Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Company Man and WXYZ on KMart, a tale of the retail apocalypse

It was all the way back in April that I wrote Toys R Us closing down and Kmart may follow.  Since then, I posted a three-part series about it's sister store Sears and three more entries about the last days of Toys R Us, but I haven't followed up on KMart.  It's time to do that, with the first video by Company Man, in which he asks The Decline of Kmart...What Happened?

The future of Kmart doesn't look bright. This video tells how Kmart got where they are today, their current situation, and my predictions for the future of the company.
I can't resist including the entire segment from WXYZ on Original KMart store closing.  Detroit represent!

Shoppers share their thoughts after the announcement that the original KMart store in Garden City will close its doors.
After watching both of those videos, I'm amazed that KMart is still in business.  I will stick to the prediction I made back in April: "I suspect Kmart [will] follow Toys R Us into bankruptcy once the holiday shopping season is over and could be closed by the end of 2019, just when I'm predicting the U.S. to be in recession."  That goes for Sears, too, since they're the same company.

Retail Archeology has three videos about the last KMart in Phoenix, Arizona closing last year.  I'll save that for a future entry, after I post the video about JCPenney I promised in Payless Shoes, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse.  That will be next month, which begins in four hours.  I'll begin by observing Earth Overshoot Day on time.  Stay tuned.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Vox explains how not to get phished (like the DNC)

This week, Vox followed up on Vox explains how Russian trolls weaponized social media with How not to get phished (like the DNC).

The Democratic National Committee was hacked because of a single email.
New indictments against twelve Russian hackers give us a detailed account of just how they infiltrated the Democratic National Committee’s network.

It started with a single spear phishing email; a personalized, targeted hacking attempt sent to an employee at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Once inside the DCCC network they were also able to gain access to the DNC using malware on employee’s computers.

In 2016 the Russian hackers stole thousands of emails and sensitive documents — all because of one phishing email.

It’s not just political organizations that are at risk: you’ll likely be targeted as well. And it’s getting harder and harder to spot a fake email or text message. Find out how to prevent hackers from getting to you, too.
Vox's timing was impeccable.  The day it posted this video, news came out that Senator Claire McCaskill's campaign was the target of a phishing attack.  Yesterday, the headline at The Hill read Senate Dem: ‘Widespread’ phishing attacks targeting political parties, senators.
Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) on Sunday warned of "widespread" phishing attacks against Senate offices and political parties across the country, revealing that her office had already notified authorities of one suspicious experience.

"There has been one situation that we have turned over to authorities to look into," Shaheen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"We're hearing that this is widespread with political parties across the country, as well as with members of the Senate."

Shaheen's comments came after Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) confirmed last week that her Senate computer system had been targeted unsuccessfully by Russian hackers.
Here we go again.  Expect to read more stories about Putin's hackers and agents attempting and sometimes succeeding in interfering with our elections this year, along with cybercriminals stealing people's personal and financial information this way.  In the meantime, try to stay safe online.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

'Riverdale' and 'Stranger Things' lead television nominees at the 2018 Teen Choice Awards

It's Entertainment Sunday.  I told my readers the subject of today's entry at the end of Defunctland on Action Park for National Waterpark Day: "Stay tuned for part two of the speculative fiction nominees at the 2018 Teen Choice Awards, which will serve as the Sunday entertainment feature."  To get things started, I present two videos from Shine On Media, beginning with 2018 Teen Choice Award Nominees - Wave 1: Infinity War, Shadowhunters, Riverdale & More.

Teen Choice Awards have released the first wave of nominees for the 2018 show and they include Avengers: Infinity War, Greatest Showman, Timothee Chalamet, Shadowhunters, Riverdale, Stranger Things, Shawn Mendes, Ariana Grande, Dolan Twins & many more.
I covered all the movie nominees in this wave in Speculative fiction movie nominees at the 2018 Teen Choice Awards, but saved this video until now for the television nominees.

Now for the second video, 2018 Teen Choice Award Nominees - Bughead, BTS, Malec, Dolan Twins, Etc (Wave 2).

