Saturday, June 25, 2011

Routes to Greatness and Roads to Ruin

There are only two routes to greatness, and they are similar. One is to provide consistent quality. The other is to provide luxury. Quality means that the product does what it is supposed to do without fail. A luxurious product functions even better, and there is a reason for the improvement. The first breakout Rolexes are a good example of luxury. They were waterproof. Before that, one needed to take care when anywhere near a sink.

Most of what is expensive is false. A designer once described it to me. He was talking about busy interiors with too much brightwork in cars sold by the Detroit 3. He said they were trying to be fancy. When asked to elaborate, he compared the interiors to going to someone's house. Everyone has seen examples of the living room that tries too hard. There is a grand piano in the middle, and no one who lives there can play it. I remember seeing Trump Tower in its heyday. There was lots of brass and marble for no reason.

I would like to see more great companies. Unfortunately, writing From Gold to Garbage was very easy. Management usually does more staring in the mirror than managing. Today's captains of industry are largely like bad ship captains. Instead of making money consistently with successful voyages, they sink their ships for big payouts right now.

Here are some rules for achieving corporate greatness.

1. Greatness comes from somewhere.

Globalization thus far is a retreat from greatness. For example, countless factories have moved from their places of origin to China. Since then, many of them have moved on to places like Bangladesh and Vietnam. A product from China can only be great if it is uniquely Chinese. Otherwise, it's just part of the global scrap heap. If companies like Lenovo can find their roots, they will achieve greatness. If not, they will succeed as long as they remain low cost producers.

Some companies keep their origins, but become local as well. Coca-Cola is deeply rooted in the American South, but they have bottling plants all over the world. They are from somewhere, but at the same time, their reps can say, "Have a sip of this. It was bottled right over here!"

If Coke were to save money by moving out of the South, their brand would instantly become a commodity.

Levi's understood this rule for most of their history. Their American product was the only thing available here. It was expensive in other countries, where local products were also on sale. Now, their only American products are press releases.

2. Greatness comes from consistent management.

One of the great tragedies in business was Indian Motorcycles. They were great innovators who racked up patents, won races and became the biggest in the world. The company died because it endured one management shake-up after another. Buyouts were frequent. As time passed, they went out of business. They ended in ignominy, the only company in history to have been out engineered by Harley-Davidson.

Any change in management, especially a buyout from a private equity company, means that quality is on the way out.

Great companies are run in an orderly manner. There isn't constant drama.

3. Greatness means connections from top to bottom.

If you're a CEO who can't converse with those who sweep your floor, you're not at a great company. Suffering cannot be outsourced. Where it happens it must be alleviated or paid for at a fair price. Similarly, suffering cannot be hidden. The world has been communicating at the speed of light since the first transatlantic cable was laid in 1858. Other oceans soon followed.

Many companies are tainted by their workers' suffering and chemical exposure. Apple products are labeled "Designed in California," to avoid the stain of how they allow workers at their contract manufacturers to be treated in China. Most famously, workers for them have skipped labor unrest and gone straight to committing suicide.

Have we learned anything from Robert Thompson Crawshay? He was an English industrialist who died in 1879. His epitaph reads, "God forgive me." While one might argue the existence of God, no one argues the existence of human memory. In spite of well funded efforts to control what happens after they're gone, people are usually remembered as they deserve to be remembered.

Some companies have achieved greatness through connections that run throughout the organization. Wal-Mart, under Sam Walton comes to mind. He drove an old pick-up and worked in a small office in Arkansas overlooking a parking lot. He pioneered profit sharing and made an effort to buy locally. He could walk into any of his stores and be well received. More importantly, he could walk out of a store without a lot of snide comments behind his back. For the leaders of Walmart, things are much different.

Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus says that a global minimum wage is needed. If such a measure passes, it wouldn't be the first time that corporations have fought against a regulation that was ultimately good for them.

4. If you have to choose between greatness and success, choose greatness.

Sometimes, it's time to close a business. If that time comes, close it, and pay everyone fairly at the end. If everyone can't leave together and close the doors for the last time, something is wrong.

If on the other hand, you keep grasping, you'll look craven and pathetic.

One great company that recently folded was Bristol. They made fast luxury cars with excellent coachwork and engines from other companies. They were pricey and worth it to those who bought them. Those in charge accepted that their time was up. There is no Bristol Cayenne, and there is no Bristol Cygnet. Every car they built was a Bristol.

