Friday, November 30, 2007

Cheese Cake

#327 Cheese Cake

It’s come to this. We bought a cheese cake from Home Shopping Television. A big, gooey, high-calorie, high-fat, high-cholesterol, three layer, cracker crust three pound cheese cake.

Sacrilege.

Every restaurant, supermarket, convenience store, inconvenience store and –if they had any here in the sticks – bakery offers “New York Style” cheesecake. And “New York strip steaks” and “New York bagels and New York pizza, and it’s all lies. Lies, lies, lies.

A recent posting here decried New York of 2007 as Jalalabad On the Hudson. And it is. But these things – OUR things – haven’t changed and can’t be exported.

The only people who believe in the offerings of New York cheesecake, steak, bagels or pizza have never had New York cheesecake, steak, bagels or pizza, or at least haven’t in so long, they’ve forgotten.

There is no hope for pizza or bagels where they have water like they have here in Stonewall County. It’s hard. Big business around here is selling water softening machines, which you buy as soon as you realize the water is putting fairly permanent white spots on utensils that should never have fairly permanent white spots.

That water can’t make a bagel or a pizza crust worthy of the name. Understand, the stuff’s not BAD, it’s just not authentic. New York had its own water problem decades ago. Most of the good local beers were made across the river in Newark. Newark had water that today you’d get fined or even jailed for pumping. When Newark water got “better,” the beer tasted like water. And away went Piels, Knickerbocker, Rheingold and Ballentine’s – they crumpled like an aluminum beer can. And, yes, some of that stuff started in Brooklyn, but they all hit their stride with New Jersey water, or whatever that stuff was came out of the taps of Essex County.

But the bagel water and the pizza water – that was delicious once you let a glass of it settle for awhile. New York City water is cloudy, almost carbonated. That’s not because it’s unsafe, it’s because of pressure in the lines.

The steak… well, that’s just a matter of buying what the New York restaurants buy and where they buy it. Anyone can make a decent New York Strip Steak, all it takes is some decent research,

But cheesecake, that’s a different story. It’s more than the water. It’s the ingredients (some of which you can’t pronounce, let alone spell.) It’s about texture and sweetness and temperature. And it can’t be duplicated.

Here in town, they have FancyMan’s Supermarket, which fancies itself a gourmet palace, which in many ways it is. They have their own special “New York” cheesecake. Feh!

At Magic Mart supermarket, the working family’s friend, they have a white, brittle, sweet entity that’s called “New York Cheesecake.” Nope.

And at the Intermediate Shop, they have “Italian Style New York Cheesecake.” You know before you buy it you’re being lied to. Real Italian cheesecake is so heavy you can’t life a whole one alone. Not this stuff. It’s also supposed to be drier than “regular” cheesecake, without sacrificing tape. They got it half right. It crumbles.

So, we order through the mail and hope that whatever comes (and it ain’t cheap,) both tastes and feels like the real thing.

Home Shopping Television disappoints more than it satisfied. But what harm could a little optimism do?

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





(c) 2007 WJR

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Credit Crunch From the Black Lagoon

#326 Credit Crunch From the Black Lagoon

Banks were hit by a credit crunch or meltdown or crisis. It’s like a flying saucer from Mars landed here and disgorged this previously unknown life form.

Or maybe it wandered out from the primordial ooze of the Black Lagoon.

At least that’s the way we’re thinking of it and being told about it.

The big banks were just going about their business, making loans, taking in deposits, issuing credit cards, maybe renting out a safe deposit box or two. Then, along comes this monster from outer space or from the deep. No one was expecting such a monster. No one had even heard of one.

The geneticists were puzzled. So were the astro-biologists. A new creature. Even a new form of being. And nasty. This critter went right for the Scrooge McDuck safes and with mighty jaws devoured some of the largest and most respected banks and brokerages in the world.

Fortunately for Allstate and Geico, they dodged the bullet of destruction that claims from those the credit crunch (maybe it should be written “Credit Crunsh.” Grammarians have yet to decide) hit would have caused.

And where is this monster now? No one knows. The Federal Reserve and the European Central Bankers sprayed like exterminators in a locust plague. But not knowing the creature’s biology, there’s no assurance it’s just flattened on the canvas and not really dead.

So, we think of the Credit Crunch as something not of our own making. But we’re wrong.

It’s time to learn from our friends in the street lending business about how to vet a potential customer. These are the boys who taught us about credit card interest rates, formerly known as vigorish, a term borrowed (at no interest) from the Yiddish word for winnings.

No self respecting loan shark would have tossed a spare nickel at half the people who got the loans that put the rest of everyone in a money cage. And if one did, he would know how to collect.

With banks easing restrictions to anyone with a pulse – even an erratic one, street loans were harder to come by for the last few years than a nice little adjustable rate mortgage from the stickup artists in suits at their desk at Citi or most of its smaller kin.

Can you imagine Gotti or Lansky or Costello or any of those guys putting money into the hands of the people who “qualified” for legal loans from these banks? Not on your life. Or theirs.

If the bank boys had worked for the big boys, they’d be wearing cement shoes beneath the Hudson River.

And the customers? They’re lining up at the major appliance stores. After all, it’s the holiday season and refrigerator cartons suitable for families of three are on sale cheap.

The Credit Crunch from the Black Lagoon shows no mercy.

At least the mob supplies groceries and some rent to the widows.

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Pushers

#325a The Pushers

They’re trying to hook us. And it’s a grand tradition they’re following.

Video games! They want older people to play video games, and that’s not happening. We have our own silly diversions. We have Classic TV and Classic Coke Cola. We have tobacco. We have TV dinners, and sometimes the TVs to go with them.

Now they want us to try some new addictions. Okay, we went along with the computer, and learned to love it. We went along with having seatbelts in the car. We went along with gasoline that’s more expensive than Gin. The cell phone. All that good stuff.

But that wasn’t good enough for the pushers. Now they want us to play video games.

And they’re not shy about it. They have the young looking old people in the commercials and they forget someone’s name or look dull-eyed at the camera and say silly stuff.

Then Mister Announcer comes on and tells us that we don’t have to lose our minds. We should exercise them using xyz video game that makes our eyes and our brains work out, just like the treadmill makes our bodies work out.

And we are trained to obey Mister Announcer. (Many of us in radio got our first taste of authority while BEING Mister Announcer. That, too is an addiction.)

Clever devils. This is only a test.

If this advertising campaign works, zillions of elderzombies will march obediently down to MegaMart and buy these things. We don’t want to lose our minds, after all. And if this machine works, why – Viagra for the brain. But cheaper.

And if we do, what’s next? Madison Avenue has always ignored anyone over 50. But times are tough and business is slow. And the old arguments “People over 50 don’t respond to ads,” and “People over 50 are too set in their ways to try anything new.” Have to be re-tested.

At the moment, we only get ads for medicine (have you ever read those full page disclaimers? You wouldn’t take anything resembling a pill for any condition afterward.)

Now, we’re getting ads for video games. A whole untapped market to tap. It could be the start of something big.

Yes, we’ve exploited every other domestic demographic. We’ve exploited every foreign market. And still, sales are slow. So let’s start selling to SENIORS. What a concept.

But we already know which toothpaste, denture glue, automobile, cold remedy, joint pain remedy, gasoline and hamburger stand to use. So, give us something NEW.

Like those brain building video games. Maybe adult tinker toys. Do what you do for all the other generations: appeal to our weaknesses.

Like, say, reading. This generation reads for fun. And works when it isn’t being “aged out.”

Tune in, turn on, drop in. And don’t trust anyone under 50.

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Friday, November 23, 2007

Pardon

#324 Pardon

The President traditionally “pardons” some turkeys jut before Thanksgiving Day. The turkey he should have pardoned was himself. Just get us past Our Long National Nightmare II, the sequel.

Pardon Rove, pardon Cheney, pardon Libby, pardon Gonzales, pardon the whole bloody flock of ‘em and get it over with. Save us the trouble of years and years of stupefying trials and speculation. Just assume the whole birdhouse is guilty of something – it’s more than likely to be true.

The Turkey-in-Chief can’t get that much less popular, so what if he drops a few more points while doing something decent? He doesn’t have to work once out of office, so why not do something statesman like for a change, show some of that compassionate conservatism and get all the drinking buddies AND the rest of the country off the hook. Even Nixon did that in 1960 and again in 1974.

He could pardon some of the kids who’ve been sentenced to life without healthcare. He could pardon some of the drug dealers for not recalling dangerous pharmaceutical from market until people were murdered.

He could pre-pardon his likely successors Giuliani (bragging, and swaggering with intent to deceive,) Thompson (underacting,) Romney (putting every mom and pop stationery store out of business,) McCain (jowls are a crime in Arizona,) Huckabee (being from Hope, Arkansas is a crime in 46 States,)

If he wants to reach across party lines, something he did as Emperor of Texas, he could also pardon Hillary Clinton (obstructer of the Freedom of Information Act,) Obama (possible drug and alcohol charges, something about which the prez surely knows,) Richardson and Gore (overweight will soon be a crime,) Biden and Edwards (phony hair,) Kucinich (piloting a flying saucer without a license.)

And for true globalism, how about pardoning Saddam Hussein, and the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, North Korea, and Costa Rica? (Why Costa Rica? Because SOMETHING must be going on there. Who knows or cares what.) And the Chinese toy makers and pet food suppliers.

And since this year’s Thanksgiving comes on the anniversary of JFK’s assassination, how about some posthumous pardons? Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, Lyndon Johnson, Earl Warren, Dorothy Kilgallen, J. Edgar Hoover and the entire Dallas police force as of, say, 1965, Fidel Castro and the bosses of the major underworld families. Or is it the OTHER underworld families.

And how about your brother Neil, the Silverado bank whiz. And your brother Jeb, who helped you steal the election. And Prescott and George H.W. Bush for the worst crime of all, fathering.

Now, there’s a legacy!

What a thankful Thanksgiving Day this could have been.

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

#323 Jalalabad on the Hudson

All that’s missing is the sheep. New York? Must have missed it on the way to somewhere else. Or, it’s BECOME somewhere else.

It’s a bizarre bazaar. A movie set of itself. But not itself anymore. Or was it ever itself?

Maybe a long time ago.

They have bicycle taxis now. Maybe it should be Beijing on the Hudson. These have not replaced the horse drawn rickshaws, but supplemented them. Not nearly as romantic. But easier on the horses, since there are none.

Paisley decorations on the yellow cab hoods and roofs. Silly looking. But at least you can use your American Express Card for your ride now. This is a big improvement.

Dirtier than ever. Does America’s Mayor, in his strained and fanciful and pandering campaign for his party’s presidential nomination, ever come here anymore? All he did for New York was get rid of the squeegee guys. And, (you heard it here first!) it’s only a matter of time before they return.

The Projects, the most depressing buildings ever built, are worse. The traffic, never any good, is worse. The people? Who are these people.

It never was the melting pot it was cracked up to be. There still are people from all over walking the streets. Like Jalalabad. Like Cairo. Like London. But it’s somehow not the same. Something is missing.

But what? Spirit? Energy? A sense of self? A sense of purpose? What?

There are a few key vestiges left. There’s the guy puffing away, right under the “No Smoking” sign. And there are plenty of strangers who willingly inset themselves into your conversation… and strangers willing to have you do the same.

And the streets are like Jalalabad, except the mobbed up paving is better.

Who would live in this place who didn’t have to? It’s hard to imagine, asking that question. But after just under two years away from it, it’s harder to imagine than it is to do.

There are lustrous aspects that in fairness to Jalalabad, New York has. The museums – largely tourist attractions. The skyline – entirely a tourist attraction. Times Square – it’s become too tame even for the tourists.

There’s still the dirt, but not the grit. It seems a city in a grey fog.

Now, the question: is the fog really there? Or is that, too, imagination.

They built the Empire State Building – still THE New York building of buildings – in about a year. And that, at the height of the great depression.

The depression left by the bombing of the World Trade Center is still a hole in the ground, now, seven years after the fact.

New York can’t make up its mind what to put there. Or it can’t agree on a final design. Or it can’t come up with the financing.

Hey, wait. Maybe things haven’t changed all that much.

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


CLARIFICATION: In Wessay #321, “Fiorello,” the world “fusion” is used in its generic sense, which is similar to, but not synonymous with the word as applied by political scientists, who ascribe it to any number of combinations of nominally $opposing viewpoints working together for one particular purpose. The Republican Party of Ohio, for example, called itself the “Fusionist” Party, before changing its name to Republican.

As professor Gerald Meyer, Coordinator, Social Sciences, Hostos Community College put it in a letter, published in the New York Times on May 12, 1992:

(LaGuardia) ran for mayor in 1933 on two ballot lines, Republican and Fusion Party (a type of good-government party).

What is forgotten, however, is that after the American Labor Party was formed in 1936, La Guardia hastened to register in it, and he remained a registered member of the A.L.P. until he died in 1947. The A.L.P. provided almost 36 percent of his vote in 1937, when he ran for his second term, and 27 percent of his vote in 1941, when he ran for his third term.

(c) 2007 WJR

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Window

#322 The Window

The living room window is about seven feet wide and has vertical blinds. Sturdy, professional installed, custom-made vertical blinds. Bought from a Leading Big Box Home Improvement Center, called Leading Big Box Home Improvement Center, and guaranteed for life.

They don’t say who’s life. But let’s not quibble about little things.

The blinds open and close using a push and pull and twist rod that let’s you twist the blinds to a “let in the light” position, and push it open, pull it closed and twist the blinds to a “don’t-let-in-the-light” position.

The push, pull and twist rod is attached to the rest of the mechanism using a clip shaped like Casper the Friendly Ghost.

If you’re not really careful, Casper lets go of the rod and you can’t push or pull or twist anything. And you can’t put it back.

So, it’s off to Leading Big Box Home Improvement Center to get a new Casper. Or a new rod.

Leading Big Box Home Improvement Center has moved from one location to another since the purchase and professionally installed, and no longer stocks parts.

Plus, the guy standing in the aisle and adjusting his handsome Leading Big Box Home Improvement Center red vest, wants to know who custom made the custom-made vertical blinds.

It doesn’t have a label.

If you made ghosts that can’t hold onto a push pull and twist rod for maybe a year or so, you wouldn’t want YOUR name out there, either.

So let’s take a little plastic rod (cost: $00.97) home and try it out.

It doesn’t work.

Several phone calls later, we figure out the culprit, and – since there’s a lifetime guarantee, order the Casper clip and (just to be sure,) a spare rod. (Spare the rod and spoil the custom-made, professionally installed vertical blinds.)

A couple of weeks later, while wondering out loud what happened to Casper, the doorbell rings, and there’s the UPS guy with a package. It is over eight feet long.

We know this without measuring, because the ceiling is eight feet high and the box is too big to stand on end.

Talk about careful packing!

Here’s where investigative reporter school comes into play. It must be the whole mechanism. Not just Casper. Not just the rod. The whole damn thing that sits inside the window and on which the blades of the blind clip.

There’s little doubt that while the custom-made, professionally installed, lifetime guaranteed blinds are under warranty (no one involved in the purchase has died as of the time the package arrived) the professional installation is not.

There’s a reason you get these things professionally installed.

Usually the reason is you don’t know how to do it yourself and the “easy” instructions are in Chinese.

Well, there’s a Chinese-reader/speaker in this household.

Gotcha!

Once again, rugged individualism triumphs over Leading Big Box Home Improvement Center.

Now, the hard part: Amateur Installation.

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

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fiorello, Call Home

#321 Fiorello, Call Home

You walk through the airport and if you haven’t been stopped by the match-in-shoe police or some variation, you eventually come upon this bronze head of a chubby, curly haired guy and you remember – or maybe find out for the first time that there was really a guy called LaGuardia and this is what he looked like.

The ninety-ninth mayor of New York was an oddball, and the kind of oddball we could use today. And not just in New York.

He was what they called a “fusion” candidate. That means he was a Democrat in Republican’s clothing (something like the current mayor.) But no one cared. He brought Republicans and Democrats and republicans and democrats (and socialists and communists and every other “ist” you can name) together.

Maybe it was in his genes. He was a walking fusion.

His dad was a lapsed Catholic from Italy. His mother was an Italian Jew from Arizona. And he identified Episcopalian. Republican, Democrat, Catholic, Jew, Bronx born, desesrt-raised. Mah Non. Or Oy Vey. Such a combination.

He spoke four languages. English, Italian, Yiddish and Serbo-Croation. How fusion is THAT?

And he got a lousy airport named for him, which is not exactly an apt remembrance. Oh, and much later, a junior college.

That’s okay.

Liked to ride the fire trucks. Firemen (they were fireMEN back then, not fire FIGHTERS.) Didn’t matter. He was pretty small. Didn’t take up much room. Problem was when they got to the fire, especially at night, sometimes they confused him with the hydrant.

So, he brings together people of every stripe, figuring they could do more by pulling the fire wagon in the same direction than not.

There isn’t a whole lot of that today.

Every fire is a conflagration. Every crash is a collision. Every slight is a raging insult.

We need a Fiorello to save us from ourselves.

Fight a war? Okay, fight a war. But let Congress declare it first.

Take care of sick kids? Fiorello knew from that – he worked for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Take care of the unemployed? This all took place during the New Deal when people knew how to treat one another. Starting – but not stopping – with the WPA.

Wall Street? It has its place. It’s place is NOT at the top of the heap or above the puppet stage, strings in hand.

And LaGuardia wasn’t the only one. Couldn’t have been. Couldn’t have done it alone. Knew that.

Rugged individualism? Sure. But there are limits. Fiorello understood THAT.

And he got stuff done.

Was pretty popular at first, but the magic wore off as the programs started to work. Only to be expected. “What have you done for me lately?”

Still and all, this is the kind of guy we need. Unkempt, small, squeaky-voiced. Fireplug on feet with fire in his heart and actual grey matter in his brain.

The next guy, though, should get a better memorial than the world’s worst major airport.

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Gorby Revisited

#320 Gorby Revisited

Mikhail Gorbachev was the prize. Well, not exactly. Dinner with Gorby was the prize. An American couple won by bidding highest, with the money (supposedly) going to a Russian charity that helps kids with cancer.

We forget what a good guy this was. Especially compared to that KGB worm Putin.

But that’s beside the point.

Gorby is our Evil Empire Rock Star. And as such, we should know all the dirt and gossip about him.

So, for the first time one the air, here’s the lowdown.

Gorby and some armed oligarchs burst into a St. Petersburg hotel room (it was off the strip, and not exactly a five star joint,) and stole some of his memorabilia. Among the items, the suit he wore on the day the Berlin wall was taken down. There also were a few ICBMs (it was a big room.) And, of course, a bottle of his mother’s homemade borscht and an autographed Rugby ball. (Bet you didn’t know that after college, he played two seasons in the Soviet Union’s NRL, National Rugby League.)

His elementary school text “A Boy’s Bedside Marx” remains missing.

Mikkie has hired Alberto Gonzales to defend him at the trial. Ken Starr wasn’t available and Clarence Thomas isn’t allowed to freelance.

The break-in wasn’t his only problem.

He’s passing all his court ordered drug tests (except vodka, the over-drinking of which is not a crime in Russia, but a national obsession.)

But there exists a videotape of him jumping a red light in Red Square (where all the lights are red, so how’s anyone to know which is stop and which is go?) But he was text messaging and had the kids in the back seat.

Funny how we like this guy. He hasn’t had a hit record in 20 years and yet we still flock to see his action films.

But he’s doing a lot of good works. For example, he recently was given high marks for his fine work in helping victims of the Siberian fires. And he raised a ton of money for the Minsk institute for stem cell research after the Kremlin said that was baby-killing.

And we understand he’s going to donate his custom made balalaika to the Country Music Hall of Fame in the shores of the Black Sea.

The paparazzi don’t follow this guy around as much as they used to which is why we didn’t hear anything about that dinner auction until now. Plus, Tass barely reports on him anymore.

It’s tough being a celebrity elder statesman. But Gorby’s up to the job.

Maybe with the auction, we’ll see more of him now. We certainly should. This guy is OJ, Britney, Schwarzenegger and Hank Williams all rolled into one fuzzy ball of Cyrillic delight.

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Ladies Auxiliary

#319a The Ladies Auxiliary

Has a kind of old fashioned ring to it, no? Maybe even politically incorrect these days.

But what else could you call it that’s not worse? The Girls? The Estrogen Gang?

The secretary of state, the president’s daughters and mother. And Karen Hughes. And his sometimes spouse. Maybe they’ve been talking sense to him. Or maybe it’s a Lysistrata thing. Or an Oedipus thing. But in any event, there must be a dialogue.

Political operative and nominal chairman of the Consumer Products Safety Commission, Nancy “Nerd” Nord must be angling for the Hughes seat, now that it’s vacant. For she’s been thinking more like a normal person and less like Rove In A Skirt lately. She’s come around and ended her opposition to putting some teeth back into the mouth of her agency, replacing the mush that resulted in the epidemic of poisonings from China.

Jenna and Barbara appear to have given up the Britney Spears/Paris Hilton act, put down the bottles and started acting like, well, grown children. The Globe newspaper reports that Laura has given up her fight for a divorce six months after the end of the Idiot’s term in 2009.

Maybe she’s talking. Maybe he’s listening.

We haven’t seen much of our bionic-hearted vice president lately. He must be off in his Undisclosed Location licking his …um … wounds.

Rove is gone. Gonzales is gone. Hughes is gone. Harriet Miers is gone. Wolfowitz is gone. The women must have had something to do with that, because the men in this administration are made of rubber and jello and straw.

But they’re all sworn to secrecy. The president of the United States, the Decider, would never admit to listening to – women. Even some of the officious and manly ladies mentioned above.

Some of them are book smart (secretary Rice.) Some of them are goo-goo dolls (twins.) Some of them are overbearing and loose-mouthed (mommy.) Some of them are saccharine (Laura.) But all of them realize that the president they serve or service couldn’t get elected of his college drinking club today.

So, let’s hear it for the Ladies’ Auxiliary, who will making and serving coffee and donuts at our church supper of an executive branch, have pounded some sense into this blockhead.

Just a little while to go and he can get out from under all this – and so can we.

This brings us (again) to the replacement prospects. A sad lot, to be sure. Not a one of them presidential (except maybe Fred Thompson, who plays the part in the movies but has to use Reagan’s 3x5 cards.) Not a one of them can get us out of the messes the Frat Boy has created.

But even the worst of ‘em will be an improvement.

Plus, we’ve discovered yet again that we can go eight years without a president, although it is harder now than at first.

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Friday, November 09, 2007

Antonio Torres

#318 Antonio Torres

The county singer Hank Thompson has died. He was one of the early greats. That was when every other county singer was called “Hank” something. The imbecile newscasters called him “the King of Western Swing,” which is the title of Bob Wills.

Hank was a superstar and had just announced he was retiring at the age of 80-something. A string of hits a million miles long. Pretty good player, too. Had an old Gibson arch top. One of the “vintage greats,” as befits a vintage great.

Probably that guitar will go to the Country Music Hall of Fame where it’ll share space with the guitars of Mother Maybelle Carter, Chet Atkins, Merle Travis and a bunch of others who never heard of Antonio de la Torres, a fellow from Spain who invented the modern guitar in 18-something.

Until then, guitars, staple of country and rock music, were any old thing anyone wanted to make. Antonio Stradaveri had one with five “courses,” sets of double strings. Skinny little thing that no one now knows how to play. Others were before and after Tony Strad, as his pals in the trade called him.

But it was Tony Torres in Spain who made the first modern guitar. Shaped like a girl. Six strings. Tuned EADGBE. After this Tony guy, everything was a copy. Christian Martin, Orville Gibson,, Bill Collings, Gianni DeAngelico, Jimmy D’Aquisto, Carlo Greco, Oscar Schmidt, Epi Stethapoulo. They all owed Tony Torres. Travis, Bigby, Gretsch, Fender, Levin, Loar.

Everyone. So who remembers this guy today? You, now. Because of this item. Or maybe you read about him somewhere.

There’s a Martin actually made by Martin in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They also have Segovia’s guitar, made by Hermann Hauser.

No one has a Torres. Well, almost no one. He made ,maybe 600 of them. Maybe 60 have been identified. And that’s WITH the labels intact.

Who else is out there who made something first and no one remembers?

Anyone know who really made the first computer? How about the first dial telephone or the first gasoline pump? Who came up with the sharpenable pencil, the paper clip, the staple, the pop-up toaster. All these things we take for granted, but someone had to think up first.

We know who invented the yo-yo. Figure it was 500 BCE or so. But it wasn’t until Pedro Flores of the Philippines started mass producing them in the 1920s and Donald Duncan took over the business in the 1930s that anyone took notice.

So think about Hank Thompson singing “Honky Tonk Angels” using one of those pre-Torres guitar-like things. Doesn’t work.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Election Day

#317 Election Day

Can’t get used to the election process in this foreign country, Pennsylvania.

First there’s a primary and even if you shell out for school taxes, you can’t vote for school board candidates if you’re a registered independent. Taxation without representation. Unconstitutional in America. Standard operating procedure here.

Then there’s the election itself. The polling place is in a church. Unconstitutional in America. Standard operating procedure here.

Candidates are gathered at the church door. They’re asking for your vote. They have those lawn signs up all over the church yard. Vote for me, vote for me.

In a lot of America, you can’t electioneer within 50 feet of a polling place. Here, they’ll come into the voting booth with you if you like.

Well, it’s not really a voting booth. It’s a voting cubicle. Kind of a cross between Dilbert and water wings. And the voting machine is not really a machine, it’s like a giant Palm Pilot.

They have a funny way of picking judges. Kind of a compromise between elected and appointed. If they’re already on the bench and running for another term, you vote “keep this guy” or “throw this guy out.” No parties here. Unlike the school board primary.

Some other judges DO have political parties. But some candidates are members of one party and voting on the line of the opposition.

One of the judge candidates is standing out in the freezing cold one minute… running to the lady’s room another (people who don’t recognize her wonder why she’s cutting the line. She isn’t. The bathrooms are at mid line.) Then she goes to her SUV and runs the engine. Is it to get warm or is she committing suicide?

Oh, and in that primary, they voted out one of the county commissioners. A guy who campaigned as “someone who listens.” Well, he didn’t listen. He decided to run a write in campaign. Well, not really write-in. Type in. The voting machine’s a giant Palm Pilot, after all. Except you can print off a Palm Pilot, but not the giant ones.

This commissioner guy was seen as “not warm and fuzzy enough.” So he buys a bunch of TV ads in which he talks to us while holding and petting a puppy. Imagine the outtakes on that one. The puppy probably tried to get the guy’s finger and they had to drug him between takes.

And it probably wet the commissioner, too. Guy has a PhD. That means he thinks he walks on water. (It’s a requirement.) Walking on water is one thing. Remaining dry while a puppy wets you is yet another matter.

One of the ousted school board guy also is waging a type-in campaign. He and his running mate look and talk like the two guys in the cranberry ads. Except the guys in the cranberry ads are actors, and these guys really talk like that.

The brilliant local newspaper has run a fearless editorial, describing some candidates but not endorsing any. Makes perfect sense. Newspaper endorsements are meaningless.

The dust will clear in awhile. The results will be announced. Nothing will change.

Makes it easier to miss America.

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Monday, November 05, 2007

Nixon In 2008

#316 Nixon in ‘08

Yeah, he may be dead, and he may have already been elected twice, but so what?

Nixon for President in 2008!

Iraq? That’s only Viet Nam-Light. He got us out of there. He can get us out of Iraq. So what if we bomb Cambodia (for old time’s sake) Syria and Lebanon.

Most of his flaws have become virtues.

Anti-Semitic? Sure. But Arabs are Semites, too. And we need a guy like that in the White House.

Anti-communist? Sure. Both real and imagined. Hugo Chavez, watch out. Here comes Dick!

The guy opened up China. China, a huge and sprawling country, full of …. Full of…. Chinese people. Just think of what he could do in Iran!

Who gave us China? Nixon.

Who gave us affirmative action?

Who gave us the EPA?

Who gave us price controls? Nixon.

Here’s a guy who could talk to Exxon in its own language. Nixon.

Nixon. Endorsed by the Teamsters’ Union.

Our kinda liberal.

Knew the difference between church and state.

Oh, so now you’re going to mention all his little character flaws. Think of them as challenges.

Watergate? A third rate burglary. Plus, we already know Deep Throat was making up all that stuff just because he didn’t get promoted to FBI Director.

Spiro Agnew? Well, he probably was the worst single personnel decision, but we learn from our mistakes.

Oops. Maybe not:

G. Harold Carswell for Supreme Court? Who knew how good he’d look compared with the charmers who’ve been added lately? Plus, we knew in advance he was crooked, and we could have watched him.

“Your President is not a crook.” Oh, sure he is. Don’t get defensive, Dickey.

Cambodia? Laos? Forget about it.

A staff that could have been recruited directly from Club Fed?

A brother who runs hamburger stands? (An elite club. Look at the Clinton and Carter brothers.)

Haven’t you had enough faux Texas, Connecticut-born cowboy who drives a pickup truck like an illegal immigrant? Haven’t you had enough hairspray, pant-suits, TV actors, flying saucer spotters and their sound a-likes and wannabes?

Don’t you want a guy who can speak the English language, who was born in a REAL state, who’s sliminess is all out in public and a Republican who enacts a lot of Democratic programs?

Nixon. This is a guy we need… a guy who understands what America’s all about.

It’s okay that he’s dead. He’s still a better President than anyone else who’s running.

And should there be another 9/11, you won’t find Tricky Dick ignoring it and going off to an elementary school to prove to America he can read.

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

(c) 2007 WJR

Friday, November 02, 2007

Cosmetic Brain Surgery

#315 Cosmetic Brain Surgery

It’s the wave of the future. It’s bigger than Botox, Lasic eye surgry; even those press-on nails kind of thingies they put on your teeth to make you look younger. And it leaves ordinary plastic surgery in the dust – in the stone age.

Ever see a brain? Really ugly. A mass of gelatinous goo held together by a thin skin.

It’s not like your brain is on display anywhere. No one really sees it. But the cosmetic brain surgeons have a workaround for that. Instead of replacing the chunk of your skull they remove for the operation, they install a transparent carbon fiber cover. Thus, you can show the world your newly redecorated brain.

For those who want less than “the works,” you can have this done one lobe at a time. Pretty up the goo and show it off to friend and foe alike.

If you are reputed to be the neighborhood halfwit, you can prove conclusively that you are not. That’s a whole brain under that transparent cranium.

And if the prettied up brain ever shows signs of reverting to form, you can go in for a quick and easy lobe lift. The easily removable poly carbon yarmulke can be set aside, the lift accomplished in under two hours and the topper replaced, good as new.

Right now, these procedures are the exclusive purview of the Park Avenue brain surgeons. But no worries. Some of the lower priced medical services are already working on their own versions.

Instead of Park & 72nd, you’ll soon be able to go to Super 8 Surgical Suites or Hilton Garden Hospitals or even Gas’n’Go fuel station-convenience store and surgery centers throughout the Northeast and Upper Midwest.

One caution, though. There are side effects. In the latest FDA study, some patients have shown a predisposition to hallucination, constipation, nausea, sleeplessness, heart arrhythmia, headache, neuritis and neuralgia.

Well, that’s not exactly ONE caution, now is it?

Also, most health insurance plans don’t cover this stuff. But that’s a small price to pay for the self-esteem building pleasure that comes from a cosmetically enhanced brain.

But wait. There’s more. If you really ARE the neighborhood half-wit, you can get a new, saline enhanced brain implant to go with your lobe lift. You won’t be any smarter, but you’ll have what appears to be a normally large brain instead of that skimpy little pile of neurons you’re waltzing around with now.

If implants are good for your smile and for other parts of your anatomy, why not upstairs, where the real action is (or would be if you weren’t said halfwit.)

Poor scarecrow. If he were only alive today, he wouldn’t have had to make the long, tedious, and apparently dangerous trip to the Emerald City. He could just head off for Surgery Suites by Marriott, and have the whole thing done right near home.

There’s a long list of candidates for this stuff, largely ignored. People who need this service aren’t generally aware it’s out there.

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

(c) 2007 WJR