Category Archives: Business

Someone tell Tyler Durden: Marketers have appropriated ‘Fight Club’

Brad-Pitt-fight-club-body2

Back when I was in college, I read James Michener’s book Kent State: What Happened and Why, which came out the year after four students were shot and killed there by the Ohio National Guard. This was a time when memories of the event were still pretty raw. That one semester I attended USC before transferring to Memphis State, I used to wear a T-shirt (I forget where I got it) with a big target on the back under the word “Student.” It was less a political statement than me just being edgy, ironic and immature.

Michener’s book went into a lot more than what happened that day in May 1970. It painted a portrait of student life at that time and in that place. At one point, he interviewed a campus radical who was complaining about how the dominant white culture kept appropriating and mainstreaming, and thereby disarming, countercultural memes, particularly those that arose from African-American culture. (I would say he was making some point vaguely related to Marcuse’s “repressive tolerance,” but I’ve always tended to understand Marcuse as meaning something other than what he meant. By the way, my version makes sense; Marcuse’s didn’t.)

Anyway, to make the point that there was no limit to the dominant culture’s ability to absorb culture from the edge, he said, ”I’ll bet that within two years Buick will come out with full-page ads claiming that the 1972 Buick is a real motherf____r.”

Well, that still hasn’t quite happened. But I saw something today that comes close. I got an email from the travel site Orbitz with the headline:

The first rule of Flight Club is – Columbia deals from $200 RT

Wow. Think about it. “Fight Club” was all about characters who were utterly, savagely rejecting mainstream consumer culture and everything that went with it. But now the best-known line from the film is being appropriated to sell airline flights. Are you digging the irony here?

It doesn’t even make sense, since the first rule of Fight Club is that you do NOT talk about Fight Club. Presumably, Orbitz would like us to talk about this deal.

But the line got me to look — and that was the point.

I can’t wait to see how next year’s Buicks are marketed.

Chamber backs plan for Lott to run CPD, even while council gives it a cold shoulder

Most of city council has thoroughly dissed Cameron Runyan’s attempt to revive the idea of Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott taking over the Columbia Police Department.

But the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce is applauding. It sent out this statement yesterday:

“The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce fully endorses Columbia City Council member Cameron Runyan’s plan to contract Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott to manage the City of Columbia’s police department. Public safety, economic development and job creation are top priorities of the Chamber and our business community. Our neighbors and our business owners deserve the right to feel safe in their homes, on their streets and in our business districts. Public safety is critical to moving our city from good to great to achieve status as a world-class city.

We firmly believe Sheriff Lott, based on his past performance, has the credibility and proven results to bring about positive changes in the Columbia Police Department, which will benefit our entire community. Sheriff Lott is a well respected leader throughout Columbia, the state and law enforcement. We encourage our city council members to embrace this plan and help make it a reality.”

-  Holt Chetwood | Chair, Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce

It’s a bit surprising to me that council so categorically rejects the idea of the popular and competent Lott taking over the department, given that the CPD has in the last few years gone way beyond the point that the word “troubled” adequately described just how fouled up it is at the top. The same proposal lost by only one vote in council in 2010.

But it’s habit now with the council majority, I guess. If it comes from the Benjamin camp, and has business support, and might change the status quo in a way that makes sense, they’re against it.

Richland County Shocker: Council does right thing, restarts process

Hey, I’m kind of stunned that, after having been arrogant and dismissive over community reaction to its unexplained decision to award the contract for managing all that road construction that the new penny tax would buy, Richland County Council has done a complete about-face and voted unanimously to vacate that decision, and start the selection process over.

This is good news. And I say that not just because CECS, the local bidder who came in second — despite getting higher scores than the out-of-state firm that the county initially selected — is a client of ADCO’s. I’m saying it because the county had given the citizen’s watchdog panel — and by extension, the entire community — a slap in the face, the way this was done the first time. Not only did the county ignore the panel’s wishes, it refused to give any reasons for its selection of Kentucky-based ICA Engineering. Some council members were pretty obnoxious about it.

That was outrageous, and this stunning turnaround was warranted. The people of Richland County — and those of us who don’t live in the county, but will pay the tax — deserve a do-over, and a transparent one.

This is a very encouraging development — responsive local government officials who can admit when they’ve made a mistake! Next thing you know, the county legislative delegation will give up control of the county election commission. OK, maybe I’m getting all giddy and carried away here…

Top Five Commercials from Super Bowl 2014

Dylan

According to the buzz, this was a kinder, gentler year for Super Bowl commercials.

The buzz is right. The ads were less sexy, less edgy, more warm and mushy.

Also according to the buzz, the best of the lot (or one of the best) was the Budweiser ad with the horse and the puppy.

There, the buzz is wrong. Talk about belaboring a good thing. The one last year with the horse and the trainer was cute. This was cute with a candy coating. Too much.

Here, for your edification, are the Top Five Super Bowl Commercials of 2014:

  1. Radio Shack — “The ’80s called. They want their store back.” When’s the last time you saw an advertiser accurately and honestly describe its own greatest weakness, and have this much fun with it? Never, that’s when.
  2. Chrysler — “America’s Import.” They got Bob Dylan to do a car commercial. Bob. Dylan. And he did it with a pseudo-profound tone that mocked his own music and his reputation as some sort of American cultural prophet. I wonder how much they paid him. And I suspect it’s not enough.
  3. Budweiser — “A Hero’s Welcome.” The kind of warmth that Bud was going for with the puppy one actually works in this one. And yes, every soldier does deserve this kind of hero’s welcome. It’s been done, but this was done well.
  4. Turbo Tax — “Love Hurts.” Deals honestly, though in a twisted, ironic way, with the fact that most of America probably didn’t want these two teams in the Super Bowl. Kind of makes you wonder why all of those people watch the game, when you think about it.
  5. Pepsi — “Halftime Intro.” I don’t know why, I just really enjoyed the giant hands playing the Brooklyn Bridge like a giant electric bass, and the traffic circle like a turntable. Not all that complicated, but well executed.

I thought about including the Doritos/Time Machine one. But my colleagues at ADCO were mad at Doritos for not picking the one with the ostrich, which they loved. So I left it off…

radio shack

 

Other side heard from: ICA says they’re local, too…

Apparently, ICA — which won the nod of Richland County Council to manage the penny sales tax construction projects — is concerned about the protests over their getting the job. They’ve sent out a mailer to some local folks, including our own Silence Dogood, protesting that they, too, are local folks. An excerpt:

In fact, ICA Engineering, formerly known as Florence & Hutcheson, has been a part of – and grown with – Columbia and Richland County for the last 30 years. From five employees in downtown Columbia in 1984, we now have 30 professionals who live, work, invest and raise their families right here. All work for the Penny Sales Tax contract will be performed in Richland County. For the past 30 years, ICA Engineering and its employees have paid state, county and city taxes here. We are also proud of the fact that the vast majority of these local employees are graduates of engineering programs at The Citadel, Clemson University and the University of South Carolina.
We also support many local charities and community organizations. We actively serve in our community through homeowners associations, churches and professional societies. I recently served as chair of the Issues Committee for the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce. We have supported organizations such as Epworth Children’s Home and the Special Olympics. Many of us have served on School Improvement Councils and have been a part of Leadership Columbia as well. We also support and are active in local economic development agencies, like the Central SC Alliance, that focus on growing the area’s economy and creating jobs….

You can read the whole letter here. Yeah, I’ve been rooting for the team that was rated No. 1 and didn’t get the job, CECS. But never let it be said that I don’t give you everybody’s point of view. Within reason, of course.

Old Koreans vs. NY McDonald’s: Taking the ‘third place’ to extremes

As I’ve mentioned before, Starbucks strives to be “A third place between work and home,” a place of community, more than a place that just sells awesome coffee.

In recent years, McDonald’s has tried to get in on some of that “third place” action with its McCafé concept. Which has always seemed a bit odd, to me. McDonald’s is about getting in and getting out, as quickly as possible. Or driving through. It’s a place to fuel up when you don’t have time to stop and have a decent meal. Why would I want McDonald’s to be Starbucks when there’s Starbucks (which, if nothing else, actually serves decent coffee)?