On that note, it's time to end this blog, before I become a total crank. As promised, there were only 52 products, a year's worth. I hope you enjoyed it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Ferrari's niche is defined by elegance, exclusivity and speed. Their position is in danger on all three fronts.

Elegance and exclusivity are fading quickly. Their logo is no longer sought after. It's everywhere. Why would anyone want a car that is also a brand of socks, pencil sets and neckties? Solving this problem is easy enough. They just need to stop plastering their logo all over everything.

It is becoming harder to define a car company in terms of speed. Street legal cars are hitting technological limits, just as race cars did decades ago.

Ferrari is strong in both areas. While I was working on Japanese Car Magazine in the 90s, I asked Peter Brock and John Morton about race cars. Both agreed that for many years, it had been possible to build cars capable of pulling more Gs than a driver could endure. Both thought unmanned racing would be an anathema.

More and more ordinary cars have their top speeds set by governors at 130-150 mph. These speeds used to be the realm of exotics. Higher end cars without governors can hit 200 mph, but there is little potential beyond that. Land speed records are held by vehicles at testing facilities that ride on rails to prevent them from becoming airborne.

Even without their logo problems, Ferrari has a dilemma. Where do they go from here? Is it possible to maintain a niche based on speed? Can or should they transition to something else? Comments?

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Three of the most important things in business mirror priorities in real estate. They are location, location and location. Companies have identities, and they lose them by moving around in search of cheap labor and tax dodges. Neither route leads to greatness.

Boeing was Seattle. It helped build the community, and it was part of it. While the company is still strong in Washington, it is now an outsider. The trust is gone. First individuals were disposable. Then, Seattle was. Now, Boeing is no more a part of Seattle than it is Chicago. Who would welcome them?

Air travelers wouldn't. Every Boeing product looks exactly like the last. An airport picture from the 1970s looks like an airport now. The wings are folded up on the ends, but that's the only visible improvement. From the outside, you can't see the seats growing smaller and smaller.

Boeing does not aspire to greatness. In spite of similar subsidies to their competition, they are incapable of keeping up. If Aesop were alive today, he would write about Boeing and Airbus as two competitors who went to sleep and completely forgot that they were in a race.

Airbus deserves special mention. They are such non-entities, that they can't get their own section on this blog. Think about it. Air Bus. The company looks like it was born out of a strict truth-in-advertising law. As soon as someone finds a way to put turnstiles in the sky, the evolution of air travel will be complete.

Meanwhile, Boeing is building the Dreamliner. It sounds better than calling it the Vaporwareliner. Having outsourced everything everywhere, they are discovering that final assembly is harder than they thought. When the new plane is put into service, those of us who are passengers will wait through longer delays and sit in the smaller seats while someone in a faraway boardroom smiles about saving money. No one will think it's an achievement, because for passengers, it will be the same as every other plane.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Radio Única

Radio Única was a great network. It was a nationwide group of Spanish language radio stations in the United States. It was firmly rooted here, and it could not have been from anywhere else. While there were a wide variety of accents, listeners could hear a version of Spanish unique to this country taking shape.

For a while, it was our Radio Fórmula. There was a wide range of programming, which included news, sports and talk on a variety of topics.

Their stock became a darling, and that's when the problems began. It bubbled up, then started to settle. Investors wanted more, and the potential for that much more wasn't there. Suddenly, every program had something to do with sex. As they got more and more desperate, programming quality declined. Eventually, they pulled the plug.

Radio Única's original idea was a great one. I hope someone revives it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cruise Ships

As useful objects fall from favor, they go on display as reminders of the past. Small objects end up in museums, while large ones become tourist attractions on their own and house museums inside. As the member of a maritime museum, I have toured many types of ships that are no longer used.

Probably the most exciting, when it was well maintained, was the Queen Mary. The formerly exclusive preserve of society's upper crust was now opened to all for a nominal fee. You could see everything, from the best staterooms to the kitchens behind the scenes.

After seeing many cruise ships docked near the maritime museum, I started to wonder how one would look on a guided tour. How does the crew live? How do the different staterooms compare? How is it laid out, and why?

I have never been on a cruise, nor do I want to go on one. Still, the ships remain fascinating. As passenger shipping changed from crossings to cruises, old ocean liners were painted white and pressed into service. The old ships look sturdy. They ride low in the water and look like they could take the occasional rogue wave. Also, there is some elegance about them. Nothing with a promenade deck can be pedestrian.

