Friday, September 29, 2006

Not A Good Sign

143 Not a Good Sign

I.

It’s not a good sign when you can’t remove the glued-on label from the non-stick surface of the frying pan.

Let’s see. First, try peeling it off.

Nope.

Okay. A little gentle scraping with a finger nail.

Nope.

Maybe some water and a sponge?

Nope.

How about boiling it off?

Nope.

Vinegar and lemon juice?

Nope.

They sure make good label glue these days.

How you supposed to cook with this?

Use anything rougher, like Brillo, and you’ll remove more non-stick surface than you will label glue. “That can be fatal to your health,” explained Walt, who knows his cooking. “Y’ don’t wanna be cooking with busted Teflon. Gets into your blood… you know—like lead poisoning.”

Walt is a leading anti-lead activist. He was the first guy to try unleaded gasoline in his 56 Packard, even though he didn’t have to.

“Get the Lead Out!” That was Walt’s motto back then.

Now, he may be the country’s first Anti Teflon Activist.

It’s not that he doesn’t like Teflon. It’s just that he sees its dangers, perhaps more vividly than others.

Presenting the label problem to Walt wasn’t easy. You can never find an anti-teflon activist when you need one.

But once on the case, Walt cannot be moved.

“Take the thing back,” he counsels. “Don’t let those bozos fill you with chemicals. We don’t know what’s in that glue. What happens if you slip a coupl-a burgers on the fire one day… and you come back with beef and glue!”

Maybe that’s the way to get the label off.

Or not.

Where was this label glue when we needed it?

The Teflon President, the Teflon Don. Coulda used some of that glue in their day.

Does Walt want to ban Teflon? Is he trying to work up a class action lawsuit? He gets cagy when you ask: “That’s a tough question,” he answers. Then when you try to rephrase, “do you think there’s money in this problem?” he smiles a little and repeats “That’s a tough question.”

II.

It’s not a good sign when the leaves turn red in August.

What will be left for the legions of people who wait for early autumn and take those “leaf tours?”

The tourism business here in Amish Country and up northeast in Payton Place Country will be devastated.

The legions of would be toured must be lured else-wise.

Hey, how about this: Slot machines.

Now there’s an idea whose time has gone.

You say they’re trying that in Pennsylvania but the Jersey guys oppose it?

Of course they oppose it. It’ll drain off a ton of business. And it’s only one step away from putting in Roulette wheels and blackjack tables.

For a change, the local Holy Rollers don’t seem to care. But the Teflon Don’s successors sure do.

III.

It’s not a good sign when the couple across the street alternates use of the house. He arrives, she leaves. She arrives, he leaves.

Kind-a like Bill and Hillary. If she were honest back when he was in office, and they asked her why she stayed with him, she would have said “because he’s the f___ing President of the United States, dummy.”

If he were honest when he was in office and was asked why he stayed with her, he would have said “because I’m the f___ing President of the United States, dummy.”

There’s a similar situation in the late summer of 2006 with the Republican candidate for Attorney General of New York, who talked with the disgraced former Police Commissioner, now a private investigator, about eavesdropping on her husband, whom she presumed was cheating on her.

They asked her whether it happened and she started ranting about the “only felony in this case” being the leak of a federal report on it. Why does she stay with him? “…because he’s a good father.”

Somehow, that doesn’t ring true.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fun with Furniture

142 Fun with Furniture

Used car salesmen used to get a lot of heat.

But times have changed. Now, they’re respectable. The cars aren’t “used,” they’re “pre-owned.” They aren’t inspected, they’re “certified.” Some used car showrooms are more like salons than sales floors.

It’s no longer a guy in a Spike Jones plaid suit with a bunch of bad tin on a sandy lot with a wooden outhouse of an office who sells you the car. It’s become a “retail experience,” rather than a hassle with someone trying to push you into a “…honey of a car, something you can pass along to your grandchildren, and the last DeSoto ever built.”

Gone are the glory days when you never knew whether the car you were buying had been in a flood or a fire … or its previous owner was the wheelman at a series of bank holdups.

But have no fear. There’s a finite amount of sleaze in the world and it can be neither created nor destroyed. It just moves around a bit.

For example, some of what used to taint the used ca…. oh, wait, sorry: the pre-owned car business now has transferred to the furniture business.

