Branded Brand

I’m in Washington, D.C. for meetings, staying in the old part of town between the Capitol and the White House.  Last night I had dinner with a colleague.

When my friend reached out to me last week to make arrangements for meeting for dinner, he carefully raised two issues:  first, did I like steak, and second, if I did like steak, would I mind going to the steakhouse in the Trump International Hotel, which is located in the Old Post Office building that is very close to my hotel?

I chuckled a bit at the cautious way in which my colleague approached even the  possibility of eating dinner at a restaurant in a Trump property.  Clearly, he was wary that even though the venue was very convenient and the restaurant had a good reputation, just making such a suggestion might bring an explosion and denunciation in response to the very thought of passing under the Trump name.  And his careful approach was entirely justified, because there is no doubt that a significant segment of the American population has sworn off ever doing anything that involves setting foot on the premises of a Trump property or that might be viewed as acceptance or support of the Trump brand.  Me?  I like steak and especially like being able to walk to a convenient dining venue, so I agreed to have dinner at the Trump International steakhouse — which was very good, by the way.

Still, I found the incident pretty remarkable.  I’m not familiar with the value of the Trump brand prior to his run for the presidency, but it seems pretty clear that it has been affected, and not in a good way, by Trump’s behavior on the campaign trail and as President — to the point where even mentioning the possibility of visiting a Trump property for dinner is a subject to be approached with delicacy and trepidation lest sensibilities be bruised and personal relationships be shattered.

That’s not exactly a good attribute for a brand.

Welcome To The Twilight Zone

Sometimes you really do have to wonder about hotel interior decorators.

The goal of hotel room design should be simple: to provide a setting that is warm, welcoming, and functional for the weary traveler. Weirdness should be avoided, not embraced. And designers should remember that no one goes to a hotel room hoping to enjoy its avant garde flourishes or revel in its cutting edge accent pieces.

So how do you explain a hotel room that prominently features a large vase in the form of a human head missing the top part of its skull that looks like it is rising from the countertop with eyes that follow you around the room? It’s the kind of piece that Dr. Hannibal Lecter might have kept in his kitchen as a cookie jar. It’s the kind of unsettling touch that encourages the guest to make triple sure that the door is double locked and there are no unpleasant surprises lurking in that darkened closet.

Apparently nothing says “welcome” like a dead-eyed representation of human head that is prepped for brain surgery!

Last Piece Of Pie Lament

It was a fine Thanksgiving holiday, marked by good food, good company, and another glorious win over That Team Up North.  But as the weekend drew to a close, one last piece of culinary temptation remained, to remind me of one of my weaknesses:  I’m helpless in the presence of pumpkin pie.

Last Piece Of Pie Lament

O get thee gone, last piece of pie!

I can’t resist you and I don’t know why!

I’ve gobbled taters, stuffing and turkey

So much the details seem quite murky.

Yet still with you temptation remains

And once more my willpower strains.

Is it the spice, or the moistened crust

That reduces my resolve to dust?

Or the sweet memory of pies gone by

That causes the impulse I can’t deny?

Whate’er it is, I know I’ll succumb

And have to finish every crumb.

You’ve won again, and your crusty ilk

So now I’ll eat you with a glass of milk. 

 

Freedom To Brawl

It’s Black Friday.  Those who are in the grip of Black Friday mania have already been out at the stores for hours, tussling over the electronic gadgets and big screen TVs and kids’ toys that are the staples of Black Friday sales.  If you don’t already have somebody’s grandmother in a headlock in your efforts to get one of the last sale items at Walmart, you’re probably not going to be venturing to the stores today.  And, you’re probably feeling embarrassed about how the whole Black Friday spectacle reflects poorly on those of us who live in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.

artworks-000452007756-44zv8j-t500x500But, should you be embarrassed, really?  Or, should you, upon careful reflection, realize that Black Friday riots are instead a quintessential expression of American freedoms that, while not specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights, are nevertheless core parts of the American experience?

I’m talking about things like freedom to shop for hours.  Freedom to demonstrate unseemly personal greed.  Freedom to make a complete horse’s ass of yourself in a public setting.  Freedom to go deeply into debt on credit cards.  And freedom to spoil your kids rotten with the stuff that you ultimately purchase on Black Friday and then give to them on Christmas.

The Spectator has published a defense of Black Friday brawling.  It provides some interesting information about Black Friday — like how it was invented in Philadelphia and initially called Big Friday before it was rebranded with the same name as a great Steely Dan song, and how there are places where you can actually make wagers on how many people will be killed in Black Friday fracases versus how many people will die in shark attacks.  Hey, why not?  It turns out that, by some counts, you’re more likely to die in a Black Friday fistfight with some turkey and stuffing-stoked Mom in the aisle of an electronics store than in the jaws of a Great White.

This year, instead of shaking my head in disbelief at the antics of crazed shoppers on Black Friday, I’m going to celebrate the mania>  But my personal celebration won’t involve heading out to the stores.  Instead, I’ll revel in the footage of shoppers throwing haymakers as just another thing that makes America great.

When Do You Eat?

Most families have their own unique Thanksgiving Day traditions.  Sometimes the traditions come in the form of a special food — like Aunt Sue’s candied yams, or Uncle Frank’s oyster stuffing — but other traditions may involve who gives thanks, who sits in which seat at the table, and who carves the turkey.  One tradition that often differs from family to family is:  when do you eat the primary meal?

us-thanksgiving-me_3510533aI say “primary meal” because, in our household, Thanksgiving Day typically involved pretty much uninterrupted eating, from stem to stern.  There was the initial breakfast period, followed by the light grazing period, the heavy grazing period, the meal itself, and finally the irresistible post-meal, belt-loosened extra piece of pumpkin pie or leftover turkey sandwich while watching the last football game of the day.  So, just to clarify, here I’m talking about the table-groaning meal where you actually sit down together, eat the freshly carved turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and a few rolls, and take a slice of the cranberry relish that still is in the form of a can because somebody has to do it.

In our family the primary Thanksgiving meal came at roughly 4 p.m., depending on whether the turkey was done.  The meal was strategically positioned between the end of the first football game broadcast and when the next game started to get interesting.  At our house, that timing of the meal was so deeply engrained that it never occurred to me that you could eat your Thanksgiving meal in any other time slot.  When I later realized that some people ate at noon, or 2, or (horrors!) 6:30, it was an astonishing revelation.  And I often wondered how you could move the meal and still fit in the other parts of the Thanksgiving Day festivities, like watching the parades, the various grazing periods, the backyard touch football game, and the evening card games.

So, when do you eat?  And if you doubt that the timing of that primary Thanksgiving meal is a tradition, ask yourself why you eat when you do.  If your honest answer is a shrug and the response that you’ve always eaten at that time, that sounds like a family tradition to me.

Amazon Is Everywhere

The depth of Amazon’s penetration of American popular culture is pretty amazing.  Last week, for example, we needed some white cranberry juice to prepare a seasonal cocktail we were making for a gathering with friends.  Kish went to several grocery stores in Columbus and couldn’t find any.  We decided to give Amazon a try, and sure enough, it offered Ocean Spray white cranberry juice — which was delivered to our doorstep the next day, with no muss and no fuss.  Pretty convenient!

But I had no idea of the stunning breadth of Amazon’s business activities until I got a surprise while walking the dog.

In our neighborhood, there are a few strategically placed containers where dog owners can get free poop bags.  It’s a good idea for the neighborhood, because it gives dog owners no excuse but to clean up after their pooches, and it’s a blessing for the dog owners who otherwise might be caught short in the crucial bag department.  The bags had been made by anonymous companies and featured cartoon drawings of happy (and apparently relieved) dogs — until now.  I stopped by one of the containers last week, pulled out two of the plastic baggies so I would have a ready supply, and saw to my surprise as I was putting them into my back pocket that they were from AmazonBasics and featured the familiar swish/smile logo.  So, Amazon has now made crucial inroads into the German Village canine poop bag market.

It’s hard to imagine that poop bags are a very lucrative, high-margin item for a supplier, but I guess if you’re aiming to dominate the supply of every product Americans might need, poop bags are just another item on the list.  And the poop bag itself makes it clear that Amazon isn’t just looking at America, either — the bags I took feature the suffocation hazard warning in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, and Japanese.

Achtung!  Amazon is everywhere!

 

A Reason For The Ratings

Apparently some people on the conservative side of the spectrum are noting that the ratings for the impeachment hearings aren’t very strong. They cite the ratings to argue that the American public at large just isn’t interested in the proceedings.

They’ve clearly overlooked one obvious reason for the viewership statistics: why watch during the day when you can come home at night and get utterly unbiased and objective reactions to the proceedings from your Facebook friends, left and right?

We may be living through social media’s finest hour!