Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bernie Coldcuts The Mind Reader

169 Bernie Coldcuts the Mind Reader

Bernie knows what his customers want before they open their mouths. He’s that good. Not every time, of course. But mostly.

Sheila Stone walks in. Pest. Never gets the same thing twice. But today, Bernie knows she wants a “heavy” half pound of Genoa salami, a “heavy” half pound of German potato salad and three pounds of knockwurst.

A “heavy half pound” means “give me a little extra, and don’t charge me for it.” That used to be easy when Bernie Coldcuts had those old-fashioned scales. He go along with Sheila. Next customer, he’d put his thumb on the scale and shortweight the guy by about the same amount he gave away to Sheila. It’s a wash. And who’s going to know.

Once, though, he did that to a city weights and measures inspector and they shut him down for an hour or two right around the busy pre-dinner shopping hour so they could check his scales.

They didn’t really have to, but they did it to teach Bernie a lesson. Which he learned. So he went out and got a couple of those digital scales and now he has to tell Sheila she can’t have her “heavy half pound” because the scales are electronic and he can’t charge her less than the cost of the actual weight of the knockwurst.

Sheila looks over the cracker display up front, and while she’s doing that, Bernie starts filling the order she hasn’t given yet.

When she gets to the counter, B has all the stuff packaged except the knockwurst, and he’s just about to wrap that.

“Hi, Bernie,” she says, “I need a heavy half pound of Genoa Salami, a heavy half pound of German potato salad and three pounds of knockwurst.”

“Gottem right here,“ says Bernie. I’m a mind reader.

“No,” says Sheila. You cut those for another customer earlier and now you’re trying to sell me stale goods. I won’t hear of it. And besides, those aren’t “heavy” half pounds, I can tell.”

“Sheila, I’ve been telling you for weeks I can’t do the heavy weights anymore. The scale won’t let me. And this ISN’T stale. I started cutting for you when I saw you walk in.”

Later, Petshop Tony walks in and pauses in front of the cracker display. Bernie immediately starts cutting a quarter pound of all-beef bologna and four thin slices of American cheese.

Tony walks up to the counter and asks Bernie for just that. Bernie hands him over the package.

“I can read minds, Tony. I knew what you wanted before you ever opened your mouth.”

This mind reading thing can get out hand sometimes.

Bernie and his wife Phyllis were out at a party the other day, and Bernie is hitting on the host’s daughter, Sarah. Phyllis walks into the room and surprises the two of them.

Bernie says “Phyllis! I thought when I was reading your mind just now that you had to go to the bathroom.”

“No, Bernie, I was just coming OUT of the bathroom when I caught you two lovebirds.”

Sometimes Bernie Coldcuts is a dyslexic mind reader.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Monday, November 27, 2006

Cosmo Fells The Empire

168 Cosmo Fells the Empire

Poor Jerry Seinfeld. He had such a good game going, and now it’s over. He called it “a show about nothing.” What he didn’t mention that it also was a show starring no one. And Michael Richards (no relation) has proven it. A total nobody. He’s a shoddy actor who knows how to fall without hurting himself – at least physically. Now he’s a shoddy actor with no career on TV and no career in the clubs. And the Seinfeld Empire?

Re-runs? Who wants ‘em. DVDs? Who’s gonna play ‘em? More important, who’s gonna BUY ‘em? When Richards got up at the Laugh Factory in California and started berating black members of the audience mercilessly and in the most awful of racist terms, he brought down the whole shebang.

There’s no TV show without his character, Cosmo Kramer. And who can look at him after that tirade and not think of the home video that half the world has now seen in one form or another. The censored version ran on all the news programs and the uncensored version is easily available on the internet.

So Richards goes on Letterman, and says he’s not a racist. That’s kind of like the President going on Letterman and saying “I’m not a Republican.” (Or was it Nixon’s “I am not a crook” that is more appropriate here, since we KNOW what Dicky was.)

The gap between Letterman’s front teeth doubled in width as his guest’s words came out.

Had Richards let the “N-word” slip once during a battle with hecklers, he’d have been chided, and he’d have apologized and the whole thing would be over and the Empire would roll on. If he had made the statement before the TV show went into re-runs, someone would have slipped a speck of Polonium 210 in his drink and that would have been the end of him.

But Jerry and others are living off the re-run fees, and they are aplenty. “Seinfeld” is like “M*A*S*H,” “Star Trek” “Lucy” and “Law & Order.” There is an infinite appetite for repeat performances – or at least there was.

Mikey killed that in 2.5 minutes from the stage. A total nothing guy doing a total nothing standup at a total nothing comedy club.

Poor Jerry’ll have to go back to work, now. And who’s going to watch HIM and not think of Cosmo the Racist Idiot?

Maybe Fox will give Richards a book contract. He can call the thing “If I Did It, Here’s How.” If not, he’ll be flipping burgers at McDonald’s until the manager finds out who he is. After that, his only standup will be at a sliding electric door, and his only one liner will be “Hi, and welcome to Wal-Mart.”

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them. (c) 2006 WJR

Friday, November 24, 2006

Vista

167 Vista

Oh, super! A new “operating system” is coming from Microsoft, inventor of the always-flat tire.

It’s called “Vista,” and it replaces the legendary Windows XP. XP is micro-speak for experience. Apparently we’ve all had enough experience and it’s time to broaden our Vistas.

Windows 3.2 remains the best non-Apple interface ever built. If it were around today, life would be a lot easier. Or at least life at the computer would be.

Windows 3.2 fell in favor of Windows 95. They originally considered calling it Windows 4.0. But they soon realized that no one bought anything called something – point –oh, anymore, because it invariably would be incomplete, only partly functional and not ready for prime time.

So Windows 95, then 98 then 2000, NT, Metro or Mixup or some forgettable name, and finally, XP. Decades after the first Windows system, XP finally got rid of some of the instability that has dogged the system since the beginning. Now, it crashes only periodically and not every two hours. They promptly issued a “security pack” that put XP right back in league with the rest of its ancestors. And with that came the return of the Blue Screen of Death and the incomprehensible “error messages” that often went with it.

“You have encountered an xp457.098 mz error. Please restart your computer.”

Naturally, the computer wouldn’t re-start on command, and you had to turn the power off. Sometimes the only way to do that was to pull the plug out of the wall (“Not recommended,” says Microbrain. Okay. So how else do you turn the power off if the power off button is disabled by an xp457.098 mz error. There isn’t an “else.” You pull the plug. Unless, of course, you’re using a notebook computer and pulling the plug only switches the machine to battery power. In that case, you have to either let the thing run down or remove the battery.)

Computer batteries have notoriously short lives. They go “low battery” after almost no time at all. Except when you want them to. Then, they last forever.

Okay, so Microbrew has overcome the increased stability of Windows XP with a security pack “fix” that makes that old familiar blue screen a regular vistor.

What, then, can we expect from ”Vista?” Oh, oodles of dandy new features. You’ll probably be able to flip the screen so you can operate the machine while standing on your head during yoga practice. You’ll be able to do more than you can at once, now. For example you can get a Power Point demonstration together at the same time you’re watching a DVD, playing solitaire and checking your e-mail. Wonder of wonders!

More than likely they’ll reverse the controls just as they did when they went from 3.2 to Windows 95. All of a sudden, years of habit had to change when the “x” to close a screen moved from the left to the right side of the frame.

Any special reason? Nah. They just did it because they could. It required four million lines of code changes. But those programmers out in Redmond have to have something to do or they’ll get bored and make trouble. Like the latest Security Pack. We have to keep those guys busy for our own safety.

If GM made cars like Microwave makes operating systems, no one would buy them. Come to think of it, maybe that’s what happened.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Rupert Proves Heny Wrong, Sort of

166 Rupert Proves Henry Wrong, Sort of.

“No one every went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.” Henry Louis Mencken, dead editor.

News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch must have been absolutely furious. Facing a rebellion among his troops at Fox News, HarperCollins and elsewhere, he got himself propped up, muttered something akin to “kill it,” and left the jurisdiction for Australia where they have no telephones.

The “it” was that disgusting book and television interview that amounts to OJ Simpson’s wink-wink-nod-nod confession to the murders of his wife Nicole and her friend Ron Brown.

Normally, Rupert deals with mutinies by crushing them. Not this time. If there’s one good thing you can say about him it’s that he understands the mentality of the people for whom his companies broadcast and write.

Amazon com says the book is “currently unavailable.” Barnes & Nobel’s website doesn’t list it at all.

The OJ thing may have been a plot all along. It may have been “let’s see how much free publicity we can generate by saying we’re going to publish this book and televise this interview.”

But probably not. It’s going to cost the companies a bundle to retrieve and destroy 200-thousand hardback books and fill two hours of TV, and pay off the participants. So if he’s willing to foot that bill, it’s unlikely the whole thing was unintentional.

Murdoch is master of that Mencken quote. But he also knows when to stop. And he’s not above losing a bundle on one unprofitable operation if he can make the loss up elsewhere. His New York Post, for example, is said to loose buckets of money. But they keep the thing on life support because it is an influential power base.

Fox affiliates far and wide refused to carry the interview. Fox news “stars” publicly bashed the company for threatening to. Many retailers either refused to sell the book or said they’d donate profits to charities that oppose violence. And the head of the division that printed the book showed herself to be a dopey, whining axe grinder caught in the headlights.

There was no chance News Corp. would go broke if it aired and published these items. But it would have distracted from its mission: conquering the world by converting it to “fair and balanced” right wing whackyness and celebrity scandal.

If this was too much for the Asbestos-coated Murdoch, it was too much for anyone. Maybe Rupert has proved that Mencken, if not wrong, at least may not be entirely right.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Monday, November 20, 2006

Coin Connection

165 Coin Connection

Bird the Barber is staggering up the stairs at the 34th St stop on the F Train and he is listing to starboard. Bird the Barber runs that little combination shoe shine parlor and hair cutting palace that’s kind of wedged in between the newsstand and the massage parlor most of the way up to ground level, but not quite. Bird’s listing because he has a pocket full of one dollar coins, all of them in the right pocket of his doubleknits.

“You gotta get rid of those coins, Bird,” said Mrs. Bird before he left the house this morning. “Nah,” says Bird, I’m trying to be patriotic. I can’t support the war. I can’t support the tax cuts. But I still want to do my part to show support for America. I give ‘em as change to my customers, especially the lousy tippers.”

She says “I’m tired of sewing up the holes in your pockets. Would you please get some bills instead!”

They love Bird at the Washington Mutual Bank across the street. He goes in there with 10s and 20s and asks for Susan B. Anthonys and Sacagaweas. They love Bird because they do not have room for Susan B. Anthonys and Sacagaweas.

They soon will have more reason to love him.

The US Mint is about to issue not one, not two, not three, but FOUR new dollar coins to go with the flops they already have on their hands. Bird will be SO patriotic, then.

Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison. Four new people to ignore.

They keep pumping these things out like popcorn. At least people (and pigeons) eat that. The only way to get a one dollar coin is to get change from a municipally owned vending machine. Like when you buy a Metrocard or park in the Downtown Moote Pointe Garage.

Government conspiracy theorists love that one. The Government mints these coins and The Government forces you to use them. Well, not exactly forces. They force up in Canada, where they just simply stopped making one dollar bills and issued coins.

Suzie B and Princess S are alive and well. Beside their highly popular appearances in vending machines and among Bird’s bad tippers, they’re living in YOUR house. In YOUR dresser drawer or piggy bank.

One day, Bird went to Ghatti at the newsstand next to the barber shop and bought a “Post” which costs a quarter, and Ghatti refused to take the Suzie B, because he’d never seen one before and thought it was a forgery or a foreign coin.

It IS a foreign coin. Not from a foreign country, though.

“No Egyptian money, Bird. I don’t take this fake coin.”

“It’s not a fake, it’s a one dollar coin. See? It says ‘United States of America’ right on it.”

“You go back to barber shop, cut hair. I give to you ‘Post’ but I don’t take fake French money or they arrest me.”

Bird takes the free newspaper. He’s got plenty of bad tippers who need change.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

164 The Edmund Fitzgerald

They forgot something. The bell in Detroit? They only rang it eight times on November 10th of this year.

So, here are the rest of them:

9… 10… 11… 12… 13… 14… 15… 16… 17… 18… 19… 20… 21… 22… 23… 24… 25… 26 … 27… 28… 29.

There. That’s better.

Each November 10, the people at the Mariner’s Church ring the bell 29 times, once for each of the men who died in the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald ore carrier on 10 Nov 75.

Not this year. They rang it eight times, once for each of the Great Lakes, once each for two treacherous local rivers and one for people who died in the war. Nice sentiment, but the wrong day.

Everyone in Detroit and in the Great Lakes ports knew this monster ship, all 700-plus feet of her. That’s a couple of football fields, and 100 feet more for good measure. The singer/songwriter Gordon Lightfoot immortalized the Fitz in his story song which takes about one minute per 100 feet of boat length to perform. Seven minutes, pretty near.

She was carrying 26,000 tons of iron ore from Canada when she went down. And they’re still fighting about the cause.

But there’s one thing they’re not fighting about anymore. The bodies get to stay in the water. It’s what most of the families wanted; what the men would have wanted. Canada passed a law prohibiting “recovery,” as it should have.

The cause? Some say the hatches let the storm in – that they weren’t watertight.

The Fitzgerald was 25 years old in 1975. That is not old for a Great Lakes ore carrier. But it IS old for the rubber that’s supposed to seal the hatches. Or maybe the early November gale and cold just snapped the thing in half.

Now, more than 30 years later, you can go down there and look at the faces. The water’s cold all year. There’s no salt. There are no predators big enough to feed on the remains. They’re mostly naked. They’re wrinkled as can be. But they’re pretty well preserved. You’d know what you were looking at if you looked at them.

The Mariner’s Church has been around since 1842. It’s old grey-brown stones have seen many a shipwreck. But the Fitz is “its” wreck, and November 10th is its moment. This church is the keeper, a landmark building shepherding a nautical-mark event.

Capt. Ernest McSorley and the 28 others on board deserve better.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Behind Bars

163 Behind Bars

Here’s what’s really wrong with the news business. No good bars.

Some of the big newspaper chains have either just sold themselves or are about to or about to donate some organs. Knight Ridder knuckled under to stockholder pressure and sold itself to McClatchy, which dismembered the corpse and sold off the body parts.

The New York Times looks ready to sell the Boston Globe, which it never should have never owned in the first place.

The Tribune Co of Chicago bought the LA Times and its subsidiaries and now looks ready to sell some or all of its parts. Again, stockholder pressure.

General Electric is under pressure to spin off NBC. ABC is owned by Disney and selling off its radio stations. CBS was bought by its one time rival, Viacom, then spun off.

Clear Channel radio is getting ready for auction – and that’s 1200 stations in the United States and a bunch more overseas.

The founder of the New York Daily News drank regularly with his boys at the paper. And when they went on strike, he ran the elevator for those who didn’t.

The News, then, was at 2nd Avenue and 42nd Street, a neighborhood whose other establishments included the Last Automat and a bunch of bad bars, which made them good bars. Now it’s on the far West Side in a warehouse.

The New York Post was way downtown on West Street. Plenty of grunge bars there. Now, they’ve moved to the tourist trap Rockefeller Center. Since it’s mostly make-believe anyway, they can go to Elaine’s or Dash of Salt and pretend there’s sawdust on the floor. And because they’re the Post, they can make it work. No one else can.

At about the same time as the post moved in, the Associated Press moved out to become roommates with the Daily News. The AP bar, Charlie-O’s, had moved out earlier. That meant guys like Riverboat and Dick and Fitz and Francine the Hockey Queen had to bring their own. And there went the neighborhood.

Are you following all this?

Reuters moved from scattered locations into Giuliani’s Disneyfied Times Square. At about the same time, the New York Times planned to move over to 8th Avenue at about 43rd, where there is only ONE bad bar left, Smith’s, which is not big enough to serve the entire reporting and editing staff.

Newsday is in a Suffolk County industrial park. The nearest bar is Applebee’s.

WOR radio, which once really had newsmen and women moved from its ramshackle home in the garment district. There was a shlumpy saloon around the corner, and the news people had taken it over and held it hostage after the real garment district beer joints were shoved out. (The also had Schraftt’s and Toffinetti’s. But no newsman would be seen dead in either.)

WINS radio has a few bars left. But they’re closing fast as the neighborhood gets “transformed.”

ABC is all spread out around Lincoln Center.

Bloomberg News moved from a pair of conjoined but separately owned office towers on Park to an eyesore of a skyscraper (Star Trek meets the 1957 DeSoto) a block east on Lexington. No place to go from either the old or new places.

NBC was deserted by its bar, Hurley’s which finally bowed to tourist trap pressure and sold its building which was entirely surrounded by, but not part of Rock Center. Hurley’s had an NBC telephone extension under the bar. The newsdesk (and the Carson show’s producers) knew to use it.

CBS is the only man standing with a decent news bar within staggering distance.

News turns on the quality of the saloons that serve it.

How are you supposed to do a decent job if you HAVE to do it sober? Not that every reporter from every outlet was busy drinking. But even the teetotalers were part of the Culture of Lubrication.

Cronkite didn’t drink on the job. But Harry Reasoner certainly did. Did it matter? Sure. You can’t be that wry without some rye if you’re a farmer from Iowa reporting from The Big City.

The New York Herald Tribune, the Daily Mirror, the Journal-American, the Star Journal, the World Telegram, PM, The Compass, the Daily Worker and WNEW News all gone.

Now, nobody’s reading the papers. It ain’t the internet. It’s the stockholders or the people who fear what the stockholders think, did it.

That’s what’s wrong with the news business. That, and also the reporters are dying of thirst.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Monday, November 13, 2006

Papa Joe Pistachio

162 Papa Joe Pistachio

Papa Joe has long had trouble explaining that although he is Italian, his last name is Iranian. It’s a good thing he’s a celebrity, and not your average Giuseppe. In fact, he’s the town’s one and only true national celebrity. He is the coach of a highly regarded college football team and therefore has little explaining to do, if he’s not in the mood.

He’s never in the mood.

On a recent weekend, he was injured in a game, played in the wilds of Wisconsin, flown home to Moote Pointe General Hospital and ordered to stay put. No one orders Pistachio around, so he must have wanted to have stayed in bed.

Now, you may ask, how does a guy who gave longevity lessons to Methuselah get into an accident during a football game? One of his mens crashed into him while he was bellowing from the sidelines, broke a couple of bones in his leg and tore up other things in there. So he wasn’t actually PLAYING football (neither was his team, for that matter,) he was coaching from the sidelines, which is what he’s supposed to do.

Moote Pointe General does not have a celebrity wing, like they do at Cedars of Lebanon in Los Angeles or Mount Sinai in New York. So they had to improvise.

First, flowers and candy. Then an extra couple of telephones, a couple of extra TVs and you had to have security clearance to get past the line of third string linebackers who cordoned off the room.

JoPiz, as he’s known locally, said he didn’t need to be in a hospital in the first place, and if he had to be, he wanted to be in a ward.

Calling Dr. Gregory House!

Turns out all the ward beds were full, so they created the Howard Hughes suite.

Joe missed the following Saturday’s game. Third time he’s done that since 1955, and the second since the mid 1970s. No more gold star for 100 percent attendance.

But you still have to feel sorry for the guy.

He’s a zillion years old, his team is in the toilet. A real estate “venture” in which he’s a participant is facing all kinds of municipal legal and tax troubles, and the guy can’t walk into a bar or a supermarket or down the street without getting recognized and mobbed by adoring fans, mostly women in their 70s.

Hell of a way to live. Some reward for all that loyal service. WHAT loyal service? Why the guys attracted tens of millions of dollars into the town economy, and into the Moote Pointe State U treasury. The team wasn’t always defenseless (and offense-less.)

And there was a time when he WOULD get a bed in the wards (or if there weren’t any, in a hallway somewhere.) and COULD buy a beer on a hot summer day without having to either meet-and-greet or brush off the adoring masses.

That was before they put up the statue and carved his face into the mountain.

By the way, the Moote Pointe Lions won this one for the Gipper.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Pelosi Problem

161 The Pelosi Problem

Speaker Pelosi summarized the main flaw in the Democratic Party with a five word aphorism on election day, 2006. She said “…the… party is not about revenge…”

In less than two seconds, she summarized what stops Democrats and propels Republicans.

The Republican Party IS about revenge. And punishment.

The Democrats really are, too. But they want to be “above all that,” and so have consciences, generally. Those consciences get in the way when they try revenge, and slow ‘em down.

If the parties were reversed and Republicans just assumed power, here’s what would happen:

1. Impeachment proceedings would begin right away.

2. War crimes trial might follow.

3. Every office holder of the opposition party would undergo an IRS audit.

4. The sex lives of every office holder of the opposition party would be exposed.

5. The draft records of every member of the opposition party would be exposed.

6. Talk radio hosts and “friendly” publications would be harnessed in various smear campaigns.

The Republicans went after Clinton as if he were – well, Saddam Hussein. Now the Democrats should go after Bush the same way. Every payoff, every drunken bender, every coke snort, every puff of marijuana.

And ridicule. The scene aboard the aircraft carrier, with the flight suit and helmet and the banner that read “Mission Accomplished.”

Hastert waffling about the congressman who likes little boys.

Flip flopping was a popular Republican term/accusation during the election of ’04.

Just before the election of ’06, Bush said Rumsfeld was on board for the rest of the Presidential term.

Couple of weeks later, Rumsfeld is resigned.

If that ain’t flip-flopping, what IS?

The conservative spinmeisters are busy telling us that the right lost the election because it has drifted too far left. If only, they say “we” had stuck to our Reagan conservatism, we’d still be the party in power.

They shudder at the authority Charlie Rangel will have now (some of them don’t realize he’s black, which would outrage them even more.)

Democrats choose to keep this kind of thing to themselves. “We’re above all that.” Aw, c’mon. They’re not above it, they’re just overcautious and engaged in self debate when they do it, and therefore, they don’t do it effectively. Let’s “re-calibrate” that statement as St. Rumsfeld might say. The Democratic LEADERSHIP tries to be “above all that.” The voters don’t.

Here’s a fine example. Pennsylvania threw out Boy Wonder Senator Rick Santorum. Exit polls say so. They didn’t vote for his opponent, who could have been Lassie or Saddam Hussein. They voted against Santorum.

Forget the high ground, Ms. Pelosi.

Get in there and give these guys the same kind of beating they give you.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Visitor

160a The Visitor

Receptionist: May I help you, sir?

Visitor: Tell Alan that Meyer is here to see him.

R: Do you have an appointment, Mr. Meyer?

V: Meyer, that’s my first name, and no, I don’t, but I think he’ll see me.

R: I’m sorry, but Mr. Hevesi is very busy this afternoon. I can make an appointment for you.

V: (opens jacket to show a glimpse of holster strap) Please just tell him I am here and would like to see him.

The receptionist picks up the phone and speaks quietly into the receiver. In a moment, a gnome-like guy in an Armani suit and two large, similarly attired gentlemen emerge from a doorway.

Armani #1 to the Visitor: Sir, you can’t see the Comptroller without an appointment. We’ve just been through a very busy election campaign and Mr. Hevesi is…

V: Just tell Alan I’m here, please and ask if he’ll see me?

Armani numbers 1 and 3 nod and leave. Armani #2 also shows a glimpse of shoulder holster, then crosses his arms and stares at the Visitor.

The phone rings.

The receptionist picks it up and murmurs again, then puts it down.

R: Mr. Hevesi will see you now.

Armani #3 returns to the reception area and he and Armani #2 accompany the visitor down a corridor and into the Hevesi’s office.

Hevesi: Meyer, you’re looking well, glad you could come in. And so sorry about the delay, you know my door is always open to you.

V (removes a handful of cigars from his brief case, offers them to the Armani Bros. and Hevesi. At the same time, he says: These are from Fidel’s private stock. Alan, send your goons away.

H: Gentlemen, you can wait outside the office if you like.

The Bros. leave the room.

H: Meyer, you ARE looking well.

V (smiles): Not bad for a guy’s been deadski for more than 23 years. That Havana sunshine keeps me tan, but I hate the way it wrinkles my skin.

Now, Alan, what was that question you used to ask about David Bloom until you found out he was Irish?

H: Oh. Yeah. I remember, it was “David, how can a Jew be so stupid?”

(both men chuckle)

V: Yeah. That’s the one. I knew it was one of those news reporters. You know, kid, we Jews are supposed to know how to use money. Look what we have accomplished.

H: A proud heritage, Meyer, even if it’s used as an ethnic slur.

V (moves to within a couple of inches of Hevesi’s face: So, Alan, HOW CAN A JEW BE SO STUPID! You dumb sonofabitch, you get a good job. A really good job. You do it for years and years and years, and then what? You piss away a couple of Gs on some stupid bullshit and you use State money, and then you try to justify it by saying you feared for her safety? Fear for YOUR safety, you moron!

H: Don’t get excited, Meyer, it’s not good for your health.

V: I’m fucking DEAD, you idiot! Do you know what you DID? You almost gave that dumb Schlub Calogen your job.

H: Callaghan.

V: Calogen, Callaghan, whatever.

H: Look, Meyer, we’re both money guys, right? Financial guys? It was just an accounting error. A political mistake.

V: You dummy, you sound like you BELIEVE your own crap. Guys like you don’t last long. Get your act together. We’re still figuring out what to do about you. But believe me, the Boys are not happy.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Monday, November 06, 2006

A Phone Call

159 A Phone Call

Ring, Ring!

“Hello?”

Long silence, then

“This is a survey. It will only take a few moments. We need your opinion as we approach the mid-term election of 2006. We are not trying to sell you anything. Please push ‘one’ to continue.

There is no one around to push. Maybe they mean “press one” on the keypad. Okay.

“Beep.”

Long silence (they like that, apparently.) Then

“Thank you for agreeing to participate in our pre-election survey. On a scale of 1 to 5 with five being the most positive and one the least, please rate the following statement: ‘I think terrorists are treated unfairly and should be released from jail pending further court action and given the same rights as Good Americans like you and me.’”

“Beep.”

“Thank you for your answer. You are a commie creep and probably should be in jail yourself.

“Question two: on a scale of 1 to 5 with five being strong agreement and one as strong disagreement, please rate the following statement: ‘I think abortion should be outlawed and approve of a Constitutional amendment to do so.’”

“Beep.”

“You are a baby killing commie creep, and probably should go to jail.

“Question three: Please rate the following statement with five being strong agreement and 1 being the least: Members of Congress have tough jobs and should be allowed to recreate with young men and women now considered ‘under age’ by some wrong thinkers.”

“Beep.”

“You are opposed to individual freedom and have no place among Real Americans.

“Question four: on a scale of 1 to 5, with five indicating strong agreement, and one meaning you disagree, please rate the following statement: ‘The death tax is unfair and should be repealed, as should taxes on investment income.’”

“Beep!”

“Go back to Russia!

“Question five: knowing what you know today, do you think the invasion of Iraq was a good idea?”

“Beep.”

“Thank you for participating in our Freedom Now! Survey. You will soon receive a small token of our appreciation. A large, midnight blue Ford Crown Victoria sedan with oversized tires and no hubcaps will soon pull up at your driveway. Four delivery men in black suits, wearing aviator reflective sunglasses and carrying small rifles for your protection will emerge, ring your bell and take you to your prize. Please cooperate with them. It will go a lot easier for you.

“I’m George W. Bush and I approved of this message.”

(c) 2006 WJR

Friday, November 03, 2006

Return To Moote Pointe

158 Return To Moote Pointe

A recent trip back to Moote Pointe NY, just outside New York City. And some observations:

Frangipanni bought the building that formerly housed the Secret Seaside Laboratory for this series and earlier for Bloomberg On The Weekend Radio. Frangipanni cut off the top, put in a second floor and posted a “for sale by owner sign.” He overpayed, though at the time he thought he was getting a bargain, which – at the time – he was.

Nice job of paving the driveway.

Roast-O-Rama around the corner has closed and turned into a pizza joint, one of six in walking distance. Roast-O-Rama was best known for its Arby-like roast beef sandwiches and its pretty Hispanic counter workers who spoke no English but did so with flirtatious grace.

Routes 27 and 27a in Nassau County have become soul brethren to the Cross Bronx expressway, only with less experienced drivers. Glacial.

The one Long Island Railroad train observed was 12 minutes late. Glacial – and with new horror stories about people falling through the gap between the platform and the rail car. The problem is as old as the railroad itself, about 170 years. But people are starting to pay attention. About the right amount of time for the LIRR’s problem solvers, the ones who survey you endlessly and then do nothing.

New York City itself has become Paradise on earth. Some samples: You can drive the length of Riverside Drive and never see a human being. Just trees and Grant’s Tomb. Oh, and some stray dogs.

All the people who coagulate at 133rd and 12th are still there, though. There’s what passes in Harlem for a supermarket there. It’s kind of like Whole Foods Soul Food.

Everyone speaks English or Spanish or a mix of both. Everyone goes about his business.

Flushing is another story. No English here.

The Mandarin speakers are all busy dissing the Cantonese speakers who are all busy dissing the Korean speakers in parking lots with no parking spaces and no room to walk, adjacent to streets teeming with people going in every direction at once.

What ever happened to “keep right?”

One Mandarin speaker liked the street scene to an invasion of cockroaches, which she calls cokka-rohchiz. Reminding her that she was once one of them, and before that in Taipei which is even busier.

What’s changed in New York? Probably nothing. It looks a little cleaner than remembered. It’s more crowded than it should be. But that’s not new.

It still doesn’t have a school system worth the pomposity it floats on.

And can you believe they’re fiddling around, still, with the Trade Center site?

This department has always said that the only fitting memorial is to leave the place as it landed.

That is a pipe dream. Ain’t no money in that. No architects imposing their nightmares on the public at public expense. No builders replacing one hideous pair of monster buildings with another.

No landlord. No tenants. Just memories.

Terrible concept.

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

(c) 2006 WJR

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Help Wanted

157 Help Wanted

You can find out some surprising stuff in the newspaper classifieds. But sometimes you have to read them for awhile before you understand what you’re seeing.

If an ad runs over and over and over again, day-in, day-out one of two things is happening: either the thing’s a flop and no one is responding or the thing’s a big hit and the advertiser is keeping the action going.

But individual ads are much more fun to question and deconstruct. For example: Wal-Mart is looking for “over the road truckers.” Apparently they have enough “under the road truckers.” These Over-Roadies are required to have driven at least 50-thousand miles a year for each of the last three years and must have a minimum of 250-thousand miles overall. Oh, and they have to have a “hazmat” endorsement on their licenses.

Further proof that Wal-Mart is toxic and knows it.

Here’s one for a telemarketer, starting at eight dollars an hour and reminding us that that’s just the beginning because “…many of our people earn between eight and 14 dollars an hour including commission.” Which means that some people never earn over eight bucks.

Another telemarketer says it “sells heavily discounted subscriptions” to the newspaper. So why are so many of us paying full price?

Then there are the companies that don’t tell you what they do. Like “New Pig Industries.” They make or sell workplace storage and safety items, like cardboard boxes and non-slip floor coatings. But you’d never know that from their quarter-page help wanted ads.

Can you be a “self starter” and a “team player” at the same time?

What about the carpet cleaning company that advertises on TV about its “trained technicians” but whose help wanted ads say “no experience necessary,” and not the phrase “will train.”

How many of the listed jobs go unfilled? How many of the listed jobs are filled before the ad is placed?

Some ads we’d like to see:

“School Supt. Short hours, high pay, must be strong in pubic relations. Rap sheet okay. Knowledge of creative accounting necessary.”

“Convenience Store Clerk. Some nights and weekends. Must speak Hindi, Farsi or Arabic Only”

“Sears Holdings seeks an experienced merchandise liquidator. Must have proven track record as we join the ranks of Woolworth’s, Grants, McCrory’s, EJ Korvette, SKlein, Orbach’s, John Wanamaker, Famous Barr, BAltman, Marshall Field, Master’s and Wetson’s Hamburgers.”

“Restaurant Help: Kitchen, wait staff, bus staff, hosts/hostesses. Must be slow moving, dour, slovenly and inaccurate.”

“Director of Homeland Security: full knowledge of historical and other major landmarks a requirement. Must never have set foot in Manhattan.”

“Airport Security Officer. Start at $7.12 an hour. Must be available nights and weekends. Uniforms supplied. EOE employer, M/F.

“Airport Baggage Handler: $29.55 an hour. Candidates with blank looks preferred.” Union benefits.

“New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera updating our image. Open auditions for heavy metal guitarist, drummer. Rap and hiphop artists. Own tools. No knives or firearms.”

“Radio announcer: high pitched, nasal, for modern rock/entertainment news station. Inexperience preferred but will train.”