I have at times thought Ronald McDonald was a bit conflicted about this. Just the other day, I noticed a “no loitering” sign at the awkwardly-placed pedestrian entrance to the McDonald’s in the Vista. So… you wanna be like a coffee shop, but you don’t want me hanging around?

At one McDonald’s in Flushing, NY, they’re more than conflicted — they’re positively fed up with being a third place for a group of Korean senior citizens who camp out in the joint all day, every day. The NYT has a fascinating piece about this quiet battle of wills:

Shortly after New Year’s Day, Man Hyung Lee, 77, was nursing a coffee in his usual seat in a narrow booth at a McDonald’s in Flushing, Queens, when two police officers stepped into the fluorescent light of the restaurant.

Mr. Lee said the officers had been called because he and his friends — a revolving group who shuffle into the McDonald’s on the corner of Parsons and Northern Boulevards on walkers, or with canes, in wheelchairs or with infirm steps, as early as 5 a.m. and often linger until well after dark — had, as they seem to do every day, long overstayed their welcome….

Mr. Lee said he obediently left — and walked around the block and came right back. More:

For the past several months, a number of elderly Korean patrons and this McDonald’s they frequent have been battling over the benches inside. The restaurant says the people who colonize the seats on a daily basis are quashing business, taking up tables for hours while splitting a small packet of French fries ($1.39); the group say they are customers and entitled to take their time. A lot of time.

“Do you think you can drink a large coffee within 20 minutes?” David Choi, 77, said. “No, it’s impossible.”…

The cops have been called four times via 911 since November. And officers drop by as often as three times in a day to check on the situation and urge the folks to move along. To no effect.

This is a kind of impasse that seems to have no really good guys or bad guys in it. As sympathetic as a group of old friends might be, you might have some sympathy for the godless corporation when you read this. My attention was drawn to this piece by a writer at Slate who noted that the old folks …

… are definitely being jerks. Lovable jerks, sure, but jerks nonetheless. They refuse to let other customers sit down. They don’t even order food—in fact, they come to the McDonald’s after eating lunch at a local senior center. They take smoke breaks near the restaurant entrance. They’re not meeting for any official purpose—they’re just shooting the breeze. And their choice of McDonald’s isn’t for a lack of other options; there are numerous nearby civic centers, including one that prepared a basement room especially for this group of friends. They still return to the McDonald’s.

Adding to the oddity of the story, none of the old folks could explain to the reporter why it has to be that McDonald’s.

One for the People Are Quirky file.

First Barnes & Noble, now Sears: What’s happening in Harbison?

This just came in a little while ago:

Just In: The Sears store & auto center on Harbison Blvd. in the Columbiana area will permanently close in Early March.

So, what’s up in Harbison? First Barnes & Noble, now this…

Yeah, I know. It’d not about Harbison. It’s about Barnes & Noble and Sears specifically. It would be more logical to say, “First the Sears catalog (back in 1993), now this.”

What went wrong with Sears? I mean, yeah, it had taken on a sort of anachronistic feel, a sense that it was big back in the ’50s because that was its time, but how does that happen, and could Sears have done anything — other than stop being Sears — to reverse the process?

Of course, maybe looking at this as a Sears story is as off-base as seeing it as a Harbison story. But it’s hard to imagine this store closing back in the day when Sears played a much bigger role in the retail universe…

Chamber seeking successor for Ike McLeese

The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce sent this out today:

Columbia Chamber Now Seeking Applicants for New CEO and President 

The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce is now seeking applicants to fill the position of CEO and president for the organization. The CEO and president will be responsible for developing and maintaining a collaborative relationship between the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and key businesses, government, education, public policy organizations, regional chambers, the U.S. Chamber and other regional organizations to foster a nurturing business environment for members.

