Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Like a parched man in the desert crawling towards anticipated
water in the oasis on the horizon, Americans have been crawling,
no running, towards the oasis of a perceived good life, stopping
at the bank to mortgage their futures, without examining
the consequences down the road. The consequences are downturn
and recession, even in the book business.

I believe we are in a recession now. Seventy percent of our economy
is fueled by consumer spending. Consumers have already slowed down
in their spending for plastic products such as toys made in China.
Housing starts have tumbled meaning there is less of a market for
pressboard walls and plastic molding made in China. Auto sales
are tumbling, Ford is now the number three car seller in this
country behind GM and Toyota. So there is less of a demand for
plastic dashboards and bumpers made in China.

Plastic products on their own have contributed to our recession
because they're so inexpensive. They have driven manufacturers out
of business that use wood (toys),real metal (cars, appliances), etc.
And the plastic credit card enabled Americans to run toward that
mirage of the good life on the horizon.

Americans feel "entitled" to that good life, even young people
in their twenties. They will not wait and build for that life like
their parents and grandparents did.

Americans did not foresee that rising prosperity in Asia would
create Asian consumers that now compete for that good life and
the oil, gasoline and plastic back scratchers that that good life
needs. We didn't foresee that because we know nothing about the rest
of the world. But we do know that Heath Ledger died yesterday and
a promising young actor's life has been snuffed out. Or that Britany
Spears showed up, actually showed up, in family court today to take
part in the proceedings concerning custody of her children. She
actually didn't stay for the proceeding but we know that she was
wearing bright, red lipstick and a very short skirt. That is all
we care about.

We don't care that electric power in Allahabad, India, a city of
a million people,is shut off every day, every day, from 10 am to
2 pm. All we care about is getting ours and we mortgaged our futures
to get it, the elusive, plastic it. Unless we change our ways,
the millions in Allahabad and all Asia will become more prosperous
than us and have that good life that we aren't willing to work for.

I just pulled a 1970 hardback book off my shelves. Titled How
You Can Profit
from the Coming Devaluation, it's by Harry Browne.
Of course it's too late. The dollar has been losing value for a
long time. But maybe,just maybe, it might offer some suggestions
about what to do. I'll let you know. Meanwhile, since American goods
are so cheap overseas, maybe I should be looking at foreign markets
for Southfarm Press books.
--Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,

Monday, January 21, 2008

What has happened to the Military Book Club?

Jay Franco, the last identifiable editor of The Military Book Club, wrote the following copy to describe the club a few years ago:

"Dear Military Reader,

More than a thousand books cross my desk every year. They span every front, in every war with every weapon. Yet they all have something in common. They want to tell what it was like when a warrior stares into the eyes of another and knows that only one will walk away.

That warrior can be a Roman legionary with a bronze-tipped spear in his hand waiting for a Visogoth to step out of the morning mist....or a Delta Force commando trusting his training and his night vision to take out a terrorist before innocents are lost.

Our authors have been there. There are leaders and scholars. Soldiers and specialists. When they write about weapons, you can smell the cordite. When they talk tactics, you see the big picture. And when they recount tales of courage, you will want to stand up and say, 'Thank-you.'"

Then in late 2007 he signed off from the club: "I'll be moving along to new things. I'll miss sifting through all the gritty tales of blood and battle....War is ugly, but if history has taught us anything, it's that it is important to learn from it."

And the Military Book Club changed drastically. In its last 24 pages of book selections in December 2007, it only offered seven pages of books about military history. The rest of the pages offered a cook book gift basket, a travel book about China, books about Presidents, Pompeii, ancient Rome, Mary Lincoln being bi-polar, Sigmund Freud, Alexandre Dumas and Marco Polo. You get the drift.

Does this mean that Doubleday and its German owners have decided that military books don't sell enough any longer? Do they think that those interested in military history will buy cook books?

As Franco said in his sign-off, it IS important to learn from history. Particularly military history. For example, if our last secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld knew from military history that we were invading Iraq with too few troops in 2003, rectified the situation before invading, we might not be stuck there in 2008.

Jay Franco used to sign off his letters in the Military Book Club newsletters with the statement, "Holding down the fort, Jay Franco." Who is holding down the fort at the Military Book Club now? Is it someone as incompetent as Rumsfeld who thinks MBC members are going to buy cook books?--Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,

Friday, January 18, 2008

McDonald's brilliant ad campaign on children's report cards

This is brilliant! Advertising on little children's report cards is inspirational. Sometimes I think I'm good at promoting the war books and children's books I publish at Southfarm Press and then I am humbled by something like this.

Why didn't I think of advertising our books on children's report cards? Why? After all, it is important to grab children's minds and preferences while they are really young. Those preferences will likely stay with them their whole lives. Like me. My father worked 49 years for the firm that marketed Karo syrups, pure corn syrups. My baby formula was 50% milk, 50% red label Karo. So I consumed Karo as a kid up the kazoo.

Now that I've been diagnosed as being diabetic, I look wistfully at the bottles of green label Karo (tastes like maple) on my shelves. I've thrown away everything else with sugar in it except those Karo bottles calling me from the dark shadows of the top kitchen shelf.

The McDonald's Happy Meals “food prize” program for students of the Seminole County Public Schools in kindergarten through fifth grade was sponsored by the owners of the McDonald’s restaurants in Seminole County, in central Florida near DisneyWorld. You know they know what kids like.

Quotes by teachers on report cards about individual children, such as, " Linda is a very good student. Anyone can tell she has been trained at home. She is in the A class," can be supplemented for parents with statements like this: "Linda, by her girth and waist, obviously enjoys many happy hours with Happy Meals. You should be so proud Linda 'Made the Grade.'" 'Made the Grade' is the name of the McDonald's reward program for children.

“Check your grades,” McDonald's advised. “Reward yourself with a Happy Meal from McDonald’s.”

I have copyrighters working overtime right now to create copy to put on children's report cards for our book, Abe Lincoln and the Frontier Folk of New Salem:

"A must for all honest little children seriously interested in honest Abe's early life." This is my favorite so far.

The decision to end the McDonald's promotions appearing on children’s report card jackets came from executives at the national McDonald’s Corporation. They must be kicking themselves in their Happy Meals over at the McDonald's advertising department about parents' complaints that put an end to this brilliant, subliminal ad campaign. --Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,

Friday, January 11, 2008

Martha Raye in Vietnam

The late funny lady and jazz singer, Martha Raye, used to appear in Vietnam to entertain our troops. But she did it differently than Bob Hope and his organized shows or Jane Fonda who just insulted our forces by showing up.

Raye had training as a nurse so she put on a uniform and would go from foxhole to foxhole administering aid to wounded soldiers. One soldier in a foxhole asked her whether she was sterile and she replied that at her age, she certainly hoped so. This exchange was reported by a news magazine.

I know that there is organized entertainment for our troops in Iraq, but I wonder if any of today's entertainers follow Raye's example and offer encouragement and comfort on the front lines. Raye's appearance always surprised our troops and they appreciated it.

I listen to a nostalgia radio station and they played clips this morning of Raye singing and clowning around. It reminded me of her courage. God bless her for her thoughtfulness.

Do any Vietnam War veterans out there personally remember Martha Raye showing up on their frontlines out of the blue?--Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,