Friday, May 31, 2013

Wasting away again in Margaritaville

I’m by no means a Parrothead, but for sheer fun-time sing-a-long-ability, it’s hard to beat Margaritaville, right down to the now terrifically anachronistic reference to cutting your foot by stepping on a pop-top. (Those of us of a certain age will remember barefoot tip-toeing around at the beach, always on the lookout for one of those detachable aluminum pop-tops with their tremendous ability to give your foot a nice bloody slice. Forget sliced bread. One of the greatest inventions of all time was the undetachable pop-top.)

Truly, is there anyone who doesn’t get a smile on his or her face when they hear the opening chords of Margaritaville on some oldies station? Who doesn’t blast the radio – or turn up the volume just a teensy-weensy bit – and sing along?

What I was unaware of, however, is just how very BIG the Margaritaville brand is.

As characterized by Business Week, Margaritaville is “the most lucrative song ever.”

Which is not to say it’s the “Richest Song in the World.”

Last year, the BBC pulled together the Top Ten list of songs that, as songs, have brought in the most money over time.

First on the list: Happy Birthday, which is pretty amazing when you consider that, while it is understandably the most sung song of all time, very few of us actually pay a royalty when we sing it.

Here’s the full list, by the way:

  1. 'Happy Birthday To You', Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill/Warner Chappell
  2. 'White Christmas', Irving Berlin
  3. 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin', The Righteous Brothers
  4. 'Yesterday', The Beatles
  5. 'Unchained Melody', Alex North and Hy Zaret/The Righteous Brothers
  6. 'Stand By Me', Ben E. King / Jerry Leiber, and Mike Stoller
  7. 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town', John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie
  8. 'Every Breath You Take', The Police
  9. 'Pretty Woman', Roy Orbison
  10. 'The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You)', Mel Torme/Nat King Cole

Who would of thunk that the Righteous Brothers would grab two places, and the Beatles only one? Or that Every Breath and Pretty Woman would make the cut? Great songs, both, but if I’d have guessed, I’d have put In My Life and I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You or I Will Always Love You ahead of them.

Anyway, if Happy Birthday and White Christmas get more plays,  when it comes to brand-sploitation, Margaritaville represents entirely different changes in magnitude.

Margaritaville isn’t just a song, it’s an enterprise. Or, rather, enterprises.

Margaritaville Enterprises, founded in 2006 and based in Orlando, sells everything from beachwear to furniture and also oversees at least one Caribbean island resort, two American resorts, and four casinos. You can buy Margaritaville rum and combine it with a Margaritaville drink mixer in your very own Margaritaville blender that costs $349.99. According to the Orlando Business Journal, the company brought in at least $100 million in revenue in 2007. As a private company, Margaritaville doesn’t release information about its holdings, but by all accounts it has only expanded since then. (Source: Business Week.)

That expansion includes the 27th Margaritaville outpost, which opened recently in Atlantic City.

The $35 million, 40,000-square-foot complex houses two restaurants, multiple bars, a beach-themed casino, and several breezy, laid-back retail stores—all tucked away in a larger gambling mecca called Resorts.

All I can say is: wow!

Elvis, The Beatles, Michael Jackson – lucrative songbooks, lucrative franchises (especially, for some weird reason, Michael Jackson), but nothing like this. The Margaritaville empire is more akin to Star Wars than it is to You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Houndog or Love Me Do, that’s for sure.

Pretty good for someone who’s a four-hit wonder. I’m sure Parrotheads will disagree, but I looked at his top-tunes list, and the only other ones I recognized were Come Monday, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, and the quite wonderful – even if he don’t want to go to no Buzzards Bay - Volcano.

Weather he’s the greatest songster of all time or not, Jimmy Buffet sure has a good parrothead for business on his shoulders.

Must not have been doing all that much wasting away in Margaritaville.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

You know who’s going to save us? Ecovative’s going to save us.

Jamie Dimon isn’t going to save us.

The CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch isn’t going to save us.

Don Draper isn’t going to save us.

Justin Bieber isn’t going to save us.

LeBron James isn’t going to save us.

Kim Kardashian isn’t going to save us.

Bradley Cooper isn’t going to save us.

Angelina Jolie isn’t going to save us.

Ted Cruz isn’t going to save us.

Elizabeth Warren isn’t going to save us, though, god knows, she stands a better chance of saving us than does Ted Cruz.

Mark Zuckerberg and Marissa Yahoo aren’t going to save us. (Although Bill Gates will likely help.)

You know who’s really going to save us?

Brainy, nerdy science guys like Eben Bayer and Gavin McIntyre, that’s who’s going to save us.

At least, having read Ian Frazier’s recent article on them in The New Yorker, they’re the guys – along with others like them -  I’m pretty darned sure are going to save us.

Eben and Gavin:

…were fascinated by mushrooms growing on wood chips, and observing how the fungal mycelium strongly bonded the wood chips together. This inspired them to think of new ways of using mycelium as a resin. In a class at Rensselaer, called Inventor’s Studio, they formulated a new process for binding together insulating particles, creating some remarkable materials that could replace Styrofoam™. Rather than just decreasing the environmental impact of conventional polystyrene foams, this invention created a whole new paradigm where composite materials are literally grown, harnessing the incredible efficiency of nature. Upon graduating, Eben and Gavin were strongly encouraged by their faculty mentor, Burt Swersey to take a big risk, forgoing “real” jobs to found Ecovative. Within weeks, mycologist Sue Van Hook at nearby Skidmore College read about their mushroom insulation in the local paper and found them. She provided the expertise needed in growing fungi. Eben and Gavin set up their first lab in the Rensselaer Business Incubator in 2007.

Although I never knew what it was called, I’ve always been fascinated by fungal mycelium myself. In fact, whenever I came across it while walking in the woods, I would always say to myself, “Hey, that stuff looks like Styrofoam.”

But since I am singularly lacking in scientific imagination and the entrepreneurial spirit, I never got beyond the “Hey, that stuff looks like Styrofoam” stage in the old product life cycle.

Fortunately for the world, Eben and Gavin have plenty of scientific imagination and entrepreneurial spirit, and they are going to save us from Styrofoam.

Like many of the miracles of science and industry that are inextricably intertwined in our way of life, Styrofoam is a mixed bag.

Yes, it allows us to safely pack and ship items marked fragile; it allows America to run on Dunkin’; it allows us to carry beer and soft drinks in flimsy coolers that are so cheap we don’t care if they fall apart on first use.

And they also are a carcinogen and a major environmental disaster.

Pieces of Styrofoam swirl in the trash gyre in the Pacific Ocean and litter the world’s highways and accumulate in the digestive systems of animals and take up space in waste dumps…Foamed polystyrene beaks down extremely slowly, in timespans no one is sure of, and a major chemical it breaks down to is styrene, listed as a carcinogen in the 2011 toxicology report issued by the National Institutes of Health. (Source: The New Yorker; don’t bother to click through unless you subscribe to the mag…)

All this is why lots of cities are banning Styrofoam. Locally, that includes Brookline and Somerville, Mass. And why I will need to reconsider those cups of tea I get on occasion from Dunkin.

So here’s what Eben and Gavin are doing about it:

Ecovative’s materials start on a farm, with the parts of plants that cannot be used for food or feed and therefore have limited or no economic value. We strive to utilize only renewable, regional raw materials.

A patented process cleans and prepares a blend of agricultural byproducts, and inoculates it with mycelium. You can think of this process as planting the mushroom tissue. There are never any spores involved. This inoculated mixture is filled evenly into forms in an automated process.

Then, the real magic happens. The mycelium grows indoors in about a week without any need for light, watering or petrochemical inputs. It’s like a vertical farm for mushroom materials. The beauty of this process is that we grow the shape you need.

Every cubic inch of material contains a matrix of 8 miles of tiny mycelial fibers! At the end of the process, we put the materials through a dehydration and heat treating process to stop the growth. This final process ensures that there will never be any spores or allergen concerns.

As we as an all-consuming society continue to keep our heavy foot on the gas pedal of unbridled consumption – environment be damned, you fuzzy-headed tree-huggers – stopping just doesn’t seem to be an option that anyone wants to opt for.

So we need the Ebens and Gavins of the world to come up with ways that we can consume (and live) sustainably.

Eben and Gavin, I salute you!

You and the other sustainability geeks out there give me hope for the future. I hope you make a billion dollars. I hope you win the Nobel Prize for better living through chemistry. I hope you have long, fruitful, ecovative and invention-ful lives.

You almost make me want to up and move to Green Island, NY, to work for you.

Go forth and save the world!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Working in “Gun Valley.” (Have gun, won’t travel.)

I am not an especially rabid anti-gun person.

I don’t own a gun, and I don’t intend to ever be a gun owner.

If things get so bad that I need one, I’d just as soon get plugged in the eyeball on Day One of the new era.

But I think that if someone wants to keep a hand gun, for whatever reason, they should have at it, as long as they’re smart and decent enough to keep it away from kids and evil doers.

And if someone wants to hunt, be my guest. I don’t want to kill Bambi’s mother, but if hunters want to stock up on venison – or just give in to the primal, atavistic urge to rope a dead antlered creature to the hood of their car – they can have at that, too.

I do part company with gun aficionados when it comes to high volume, shoot ‘em up assault rifles.

Imagine what Grace Kelly would have had to say to Gary Cooper if the shootout in High Noon involved machine guns rather than six-shooters?

In any case, I’m just as happy to live in Massachusetts, which is one of the least gun-toting of states.  At 12.6%, we’re third from the bottom. Only New Jersey (12.3%) – so much for The Sopranos – and Hawaii (6.7%) have lower rates. (Source:

Not surprisingly, we also have the most laws regulating gun ownership, and the second lowest rates of gun deaths (second only to Hawaii).  (Source: Bloomberg News.)

More surprisingly, we’re the home to quite the gun industry.

In the Boston Globe’s recent listing of the leading 100 companies in Massachusetts, the top gun was Smith & Wesson.

In fact there are, in the Connecticut River Valley* (which includes Connecticut), a.k.a. “Gun Valley”, “dozens of firearms manufacturers and suppliers”.

While not in “Gun Valley,” my home town used to have a big gun manufacturer, Harrington  & Richardson, which built M16’s during the Vietnam War.  While I was making combat boots at H.H. Brown Shoe, one of my friends worked one summer in the office of H&R.

Harrington-Richardson is no more, but, let’s face it, in the US of A, guns ‘r us:

Gun sales are soaring across the nation, with many manufacturers having posted record profits in 2012. And no matter where you fall on the gun debate, there’s no argument that this expansion has very real economic implications for a struggling region. There’s even a chance that the current boom could see guns reprise their role from two centuries ago, powering the growth of other high-skill manufacturing throughout the area.

Although California and Texas are home to more gun-related jobs, Connecticut and Massachusetts rank fourth and fifth in total economic output from this industry, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms trade association. (Source: Boston Sunday Globe.)

Most of the gun slingers around here aren’t household names like Smith & Wesson and Colt in Hartford. There’s also And Savage Arms  - is that a great name or what? – in Westfield, where they make sport/hunting rifles, and where there are workers making decent money making guns that people from somewhere else are – fortunately or unfortunately – buying a lot of.

Once of the brink of destruction,

[Savage’s] year-over-year growth was 50 percent in 2011, 40 percent in 2012, and is on pace to pack on another 40 percent in 2013. The company is running round-the-clock shifts on weekdays and has added one on Saturdays. It has about 415 employees in Westfield, nearly double the number from just three years ago and part of a companywide workforce of 740. And it is racing to hire more. The Westfield factory made and shipped more than 350,000 guns in 2012, while also distributing another 300,000 that were made at Savage’s Canadian plant or by the vendors in China and Turkey that produce the company’s cheaper Stevens brand weapons. One company projection calls for the Westfield plant to be producing 650,000 guns by 2015 and distributing more than 1 million in total.

By the way, the boom in gun ownership is not coming about because more individuals own guns:

Even as sales soar, only about one-third of US households have guns, down from about half in the 1970s.

But the folks who own guns tend to own more of them.

I’m not sure if I should find this settling or unsettling, but I think I’m leaning towards unsettling.

And while Savage if busily manufacturing sporting rifles, which give the deer and the antelope a sporting chance, Smith & Wesson is doing so well in large part because if makes assault rifles. (Industry euphemism: “modern sporting rifles.”)

Whatever guns they’re building, gun companies provide decently paid, reasonably skilled, blue-collar jobs. Because the jobs required skilled labor, they didn’t migrate South with the textile mills. Still, gun companies fell on some hard times, and the recent Armageddon’s-just-around-the-corner mania has certainly contributed to its resurgence.

As are the technological innovations that have lowered the cost of making guns, thus encouraging “existing gun owners and collectors to buy more of them.”

Which is good for the workers in “Gun Valley,” if not an unalloyed benefit to the country as a whole.

It’s never all that simple, is it?


*The Connecticut River Valley is also the home to a lot of tobacco farms, which always manages to surprise people. They grow shade tobacco, which is used for cigar wrappers. My husband’s aunt and uncle owned a tobacco farm which they converted into a golf course in the 1960’s, but there are still plenty of working farms around their neck of the woods.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Operation Swill

There’s a wonderful John Gorka song that goes “I’m from New Jersey, I don’t expect too much...”

If Operation Swill is any indication, Mr.Gorka knew what he was singing about.

For those who missed the news, a recent Garden State investigation – delightfully code-named Operation Swill – revealed that a whole slew of bars and restaurants throughout the state were substituting well brands for premium brands.

This is, of course, one of those “No shit, Sherlock” situations that makes one ask whether you need a year-long investigation to ferret out something that most of us suspect goes on in plenty of bars, and not just in New Jersey.

All that ordering Stoli or Grey Goose and ending up  with Popov or Smirnoff’s….

But substituting Fleischmann’s for Tanqueray was the least of it.

One bar “allegedly mixed rubbing alcohol with caramel food coloring and served it as scotch”, while another “is accused of pouring dirty water into an empty bottle and passing it off as liquor.” (Source

Now I’ve heard of watering drinks, but dirty watering a drink?

I don’t think that’s quite what the Standells had in mind when they sang “Love that Dirty Water.”

And that caramel colored rubbing alcohol passed off as Scotch?

Scotch on its own is nasty enough, but caramel colored rubbing alcohol?

I know that restaurants can be a low margin business, but the profit potential on booze, it seems to me, doesn’t have to be artificially enhanced.

First, the markup on even premium brands is pretty darned good.

Assume that a bar pays $20 for a bottle of Stoli – which they don’t: they pay a lot less – and gets 20 drinks out of it, that they charge $10 a pop for.

Do the math. Even when you factor in the cost of the bartender’s time to pour the drink (15 seconds, max), the cost of the glass, washing the glass, serving the patron, presenting the bill, putting through the charge, processing the tip… Pretty much every bottle of liquor or wine has a pretty good ROI.

In the way back, I was a waitress, but I wasn’t aware of any booze watering or swapping out in the places where I worked. That’s not to say it didn’t happen.

This was also, of course, in an era when there was less premium anything. I don’t ever remember anyone requesting a specific vodka, and Coors was considered an upscale, classy beer.

Still, there are always trimmers.

As a diner outer/drinker outer, I have had an occasional Cape Codder (cranberry juice and vodka) that didn’t seem to have much alcohol in it, but those occasions were surely balanced out by the Cape Codder that was so strong it looked pink rather than red.

One time, many years ago, my husband and I were having a drink at the Peacock Alley bar at the Waldorf Astoria, and we observed the waiter knocking back half of each of the shots the bartender had poured for our drinks. I remember we laughed about it, but I don’t know whether we bothered to call him on it. It was just so idiotically brazen, reminding me of the Groucho question, “Who do you believe, me or your own eyes?” Similarly, on the non-booze front, I once watched as a waitress poured me a cup of de-caf coffee from the caf pot. When I told her I’d watched her pour me a cup of caf – the orange-handled pot was empty – she denied it. Again with the Groucho question. I refused the coffee and told her that, if she was going to do something like that, she’d best do it out of the sight line of the person who’d done the ordering…

Back to Operation Swill:

Thirteen of the establishments identified were TGI Fridays franchises operated by the Briad Group, a Livingston-based hospitality company. TGI Friday's corporate offices in Texas said today that the accusations are "very disturbing."

Briad is, of course, shocked, just shocked.

Briad president Rick Barbrick said today that the allegations are "troubling and surprising to us."

"We can assure our loyal and valuable guests that it is our corporate policy to treat all of our patrons honestly and fairly, "Barbrick said in a statement.

I suspect he meant “valued guests”, rather than “valuable guests”, but I may be wrong. After all, a guest that’s willing to pay over ten-bucks for a mixed drink with premium or well liquor is obviously a “valuable guest.”

In any case, the tsk-tsk behavior is certainly not in keeping with the Briad “brand promise.”

Welcome to fun.

If you can eat there, drink there or sleep there, we can play with it, adding our special brand of flare to the flavor of fun we like to call The Briad Group. Welcome to our website, where you’ll learn about one of America’s fastest growing hospitality companies.

That’s some “special brand of flare” they’ve got going there, that’s for sure.

"This is essentially a wake-up call to the less altruistic operators in the industry that they need to get their act together," [Michael] Halfacre [Director, NJ Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control] said. (Source: back to

Congratulations, Mr. Halfacre. This is perhaps the first time the the word “altruistic” has been associated with the food and beverage industry.

Personally, I think it’s nice if a restaurant wants to collect quarters for the Special Olympics. Or give away pies at Thanksgiving. And I love that Panera has set up some Panera Cares restaurants, where they suggest a price, but where everybody doesn’t pay the price. The haves subsidize the have-nots (and the selfish jerks who take advantage of a nice, bleeding heart endeavor). Note to self: have lunch – and overpay – at Panera Cares this week.

But I don’t really expect any business to operate in altruistic mode.

I do expect them to be honest with respect to the goods and services they offer, and not to serve me wares that are adulterated. If I want a dirty-water-and-cranberry rather than a Cape Codder, I’ll order one, thank you.

As for the restaurants that Operation Swill nailed, I bet that more than a few of them are going to be saying C-ya to those liquor licenses. Not to mention the “valuable guests” who won’t be heading back any time soon.

Serves them – the restaurants, not the “valuable guests”, right.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day, 2013

Time, it appears, flies whether you’re having a good time, and the past year hasn’t been all that much of a good time.

Last year, on this day, I see that I was posting rather a lot about my husband’s recovery from cancer surgery, and rather a little about Memorial Day.

This year, I’ll try to equal the balance out a bit.