Newer ships, by contrast, look like floating slums. Tilt an old housing project from the 1960s on its side, and you've got the newest ship on today's commercial.

Still, luxury is subjective, and what is luxurious in one era is for the servants the next, and vice versa. For example, prewar limousines have leather upholstery in the driver's seat, while those being driven ride on cloth. New luxury cars have leather throughout.

I wonder about today's cruise ships, and why people think they're luxurious. I see the ads and feel opression. The promenade decks are gone. There is no place to walk and get some air, a major attraction of sea travel in the past. There are large interior spaces, but all of them are designed for revenue first, where comfort is a byproduct. Bars are everywhere. Cruise ships are some of the last places in the world where indoor smoking is allowed. I would not want to be cooped up in such a place with limited opportunities for stepping outside.

The rooms have always been small, but today's rooms look worse than the ones on older vessels. Newer ships, if not top heavy, appear to be so. They do not look like they would go through storms very well. Also, it appears that seasickness would be more likely on a newer ship. A little movement amidships, where most rooms used to be, would be major rocking on a newer ship if you were unfortunate enough to have paid the price for a view as far above the waterline as possible.

I doubt cruise ships will fall out of favor in my lifetime, but if they do, I'll be in line for the first guided tour. I'll wonder why people thought they were so luxurious. Was the food really that great? What about the view of the open ocean? How did the ship do in storms? What was different about life on a cruise ship that made people pay so much for such small rooms that bounced around so much? What was it like to work on one?

Once the tour ends, I'll go to the bar that welcomed passengers and was later converted into a gift shop. I'll buy a few postcards.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Courts and Courtesans

I once read that while Americans are citizens of a democracy, we work in dictatorships. The piece said that corporate boards used to vote much more than they do today. I think that some work in royal courts, and the number is going up. As economic inequality increases, the presidents who became dictators have become kings. Petty intrigue abounds.

The New Yorker, once the undisputed bastion of highbrow culture, mentions courtesans from time to time. They are celebrated in a way. Courtesans are smart, tend to invest wisely, and they're willing to do what it takes to rise to the top, as measured by consumption.

In the past, when history was framed by evolution, this would have been regarded as a great leap backward. Such behavior and royal courts were regarded as quaint relics of the past.

CEOs often replace leadership with cults of personality.

The first one to do this in recent history was Frank Lloyd Wright. On a visit to Taliesin West, I peered into a room that was nearly closed off. "That's Mr. Wright's dining room!" said a frightened voice.

"Mr. Wright is out of town."

The rejoinder remained in my head. I walked away from the dining room, and took my place with the tour group.

More recently, Jack Welch's cult of personality has kept going to the extent that he pays for it. As with many like him, he found something bigger than himself, and it was the company. He took GE to false heights, and its stock plummeted as soon as he left. As he ages, he fervently works to turn his biography into an orthodoxy to be carried forward to the less fortunate.

All of the above leads me to think about succession. While strong personalities with a vision can make for a climb to greatness, it is unlikely that there will be a younger person with similar ideas to take over. Consequently, leadership in non-democratic institutions usually falls on two types of people, neither of which is adequate for the job.

If press releases come out saying that the new leader will, "Provide a guiding hand of experience," and add that continuity will be provided, that means the company will be headed by its leading toady. The toady will attempt to build an orthodoxy around the predecessor, but it will collapse at the first crisis. Apparently, no one in management is aware of the old proverb, "Don't follow the wise man. Seek what he sought." The other type of successor is heralded by coverage from the outside about a power struggle. "A master of boardroom battles," is a phrase often used to describe this rising star. The knife-thrower will also build an orthodoxy, and it will be as useful as the one built by a toady.

The toady and the knife-thrower have one thing in common. Both are sheltered by the structure their predecessor built. They are well adapted for life within their company, but they are entirely unaware of the outside world. Both usually exit with golden parachutes, leaving others to face their company's downfall.

Power is always claimed in the name of that which is bigger than oneself. If the health of companies were important to anyone, they would democratize.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

An Appreciation of Department Store Clerks

They were the arbiters of style. At the high end, they still are. They used to help everyone look good. They are the reason for the vintage clothing boom. The rise and fall of the department store corresponds with the decades in which everyone looked good. Before the 1920s, people either looked ragged or stiff. Since the early 70s, colors and cuts have gone to various extremes. As department stores rose to their high tide in the 1960s, it was often written that one couldn't tell who was a clerk and who was a company chairman.

