Saturday, July 31, 2010

Reflections from the North Woods - final edition

- The glory days of piling the family in the station wagon in the '60s and '70s and hitting the open road are long gone. Traveling two-lane highways back in the day seemed an adventure. We would travel through towns like Denison, Cherokee, Parkers Prairie and Menagha on our way north, often stopping to dine at places marked with signs saying "good food" or "dine here." If we stopped for the night, the motels went by names like "C'mon Inn," "Sleep Inn," or "Lazy Inn." This week's trip was marked by interstate highways, more orange barrels than I could count and seemingly ubiquitous "road work ahead" signs, fast food joints (Dairy Queen is big in Minnesota and the Dakotas), and a general sense that road travel just ain't what it used to be.

- Best signs of the week: "Mom's Diner" with a sign right above saying "Dad's Roadside Eatery," "Charlies: Good Food Inside," and "Retired--no more berries...sorry."

- Did you ever wonder where the whole notion of a "vacation" came from? In the United Kingdom, "vacation" once specifically referred to the long summer break taken by the law courts. Many upper-class families moved to summer homes, leaving their usual family home vacant. In North America, "vacation" ultimately came to denote recreational travel, such as a short pleasure trip.

- Friday Night Lights is still one of the best shows on television but this season's story line featuring Tim Riggins indicates that the show's execs aren't sure where to take his character.

- Welcome to Kansas City, Eric Berry.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reflections from the North Woods - vol. 4

- In the area of Minnesota where we are vacationing, the presence of Paul Bunyan is felt everywhere. There is the Paul Bunyan Trail, Paul Bunyan Motors, and Paul Bunyan this and Paul Bunyan that. And, whether Bunyan is real or fiction, the ownership of this giant lumberjack, and his companion, Babe the Blue Ox, is something which this state takes very, very seriously. You see, the state of Michigan declared Oscoda, Michigan as the official home of Bunyan because it had the earliest documented, published stories of the legend. In Minnesota, Bemidji, Brainerd, Ankeley, Shelton and Westwood all declare themselves to be Bunyan's home or birthplace, and Kelliher is home to the Paul Bunyan Memorial Park, which contains what is purported to be Bunyan's grave. Not to be outdone, Wisconsin also weighs in with Wahoo and Eau Claire claiming ownership of Bunyan, and Wausau also has a Bunyan gravesite. There are many stories about Bunyan's feats but two of the more colorful are these--the Grand Canyon was created when Bunyan dragged his axe behind him, and the Great Lakes were created by Bunyan because Babe needed a hole big enough to drink from.

- Speaking of Minnesota, the latest issue of Money magazine has its list of "best places to live." Taking the top spot is Eden Prairie, MN, which is cited for "plenty of jobs," "very low crime," and "lots for kids to do." The Minneapolis suburb is downgraded, not surprisingly, for the "long, cold winters." Local Kansas and Missouri cities which made the list are Overland Park, KS (#7), Shawnee, KS (#17), O'Fallon, MO (#26), Lee's Summit, MO (#27), Blue Springs, MO (#49), and St. Peters, MO (#60).

- Is anyone else getting tired of the whole topic of "your personal brand?" It seems every magazine I pick up these days has a story on this subject and it's a hot topic for many self-help conferences and seminars.

- Justin Bieber appeared at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, MO tonight. This is one of those times where I'm glad I don't have pre-teen children.

- The hottest campaign in the U.S. right now--the Old Spice body wash work--is also heating up sales of the product. Nielsen reports that sales of the product rose 11% over the past 12 months, and over the past three months, sales jumped 55%. Old Spice is now the #1 brand for body wash and anti-perspirant/deodorant. The brand turnaround of this line of products, formerly associated with men my dad's age, is truly one of the more dramatic, recent brand success stories.

- When last we reported about American Idol, it was to inform you all that Chris Isaak reportedly had discussions with Idol executives about taking over Simon Cowell's judge spot. Now, rumor has it that the same execs are speaking with Jessica Simpson. Seriously!? Simpson is one of a very few replacement possibilities who could make Paula Abdul appear articulate.

- It's amazing what competition will do. Amazon unveiled the new Kindle today. It has a 6" display, similar to the last version of the e-reader, and a newer E-ink display. But, the biggest difference is in price--the new model will be sold for $139 (Wi-Fi only version.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reflections from the North Woods - vol. 3

- Rain in the woods is different. For some reason, rain in Minnesota on the lakes always seems to come down straight, steady, and almost as if the rain is afraid to hit the ground. The smells created are refreshing--almost mint-like as the rain hits the evergreens.

- The cover of Texas Monthly has a photo of two grizzled cowboys. Upon closer inspection, one quickly realizes that the two grizzled cowpokes are none other than Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones--Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call in the acclaimed television mini-series Lonesome Dove. The magazine's John Spong writes, "It's our Gone With the Wind--a hugely popular adventure tale, a fierce depiction of frontier life, and an enduring portrait of a complicated friendship. When Lonesome Dove was published in 1985, it transformed Larry McMurtry's career overnight and revived the fortunes of the western itself." The mini-series is now the best-selling western DVD of all time which, unfortunately, is a bit sad as the novel, so beautifully crafted by McMurtry, is this renowned writer's best work. Even though many came to this story via television, the book has sold 2.5 million copies. This is one of those books where I remember where I was when I first heard about it--on an airplane, naturally--and then could not put it down once I began reading McMurtry's classic. It's also one of those books that I hated to see end. Happy Anniversary, Lonesome Dove...

- In Andrew Morton's new tell-all, Angelina: An Unauthorized Biography, Morton describes the first time Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt worked together--on the movie, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. And, according to the author, the gossip on the set was that Jolie's trailer included handcuffs, sex toys, whips and S&M paraphernalia. No wonder, writes that author, that "the corn fed boy was toast." All of you who can't get enough Brangelina can pick up the "book" on August 3.

- H&R Block may have lost their CEO but their CMO is wasting no time in making a mark. The Kansas City, MO company announced today that Publicis Groupe's Fallon will take over Block's $155 million advertising account. The business is moving from Omnicom Group's DDB with no review, meaning new CMO Robert Turtledove master-minded this decision, another example of a major account moving agencies without a review involving multiple agencies. Fallon, a Minneapolis agency, is the same one used by Turtledove when he was at

- Next year is The Beach Boys' 50th anniversary and the group is suggesting that they will do at least one concert next year in celebration. While the group is one of the most popular and best-selling U.S. groups ever, the boys are well past their prime and a shell of their former vocal harmonizing selves. According to Rolling Stone, the group's lineup will include Al Jardine, Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Bruce Johnston--all original members.

- Rehearsals for Spider Man: Turn Off the Dark, will finally begin on August 18. This is the Broadway musical featuring songs from U2's Bono and The Edge, but financial woes and casting changes have delayed the anticipated opening indefinitely.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reflections from the North Woods - vol. 2

- Coming to Minnesota is an exercise in nostalgia for me. My family came to Minnesota each summer from the time I was able to walk through my high school years and our visits were true, extended family affairs. My grandparents went every year and we were often joined by aunts, uncles, cousins and other family friends. I learned to fish from my father who learned to fish from my maternal grandfather--when I was young, the three of us typically were out on the lake together. My grandfather had a Zen-like approach to fishing--he was calm, he was calculated, and he always seemed to know where to go on the lake, as if he were some sort of "fish whisperer." I learned patience from him and caught my first bass under his tutelage. There is something supremely relaxing being out on a boat; on a calm, natural lake; with a fishing line in the water. And, being out there, reeling in a bass or crappie, brings back vivid memories of my "Pappy."

- Did you know that actor Jared Harris, who plays Lane Pryce on Mad Men, is the son of famous actor Richard Harris? Yeah, I didn't either...

- The Old Spice campaign is one where I'd like to say, "yeah, I did that."

- Target is now in Manhattan--no, not Kansas but Manhattan on the island of New York. The new store is on the eastern edge of Harlem and not far from the Upper East Side. More than 100,000 people live within a mile of the new store and Target executives feel they can co-exist with the various mom-and-pop businesses which are a staple of America's biggest city. "This is more about your weekend stock-up," said John Griffith, Senior Vice President, Property Development. "Your butcher, your baker, your deli, you'll still go there."

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Reflections from the North Woods

Greetings from the North Woods of Minnesota, site of this year's summer vacation.

- Quote of the week: Houston Nutt, head football coach at the University of Mississippi, had this to say about dealing with players who post on Facebook and Twitter, "They said, 'Coach, it's the name of a song.' I said, 'I don't like the name of the song, then.'"

