Thursday, November 27, 2014


I write this on the day before Black Friday (which some people call Thanksgiving). I work at Target. In fact, I will be there tomorrow morning at 7:00am greeting the happy shoppers.

I have no insider knowledge of Target or the retail world. I am a grunt. In fact, my job title is “Cockroach.” However, my sense of the upcoming retail shopping season is that it will suck. I am predicting an extremely weak Christmas for the Targets and Best Buys and WalMarts and Kohl's of the world.

This feeling grows out of impressions only; there is nothing I can point to that even qualifies as “evidence.” However, there are a lot of little things that lead me here. Sales of high-end gourmet prepared foods seem to me to have become rather soft lately. Instead of the delicately seasoned jerk chicken breast in cryovac, people have been choosing the basic, vastly-cheaper raw chicken breast they have to season and prepare themselves. The organic milk (that costs 30% more than regular milk), doesn't seem to move as fast as it used to. The continuing push to up the ante on Black Friday shopping (Target opens at 6:00pm on Thanksgiving this year), suggests desperation rather than intelligent merchandising. I just don't see anything encouraging in the department-store/big-box world at the moment.

Copyright2014Michael Kubacki

Thursday, November 6, 2014


We used to see people walking the streets or riding the subway talking to themselves, but we never see them anymore. Actually, they haven't disappeared, but we now assume that everyone who talks to himself in public is using Bluetooth. We're so certain of this that we don't bother looking for the device clipped to the ear. Actually, a certain percentage of those folks don't have a phone. They are just old-fashioned loonies.


A related point: other insane persons now call themselves “performance artists.” Out of politeness, we don't question this.


Remember Geronimo's Cadillac? The American Indian Movement? The takeover of Alcatraz? The occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973? Drunken Ira Hayes?

Everything You Know About Indians Is Wrong” is a charming and cynical little book written in 2009 by Paul Chaat Smith, currently a curator at the National Museum of the American Indian in D.C., (which he describes as “a bad idea whose time has come”). Smith was once an activist himself and is now a lecturer and critic who has lived through every twist and turn of Indian politics, art and culture over the past sixty years. Much of the humor here grows out of his contempt for the cheesy romanticism (the “noble savage” myths and the phony environmentalism, in particular), that has infected white America's view of the Indian since actual warfare ceased 120 years ago.


Everybody generalizes.


Mnemonic to remember the seven Central American countries: “Be good, Elliot: have no colon problems.” (Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.)


Mnemonic for the seven sovereign Stans: “Keep tensions underground---put away that knife!” (Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgystan.)


Recipes which have the word “BLENDER” in their title are only successful when an electric blender is used.” ---Joy of Cooking, by Rombauer and Becker (October 1972 edition).

Joy of Cooking, though it seems to have fallen out of fashion, retains its hard-nosed yet poetic charm. (E.g., How to skin an eel---page 355.) It is at least as amusing to leaf through as the Larousse Gastronomique, which can seem a bit snooty and authoritarian at times.


On Ridge Avenue in Philadelphia, I often pass this sign for a local business:

God creates....
We exterminate.

Every time I see it, I wonder about the people who own the place. Is this really the idea you want to implant in the heads of potential customers? Does it really sell pest control services to remind people that mice, fleas and cucarachas are also God's creatures? Who, other than someone who hates God, would ever give them a call?


Today at Target, I saw a woman in the full Muslim abaya and niqab, jet-black from head to toe, with just a slit for her eyes. As I passed her, I noticed she had a security badge of some type clipped to her robe. It was apparently issued by her employer and it featured a full color photo of her face and hair.


Higher education prices are one of the more opaque areas of the economy in America, and pretty much the only thing any of us know for sure is that, much like the world of oriental carpets, nobody pays retail. There's always a discount available, or in-state rates, or financial aid, or some private scholarship for which certain students qualify, or under-market-rate loans, or work-study stipends, or something. When you see that MIT tuition for a year is $43, 016, we all know that nobody is paying it.

There's a reason for this, of course, and it's the same reason nobody pays retail in the oriental carpet world. They don't want you to see what is going on behind the curtain. There are agendas. There are Indians and Mexicans and black students to be taken care of, as well as other, more obscure, diversity angles. There is “social justice” at work. And don't forget the war on women.

The race discrimination (and other types of group-identity discrimination) that the left is so fond of is under attack in many places, and some states have outlawed race discrimination in college admission policies. But the price of college for a particular student remains a secret and thus can still be used as a means of advancing the radical left's discriminatory and redistributionist philosophy. I don't know (nobody does), but I'll bet college pricing is used for that purpose.

I would like to see a study on this. I would love to see a study of tuition at, let's say, the University of Wisconsin. On average, how much (after all the discounts and freebies and scholarships) do white males pay? Blacks? Asians? Women? Then I'd like to see the numbers at Princeton and Auburn and a half dozen other places.


