Wednesday, March 31, 2010

683 Talk To Your Newspaper

683 Talk To Your Newspaper

Be your own editor. You'll soon have to be. Good editors aren't extinct. Yet. but the herd is thinning. There are some notable exceptions, but mostly, The Desk is asleep or ailing or dead. Let's start with the notable exceptions. The Daily Beast website summarizes its main stories so they read like NBC Nightly News "tells," items with facts neatly summarized and wrapped in alluring decoration. You can click on the story, but you get plenty from Beast's condensation.

Then, there's the CNN website that often gives you decent bullet point main topics before the body of the story. And there's Scientific American Magazine which puts "Key Facts" on a list. Kind of previews the articles.

But sloppy copy has become the hallmark of most newspapers, magazines and often the wire services.

Let's look at the wires, first. A full length item is written in a certain way for reasons having nothing to do with reporting. The thing's designed so the receiving paper can cut paragraphs from the bottom so it fits the available space. The most important information is at the top of the story. Or at least it used to be. Many wire service stories now save important facts for last. So if someone has to cut paragraphs for space, where does he start?

The papers themselves often leave out names or parts of names on first reference. So when you get to the middle of a story and a sentences starts "Smith said Jones was to blame..." and you don't know who Smith is, you go back over the whole piece, hunting for the first mention of "Smith" and you don't find it because its not there.

You can be your own editor. Ask questions as you read. Ask the story whatever comes to mind. Something surely will these days, because there are holes in practically everything.

If the info you want simply isn't there, there's not much you can do. But if it is, you may find it by talking to your newspaper.



Shrapnel:

--You may have noticed Ronald Reagan on the current ads for General Electric -- marking the 100th anniversary of his birth. Have you also noticed that all of the sound clips come from public domain speeches Reagan made as governor and President? They aren't using actual sound from his radio and TV commercials and maybe that's because if they did ... they'd have to pay his estate ... and pay it via his union.

--Not only can they not make a pair of glasses that stays clean for more than ten minutes, they can't seem to make a vegetable peeler that peels vegetables cleanly and without cutting the cutter more deeply than skinning the plant. Rachel Ray doesn't peel celery stalks, so maybe we shouldn't, either. Maybe the outer layer is good for you. Or maybe she can't use those peelers either and doesn't want her audience to know.

--Coming attraction: "Home Team" a book about the New Orleans Saints return to real life. It's by coach Sean Payton and Ellis Henican and will be out in July. And it's worth reading even if you don't care either about football or New Orleans.


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



Monday, March 29, 2010

682 A New College Exam

682 A New College Exam

Maxie used to say that college was a great idea. It helps keep the unemployment rate lower. These days, we need no special help in keeping anyone out of the work force. But that said, there's some truth here.

This may be part of the reason so many young people jump through the strangest of hoops to get into the school of their choice, although many will choose "Any school that'll have me."

They go through high school, sort of learning and sort of studying what they think or their teachers think will be on the Regents exams or other statewide tests that allege to show competence in a subject. They'll join the math club or the debate club or the football team and do community service. They'll take those awful SATs. But there's one test they all seem to ignore and it's one that might help them get into schools.

The Personality test.

At Antioch, most of the students -- graduate and undergrad -- seemed to have similar personality quirks. It wasn't universal, and Antioch is a small school with a certain reputation. It might be a good guess that most of the students at Bob Jones University have the same situation, only with different quirks.

Now living in a town that is home to a fairly large college, it's harder to spot these similarities. There are 44-thousand students attending. Maybe more. And yet, most of those encountered seem to have, well, similar personality quirks. It differs by major, it differs by age. But it doesn't seem to differ among genders, ethnic groups or backgrounds. Many many of those kids are very similar in personality.

The king of this heap is NYU. There is a distinctive NYU personality. Once you recognize it, it's obvious. You can spot 'em a mile away. Old, young, recent, ancient, New Yorker, non-New Yorker. Doesn't matter. Never met anyone from there who didn't have it.

So now comes the hard part. You have to figure out what your particular quirks are and where they'd be most welcome. Not an easy task. In fact, if you actually accomplish this two-parter, you're obviously well qualified for a higher education anywhere of your choosing. But if you can do it and land the interview, chances are the admissions guy will at some level, probably subconscious, believe you "fit" and invite you to become a student.

So start those college visits early. Don't go during a semester break. Don't make appointments. Just GO. And see if you can find whether the random students you see, hear or meet are "just like me." If they are, you're likely to get a "yes" on your application. If they aren't, move on.


Shrapnel:

--First day of re-retirement and how to start? Why, by reading the news, of course. Old habits are hard to break.

--Parkinson's Law says work expands to fill the time available. Is there a reverse? Leisure expands to fill the time available seems doubtful.

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

Friday, March 26, 2010

681 Thank You Mr. Heston

681 Thank You Mr. Heston

The chirpy little grocery checker-outer asks "would you like to buy some reusable shopping bags, or do you prefer to continue destroying the earth with paper or plastic?"

Good question. The answer is the latter, plastic in particular.

Those of us of a certain age will not be around for the planetary destruction-by-polyethylene. And should we return in the next life as seagulls or chipmunks, we'll have a better time getting at left over food because these bags tear so easily. No challenge to a gull beak or a rodent paw.

"Listen, your chirpyness, you're talking to a guy who hasn't had to buy a plastic garbage bag in decades."

We hoard the bags awaiting the day they'll be either illegal or stores will start charging for them. What the Collier brothers (and NBC's Ray Geraty) were to old newspapers, we are to supermarket plastic. Even to the point of asking for extras. Even to the point of snitching them from the self-checkout line.

Of course they're bad for the landfills. Of course it takes a billion years for them to degrade in the soil, if ever they do. And, yes, there's the old saw "If everybody did that, what would happen?" So many people now use the reusables. And that's good. But some of us just can't let go of the old ways. Or refuse to. We're plastic reactionaries.

The bags fit nicely in garbage or waste cans in workshops and kitchens, bathrooms and even in the car. They're handy for dust proof storage for countless items. And best of all... they're free!

We're even thinking of forming a National Bag Association, but we'll have to call it something else, because the National Basketball Association would probably object to the use of the initials NBA.

The bags are weapons -- you can ask anyone who ever has gotten his head stuck in one. But... Grocery bags don't kill people. People kill people.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the second amendment protects them. And there are no laws against carrying concealed plastic bags. After all, you can't blame a guy for wanting to protect his home, his family, his possessions, and most of all, his garbage.


As Charlton Heston said of guns "You'll get my plastic bag when you take it from my cold dead hands."

Shrapnel:

--These postings generally strive for a light tone, even on serious subjects. Lately, there's been some gratuitous nastiness, which seems to be airborne everywhere. This sometimes happens when we get so passionate about a subject that it blinds us.

--To be sure, as one friend pointed out, there's more than enough "nasty" to go around these days. And the inference is that it doesn't accomplish much. And he's right.

--When was the last time you saw a skywriter? Is there a shortage of stunt pilots? Or is is it just that it's so much easier and cheaper to advertise on the internet?


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

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

680 Aman-Pouring

680 Aman-Pouring

Welcome and good luck wishes to Christiane Amanpour, newly named host of "This Week," ABC's Sunday morning competition to "Meet the Press" on NBC and "Face the Nation" on CBS.

When NBC made it's worst-ever personnel mistake, allowing David Brinkley to leave, he went to ABC and started the "This Week" program which he brilliantly guided until just before his death in 2003. He awakened the sleepy Sunday morning talk shows with typical wry commentary and interesting guests, giving the other shows a good run for their money.

Readers and listeners of this production know of the great respect and admiration its author/anchor had for Tim Russert, who brought "Press" back to life and made it the hit show it became and remains. But Brinkley gave NBC a run for its money.

Now, years later, we have Christiane Amanpour, a reporter at CNN known for playing the bad cop.

ABC has hired her for the Brinkley chair. She's the lightest weightless anchor since Rather.

She says in the publicity releases she wants to give the program an "international spin," and show the convergence of domestic and international news. Earth to Christiane and to ABC: America doesn't care about "international" news. America is the country that turns off the radio when NPR tries to tell us about a prison in Afghanistan or a TWTD, a "third world transportation disaster." The America that watches the Sunday talk shows wants to know what its idiot representative in congress has to say. It wants stories about people without health care now getting health care. It does not care about Syria or the the Corsicans or the "troubles in..." Lebanon or Ireland or Bangladesh.

