Friday, December 31, 2010

803/03 Talk Talk Talk

803/03

Talk Talk Talk


This is another in the short series of early Wessays™ repeats. It had been filed without a date in 2005.


Want a decent conversation? Start talking to strangers.

Not chat room strangers, real ones. Strangers on the street. On the subway. In the diner.

We’ve been told that the art of conversation is dead. Not even close. The art of conversation is alive and well. It’s just that your friends are boring and your relatives have ulterior motives.

Let’s rewind that for a moment. Your friends aren’t necessarily boring. But you know their rap and they know yours. It’s like having the same conversation over and over again.

And your relatives -- well, maybe they DON’T have ulterior motives. But you know that there are certain things you can’t discuss with them, lest you raise points that’ll never be solved and that will just cause everyone grief.

So do this New York thing: horn in on a convo. If you’re REALLY not welcome, you’ll find out soon enough. The conversers whose territory you’ll be invading will give you the Dark Glare Of Death. Or they’ll just tell you to shove off.

Most people are too polite for that.

Plus, we humans are social beings, even most of the sociopaths among us, and thus are willing to talk with anyone about anything.

Just don’t be like the Oysters in “Alice In Wonderland.” They tried to stop a fight between the Walrus and the Carpenter, and ended up becoming dinner after the combatants resumed rationality.

Other than that… there’s all kinds of fun and interesting stuff that can happen among people who don’t know each other and assume they will never again meet.

The other day at a restaurant, Iron Grey Joe was waxing poetic about the mayor of the city of New York.

In the midst of his poetic endorsement of said mayor’s re-election, he said something outrageously untrue. So, he got corrected. The conversation then doubled to include two tables of diners instead of one.

It would have been nice to continue. But Iron Grey Joe and his poetic wax suffered a seizure or stroke or heart palpitation, and attention was turned suddenly and permanently to getting the cops and the ambulance on site and Joe to the hospital.

This is not a typical end to one of these horn-in-on-the-conversation conversations. Usually, you end up learning something and teaching something.

The opportunities for good talk, good learning and good teaching are endless, especially if there’s no ulterior motive.

If one of these happens at a pick up bar, it will be less spontaneous and more stilted than if it happens while waiting for the light to turn green.

We, remember, are as boring and same-subject as our friends and as touchy as our relatives. The way to have a fresh start every day is to … well, start fresh every day. Or every other day. Or even every week.

The art of conversation is not dead. It’s just sick, and lacks health insurance.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.™

©wjr 2005, 2010


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

802/99 Too Many Rights

802/99 Too Many Rights


Third in our series of year end re-runs, this originally ran 6/18/06

This could have been Abbott and Costello. Or Olsen and Johnson. Or Laurel and Hardy.

But it wasn't. It was just "E" and "K" trying to put together a four-drawer plastic cabinet.

The first hint that all wouldn't be well was the label on the box: one part of it said "easy to assemble." There is no such thing as easy to assemble. And it's especially difficult when it says on the box "easy to assemble."

Also on the box: product descriptions in three languages, one of which was Spanish. One of the things it said in Spanish was "quatro cajones." You have to assume the word has at least two meanings and the meaning Black & Decker had in mind was drawers. The kind that slide in and out, not the kind that slide up and down.

So Einstein and Kepler, "E and K," unpack the thing, all the while admiring its sturdy all-vinyl construction and its attractive two tone grey finish. There are 4,000 parts. There are no instructions. Not even instruciones. Just pictures. Smeared, vague, poorly drawn pictures.

Step by step, though. Now, here's Kepler trying to put the sides into the bottom, while Einstein studies the drawings. Then, Kepler studies the drawings and Einstein gets the second side into the bottom.

Building this thing goes on and on and on. It's 90 degrees. The vaudeville duo is out in the garage disputing whether it would be cooler with the door open or closed.

What happens when you get a great scientific vaudeville duo performing in a garage on a hot summer-like weekend and looking for distractions and an excuse to return the thing without losing face?

Here's a handy hint when doing this yourself: you can't un-do some of those plastic things without wrecking them, so get it right the first time.

Next, metal sliders with wheels, one pair for each of the four drawers and one for each of the sides of the cabinet.

Laurel and Costello look for markings on the metal. Right. Left. Whatever. Some are marked some are not. No problem. Two great minds can figure out which unmarked metal goes where. This is why we win Academy Awards and Nobel Prizes.

Nothing lines up. There is no way to get the drawers into the cabinet without them either sticking in there or falling out under load – load being the weight of the drawer itself.

Reverse things. Unscrew things. Screw things back. Double check the blurry instruction pictures.

Off to the store to inspect the floor model. No floor model. They don't have these anymore. Small wonder. But a helpful guy shows the two great scientists and vaudeville and movie performers how these kinds of things typically work. Easy. No problem. No problemo.

All it takes is a little patience and quatro cajones.

Finally, there's a case conference. Should this thing go back? The scent of defeat is in the air. Find an excuse.

Carefully going over ground covered and re-covered for hours, the two superheroes find the face-saving excuse they need: the drawer sliders were counted wrong at the factory.

There are nine right sides and seven lefts. That's too many rights.

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

©WJR 2006, 2010


Monday, December 27, 2010

801/351 The Martians Are Coming

#801/351 The Martians Are Coming

This is the second in a brief series of repeats, scheduled for the next week or so. It was originally posted 1/24/08

There's a lot more going on in farm country than cow milking and sheep courting.

There's real science going on, and not just developing new growth hormones.

Take the case of Dipindaharda, Texas, where all kinds of reputable citizens swear by everything holy (and there's plenty of holy in Dipindaharda, Texas,) that they've seen a fleet of sleek, new unidentified flying objects. Reputable down there doesn't exactly mean reputable. But, okay. You've got a pilot, a cop, a member of the Good Ole Boy's council, a country singer, two farmers (one with sheep and one with cows,) and an ex Marine sergeant all saying, in effect, the flying saucers have landed.

Actually, the Martians abandoned the flying saucer around the same time the United States abandoned prop-driven passenger airplanes. The design wasn't working in either case, at least not as well as newer technology. That would mean the piston engine down here and the saucer up there. Jets are more efficient, faster, easier to maintain and cheaper than prop planes or turboprops. The latter? Don't know. There are no aerodynamic problems in space, so a saucer should be efficient in zero gravity and zero air. But once inside a planet's atmosphere, the current spacecraft of choice is the triangle which could be more aerodynamic and therefore more efficient than the saucer.

This is a leading indicator that the Martians who come here and from other planets (a) have their own energy crisis, and (b) want to reduce the greenhouse gases they produce. Kind of a good neighbor policy. Anyway, flying triangles.

Flying triangles with lights. And the lights change patterns.

Dipindaharda Senior Deputy Sheriff Lawrence "Leather Larry" Luckhardt says "the lights keep changing. It's like a light show. Very cool." Actually Deputy Leather said "Them thar lahts..." But it's hard to catch this kind of regionalism in print.

Experts from the World Flying Saucer Center, the WFSC (they have to modernize that name!) say the lights are advertisements from businesses on Mars, sponsors of the flight. (Free enterprise thrives on our neighboring planet. No government subsidies for these interplanetary excursions.) The President of the WFSC, Hans Fertig, an astrophysicist and first man to levitate on the White House lawn, says "when the ships take off, they rise slowly through the Martian atmosphere, and the lights are easily visible to Martians on the ground for hours. So some of the larger industrial companies and some service businesses have used the lights to promote themselves. It's cheap advertising, and effective."

Back in Texas, Col. A. Harley Burkett (USMC-Ret.) says that "the triangles made no sound. And they were flying very low to the ground." He also says he saw one of the strange aircraft "chased by a couple of F-16s from the air base over the hill."

A check with the air base over the hill elicited three different responses. When the UFOs were first reported, a spokesman for the base, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak said "I can't talk about that." During a check-back one day later, he said "those weren't our planes. We had no planes in the air at the time of the reports." And a week later he said, still speaking on condition of anonymity, that they indeed DID have planes in the air over Dipindaharda that night, "so what they saw was us."

A spokesman not authorized to speak, speaks. And we believe him.

By now, of course, the Martians have established a base camp in Texas farm country, and sent their ad-bearing flying triangles back to Mars for supplies.

Somebody call Chertoff.*

*(Homeland Security chief at the time of original writing.)

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



Friday, December 24, 2010

796/?? Christmas vs. Xmas

796/?? Christmas Vs. Xmas

Here begins a brief series of "re-runs," older columns that some believe are worth repeating. This one is from 11/29/2005 and was originally unnumbered and perhaps still appropriate for Christmas Eve (Or xmas eve, 2010.)

Tis the season to be jolly, and already the jolly soldiers in the annual holiday war are falling into jolly ranks and files, their jolly muskets and computers cleaned and ready to fire this year's first jolly shot, both those of lead and those of electrons.


Christmastime brings out the warrior in all of us.


On one side (probably wearing red trunks) are the Hyperreligious.


On the other side, (probably wearing green trunks) are the rest of us. And we, the "rest" are violating one of the main rules of military engagement. We are fighting a war on two fronts.


Front One: the normal holiday hustle. Traffic. INTENSE traffic. Mall crowds. Busy shopping websites. Bills. Clamoring kids or grandkids.


Front Two: atop this, the red trunks are pounding us.

The reds have it easier. They KNOW the True Meaning of Christmas. And in true holiday spirit, they're giving us hell for our heathen ways.

We're just ordinary schlubs trying to bring a little material holiday cheer to others.


How heathen!


But it's not for nothing that our trunks are the color of money. We're working on "greening" the guns instead of putting on that gunmetal bluing.


And, of course, the reds have their right to try to beat us up for our materialistic ways.


The early history of the holiday is buried in pagan rites and date-keeping. THAT seems not to bother anyone.


But no one is keeping a REAL gun at their heads and demanding that they refrain from celebrating the neo overlay they've put on December 25th.


So how about a compromise. Two holidays. Christmas for Them, xmas (you don't even have to capitalize the word) for us.

They can sing carols, erect manger scenes, go to church and worship. We can sing "Rudolph," erect gift stacks, go to Macy's and shop.

We don't have to talk to each other. We don't even have to SEE each other. Well... Maybe that's extreme. Sometimes we'll probably have to ride the same subways or buses.


In which case, there may be typical mass transit battles of the boom boxes. "O, Come All Ye Faithful" vs. "Rockin' Around The xmas (notice, still no capital 'x') Tree." Or maybe battles of the iPods, during which all you will hear is "tshh TSHH, tshh TSHH, tshh TSHH," Which may be even MORE annoying. Other than that, we can pretty well ignore each other. In fact, we can celebrate on two separate days, if that’ll make the reddies happy.


They like 12/25… and because they are so giving, a big chunk of 12/24 as well. So how about either 12/23 or 12/26. Are you fussy?


###


Okay, so you’re fussy. But are you THAT fussy? And now, because today’s Wessay is shorter than usual, here’s a question:

Why would an orthopedist demand the co-payment before seeing you? Is it because he believes his power to cure is so great that you’ll be able to run out of the office afterward?


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

©wjr 2005, 2010


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

800 WestraDamus 2010

800 WestraDamus, 2010

12/22/10

This is the 22nd anniversary of the WestraDamus predictions, presented each December or January for the year gone by and generally wrong. 'Damus started as a parody of the forward looking Astrological year-enders appearing 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 the Tea Party movement. And so, we continue...

Probably the single most important event of 2010 will be President McCain finally achieving single payer universal health care coverage. Congress will pass it nearly unanimously. This will be a monumental task because of foot dragging opposition by Democrats in both the House and Senate, and the threat of Senator Al Franken to filibuster.

Peace, at last, will come to the Middle East, Afghanistan and Iraq, and American troops -- all of them -- will come home. In Iran, Ayatollah O'Grady, the first Irish chief of the Islamic Republic will declare an end to its nuclear program and will make exceptions to the no-alcohol law to allow use of Guinness, Harp Lager, Jameson's and Bushmill's, but only on weekends. And North Korea will stop its decades-long game of "Chicken" with the south and call for unification talks.

But while peace will reign in those regions, some wars will continue. The fighting between Luxembourg and New Zealand that has raged since 1980 will calm some early in the year, but efforts to reach a truce will fail.

Now, the month by month year in non-prophecy:

JANUARY:

(Haiti): Look for a big earthquake, but it will miss the major population centers and the people will continue their new-found luxurious lifestyle.

(Boston): Martha Coakley will win election to the U.S. Senate, succeeding the late Edward M. Kennedy and insuring a continued Democratic majority.

(London): Kraft Foods and Hershey's will stage an arm wrestling match to see who gets to steal Cadbury. Hulk Hogan agrees to represent Kraft. Twiggy agrees to represent Hershey at the event.

FEBRUARY:

(Washington): President McCain declines to present a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Democrats in the Senate reject the non-proposal out of hand, saying it will increase taxes and burden the top 1% of income earners.

(Austin): A guy in a toy plane will crash into the IRS building and die, but the IRS will neither forgive his tax debt nor stop its Austin operations.

MARCH:

(Baghdad): Iraq will cancel its scheduled election because no candidate wants any of the available jobs while the black market in American weapons thrives.
APRIL:
(New Orleans): An oil rig will explode, kill eleven workers and wash the region in unstoppable oil. Nah. That's too outlandish to predict or even contemplate.

MAY:

(Washington): The McCain administration will dispatch more than 1,000 National Guard troops to guard the border against the incoming illegals. Unfortunately, the alert folks at Guard headquarters will move the men and women to the Canadian border by mistake, and the troops will disappear.

JUNE:

(Beijing): China will detach the value of its currency from the US dollar and instead peg it to the NT dollar of Taiwan, which'll kill two birds with one stone. (1) The NT is more stable than the USD, and (2) It's another foot in Taipei's door.

(Chicago): The beleaguered Black Hawks will win the Stanley Cup for the first time in 49 years. Opponent Philadelphia will fail to show for the first two games and will claim to have forgotten their skates for the rest.

JULY:

(Washington): The Justice Department will file suit against Arizona's draconian anti-Mexican law. However the National Guard troops who went north instead of south in May will remain missing.

(New York): Rep. Charles Rangel will resign from congress rather than face the Kongressional Kangaroo Kourt over his ethics charges.

AUGUST:

(Kabul): Afghanistan's economy will surpass Japan's to become the second largest on earth. This is because the 2010 poppy crop will exceed all expectations, and because the European Union will legalize heroin, causing an enormous population explosion on the continent and a corresponding "addict drain" on the rest of the world.

(Chicago): Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will be found not guilty of all corruption charges and return to the political arena to fight yet another day.

SEPTEMBER:

(Washington): Vice President Palin will confirm her opposition to continuing tax cuts for the rich, but her hands will be behind her back and no one will see that her fingers are crossed.

OCTOBER:

Nothing will happen.

NOVEMBER:

(Washington): The Democrats will retain their majorities in the midterm elections, with an overwhelming pro-dem vote for both the House and Senate.

(Washington): The House will exonerate resigned former rep. Charles Rangel ( D-NY) after rejecting ugly charges that he failed to pay income tax and took advantage of a west side Manhattan Cadillac dealer who lent him an Escalade.

(Seoul): South Korea will welcome North Korea into unification talks but hooligan soldiers in the south will provoke an attack from the north.

