Monday, September 1, 2014

Der Zauberlehring

Just a thought for this Labor Day.
Goethe's poem begins as an old sorcerer (Yen Sid) departs his workshop, leaving his apprentice with chores to perform. Tired of fetching water by pail, the apprentice enchants a broom to do the work for him – using magic in which he is not yet fully trained. The floor is soon awash with water, and the apprentice realizes that he cannot stop the broom because he does not know how.
The apprentice splits the broom in two with an axe, but each of the pieces becomes a whole new broom and takes up a pail and continues fetching water, now at twice the speed. When all seems lost, the old sorcerer returns, quickly breaks the spell and saves the day. The poem finishes with the old sorcerer's statement that powerful spirits should only be called by the master himself.

PS...the Older Sorcerer's name is Disney spelled backwards....

Labor Day and Strikes

I somewhat remember this (the Pullman Strike resulting in Labor Day)  from one of my high school American history classes taught by one Mr. Meeth who had the brains of -  well he had them and they kept him alive but as far as anything "firing" in that noggin of his?? 

He was also the basketball coach. In my freshman and sophomore years interest in basketball was high because we had back to back great classes, to the point where we put two teams of freshman and two junior varsity teams each with nearly perfect records. Expectations were high so Meeth cut the team back to 8 players - not enough even to have a scrimmage and in 3 of the first 5 games we finished with only 4 players in the last quarter...that incredible mind was characteristic of our American History class and to an extent current busines/labor generally in America.  It was the precursor to "productivity for profit - why have a full team if you can get by with 8?  Why have a violin section of 16 if 1 can play the part....yada yada

I digressed to my high school days as at the time, after the 5th game there was a bit of unrest.  Anyway, that dismal bit of coaching gave us reason to question things.  His response was not what we had hoped for - something between get out of my sight and I'll shoot you dead.

I'm not bragging but I eventually got one Ph.D. in history and frankly was pretty good at it.  I think I knew more of it than this ant-brain did anyway so I felt empowered to stand up in class and tell "management" that he/they/it was shall we say it kindly...the north side of a cow headed south and I'm not buying either his view or rendition of history or how he was killing the basketball program.  I came to school the following day and went to American History, 2nd period, and Meeth informed me he was going to fail me regardless and then had me removed from the classroom by the dean of students (aka "the enforcer").  One of the other kid's parents who had also risen in protest and was similarly hauled away (her dad's uncle was, incidentally  the judge and another a prominant attorney) took the school and Meeth by the neck  by lunchtime and the matter was "resolved" without a legal shot being fired.

Now that I think about it, the lesson of the day may have been about teaching why there are labor unions and laws and the necessity of certain worker's rights and opinions in some  institutions. Of course, some of the stuff unions do is off the charts dumb and shortsighted and I can't support it  but, in general, without some degree of organization and rights,  "management" tends to think more in terms of being god-like than man-like...and if you need an example take ta look back at the last couple decades....

Sunday, August 31, 2014

You touch it you own it

A while back I had spent some time in Media Departments in advertising agencies.  A lot of time we have $1million a day running and often more than that...$500 million committed was common.

Obviously keeping track of all of that - in increments of $100 - $5,000 was a nightmare.  What it boiled down to is the one inviolate rule;  "If you touch it you own it".  Simply put you let no one, NO ONE, dip into the accounts (the media buy)  for a few hours to "fix something".  You did it yourself or you had no idea what someone else might do or have done.  Simple.

Foreign policy is the say thing. You  can opine all you want but once you put your hands on it, well, it is yours.  Senators Graham, McCain and others are urging more war.  They were all over the talk shows. But what we should all remember is that if they touch foreign policy - ram through some weird  bill that thrusts us into war, well then THEY own the war.

Keep your hands off unless you want to own it.

We need a simpler wish list

Dogs have the right priority
I was watching the news this morning - just a never ending litany of trouble.  I wish there was something that could be done in a dozen places just to avoid yet another catastrophe. Everyone around the countless talking head tables uttered a sentence starting with "I wish".  Everyone.