He or she will also ultimately be responsible for all operations of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and serves as the primary point of contact for the organization’s officers, the Board of Directors, elected officials and community leaders. The CEO and president plans, organizes, directs and controls the Chamber’s services, products and public policy activities for the Chamber’s members and responds to the needs of its members.

To view the full job description, click columbiachamber.com/CEO.htm.

The deadline to submit applications is January 31, 2014.

Ike McLeese left a big void in community leadership; it will be hard to fill…

A worrisome national meme regarding SC’s Boeing plant

First 787 Takeoff In Charleston SC  K65673

Inaugural flight of first 787 Dreamliner built in SC./Boeing

We take great pride in our Boeing 787 plant down in North Charleston, and with good reason. It shows, as Bobby Hitt would say, that “we know how to make stuff” in South Carolina, including high-tech stuff.

So it is that I worry that it seems to be more and more routine for national media to say this one negative thing about the SC Boeing plant, as I have boldfaced in this passage from a story in The Wall Street Journal this morning:

Never overwhelmingly credible was Boeing’s threat to rip away its new 777X from its unionized Seattle-area workforce if local union members didn’t approve contract concessions, as they did last week.

Let us count the reasons: Boeing was already known to be dissatisfied with the dispersed plane-making that currently has the 787′s wing made in Japan. Boeing’s own new 787 plant with nonunion workers in South Carolina has been slow to get up to speed. A trained and experienced workforce, such as exists in the Seattle area, is not easy to recreate and Boeing is under considerable pressure from customers signing up for deliveries of the new 777X after 2020 to minimize delays and snafus like those that afflicted the 787….

Hey, I want them to take their time and do it right — I’d hate for SC workers to get the reputation of being casual and slipshod. But I hate seeing the word “slow” in connection with SC labor.

I’ve just seen that mentioned a number of times recently, to the point that it has started to worry me…

Saying goodbye to my very favorite store, Barnes & Noble on Harbison

The purists who didn't like the floor space that Toys & Games took over in recent years may be gratified to see that area as one of the first cleared out.

The purists who didn’t like the floor space that Toys & Games took over in recent years may be gratified to see that area as one of the first cleared out.

Here we are in the very last days of my very favorite store on Earth, the Barnes & Noble on Harbison.

Its last day of operation is Tuesday… Dec. 31.

The Harbison B&N is more than a store to me. Or perhaps I should say, something other than a store. I certainly made far more purchases at other stores over the years — Food Lion, Publix, Walmart and the like.

But for me, this store was the ultimate “third place.” That’s a term I knew nothing about until recently, when I was getting ready to help conduct a brand workshop for an ADCO client, and I happened to read up on the branding strategy of Starbucks, which has from the start striven to be a “place for conversation and a sense of community. A third place between work and home.”

I enjoy both of those places, but between the two, I prefer B&N. There’s only so much you can do in a Starbucks. Noise is often a factor in the coffee shops, while B&N had a more library-like feel to it, except right around the cafe portion, where the sound of the grinder could be intrusive. And then there are all the books to browse through, which to me has always been a sort of foretaste of heaven.

I loved browsing in B&N even before I started drinking coffee in 2004. (Long story behind that. From the time I turned 30 until my 50th year, caffeine drove me nuts. Then, when I was at the Republican National Convention in New York in 2004, I started drinking coffee to deal with the 20-hour days — there was, after all, a Starbucks on every corner. And I found that it didn’t bother me anymore. In fact, it did what it was supposed to do, keeping me from dozing off and creating a nice, creative buzz.)

But to browse through those books for a couple of hours on a Saturday, enjoying my first (and second) coffees of the day — that was awesome. And if I took along my laptop and did a little blogging while I was there, well, all the better.

And yes, I did occasionally buy something. In fact, I buy most gifts there. I find it easier to imagine what sort of book someone will like than any other sort of gift, and I make a point of buying them at the actual store to show my appreciation for all the good times it affords me. Buying the gift also makes me feel less of a self-indulgent sensualist as I browse.

Anyway, I was there a couple of times over the last week or so before Christmas. The first time, I bought a book for my Dad — a biography of Omar Bradley. When I got to the counter to pay for it, the clerk asked whether I was a member. I said yes, and offered my card. It had expired (yeah, I think it was around the holidays when I renewed last year). She asked whether I wanted to renew. No, I said sadly, thinking, What would be the point?