(Rockville Centre, NY): Jonathan Sumner, MD announces that if the x-ray finds a spot on your lung, you're dead meat, and advises smokers to ignore signs that you are afflicted and instead devote your energy to writing your will.

(Los Angeles): "LegalZoom" founder Robert Shapiro of "OJ Dream Team" fame will concur with Dr. Sumner and offer discounts to smokers.

(Winston-Salem NC): R.J. Reynolds Tobacco says Dr. Sumner and Mr. Shapiro have their facts wrong.

DECEMBER:

(Washington): Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) agrees with President McCain that tax cuts are good for everyone. Finally someone caves to McCain's increasingly unpopular will, just not on the right issues.

(Washington): Congress will refuse to overturn "don't ask, don't tell," proving once again that members consider themselves biblical interpreters and messengers and that they believe every gay is a potential sexual predator.

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS:
--George W. Bush will write a memoir declaring that he was wrong about Iraq, tax cuts, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and about stopping his drinking, and will pose in ads for Johnnie Walker.

--Britney Spears will join the nuns of the "Nursing Sisters of the Sick Poor."

--Wesley Snipes will escape from Pennsylvania's Club Fed prison and never be heard from again.

--Bank of America will forgive all of its credit card debt and offer to sell itself to the Oakwood State Bank of Texas for one dollar.

--Sons of Italy of Astoria NY will withdraw its endorsement of James Caan, (nee Cahn) as "Italian Man of the Year" on discovering that he is of German Jewish extraction.

--Al Franken will blow his nose and thereafter, no one will recognize his sound.

--Ross Perot, Larry King and Ralph Nader will endorse Bloomberg for President, thus blowing Mike's chances.

--The iPhone will admit it has no value as a telephone and really was manufactured only to keep you buying apps.

--Rush Limbaugh will disclose that he really is a liberal and is counting on backlash to accomplish his real goal, a socialist America.

--Don Imus will retire, but no one will know of it because Fox Business News and ABC Radio will continue with reruns.

TOP QUOTES OF THE YEAR:

--"It's a good thing I lost. By now, I'd probably be knee deep in the big muddy." -- Barack Obama

--"If I keep playing a gimp on TV, I'm going to turn into a real one." -- Actor Hugh Laurie of "House."*

--"The building needs some work." -- Real estate broker trying to sell the Staten Island house used in "The Godfather" for $3 million.**

--"This stuff is pure crap and we're getting most of them returned." -- Wal-Mart customer service clerk on holiday tree lights.**

Quite a year here, folks. We don't need another one just like it.

I'm WestraDamus, the Non-prophet. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2011

*Paraphrase. **Actual quote.

This rant will be available throughout 2011 at westradamus.com





















Monday, December 20, 2010

799 Honor Among Thieves. Sort of.

799 Honor Among Thieves. Sort of.

Until the other day, if you heard the name Jeffry Picower, you'd probably ask "Jeffry Who?" Now, he's a famous dead guy, and maybe a hero from beyond the grave. Picower was an accountant and investor and filthy rich. And he made a lot of that filth by investing with Bernie "we Madoff with your money." Over the years, Jeff took out seven billion dollars more than he put in. Invested with Bern-bag for 35 years before dying in '09.

The real hero in this story, of course, is not the dead guy, but his widow, Barbara. What she did was send her lawyer to the U.S. Attorney in charge of the Madoff case and the trustee in charge of trying to find funds to repay the Bernie Bilked 'em Club. Once he had their attention, the lawyer said something like "okay, guys, Mrs. Picower wants to give everything back except the money they put in." This doesn't happen a lot. And there was a lot of fluttering and fussing and asking of questions like "how's she going to do that?" And the lawyer said something along the lines of "which would you rather, a check or cash?"

This will go a long way to reimbursing the victims of the Mad Madoff.

Sounds like a wonderful act of compassion by someone in a position to perform a seven billion dollar wonderful act of compassion. A woman of conscience, without a doubt. A woman who knows right from wrong. Her late husband? Maybe another story. He was known well for philanthropy. He was a CPA also well known for... um ... artful accounting. He also was well known by various prosecutors. Conflict of interest, creation of shadow companies. He found or created "tax shelters" that won the attention of every agency in charge of taxation, plus the SEC. He turned at least one of the charities he founded into a for-profit corporation, once his scientists found some new ways to help deal with some old diseases.

Mrs. P is standing by her man. She says in her statement that she's sure her husband "knew nothing" of The Sins of the Made-Off.
But, she said "returning the windfall is the right thing to do." Someone without this extraordinary sense of ethics might have said "My Jeffry started off so poor, he had to sell the "e" in his name to feed his family." She didn't say that or anything like it.

But... note to Trustee Irving Piccard and to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara: take the cash, not the check.

Shrapnel:

--Lovely house we have. Builder spared no expense. Unfortunately, most of the expenses he didn't spare have turned out to be ours.

--Note to readers: This is the penultimate new Wessay™ of 2010. Wednesday 12/22, you'll find the Annual WestraDamus postdictions in this space. Friday, we will start reprising some older items and continue that for at least a week -- maybe two.