On the cancer seat on the teeter-totter, after eight months of living cancer free, we found out in February that my husband’s cancer has recurred, and we’re now in “treatable, not curable” mode. So Jim’s been going through chemo, and tomorrow we find out whether it’s working, Needless to say, we are on pins, we are on needles.

Just as last year, I was mastering the care and feeding of Jim’s post-surgical feeding tube, this year it’s the less complex but far scarier chemo pump.

Was I the last person in the world to learn that some chemo regimens are on a take-out basis?

Jim’s first blast is given in the hospital, then they bag him up for drug #2 with a portable pump, carried in a rather fetching man-purse. After it runs for 46 hours, you can have “it” – the needle, the line – removed back at the hospital, or have your caregiver take care of it at home.

Although we are less than a 10 minute walk from the hospital, we have elected for the home take down, which involves scrubbing up, donning surgical gloves, capping a line, syringing the tube with saline solution and heparin, and, finally, removing the needle from the port.

Then there’s the disposal.

The pump, lines, and gloves are double-bagged and FedExed off to some processing center in Michigan. The non-lethal “stuff” – like the plastic syringes that contained the saline and the heparin – can be tossed in the trash. And the needle and the part of the line that trails it are placed in your own personal sharps jar – ours is an old spaghetti sauce container. When it’s full – another round or so – I can bring it back to MGH for them to get rid of.

The first time I went through this process, I was plenty nervous, imagining a line gone wild spurting chemo all over the place. (They do send you home with supplies and instructions for what to do if that happens.) My nervousness was not alleviated any by my husband asking whether I was clamping the line in the right place, whether I was syringing in the right order, etc. The capstone of his arm-chair quarterbacking was when, observing what can only be described as a flop-sweat – sweat was literally dripping off my nose - he said, “You seemed so confident when they showed you in the hospital.” Thanks, hon, that sure helps…

But, now that we’re into it, things run pretty smoothly.

And if this is the worst thing I ever have to deal with, well…

It’s not exactly the horrors of war and those who face them down, who are the folks that we memorialize today.

It promises to be a brilliant spring day here in Boston, but as I right this it’s cold, dreary, drizzling – not atypical spring weather in these parts, and actually pretty fitting, when you think of it.

Sure, war is sometimes conducted on delightfully balmy days. But as often as not, those in battle are coping with terrible physical conditions.

It’s frostbitten feet at Valley Forge. It’s contending with the heat at the Battle of the Wilderness.  Muck in the trenches of Château-Thierry. Rappelling up the cliff at Pointe du Hoc during a pelting rainstorm. The cold and ice at Choisin Reservoir. Monsoon season in Vietnam. Sandstorms in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And that’s in addition to having the other guy trying to kill you, while you’re trying to kill the other guy. Having to crawl over the body parts. Watching your buddies buy the farm. Praying that you’ll make it out alive (or for the million dollar wound).

An altogether crappy way to live (and die).

Of course, most of those in the military never see combat.

Fortunately, most of the time there isn’t a war on.

And even if there is a war on, only about 10% of those who serve will ever see combat.

My father’s war-time experience was surely not atypical.

Although it would have taken a while for Uncle Sam to get him – he was 29 when WWII started, and he was working in a wire factory engaged in war-work – my father volunteered.

He tried the Army, but they wouldn’t have him: flat feet. Can’t march, so no good in the the infantry.

But the Navy wasn’t so fussy, so my father was inducted.

One of the first things they did was give the new recruits an IQ test.

My father scored pretty high, and although he wasn’t a college graduate – he was going through college, course at a time, via night school – he was told that he was smart enough to become an officer.

Because my father was smart enough to become an officer, he declined the offer.

I think it was mostly because he didn’t like the officers he’d met, WASP-y Southern boys who were never going to be especially fond of a wise-guy Irish fellow from Massachusetts.

So my father ended up a Chief Petty Officer (the highest level of non-com, which was fine with him).

He was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. In Trinidad, when that was going to be staging center for a big invasion of Africa that never quite came off. And in downtown Chicago, at Navy Pier.

Not exactly the horrors of war. (Unless you count four years out of your life…)

The only time my father’s life was in jeopardy was on the ship going to and from Trinidad, where there was risk of being sunk by a U-Boat.

Still, as my father would say, you went where Uncle Sam sent you, so Norfolk, Trinidad, and Chicago it was.

Up until the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, he thought that he might end up being shipped out to the Pacific theatre. So he and my mother, whom he’d met while stationed in downtown Chicago, waited to become engaged until after that first bomb was dropped, and they knew with certainty that the war would be over soon.

So my father never got to be a big brave combat veteran.

There’s no doubt in my mind that, given the chance, he would have been.  (And there’s no doubt in my mind that anyone who knew my father would disagree with this. He was tough, physical, charismatic, and courageous. He was also not stupid, so he wasn’t raising his hand asking to be sent into combat, But if he had been, he would have done good.)

But plenty others out there have been in combat, and today we think of them. Mostly young men, with what should have been their lives before them. Then gone, often, quite troublingly, for a not particularly good reason.

I’m not the biggest John Kerry fan on the face of the earth, but he had it right when he said:

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

But we continue to do so, and that has nothing to do with the bravery of those who serve or the respect we should pay to those who are killed and wounded.

I’m not one who believes that everyone in the military is an automatic hero. Even those who have died. Far from it. But I do believe that, in an all volunteer military, one wouldn’t go in to begin with unless they had at least some small measure of bravery, love of country, and willingness to put his (or, increasingly her) life on the line.

So, on this Memorial Day, I salute those who’ve died in time of war, especially the 33,000 from Massachusetts Flags - 2013who’ve been killed in battle since the Civil War. Each year, for the last several years, a group has placed flags on the Boston Common commemorating their sacrifice. This picture does not do it justice, but it’s really something to see. That’s an awful lot of flags, especially when you consider that each one is attached to an awfully young life.

I was going to end with “Happy Memorial Day,” but can Memorial Day ever be really and truly happy? Sure, it’s the start of summer, and a long weekend, and there’s baseball being played at Fenway. Still, if we think about it at all…

So instead I’ll end with – to all those who’ve died while serving our country, to those who are “in” now: I’ll be thinking of you.  (You, too, Dad, even if you never saw a day of combat.)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Kitchen Nightmare, alrighty

Last December, I posted about a rather intemperate Boston restaurateur  (Pigalle-ing Out) who went flaming after a diner who claimed that the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie tasted like vomit. The story had an awwwwww ending: chef and diner ended up FB friending each other. Still, it was an object lesson about the perils of using social media. Let’s face it, if you’re going into the restaurant these days, the only thin skin you can afford to have is on the duck confit. You need to be able to tough out the negative comments, swallowing hard and reaching out to the wronged diners to say how sorry you are about the bad experience, and how you’re just dying to make it up to them. Sure, you may end up adding a bittle of spittle to their soup when they come back, but, that’s the cost of being in this sort of business in the era of everyone-who-walks-in-the-door might be a Mimi Sheraton or Craig Claiborne wannabe. Without having to worry about losing their amateur job as a food critic.

Anyway, the Boston vomit-pie incident was nothing compared to what’s been going on with one Arizona restaurant.

Apparently the owner of Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale got fed up with yelps on Yelp, and other online reviews.

As far back as 2010, Amy was going after Yelp reviewers who gave her place negative reviews:

In August 2010, Joel Latondress, an IT worker who writes a recipe blog, wrote a negative review of the restaurant on Yelp. Amy Bouzaglo responded by likening Latondress to a "tramp and a loser" writing, “Do us a favor and keep your ugly face and your ugly opinions to yourself." Bouzaglo explained her response, saying, "If someone comes here and tries to attack me or harass us I’m going to stand up and fight for what I believe in 100% in my company." Source: Wikipedia.)

This got picked up by local media and ended up in some sort of ongoing flambé war that took a while to die down.

The tension over the social media takedowns of the business  reached a new level after the restaurant’s star turn on Kitchen Nightmares, which unfortunately for them did not turn into the show’s usual misty-eyed redemption. If you’ve ever watched it – and I’ve seen it a few time - the episodes usually end with the restaurant owners, with their new menus (no more frozen chicken!), the cleaned up kitchen (the scummy fry-o-lator cleaned at last!), the spiffed up dining room (out with that mildewed carpet!), fall weepily into Gordon Ramsay’s arms, forgiving every harsh word he uttered in the heat of the battle to Save Their Restaurant. (After watching a show, I always give a google, and quite of few of the eateries that Ramsay rescues end up closing despite his 48 hour effort.)

No, Gordon Ramsay wasn’t able to work his mojo, even temporarily, on Amy’s.

Instead of redemption, owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglos got damnation.

After one bite, he quickly deemed Amy’s Baking Co. a disaster and chided the Bouzaglos for growing increasingly irate over his constructive feedback. Among his many critiques: The store-bought ravioli smelled ‘‘weird,’’ a salmon burger was overcooked and a fig pizza was too sweet and arrived on raw dough.

‘‘You need thick skin in this business,’’ Ramsay said before walking out. It was the first time he wasn’t able to reform a business, according to the show. (Source:

In the show, the owners lash out at customers who have complaints:

"We stand up to them," Amy Bouzaglo tells the camera at one point. "They come and they try to attack us and say horrible things that are not true."

Nothing says come on back like having the restaurant owner attack you when you let them know the soup is cold!

