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Thursday, January 06, 2005

Prospectus for a New Year


When Edward and Gordon Sludge formed Amalgamated Flange Corporation in 1915, little did they know how grand and glorious a company they had founded. The first years were hard ones; buffeted by the encroachments of a large Eastern flange cartel and nearing bankruptcy, they were saved in 1917 when they miraculously were awarded a no-bid contract to supply all the flanges needed by the American Expeditionary Force in World War I. As their uncle and shareholder, Senator Josiah Sludge, said at the time, “War has been good to us, and we shall be grateful.”

As the Roaring Twenties progressed, the Brothers Sludge—through a shrewd strategy of forcing out small competitors, gaining further government contracts, and joint ventures with the beleaguered distilled beverages industry—found themselves running the third largest flange manufacturer in the nation. Times were good—until 1929.

The stock market crash was a shock to all, and Amalgamated Flange was no exception. Thousands of workers were laid off, and more tried to organize, which resulted in the Cracked Head Riots of 1932. Government deficit spending, however, proved a raft large enough to float the company, and Edward Sludge was able to leave a lasting stamp of his stewardship by purchasing the assets of several rivals who teetered on the brink of bankruptcy. “I have met the enemy, and I have bought him,” he said, and this motto still serves the Company until this day.

The war years were a robust time for the Company, and by its end, the name Amalgamated Flange no longer suited the various interests in which the Company had since become involved. General Industries, Inc. succeeded Amalgamated Flange in 1943, and it was under this banner that the Company flourished throughout the 1940s and ‘50s. The Sludge Brothers retired, and succeeding management teams continued their policies of acquisition and government contracting.

As the years passed, diversification was coupled with a careful pruning of assets that resulted in the selling off of the last of the original flange assets, the original Amalgamated Flange factory, to the Japanese conglomerate Itsibiggi in 1986. The communications side of the business flourished, though, and in recognition of its significant holdings in cable television, satellite television, broadcasting, telecommunications, and the then-nascent Internet, the Company rechristened itself OligarCo in 1990, the name by which it is known today.


Throughout the 1990s, the Company continued to grow and diversify. New opportunities were found in such areas as Central American farming (Rain Forest Foods, Inc.), strip mining (Alaskan Frontiers Consumables, Inc.), and fashion (The Sally Clone Collection, Inc.). The most exciting opportunities, however, came with the trend toward privatizing the American penal system.

With the organization of the Internmentia, Inc. subsidiary, OligarCo was poised to exploit this burgeoning market. In a joint venture with Rain Forest Foods, prisoners were transported to Central American work farms where they provided low-cost labor for whom quitting or forming a union were not options. Similar joint ventures have been set up with Alaskan Frontier Consumables and The Sally Clone Collection, and a program is in place that will have prisoners installing cable boxes in subscriber homes within the year.

As an extension of this business, made possible by the Company’s sterling reputation and deft lobbying and marketing efforts, DeLeathIn, was formed two years ago to take advantage of the execution boom that has gripped the nation. Starting as a humble subcontractor in Texas, DeLeathIn has established itself as the nation’s leading provider of state-sponsored death. “It’s really just a triumph of market forces,” DeLeathIn president Hardin Hart explained. “We saw the market, we entered the market, and we’ve done what we needed to do to make our company number one.”

Success in the public life termination sector has been such, in fact, that DeLeathIn plans to expand its market into the private sector. According to Hardin, “Doctor-assisted suicide is the subject of great debate in the community and a tough ethical roadblock for doctors to overcome. And, let’s face it. How many doctors have purposely set out to end a life? Not many. In theory, that’s not what they do. When the time comes, we’re able to come in with the technology, with the experience to get the job done.”

Although OligarCo will never rely on life suppression services as the main source of income and profits, it is a solid niche industry in which the Company intends to remain number one.


Robert G. Margolis said...

Bravo to this, Len. In addition to everything else it is, as crafted and intended by you, this is also, it turns out, a chapter of "Chester Psalms" (through no fault or intention of yours, of course)!

Len said...

that hadn't occurred to me while I was writing it, but I think I see what you mean.

Robert G. Margolis said...

That's kind of you, Len, but no need to look too far to see what I mean. I meant this as a bit of humor--a very little bit, as it turns out, to further express my appreciation for what you wrote. If I remember correctly, somewhere in the early stages of "Chester Psalms", Chester Psalms sought to discover how he had been privatized...And here is an answer, plain as the face behind the nose that he can see in a blur when he crosses his eyes! Since, in "Chester Psalms", it is the answers to the questions that give rise to the questions, I have a feeling he's known all along (though the story itself doesn't share my feelng. There's that, and the fact the only time I think at all about that story these days is the very occasional comment here...).