The second time, on Christmas Eve, I found myself in Harbison with a little time on my hands, and just went in to browse once more. For nostalgia’s sake, I even put sugar in my coffee, even though I’ve been drinking it black for years. I used to use a lot of sugar back in the day, such as when I wrote this.

I was wandering through the DVD section, seeing if there were any last-minute gifts that would strike me, when one of the booksellers asked whether I needed help. I said no, but as he turned away, I asked him to wait.

I asked when the store would close. He told me — New Year’s Eve.

I asked why it was closing. He said because B&N couldn’t afford the lease, and the new tenant, Nordstrom, could.

Apologizing for intruding, I asked what he, who had worked at B&N quite a few years, was going to do. He said he might be working at the store at Richland Fashion Mall, and he urged me to come there. I said yeah, that store was OK, but it had no audio/video section. He noted pragmatically that that was the first part of the store he would expect to close, since everyone downloads music now and streams movies online.

But, feeling like an advocate trying to save a client’s life in a hopeless trial, I argued that Netflix didn’t have the high-quality, hard-to-find movies that you could buy at B&N, such as the Criterion collection of fine films. He pointed out there were other places you could get those, although no local, bricks-and-mortar location had as large a Criterion selection as B&N did.

Sigh.

I got a B&N gift card for Christmas, so I’ll probably be in their one more time before it closes for good. Maybe I’ll see you there. Maybe we can have a coffee together, with several sugars to counteract the bitterness…

Pinson attorney claims Benjamin was original target of probe

OK, so now someone is alleging that there was, at least in the past, federal interest in the mayor of Columbia:

CHARLESTON, SC — Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin and former city employee Tony Lawton were among the original targets of what has become a broad federal public corruption investigation, a defense attorney said in federal court here Wednesday.

Attorney Jim Griffin of Columbia said the FBI improperly redirected its case toward his client, Greenville businessman Jonathan Pinson, making the evidence gathered about Pinson illegal because it was gained through wiretaps aimed at Benjamin and Lawton and the city of Columbia.

Griffin said that wiretaps that captured Pinson’s cell phone conversations exceeded the authority of the judge’s approval because the investigation was aimed at possible corruption in Columbia city government.

“It’s the fruit of the poisonous tree,” Griffin told U.S. District Judge David Norton…

The judge said the recordings could be used.

For our part, we don’t know whether the allegation of federal interest in the mayor was true, or whether the FBI is interested in him now. Because no one else is talking, and Griffin doesn’t elaborate.

Request line: Here’s that Pinson thread Silence wanted

Nothing I’ve posted the last couple of days has engaged y’all’s interest much. So I suppose I’ll take requests.

On the last post, Silence asked: “Can we [have] Pinson thread? Or top headlines, or something?

It took me a moment to realize what he meant. Google was no help. But then I realized I had read the name “Pinson” this morning, and here’s that story:

Jonathan Pinson and a Florida business associate, both facing federal corruption charges, courted Mayor Steve Benjamin and two others on City Council about more Columbia development projects, according to interviews and documents obtained by The State newspaper.

Federal prosecutors have tied only Pinson’s Village at River’s Edge to their ongoing investigation. But the newspaper’s inquires show that Pinson and admitted kickback payer Richard Zahn of Florida have been much more active in Columbia than had been known publicly.

The corruption case against Pinson, a close friend and business partner of Benjamin, enters a critical stage Wednesday with a hearing in Charleston. U.S. District Judge David Norton will determine whether months of the FBI’s secretly taped telephone conversations from the investigation can be played at trial or ruled inadmissible….

No one on City Council has been charged with a crime….

About the only thing I can think of to say about the story (and this reflects my habits of thought as an editor) is that it takes its sweet time naming the other council members who had traveled to Florida and heard the pitch from these guys Pinson and Zahn. Even though the mayor is named twice in the first three grafs, you don’t read the names of Tameika Isaac Devine and Brian DeQuincey Newman until the jump page.

