Monday, November 29, 2010

789 How to Cope With the Body Snappers

789 How to Cope with the Body Snappers


Everyone is in an uproar about the new body scanners and pat downs at the airports. Here's a way around it. Hire security men who look like Sean Connery 30 years ago and women who look like the porn star Cody Lane today to do the searches. And for those who aren't into public sex, try for men who look like Ronald Reagan and women who look like Betty White. Or how about lookalikes for Barry White and Tyra Banks. Or Morgan Freeman and Oprah Winfrey. Who would object to a pat-down from James Bond, Cody or Tyra or Oprah or Morgan?

The whole thing seems like that gynecologist joke with the punch line "They wouldn't all look the same to me." It's tedious work, keeping our country safe for democracy, and once you've seen 150,000 pairs of breasts and 150,000 penises, it's all the same. These security agents don't give a damn about your size or shape. They care about their paychecks. They're just doing their job.

Note to passengers: we all look more or less alike under the rays of the body scanners. The TSA? That's another story. It helps along the notion that the Government Bureaucrats love invading our privacy. And this idea goes a long way to explaining why some people hate the government.

The various terrorist rings are not made of morons. They realize that even though "racial profiling" is likely in America, the average Arab in a Kafiya is no more likely to be a shoe bomber than the white granny in a wheel chair. If you were Bin Laden, who would you put on the plane to blow it up, some guy who looks like Arafat and smells like he hasn't bathed yet this year or a dignified, Armani-clad white guy with a crocodile leather briefcase? Or Grandma in the chair?

So, the TSA gives the MRI treatment to just about everyone. Deal with it. None of these Guardians of Our Safety cares whether you are a 36D or have a ten inch organ of reproduction. Anyone want to buy pictures?

Shrapnel:

--Speaking of airplanes and "Airplane!" -- a fond farewell to Leslie Nielsen, 84, once America's favorite TV bad guy, later one of America's favorite comic actors. He'll be remembered most for "Airplane!" and the various "Naked Gun" and "Police Squad" movies, but he was far more versatile than that. Rest in peace, Lt. Drebin.

--Are the North Koreans jealous of the war in Afghanistan and looking to re-make their own? The missile attack on South Korea looks like an act of envy more than an act of war. Unfortunately, acts both of envy and of war often result in the death of innocents. Fill some North Korean bellies that need filling and the whole thing will go away.

--How long you think Terry Collins will wear that chirpy optimism? In real life, the new manager of the NY Mets is a clone of the "Terrible Tempered Mister Bang." And his players will yawn and then strike out, as is appropriate for any Met since the days of Casey Stengel.

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


Friday, November 26, 2010

788 The Wreck at 35

788 The Wreck at 35

Other more current events got in the way, and so we are a bit late this year in our annual remembrance of the Edmund Fitzgerald. This year's 29 bells remind us for the 35th consecutive year of what may be the most important and best known Great Lakes shipwreck of the 20th Century.

The tenth of November, 1975. That surprises a lot of people who thought all this was ancient history. If ever you had seen her between her launch on the eighth of June of 1958 and her final voyage 18 years later, you'd have no doubt about why they called her "the Mighty Fitz."

Mighty was an understatement. A teenager in 1958 wrote in his diary that "you are not human if you can stand next to this thing and not feel awe."

Those of us who grew up on the Atlantic maybe too often turn our noses up at the thought of a lake as a formidable body of water. Superior is the largest lake in the world. And it is the third largest by volume with 200 rivers feeding it from several angles. Put it anywhere else, add a little salt and you've got yourself a perfectly fine sea.

Standing on the dock and looking up, you could confuse the Fitz with a mountain or a skyscraper. Length? Bigger than anything else that floats or that you've been on. Seven hundred twenty nine feet. (The Titanic was 883.5, so only 150 feet or so longer.)

We know what killed the Titanic, the Andrea Doria, the General Slocum, the Lusitania, the Bismarck. We do not know exactly what killed the Edmund Fitz. A storm with hurricane force winds came suddenly and vanished. She overturned and broke up -- or broke up and overturned -- then went down, all so fast there wasn't time for a real SOS.

We can't exactly ask Capt. Ernest McSorley or any of the 28 others on board. But think about this: this vast ship, largest of its class and time, a bathtub the size of a city, carrying more than 52-million pounds of taconite, rocks with iron, falls 500 feet down and no one knows precisely why or how.

It took awhile to find the wreck. The US Navy did that with magnets. Much later, divers went down and got the ship's bell. Did that only in 1995. It's in the museum they built.

Fifteen thousand people were on hand for the launch in '58. Twenty nine were on board for the sinking in '75. And they remain on board, preserved in their final moments and probably in good condition at that. The freshwater doesn't destroy its victims as the ocean does.

As far as we know, all the crew members remain where they landed. The families don't want them brought up. That's the way they do it on the lakes. And this is the time of year we remember them.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009, 2010.

Here is the news report from ABC's Harry Reasoner, video, audio and the song from Gordon Lightfoot immortalizing this story. Harry got a lot of news into an 18 second "tell" story. And the accompanying video, much of it from 8mm amateur film taken years before the accident, and the accompanying sounds of ship to shore radio traffic are chilling.









Wednesday, November 24, 2010

787 Writer's Crimp and the Traffic Stop

787 Writer's Crimp & the Traffic Stop

Maybe it's necessary, but maybe not. Two self appointed agencies have become the writing police for today's college students. After four years of the American Psychological Association or the Modern Language Association putting prose in a vise or straight jacket, it's no wonder today's grads can't write. If they could beforehand, they can't now.

These are the enforcers, the knee-cappers, knuckle dragging, neck-less guys in black suits and when a real writer sees them coming, he'll quiver and acquiesce if he's looking to get a decent grade in a college course.

Okay, there are some things that need enforcement and conformity. Like the way a writer uses references, and the way one uses quotations and the way he structures a paper or paragraph. After that stuff, who cares? Let's look at some of the stupidest of the stupid.

THE CULT OF THE ACTIVE VOICE: Cornell Professor Will Strunk started it at a time when American English was more florid and confusing than clear. His teachings included using small and common words, simple declarative sentences and deflated phrases. That's still good general advice, as it was then. Later, E.B. White played St. Paul to Strunk's Jesus and began spreading and enlarging The Word. The Associated Press, United Press and, particularly International News Service (now the "I" in "UPI,") became the missionaries. Active voice now is the APA and MLA law. But when the object of a sentence is more important than the subject, the passive voice is appropriate. In cases like this, the active voice is forced, distracting and irrelevant. Try to tell that to your professor.

RUN-ONS AND FRAGMENTS: An artful writer can produce an effective run-on sentence or a sentence fragment. Either "violation" can break the numbing monotony of the academic template. If you don't think it's possible, check out Jimmy Breslin or Hemingway.

CONJUNCTIONS: Another major no-no is starting a sentence with a conjunction. But that's how we talk. (Please note the sentence starts with a conjunction.) Contractions, say the automated APA computerized paper-reading programs, are "inappropriate to academic writing." But sprinkling some contractions in a paper can help a reader's comprehension. And it humanizes the text (fragment.)

ME MYSELF AND I: And then, there's writing in the first person, advocated by both enforcement groups. Both branches of the Word Police advocate it over the third person. If you're Warren Buffet talking about stocks or Charles Schumer talking about legislation or Stephen Hawking talking about cosmology, sure. But if you aren't, first person-isms are somewhere on the scale between pretentious and gauche. Who cares what "I" think -- and who should?

It's impossible to know for sure, but it's likely Strunk didn't want his work cryogenized. But even if he and others like him did (George Orwell, Edwin Newman and William Safire for example,) he might look at the silly robotizing and homogenization the Word Police have imposed, urge caution and decreased zealousness and conformity that distracts both from writing and reading. Weave a straight jacket on the writer and both he and the reader are, are, well, straight-jacketed.

Can you imagine if this stuff got carried over into real life? Here's a cop talking to a motorist he pulled over: "Sir, may I see your drivers license, registration and insurance information as stated in State Law 3502 B of 1967, paragraph 23.601, subsection 672D?" Motorist: "Yes, sir, but first you are to be cautioned that as reported by myself, Joseph. M. Motorist, there is a 9mm Glock in the glove compartment where the insurance card is situated, along with a carry permit for the weapon. As recommended by Police Procedure Code 23,123, I suggest that you open the passenger side door. And then it can be fished out by yourself." The cop replies "Sir, I am citing you for using the passive voice and starting a sentence with a conjunction."



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

Monday, November 22, 2010

786 Politics Fatigue

786 Politics Fatigue

A reader asks "how much did 'we' really spend on Obama's latest junket?" That's the wrong question. The right question is "what are we going to get back from the trip, what is the benefit to the United States?" It leads one to think that self proclaimed capitalists don't understand capitalism.

