Quotulatiousness

October 12, 2016

This generation gap thingy is bigger than I thought

Filed under: Business — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

I’m far from a McDonalds fan … I darken their doors less than yearly, although I’ve had a long-running “joke” that I need to have a Big Mac at least once a year, if only to remind me why I don’t eat at McDonalds more often. But is the iconic Big Mac a victim of its own success? Has it stopped being relevant in the fast food world? Colby Cosh investigates:

The Wall Street Journal reports that a big McDonald’s franchise owner did some market research recently and stumbled upon a surprising fact: only one in five Americans of “millennial” age has ever tried a Big Mac. Those of you who follow me on Twitter know what my reaction was to this news: a paroxysm of skeptical eye-rolling.

The Big Mac might easily be described as the single most successful consumer product of the 20th century. Of all the various kinds of sandwiches that the human imagination has conceived since the lifetime of the 4th Earl of Sandwich (peace be upon him), the Big Mac might be the specific sandwich that has been prepared and eaten the most. It has a recipe that children everywhere can recite by heart. How is it possible that an entire generation has collectively skipped it, never thinking it might have some merit?

Well, whether or not I would have imagined it, the reactions I got when I asked around convinced me quickly that it is probably true. (Big surprise: a businessman’s expensively gathered information about his customer base turns out to be more accurate than some jackass’s wild guess.) Dozens of young people immediately told me that they have never tried a Big Mac. Plenty of these sandwich-spurners were careful to specify, all with evident shame, that they do visit McDonald’s often; at least one had worked there. A few correspondents had specific reasons for avoiding the Big Mac, but for the most part, the prevailing attitude toward the item seemed to be apathy, rather than hostility.

[…]

As it happens, I was raised in the boonies, and we would visit McDonald’s just a few times a year. I have to acknowledge that my fondness for Big Macs is a matter of generational and circumstantial happenstance. They are, even though I’ve certainly had a thousand of the things, still attainably glamorous — a dream of childhood now indulged at will.

Fortunately, my inherited cheapness protects me from a nightmare of special-sauce overdose. I can never order a Big Mac without an inner Presbyterian voice — Socrates’ daimon, with my grandfather’s accent — grumbling that this damned thing should really cost about $2. What the Wall Street Journal has me wondering is how long the Big Mac can remain on the menu at all, if it has really been bypassed by progress and fashion in the manner of marmalade or pickled eggs. If I knew my next Big Mac was my last — though any one might be! — I might pay more like $50.

Colby and I are of a similar generational group, but I’d probably top out at $25 for my “very last” Big Mac.

September 25, 2016

QotD: Canada’s “Potemkin village” tactics

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Some of us, in another forum, were discussing why UN peacekeeping seems to go so very wrong, so very often ~ not always, I hasten to add, just usually ~ and I quipped, with just a wee bit of hyperbole, that “Simple human decency says that a country like Canada should have dropped a light brigade into South Sudan and destroyed the South Sudanese Army in a short, brutal campaign of exemplary speed and violence … should have if we could have, but, of course, the Canadian Army is a fat, overstaffed, poorly managed corporal’s guard, that cannot deploy any brigade anywhere because we don’t have any nearly fully staffed brigades and even if we did they don’t have enough logistical “lift,” so they are useless once they have marched more than 15 km out of the camp gate … unless a country with a real army (you know, one with trucks and people a to drive them) decides to support and sustain us.

Sadly no one, not even officers who have, fairly recently, commanded brigades in the regular army, challenged my assertion that the Canadian Army has been hollowed out until, now, it is a sort of military Potemkin village in which bits and pieces are deployed and redeployed to create the (entirely false) impression that we, Canadians, are getting a real army for the $20 billion or so that we spend, year after year after year, on out national defences.

