Saturday, July 25, 2020

Swift and Sizzlin’

In recent months, the restaurant industry has seen a dramatic change in its traditional practices, forcing companies to alter their business models and rethink their style of operations amid lockdowns and stringent state health orders.

While many independent dine-in restaurants have switched to take-out or moved to outdoor seating, fast food chains that offer drive-through service have proven popular as occasional substitutes for grocery shopping. Consumers are ordering fast food perhaps less frequently but with increasingly larger quantities for substantial food orders as opposed to quick bites on the go.

Omnipresent fast food chains have long been a source of convenience in a consistently busy culture and invariably revise and improve their menus and strategies to meet their customers’ growing needs.

One of the most recognized and trusted brands in the world is, undeniably, McDonald’s. The ubiquitous Golden Arches trademark that instantly signifies the hamburger chain is practically symbolic of the country that produced it, boasting over $21 billion in revenue a year, making it the largest restaurant chain in the world.

Its humble beginnings in the 1940s began when Richard and Maurice McDonald opened their first burger eatery in San Bernardino, California.

After the McDonald brothers were bought out by franchisee Ray Kroc in 1961, the corporate empire we know today began its inevitable global proliferation that shows little signs of slowing down.

How did the illustrious Colonel Sanders fit into all of this, you might ask? Well, the Indiana native who worked in a procession of jobs with little success was eventually selling home style meals at a Kentucky Shell service station by 1930. As his local appeal became more recognized, he was made an honorary Kentucky colonel in 1935 by the state governor. It was an arbitrary honor that he would use to his advantage as a slick and crafty gimmick.

By 1940 the Colonel was perfecting his “secret recipe” of herbs and spices used to enhance his fried chicken while pioneering the method of pressure cooking chicken as opposed to the slower pan frying method. In the 1950s he was traveling the country, pitching Kentucky Fried Chicken and its secret recipe to potential franchisees and assisting in restaurant openings.

By the mid-Sixties, there were over 600 KFCs and the aging Sanders had sold the corporation for $2 million but remained on as a spokesman and company ambassador. He continued to monitor franchisees’ quality with notorious shrewdness, particularly protective of his gravy and his eleven herbs and spices recipes. In fact, the trademark secret recipe is contained in the KFC headquarters vault, sent to locations from two separate distributors.

So who is Wendy? Her name is actually Melinda Lou Morse but as a child she posed for a 1969 photograph in a blue and white dress sporting red pigtails. That image became the famous company logo for Wendy’s fast food hamburger chain. Her father, Dave Thomas was the head cook at an Indiana restaurant in the 1950s when Colonel Sanders showed up to sell his KFC brand to the owners.

The Colonel appreciated what the young Thomas had to offer and the two began plans to improve the franchise’s quality and reach. Thomas recommended that the Colonel appear in advertisements to further the franchise’s image. As Kentucky Fried Chicken gained its momentum, Thomas’s investments became instrumental in founding his own highly successful “old-fashioned hamburger” franchise with over 6,000 locations, for which Thomas would serve as a spokesman, acting in over 800 TV commercials until his death in 2002.

Today fast food is synonymous with the frantic lifestyles many Americans lead. Though nutrition tends to take a back seat to the growing need for fast service and quick calorie consumption, fast food fills an obvious void and its quality and appeal are manifested in its dominance throughout many lifestyles and cultures in all corners of the world.

Are you ‘on the go?’ Are your routines dictated by those necessities? Can you find a balance between them? That’s the trick, isn’t it?

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Friday, July 17, 2020

Cruising for Love

One industry that seems to have been hit considerably hard by the pandemic lockdowns is that of the passenger cruise lines. New cases of Covid-19 among many Carnival and Disney crew members has led to an extension of sailing hiatuses for most lines until the end of the year with full capacity operations on hold till at least next year.

For the time being, those setting a course for adventure, their minds on a new romance will have to settle for weekly reruns of one beloved and slightly unusual TV show.

Airing for a successful nine seasons on CBS, The Love Boat debuted following three TV movies that introduced its stories centered aboard the Pacific Princess cruise liner to audiences in 1976. Produced by network wiz Aaron Spelling, Love Boat was unique as an hour-long sitcom that featured a well-cast crew of likable regulars who interacted with legendary guest stars, generally playing the ship’s romance-seeking cruise guests. Though additional cast members would appear as the series progressed, most of the original regulars remained throughout the series run.