Maybe the US benefited from the trip and if so, it was a success and the cost doesn't matter. Whether there was a benefit is up in the air, so far, and maybe always because we won't know what went right because of it. But, capitalists, you have to spend capital, whether bucks or political, to gain something.

Another reader asks how come there are no fraud protections in the Initial Public Offering of stock in the new General Motors. The answer is in what's called an "S-1," a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that discloses stuff like that to help you make intelligent investment decisions. This particular S-1 was filed last August. Now, three months later, it's a big deal? Where were the cynics when the thing was first submitted and approved? You don't think it's a good investment? Then don't invest.

Both of these questions are straw men, something set up in order to be easily knocked down. They are part of a continuing assassination attempt against a humanly imperfect President. Oh, wait. Aren't they all imperfect? Well, don't bother with that. Let's just concentrate on the Kenyan Muslim Socialist Homosexual Windbag with the TelePrompTer.

Supporters of the President call him "extraordinary." Maybe. Critics of the President consider him Satan's right hand man, which he isn't. He's a pretty smart, handsome and articulate man who's trying to make America a better place. You probably can say that about anyone with whose policies you agree.

Both the religious right and the non-religious right have thrown frag grenades into their own political party and turned it into a blank rubber stamp which approves nothing, advocates vague distortions and platitudes, and produces national chaos. And those frag grenades have accomplished their unannounced purpose. They have taken mid-road Americans and turned them into cynics.

The relentless drumbeat of Fox News, Sarah Palin, the radio talk show creeps and the internet blogger creeps have created a nation of middle road compromisers into people who just don't care anymore. They have turned rationality into despair. Political fatigue. The new battle cry of the middle? "Let the bastards do what they want. I can't be bothered with all that. Just go on and do your stupid, corrupt thing and leave me alone."

So look forward for this: Prayer in the schools, Ten Commandments in the courthouse, free reign for the "special interests," unless they represent labor and the average man and woman. And after that, look for rising prices and rising pessimism. Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but... no ... wait. Workers of the world unite, you have nothing. Period.

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

Friday, November 19, 2010

785 The Mayor As President (Or Ike and Mike)

Note to Readers of Wessay #784: Thanks for the torrent of comments from both the left and the right. My standing up for Rep. Rangel drew more views and more emails than any previous posting in this series. I'm proud to say I'm now on more hit lists than ever before, and I'm not talking about web hits. Someone please watch my back for awhile? My rear-view mirror is busted.

785 The Mayor as President (Or Ike and Mike)


Schlomo Tzedaka, the last Bronx Jew, is sitting in his kitchen with the usual sugar cube in his cheek and the glass of tea on the table before him. This is a new dinette set and Schlomo bought it only reluctantly when his previous furniture became too battered, scarred and rusted even for his fading eyesight. (Wessay™ #607 10/5/09.) Across the table is Ike the banker. Well, no. Make that Ike the ex-banker and, recently, the ex-con. Ike has a glass of tea, too, but no sugar. Lost a lot of weight in "Club Fed," and wants to keep it that way.

Ike says the agents "come knocking at about two o'clock one morning, lock me up in an interrogation chamber and interrogate me. And when I ask for a lawyer they tell me I'm not under arrest. I'm "'only being asked for information,' as in 'listen, Ike, we know what you were doing, you're small potatoes, and all we want is information that leads to the 'big guys.'" So Ike spills a few beans and they arrest him and THEN he gets to sell his Bentley to pay the lawyer he now really needs.

"It was a setup," says Ike. "The bosses? They give me this magic Bloomberg Machine. I can read the news, I can make trades, I can look at all kinds of figures and see all kinds of ways I can lump a few mortgages together in a perfectly legal instrument and sell the thing. I have a top rating. My firm has a top rating. The ratings agencies rate us and my mortgage idea a "buy," and we're all in the chips. Until the mortgages go into default. I gotta tell you, Schlomo, it's that damned Bloomberg Machine. Puts all of these opportunities in front of you and you take advantage of a big opportunity or two and they come and arrest you. I wish I'd never seen the damn box."

"So," asks Schlomo, "how do you like my new dinette set? And You're blaming the Bloomberg Machine for your troubles?"

"Of COURSE, I'm blaming it -- and now, they're talking about the inventor of a machine that wrecked the economy as running for President?"

Out the window, the two men can see the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, a Bronx landmark. Schlomo says "Look out the window, Ike. The Einstein Med Center, a great institution. Ole' Al discovered stuff that led to the A-Bomb. You blame him for destroying Japan? (And what about my furniture!)"

Ike: "If you don't polish the chrome parts, this thing is going to look like the same crap as the old one. And no, I don't blame Einstein for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that's ridiculous."

