Friday, January 29, 2010

657 A Matter of Honor

657 A Matter of Honor

Stu and Hashi have been a couple longer than most married couples. Stu is a Doctor of Medicine and teaches it. Hashi is an early 1980s Toyota Corolla. Here's how they met: Doc needed a car, thought about a Buick. They used to call that the Doctors' car. Then he thought about a Ford. Then he thought about a Dodge.

But that little voice in his head kept saying "Corolla, Corolla, Corolla." So one day instead of teaching, working at the clinic, golfing or (gasp!) treating patients, Stu waltzed into the Toyota dealer in East Moote Pointe, NY and told the first sales guy who approached him "I want a Corolla." "Surely sir. Would you like to test drive a few?" "No, just wrap it up and do the paperwork."

No test drive, no negotiations, no nothing. Just in and out like it was an ice cream pop or a Big Mac. Hashi's been on the road for 263,000 miles and counting and never once has anything big gone wrong. Oh, he had to replace the muffler twice and the tires and some of the lights. And Hashi's got the scars of all those years on the BQE and Flatbush and Moote Pointe on her. But she's still going and stopping when she should and never when she shouldn't.

And in those days and in the years that followed, there were a lot of guys like Stu. That segment of the market is gone.

Toyota has become just another car. Millions recalled, manufacturing stopped until they figure out and solve the "rapid acceleration problem," This only used to happen to Plymouths and Chevies and Mercuries. Toyota always banked on being the more or less Plain Hashi that was sensible, reliable and cheap on gasoline.

The company will recover. But it's made two big mistakes and is paying dearly for them.

The first is called the GM Mistake: The GM Mistake is when you're edging toward being the world's biggest seller and you just HAVE to make it past the guy who is in that spot now. This mis-focuses your energy, your ability and causes you to think more about numbers than reliability.

The second mistake is called the Volkswagen mistake. That's when you decide your handful of basic models isn't enough and you start building stuff for every market segment. Big ones, small ones, mid sized ones, seven sizes of trucks and vans and SUVs. That dilutes your energy, your ability and causes you to think more about market segments than actual customers.

Toyota's done both.

This will not kill them. It didn't kill GM and it didn't kill VW. But damned close.

What will happen is this: for the next three or four years, Honda will not be able to keep up with demand from people who likely would have bought Toyotas, and will do nothing to fix that shortage and shouldn't.

Toyota will recover. They'll remember what they do. And they will keep selling plenty of cars. But they've lost the Dr. Stus of the world who didn't need to test drive, dicker on price or negotiate about accessory packages.

And they will have lost that mystique of imperviousness to earthly woes, even though what they make post-recall and when production resumes will be better than anything they've ever built previously.

It's a matter of honor.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

I'm Wes Richardes

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

656 Hot Air America

656 Hot Air America

The newly dead liberal talk radio network was on life support for all its life, about six years. It's not the death of all liberal talk radio, although what's left isn't voluminous. Hartmann, Schultz, Henican and a handful of others. But there's no longer a main player in the field, and what we have left is the extreme right, which is getting more extreme by the day, hence Hot Air America. No major counter voice. No major place where like minded companies, such as there are of them, can advertise.

Everyone has an opinion about why it failed, and they're all different and they're all right. Al Franken abandoned his pioneer program to run for Senate. They never recovered from that. His show wasn't much. But the name recognition was important.

They were over ambitious, under funded and managed like, well, a typical radio station, which is to say ineptly. That kind of management doesn't work on a national level. (It really doesn't work on a local level, either, but somehow the badly run locals soldier on.)

Without Franken, who was left? Rachel Madow emerged from the herd and became a TV superstar. The rest were phoning it in.

Hot Air America is entertaining. Air America wasn't. Rush can be funny in an evil way. Savage: people listen to him for the same reason they watched Dan Rather -- hoping to be on hand when the guy implodes. Mark Steyn is an amusing player of word games. Air America's Lionel, for example, never was.

Money was always a problem for AA. Getting and keeping affiliates was another problem. A liberal talk operation needs a New York outlet. AA's was WWRL, which at 1600 on the dial can't be heard 20 miles from its transmitter, let alone across the whole metro area.

They lost their Los Angeles outlet early on. Ditto Washington, DC. They were weak in Detroit and Chicago and so-so in San Francsico.

Their programming model was wrong. Instead of trying to be a full service network, they should have just syndicated their programs like Premier or even the sorry, bankrupt Citadel.

