Please send as far and wide as possible.
Editor, The Konformist
The Konformist now officially dubs the day after Thanksgiving
as "Capitalism Day" to celebrate the greatest economic system known
to mankind. How do you celebrate Capitalism Day? Easy. You buy
Who Named The Big Mac?
Having just digested a giant Thanksgiving meal, The Konformist's
Robalini sets out to answer a question behind another great American
cuisine tradition. Just who did name the McDonald's Big Mac the Big
Mac? (Or, as they say in French, "Le Big Mac.")
According to Wikipedia:
Original names for the burger included "Aristocrat" & "Blue Ribbon
Burger", but the actual name "Big Mac" was created by Esther
Glickstein Rose, a then 21 year old Advertising Secretary who worked
at McDonald's Corporate office in Chicago.
Though this piece of information is unsourced, it can be confirmed
by The Konformist to be 100% true. The reason? Esther Glickstein
Rose is the mother of regular Konformist Kontributor Scott Rose, of
Scottworld.com. In fact, Ms. Rose has received official
acknowledgement from McDonalds for coining the most famous name in
American (if not world) cuisine.
As a side note, they didn't give her any special bonus money for the
name, which makes it arguably the most cost-effective marketing idea
in the history of the world...
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With each purchase of these books through the publisher's Web site,
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If you prefer shopping at Amazon.com, you can find these books
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Thanks and Happy Holidays.
Motor City named nation's most dangerous
By DAVID N. GOODMAN, Associated Press Writer
Mon Nov 19, 2007
In another blow to the Motor City's tarnished image, Detroit pushed
past St. Louis to become the nation's most dangerous city, according
to a private research group's controversial analysis, released
Sunday, of annual FBI crime statistics.
The study drew harsh criticism even before it came out. The American
Society of Criminology launched a pre-emptive strike Friday, issuing
a statement attacking it as "an irresponsible misuse" of crime data.
The 14th annual "City Crime Rankings: Crime in Metropolitan America"
was published by CQ Press, a unit of Congressional Quarterly Inc. It
is based on the FBI's Sept. 24 crime statistics report.
The report looked at 378 cities with at least 75,000 people based on
per-capita rates for homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault,
burglary and auto theft. Each crime category was considered
separately and weighted based on its seriousness, CQ Press said.
Last year's crime leader, St. Louis, fell to No. 2. Another Michigan
city, Flint, ranked third, followed by Oakland Calif.; Camden, N.J.;
Birmingham, Ala.; North Charleston, S.C.; Memphis, Tenn.; Richmond,
Calif.; and Cleveland.
The study ranked Mission Viejo, Calif., as the safest U.S. city,
followed by Clarkstown, N.Y.; Brick Township, N.J.; Amherst, N.Y.;
and Sugar Land, Texas.
CQ Press spokesman Ben Krasney said details of the weighting system
were proprietary. It was compiled by Kathleen O'Leary Morgan and
Scott Morgan, whose Morgan Quitno Press published it until its
acquisition by CQ Press.
The study assigns a crime score to each city, with zero representing
the national average. Detroit got a score of 407, while St. Louis
followed at 406. The score for Mission Viejo, in affluent Orange
County, was minus 82.
Detroit was pegged the nation's murder capital in the 1980s and has
lost nearly 1 million people since 1950, according to the Census
Bureau. Downtown sports stadiums and corporate headquarters along
with the redevelopment of the riverfront of this city of 919,000
have slowed but not reversed the decline. Officials have said crime
reports don't help.
Detroit police officials released a statement Sunday night disputing
the report, saying it fails to put crime information into proper
"Every year this organization sends out a press release with big,
bold lettering that labels a certain city as Most Dangerous, USA,"
Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings said in the release.
"It really makes you wonder if the organization is truly concerned
with evaluating crime or increasing their profit," said Bully-
Cummings, who noted the complete report is available only by
purchase. "With crime experts across the country routinely
denouncing the findings, I believe the answer is clear."
The mayor of 30th-ranked Rochester, N.Y. an ex-police chief
himself said the study's authors should consider the harm that the
"What I take exception to is the use of these statistics and the
damage they inflict on a number of these cities," said Mayor Robert
Duffy, chairman of the Criminal and Social Justice Committee for the
U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The rankings "do groundless harm to many communities," said Michael
Tonry, president of the American Society of Criminology.
"They also work against a key goal of our society, which is a better
understanding of crime-related issues by both scientists and the
public," Tonry said.
Critics also complain that numbers don't tell the whole story
because of differences among cities.
"You're not comparing apples and oranges; you're comparing
watermelons and grapes," said Rob Casey, who heads the FBI section
that puts out the Uniform Crime Report that provides the data for
the Quitno report.
