Wednesday, June 20, 2018

1959 Culture Shock: Who Wears the Pants in This Band?

News Item: The New York Philharmonic is getting ready to overturn a 176-year-old ban, women in pants on stage.  Lincoln Center has been shaken to its very core. No longer will women members be forced to wear skirts or (shudder) dresses.

Okay, it’s not a done deal yet. But the biggest of the “Big Five” symphony orchestras has sent out trial balloons. And when the New York Philharmonic sends up hot air, it usually cools and lands in reality.

Part of the trial balloon leaked to the NY Times which leaked it to the Associated Press.  And that’s how we all found out about it.  This is the only major orchestra that forces women to put their dresses on, except for outdoor events.  

No one will accuse this band of making hasty decisions.  This one started in the 1980s when a woman horn player in San Francisco got one of her valves caught in the folds of her dress, hitting clinker after clinker and awakening the audience of flower power people too high to understand it wasn’t part of a new arrangement.

If a musician gets her valve caught in a skirt in San Francisco in 1980, it sets up a chain reaction of events lasting decades and finally lands at Lincoln Center.

Good thing it didn’t happen sooner, else CNN would be doing endless stories of women with skirt-fold-caught valves.  Talk radio would label it another left wing conspiracy to force people into costumes not of their own choosing.  And Bloomberg TV would be analyzing historic charts of Selmer horn sales.

We are, at least, spared from “How does it feel to get your valve caught?” And tours of French horn factories interspersed with brief “fair use” clips of Leonard Bernstein waving a stick at a bunch of guys in tuxedos.

It’s fine to have a dress code if you’re a symphony orchestra.  If not for that, the musicians would show up in rags that used to be sweaters or those figure-enhancing yoga pants.  But there are limits. And limiting what women can wear from mid-thigh to ankle must violate half a dozen anti-discrimination laws.  If an orchestra bars women in pants, then someone will find a way to send management to jail.

Hmmm.  That may not be the worst possible outcome.

So, relax, ladies.  It’ll soon be okay to search the fashion magazines for pictures of Hillary Clinton and tips on where to get the best deals on LadyTuxes.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “¡Papa! ¡Papa!” -- child at a Border Patrol children’s’ prison camp as he is removed from the arms of his father.

--Literally ripping kids and their parents apart and putting the children in cages?  What’s next, trains to the camps and their showers?  What country is this again?

--The administration says the kids are being “well treated.”  You call traumatizing a toddler “well treated?” This is the kind of response that turns ordinary apathetic citizens into anarchists.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

Monday, June 18, 2018

1958 Too Many Rights

1958 Too Many Rights

Note to readers: No vaudevillians, scientists or onlookers were hurt during the following adventure.

This could have been Abbott and Costello. Or Olsen and Johnson. Or Laurel and Hardy. Or Black and Decker. But it wasn’t. It was just “A” and “B” trying to put together a three-drawer plastic cabinet.

The first hint that all wouldn’t be well was the label on the box: one part of it said “easy to assemble.” There is no such thing as easy to assemble. And it’s especially difficult when it says on the box “easy to assemble.”

Also on the box: product descriptions in three languages, one of which was Spanish. One of the things it said in Spanish was “quatro cajones.” You have to assume the word has at least two meanings and the meaning the factory had in mind was drawers.

So Einstein and Kepler unpack the thing, all the while admiring its sturdy all-vinyl construction and its attractive two tone grey finish.

There are 4,000 parts. There are no instructions. Not even instrucciones. Just pictures. Smeared, vague, poorly drawn pictures.

Step by step, though. Now, here’s Kepler trying to put one of the sides into the bottom, while Einstein studies the drawings. Then, Kepler studies the drawings and Einstein gets the second side into the bottom.

Building this thing goes on and on and on. It’s 90 degrees. The vaudeville duo is out in the garage disputing whether it would be cooler with the door open or closed.

What happens when you get a great scientific vaudeville duo performing in a garage on a hot summer-like weekend and looking for distractions and an excuse to return the thing without losing face? There’s no good answer.
Here’s a handy hint when doing this yourself: you can’t un-do some of those plastic things without wrecking them, so get it right the first time.

Next, metal sliders with small wheels, one pair for each of the four drawers and one for each of the sides of the cabinet.

Laurel and Costello look for markings on the metal. Right. Left. Whatever. Some are marked some are not. No problem. Two great minds can figure out which unmarked metal goes where. This is why we win Academy Awards and Nobel Prizes.

Nothing lines up. There is no way to get the drawers into the cabinet without them either sticking in there or falling out under load – load being the weight of the drawer itself.

Reverse things. Unscrew things. Screw things back. Double check the blurry instruction pictures.

Off to the store to inspect the floor model. No floor model. They don’t have these anymore. Small wonder. But a helpful guy shows the two great scientists and vaudeville and movie performers how these kinds of things typically work. Easy. No problem. No problemo.

All it takes is a little patience and quatro cajones.
Finally, there’s a case conference. Should this thing go back? The scent of defeat is in the air. Find an excuse.

Carefully going over ground covered and re-covered for hours, the two superheroes find the face-saving excuse they need: the drawer sliders were counted wrong at the factory.

There are nine right sides and seven lefts. That’s too many rights.

--At last, a really practical practicum. Hofstra University has announced a new, course for the people in the above story.  It’s how to get the things you unpack repacked when you return them so that the shipping box can be completely closed.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

Friday, June 15, 2018

1957a We Are Taking Today Off. Reasons:

We are Missing in Action today. Or maybe it’s Missing Inaction.  Wessays ™ will return Monday, 6/18/18. We are taking a day off for two reasons:
1.  We’ve been invited to watch two renowned vaudevillians and two Nobel-level scientists assemble a polystyrene storage cabinet. And…
2.   Our home town is about to undergo a cultural revolution the likes of which have not been seen since women got the vote.
Each of these events will be covered individually next week.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

1957 Dim and DImmer

(Photo: Dennis Rodman/Getty Images)
Are you getting all warm and fuzzy about the NoKo thing?  You are not alone.  It turned out OK-ish. If you don’t count the part about how trump got nothing in return for a vague and empty promise to denuclearize.  Oh, and the war won’t start tomorrow. But before the Two Old Friends sat down for trump’s Asian medicine treatment -- leeching -- there was chaos.  Here’s a look at what happened before Singapore.

Dim and Dimmer’s summit hadn’t started as this post was put together.  And it doesn’t matter what happened or didn’t happen at the Summit of the Century, at least as far as we’re concerned here, because everyone has now reported on it and you are chock full o’data about what everyone has and had to say.

No, this is about the runup to the unlikely meeting between Kim Jong-un of North Korea and donald trump president of what used to be the United States of America but now is some third world wannabe striving for legitimacy in the eyes of the rest of the world and doing so by throwing stink bombs.

The news story up until the first moment of the meeting was “there’s a meetin’ here tonight.”  But that wouldn’t have satisfied those of us who must speculate and analyze and read tea leaves.  After all, how could Wolf Blitzer and Rachel Maddow and the Grudge Report survive on a mere few words when they have all that time and space to fill.

So we do endless previews, based on guesswork, sometimes educated guesswork.  Else ACN Newsnight would have to would have to put up a slide that says “There is no news of the Summit in Singapore.  Stay tuned for seven minutes of Percy Faith records, three minutes of commercials and then Will McAvoy will be here to tell you about cats rescued from trees in East Mongoose, Indiana and a ham pot pie dinner in Fognozzle, Nebraska.”

Well, there is no ACN and there is no Will McAvoy and CNN and the rest of the mob still have to fill the time, so they get panels of people to discuss such holiness as what can and can’t be accomplished at the meeting.

And then there’ll be a panel on the political implications, where “experts” on every side of every issue will pontificate about the effect of the summit on the 2018 elections and the 2020 elections. Bloomberg TV and CNBC will put on panel discussions about the effects on the markets, with some side tracks about the impending trade war and its likely doom of world trade.

ShrinkTV, the psychology channel, will put on some interesting speculation, featuring panels of psychiatrists, psychologists, swamis, psychics, self help gurus and the intellectual descendants of such luminaries as Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Art Bell and other important cultural figures.

Print media was right up there with its more widely circulated broadcast pals.  The New York Times, Washington Post, MAD Magazine, Forbes, Fortune, the Wall St. Journal and every other huxter with a website and an ax to grind... ground.

Bottom line: No one knew nuttin’.  But they had to fill the time and space.  Because they know you don’t like Percy Faith records all that much. Plus nobody ever shouts during one of those, except maybe to shut off the Victrola.

--Give ‘em the benefit of the doubt.  The stopped clock president and frozen in time supreme leader may actually have accomplished a great leap forward, to quote Mao. And we still can flip a nuclear missile into Pyongyang faster than Kim can hit Sacramento.

-Yeah, who needs Canada and Britain and Germany for trade when we have NoKo and Russia?

-ATT to buy Time Warner after a judge says anticompetitive M&A is good for you. (We may have more about this on Friday or next week unless something uglier comes along.

-Tesla is reducing its workforce and Elon says he’ll run the whole shebang by himself, which he has been all along, anyway.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

Monday, June 11, 2018

1956 Cheques and Balances

This never happens.  You get to the head of the checkout line and realize you’ve left your wallet at home.  But all is not lost because you have your checkbook with you.

So you write a check. Then, several things happen.  If the clerk is of a certain age, she looks at it curiously and calls a manager who asks for your identification which, of course, is in your wallet.  But the manager thinks he’s seen you before and will risk accepting the paper because it’s only a few bucks.  End of transaction.

Here’s the alternative:  You give the check to the clerk. She puts in a machine, it endorses the back, spits it back out and she gives it back to you “for your records.”  That is… if the check clears.

Okay, you say, how likely are you to not have your wallet at hand but have a checkbook in your pocket?  Not very.  Not these days.  But the days of checks may be on their way back.

Since everything you do on the internet is recorded by someone somewhere, and since every account is subject to hacking, you may be paying by check more often these days than you did a year or two ago.

Debit cards linked to your checking account are much faster and more convenient than paper. And your account balance changes the instant the sale is approved. So, checks and balances.

But checks get lost in the mail because the post office is operating at 12% of expected efficiency and in its prime (say, 1948) wasn’t all that much better.

You pay your bills on the internet.  Even worse, you don’t keep track of them, so you don’t know until the next statement that no one has siphoned your tank, that you’re up to date on your bills and that everything is or isn’t more or less in the condition you expect.

Still, somehow checks and snail mail seem safer these days than debit cards and on line banking.  Are they? There are no known studies.

Time was, there was one sure way to make sure everything you paid for really was paid for.  It’s called “cash.” You know, that paper and those coins the government issues and that are guaranteed.  And that, too may be making a comeback.  Just remember, Bitcoins are not cash, and you can’t pay most department stores in person anymore.

The grocer is another story.  He or she will take it gladly.  But if the bills are greater than 20 bucks, they’ll inspect each one carefully.  And that’s okay for you.  But probably not for the eight angry impatient people on line behind you.

A statement from Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries and a major behind the scenes crusader and contributor to conservative political causes:

Let me say at the outset that despite the story in the New Yorker Magazine, that I did not force my kid brother David out of the business.  He has retired because he’s in poor health.  But he still holds about half the stock in our company and therefore cannot be bypassed in making the important decisions here in Kansas, our headquarters.

I want you to know I love the kid and respect him. I value his contributions to our company across the years and welcome his input on any subject he chooses at any time he chooses.

Notice, that while the rest of us are here in Kansas, David lives in New York where he is known for his works of charity and support of the arts.  I do not know whether his friends at the New Yorker were influenced by those factors, but they’re dead wrong about what happened.

My own feeling is that David was reluctant to strengthen his role and beliefs in defending and building our political heritage; that he was beginning to lag the curve in our massive effort to bolster the incomes of select Americans.

We believe his charity work, laudable as it may be, has distracted him somewhat from our central ideas. But I categorically deny that I gave him an exploding cigar for a recent birthday, that I put sugar in the gas tank of his Silver Cloud the most recent time he was driven here to headquarters. Those Rolls Royces aren’t what they used to be. Also: I most certainly will accept his invitation to “visit my museum and concert hall at Lincoln Center.”

You can be sure there is no sibling rivalry between the Koch Brothers, not even with Bill, the one you never hear about and Freddie, the other one you never hear about.  Bill’s the one who goes sailing all the time.  I worry about him, too. You never know when those boats develop engine trouble and holes in the hull.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

Friday, June 08, 2018

1955 A Game to Start the Weekend

Okay, let’s play Guess Who?

Here’s a partly undisclosed quotation: X’s work “entitles you to no degree of … credibility.”  Who said that and about whom?  Okay, here’s the “who” part: R. Giuliani. 

Any guesses? Bernard Kerik? David Dinkins? His first wife, Reginia Peruggi?  His second wife, Donna Hanover?None of the above. We’re talking about Stormy Daniels.

The former fake crime fighter and flyweight mayor of New York is in Israel, talking to a conference about the way women are treated.

The real headline: Tired Old Fox Guards Chicken Coop.

He’s out there campaigning for trump, saying things like “she can’t be believed… there was no affair.”

No, there wasn’t.  An affair would imply trump valued her. trump doesn’t value anyone.  Any. One.  (And yes, that includes himself.)But Rudy, what about cheating on your wives before you divorced them?  What about that kind of treatment of women.Who has no credibility?

I report, you decide.

But he didn’t just deride her.  He iced the house he was guarding by saying you could “just look at her…” and see what she is.

What she is an attractive middle-aged businesswoman making a good living in a trade that is easy pickings for a campaigning holier- than- thou politician to demean.  Think Rudy’s never watched a porn movie?  Think he’s never seen a pole dance? And make no mistake about it. Rudy is on the campaign trail. They all are, the politicians.

The lawyer calls the aggrieved dishonest.  Lovely.

And just to be completely fair and balanced, the porn industry has struck back with a vengeance, calling Roo-D’s comments offensive and not showing proper respect.

Here’s one more Giuliani gem on this topic.-Melania doesn’t believe trump took Stormy to bed.  What do you expect her to say?  “I let Donald sleep around any time he wants.  That way he leaves me alone to play with my own friends here on the retail floor of the Tower.”

