I thought it was a sign of the apocalypse when McDonald’s started serving breakfast sandwiches between two griddle cakes several years ago — but in our modern culture, the envelope is always being pushed farther and farther.
So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to read that KFC is now offering various chicken and donut combinations at selected locations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia. At those test locations, you can get a basket of chicken on the bone or chicken tenders served with one or two doughnuts, or you can order a sandwich made of a boneless piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken positioned between two glazed donuts, all of which is then served hot. The donuts apparently will be delivered to the test KFC stores already cooked, and when a customer orders them, they will be dipped into fryers and glazed with vanilla icing so they are served hot.
KFC has explained that it is conducting the test to determine whether customers are craving chicken and donuts on a national scale. I don’t think any kind of test of that sort truly is needed. When you combine the statistics on the growing American obesity epidemic (no pun intended) with the known fact that most people are powerless to resist donuts that are made available to them, it seems very likely that the KFC chicken-and-donut sandwich will be a smashing, calorie- and carbohydrate-laden success. Fortunately, I’m not going to be going near Pittsburgh or Virginia in the near future, so I won’t be tempted to give the sandwiches a try.
If the sandwiches are adopted on a national scale — and I have no doubt they will be — KFC or a competitor will have to figure out a way to push the culinary/calorie/carb envelope still farther. I’m guessing we’ll see bacon, cheese, and honey drizzle added to the combination next.
Here’s some very welcome news — it looks like The Far Side may be returning to the funny pages. (Well, perhaps not to the physical funny pages, because it looks like any new panels apparently will be offered online only, but you get the idea.)
Gary Larson’s The Far Side was unquestionably one of the most original — and funniest — cartoons ever conceived. It ran from 1980 to 1995 and brought a daily chuckle to millions of fans, including me. When it ceased its run we groaned, but clung happily to our favorite Far Side offerings. But recently The Far Side‘s official website posted a new cartoon, featuring the familiar Far Side cows, dogs, and women wearing cat-eye glasses being blowtorched out of an iceberg. Under the drawing was the announcement: “Uncommon, unreal, and (soon-to-be) unfrozen. A new online era of The Far Side is coming!”
I don’t think you can overestimate the significance of bringing a smile to people’s faces, especially in this era of so much rancor and discord. It would be a great thing if The Far Side made its return to brighten our days, Then, we could all start lobbying for a return of Calvin and Hobbes, too, and all would be right with the world.
This sizable, hand-lettered sign appeared yesterday on the Third Street bridge that links German Village to downtown Columbus. At first I thought the sign might be referring to the typically snarled traffic on the bridge — because bad traffic sure can seem like hell — then figured it was just some general encouragement for anybody who might be facing a tough patch in their lives. Since I was heading into work bright and early on a beautiful Sunday morning, the sign had some resonance for me.
What would motivate someone to create a sign like that, and post it on a fence on a public thoroughfare? I can only guess, but I thought it was nice to know that somebody cared enough about their fellow humans to fashion and display a generally applicable message that might give complete strangers a boost.
The quote on the sign is often attributed to Winston Churchill, but there’s serious question about whether he ever said it. Regardless of its source, it’s a useful thought to keep in mind when the super-busy or difficult times roll around. I was grateful to the anonymous sign creator as I walked on to work.
Ringo Starr is coming out with his 20th solo album, called What’s My Name, next month. The album will feature an intriguing track for the Beatles fans among us.
Sir Ringo will be singing a song written by John Lennon shortly before his death. The song, called Grow Old With Me, was recorded by Lennon on demo tapes for Double Fantasy, Lennon’s last album. When a record producer played the song for Ringo, who had never heard it before, he was touched by it and decided to record it — and he asked Paul McCartney to play bass and sing back-up. Sir Paul agreed, so the two surviving Beatles perform together again, on a song written by a third Beatle that includes a string arrangement that quotes from Here Comes The Sun, written by the fourth Beatle, George Harrison. Ringo’s new album also will feature a cover of the song Money, which the Beatles also recorded and performed.
I’ll be interested in hearing the song, which is as close as we’re going to get to a Beatles reunion these days. I also think it is pretty cool that Ringo, who is 79, and Paul, who is 77, are still active in performing and recording — and are thinking from time to time about their days in the Beatles and their now-departed bandmates in the greatest musical group ever assembled.
On September 2, 1969, a new machine was unveiled at the Chemical Bank branch in Rockville Centre, Long Island, soon to be followed by similar machines located outside bank branches across the country. The machine was an ATM — an automated teller machines that allowed users to get cash from their accounts at the press of a few buttons.
At first ATMs, like all new technological developments, were curiosities, and most people still got their money the old-fashioned way. They went into a bank, filled out a paper withdrawal slip, and presented it to one of the human tellers at a window, or they went through the drive-thru bank lane, interacting with a teller remotely and getting their money via pneumatic tube delivery. But as time passed people realized those ATM machines, once you got the hang of them, sure were convenient — and quick. You could get money when you needed it and on your schedule, without being at the mercy of your bank branch’s hours.
As their usage increased, the number and location of ATMs multiplied, moving from their initial locations at bank branches to appear just about everywhere. According to the article linked above, Chase Consumer Banking alone has 16,250 ATMs, and Bank of America has even more. And as the number of ATMs skyrocketed the functionality of ATMs has increased, too, moving beyond dispensing cash to allow users to perform just about every banking-related service they might choose. Chase says its ATMs now can do 70 percent of the things its human tellers can do for its customers.
People didn’t focus on it at the time, but ATMs were a precursor of the machine-oriented, self-service movement in American business. There’s a debate about whether ATMs have ultimately eliminated human teller jobs or have spread them out among more bank branches that have been opened, but one thing is clear: banking involves much less human-to-human interaction than used to be the case. Who knows the name of their bank branch manager? That’s become true in other businesses where self-service machines have been introduced, too. And in that sense ATMs helped to pave the way for internet-based businesses, cellphone apps, and other consumer-directed options that don’t involve fact-to-face communications with human beings anymore. We’re conditioned to doing things by tapping buttons on a machine, and there is no going back.
Happy 50th, ATMs! You’ve helped to change the world, for better or for worse.
For all of the talk about globalization, every once in a while we get a reminder that there are still a lot of differences between countries. One such reminder came this week, in a news story about a court ruling from France.
It’s a story about the unfortunate Xavier. a security technician who worked for a railway company near Paris. Xavier was sent on a business trip to central France by his employer. One night on the trip, the amorous Xavier had an extramarital relationship with a woman at her home one night — and then keeled over, dead, from a heart attack apparently related to the encounter. A health insurance fund concluded that Xavier’s demise was the result of a work-related accident, making the employer liable. The employer appealed, saying Xavier should be viewed, instead, as having interrupted his work-related trip for his tryst, so that the company was not responsible for his post-coital death.
Earlier this year a French court rejected the employer’s arguments. Under French law, any accident that happens on a business trip is considered to be work-related, even if the activity is not closely related to the purpose for the trip. The court ruled that French law protects employees engaged in everyday activities during business trips, unless they interrupted planned business activities, and the employer couldn’t show that Xavier was supposed to be working when he was having his fatal sexual encounter. And get this: the court noted that the insurance fund argued that sex was part of everyday life, “like having a shower or a meal.”
Casual sex with a stranger while you’re on a business trip is akin to taking a shower or eating breakfast? Only in France.
The other night I was searching for something to watch on TV. I flipped over to our Roku option, clicked on Netflix, and started to flip through the Netflix offerings. When I saw to my delight that Ken Burns’ The Civil War was available for free as part of my Netflix subscription, my choice was made.
First broadcast in 1990 — 29 years ago! — The Civil War is, in my book, the best documentary ever made. And while Ken Burns has made many fine documentaries since then, The Civil War remains his masterpiece. From the first strains of Ashokan Farewell that began playing at the beginning of Part One, to the lovely footage of cannons at sunset and the sun-dappled pastoral scenes and shimmering rivers on the battlefields that were drenched in American blood long ago, to the historic photographs of generals, privates, politicians, battle scenes, and the dead and the voice-over readings of speeches, letters, and diary entries of the participants, The Civil War is note-perfect from stem to stern.
Of course, Ken Burns had some great material to work with, but his great achievement was sifting through the enormous historical record and capturing the essence of the titanic, nation-defining struggle in an accessible way. The result is as riveting, as fresh, and as deeply moving now as it was when a nation first watched it, enthralled, during the George H.W. Bush administration. The Civil War tells a powerful story, and as I’ve watched the early episodes this week I’ve found myself rooting for Lincoln and the Union, and bemoaning the inept and egotistical Union generals and all of the early Confederate victories, just as I did almost three decades ago.
Sometimes TV is better the second — or even the third — time around. If you’ve got Netflix, The Civil War is well worth a second look.