11/03/10 - Lanai - Some History

Our first visit to Lanai started the same day Castle & Cooke, the island's owners, announced that they were getting out of the pineapple business. The island had been a big pineapple plantation since the 1920s, but in the early 1990s they decided it was cheaper to grow pineapples in the Phillippines. The new plan for the island was as a resort with two hotels, one in the highlands and one by the sea.

All this land used to be pineapple fields. No irrigation means no pineapples.

That's Halelanai on a clear day.

That row of trees along the road is irrigated.

A modern view of the Manele Bay hotel, from the keiki (children's) pool

A view out to sea

A view of the hotel from our first trip

Some of the pineapple fields just before the last harvest

Pineapple fields from the November 1930 issue of Fortune

Fortune's view of Lanai City - It hasn't changed all that much.

Keywords: fortune, hawaii

12/24/08 - Visit Soviet Russia

While reading a February 1932 issue of Fortune we came across a tourist opportunity that we had somehow missed, a tour of Soviet Russia. In 1932, the Soviet Union was barely 15 years old. In hindsight, it was 20% down, with 80% yet to go. Given how many jokes have been made about tours of Soviet tractor factories, award winning collective farms and endless ranks of modern apartment blocks, the advertisement sounds like a parody of itself.

Mind you, the ice breaker tour of the Arctic and the opening of the Dnieprostroy Dam sound pretty neat. There's also ostalgia, nostalgia tourism of Soviet era relics. If people are willing to ride around Berlin in Trabants, maybe there is room for Soviet retro-tourism in our post-Soviet world.

Keywords: fortune, historical

12/09/08 - Are We Entering a New Golden Age for Red Ink?

Watching the economic news one might think that we are entering a new golden age of red ink. This is probably not so, at least if the 1930s are a guide. There was similar speculation a mere seventy six years ago, as reported in Fortune in December 1932:

People have written asking why we haven't written about the prosperity that these times are bringing the makers of red ink, so we've looked into the matter. One maker had never thought about it but another was pretty sick and tired of answering jokes about his thriving on misfortune.

Well, there isn't any red ink prosperity. Quite the contrary. For the past three years sales have been falling off steadily and are still falling. It's the machine age, ink makers say. Companies use tabulating machines and bookkeepers haven't the time, nor the need, for ruling pretty red lines - which uses more red ink than the traditional noting of deficits. (Deficits, of course, are not the only items noted in red. Red ink is used to set off figures or identify a particular class.) Moreover, such great users of red ink, as shipping lines, who note Third Class registration in red, haven't had so many passengers in the past couple of years. And also, while there are a good many firms which have had to change to red ink for their income figures, there are - or were - also a good many firms, persistent users of red ink even in good times, which were so hard hit that they couldn't even afford to buy red ink and have gone out of business altogether.

Keywords: humor, fortune

Mural in the lobby of the General Administration Building

11/17/05 - On The Wall In Olympia

The above mural is in the lobby of the General Administration Building in Olympia, Washington. It represents the great economic output of the state. You can see Paul Bunyan standing in for forestry, the air control tower for Boeing and aerospace, an apple tree and a ladder for the orchards, cattle, deer, streamlined trains, and unfortunately, a symbol representing the pre-quantum theory model of the atom, presumably representing the atomic facilities at Hanford. These murals are wonderful, but they are a thing of the past.

What would the modern version of this mural contain? A cup of coffee for Starbucks, books, and perhaps delivery trucks, for Borders and Amazon. What about Microsoft? Perhaps it could show a personal computer or a security patch download. Medical research at the Hutch and elsewhere should be easy. It could still have a test tube and stethoscope, but the doctor might be a woman. Who knows what real research gear looks like today? Probably it looks like a bunch of computers, sans 1960s tape drives, with tubes coming out of it. How does one portray insurance? What is the instantly recognizable symbol for a web farm?

There is still ship work, and aerospace, and timber. There are still farms out there, and deer and birds. Unfortunately, there do not seem to be any artists producing more modern versions of this type of mural. In the 1930s, Fortune magazine was full of this type of art, representing resources and industry. Nowadays, fewer people think this kind of thing is interesting. This is sad because it is still important to think about where things come from, and not leaving such knowledge to a handful of presumed experts.

Keywords: art, birds, farms, fortune