Friday, April 28, 2006

Overheard

(76) Overheard

Travel isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. But traveling and eavesdropping at the same time can be amusing.

Herewith are some things overheard or over-seen or over-thought during some recent travels.

On the radio: ABC’s Anne Compton, commenting on the President’s traveling to a rally on immigration law: “…like David in the lion’s den.” Next St. Patrick’s Day, Ms. Compton may entertain us with her rendition of the famous Irish Ballad “O, David Boy.”

Response to a restaurant sign, “all you can eat:” “I can’t eat all I can eat.”

Sign on a delivery truck: “FedEx Ground,” provoking the question “will there soon be FedEx chopped?”

New Jersey woman: “If the Mexicans stage a boycott, who will cut my lawn?”

From Verizon in late March: “we will move your phone service and DSL from New York to Pennsylvania seamlessly on April 14th.” From Verizon on April 14th: “your DSL service will move on May 5th. Seems seamless, no?

From a gas station attendant in New Jersey: “This is New Jersey, you can’t pump your own gas, it’s not safe.” After which he answered his cell phone.

At a Subway Sandwich Shop: “the senior discount doesn’t apply to our subs or the meal packs.” So, what DOES it apply to?

On a cardboard replica of a gasoline pump, towed by a kid on a bicycle: “War is good for business.”

At a candy store on Broadway: “All candy 59 cents.” Just try to by all candy for 59 cents.

At an “instant oil change” franchise “we can finish that by tomorrow.”

On a tow truck “service 23 and a half hours a day.” When does he take that lunch break.

The 2007 Toyota Camry was on the road before May, 2006. Even by automotive standards, that’s early.

From the man in charge of the mechanically-challenged City Island Tram: “Our maintenance practices are just fine!” Practice a little more and maybe you won’t have any more of those 11 hour strandings over the river.

From the computer: “wireless networks detected.” Followed by “there are no wireless networks within receiving range.”

“No Exit.” This may be a highway sign or a book. Can’t be sure.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Monday, April 24, 2006

Gy-Mart As General Store

(75) Gigundamart As General Store

(Moote Pointe, PA) They have a general store here, but no cracker barrels. No fat old guys sitting around the front porch, waiting for cars to pull up at the pump, or playing checkers in the back room. There are no gas pumps out front, and it’s in a mall.

But make no mistake. Gigundamart IS the 21st Century version of the ole, back woods general store, maybe with a touch of elephantiasis. Maybe more than just a touch.

Gomer’s, back in Poultney, VT, had maybe five thousand square feet of space; maybe a storage shed or barn out back. Gy-Mart has maybe 250,000 square feet, plus all kinds of storage space all over the place.

Gomer would ring up a sale on an ancient National cash register. Or maybe he’d write out the sale by hand in a log book. Gy is all computers all the time. To the point where they don’t have to have checkout people half the time because the customers check themselves out at a work station both simpler and more sophisticated than what NASA used for its moon shots.

Gomer had everything, so does Gy. With one exception: whatever it was you went in for. That’s the one thing they don’t have.

You name it, it’s there. You want a suit? You want a dress? A diamond ring? A guitar? Dishes? Sheets, towels (paper, woven cloth, unwoven cloth?) How about 65 varieties of pasta? (eat your heart out, Heinz!)

Do you need motor oil? How about the motor in which to put it? Construction equipment? Lawn tractors, Tylenol, underwear, outerwear, ready-to-wear. They got it.

Picnic gear, snow removal gear (like restaurants that serve breakfast all day, these guys have snow removal equipment all year.)

But no holders for toilet paper. No belt in your size. No shoe in your size.

There’s a Subway Sandwich Shop franchise, but they don’t have the BMT Italian special.

They must have studied Gomer pretty carefully.

Right down to the 1892 wage and benefit levels.

They’re the General Store that succeeded where the Soviet Union failed. They have squeezed their suppliers so tight, it’s driven all the manufacturing off shore. Khrushchev said he would bury us. Gy-Mart HAS.

It should be a crime to shop there. But it IS a crime not to.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Friday, April 21, 2006

Odds & Ends

(74) Odds & Ends

The Richardses are in the process of moving from Moote Pointe NY to Moote Pointe PA and will, therefore, will take a short break from these postings.

We note three passings.