But I don’t see enough information here to base a conclusion on. It appears that this Pinson guy is, as Gil Walker said, something of a “big talker.” And that Benjamin, Devine and Newman all paid him and Zahn more attention than I’m entirely comfortable with. But I don’t see anything that negates the council members’ claim that these meetings, like “many they participate in, were in response to requests from people interested in doing business with the city.”

And apparently, the feds haven’t seen anything like that either.

Beyond that, I guess I’m waiting for some further, clarifying information before I draw any conclusions.

Enough with the pop-ups!

popup

I’ve been pretty patient about this. Exceedingly patient, considering that I no longer get paid a dime out of The State‘s ad revenues.

But I’ve just gotta say that it’s getting more and more unpleasant to use thestate.com, with the constant intrusive pop-ups. (Not that I’m going to stop going there, because in spite of all, where else am I going to get that much local content?)

The kind that gets me the most is when I merely click in the search box — before I’ve had a chance to enter my search term, or hit ENTER, or anything, just click in the box — and BAM! There’s a popup jumping into my face.

It’s one thing when it’s something local, and relevant. Hey, local merchants gotta eat. But when it’s something as generic and seamy and irrelevant as the set of links above, I get annoyed.

Now, all of that said — one of y’all (Dave Crockett) recently reported getting a pop-up, or rollover, or something, while on my blog.

Has this happened to anyone else?

Jeff Bezos tantalizes us with drone delivery


I meant to mention this yesterday, but didn’t get to it.

The first thing I saw about Amazon’s tantalizing “unveiling” of drone delivery of packages — within half an hour, we’re told! — was a piece on Slate pooh-poohing it:

In an infomercial hosted by Charlie Rose on CBS’s 60 Minutes this weekend, Amazon announced that it plans to deliver small packages via drone in the near future. Many media outlets have credulously repeated this claim, just like they did with the beer-delivering drone and the taco-delivering drone.

However, the technical, regulatory, and logistical challenges of autonomous flight in crowded American urban airspace are far more profound than Bezos allowed on TV. As he said, the FAA is now revising its rules regarding autonomous flight. The FAA roadmap is complex. But it bluntly states (on Page 33): “Autonomous operations are not permitted.” There is an exception for line-of-sight operations for small UAVs. But Bezos’ vision of autonomous delivery in a city is not, according to the FAA roadmap, in the cards in the next few years….

Well, to be fair, Bezos did tell Charlie Rose it would be a few years. (But if the writer had Slate had really wanted to mock the media’s gee-whiz, boosterish reaction, he should have commented on the breathless “making of” feature about their Amazon scoop.)

In the spirit of scoffing, I thought about writing a post headlined something like, “Why doesn’t Bezos promise us teleportation while he’s at it?”

But truly, this is pretty much of a gee-whiz idea — little flying robots gently dropping stuff off at our front doors, and NOT taking the stuff back because we’re not there to sign for it? Who couldn’t love that.

Of course, I hope my libertarian friends will now stop insisting that the private sector is the place where innovations that make our lives better originate. I mean, the government’s been using drones for years, with deadly effect. And delivering payloads WAY bigger than five pounds, baby. It just shows how lame the private sector really is that we get excited over something that’s such a “been-there, done-that” to government.

Sorry, Doug. Couldn’t resist.

Seriously, folks, this is exciting. And we communitarians must admit that the one barrier to doing this is government — that is, the FAA. On the other hand, count me among those grateful that the FAA won’t automatically approve thousands of mini-helicopters buzzing around the yards where our kids play.

Someday, we’ll have this. Just as someday, we’ll have self-driving cars — once the liability issues are worked out.

And I like that Bezos is straining at the limits, getting out there, breaking molds, challenging assumptions, yadda-yadda.

It’s stuff like this that makes me hopeful that he’ll come up with mold-breaking ideas that save the newspaper industry, now that he’s in that business. I’d love a chance to help him do it. It would be wonderful (not to mention tremendous fun) to be on the technological frontier as a part of forging the salvation of the Fourth Estate.

