Monday, July 16, 2018

Company Man explains Amazon's growth on Prime Day, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse

When I posted the following comment on When Collapse Goes Kinetic in response to Kunstler, I should have expected the responses.
"A freeze up of short-term lending would quickly lead to empty WalMart shelves" — Debt problems are already leading to thousands of stores closing including Toys R Us and Kmart.  The latter was WalMart's chief competitor.  Now, it and its sibling Sears are likely to finally go bankrupt in the next recession.  Welcome to the Retail Apocalypse!
FallenHero replied that "They closed because of amazon. When amazon starts closing maybe something will ‘happen’."  I told him that I didn't think that was the entire picture.
Amazon and the rise of online shopping are probably a necessary but not sufficient for the current travails of brick-and-mortor retail.  The chains that are failing are also victims of poor management and predatory financing.
FallenHero was not convinced.  In addition, two other readers at Kunstler's blog mentioned Amazon with one calling it a predator and another comparing it to the Soviet department store GOOM.  Oh, my, some people really don't like the tech retail giant.

They're not alone in blaming Amazon for contributing to the demise of the victims of the Retail Apocalypse.  I brought up Amazon in a reply to Kevin Robbins' comment Part 2 of Toys R Us in the Retail Apocalypse - Company Man in which he wrote "I suppose I can't blame Trump just because they ran the business like he would've."
As for not blaming Trump, that's true, as much as we'd like to. On the other hand, we can blame two of his rivals, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Mitt Romney of Bain Capital. Bain was one of the companies that bought Toys R Us in a leveraged buyout and left it saddled with debt.
All of this makes for an elaborate lead-up to noting that Amazon Prime Day begins today.  Company Man just happens to have the perfect video to answer the question How Did Amazon Get So Big?

Amazon famously started in someone's garage, yet today they're massive. This video details the strategy they've been using to make it happen.
Company Man mentions that Amazon has played a part in his videos about the decline of other retailers, including the one I embedded in Part 2 of Toys R Us in the Retail Apocalypse — Company Man, but otherwise doesn't allude to the disruption it has caused to brick-and-motor retailers or how it plans to take advantage of it.  Even Retail Archeology explained how Amazon was planning on takig over vacant Toys R Us locations.

I'm not done with the Retail Apocalypse.  Stay tuned for the installment about Payless Shoes that I promised in Radio Shack, a tale of the retail apocalypse from Company Man and Retail Archeology after another late celebration of World Population Day.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Drink to France in the World Cup on National Ice Cream Day 2018

While I'm done with drum corps and booze for the holiday, I'm not done with celebrating things French, as France plays Croatia in the World Cup.  More soccer!  Also, vive la France!
So I concluded Drink to a drum corps Bastille Day 2018 with the Santa Clara Vanguard and so I begin today's entry.

In a continuation of Vox explains the state of U.S. men's soccer plus how TV created the modern soccer ball, I present Why France produces the most World Cup players by Vox.

France has had the most native players and coaches in the last 4 World Cups… and their dominance has been on the rise. Players like Kylian Mbappe and Paul Pogba are the children of immigrants and the product of the French soccer academy system. French- born players have played for Togo, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Argentina, Portugal, and many more.
I'm lucky Vox produced this video.  Not only does it work for today's championship match, it nearly makes up for my not posting the "more humorous, if equally informative, compilation of John Oliver videos on FIFA and the World Cup" I promised two weeks ago.  I'll make up for not doing so by writing about the nine Emmy nominations "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" just earned.  Stay tuned for that after following me over the jump for an observance of National Ice Cream Day.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Drink to a drum corps Bastille Day 2018 with the Santa Clara Vanguard

Happy Bastille Day!  For the third year in a row, I am celebrating today as another drum corps holiday.  Two years ago, I featured Phantom Regiment's "City of Light" show.  Last year, I shared Cadets and Cadets 2 playing "Les Miserables."  This year, I return to the well to retrieve 2013 Santa Clara Vanguard - Les Misérables.

For a complete show, watch Santa Clara Vanguard Rehearsal of Les Misérables.

Performed at Hawk Stadium on the PG High School Campus in Texarkana, TX on Wednesday, July 24th.
That's a video that's been up nearly five years and is not likely to be taken down.

I mentioned drinking to the day.  That's because today is also National Grand Marnier Day.  Follow over the jump for the explanation of the day from National Day Calendar along with two Tipsy Bartender recipes that use Grand Marnier.

Friday, July 13, 2018

A supermoon solar eclipse on Friday the 13th

BewareIt's Friday the 13th!  Since I can't resist spectacular astonomical phenomena that coincide with the day, I am sharing There’s a Supermoon Solar Eclipse this Friday the 13th from USA Today with my readers.  Here's hoping the video embeds.