CBS Video genius Gary Chern suffered a heart attack while preparing for "The Early Show." He "did not make it," according to ex-NBC colleague Bill Crowley.

Newsday columnist Dennis Duggan passed away, according to former Bloomberg Radio colleague Ellis Henican.

Chen Hung-Goi, 3, passed away after 56 days on life support at Boston Children's Hospital.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Monday, April 17, 2006

Accent Marks, Etc.

(73) Accent Marks, Etc.

(Note: This first "appeared" in June of 1999. It's new to this blog, but not NEW new. Your Blogger is in the process of moving from Moote Pointe, and this substitution was made to avoid having to think during that process.)

Alex mastered most of the European accents and he uses them to different ends. He says each one makes people react differently. To amuse, he says, use Irish. To confuse, use French. To confuse AND amuse, it's Italian. To sound more refined than you really are... try British. And to instill fear, German.
Right now, Alex is working on Indian, Korean and Russian. After that, it will be six varieties of Spanish, starting with Paraguyan and working all the way over to Spain.
Most people who know Alex don't know what he really sounds like. and neither does he.
But it helps sell vacuum cleaners, and that's what he does.================================================================================
Broadway Harry has seen every show that ever played the big time. You name it, he knows it. The guy with the fedora and the brown suit, knows the interior of every theatre (that's how he spells it.) Knows where the good seats are, and the bad ones. Knows what nights you should see which show and which nights to skip. Used to have his own table at Toffineti's. Right there, near the window.
Got him a plate of strawberries, giant ones. Got him a cup of coffee, stayed there well into the night, when the last stragglers made their way into the cabs or the subways. Harry held court most every night in Toffineti's, all for the price of a plate of berries and a cup of coffee.
How many people from Iowa used to come in and look and see Broadway Harry in that brown fedora, sitting there in Toffineti's window? And they'd think maybe he was a producer or a director, a writer or maybe even an actor. "Look, Martha, it's Alfred Drake." "Hey, isn't that David Merrick?"
But it was just Harry. Broadway Harry.
Once they asked him what was his favorite of all shows. My Fair Lady? Carousel? Peter Pan? Miss Saigon? Harry never told. And the reason he never told is because after 40 years of all this, they all blurred into one great big long-legged, trumpeting, glittering, invisible chorus line.
But the strawberries were good, right up to the day Toffineti's closed and was replaced by a Nathan’s.
Harry came in on opening day, had the brown fedora, the shoes you thought should be wrapped in spats, but weren't. He goes to the counter, gets himself a hotdog (Nathan's doesn't have strawberries,) and goes to his usual spot, which is taken, and Harry takes this as a sign and finishes his hotdog outside and doesn't come back.

===============================================================================

Because e-mail can be altered electronically,
the integrity of this communication cannot be guaranteed. This message has been electronically generated by your computer to warn you against the menaces galore that lurk between where this came from and where it is now. Only your computer knows for sure.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 1999, 2006

Friday, April 14, 2006

Bribe Me

(72) Bribe Me

Okay, celebs, it’s time to ante up.

You want to keep your name out of this blog? Fork over some moolah. You want favorable mention in this blog? Well, let’s discuss it at dinner at the Four Seasons. (Oops, a commercial mention that wasn’t paid for.)

Thanks to the colleagues at the New York Post it’s now perfectly okay to ask for money, sex, drugs, rock and roll or whatever from whomever you write about.

Thing is, the kind of people who read the post don’t generally differentiate among the three types of fiction in each edition.

First, there’s the fictional news. Then, there’s the fictional opinion. Then there’s Page Six (which never does show up on page six.) Who can tell the difference? IS there a difference.

We shouldn’t be that surprised that in the fictional world of celebrity gossip, items of real value are exchanged. It’s as old as cave wall writings.

Back in the stone age, cave-person Arg got an extra measure of mammoth for dinner when he sidled up to fellow caver Bork, and said he was about to break a very bad story by writing it on the wall. Bork forked over the mammoth.

What do you suppose was behind the wall posters in China?

Do you think those pretty show-biz women would have banged that ugly toad Walter Winchell because they thought he was SEXY?

One of the great lost artists of the gossip world was Jay Nelson Tuck. He, too, wrote for the New York Post… back when it was a liberal rag. Before (or was it after) that, he was an editor of “Confidential” magazine.