- Daniel Schorr, one of the best known and most combative journalists of his generation, died yesterday in Washington. Schorr reported the news from the 1950s through the 2000s and very famously made President Richard Nixon's enemies list, which was revealed during the Senate Watergate hearings in 1973. Schorr took on government misdeeds but also could put his employers in the crosshairs of his investigations. Wrote Schorr in his 2001 memoir, Staying Tuned, "It must mean something that, unable to accept the dictates of my bosses, I ended up in confrontations with (chairman) Bill Paley after a quarter-century at CBS and with Ted Turner after six years with CNN. It may be that I am just hard to get along with, but to me it always seemed that some principle was involved."

- I saw Inception last night and think it's a terrific movie. The subject matter was so compelling that I actually woke up, after dreaming, last night and thought of the movie, which is all about dream invasion. This isn't a summer popcorn movie--it's a twisting, turning mind-bender.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Boomer rock invades Starlight Theatre

On Sunday night two of the bastions of 1970s Top 40 and FM radio came to Starlight Theatre, Kansas City, MO, for a concert packed with hits and nostalgia.

The Doobie Brothers and Chicago tour enticed over 5,000 concert-goers out on a night where temperatures started in the 90's and didn't abate much, even when the sun went down. The steamy temps seemed to sap the crowd of some of its energy early, when the Doobies took the stage, but it didn't take long for folks to get up in the aisles once the band hit the first notes of "Jesus Is Just Alright." The band filtered in some of their less-known material but truly hit their stride with an ending trio of "Black Water," "Long Train Running," and China Grove."

The Doobies gave way to Chicago, who took the stage around 8:30. And, about 90 minutes later, the band, led by original members Robert Lamm, James Pankow and Lee Loughnane, had cruised through "Ballet for a Girl in Buchanen" (featuring "Make Me Smile" and "Colour My World"), "Dialogue," "Old Days," and several other of the their Top Ten hits, ending with "Feelin' Stronger Every Day."

The climax was a joint encore where all 18 members of both bands overwhelmed the Starlight stage with "Rockin' Down the Highway," "Free," "Takin' It to the Streets," "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?," "Listen to the Music," and "25 or 6 to 4."

It was a night for the numerous Baby Boomers in the crowd to hearken back to both bands' numerous albums, radio hits, and previous appearances in Kansas City. For the most part, both groups delivered on re-creating those wonderful memories although Chicago's performance pointed out the huge vocal gaps left by the departure of original members Terry Kath (accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound) and Peter Cetera (solo career.) Let's just say that "Colour My World" is a much different love song without Kath's bluesy voice.

My very first concert experience was Chicago at Memorial Hall (Kansas City, KS) so this is a group which has always held special memories for me. And, what I found ironic was this band--in place now for 43 years--who started so radical and revolutionary has now evolved to a group which pitched both the American Cancer Society, from the stage, as well as an autism foundation. So, while the group has lost members, it has not lost its sense of social conscience and responsibility.

It was a great pairing of two bands who can still bring it. And, as a result, many Boomers left satisfied and humming hits that highlighted their high school and college years.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday morning coffee

- Eight kids in Lindsborg, KS found a lot of money--$7,000 to be exact--and gave it the local police. In an interesting twist, the police were able to trace the money back to a local woman who had collected the money for a memorial for her late husband. Word of the good deed got out in the local community and money came in, along with letters of commendation from citizens, for the do-good kids. Each received $150.

- Rick Reilly, who is on ESPN's golf announcing team, is a terrific writer but can be a goof on camera. Reilly insisted yesterday that no stoppage should have occurred with British Open play, even though winds were so severe that players couldn't mark their balls on greens. In one unfair--or comical, depending upon your point-of-view--situation, a golfer had a 20-foot putt which turned into a 40-footer given that the wind blew his ball across the green.

- There were over 37,000 people at Kaufmann Stadium last night to see the Royals lose, in typical style, to the Oakland A's. And, I swear, 20,000 of them had to be standing in line at the concession stands throughout the night. Perhaps that's the current fate of being a Royals fan--the play on the field can be so frustrating that fans are left to hit the beer stands and stand in line for Sheridan's custard. Last night's effort featured last year's Cy Young winner battling his control, coupled with two errors plus the usual more hits than the opposition...but fewer runs.