So welcome, Christiane. We eagerly await your stories about Scottish sheep herds or the Sunnis in Iraq. We want to hear about what's happening HERE. And those of us who are or were fans of Russert welcome the increase in audience your presence will bring to the competition.

ABC, the junior among the three major traditional networks still has a lot to learn. And one of those things is: the viewers will reject you and they should.

Shrapnel:

--The gas-hot air furnace needs a change of filter about once a month. The 20 dollar filters don't last any longer than the one dollar filters, and sometimes the cheapies even go six weeks. So there ARE real bargains out there if you're willing to experiment.

--Former President Jimmy is out with a statement on how naughty we all are for being so divided on health care. Pot calls kettle black. The guy has gone a long LONG way on dividing opinion on the Middle East.

--Most well made banjos weigh ten pounds or more, which when you stand holding it for an hour feels like a ton; makes you ache from shoulders to back to feet. So it's not surprising that Earl Scruggs, 86, plays only seated these days. Most guys his age can't even lift the thing, let alone play it standing.

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

Monday, March 22, 2010

679 What, Again?

679 What, Again?

Retiring at the end of the week, and it's a second go at a life of leisure. Something says it's not going to be so leisurely. The first bout certainly wasn't. Join the gym. Take a trip. Sleep late. Get the ceiling fixed -- finally! Make appointments whenever instead of bending the calendar around the work schedule. Sounds great, right?

Well, maybe.

Thing is, some of us get our senses of self from a job -- especially when the job is an art -- even a commercial art like broadcasting. Work is what we DO, what we ARE. Especially those of us who love to work so much that we started early, really early. Imagine a kid who couldn't wait to be old enough to trudge down to the Queens Boulevard White Castle parking lot on an early Sunday afternoon to wash cars for the folks coming out of the late Mass down the street? How many million years ago was that?

That car wash kid covered his first election in 1965 as a fledgling reporter. Then it was county courts and government, local auto crashes and train crashes and sewer scandals. And then it was Vietnam and Watergate. And the never ending middle east war. And the never ending Presidential elections. Nicaragua. Lockerbie. The Berlin Wall. Somalia. Yugoslavia. OJ. The Olympic bombing. And 9/11. Now what?

Not to mislead you, many of those major events -- but not all -- were reporting from a desk in a Manhattan newsroom. But nevertheless, those were some of the landmark stories. But the question remains: now what?

The first retirement lasted a couple of years. Then it was back on the air with a little talk show in a little place. Broadcasters can't keep their mouths shut. This blog is close to its fifth anniversary and will go on. But the little radio program dies at week's end. Scary. And this question remains: "Who am I without this stuff?"

Guess we'll find out. The answer the first time was "not enough."


Shrapnel:

--The tax form again this year lets you donate to public campaign financing. Are you kidding? After the Supreme Court decision on political advertising, your pipsqueak few bucks will mean absolutely nothing -- if it ever did.

--Fast Food Mini Review, Wendy's new "bacon & blue." For a bacon and bleu cheese lover, this was a rubbery dud, to be as kind as possible, with the bacon burned to a crisp and the cheese crumbles tasteless and with the appearance of fish eggs. Calories 680, Sodium 1390 mg., fat 40 gr, taste: 0. Dave Thomas is twirling in his grave.

--Immediately after this gourmet feast, it was a trip to the supermarket and the purchase of two boxes of White Castle cheesburgers. At least with those, the expectations are low and so is the price. Plus if you're having bathroom trouble, they'll solve it for you, because they don't call 'em "sliders" for nothing.

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

Friday, March 19, 2010

678 Leave, Stevie

678 Leave, Stevie

Oops. That should be Steve Levy, the Queens born, Nassau raised lawyer, turned politician, turned Democrat turned Republican and presently the County Executive of Suffolk County, Long Island, New York a job he has held with no particular distinction since 2004, and which followed an equally distinguished career in the county legislature.

Suffolk is a pretty big place. Second largest county in the state and one of the originals. It's more than 2,000 square miles, most of which is water. But it is home to more than 1.5 million people. Suburbs take half the land. Much of the rest is agriculture. And with agriculture, you get farm workers. And with farm workers you get immigrants and with immigrants you get illegal immigrants, and that's where Stevie has staked his claim to fame. He wants 'em out. Big time.