And many say liberals don't need talk radio in the same way conservatives do. Liberals can't be herded, and think independently.

Air America was the Terri Schiavo of broadcasting. And no members of congress or the judiciary made any kind of fuss about saving it.

Shrapnel:

--The President is about to deliver the State of the Union Address. Reporting to Congress annually is his constitutional duty. It is not a constitutional duty to have to hear an opposition party reply immediately thereafter, but we're going to get one.

--The dual speech arrangement turns the President's reporting to Congress into a political campaign event. That's not what the founders had in mind, most likely. And if the counter-speech were a point by point refutation of the address, we might actually learn something, but it won't be and we won't.

--That's the bad news. The good news is most people will tune out the second speech. And those that don't, should.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010




Monday, January 25, 2010

655 The Supremes: Love Child

655 The Supremes: Love Child

This was a big hit for Diana Ross and company in 1968-ish. Today, a whole new meaning. The stately justices of the United States Supreme Court have given birth to what's not Diana's poor ghetto baby girl, but more like some demon baby from a horror film. And she's not poor and from the ghetto, she (or he, for that matter,) is rich and from Wall Street.

By a one vote margin, the Supremes have sold America to the highest bidder. They've allowed corporations to pay for political candidates' ads without limit. (Unions, too. But they're relative pikers.) They have uprooted decades of settled law and shown themselves (again) to be tools of the Republican establishment and not the originalists they claim to be.

There are some interesting premises at work here. The first is Advertising Is Effective. Indeed it is. And if you can blanket the airwaves with anything you want and in any amount, you can drive a message -- true or false -- home to the voters. Another is they have unsettled settled law. Can the end of Roe V Wade be far behind? It's a bandwagon upon which no one has leaped yet, but it won't be long. Still another is the definition of corporation as a person -- a ridiculous concept to begin with and now a dangerous one. But, of course, if corporations WEREN'T legal persons, they wouldn't have the first amendment rights that the court just granted.

Back to the main issue: your vote only counts if you buy into the megatons of messages that the Corporate States of America is going to be putting out, starting now.

In their laugh a minute way, some CEOs of two large and a handful of mid sized companies wrote a letter to Congress asking members to stop hitting them up for contributions and pass full public financing of the electoral process. This means you would be underwriting the present two party system. On one hand it seems fair. You're underwriting GM and Chrysler, so why not Republicans and Democrats? All four are corporations. On the other hand, who wants to fund these guys?

The public option makes sense as an option, which it already is. The public option as law -- that's another story.

So get ready for pay for play the way they do it in banana republics.

The Supremes have unleashed a demon seed love child and it's going to be a big hit, where it counts.

Shrapnel:

--Peyton Manning brought the Jets back to normal, which means losing bigtime. The Indiana quarterback dissected New York like the Supremes dissected the constitution, bringing to an end the Jets' best season since 1969. Final: Colts 30 Jets 17 and so much for the AFC Championship.

--The Jets and Giants, of course, are both New Jersey teams, even though they claim "New York" in their names. The Giants defected years ago. But it's only recently that the Jets abandoned their one and only real connection to NY by moving their practice field from Hofstra University in Hempstead NY to Joisey. And the brilliant, beautiful season gone by ended in calamity as karmic punishment.



I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010




Friday, January 22, 2010

654 The Late Night Drama Kings

654 The Nighttime Drama Kings

Leno, O'Brien, Letterman.

Dave was truly funny when he worked for NBC. NBC didn't give him a chance to continue, so he went to CBS, where he's still truly funny. And after 17 years has finally risen to number one in the ratings. He hasn't been hurt by disclosure that he parks really really close to some of his staff members. So far, no paternity charges. This kind of publicity is good for ratings.

O'Brien was pretty funny as a writer on Saturday Night Live. He was sort of funny on Late Night. He's not at all funny on the Tonight Show.

Leno was and is funny no matter where he works -- stage, TV, whatever.

When he started on Tonight, the show was already king of the ratings and it stayed there until O'Brien took over.

Now O'Brien's out with a 45 million dollar severance, some of which goes to his staff, which followed him to the coast from New York expecting sustained employment. And, presumably, Leno's back at the Tonight Show.

Complicated. And stupid.

NBC promised O'Brien the program so they could keep him under contract. They gave him a start date five years before the fact. Now, what to do with Leno? Give him a five night a week show at 10 PM. The show's terrific, but it's a ratings bomb. Why do such a thing to so valuable a money maker for the network? Talk shows are way cheaper to produce than the dramas and sitcoms everyone else runs. A real money saver.