- Did you hear about the woman in Bishop, TX who won $10 million with a Texas lottery scratch-off ticket? She previously had won $5.4 million in the lottery in 1993, followed by $2 million in 2006 and $3 million in 2008. There was no word in the report about how many lottery tickets she purchased to achieve this amazing feat.

- Perhaps our focus on safe driving should move from cell phones to the radio. A report out of Britain found that drivers who listened to sports radio bacame so absorbed in the games that their reaction time slowed by up to 20 percent. That equates to the same as driving while drunk. What's puzzling is that this took place in Britain, a country who's primary sport is soccer--not exactly a sport with tons of scoring action and frequent ups-and-downs in broadcast activity.

- The Old Spice campaign is receiving a ton of much-deserved industry buzz. The work is similar to the Dos Equis "World's Most Interesting Man" campaign in that it puts a truly differentiated spin on a product category which has been awash in sameness for years.

- Speaking of buzz, it appears that Christopher Nolan's Inception may be the movie of this summer. The general sense is that the film is visually stunning and action-packed thus creating a product which will sell tickets in a down movie summer. The movie opened yesterday.

- And, finally, Paris Hilton may soon be joining Snoop Dog and Willie Nelson on the "I love my weed" list. The heiress was detained at a private airport on the French island of Corsica after authorities discovered that she had pot in her purse.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Today will be an interesting day in Cupertino, CA as Apple will conduct a press conference at its company headquarters to talk about the reception problems of the Apple iPhone 4. Normally, press conferences at Apple or conducted by Apple are positive occasions...but not this time.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that CEO Steve Jobs actually knew of the new phone's reception issues but proceeded with plans for a June 2010 launch because he liked the new design. The confidentiality cone of silence over the development of the device inhibited the company's ability to test and get it market-ready, thus causing the real market problems now being experienced by Apple.

What's jarring about this is that, previously, any negative halo over the product was due to the issues with exclusive carrier AT&T's network, overburdened by the data use of Apple consumers. Now, for the first time, Apple is feeling the pain of negative customer experiences and, while they are reception related, they have to do with the built-in antenna on the iPhone.

What do we make of this, given that this is a company who ascended to its place of brand stature and loyalty by developing products which consumers coveted for their sleek industrial design and unrivaled user interfaces? Yes, other Apple products--even though it's been awhile--have failed to engender consumer demand. (Can you say Apple TV?) But, none has received this manner of ridicule by consumers, media and late-night talk show hosts. Normally, that's a place reserved for partner AT&T given its network woes.

It will be interesting to watch this brand mini-drama play out. And, it will be interesting to see how this might benefit the burgeoning market for Android devices.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Monday musings

- The countdown is on--less than 14 days until the new season of Mad Men on AMC.

- Now that the World Cup is over, we can only hope that FIFA will not be its usual stubborn self and ignore the travesty which was the officiating in this tournament. Even yesterday's final was marred by the number of yellow cards and the controversial "no call" on what the Dutch thought was a clear offsides on Spain's winning goal. Soccer's international governing body has to fix this problem prior to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

- The new "must have" ticket in Kansas City is one to the October 8 Miami Heat - Oklahoma City Thunder NBA exhibition game. Yes, that's the same Miami Heat which now features the King, D-Wade and Chris Bosh, along with former Kansas star and local favorite, Mario Chalmers. The Thunder will bring Big 12 Player-of-the-Year Kevin Durant, along with KU's Nick Collison and Cole Aldrich.

- Speaking of King James, it appears that a real life Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven's character on Entourage) had a lot to do with James' appearance on ESPN this past Thursday night. Ari Emanuel, co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor, called "The Decision," an event which "pushed the needle on advertiser-content programming." The ESPN special featured Microsoft's Bing and the University of Phoenix as presenting sponsors, and also had McDonald's, State Farm and VitaminWater as advertisers. ESPN donated the time and agreed that all ad revenue would go the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Emanuel, and partner Mark Dowley, former vice chairman of McCann Erickson, brokered the deal with the network and advertisers. And, while many are howling about the blurring of the lines of journalistic integrity versus ratings, the event succeeded in pulling in big numbers--the special produced a stunning 7.3 rating in the top 56 TV markets. Which brings us all back to Emanuel, considered to be the basis for the Gold character on Entourage (and real-life brother of Presidential aide Rahm Emanuel)...he did all of this as head of the William Morris Endeavor agency, even though James is a client of rival Creative Artists Agency. No wonder LeBron looked so uncomfortable on camera during this program!

