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Archive for February, 2009

empty_plantWithout a doubt this has started off a bleak year. 

The media tells us that “deregulation” and “unfettered free markets” has brought our nation to the brink of financial ruin.  I opened today’s newspaper and find articles telling me it’s worse than everybody says.  Oregon’s jobless rate was 9.9% at the end of January.  The highest in 25 years.   The equivalent of the combined populations of Salem and Corvallis (214,809) wandering around jobless!

I’m not trying to pile on the bad news, but folks the great American tragedy just got worse!

In restaurants and pubs all over the Northwest people are victims of deceit and reeling from the harsh effects of the “short pour.”  Let’s say after an afternoon of motorcycle riding you decide to stop for a local “refreshment” and the pint you were just handed with an inch of foam on the top is not a pint at all, but more like 20 ounces?  It turns out that the largest percentage of volume in a pint glass is in the top inch of the glass!

beergaugeIt’s difficult for me to perceive how the small height at the top of a pint glass can contain so large a volume discrepancy, but the economic crisis has taken hold of the Northwest brew pubs and as a way to increase revenue, establishments are manipulating the liquid fill height.  Is there no justice?  For now Oregon might have low taxation rates on beer and why so many small brewers go into business here, but the magnitude of the deficit is alarming!

Fortunately as economic viability collapses all around us we find HOPE.

Chris Holloway is a scientist who studied electromagnetic waves and was familiar with Piaget’s research — Piaget was a scientist in the 1800’s who studied human inability to distinguish identical volumes in different sized containers — developed a business card size visual aid called the Beer Gauge which when held next to your glass indicates how much liquid you received (or didn’t) before you pay for that pint.

Why, might you ask, did I bring this up?  Life is just too short and we need to add some humor to our economic discourse.

Full disclosure: I have no affiliation or receive compensation for endorsing the Beer Gauge.

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mixed_clubsRegardless of one’s stance on motorcycle clubs, rider associations, riding groups, or one-percent clubs, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the surging use of technology to reach out across the motorcycle base in the nation. In some instances, simple email proves useful for coordinating events, or the more sophisticated computer/cell/social networking/BB’s technology helps members interact and reach like-minded constituents, create grass-root initiatives and develop coordinated “calls to action.”

Such is the world of Bandido “Gimmi” Jimmy who is the National Commander for US Defenders, a grass root organization that helps educate motorcyclists on legislation strategies.  This past weekend in a capacity filled WaCoC meeting, “Gimmi Jimmy” shared learning’s and presented concepts and ideas which have obtained legislative results elsewhere in the U.S. regardless of motorcycle club discipline or background.  The Defenders program is about training constituents, developing strategies around letter writing campaigns, email campaigns, reaching out and touching (telephoning) state and national legislators and even canvassing motorcycle rally crowds who will then take that information/training back to their motorcycle clubs or riding groups to implement a motorcycle-centric “call-to-action” on biker legislation.  The Defenders program is not a Motorcycle Rights Organization (MRO) such as the TMRA, TMRA II, ABATE, AIM, MRF and the AMA, but is manageable units of Motorcycle Clubs and Independent Riders manpower.

So, what does this really mean?  Simply put, the Defenders are working cross-club i.e. Bandidos, Hells Angels, Gypsy Jokers, Mongols, independents, motorcycle riding groups/associations and women’s clubs for the improvement of motorcycling!  They are helping energize grass root initiatives and providing methods for riders to protect rider rights from legislators who think it’s okay to indiscriminately tell us what to do…telling us what to THINK can’t be far behind, right?

There are some serious issues confronting the motorcycle community beyond the routine “drum beat” of helmet laws.  For example; association rights, enhanced “affiliation” penalties, inattentive driver penalties, accident coverage, noise abatement, intellectual property rights, exhaust mandates, ordinances to eliminate rallies are just a few.  Being organized to conduct legislative business in a professional way prevents misunderstanding or being marginalized on the sidelines while others do our thinking and make decisions.

If you want to get involved with grass root initiatives attend the next regional CoC meeting in your state or contact their offices.  If you have questions concerning the US Defenders Program you can contact Defenders Lt. Commander, Companero Paul.

Photo courtesy of Jay Janner American-Statesman

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v_rabbitDuring dinner a couple weeks back my cell phone rang and I found myself in the middle of a telemarketing call.  I was caught off guard not because it’s rare, but because the individual was promoting a new movie and it took me a moment to realize what was going on.

Before I could mentally process the “not interested” I found myself answering a question.  Whoa, how did that happen?!  The dude was good, I’ll give him that.  I was told the plot of the movie is about a lonely boy who wins over his distant father and strict grandmother with help from a brave velveteen rabbit whose one wish is to become a real rabbit someday.  Okay, a movie with stuffed animals and cartoon animation…I tried to explain to the guy that I wasn’t his key demographic and NO I would not be seeing the movie, but thank you for interrupting my dinner.

I made a mental note to research the movie.  These so-called auto-dialers were being used to promote “The Velveteen Rabbit” and that Feature Films for Families was calling potential customers on behalf of a company called Family 1 Films.  According to Feature Films for Families’ website, the company, based in Murray, Utah, produces and distributes “uplifting and entertaining motion pictures that are suitable for all ages.”  So much for another Hollywood ‘ruder’, ‘cruder’ and ‘nuder’ storyline to drag down teenage values!  But, with no profanity or graphic violence how could it possibly succeed with teenage boys?  The film has opened in select cities and opens in many more theaters February 27th and will have a pre-defined theatrical run of less than one month before its DVD release set in mid-March.

It turns out that using aggressive telemarketers has got the film company into some hot water.  It’s a violation of the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which makes it illegal to use an auto-dialer to make calls to wireless phones, as well as state fraud and privacy laws.  Verizon recently filed a lawsuit alleging that over the course of 10 days earlier this month, nearly 500,000 calls were made to Verizon customers and employees from the telephone number 917-210-4609.  Verizon alleges that the calls were made in rapid succession, sometimes as quickly as less than half a second apart.

Moral:  A stuffed rabbit who finds himself looked down on by other toys learns that in the real world you’re looked down on for illegal telemarketing and text message spamming – it’s not The Velveteen Rabbit way.

Photo courtesy of Family 1 Films

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hd_barbieFifty years is a long time!  Even longer in the toy business, but next week is a birthday party for everyone’s favorite Harley-Davidson doll, Barbie.  She’s “more mature” these days and reflects the motorcycle company female demographics, but she is certainly not looking her age! 

The motorcycle Barbie completes the rider image with an edgy black leather and orange flame ensemble accented with silvery chain, boots, helmet and sunglasses.  You go girl!!

As you know Barbie (aka; Barbara Millicent Roberts) is a fashion doll manufactured by Mattel, Inc. But, you might not know that it was launched in March 1959 by American businesswoman Ruth Handler (1916-2002) who is credited with the creation of the doll using a German doll called Bild Lilli as her inspiration.

The command centre for the Barbie business global assault is about 10 minutes from LAX where 2,000 of Mattel’s worldwide 35,000 employees work in El Segundo. Barbie represents a little over 20% of the $6B in total sales and more of its profits.  The 10th floor of the non-descript building is known as the “Barbie floor”, or by the workers as the ‘pink floor’.

Over the past fifty years Barbie has had numerous makeovers — Malibu, Princess, Southern Belle, along with the ever popular Harley-Davidson Barbie, to name just a few. She’s traveled the world by motorcycle and played guitar in a rock band. What can’t she do?  Sure she started life as a fashion model, but Barbie has so far tackled more than 100 careers ranging from air stewardess to paleontologist, aerobics instructor to Marine Corps sergeant. One of her latest gig’s is television chef and she’s probably at home right now working on another blog post with Ken!

We’re all in this recession together and America loves a winner.  So, if a boy can make it out of the slums of Mumbai and become an Oscar winner (“SlumDogs”) then maybe, just maybe, Barbie celebrating her 50th birthday and surviving previous recessions she will give us HOPE that we can make it out of this current mess. 

Photo credit is courtesy of Mattel.

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snohomish_showI’ve posted previously on the unintended consequences of aggressive police staffing at biker rallies and the Snohomish Antique and Classic Motorcycle Show is the latest Northwest victim.

Until this year the Sky Valley chapter of A.B.A.T.E paid about $5,000 for security and no other event in the city had been required to have more than two police officers present although outside agencies were used for some crowd control.  Just last September the Snohomish car show organized by the Chamber of Commerce brought in an estimated 15,000 people and only two officers were on duty before and after the event.  There were volunteer Fire Explorers and organizers were charged only $1,200.

So what is the price for a bike show in 2009 as the economy sags?  City officials wanted organizers of the motorcycle show to pay $30,360 for 44 police officers to staff this event!  Never mind there have been no major incidents in the previous 12 years of the show with an estimated 22,000 people in attendance.  The Snohomish Police Chief initially requested for 70 police officers stating a need for more officers because they are “concerned” about the potential for motorcycle gang violence.

Quick to recognize the potential political backlash the Snohomish Mayor Randy Hamlin stated at the City Council meeting the decision had to do with public safety and “It’s not to discriminate against this [motorcycle] group”.  Then why bring it up, Randy?  And why the “fear-based” discussions centered on Outlaw motorcycle groups attending the show?  Why were no business owners consulted on the police policy changes?  With no troubled past, is law enforcement being hyper-cautious or are members of the motorcycle community being sent a message?

With few alternatives and a short window to accommodate an abrupt rise in expenses the organizers cancelled the show.  Most unfortunate are donations from the show ($4000 last year) to local charities that disappear as well as the $$ the motorcycle riding public would have spent in Snohomish!

UPDATE: May 20, 2009 – thousands of bikers show up in Snohomish even with the bike show being cancelled.  So do  a lot of police…  See HeraldNet news article for more information.

Photo courtesy of event web site.

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donnellyReally?  Or at least that is what Harley-Davidson’s chief marketing officer (CMO), Mark-Hans Richer hopes for with the new Sportster Iron 883.  Richer was hired as CMO in July 2007 after leading the marketing efforts at General Motors’ Pontiac unit.  So, I ask Mr. Richer have you truly met with today’s youth (see illustration) to understand their eclectic buying style and randomness?

