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November 16, 2003 Mail

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I do send out some odd email, and receive equally odd email in return.  Here I will print some of it, with, now and then, my responses.  
On the right, a legal issue - should McDonalds sue Merriam-Webster?  On the left, a discussion of garden gnomes. 

A Real French-American Rapprochement?

This may only make sense if you saw the film Amélie from two years ago.  Amélie liberated her father's garden gnome and sent him around the world, as you might recall.  This was very symbolic in the film, having to do with freedom and taking chances and all sorts of ways of being.  The act liberated her father. 

Be that as it may, some of us actually have been following the "Garden Gnomes Liberation Front (Front de Liberation des Nains de Jardin) and its activities.  Here (click for link) is a repsresentative discussion of the whole movement. 

Others of course, have not followed this business at all.  Oh well.

I don't think what is reported below makes everything all better, really.  Unless France sends the idle gnomes to Baghdad to fight alongside us.

SAINT- DIE-DES-VOSGES, France, Nov 13 (AFP)  

The plight of several dozen garden gnomes stolen in eastern France has touched the hearts of school-children in the United States and is casting a warm glow on an otherwise chilly trans-Atlantic relationship. 

Reports carried in US media of how the gnomes failed to find their owners when they were put on display in the town of Saint-Die-des-Vosges have led to a spate of letters from boys and girls offering themselves as foster-parents, local police said Thursday. 

One note from a teenager in Florida reads: "I want to adopt a gnome so I can look after him and protect him. I will love him for ever. I love him already."

The gnomes were originally stolen in 2001 by the self-styled "Garden Gnomes Liberation Front," which then arranged them one night in December on the steps of Saint-Die's cathedral. Since then only one figurine has been reclaimed by its owner.

Saint-Die police said they were drawing up a letter in English telling their disappointed correspondents that the figurines cannot be exported.

They were planning to add a note explaining Saint-Die's little-known role in America's origins.

It was in fact a group of printers from the town that in 1507 coined the name "America" after the explorer Amerigo Vespucci -- earning Saint-Die the nickname "America's god-mother."

"We are just doing out bit for the Franco-US rapprochement," said Saint-Die prosecutor Eric Corbaux.

From Emma, our Australian friend who now lives in France:

The idle gnomes would probably do a better job than the French army anyway, so it sounds like a decent proposal for the Bush Administration

From Steph in Canada, a French-Canadian:

Maybe we could put one of them in the White House too.  I hear these gnomes have spent less time on their farms than Bush has lately....

From here in Hollywood:

Put a goofy-looking inarticulate little wooden dwarf in the White House?  No way.  Americans wouldn't stand for that.

From Martin on Wall Street:

I thought one of these gnomes was placed in the White House by nine delinquents in black robes in the middle of the night.

Well, perhaps abandoned garden gnomes aren't the answer to patching up things between France and the United States.  But the film Amélie helped a bit. 




McDonalds asks Merriam-Webster to "fix" their new dictionary and remove the term McJobs.
I sent this to my friends:
Regarding who sues whom (Franken and Fox) about damages, since this story hit the wires last Saturday, Merriam-Webster has removed the offending definition from the on-line dictionary - that was Monday - and Merriam-Webster may recall all printed copies of the new dictionary.   The McDonalds Corporation is contending that even if the lexicographers at Merriam-Webster are only reporting how people are speaking - reporting that they observe people are using this term - simply by reporting that, in fact, people are using this term McJobs, Merriam-Webster is actively participating in and contributing to some real monetary damages to the corporation.  They issued a cease-and-desist order.  Merriam-Webster has capitulated.  They don't want to be sued.  They will NOT from here on out report that this is a term people commonly use.  Too dangerous.

Any thoughts? 
Source: McDonald's Decries Webster Over 'McJob'
Sat Nov 8,11:55 AM ET   Associated Press
CHICAGO - McDonalds says it deserves a break from the unflattering way the latest Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary depicts its job opportunities. Among some 10,000 new additions to an updated version released in June was the term "McJob," defined as "low paying and dead-end work."
In an open letter to Merriam-Webster, McDonalds CEO Jim Cantalupo said the term is "an inaccurate description of restaurant employment" and "a slap in the face to the 12 million men and women" who work in the restaurant industry.
The company e-mailed the letter to media organizations Friday, and it also was published in the Nov. 3 edition of an industry trade publication.
Cantalupo also wrote that "more than 1,000 of the men and women who own and operate McDonalds restaurants today got their start by serving customers behind the counter."
McDonald's, the world's largest restaurant chain, has more than 30,000 restaurants and more than 400,000 employees.
Walt Riker, a spokesman for McDonald's, said the Oak Brook, Ill.-based fast-food giant also is concerned that "McJob" closely resembles McJOBS, the company's training program for mentally and physically challenged people.
"McJOBS is trademarked and weve notified them that legally thats an issue for us as well," Riker said.
From Rick in Atlanta:
Merriam-Webster shouldn't have caved. The idea that big corporations can, by twisting arms, be granted ultimate vetting power over the language we speak sets a bad precedent.
And although "McJobs" with an "s" is trademarked by McDonalds, I think M-W could have prevailed in a trademark fight, especially since their definition was without the "s".

Folks here in Atlanta speak of "McMansions" (those huge, cooky-cutter castles that have been springing up in suburban subdivisions in recent decades) in the same way people use "McJob". I dont know if M-W will ever get around to that trying one, but if they do, McDonalds will go after them for it, and M-W will probably cave again. It's a shame.
Correction form Hollywood:
I was wrong.  Merriam-Webster didn't cave after all as had been reported here and there.  McDonalds had urged this: "In the interest of accuracy and fairness and to serve readers better, we are confident Merriam-Webster will eliminate its inaccurate definition of restaurant employment in the next edition and on its Internet site right now." 
For a time the Merriam-Webster internet site has dropped the term.  It's back.  And now?  Everyone goes to court?  McDonalds owns a federal trademark registration for the mark McJOBS.  Merriam-Webster claims they are just reporting usage. 
See Dictionary Editors to Keep 'McJob'
Tue Nov 11, 9:28 PM ET 
By TRUDY TYNAN, Associated Press Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - McDonald's may not be "lovin' it," but the editors of the Merriam-Webster dictionary say "McJob" is a word that's here to stay.
The 11th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, published in June, defines a "McJob" as "a low-paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement."
The fast-food giant's chief executive, Jim Cantalupo, called the definition a "slap in the face" to the 12 million people who work in the restaurant industry, and demanded that Merriam-Webster dish up something more flattering.
But the dictionary publisher said Tuesday that it "stands by the accuracy and appropriateness" of its definition.
"For more that 17 years `McJob' has been used as we are defining it in a broad range of publications," the company said, citing everything from The New York Times and Rolling Stone to newspapers in South Africa and Australia.
"Words qualify for inclusion in the dictionary because they are widely and commonly used in a broad range of carefully edited sources," said Arthur Bicknell, a spokesman for the Springfield-based publisher.
"McJob" is similarly defined in the American Heritage Dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary and Webster's Dictionary, published by Random House.
The OED definition, which cites a 1986 story in The Washington Post, is: "An unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector."

The McDonalds complaint is here:

Jim Cantalupo, McDonald's Chairman and CEO Offers His Sentiment on the Term ''McJobs''
I take exception to Merriam-Webster's decision to include the term "McJob" in the most recent edition of its dictionary. The following is a letter I wrote to Merriam-Webster, which was published as an open letter in the November 3, 2003 edition of Nation's Restaurant News.
 - Jim 
Dear Editor,
A dictionary usually is considered a reliable source for the true meaning of words. Not any more.
Merriam-Websters inclusion of the term "McJob," with its definition of "low paying and dead end work," is not only an inaccurate description of restaurant employment but also a slap in the face to the 12 million men and women who work hard every day in America's 900,000 restaurants.
Moreover, Merriam-Websters attempt to prove that "McJob" is a well-understood part of the nation's vocabulary is utterly unconvincing. ...
  [ You can read the whole thing by clicking on the link - it's long ]
From Ric in Paris:

12.11 - Jolly McJobs

If jobs at McJobs are so great, why is McDonald's Chairman and CEO Jim Cantalupo so defensive?

Nice touch to see that he's lumping in Americas other 880,000 restaurants with his McDos
A modest proposal from Hollywood:
I propose a debate between Jim Cantalupo and José Bové. Proposed: McDonalds is a force for good in the world.  Pro-Con.  Each side speaks.  Bové's English is just fine as he studied for a few years at UC Berkeley.  That would be fun.       
From London, Onatrio, Canada:
And if Jose is in jail somewhere again and can't make it, I would suggest someone from a major labor union to replace him.  All he would have to do would be to ask why McDonalds CLOSES profitable "restaurants" as soon as solid attempts are made to make it a "union shop".
As for Cantalupo's claim that employees learn to prepare food properly, I think not.  Besides the fact that the slop they serve can only be  referred to as food because it contains calories, I don't know many people whose kitchens are made up of freezers full of prepared stuff and arrays of deep-frying vats and microwaves that go beep.  I do however have to admit that those folks get pretty damned good at shaking a big salt-shaker over the fries...
Do Merriam-Webster pople have an English equivalent of "malbouffe" in this year's edition?
From Hollywood:
At present José Bové is out of jail, smoking his pipe, and thinking about all this.