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

Friday, December 17, 2010

797 We Should Come With Dashboards

797 We Should Come With Dashboards (Sent out of sequence)

Modern cars have dashboard warning systems. These are not the idiot lights of years past when they replaced actual gauges with vague warnings about "overheating" or "low oil pressure" LEDs, stuff you couldn't understand or about which you likely could do nothing. In today's computerized cars and trucks, there is, first and foremost, the dreaded "Check Engine" light. What does this mean? You stop on the roadside and open the hood. There's an engine under there, so what are they talking about? Plus a missing engine would be pretty obvious when you turned the key and nothing happened.

That's not what it means. It means there's something weird going on and you'd better connect a diagnostic tool to the under-hood computer to find out what it means. Usually, it's something both obscure and expensive. But it's probably better to know about it than to not know about it. Be prepared to max out your Visa Card.

Oil, seat belts, open doors, air bags. Bad battery. Oh. And "Brake."

That's the scariest one of all. The car stops. Everything feels normal. The light goes on, "brake." And then it goes off and on again a few times. Maybe it's the sensor in the hand brake. You jiggle the hand brake and the light goes out.

So, we take "the world's most reliable car" into the brake shop and they tell you "your brake fluid is low and dirty." Dirty? How does fluid in a closed container get "dirty?" The answer is that it doesn't. It's not really dirty. It's old and burned. "Dirty" is a relative term, and apparently a "technician's" term. How does it get "low" if there's no leak? One of life's great mysteries and the answer, according to Brake King Auto Repairs is "it just does."

Wouldn't be wonderful if each of us had a personal dashboard with lights or gauges to tell us important stuff? Blood pressure, temperature, unusual growth of cells, acidity levels for acid reflux, cataract warnings, glaucoma warnings. And on the deluxe models, a light to tell us when we are about to say something rude or stupid.


Shrapnel:

--Thanks to the dozen or so of you who reminded me that I used the word "manor" when I meant "manner" in the lead sentence of the previous post. It's getting tougher and tougher to find such mistakes, even with "spell check" and "grammar check." But, I take full responsibility for my failure, which -- to remind -- is a totally meaningless phrase generally used by politicians with wide stances or girlfriends or who start wars.

--Football player Michael Vick says he'd eventually want to have a dog as a house pet. Given his records (track and court) for stuff like that, it's probably not the best idea. Maybe he should have a cougar or tiger, a cat big enough to keep him honest and to let him know what his previous dogs felt like.


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



Wednesday, December 15, 2010

798 Mantovani, Where Art Thou?

798 Mantovani, Where Art Thou?

Pal Joey calls up the other day and announces, in his usual delicate manner, "I'm (censored) through with talk (censored) radio and news (censored) radio. From now on, Beet (censored) hoven and that's that! Pal Joey is also pals with the owner of the talk radio trade magazine, but probably won't spread his new policy that far. Joe's not a kid, but he's not and old guy yet. And he cares. He cares about people, he teaches kids who've been branded "unteachable," and he cares about politics and politicians. So, while he's less conservative than the run-of-the-mill talking head, he's not what you'd call a flaming liberal. Tough New York guy who can get into a bar fight, but looks after his 90 year old mother, who needs no looking after.

He's also a man of his word and if he says he's not going to listen, he's not going to listen. Too aggravating, too repetitive, too shrill. So the question is how many other Pal Joeys are out there making the same decision? Radio in general has become a mechanized, automated homogeneous shrieking un-melodious ooze. And that's just the music stations.

Rock radio? Someone took the rock a long time back and hammered it into a thousand splinters. It's so full of niches there's nothing left. Country music has become what rock used to be, but with whining twangs instead of whining northeast and west coast accents. So maybe it's time to revive a format that's by its nature mechanical, vapid, bland and ultimately listenable. Beautiful Music/Easy Listening. Heavy on instrumentals, limited talk, limited commercials and potentially unlimited audience.

What killed this way of broadcasting was the music industry. A format that's heavily instrumental relies on melody, now a lost art. So there's little to no new material to replace the outdated 40s, 50s 60s and even some 70s stuff that was the stock in trade. But some of the old material remains relevant. Show tunes by big-string orchestras, pop standards coated with aural maple syrup, even some country tunes. There's no reason older songs can't be updated or re-recorded.

One of the things people liked about us at WRFM was that we were a good second choice. Second choice turned into big ratings. When they got tired of Brahms, the classical people went down market by listening to us. The rock listeners went upmarket by listening to us. Plus at certain times of the day, we were "music to seduce by." Never a bad thing, though our ownership would have shuddered in horror to hear such an analysis. At least publicly.

Spin your dial and see if you don't agree: it's all the same stuff and it's not worth listening. Some yutz in San Antonio is dictating music choices and whipping air "personalities" into trying to make it all sound local. Doesn't work. Local personalities with PERSONALITY and music with real melodies. That works.

Paolo Mantovani died in 1980. But his music shouldn't have.


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

Monday, December 13, 2010

795 There He Goes Again

795 There He Goes Again.

The Nixon Library has released a new batch of formerly secret tapes he made while president. They break no new ground -- it's all stuff we'd heard of him saying in the past. But there are some dandy things here to reinforce what we already know.

>>American Jews are aggressive and obnoxious (including Kissinger and William Safire,) but Israeli Jews are not.

>>Irishmen drink too much and always turn mean afterward.

>>Italians don't have "their heads screwed on tight," but are "nice people."

>>Blacks should "inbreed" to improve, but are physically strong and "...some of them are smart."

All this stuff happened in the first few months of 1973, just before the Watergate scandal completely chewed up Nixon and his administration then spat them out.

The Nixon Library is going to make this stuff available on the internet, supposedly before the end of 2012. A feast for the ears, if you can actually understand what's being said. For a smart guy, Nixon was pretty dumb about saying the stuff he said within hearing range of his own secret microphones.

Nixon wasn't the worst anti-Semite or racist, or even the most effective one in American History. But he was the man we loved to hate. And much of that wasn't because of what he said or did or didn't do. It was because he was Richard Nixon. And that's a cautionary tale for today's crowd of politicians.

Many of us loved to hate him because he came off as cold, woodenly stiff and scared. He seemed to connive even when he didn't, was shifty-eyed and a blubberer. These are not admirable qualities in a politician. We loved to hate him because he surrounded himself with people like Haldeman and Ehrlichman and Mitchell and Liddy and scads of other night crawlers. These are not the kind of guys you want controlling a president's policies or politics or legal actions.

If you're in politics, Richard Nixon is your template for how not to appear. What you do out of range of YOUR tapes is your own business.

(Disclaimer: your correspondent voted for this guy in both '68 and '72, even while knowing more or less what was going on with him.)


Shrapnel:

-- Thanks to all of you who liked the tribute to Ed Koch and to the 59th Street Bridge. Even people who dislike your correspondent and Ed had good things to say. Ed was there for you ... were you there for him?

--We all know there is no Mafia. But there have been some inexplicable rub outs (or is it "rubs out?") in New York and now you can get a six dollar phone app from iTunes to see where and when they were. Paul Castellano, Joey Gallo and a raft of lesser ordinary businessmen come alive on your iPhone. Strange, but not the silliest iPhone app.

--PA highway sign update: For two days they played a radio alert warning about weather conditions and the weather was fine. When we finally got a pretty decent snow, they stopped the message and the flashing lights on the signs. Your tax dollars at work -- again!

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


Friday, December 10, 2010

794 The Ed Koch Bridge, Feelin' Groovy

794 The Ed Koch Bridge, Feelin' Groovy

Former New York Mayor Ed Koch turns 86 this coming Sunday and they're finally giving him the monument he deserves, re-naming the 59th Street Bridge for him. Of course, no one's going to call it "The Edward I. Koch Bridge" anymore than anyone calls it by its present and official name, "The Queensboro Bridge." But that's okay. The name'll be up on the signs and the traffic reporters will drop it in now and then. (Does anyone call the Triborough the "RFK Bridge? Not many yet.) New Yorkers don't take lightly to renaming landmarks. The best example is when LaGuardia renamed 6th Av. "Avenue of the Americas." No one called it that except the tourists and the post office. And now, they've changed it back.)

Koch got a better deal than LaGuardia. You think LaGuardia, you think airport. You think THAT airport and think evil thoughts about crowds, delays, short runways, late and cancelled flights. The 59th Street-Queensboro-Ed Koch Bridge actually works. At least most of the time.

Of course, the era being what it has become, maintenance isn't what it once was. Back in olden times, they were forever painting the thing. They'd start at one end and work their way west, then cross over and work their way back east, by which time it was time to start going west again. And the trolley has been gone since 1955. But you can walk or bicycle where the tracks used to be. And at long last the signs announcing "No Horse Drawn Vehicles Permitted on the Bridge" have come down. But that happened only recently.

So, Ed has his own landmark and, as he is, it is completely New York City, unlike the GWB, the RFK, the Whitestone and the Throgs Neck. No outside agitators -- like the state -- or (shudder!) New Jersey involved in the running of the EIK. Nothing, but nothing is more "completely New York City" than Ed Koch. He looks the part, he sounds the part, he feels the part. He is funny and fearless and famous. He speaks his mind and he makes you want to listen.

Amazing the guy gets anything done at all because people stop him all the time ... to listen. One of the eight zillion things he did was a six minute weekly segment on the broadcast "Bloomberg on the Weekend."

Program host before taping: "Ed, they want you to have a discussion with me about the issues that concern you, so could we please do that this week?"

Koch before taping: "Sure."

And then, he'd take one question and make a speech.

Program host after the taping: "Ed you ran 50 seconds over."

Koch after taping: "So cut out 50 seconds."

Host: "Okay, where?"

Koch: "Anywhere you want."

It took ten minutes to do the segment and an hour or more to find 50 seconds to cut.

Koch has slowed down a bit in the past few years, though he'd deny that.

Probably his most famous self-created aphorism/question is "How'm I doin'?"

You're doing just fine, Your Honor. And please keep on doing. We love you and we love that you're still here and still Ed Koch.

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






Wednesday, December 08, 2010

793 You're Gonna do WHAT?

793 You're Gonna Do WHAT?

Wait a minute. Who's running that loony bin in Washington, anyway? They're going to add $700 billion-with-a-"B" to the national debt so a bunch of yacht sailing parasites can keep their undeserved and unearned tax cuts for a two more years? And this is because? It's because it's the only way to get everyone to agree to extend unemployment benefits with the jobless rate back at ten percent?

Yeah, it's a mere 9.8. The extra .2 is a rounding error. And ten percent doesn't tell the whole story, as you know. In the real world, the rate is closer to 15 or 17 percent when you count those so despaired they've given up searching. And if you count the underemployed, one can only guess at the figure.

The supposedly populist Republican members of congress and the supposedly liberal President have agreed on a plan that could only be cooked up in a grad school course for muggers or the mind of George Orwell whose Animal Farm pigs learned to walk on their hind legs. This agreement, of course, could fall apart pretty quickly once the Democrats in congress get to sign off -- or not sign off -- on this weasel deal. The first thing the White House did was dispatch vice president and former senator Biden to capitol hill to twist some old familiar odds. He's chances of success are slim.

So this brings us back to the question about who's running the asylum. And the answer is a hand full of Republicans, the minority party, and who keep repeating the same mantra "tax cuts create jobs." Uh, how's that working out for you? How many jobs were un-created during the period these cuts have already been in effect? And all that Republican worry over debt and deficit? Ah, what's another three quarters of a trillion dollars? They think maybe Visa or MasterCard will give them a zero percentage promotional rate on the balance transfer?

This kind of "compromise" is becoming a habit, kind of like crack addiction. Whatever the ultimate end to this agreement, it's inspiring. But not as the President would like. What it will inspire is a "Ban Barack" or "Obliterate Obama" or "Bano-Bama" movement for the 2012 election. Wish you'd read the Wessay from November 8th.

Shrapnel:

--The Highway Department's motorist information radios are crackling with snow excitement and we know this because the road signs that say "special alerts when flashing" are flashing. The department likes to warn people of hazards, which in some cases is the sum and substance of their design and maintenance divisions. Warning people to be careful is a lot cheaper than actually fixing the road.

--Citing complex and difficult security precautions, the U.S. Mint has announced it misprinted a bunch of $100 bills. They're not in circulation. Maybe because of the misprint. But also likely because that "$100" value is a lie.

--A safe journey skyward for Lena Scarpaci, formerly of Merrick NY, who passed away earlier this week. No-nonsense nobility personified.
Mrs. S. was 102.

--Likewise to Elizabeth Edwards, brave and talented, she would not let cancer get her -- until it got her. She leaves behind two truly inspirational books, and a lot of inspirational memories. Sixty one years is too little time.

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


Monday, December 06, 2010

792 Curiosity

792 Curiosity

Curiosity may have killed the cat. But a lack of it or its misdirection is killing society. Today's education "system" is a catastrophe and there are a million reasons. But the main one is that lack of curiosity, or, to put a finer point on it, lack of a love of learning for its own sake.

Yes, public schools are:

--Often run by ditherers and blatherers and too many of them.
--Governed by school boards whose members, vary from the coddle-the-brats type, or are on power trips and/or looking for resume credits or are knee jerk budget cutters. There is an occasional sprinkling of genuinely concerned citizens, some of them with some good ideas that are likely to die aborning.
--Public institutions, which have to respond or pretend to respond to public influence, outcries, concerns and quirks.
--Rife with edu-fads: open classrooms, closed classrooms, multi-grade classrooms, new math, newer math, and on and on.
--Unable to choose who gets to be a student or which student gets thrown out for misbehavior or sloth.

But that's not the real problem. The real problem is lack of well-directed curiosity, a love of learning, which is acquired in the home well before a kid starts school. And that's where the solution to all this baloney has to start. Inducing love of learning and well directed curiosity is not a mechanical process, it's a response to an atmosphere.

If mom and dad don't read, or read only "People" magazine or "Sports Illustrated," the kid's going to go right for the TV, the computer and the video game console.

Obviously, some kids are naturally incurious. It's mom and dad's job to find a way to alter that nature by finding something constructive that hooks the kids' interest. A good teacher can help. They have to find a way to make a child say "wow!" about learning something. That's the opening. Baseball statistics, cars, hair, makeup, explosives, war, peace, heritage, language, art, whatever. SOMETHING's going to hook them. Something's going to start them asking "why?" That's the tunnel in. Once found, the rest likely will come by itself, whether the classroom is open or closed, whether they're taught new math or old. It's tempting to say "turn off the TV." Not necessary. There are enough "learning" channels -- National Geographic, Discovery, TLC, etc. It's tempting to say "turn off the computer." Nonsense. The entirety of human knowledge is on line, and there to be discovered. It has to happen early.

And the best teachers love challenges from their students, anywhere from elementary grades to grad school. Those are the ones who will rise to the challenge and seek answers and study along with their students. If only they could get out from under the paperwork and the thumb of the third assistant superintendent for nose wiping.


Shrapnel:

--Support breast cancer research by going pink -- buying stuff for the cause. Apparently including a pepper spray in a fight-breast-cancer-pink canister, available at gun and knife merchants all over the place. Ward off breast cancer and muggers in one easy step.