Teen Choice Awards have released the final wave of nominees for the 2018 show and they include BTS, Dolan Twins, Riverdale, Stranger Things, Cloak & Dagger, Liza Koshy, Shadowhunters and more!
This has all the rest of the television nominees, but also the rest of the movie nominees, which I forgot to included in part one.  Oops.  Time for me to add those categories in a rare after-the-fact edit.*

Between the two waves, "Riverdale" has the most nominations with twelve followed by "Stranger Things" with nine.  Follow over the jump for all of their nominations plus the other TV nominees in categories that include speculative fiction nominees from Wikipedia along with my opinions of their merits and chances, which aren't always the same thing.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Defunctland on Action Park for National Waterpark Day

Happy National Waterpark Day!
On July 28, laughter and fun are just a couple of the requirements on National Waterpark Day! We recommend bathing suits, too!

Waterparks around the world provide thrilling, water plunging rides for those who seek the white-knuckle hydro powered slides. For those who prefer to relax and unwind, lazy rivers, wave pools and spas in tropical scenes satisfy these vacationers.

With so many options to choose from, waterparks can be more than just a portion of a vacation. They can be the destination. In the United States, nearly every state has a waterpark.
Coincidentally, one of those states is New Jersey, which had its national day yesterday.  That leads me to the special video from Defunctland already picked out that I promised twice, Defunctland: The History of Action Park.

Defunctland takes on Vernon, New Jersey's infamous water park, Action Park! Watch and learn the full history of this dangerous amusement park.
Between this video and the one on America Sings, I seem to have picked the more gruesome attractions to feature here.  I'd like to promise that future selections won't be this grim, but after National Roller Coaster Day, the next time I plan on using a Defunctland video will be for Halloween.  Trick or treat!

Stay tuned for part two of the speculative fiction nominees at the 2018 Teen Choice Awards, which will serve as the Sunday entertainment feature.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Vox and Tipsy Bartender for Shark Week 2018

"It's Shark Week, an event I skipped last year, so I'm making up for it by celebrating it tomorrow with a video I showed my class last week."  That's what I wrote yesterday about what I would write today, so, without any further ado, I present Vox's Why no aquarium has a great white shark.

Many have tried to keep a white shark in captivity. Here's why that's so difficult.

There are several aquariums around the world, including one in Georgia, that house whale sharks, the biggest fish in the sea. But not one has a great white shark on display.

Aquariums have made dozens of attempts since the 1970s to display a captive great white shark. Most of those attempts ended with dead sharks.

By the 2000s, the only group still trying was the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which spent a decade planning its white shark program. In 2004, it acquired a shark that became the first great white to survive in captivity for more than 16 days. In fact, it was on display for more than six months before it was released back into the ocean.

In the following years, the Monterey Bay Aquarium hosted five more juvenile white sharks for temporary stays before ending the program in 2011. It was an expensive effort and had come under criticism due to injuries that some of the sharks developed in the tank.

Responding to those critics, Jon Hoech, the aquarium's director of husbandry operations, said: "We believe strongly that putting people face to face with live animals like this is very significant in inspiring ocean conservation and connecting people to the ocean environment. We feel like white sharks face a significant threats out in the wild and our ability to bring awareness to that is significant in terms of encouraging people to become ocean stewards."

Check out the video above to learn why white sharks are so difficult to keep in captivity and how the Monterey Bay Aquarium designed a program that could keep them alive.
That bit about buccal pumping is something I used when talking about not only how fish pump water through their gills, but also how amphibians breathe.  It was more useful than I expected when I first showed it!

Just like 2016 and 2015, I'm including a shark drink from Tipsy Bartender.  Follow over the jump!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Speculative fiction movie nominees at the 2018 Teen Choice Awards

I concluded 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' on North Korea, a triple Emmy nominee by telling my readers to "stay tuned for the speculative fiction nominees at the Teen Choice Awards."  As I did last year, I begin with the movie nominees.  Here they are from Billboard, along with my comments on them.
Choice Action Movie (#ChoiceActionMovie)

Avengers: Infinity War
Justice League
Maze Runner: The Death Cure
Pacific Rim: Uprising
Tomb Raider
Based on the box office, I'd say "Avengers: Infinity War" will be the winner.  It's also the early favorite for the Saturn Award in the Comic-to-Motion-Picture category.  I expect to see both "Tomb Raider" and "Pacific Rim: Uprising" nominated as well.  As for "Justice League," based on what I wrote in 'Black Panther' vs. 'Wonder Woman' at the Saturn Awards for a late Free Comic Book Day, should be happy just to be nominated.
Choice Action Movie Actor (#ChoiceActionMovieActor)