Schlomo: "Okay then what about 'Guns don't kill people, people do'? Isn't that the same thing as saying the Bloomberg Machine caused the economic chaos? Someone hold a knife to your throat and make you misuse it?"

Mayor Bloomberg, the force behind the Bloomberg Terminal which is often described as a financial "electron microscope," is mentioned frequently as a possible independent candidate for President. In answer to this, he's told the Polijam Times website "(I am) a short Jewish billionaire from New York" and therefore could not possibly be President. The web page says further that he is "...divorced, anti-gun, pro-abortion rights, pro-immigrant and pro gay..." Not exactly hot positions to take when running for national office these days.

Schlomo says "the divorced part is okay. After all, we elected Reagan." The rest of the stuff? "Probably right."

Ike mentions that the Mayor did not visit him in jail where he had pulled weeds for 12 cents an hour.

"Why would he?" asks Schlomo, "he already has too many rumors to deny, and that takes time and energy. More tea, Ike?"

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions (including favoring presidential candidates who are short New York Jewish billionaires, divorced, anti-gun, pro-abortion rights, pro immigrant and pro-gay) are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Good Time Charlie Chapter Eleven

784 Good Time Charlie Chapter Eleven -- Carry it On

Take the punch, Charlie, you're tougher and smarter than the rest of them. Then, get up and Carry It On.

This is the eleventh time since 2006 that Rep. Charles Rangel has been a featured player in this space, thus chapter eleven, and the fifth time this year. He is 80 years old. He is a congressman from Harlem, New York City. He has an ethics problem which is not nearly as big as his political problem. He has been "convicted" in a Kongressional Kangaroo Kourt of some minor stuff that his foes are likening to the Crime of the Century. The political problem is not with the people who keep electing him every two years. The political problem is with the cowardly Democrats who won't stand up for him, the even more cowardly Republicans who want his powerful self out of the way and the closeted racists of both parties who think bringing down accomplished black men and women is sport.

You think he's going to resign? Don't bet on it. The "punishment" will be announced soon. It'll be something like --well-- Chapter Eleven.

If you read or listen to this space regularly, you've heard all the stuff about how people in the neighborhood practically strew rose petals in his path when he visits, which, as it should be, is often.

The next step is for the subcommittee of Kangaroos to send their "findings" to the full Ethics Committee, which will, of course, go along with most, if not all of the subcommittee conclusions. Then, the same body of Congress that found Bill Clinton impeachable for cheating on his wife, will find Rangel guilty, and will put a nasty letter in his personnel file, fine him and/or censure him.

What should be his response? Channeling Charlie you might hear something like "I'm 80 years old. I'm not going anywhere. You want to give me a lousy recommendation for my next job? WHAT next job?!"

A congressman who finagles finances? To quote Captain Renault in the movie "Casablanca," "I'm shocked, shocked!" What has Rep. Rangel done for the people of Harlem? Go up to the Grant Houses at 125th and Broadway and ask around. What has he done for all Americans, other than being a war hero and that rise-by-pulling-up-your-own-bootstraps thing? How about early and vigorous support for Israel? How about his battles as chairman of Ways and Means with the miserly Reagan and Bush social agendas? How about tax law changes that benefited Americans below the billionaire line? How about anti-apartheid activism? Or his opposition to Bush and Cheney's idiot war in Iraq?

Has he lined his own pockets at your expense? No, not really. Did he do "no wrong?" Of course not. He DID wrong. But if you had done the same wrong, they wouldn't be after you. They picked on Rangel the same way they picked on the nasty but undeserving Martha Stewart. But unlike Martha, this is a guy you'd kill to have in your corner.

Carry it on!

A slightly earlier version of this appeared on High Heels Hot Flashes.

I'm Wes Richards (an old white guy.) My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010



Monday, November 15, 2010

783 Lysistrata

783 Lysistrata

Okay, gold freaks, you're not going to like this. About 2500 years ago there was this guy, Aristophanes, who wrote a play called "Lysistrata." The basic idea was the women were tired of war and decided to withhold sex until their guys stopped fighting. In a way, goes the story, it works. Of course, there was a side effect: men and women escalated their own "war of the sexes." But the point is, Lysistrata started a women's movement that pretty much accomplished its goal.

Get ready for a reappearance. This time from the women who are in relationships with certain commodity traders. At this writing, the price of gold on the US markets is about 14-hundred dollars per Troy ounce, which is notably lighter than a "regular" ounce. A lot of people have made a ton of money by buying gold these last few years.