Today's market is much more fragmented. Like society itself, it is very tribal. It is not only possible to tell a lot about someone by their clothes, but many go out of their way to plaster themselves with logos and turn themselves into billboards. Along with many categories and subcategories, identities vary in level from poseur to hardcore. Judgment is invited and encouraged.

Department store clerks knew a lot. They knew what was in style, along with what was on the way in, and what was on the way out and why. They also knew what looked good on whom. As sizes gave way to small, medium and large, they faded away. Clothing became a commodity, and for the most part, they were no longer needed.

I miss department store clerks, and I wonder where they went. I suppose there is a book in there somewhere, with narratives by those tossed aside along with them over the years. One could read about whatever happened to earlier casualties, like ice men, along with more recent ones, such as secretaries and corporate accountants replaced by software and outsourcing.

Saturday, April 16, 2011


I have always liked maps. There is nothing wrong with maps available today. The problem is that they are starting to disappear. Selection is becoming limited.

Navigating with a map is harder than it is with a GPS. At times, everything is a mystery. Once you locate your intersection, it's like magic. Suddenly, you're somewhere. It's exactly defined on something that was printed last year.

I doubt anyone will go back to navigating with maps exclusively, but they are getting hard enough to find that I miss them. With a map, you're not entirely reliant on a GPS, and its plugs and batteries. Also, you can unfold most maps for a big picture. Zooming in and out isn't the same.

It would be great if maps could stick around, but it looks like they're just behind phonebooks as they head for the exit.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sony and Philips

Sony was one of the first companies to change the perception of "Made in Japan" from a joke to a sign of prestige. Philips was not as well known in the US. When CD players were widely released in the early 80s, both companies catapulted to the top. Both shared the glory. Their brand equity was high, and they were sought after.

Now, both share the position Coca-Cola had in many countries in the 1960s, but without the political baggage. Coke was so pervasive that many, especially on the Left, were sick of seeing it. Similarly, Sony and Philips are everywhere, whether you like it or not. Both companies plaster their names all over everything. So far, they have inspired fatigue but not opposition.

Their former niche is wide open.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


We live in an age of great freedom. There is unprecedented freedom for the movement of capital and goods. On the other hand, labor is usually locked in, in a variety of ways.

Executives take advantage of the situation and ruin their brands. Modern captains of industry always run aground on the same rocks.

Marketing texts form part of an orthodoxy that says quality issues were resolved long ago. The thinking goes that since there are no such problems, only marketing can differentiate one brand from another. What really happened does not interfere with decision making. Quality problems are universal, because everything is a commodity. Clothes for example, used to be sold in sizes. Can ill-fitting shoes in Small, Medium and Large be far behind? Marketing only serves to entertain, because everyone knows that off-brands and big names are made at the same places.

Contract manufacturers can make everything but a pedigree.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Some companies succeed because they help define their times. IKEA succeeds by going against them. Our era is defined by well produced trash. Junk food shows great uniformity and quality control. Reality TV shows have extremely high production values. By contrast, IKEA stands for good ideas badly executed.

Sample rooms throughout the store look perfect. Once you walk in, something is amiss. The prints on the walls tear easily. The mattresses are too hard like stacks of papers or too soft because they're nearly hollow. The floors are made of brown plastic, and they look it. Low grade laminates can't pull off the wooden look. The shelved Swedish books are uniformly small, so as not to strain the particle board. Lamps look great, but the displays start to fall apart in the store right away. The store is a series of movie sets.

With IKEA your home will look fine, but it won't be comfortable. Sit in one of their chairs. You can feel the cardboard box it came in. Everything is designed for shipping. "Ergonomics" is apparently, a dirty word. Knife handles are dangerously skimpy. Nothing feels quite right.

The most puzzling thing about IKEA is that they try too hard to be Swedish. Their furniture is Danish Modern. For tax purposes, headquarters has long been in the Netherlands. Still, they persist. Arrogant, highly paid Swedish executives occasionally walk the floors with an inflated sense of their own importance. The business model was set up long ago, and it's already going on without them. They are extras on the set, providing background noise and color by walking around and speaking Swedish. The books that line every shelf are as out of place as the executives. They were printed in Sweden, far in terms of geography and the hellish conditions that define contract manufacturers.

IKEA will end in one of two ways. A trend towards quality could drive the company out of business. If the cost cutting trend continues, someone will figure out that Swedish trappings are unnecessary for selling furniture historically associated with Denmark. Less visible, lower paid management from somewhere else will take over. The stores will become space efficient warehouses instead of the pleasant movie set collections we have today. Trivia buffs will occasionally point out the stores that used to be IKEA.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nike, Puma and Adidas

I remember seeing real athletic shoes for the first time. They were shiny and colorful, made from leather, nylon and lighter looking rubber than I had ever seen. A coach at my school had them, and everyone asked questions. They were ASICS Tigers, from Japan. They were only available at one small store. It was explained that they were for running. We were in awe for weeks.

Since then, I realized that the ASICS emblem was probably an outline of the striping used to identify Puma and Adidas, which I saw later. Nike came after them. Nike remains the first and only imitator I have ever seen break into the first tier. For the first few years, their swoosh was looked down upon. After all, their emblem just turned Puma's upside down.

All four of them were strongly connected to their countries of origin. All of them were worn by real athletes. For a long time, they were hard to find. They had as much brand equity as anyone ever has.

Since then, only ASICS has preserved their mystique. They don't plaster their name all over everything to be sold everywhere.

Nike, Puma and Adidas, on the other hand, might as well be the same company. All three are textbook cases of squandered brand equity, haphazard quality control, and perhaps worst of all in their business, no sense of style. Fans and dedicated amateur athletes might be able to keep track of their few offerings made for sports, but for the most part, they're lost in the piles of junk unloaded into stores every day. Today, they make generic products.

The worst example of their forays into every possible aspect of the shoe business is that all three put their names on rubber shower slippers. While there is nothing wrong with these products, they do nothing to inspire awe towards their brands. It's a strange contrast to how they burst on the scene initially. At first, they were light years ahead of anything else. Now, they are fighting a losing battle in gyms everywhere to generic flip-flops.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


What is a Porsche? The answer is obvious, but those running the company have willful amnesia. They are going down the road of General Motors. Like them, they will learn that their brand is not anything that they say it is.

For those who don't know, a Porsche is a reality based sports car built for Germany. You can contrast it with sports cars built in other countries. America's Corvette is the same, but built for the US, where gas prices have rarely been an issue. The great Italian sports cars are built for grand prix fantasies. Basically race cars with license plates, they are more suited to the track, but you can drive them legally on the street. British cars are also fantasy based. The motors are engineered for British weather, but the archetype style remains the roadster. What if the sun came out? Sometimes it does, and English drivers hammer their cars over green hills that match their British Racing Green paint. A Porsche is a two-seater coupe. You can drive it every day through German winters. The rear engine means that the weight is over the driving wheels for better traction through wet and icy weather. Air cooling meant that there was no water to freeze and break things. Water cooling has since improved, but simplicity and utility remain as the Porsche ideal. The company has three major problems:

  1. Pride. This is endemic to the German auto industry. Everyone else has standard parts. Porsches used to require a few special tools, but over the years, the entire country's industry has gone nova. It's a standard complaint that drives people away: Marque specific parts cost a fortune. It would be justified if some metric applied to cars were increased, but the plethora of such things does nothing for increased speed or reliability. An exasperated writer for Hemmings recently asked, "What next? BMW specific gasoline?" VW uses oil filters that are different from everyone else's. Porsche is the worst of all. The pursuit of difference with no measurable increase in utility needs to stop.
  2. The Panamera. This is not a Porsche. Porsches do not seat four.
  3. The Cayenne. See above. Also, I doubt that old Ferdinand dreamed of building a station wagon, then lifting it 50 feet in the air.
What needs to be done: The family in charge needs to figure out the difference between VW and Porsche. They also need to look at how other marques do things. For example, a handling package by Lotus is different from a Lotus. Marque specific parts must go. As it stands now, they do not show off German engineering. They just display the engineers' egos.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

This blog

I've run out of ideas for the moment. Maybe I'll have more later.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The San Diego Zoo

I have been going to the zoo for a long time. But for memberships, it has always been wildly overpriced. It's the one place where you can pay $15 for a fast food meal that normally costs less than $5. The collection of animals has always been spectacular.

So, how did it go downhill?