Maybe we could even work drones into it…

The NYT on Inez Tenenbaum’s legacy at CPSC

As you may know already, Inez Tenenbaum is returning home after several years running the Consumer Products Safety Commission. The NYT did this piece on her legacy at the agency:

By the end of her four-year term, which came to a close on Friday, she can say that she has presided over a significant increase of the agency’s powers. And Ms. Tenenbaum, 62, has not been shy about using them. The agency recently leveled its highest fine ever — $3.9 million — against Ross, the discount retailer, because it continued to sell what the commission said was defective children’s clothing, even after warnings from the agency.Inez_Tenenbaum

She and the safety commission also waded into one of the most contentious topics in the sports world: protecting football players from head injuries. The result was the Youth Football Brain Safety initiative, which called for the replacement of youth league helmets with safer models paid for by the National Football League, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the N.F.L. Players Association….

For the Youth Football Brain Safety initiative, the N.C.A.A., the N.F.L. and the players association kicked in a total of $1 million to pay for the helmet replacements. “The support of Chairman Tenenbaum and the C.P.S.C. played an important role in making our helmet replacement initiative a reality,” Roger Goodell, the N.F.L. commissioner, said in a statement. “We really appreciated her personal involvement and the agency’s in the work to make our game better and safer.”

Yet the commission under Ms. Tenenbaum’s leadership has not been exempt from criticism. Some of the biggest complaints followed the decision by agency lawyers to hold Craig Zucker, the chief executive of the company that made Buckyballs, liable for the recall of the magnetic children’s toy, even after the company was dissolved. Manufacturers have argued that holding an individual responsible for a widespread, and expensive, recall sets a disturbing example, and would discourage companies from being open in their dealings with regulatory bodies.

Ms. Tenenbaum said she could not comment on the case because it was continuing…

And here’s a link to John Monk’s story about her tenure in The State today.

Apparently, some newspapers still have money to waste

scene

That’s all I can think after glancing through this offering of “one-line films created by the Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.”

Which, the credits tell us, were produced by The New York Times Magazine.

And which star Robert Redford, Cate Blanchett, Bradley Cooper, Oprah Winfrey and others.

Wow. Apparently, some newspapers still have money to waste…

Re-elected Mayor Benjamin pumped up, feeling his oats

famously cover

Last night at the annual meeting of the City Center Partnership in the Tapp’s Arts Center, Columbia’s just-re-elected mayor got up to speak, and urged those present to address him henceforth as Steve “Landslide” Benjamin.

Yes, it was a joke. Everybody laughed. (Although when it was mentioned at another meeting I attended today over lunch, mayoral aide Sam Johnson said yeah, he was trying to discourage “Landslide” from calling himself that. Also joking. I think.)

Over at ADCO, we were particularly pleased to see the above cover on last week’s Free Times. On account of, you know, we came up with “Famously Hot.” I really enjoy the fun that Free Times has with the brand, such as on this cover last year.

famously strong

It’s beginning to look a lot like pushing the season

holiday cups

Above is a cropped shot taken of three of my kids in Central Park in NYC on Nov. 23, 2007. It was the day after Thanksgiving, the day merchandisers call “Black Friday.” It was bitterly cold, and those cups of hot coffee were welcome.

I show you this in order to note that, to the best of my recollection, that was the first time I ever saw the red Starbucks “holiday cups.” Ever since then, I’ve been happy to see them come out again each year, because I have pleasant associations with that trip to New York.

I was a bit less delighted than usual to see them come out this year on Nov. 1, All Saints Day. Yes, when kids had hardly dented their candy hauls from Halloween.

That, to me, is going too far.

Nor was I thrilled to receive the below promotion on Veterans Day. The text with it said:

One Cyber Monday a year just isn’t enough. That’s why it’s a month-long event here at Musician’s Friend…

No, actually, one is quite sufficient, thanks. Or if you must have two, have the second after the usual one. Have three or four, if you like. I’m all for everybody making a living. But wait, please…

cyber

No, the iPhone screen does NOT need to get bigger

A couple of years back, looking to replace my old Blackberry, I had actually gone to Verizon to buy an HTC Thunderbolt. A guy who normally used all Apple products had told me he was getting one of those, because it was going to be better than the iPhone.