But there's another side. As the trading price of gold rises, so do the prices of everything anyone makes out it. For example: a simple bracelet that cost, say, $500 a few years back goes for double that today. And a "jewelry woman" does not want to wear the less expensive gold-plate or (shudder!) silver. Like second hand smoke to recently quit smokers, some silver causes allergic reactions. (It's the nickel they use to make the silver hard enough to keep its shape.)

Jewelry women want GOLD! And it wouldn't be surprising if they turned to some new Lysistrata for advice on how to bring the price down. But, you say, it's all "market forces" that change the prices. Yes and no. If one or two major traders are "deprived" at home, they very well could dump their holdings at a lower price, which, if large enough, could then start a downturn.

It may all boil down to this: most guys don't want to be sex-deprived. Many women don't want to be jewelry deprived. If something like this worked in early Greece, why wouldn't it work in modern America? Lysistrata was fictional. A repeat today, might not be.

Shrapnel:

--The local paper had a "reader survey" question the other day, with answers worded so a sane and rational person had no choice but to vote "against." An e-mail exchange with the editor, an acquaintance, made clear he hadn't noticed but agreed. So, he says, he'll change it -- which is the responsible thing to do.

--Penney's sells its own brand of 12-cup coffee maker for $40, though it's on sale for about half that, right now. It's top rated, solidly made and the coffee's pretty good. So how is it necessary from Cuisinart, Krupps, and even the lowly Mr. Coffee to sell THEIRS for 80 bucks and (way) up?

--An uncrowded restaurant on a Saturday night? Easier to explain than you'd think. In this case, they were out of everything good on the menu and the beer taps weren't working right.

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

Friday, November 12, 2010

782 In Search of a Decal

782 In Search of a Decal

Even those of us who don't play bluegrass crave a Gibson Mastertone. It's the Stradivari of banjos, if there can be such a thing. It's loud, it's bright, it's heavy, it's easy to play. The company has been making them since the 1920s. The design has survived at least three changes of company ownership. And practically everything else that looks one it is an imitation or knockoff -- and probably inferior.

So when an opportunity to acquire one at a below market price arises, what would you do? Take a chance, right? This thing, as pointed out in a previous post took a circuitous route home and finally arrived. And like any banjo you buy from an unknown source, you take it apart and look it over. Serial number? Check. Same serial number on the neck and on the body? Check. "Mastertone" engraving on the fretboard? Check. Matches pictures of the model? Check. Official "historic" decal on the inside of the body? Uh... where IS that? It's missing. Is this a forgery? Does it matter? It looks like what it's supposed to be. It plays like it's supposed to play. It sounds like it's supposed to sound. It's 30-some years old. But there's no "Mastertone" decal on the inside of the body.

So let's write to the seller, Ralph, (Almost all banjo players are named Earl or Don or Ralph.) Ralph doesn't answer right away. Okay, so let's seek expert advice. The leading non-southern authority on such stuff is a guy named Stan Jay who has a stringed musical instrument store, Mandolin Bros., in Staten Island New York. "Hey, Stan, sorry to ask you about a musical instrument that you are not yourself offering for sale, but... you ever see one of these without the decal?" Stan writes back -- almost instantly -- no worries in asking questions about instruments that aren't in our inventory, we get those all the time." And then he answered the question: "who knows what they were thinking but there were years when Gibson didn't put those decals on their instruments."

Soon thereafter, Ralph sends an e-mail: "I refinished the thing and had to scrape off the original decal to do it." So one way or the other, this one's authentic. Which is comforting. But really irrelevant.



Shrapnel:

--Now having watched a few of the new Conan O'Brien shows on TBS, it's possible to say with authority that he's a fine example of the Peter Principle, that putting him on the "Tonight Show" probably made Steve Allen, Johnny Carson, Ernie Kovacs, Jack Paar, and -- most of all, creator Pat Weaver twirl in their graves. Conan was an elevator companion at 30 Rock for many evenings when he was a (pretty good) writer on Saturday Night Live. He's a nice enough fellow, but he's just not funny.

--Where are the Pat Weavers in today's relatively sterile world of television? It's not that we're less brain-ful than we used to be. It's just that there's too much at stake to be innovative.

--Weaver created not only "Tonight," but "Today," and radio's "Monitor." By the mid-1950s, his bosses thought he was "too highbrow," and canned him. After "Monitor," the only similar programs available were "All Things Considered" on NPR and "Bloomberg on the Weekend," both shameless road shows of the original.