But Tuck had a dirty little secret. He was a real reporter, once. Won the George Polk Award in 1951. He was a leader of the Newspaper Guild Union, and led a strike at the World-Telegram And Sun which always was a classier act than the Post.

Tuck died in 1985, and never said much about where his career had gone. He was 69. But he was a pioneer. The Post should establish a Jay Nelson Tuck Award.

So, let’s hear it for Capital Journalism. Note to potential bribers:

The martini should be dry, made with Smirnoff (plug). The steak should be medium rare and don’t keep this table waiting.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Grandpa's New Job

(71) Grandpa’s New Job

Well-dressed old guy in front of the house this morning. Shiny new Mercury. Sparkling white. Guy parks it, starts prowling the street. Has a plastic shopping bag. He’s “raiding” the recycling bins, apparently for deposit-cans and bottles that people have put out rather than returning to the store for the nickels.

A practiced eye. He can skim and scan the whole block in a few minutes, deftly picking out the good stuff.

Gotta figure he’s a treasure hunter. He’ll be at the supermarket later today with a trunk-full of his finds. Probably get a few bucks. Put it into a college fund for his grandchildren. Or maybe into a wash-the-Mercury fund. Car doesn’t get that sparkly on its own, you know. Or the Mercury Gasoline Fund.

Or maybe he’s saving up for a metal detector so he can patrol the beach on nice summer evenings, and find rings and other stuff to take and sell.

Hell of a way to make a living.

But no taxes, and perfectly legal.

Outdoor work. Good for the heart and lungs. No heavy lifting. A giant “contractor bag” full of cans doesn’t weigh much more than a few pounds. Maybe one of those college-bound grandchildren helps him schlep to the Moneyback machine at the store.

In large cities, this kind of living is generally reserved for the homeless. They don’t have shiny new Mercurys. They have stolen shopping carts or – if neophytes – plastic bags. They spend the pre-collection hours going from streetcorner trash bin to streetcorner trash bin. And in high-traffic tourist-friendly areas, they can do it every day of the week.

Probably no labor law about working seven days. But no time-and-a-half for overtime, either.

The city collectors are using the money for buying food and booze and drugs, the basics of survival on the street. The homeless here in Moote Pointe are less visible. They don’t have shopping carts. They don’t prowl residential neighborhoods and they don’t have to buy gasoline for big cars.

So, the recycle laws work. But not the way their framers intended.

Put the stuff out and get it collected and taken out of the slag heaps we’re building every which where. Wasn’t intended to get the entrepreneurial juices flowing. But it did – and does.

As we said, no taxes now. But someone will figure out a way to change that, then hire political cronies to enforce – and to use more public money than they collect in taxes.

Meantime, Grandpa is thinking about expansion. He’s looking for partners. Maybe even franchise the operation. Go public, make big bucks.

You can’t keep a good capitalist down.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2006

Monday, April 10, 2006

Your Right To Know

(70) Your Right to Know

This is the second in a series of gratuitous Dan Rather bashings.

There’s been some talk lately about gossip columnists seeking payoffs. Usually it’s the Reagan Nod kind of deal. “Everyone Knew What The President Wanted, He Never Had To Say it.” If Ronnie Boy was not guilty of anything in Iran Contra, it was because he never had to come out and say “sell those guns.” Every one knew what the President Wanted.

And so, to gossip columnists. Everyone knows what the columnists want. There’s no need to ask and there’s no need to offer. Just give ‘em something they can later sell for bucks or for favors from others or for better treatment from their editors. The guy most recently in the crosshairs for bribe taking was just a bit to brash for the rest of the herd. Stupidly, he asked for cash, which later turned out to be a “request for investment…” in his semi-existent line of clothing. Right.

Gossip editors are like Presidents. Everyone knows what they want and they never have to ask. And so the editors, practicing Presidential Plausible Deniability, are clucking and gnashing their teeth and wringing their hands and saying the guy stepped over the line. But if the ransom demand hadn’t been made, those same editors would have been perfectly happy to print whatever story resulted.

Television news anchors are like Presidents. They don’t have to ask for much. Everyone knows what they want and gives it to them.