Except now, after all this, it means spending much more money to get four or five shows ready for prime time in no time. Shooting costs, script costs, crew costs, actor costs, producers, etc., etc. Ad that to the O'Brien severance and what have you saved? Not even face.

It'll be good to see Jay in the spot where we want to see him and where we're used to seeing him. But can he regain the number one spot that Conan lost to Letterman? Probably for the first week. People will tune in just to say they tuned in. Can he sustain the position? Maybe. But NBC's been no help with that. They make Leno look like a shark, which he may be. But he's the funniest shark in the sea.


Shrapnel:

--Let's quote former President Bush on this one, the election of Scott Brown to the United States Senate from Massachusetts. "You're doing a heck of a job, Brownie." Now, please do what the REAL Brownie did: quit.

--This guy's a Brownie with some evil drug baked inside. Not pot. More likely poisoned tea.

--Guy next door has one of those fancy new iPhones. He can do anything on the web, get driving directions, read the paper, all on his phone. Two things it doesn't do too well, though: making and receiving calls.

(Note to readers: Your correspondent worked for NBC for a long time and knows most of the players in this drama. Including the one that should have been mentioned and wasn't: Aging wunderkind Jeff Zucker.)
I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

653 France's Joy Boy

653 France's Joy Boy

In a world full of crazies, some are so nuts they stand out like pustules on the skin of an otherwise flawless complexion of a 20-something college girl.

Such a crazy is Alain Joyandet, the French "Minister of Cooperation." Monsieur Joyandet apparently believes the United States, by leading the relief effort in Haiti, is somehow trying to "occupy" the country. What? What nation in its right mind would want to occupy Haiti?

None. But nevertheless, France did for about 100 years and left it in ruins. Joyandet, born on the same day of the same month as Martin Luther King, Jr., is a political hack who calls himself a former journalist and is running for president of a French province, home to almost two million people. He is a member of a center-rightist party that at the moment has a majority in the French national assembly and a near-majority in the National Senate. Same party as president Nicolas Sarkozy, and is known for being only slightly to the left of the infamous racist Jean-Marie Le Pen.

France was one one of the world's great colonial powers. Does Joyandet fear that someone will outdo his ancestors? Is he just making a campaign speech. Or is just having a foot-stomping little fit because US forces operating Haiti's main airport put off the landing of a French aid plane for 24 hours until congestion cleared?

Apologists for Joyandet are busy telling us it was this last that set his mouth a ratcheting. Minister of cooperation, indeed. He wants the US role in Haiti "clarified." How much clearer can it be? We're the lead in this effort. We're the next door neighbor. We're the ones pledging aid larger than the GDP of the Tokelau Islands of New Zealand in one fell swoop.

We are the ones leading the digging of rubble, of bringing in medicine, of running an airport that was in chaos in a country that was chaotic even before the earthquakes struck. We are the ones appealing to our allies and to our trading partners to get on board. We are the ones who will pull that miserable pile of poverty up on its feet. We are the ones relieving the street gangs of their machetes. How much clearer does it get, Mr. Joy-less?

Go back to your office. Find a dictionary. Look up the word Cooperation. It's spelled the same in French and in English.

Shrapnel:

--The Scott heard round the world? Massachusetts picked the wrong senator. And the White House blew its chances for meaningful health care reform by fiddling while its 60 vote majority burned.

--Robert B. Parker has died. He was a best selling mystery writer and author of the Spenser books, some of which were turned into the TV series "Spenser For Hire." Parker was 77.

--Guns don't save people, people save people. Uh... but not always. Guy in California drove his SUV into a fairly deep creek. Used his handgun to blast out a window and then swam to safety.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Monday, January 18, 2010

652 Rutch

652 Rutch

There's a 1957 movie with Andy Griffith and a number of other people who would later become stars. It's called "A Face in the Crowd." And it's about a guy from the hills of Arkansas who becomes a local radio personality and later a TV sensation with a huge audience. The character, Lonesome Rhodes hides his contempt for the audience behind a kind of country populism until one day he gets caught on the air smearing "his people." A career ender.

The film is at least partly based on the early radio and television personality Arthur Godfrey, though Godfrey never really screwed up in that way. But it might also have been a foreteller of today's media sensation Rush Limbaugh. We have studiously and purposely stayed away from saying anything about this guy for years. But the time has come.