The process began, in earnest, in about 1970, when, in response to quite draconian cuts imposed by Pierre Trudeau (but not, it has been suggested, as deep as he wished) the Canadian Forces began to try to “make do” with a “pint sized” brigade in Germany ~ when a full sized (6,500± soldiers) one was need by promising (and practising) to augment it with “fly-over” troops from Canada who were trained and equipped and could move, fairly quickly on to “pre-positioned” equipment … if it was properly maintained. It worked well enough, in a peacetime/training situation, except for the fact that we, eventually (early 1980s), understood that we could not sustain a brigade in Germany with “fly overs” when we needed the same troops to “fly over” to Norway to keep another promise, made to try to placate our allies about our deep defence cuts, and by the late 1980s the Norway task (promise) was quietly shelved (broken) about twenty years after it was started, and after a quite disastrous “test” (Exercise BRAVE LION) proved to civilian planners and military commanders alike that the Canadian Army (which was much larger than it is today) simply did not have the where-with-all (especially the logistical “tail”) needed to sustain “fly over” missions to Europe. But the damage was done … in twenty years, almost a generation, the Army, especially, had gotten used to “faking” its combat effectiveness with Potemkin village tactics.

Ted Campbell, “A Canadian Potemkin Village”, Ted Campbell’s Point of View, 2016-09-15.

September 15, 2016

QotD: Hubert Humphrey’s presidential aspirations

Filed under: History, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Toward the end of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s, the governor of Georgia was a white trash dingbat named Lester Maddox – who is still with us, in one crude form or another – and when the curtain finally falls on George Wallace, he will probably go down in history as the Greatest Thief of them all. Wallace was the first Southern politician to understand that there are just as many mean, stupid bigots above the Mason-Dixon Line as there are below it, and when he made the shrewd decision to “go national”‘ in 1968, he created an Alabama-based industry that has since made very rich men of himself and a handful of cronies. For more than a decade, George Wallace has bamboozled the national press and terrified the ranking fixers in both major parties. In 1968, he took enough Democratic votes from Hubert Humphrey to elect Richard Nixon, and if he had bothered to understand the delegate selection process in 1972, he could have prevented McGovern’s nomination and muscled himself into the number two spot on a Humphrey-Wallace ticket.

McGovern could not have survived a second-ballot shortfall in Miami that year, and anybody who thinks the Happy Warrior would not have made that trade with Wallace is a fool. Hubert Humphrey would have traded anything, with anybody, to get the Democratic nomination for himself in 1972 …… and he’ll be ready to trade again, this year, if he sees the slightest chance.

And he does. He saw it on the morning after the New Hampshire primary, when five percent of the vote came in as “uncommitted.” That rotten, truthless old freak was on national TV at the crack of dawn, cackling like a hen full of amyls at the “wonderful news” from New Hampshire. After almost four years of relatively statesmanlike restraint and infrequent TV appearances that showed his gray hair and haggard jowls – four long and frantic years that saw the fall of Richard Nixon, the end of the war in Vietnam and a neo-collapse of the U.S. economy – after all that time and all those sober denials that he would never run for president, all it took to jerk Hubert out of his closet was the news from New Hampshire that five percent of the Democratic voters, less than 4,000 people, in that strange little state had cast their ballots for “uncommitted” delegates.

To Humphrey, who was not even entered in the New Hampshire primary, this meant five percent for him. Never mind that a completely unknown ex-governor of Georgia had won in New Hampshire with more than 30% of the vote; or that liberal Congressman Morris Udall had finished a solid but disappointing second with 24%; or that liberal Senator Birch Bayh ran third with 16%……. None of that mattered to Hubert, because he was privy to various rumors and force-fed press reports that many of the “uncommitted” delegates in New Hampshire were secret Humphrey supporters. There was no way to be sure, of course – but no reason to doubt it, either; at least not in the mushy mind of the Happy Warrior.