Nothing Rudy touches ever ends the way he wants it to.  Before the Trade Center attack, he couldn’t have gotten reelected dogcatcher. During it he was on TV 24/7.  After that he quickly reverted to form.

As US Attorney, appeals courts reversed his convictions on a production line. They just kept sending alleged mobsters back onto the streets.

And here’s one you may not know about. Rudy was a Democrat until 1981 when became a Republican and got busy kissing Reagan’s ass to get a job in the Justice Department. Which he got.

They put him in charge of screwing the Hattian refugees running for their lives from Baby Doc. That job at the Justice Department didn’t last long.  Say what else you will about Reagan, he had genuine compassion.  

Giuliani’s not the guy to put in charge of something where part of the job description lists “compassion.”

Eventually, trump will discover that Rudy is the typhoid Mary of politics.  And maybe that’s not a bad thing.  Some good-hearted soul should send the president a vial of typhoid vaccine.  It’s effective if you use it early enough.

 TODAY’S QUOTE: “President (t)rump really needs to unload this mouthy, self-aggrandizing buffoon. Between Giuliani and Bolton, the summit could be called off again -- maybe for good.” Major league radio consultant, program director and thinker John Mainelli on Guiliani.
 SHRAPNEL:--Here’s another juicy fun fact for your weekend barbecue: Mitt Romney tells donors he expects trump to be re-elected in 2020.  Let’s hope he’s wrong.  But if he’s right, what does that say about those of us who’ll let that happen?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.comAll sponsored content on this page is fake.© WJR 2018  

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

1954 Life Support for a Dying Breed

(Reader alert: this is a story that could start with “It was a dark and stormy night.” The lead is buried.  You’ll have to find it. It is hiding in plain sight. But it takes a while to get there.)

Conventional wisdom tells us AM radio is dead.  All the people who listen are old and ready to croak.  When we do, there will be no use for this once ubiquitous medium.
Kids don’t like it because it sounds so much worse than FM. And you can program your own song lists on iTunes or You Tube or Pandora or AccuRadio or any other streaming service. 

And if that’s too much trouble, you can subscribe to satellite radio that has something for everyone from Gregorian Chants to Snake Charmers, Howard Stern, Martha Stewart, acid rock, metal rock, concrete rock, new country, old country, bluegrass, modern jazz, big band jazz, Broadway, Hollywood, Rap, Old School Rap, Neo Rap, Hip Hop West, Hip Hop East and my own personal favorite, the 1Khz tone or its companion station, the A440 tone which some people find more listenable.
But then there are the people who own or run conventional AM stations.  They’d rather keep doing that than do something more productive.  Like applying for food stamps, Medicaid and maybe welfare or staging stickups at convenience stores and banks in their city of license.

As America replaced the horse with the internal combustion engine, replaced gas lights with light bulbs and light bulbs with LEDs, so are we replacing the AM radio band. Or at least getting a decent sound on the air without too much trouble, welfare checks or criminal records.

Enter the FM translator.  This is a small, usually low wattage the AM broadcasters can use to bolster their static filled signals.

Here’s how they work:  Station WJFN, 1520 on the dial in Mongoose, Indiana applies for a “translator license.” The Federal Communications Commission grants the license. And thereafter, WJFN broadcasts both on it’s limp, nosebleed-end-of-the-dial 1520 but also on 105.1 or some other vacant local FM frequency. \

Now it can call itself WJFN 105. 

WJFN is fictional. But how about some real examples:

KWXY 1340 AM, Cathedral City, California.

Where?  Well… Cathedral City is the city of license but that’s right next to Palm Springs. Pretty ritzy neighborhood.

And while KWXY continues to crank out 1970s style elevator music at 1340, it now can call itself KWXY 92.3 FM.  People from Palm Springs say it sounds wonderful.  It probably does. They have an internet feed. And, yeah, it’s pretty good.

A station nearer the Wessay ™ secret mountain laboratory, WTRN, Tyrone, Pennsylvania has two different translators.

Adding an extra frequency with a good signal and good audio isn’t all that expensive.  But, natch, there’s a catch.

The FM band is getting so crowded with translators that they’re going to need translators of their own.

--The Yellow Pages arrived with a clever new slogan, “The Original Search Engine.” True, but the current version is chock full of outdated and useless former information and omissions a-plenty. If you want a phone number these days the best way is to hack Facebook’s database.

(note to readers: I didn’t make up “AccuRadio.” It’s real. Look it up.)

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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All sponsored content on this page is fake.
© WJR 2018

1959 Culture Shock: Who Wears the Pants in This Band?

News Item: The New York Philharmonic is getting ready to overturn a 176-year-old ban, women in pants on stage.  Lincoln Center has bee...