Here are some rules, developed over a year’s work in furnishing one single family house from scratch:

1. Never order anything. Buy nothing that isn’t already “in stock and ready for delivery.” Delivery is NEVER on time. Dealers blame factories (“they closed for three weeks in July and never told us.) They blame the truckers (“that driver always comes in with attitude. He bangs around the stuff a lot.) They blame their own salespeople (“she never should have told you that it was available in Oktoberfest Amber. That color was discontinued right after the catalogue was printed.”) They blame the clerical staff (“our office manager had this huuuuge pile of paper on the desk and a lot of orders got lost.)

2. Every mattress is always on sale. The price “here” is lower than the competition. Every mattress is better than every other mattress because it’s higher/lower/softer/firmer/fits your body better/is made of secret foam material developed by Venutians for their space program/endorsed by the chiropractic association.

3. If you haven’t heard of the wood, don’t buy it. Mahogany, birch, cherry, oak, maple, pine. These are normal woods. People have been making furniture out of them for centuries. They work. Greenheart, Cocobolo, Pau Ferro. These are NOT normal woods. They may work as furniture and they may not. Stick with what you know, not some strange wood-like substance that is made from the leaves of rubber plants or far eastern seaweed.

4. “Laminate” means plywood. Veneer means veneer.

5. You can sit in a chair that costs a grand and you can sit in a chair that costs ten bucks. You’re still sitting and it’s still a chair.

6. There will be at least a defect in everything. A scratch, a color mismatch, an incomplete construction, a broken slat, a loose-fitting drawer, a glue joint with no glue. Something.

7. Unfinished undersides are standard. Even in the costliest stuff, no one finishes underneath anymore. They figure if you see the underside of something, you’ve fallen over and you’re either to injured or too drunk to remember it.

8. A brand name is not guarantee.

Finally… terms: Be careful of the “no money down/zero interest kind of arrangement. If you’re 20 seconds late with a payment, they take the stuff back. And collection is much MUCH more efficient than distribution.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Cuckoo Coup & Some "Noteds"

141 The Cuckoo Coup And Some “Noted”s

It happened in Thailand honestly. While the national leader was away in New York, “his” generals came in and took over. They banned political parties, imposed all kinds of restrictions and most of the rest of the world yawned, as it should have.

The leader appeared to have been a crook (our presidents are not crooks. You can tell, because some of them even say so.) Plus Thailand has a King, (they made a movie about that,) and coups used to happen there all the time. So , no biggie. The king unifies, the coups put moth holes in the unification, but usually not moth holes so big the garment gets thrown out.

Here in the US, we don’t have coups. Well, we don’t CALL them coups. They’re sort of elections.

Sort of because almost no one votes anymore.

Sort of because the political parties are private corporations with private agendas and offer little to no variation of ideas or ways of implementing them. (This can be a benefit. It keeps the populace screwed in a way we understand. It also causes the wheels to grind slowly enough to watch if anyone cares to.)

Sort of because the coup-sters don’t want to be seen as coup-sters.

But make no mistake about it, the nuts have taken over the asylum.

This space has several times advocated that the world be run by a council of elderly women. Ted Turner, having lost his empire and possibly his mind, recently legitimized this position by saying men should be barred from governing for a hundred years because we’ve screwed things up so badly.

Don’t care about the source. Just want to get the cuckoos back in their own nests.

NOTED:

--Gotcha. British actor Hugh Laurie does the best American accent since Peter Ustinov. But Ustinov was usually live and Laurie’s series, “House MD,” spends a lot of time in post production. Laurie says he works hard on not sounding British, but there are almost no words pronounced the same way in both countries.

On a recent episode, Laurie used the Brit pronunciation “TISS youz,” rather than the American “TISHyouz.” What are they doing in post-prod these days beside not listening.

--Identity Guard At Work: Sign any name you like on those computerized credit card pin pads. Recent examples from this corner: Donald Duck, George W. Bush, Abraham Lincoln, Saddam Hussein.

--Name Change: They are changing the name of this county to “Out of Service.” It’s already on all the buses.

--More on Mass Transit: Increasing the Subway fare again? Cutting service again? No worries. Just hold the “public comment” sessions in Swahili or Arabic. Sensitive. Plus, no one speaks the former and no one will admit to speaking the latter.