The irony about McDonalds and all the lefty anti-WTO folks who think that corporation is evil? 
The widow of the man who founded McDonalds died and left two hundred million dollars to National Public Radio, and they are most unlike Fox News.  No conservative ax to grind.  All these burger profits are now going to fund this organization that does "unfriendly" investigative reporting of "the system."  Hah, hah - as Bart's nemesis blurts out on every episode of The Simpsons
See: http://discover.npr.org/features/feature.jhtml?wfId=1494600  Nov. 6, 2003 -- NPR will benefit from a bequest of more than $200 million from the estate of philanthropist Joan B. Kroc, NPR President Kevin Klose announced Thursday.
"Joan Kroc believed deeply in the power of public radio to serve the communities of America," Klose said. "She made this extraordinary gift from her steadfast conviction that NPR and our member stations provide a vital connection to millions of listeners."

Most of the money - described by NPR as "the largest monetary gift ever received by an American cultural institution" - will go toward the NPR Endowment Fund for Excellence, created in 1993 to provide support for NPR activities independent of other revenue sources. ...
For a conservative reaction see:
NPR's Kroc-Pot Bubbles Over
By L. Brent Bozell  November 11, 2003  
National Public Radio is not only a broadcast boutique operated by and for liberals, its now flooded with more cash than it could possibly ever need, thanks to a liberal philanthropist. Last week, the estate of Joan Kroc, the wife of McDonald's franchising genius Ray Kroc who died last summer, announced an award of $200 million to NPR.

Joan Kroc rose to public prominence when she was the first American to donate a fat million dollars in 1987 to the Democratic National Committee. She said she was appalled by "an unwarranted and excessive increase of our military weapons" under President Reagan and "by the use of military force as our first priority in carrying out U.S. policy abroad," extending from Lebanon and Libya to Grenada and Nicaragua.
Joan Kroc was a Carterite peacenik, a major donor to Jimmy Carter's political rehabilitation center in Georgia. With her millions, she endowed two "peace" institutes of the Dennis Kucinich variety at Catholic universities, one at Notre Dame and the other at the University of San Diego. The San Diego institute's recent events calendar included a speech by Australian radical Helen Caldicott, who advocates the elimination of all nuclear weapons. When Mrs. Kroc died a month ago, Scott Appleby, the Notre Dame institute's director, proclaimed she was "single-minded in her dedication to eliminating the threat of nuclear weapons and all forms of deadly violence."
In short, Joan Kroc was a Mommy Peacebucks. Her massive favoritism toward NPR leads to the inescapable conclusion that she felt that putting her money on "All Things Considered" and "Morning Edition" and "Talk of the Nation" was in line with the rest of her political giving. It was, she hoped, just another effective avenue for defunding the Pentagon and lobbying against American military action of any kind. 
So what does this say about NPR? ...  It just makes NPR a fatter, and even more liberal, sacred cow.   [ and it goes on ...  ]
From London, Ontario:
Murphys law...  as soon as I sent out that last e-mail on McJobs, I see this on the net.

Maybe I was a little out of line.  These ever-so-happily-employed and upwardly mobile burger-flippers will now also be skillful and accomplished clothing-folders and toy-shelf-stockers.  
Oooohhhhhh, think of the wallop those resumesll pack NOW !!!   MBAs of the world beware.
See McDonalds to sell clothes, toys
The fast-food king plans to license its brand around the world in a range of children's products.
November 13, 2003: 11:30 AM EST
CHICAGO (Reuters) - In a bid to expand beyond fast food, McDonalds Corp.  said Thursday that it will license its brand around the world in a range of children's products, including clothes, toys, interactive videos and books.
The licensing plan, dubbed "McKids," had been hinted at for months by McDonalds top marketing executives, who had said they were seeking new ways to capitalize on the largest fast-food company's brand, which is among the best-recognized around the world.
Summary?  Not a good week for McDonalds.  people seem to think they're getting a little too pushy an powerful.