Friday, August 29, 2008

#442 Bad Jobs

#442 Bad Jobs

We have been considering this topic in this space for years: how do people get away with doing a terrible job.... and finally come to something of a conclusion, even a benevolent one.

It's not universal, of course. But it's epidemic -- or close to it.

Call customer service, shop in a store, eat at a fast food joint, or even a
multi- star restaurant.

Go to school. Go to work. Ride mass transit, hunt for a house or for a car.

Often, what you find is someone who isn't paying attention to you, gets an order wrong, can't move a line through a checkout register, can't mow a lawn, shovel a walk, inject a medication, polish a nail, change the oil, process the photographs, catch or prosecute or defend a crook, file a piece of paper, operate a toll booth, fill a gas tank or scramble an egg.

We've searched and searched for answers. Considered bad training, bad bosses, bad working conditions, bad hair days, low wages, low self esteem, low IQ, low people skills, low communication skills.

How about an explanation that doesn't account for conscious inadequacies?

Okay, here it is. Some people (a LOT of people, really,) don't know what work IS or is supposed to be.

All the dandy training programs and MBA-driven business plans one can get on the job are worthless if you don't know what work is in the first place.

First, it's showing up. that's worth a LOT of points up front. Even better is showing up on time or (perish the thought) even early.

Then it's paying attention to the needs of the job.

It's almost inconceivable, but some people just don't know that work isn't a social occasion for which one is paid.

It's not a place to go to have conversations about the latest fashions, baseball scores, weather, boyfriends, girlfriends whatever.

Sure, there are down moments you can do that... but it shouldn't be (as often seems to be the case,) the primary priority.

When you're on the line at the burger joint, and the counter operator can't get the order straight, it's annoying, maybe infuriating. But you'll live to go through it again.

What happens, though, when the worker in question is, say, a pilot or the clerk in an emergency room? or a broker's assistant -- or the broker him or herself?

There is training for this, but it has to happen long before anyone is old enough to enter the workforce.

This is something that should be taught at home.

In order to work, you have to know what work IS.

Shrapnel:

--The Democratic Party convention is over. Not a minute too soon. Another night of speeches would have caused seizures.

--But... Obama's acceptance speech was like few others. Compare it with JFK and FDR. You think they don't make 'em like that anymore. They sure did last night.

--The Republican Party convention is about to begin. It's much more powerful. The seizures come on the first night.


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

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

#441 Gone Hollywood

#441 Gone Hollywood

The American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, AFTRA, recently moved its national headquarters from New York, where it started to Los Angeles, where it wanted to be, and this makes absolutely no difference at all to the members who are doing better and better all the time, even with the onslaught of new media like the Internet and the video game narration, the onslaught of satellite radio and the staggering of local radio and television such as there is left of them.

But the latest issue of the union's magazine is SO Hollywood you have to marvel. The magazine is a slick paper thing that comes out four times a year and its purpose, like any trade journal, is to toot the horns of the people in whatever the trade happens to be. In this instance, it's acting, announcing, singing and (if you're a stunt actor,) driving Harleys off cliffs.

So there's the usual stuff about new contracts, planned contracts, deceased lions of the business, cheery messages from union officers and a complete list of the locals. (There are 26 of them or maybe 24 or maybe 27 depending on how you read it. Remember, this is a union of "artists," not of carpenters.) No one reads lists, right? Wrong. Some of us read lists. What can you learn from the list? You can learn the names, addresses and phone numbers. You also can learn that the paid head guy in the Pittsburgh local is the same as the paid head guy in the Ohio local, that he has two phone numbers, one in Pittsburgh and one in Cincinnati. Not terribly important. Two locals, one guy? Okay, why not.

But most instructive are the ads. A custom shirt maker. A guy who can "cure" your accent or improve your dialect. Hairdressers, foot doctors (got ugly feet? Not good for TV work. No one hires actors or actresses with ugly feet!) Liposuction, investments and settlement loans, all from the west coast. Cosmetic dentists, "conferences," and more, and not a single 212 area code among them.

Well, at least they're selling ads. Keeps some of the cost of putting out a full color, slick-paper quarterly from coming out of the dues pot.

Those of us in the New York local have to wonder whether the Wilshire Boulevard address has gone to their heads. When they were still headquartered in New York, the Madison Avenue address sure did. The previous headquarters on Sixth Avenue was getting shabby and crowded. But in the Internet age, they could save a bundle by putting headquarters in Wyoming.





Shrapnel:

--The electric company staged a "planned" power outage the other day, but did not disclose its plans to the customers. Not that it would have made a huge difference. any plans for tonight, boys?

--The entertainer Bono has an investment company which has acquired good chunks of Palm Pilot and Forbes Magazine. This is significant. It guarantees the former will never appear on the latter's well regarded, briskly selling, widely read list of ideas that have come -- and gone.

--Actually, business magazines may top that list fairly soon. They're scratching their heads at Forbes, Fortune, Business Week, Money, and American Usurer, asking "What would Malcolm do?" What he'd do is get into his balloon or on his motorcycle and let the rest of you figure out how to pay for that.

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

Monday, August 25, 2008

#440 Grange Fair Postscript

#440 Grange Fair Postscript


(CENTRE HALL, PA) -- Making good on a promise, here's the followup to Wessay #438, "Grange Fair Preview."

It's a Friday afternoon in late August. Eighty seven degrees in the shade and a nice breeze. And for those of us who've spent a lifetime as fish out of water, there shouldn't be anything scary about this county fair, which has been going on for something like 134 years -- and seems to remain host to some of the founders. Sometimes it's hard to tell if this is Madame Tussuad's or Mars. But there are people here who look like they could have been at the first edition

Imagine this: a peaceful mountain setting and a valley housing a trailer park the size of Rhode Island. It is populated by genial people, most of them with fewer teeth than nature suggests. And more weight. Much more weight. Contiguous is a tent city of elephantine proportion. Same people, though. You can't see into the trailers and RVs without appearing nosy. But many of the tents are open, showing microwave ovens, air conditioning units, TV satellite receivers and unmade beds. It is Three o'clock in the afternoon. And although early rising is common in farm country, some people are just now greeting the day.

That's the people. The animals are a different story. Here are a couple of old goats and they've been up since dawn making sure they don't become someones goat wurst barbecue. There are numerous rabbits, some of them born this morning. There are guys ready to show you how to irradiate your lettuce -- not so you glow in the dark, but so you die from radioactivity rather than e-coli.

A knot of drummers is forming across the road. Do not expect Gene Krupa or Henry Adler among them. In volume, perhaps. In rhythm, no chance.

They gave out a 140 page book of explanation for this shebang. Nowhere in it, are there definitions for those of us who grew up mugging fourth graders for lunch money.

What's a "bratwurst?" How about a "tractor pull?" What is "kettle corn?" How do you tell a bull from a steer without getting too close.

The expectation was of a scary afternoon. It was a scary afternoon. Nice people. Nice trailers, nice tents, nice goats, nice bulls, steers and tractors, both pulled and unpulled.

But what are they all talking about? And to whom?

Shrapnel:

--Some people can't stand the sight of a full waste basket. They're very neat. And they keep the plastic bag companies in business.

--Supermarkets are offering "reusable" cloth bags. Helps the environment, they say. So how much energy does it take to manufacture and ship these things and how many times can you actually re-use them before they end up in the landfill, and why am I paying you to carry around an ad for you store when you should be paying me?

--Then, there are sleeping bags. They are models of modern technology. But you never can get them back in that teeny little pouch they give you to schlep it around.

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

Friday, August 22, 2008

#439 I Forget

#439 I Forget

So, Panama Jack, Republican candidate for President of the United States of America can't remember a few things about his real estate. Cut the guy some slack. When you get to be that age, there's so much stuff in your head you can't always remember the minor details. That's experience! So it gets a little crowded up top.

It happens to all of us. We get busy. We accumulate data and sometimes information, and it all gets kind of jumbled. It's okay as long as you can remember the combination to the nuclear football. After all, you want to be launching those missiles against some real aggressor country, like, say, Finland and not some non-entity like, say, Russia.

As long as you remember that we never met a conflict we couldn't settle with an armed invasion. As long as you remember that digging for oil is what this country needs. As long as you remember that abortion is murder, as long as you remember what you said about an issue yesterday -- or at least don't say the opposite today, we the voters don't care whether you can remember how many houses you own, where they are, what they cost, whether the taxes on them are paid and who -- if anyone -- is living in them.

Give the guy a break. He has a lot on his mind.

Do you remember how many houses you own? Do you remember your phone number? Do you remember whether you brushed your teeth this morning? Do you remember what you had for breakfast?

Give the guy a break.

Of course saying in public that he didn't remember how many houses he owned is kind of embarrassing. But he should have anticipated the question. It's the kind of thing that's become important in this political campaign. And he could have -- and should have -- taken steps to prepare. Like taking the key ring out of his pocket and counting the keys.

It's a good thing they didn't ask him "what color socks are you wearing?" That would have required serious research. And just suppose he did the research and discovered one was black and the other brown or argyle?

Poor Panama Jack. He's getting it from all sides. He says silly things and then says silly opposite things. The conservatives think he's too liberal, the liberals think he's too conservative. And here we, the media, go asking him the tough questions while he battles for his political life and all he wants to do is lead us.

We've had presidents who don't know what a grocery store price-scanner is. We've had presidents who get chased by killer rabbits. We've had presidents who spent their youth cheerleading and getting drunk. This mis-step is no biggie.

By the way, Jack, have you found the number yet?





Shrapnel

--GM was trying to sell its medium duty truck division to Navistar. The sale fell through. Navistar doesn't want 'em any more than you do.

--American Airlines has started to offer in-sky Internet service. It's not free, do you think? Gives new meaning to the phrase "Mile High Club."

--Only in California. Homeless? No problem, just park your SUV in one of the designated homeless spaces, and live there until you get it together.

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

#438 Grange Fair Preview

#438 Grange Fair Preview

I'm about to visit a grange fair and it's scaring the daylights out of me. Well, not exactly visit. I mean visit and do a radio show.

First off, I have no idea what a grange fair is. From the look of things its where farmers and their families gather to swap lies and show off livestock. But I have a book. a city guy always has to have a book. It's about 140 pages of schedules and events and rules and things. It is written in English. Mostly, simple declarative sentences.

But I don't know what the words mean in the orders they're used.

First, there's the slogan: "...the nation's most unique county fair." Most unique? There are degrees of uniqueness? What, two headed sheep? No. That would be absolutely unique. A four way tractor pull? Maybe that's more unique than a three way tractor pull and WAY more unique than a run of the mill two way tractor pull.

The next thing they tell you is that families have encamped at this week long soiree for decades, and some have waited decades to secure a coveted piece of ground for their family tent or RV.

Then, they tell you that pets aren't allowed. No pets? What, is your Fox Terrier going to chew up the draft horse team? By the way, what's a draft horse?

But I'm doing my research. For example, I have downloaded a picture of the official 2008 Grange Fair pickle jar. (Does anyone out here know what a pickle is? Not by my lights.) I also have downloaded a picture of the official 2008 Grange Fair stuffed sheep. (I wonder if they'll have real ones. Do they dare?) And I've watched the web cam slide show which makes the thing look like a summer day in Central Park, only with John Deere green and yellow reapers instead of wheeled pretzel stands and ice cream vendors.

So I'm going to interview farmers or shepherds or bratwurst makers (I've been warned not to ask for the recipes, but I'm not sure that's a precaution against stealing a long-running family secret or alerting the board of health.)

Going to try to restrict my interaction with animals beyond the Junior Rabbit Show and the pet Fox Terrier someone will no doubt sneak in under an authentic Native American decorative blanket in the back of his F150.

The folks behind this shindig are really REALLY enthusiastic.

That notwithstanding, things like this really do frighten me.

But there is one small consolation.

I can bring a loaded 12 gauge shotgun along for protection, and no one will think it's the least bit odd or out of place.

(You can expect a post mortem Monday 8/25/08)






Shrapnel:

--There are eight pumps at the local gas station. Pumps number 2, 5 and 8 are always on the fritz and the people inside know it. But so are some others and that makes gas buying like a gambling game and the payoff is that you may (or may not) get to buy gas at today's bargain prices.

--Class warfare? Not here. We're all out of class.

--The Long Island history crowd may have a point. Since Roosevelt has two pronunciations which President's name should we change? How do you like Franklin Rosevelt and Theodor Rooosevelt?

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

Monday, August 18, 2008

#437 Listing to Port

#437 Listing to Port

There are too many lists. You have Craig's List, Emily's List, Angie's List, Cyndi's List, "The" List. You have lists of lists. And that's just the Internet. You have shopping lists, to-do lists, gift lists, Honey-Do lists.

You have so many lists that you'll list to port if you carry them in your briefcase and your briefcase in your left hand. (You'll list to starboard if you do all that stuff with the right hand.)

The Internet lists can be handy if you're looking for, say, a surfboard in Malibu or a carburetor for a '64 Biscayne in Biscayne Beach. The to-do and shopping lists are another story.

Used to do the shopping list on little scraps of paper. Need an item? Write it down. Need another item? Write it down on another scrap. Before hitting the supermarket, take the scraps and arrange them in aisle order. Then, all you have to do is cruise the aisles, picking up the items and discarding each scrap into the cart as you acquire what's written on it.

That works if (a) you know the layout of your supermarket by heart and (b) no good citizen adds a second item to a one-item paper scrap.

For awhile, there was a chalkboard in the kitchen, and the instruction to the children was "when you need something, write it down on the chalkboard and I'll pick it up when I go shopping."

But that didn't work. Too many things like "New Stereo," or "Sunglasses" appeared.

And eventually, it got to be trouble fishing the little scraps out of the cart and disposing of them in a socially responsible manner.

A good concept, the scraps, but not easily maintained.

Now, about the to-do lists. This once was really difficult, especially for those of us who are compulsive about obeying written instructions, even if we ourselves wrote them.

The to-do list would hover over the shoulder like a taskmaster, until we found a magic word, which we abbreviated as "ppd." It means "postponed." A great word. A word of royal significance. If you crossed out an item and wrote"ppd" next to it, and a proposed future date, you were home free.

But sometimes even this magic hits you in the rear.

Here's an example: The handle on the driver's side door of the family car is made of plastic and part of it has separated from its moorings. A little Crazy Glue fixes it temporarily. But if this "to-do" item is too oft postponed, the handle will come off and it'll mean a trip to Toyota and an expensive replacement.

So those items get done pretty much as directed.

"Change guitar strings" is easily "ppd." "Water the hydrangea" is not. Unless you like dead hydrangeas.





Still, there are too many lists. And half the world is listing to port.

Shrapnel:

--At the mental health center, there are nine working shrinks. Three of them don't use their first names, but substitute an initial. What would Dr. Freud make of that, do you suppose?

--And it always makes you wonder what the name they're hiding is. What does the "C" stand for in C. Edward Jackson? One guess: Chloroform.

--Unless you're an active convict, your Social Security number is your main symbol of personal identification. Which is kind of funny for some of us who've had the cards longer than we can remember. You know the ones -- the ones that say on them "not for identification purposes."


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

Friday, August 15, 2008

#436 Identity Giveaway

#436 Identity Giveaway

Seems like every bill you get in the mail these days brings with it word that you can save a bundle every year by signing up for EZ Pay. Just send them a voided check and let them take the money out of your account each month. No fuss. No check-writing, no postage. Save a bundle.

This is called Identity Giveaway. It's not the same thing as identity theft, because you don't generally volunteer for that. No. What you're doing is giving the electric company, the gas company, the cable company, the telephone company and who knows who else the right to write checks from your account.

Sure, if you pay by check, they have your account numbers. But Exxon can't just walk into the Amalgamated Bank on the corner withdraw from your account. You first have to write a check.

Blue Cross is unlikely to debit your account for more -- or less -- than you owe whether you have EZ Pay or don't.

But still, if you authorize it, you get to pay your bill without having to do, well, anything.

There are some good reasons for doing this.

If you're a forgetful deadbeat, your credit score won't get battered, because you'll no longer be a forgetful deadbeat, just forgetful.

If there's a foot of snow on the ground, you won't have to slog to the mailbox with your check for Verizon. Verizon will simply electronically debit your account. Nice.

Nice, that is, if you are not living paycheck to paycheck and always have enough money in the account.

The banks CHARGE for bounced electronic withdrawals and it ain't cheap.

They also charge for "stop payment" orders.

So, if one day you decide you want to start writing checks to Con Ed again (no one WANTS to write checks to Con Ed, but you get the picture,) Banco Popular will charge you to stop the service. And the stop order'll be good for six months. And they won't remind you when the six months are up.

Of course, by the time they ARE up, Con Ed will have either notified you they're not getting paid, or they will have put out your lights and turned off your refrigerator.

So what does a year's worth of bills cost you in stamps? Five bucks per account.

How much is a stop order? $30 per account in some banks, more in some, less in others, but always more than the fiver.

Maybe you shouldn't give away your identity.



Shrapnel

--The newspapers are cutting back on their political convention coverage. Probably a good idea. Plus scripts are ready at least a couple of weeks before the non-events.

--The US is all out of joint because Russia invaded the sovereign state of Georgia. They're up to their old tricks again. Well, maybe OUR old tricks.

--All this genetic engineering. All those new chemicals and plants and stuff. Why can't they genetically engineer hedges to grow neatly and don't need to be clipped or trimmed or fed?

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

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

#435 Generics

#435 Generics

An interesting piece of Big Pharma propaganda floated into the mailbox the other day. It was a not-too-well-veiled pitch to buy name brand drugs instead of generics.

It comes from the bleeding heart altruists at GlaxoSmithKline. First of all, how can you trust someone that has three names with no spaces between them but keeps the capital letters at the start of each name. Something a little off about that.

Nothing off about the message, delivered in brilliantly illustrated large-type format with attractive modernistic if somewhat abstract cartoon figures representing doctor, patient and pharmacist. And it has proportionately huge pill bottles and a handy form to give to the druggist to make sure that you get the brand name drug when your doctor wants you to have it.

So far, a snow job, right? "Buy our stuff even though it costs much more than the supposedly similar generics."

Guess what?

They're not completely wrong.

In order to sell generics, a company has to pass a test: does the same amount of active ingredient reach the blood as fast and at the same speed and with the same power as the brand name. That's it. The tests are conducted on relatively small numbers of healthy patients. At least that's what the GSK cartoon figures say.

Other stuff in the generic pills may affect you differently from those in the brand name. And there are an awful lot of inactive ingredients.

And if you look for and at the anecdotes on countless blogs and websites, you'll find a lot of complaints, especially about generic antidepressants.

Those complaints are hereby seconded here. Generic antidepressants are, well, depressing. And in at least one documented case, ineffective.

And it's not just antidepressants.

It's also over the counter remedies. Generic Ibuprofen does not work as well as Advil. Again, an anecdote, not a set of statistics.

It's not fair when the drug store substitutes a generic and doesn't tell you. And the generics usually look a lot like the real thing.

But with medicine costing what it costs these days, many of us are in a bind.

If the generic doesn't work as well as the brand name, it's Lipitor for breakfast and Hyzaar for lunch and Kibbles 'N Bits for dinner. Friskies Ocean Whitefish and Tuna Dinner for dinner on Sundays.




Shrapnel:

--Corn prices are still rising. Except in local supermarkets. Ah, the free market at work!

--You think all this stuff going on in former Soviet Georgia doesn't matter to America? Think again. The breakaway province could be re-named "Pipeline Junction," and the fighting could start major trouble between Washington and Moscow.

Real Shrapnel:
--It's august and they've just finished investigating the explosion death in Virginia last February of a guy who was cleaning a Civil War era cannonball that exploded. They don't make investigations like they used to -- or cannon balls, for that matter.


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

Monday, August 11, 2008

#434 The Debate

#434 The Debate

They must have had a name shortage on Long Island about 400 years ago. You can see this because there are several different places that share the same name. Like the Town of East Hampton and the Village of East Hampton. And then there's the Village of Hempstead and the Town of Hempstead. The former sits inside the latter, is much smaller and has been shooting itself in the foot for at least the last 60 years, but never fatally.

Siting partly in the village and partly in the town is Hofstra University, site of one of this year's super exciting presidential debates, the one in October. The building in which the debate will take place is not within the borders of the village. But that's the mailing address, so the debate will be in Hempstead. (Actually, the debate will be in Uniondale, but who wants to give publicity to the decaying Nassau Coliseum and the equally decaying main tenant, the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League, also good foot-shooters.)

The school (we called it America's Unintentionally Funniest College back when it was a college) is so excited about this thing that it's posted a countdown clock on its website, which we offer herewith: http://www.hofstra.edu/debate/debate_publicviewing.html

Handy for political junkies and Hofstra fans and people who like places that generously share their names with other places.

The best part of all this is that it's the third of three debates, the final one. So the combatants will have gotten used to the battle. Also Bob Schieffer from CBS is going to moderate, which means it will be a dignified affair, but not a pompous one (unless the Hofstra Communications School population gets to write the script, which is unlikely.)

Actually, the candidates and this particular moderator would put on a good debate, even if they held it in a Hempstead pool hall, a more interesting, intimate and multi-linguistic venue. So Hofstra will be able to add another public relations notch to its belt, America will get a good debate and it will take the participants and audience only five or six hours to get out of the parking lots. Many of them with Hofstra Security Patrol tickets on their windshields ("I'm sorry Senators, you can't park there. The spaces are reserved for the Dean of the College of Recycling Arts and her assistants. There's plenty of room at the back of the lot for both of you.)

Let's hope some of that fun attitude rubs off on the rest of us.

(Disclaimer: your blogger laughed his way through three years at Hofstra College in the late 1950s and early 1960s.)


Shrapnel:

--If you think the radical right is the only group that's "ignorant and proud" think again. That's not nearly as scary as the current youth culture that can't add, but knows all about which leading man or lady wants to co-star with whom.

--That same right wing is proud that since it has started talking about expanding offshore drilling, the price of oil has dropped. Logical fallacy here. One action that follows another does not guarantee that the first caused the second.

--And that same right wing is trying to stop stem cell research. They're trying to codify ignorance, but instead are sending it off shore. Meantime, some Harvard types have found stem cells that can eradicate almost a dozen serious genetic diseases.

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

Friday, August 08, 2008

#433 Oh, Waiter, There's a Fish In My Yogurt

#433 Oh, Waiter, There's a Fish In My Yogurt

This is not exactly about the Great White. But I am being pursued by a school of killer sardines.

Not a pretty picture for a guy who's allergic to fish.

First, my favorite soul food restaurant started adding sardines to their bacon and eggs, and didn't say so.

Now, there's sardine in my yogurt. Yes, yogurt.

To make a healthy and delicious food into something even healthier, they've added... SARDINES. And ANCHOVIES. And TILAPIA!

It's right there on the label. But who reads yogurt labels.

Blueberry-Tilapia. And you CAN taste it.

That's how I noticed. "Hey, this blueberry yogurt tastes fishy."

"Well, sir," replied the customer service doily, "that shouldn't be. But there IS fish in it. We put it there to boost your Omega 3."

Omega 3? I have Omega 1. It's a 52 year old watch. It's in a drawer. Can't find Omega 2, except the movie. Omega 3? Helps build bodies 12 ways (eight ways if you're old enough to remember the original Wonder Bread.)

And there's Tilapia in the gel that they add to the yogurt "for consistency." Tilapia and beef. And they call it kosher. (Um, the largest ingredient is milk, if you add beef, the kosher thing goes out the window. Truth in labeling.)

Doily: "We'll send you a coupon for some free yogurt."

"Do you have any without fish?"

"Um... no."

"Keep the coupon. I probably won't live long enough to get to the store again, anyway. The fish allergy, you know."

Click.

Lesson 1: if you have fish allergies, read labels.

Lesson 2: if you read the label and there's fish in the yogurt, you can choose to not buy it, a beautifully elegant free market solution.

Lesson 3: don't eat yogurt -- just to be sure.

The old joke, "waiter, there's a fly in my soup," never was funny. Neither was its best known counter-joke:

"Waiter, there's a fly in my salad."

"Oh, I'm sorry, sir. It belongs in your soup. I'll fix that."

We the fish-averse are being discriminated against.

The peanut-averse have a lock on screaming labels.

'THIS CANDY BAR WAS MANUFACTURED IN A FACILITY THAT ALSO PROCESSES PEANUTS!"

That's a pretty common screaming label.

We fishniks have to find another way.




Shrapnel:

--British Petroleum should learn some British manners. The game card from the gas station says "you are NOT a winner." Give me a complex, it will.

--Paris Hilton's energy policy makes more sense than either of the Presidential candiates'. So maybe she's not as dumb as we thought. Or she has better speech writers than either McCain or Obama.

--Salim Hamdan, Osama's driver, was convicted of war crimes. That's good for the war on terrorism, but bad for two states. Guy still owes ten grand in moving violations in Manhattan and the black car is illegally parked in front of a hydrant in Jersey City.

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

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

A Penny For Your...

#432 A Penny For Your....

If you've been to Canada in the past few years, you see a lot of guys listing to port or to starboard. That's because they're carrying a bunch of one dollar coins in their pockets. See, Canada is a monetary dictatorship. (You didn't know that, did you?)

One day the Powers That Be decided "hey, we're not going to print one dollar bills anymore." And they stopped. Now, they have one dollar coins -- pocket rippers. And they do NOT have one dollar bills.

It's a little different, here in the Land of The Free. Here, the mint doesn't make decisions about whether to print bills. They use the free market approach. They put out dollar coins and let the market decide. So far, the market has decided at least twice. We don't want dollar coins because we're Americans and we don't like listing to port or to starboard.

The one dollar US coins have been a colossal flop, no matter which historic woman you get with it. We don't use them. The only place you get them in change is in the subway and in the park-and-lock lots. And the only place you can spend them is the Wal-Mart self-checkouts.

We don't like people fooling with our money.

Which brings us to the latest effort to ban the penny. People who make change for a living don't like the thing. They say it has outlived its usefulness.

Nope.

As long as there are prices that end in ".99" or sales taxes that demand a price of, say $.18, the penny will be an important part of our lives.

And if you use them in combination with other currency, they're still useful. Say something costs $1.25. You can still use a dollar bill, two dimes, and five pennies to pay. Most checkout clerks can count to five.

Not only that, but pennies are weapons.

Say you're walking along Skillman Avenue at 2 am, and some wiseguy comes up and demands your wallet. Well, if you have a roll of pennies clutched in your fist, you can knock this Bozo into the next century, keep you wallet and still have your pennies. And unlike brass knuckles, the cops can't get you for carrying an illegal weapon.

And if you have an especially annoying creditor, another weapon: pay your bill in pennies. It'll drive the guy nuts.

You'll pay off your debt and you'll feel good about it.



Shrapnel:

--Anyone want to cheer for the Olympics? (Silence) That's what I thought, and sorry to awaken you.

--They're now making "wrinkle free" pants of linen. Brilliant. If they don't wrinkle and rumple, what's the point of having them?

--The voice commands on the new cellphone work wonderfully. They also are very consistent. All you have to do is say anything -- anything at all -- and you'll get the reply "unrecognized command, please try again."

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

Monday, August 04, 2008

#431 The First R

#431 The First R

If you're reading this instead of hearing it, you're a rarity. It's not just that it's a low-circulation blog. You just aren't reading like you used to -- or like your parents did. Of course, they didn't have MTV and 499 other channels to keep them amused. They didn't have the internet that makes it possible for you to read the Washington Post from Denver or the New York Times from Islamabad.

But even with all that good reading, you don't.

Books? Maybe an occasional novel, maybe when you're on the beach and should be ogling the mini bathing suits. Magazines? They're on the internet, too, if you choose to look. But chances are, you don't.

Which is why there's so much bad writing these days. First, anyone can post a blog (look who's talking!)

Then, there aren't many editors on the internet and those on the traditional newspaper sites (and in the traditional newspapers) aren't doing much editing.

If you don't read a lot, your writing stinks, no matter what college degrees you've "earned" and no matter how deep your thoughts and no matter how wide your circulation.

You get your news from Leno and Letterman and Olbermann and Limbaugh.

You get your political insights from Tila Tequila, Carl Rove, Michael Savage, the Drudge Report, the Huffington Post and here. Not good enough.

So, you don't read, which means you can't write. You can't write, so you can't think.

A perfect world for the neo-cons who want you barefoot and pregnant, want you waving the flag without a clue about what the flag means, want you living from hand to mouth so you don't engage your brain for anything but the most basic everyday tasks.

Buy the daily paper -- even if it's just as an act of charity (they need all the help they can get.)

Go to Barnes & Noble blindfolded, ask to be taken to any shelf of non-fiction anything. Pick a book at random. Buy it. Read it.

It may be useless. For example, it could be about, oh, knitting, raising goats or a history of the Canadian Football League. But at least you'll learn something and maybe even get into the habit of having a book or two in the house for more than decoration or impressing the Electrolux Man when he comes calling.

Disconnect the text feature on your cell phone and send a letter -- or even an e-mail.

And then write one to your member of Congress, telling him what you think about something -- anything.









Shrapnel:

--NASA has found water on Mars. Probably left there by tourists. Although, maybe not, since there are no Poland Spring bottles.

--A clothing store in Ohio has opened up a bar on the sales floor. It isn't improving business. But the owners don't care -- at least not in their present condition.

--What makes potato chips taste good? Among other things, a chemical called acrylamide, formed naturally in the cooking process. One small problem: Acrylamide causes cancer in lab rats -- so make sure your's doesn't have any.

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

Friday, August 01, 2008

#430 A New Shortage

#430 A New Shortage


It's called "B-Roll," and it's television's equivalent of junk mail or Internet spam. It's the filler pictures you see when there aren't real pictures for a story. It fills your screen (or a good part of it,) adds little to nothing to the story, and generally clogs things the same way as the 60 mailings you get from Macy's every month or the junk in your e-mail urging you to "invest now," "enlarge your whatsis," "claim your free Wal-Mart rewards card" or "meet NASCAR singles in your area tonite!!!"

Story about the President taking a trip? No new footage? No problem. There's plenty of stuff on the shelf. Just pull down a picture of the prez walking toward Marine One. And if you have too much story and not enough video, run it twice. Just make sure you label it "file."

Campaign event? No way to get a live shot signal out of the truck? No problem. Run an earlier campaign shot. Just make sure it's the right candidate. He's going to stand and wave from the lectern at today's event, just like he did at yesterday's.

Something happen in Iraq, but headquarters closed the bureau or maybe the military didn't allow cameras? No problem. You have plenty of that stuff lying around. Just show some soldiers in camo, but make sure they're walking on sand, not in a jungle.

Business stories are particularly easy to screen. You've got video of the headquarters of every major and most minor corporations in America. And they're all the same, except for the sign on the building. And the audience will know -- if you haven't put it to sleep -- that it's video and not just a still shot because your very smart camera operator will have panned back and forth across the building's main entrance -- where you can pan back and forth if there's no actual motion.

How many times have you seen boxes coming off a production line at Microsoft or Intel? How many times have you seen those little California oil pumps going up and down and up and down as background for a story on either state energy problems or prices? How many times have you seen the same post tornado or post hurricane or post brush fire footage, endlessly looped while an anchor or field reporter gives details peculiar to the incident?

In an earlier time, the question was "what's the story?" Then came "what's the video?" Now it's "what continuous loop can we fill with?"

Shrapnel:

--McCain's people have compared Obama to Britney Spears. Who, then, shall we compare with McCain? My vote's for Wilfred Brimley or maybe Ed McMahon.

--At this point, about 1300 vegetable and fruit eaters have been sickened with salmonella. It looks like the problem traces back to irrigation problems in Mexico. We TOLD you not to drink the water.

--The morality police in Saudi Arabia has banned the sale of cats and dogs as pets. Nothing against dogs or cats, undertsand. It's that they're used for flirtation escapades among men and women.



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