Chris Evans – Avengers: Infinity War
Dylan O’Brien – Maze Runner: The Death Cure
Henry Cavill – Justice League
John Boyega – Pacific Rim: Uprising
Robert Downey Jr. – Avengers: Infinity War
Tom Holland – Avengers: Infinity War
With the youthful electorate, I expect Tom Holland has the inside track.  I'd like to think that his winning Best Young Movie Performer at the Saturn Awards would be an indicator, but I suspect the MTV Movie & TV Awards would be a better indicator.  The fly in the ointment might be all of the Avengers splitting the vote and John Boyega, who was nominated for acting in two different genres, sneaking on by.
Choice Action Movie Actress (#ChoiceActionMovieActress)

Alicia Vikander – Tomb Raider
Amy Adams – Justice League
Elizabeth Olsen – Avengers: Infinity War
Gal Gadot – Justice League
Scarlett Johansson – Avengers: Infinity War
Zoe Saldana – Avengers: Infinity War
The best actresses here are Alicia Vikander and Amy Adams, but I think Gal Gadot is the favorite. ETA: After all, she's the defending winner. Here is Gadot accepting her trophy last year.

Choice Sci-Fi Movie (#ChoiceSciFiMovie)

Black Panther
Blade Runner 2049
Ready Player One
Thor: Ragnarok
Now I begin to take issue with the categorization of the nominees.  In this case, it's "Thor: Ragnarok" that is in the wrong place; it's either a fantasy movie or an action movie, not a science fiction movie.  Despite the depiction of the Asgardians as aliens, they are still Norse gods.  "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" belongs here instead.  On the other hand, I have no issue with "Black Panther" as a science fiction movie and I think it will win.  As for "Rampage" and "Ready Player One," I'm looking forward to both being nominees at the Saturn Awards next year.
Choice Sci-Fi Movie Actor (#ChoiceSciFiMovieActor)

Chadwick Boseman – Black Panther
Chris Hemsworth – Thor: Ragnarok
Dwayne Johnson – Rampage
Mark Ruffalo – Thor: Ragnarok
Ryan Gosling – Blade Runner 2049
Tye Sheridan – Ready Player One
Remember what I wrote above about the MTV Movie & TV Awards being a good indicator?  Based on those, I expect Chadwick Boseman to win this category.  On the other hand, I'm not sure that Dwayne Johnson will be nominated for this role at the Saturn Awards.  Another role, maybe.
Choice Sci-Fi Movie Actress (#ChoiceSciFiMovieActress)

Danai Gurira – Black Panther
Letitia Wright – Black Panther
Lupita Nyong’o – Black Panther
Naomie Harris – Rampage
Olivia Cooke – Ready Player One
Tessa Thompson – Thor: Ragnarok
An older electorate voted for Danai Gurira at the Saturn Awards, but I suspect either the young crowd voting here will pick Letitia Wright or the "Black Panther" fans will split their vote and either Tessa Thompson or Olivia Cooke will sneak on by.  Speaking of which, Cooke might get a nomination at the Saturn Awards, although I don't know what the cutoff for Young Performer is.
Choice Fantasy Movie (#ChoiceFantasyMovie)

A Wrinkle in Time
Peter Rabbit
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
While I think "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" should switch with "Thor: Ragnarok," that won't stop either it or "Coco" from winning this category.  I won't see "Peter Rabbit" at the Saturn Awards, as it was eligible last year but passed over for "Paddington 2," but I'm sure I'll see "A Wrinkle in Time" nominated.  Also, couldn't a fifth fantasy film have been nominated?  I'd say "It" except that it was rated R (hah, a film the cast couldn't see).
Choice Fantasy Movie Actor (#ChoiceFantasyMovieActor)

Anthony Gonzalez – Coco
Gael García Bernal – Coco
James Corden – Peter Rabbit
John Boyega – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Mark Hamill – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Oscar Isaac – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
I'd vote for Mark Hamill so that he could repeat his Saturn Award win, but I wouldn't be surprised if one of the voice actors, particularly Anthony Gonzalez or James Corden, wins instead.
Choice Fantasy Movie Actress (#ChoiceFantasyMovieActress)

Carrie Fisher – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Daisy Ridley – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Mindy Kaling – A Wrinkle in Time
Oprah Winfrey – A Wrinkle in Time
Reese Witherspoon – A Wrinkle in Time
Storm Reid – A Wrinkle in Time
If the "A Wrinkle in Time" fans unite for anyone, it will probably be Storm Reid (adults would probably vote for Oprah).  If they split their vote, I think the surfboard will go to Daisy Ridley, who is nominated elsewhere.  I expect I will see three of the above actresses nominated at the Saturn Awards, Reid, Oprah, and Reese Witherspoon.