Like winning the lottery or finding a million in gold in a chest on the beach, we all do this wishing thing. Maybe, just maybe if we wished realistically we might actually attain what is wished for.

I spoke with my dog about it this morning. In response he told me that he is happy just because he keeps it simple;  a dog treat for being a good dog on his walk. A comfortable chair to sit on and watch for squirrels.  Most of all, he likes it when his friend visits.  He said it wasn't a hugely complicated thing:  food, shelter and friends.  Past that it is all gravy.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Haymarket Affair

The Haymarket Affair
The stuff we never learned in high school...let me tell ya'.  The Haymarket Affiair, when US Marshals were hired by the Pullman company and shot protesters dead was a wild tale if you were pro-business and a holy day if you were union.
I grew up in Michigan where labor unions were the norm.  My dad grew up in the time when Ford unionists were beaten half to death by Henry's thugs for even talking about organizing. In the depths of the depression my dad landed a job at the huge Ford Plant in River Rouge.   His job was to sort lugnuts - the ones that hold the wheels on cars. Seems that there were several different sizes and heads on these nuts and Ford found it was cheaper to hire 5 guys to sort them out rather than sort them in the manufacturing area.
Ford's River Rouge Plant - Tool and Dye Shop
where my dad worked.
Anyway, my dad got inventive and found that if you drilled holes in some sort of chute, from small to big, the nuts would sort them selves just by falling through. Great idea. You other four are fired. My dad had to quit because of death threats and left the Ford Plant with a $25 bonus and a police escort.
So as we observe Labor Day this long weekend, you might want to know how it came about (or not). 
Here you go:
In 1882, Matthew Maguire, a machinist, first proposed the holiday while serving as secretary of the CLU (Central Labor Union) of New York. Others argue that it was first proposed by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor in May 1882, after witnessing the annual labour festival held in Toronto, Canada. Oregon was the first state to make it a holiday on February 21, 1887. By the time it became a federal holiday in 1894, thirty states officially celebrated Labor Day.
Following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, the United States Congress unanimously voted to approve rush legislation that made Labor Day a national holiday; President Grover Cleveland signed it into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. The September date originally chosen by the CLU of New York and observed by many of the nation's trade unions for the past several years was selected rather than the more widespread International Workers' Day because Cleveland was concerned that observance of the latter would be associated with the nascent Communist, Syndicalist and Anarchist movements that, though distinct from one another, had rallied to commemorate the Haymarket Affair in International Workers' Day. All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the territories have made it a statutory holiday.

In the Fen Country

Just down the road this morning

Words and Music.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Kick Off 1st Game 2014.....
I have my Spartan T-shirt on and some MSU socks,  I have a green apple martini at the ready and avocado green dip in arms reach. Hog Heaven. 730 is kickoff. I'm all settled in.

I actually prefer to listen to the games on radio - Internet that is.  There are 2-3 dozen Michigan stations that carry the pre-game (2 1/2 hrs until kickoff) and they are fun. A couple of them are in the Upper Peninsula - that is Michigander for snow - and they are the most fun.

I was a media director for a bunch of years and that job means that you learn all about a market area, the outlets (radio, TV, print etc.) and figure out how to reach the folks the sponsor wants to reach.  The Upper Peninsula is - how do I say it  - sparsely populated, so the stations are super local with "Hank bought a wrench at the hardware store today...ya'betacha"  news. But in listening in, there is something unbelievably poignant and touching about listening to them.  My Spartan "Pre-Game" is from there tonight.

The local announcers are - well let's just say - local.  The news cut-aways make one cringe.  The overall effect leads one to tears of nostalgia. I wouldn't miss this on a bet.

Here are folks, living comparatively simple, moment to moment lives, tuned in locally on their AM radio as a lot of the Upper Peninsula isn't wired...lights dim as it is already sunset, stove with a good dinner, table is crisp outside; early fall.  Tempted to  build a small fire but would rather sit on the porch and drink in the late summer air, root my Spartans on, remember a 1/2 century ago, and shed a couple tears.