--Power flop: before Allegheny Power accepted our report of a power outage, we had to listen to the automated answering machine thank us for voting them number one in customer service. Hate to think of what it’s like to deal with number two or (shudder) number three.

--The 60s: Back at the start of the century, we expressed hope that the 5760s would be as much fun as the 1960s. Now, more than midway through the decade, we welcome 5767, continue expressing the hope and assessing what’s happened so far: Better drugs, but other than that, not much fun at all.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Friday, September 22, 2006

Occupied Pluto

140 Occupied Pluto, ZIP Code 134340

Yeah, ZIP codes are supposed to have five digits, not six. But Occupied Pluto is a special case. Gets special treatment from the Post Office.

They’ll still deliver mail to “Pluto,” but you’d better have that code on the envelope.

Pluto, the former ninth planet is now the eighth dwarf. Very Disney.

That number they want to give it? Maybe it isn’t a ZIP Code. Maybe it’s a prisoner’s number.

Pluto Held Hostage. Isn’t that how “Nightline” got started?

So, these Great Men of Science have decided they can big foot the whole history of the planet, make almost 80 years of history go away with a vote? A VOTE?

Why don’t we have a vote about THESE guys.

Already typical Plutonian merchandise is showing up on store shelves marked “made in 134340.”

We are asking interplanetary trade authorities to allow the marking “Made In Occupied Pluto.” We are also printing bumper stickers that say “Free the Captive Dwarf” and “Free Pluto.”

It’s maddening.

Try to get a phone call through.

“Verizon Operator may I help you?”

“Yes, what’s the area code for Pluto, please?”

“Pluto? Is that near Nicaragua? I’m sorry, sir we don’t show an area code for Pluto.”

“Well, what about an area code for 134340, although that might be the ZIP Code.”

“Area codes have three digits, sir. They don’t start with ‘1,’ so there must be some mistake. I can look up 343 or 434 or 340 for you.”

Click.

Okay, just dial the phone number, then. 011 134340 1 888 Planet9.

“You have reached a non working number in 134340. Please check the number and dial again. And thank you for using the new AT&T.

We were about to establish a new base of operations there. Somewhere where we could torture terrorists with impunity.

In fact, they’d just collected the speeches of the President and Vice President for that use. Listening to Bush’s obscene-phone-caller whisper and Cheney’s somnambulistic drone for half an hour would have sent Osama begging for and end and willing to spill his guts if only they’d stop playing the recordings.

But, alas, we’ll have to continue “not altering” the Geneva Conventions and finding friendly, earth bound places to play the speeches to the terrorists.

NASA still wants to go to Pluto…. Or 340 as it’s becoming known to its friends and fellow dwarf planets.

And we’ll surely get there.

But one thing’s for sure. Plutonians aren’t happy about this. We may have started a new cold war. Next time we visit, expect an icy reception.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Yo, Benny! Here Come The Islamaniacs

139 Yo, Benny! Here Come the Islamaniacs.

Yo, Benny! That was a most un-cool thing you said the other day about the Islamaniacs, the guys who spread their ideas through violence.

Is there a kind of irony about a Kraut born in the 1920s lecturing anyone about the joys of non-violence?

On the other hand, no one’s real upset but the ‘maniacs, because it’s essentially the truth.

Of course, we gotta figure that guys like you who believe theirs is the One True Church have a way of saying stuff like that about other churches.

You were the geniuses who cooked up the Jews-Killed-Jesus thing. So this is nothing new, even though you conveniently deny all that, now. Y’all set the wheels in motion and the Fundamaniac hod carriers are doing the dirty work while you and the other guys in skirts to tsk tsk.

Of course the Fundamaniacs also believe they’re the One True Church, even though they don’t agree about much among themselves. Kind of a contradiction, right? Like – how can two or three or ten conflicting institutions all have the right answers when they disagree on what the right answers are?

JR of New Jersey once said “When I was a little girl, my Church, the Catholic Church, had all the answers. Now (1980) it still has all the answers, but they’re different answers. One True Church? Nah. I don’t go anymore. Let them get their acts straightened out.”

Another JR – this one from Suffolk County, New York said “The Pope’s pretty much a Protestant.”

Neither of these opinions are unique. But they’re still a minority. Want to get them back? Stop Ratzing around and rope ‘em back in. But don’t do it by trying to tromp over the opposition.