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

781 White Wash Black Wash

781 White Wash Black Wash

Okay, conspiracy theorists, it's time to get out and rub your copy of the Warren Commission Report on the assassination of President Kennedy. We all know by now that despite the commission's, findings, Kennedy was killed by the Mafia and Castro and the John Birch Society and the Martians, Lyndon Johnson, the Russians and a host of others -- and not by Lee Harvey Oswald working alone.

Hold that report as you read the findings of the Presidential Commission on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. BP never traded safety for profit. BP is committed to the "highest level of safety." BP wasn't blameless, but it was a "normal accident," that zillions of gallons of ooze in the water, the ooze that killed the fishing industry -- at least temporarily. The ooze that hit New Orleans just about the time it was recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Okay. We're all convinced.

Except Chris.

Who?

Chris. He is manager of a gasoline station. It used to sell Amoco. Then, when BP bought Amoco, it sold BP. Now it's "un-branded." Does he know where his fuel comes from? If he does, he won't say. "We're unbranded," he all he'll say. Chris' gas station is on a big road in a small ecologically conscious town, and thousands of potential customers pass it each week. And after the spill, pass it they did instead of stopping in. He won't tell us how much his volume fell, but you'd better believe it was big time.

The BP signs have come off the gas pumps, and business is more or less back to normal now. Thing of it is, most of Chris' customers were "regulars," and although many of them are back, many also blame him for what happened in the gulf. The guy's maybe 30 years old. Not exactly ready to take the blame for the BP situation. But he's also the locally public face of the oil company. You gotta hope the guy's on salary, not commission. He has mouths to feed.

The world is full of guys like Chris. They're being blamed for what BP did to the gulf, and they shouldn't be. BP's policies killed eleven workers on the gulf rig. Chris didn't kill anyone, but who else you gonna blame?

So is this a white wash or a black wash?

Shrapnel:

--So Olbermann's back from his "indefinite suspension" of about a week. Slap on the wrist for violating policy on political contributions. Fact is, MSNBC needs him, for the moment as the channel's ratings leader.

--Speaking of NBC: Matt Lauer's interview with GW Bush was broadcast journalism at its recent finest. Matt pulled no punches in his questions and the former President answered with unusual candor and sensitivity as he plugged his new book. Matt is a first rate journalist, a first rate television anchor, and even now, after years of relative stardom, one of the only guys in TV who realizes that the star of the show is the show, not the star.

---Hat's off to the Methuselah of college football coaches, Penn State's Joe Paterno, who now has 400 career wins, the first coach of a so-called major team to reach that goal although two others among so-called lesser teams have exceeded it. To paraphrase "JoePA," as he's known, stick around long enough and it's bound to happen. Pretty modest fellow for a Brooklyn boy.


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

Monday, November 08, 2010

780 I Love You Mr. President, But You're Wrong.

780 I Love You Mr. President, But You're Wrong

Paul Harvey put it that way first. It was May 1, 1970. Mayday. And he was addressing Richard Nixon about the Vietnam war. The ultra conservative Harvey decided America couldn't win and that enough lives had been lost, and that it was time to cut bait. Walter Cronkite had said pretty much the same thing almost two years earlier and President Lyndon Johnson credited or blamed him for turning the hearts of the American middle class.

But this is not about Vietnam and it's not about Nixon or Johnson. This is about economics and it's addressed to Barack Obama.

Sir, you cannot appease irrationality and there is no defense against random acts of stupidity, either yours or the other side's. You are being slowly assassinated and a lot of it, you're bringing on yourself. You keep trying to compromise with people who cannot and/or will not compromise. Tax cuts, health care, Afghanistan. You are surrounded by aides and officials who have turned your head away from the major issue, jobs. You spoke of "shovel ready" public works projects that don't exist. You allowed those advisers and officials to bail out the big banks, "walking zombies," as Jim Kingsland calls them, and AIG, Fannie and Freddie. The country is not going to see a profit on those "investments," nor will it see a good result from buying Treasury bonds from ourselves at what probably will mean trillions of dollars.

Meantime, the rest of us are facing rising interest rates, lower incomes and lots of worry. You have allowed your party to squander its majority in congress. You are currently visiting a country, India, which is second only to China as the sink into which American jobs are draining. We continue the Bush legacy of kowtowing to the European Union on trade matters.

The auto industry bailouts are iffy. Even though the relative quality of GM cars is skyrocketing, America remains Chevy-shy and should. GM is, as Lee Iacocca said of Chrysler when he ran it, "shipping crap." It's just slightly better crap than a few years ago.