So it only natural that when he first started plotting to become governor, he would cast about for some help. And where better to turn but the TeaPartiers , who have been the object of his affection for months. The final step into the governor's race is to figure out whether a penny pinching anti-immigrant geographical transplant can win in New York as a Democrat.

Fat chance. Even with the sorry excuse for a governor now in office, New York doesn't elect guys like Stevie. So what to do in the lust for office? Become a Republican. A pretty easy transition, it would seem.

Suffolk County has had some notable County Executives. The first, Republican-turned-Democrat H. Lee Dennison, an engineer and a feisty common sense no-nonsense guy led his constituents into the modern age. Another, John V.N. Klein, Republican had policies that youcouldn't pin on a party. Those days are gone.

Here, we have a Democrat in Name Only in such a swoon over higher office that he'll anger the voters who elected and re-elected him, honk off the Conservative Party chairman who wants little to do with him and look like a loser on American Idol who wants the top spot so badly, he'll do anything for it.

In the unlikely event Stevie were to win, he'd be the anti-immigrant governor of a state that was the largest port of entry for legals and illegals in this country's history.

But this is the wrong guy. The only question now is whether he was whoring for office when he ran as a Dem or whether he's whoring now.

Leave, Stevie.




Shrapnel:

--This part of the blog started as a means of shining some light on brief examples of mass silliness, and that's still the goal. But it's getting harder every day because there's too much to choose from, making choosing hard. And sometimes we see so much nonsense that we begin to think of it as normal.

--What is left to fear when you've lost your fear of the dentist? Heights or death or bugs or germs or clowns or rhinos or talk radio or Friday the 13th? Everyone needs something to fear.

--What happens when you move into a state where people can't drive from a state where people CAN drive? You learn to not drive. Wouldn't want to be a social outcast, after all.


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

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

677 Yeeeehah Scholarship

677 Yeeeehah Scholarship

There's a country song, "All My Exes Live in Texas." Maybe they should write one called "All My Excess Lives in Texas." Talking here about the school book controversy. This is where the right wing muscles in (continues to muscle in) on the content of school text books. The state orders so many of them that publishers routinely give 'em all the warping they want and then shove those books down the throats of buyers in the other 49 states.

The state school board votes on content. Not literally, of course but in practice. And you can argue that these board members are elected and have a right to do so. Yes, they do. Fine if what happens in Texas STAYS in Texas. But it doesn't.

So in the latest round of shoving, we get great detail (call it boosterism) for Reagan's economic policies and Newt's contract with/on America. But we don't hear much about the Latino or African American contributions to society. Maybe Texas SHOULD secede, as some politicians want. Then we could get neutral text books. Or even objective text books, perish the thought.

Here's the view from New England -- from New Hampshire Public Radio:

... the Board approved a curriculum that portrays historical events a bit differently than how you might remember them being taught in school. The new standards reject the separation of church and state, ensure lessons about the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 90s and the moral majority, include lessons on the “unintended consequences” of affirmative action, and defend the actions behind McCarthyism. As a next step, the Board puts the approved standards up for public comment. The final vote is slated for May.
And no one questions the conservative qualifications of New Hampshire. But there's conservatism and Conservatism.

After the next round of book printing, you'll find "Creationism" elevated to a science. You'll learn that President Obama was born in Africa. You'll find Rush Limbaugh's biography, but maybe not Jefferson's. Martin Luther WHO? Maybe they'll also tell you how to buy gold, stockpile non-perishable food, how to form a Joe McCarthy fan club, a local militia and how to look and act like a skin head.


Shrapnel:

--Happy St. Patrick's Day. It's one of the times it's hardest not to miss New York. The parade, the camaraderie, and especially the green bagels, and, of course, no snakes.

--Finally found something totally off base recommended in Consumer Reports. It's a calendar website called Cozi.com. Looks like a central collection point for your data and journal reports you write about your family doings.

--Could General Electric revive it's early slogan "Progress is our most important product" today? Probably not. It's hard to think of a conglomerate like that as a closet left wing organization because it isn't, but some right wing organization might latch onto the "progress" part as a coded message to the initiates.


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


Monday, March 15, 2010

676 The Fine Print

676 The Fine Print

Those of us accused of having too much time on our hands have found yet a new way to use it, reading the fine print. It can be instructive, though often its purpose is de-struction. Some examples yanked more or less randomly from the torrent of ads and mail that pours upon us:

How about that Jitterbug cell phone for oldies. Cheap rates, no contracts and "operators who greet you by name" when you call them. The fine print: You pay for the operator-called minutes, and they charge you for another five minutes beyond the length of the call. They never say the service is free. But neither do they make a big production out of telling you that it costs.

Thinking about buying gold? You'll find dozens of beautiful websites inviting you to get rich, and dozens of endorsements, mostly from right wing talk show hosts. If you look really really close, you will find a link to their disclaimer, which no one can understand, but which covers their backsides thoroughly in case you find out that buying gold is not always as remunerative as the main page leads you to believe. (See Wessay #661 for a review of Jim Kingsland's book on the subject.)

Then there are the identity theft protectors. The fine print there is so fine that one of those outfits got busted and fined for scare tactics and inflated promises.

And there are the guys who tell you you can back up all your computer files so that when your hard drive crashes, you'll have the stuff available. They don't mention how long the initial backup takes and they remind you in the fine print that they save only "your" files, not those you've licensed from, say Apple or Microsoft or anyone else.

The cold "remedies" and "preventives?" Their claims are so vague you really don't know what they say.

Auto warranties? The fine print and exclusions and exceptions go on forever.

Have you read your homeowner's or auto insurance policies? Maybe some day the Rosetta Stone language folks will come up with a program to translate. But you can be sure the adjuster knows what the policies say. Just try making a claim.

Seen the newly mandated credit card statements? In a burst of clarity, they tell you how long it'll take you to pay off the debt. But they don't remind you that that figure will change every time you use the card. It might be there somewhere. But that print's so fine, no one of an age to use a Jitterbug phone has the eyes to read it.

This ad-hoc announcement is for information purposes only and does not constitute or form part of, and should not be construed as an offer or an invitation to sell, or issue or the solicitation of any offer to buy or subscribe to any comments made herin. Void where prohibited by law. Wessays™ cannot be responsible for typographical errors.


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

Friday, March 12, 2010

675 Practice, Practice, Practice

675 Practice, Practice, Practice

This posting is late. No VERY late, but late, nonetheless. This is practice day for the upcoming re-retirement, when, supposedly, there are no deadlines and one's time is one's own. It's not an comfortable concept for many of us. So it requires practice.

Today's includes (a) Not reporting for work (it was pre-arranged.) (b) Ignoring an appointment (done.) (c) Keeping an appointment at a time an appointment ordinarily wouldn't have been made (still to come.) (d) Sleeping in (done.) There may be some other practice sessions, too. If no better opportunity presents itself.

This stuff isn't easy, especially for recidivist retirees. But with only two weeks or so to go, it's time to get back into shape. Younger people may scoff at the idea that doing nothing takes practice or even effort. But it takes both. When the fire gong goes off, the firefighter is up and into the boots and down the poll. Pavlov's dog? When news happens, the reporter is up and into the boots and down the poll and out the door and maybe on the airport security line. Woof!

When you don't play golf or tennis, don't have a boat, and consider your work and your hobby not one thing but two all your life, and you ditch the hobby, then what? Take courses? Volunteer? Run for local government office? Write your memoirs? All worthy goals, of course. But it's tough when you spend your life "doing all the things you always wanted to do" and then, suddenly -- stop.

Previous experience teaches this: minor ailments become major preoccupations, especially for people prone to worry. Small repairs that you'd either ignore or handle quickly become major projects. Some people use ceremonies to take up the time. Like setting up exercises. Oh, sure, they're good for you. Keep you (relatively) limber. Keep you (relatively) strong. But that's not what they REALLY are. They are ceremonies -- like weddings, funerals, bar mitzvah, graduations and crashing bottles of champagne on the bows of ocean liners.

Which means you do them, largely, because you "have" to. And if you miss a bar mitzvah or a funeral or a wedding or this morning's rotation of sit-ups, push-ups, knee bends and torso twists, you feel guilty.

There's a New Year's Resolution component, too. Resolved: to keep the car clean, to grow tomatoes in the back yard, to visit the Grand Canyon or Mount Everest or the Tower of London. You know what happens to resolutions like that.


Shrapnel:

--The Daylight Saving Time thing is getting more confusing than ever. It's "Spring Forward" which means you lose an hour's sleep Saturday night/Sunday morning. And, again, for the record "Saving" is singular -- it ain't "Daylight Savings Time."

--WGN Radio in Chicago has posted a list of banned words. Usually, that's a bad but not this time. They've eliminate news cliches and police jargon in efforts to make their announcers sound like they're talking and not reading. The list is a bit heavy, nevertheless it comes from the right idea.


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

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

674 I'm Going to Give You Something

674 I'm Going to Give You Something

You're at the doc's. You have a headache. He (or she) says "I'm going to give you something for that." Give you? No. He (or she) writes a prescription for Migraineall™. That prescription, you'd better believe, is not on the Wal-Mart $4 list. Nor is there a generic for it. Nor does your mail order pharmacy have it on the cheap list. It's a level 15 drug. (The levels, so far, only go to three. But by the time Migraineall™ gets FDA approval, there WILL be levels up to 15, and that'll cost you more than a boat.)

You call the doc. Hours later, you get a call back: "Doc, this stuff costs more than a boat. Can't I just take aspirin?"
"Oh, no. YOUR headache is a cranial frontal achius severeus, which does not respond to any of the over the counter remedies. Take what I gave you."

Gave?

"Doc, do you have any samples?" "No, the drug companies don't do much of that these days. Sorry."

You consider other remedies. Like sticking your head in the freezer or hunting up some serious anesthetic or maybe just blowing the rest of your brains out and sending them to the makers of Migraineall™ with a note saying "when your patent expires, here's a good generic alternative."

You get "that look" from the pharmacy clerk. It's a combination of "you poor sap" and "oh good, I'm going to make today's sales quota."

So you buy the boat. And you take the Migraineall™ and your achius severeus, subsides, at least enough for you to find your magnifying glass and read the little instruction sheet that comes with the pills. And what do you find? Warnings against blood clots, diarrhea, nausea, stroke, restless leg syndrome, depression, sleepiness, inability to sleep, the Plague, stomach bleeding, bed hair, Sudden Baldness Syndrome and Parkinson's. A feast of new afflictions, but your headache is gone. Well, almost gone, and you spent enough to buy that boat.

The words to watch for, a mere eight of them, "I'm going to give you something for that."

Shrapnel:

--David Letterman won the case against the guy trying to squeeze him for megabucks over sex capades. Now, we want to see Dave's little black book. And the one that belongs to ex-rep Massa.

--United Air has been named the best on-time performer. Great going, but you can expect that to change. As soon as we get on the plane for Taiwan.

--The guy from Lifelock who published his social security number on the side of a truck and drove it around Arizona had his identity stolen. Which proves hackers are smarter than anti-hackers. Lifelock also has been fined 12 million bucks for misleading advertising and broken promises which raises the question "what other advertisers on right wing radio talk shows are in the same boat, but not yet discovered?"



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


Monday, March 08, 2010

673 Rollie's On the Boulevard

673 Rollie's On the Boulevard

If Rollie's still among us he must be something like 110 years old, so probably he's gone, but last time we talked, maybe 25, 30 years ago he was still fuming.

Rollie had the best burger joint on Queens Boulevard and he had an agreement with the guys at White Castle, up a few blocks and on the other side of the street. Rollie wouldn't try to undercut them. They wouldn't try to steal his upscale customers with real cheapies.

You have to remember that in Rollie's day, an upscale customer was a kid who could spend a quarter on a burger or half a buck on a roast beef sandwich ("broiled fresh daily!") or a dime for a decent size bag of fries. This was around the time White Castle upped the price of its burger from a nickel to seven cents.

Rollie liked to say he built the place "into something." But ultimately, time, some mystery men and modernity caught up with him and un-built the place into nothing. He didn't mind the health inspectors. It was a pretty clean place, made cleaner when he took all three tables out and put them into the trash. "No sitting customers, no mess. From now on, take away only." That was fine. People ate walking a lot in that day. And the subway was in the center divide so most of the rest finished their food waiting on the elevated platform for the IRT #7. Of course, half the diners threw their wrappers back down to Queens Boulevard. But that wasn't Rollie's problem.