Some heads rolled at CBS News when Rather did that story about the President and his military service. Story wasn’t true. Possibly, they knew that before they ran it. Why would they run it? Because in television news, the anchorman is President. So, underlings got bounced for doing what they thought was what was wanted - and very possibly what WAS wanted. The heads that rolled should have rolled. But so should the anchorman’s.

Which, ultimately, it did. But like so much else at CBS News it was done with Presidential Plausible Deniability. And with plenty of attempted face-saving.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2006

Friday, April 07, 2006

Matt & Katie As Cleanup Crew

(69) Matt & Katie As Cleanup Crew

When Matt Lauer was elevated to co-host of “The Today Show” many of us speculated that the ratings would soar, and they did. Matt knows how to trim trees and care for them, a useful skill when it came to un-doing eleven years of Bryant Gumbel. A quck pruning. Some fertilizer, that kind of thing.

Ex-partner, Katie Couric now is charged with cleaning up the mess at CBS. This is no small task. But, for her, there’s good news and bad. The good news is that Bob Schieffer kind of paved the way for her by attracting more than 700,000 new viewers to the “Evening News.” The bad news for her is that she has more than 20 years of Dan Damage to repair. That’s much harder than eleven years of Defiant Bryant.

Lauer realized from the start that “the star of the show’s the show, not the star.” He may or may not remember that now. But it served him well in his first years.

She does not realize that – most in her position don’t.

Big, tearful nonsense between the end of the Katie era and the start of the Meredith era. But soon thereafter, Katie will be on the back burner of her former viewers, if not in the freezer.

The CBS publicity machine is ginning up. If the first ratings of “The Dan Damage Show with Katie” are great, they will issue a statement saying “we expect something like that… there is a lot of interest and curiosity and we expect steady growth in the broadcast’s viewership over the long term.

If the ratings tank it will cite the heritage of CBS News and advise us to be patient while the viewership builds, also over the long term.

Let’s remember some of the “heritage of CBS News.” Damage got his job because he was in the right place at the right time – covering JFK’s motorcade for a Dallas station when the shots rang out.

He kept the job because as a White House reporter, he asked Dick Nixon some tough questions.

In both cases – in fact, in most cases – Damage made himself the story. That’s a no-no.

He moved from the White House to the anchor chair because Cronkite thought he’d do a pretty good job, though, naturally, not as good as Himself. He was right about the second part and wrong about the first, and said as much when Damage stepped into quicksand and took retirement.

Schieffer kept saying he didn’t want the Dan job full time. Maybe. But he was yards closer to Cronkite than to Damage. People like him. They trust him. He’s harmless.

The Perky Katie (she hates the word. Do you blame her?) Is NOTHING like Walter and Bob. Fortunately, she’s also nothing like Dan, which will be a help.

(Disclaimer: the undersigned spent 8 years of his NBC sentence writing and producing for “The Today Show” and its cousins and wishes Couric well. Surprise, surprise, Katie: If you think things were serpentine and weird at NBC, wait until you get to CBS.)

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2006 WJR

Monday, April 03, 2006

Your Call Is Important To Us

(68) Your Call Is Important To Us

You have reached the White House. Please listen carefully as our options have changed. You may make your selection at any time. To hear about how the President is helping you with prescription pharmaceuticals, press 1. To hear about how the President is helping you with Katrina recovery, press 2. To hear about how the President is winning the War On Terrorism, press 3. To hear how the President is fighting America’s addiction to foreign oil, press 4. To return to the main menu, press “star.” For all other calls, press 5.

(pressing 5.)

Due to an unusually heavy call volume, all White House operatives… um… operators… are assisting other callers. Please stay on the line and the first available white house operative will be with you in a moment.

(music on hold: “I’m an Old Cowhand, From the Rio Grand.”)

All operators are still assisting other callers. Please continue to hold, or, for answers to your most Frequently Asked Questions, visit our website at dubya dubya dubya dot dubya dot gov.

(music on hold: “Onward Christian Soldiers.”)

Did you know that you can write to the President directly? Just drop him a card at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC 20500.

(music on hold: “The Wiffenpoof Song.”)

All operators are still busy assisting other citizens and guest workers. Please stay on the line and your call will be answered by the first available operator.

(music on hold: “Dixie.”)

Your call may be recorded for quality assurance and training purposes. Please stay on the line.

(music on hold: “Send In The Clowns.”)

