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Rant: POLITICS

As I write this, it’s October 6th and I’m already sick of state politics and this in a state where political roots go as deep as those of a 200 year old oak tree (I’m actually convinced that some of the politicians on the state and federal scene are older than those trees).  It boggles the mind the staggering amounts of money people will spend to attain a job that pays a tiny fraction of what they will spend out in the course of a few months leading up to election time. Flyers, advertisements, television spots if you are running for a higher office, barnstorming the state and shaking hands, making promises that only a few could possibly be acted on, let alone kept….same thing over and over and we all buy into it. Is it any wonder that so few turn out for elections anymore? Every election cycle that comes along ends in the same story….low voter turnout and everyone complaining bitterly that 10% of the eligible electorate decided who would be the next state senator from district 554…and the television commercials? They are so predictable….ominous music plays and a voice talks about what a crook “Uncle Roy” Barnes is or how untrustworthy Nathan “Steal the Deal” is while black and white pictures of the candidate, usually snapped with their mouth open, parades across the background…then….COLOR movies of the other candidate, sitting in a circle of children or talking to a group of helmeted steel workers while idyllic Forrest Gump music plays in the background. This ad will end and then be followed by another identical one featuring the other candidate, on and on and on. Is it any wonder people don’t go vote? They don’t trust anybody anymore and many people don’t vote FOR a candidate so much as AGAINST one. This isn’t the political teachings I learned from Schoolhouse Rock at all. I’m happy to say that I know one lady currently running for state office who steadfastly refuses to run a negative campaign, despite what her opponents hurl at her….and so far, she has the right idea as she has won her primary and seems poised to win the big election in November. She takes phone calls from everyone and she is running because she cares. We need more like her.

Rant: HOLIDAY SHOPPING

According to all the news sources, retailers are poised for “the worst holiday shopping season to date” and given the recession we are in, that is not surprising to me. What really burns my mistletoe about this is that they say it every single year and I think they have since I was a child. Even when the country was in a boom period with high growth, people weren’t spending enough money at Christmas to satisfy the appetites of the retailers. All this tells me is that holiday shopping has been in a state of decline since Miracle on 34th street was still playing in movie theaters. Maybe it’s not that we don’t have enough dollars to spend or enough people to spend them but maybe we have too many stores trying to sell stuff. When I was a child, shopping trips meant downtown Atlanta, to nice stores like Muses, Thompson Boland and Lee and of course, Rich’s Department Store, our own version of Macys. You went there to shop and you spent a fortune in a trip because you might not go back again for six months and holidays were especially busy. The same people worked there year after year and they came to know you and what you liked and didn’t like. They served the customer and the customer was loyal to them. Then the malls began to spread out into the suburbs, which took sales away from the high end merchants in downtown Atlanta, who responded by opening more stores in those same malls. When we got our first suburban mall in 1976 or so, all the convenience of Atlanta shopping was just a short drive away now and the downtown stores bitterly complained about how bad the holiday shopping season had been to them. Then newer malls opened up further out and cheap strip malls sprung up like the crabgrass patch in my front yard that I can’t seem to get rid of, hurting the older suburban malls which fell into disrepair and became havens for troubled youth and crime. Then the outlet stores arrived and empty strip malls start appearing as people moved on to “the next big thing”. I won’t even go into what Wal-Mart has done to the national retail economy.  The economics of this situation are very apparent: if you have one department store in a 100 mile radius, everyone is going there to shop and they will have a good year. If you have 50 of them in the same area, nobody is going to have a good shopping year. It’s kind of like the auto manufacturers who were forced to realize that if you are going to make quality products, get rid of so many competing brands and focus on the core products and you stand a much better chance at making it. In the past 12 years they have pulled the plug on Eagle, Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Hummer, Saturn and last week, Mercury, all gone now. Do we really miss them? Maybe when some of these big chains shed a few unneeded stores, the numbers will go back up but until then…get ready, we are about to have the “worst holiday shopping season to date”.

Rave: The Karate Kid

Two rants are enough for this writing. I have a few more but I’ll save them for next time. Since I like to end on a positive note, let me mention that earlier this evening we watched The Karate Kid, a remake of the 80’s version. While the movie has some violent scenes in it (bullying and fighting mostly among young kids), it is an excellent movie with a lot of deep meaning in it so if you haven’t seen it, go buy it or rent it-it is definitely worth a look. My son especially enjoyed the movie which teaches many lessons including good sportsmanship. It’s a keeper.

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