Recently by Greg Beato:

Photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston shows children a Kodak.

In January, Eastman Kodak filed Chapter 11 documents in U.S. bankruptcy court. Its debts exceeded its assets by approximately $1.7 billion. The New York Stock Exchange delisted it. Three weeks later, the company announced that it will stop making digital cameras, camcorders, and digital picture frames some time this year in an effort to cut costs and further reduce its workforce. Apparently Kodak believes there are people somewhere who will still buy whatever it will still be selling at that point, but according to all the experts, the company that created a mass market for personal photography has officially morphed from viable commercial enterprise into picturesque curio, another victim of the Internet’s punishing economies.

   

Like many other media behemoths that fell before it, Kodak had trouble embracing the notion that the products it… More…

Thank goodness for a painted-on smile.

In 2011, investors showed a greater appetite for McDonald’s than any other company in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Over the last two years, the fast food giant’s stock has nearly doubled. As shares hit $100.82 during the last week of December, a new all-time high, executives at McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois were no doubt toasting one another with extra-large triple-thick shakes. The one possible holdout? A 49-year-old former company superstar who has seen his once-pivotal role in the chain’s fortunes shrink like the waistline of a Biggest Loser contestant.

   

In 2012, Ronald McDonald is essentially a clown without a country. McDonald’s is in the midst of an ambitious, multi-billion-dollar global makeover; its middle-aged mascot has no place in it. In an April 2011 investor’s call, McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner… More…

The whole world in his hand.

Steve Jobs, who died from pancreatic cancer on Wednesday at the age of 56, leaves a legacy behind him that literally fills millions of hard drives. Jobs created an industry with the Apple II and reshaped another with the iPod. He made cyberspace tactile and dimensional with Macintosh and its graphical interface. Over the course of the last 35 years or so, Jobs has imagineered, packaged, and sold the future with a deftness and persistence few others have managed: Apple lists him as one of the inventors on an astounding 313 patents. But as impressive and wide-ranging as this record of achievement is — it includes designs for computers, keyboards, mice, user interfaces, media players, product packaging, and even a glass staircase — it fails to acknowledge his greatest, most influential innovation of all: Steve Jobs invented business casual.

   

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Where will kids get their froot?

Unemployment remains high. Marijuana is legal in 16 states and Washington DC. Animal Planet broadcasts a mesmerizing cathode drip of cute kittens and killer crocodiles around the clock.

   

The breakfast cereal industry couldn’t ask for conditions more conducive to selling Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies, and yet, according to the market research firm SymphonyIRI, America is losing its appetite for ready-to-eat (RTE) breakfast cereals. As the website 24/7 Wall Street recently reported, sales of branded RTE cereals dropped 2.55 percent over the 52-week period ending April 17, and sales of private-label knockoffs fell even harder, with a 7.2 percent decrease in that time. Between 2007 and 2010, sales of Special K dropped 15.9 percent, and sales of Corn Pops dropped 12.8 percent, a fact that suggests both weight-conscious middle-aged women and tubby pre-diabetic tots are… More…

Well, not quite flyover...

Decatur, Illinois lies approximately 180 miles south of Chicago, but for any Decatur resident who gets an urge to visit Wrigley Field, Chicago is surprisingly accessible. That’s because Air Choice One, the carrier that serves Decatur Airport, is having a Spring Fever Special and the current round-trip fare to O’Hare Airport is $59.50, tax included, which works out to just $29.50 for each leg of the trip. “With prices this low, you can’t afford NOT to fly!” Decatur Airport’s website exclaims, and it’s true. The 14-mile taxi ride from O’Hare to Wrigley would actually cost more than the 180-mile plane trip from Decatur to O’Hare — approximately $30 — and that’s without tipping your cabbie.

   

Air Choice One’s promotion is in part made possible by an obscure 33-year-old federal program known as Essential… More…

Our friend and foe.

Gas prices, you’ve no doubt noticed, are hitting record levels again, and thus consumer irrationality is hitting record levels again, too. In a survey commissioned by the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), 26 percent of respondents said they’d drive 10 minutes out of their way to save three cents per gallon.

   

As the NACS notes, such a trip is more likely to increase your costs than it is to save you money. A 10-minute detour theoretically results in a 20-minute round trip. At an average speed of 45 mph, the trip would cover 15 miles. If your car gets 30 miles to the gallon, you have to burn half a gallon of gas to reach the station with the cheaper prices. At $4 a gallon, that’s a cost of $2. To make… More…

When it comes to hair, what the best have been doing for 5,000 years.

In 2010, the Sony Corporation sold more than $70 million worth of eight-track cassette players, horse and buggy sales topped $70 million at General Motors, and Hair Club generated more than $70 million by peddling tiny patches of human hair to bald men. Preposterous, you say? Well, sure, especially that last one. But of course only the last one is that true. The Hair Club chain is now owned and operated by the Regis Corporation, and according to the Regis Corporation’s 2010 annual report, Hair Club generated $141 million in revenue in 2010, half of which came from its hair replacement service. Technologies come and go, and yet in the age of Rogaine, Propecia, and increasingly sophisticated hair transplant techniques, the old-fashioned toupee — employing the same basic technology it has for the last 5,000 years — remains a solid seller.

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The web wins AGAIN!

At a time when the average person would sooner donate money to a relief fund for investment bankers than pay full retail price for a CD, millions of Americans happily spend hundreds of dollars on a single pair of eyeglasses. A pair of Tiffany & Co. frames at LensCrafters retails for $410, lenses not included. Bottega Veneta 95s can set you back anywhere from $699 to $1,499, depending on where you shop.

   

On the one hand, paying so much for stylish eyewear doesn’t seem completely irrational. You might spend $699 for a suit or a really nice pair of boots you’ll only wear once or twice a week, so what’s outlandish about investing a similar amount in a product you wear every day, right on the middle of your… More…

...at its most austere.

Tweets get more press, Youtube clips boast a better market cap, blog rants have nostalgia working in their favor — but is there any mode of expression more suited to the web than the before-and-after photo? TakeTwo, a new iPhone app, allows aficionados of the form to use their “before” photos as visual overlays when composing their follow-ups — thus ensuring close matches of perspective and other pictorial variables in shots that may end up being taken months or years apart.

   

It’s a useful tool, but the truth is the before-and-after photo has been ready for the current era of ruthlessly short attention spans and hyper-efficient communication strategies for well over 100 years now. In an 1897 edition of the Denver Medical Times, a contributor notes how well the “before and after… More…

The station wagon is dead — again — and like the many demises it has already suffered in its long fruitful life, this one comes with an asterisk. The reason for the asterisk is that there are still dozens of vehicles on the market that answer to the name “station wagon.” The reason for the declaration of death — and subsequent obituaries — is Volvo’s recent announcement that it will soon stop selling station wagons in the U.S.

   

In 1999, the niche purveyor of sensible transport for NPR-Americans sold 40,000 station wagons and felt its fortunes were on the rise thanks to the quirky, post-ironic aesthetic sensibilities of a new generation of car buyers. “It used to be that when you were married and expecting your first child, it was… More…