Speaking of elsewhere, follow over the jump for the nominees in two categories, Drama and Comedy, that I would expect to skip except that both categories have speculative fiction nominees.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' on North Korea, a triple Emmy nominee

I promised twice to cover the third nominated episode of "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, which is about North Korea, so here is North Korea.

As nuclear tensions continue to escalate between the United States and North Korea, John Oliver enlists "Weird Al" Yankovic to perform some accordion-based diplomacy.
That's definitely funnier than Vox explains the 'nuclear button' and KFC trolls McDonalds in response to Trump, which was the 31st most read entry during last year, as I chronicled in Vox on U.S. withdrawing from Iran nuclear agreement helps update doom and risk for the seventh year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News.  It's also better, as it earned three Emmy nominations, Outstanding Directing For A Variety Series, Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Variety Series Or Special, and Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control For A Series, all of which were probably from the "Weird Al" Yankovic segment.  Hey, he beat Warren G. Harding!  I doubt that Vox's Here's how Trump's nuclear "button" actually works..., which I embedded in Vox explains the 'nuclear button' and KFC trolls McDonalds in response to Trump, will earn more than one News and Documentary Emmy Award nomination, if even that, when they are announced tomorrow.

In addition to the six episode-based nominations I described, "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" earned nominations for Outstanding Variety Talk Series, Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series, and Outstanding Interactive Program.  I'll be profiling its notable competitors beginning next week.  In the meantime, stay tuned for the speculative fiction nominees at the Teen Choice Awards.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Vox explains how Amelia Earhart became famous on her national day

Today is National Amelia Earhart Day, which is also her birthday.  To celebrate, I'm sharing The real reason Amelia Earhart is so famous from Vox.

A carefully executed publicity campaign turned a pretty average pilot into an aviation legend.
Amelia Earhart is often thought of as the first or greatest female pilot of her time. But the real reason she is seen as an aviation legend comes from a carefully executed publicity campaign starting with her transatlantic passenger flight in 1928, which launched her out of obscurity and into celebrity status. From there, she pursued an ambitious career of record-breaking and stunts in order to stay in the headlines and fund her aviation career.
National Day Calendar told its readers to observe the day "by researching and reading more about this famous female aviator, her achievements, career, and disappearance."  Watching this video counts.

Today is also National Tequila Day, but I save my celebration of that drink for Cinco De Mayo.  Instead, stay tuned for another entry about John Oliver followed by the coverage of the Teen Choice Awards I promised, then a celebration of National Waterpark Day.  I have a special video from Defunctland for the occasion.

Monday, July 23, 2018

'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' on the Border Patrol, an Emmy-nominated episode

"'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' has seven more nominations for me to cover, to say nothing about all the other nominees in politics, science, and speculative fiction.  Stay tuned."  That was the promise I made at the end of 'Last Week Tonight' on the now-dead Sinclair-Tribune merger and long-dead Warren G. Harding, a double Emmy nominee and that's the promise I'm (partially) keeping today.

The next nominated episode I'm covering is Border Patrol, which is competing with Episode 418, the one that contained segments about both Sinclair Broadcast Group and wax President Harding and which I covered yesterday, for Outstanding Picture Editing For Variety Programming.  Yes, the show is competing with itself, but I'm not worried, as it won the category last year and the year before.*  Please watch.

Donald Trump's plan to hire more Border Patrol agents could lead to more corruption and misconduct. If only their recruitment ads were designed to attract the most suitable applicants.
Even though this episode is 11 months old, it is still timely, as it ties into why seeking asylum in the U.S. is so difficult.  The same is true of the third nominated episode with three nominations, which I'll cover tomorrow.  It's about North Korea.  Stay tuned.

*One of the other nominees is  "The Great American* Puerto Rico (*It's Complicated)," which I covered in Samantha Bee helps update 'Vox on Puerto Rico statehood and John Oliver on territories,' the fourth most read entry of the seventh year of Crazy Eddie's Motie News.  I didn't realize I was looking forward to the current Emmy Awards, but I was.  I'll be sure to post more videos from that special in a future installment.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

'Last Week Tonight' on the now-dead Sinclair-Tribune merger and long-dead Warren G. Harding, a double Emmy nominee

Last year, 'Last Week Tonight With John Oliver' led variety talk shows at the Primetime Emmy Awards with eight nominations in seven categories.  This year, it exceeded last year's haul with nine nominations in eight categories.  Two of them, Outstanding Production Design For A Variety, Reality Or Reality-Competition Series and Outstanding Picture Editing For Variety Programming, went to the episode centered around the segment Sinclair Broadcast Group, a topic in the news.