Years ago, my husband and I ate La (late and lamented) Cote Basque in NYC. We had the smoked salmon appetizer, which we had had a number of times before. Not really complaining, just asking, Jim asked the waiter if the salmon was different and mentioned that he’d preferred the earlier version. Indeed, the salmon was different.  The chef-owner came over, white toque, apron and all, and explained that they had switched suppliers, and the salmon was now Norwegian rather than from Scotland, and that they had perhaps not tested it well enough, etc. For dessert, he came over to the table and personally whipped up an orange crème chantilly to go with the fabulous chocolate ganache the restaurant was known for.

Now that’s how to respond to a customer complaint. (Not that we were complaining, mind you.)

Anyway, after Kitchen Nightmares aired a few weeks back, Amy boogalooed over to Facebook and let ‘er rip.

‘‘I AM NOT STUPID ALL OF YOU ARE,’’ read the posting on the Facebook wall of Amy’s Baking Co. in suburban Phoenix. ‘‘YOU JUST DO NOT KNOW GOOD FOOD.’’

And Amy, unfortunately, hadn’t snagged the URL for her name, leading to some of her enemies – I suspect from the tenor of it, we may be talking ex-employees here – to set up an incredibly nasty site in her name. (I won’t link it here. However vile the Bouzaglos may be, I’m  not a big fan of the c-word or anti-Semitism.)

Personally, I take online reviews of anything – especially the vitriolic ones typically posted by anonymous commenters who use the invisibility cloak of anonymity to be more savage than they’d be in “real life” – with a grain of salt. I’ve seen plenty of reviews of places that I like that are full of complaints – complaints that may well be legitimate in the moment: any diner can have an off-night food- and service-wise. We went to one of our go-tos the other evening and had a new waiter, one we hadn’t had before, who was just god-awful. I suspect he won’t still be working there next time we stop in, but if he is, we would prefer not to sit in his station. But unless I see review, after review, after review dumping on a place, I won’t necessarily shy away from it (okay, if someone mentioned rats…), especially if the restaurant had some sort of response.

But I would be exceedingly reluctant to step toe and lift fork in a restaurant in which the owners went on the attack like Amy Bouzaglo has done.

In the wake of the Kitchen Nightmares airing, the restaurant closed temporarily, but may or may not be back in business.

If it is, it may not be for long. now has a petition going asking the Department of Labor to investigate whether the owners pocketed tips meant for their servers. (This was shown on the Kitchen Nightmares episode.)

The restaurant’s PR firm quit on them, since the Bouzaglos had ignored their wise advice not to flame out online.

Information on Amy Bouzaglo’s felonious past has surfaced.

And it seems that Samy Bouzaglo is in danger of being deported. (He also has a criminal record.) Nothing to do with the show, but it sure won’t be helping build their business back up.  (Source: AZ Central.)

Anyway, for Amy’s Baking Company, there’s sure been a kitchen nightmare that they haven’t been able to wake up from. And it’s mostly off their own making.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Well, I appreciate World Nutella Day, even if Ferrero doesn’t (and even if I don’t actually like Nutella).

We have long been told that the most successful consumer brands are those that get their consumers to do a lot of their marketing for them. Thus, Harley-Davidson has fans who sport the official H-D gear, get the company logo tattooed on their arms, and name their children Harley and Davidson.

Closer to home, half the people in Boston are occasional walking billboards for one of the local sports teams. As the possessor of a Red Sox fleece, tee-shirt, pin, earrings, and two caps, I’m one of them. And that doesn’t even count my “Pennant Fever” tee from 1986.

Right now in Boston, I’d say we’re trending about 55% Bruins (it helps to win), 40% Red Sox (it helps to be in season), 3% Patriots, and 2% Celtics. (Sorry Revs.) Although I only have Red Sox “stufff”, I am partial to the Bruins “Keep Calm and Bergeron” tee-shirt (after B’s star Patrice Bergeron).

Other sorts of goods and services would be lucky to inspire such brand loyalty – imagine someone with, say, a Verizon or Bank of America tattoo – yet marketers can always hope that someone will do some sort of fan-appreciation deal-io for their brand.

Thus, one might have imagined, the folks at Ferrero would have been delighted that an American had put her heart and soul into celebrating an annual World Nutella Day – Nutella being a Ferrero product – which Sara Rosso has done faithfully since February of 2007.

The purpose of the day is to:

“celebrate Italy’s edible treasure with online and offline tributes” and to share recipes. It caught on—the Facebook page for World Nutella Day now has nearly 40,000 likes. (Source: Business Week.)

While I will admit that I never turn down the offer of one of those Ferrero Rocher foil-wrapped chocolate hazelnut sins – yummy – I am not a fan of Nutella, and am unlikely to join the nearly 40,000 likes celebrating World Nutella Day.

I’m not quite sure why I don’t really like Nutella, since I am pretty much a chocoholic. Maybe I’d like it better by the spoonful, rather than on bread, where to me it doesn’t quite belong. (I will have to try it on ice cream: that might do the trick for me.)

Still, I know that there are fans out there – I am related to a few of them – and I am happy that the Nutellans of the world have their very own day.

Anyway, from a marketing perspective, was a bit shocked that Ferrero had tried to put the kibosh on it.

“They asked me to take down the site because they consider it to be an unauthorized use of their intellectual property and trademarks—the Nutella logo and brand,” Rosso wrote in an e-mail [sent to Business Week].

Now, I understand that a company would want to protect its brand from misuse, malfeasance, and baddies.

Mountain Dew would certainly not be happy if the KKK declared it the official soft drink of white supremacists, and started sporting the Dew logo on their robes and hoods .

And no brand would want to see someone else using their logos, etc., for their own profit. Thus, major league sports, and Disney, and everyone else out there with images Red Sox shirtthat someone else might be interested in exploiting, are eternally vigilant to make sure that no one’s making a dime off of them. (That 1986 “Pennant Fever” tee-shirt – which, even though it’s a 50-50 cotton-poly blend, has the wonderfully retro smiling Red Sox on it -  was not officially blessed by Major League Baseball. Neither, I suspect, are those “Keep Calm and Bergeron” numbers I have my eye on.)

And yet it seems pretty crazy – mean-spirited and just plain wrong-headed -  to clamp down on someone who’s just trying to promote your product, does it not? (And am I the only one who thinks it’s a hoot to think of anything to do with Nutella, other than maybe the recipe, as being “intellectual property.”)

Still, Ferrero would not be the only group to be protective of its brands. Last year, the U.S. Olympic Committee sent a cease-and-desist letter to the online knitting group Ravelry about its marathon knit-off called the Ravelympics.

Nutella? Ravelry? Yes indeed-y, I can see a bunch of knitters getting confused with lugers and sprinters. Seriously, folks… What is up with these over-zealous brand polizei?

Not having worked in consumer goods, I’m happy that I never had to put up with this sort of nonsense.

I did work for a company that had a product called “ATF” (Automated Test Facility), that had a component called the ATF Agent. Fortunately, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms never came after us for violating their brand standards. (This product was around during the Waco hoo-hah, so at trade shows we’d occasionally attract quasi-lunatics who thought we had something to do with the take down of David Koresh et al., and would start to yell at us. I remember one fellow ranting on about the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Actually, talking with him was more interesting than talking with some of the prospects who actually wanted to know something about how ATF worked.)

Not surprisingly, Ferrero – after dealing with a few days of w.t.f. social media uproar – has backtracked. On Tuesday, the announced that it would cease and desist asking World Nutella Day to cease and desist.

“The case arose from a routine brand defense procedure that was activated as a result of some misuse of the Nutella brand on the fan page. Ferrero is pleased to announce that today, after contacting Sara Rosso and finding together the appropriate solutions, it immediately stopped the previous action,” the company stated.

Now, wouldn’t you think that they would have thought of that before they started sabre rattling in Sara Rosso’s direction? Unless, of course, there’s some scheming marketing mastermind behind the scenes who figured out that, however bad it made Ferrero look, this brouhaha would be good publicity for Nutella…

Nah…. This “routine brand defense procedure” was just dumb, dumb, dumb. Haven’t they read Marketing 101?

If someone’s willing to do your marketing for you, just let them.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Greetings from Nerd-ville: We’re Number Two!

Sometimes you just luck out and end up living in the place that suits you.

Seriously, I pity the anonymous commenters who frequent and (and who may even be in the paid employ of  the latter, given the insanely frothing nature of the comments there) to – no matter what the topic of “conversation” is – piss and moan about how terrible it is to live in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Honestly, you’d think that the Bay State is anything other than an excellent place in which to live.

Most educated – 1st

Lowest divorce rate – 1st

Healthiest – 4th

Wealthiest – 5th

Pursuit of Happiest  - 10th

Gun-happiest (i.e., firearms death rate) – 50th

And all round best places to live – 7th

Seriously, other than being in the Top 10 for taxes paid – which may have something to do with being the 5th wealthiest state – there are few factors that we don’t rate pretty darned high (or low, where low = good) on. Even – and this is incredibly surprising – our rank as the state with the worst drivers, which is 48th.

Maybe our weather isn’t the best but, still, this is a great place to live, especially if you’re the type of person who likes living around healthy, educated people who aren’t generally shooting at each other. 

In any case, I am always delighted to see the news when we rate high on yet another list, the most recent being the pocket protector rankings. This list ranks states by the concentration of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professionals.

Massachusetts came in Number 2, second only to Virginia (which outstrips us because of all those government agencies, contractors, and sub-contractors there).  In the Number 3 position was, thanks to Microsoft, Washington. (Source: Bloomberg.