I never lived in New England, I've never spent a lot of time there, and I've never had a spiritual experience involving maple syrup. Nothing against the stuff, you understand, but faced with a stack of pancakes, Mrs. Butterworth will do me just fine. However, I've learned a thing or two about maple syrup recently.

For one thing, there are different grades of maple syrup, and people have strong feelings about them. Recently, in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, a waitress in a diner was stabbed by a customer who had been served dark amber Grade A maple syrup rather than the Grade B he had requested. A local jury deliberated for three days until denying his claim of self-defense (based on the syrup switch), but convicted him only of disorderly conduct rather than the attempted murder charge the state had demanded.

I made that up, of course. I doubt anyone ever got stabbed over the wrong grade of maple syrup, but the world of BIG MAPLE SYRUP is a complex and dangerous place, with many different classification systems and many different organizations all vying for supremacy, including the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, the Minnesota Maple Syrup Producers Association, the International Maple Syrup Institute, the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association and the Ohio Maple Producers Association. (Ohio? Really? They make maple syrup in Ohio??? OK, and let's put an NHL franchise in Rio de Janiero.)

It's a lot like boxing in the 1970's when there were numerous boxing federations, each of which had its separate heavyweight champion, or maybe it's like when the papacy went all schismy in the 14th Century and there were competing popes in Rome and Avignon and Kansas City and Malibu and nobody knew who the real one was or how to get to heaven.

But the real problem is that there are different grading systems for different colors and tastes and qualities of syrup, and there have to be because different colors taste different. Vermont Fancy, for example, is very light in color, so light in fact that most syrup literature strongly implies it is fit only for sissies. Then there's Grade A medium amber, Grade A dark amber, Grade B (which is even darker), and Grade C, which is so dark and so foul that it is apparently only used for industrial purposes like making candy or coating the underbelly of a Ford F-150. Don't memorize these categories, however, because they are all being changed to a different system (which the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association ominously describes as “Mandatory in 2015”). To wit: everything from Vermont Fancy to Grade C will now be categorized as either “Grade A Golden,” “Grade A Amber,” “Grade A Dark” or “Grade A Very Dark.” Even the maple syrup world changes with the times, apparently, and since we all now get a trophy just for showing up, all maple syrup will soon be Grade A, even the stuff underneath your pickup truck.

Unless you are in Canada, naturally. There, probably because a lot of them speak French, they don't use letters, only numbers, so if you happen to ask for Grade A in a restaurant in Nova Scotia, they assume you are an syrup terrorist from Vermont and, after a fair trial, set you adrift on an ice floe. “But we do not have this Grade A, mon frere; here we have only the maple syrup numero un, deux or trois. Prepare to die.”

A month ago, I didn't know any of this because in the temperate zones outside of New England and Canada, all we ever see in stores is Grade A medium amber. Then a friend brought me a gift: a bottle of Grade B. Good stuff, I thought to myself, slathering it on a pancake. Then I took out my Grade A medium, poured it on another flapjack for a little in-home Pepsi challenge, and---wow! That brought it home! Grade A medium amber is pitiful stuff indeed, but you don't find that out until you taste the Grade B. It was like I had never had a pancake before. It was like I had never tasted syrup before. It was like I had never had breakfast.

Why does this happen? Why don't they ship the Grade B to the “lower forty-eight,” or whatever they call the states that are not Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts or New York? Well, there's a reason for that too, but you're not going to like it. Most of the Grade B produced gets shipped to California where the last thing they would do with it is pour it on a waffle, as God intended. Instead, it is combined with cayenne pepper and used as a “cleanse.” And what is a “cleanse,” you ask? Well, it's a California thing and you wouldn't understand. If you must know, ask Dr. Oz.


Monday, November 3, 2014


Daniel Snyder
Redskin Park
21300 Redskin Park Drive
Ashburn, VA 20147-6100

Re: The “redskins” issue

Dear Mr. Snyder:

I have a suggestion for how your organization might deal with the continuing attacks, by activists, politicians and the media, on the name “Washington Redskins.” I applaud your steadfast and reasonable attitude on this (non)issue, but it must be an annoyance, especially since you have to wonder if it will ever be put to rest.

Since the team has no official mascot, why not get one that effectively divorces the “Redskin” name from American Indians? Hire yourself a mascot to jump around on the sidelines in a redskin potato costume. Have your concession stands sell a snack made from redskin potatoes. Sell hats with plastic redskin potatoes on them. Sell bags of “Washington Redskins” in local supermarkets.

Nothing would stop fans like Chief Zee from wearing feathered headdresses and carrying foam tomahawks and the team would do nothing to discourage them. Having an official mascot of a redskin potato, however, would blunt the attacks of activists and fanatics and, at the same time, subtly mock the political correctness of it all.