Don’t get me wrong I like the gothic stylized Iron 883 bike, but in an economic acknowledgment of the challenges of selling premium motorcycles, Harley introduced a print ad aimed to play off the Iron 883’s low price with a focus on appealing to youth and non-traditional audiences. The message:

“About six bucks a day. Cheaper than your smokes, a six-pack, a lap dance, a bar tab, another tattoo, a parking ticket …”

This might be Mr. Richer’s idea of an “off the hook” marketing offensive, but I don’t see how it will attract younger buyers.  Especially blacks or Hispanics.  Wouldn’t applying principles of the “urban-suburban hip-hop settings” provide better reach?”  It seems that Harley-Davidson is trying to be everything to everyone all the time.  They look to uptick their image with riding mom’s of all shapes (soccer and hockey) to traditional geezers and even one-armed midgets if they didn’t think it would hurt the brand!

harley_883No disrespect to ethnicities or “height challenged” members of society, but I think Harley has fallen down in delivering a motorcycle rider message.  They have become just part of the blah, blah, blah advertisement (nausea) “noise.” Isn’t it time to reach out beyond the comfort zone and get a ‘hip-hop’, bump-pumping gangsta makeover?  I’m talking about an extreme makeover with a page borrowed from Gravediggaz.  Melding the dark and gothic themes of the Iron 883 with a hardboiled gangsta rap phenomenon.  Include a bundled switch-blade skull knife along with models named; Grym Reaper, De La Soul, Dubsteppah or Aristacrank if you have too.

Do keep in mind that I’m only one customer’s viewpoint and statistically there’s always a significant chance that a reinvention attempt will not only fail to revive the brand, but indeed may actually succeed in killing the “bling.”  Tangential, do you remember country singer Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines?  Pretty much a textbook example of an extreme makeover and once people listened to the album – supposedly the greatest hits of a fictional musician with a…oh, screw it, Brooks’ career went totally Tom Cruise cold and now he’s doing Saturday morning cartoons in clown pants!

Memo to Mr. Richer – know your customer/demographic.  For example, during a press conference for Valkyrie in Rio de Janeiro, Tom Cruise greeted the Brazilian press with ‘Hola’ and ‘Gracias’ before saying he fell in love with Brazil while watching movies about Tango.

They speak Portuguese, the idiot. And dance the samba!

Photo courtesy HD and illustration courtesy Australian artist Eamo Donnelly.

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81A metonym is a word that denotes one thing but refers to a related thing.  For example “Washington is a metonym for the U.S. Government.”  And the number 81 stands for the eighth letter of the alphabet which is “H” and the first letter which is “A”:  HA = Hells Angels.

And speaking of the number 81, the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corp. has taken legal action against Fawn Myers (Visalia, CA.) and the Internet domain name registrar (GoDaddy.com) for trademark infringement.  The motorcycle club which is defined as a California nonprofit organization, states that Fawn Myers and GoDaddy.com are trafficking in domain names that infringe the club’s trademarks.  They put longtime outside counsel Fritz Clapp who is representing the club on the domain case.  For reference it is Hells Angels Motorcycle Corp. v. Myers, 1:09-cv-00118, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California (Fresno).

I’m just a little curious if Fawn was somehow new to the “internet thing” and received one of those confusing pop-up-ads — you know the type like the jack-in-a-box, in your face when surfing the net that describes (FLASHING) “great opportunity” for a business start-up — work from home — let your computer do all the work?!

It seems the “allegedly” infringing domain names were offered for auction on EBay, according to the complaint filed Feb. 11th in federal court in Fresno, CA.  The domain names offered for auction were ha-mc.com, All81.com, USA81.com, and 81mc.info.  The names were offered for sale on EBay beginning Feb. 7th.  Fawn stated on eBay that the names up for sale were “parked” with GoDaddy, and that she would donate “a majority of the profit” from the domain name sales to the society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Evidently Fawn doesn’t know how to do the “Google” and didn’t correlate the number 81 with Hells Angels when she bought the domain names.  Yet, the HA-MC.com name was offered for $8,181.81 and according to court papers all the eBay pages listing the domain names featured an illustration of a devil’s head which remarkably looked similar to the HAMC logo.  Go figure.

This looks like an open and shut case of cyber-squatting and the HAMC will likely recoup damages from the infringement.  But what happens if the motorcycle club decides to push legal limits and seek damages from very legitimate domain names like hamc.org which belongs to the Hebrew Academy of Morris County in New Jersey, or the name hamc.com which belongs to the Heart of America Medical Center in Rugby, N.D.  Where does symbolic naming end on the internet?   From a math point of view the number “81” is the square of 9 and the fourth power of 3 and that like all powers of three 81 is a perfect totient number.  Will mathematic books now be required to provide accreditation to the symbolic number of the club?

How ironic would it be if Google used the same cyber laws on HAMC for a “likeness” infringement re; the Hells Angels search engine called Go81gle?

Photo courtesy Flickr

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