There are other states with more techies in absolute terms – think California – but in terms of geeks per capita, Massachusetts is right up there.

Just as the top of the heap is not surprising, neither is the bottom:  Mississippi, West Virginia, and Nevada.

Being high on STEM-mers is good for a lot of reasons. It’s where the growth is. Where the high-paying jobs are. It’s the future.

And, as someone who has enjoyed a good long career in nerd-dom, I have always enjoyed working with techies. For the most part, they were smart, funny, off-beat, and decent. Not that I never encountered any techie a-holes: I met plenty of them, often – why am I not surprised? – in the executive ranks, where an apparent willingness to be nasty and aggressive conveyed them out of the cubicle and into a windowed office and a seat at the table. Sometimes even at the head of the table.

But for the most part, working with techies was wonderful – certainly one of the best aspects of working in high tech.

When I worked full time, whatever the company, I was always part of a bull session group that, maybe one evening every couple of weeks, gravitated to someone’s office, where we spent a couple of hours shooting the breeze and, of course, solving the company’s problems. (If only they had listened to us…)

These groups always had at least one techie (in my world, that would have been a software engineer). Ed, Charlie, Frank, Paul, Ted. Some of the most wonderful and interesting guys I ever worked with were techies.

So, too, were some of the oddest.

There was Mike, who more or less lived at work, and in whose office we one day found a bag of suppurating sweet potatoes that were stinking to the high heavens.

Not to mention Jim who, when we doled out desserts at Friday lunch – at this small company, we took turns bringing dessert, and had our weekly full-staff meeting over brown-bag lunch and mostly home-made goodies – would tremble with anxiety if he felt he was going to be deprived of a second helping.

And then there was the marvelously (mostly) outspoken Bill.

For one client project – a custom information system -  I was managing, Bill was the only full-time tech resource I had. When the client came to town, I introduced Bill as the lead engineer on the project.

“Lead engineer?” Bill snorted, “I’m the only engineer.”

All was forgiven a while later when, as part of what was more or less a hostile takeover (at least as far as the rank and file were concerned), our new president flew in from wherever out of town to address the troops. He had started into his remarks – the usual bull and bromide – when Bill’s hand shot up.

Mr. President acknowledged him.

“Would you mind introducing yourself, sir?” Bill asked him.

Our new president told us his name.

Bill nodded deeply. “I thought so,” he told the slack-jawed new head guy, who was just starting to get a clue about what he was in for.

Ah, techies.

When younger marketing professionals ask my advice on whether to pursue a career in product marketing or marcomm, I always ask them one question: If you were stranded on a desert island, would you rather be stranded with the engineers or the sales guys.

I always knew who I’d rather be with, which is how I ended up going the product marketing route.

One of the things I miss these days is that I don’t get to meet with the techies as often as I’d like. I’m with the product marketing folks, the product managers, the marcomm-ers. Once in a while, I get to work with the engineers, but I only have one client with whom I work directly and regularly with the geeks. No surprise that they’re just about my favorite client.

Sure, maybe they’re not the smoothest of the smooth, the coolest of the cool, but what’s not to love about nerds?

So happy to live in a place where we have so many of them.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I’m one of those old-fashioned types who still has a landline.

I can’t remember when the last time I made an outgoing call on it. (Actually, that’s not quite true. On the day of the Marathon bombings, when there was no mobile service for a while, I used it to call the landlines of my local sister and local brother to make sure that they were okay, so I could email by traveling sister and non-local brother and let them know we were all safe.)

Once in a blue moon, I’ll use it my landline to dial into a conference call. Sometimes it’s just easier to be on speaker, and the landline is better than a smartphone for that. But an outgoing personal call?

Pretty much the only time I use it for one of those is when I’ve misplaced my Blackberry and want to track it down.

Mostly the landline is used incoming by a) good causes looking for money, even though I tell them time and again that I DO NOT give to anyone (other than one of my schools) that solicits me over the phone; b) political surveys and/or get out and vote calls; c) bad people trying to get me to give them my credit card information; and d) my dentist calling to tell me that I have an appointment the next day.

I hang on to it mostly for the fear factor of not having a landline to call 911 or whatever.  There’s also a sentimental attachment to the number, I suppose, which I believe I’ve had for nearly forty years now.  But I’ve had my cell phone number for nearly twenty years, so sentimental/schmentimental.

My “real” phone is my cell. On my landline, I have the most minimal plan allowable, and augment the local coverage with a two-buck a month long distance service from some little phone company in Maine. On my cell phone, I have the mega-minutes plan, plus texting, and, of course, Internet access.

My husband, the last person in America to not have a cell phone, has a VoIP-based Magic Jack number, which mostly works, if you don’t mind terrible reception. But if the phone call matters, he uses the landline.

While those of us of a certain age keep the home-phones going, many of us are at least quasi-ambivalent – how’s that for an expression of ambivalence -  about keeping a landline home phone. But for the “young folks”, it’s a no-brainer. They just use their cell phones.

This, of course, means that, just as young folks won’t know what it’s like to dial, use a pay phone, call collect, or memorize their friends’ numbers, they won’t know what it’s like to pick up the family’s general phone and holler, “Hey, it’s for you.” Nor will they ever have to remember to tell a parent or sibling that they got a call, let alone actually take down a message.

All this reminds me of an experience my sister Trish had answering the family phone – PL-35811 – a few years after my father had died.

The caller was none other than a childhood friend of my father’s, one “Moko” Doyle, a fellow who had figured largely in tales of my father’s youth. Moko had been something of goof-ball, a not especially bright guy who was a trouble magnet. When my father was evaluating the friends of my brothers, it was not an entirely good thing if my father characterized any of them as a “Moko Doyle.” (There were worse designations, I must say. A “Moko Doyle” was at least likable. A bum, a louse, a crook, a complete POS, was a Vincent P. Egan, but that’s a story for another day.)

Anyway, Trish was home alone when she answered a call from Florida, Moko checking in with his old pals after many decades away.

My sister, still just a kid of 14 or 15 at the time, had to tell Moko that my father was dead.

He then asked about my Uncle Charlie.

No, Trish was sorry to report, Charlie had recently passed away.

Spike? Moko asked hopefully.

Alas, Spike was gone as well.

Poor Moko, reciting the litany of his boyhood friends, only to find them all gone. (Poo Trish, having to give Moko the news.)

Finally, Moko asked about Nemo, who, Trish was happily able to report, was still among the living.

With no landlines in the house, calls from the likes of Moko Doyle will be a thing of the past. Exchanges like this will all happen on Facebook or LinkedIn.

It’s not just homes, of course, that are getting rid of landlines. Businesses are hanging up on them, as well. (Hanging up: another thing that doesn’t happen much anymore, either.)

Of the nearly 300 employees at Evernote, only a handful – those in customer support, for the most part – have a landlines.

At Facebook, it’s the same deal for their 5,000 employees. Ditto for the 53,000 workers at Google.

Silicon Valley companies big and small are pulling the plug on desk phones in favor of mobile devices. While consumers have been cutting the cord for years, businesses are joining the trend at an accelerating rate thanks to the increasing capabilities of mobile devices, which make it easier for workers to be productive and stay connected from any location at all hours. (Source: Bloomberg.)

Which, of course, means that there’s no cutting the cord between work life and personal life, a condition that has been in the making for a number of years – and is not an unalloyed good.

That aside, the trend really spells trouble for the landline equipment and networking providers like Alcatel and Avaya. Business spending on landlines fell by one-third between 2008 and 2012, and is expected to plummet by the same amount between now and 2016.

And for the telecom providers like AT&T and Verizon, it means figuring out to squeeze more revenues out of wireless as the cash cow of landlines dries up. I’m sure that they’ll figure it out. After all, they have plenty of experience with the decline of Yellow Pages and the end of personal “rental” of phones, which was what the model was in the good old days. (A few years ago, we were visiting my husband’s elderly aunt and realized that, although she had, maybe a decade or so earlier, replaced her old black rotary dial phone with a jazzier number, she had been paying $9 a month fee for that old Bakelite number month in, month out.  We called “wrong number” and returned it for her, although, as I recall, there was some super hassle about sending it back.)

As one guy interviewed for the Bloomberg article – the head of a start up where everyone uses their personal mobile phones for work (and gets reimbursed for overages) – said:

"You just don’t need desk phones. We talk over e-mail, text message, chat clients, social networks. "

This is, of course, true.

I do a lot of my client communicating via e-mail. When I was still working full time, I hung out with remote colleagues on IM. But there are plenty of times where you really do need to get on the horn and actually talk-talk with someone: not over e-mail, not over text, not via FB.

Sometimes you really do need to pick up the phone and call.

At which point, it really doesn’t matter if you’re using a landline, a cell phone, or Skype.

As the AT&T ad used to say, back in the day when Bell ruled:

Reach out and just say ‘hi’…

Hey, they’re waiting to hear from you.

Come on, admit it. Don’t you like to get a call once and a while from someone – business or personal -  who just wants to yack for a while?

Monday, May 20, 2013

A dream is a wish your pocketbook makes

A dream may have been a wish that Cinderella’s heart made, but, Jiminy Cricket, if you’re a well-heeled NYC parent and not a hearth-sweeping skivvy, a dream is a wish that your pocketbook makes come true.