Rutch, right wing whack job and preacher-esque showboater may have at last pulled a Lonesome Rhodes.

His biggest complaint about the people who write or speak about him is that they don't listen regularly to his program and therefore don't get the whole context of what he's saying when he says stuff like "I hope Obama fails," or "Teddy Kennedy, that great swimmer," or plays a so-called comedy bit called "Barack the Magic Negro." And he's right. People who generally write about him are not regular listeners. Unfortunately, I am and have to be. Rush is on in the studio when I come to work and I have listened to the guy I refer to as "my opening act" for years.

We have lots of room for far-out opinions, left, right and otherwise. But sometimes it's even too much for Lush Rimbaugh's sycophants.

Retch does not want us to contribute to the Haiti relief efforts. He says we've already done that by paying US income tax. So, what -- let 'em die? Other right wing whack jobs like Mike (Smelstor) Gallagher are even criticizing his idol on the air.

At some point, combining the anti-black, anti-poor, anti-Muslim, anti Haiti rhetoric has to come back and hit him in the rear. A guy who spends ten seconds a day saying something off the charts and the rest of his three hours defending himself and blaming others for misquoting him has eventually to end up on the scrap heap.

He's a (former?) drug addict and has piloted his plane into a pile of enormous wealth and influence. But he's wrecking the Republican Party by trying (and often succeeding) in dividing it between the country club set and the hard-right conservatives. And if one of the two major parties is in shambles, so is democracy.

He describes himself as a man of principle, believing in small government and self reliance. Translation: NO government and reliance on one's self to the point of forcing every waking minute to be devoted to the farm animal repetitive tasks required just to survive. Wretch wants America to be Haiti, with its anarchy and poverty on one side and the rich elite in mansions on the hill.

While on a recent vacation, Rush was hospitalized with chest pains. At first, doctors feared a heart attack. But it turned out not to be. Which most of the rest of us knew all along. In order to have a heart attack, one must first have a heart.

Note to readers: Today is Martin Luther King Day, and for the first time since the start of this blog, I have nothing new to say on the subject and therefore won't say anything. If interested, two previous items were posted on 1/19/09 and 1/15/08, 1/16/06 and 2/6/06.)

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010



Friday, January 15, 2010

651 It's What We Do.

651 It's What We Do

On its best day in its best year, Port Au Prince is a sewer. When you get out into the countryside, it's even worse.

You see pictures here in the US. They do not begin to tell the story.

And when a disaster hits -- and one always seems to -- you look at it and your heart sinks.

A foreign born America asks "Why are we helping them when we can't or won't help ourselves?" The answer is easy: "It's what we do."

Political or natural disaster in a nearby neighbor brings out the best in us. It took only moments -- literally -- for the first offers of help to come in. And coming in they still do.

What was your reaction to all this? If you are typical, chances are it was two simultaneous thoughts: (1) Oh my God! and (2) How can I help? It's what we do.

Yeah, we have problems: Job problems, financial problems, health insurance problems, health problems, credit problems, two wars and counting, bailouts, torn safety nets. But help for Haiti was never in question. It's what we do.

At this writing, there's no accurate death count, no accurate count of the injured and the missing. There won't be for weeks, maybe months. But what does it matter? The number is big. And in the words of one member of either Congress or the Florida State Legislature, born in Haiti they "have no first responders... no emergency rooms."

The country is one big emergency room now as makeshift hospitals are set up in airport hangars and under tents and in towns more than 100 miles from the capitol.

A guy in the neighborhood, a guy who lives in a run down mobile home asks "where do I send my money order?" His own poverty doesn't count for him -- at least not now.

It's what we do.

And hats off to President Obama. Somewhere in the bowels of that administration there has to be a guy who said early on "we're not going to have another Bush era Katrina response. If something big happens, we're going to be there." Probably, the President thought the same way. In any event, there he was on TV only hours after the quake struck, and presenting a fully fleshed out plan for us to help.

And the day after, he was there for us with money and food and water and medicine.

Former President Clinton is US special envoy to Haiti for the United Nations. He was all over the dial telling people what was needed and when. He's doing the right thing. It's what we do.

You do not need this post for a list of places taking contributions. That's all over the internet. All the places you'd expect to be working this are working this. All the churches, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, Care, Project Hope, even Google.