It worked!  Awesome!

Superstitions aside, this won't affect any of us in the Northern Hemisphere.  As Tech Times wrote, "Indeed, the supermoon event over the weekend is an extraordinary one. Unfortunately, though, it is not going to be witnessed across the world and that's why it's a bad luck for most people."  Darn.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Vox explains why seeking asylum in the U.S. is so difficult

I have been exploring the issues the U.S. has with Latin America with a light touch the past two days, first using National Pina Colada Day to revisit Puerto Rican Statehood, then examining the history of U.S.-Cuba relations on National Mojito Day.  Today, I take a more serious tack on how the U.S. deals with people from south of the border with help from Vox.  Watch Why seeking asylum in America is so difficult.

Asylum [seekers] have pushed the system to a tipping point.
Asylum is one way that refugees come to America. If you’ve already fled your home country for fear of persecution, and come to the United States, but don’t have refugee status, applying for asylum is the next step you take. It’s a small subset of the American immigration system, but it’s the mechanism behind so much of the news about border.

Families recently separated from their children at the border came seeking asylum. People fleeing from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador — an area known as the Northern Triangle — come to the United States seeking asylum. To even get a hearing before an immigration judge, potential asylum-seekers have to prove that they have what’s called “credible fear” of returning home. And this is where that backlog really begins.
While I'm not opposed to making asylum seekers jump through hoops to prove that they deserve to stay in this country, I am opposed to separating them from their children.  I also don't think that placing them in custody on military bases while their claims are being processed is a good idea, either.  Vox examines the rationale for doing so and finds it wanting in A new study blows up Trump’s “catch-and-release” myth.
President Donald Trump and other top administration officials have spent months railing against the release of immigrant families as a recipe for widespread lawlessness. They claim that once a family is released from immigration, they’ll simply abscond into the US, skipping their appointed court dates, to live as unauthorized immigrants. The administration makes it seem like this is a deliberate strategy — a known end-run around existing immigration law that takes advantages of extra protections afforded to children, families, and asylum-seekers.

But a new study, compiled by a pair of legal advocacy groups, shows that isn’t the case, and that the administration doesn’t have to choose between separating immigrant families (or detaining them indefinitely) and making sure they show up to court. The administration has identified a real problem, but misunderstands, or misrepresents, the cause.

The study confirms that families who cross into the US without papers often miss their court dates, but offers suggestive qualitative evidence — collected from families who were contacted by attorneys and notified that they’d missed their court dates — that many families aren’t deliberately absconding at all.

They’re trying to stay in the system. It’s just that the system makes it too hard for them, then punishes them with an order of deportation when they fail. The people whom the Trump administration is painting as lawless “absconders” are often just lost, confused, and overwhelmed families in a strange land, working as hard as they can to be allowed to stay here but faced with legal and bureaucratic obstacles that make missing a court date an understandable outcome.
That's a description of the problem, which includes asylum seekers having to update their addresses with multiple agencies, which they usually don't know to do and which results in them missing their court dates.  Vox offers a solution, but notes that the administration is unlikely to take it.
The administration could do a better job of coordinating between agencies so that migrants only needed to update their addresses once. It could adopt a case-management approach that assumed that people are trying to get through the system the right way and simply need a little help navigating it.

The Trump administration has not done that so far. It has instead adopted a blanket approach that assumes that any given family will evade the law if given the chance. It’s fighting in court to keep families under physical control in detention for as long as their cases take, while pressuring judges to speed up those cases so they can be deported more quickly, rather than ever getting released. And, when it fails, the administration is claiming that lawlessness is inevitable.

That’s the choice the administration has made. It’s the most punitive option available to them. It’s not necessarily the one best suited to the problem.
I am disappointed but not surprised that this administration has taken the most punitive approach possible.  It seems like punishment is the end, not just the means.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The history of U.S.-Cuba relations drives one to drink on National Mojito Day 2018

Happy National Mojito Day!  Just as the pina colada is a Puerto Rican drink, the mojito is a Cuban drink.  To celebrate, not only am I passing along drink recipes from Tipsy Bartender, I'm sharing A brief history of America and Cuba from Vox to educate my readers as well as entertain them.

150 years of tension may be coming to an end.
The key word is "may."  Vox posted that video in 2016 and relations have chilled since then.  I'll save that for part 2, which I'll post on National Daiquiri Day 2017.  Stay tuned, but first please follow over the jump for mojito recipes from Tipsy Bartender.

I begin with an updated version of the recipe I used in last year's Tipsy Bartender recipes for National Mojito Day, the Classic Mojito.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Drink to Puerto Rican Statehood on National Pina Colada Day 2018

Happy National Pina Colada Day, a celebration of the national drink of Puerto RicoLast year's observance was inspired by the success of A 51st star for Puerto Rico on Flag Day, so I will continue the tradition by examining the progress and prospects of statehood for Puerto Rico.