Sinclair Broadcast Group is the largest owner of local TV stations in the country. That's alarming considering that they often inject political views into local news.
Oliver was pretty certain that the merger would go through.  It didn't.  As Ars Technica reported Thursday, FCC votes against Sinclair/Tribune merger, likely dooming deal.
The Federal Communications Commission has voted unanimously against approving Sinclair Broadcast Group's acquisition of Tribune Media Company, likely dooming the merger.

Technically, the commission adopted a Hearing Designation Order that refers the merger to an administrative law judge. Mergers usually don't survive that legal process. Besides referring the merger to a judge, the FCC's other options included denying the merger outright, approving the merger, or approving it with conditions. The unanimous vote to refer the merger to a judge was finalized on Wednesday evening.

Sinclair's problems stem from its plan to divest some stations in order to stay under station ownership limits. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai proposed the designation order on Monday, saying that Sinclair's proposal to divest certain stations "would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law."

"When the FCC confronts disputed issues like these, the Communications Act does not allow it to approve a transaction. Instead, the law requires the FCC to designate the transaction for a hearing in order to get to the bottom of those disputed issues," Pai said Monday.
Fox Business sounded even more pessimistic in its analysis, declaring Sinclair-Tribune deal is dead for now: Charlie Gasparino.

FBN’s Charlie Gasparino discusses the latest on the FCC’s concerns regarding the Sinclair-Tribune deal.
Good news for people concerned about corporate consolidation and a balanced media environment!  It's enough to get me to post Professor Farnsworth.

To be fair, as important and informative as that segment was, it probably wasn't what earned this episode its Emmy nominations.  In fact, at least one of them definitely went to Harding, which served as the episode's conclusion.

John Oliver unveils Last Week Tonight's collection of presidential wax statues and brings Warren G. Harding's incredible life story to the big screen.
That was even more hilarious than the first time I watched it!  I can't wait to see what he does with the other four presidents.

"Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" has seven more nominations for me to cover, to say nothing about all the other nominees in politics, science, and speculative fiction.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Update on gas and oil prices plus a double driving update for July 2018

Pearl rolled over 41,000 miles on July 17th and Snow Bear passed 3,000 miles yesterday, July 20th, so it's time for an update on oil and gas prices plus a double driving update.*

I left off with crude oil prices over $70 per barrel back in May.  Ali Velshi on MSNBC updated his viewers a month later with President Donald Trump Demanding Cut In Oil Prices To Lower Gas Prices.

Prices at the pump are higher than they were last summer and President Trump is demanding oil prices be cut to bring them down. Ali Velshi breaks down how this could actually cost Americans a lot of jobs.
Crude oil, particularly West Texas Intermediate (WTI), fell below $70 after the May update, but were starting to rise again in late June, when Velshi reported on the story.  They continued to rise into early July, when CBS This Morning asked What's behind the spike in gas prices?

Gas prices this Fourth of July are expected to be the highest in four years because of the rising cost of oil. One reason for the increase is a smaller-than-expected production boost by OPEC, the group of oil producing nations. Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, joins "CBS This Morning" to discuss what's behind the price increase.
Donald Trump jawboning the Saudis didn't have quite the effect he hoped, at least in the short term, as WTI soared above its highs in May.  That continued the next week, as seen when Fox Business examined the economic impact of rising gas prices.

OPIS chief oil analyst Tom Kloza on the outlook for oil prices

Crude oil prices have since declined, but remain above $70 per barrel, as Reuters reported yesterday.
The expiring U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude for August delivery settled up $1.00 at $70.46 a barrel, while the more liquid September contract rose 2 cents to $68.26 a barrel. U.S. crude ended the week down nearly 1 percent.

Brent crude settled up 49 cents at $73.07 a barrel. Brent fell 3.1 percent in the week.
The decline in oil prices, which I usually see as a positive, was not the result of good news, as the Reuters article noted.
Lower oil demand in the United States and China caused by an economic slowdown due to the trade spat between the two countries would likely weigh heavily on markets, some analysts said.

