Monday, November 30, 2009

Reuters Blogs:
With their feet and their purchases, individual consumers are revolting.  Scholars have started to call this trend, “brand avoidance,” as consumers worried about the larger social and economic impact of brands on society look for other options, even if those options cost a bit more.  In growing numbers, buyers are choosing the local over the brand, the farmers market over the supermarket, the Main Street strip over the mall.  Same with coffee.

While Starbucks closed down outlets in 2008, citing the New Recession as the cause, independent coffee houses, the Seattle Times noted, brought in new customers and they didn’t cut prices.  Over the last few years, in fact, the number of independent coffee houses in the U.S. has jumped past the number of chain store outlets, and now represent 54 percent of the coffee market.


I posted this comment:

In the early 90s I hosted a weekly business radio show in Denver, Colorado. To promote the show I distributed a free newsletter to libraries, bookstores, coffee shops, etc.

SB stores wouldn’t allow my newsletter. SB had a policy of only distributing SB printed material, and they had no bulletin boards for community information.

This really grated on me. Coffee shops have always been community hubs for the dissemination of newsletters, posters about events, etc.

The SB policy may have loosened slightly, but SB and the other chain outlets are a far cry from the community coffee shops that were so important to the healthy growth of this country.

The great good places, as one writer has called them, have been disappearing. Is there a revival taking place? I hope so.
"Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered — either by themselves or by others. But for the Civil War, Lincoln and Grant and Sherman and Sheridan would not have been discovered, nor have risen into notice. ... I have touched upon this matter in a small book which I wrote a generation ago and which I have not published as yet — Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven. When Stormfield arrived in heaven he ... was told that ... a shoemaker ... was the most prodigious military genius the planet had ever produced." 

Mark Twain pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens born this day. (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910)

Twain was fascinated with science and scientific inquiry. He developed a close and lasting friendship with Nikola Tesla, and the two spent much time together in Tesla's laboratory.

Twain himself patented three inventions, including an "Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments" (to replace suspenders) and a history trivia game.Most commercially successful was a self-pasting scrapbook; a dried adhesive on the pages only needed to be moistened before use.

Twain made a substantial amount of money through his writing, but he squandered much of it in bad investments, mostly in new inventions, particularly the Paige typesetting machine. It was a beautifully engineered mechanical marvel that amazed viewers when it worked, but was prone to breakdowns. Twain spent the enormous sum of $300,000 (equivalent to almost $7,000,000 today) on it, but before it could be perfected, it was made obsolete by the Linotype. He lost not only the bulk of his book profits but also a large portion of the inheritance of his wife.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

(Today, Sun, Nov 29) is the birthday of C.S. Lewis, (books by this author) born Clive Staples Lewis in Belfast (1898). He's best known probably for The Chronicles of Narnia, a seven-volume series of children's books. The first in the series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950), begins: "Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids."

C.S. Lewis is well known also for his essays on Christianity. He'd been baptized and raised Anglican (in the Church of Ireland), became atheist as a teenager, then a theist in his 20s, and then, in his early 30s, he converted wholeheartedly to Christianity.

His great many religious writings include Mere Christianity (1952), based on theological talks he gave on the BBC during World War II; The Screwtape Letters, a novel of letters from a demon to his nephew (1942); and the allegorical novel The Great Divorce (1945), in which dwellers of hell ride a bus up to heaven. In an essay called "Is Theology Poetry?" he wrote: "I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

He taught English and medieval literature for three decades at Oxford University, where he was good friends with The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien.

C.S. Lewis died a week shy of his 65th birthday in Oxford, England, the same day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

He said, "Love is something more stern and splendid than mere kindness."

From The Writer's Almanac

C. S. Lewis's life had a profound impact on me and at least one of my friends. I bought a biography of Lewis and gave it to the friend, who was going through Denver on vacation, before I'd read it myself. Later I did read it and wondered if I'd done the right thing; the story was not light vacation-type reading.

My friend  called me years later and said, "I wanted you to know I never read that book you gave me until just a few days ago. I took it down from the shelf recently, and was blown away by it. I just got back from talking with the Pastor at my church here, and I've given my life to Christ."

Lewis believed in putting his faith into action. I think he'd like what we are trying to do here in Denver with Denver Speakers Corner. (Does anyone know if Lewis ever attended the Hyde Park Speakers Corner in London?) Our little group got some publicity in this morning's Denver Post: