Wednesday, July 30, 2008

#429 The Number

#429 The Number


(Stroudsburg, PA) -- It always pops up. Has for more than six decades. The number is 109. First street address in queens: 4109. First street address on Long Island, 109. Many other instances as well. And now, room 109 in the Stroudsburg, PA Central Fleabag. Luck of the draw. But it must be the hundred-ninth time this figure's show up uninvited.

It isn't REALLY a fleabag. But Pocono ski country in mid-summer is not exactly a hotbed of activity. (Well, yes it sort of is, more about which later.) So, while the lobby is beautiful, and the bar is fully stocked and near empty, the restaurant is closed and covered with signs that say "Coming Soon. Indian Restaurant. That's going to go over bigtime in this cosmopolitan center. Nice pool, if you don't look too closely. Nice hallways, just don't walk on the carpet barefoot (what's going on inside that rug?)

Peeling wallpaper is a nice decorative touch in the room. So is the TV set with a picture so dark you can't see most of what's on the screen. One hundred nine different movies with titles like "Wild College Sluts" and "Dumbo." (Whatever happened to "Wild College Dumbos?") at $10.99 some were a bargain. (There's that number again.) Others at that price would double their first run box office triumphs with two pay-per-views.

The walls are thin. Found that out the hard way.

Now, about that hotbed: It was 4:45 am and the woman in 107 squeeled once, loud but unappealingly. It was hard to resist the urge to say "do it again." But presence of mind isn't always there when awakened at 4:45. No matter. Their alarm (I assume it was a "they" and not only a "she") at 5AM. Just enough time to get back to sleep. And she/they must have hit the snooze button, because it went off again at 5:07.

Across the street is a 24-hour "family" restaurant. But no one seemed to be working there. There were a few patrons sitting at empty tables, two more who were waiting at the register and no employees in sight. Either time.

Fortunately, there was a "Pump and Pantry" gasoline station and convenience store next door, where this conversation took place:

Visitor: "This Calzone? Was it made this week?"

Clerk: "What? No, it was made a month ago and has been sitting here ever since."

Visitor: "Great, I like 'em aged a bit."

Clerk: "Yeah. fresh is overrated."

In reality, it was probably 109 hours old. Which is about right for a Calzone. One hundred nine days would have put it into the gourmet single-malt Italian dish mode and raised the price 200%

Shrapnel:

--Favorite road sign on this trip. "Mile Run, Two Miles." Huh?

--Who says plastic's no good? The spray shower head will last for 109 years. The metal hose springs leaks starting after the second year of use.

--Now, something from the sexist language department. Why is it "his and hers?" It might be either "hers and his'" or even "theirs'."



I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

#428 Mustang Solly

#428 Mustang Solly

Don't confuse him with Mustang Sally. Another story, entirely. Anyway, here's Solly, maybe 80 years old and he pulls up to the curb in his 1964 1/2 Mustang. Yes. A 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang. Pitch black. You can comb your hair by looking in the paint job. Pitch black (you ever see pitch? It's really black!)

Red maybe-leather seat. V-8. Not a single piece of plastic on the exterior. Chrome bumpers, real chrome, too. Not "brightwork," but gen-yu-wine chromium.

Solly gets out of the car to ask directions. The door opens wide enough for this old guy to exit without imitating a pretzel. Says he's looking for the place where his buyer lives. It's down the block.

"Who restored this baby for you?" he's asked.

"I take my detailing seriously he says."

I'll say.

Lee Iaccoca would be proud. Better than when it left the factory floor in Dearborn.

Yeah, it's just a tricked out Ford Falcon. It wasn't a cult car in 1964. Just a compact with a big engine and fancy trim.

But that's when cars were cars, not rolling living rooms. No air conditioning. Didn't need it. The engineers figured out the air flow back then, and you were usually pretty cool. (Now you'd be VERY cool.)

No power steering or power brakes. Just a car. But WHAT a car.

So, we ask Solly, "how much the guy paying for this ancient bucket of tin?"

"Ten grand," he says, "probably asked too little."

In this shape, he's right. Fourteen-ish is more like it. But he wants to be rid of the thing. Needs the garage space to restore an Olds convertible.

Maybe he figured because the 'stang has a new gas tank, it's not all original. Some stuff just didn't hold up. And only Iaccoca would notice the difference. And only if he looked closely. Oh, and the lining in the trunk. It's new, too. But it looks like an oil cloth table cover from around the time the car came off the line.

By the time Solly got his directions straight, half the guys in the neighborhood were out there gawking at this thing. One brought along a shaver; muttered something about his bathroom mirror out for repair.

Hope he brings that Olds around when he finishes with it. But if he really does take his detailing seriously, it's going to be awhile.




Shrapnel:

--Last year we had a zillion Gypsy moths, raising huge complaints. This year, we had a spraying program and almost no caterpillars. And people are complaining about the spray.

--There's a lot of calcium in the water here. People go to great lengths and expense to get rid of it. And then, they go out and buy calcium supplements which they dutifully take three times a day.

--Some people just can't grow stuff. We had some flowers on the deck and despite loving attention, they died. We threw them into the woods, and now, with no care at all, they're thriving.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

#427 Acoustic Writing

#427 Acoustic Writing

A little pipsqueak mail order catalogue company is offering a typewriter for sale. Prediction: sales will not be brisk.

Many of a certain age long for the days when the typewriter was the best way to process words. (Still unsure here to what process word processors subject words. But that's another story for another time.) They long for the clack clack clack of the keys. They long for the "feel of the road" as you typed -- be it with nine eight fingers (the thumb is not a finger,) or two. They long for the days when there were only enough keys to put words on papers -- the days before "F1" or "num lock" or "PrtSc," "Ctrl" and "alt."

But they fail to remember the downside of typewriters and the upside of "Word" or "Write" or "WordPerfect" software. They fail to remember what it was like digging the eraser droppings out of the typewriter keys. They fail to remember the break-in-thought that happened every time you had to push the carriage return. They fail to remember the week of black fingers after you changed a typewriter ribbon, which you never did often enough.

So, yeah, you can buy a typewriter. It's a great paperweight. If you still use paper.

It's hard for an older writer to admit this, but the fastest path from your brain to your fingers to your page is a computer program. And the fastest way to revise is without an eraser.

There will always be a place for acoustic writing. The clack of the keys, the pen on paper, the scratch of the quill on parchment. But not for everyday use. The clip clip clip sound of fingers on computer keys will never replace the steam-hammer sound of typewriter keys. But it's a lot easier on your fingers. Same with the pen or pencil. After awhile you get writer's cramp.

Plus, portable typewriters are like early portable televisions. You need real muscle to port them.

Further, you can use your notebook computer in Starbucks or McDonald's without causing a fuss. Can you imagine the double-chocolate-half-calf-frappacino crowd in the coffee shop when you set your 1949 Royal on a table and go clackityclackityclack for half an hour?

They'd take away your whipped cream privileges and ban you for life if you did that.

Typewriters are cute and nostalgic. But even in today's world of anything-goes, they're rude.










Shrapnel:

--A new report says little airports have a better record for on-time arrivals and departures than the big ones. That's fine. Except at most of those smaller airports, you can't get there from here.

---Here's the next big thing in criminal defense. And the shrinks say this is real. You have a delusion in which you believe you're the subject of your own, personal reality TV show.

--Hint to the mentally fit: You are NOT the subject of your own reality TV show. It's not reality TV. It's a soap opera.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

#426 Trade Imbalance

#426 Trade Imbalance

Pew Research says we're seeing less and less news from overseas. Less time on TV, less space in the papers. So, howcome when everything else is imported, this stuff stops. You think we have a trade imbalance with China and Japan? Nothing to match this one. All our news is domestic. And most of it takes place right around home.

Not totally a bad thing. But lacking.

It's great to know the firefighter next door rescued a kitten from a drainpipe. It's wonderful to read the minutes of the local county legislature or board of alderpersons, or whatever they call it where you live.

It's even good to know that neighbors think there ought to be a traffic light on your corner.

But even though stuff like this has a place in the paper and on TV, there needs to be more and we're not getting it.

There are just so many "we value your opinion" surveys about the price of gasoline. There are just so many pictures of blackened-buildings-still-smoldering on TV. After that, we need a little perspective.

Tip O'Neill said "all politics is local." Most editors will tell you the same about news. They're all wrong.

In a globalized world, we need a globalized viewpoint, a perspective that extends beyond the kitten in the tree, the aftermath of a house fire and even the graft in the state capital.

The only time we get "foreign" news is when China sends us a lead-infused Barbie or Mexico (or was it the Republic of Texas) sends us a diseased jalapeno, or we send a presidential candidate to a war zone.

The kitten in the tree is the same story whether it takes place in East Hills, New York or Warsaw, Poland. We need to know that, because the kid in East Hills is essentially the same kid as in Warsaw. We need to know THAT.

Today, we have instant satellite communication with nearly everywhere on earth. And everyone has a video camera. And what are we doing with this technology? Nothing. We've dug a hole and we're living in it. And that's dangerous. Until we figure out that the guy in the cave in Afghanistan and the guy in the trailer in East Nowhere and the guy in the co-op on Madison Avenue are the same guy, we are going to stay stuck in that hole.

And the view stinks.





Shrapnel:

--How they get to be "fair and balanced." Do a news item about a liberal or middle of the road position, and follow it with the conservative angle. People remember the punch line, not the lead.

--No fine for Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction." That's good news for CBS. Now they can REALLY do something to boost the ratings of the "Evening News."

--Alternative fuels may eventually take their place in the transportation field. That's not what we need now. What we need now is wind-up cars.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

#425 Return to Moote Pointe

#425 Return to Moote Pointe

We ambled through the old stomping grounds recently. A lot has changed. A lot hasn't.

The traffic on Long Island remains miserable. The heat remains miserable. The cholesterol pipe still runs among Taco Bell, Burger King, crosses the street to Wendy's and zigzags back to McDonalds. All those cholesterol fill up stations in a row. Makes the supply chain fast and easy, no small feat in days where gasoline costs more than beer.

The Gangland Amusement Park and the combination donut shop and gun store next to the elementary school have closed. And they've redone some of the sidewalks in "art brick." Art brick? The Moote Pointe Chamber of Commerce points to the sidewalks with pride. Thing is, grass grows between the bricks. Not on many of the lawns, mind you. But the Chamber has had to hire a landscaper to mow the sidewalks once every two weeks.

And a new business has come to town, a used shoe store. What? Yes, a used shoe store. But they're very picky about what they sell. Plenty of Manolo Blancos. A scattering of Jimmy Choos. When you look at their stock, you see absolutely no wear on the soles or heels.

"Are you sure these are used?" a visitor asked. "Yes," said Alan Silverman, proprietor of Moote Pointe Used Shoes. "You have to remember the feet of the residents of Moote Pointe never touch the ground." Good point. Nothing for men yet, though. No manly man from Moote Pointe wants to give up his Mephistos. At least, not until winter.

The fun part of the trip was trying to fall into the gap between the LIRR cars and the platforms. But try as we will, old commuter habits prevented it. Some of those gaps are wide enough to accomodate a small horse. Unless you take a Giant Step. Commuters (and apparently ex-commuters) have trained themselves over the decades to take Giant Steps when boarding or leaving a LIRR car.

The library has more DVDs than books. The town center four-faced clock is still wrong -- four different ways.

The food at the retro diner, greasy as can be, remains among the best-tasting in America, maybe in the northern hemisphere. The Russian barbers remain classy, fast and cheap.

The leaf blower symphony continues unabated. So do the pedestrian fatalities on Sunrise Highway. Some things never change.

(Additional reporting by Slip Chard and Herbert Taryton)


Shrapnel:

--US News has cut its publication back to every other week. Newsweek can't follow. It would have to change its name to "News Every Other Week," which isn't nearly as snappy, and doesn't fall off the tongue as easily.

--Time can't do it either. No name change needed here. But they'd have to face all those jokes about watches running slow, "Time-Out" and the like.

--Newspapers, struggling to use less paper also could cut back. That, too would require name changes. "The New York Every Other Daily News?"

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

Friday, July 18, 2008

#424 Car Wars

#424 Car Wars

If you're a regular reader or listeners you know this space regards the automotives as the single most important business in America. But it's time to get real.

With GM cutting white collar jobs (why do they have those people in the first place?) and cutting back on models, it's time to rethink what this business does and has done since the era of Henry Ford and Alfred Sloan.

Start here: there are a bunch of brands we don't need. (The world did not end when Chrysler stopped making Plymouth. Nor did the ice caps melt when GM spiked Oldsmobile.)

Here's a list of cars we don't need: Pontiac, Saturn, Mercury, Dodge, Hummer and maybe Buick. Just fold 'em up and concentrate on the brands that still work. Chevy, Ford, Lincoln, Cadillac, Chrysler. The excess brands exist in name only. Their stuff differs only insignificantly from their corporate siblings.

Oh, and dealership organizations. That's really where the problem is. What do you do with all those Pontiac, Saturn, Mercury, Dodge, Hummer and maybe Buick dealers? Buy them. The car companies are sitting on enough cash to pay off the national debt. If there's no Pontiac, the guys on the production line can stay busy making Chevies and Caddys.

You want to wax nostalgic about the cars of olden times, go right ahead. Kaiser, Frazer, Tucker, Hudson, Nash, Studebaker, DeSoto, Franklin, Checker, LaSalle, REO, Oakland, Maxwell, Packard, Rambler International Harvester, Baker Electric, Stanley. Go ahead and get all teary.

Give it one minute per brand.

Okay. Time's up.

Now, think about the wood and metal and plastic, the electronics and glass, cloth and wire that it takes to build even the skimpiest of what's left. And think of what it would mean if THESE went away.

There ARE problems beside bad planning and bad marketing. Ford and GM took what they thought would be a short term gain by spinning off their parts divisions -- but did it without escaping from liabilities that went along with the sale. They're paying for it, bigtime. GM sold a good chunk of its lucrative financial arm, GMAC, also for a short term gain.

The Three (they used to be the "big" three,) need to concentrate on what the public wants and needs now and not worry about the margins. And, unfortunately, the margin is anything that doesn't sell well or shouldn't.


Shrapnel:

--They're putting advertising on the backs of airline boarding passes. Not a bad idea. Probably going to be effective if anyone flies again.

--Obama is a poker player. McCain likes the craps table. This is one case where "the house always wins" is untrue, because WE are the house.

--A local restaurant advertises its location by keeping an enormous plaster of paris cow on the roof. There's something they don't tell you. That's where they got your dinner.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

#423 FLASH: AP KILLS SELF

#423 FLASH: AP KILLS SELF

The Associated Press doesn't use the "Flash" anymore. When it did, the definition was "A story in three or fewer words that no one will misunderstand." Often, it took only two words. Here are some examples: "Japan Surrenders." "Kennedy Shot." "Nixon Resigns." Sometimes, it took only one word: "Liftoff!"

If you think journalism is in bad shape, you're righter than you know. What's killing it? Is it the 24 hour news cycle? The obsession with political minutia or celebrity gossip? Is it the right wing wacko blogs? The internet? The price of newsprint? Declining readership/listenership/viewership? Preoccupation with the bottom line instead of the customer? None of the above.

It's the AP's decision to abandon a 162 year tradition of neutrality and let reporters "call it like they see it." This is called "accountability journalism." Translation: hold public officials' feet to the fire, using as tongs your own viewpoint. Nothing wrong with the first thought. The second has no place in the AP, which is, after all, the spine, nervous system and circulation system of news, worldwide and without which no other news organization could survive.

Accountability Journalism? How about Opinion Journalism. We have plenty of that on TV and in the blogosphere. We don't need it from the Kings of Neutrality, or maybe, more accurately the former Kings of Neutrality. We do not need some yutz from the AP telling us how the government screwed up the economy, Iraq and Katrina relief. We have radio talkshows for that. We need to be presented with the facts and given the time and space to make up our own minds.

The so-called Accountability to which the AP says it wants to hold public officials is fine. Who will hold the reporters and editors there accountable. How will we know we're getting a complete picture.

And what will come next? Now that every piece of news -- other than cats stranded in trees and drunks getting traffic citations while driving their riding lawnmowers through traffic -- is an opinion piece?

How do we know that a piece on, say, cancer research, isn't written by the public relations office of a pharmaceutical manufacturer. Or even worse, from a peddler of pyramid scheme multivitamins and homeopathic potions?

How do we know that a piece on nuclear waste disposal isn't written by the public relations office of a nuclear fuel maker?

How do we trust their reporting on global warming or Wall Street or even Britney Spears?

This is, at best, an invitation to sloppiness, and an end to the single most important component of neutral reporting: leg work.

(Disclaimer: your correspondent served as a writer and editor on the Associated Press National Broadcast Desk from 1971 to 1975.)



Shrapnel:

--Look at the label on your small serving potato chip. You may think they've reduced the fat. But no, they've changed the portion size so you get 1.5 servings, not just one.

--Here's an investment tip. Buy uninhabitable sand dunes in Arizona or Florida or Nevada. Iraq war reenactments will soon be all the rage and property values will skyrocket.

--Beer woes got you down? Now that both Bud and Miller are in foreign hands you don't know what to drink? There's plenty of the stuff still made in USA, but you have to look.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)WJR 2008

Monday, July 14, 2008

#422 Ceiling Fans

#422 Ceiling Fans

There are all kinds of important things going on in the world these days. Big things, like Jesse Jackson's brilliantly put comments about Barak Obama, the war we're "winning" in Iraq, the war we will soon find in Iran. There are oil prices, food prices, real estate prices and the market meltdown, the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Bobbsy Twins of the lending world. And more. But it's often the little things that bedevil us.

Like ceiling fans.

This is a new idea for those of us who lived in one old house for ages, then moved into a new one. There are two here. One is in a bedroom, the other in a space the builder has designated the "Sun Room."

Turn them on and they twirl. Turn them off and they (eventually) stop twirling.

There is no difference in the room when the fans are on than when they are off.

And no one seems to know exactly what the point is.

Once, the air conditioning blew a fuse and we turned on the twirly fan to circulate some air. It didn't circulate. Unless, of course, you were on the ceiling along with the fan. To do that, you'd have to be eight feet tall. No one here is anything near that. Nor have we learned to do the Spiderman Ceiling Walk. So, that's not why the fan is there.

In winter, we tried lowering the thermostat a few degrees, figuring (physics 101) what hot air was available would rise to the ceiling (hot air CAN do the Spiderman Ceiling Walk,) then blow the warm air back down in the room. Nope.

Hey! How about reading the instruction book? That tells you how to install the thing (unneccessary -- they were already installed.) It tells you how to clean them (get up on a ladder and wipe the blades with a soft damp cloth. Duh.) It tells you how to turn them on and off (if you have it on a switched circuit, turn the switch to the "on" position. If not, pull the little chain that hangs down from the motor housing. Use a ladder unless you're eight feet tall or can walk on the ceiling.)

But it does not tell you what the fan's supposed to do -- except use electricity when it's on and not use electricity when it's off.)

At "Fans R Us," the local big box store, the head of the ceiling fans department is away (probably in the back room, fanning himself.) And the clerk doesn't know anything about what to do with the fans. ("It circulates the air when you turn it on, and doesn't circulate the air when you turn it off." Brilliant.)

Maybe the President can tell us more about that when he leaves office. After all, who knows more than a Texas politician about hot air. And especially THIS Texas politician.






Shrapnel:

--Radio used to be real art. Now, it's paint by numbers. And a lot of the "artists" can't count.

--In a broadcast hiring situation take someone with table-waiting experience over an equally qualified candidate without. Waiting tables teaches three important skills. Taking crap from customers and bosses, observing deadlines and multitasking.

--This doesn't work the other way around. Anything you do in broadcast doesn't translate into a marketable skill at a restaurant. That's REAL work.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Old Geezer's Right

#421 The Old Geezer's Right

That would be John McCain, in refuting the assertion of the slightly younger geezer, Phil Gramm that America is in a "mental recession."

Mr. Gramm was born in July of 1942, which is about when he was calling us a nation of whiners. I proudly confer geezerhood on anyone born in that year or earlier. And I plead guilty to qualifying.

Gramm is chief economic adviser to the Republican Party's apparent Presidential nominee, John McCain, who was born in 1936, making him (a) six years deeper into the geezer generation and (b) Gramm's elder, and therefore worthy of respect.

So, what kind of yo yo comes out with a one-liner like "we're in a mental recession." Gramm tells us all we have to do is buck up and cheer up and grey skies are going to clear up and put on a happy face.

If you were Phillie, you might be able to do something like that. After all, does the guy ever go to the A&P for a week's groceries? Does he fill up his own tank? Has the guy even paid for his own haircut in the last 30 years?

McCain was a little slow in saying Gramm was wrong. But his campaign Ministry of Truth was quick to cover up for the younger but still geezerly Gramm. They issued a volly of buckshot that spoke of the "mental" thing as if it were some kind of preview of an upcoming economic plan that would soon be issued and make us all fat and happy again. Or is it barefoot and pregnant?

Gramm, you'll remember, is responsible for the Enron Loophole, the part of the law that allowed the subprime mortgage mess to escalate to its present state. He gave Enron and others that loophole and put us into the current energy crisis. The guy's a banker and a financial shell game artist, a tool of the oil industry and the trading industry which has gleefully gone and given us a major beating since the passage of the Gramm inspired "Commodity Futures Modernization Act." There's a title for you. Right up there with "Peacekeeper Missiles."

McCain told the Wall St. Journal awhile back that the economy wasn't his strongest suit. With advisers like Phillie, he's not likely to learn much along the campaign trail.

But John McCain IS a politician and Gramm's stupid statement is reason enough to get his young geezer head handed him.

And that would end Gramm's mental recession. And ours.


Shrapnel

--"Smart" phones have made the Palm Pilot obsolete. It's not because they're an improvement. It's just that we can't leave something simple and brilliant alone for too long.

--English has more words than any other language. Our words breed like rabbits. It's time for simplification and we should start with contraceptives for adjectives.

--The Queen of England had a few thousand close friends over for tea the other day. It's nice to know the royals are in such good financial shape. Maybe next time, she could invite a few thousand of the homeless over for those delicious cucumber sandwiches.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©2008 WJR

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

#420 Fuel: the Upside

#420 Fuel: the Upside

Yes, there may be an upside to the stratospheric cost of gasoline. Call it a Norman-Vincent-Pealesque quest, but here it is:

High fuel prices will make you a better driver.

Huh?

Yes, high fuel prices will make you a better driver.

First, they'll get you to question "is this trip necessary?" That was a slogan during the rationing days of World War II. It worked. Why? Because not driving was the patriotic thing to do. (We understood patriotism in those days.)

You'll cut down on unnecessary trips just to save a few bucks. The less time you spend on the road, the less chance you have of getting into an accident.

Second, when you ARE on the road, you're going to be a little more careful about how you use your car. You'll plan routes instead of just rolling onto the road and going somewhere. When you are being consciously careful about one thing, you may be unconsciously careful about some others. Like making sure you use your signals, even for lane changes. (You remember SIGNALS, don't you? They operate with that little stick coming out of the steering column post. You use them to tell others where you intend to go. You remember OTHERS, don't you?)

You will probably not floor it through an intersection. You may even obey the speed limit -- even if it used to seem silly.

You probably won't race to a red light and jam on the brakes, instead breaking slowly as you approach the light.

You'll be more careful about tire pressure, which we all know affects milage and improves reliability on the road.

What you WON'T do is carpool. We don't carpool unless we HAVE to. Our cars are our castles. We don't let anyone inside whom we don't have to, and we don't go into others' cars when we don't have to.

But other than that, we may become a nation of safer drivers, and all because the trip is so expensive we want to make sure we want to pour our money into the tank and not into the register at the auto body shop.




Shrapnel:

--This guy proved his faith, alright. And it wasn't the sign on the trunk of his car, "read the Bible." The proof was that the car was an old Plymouth Neon with California plates and that it was still running -- and had made it to Pennsylvania.

--Some time in the 1940s or 50s, the guitarist Merle Travis had motorcycle mechanic Paul Bigsby put a special neck on his Martin guitar. The Martin company was big-time unhappy with the populr Travis' "distortion" of one of its instrument. But times change and now, Martin is putting out a replica of the altered guitar and charging about seven grand for each of the 100 they'll make.

--Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. But don't be too eager. Today, the mice will probably sue, charging you with species profiling.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)2008 WJR

Monday, July 07, 2008

#419 One Down, One to Go

#419 One Down, One to Go

Maybe they should combine operations. The old trying-to-make-a-winner-out-of-two-losers trick. No, it's not Super Airlines and Mega Air Lines we're talking about. You could never combine two companies that can't even agree on the spelling of the business they're in.

No, this is Starbucks and Krispy Kreme. Two totally useless outfits in essentially the same business, both of which are in in Deep Dunkin.

We all know that the object of Starbucks was originally to make sure you see one of their stores by looking out the window of a Starbucks in which you're already standing on the slowest line since Auschwitz. That didn't work out. Why? Because the coffee tastes like it was made by Firestone and everyone knows it. So, with the economy going through what the President of the United States calls a "rough patch," no one wants to pay four bucks for a cup of something that smells and tastes like an auto repair joint with a little whipped cream.

Starbucks recently closed all of its stores, briefly, for "retraining." Another failed strategy. You can't train people to make you like that stuff. Then, they eliminated the only reason to go to the place, the breakfast sandwiches. Kind of upscale Egg McMuffins and three times the price. (You can get the real thing and better free WiFi at any McDonalds, not to mention the coffee is 100% better and one third the price.) Another failed strategy, and good riddance to you.

Then there's Krispy Kreme. You might as well buy a two pound bag of sugar and a loaf of Wonder Bread. Dunkin, which has the slowest lines since CVS and Duane Reade, has the donuts beat six ways from breakfast. (So does Entenmann's, but that's another story.) Krispy also overexpanded its store count as it over expanded its customers' waistlines.

At least the lines at Krispy move fairly well. Why should you not only put on the pounds, but have to wait to do it?

These guys, though, are the GM and Ford of the fast food world. But the car makers have an excuse, sort of. They are huge bureaucracies and it takes forever to bring a model to market.

Hmmm. Come to think of it, it takes almost as long to make a Frappe Latte Deluxe Half Caf with artificial sweetener and organic milk.


So the big question is: Which one is the one that's "down" and which is the "one to go?"

It doesn't matter. They're both gone, but not perceptive enough to know it.


Shrapnel:

--Less is more, or at least more expensive. They took lead out of gasoline, then raised the price. They took the mixed malts out of scotch and raised the price.

--What'll be next? How about charging more for plain donuts than for glazed? Or maybe more for an ice cream cone without sprinkles?

--Actually, the airlines had this idea down pat years ago. Fly from New York to Zurich on the cheap. But fly from New York to Buffalo, you'd save by going to Zurch first.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)2008 WJR

Friday, July 04, 2008

#418 Final Warning

#418 Final Warning

You get them all the time. But do you listen? No.

A scary piece of spam in the mailbox the other day said "This Is Your Last Day..."

Should that be opened? Last day, for what? For our special offer to enlarge your whatsis? Or Your last day to get in on some super work-at-home-get-megabucks deal? Or just "your last day."

It was a tense rest of the day, to be sure.

The spam got deleted without being opened.

If it was the real last day, they must have meant someone else and sent it here by mistake. Some poor soul didn't get his final warning. That last day must of been a hell of a surprise for the guy.