What WAS his problem was Burger King, which moved in around the corner. "Flame broiled,' my foot," says Rollie of the Whopper. They use gas, same as I do. And you ever try their coffee? Pure poison."

One day, some distinguished gentlemen in suits and ties came in and suggested that they become Rollie's partners. You know, make a little investment to spruce the place up (just because it was clean didn't mean it was pretty.) They suggested they might be better able to handle the new competition.

Rollie said no. A week later, there was a mysterious fire. NYFD said it was the gas, purely an accident. Burger King is still there.


Shrapnel:

--The weather around here has been awful for most of the winter -- here and many other places, but that hasn't stopped the day trips. Now, on the warmest and most beautiful Saturday in ages, what do we do? Stay inside and re-organize the files.

--Shameless promotion dept: This link will send you to a blog called "To Hell With Conservatism," which is written by the ever clever and perceptive John W. Gibson of State College, PA. It's all the ammo you need to counter think and counteract the right wing takeover of the United States Government. A permanent link also has been installed on the right side of this page.

--Have you noticed that the coffee you make always tastes better on Sunday mornings? It's not that you prepare it any differently. It's the pace of the day.


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

Friday, March 05, 2010

672 Packing At The Last Minute

672 Packing At The Last Minute

Maybe this should be called "Packing At The Last Minute, Two Months in Advance."

You never can be too prepared for a long trip, right?

Go out, buy suitcases. Three of them. Matched. Bargain priced but sturdy and a "name brand, and all three the same color." Bring them home, put them in the bedrooms, open them up and start loading them. It's only early March, but early May will be here sooner than you think.

Load them up is a euphemism. It's really "load them up and take stuff out." The Taiwanese "contingent," one woman, lived there for a good chunk of her life, and she's asking questions of a guy who never has been there?

"What's the weather in Taiwan like in May?" "Hot. Taiwan is the tropics. It's almost always hot."

"But we need Spring clothes when we leave America, right?" "Why? "Just shiver a little before we leave. When we get back in June it'll be hot in America, too."

We're going to see friends and relatives and children, do they care about what we're wearing?

Then: "Why do they charge us extra to bring along luggage." Who knows. Ask United Airlines. You're going to feel like they're family after the flight from central Pennsylvania to Washington to Tokyo to Taipei."

And "can I bring along my makeup and my cleanser stuff and my toothpaste and my contact lens cleaning solution?"

Yes. Just pack it in something other than a carry on.

"What about electricity?" Taiwan runs on 110 volts, just like here. But the shape of the plug is different. Plug conversion units are 59 cents each at Radio Shack.

"But what about the hair dryer?"

"Buy a hair dryer in Taipei and give it to your uncles when we leave."

"My uncles have no hair."

"Give it to your brother."

The world is going to hell and the worry is about what to do with a $10.00 hair dryer?

Then: "Where can we wash our clothing?" Taipei not only has laundromats, they have the world's largest laundromat. More washers and dryers than you can see on the floor of Sears or P.C. Richard or the Whirlpool shipping department.

What eventually will happen is that all this packing and unpacking and deciding and picking things and putting things back in the bureau or the closet will go on until the night before departure, and it really WILL be "Packing At The Last Minute."


Shrapnel:

--Computers can read your mind. And they are subversive. When you're in a hurry, they slow to a crawl but when you don't need them, every page and every program pops up instantaneously.

--We are their prisoners. But, then, they also are OUR prisoners. We can toss 'em in an eyeblink and it's amazing there aren't more of these machines affected by the Uzi Syndrome, which is when the owner finally "has it" and puts the thing out of its misery.

--American Idol is a sausage factory. The take in a slew of singing star wannabes, all of them with their own styles. And then they force them into a sausage casing that makes them all look and sound alike -- and from this, they pick the best?

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

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

671 Rangel Wrangle Redux

671 Rangel Wrangle Redux

So Charlie is stepping down from the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means committee and he says he made that offer a long time ago but now... he doesn't want to get in the way of his colleagues who are running for re-election. Including, one assumes, himself. They've pressured the guy off the throne. It's supposed to be a temporary beheading. But sometimes, even with today's advances in microsurgery, it's tough to reattach a head.