Fortunately, I have good news on that front, as Newsy reported Bipartisan bill would make Puerto Rico a state on June 27, 2018.

At least 20 Republicans and 14 Democrats have co-sponsored the bill.
Newsy mentioned Representative Stephanie Murphy.  Watch as she helps introduce the bipartisan Puerto Rico Statehood Bill.

Mr. Speaker:

I rise to express my support for bipartisan legislation to begin Puerto Rico’s transition to statehood.

There are over three million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico, and over five million individuals of Puerto Rican heritage in the states. My central Florida district is home to more Puerto Ricans than nearly any other district in the country.

I care deeply about Puerto Rico because my constituents care deeply about Puerto Rico. But every Member of Congress should care because Puerto Ricans are our fellow citizens. We’re part of the same American family.

Puerto Rico has been a territory for 120 years. Its residents are treated unequally under key federal laws. This impairs economic progress and quality of life, spurring migration to the mainland.

In addition, even though Puerto Ricans serve in the military with distinction, they cannot vote for their President and commander-in-chief, have no senators, and have one non-voting delegate in the House.

The hard truth is that Puerto Rico’s lack of political power too often makes it an afterthought in Washington, as the federal government’s poor response to Hurricane Maria made painfully clear.

I support statehood because I support equality. The people of Puerto Rico deserve the same rights and responsibilities as their fellow citizens in Florida and every other state. Puerto Rico has earned its star on the American flag.

Thank you.
Murphy isn't alone among Florida politicians in thinking this.  On June 30, WPLG reported After Hurricane Maria, Sen. Nelson says Puerto Rico should move toward statehood.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Record heat scorches southern California and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere

It's time to get back to reality today with the climate and weather news I promised in 'Black Panther' rules movie and TV winners plus humanitarian honorees at the BET Awards.  I begin with PBS NewsHour reporting Global temperatures reach extreme highs, breaking records.

Heat waves broke records around the world this week. While Burbank airport in California touched 114 degrees, Montreal in Canada recorded a high of 97.9 degrees. In Glasgow, Scotland, the temperature was a record-breaking 89.4 degrees on June 28 and a new world record was set off the coast of Oman, where the temperature never dropped below 108.7 degrees for 24 hours. Hari Sreenivasan reports.
According to Guinness World Records, the town of Quriyat in Oman set the record for record high low temperature on June 26, 2018 with the 108.7 degrees Fahrenheit.  The high temperature that day reached 121.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which Guinness noted was the temperature at which road surfaces start to melt.  The record high temperature still belongs to Death Valley, California, with 134 degrees Fahrenheit, set more than a century ago in 1913.

Speaking of California, it was the record heat in the town where I grew up that attracted my attention to this story.  Follow over the jump for video from CBS Los Angeles about the record high temperatures and accompanying fires in southern California.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

'Black Panther' rules movie and TV winners plus humanitarian honorees at the BET Awards

For today's Sunday entertainment feature, I'm following through on my idea to write about the BET Awards that I proposed in Radio Shack, a tale of the retail apocalypse from Company Man and Retail Archeology.  Hey, I can't be all DOOM all the time!

Before I announce the winners of the movie, TV, and humanitarian awards with help from Deadline Hollywood, I'm sharing Jamie Foxx Praises Black Panther & Michael B Jordan from BET Networks.

That set up a great night for "Black Panther."  The only negative thing I will say is about something that hasn't happened yet, but will.  In Drink to 'Avengers: Infinity War' having the best opening weekend box office of 2018 so far, I forecast that it would not hold onto at least two of its box office crowns.
At this rate, both films will reach $700 million at the North American box office with "Infity War" supassing both that level and "Black Panther" by tens of millions of dollars. $750 million is not out of the question.
That should happen by the end of July.  It could happen even earlier, as I predicted "Jurassic World 2" would pass "Deadpool 2" at the box office by the end of July.  It managed to do that Friday.

Still, that hasn't happened yet.  Deadline reported on what did.
Breakout Tiffany Haddish and Chadwick Boseman won for Best Actress and Best Actor respectively while Black Panther was crowned with the Best Movie Award.

“The film is about our experience being African American and also being from Africa,” said director Ryan Coogler in his acceptance speech. “It was about tapping into that voice we always hear that tells us to be proud of who we are.”
Don't just read the words; watch and listen for yourself in #WAKANDAFOREVER - 'Black Panther' Takes the Crown for Best Movie.