“The impact on world economic growth of a levy of this magnitude will be severe and will likely have a strong negative impact on markets,” said Olaf van den Heuvel, chief investment officer at Aegon Asset Management.
Once again, Trump is doing things that increase the likelihood of the U.S. entering recession in the next year.†

Speaking of which, an indicator that I've been following since before I started writing this blog has turned negative.  Doug Short, quoting the U.S. Department of Transportation, reported on cumulative miles driven on July 2, 2018.
"Travel on all roads and streets changed by -0.2% (-0.5 billion vehicle miles) for April 2018 as compared with April 2017. Travel for the month is estimated to be 272.4 billion vehicle miles." The 12-month moving average was down 0.02% month-over-month and up 0.8% year-over-year. If we factor in population growth, the 12-month MA of the civilian population-adjusted data (age 16-and-over) is down 0.09% month-over-month and down 0.2% year-over-year.
On can see the recent decline in total miles driven in the U.S. on the following chart, especially in the inset "A Close Look Since 2007."

Higher gas prices are finally making people drive less.  Fortunately, Amazon is making it easier for people to shop from home, allow retail sales to contine rising.  That alone might keep the economy afloat longer than it would have otherwise.

It could be a lot worse.  WPLG Local 10 in Miami reported last week Flights canceled to Haiti amid protests over gas prices.

U.S. airlines announced Saturday that the companies had halted all flights to Haiti amid violent protests on the island over rising fuel prices.
That was on July 7th.  A week later, the Miami Herald reported Haiti’s government falls one week after unpopular fuel price hike led to riots.  Yikes!  That's something right out of "The End of Suburbia."

Enough of the oil situation.  Follow over the jump for my usual analysis of my family's driving habits.

Friday, July 20, 2018

NASA committed to return to the Moon for National Moon Day 2018

Happy National Moon Day!  For this year's celebration of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon, I'm following up on returning to the Moon, one of the rejected ideas for last year's Moon Day.

The first video from NASA reiterates an action mentioned in NASA looks back at 2017 and ahead to 2018, New Policy Directs NASA to Return Astronauts to Moon.

Acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot and National Space Council Executive Secretary Scott Pace comment on Space Policy Directive 1, signed Monday, Dec. 11, 2017, by President Trump at the White House. The policy calls on NASA to work with international and commercial partners to send humans to the Moon, with a horizon goal of sending astronauts to Mars.
NASA posted that video in December of last year.  This May, NASA reiterated its commitment in Administrator Bridenstine: ‘We Are Going to the Moon’.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine asked commercial companies to help get the agency back to the Moon as quickly as possible during an 'industry day', Tuesday, May 8, 2018, held at NASA Headquarters in Washington. NASA is calling for commercial proposals for delivering instruments, experiments, and other small payloads to the surface of the Moon as early as next year. This solicitation is part of a broader Exploration Campaign that will pave the way for a human return to the Moon.
I hope this results in a crewed mission to the Moon.  As I wrote first in Trump pulls a Gingrich on space and again in Bill Nye and I get our wish from Trump on Mars, sort of, "space policy is the one area where Trump might actually be good for the country."  I hope I'm right.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Cuba trade restrictions drive one to drink on National Daiquiri Day 2018

After the Vox video I included in The history of U.S.-Cuba relations drives one to drink on National Mojito Day 2018, I observed that things didn't turn out as well as Vox had hoped.
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.
It's National Daiquiri Day, a celebration of another Cuban drink, so it's also time for me to continue with an examination of U.S.-Cuba relations.

In November 2017, CBS Miami reported U.S. Tightens Restrictions On Cuba Travel, Business & Trade.

CBS Miami's Eliott Rodriguez reports on new changes to the U.S. business, travel and trade policies with Cuba.
Trump mostly reversed Obama's lifting of the trade and travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba.  While that was generally popular with Cuban-Americans in Florida, it did hurt some Americans.  KARK reported in June on their Senators' and Representatives' efforts to ease restrictions in Pro-Cuba Trade Lawmakers Hope to Open up Cuban Market to American Farmers.

Arkansas wasn't the only state involved.  The High Plains-Midwest Ag Journal quoted Senators from Kansas and Minnesota who also wanted to ease restrictions for agricultural imports.
“With an open market to Cuba, Kansas could top $55 million in additional sales. While we are renegotiating our trade deals, we have a $2 billion market untouched right under our nose. It is time to throw support behind this mutually beneficial economic opportunity. It is through leadership in Congress, and discussions like this roundtable that we will begin to make these lasting changes,” [Representative from Kansas Roger] Marshall said.
“I’m grateful to have participated in this important discussion. The time to begin renewing our relationship with our neighbors just 90 miles off the Florida coast is now. With American farmers suffering some of the lowest commodity prices we have ever seen, Congress has an opportunity to take action and make real change,” [Representative from Minnesota Tom] Emmer said.

“The Cuba Agricultural Exports Act, sponsored by Rep. Crawford, would lift financing restrictions imposed by the embargo on agriculture exports. The result would be relief for our farmers and a first step toward redefining the American-Cuban relationship. While my bill, the Cuba Trade Act, accomplishes the ultimate goal or lifting the embargo completely, passing Rep. Crawford’s bill can, and should, happen immediately.”
Unfortunately, as Politico reported, Senate farm bill stalled by Rubio's Cuba crusade.
The Florida Republican on Wednesday declared on Twitter that he’d block any new amendments to the farm bill unless the Senate votes to strike a provision that would allow USDA funding for foreign market development programs to be spent in Cuba — or until senators adopt his proposal to ban U.S. taxpayer dollars from being spent on businesses owned by the Cuban military.
In the end, the House and Senate passed different versions of the Farm Bill, so it's going to a conference between the two chambers to reach a compromise.*

Meanwhile, as the Miami Herald reported just yesterday, Miami Democrat says Cuba visit reinforced need to lift embargo.
David Richardson, a state representative who for the last six years has represented Miami Beach and Little Havana, spent roughly 36 hours in Cuba this week, returning to Miami on Tuesday night. He said his visit — focused on meetings with local business owners and members of the country’s gay community — reinforced his opinion that the trade embargo put in place after Fidel Castro’s revolution has been counterproductive.

“We need to lift the embargo,” Richardson told the Miami Herald. “I absolutely believe that the people in Cuba are being harmed right now because of this policy. We need to lift the embargo so that ordinary citizens can be empowered and through their empowerment they will change policy in Cuba. It’s ridiculous or nonsense for us to believe that a continuation of a failed policy that’s 60 years old is going to somehow change the minds of the Cuban regime.”
All of this is enough to drive one to drink.

On that note, follow over the jump for two daiquiri recipes from Tipsy Bartender.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Payless Shoes, a tale of the Retail Apocalypse

I told my readers to "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" at the end of A belated World Population Day 2018.  That's not the first time I mentioned the chain; that was in last month's Business Insider on dead malls in the Retail Apocalypse with assistance from Dan Bell and Radiohead.  It's time to deliver another episode in my ongoing series, tales of the Retail Apocalypse.

I begin the story with Payless Closing Stores from WFLA News Channel 8.

That's a decent overview that places the chain's bankruptcy into perspective, as Payless was the ninth retailer to declare bankruptcy in the first four months of 2017, but it lacks personality and a sense of deeper history.  For that, I turn to Retail Archeology's Payless ShoeSource: Doesn't It Feel Good To Pay Less Anymore?

This episode features a video tour of 2 Payless ShoeSource stores. Payless ShoeSource filed for bankruptcy in April of 2017 and announced 400 store closures.
That 400 store number ended up being conservative.  As the following graphic from Business Insider on stores closing in the Retail Apocalypse shows, Payless ended up closing 800 stores by the end of 2017.

Looking at that graphic, I realize that I have quite a few more chains to write about.

Before I do, I am sharig what passes for a local angle on this story, Payless Shoes Closing it's Doors in Alpena Mall from WBKB-TV.

I wish the mall manager luck in finding a store to replace Payless.  When I checked the mall's website, I found three clothing stores, none of which were the ones he named.  On the other hand, I did see a JCPenney.  I might write about them next week.

In the meantime, stay tuned for a National Daiquiri Day follow up to The history of U.S.-Cuba relations drives one to drink on National Mojito Day 2018

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

A belated World Population Day 2018

Once again, welcome to another late celebration of World Population Day because I was writing about U.S.-Cuba relations on National Mojito Day 2018 for July 11 instead.  One of these days, I will celebrate it on time, which means I might just return to posting two entries on the same day, something I haven't done since July 4, 2016.

All that is in the future.  For now, I begin with WION (World Is One News) reporting World Population Day aims to raise awareness about reproductive health.