The Verizon guy put one into my hand, and I immediately said “Forget it.” It was way too wide. There was no way my thumb could reach all parts of the screen in one-handed operation. So I got the iPhone, because it was Baby Bear-sized — neither too big nor too small. Nice and narrow. (The guy who had advised me to get the Thunderbolt took his back the day he got it — although I don’t know whether that was width-related.)

When Apple just couldn’t resist making the iPhone 5 bigger, they wisely kept it the same width. That width is just right.

Now this, over at the WashPost:

Those who talk about Apple losing its innovative edge often point to the iPhone’s screen as a prime way to prove their point. While competitors such as Samsung, LG, Nokia and just about everyone else in the smartphone world has significantly pumped up the size of their smartphone screens, Apple has been far slower about making changes. In fact, it’s only bumped up the size of its screen once. And that was by a half-inch — from 3.5 inches on the diagonal to 4 inches starting with the iPhone 5.

There have been, of course, plenty of rumors that Apple has revolutionary plans for its screens, and on Monday Bloomberg reported that the firm is considering a new iPhone design that includes a larger, curved screen with advanced pressure sensors. Citing an unnamed “person familiar with the plans,” Bloomberg’s Tim Culpan and Adam Satariano said there will be two curvy models significantly bigger than the current iPhone and measure 4.7 inches and 5.5 inches. The phones, if they make it to market, would be on pace to debut in the third quarter of next year.

Let the screens keep getting bigger for those who want such a thing. For my part, I have an iPad, and don’t need a phone that doubles as a tablet.

Stick with Just Right, Apple.

Stick with Just Right, Apple.

Which is what some of the phones I’ve seen later look like. They make the Thunderbolt look anorexic. Pretty soon, they’ll need three hands — two to hold it, and one to touch the screen.

So do not follow this course, Apple.

Whew. I’m glad I put the kibosh on that right away. This could have gotten out of hand…

Would Halfacre be good candidate for McLeese job?

Speaking regionally: Randy Halfacre, speaking at Reality Check kickoff event in June.

Speaking regionally: Randy Halfacre, speaking at Reality Check kickoff event in June.

This morning, I was talking with a Lexington county politico about Lexington Mayor Randy Halfacre’s re-election loss yesterday – we were both surprised, in varying degrees, at that outcome.Neither of us knew enough about the winner, Councilman Steve MacDougall, to have a clear idea of what happens next in the town.

Then, as has been the trend in such conversations the last couple of weeks, we talked about all the prominent deaths the Midlands have suffered.

I said, yeah, with Ike McLeese gone and Halfacre out as mayor, that’s two losses among advocates for regional cooperation.

My interlocutor reminded me that Randy Halfacre is still the head of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce. Then he added, “Who knows? Maybe he’ll come over here.” (We were standing in downtown Columbia as he said it.)

I found that intriguing: What if Halfacre were to become McLeese’s successor? There’s a certain logic to it. They were close allies, and he’s already invested in Ike’s regional initiatives — in fact, he has led them.

Halfacre was one of the four — along with Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, retired Maj. Gen. Abraham Turner and USC Athletic Director Ray Tanner — who eulogized McLeese at the Friday funeral. He told the story of how Ike was the one to realize that the region had to get its act together after it lost Southwest Airlines to Greenville and Charleston. He asked Halfacre to lunch, and proposed that local chambers needed to work in a coordinated manner going forward. Halfacre said sure, he’d help Ike any way he could. Ike said no, you misunderstand: You’re going to lead it, because it won’t work if it’s seen as Columbia asserting hegemony over the region. So he did.

Anyway, given that history, it’s an intriguing idea, now that Halfacre is no longer to be mayor of Lexington.

I have spoken to no one in a position to know whether Halfacre is, or might be in the future, under consideration for the job. Or whether he should be. I just found it to be an interesting suggestion…