Or so it seem, based on an article in the NY Post – and when are they ever wrong?  -  on hush-hush, word of mouth service that, for about $1K a day, is (make that was) helping folks who had better things to do than wait on line tapping their Tod’s in the broiling Florida sun. Hel-lo-o!

The workaround is hiring a disabled person to become an ad hoc member of your family, letting you cut ahead of the common folks and whisk yourself right into a ride.

The “black-market Disney guides” run $130 an hour, or $1,040 for an eight-hour day.

“My daughter waited one minute to get on ‘It’s a Small World’ — the other kids had to wait 2 1/2 hours,” crowed one mom.

“You can’t go to Disney without a tour concierge,’’ she sniffed. “This is how the 1 percent does Disney.”, who hired a disabled guide through Dream Tours Florida. (Source: NY Post, by way of

This came to light, by the way, because of social anthropologist Wednesday Martin’s research for a book entitled Primates of Park Avenue. That sounds like a good one. Can’t wait.

As for giving those with disabilities a break, believe me, I am in complete sympathy with those who need to use handicap parking, etc.

I have an old and dear friend with crippling rheumatoid arthritis. Forty years (and twenty operations) into dealing with it, she can’t walk all that fast or all that far, and has no use of her fingers. She has handicapped parking tag and, believe me, she needs (and deserves) to use it.

I have another old and dear friend who after surviving ghastly treatment for malignant mesothelioma – no, it doesn’t just happen to asbestos miners; it happens to librarians who work in asbestos-ridden old libraries – has to use one of those motorized scooters to get around in.

However, I do believe that plenty of those folks buzzing around in motorized scooters have a problem getting around because they’re obese, not because they have a disability. So, right off the bat, it doesn’t seem fair that just because you’ve signed up with The Scooter Store, you get to cut line with your posse.

But, sure, for folks in wheelchairs and those who really do need help walking, life is crappy enough as it is, why not give them a break. (Disney, by the way, doesn’t guarantee preferred ride boarding. They just promise a “more convenient entrance.” But those discerning NYC mothers swear by it.)

Hiring someone in a wheelchair or scooter to play ‘poor Aunt Hephzibah’ so you and your precious little ones can scoot to the head of the line: just despicable. (Gives new meaning to ‘hire the handicapped’, that’s for sure.)

Dream Tours, the group that was the supposed go-to for the NYC elite, is a Florida non-profit that is:

Dedicated to providing quality based, memorable, and affordable vacations, to people with special needs.

Well, I suppose you could argue that Rollo the Rich Dude and his brood have special needs, if you consider not feeling like standing in line to get into “It’s a Small World” a special need. (Personally, I’d pay a thousand dollars a day not to get into “Small World” but that’s, after all, just me.)

Dream Tours is focused primarily on adults with special needs. In the words of their home page: We specialize in accessible travel. The company takes individuals and groups on tours of Disneyland, and runs other tours – a cruise, Dream Tourstrip to the Smokey Mountains – as well. Their web site is full of heart-warming pictures of families having fun.  Their web site also makes frequent use of Disney characters. Wonder if that’s Disney-approved, given that at one point a few years ago, Disney went after a family that carved Winnie the Pooh on their child’s gravestone. And their logo incorporates the cap of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. If they don’t have Disney permission, I suspect that they’ll be hearing from old Walt’s legal team any day now.

Dream Tours’ program goals include:

  • To emphasize community inclusion for individuals with disabilities, fostering partnerships to provide access to the same social, cultural and recreational facilities and activities enjoyed by all citizens
  • To provide enriching activities that are meant to challenge everyone’s own personal physical abilities and at the same time allow them to socialize with their peers in a safe environment
  • To create a mechanism for sustainability, businesses, partnerships and grants, successfully continuing the program

Theirs is, at least nominally, a very laudable mission. But it may have been that “create a mechanism” goal that tripped them up.  After all, if you can rake in a thousand bucks taking a group of non-disabled POS’s around, and it helps support their efforts to work with those who are both in need and deserving of help, then their thinking may be ‘why not?’.  Maybe the secret handshake is that the New Yorkers know that they have to say that Little Lord Fauntleroy has ADHD, and Dream Tours doesn’t dig too deep. Is this maybe a case of doing the wrong thing for the right reason?

Ryan Clement, who founded and runs Dream Tours, is denying any malfeasance.  It was supposedly his assistant, Jacie Christiano, who was the tour guide on what it appears to have been one of their VIP Tours. 

Due to inaccurate press and slander, Dream Tours is not offering VIP tours at this time. Our focus has primarily always been providing magical vacations for adults with special needs and helping their dreams to come true.

As I learned time and again in small companies that were, as often as not, unintentional non-profits, when you move away from what your “focus has primarily always been” you tend to get in trouble.

Guess that’s what happened here.

And when that happens, donations – in the case of the small companies of my experience, these were donations masked as investments (or vise versa) – tend to dry up.

If they really were legitimate do-gooders, here’s hoping that Ryan and Jacie can get back on track. As it says under Jacie’s bio:

“Around here, however, we do not look back for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things…” Walt Disney

As for those queue-jumping NYC a-holes: shame on you for your cavalier behavior, and for what you’re teaching your children. (Just one of many dreadful things they’re teaching their kids, I’m certain.)

As for Disney, you may want to keep a closer eye on how many families “poor Aunt Hephzibah” rolls in with. You really don’t want to be encouraging liars and cheats. How un-Disney like. Sure, Disney is pretty expensive, and beyond the reach of many families. Nonetheless, doesn’t Disney still believe that “when you wish upon a star, makes no difference who your are”?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Is it just me????? Or are the Quabbin Seven the complete idiots they appear to be?

The other day, a group of UMass and Smith College students were found meandering around Quabbin Reservoir a bit after midnight.

The UMass students were chemical engineers, just graduating with masters degrees. No word on what the Smith-ies were studying.

Apparently none of the brigade were long on common sense.

Quabbin Reservoir, for those not from around here, is a quite beautiful place in the western part of Massachusetts. In my guidebook,it’s one of the prettiest places in the state. Quabbin was created in the late 1930’s to provide drinking water for Greater Boston and, interestingly, required several small towns to be disappeared. I’m not 100% certain, but I believe that from the air, you can see the ghost outlines of the foundations from those towns of yore.

Anyway, given that it provides water to an awful lot of folks in Massachusetts, it’s a very important part of our infrastructure. One that we want to keep safe, secure, and sippy-cup delicious. (We do, by the way, enjoy really wonderful water in our fair state. When we were kids and visited our relatives in Chicago, we were all gacked-out by the taste of that city’s water, which was sweet water compared to the well water we drank once when we visited some friends of the family who lived on a farm in Wisconsin. I remember the Rogers kids struggling mightily not to do a spit-take on the lemonade that we were served.)

Anyhow, the students who were apprehended poking around Quabbin in the dark happened to be from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Singapore.

Now, if you were a student from a country that was either the home country of the 9/11 bombers or had housed Osama Bin Laden.

And if you knew that people in the US in general, and – these days – in Massachusetts in particular, were (fairly or unfairly) fairly suspicious of people from those countries.

And if you were studying in a state that had just been whip-sawed by a couple of miserable jihadists who’d hijacked our very own, very best holiday, Patriots Day, and killed four innocent people, including a sweet and adorable 8-year old boy, and maimed hundreds of others.

Would you go in the dead of night to a somewhat secured reservoir to poke around because, as chemical engineers, you had a ‘career interest’ in it?

Anyhow, the Quabbin Seven are facing trespassing charges. And while they may very well be completely innocent of any malfeasance past, present, or future; any terrorist intent; or even any evil thoughts, they will now surely be facing some scrutiny by the FBI, will they not? And surely the INS will be taking a look and seeing whether any of these students may be outstaying their welcome.

I know that young folks can be foolish and impulsive. That sometimes it just seems like a good thing to hop in the car and head to the Res to look around on a nice spring night when school’s out.

But unless you wanted to be deliberately provocative, or are up to no good, would you do this?

What a bunch of nimrods.

And people call us Massholes?

Seriously, folks.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Torts ‘R Us. (And the workplace lawsuit of the week award goes to…)

When I looked through my (virtual) clippings file to see what I might be interested in blogging about this week, I had three – count ‘em, three – possibilities that involved work-related law suits.

What’s a blogger to do?

I suppose if I were the mono-focus, monetizing, let’s really get a book out of this type, I could spend all of my blogging time on work-related law suits.

But that wouldn’t be all that interesting.

And it would probably be pretty darned repetitive, too.

Easy to imagine having to alternate between “this is the worst place in the world to work” screeds and “can you believe that someone’s suing over this?” posts.

So I thought I’d eliminate two of the possibilities, and focus on just one of the sue-the-bastards du jour.

The first one I got rid of involved the family of a 42-year old deckhand on The Bounty who was swept overboard and died when the ship was caught up in Hurricane Sandy. (The Bounty was used for the early 1960’s movie of Mutiny on the Bounty, and has since been a tourist attraction.)  Yes, it was the captain’s decision to head out in the middle of a hurricane. But all the crew members were given the option of abandoning ship before it left port. Idiotic as that captain was – and he, too, died – surely, a 42 year-old is capable of heeding the warnings about the danger of one of the fiercest hurricanes on record, which were well known before The Bounty lifted anchor…

The second potential topic that got the heave-ho was one about a fellow in Upstate NY who’s suing McDonald’s for screwing with his hours to deprive him of overtime pay. Certainly, this practice is behavior most foul. But then I got all weirded out by the guy’s claim that he was making $13/hour at McDonald’s, which got me off the tort track and on to just what is an unskilled, minimum wage job worth.