- Bob Sheppard, the long-time public address announcer for the New York Yankees, died this week at age 91. Sheppard's passing provides us this week's quote-of-the-week: Mickey Mantle once told Sheppard that he got goose bumps every time Sheppard introduced him in Yankee Stadium. Sheppard famously replied, "Mickey, so do I."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ruppert Stadium

In my office is a University of Kansas calendar which contains reprints of past football game day program covers. The cover for the July page of the calendar is from a Texas Christian University (now more commonly referred to as "TCU") versus University of Kansas game which took place at Ruppert Stadium in Kansas City, MO.

I paused when I read the game venue as I've never heard of "Ruppert Stadium." After further fact-checking, Ruppert Stadium is actually what we now refer to affectionately as the "old ballpark"--Municipal Stadium, the former home of the Kansas City Royals and, before them, the Kansas City Athletics as well as the early-day Kansas City Chiefs.

The stadium was originally built in 1923 as Muehlebach Field and housed the minor-league Kansas City Blues. The single deck stadium cost $400,000. And, several years later, a not-too-bad barbecue joint named Arthur Bryant's was located across the street.

The ballpark, at 18th and Brooklyn, also was the home for the Kansas City Monarchs, a Negro League team which, during its history, would feature players like Satchel Paige and Buck O'Neill. (The Negro League Museum is now located just a few blocks from the site of the stadium. The 18th and Vine District, which played host to some of the best jazz men of its day, is also close by.)

When the New York Yankees bought the Blues in 1937 and incorporated the team into their farm system, the stadium was renamed Ruppert Stadium, in honor of Yankees owner, Colonel Jacob Ruppert. Ruppert died two years later and the stadium was renamed Blues Stadium in 1943.

What's interesting is that the date on the Kansas program is 1944, meaning that the stadium was known by both names, at least for a time. It wasn't until 1955 that it was renamed Municipal Stadium, after the Philadelphia Athletics relocated to Kansas City and then owner Arnold Johnson sold the stadium to the city.

From 1955 until it was vacated in 1972, Municipal was the site for many Kansas City sports low...and just a few highs. This is the stadium where the longest NFL game ever played, between the Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins, took place--a double-overtime Christmas Day playoff contest won by the Dolphins. It was also the site for wacky A's owner Charlie Finley's shenanigans, from the Pennant Porch he constructed in right field to the mechanical rabbit who would deliver balls to the umpires.

A Major League Baseball All-Star Game was played in the stadium in 1960. But, it was a non-sports event, in 1964, which brought the greatest notoriety to this old structure. The Beatles, on their first U.S. tour, played a less than hour-long set in Municipal for the then record concert fee of $150,000.

The Royals and Chiefs left in 1972 for the gleaming new Truman Sports Complex in suburban K.C. And, in 1976, the wrecking ball tore down Muehlebach/Ruppert/Blues/Municipal Stadium--"the old ballpark."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ray's Hell Burger

Several months ago in this space, we wrote about Ray's Hell Burger in Washington, D.C. and the President's and Vice President's surprise visit there one day for lunch.

Well, the Obama/Biden visit did wonders for Ray's business. Since that lunch last year, owner Michael Landrum has opened his fourth restaurant and expanded the original dining room at this now famous dive.

Today's Los Angeles Times contained a front page story on the Obamas love affair with food and the impact their willingness to dine out has had on the D.C. food scene.

It's refreshing that the President and First Lady don't cocoon themselves in the White House. Not only are they dining out frequently, but they are doing it at a variety of restaurants, particularly ones which are consistent with Michelle Obama's agenda of healthy eating and reducing obesity in children. To their credit, the Obamas do slip in the occasional meal which features a burger--whether at Ray's or Mrs. Obama's favorite, Five Guys.

In all cases, the restaurant appearances are highly sought after given the positive impact on one's business--from fine dining venues to burger dives.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I posted on Facebook, after this past weekend's gluttony of all things barbecue, about the wonder of S'mores as a dessert treat. And, perhaps not surprisingly, the post struck a nerve with almost a dozen people posting responses of one kind or another.