Just be careful. Already there are charity scams. There's no degree of human suffering and misery that doesn't bring out the con men. It, too, is what we do.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Eating at the Gas Station

650 Eating at the Gas Station

There should be a Zagat guide or a Michelin guide to these places just as there are for all the other fine dining spots around the world.

Gas station food is almost universally lousy. If you like eating hockey pucks, try the burgers. But when you buy one, make sure it's what you ordered. The foil wrapper may say "cheeseburger," but open it before you leave, because sometimes they leave the cheese off. And a hockey puck without cheese is like, well, a hockey puck.

Don't buy the pizza. It's completely universally lousy. First, it's usually frozen and you can thaw and microwave one of these yourself and at far less cost. When you go to a gas station to "fill 'er up" restrict yourself to gasoline. Or maybe gasoline and coffee (but not at the same time, of course.)

The coffee can be good. Here in the east it's better than out west, generally. One place in Inglewood, California appears to age its coffee like fine wine. But unlike fine wine, 2006 vintage coffee does not taste as good in 2010 as it did in 2006.

Most of the gas station coffee comes from grinders and roasters whose names you know. Maxwell House, Green Mountain, Folgers. Beware of the places that sell their own brands. They're never as good.

What's puzzling, though, is the undetectable differences between "100% Colombian," "Dark Roast," "Regular" and "House Blend." What is a house blend, anyway? Is it coffee mixed in with building materials? A blend of coffee and plasterboard or PVC toilet piping? Sometimes it's easy to think so.

Don't eat the fries. They were made last month. Opt for packaged potato chips or popcorn.

A lot of gas stations have hot dog machines, those roller thingies that keep turning. Do not buy the hot dogs unless you can ascertain they contain no dog and haven't been spinning on the roller thingies long enough to blacken.

This should do you until Zagat or Michelin come out with their own ratings, which could happen any day now.

Shrapnel:

--Guy with a gun walks into a hotel, robs a guy in the men's room, a police officer in civilian clothes. The crook has ignored or missed seeing all the police cars in the parking lot, and all the signs welcoming cops to a convention. The jury found him guilty -- taking about two hours to decide.

--Mark McGwire used steroids during the '98 season when he hit 70 homers? What a shock. In announcing this, McGwire moaned and groaned and got all teary-eyed. Are those withdrawal symptoms?

--McG and Sosa busted Roger Maris' home run record in 1998. That's decades after Babe Ruth hit 60 in a much shorter season. Ruth's drugs of choice were cigars and beer, and that's the guy we still remember -- even those of us who weren't born yet.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

649 The Isolation Booth

649 The Isolation Booth

It's probably more like an isolation office tower, stocked with people with worlds that don't extend beyond their walls and people who believe the same of you.

This is how we get instruction manuals for our iPods or cell phones and especially our computers. The guys in the booth write instructions in a way that makes it seem that your full time job is learning how to use that gear. If you isolate yourself like the tech writers and spend a week with their book and your new whatever-it-is, you'll probably be expert in its use. Meantime, everything else you want or need to do will have fallen by the wayside. Someone in Techno Land must have figured this out some years ago and that's why most electronic items come with "quick start" or "getting started" pages that lead you through the basics. No one with a quick start cheat sheet goes beyond it unless they have no life.

This kind of isolationism can be avoided, although it can be tough. But here's a similar situation that can't.

As the year starts -- any year -- every price goes up. The people who raise prices are careful to make the increase small, at least most of the time. The oil companies, the grocers, the school district, the workout gym, the town or county or city, the sewer authority, the electric company, the water company. "It's just a little bit," they'll tell you. But these people are in their isolation booths. They have no idea what the guys in the other booths are doing.

So everyone's doing it. And taken together, most of us have just had a wonderfully thorough pay cut.

You'd think these iso-lees would get together and try to figure out how to be as gentle as possible on their constituents or customers, since each of them also is a customer or constituent. But that never seems to occur to them.

Each December, all of these guys should get together in an auditorium and announce their plans for the coming year. Then, maybe, we could tone down the death of a thousand increases.

That probably violates some law -- antitrust or something. But if no one finds out, it'll work just fine. Always has.

Either that, or force these guys back into their isolation booths and make them spend a week becoming expert in the trillion applications on the iPhone.

Shrapnel:

--A recidivist speed driver in Switzerland has been fined a record $290,000 for his or her latest offense. The speeder's name has not been released. Can you imagine authorities in this country withholding that name?

--Digital TV is so confusing. Many stations don't give their channel numbers anymore because they no longer have them. But many others DO give the old ones -- and also don't have them.

--When you fill out a form for anything, there's always one scrap of necessary information missing. Fortunately, in the digital age, you always can find it on some computer. Except, of course when you have switched computers or the hard drive crashes or you don't know where to look.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Friday, January 08, 2010

648 The Directors

648 The Directors

We were talking about the producers the other day and someone asked "are the directors in the same gauzy vagueness?"

No. They are the elite of the elite in TV. And at least in the "bigs;" without them, you see nothing.

The director is in charge of the picture and the sound that goes with it. He or she has the final word. The president of the network or the President of the United States could walk into a control room and instruct people there to "take" a particular shot for air. But unless the director says so, nobody moves.

It's a grinding job in many cases. Even the relatively simple nightly news takes timing, effort and a sense of the visual that most of the rest of us just don't have.

The anchor is on camera and reads the introduction to a correspondent's story. The director is the guy who makes sure the story gets on the air at the right second. You don't notice the transition unless something screws up. The news usually is a three camera shoot. That and maybe half a dozen other sources, the director has to juggle.

Slightly tougher are the morning talk shows, "Today" and such. A zillion elements all on screens in front of one fella or gal who has to make the flow seamless and usually does. The indoor part of the morning shows generally are three or four camera shoots, plus the taped reports, commercials, and so on. When there's an outdoor event like the Friday morning concert, the camera count can reach 12.

And then there are sporting events. Things move fast in hockey, basketball, football and even (sometimes) baseball. The director is the guy who watches 19 things at once and choses what you see and from which angles. How many cameras at a football game? Dozens. The picture can change every couple of seconds. It's a nightmare.

In the control room, populated by more than a dozen people on a live show, everyone's almost always talking and loud. Everyone but the director who generally retains the flat calm of an airline pilot addressing passengers on a flight.

It's amazing how many of these guys don't die young.



Shrapnel:

--Funeral services for Percy Sutton were held in the Riverside Church in Harlem. Capacity: 2500 seated and who knows how many others standing. And who knows how many others had to stand outside in the cold, which Percy would not have liked, but would have understood and probably secretly appreciated.

--The church is right near the 125th Street stop on the "one" train and right on one of the bus lines. Good thing, too. You know that if you've ever tried to find a parking space in a neighborhood where everyone has a car and no one ever leaves a spot, where they triple park on Sundays and the cops don't ticket.

--It's one of the few spots in town where no one gets tagged on Sundays. It's not because there's no coverage. It's just that the police and the traffic enforcement people have learned that it's futile to try to stop this.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010


Wednesday, January 06, 2010

647 The Producers

647 The Producers

Great movie. Pretty good B'way play. But what does a producer do?

The job description is kind of vague in radio and in television. And even those of us who have been TV producers aren't quite sure what that means.

There are sub specialties within in the species. The Executive Producer is the top dog of the show. That means, in the immortal words of one-time Executive Producer Mike Clancy "I delegate and second guess." After that, it gets kind of vague. These days, there are co-Executive Producers. No one knows what they do. Ditto for Senior Producer, Line Producer, Post Production Producer, Supervising Producer, Segment Producer, Associate Producer, just plain-old Producer and dozens -- maybe hundreds -- of other title variations.

The radio magazine, Bloomberg on the Weekend, had a producer. The host had no idea what she did most of the day. But he knew full well that when she didn't do whatever that was, little to nothing got done. Asking her what she did boiled down to one basic word "stuff." If you asked for elaboration, the answer was "all the stuff that needs to get done and that you don't do."

Fabulously enlightening.

At the Today Show, the news producer edited all the newscasts and sometimes went into the control room to make sure everything got on and off the air as scheduled. The segment producers did much the same thing for the features and the interviews. But it was easy to wonder what would -- or wouldn't -- happen if these people decided to take the month off.

At the radio networks, the producer picks the "sound" or recordings that go into a broadcast and edits the copy. That's pretty straight forward. Except sometimes they don't do that and we haven't figured out yet what they do do. Radio -- even network radio -- is a lot less complicated than TV.

But this may be the only job in America (with the exception of Carpenter Foremen on construction jobs that don't use carpenters) where the people who do it don't really know what the job entails -- even when they're doing it. Even when they've stopped doing it.

The radio broadcast associated with this blog has a staff of one. But in today's age of bureaucracy, that seems so, well, plain. So the program has a staff of imaginary people including an Executive Producer, a director of research, a director of music, a director of security and three bogus meteorologists. Theater of the mind (less.)