Mr. President, Paul Harvey and Walter Cronkite would never have suggested this to a President in public. But please go into the bedroom of the White House Residence, open the clothes closet and look in the full length mirror. See that thing sitting on top of your neck? It's your head, sir. And it has a good mind and brain inside it. Everyone knows this. Now comes the hard part. Please drop your pants and your undies and look at what's between your legs. Using your mind and good will is one thing. But you also need to use your balls.

Shrapnel:

--The bathroom scale, a digital, electronic, state of the art marvel of modernity has been accused of inaccuracy for months now, so it's been replaced with a standard, old fashioned, low tech, state of the mechanics version, which reads exactly the same weight as the supposedly defective one it replaced. There is a conspiracy of liars somewhere in those scale factories.

--Another verification that motion and action are not the same: The waiter, a nice young guy who looks like a football player, is dashing around the restaurant at a speed rate far faster than sensible. And everyone at his tables continues to wait for food or for the correction of errors, while the tables at every other waiters' tables have everything they need in front of them.

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


Friday, November 05, 2010

779 FedEx Daze

779 FedEx Daze

Pretty simple situation, you'd think, in an era of instantaneous and continuous communication. An eBay purchase is sent to a former address. You track the package and notice that. You call FedEx and ask them to re-route the thing and they say "sure," but they don't do anything. So you call back and you ask them why they haven't done anything and they say "when the package gets to its distribution center it'll be turned around." They don't make mid course corrections. Apparently they don't make end-course corrections, either.

So the package is on the truck for delivery to a former address, the one in Moote Point, NY instead of the right one, which is Mount Tantamount PA. Six calls later, including two from the guy who initially sent the thing, the Quality Assurance guy promises that it won't be delivered and that it will be "turned around," which makes one wonder what level of quality the Quality Assurance guy is assuring.

So this thing has bounced around the country (it's fragile,) and endured the cold of late fall in at least three states. And when it arrives at its REAL final destination, now allegedly scheduled for our days hence, you will receive a full report. Why would you want to? Well, if you've read this far into the posting, you probably want to know how it all turns out. You are not alone.

The problem isn't technology. Screw ups take place all the time. The problem is listening. Many don't. Think about this in your own life. Some of the people you speak with aren't listening. They're too busy thinking about what they're going to say next. Or they're off in another world, maybe thinking about baseball or internet porn or what they're having for dinner or the Great Issues of Life.


We're all guilty of that some of the time. But some people make it a central principle. Those are the ones you have to watch out for. and they're hard to spot.

For those who think the Postal Service or any other federal or federalized bureaucracy is messed up, you're right. But please note that the private bureaucracies are every bit as bad, and that technology doesn't help when people don't read messages all the way through and/or don't listen.

Shrapnel:

----In an unrelated but similar situation, a guy I know, who lives in another state got a phone call the other day, which isn't exactly news. But he got it on my home telephone, and no one can figure out why, least of all, the two of us.

--Countdown to the publication of the Bush autoclave and scrubbing autobiography. Can't wait. Wonder if we'll ever know who really wrote it.

--The local CBS owned radio station in New York is very busy making sure we all are told that John Cameron Swayze, Jr., left his long standing gig voluntarily. The fairness doctrine still rules part of this space. So there's their side.



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



Wednesday, November 03, 2010

778 Sarnoff and Swayze

778 Sarnoff and Swayze

No, not THAT Sarnoff. And not THAT Swayze. This is a story -- really two stories -- about people with those last names and with NBC connections.

Marisa Sarnoff, now in her 30s was a production assistant at MSNBC back in its Secaucus days. She was then a spirited and hard working young grad of a prestigious school of journalism and now learning the trade for real. And she was the grand niece of NBC's David Sarnoff. That's not something she broadcast. But she admitted it when confronted. She also wasn't overjoyed at what was happening to her grand uncle's company, though she kept that to herself until she jumped to a competitor and then, apparently, off the broadcast bandwagon entirely. Would she have risen to the top of the corporate heap? Certainly she had the ability. But that name wasn't an automatic "gimme" in General Electric's NBC.

Then there's the tall, gaunt fellow who has called himself Cameron Swayze, son of the television pioneer. He's actually John Cameron Swayze, Jr., now in his 70s and who just stepped off the broadcast bandwagon, maybe not on purpose. Swayze the elder is still someone widely remembered, even though his late evening newscast ended its run in 1956, more than half a century ago. Son John elected not to use the full name. In the newsroom, we called him "John." On the air, he was "Cameron."

Often in broadcasting, the apple falls far from the tree (Robert Sarnoff was no David Sarnoff.) Not so in this case. CS was in many ways his father's equal, and in some ways his father's better. He wasn't blessed with dad's good looks and ability to appear dapper under any and all circumstances. But boy, what a story teller! And what a wonderful bass baritone with which to tell those stories. Earthquakes, fires, wars, politics all instantly appeared in your head when you heard him tell you about them. And in so few words, you often asked yourself "How'd he DO that?"

We all sat up a little straighter when John walked into the room carrying a crummy looking schlep bag and a Tupperware container of carrots and celery. He asked the hard questions. He got to the heart of matters that most of the rest of us just didn't see. And editing his scripts was an exercise in futility. He'd space things oddly on the page, run words together. The pages were paper pigpens. And word was he did that on purpose -- so we on the editors' desk couldn't figure out what was there and wouldn't change anything. As if anything needed changing.

When the NBC Radio Network self destructed in the late 1980s, Swayze started working freelance at WCBS, the all news radio station. It was the class act of local radio. But by the time he left or was forced out, whichever was the case, he was among the few class acts left there.

His air hours are still filled by others, but they sound empty.
Shrapnel:

--The baseball Giants won the world series. No biggie except for those who remember the REAL Giants, and the REAL Giants who are still around to remember us. Here's one: Willie Mays, now 79, with the team for the last Series it won in the Polo Grounds in 1954 and with them for the move to the coast in 1958 and who watched this year with happy tears in his eyes, or so he says.

--Since the Yankees excused themselves from this year's AL Championship and thereby this year's Series, many of us regulars shifted allegiance temporarily to the the turncoat Giants. Is there some kind of barricade against winning championships in the same season the owner dies? Happened to the Yanks this year and to the pitiful NY Jets in 1999 when owner Leon Hess died.

--Of course, the Jets being the Jets didn't need the barricade then -- or now. They're 5 & 2 so far this year. Which by Jets standards is nothing shy of miraculous.

Note to readers: There will be no election coverage in this space this year.

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


Monday, November 01, 2010

777 The Formula

777 The Formula

Oh, good. Halloween's over and we're all still here. If you turned in any of half a dozen cable movie channels during the month of October, you'd figure that the monsters and the evil old men killed off all the young people -- including any kid big enough and old enough to walk, and now are devouring the earth, merrily destroying "houses, farms and fields," to quote Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans." Oh. Add cities to that. Mustn't forget the cities.

But all of these pictures follow pretty much the same formula or recipe. And if you want to make one, here's what you will need.

Ingredients:

--an evil older man or an evil older couple that either routinely scares the neighborhood to death or routinely plays the kindly couple that invites kids and small animals in for cocoa and cookies but secretly have evil intentions.

--a monster or evil spirit.

--gallons of fake blood.

--a harried but handsome police chief or sheriff.

--some small kids.

--a bevy of girls or girls and boys, tanned, toned, scantily costumed and who screamed convincingly during their auditions on the casting couch. It helps if it's a multi-racial group. (More box office appeal.)

--a bucolic setting with either plenty of fields and woods or a pristine cityscape with hidden scary alleyways. The potential for darkness is important.

--ominous music.

So you open with the bucolic scene. Birds are chirping, the sun is shining. The little kid is playing in the yard or on the street while his older sister and her boy and girlfriends are chatting nearby.

From here, you have a few different ways to go. Use the kindly/evil couple with the ominous music, or the monster or evil spirit. The music will let the audience know what's coming.

Now, the kid has either to vanish or be the only human in the scene to see the evil spirit or seem to get a funny vibe from the couple. He screams. This gets the attention of the tanned, toned covey. He disappear. They call the police guy and he starts to search as darkness falls. They trail after him scouring either the once-bucolic woods or the potentially scary alleyways.

Bring on the blood as at least one of them trips and falls. Here's where the screaming comes in. And the scantily clad-ness.

The cop gives up the search for the night while the covey continues to hunt. The old guy shows up with a knife or an axe and sends them screaming. Eventually, someone -- probably not the cop -- traps the old guy or figures out a way to ward off the monster. But before this happens, lots of cleavage closeups, more running and some allegedly and apparently accidental touching of one another by the screamers.

Make sure you roll the ending credits so fast no one can read them. The cast and crew will be able to get slides for their resumes if they wish, or deny having anything to do with the picture -- if THAT's what they wish.

Put this stuff to use and you'll make a fortune -- by next Halloween.

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