Friday, September 30, 2011
This perfectly mirrored the way I felt last night, my nose running and my head woozy from Nighttime Theraflu Cold and Cough. A dark, rainy background to the inevitable autumn cold, with a few bright highlights here and there. As I processed the file, feeling spacey and moody, I listened to some of the many versions on YouTube of September Song by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson, beginning with Walter Huston, who introduced the song in the 1938 Broadway musical Knickerbocker Holiday, which went nowhere, but the song went on to become a standard. (And Huston went on to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor a decade later, playing the old prospector in The Treasure of Sierra Madre, directed by his son John Huston.)
There are many great versions of the song. Everyone seems to have recorded it. There's a 1985 rock version by Lou Reed, who said at the time he wanted to be known as the "Kurt Weill of rock 'n roll." Willie Nelson did a nice whiskey-mellow version. Ella Fitzgerald did perhaps the most beautiful. But my favorite is the one by Lotte Lenya, whose unique voice seems perfectly suited to this rueful, melancholy song. And she was, of course, Weill's wife -- and muse.
Photo Note: It's often hard to focus on raindrops on a windshield with a point-and-shoot, unless you trick the camera by focusing on the dash, and even then it's hard to get some sort of intermediate focus. Usually you get softly focused trees and the raindrops disappear. But the manual focus on the Nikon P7000 gives you about as much control over what's sharp and what's blurry as a DSLR. Nice feature.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
“I had penciled out what a union journeyman made to figure what I would pay my employees.” -- Joe Coulombe, the original "Trader Joe"
One of the things I like about our neighborhood is that we've got a Trader Joe's right up Monroe Street. Pretty cool for Madison, Wisconsin. Much as I like TJ's I didn't realize how elemental its appeal was until I saw this sticker showing it on the periodic table of the elements between aluminum and phosphorus, right above germanium (perhaps an ironic reference to the fact that in 1979 Coulombe sold the chain to the late German gazillionaire Theo Albrecht.)
The chain's phenomenal -- and highly profitable -- expansion during the last three decades has been under German ownership, but the Germans were smart enough not to tamper with a winning formula -- one that's absolutely unique in the annals of grocery retailing, as noted in "Enchanted Aisles: Why do people love Trader Joe's so much?", an entertaining and informative LA Times article.
What really caught my eye in the story was Joe Coulombe's quote, above. When's the last time you heard of a business plan based on the idea making money by paying employees well? These days, well-paid employees are more often seen as cost centers to be outsourced -- or demonized as overpaid public employees. Joe Coulombe had the right idea. Kind of reminds me of another American original, Henry Ford. He had the quaint idea that his employees should be paid enough to be able to afford to buy the cars they made.
When you get tired of looking at the herons, cranes and egrets, at the prairie foliage and the water lilies, at the water rippling in the changing light at Stricker's Pond, you can always look up at the sky.