So, with two tort candidates eliminated, I settled on the New Mexico worker who’s suing Intel because some fellow employees planted (and acted on) a “Kick Me” sign on his back.

The Intel employee, Harvey Palacio, said in the complaint recently filed in Albuquerque that once he suspected something was taped on his back during the August prank, he went to senior staffer Randy Lehman to ask if something was there.

"Lehman said turn around and as Palacio did he saw and heard (another employee) yell out `Don't read it, just do it'," the lawsuit said.

Lehman then kicked Palacio three times in his buttocks, according court documents. (Source: Huffington Post.)

Another colleague gave him another two kicks for good measure.

"Palacio decided that this could not continue and walked back in front of the group to ask someone else to remove it," the lawsuit said. "Palacio felt demoralized and assaulted and he began to cry during the drive home. He could not tell his wife because he was so embarrassed and ashamed."

Lehman and the other kicker were convicted of petty misdemeanor assault, sentenced to some community service, and  fired by Intel (Lehman after 19 years).

But apparently the criminal charges, and getting the work-jerks fired, wasn’t enough for Palacio. So now he’s suing Intel.

There are a couple of ways that this saga can be interpreted.

1. Worker preyed upon by vicious a-hole workplace bullies. Certainly a possibility. There are some real thugs out there, and maybe the Intel Two are a couple of them. Palacio also claims that there were a couple of other incidents: his uniform hidden, his work bag filled with trash. Palacio, a Filipino, also believes that racism was involved. So maybe these brutes maliciously hid Palacio’s uniform so he actually couldn’t get his work done. Maybe they put really awful offal in his work bag. Maybe these guys were complete bigots trying to drive the “foreigner” out.

On the other hand, this could be a case of:

2. Thin-skinned guy with no sense of humor meets clumsy goof-ball pranksters with no common sense. No one’s going to argue that it’s a good idea to put a kick-me sign on someone’s back. (Ho, ho!) Let alone to actually kick him. But what if this was just how the gang of ‘merry pranksters’ at Intel rolled? Stupid “hijinks”: kicks the equivalent of love pats, trash in the bag that’s nothing more than an empty coffee cup and a Twinkie wrapper. Maybe that’s how all the newbies at Intel in Albuquerque were treated. Maybe they just wanted to get a reaction. Maybe they all had mild Asperger’s and couldn’t interpret Palacio’s discomfort as such.

Maybe because Intel’s a tech company, it’s a lot easier for me to imagine the second scenario than the first.

Palacio is seeking “unspecified damages” plus legal fees (naturally).

But before taking criminal and civil action, wouldn’t you think that Palacio would have complained to HR?

Maybe he did, but they didn’t do anything. Which doesn’t sound like something that would happen at any large company, given that, in today’s see-you-in-court climate, they need to tread very carefully.

And I do feel bad that this guy was so humiliated that he cried on his way home. (As someone who cried on the way home from work on occasion – though never due to a kick-me sign on my back – I know that feeling.)

Still, if – as I suspect – scenario two is closer to the truth, all this lawyering-up seems like overkill.

I could, of course, be dead wrong, and it was all scenario one, only worse.

And I do hope I remember to follow up on this one and see what happens.

For now, all I have to say is that, if Harvey Palacio wasn’t quick enough on the uptake to get the crude, indeed unpleasant frat-boy humor that still exists in the American workplace, he sure was quick enough to pick up on American suit happiness.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Medical tourism, hair restoration edition

While I would not want to be a bald woman, I’m pretty darned fond of bald men.

Not only am I married to one, I am also the daughter of a bald man. And the sister of two more.

I like bald guys.

I think they’re pretty darned cute.

But I understand that there are men for whom bald is not beautiful. And plenty of women who feel the same way.

And given how gruesome comb-overs are, especially if they get caught in a windstorm and go spiraling out of control, and how dead-muskrat so many male hairpieces are, I can understand why some men might get drawn into the pursuit of the hirsute.

Certainly, all the ads for baldness treatment on TV (which are second only in persistence to those for male, ah, enhancements, including the newer one I’ve been seeing for the underarm roll-on testosterone booster) indicate that there’s plenty of interest in mo’ better hair out there. (For all the hair restoration ads that there are out there, I will say that I miss the Hair Club for Men ads of yore, especially given that, years ago, I actually sat in the table next to the one where Sy Sperling – “I’m not just the president, I’m also a client” of Hair Club for men was dining. Sy, by the way, was a  model of restraint, He resisted the urge to lean over and hand my husband one of his cards.)

Still, I hadn’t thought of hair restoration as part of the medical tourism industry.

Apparently in Turkey it is.

In 2012, roughly 270,000 of the 31.7 million tourists who visited Turkey came for medical treatment, pumping $1 billion into the economy. Many come for cosmetic therapies, including rhinoplasty, liposuction, and thermal spas, but according to those in the medical tourism industry, the real money is in hair…

The Istanbul Hair Center reports they treat 70 to 80 medical tourists every month—nearly twice as many patients as they saw last summer. (Source: Business Week.)

Admittedly, 270,000 medical out of 31.7 million overall tourists does not set off big flashing GET YOUR TREATMENT HERE signs in my mind’s eye. And I wouldn’t lump thermal spas in to the medical tourism mix, either. (Mud baths? Seriously, folks.) Still, I wouldn’t have imagined that Turkey would be a medical tourism destination at all. (Personally, I can’t imagine any country, other than the good old U.S. of A. as a mecca for medical tourists, but that’s just my inner jingoist USA! USA! chanter coming out.)  Customers are drawn to Turkey  from Europe and the Middle East, and tourism is largely boosted by word of mouth – one satisfied customers/patient at a time.

Hair restoration, by the way, is quite a big deal: a lot more complex, painful, and dangerous than any comb-over, hair weave, or scalp-painting job.

Typically, men come for four days to one week. The first day their scalp is analyzed and a graft spot is chosen, usually from the back of the head, where many balding men retain hair. Other options include chest and shoulder hair. The next day they head to the operating room—the procedure can last eight to 10 hours, with about 7,500 root implants. After that comes postoperative care. The following day, patients can fly home. Full results are expected six months after the operation.

And it’s not just the hair on your head that they’ll do for you. They’ll also give a man hair on his chinny-chin-chin.

The Istanbul Hair Center was one of the outfits mentioned in the BW article.

Fortunately, their website (partially)  translates into English (and Arabic, if you’re a bit more adventurous). Thus we learn that they are an “expert institution,” providing “treatment in fully equipped hospitals with expert staff under sterilized and safe conditions” using “scientific methods.”

Somehow, this doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence in me, but maybe something is lost in translation.

They use something called the “FUE method” which, again, would not raise my comfort level to that which be achieved by a method that didn’t start with the letters “FU”.

FUE method which can not be fully applied in many countries around the world, is applied by us perfectly through our own experience.

FUE stands for “Follicular Unit Extraction,” and, despite that “can not be fully applied” warning, has been around for a while and is the “industry standard.”

So, unless you’ve always wanted to see the Blue Mosque, there’s no reason to trek to Turkey for it.

Anyway, hair restoration tourism in Turkey: it’s amazing what you find in the news when you’re just grazing around.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Philistine? Pea brain? Just plain jealous? (Art sure makes me ask the big questions about just who I am…)

I never actually wish I were a genius, but some days I do wish I had more of an appreciation for them.

Not that I don’t appreciate genius.

Take James Joyce.

I could re-read his early works over and over again. Will anyone ever write a short story that’s as brilliant as The Dead?

I could even, I suppose, re-read Ulysses if I had to.  (Maybe someday I’ll even want to.)

As for Finnegan’s Wake. On my bucket list, for sure. Once I get past the fact that it makes no sense and ends with the word “the”.

Then there’s music.

Of course I can distinguish between music and musack.  But do I embarrass myself that I’d rather listen to show tunes – even Ethel Merman belting ‘em out in Annie Get Your Gun – than put on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring?

And then there’s art.

I’m not someone who thinks that great art ends with Rembrandt. Honestly, I like a lot of the modern stuff. I was a sophisticated and savvy enough kid to fall in love with Miró at the age of 10, and I still have the postcards from the Chicago Art Institute to prove it. Okay, so maybe I thought Joan Miró was a girl painter. So shoot me.

But there are some things I just plain do not get.

Some of which were on sale at the Frieze Art Fair last week in NYC.

Now, Balloon Dog.

I’ll give you that it’s witty enough.

But $25K? For one of 40? Admittedly in unique colors. Still... (At least it won’t deflate like a real balloon dog would.)Frieze Art Fair

And I’d much rather a Paul McCarthy “Balloon Dog” than the Paul McCarthy “Gold Butter Dog 1, Guggenheim Crown” staring at me, whatever the price. Even if it’s silicone and not really butter, which would turn rancid, and I do find that Guggenheim Crown pretty darned drôle.

As for that “You Look Good” (by Barbara Kruger) lurking in the background: at $250K, you can probably forget about it.

That is, after all, quite a bit to pay for an affirmation, when you can create one on your own using a Sharpie and a Post-it note. Which I’m going to do the minute I get off this blog.

After all, if you DIY-it, you can change them up every day, pretty much for free:

You’re a really swell person.

You ARE funny.

Not bad, for someone your age.

So easy to make fun, isn’t it.

But the truth is that I didn’t think of “You Look Nice,” which is worth $250K. All I came up with is the derivative “Not bad for someone your age,” which is worth bupkis.

Bad enough I’m a philistine, but a jealous one…. I should be hanging my head, not blogging.

I will, however, forge on, mostly because us non-genius types have to make up for our non-genius by being balloon-dogged and determined.

Which takes me to the works of Tom Friednman.

The booth of Luhring Augustine gallery was devoted to Tom Friedman, whose five food sculptures -- made with Styrofoam and paint -- looked quite appetizing. All sold within the first 90 minutes.

A large pizza pie and a slice of white bread hung on the walls; a group of sweet treats, including a Twinkie and a Snowball, sat on the floor. The tiny green pea could have been easily missed on the white wall where it resided -- were it not for the hefty price of $35,000.

“That’s classic for Tom,” said co-owner Lawrence Luhring. “There’s always something in his work that’s minuscule.” (Source: Bloomberg.)

A $35K Styrofoam pea? Why didn’t I think of that.

I guess it’s because, not only am I a jealous Philistine, I’m a pea brain as well.

Needless to say, I wanted to learn more about Tom Friedman, and came across some info on an earlier exhibit. Friedman’s genius, I assure you, does not end with the Styrofoam pea.

He made a “perfect sphere” out of 1,500 pieces of chewed bubble gum.  (“it is the knowledge of his quasi medieval investment of time that gives the piece its power”).

Let me tell you, I can identify with that “quasi medieval investment of time,” but has mine given Pink Slip any power?

He also created “a sculpture made from a box of cooked spaghetti that have been attached end to end to form a single, loopy spiral, the process that friedman undertakes is both intricate and fraught with the possibility of a messy and frustrating failure.”

Messy and frustrating failure! I may not be a genius, but Tom Friedman and I have something in common. (Although my failures have probably only appeared messy and frustrating to me.)

Then there’s this:

everyone knows, rather intimately, what a bar of soap is,
or at least we think we do, until friedman shows up with his
sculpture that changes the whole concept of soap into an object with a--sticky-when-wet--surface that holds spiralling pubic hairs perfectly in place. ultra-thin, circular lines expanding concentrically outwards from the center.

he must have labored over this little enigmatic thing for hours. 'initially I was drawn towards materials that had to do with personal hygiene. cleaning materials...I drew a connection between mundane rituals for keeping ourselves clean, and rituals for spiritual purification.' friedman said. (Source for this, plus chewing gum and spaghetti: Designboom.)

I’ve finally found it, that chasm that separates genius from pedestrian intellect, that je ne sais quoi which je ne have pas.

Sure, I’ve labored over this little enigmatic thing of a blog for hours, but when I find a spiraling pubic hair on a piece of soap, I pick it off with a square of toilet paper and throw it out.

No wonder I’m where I am today.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Day of the Dead™

Growing up, Halloween was an altogether wonderful day.

It’s general wonderfulness was compounded by the fact that, as parochial-schoolers, we got the next day off to celebrate All Saints Day. As the Baltimore II Catechism informed, this was a “Holy Day of Obligation in the United States”. Which meant we had to go to Mass in the morning. Oh, yawn… But after that, you were free for the day.

Having a day off of school was excellent enough to begin with, but to be able to lord it over public school students…Bonus points.

However much my culture relished death and dying, and as exceedingly thorough as our nuns and priests were in impressing upon the young that our mortal lives were short, finite, expendable, and nothing but a prelude to immortality in The Great Beyond,’ there was never a lot of hoo-hah around All Saints Day. Nor for the runner-up day after (and non-Holy Day of Obligation), All Souls Day, which was dedicated to the masses who would never make sainthood. Just a couple of reminders that we should “think of the dead”. (As if we needed any reminders, given that death was pretty much incessantly harped on as a matter of course.)

But it wasn’t a big cemetery visiting day, perhaps because the early November weather in New England (or in Ireland, from whence our death-reveling antecedents came) was not conducive to a cemetery jaunt.

In any case, unlike the Mexicans, we did not do All Saints and All Souls Days up big.

But for the Mexicans, Dia de los Muertos has always been a pretty big deal.

The Day of the Dead honors departed souls of loved ones who are welcomed back for a few intimate hours. At burial sites or intricately built altars, photos of loved ones are centered on skeleton figurines, bright decorations, candles, candy and other offerings such as the favorite foods of the departed. Pre-Columbian in origin, many of the themes and rituals are mixtures of indigenous practices and Roman Catholicism. (Source: Huffington Post.)

Somewhere along the folk-arty line, Day of the Dead became, if not widely celebrated outside of Mexico, then at least widely known. I mean, who doesn’t have at least one bit of Day of the Dead kitsch in their possession?

Personally, I am the owner of a tiny little skeleton wonking away at a computer, a set of colorful plaster Day of the Dead band members that are on a shelf in the downstairs bathroom, and Christmas ornament of a skeleton angel in a bright blue angel gown.

Anyway, Disney-Pixar recently caused a bit of a ruckus when, in anticipation of a movie of the same name, they tried to trademark “Dia de los Muertos.”

A blogger at OC Weekly, dug into Disney’s application and found that they wanted to make sure that nothing escaped their grasp. Their mark was:

*For "Fruit preserves; fruit-based snack foods; eggs; jams; jellies; potato chips; nuts; dairy products; meat; poultry; fruits; vegetables; prepared or packaged meals consisting primarily of meat, fish, poultry or vegetables"

In the world of greed and branding, much of this makes sense (potato chips), but Day of the Dead fruits? Vegetables? Day of the Dead eggs? This seems a bit Day of the Dead nuts, but I don’t have the world’s most refined branding sense, that’s for sure:

*For "Toys, games and playthings; gymnastic and sporting articles (except clothing); hand-held units for playing electronic games for use with or without an external display screen or monitor; Christmas stockings; Christmas tree ornaments and decorations; snow globes"

*For "Clothing, footwear and headwear"

*For "Bags; backpacks; calling card cases; coin purses; fanny packs; key cases; key chains; luggage; luggage tags; purses; umbrellas; wallets"

Calling card cases? How quaint. How ever did they leave out snuff pouches and reticules.

I’m happy to see that fanny packs did make the list, since they are, more or less, the reticule of the sort of middle-aged women prone to sporting oversized Tigger sweatshirts. (All Disney, all the time.)

*For "Paper and paper articles; cardboard and cardboard articles; printed matter; publications; books; photographs; portraits; paintings; stationery; office and school supplies"

*For "Clocks; jewelry; jewelry boxes; jewelry cases; key rings of precious metal; coins; watches; watch bands"

*For "Apparatus for recording, transmission or reproduction of sound or images; audio books; audio recordings; audio and visual recordings; video game software; computer programs and software; consumer electronics and accessories therefor; eyeglasses and sunglasses and accessories therefor; binoculars; decorative magnets; graduated rulers"

*For "Cosmetics; dentifrices; non-medicated toiletries; fragrances; perfumes"

Dentifrices? Why am I channeling the Pepsodent parody of my childhood:

You’ll wonder where your teeth have gone, when you brush your teeth with an atom bomb?*

And nothing says ‘come ona my house’ like Day of the Dead perfume, no? A delicate mixture of humus and rotted cloth, enhancing the underlying scent of decayed flesh…

*Confectionery and chewing gum; breakfast cereals and preparations made from cereals; cereal bars; bread; muffins; muffin bars; pastry; waffles; pancakes; cookies; crackers; biscuits; popcorn; corn chips; pretzels; puddings; coffee; tea; cocoa; sugar; rice; flour; ices; ice; honey; condiments; sauces; spices; pizza; pasta and noodles; macaroni and cheese; frozen meals consisting primarily of pasta or rice; staple foods

Ice! Ice? Who brands ice? Other than Brookline Ice and Coal Company, I mean.

One has to admire Disney’s (over) reach, that’s for sure.

But in this case, their reach exceeded their grasp, and the Disney backlash painted the company as not just greedy, but as insensitive culture vultures, preying on both cultures and, potentially, on crafts-people who make things like skeleton Christmas ornaments. Not to mention the small businesses that are no doubt out there already selling Day of the Dead dentifrices, poultry, and ice.

After a social media protest, Disney backed down and indicated that they would be renaming their Pixar adventure, which will no doubt have plenty of cute and cuddly lil’ skeleton characters every bit as lovable and merchandisable – one and the same in Disney-Land, of course – as Woody, Nemo, and Shrek.

The online protest was led by Latinos, including Mexican-American cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, who wrote:

"On the offensiveness scale, it seems awful and crass, as the words 'Dia de Los Muertos' aren't just some brand name but a holiday."  (Source: Guardian-UK.)

But Alcaraz did more than write, he cartooned, and Muerto-Mouse-Web (1)Disney backed off.

Disney later issued a statement suggesting it had been decided to change the title of the film, and would therefore no longer be pursuing efforts to trademark the term. (Source: Guardian-UK.)

Anyway, we have been spared. We will not have to worry about whether we’re buying authentic Dias de los Muertos merch: frozen foods, watches, or fanny packs. We will not have to worry about Dias de los Muertos vendors having to lawyer up to defend their hand-crafted Christmas ornaments against the suits from Disney.

Viva la Social Media!


*The original jingle:

You’ll wonder where the yellow went, when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.