The FBI posted a statement on its Web site criticizing such use of
"These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables
that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or
region," the FBI said. "Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or
incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions
adversely affecting communities and their residents."
Doug Goldenberg-Hart, acquisitions editor at CQ Press, said that the
rankings are imperfect, but that the numbers are straightforward.
Cities at the top of the list would not be there unless they ranked
poorly in all six crime categories, he said.
"The idea that people oppose it, it's kind of blaming the
messenger," Goldenberg-Hart said. "It's not coming to terms with the
idea that crime is a persistent problem in our society."
The report "helps concerned Americans learn how their communities
fare in the fight against crime," CQ Press said in a statement. "The
first step in making our cities and states safer is to understand
the true magnitude of their crime problems. This will only be
achieved through straightforward data that all of us can use and
The study excluded Chicago, Minneapolis, and other Illinois and
Minnesota cities because of incomplete data.
Associated Press writer Jim Salter in St. Louis contributed to this
On the Net:
CQ Press: http://www.cqpress.com
American Society of Criminology: http://www.asc41.com
Huge Water Park Planned for Ariz. Desert
Nov 19, 2007
By CHRIS KAHN
Associated Press Writer
MESA, Ariz. (AP) - By tapping rivers and sucking water from deep
underground, developers have covered Arizona with carpets of Bermuda
grass and dotted the parched landscape with swimming pools, golf
courses and lakeshore homes.
Now another ambitious project is in the works: A massive new water
park that would offer surf-sized waves, snorkeling, scuba diving and
kayakingall in a bone-dry region that gets just 8 inches of rain a
"It's about delivering a sport that's not typically available in an
urban environment," said Richard Mladick, a Mesa real-estate
developer who persuaded business leaders in suburban Mesa to support
the proposal called the Waveyard.
Artists' drawings of the park show surfers gliding through waves
that crash onto a sandy beach and kayakers navigating the whitecaps
of a wide, roiling river. Families watch the action from beneath
picnic umbrellas. If constructed, the park would use as much as 100
million gallons of groundwater a year.
Mladick, 39, said he wanted to create the kind of lush environment
he remembers from growing up in Virginia Beach, Va., and surfing in
Morocco, Indonesia, Hawaii and Brazil.
"I couldn't imagine raising my kids in an environment where they
wouldn't have the opportunity to grow up being passionate about the
same sports that I grew up being passionate about," he said.
The Waveyard, to be built 15 miles east of Phoenix, would dwarf the
typical water-slide parks familiar to many Arizona families.
It will include an artificial whitewater river with multiple
channels where kayakers can test themselves on Class 2 to Class 4
rapids. Visitors could enjoy an artificial beach and a simulated
ocean capable of producing different size waves, from 12-foot
barreling waves to tamer chop for boogie boarders.
The 125-acre park will feature a scuba lagoon, a snorkeling pond
with reefs and a rock-climbing center.
The Waveyard is envisioned as the summer equivalent of a ski resort
only with more choices, Mladick said. "We really struggle with the
theme-park comparison. This is based on skilled sports."
The park will also have restaurants, a shopping district, a spa, and
a hotel and conference center.
Jerry Hug, a businessman who co-founded the project, said he expects
it will eventually generate more than $1 billion in revenue and
create 7,500 jobs. That is especially attractive in Mesa, a city of
about 460,000 people that has struggled to keep up with the booming
development of its neighbors.
"We don't have a property tax in our city," said Eric Jackson,
chairman of the Mesa Chamber of Commerce. "It requires us to be very
heavily dependent on revenues from sales taxes."
Mesa voters overwhelmingly approved their proposal on Nov. 6,
granting the Waveyard an estimated $35 million in tax incentives
with more than 65 percent of the vote.
No citizens groups overtly opposed the project, but its water usage
may raise questions in the future as the growing Phoenix areas
struggles to replenish its vast aquifer. Arizona has been in a
drought for a decade, and rivers that feed Phoenix and surrounding
communities experienced near-record low measurements this year.
"Water is a scarce and valued commodity," said Jim Holway, associate
director of the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State
Holway said the Phoenix area currently enjoys huge supplies of
underground water. But it's tough to determine exactly how long
communities can sustain their rate of water consumption, given that
global warming may make the desert even drier.
The Waveyard will need as much as 50 million gallons of water at
first to fill its artificial oceans and rivers.
Replenishing water lost to evaporation and spillage will require
another 60 to 100 million gallons per year, enough to support about
1,200 people in the Phoenix area.
Project organizers say they won't tap Mesa's drinking water supplies
to fill the park. Instead, they plan to draw from a well that has
elevated levels of arsenic, which makes its water unsuitable for
drinking. The Waveyard will build a treatment plant to make the
water safe for swimmers.