Gavin MacLeod memorably portrayed Captain Merrill Stubing, the ship’s respected father figure and boss who is curiously never seen checking in with the bridge or consulting with deputy captains or officers. Instead, Stubing ignores all ship personnel with the exception of a cheery cruise director(Lauren Tewes), a wry yeoman purser(Fred Grandy), a sagacious ship doctor(Bernie Kopell) and a jovial bartender(Ted Lange). Stubing’s chief responsibilities seem to consist of roaming the deck to pry into his guests’ personal matters while sporting his magnificent tan.

By the third season, Jill Whelan joined the cast as Stubing’s lovable daughter Vicki. In the show’s final season, someone hatched the dastardly plan to feature a recurring team of Vegas-style showgirls dubbed The Love Boat Mermaids, who routinely took to the stage to assault evening dinner crowds with atrocious Flashdance-inspired song and dance abominations. All of it, of course, was done in the name of mindless escapism, with an emphasis on consistently light comedy and drama which was balanced in a crafty manner that kept its viewers amused and engaged.

The show’s sexual subtext is surprisingly more obvious than one might recall as the situations and dialogue prove that the preoccupation with sex on shows like The Love Boat were just as prominent as in shows today, if not more so. The difference is the veiled manner in which the era required it to be addressed as opposed to the blunt and direct language now permitted in entertainment accessible to all ages.

Sex does, in fact, seem to be a primary motivation for Stubing’s bachelor crew(Doc, Gopher and Isaac in particular), who chase skirts as though they’ve been away at sea for year-long solitary voyages.

Even as the stories’ middle-aged guest stars trade one-liners and witty banter by poolside, a parade of young scantily-clad women and men, otherwise never seen on the ship, conspicuously flaunt their bods in the near background while posing awkwardly atop the uncomfortable perimeter of the soundstage pool careful to avoid any noise or splashing.

The Love Boat’s enduring appeal may, in fact, be the impressive roster of Hollywood greats, some making final appearances, who sadly, are now mostly gone. Even more sad is noticing the many ostensibly unknown young actors and actresses appearing alongside the famous veterans who had perhaps hoped and worked towards stardom that never came, despite frequent television exposure.

Very few of the younger guest stars were, in fact, recognizable names whereas nearly all of their older co-stars had already achieved success long before. It poignantly exemplifies just how short-lived and unrealized television careers can actually be for the average actor.

Well, If all this has properly primed you for a bon voyage then I’m sorry to say you’ll have to remain ashore for a spell. Until then, the next best thing can batten down the hatches for the real deal.

Do you sometimes need to see the world through media as a substitute for being there?

In any case, good luck and save me a place at the Captain’s table!

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Sunday, July 12, 2020


If you listen to fools, the mob rules.
                            --Black Sabbath

Symbols are undeniably useful tools in our world. They serve an unlimited array of purposes and the universal power they hold are obviated in their ubiquitous presence throughout all regions and cultures. They offer a means of communication without words or sound and can often convey more than that which is voiced or written.

Symbols play integral roles in everything from the signage of traffic safety to recognizable brand marketing to the identifiable representation of corporations, restaurants, sports teams and popular music bands. In many cultures, especially that of indigenous peoples, symbols go hand-in-hand with written and spoken language.

Arguably, one of the most classic of all symbols is the peace symbol, which in the 1950s, was initially designed during British nuclear disarmament campaigns.

The yin and yang is another familiar design dating back to ancient China which signifies the codependency and unlikely harmony of two often opposed or contrasting concepts. Like Chi, the intrinsic energy flow through all living things, it is a prevalent force in the study of Chinese science, medicine and nature.

Lately symbols are being exploited as a substitution for discourse and rational thought and action. The trendy stunt of toppling symbolic statues are rationalized as symbolic acts themselves by those who favor slogans and symbolism in half-baked activism running low on positive messages.

If these actions are only in the name of symbolism than why destroy that which is, also, only symbolic? History invariably shows us that the destruction of societal symbols never ends merely with that destruction(or ends well at all, for that matter).

Are you symbol-minded? What are the symbols that mean something to you? Why do they speak to you? Please send me your thoughts: click here, or use the form below.

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