His first TV appearance of the ’76 campaign was a nasty shock to me. I had been up all night, tapping the glass and nursing my bets along (I had bet the quinella, taking Carter and Reagan against Udall and Ford) and when the sun came up on Wednesday I was slumped in front of a TV set in an ancient New England farmhouse on a hilltop near a hamlet called Contoocook. I had won early on Carter, but I had to wait for Hughes Rudd and the Morning News to learn that Ford had finally overtaken Reagan. The margin at dawn was less than one percent, but it was enough to blow my quinella and put Reagan back on Cheap Street, where he’s been ever since …… and I was brooding on this unexpected loss, sipping my coffee and tapping the glass once again, when all of a sudden I was smacked right straight in the eyes with the wild-eyed babbling spectacle of Hubert Horatio Humphrey. His hair was bright orange, his cheeks were rouged, his forehead was caked with Mantan, and his mouth was moving so fast that the words poured out in a high-pitched chattering whine …… “O my goodness, my gracious …… isn’t it wonderful? Yes, yes indeed……. O yes, it just goes to show…. I just can’t say enough…….”

No! I thought. This can’t be true! Not now! Not so soon! Here was this monster, this shameful electrified corpse – and raving and flapping his hands at the camera like he’d just been elected president. He looked like three iguanas in a feeding frenzy. I stood up and backed off from the TV set, but the view was no different from the other side of the room. I was seeing The Real Thing, and it stunned me……. Because I knew, in my heart, that he was real: that even with a five percent shadow vote in the year’s first primary, where his name was not on the ballot, and despite Jimmy Carter’s surprising victory and four other nationally known candidates finishing higher than “uncommitted,” that Hubert Humphrey had somehow emerged from the chaos of New Hampshire with yet another new life, and another serious shot at the presidency of the United States.

Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’76: Third-rate romance, low-rent rendezvous — hanging with Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and a bottle of Wild Turkey”, Rolling Stone, 1976-06-03.

September 3, 2016

QotD: Hunter S. Thompson’s ideal breakfast

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Breakfast is the only meal of the day that I tend to view with the same kind of traditionalized reverence that most people associate with Lunch and Dinner.

I like to eat breakfast alone, and almost never before noon; anybody with a terminally jangled lifestyle needs at least one psychic anchor every 24 hours, and mine is breakfast. In Hong Kong, Dallas or at home – and regardless of whether or not I have been to bed – breakfast is a personal ritual that can only be properly observed alone, and in a spirit of genuine excess. The food factor should always be massive: four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crepes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon or corned beef hash with diced chilies, a Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of key lime pie, two margaritas and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert……. Right, and there should also be two or three newspapers, all mail and messages, a telephone, a notebook for planning the next 24 hours, and at least one source of good music….… All of which should be dealt with outside, in the warmth of a hot sun, and preferably stone naked.

Hunter S. Thompson, “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’76: Third-rate romance, low-rent rendezvous — hanging with Ted Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and a bottle of Wild Turkey”, Rolling Stone, 1976-06-03.

August 17, 2016

Cover art and outtakes from Tom Waits’ Small Change, 1976

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

I didn’t know that the “go-go dancer” in the background of the photos from Tom Waits’ album Small Change was Cassandra Peterson (better known for her portrayal of “Elvira” to most of us):

Tom Waits - Small Change 1

Tom Waits - Small Change 2

A couple of outtakes at the link.

June 7, 2016

QotD: The 1977 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

Filed under: Humour, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

1977 was nearing the nadir (what a fortunate homonym!) of American automotive performance.

The base Monte Carlo of Jimmy Carter’s inaugural year shipped with a 2-bbl 305 cubic inch V8 that wheezed out an underwhelming 140 net horsepower. This gasping iron-block lungfish was plopped in a “midsize” car so big that the average NFL team would probably need two running plays to get from the hood ornament to the trunk latch.

But it sure looked good, and any Cletus with a wrench and a SuperShop in the neighborhood strip mall could unlock a lot more power out of that motor…

Tamara Keel, “Automotif CXXVI…”, View from the porch, 2016-05-28.