Rita Maguire, a former director of the Arizona Department of Water
Resources who studied water availability for Waveyard developers,
said the project will not use any more water than one of Arizona's
many golf courses.
"Initially, the reaction is, 'Oh my. Is this an appropriate use of
water in a desert?'"
"But recreation is a very important part of a community. And if you
can make the use of that water in a highly efficient way, it's a
smart choice," she said.
Holway agreed, saying communities could do a better job using water
in public spaces "that everybody can enjoy as opposed to having lush
yards that we just lock behind fences."
"From that point of view, maybe this is a good thing."
On the Net:
November 18, 2007
Sweeping the Clouds Away
By VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN
Sunny days! The earliest episodes of "Sesame Street" are available
on digital video! Break out some Keebler products, fire up the DVD
player and prepare for the exquisite pleasure-pain of top-shelf
Just don't bring the children. According to an earnest warning on
Volumes 1 and 2, "Sesame Street: Old School" is adults-only: "These
early `Sesame Street' episodes are intended for grown-ups, and may
not suit the needs of today's preschool child."
Say what? At a recent all-ages home screening, a hush fell over the
room. "What did they do to us?" asked one Gen-X mother of two,
finally. The show rolled, and the sweet trauma came flooding back.
What they did to us was hard-core. Man, was that scene rough. The
masonry on the dingy brownstone at 123 Sesame Street, where the
closeted Ernie and Bert shared a dismal basement apartment, was
deteriorating. Cookie Monster was on a fast track to diabetes.
Oscar's depression was untreated. Prozacky Elmo didn't exist.
Nothing in the children's entertainment of today, candy-colored
animation hopped up on computer tricks, can prepare young or old for
this frightening glimpse of simpler times. Back then as on the
very first episode, which aired on PBS Nov. 10, 1969 a pretty,
lonely girl like Sally might find herself befriended by an older
male stranger who held her hand and took her home. Granted, Gordon
just wanted Sally to meet his wife and have some milk and cookies,
but . . . well, he could have wanted anything. As it was, he fed her
milk and cookies. The milk looks dangerously whole.
Live-action cows also charge the 1969 screen cows eating common
grass, not grain improved with hormones. Cows are milked by plain
old farmers, who use their unsanitary hands and fill one bucket at a
time. Elsewhere, two brothers risk concussion while whaling on each
other with allergenic feather pillows. Overweight layabouts, lacking
touch-screen iPods and headphones, jockey for airtime with their
deafening transistor radios. And one of those radios plays a late-
'60s news report something about a "senior American official"
and "two billion in credit over the next five years" that conjures
a bleak economic climate, with war debt and stagflation in the
The old "Sesame Street" is not for the faint of heart, and certainly
not for softies born since 1998, when the chipper "Elmo's World"
started. Anyone who considers bull markets normal, extracurricular
activities sacrosanct and New York a tidy, governable place well,
the original "Sesame Street" might hurt your feelings.
I asked Carol-Lynn Parente, the executive producer of "Sesame
Street," how exactly the first episodes were unsuitable for toddlers
in 2007. She told me about Alistair Cookie and the
parody "Monsterpiece Theater." Alistair Cookie, played by Cookie
Monster, used to appear with a pipe, which he later gobbled.
According to Parente, "That modeled the wrong behavior" smoking,
eating pipes "so we reshot those scenes without the pipe, and then
we dropped the parody altogether."
Which brought Parente to a feature of "Sesame Street" that had not
been reconstructed: the chronically mood-disordered Oscar the
Grouch. On the first episode, Oscar seems irredeemably miserable
hypersensitive, sarcastic, misanthropic. (Bert, too, is described as
grouchy; none of the characters, in fact, is especially sunshiney
except maybe Ernie, who also seems slow.) "We might not be able to
create a character like Oscar now," she said.
Snuffleupagus is visible only to Big Bird; since 1985, all the
characters can see him, as Big Bird's old protestations that he was
not hallucinating came to seem a little creepy, not to mention
somewhat strained. As for Cookie Monster, he can be seen in the old-
school episodes in his former inglorious incarnation: a blue, googly-
eyed cookievore with a signature gobble ("om nom nom nom").
Originally designed by Jim Henson for use in commercials for General
Foods International and Frito-Lay, Cookie Monster was never a
righteous figure. His controversial conversion to a more diverse
diet wouldn't come until 2005, and in the early seasons he comes
across a Child's First Addict.