JR#1’s middle initial is “A.” JR #2 is really JRC. Both are of Italian extraction and only a little younger than you, Benny.

At least the Mormons are relatively quiet about their own OTC belief. Not that they don’t think it. Not that they don’t discuss it among themselves. But they don’t try to inflict it on the rest of us unless, of course, we ask for it.

And the Islamaniacs? They say the same thing about themselves that you say about you-all. They figure we’re all going to rot in hell if we don’t become Muslims. And not just ANY Muslim – they’re kind is the only kind, they believe.

Anyway, Benny, as leader of what amounts to a captive nation of about one billion people, you really ought to be a bit more – well – diplomatic. Don’t come right out and say these guys are swordslingers. Be a little circumspect about it. John Paul II probably would have been. And his people were being trampled by your people around the time you were a pre-adolescent, so he would have had a little more credibility than you do.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Green Level Threat

138 Green Level Threat

This CANNOT be! Poisoned spinach? It must be a terrorist plot!

Health officials in a bunch of states say e-coli could getcha if you eat fresh bagged spinach.

Popeye loses. Finally.

The pipe cleaner figure of Olive Oyl couldn’t do it. Pirates – nah. Not even the mighty Bluto could bring the Old Salt down. Now… his favorite dish, spinach, is his undoing. And ours.

Popeye ate canned spinach, which in the opinion of many spinach gourmets is superior to fresh. Plus it gave him opportunities to show he could squeeze a sealed can until it popped.

But just this once, he decided to buy it fresh in the bag.

So long, Popeye. Toot Toot!

This wasn’t immediately disclosed. But the spinach growers association is shocked and horrified.

One spinach maven was heard to say “we take this very seriously.”

You better believe it. There’s no telling what damage something like this can do.

And all those mommies exhorting their brats to “…eat your spinach!”

Of course, if you cook the stuff, the e-coli dies. But who wants to COOK!

Here in Out Of Service County (more about which at a future date,) a quick patrol of the leading supermarkets shows people are aware of this and are leaving spinach on the shelves.

The markets themselves are taking it off and throwing it out.

Joey at the produce counter says people are wise to this stuff… and they also take it very seriously. No one is eating spinach, Joey says. In fact, all vegetable sales are down compared with yesterday and with last week.

“Oy! You never saw such empty aisles. People aren’t eating anything green. Nothing. Nada. Zip.”

Articulate fellow.

The Homeland Security Department has issued a “Condition Green Warning.”

Chief Michael “the Empire State Building is NOT a landmark” Chertoff said in an interview that the poisoned veggies are the work of a previously unknown group “The Farmers of Allah.”

Word of the spinach attack sent Cheney back to his famed “undisclosed location,” and the President immediately boarded Air Force One, which continues to circle the airport in Tulsa.

Flight attendants jettisoned bagged spinach from the galley over Montgomery, giving rise to a rousing chorus of that famed old song “Germs fell on Alabama.” The cabin has been searched. No more spinach remains on board.

At the Popeye Home in Los Angeles, fans are gathering and the City Council is trying to come up with plans for a fitting memorial.


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

(c) 2006 WJR


Friday, September 15, 2006

O'Blivious and Tales of Other People

137 O’Blivious and Tales of Other People



Marty just found out he can sing Counter Tenor. But he isn't going the classical route, in fact, he's not even going the Elizabethan route. Marty's playing his banjo and singing bluegrass hits in a medium falsetto. He thinks falsetto is a form of Italian food, and tells people he's just singing a lot of high notes. Noone can quite figure this out. Kind of Tiny Tim for the Confederates. No uke, no "Tiptoe Through the Tulips." Instead, it's "Wildwood Flower," and "Cripple Creek," which is the Banjo National Anthem, and has the same problem as the REAL national anthem.


That is this: No one knows more than a few of the words. It's not easy being an anthem. And it's not easy for Marty to be a countertenor because he cannot duplicate his song list in the basso range, and therefore the women in the audience do not know that he is ... um ... he has all his... um... parts.


===

They got pills for blood pressure, pills for depression, pills for obsessin, pills and potions for heart burn, pills for reducing cholesterol. Now, PharmoCare has a pill to get all the rest of the pills out of your system. Costs $2.35 a dose and you take it three times a day. But it's a small price to pay, when you think about it. This is because parts of each of the pills, which are called Pill-Out, have to run around your bloodstream and lasso the little tiny parts of all the other pills.