Finally, Operator: Good Evening, this is the White House, how may I help you?

Caller: Well, my cable television got disconnected by mistake and I was wondering if the President could get it re-connected tonight?

Operator: Maybe you could call your local cable company? The President’s meeting with the new Prime Minister of Israel right now, and then he’s going for his nightly jog. So, he won’t get to that before morning, sir.

Caller: I was really hoping to watch “House, MD” tonight, and it’s almost time.

Operator: Gosh. Let me see what I can do. May I put you on hold for a moment?

Caller: Sure.

Operator: I’m S

Caller: Please don’t apologize. It doesn’t do any good.

Operator: Okay, sir. One moment please.

(music on hold: Marty Robbins “El Paso.”)

Operator: Sir, the President says he can take care of that tomorrow morning, right after breakfast. But he says if you call Senator D’Amato, it might get done faster.

Caller: I thought Senator D’Amato was no longer in the Senate.

Operator: Well, he isn’t, but he still has more influence with the Cable Guys than you’d think. You can catch him at home for the next hour or so.

Caller: Well, thank you for your help, operator.

Operator: I’m really sorry about y….

Caller: Please don’t apologize. I voted for this guy because I thought we’d get some action. But apparently I was wrong.

Operator: Sir! The President is winning the war on terrorism.

Caller: Yes, But I still can’t see my “Law & Order” re-runs.

Operator: I’m really sor…

Caller: Please don’t apologize.

Operator: Yes, sir. Is there anything else I can assist you with?

Caller: Yes, if you would, can you help me understand Medicaid Part D?

Operator: No, sir, you’ll have to call Senator D’Amato for that, too. And thank you for calling the White House.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2006

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Hung-Goi

(67) Hung-Goi

This is not an easy name to say and not an easy girl to think about.

The first, think Elmer Fudd telling you he wants to eat. He wants dinner. He’s ’s Hugwy.

Now, think of a three year old girl. She speaks two languages fluently, Mandarin and English. She’s from Hong Kong, but now she is in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, and she is dieing a slow and terrible death.

She is pretty in a way only young Chinese girls can be pretty. She is bright – intelligent to a fault. She is lying in a bed in Boston Children’s Hospital. The Intensive Care Unit. Thirteen different monitors attached to her tiny but bloated and scarred body.

She is the only known living example of something tough to say, even if you don’t have Elmer’s speech problems.

Here is what it is called: kaposiform Lymphangioendothelioma with Kasaback-Merrik Phenonenon.

Don’t even try. You can’t do it. Her doctors can’t do it.

This girl is almost four years old.

She is in the ICU with 13 different monitors attached to her long, lank but swollen body.

She is alert, personable, bi-lingual and on her death bed in that Boston hospital, where only the hopeless go and they do miracles. But not in this case.

Her father is Chen Sho-Mao, a highfalutin’ lawyer with a JD from Stanford and a BA from Harvard. Her mother is Chen-Ku Jenny, with an MA from the London School of Economics and a BA from Queens College of the City University of New York. Her Aunt is Aileen Ku, with a Masters Degree from Syracuse University. Her grandmother is Richards-Want Ying Chi, with a nursing degree from a prestigious university in Taipei. Her grandfathers are Michael Ku of Taipei and Wes Richards of State College, PA. There’s a lot of brains filtering into this girl.

And she is on her death bed. And she knows it. And she knows what that means.

The doctors in Hong Kong and Taipei say “pull the plug.”

The grandparents – except for the American ones -- say “pull the plug.”

The parents say “not yet.”

Maybe there is a God. Maybe He or She is merciful. Maybe there will be a miracle in Boston, where the doctors also say “pull the plug,” which is not something they say a lot at Boston Children’s, home of medical miracles.

The tall little three year old’s heart works fine. So do her lungs. Everything else has failed. Kidneys. Bowels. Digestive tract. Bones. Blood. Kidneys.

All of this is being done by machine. But the mind works and so do the senses.

You kill the electricity for two minutes, and this is a dead girl.

But we’re talking about Boston Children’s. Generators. Nothing would happen to the electricity even if there were a tornado, an earthquake, a hurricane.

So what would YOU do? Kiss her goodbye, or pray for a miracle.

The votes are “goodbye” 3, Miracle, 3. In this case, the “ayes” have it.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2006