World Population Day aims to raise awareness about reproductive health. The world currently has more than 7 billion people. World Population Day was first observed in 1989.
Based on the number of videos I found on YouTube, World Population Day is big in India.  This one was the one with best balanced the presentation of the facts with comprehensible English.

Next, The Economic Times explains World Population Day: Watch how population density affects us.

Every year since 1989, July 11 is celebrated as World Population Day. It seeks to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. The theme for this year is 'Family Planning is a Human Right'. Here's a look at people in numbers around the world.
That's a very good presentation of the largest and smallest cities in the world, which I could have used yesterday when I lectured about megacities.

Finally, Mr. Cool Creations made an earnest if flawed attempt to inform its viewers in World Population Day 2018 Facts | Top 10 Countries Population.

World Population Day 2018 is celebrated on June 11th to raise the awareness of global overpopulation issues.

The world population day 2018 theme is "Family Planning is a Human Right"

The event was established by the Governing Council of the United Nations Development Programme in 1989.
The Top 10 Population Countries in The World 2018 are:
1. China 1,415,158,817 (1.41 Billion)
2. India 1,354,356,630 (1.35 Billion)
3. U.S.A. 326,813,937 (326 Million)
4. Indonesia 266,852,421 (266 Million)
5. Brazil 210,900,269 (210 Million)
6. Pakistan 200,891,968 (200 Million)
7. Nigeria 195,978,247 (195 Million)
8. Bangladesh 166,402,941(166 Million)
9. Russia 143,964,199 (143 Million)
10. Mexico 130,791,803 (130 Million)
I also could use the information in this video for my classes, although I won't show this video; it made the mistake of using a Japanese woman to represent China.  Oops.

That's it for World Population Day for this year.  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.

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.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Radio Shack, a tale of the retail apocalypse from Company Man and Retail Archeology

I told my readers yesterday to "Stay tuned for another post about the Retail Apocalypse" today.  The subject of today's tale of business failure is Radio Shack, which I first mentioned as a subject of this series in Part 2 of Sears, a tale of the retail apocalypse a month ago.  Now that I'm done with Toys R Us, I can move on to this nearly extinct electronics chain.

I begin with Company Man, who also covered Toys R Us.  A year ago, he asked The Decline of RadioShack...What Happened?

RadioShack has been on a tremendous decline over many years. It's been much longer and more severe than I realized. But what exactly happened? What happened that turned the successful company RadioShack into what it is today?
It looks like another story of mismanagement, predatory financing, and lack of keeping up with the times.

Company Man provided a very good aerial view.  Follow over the jump to see what the decline of Radio Shack looked like on the ground from Retail Archeology.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Vox debates 'The Star Spangled Banner'

July 4th was yesterday, but I'm not done with patriotic music; as I wrote yesterday, I would write about the national anthem today.  To that end, here is Vox explaining Why the US national anthem is terrible — and perfect.

Vox's Estelle Caswell and Joss Fong debate "The Star Spangled Banner"...

When Francis Scott Key attached his poem about the War of 1812 to a popular British song called "To Anacreon in Heaven," he kicked off over 200 years of painfully bad singing by patriotic Americans. The Star Spangled Banner became the official national anthem of the United States in 1931, but it had been used by the Army and Navy for decades before that and was popular from the start. One big problem? The melody wasn't exactly written for the masses, but for trained soloists.

Commentators pointed out early on that it was exceedingly difficult for most people to sing, suggesting that "America the Beautiful" might be a better alternative. Critics have noted that the music requires a uniquely wide vocal range, it's full of tricky intervals, and the lyrics are confusing and uninspiring.

But if you look at the national anthem as a sport, where we get to watch performers at the top of their game tackle the gauntlet that is the Star Spangled Banner, you may come to appreciate it. In this video, we debate whether the difficulty of the Star Spangled Banner is a feature or a bug for a national anthem.
I'm not a big fan of "The Star Spangled Banner" for the reasons mentioned in the video, but I'm not so worked up over it that I am going to agitate for "America the Beautiful" to replace it.  Besides, it can be sung beautifully.  Listen to this rendition by the vocalists of The Cadets.

Happy Fourth of July from The Cadets!

In case that looks familiar, it's because I added it to last year's Drink to a drum corps 4th of July from The Cadets.  I couldn't avoid drum corps entirely on this holiday!

I also can't escape Tipsy Bartender.  Here is the drink I wrote that I had picked out yesterday, Jello Shot American Flag.

Now I'm done with the holiday!  Stay tuned for another post about the Retail Apocalypse tomorrow.