April 11, 2016

Clarkson’s Car Years – How Japan Took Over The World… And Then Lost It.

Filed under: Business, Japan — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

March 7, 2016

National Defense: Can You Be A Leader? – 1977 Educational Documentary – Ella73TV

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 6 Mar 2016

A promotional and informational short produced by New Horizon Films (with support from the NFB) for the Department of National Defense. The film follows a set of new recruits through officer training at the facility in Chilliwack B.C. Directed and photographed by Robert S. Rodvik; sound recording and editing by Michael J. Collier; technical advisors: Captain Stu Harper and Captain Grant Russell; music composed by Captain John Montminy; Narrated by Chad Miller; music performed by Canadian Forces Naden Band; Esquimalt B.C. “Can you be a leader?” won a Certificate of Excellence – Training at the U.S. Industrial Film Festival.

This film has been made available courtesy the City of Vancouver Archives at http://vancouver.ca/your-government/city-of-vancouver-archives.aspx Reference code: AM1553-2-S2-: MI-272

January 16, 2016

David Bowie was not the “trans messiah”

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Brendan O’Neill on the attempt to portray David Bowie’s career as something other than music, showbiz, and a set of unevenly brilliant self-marketing abilities:

Poor David Bowie. Barely 72 hours dead and he’s already being misremembered. Turn on the TV and you’ll see cultural talking heads telling the world he was the granddaddy of transgenderism. Open a newspaper and you’ll come across 800-word PhD theses masquerading as op-eds, informing us Bowie paved the way for the “gender fluidity” of the 21st century, the fashion for declaring oneself neither male nor female, but rather non-binary, or genderqueer, and whatever the other post-gender labels are. (It’s easy to lose track. Last year Facebook increased its gender options from 50 to 71, overnight. Presumably some professor suddenly discovered 21 hitherto unknown genders.)

It is a blot on Bowie’s good name to link him with the politics of transgenderism. Just because in the early Seventies he rocked the cultural world by coating himself in makeup and donning dayglo jumpsuits with vertigo-inducing platform shoes, that doesn’t mean he was transgender, far less that he facilitated modern transgenderism. On the contrary, there’s a stark difference between Bowie’s cross-dressing antics and today’s seemingly catching gender dysphoria: Where Bowie and other queens and freaks in the Sixties and Seventies were flipping a beautifully manicured finger at authority, modern transgenderism seeks to become its own form of authority, chastising and censoring those who dare dissent from its theology. The glam crowd broke boundaries; the trans elite enforces new ones.

Bowie’s death had barely been tweeted before people were hailing him the trans messiah. A British newspaper said that 40 years ago Bowie had flown “the flag for the non-binary movement.” Which is patent nonsense, since nobody — certainly not this contrarian lad from Brixton in South London — was using the turgid phrase “non-binary” in the early 1970s.

January 6, 2016

QotD: De-institutionalization and mental health

Filed under: Health, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Look, part of the whole problem with the deinstitutionalisation of the mentally ill, which goes all the way back to the early seventies at least, and as far as theory is concerned probably a lot further, is that health professionals started, DELIBERATELY blurring the lines between mental illness and mental health.

Part of this was – I think – a genuine effort to make it possible for some people classified as “mentally ill” to be able to make a go of it in the community. A lot of new psychiatric drugs had been discovered which, while they didn’t heal, masked the symptoms of mental illness and therefore made it possible for these people to integrate in normal society – provided they would take their meds (more on that later.)

The other part – I know, my SIL took the mental-health portion of her MD in the late seventies – was the insane “equivalence brigade” which tried very hard to convince themselves that the US too did EXACTLY the same things the USSR did. Since the USSR put political dissenters in mental hospitals, then the people in US hospitals MUST be also political dissenters. This was hard to prove, since the Soviet system provided ideological support for mental treatment of dissenters: i.e. the Marxist system was perfect, so anyone disagreeing must be mad, while the American system mostly tried to get people off the streets who would do harm to themselves and/or others. However the medical profession found their justification in an upside-down of the Marxist system. Since Capitalism was bad for humans and other living things, then everyone who went mad under capitalism were, ipso facto, political dissenters. So, if you happened to be a woman who liked to throw rocks at strangers and go into bizarre monologues on the subject of cabbage, you weren’t mad, you were a feminist protesting male aggression.

Now I have no proof this was intentional or a coordinated AGITPROP operation. It’s entirely possible it was (merely) the predictable mix of ill-intentioned agents and well-intentioned idiot fellow travelers.

However the end result was making people too crazy to live alone into political victims and incidentally to give the USSR room to claim the capitalist system created homelessness.

Sarah A. Hoyt, “I’m Not Crazy, I’m Just A Little Unwell – A blast from the past post 10/12”, According to Hoyt, 2015-10-12.

December 22, 2015

Kate Bush – Christmas Special 1979 (Private Remaster)

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 5 Oct 2013

I know there’s a good few copies of this out on YouTube, but here it is, again! The other copies were either split up into individual tracks, the best complete one (from BBC Four’s rebroadcast in 2009) had the wrong aspect ratio, which annoyed the hell out of me! So, here this is…

Video and audio have been tidied up very slightly, not much was needed!

Kate Bush – Christmas Special
Tracklist:
(Intro) 00:00
Violin 00:29
(Gymnopédie No.1 – composed by Erik Satie) 03:44
Symphony In Blue 04:44
Them Heavy People 08:20
(Intro for Peter Gabriel) 12:52
Here Comes The Flood (Peter Gabriel) 13:22
Ran Tan Waltz 17:02
December Will Be Magic Again 19:43
The Wedding List 23:35
Another Day (with Peter Gabriel) 28:05
Egypt 31:41
The Man With The Child In His Eyes 36:21
Don’t Push Your Foot On The Heartbreak 39:24

“I was recently asked about this BBC TV special and I thought I’d share my comments here. Kate: Kate Bush Christmas Special is a stage performance by Kate Bush with her special guest Peter Gabriel. Though most of the songs are not holiday ones, they come from Bush’s first three albums (Never for Ever her third album would be released in 1980 after this 1979 TV special was taped). The performances include costumes, choreographed dances and a wind machine, creating an eclectic music TV special to say the least.

This is one of the programs that makes my research quite difficult — because it calls itself a Christmas Special yet it contains only one performance of a Christmas song “December Will Be Magic Again” (a song that wouldn’t be released as a single by Bush until the following year, in 1980). TV programming that calls itself a Christmas Special and yet contains little to no Christmas entertainment is actually quite common — especially on the BBC.

Between the end of November and the end of December each year, there is quite a bit of special programming on television. Remember Elvis’ 1968 Comeback Special — it aired in December that year and includes only one holiday song, a performance of “Blue Christmas.” Is it considered a Christmas special? No, not really. And so, despite its title, the lack of holiday programming in Kate Bush’s 1979 TV special means it shouldn’t be considered a Christmas special either. But the Kate Bush Christmas Special is certainly worth watching!”

H/T to Ghost of a Flea for the link.

August 3, 2015

Why Do Governments Enact Price Controls?

Filed under: Economics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 25 Feb 2015

If price controls have negative consequences, why do governments enact them? Let’s revisit our example of President Nixon’s wage and price controls in the 1970s. These price controls were popular, as is demonstrated by Nixon being re-elected after they went into effect. The public didn’t think that the price controls were to blame for things such as long lines at the fuel pump. Without knowledge of the economics behind price controls, the public blamed foreign oil cartels and oil companies for the shortages.

In this video we’ll also address questions such as: do price controls — like rent controlled apartments and the minimum wage — help the poor? Are there better ways to help the poor? If so, what are they? Let’s find out.