Again, this is much ado about nothing. Couple'a trips that he either did or didn't know were sponsored by some business types. (Anyone going after the business types. as in "do you really think you should have offered these trips?" Nah. Didn't think so.)

Endangered national security, Charlie did, just about the same way Clinton endangered national security with Monica. Not at all.

Okay, so maybe it wasn't exactly cricket. Or kosher. But our esteemed legislators are pushing this elderly and effective and likable guy out of the way of... what? And at the same time, next door, they're kissing Sen. Bunning's ugly rump and calling him a man of principle for single handedly slicing off jobs and unemployment benefits? And they court his favor and plead with him at the same time they fry Charlie?

Let's see. A Congressman takes a junket he probably shouldn't have and a senator wrecks the lives and income of tens of thousands of people, keeps roads unsafe and uninspected. Which one's the unethical one?

The cases are not the same, of course. But the after effects are or could be similar.

Some think Representative Rangel should say something to the effect of "screw it. I've done enough. I'm 80. I'm out of here." But he won't do that and shouldn't. Plus it's not in him to back away from a fight.

But make no mistake about it: Rangel may be slightly ethically challenged but he doesn't deserve to be knocked around like some featherweight.

And the house ethics committee (does that sound like an oxymoron?) is not finished with him. There'll be more and it'll look ugly and it'll look meaningful and it won't be. At least he's not trying to cover stuff up. They won't end up calling this "Charliegate."

Or maybe they will.




Shrapnel:

--Liked Leno's return to the Tonight Show. Seems like he never left. But the new set is nicer.

--Leno used a "Wizard of Oz" parody to re-introduce himself on "Tonight." There are more examples of metaphors from the film than there are people who've seen the film. But there are scarce few from the books, which were a lot darker than the chirpy musical.

--Scarecrows, Tin Men, Cowardly Lions, "Little men behind the curtain" "Wicked Witches," "Yellow brick roads," Opium somnambulations and huge crystal balls abound. And most of the people who use them weren't alive when the film was made in 1939, let alone in 1900 when the book was published. Not a lot else from either of those eras remains in common use today.


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

Monday, March 01, 2010

670 The Rangel Wrangle

670 The Rangel Wrangle

Please forgive the unusual first person singular here, but this is a long time ago and I'm walking down W. 32nd St. toward Penn Station and run into Charlie Rangel or maybe it's he who runs into me and we grab each other by the forearms so neither of us falls over and he says to me "Richards, you look like crap and why don't you look where you're going?" and I reply "Charles, you're not looking so hot yourself and why don't you look where YOU'RE going?"

"Time for a sandwich?" "Sure." We go to the Blarney Stone which is right there and split a something or other on rye and I have a Jack and Coke and he derides me for having a Jim Crow drink and I deride him for what he's drinking, which you'll never find out from me. We are finding out officially now that Congressman Rangel of New York's 15th district has some ethical problems, all of which everyone always suspected but which didn't stop the electorate from electing him by margins in the 80 percent range and for good reason: he did and does look out for the people of the 15th congressional district which used to be the 16th and before that the 19th and before that the 18th and which is home to more than half a million people, mostly black and Latino in about ten tightly packed high rise square miles.

Rangel defeated and succeeded the Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. in 1970. Powell served from 1944. They forced him from a committee chairmanship because, they said, he mismanaged its funds. Now 40 years later, they're trying to topple Rangel from his committee chairmanship and this time, they're not gonna make it. (The Ways and Means Committee writes tax law, Social Security law and lots more.)

So Charlie has a house in the Dominican Republic. So Charlie uses a rent controlled place as a political office. So Charlie has some bucks stashed for his old age. Guy's turning 80 this year and you can't hear a bad word about him from anyone he represents.

Charlie is not stupid. But he did a stupid thing some time back, in accepting a trip or two to the Caribbean, a trip or two sponsored by corporations... something congressmen aren't supposed to do. He says he didn't know about the sponsorships. What? The whole thing is no big deal in the first place and in the second place if he didn't know -- that's hard to believe -- his staff did. The Ethics Committee seems to think he should have known. Maybe he should.

But this is more than about some sleazy trip deals. This is about the pure joy of toppling one of the highest ranking guys in the House. Stop any pedestrian in the 15th and ask if he thinks that's the right thing to do. You know the answer.

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