Len said...

Well, I, for one, look to see whether anything has been added recently to that thread on the Blog of the Unknown. And I’ll keep looking, just in case.

I think there are similarities in theme and in the worldview behind the satire. This piece is one of those ones that just comes out in a lump without a huge amount of thought going into it. After your post, I looked at it again and saw similar concerns about multinationals and their effect on other nations and the abdication of the polity from the day-to-day business of having a society. Of course, these are the main point of my tiny screed and are just side roads down which Chester Psalms travels.

My main concern about the current movement in public affairs is that we’re abandoning the notion that American society is a common venture on which we are all embarked. Privatization brings us back to Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Anonymous said...

I can't help but wonder if it would be possible to efficiently end someone's life with a blow from a flange. I hope so because I just love a circle. And I did pick up something new, as I'd been erroneously thinking that Itsibiggi was the Italian company that makes those rich little bread/cookies with the crispy crust.

Annie O'Minus

Len said...

You’re referring to anise toast, something I find quite delectable. I believe the company that makes them is called Atsabella. Itsibiggi is the Japanese carmaker that is responsible for such models as the Itsibiggi Stigma sedan and the Quandry SUV.

You’re probably right about using the flanges for a weapon. It’s too bad they sold off that division. Maybe they could pelt the condemned person with Central American kumquats instead.

Anonymous said...

Your toast is anise. It sure would be ironic if they had to go out and buy the flanges. Death by flange. I am realizing that I have been picturing a big flap- hinge. I don't even know what a flange looks like. I have taken your soaring overview of American industry and reduced it to a minute personal fixation. I apologize. It is a shortcoming and a character flaw that I am going to have to address. My favorite toast is, "Here's looking up your address!" Thanks god the internext allows me my anonymousness.

Annie O.

Len said...

Personally, I have no idea what a flange is, but its sounds funny, so in it goes. All this anonymity is fine as far as it goes; just don't mark your trail too conspicuously.

Ed Flange, Jr.

Anonymous said...

Zounds- I fear I may have been googled. Curse you, probing information-drenched e-host technology!

Otiose MT

Len said...

You hadn’t reckoned with a little something called Statcounter that gives me some rough information about the visitors to the various elements of my web empire. As the fellow says in Casablanca, “Vultures! Vultures everywhere!” Or maybe it was, “I stick my neck out for nobody.” Or “I was misinformed.”

Of course, having just purchased both the Marx Brothers and WC Fields DVD collections, the quote is liable to be either, “We took some pictures of the native girls but they weren't developed. But we’re going back in a couple of weeks.” Or, “As my Uncle Litvak said just before the trap door swung, he said, ‘You can’t cheat an honest man, never give a sucker an even break, or smarten up a chump.'”

Of course, I'm going from memory here. I might be completely wrong.

Whatever the situation is, you're always welcome, anonymously or otherwise.

Harold Bissonette

Robert G. Margolis said...


Thanks to your diligence with Drayton and to the interest of "I, for one", "Chester Pslams" (briefly and ever so slightly" stirs to life...

Len said...

Surprisingly, I liked the part about the Olivetti manual typewriter the best. But, hey! Wait a minute! This blog is devoted to my ego, not anybody else's! I been robbed! Robbed, I tells ya! ("I tells ya" is my new catch phrase. Don't worry. It'll wear off soon.)

Robert G. Margolis said...


If anyone's been robbed, it is Paco Ignacio Taibo II himself: the part about his father and the Olivetti is taken directly from the portion of an interview with Paco Ignacio Taibo II in which he speaks about his father's influence on his vocation to write and be a writer. I've had this material in notes and draft form for months--yes, even from before your rhapsody in Olivetti. When you posted that piece, I smiled to myself, knowing the effect the PIT II story would have when it eventually was used in "Chester Psalms".

I did it for the synchronicity, I tells ya!

P.S. You and PIT II had a similar experience and certainty of vocation. Did you notice? Again, not my invention.

Len said...

I did notice. That part was almost uncanny. The main difference being that my father wasn’t a writer. He had many jobs, was a truck driver mostly. He was a tremendous typist, though. It’s strange world, with its synchronicity and vocations and stuff. I’m going to add PITII to my list of writers who use manuals. Who knows? Maybe I can try to get a contribution for my “By the Manual” series. He qualifies, after all.

Robert G. Margolis said...

Invite PIT II to contribute to "By the Manual"? Yes, please do! Make him your first invitation, in fact; if only for that experience and anecdote of him, as a child, laying beneath his father's writing table, listening to and lulled by the sound the Olivetti makes as his father types his novel...

It would be nice, too, if someone would adapt a PIT II/Hector Belascoaran Shayne detective mystery for radio theatre...

