Tuesday, July 29, 2008

When 'just business' isn't a good enough answer

- A small neighborhood grocery store and deli operation is suddenly being forced to move out of a building it has occupied for 38 years, bumped with just a couple of months notice to make way for - another small neighborhood grocery story and deli operation.

The full story about it is detailed out in The Sacramento Bee here:
  • Corti's gets the boot
  • All of this is distressing for several reasons, not the least of which is that I have shopped at that market for years, as it offers some of the best food in the entire Sacramento area. Its staff are/were professionals and treated customers with a kindness and genuine helpfulness that you rarely find anywhere, anymore.

    Corti's brothers prepared foods were a staple in my household's diet.

    But more distressing is that the store is being forced out in what appears to be a predatory business strategy, the kindest description I can give to it.

    The mouthpiece for the new store that will go in - called Good Eats - just a few months ago touted how he was going to remodel a restaurant called Andiamo's just 20 blocks away. He got lot of free advertising and was played up as being a really 'good guy' because he was going to remodel and renovate the site. Another company, Whole Foods, said if it could get the land, it would level it and build a new modern building.
  • Column on Good Eats

  • But suddenly that renovation seems to be forgotten and instead, Mike Teel has engineered the unceremonious ouster of the one store that would have provided a level of competition, one could deduce.

    'Just business,' I suspect Mike Teel would say.

    Teel is the presumptive heir to the Raley's Grocery Store fortune, news accounts always say, though his rather unceremonious departure as CEO of that chain of stores a few years back has many people wondering if the family would prefer to give all the money to the Hare Krishnas, rather than him.

    Smiling at the demise of Corti Brothers?

    But if anyone was surprised by this, they didn't watch what this same man did at Prosper Magazine last year, the magazine of which he was the major owner/publisher.

    In that unsavory debacle, Teel shocked the staff of the magazine - a very solid group of people - by suddenly announcing last November that it was folding. The staff had no indication that he was about to dump the project. And why would they? It wasn't many months before that Teel stood center stage at one of the most extravagant and well-staged downtown parties I have ever seen in the state capital to announce a redesign of Prosper. And a lot of those comments were about what great future the magazine had, how much faith he had in the staff... and, and, and...
  • A great future predicted

  • The good news out of all this, I suppose, is that the customers loyal to the Corti Brothers store will seek out the place, no matter where it moves. The good people who have worked there - some their entire working lives - deserve to land on their feet. And I think they will.

    And Good Eats? Well, it would be bad karma to wish Mike Teel and his associates in this business any ill. Or to wish that bad things befall Nancy Cleavinger, the landlord who grabbed at getting a higher rent payment, even it meant slapping the community (and a tenant of 38 years) in the face. I think both Mr. Teel and Ms. Cleavinger are about to come under the microscope for all their business dealings.

    Too bad Prosper Magazine isn't still in business. This is just the kind of juicy story the editors like to get ahold of.

    Oh, maybe that's why the magazine was closed down.

    Monday, July 28, 2008

    And so it begins - the non-race 'race' for President

    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., USA - There have probably been other such stories in recent days, but the one in today's San Francisco Chronicle was the first I had seen of its type.

    Here's the link:
  • McCain can smile now
  • So what's the big deal?

    Well, a month ago, when all the polls showed that Obama was running away with the election, I opined to a group of skeptics that there is no way that the mass media of the U.S. could let that happen. It's just not, well, competitive and fun.

    A nation that believes the Super Bowl is more important, than, well, whatever happens in the rest of the world, is unlikely to allow any political contest to be soooo one sided that there is essentially no contest.

    Thus we are about to start reading stories that say McCain is moving up, creeping up, slowly making progress, showing surprising strength.

    And so on.

    McCain - Obama
    McCain stands toe-to-toe to Obama

    Essentially, what is about to happen, is a huge surge for McCain, not a real surge, not a voter-generated surge, but a media-interprets-the-polls surge that will ensure that the pundits keep punditing that McCain is still in the race and that readers and viewers should keep their eyes glued to the race.

    Oh, and glued to the advertisements. The advertisements!

    A cynical view you say? Perhaps.

    But track the last dozen presidential elections and watch what happened as the months before the actual balloting happened. It looked from the outside as if there were see-saw battles. In truth, that's not what was going on at all.

    I have to digress here, however, to point out that Al Gore probably did win the election against George Bush. The Bush 'victory' was due to voter fraud and manipulation of voting machines.

    That aside, look for McCain to begin a slow climb up to parity with Obama in the next few months so the media can have a healthy (and lucrative) horse race as we approach November.

    It's the American way, at least for the media.

    Wednesday, July 09, 2008

    Living in - and with nature - well worth pondering

    VALOIS, New York, USA - First it was Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, then it was a flurry of stories about the food shortages worldwide, then the revelation that one of the major demands on the oil supply is to ship food from one place in the world to another - even though it makes more sense to buy locally.

    My thinking on all this is definitely in process, but in the meantime, I have a small garden planted in the yard (quite popular with the rabbits), our vegetables and fruits are purchased from local growers and as much as is feasible, we are buying things made locally, even if we pay a slight premium.

    Results of 1-minute's worth of berry picking

    This all was brought to mind when I read a review of a book called The Future of Nature, a collection of essays on human ecology selected and introduced by Barry Lopez. The book looks at how it it that so many people live so sequestered from the outdoors. In one essay, one writer laments that our public schools have cut out natural history for the most part. And instead of first-hand experiences with nature, most things are second-hand - computer models, simulations or videos of other people have the experience.

    I'm not suggesting that anyone should be required to have the experience of having a nest of angry yellow jackets right on your ass as you run across the yard to get away. But seeing a video of that fury - and living in it - are very different experiences.

    (I think that's why those videos those they show in driver's education classes are generally ineffective with young drivers.)

    I remember that several years ago, when a comet was passing by at about 4 a.m. one morning (and Admiral Fox rousted the family to watch it), both of our then-teenage sons said you could see it much better on their computer screens, through a livecam from NASA.

    Good grief.

    Another writer, (cited in an excellent review of the book written by Tom Murphy of Mansfield University and published in Mountain Home Magazine), says that what we call the environmental crisis is largely a result of us giving up control. With corporations and governments almost always being the ones taking care of our needs, they go for the cheapest way or product, where they will either save money for taxpayers (government) or be able to reap the biggest profit for shareholders (corporations).

    Not to rag too much on the nation of China or the corporation of Wal-Mart, but I have been very disappointed - over and over - in the quality of most of the things I have been purchasing this summer, sold by Wal-Mart and made in China.

    Tools fall apart after a couple of uses, electrical devices short out, and clothes only make it through the washing machine a couple of times.

    Yes, the tools, electrical devices and clothes were very cheap to buy. Like Captain Ron says in the movie of the same name, "It shows."

    A friend who owns a local auto dealership told us a few days ago he had found a garden rake for sale at Wal-Mart that was Made in the USA. He snatched it up quickly and has been showing it to all his friends, along with the three he had already purchased this summer that broke the first time he tried to put some muscle behind the handle. The USA model is still keeping his yard clean, he says.

    The book is on my reading list for the summer, the perfect time to read it because the whole idea of eating, growing and buying locally is a lot easier to digest (sorry about the pun) in the summer. But even at that, the quarts of berries picked this morning will make their way into jars of jam to be enjoyed long after the winter snow has started flying here.

    Perhaps I'll take The Future of Nature up in the woods and read it by the creek behind our house.

    That will also force me to get off this computer and get out there in nature.

    A great read place to sit and read