--So the House censured Rangel, which was their right or their duty depending which side you're on. Too bad his heroic life of public service has a late chapter like this. But at least he still has his job, if he wants to keep it -- which, probably, he will.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2011

Friday, December 03, 2010

791 Marcus Lamb

791 Marcus Lamb

The Lamb of God, he's not. Marcus Lamb is a pipsqueak television preacher -- another pipsqueak television preacher --
who couldn't keep his fly zipped. He is a slim guy with a craggy Texas face and a Snidely Whiplash mustache with that plastic southern sincerity that guys in his line of work wear like the cheap suits they also wear. He is married to a round and beefy woman, Joni, with a look of at least middling intelligence in her eyes. They do a show together and apparently it's pretty successful.

It is so successful, in fact, that some blackmailers came a long and said "okay, Snidely and your roly-poly-Joni, fork over seven million dollars and we'll keep our mouths shut." This, we call blackmail. So, now what? Pay off the blackmailers who never will stop demanding more or go public, admit the affair and not "use God's money" to pay them off. Which presumes that "God" had enough bucks in Lamb's bank to pay the freight. So, good for him. Way to go, Lamby, babes. Better response than from, say, Jimmy Swaggart, Aimee Semple McPherson or Garner Ted and Herbert W. Armstrong.

Guys who preach the Seventh Commandment and then, after a personal discussion with God or Jesus or their barber, give themselves an exemption. "I screwed her and I'm sorry." Good for business. And evangelism is nothing if not a business.

So, what will we see of this guy's "ministry?" Hard to tell, but the odds-makers are figuring on an income downturn, at least temporarily. So what should we make of this? The same thing we made of Thomas Jefferson and Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Bill Clinton: The energy that drives guys to the top drives them into the "arms," to be gentle about it, of attractive, or even unattractive but willing women. Basically, so what. But be open about it and let the voters and parishioners decide what to do or not do about it.

Marcus was nobody before all this and he's still nobody. His followers, no doubt, are all a-twitter. His forgiving wife is sober and sincere, at least in public.

Get caught again (like Swaggart,) and Roly-Poly will grill his organ of reproduction, put it on a hot dog bun with mustard and relish, and then take to the pulpit herself.

At least there was no televised crying jag.

Shrapnel:

--Then, there's Julian Assange, the Aussie guy who founded Wiki Leaks. He's in the hot seat for posting those damaging cables, but it's tough to stop something like that. And just coincidentally, he's on the, um, Lamb, from authorities who accuse him of rape, which makes one wonder about what's really going on here.

--The local superintendent of schools here in Mount Tantamount was in a traffic stop the other day and was charged with driving while intoxicated. The traffic stop was at eight o'clock on a weekday morning. Makes one wonder what's really going on here.

--Doesn't everyone realize what the tea party freaks are showing? It's exactly the same mud they hurl at liberals. They hate America and are trying to destroy it.


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

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

790 Deck the Malls

790 Deck the Malls

Late November, and the Christmas season is in full swing. Twelve days of Christmas? Not enough. Thirty days, starting with "Black Friday," an unfortunate term that has crept into our common lexicon over the past few decades. The Friday after Thanksgiving "marks" (who has the marker?) the "unofficial" (who makes it official?) start of the holiday shopping "season" (when is shopping out of season?) Why is it called "Black Friday?" Because that's when the country's retailers figure they'll start to show black ink instead of red on their ledgers. (Anyone still use ledgers in the age of Quick Books and Turbo Tax?)

Radio stations that play all-Christmas-Music-all-the-time at this time of year have already begun their marathons. Doug at the cash register says he's already tired of "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas" and similar songs playing over his store's public address system, and that's easy enough to understand.

The Nation's Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center has been lighted. The "other" Nation's Christmas Tree -- the one near the White House -- will not be lighted (or "lit," if you must) until December 9th. Old fashioned, today's Washingtonians. Waiting until the last minute, as it were.

But deck the Malls! THEIR Christmas trees are in place. The stores that surround them? If they were any more decorated, you couldn't walk through without knocking over something holiday related. Stores opened at obscene hours on Thanksgiving night and some of them didn't close until almost midnight, Sunday. Others opened at equally obscene hours on "Black Friday," three or four or five in the morning.

After "Black Friday" comes "Cyber Monday." That's when the internet shopping sites get really, really busy.

We most recently wrote about the shopping phenomenon in 2005 and since then, it has only gotten worse. So, deck the malls with boughs of holly. And deck the cyber-malls with electronic boughs of holly. And don't forget to spend beyond your means. It's the American way!


Shrapnel:

--Happy Holidays to the unemployed. Your extended checks aren't in the mail. The compassionate conservative Republican minority in the Senate -- actually, one guy, Scott Brown (R-MA) and successor to Ted Kennedy -- killed them for you.

--Every country spies on every other country and expresses blunt but secret opinions about the leadership. So all this fuss about "Wiki Leaks'" disclosure of a bunch of private writings probably is overblown, unless sensitive operations or people in sensitive positions are put at risk. Secretary Clinton's public apology probably was necessary only to soothe those sensitive souls in places like North Korea and Iraq, you know-- the guys that want to wipe us out.

--More-on "Writer's Crimp," (Wessay™ #787:) The Modern Language Association is mandating a single space between the end of one sentence and the start of the next, not two as has been traditional since the invention of the typewriter when two often were needed for clarity. That space, space thing is a hard habit to break and needn't be changed.

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