The biggest surprise of the early episodes is the rural agrarian,
even sequences. Episode 1 spends a stoned time warp in the company
of backlighted cows, while they mill around and chew cud. This
pastoral scene rolls to an industrial voiceover explaining dairy
farms, and the sleepy chords of Joe Raposo's aimless
masterpiece, "Hey Cow, I See You Now." Chewing the grass so
green/Making the milk/Waiting for milking time/Waiting for giving
Oh, what's that? Right, the trance of early "Sesame Street" and its
country-time sequences. In spite of the show's devotion to
its "target child," the "4-year-old inner-city black youngster" (as
The New York Times explained in 1979), the first episodes join kids
cavorting in amber waves of grain black children, mostly, who must
be pressed into service as the face of America's farms uniquely
on "Sesame Street."
In East Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant in 1978, 95 percent of
households with kids ages 2 to 5 watched "Sesame Street." The figure
was even higher in Washington. Nationwide, though, the number wasn't
much lower, and was largely determined by the whims of the PBS
affiliates: 80 percent in houses with young children. The so-called
inner city became anywhere that "Sesame Street" played, because the
Children's Television Workshop declared the inner city not a grim
sociological reality but a full-color fantasy an eccentric scene,
framed by a box and far removed from real farmland and city streets
The concept of the "inner city" or "slums," as The Times bluntly
put it in its first review of "Sesame Street" was therefore
transformed into a kind of Xanadu on the show: a bright, no-clouds,
clear-air place where people bopped around with monsters and didn't
worry too much about money, cleanliness or projecting false cheer.
The Upper West Side, hardly a burned-out ghetto, was said to be the
People on "Sesame Street" had limited possibilities and fixed
identities, and (the best part) you weren't expected to change much.
The harshness of existence was a given, and no one was proposing
that numbers and letters would lead you "out" of your inner city to
Elysian suburbs. Instead, "Sesame Street" suggested that learning
might merely make our days more bearable, more interesting, funnier.
It encouraged us, above all, to be nice to our neighbors and to
cultivate the safer pleasures that take the edge off taking baths,
eating cookies, reading. Don't tell the kids.
Points of Entry
Caveat teletor: Volumes 1 and 2 of "Sesame Street: Old School" are
available on DVD, which you can sample and buy on
Sesameworkshop.org. With a few episodes, extras and celebrity
appearances by the likes of Richard Pryor and Lou Rawls, "Old
School" sounds harmless enough. But are you ready to mainline this
much '70s nostalgia?
The Way Old: YouTube is great for performance art. If 1969 is not
far back enough for you, how's 1935? The Oscar-winning short
film "How to Sleep," by the Algonquin Round-Tabler Robert Benchley,
can be found here in sumptuous black-and-white; search for his name
and the film's title on YouTube.
Come of Age: Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, the men of "My So-
Called Life" and "thirtysomething," have at last introduced their
online-only young-adult series, "Quarterlife." It started Nov. 11 on
MySpaceTV.com, and it marks the first time a network-quality series
a long indie film, really has been produced directly for the
Internet. If the old times unnerve you, welcome to the new times.
Diamond reveals `Caroline' inspiration
Neil Diamond held onto the secret for decades, but he has finally
revealed that President Kennedy's daughter was the inspiration for
his smash hit "Sweet Caroline."
"I've never discussed it with anybody before intentionally," the
66-year-old singer-songwriter told The Associated Press on Monday
during a break from recording. "I thought maybe I would tell it to
Caroline when I met her someday."
He got his chance last week when he performed the song via satellite
at Caroline Kennedy's 50th birthday party.
Diamond was a "young, broke songwriter" when a photo of the
president's daughter in a news magazine caught his eye.
"It was a picture of a little girl dressed to the nines in her
riding gear, next to her pony," Diamond recalled. "It was such an
innocent, wonderful picture, I immediately felt there was a song in
Years later, holed up in a hotel in Memphis, Tenn., he would write
the words and music in less an hour.
"It was a No. 1 record and probably is the biggest, most important
song of my career, and I have to thank her for the inspiration," he
said. "I'm happy to have gotten it off my chest and to have
expressed it to Caroline. I thought she might be embarrassed, but
she seemed to be struck by it and really, really happy."
The enduring hit recently reappeared on the singles chart, thanks in
part to the Boston Red Sox. "Sweet Caroline" is played at every home
"I think they consider it good luck," Diamond said, adding that the
Red Sox have become his favorite baseball team.
The tune's return to the charts leaves Diamond "speechless," he
said. "That song was written 40 years ago, so I am just overwhelmed
by the fact that it has returned and that, more importantly, people
have taken it into their hearts for so many years."
Diamond is now at work on a new album, his second collaboration with
producer Rick Rubin.
"We're both very excited about it," Diamond said. "I think it's
going to be one of my best ever."
On the Net: