 50 yards below the crest. With a ditch and wall on my right, I was 'frozen' in place. He was coming at me, head-on, at a police-estimated 70 mph. When he realized he had to do something, he sped up and took a violent right, over-correcting onto the shoulder. When he pulled left, trying to save it and have a great story to tell the guys at the shop, he lost a wheel and T-boned my vehicle.

His story died right there, just a few feet in front of me. Mine, blessedly, did not. Whole thing, start of finish, took 5 seconds, max. Death in the blink of an eye.

Now in the movies, it's a different story... especially if you are Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger or Chucky. Yep, the super creeps of horror movies. (Wired magazine did the heavy research-- 41 originals and sequels in total.)

Jason, of Friday the 13th fame, drowns, takes a machete to the shoulder, an ax to the head and re-drowns (can you do that?). He falls into toxic waste, is stabbed with a mythical dagger and dragged to hell. You'd think that would do it... but NO! He is blown to pieces, stabbed with a fireplace poker and ejected into space. Dead? Don't bet on it. Latest sequel count, 11 plus the original.

Michael Meyers in Halloween is knitting-needled (Viola! A new verb, created by me) in the head, coat-hangered (Another! I'm on a roll) in the eye, is shot six times, falls two-stories, is shot five times, shot in both eyes, blown up, hit by a truck, thrown from a car, beaten with a pipe, stabbed with two knives, falls from a balcony, is thrown through a windshield, is pinned between an ambulance and a tree then decapitated with an axe... and if that isn't enough, he is impaled on spikes and stabbed in the face and chest. Whew! In the original and 10 sequels, dying is such hard work.

Freddy Krueger of Nightmare on Elm Street fame is burned alive, sledge-hammered in the stomach, burned again, ignored (Oh no! Not ignored.), is splashed by holy water (and doesn't make the sign-of-the-cross), is buried in sacred ground, torn apart by souls of victims released from the dead, pipe-bombed in the chest, trapped in a furnace, decapitated, had his hand-severed and has his throat slit. Shame... he was the chatty one. All this happened in the original movie and 13 sequels!

Chucky of Chucky fame, the darned cutest of them all, is burned in a fireplace, cuts off his own legs to escape being impaled, is covered in molten plastic, has his head blown up, his face cut with a scythe, is shot and chopped up in a fan. This in only the original and 4 sequels... which makes Chucky a mere rookie in the Crazed and Impossible to Kill Killers Hall of Fame. Can't wait to see the next sequel.

The bad guys never die easy, or at all. And the good die young... but of course, they are not great box office. So I guess it makes sense.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Finally... A political figure that sets a good example!

Did you ever see a better mug shot than this one of John Edwards? How come more hardened criminals--and others charged and indicted--don't take more pride in how they look for the public?

ATTENTION ALL OF YOU CONVICTED, CHARGED AND/OR INDICTED: Wear your best white shirt and nice tie... no, not the one with soup on it, but the nice one. Make sure you have a $400 haircut (easily affordable it if you are a good thief) and, for God's sake, sharpen up those tattoos with a magic marker if you have to. How about a little pride and nice smile? You're trying to make a good impression.

To review: Bad Mug shot

Bad mug shot

Bad mug shot

Bad mug shot... with redeeming qualities

Good mug shot
See what I mean? NOW THAT'S A MUG SHOT! Thank you, John Edwards, for setting a good example!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The richest of the rich: Just think of the good that could happen if this duo put their differences aside and stood together. Why, they could save the world!

Thank you Forbes, for helping us settle an argument. Just who is the richest on the planet?

Forbes has long been know to keep tabs on the world's richest person, largest company, highest earning athlete, etc. But growing up, the one image that sticks with me is Scrooge McDuck rolling in all his gold coins, laughing at how he outsmarted the Beagle Boys (who are always scheming to steal his gold) again.

So if Scrooge is so rich, how does he compare to Bill Gates, USA's richest at $54 billion? Well, after calculating all his gold (measured scientifically by Forbes' "moneyologists"--depth of gold x area of arena-size vault--at today's soaring market prices), poor Scrooge only came up to $44 billion... a measly $10 billion shortfall.

OK... two "realities" here... Scrooge must have lost at least $10 billion in gold by playing with his money, swimming in it, running it through his webby fingers, etc. (Mom always told me not to play with my money or I might loose it. That's why I still use the old "wrap it in my handkerchief and pin it inside my pocket trick.") Or, maybe those Beagle Boys did siphon-off $10 bil. or so... one never knows. All I can tell you is that they drive a new car every year.

Viewed another way, picture all of Bill Gates' wealth in gold... the way Scrooge likes it... with Bill sitting on top of a pile that is 20 percent bigger than Scrooge's! Now that's impressive. (Also impressive is that Bill Gates and his wife Melinda have given nearly $25 billion to worthy causes everywhere in the world through their still growing foundation, which is incredible... and worth a look for your own information.)

