Thursday, July 31, 2014

Right There in Black and White

A family wedding took me to Rochester, New York, a pretty city bisected by the Genesee River, home to craft-beer breweries, better-than-average pizza, Frederick Law Olmstead-designed parks, and the George Eastman House, a museum of photography and film.

My husband and I set out on foot from our hotel to the museum, a walk that took us past imposing 19th and early 20th century houses and shade-giving street trees. We had two free hours and no expectations.


The museum’s history of photography proved absorbing as did an exhibit of photos by Lewis Hine, a photographer who spurred social change via his pictures. Mostly, though, I was fascinated by the story behind the 1888 creation of the Kodak camera, an invention that put picture-taking in the hands of the average American.

George Eastman came up with the name Kodak. He wanted a word that started with K (a crisp sound), was memorable, and easy to pronounce in any language. Eastman also came up with the Kodak’s first advertising slogan: “You press the button—we do the rest.” The company sold the camera for next to nothing because it made money on film and processing.   
The success of the Kodak reminded me of the popularity of a 2007 invention that happened to start with K—Amazon’s Kindle. Amazon sells it cheaply because the company knows buyers will fill it with e-books purchased from--wait for it--Amazon.

Had Amazon founder Jeff Bezos visited Eastman House and studied George Eastman’s career? Perhaps, but it’s more likely the creation and marketing of the Kodak camera is the stuff of business-school classes.

Eastman Kodak went on to introduce the Brownie camera in 1900. It sold for $1 and film went for 15 cents a roll. Small wonder (pun intended) George Eastman is credited with the democratization of photography.

Two hours and no expectations changed my perception of modern-day photography, product marketing, and K-words. Oh, and did I tell you how much I liked Rochester?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

This Is My Brain on Summer

My attention span suffers from a bad case of summeritis. That’s right, it flits like a firefly, shoots like a Roman candle, and lands like a cannonball at the town pool.  Since I can’t manage a handful of paragraphs on one topic, I’ll take the scattershot approach.

Flits like a firefly
My children make fun of my not-smart phone, but I had the last laugh over the Fourth of July weekend. Three hours from home, I discovered I’d forgotten my phone charger. Worse, I had to remain out-of-town for a couple of days after my husband returned home, and we’d planned to stay in touch via phone. For the heck of it, I plugged my Kindle charger into my phone, and it worked! Bwahaha! Those of you with iPhones wouldn’t be as lucky. (Then again, perhaps you wouldn’t forget a phone in the first place.) For future short trips, I’m only bringing the Kindle charger. Pack light, right?

Alas, the phone charger wasn’t the only thing I forgot. I neglected to pack a comb. When Hubs returned home, and I could no longer borrow his, I had to improvise because heaven forbid I run to the store with uncombed hair. I used a fork. Go on, laugh. It resulted in an acceptable if wind-blown look. (At least that’s what I told myself.)

Shoots like a Roman candle
The symptoms of summeritis vary from individual to individual, but one of mine is a longing for France. Since I’ve got no chance of a European adventure this year, I’m appeasing my Francophile yearning by reading Ann Mah’s MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH EATING and following David Lebovitz’s blog, Living the Sweet Life in Paris

I resisted Mah’s book for a while because the title, meant as homage to Julia Child’s MASTERING THE ART OF FRENCH COOKING, put me off. The title still leaves me cold, but the book is a warm reminiscence of writer Mah’s struggle to make the most of a year alone in Paris while her diplomat husband serves in Iraq. Making the most of a year in Paris wouldn’t be a hardship for some, but know that Mah, a newlywed at the time, experiences the same disappointment a military spouse feels when a last-minute change in assignment sends off the soldier while the trailing spouse is left behind to adjust to new surroundings, a new culture, new people. Curiosity, an insatiable interest in food, and a job help Mah adjust. I'm devouring the book and recipes.

Pastry chef David Lebovitz’s blog reflects his wide-ranging interest in food, travel, and cooking. His books include THE SWEET LIFE IN PARIS, which I own, and his latest, MY PARIS KITCHEN, which I intend to buy tout de suite.

Lands like a cannonball
Three times over the past week and in two different locales, I’ve seen Realtor signs in front of existing houses with a “Coming Soon” message. In other words, those houses sprouted for sale signs before they were for sale. Is “Coming Soon” meant to create a sense of urgency? is it a way for listing agents to garner the names and phone numbers of potential buyers? To me, the sign signals a seller’s market. There was a time, not too long ago, when I couldn't picture people taking Sunday drives to look at neighborhoods and houses. 

See what I mean about my attention span? How’s yours this summer?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Be Well-Intentioned but Quiet about It

If you’ve stopped at Walgreen’s for cold remedies, batteries, or a snack, the cashier rang up your purchase, handed you a receipt, and said, “Be well.”

The drugstore chain rolled out the slogan nationwide last year after testing it in several markets. The first time you hear it, it may strike you as different but not unpleasant.  You’ll suspect the guy behind the register is doing a Yoda imitation, but you’ll cut him slack because he seems sincere if nerdy. The tenth or eleventh time a Walgreen’s employee intones, “Be well,” you’ll be certain a cult has taken control of the chain.

Walgreen’s advertisements position the company “At the corner of Happy and Healthy,” and its Balance program rewards members for tracking their exercise, blood-pressure checks, and weigh-ins.  “Be well” is in keeping with the chain’s slant on wellness, but does it fit every customer, every day?

What about the people who go to Walgreen’s to pick up prescriptions for acute or chronic conditions? They’re not well, and the chronic-condition sufferers won’t get well.

What about those who buy candy, chips, and cigarettes at Walgreen’s? A live-and-let-live attitude fits those purchases, but does “Be well?” And if Walgreen’s employees must use the motto, why are they selling cigarettes, chips, and candy in the first place?

Are you as nostalgic for “Have a nice day” as I am? Would you prefer to get your change without a personal-development message?