Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Stories of American business, and more


    Stories of American business:
    • Al Boscov in pictures. His family, like many enterprising Jewish immigrants from Russia (the Russian-sounding name is actually shortened), started a local department-store empire early last century, in Reading, Pa. Second-string in the mall anchor-store hierarchy, with Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Macy's, etc. on top and JC Penney and Sears on the bottom. There have been so many others: M. Epstein's touch of class in Morristown, NJ, now gone, and also gone, Harrison's (they changed their last name) on Philadelphia's Main Line, no-frills shopping for clothing basics at two stores, like something you'd expect upstate despite its tony locations.
    • Hershey's considers going back from corn syrup to cane sugar. High-fructose corn syrup, an unnatural sugar that doesn't taste as good and is worse for you, cheap from government-subsidized corn. Hershey's isn't the greatest but they make dark chocolate.
    • How and where some of America's fast-food chains started, many in the '50s. I knew nice guy Dave Thomas' daughter is the real Wendy. Missing is the McDonald's story, besides mediocre food: Ray Kroc was a thief. Discovered the real McDonald brothers making hamburgers in an assembly-line way at their restaurant, ran them out of business, and stole not only their idea but their name. Almost like Edison robbing Tesla.
    • Chrysler dumps its "Pentastar" logo. First a failed merger with Daimler in Germany, complete with cute Toaster Strudelish commercials; now another try, with Fiat.
  • Some classic "rush-hour" city-bustle music as I chase job leads: George Gershwin's "An American in Paris."
  • A change too far even for liberal Finland? Parliament and the Lutheran archbishop OK gay marriage; thousands quit church rolls. Never been but I know Finland's unique, culturally very Scandinavian (secular, and cold and reserved) but ethnically not (a non-Germanic language and a bit of un-Scandie feistiness; badass hockey players like the Russians). The Russians owned it for a century (Helsinki looks like St. Petersburg) but didn't try to russify them; rather, Finns moved away from Swedishness. The Orthodox Church is still one of the two state churches for fairness' sake even though only 1% of Finns belong; it's very liberal (Orthodox version of Anglicans or "AmChurch" American Catholic liberals but not Novus Ordo) unlike its Russian parent. Their Baltic cousins are the Estonians, likewise Lutheran.
  • Roissy: What's old is new again. Don’t abide opinions that your grandmother would scoff at. One of the reasons why CH resonates so forcefully with readers is because our field observations and keen eye corroborate what was accepted wisdom in our forefathers’ time. These mystic chords of memory are not so easily silenced by Hivemind thought suppression and reeducation. Like I always say, the truth will win out… one way or another. Reminds me of "All in the Family" (I've never been a fan of Norman Lear's TV sermons; can't stand "M*A*S*H" for the same reason): cutesy Archie Bunker early on ended up a streetwise folk hero while Lear's young, hip heroes, Mike and Gloria, sound naive and dated.

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