I don't know if Disney worked on the zoo or someone copied them (Sort of like asking which duplicate rubber stamp was used), but the stench is obvious. At the zoo's entrance, there is always world music playing. Further in, you hear animal sounds. The sounds are generated by speakers with sensors. When you walk by, there are sound effects of animals that were probably lifted from old jungle movies. Many fake displays look like Disney was the contract manufacturer. The worst is the concrete tar pit near the elephants.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


The shelf life of celebrities hasn't changed much. Some last a long time, while others come and go quickly.

One thing that has changed is how they evolve over time. I remember cringing at Britney Spears. Since she is younger than me, I thought I would be spared seeing her turn into Elizabeth Taylor. No such luck.

Famous people used to be timeless. Everyone wondered how they looked so good for so long. Now, they age faster than anybody.

I wonder if this means we'll stop seeing them in ads for cosmetics.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A better cause

I usually don't interrupt things for charity, but something has come along that tugs at my heartstrings. It's such an obvious reason to open your wallet and experience compassion.

Shirts for the Topless® is a new, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping today's young women who are fighting the consequences of an acute fabric shortage. You can see them on the internet, photographed all over the world. Not enough clothes.

You can help by sending your money and your excess outerwear to:

Santa Clara Publishing
PO Box 12483
El Cajon, CA 92022

Put "Shirts for the Topless®" in the memo line of your check.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

British Water

I don't know the name of any of the companies or the old one, but a friend from there writes about the situation frequently. Privatization means that water and sewage services are now profit centers. Various types of plants were built to last in the old days. Now, everything is flimsy, and it breaks all the time. Extra money is put into golf courses and real estate developments instead of infrastructure. Although it rains nearly every day throughout Britain, they have water shortages, and even more incredibly, "The wrong sort of rain."

Saturday, January 29, 2011

COPD Remedies

The ads for COPD remedies are cigarette commercials 40 years later. It's the same outdoorsy people. Instead of trying to hook up, they're out chasing grandchildren.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Maytag was always the exception to the rule. Through the 1970s and 80s, it was one of the few American made machines that thrived and competed. It was a success story that was often used in business school as a case study. "Why couldn't Detroit be like Maytag?" Their quality was not only good enough for America, it was good enough for Japan.

In 2007, after 100 years of loyal service from workers in Newton, Iowa, Maytag was bought by the scum at Whirlpool. The plant was closed.

"You're welcome."

I suppose the Iowans said worse.

Production moved to Mexico, but it's unlikely that Maytags will become solidly Mexican products, as the VW Bug did. Instead, production is likely to move and move again, from one contract manufacturer to another, crossing borders and oceans again and again.

A formerly great name is now just a meaningless label taking up space.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

It is often said that rock was rebellious at one time. I mainly remember a lot of rebellious posturing. Eventually, it was just another corporate machine. Now, there's a hall of fame.

The hall started by inducting those who deserved to be there. Later, as every year needed an induction ceremony, standards loosened up. Even promoters, whom nobody liked or likes have made it. Still, the idea persists because, "The Hall of Everyone Remotely Associated with Rock Music," would be a tough sell. The categories from "Early Influences," to businesspeople are as endless as the list of inductees.

Consequently, I propose inducting W. H. Auden into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an Early Influence. Auden wrote poetry. Many lyricists read poetry and think of themselves as poets. Clearly, Auden must have influenced someone who wrote a hit song.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Surf Magazines

Surfboard: Noun. An object upper-class twits hide behind as they attempt to look cool.

Surf magazines date back to the time everything went wrong with surfing, when the Gidget movies were released. One could argue that surf magazines don't belong on this blog. Instead of declining, they have been consistently bad.

There is so much they could write about, namely declining water quality. This and other issues, which could make the current generation of surfers the last, are largely ignored.

Instead, magazines like Surfer and Surfing are all fluff. Boobs, parties and waves take up most of the 2% of their space that isn't advertising. Every issue is the same as the last: Hey kids! Let's go to Hawaii!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

American Toilet Paper

Our toilet paper used to be so great that you didn't notice it.

Now, manufacturers are trying all kinds of gimmicks. They'll do everything except give value for your money.

Their biggest problem is the width of the roll. For decades, all toilet paper was the same width. It has been getting thinner and thinner for a long time. The spaces where rolls hang in people's houses are still the same size. The newer rolls rattle around back and forth, yet we pay more than we did for the real ones.

Do they think we haven't noticed?

The first company to make correctly sized toilet paper again will make a fortune.