So we have settled that. Bill Gates is worth more than Scrooge McDuck... and what Gates has benevolently given makes him more valued by far than any other billionaire, of which there are now 1,210. (Officially according to Forbes 2011 listings, Gates is the second richest man on earth... behind Mexico's Carlos Slim Helu by only a paltry $12 billion, give or take a few bucks.)

Other fictional billionaires that made this year's Forbes' list:
  • Richie Rich is worth $9.7 billion
  • Bruce Wayne (aka Batman... but don't tell anyone), $7 billion
  • Mr. Monopoly, of course, $2.6 billion
  • Montgomery Burns (Homer Simpson's boss) $1.1 billion
Dropping off the Fictional Billionaire's list from prior years: Jabba the Hutt, Thurston Howell III, Jed Clampett, Laura Croft, Willy Wonka, Cruella De Vil, Lex Luthor, "Daddy" Warbucks... and sadly, Santa Claus, who, with the price of toys increasing every year along with the growing population, is using all his resources just to keep the elves in food, clothing and shelter so they can continue to give hope to all the children of the world... God bless the elves for staying with him.

And, as I always say when I play my traditional role of Tiny Tim in our annual family Christmas recreation of Scrooge, the movie and stage play, "God bless us, one and all."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Other people's stuff, more or less.

Every day I try to say unique things... like Unique New York, three times real fast... or the world's hardest tongue-twister, The sixth sheik's sheep is sick.

Or, I had a wooden whistle and it wouldn't whistle, then I got a steel whistle and it still wouldn't whistle. So I got a tin whistle... and now I 'tin' whistle...   but enough of me.

I just read a little of Mardy Grothe's new book,  Neverisms: A Quotation Lover's Guide to Things You Should Never Do. It makes so much common sense:
  • Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche.
  • Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.
  • Never make a speech at a country dance or a football game.
  • Never eat Chinese food in Oklahoma.
  • Never get caught in bed with a live man or a dead woman.
  • Never change diapers in mid-stream.
  • Never lose sight of the fact that old age needs so little but needs that little so much.
  • Never eat at a place called "Mom's."
  • Never give your girl and your dog the same kind of jewelry.
See? And you probably have your own. Let me know and I'll add to the list.

Then there are "Ruminations" by Aaron Karo that ring true. He says:
  • They want me to mail in my 'scrap gold. Scrap gold? Yeah, I keep it out in the garage next to the barrel of worn out diamonds.
  • I still don't understand why people have different opinions than me.
  • How did no one else have the same shoe size as Cinderella? Was she some kind of freak?
  • Why don't they just bottle tears and sell them as make-up remover?
  • All of those extreme couponers across America need to get together and propose a budget plan to the president.
  • One poor movie decision and now Netflix thinks I'm an 80-year-old woman
  • I hate it when people I hate like things that I like.

Other important things to know:
  • The incredibly beautiful 'Toilet Seat Hat' worn by Princess Beatrice, (Fergie's daughter--no, not the singer) at the royal wedding six weeks ago was sold at auction for  about $100,000 US dollars (I couldn't find the British 'pound' sign on my computer) to some lucky person. Don't worry... the money will go to charity... to help them buy toilet seats for that proverbial pot, if they have one. Now, who would pay a hundred grand, let alone be able to afford it?
  • Maybe one of these guys... The world's four richest men, Carlos Slim (a Mexican magnate), Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Mukesh Ambani (India's richest) control more wealth than the world's 57 poorest countries. Take that, third world.
  • Malawi (in Southeast Africa) is considering a law against breaking wind in public. That could lead to a lot of finger pointing.
  • One out of three people under the age of 40 in the USA has at least one tattoo except in the NBA where the percentage has to be in the high 90s, which might skew the numbers. Now multiple ear-piercings are OK, but some go even further and opt for elf ears... where the tops of their ears are cut then sewn back together in a pointed shape. Neat, Tinker Bell.
  • Almost half of the adults left in Detroit are functionally illiterate, says a recent study. Gohw Tygers!
  • There are now 7 billion of us on earth... soon to grow to 10 billion by 2020... and perhaps 15.8 billion by 2100... and we'll still have room left over in Wyoming.
  • Talk about high paid athletes, Gaius Appuleius Diocles, called the "champion of all charioteers" in 146 a.d., retired at 42 with 36 million sesterces in earnings... about $15 billion in today's world, not counting Nike endorsements. 
True story: When a British schoolboy was unable to remove a vase that was stuck on his head (don't ask me how or why), his mom took him to the hospital on a city bus for a medically approved removal. Apparently, hospitals have better hammers. In an attempt to make the boy look more normal to the other passengers, she placed a school cap on top of the vase... but, according to reports, refrained from drawing a smiley face... because it might look 'too fakey.' (OK... I made the 'face' part up.)
 True fact: The average cost to treat a bullet wound: $17,000. Life is so unfair... where would a phesant get $17,000?

True statement: Good night.