The passion around this dessert snack made we do a bit of investigating as to the origins.

For the uninitiated, a s'more is a toasted marshmallow sandwiched between a graham cracker and a piece of chocolate. The gooey treat is heavenly--thus the name "s'more."

According to Wikipedia, the treat's origins can be traced to the Girl Scouts. The first known version of the recipe can be found in Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts, a publication published in 1927. We don't know if the Girl Scouts were the first to taste a s'more (formerly called "some more") but the recipe has been in their publications until at least 1971.

So, let's credit the Girls Scouts and put this on the list of wonderful edibles they've given us, along with Scot T's and all those other wonderful cookies we buy each year.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Wrapping up a holiday weekend

Here are some odds and ends as we wrap up a holiday weekend:

- Noted rock musician and songwriter Robbie Robertson turns 67 today. Robertson, a member of The Band, was voted #78 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of top rock guitarists. Of late, Robertson's claim-to-fame has been his frequent collaborations with Martin Scorsese. Scorsese directed The Last Waltz, a rock documentary about The Band and still called by many critics as the best rock movie ever. The two lived together during that filming and, admittedly, consumed many drugs during that early 1970s time period. Scorsese would ultimately ask Robertson to compose the music to Raging Bull, his classic film about boxer Jake LaMotta. It would be the first of many collaborations as Robertson has since worked on The Departed, Casino, Gangs of New York and The Color of Money.

- Speaking of rock movies, the Black Eyed Peas are planning a 3-D concert tour movie directed by none other than James Cameron. Said, "We have the biggest director because we have the biggest group on the planet."

- Given the short amount of time in the NBA offseason, LeBron James and Dwayne Wade had better make a decision quickly on where they intend to play next season. What would the sports media do in the summertime if not for mini-dramas to follow like the LeBron/D-Wade sweepstakes, conference realignment, Brett Favre's retirement/un-retirement, and Michael Vicks' latest transgression?

- Dive of the week: It's nice to see that Charlie Hooper's (Brookside neighborhood, Kansas City, MO) hasn't lost a step. The bar has been open for 30 years and boasts the best beer selection in the city--over 150 bottles and 30 drafts. And, best of all, the beer is always cold. The food at Hooper's is very, very good with a nice menu now of typical bar offerings coupled with healthier fare. The joint draws an eclectic mix of locals, blue-collar types and young urbanites.

- And you think Kansas basketball/Kentucky basketball/Notre Dame football fans are passionate with high expectations? How about Brazil soccer? Brazilian soccer coach Dunga, and his staff, were fired yesterday after the team lost to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals of the World Cup. Brazil will host the next World Cup in 2014.

- Why are Vampires "hot" right now?

Sunday, July 4, 2010

An old-time Fourth of July

I don't know of any holiday that makes me as nostalgic for "the old days" as Independence Day--the Fourth of July.

When I was young, the Fourth was always a day for family get-togethers. It typically would be hotter than blazes out "in the country" in Kansas where we lived on our two acres. My mother, aunt and grandma would be busy preparing the food all day--fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, fresh vegetables...the whole spread. If we didn't have chicken we might grill out hamburgers and hot dogs, and that was done after a long day of setting off firecracker after firecracker.

We'd all settle down around 6:00 p.m. or so for our dinner. It always seemed that we'd eat outside--on picnic tables, on blankets spread out on the grass, or in lawn chairs. The whole family would be there, except for one--my grandfather.

My father's father owned a small business--the American Ice Company. It was a business which made ice, back when families needed that precious commodity for their iceboxes. (And, yes, there is an art to making large blocks of ice.) Later, as the refrigerator became a common household item in the kitchen, my grandfather's business sold bags of ice, soda pop and beer, all out of a huge walk-in cooler and dock. And, during the summer, my grandfather sold the coldest, and best, watermelon in town.

So, as we all prepped for the Fourth of July evening fireworks to come and ate our dinner, my grandfather would be closing up shop in town. He'd arrive, always late after his very full day of work, and with a huge watermelon under each arm. He'd grin from ear-to-ear as he walked up to greet us--the celebration could then really begin.