Shrapnel:

--Stolen shard: A friend who hates winter describes it thus. Winter is like hell only the air conditioning's turned up too high.

--Warm the year round in America? Lots of places. Most of them either too crime ridden or too Confederate, so someone please turn down the A/C.

--Of course, there's winter, and then there's WINTER. A trip to Denver or Minneapolis would probably make the northeast seem like a tropical paradise.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

Monday, January 04, 2010

646 Who Is To Blame?

646 Who Is To Blame?

Sometimes, there's poetry in evil. That an effigy of President Obama is hanged from a tree in a southern state is not so surprising. We in the north have learned the hard lesson of prejudice, keep it to yourself.

But that the tree was in Plains, Georgia -- now that's poetic. Plains is, after all, the home of Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States and its most famously outspoken bigot. Of course, to link Carter to this incident would be imprudent to say the least. And it is highly unlikely that Plains' (Pop. 700) best known citizen would have anything directly to do with something so brazen as to hang doll with an Obama name tag from a neighborhood tree.

But indirectly is another matter.

This is written before a lot of evidence has been collected. But let's say someone from out of town picked Plains to embarrass Carter. Or because he had to use up his free night at a Quality Inn somewhere and Plains was on his route through Georgia. Or, maybe he's a local, maybe even one who has never seen the ex-President, let alone met him or -- perish forbid, read the books he's written.

That said, Carter's mushy, sentimental and, unrealistic view of the middle east, gives rise to justification for charges that he is anti-Israel and by extrapolation, anti Jewish. There's no doubt that everyone with claims to the so-called occupied territories wants some kind of detente. But to put that desire into Carter's inflammatory rhetoric runs deeper than a wish to end a war that's likely impossible to end.

Even the title of his 2006 book on the subject, "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid," is designed to inflame.

So little Plains, Georgia, has bigots -- a total shock.

By the time you see or hear this, we likely will know more about who-done-it and why. The local cops, the local sheriff and the Secret Service are all over this one. If they manage not to trip over each other's work, it'll be a miracle. But even if it was one guy acting alone, there's plenty of blame to share.



Reminder: The WestraDamus Retrodictions for 2009 (Wessays # 645) will be on the website, www.westradamus.com for the rest of the year.

Shrapnel:

--America's most entertaining radio evangelist, Rush Limbaugh, has gotten through his latest publicity stunt unscathed. His Hawaiian chest pains turned out to be neither a heart attack nor nothing else serious. But now, even more people will tune in.

--A lot of people wanted Limbaugh to die -- or at least to suffer intense pain. That's not a bad thought, but it's wrong. With new viggah, he'll continue his secret mission -- whether intentional. He's destroying the Republican Party.

--Notice, there weren't the screaming, blaring, hideously begging end-of-season sales following this past December's holiday season. That's because the shelves were so bare to begin with, there's almost nothing left over. You're going to pay full price for that toaster this month.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010


Friday, January 01, 2010

645 WestraDamus 2009

645 WestraDamus 2009 Retrodictions

This is the 21st anniversary of the WestrDamus predictions, presented each January for the year gone by and generally wrong. 'Damus started as a parody of the Astrological predictions in the supermarket tabloids, almost always wrong and never acknowledged as such. But the non-prophet has grown into an American institution, like the Smithsonian, the National Institutes of Health, NOAA Weather and Hope and Change.


1/1/2010

Your non-prophet sees that 2009 is going to be a dull year. President McCain and Vice President Palin will see to that. The new President's first priority will be health insurance. With the his encouragement, the legislation will pass handily and put this vital industry on notice: You are now in charge of medical care, oil prices and the regulation of food safety. This will happen after ExxonMobil acquires all the regional Blue Cross and Blue Shield groups and changes its name to BluxxonMobilShield, NYSE trading symbol BS.

The banking industry will undergo major changes, and the name "Bank of America" will turn from a wishful thought to reality. Top executives will get the pay raises they so rightly deserve. And Oh, those bonuses!

An obscure fake financier, Bernard Madoff, will have earned so much money for his investors -- charities and individuals -- that no one in America will need a job -- the unemployment rate will jump to 100% and no one will care. Even Bill Gates and Warren Buffett will quit their day jobs. With Bernie in the mix, who needs employment?

Joe Lieberman will convert to Catholicism.