July 14, 2015

Al Stewart, “Time Passage” live, 1979

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 7 Jul 2015

Al Stewart – Time Passages 1979

It was late in December, the sky turned to snow
All round the day was going down slow
Night like a river beginning to flow
I felt the beat of my mind go
Drifting into time passages
Years go falling in the fading light
Time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight

Well I’m not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on are the things that don’t last
Well it’s just now and then my line gets cast into these
Time passages
There’s something back here that you left behind
Oh time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight

Hear the echoes and feel yourself starting to turn
Don’t know why you should feel
That there’s something to learn
It’s just a game that you play

(Instrumental)

Well the picture is changing
Now you’re part of a crowd
They’re laughing at something
And the music’s loud
A girl comes towards you
You once used to know
You reach out your hand
But you’re all alone, in these
Time passages
I know you’re in there, you’re just out of sight
Time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight

July 9, 2015

Price Ceilings: Misallocation of Resources

Filed under: Economics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 25 Feb 2015

Suppose there is a mild winter on the West Coast and a harsh winter on the East Coast. As a result of the weather, people on East Coast will demand more home heating oil, bidding up the price. Under the price system, entrepreneurs will be incentivized to take oil from where it has lower value on West Coast to where it has higher value on the East Coast. But when price controls are in place, even though the demand is still there from the East Coast, there is no signal of a higher price, eliminating the incentive for entrepreneurs to transport oil from west to east. In fact, this happened in the 1970s, resulting in oil going to lower valued uses on the West Coast while many people on the East Coast didn’t have enough oil to heat their homes. In this video, we’ll look at a diagram to visualize this misallocation of resources.

July 5, 2015

The real lessons of The Good Life

Filed under: Britain, Media, Politics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

While I don’t think I ever saw an episode of the British sitcom The Good Life, I’ve read a fair bit about it in passing, as it is one of the mass media touchstones used by Dominic Sandbrook in his series of hefty tomes about British life from the 60s onwards. In short, a middle-aged couple bail on their middle-class lives and try to set up a self-sufficient lifestyle on their (fully paid-off) house in the suburbs. The interaction between the couple and their still-living-the-middle-class-life next-door neighbours provides much of the humour for the show. Based on that, I must heartily agree with David Thompson’s explanation of the show:

… Tom and Barbara’s experiment in “self-sufficiency” wasn’t particularly self-sufficient. They don’t prevail in the end, not on their own terms or in accord with their stated principles, and their inability to do so is the primary source of story lines. Practically every week the couple’s survival is dependent on the neighbours’ car, the neighbours’ chequebook, the neighbours’ unpaid labour, a convoluted favour of some kind. And of course they’re dependent on the “petty” bourgeois social infrastructure maintained by all those people who haven’t adopted a similarly perilous ‘ecological’ lifestyle. The Goods’ “non-greedy alternative” to bourgeois life is only remotely possible because of their own previous bourgeois habits — a paid-off mortgage, a comfortable low-crime neighbourhood with lots of nearby greenery, and well-heeled neighbours who are forever on tap when crises loom, i.e., weekly.

To seize on The Good Life as an affirmation of eco-noodling and a “non-greedy alternative” to modern life is therefore unconvincing, to say the least. The Goods only survive, and then just barely, because of their genuinely self-supporting neighbours — the use of Jerry’s car and chequebook being a running gag throughout. And insofar as the series has a feel-good tone, it has little to do with championing ‘green’ lifestyles or “self-sufficiency.” It’s much more about the fact that, despite Tom and Barbara’s dramas, bad choices and continual mooching, and despite Margo’s imperious snobbery, on which so much of the comedy hinges, the neighbours remain friends. If anything, the terribly bourgeois Margo and Jerry are the more plausible moral heroes, given all that they have to put up with and how often they, not Tom’s principles, save the day.

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