I hope you and yours have a safe, and perhaps "old time," Independence Day celebration.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Saturday morning coffee

- It's not been the best of weeks for Apple. First was the highly publicized "EVO vs. iPhone" YouTube video, which was making the rounds, and then yesterday's admission that the company has exaggerated its signal strength by displaying too many bars on the screen of its ultra-successful wireless phone. (In fairness, the aforementioned YouTube video was followed by one portraying the benefits of the iPhone over EVO, but, at last count, the anti-iPhone version was far more popular based upon number of hits.)

- Don't you think it's interesting that the period of time around the founding of the United States of America--so rich with colorful characters and compelling storylines--has had so little of that material find its way to the big screen and little screen? Other than The Patriot (Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger) and the HBO mini-series, John Adams, what else has been produced in the past 20 years?

- Are doctors becoming the new example of lousy customer service? We all have had episodes of showing up on time for an appointment only to wait, sometimes for very long periods of time, because the doctor is running late. Insurers usually pay a certain amount for each patient which doctors see, thus causing the physician to want to visit with as many patients as possible. Thus these short time slots are often double-booked, making it easy for doctors to get delayed and causing a ripple effect of waiting, particularly for those with appointments in the afternoon. The lesson here--try to make your appointment first thing in the morning.

- You know I'm a NASCAR fan. But, the cynic in me has to question the timing of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s success at Daytona. In 2001, Dale's father was killed in a crash at the Daytona 500. "Little E" came back to Daytona in July and won an emotional Pepsi 400 at the track. Last night, in the Nationwide Series, Earnhardt, Jr. drove a throwback blue-and-yellow Wrangler sponsored car with his father's #3. And, once again, Dale Jr. won--his first win in two years. Coincidence? Maybe...but it does give rise to conspiracy thoughts of race fixing.

- In case you missed it (and I hope you did), Kate Gosselin said she wants to do a Christmas album. Please...PLEASE...stop already. The 15 minutes of fame are over.

- Kansas Citians, if you haven't visited the Riverside Red X, north of the river and west of Briarcliff, it's well worth the trip. The wine, beer and liquor selection is first rate with good price specials. And, for those not worried about their diet, I believe every brand of chip and salted snack is sold in the market. It's quite the place--and quite the crowd.

- Happy Independence Day, everyone. Enjoy your holiday tomorrow!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Independence Day

I have an axe to grind, America. Can we please stop commonly referring to this weekend's holiday as the "Fourth of July," and refer to it as "Independence Day?"

For a quick history lesson, on July 2 (yes, 2nd), 1776, the American colonies legally separated from Great Britain. This was accomplished when the Second Continental Congress voted to approve the resolution offered up by one of our Founding Fathers, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia. After voting for our country's independence, Congress then focused on the Declaration of Independence. This statement explained the decision of our forefathers and had been prepared by a committee of five men with Thomas Jefferson as the principal author. The wording was debated and reviewed by Congress and ultimately approved on July 4.

A day earlier, John Adams, another one of the five authors, wrote this to his wife Abigail:

- The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

The suggestion that Adams offered up, in this letter to his wife, turned out to be two days off from the ultimate date used for celebrating America's independence. While resolution of our independence occurred on July 2, the date on the Declaration of Independence is July 4.

To further complicate our history's calendar, the signing of the Declaration of Independence did NOT occur on July 4--rather, it was signed on August 2, 1776. So enduring was the myth that signing occurred on July 4 that both Jefferson and Adams, late in their lives, recalled the signing occurring on that date. And, as we all know, both men died on that very day--July 4, 1826--our country's 50th anniversary.

So, when observing our country's independence this weekend, and carrying out Adams' vision of how we should celebrate, let's do just that--honor our "independence"...not the "4th of July."

Thursday, July 1, 2010


The ad world lost one of its star players today when it was announced that Alex Bogusky, the creative juice leading Crispin, Porter & Bogusky, resigned to pursue other interests. And, apparently, those interests reside outside of advertising.

Bogusky was a founding partner of CP&B. He led the shop over the past 10 years and, during that time, the agency became perhaps the most talked-about company in advertising. The agency's work on Burger King and BMW Mini, among others, is oft held up as reflective of the creative marketing prowess of Bogusky and his agency colleagues.

A statement from MDC, the holding company for the agency, reads "We're confident that many important causes will benefit from his (Bogusky's) passion and brilliance, and wish him the very best in all of his future endeavors."