Ryan Coogler speaks on the importance of connecting the present with the past as we move toward the future. Powerful words for an iconic film.
In addition to Chadwick Boseman, six other performers from "Black Panther" earned nominations for acting awards for a total of seven nominees from one film.  Angela Bassett, Lupita Nyong’o, and Letitia Wright lost to Tiffany Haddish for Best Actress and Daniel Kaluuya, Michael B. Jordan, and Sterling K. Brown joined Boseman as nominees for Best Actor.

While "A Wrinkle in Time" lost to "Black Panther" for Best Movie, Ava Duvernay managed to win another statuette for Video Director of the Year Award, making her the third speculative fiction winner.  Congratulations!

Other speculative fiction nominees included Daniel Glover from "Solo: A Star Wars Story" for Best Actor and Caleb McLaughlin from "Stranger Things" for the Young Stars Award.  Yara Shahidi of "Black-ish" and "Grown-ish" won that last honor.

Deadline also mentioned the winners in real life.
The Humanitarian Heroes include[:] James Shaw Jr. the man who disarmed Waffle House shooter; Naomi Wadler, the memorable 11-year-old March For Our Lives speaker; Mamoudou Gassama, the man who saved a child from falling from a building; Justin Blackman, the only student to walk out of his high school on National Student Walk-Out Day; Shaun King, journalist who has told untold stories in the Black community; and Parkland survivor Anthony Borges.
I need to write about all these people on days other than Sunday, when this blog is supposed to be about reality instead of fantasy.  At least I've blogged about  March For Our Lives, so that takes care of three of them.

That's it for this week's Sunday entertainment feature.  The next time I write about awards shows should be for the Teen Choice Awards, then the Emmy Awards.  Before then, I have some climate news.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Vox explains the state of U.S. men's soccer plus how TV created the modern soccer ball

Yesterday, I told my readers to stay tuned"= because I would write about the World Cup.  Today is the first of at least two planned entries on the world's most watched sporting event, an informative post using videos from Vox.*

I begin with Why Americans suck at soccer (well, the men).

We’ve got a theory, and it involves the soccer wars.
In this episode of Vox Almanac, Vox’s Phil Edwards puts forth a theory about terrible American men’s soccer.

There are a lot of reasons Americans suck at soccer - but if you look at the history, you’ll find a surprisingly compelling explanation for why American soccer never took off. In the 1920s, soccer was a surprisingly successful sport in the US, with massive matches and a robust league. What went wrong?

American soccer and English football first diverged in the 1800s, when American colleges like Harvard and Yale started playing a more rugby-like game. But America quickly caught up with soccer in the 1920s, attracting large crowds and even stealing away European players.

Then the soccer wars happened. Constant battles in the 1920s between the ASL - American Soccer League - and USFA — United States Football Association — carved up American soccer’s cash, fans, and talent. By the time the depression hit, American soccer was so weakened that it couldn’t rebound as well as European and South American soccer culture did. The subsequent half-century of sports build up gave Americans a permanent handicap when it came to building a robust soccer culture.

It’s a theory — but the success of the US Women’s National Team bears out the idea that something is specifically wrong for the men. And it just might be the case that 1920s soccer wars are the reason.
Vox is right.  For the third most populous and wealthiest country on Earth, the United States has a really weak men's soccer team.  We should be doing better.

Next, How TV gave us the classic soccer ball.

The 2018 World Cup football is a nod back to an iconic design.
When you think of a soccer ball, you probably imagine a classic black-and-white paneled ball. It’s known as the Telstar ball, and it was created thanks to TV.

The 1966 World Cup in England was broadcast live across the globe and it was at this point that television became a huge part of the sport. Thanks to the BBC, it was seen by four hundred million people. But spotting the ball was a bit challenging.

Back then, soccer balls looked more like reddish-brown volleyballs. And on black-and-white TVs, it didn’t really stand out from the green field.

By the 1970 World Cup, the soccer ball had changed to that classic Telstar. The contrasting panels made it stand out on TV. Plus, the players loved it because the 32 panels brought the ball closer to an actual sphere.

This year’s World Cup ball is called the Telstar 18, a nod to the original design. While the panels have changed to just six propeller-shaped pieces to make the ball even more spherical, the black-and-white checkered design is back.
I had no idea that television had such a strong influence on the coloration of soccer balls.

Speaking of which, my old junior high school, which was named after an astronomer, had the Telstar (the first communications satellite) as its mascot.  When it became a middle school, it changed its mascot to the lion.  When I found out, I had a brief pang of nostalgia and moved on.  In the 1960s and 1970s, the Telstar had meaning.  Now, not so much.  At least the name lives on in the design of the soccer ball.

*The next one will be a more humorous, if equally informative, compilation of John Oliver videos on FIFA and the World Cup.  I might get to that Monday.  Stay tuned.