Some warnings are not to be taken seriously. For example, when they post signs in the subway that warn of rat poison on the tracks. People don't ordinarily go on the tracks, so they're not really in danger. Rats DO go on the tracks. When they put up those signs, the rats, at least the literate ones react pronto. Ever hear a rat laugh?

How about Surgeon General's Warnings?

Pretty serious warning. Ah, but, then, what does he know?

"Warning: Authorized Persons Only Beyond This Point." Are you an authorized person? Maybe, maybe not. If not, you have been a person without authorization all your life. A real downer. So, who authorizes persons, anyway? And who are those people who move freely from here to "beyond this point?"

"Warning, this product contains lead, which has been found by the California Dept. of Health to cause..." whatever. That's a warning you can understand. Except right under it is another statement: "This produce meets federal safety standards." Does that mean you get lead poisoning only if you use whatever it is in California?

"Warning: Watch for Low Flying Planes." That is a real sign. Or was. What are you supposed to do when you see one, duck? Swerve into oncoming traffic? Read your "Today is Your Last Day" email while behind the wheel? What?

And now, today's Wessays Final Warning, and remember, you have been warned.


Warning. You are reading the last sentence in this blog before the Shrapnel section.

Shrapnel

--The radio station is making a new claim. "We're number one among people who say we're their favorite radio station." Huh?

--Some radio waves travel long distances at night. So, while you may not be able to receive the local station after sunset you can pull in stuff from 1,000 miles away later in the evening. And thus you can learn that crap is crap no matter where it comes from.

--Bring back the crystal set. It made you an active participant in the broadcast. You couldn't hear anything without rubbing the cat's whisker on the crystal, so you couldn't just set the thing playing and idly go about the rest of your business.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)2008 WJR

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

#417 The Line

#417 The Line

Most guys shop like guys. The go into a store with a purchase in mind, head directly for the merchandise, pick it up, head for the cashier and get out of Dodge.

Women, most women, anyway, do it differently. They come in with a vague idea of what they want, and explore their way around the store until they find it, spend endless time and effort evaluating the item (which is already one of many -- after the archaeological dig through every aisle leading up to the vaguely wanted item,) and then choose one. And think about it. And more archeology. Then, maybe a return to the carefully considered item to carefully consider it some more. And to make sure they got the "best" one.

Most stuff is machine made in China. Every pair of slacks is exactly like every other pair of slacks. But the comparison is necessary. If these women worked in a medical laboratory, we'd probably have cures for cancer, arthritis, heart disease and AIDS by now.

If women were in charge of some of the real archaeological digs, we probably would have found the mummies of the famous Pharaohs a century earlier than we did.

We would have credible photos of the Loch Ness Monster.

And the Sistine Chapel would remain incomplete.

This also is why women tend not to bring their husbands or boyfriends along on the shopping trip.

But there is a subgroup within this kind of shopper. And this is the hardest for guys to understand at all. This one's a total mystery. Some people are constitutionally incapable of approaching an open checkout with no one on line.

"Look, there's no one at that checkout, let's go!" says husband.

No. Just one more look at one more thing.

And during that look, six people appear with overflowing shopping carts and the line is busy. Only THEN will she get on line.

If you head for that unoccupied line and start checking out, she will have found something else while your backs were turned to each other.

And you'll have to get on line twice.

So the trick is to suck it up. Never hit the line until you're absolutely positively certain there's nothing else to look at.






Shrapnel


--Every ten days, like clockwork, Verizon sends a pitch to sell it's new high speed fiber optic service. When you call to say "Okay, set me up," they say it's not available yet. Now they send a pitch say "since you already have our high speed fiber optic service, how about upgrading it to our SUPER high speed fiber optic service."

--The cable company is also busy trying to sell phone service. They say unlimited free calls to the US and Puerto Rico. What country is Puerto Rico in, again?

--You can feed the homeless with leftover food from the restaurants, but they won't do it. Why? Because if one homeless guy gets a bad tomato, he might sue.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.(R)
(C)2008 WJR