Osama Bin Ladin will try to convert to Judaism but fail the final test, then try the Unitarians.

Michael Jackson will have his first hit album in a decade, helped along by publicist-stoked rumors of his death.

Jay Leno will get his very own TV channel, but collapse after 168 hours without reruns, then have an affair with David Letterman.

Tiger Woods will win the Master's, the US Open and the World Series.

The face of the auto industry will change radically when GM announces the "TRIcar" which will work on land, at sea and in the air, sell for 10-thousand dollars and run Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Fiat, Rolls Royce, Volkswagen, Hyundai, Kia, and Nissan out of business and gaining an 87% share of the US auto market.

A major airline will successfully test a full-size jetliner capable of landing on a small strip of water, perhaps the East River.

In the Middle East, peace will at last be achieved in the only way it ever can be: Israel will cut itself out of the desert and fly itself whole cloth to its new destination, a vacant spot in the South Pacific.

New York Politics: The City Council will deny Mike Bloomberg a shot at a third term. He will return to his company and try to make sense of what his minions have done to it. Governor Paterson will decide that he'd best run for Senate. The benefits are better and he'll have found a way to end his Charlie Rangel envy.

California Politics: Governor Schwarzenegger will announce he's becoming a Democrat and will announce that despite term limits, he will run for office again. This will increase his box office appeal, the sale of his old movies and reduce the number of brush fires and mudslides to a mere 12,862.

New Jersey Politics: Corzine will get a real job.

Pennsylvania Politics: Nothing will happen. Nothing ever does. Unless you count the 365 day budget impasse.

South Carolina Politics: Gov. Sanford will have managed to "fall in love with his wife again," and she will lovingly Stand By Her Man. Until the moment he actually DOES take a hike in the Appalachians, and gets lost forever.

Medical retrodictions: first another big merger, sanctioned by the McCain administration. Merck and Pfizer will combine and be called Mizer, or maybe Pferck. It will announce a cure for swine flu, arthritis, hangnails and painful, embarrassing bunions.

News retrodictions: The newspaper industry will flourish after Rupert Murdoch buys every surviving broadsheet and tabloid in the entire country. There will be minor rumblings among the few remaining anti-trust regulators, who will see the light of day and agree that it's not "really" a monopoly. CNN, MSNBC, and the news divisions of NBC, CBS and ABC will combine what they call "back office operations" in efforts to stave off certain death at the hands of Fox/MurdochCorp. But there ARE no back office operations.

Techno '09: iPhone sales will top 12 trillion dollars, giving everyone a shot at instant portable internet and no one a shot at instant portable phone calls. Toshiba will release a computer with 978 bit security, so powerfully secure that nothing can get through to it. Your 1996 Palm Pilot will double in value as a collectible and halve in value as a personal digital assistant. Green energy will take off when BluxxonMobilShield figures out how to make a profit from it.

In Colorado, a little boy will be scooped up by space aliens in a mylar flying saucer and will not be found. His grieving parents will get a contract with Fox for a new reality show, "Scooped Up By Space Aliens."

Screamer-Pitchman Billy Mays will join the McCain administration and start trying to sell the Afghan war to the American People. He will scream so loud we'll accept what he says despite the irrationality of his argument just as we have about his commercials for Oxy Clean.

Ted Kennedy will approach Oral Roberts for a faith healing cure. Both men will vanish.

Confusion will reign when we try to figure out why 2001 was the first year of the 21st Century, but 2010 is the start of its second decade.

In an effort to save money, the ailing department store chain Macy's will combine its traditional Thanksgiving Day Parade with it's traditional Fourth of July fireworks display, producing a balloon resembling George Metesky which will float down Broadway and explode at 34th Street, scattering tons of confetti on Al Roker and Matt Lauer.

Financial columnist Chet Currier who wrote millions of words as a reporter for the Associated Press and Bloomberg News will receive a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for just four of those words, "You can't eat gold."

Notable deaths in 2009: Dick Cheney, Jeff Zucker, William T. Overgard, Charles Chaplin, Silvana Mangano, Elizabeth Taylor, William Henry Harrison and Wild Joe Crater.

A Tree will grow in Brooklyn.

Bobby Goren will be assigned to a uniform beat on Staten Island.

All TV stations will stop re-running M*A*S*H.

The Hurok Archives will confirm rumors that Artur Rubinstein used a player piano.

This blog will be available all year long at Westradamus.com on the internet. But why would you want to read it again? In fact, why did you read it this time?

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010