As for my favorite part of the latest belated episode of "Chester Psalms", it's the first epigraph, the dialogue from the movie "Dark Passage". The Humphrey Bogart character's line is singularly good. Listening to some of the dialogue in that movie (I didn't watch the movie, I closed my eyes and listened to it, like music), it occurred to me that noir dialogue, at its sustained best, is like great haiku turned into conversation...

P.S. ...I tells ya!

Len said...

This is what you get when you click on the "Translate This Page" button on Google:

I soothe Ignacio Taibo II is been born in 1949 to Gijon, in Spain. From the 1958 it lives to City of Mexico. Journalist, university, historical teacher and writer, have written beyond 50 volumes between collections of storys, novels, reportage journalistic, historical works and comic strips, publish to you in beyond 20 Countries.
It is known especially thanks to the adventures of its detective and anti-hero Belascoarán Shayne (Days of battle, Some cloud, the ghost of Zapata, Nothing lieto fine) but for the Italian readers he is above all the author of "Without losing tenderness" (1997), thought one of the biographies more complete than Ernesto That Guevara.
Between loved novels a lot from the great public: Revolutionary of passage, Feeling the battlefield, But you know it that it is impossible, the band of the four, (of which it is coautore with to Daniel Chavarría, Rolo Díez and Leonardo Padura Fuentes), publishes in Italy for the Mark Tropea Publisher to you."

There's more, but it's more of the same.

Robert G. Margolis said...

Here's the 'automatic translator' version of the "biography" from the "official" PIT II webpage. He gets clean away again, leaving behind only an 'obituary of the living'.

Politician, sindacal activist, university professor in the Faculty of History and Antropologi'a, journalist, director of magazines, novelist, president of the AIEP (Association the International of Police Writers), director of the Black Week . He is so they decriben to Francisco Ignacio Taibo Mahojo, better well-known like Alpaca Ignacio Taibo II, the brief biographical notes that accompany their books.

No exageración: Taibo II is, or has been, all this. But their activities can be reunited in two fulcros, the policy and the writing , that seem to constitute their genetic patrimony.

His paternal grandfathers, Benito Taibo, belonged to the direction of the Socialist Party. He participated to the insurrection of the ' 34 and to the Civil War of the ' 36; the brother of his paternal grandmother was director of the socialist newspaper "the Advance" and both were prisoneros in the pro-Franco jails by their political activities and ideologies.
His maternal grandfathers provided contraband arms to the anarco-sindacalitas and during the civil war, he armed a fishing boat and he fought his war against the Francoism, hasta that died its luggage yet, when their enemies sank their imbarcación.

Soon its father, Alpaca Ignacio Taibo, writer and journalist, whom he had to add a "I" after the last name when the son begins to publish books.

It is very difficult to live in a facist country for a family with similar roots, so the Taibo family decided to leave Spain to settle in Mexico, country that always had welcomed in the perdientes exiled and los of many revolutions.
It is year 1958, and the small Ignacio Alpaca still does not have 10 years de
age, since it was born in Gijón (Asturias) the 11 of January of 1949.

In Mexico, his father works like television journalist until 1968 when, as opposed to the bloody repression of the Student Movement, he decides to leave his work in the television, because its freedom of expression is being limited there, and returns to his old love, the press.
Alpaca Taibo Jr is dedicated intensely meanwhile to the political activity in student movimeintos, but his future of ecritor it is not very far.

He also dedicates himself to the media, a profession that he loves and that never left '; as well as he will not leave his dear city, City of Mexico, where many of their novels are developed.
In 1971 house with Saiz Dove that will give a daughter him, Navy.

Its race as writer can be summarized in few numbers: than 50 titles published more - story novels, books, cómics, journalistic news articles, tests of histories - published in more than twenty countries; numerous prizes literarios between which they appear the Prize Grijalbo de Novela 1982 by "summoned Heroes: manual for the taking of the power ", the Prize Gijón Coffee (1986) by "Of Step", the National Prize of History INAH (1986) and the Prize Francisco Javier Pegbox (1987) by "Bolsheviquis. Narrative history of the origins of the Comunism in Mexico 1919-1925 "; three Prizes the International Dashiell Hammett for the best Police Novel in Castilian language by "the same life" (1987), "Four hands" (1991) and "the bicycle of Leonardo" (1994), the Latin American Police Novel Prize and Espionage by "Four hands"; the Prize the Novel International Planet-Joaquin Mortiz (1992) by "the distance of the treasure" and the Bancarella Prize 1998 by "Ernesto Guevara, also known like the Che".

(translation of Valerio Di Stefano)

Len said...

I'll never complain about the H.T. Porter-Lowe translations of Thomas Mann again!