PillOut.Com, for all the info, if you have an internet connection. Otherwise, just ask your pharmacist.

And -- yes -- chances are your HMO DOES pay for it. Surprise!

===

At last... a Magzine that you can live with. No words. No pictures. No ads. Nothing. It's called "Nothing." Printed on different color stock each quarter so you can distinguish it from the others. Never out of date. Your doctor will love this publication for the waiting room. Not much substances, but have you read the competition lately?
Your first issue is free. If you don't like "Nothing" just write "cancel" on the bill and fogetaboutit.
===

They have something now called the Sleep Fitness Center. Everything's a workout, even sleeping. Everything has a METHOD, even sleeping. They could build a whole college for sleep, not just one little gym.
Mattress 101. Clock setting. Eye closing. Pre-sleep Meditation. Ladies and Gentlemen! (Fanfare) (Drumroll) Sleep University. The football team is called the "Shuteyes." Outside the main building... a 17 foot statue of Sleepy the Dwarf.
Sleep University with undergraduate, graduate and certificate programs.
The medical division has a whole curriculum on snoring, tooth grinding and over-tossing.
The History Department features "Sleeping through the ages," as a major.
But, of course, the centerpiece of it all, is the Sleep Fitness Center. That's what started it all. Work out, baby! And pop that Melatonin!

===

O'Blivious is installing a ceiling fan in the room of his daughter, who is Mary, 19, and he is doing this himself because Zipaletti of Zip's Electric wants $75 an hour for the job and this is too much, because Zip says it will take two or maybe three hours to put the thing in right and to clean up after. O'Blivious doesn't know too much about this sort of thing, but he figures he can just pull out the light fixture and wire in the fan -- which has its own light -- and then stick the thing in the ceiling, and that's that.
O'Blivious is back from The Home Depot with the fan and he has the ladder all in place and the fuse out of the box and he's ready to put the thing in, but when he gets up the ladder, he finds that they've painted the light fixture so often that it's kind of stuck to the ceiling and it takes a lot of time to pry the thing out.
Mary O'Blivious holds Dad steady and together they get out the fixture. Mary is passing tools up and down to Dad up on the ladder and all the wires and things are in the right place and it really does take only an hour or so. Damn Zipaletti, the crook!
O'Blivious puts the fuse back in the box, flips the switch and on goes the fan and the light. Amazing.

That night, when Dad's asleep, Mary gets the ladder back into her room and quietly removes the fixture... removes the shot glass, removes the pliers and replaces the fixture.
Zip had tipped her.

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

(c) 1999, 2006 WJR

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Carly & Patty Show

136 The Carly and Patty Show

So let’s see if we can get this all straight.

The former CEO of HP (That’s the former chief executive officer of Hewlett Packard) Carly Fiorina screws up bigtime by buying Compaq and gets the axe, after a long public fight.

Now, the chairman of the company’s board, Patty Dunn is going to get the axe because there was a news leak of something she thought should be private, and she hired private eyes who stole the identities of suspects in order to get the dirt.

Reminder: When the game’s in the boardroom, you can’t win on the field.

We’ve said that before. Over and over, in fact. For proof, we site the New York Islanders of the NHL, the New York Jets of the NFL, the New York Yankees of the 1980s, the Iraq war, General Motors and Apple Computer between the Steve Jobs eras.

When Carly was busy fighting for Compaq, HP went on the first of several downspouts on her watch. She’s gone and the company has since recovered and prospered.

This latest flap – and the Attorney General of California says he has enough evidence to indict people inside and outside the company – will likely put HP back on the downside of the roller coaster until Patty leaves – which is scheduled for January.

Does this say anything about women in leadership positions. Not really, other than these two ain’t exactly Angela Merkel and Margaret Whitman.

But the Patty part of it says something about privacy: Doesn’t exist. Forget about it. Not in the constitution, no matter what the Supremes say. Doesn’t exist in reality unless you’re Theodore Kazinski before they found him.

You protecting yourself with spyware and antivirus stuff? Read your “Free Credit Report” once a year? Keep your phone unlisted?

Ah, your fortress!

Reality Check: If you haven’t had your ID stolen it’s because no one cares enough about you to steal it. Or no one’s had the time, yet.

Terrible shortage of spies and thieves out there, though. It’s a spies market. Terrible glut of data out there. Market forces will balance it all out, just as it has the price of oil and the situation in Free Iraq.

Meantime, we shouldn’t get all upset about the HP spy case, or, for that matter, the government’s famed warrantless wiretaps. If we didn’t have those, how would we have prevented the attacks on Chicago and Milwaukee. See? So effective you didn’t even know about that! And how would we have caught Osama?

You guys!

You want privacy? The Kazinsky cabin awaits.

Meantime, someone find Patty a job. She’s not getting the kind of settlement Carly did.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Cheapening

135 The Cheapening

The Vietnam vets have a saying, “If you weren’t there, you don’t get it.” Same is so of the 9/11 attacks in New York. With a twist: if you WERE there, you can’t explain it.

The bombing sight stank. It still stinks. You had to smell it. And you could. Miles north in Harlem and Washington Heights you could smell it. Midtown. The fashionable and hideously expensive upper east and upper west sides. You could smell it across the water east in Queens and south in Brooklyn. Pretty much everywhere.

And pretty much everyone in town lost someone. Some colleagues: John Tucker’s brother (no names have been changed.) Rachel Uchitel’s fiancĂ©. Several thousand others.

Now, first-arrivers and survivors are suing the city over health care and the city is fighting back. This is not the city of the strutting Mayor Rudy. This is the city of the benevolent and understanding Mike Bloomberg.

Now, ABC is broadcasting a mini series about the thing, and the focus is on the TV version, more than on the real events five years ago. Each of the strident political factions is trying to make the other look bad over the debate.

What schlock mini series do we need? CNN carried the whole thing live. Half of Manhattan could see it from the window. We don’t need the Zapruder film or the talk show hosts to tell us what went on. We felt the ground shake, saw the planes hit, smelled the stench, washed the debris and the toxic dust out of our clothing.

We made or received the phone calls that went, invariably, like this:

Caller: turn on your TV.

Callee: What channel?

Caller: Any channel, every channel.

Some of us had never been to the Trade Center. One of us called the buildings “the ugliest skyscrapers ever.” Said since the day they were first suggested that they never should have been built. Just another penis size contest. The Empire State Building doesn’t have to be the tallest to be the best or the most important. The Chrysler Building will always be the prettiest.

But once the buildings were up, still ugly as hell, they were up and part of the bedrock. Then they weren’t. The disappearance made a difference after we became accustomed to them being there.

The politicians fight about what kind of memorial should be there. The only meaningful one would have been a plaque, maybe a wall of names – the dead and the heroes. They should have left the rest as it landed.

Conspiracy theories: the buildings, say the theorists, could not have collapsed merely because they were hit by planes. It had to be more, they tell us. Maybe. But we have to make hideous events even more hideous. Otherwise, they become trivial over time. The Kennedy assassination. The Hoffa disappearance. The murder of Jonbenet Ramsey.

And is it wrong to hold all Muslims responsible for the attack and come to hate them? Probably it is. But it’s easier to do that than not to. More convenient. More settling. We need scapegoats. And this case is easy.

How about blaming ourselves? That, too, is easy.

The mini series, the memorial, the ceremonies, the politics. Cheap.

You had to be there.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Friday, September 08, 2006

Confederate Attack On NY Fails & Misc.

134 Confederate Attack On New York Fails & Other Tales

Kispy Kreme comes from North Carolina and it’s going back.

The donut franchise started war plans in 1937. It went public in 2000. Its stores were everywhere. Now, they’re almost nowhere.

The IPO stock sold for about fifty bucks. A recent price was eight dollars.

There are two “outposts” left in New York, one in Penn Station where the rest of the Confederates often land in need of a sugar fix, and on the upper east side, where they eat daintily.

What failed? Was it that we realized how fattening these things can be (are?)

And how expensive?

And how bad they really taste? (Sugar coated tar comes to mind.)

Is it the SEC investigations?

Probably a little of each. We got tired of the rot they sell just about the time the Feds started looking for swindles and found … well… something.

Could it be that they tried to be Starbuck’s and over expanded, putting their stuff in every deli, 7-11, supermarket and lunchroom on the planet? Starbucks are way to numerous. But they expanded relatively slowly. Plus their fattening crap at least tastes good most of the time.

Maybe it’s just that the southern yahoos don’t know how to do business in New York. Lines that rival CVS and Duane Reade for slowness.

Dunkin’ Donuts is almost as slow, but not quite And most of their stuff is at least faux fresh.

The whole Krispy deal was an act of war. They wanted us to look like THEM. We don’t need their help for that.

This ragtag bunch? Even their fellow Confederates don’t like ‘em. And look at that list of lawsuits. Franchisees, employees, and more. Not just one or two… but a Passel. (That’s a metric measurement peculiar to areas south of the Mason-Dixon line, but not exclusive to them.)

ODDS AND ENDS:

-A followup to the debut of the Katie Show on CBS: The critics hated it, which almost guarantees that the public loved it. Love or curiosity put the thing in the number one spot for the first time in maybe ten years. But one day’s viewership does not a winner make.

-Speaking of TV, they ought to give out Emmys for the shopping channels. Some of their anchors are better than Katie or Brian or Charlie on the PM Newscasts. There are at least three networks. They’re live around the clock (not even CNN does THAT!) They have producers, directors, graphic artists, stage crew, audio operators, designers… and maybe even writers… like any other television productions or networks. So why shortchange the last bastion of spontaneous television?

-Is there more than one recipe/formula for Philly Cheese Steak? Or is it just that each “chef” puts his or her own spin on the basic hero-roll/beef shavings/Velveeta concoction?

-It must be the end of the world because otherwise why would Lionfish from the Pacific be invading the beaches of Long Island.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Bring Back Dan Rather

133 Bring Back Dan Rather

Words you never expected to hear here. But compared to Couric, he’s Murrow.

Memo to Charles Gibson and Brian Williams: You have nothing to worry about.

The New CBS Evening News with Katie Couric is kind of like a highway pile up with parts of the NBC scenery and graphics departments, the writers from Metromedia Radio in the 1960s the “Today Show” and Disney’s Fantasia hitting one another at high speed.

Let’s break that down. NBC Scenic has become a parody of itself, busily distracting you from whatever else is going on on the screen. Compared to the Katie Show, it’s conservative.

Then there are the graphics. The Vaseline and gauze on the lens is to hide anchor wrinkles, not to make Osama and then Dubya appear as if from a cloud.

The writing is forced New York wiseacre. Verbiage unbecoming an anchor, whether of an evening newscast or a morning wake-up show.

And Couric hasn’t left the Today show yet.

The interview segment is reminiscent of what the NBC types called the “Today” “co-op,” a chatty but empty little gabfest that stations can use at about :25 and :55 past the hour if they don’t have local news. Most viewers never see that because most stations DO have local news.

Then there’s what and how they cover. Peculiar that after “months of negotiations” a look inside a Taliban camp in Afghanistan just happened to lead the first program.

An oil find in the gulf was the lead on NBC Nightly News. But it was kind of wedged into the middle of Katieland.

She’s still perky. She’s still Katie. That wasn’t hard to tell, despite so much eye candy: multiple versions of the CBS eye, an anchor desk with financial data displayed in Times Square size type.

All three of the evening newscasts have become vaudeville shows. Here, there is no clear-the house act at the end. Just Katie pondering what kind of closing she should use, playing those of Murrow, Cronkite, Rather, Huntley-Brinkley, Ted Baxter and Ron Burgundy. No distinction was made between the real news anchors and the fictional ones. And then she asked viewers to send in their suggestions.

The theme was written by the same guy who wrote the music for the movie “Titanic.” Sense of irony anyone?

Disclaimer: the undersigned and C were colleagues for a decade. She appeared to like me. If ever she sees this, that’ll change.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day 2006

132 Labor Day, 2006

What’s missing from Labor Day 2006? Organized labor. There is no such thing. The AFL CIO committed suicide earlier this year. And it’s not just that the Teamsters withdrew. They do that now and then.

The unions are thrashing around looking for ways to increase their numbers. Odd organizations are tying to organize things that just don’t relate. Sometimes, they succeeed.

Take the United Auto Workers. They don’t represent so many auto workers any more. They have zero presence at the American factories owned by Honda, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, Nissan, Mitsubishi or Mazda.

They DO, however, represent writers and editors at the weekly “Village Voice”newspaper of New York, which just summarily fired about 20 percent of its staff -- including a few guys who’d been there since the 1960s.

Fine contract that must be.

At least the poor schleps at GM, Ford and Daimler-Chrysler get a decent buck.

They also represent workers at some colleges.

Then there’s the Communications Workers of America, which was the phone company union when there was only one phone company to speak of (or through.)

CWA absorbed the technicians union at NBC and ABC, the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians. Both networks have been shedding jobs for a decade.

And it “owns” the Newspaper Guild, another first rate outfit.

Fine contract those are.

They’re tearing their hair, these leaders, and wondering “where did we go wrong?”

Here’s where.

1. When you struck over money you lost even if you won.

2. When you gave up or allowed yourself to be forced to give up the right to shut the plant down when you struck, you lost. You’re useless.

3. You forgot how to be scary.

You never strike over bucks. Only about work rules, pensions, insurance, security.

If they can run the plant or the paper or the school or the network while you’re on the picket line, why bother trying to settle? If you can’t close ‘em down, you lose.

You’re recruiting tactics are 19th century. No American worker today believes himself to be a member of a peasantry or a proletariat. You’ve got to sell them on the idea that unionizing is the only way to ride herd on the corporate bozos. It’s positively un-American, the way things are going today.

Could Wal-Mart execs go home with huge checks while much of their workforce gets welfare?

You need to get back to your roots. Tough with the recruits, tougher still with the bosses. If you don’t get into a few faces, you’re not going to have any faces to get into.

Forget the shirt and tie.

And for godsake, forget the smile.

Happy Labor Day.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Friday, September 01, 2006

It's the Stupid Economy

131 It’s the Stupid Economy

Bill Clinton’s self-reminder during his presidential campaign years: “It’s the economy, stupid.” New warning for the rest of us: It’s the stupid economy.

Let’s clear this up first: Government statistics – any statistics – can be fudged, manipulated and bent any which-way.

Now that that’s clear, let’s clear THIS up: Economics is a pseudo science. It establishes premises and methodology based on nothing, assumes them as truth and goes on from there making its statements and predictions. They make the whole thing up. Then they debate among themselves which fake theories and calculations are true and which aren’t. These guys would be laughed out of high school biology.

Now that THOSE things are clear, let’s clear THIS up: Economic conditions are getting worse, no matter what the PhD axis is telling you.

Inflation is low. Costs are low and stable. That’s what they say. Footnote: excludes fuel and food.

That’s like going to the doctor and hearing, “you’re perfectly healthy except you have a brain tumor and your heart is beating irregularly.”

Don’t worry about a thing.

Big Charles of Florida had heart trouble once. He went to the doc and asked about a bypass operation. After some tests, the doc said “nah,” no way.

Charlie died maybe three months later. The “nah” didn’t mean “you don’t need one,” it meant “get one, it won’t do any good.”

Back to the economy.

There is no way to gauge it. There’s scarce little way to predict it. It is less precise than meteorology. But at least the weather guys admit that there are too many factors to be even 90 percent accurate.

Does that mean we shouldn’t try? No. Like the weather guys, the economists are sometimes right. Just don’t do any heavy betting on the outcomes of their predictions. The house always wins, just like in Vegas. Except there IS no house.

Economists are like the psychics in the supermarket tabloids. No one ever checks back to see how accurate they were. It’s a one-day story.

The really smart ones realize they’re mostly pulling scams and they hedge their bets.

You think Greenspan talked like that because his head was in the clouds and he’s so much smarter than the rest of us that we just can’t understand him? No. He talked that way so no one could say for sure what he meant. Try tealeaves. Designate values or directions, thus: Half a leaf signifies a major change in inflation or interest rates or wholesale prices or retail prices or wholesale inventories or anything you want.

Which way the change? Make it up. Then make up reasons to support your conclusion. Then make up supporting equations and statistics. You might win the Nobel Prize.

Here’s a link to the winners. Check it out. Nothing there makes a bit or sense. Or, if it does, it doesn’t take a PhD to figure it out.

http://almaz.com/nobel/economics/

We know prices can rise when something is in short supply and vice versa. But we also know that price increases and decreases don’t matter (see “Here Spike,” Wessay #118, for just one example.)

Other than that, we don’t know much, we just won’t admit it.

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

(c) 2006 WJR