Friday, April 29, 2011

854 Meet Thy Neighbor

854 Meet Thy Neighbor

(MT. TANTAMOUNT, PA) -- Here’s how to not make friends in the neighborhood.

We drive onto our street, and simultaneously take out the clicker to open the garage door and click it while we’re maybe half a block from our house in the Cutsie Condo Development.

We enter the garage and close the door and less than a minute later, the doorbell rings. There stands Granny, vaguely familiar, who says “may I ask you a favor?” She goes on to say that when our garage door opens, so does hers, and would we please wait until reaching the actual unit before pushing the button?

“I was standing in the garage with the door closed and suddenly it opened,” she said. “Same kind of thing the other day.”

Garage door openers send code to a receiver on the motor. It’s a long string of digits usually unknown to the user. The string of numbers has no limit, hence the number of codes have no limit.

In disbelief, we go outside and from a distance try the opener. Sure enough, it opens ours and closes hers at the same time.

About now, Grandpa arrives. Everyone’s smiling. Everyone’s thinking “what’s the matter with these people.”

Turns out, Granny and Grandpa’s openers failed and like everything else that breaks at Cutsie Condos (and that’s almost everything,) it can’t be directly replaced. So gramps goes out and buys a generic opener, programs it for his door and everything seems fine. Until they recognize this quirk.

“So you try your clicker and see if it works on my door,” he’s told. He does. It doesn’t. This is an uncomfortable position in which to be, heaven forbid the guy gets burglarized. Who’s going to be Suspect Number Uno? Right.

We’ve both been in our houses for the same number of years. He doesn’t want us to do anything, and we shouldn’t have to. And in Cutsie, it’s not a good idea to fool with anything until it breaks -- which, eventually, it will.

Nice folks, these. Until someone gets in to their garage and swipes a case of beer and the grandkids’ tricycles.




Shrapnel (certification edition):

--Since Obama has released his birth certificate (why didn’t he do that three years ago?) it’s time for all of us to certify something or other, so here’s mine: I do solemnly swear that I did not make up the story of the Kings Point cameras (Wessay™ #853,) nor the one about the street smoking ban in its neighbor to the south, Great Neck Village (#806 Shrapnel.) Is all that clear?

--With the birth certificate issue put to rest, the wingnuts are moving on to a new conspiracy, saying the President wasn’t a good enough student to get into Columbia and then Harvard Law and did so only because he’s black, and where are the transcripts? And while you’re at it Mr. President, mind releasing a photo copy of your licenses? Start with drivers’, marriage and the papers for your kids’ dog (if they’re really your kids and “Bo” is really a dog.



I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com.
© WJR 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

852 Forty Four If By Land, None If By Sea

853 Forty Four If By Land, None If By Sea

What’s in the water around the Great Neck peninsula? Just the other week, the nannies in the second-northernmost of the nine villages banned smoking on the street. Now, one village to the north, paranoia fans, an equally chilling development, and wow would this have been nice to put into the Spy-Pad/Orwell posting of earlier this month. But the news broke too late.

We’re talking about the Village of Kings Point, one of the ritziest on the planet, once home to the mansions of robber barons, now home to the mansionettes of garment district, insurance and Wall Street barons.

The village is in the process of placing cameras at the village’s 44 entry points. Not a big deal in the age of spy cams, security cams, traffic cams and such. But this one has a new wrinkle. The cams aren’t just there to make sure they have video of the latest deli heist artist (Heavens! Do they have delis in Kings Point? Yes.)

These are license cams designed to photograph every plate that comes crosses the border. Even this isn’t extreme in today’s climate. But here comes the new twist: every plate recorded is going to be sent to a national data base and checked for warrants, fugitive status and all kinds of other stuff. Great way for the cops to keep an eye out, right? Keep riffraff out of the place or at least tail it.

In 2001, the US Supreme Court ruled in an odd case, and the decision was and is the object of cop scorn. It declared you can’t use infrared scanning of building interiors from ground or air to see if hanky panky lurks, unless you have a warrant?

How is today’s news any different? What’s next, stop and frisk? A license plate may be “in public view.” But the data collected by law enforcement is not, unless there’s probable cause to suspect criminal activity.

“Pull over, Granny, you fugitive! We’re not fooled by that matronly exterior of yours. We know there’s a bench warrant on file for you for running a stop sign in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 2004!”

If you want to pull a heist, burglarize a mansionette, commit a murder in Kings Point, you’d better come in by boat. The village has water on three sides.

And if you’re fleeing from the smoking police one village to the south, you’d better flee on bicycle or on foot.




Shrapnel:

--Comment from a reader on Wessay™ #852, “Radio Dies Again”: “you're saying terrestrial radio is really nothing more than Conelrad!” Response to this response: No, Conelrad had better announcers and no commercials.” (Conelrad was set up to warn us of an enemy attack, and stands for Control of Electromagnetic Radiation.)

--A new self-published E Book, another yarn about traveling around the country, has taken a page (excuse that one, please!) from the movie and television industries. Commercials in every chapter, and plenty of paid for “product placement.” Your book will continue “after these messages.”


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com.
© WJR 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

852 Radio Dies Again

852 Radio Dies Again

Here we go again. (Insert the new technology of your choice) is going to kill (insert the old technology of your choice.) But it never really happens, does it?

Movies are going to kill live theater. Television is going to kill movies. Television is going to kill radio. Cable and Satellite TV are going to kill broadcast TV. FM is going to kill AM. Satellite radio/internet radio is going to kill “regular” radio. Citizens Band is going to kill the amateur band. And the internet is going to kill every other means of communication.

The latest of radio’s death predictions or threats comes from the little portable music players. Everyone who’s anyone has one or more. They’re in your pocket, your handbag, your bedroom, your kitchen, your car.

Radio’s death? Not going to happen.

Why not? Because we still need plain ole radio free stuff, spare the cost of the hardware (which you can buy for as little as a buck at those “dollar” stores.)

“Oh, but I can choose my own music with an MP3 player and not have to listen to 1000 commercials about reducing my credit card debt, buying gold or finding the right untested food supplement for my (memory) (energy) (aging body) (eye condition) (colon condition) (prostate condition.) And I don’t need a weather forecast every five minutes.”

Your music player going to warn you when you have three minutes to duck an oncoming tornado? How about when the levees on your riverbank are about to cave in? Things like that.

Rely on your RSS feeds? Wait for a notification on your smartphone? (You and it will be separated and swept away because the cell tower will have gone down before it can tell you “run for your lives, it’s Godzilla.” Radio “towers” can be faked by stringing bell wire between trees or phone polls.)

So there you are in the midst of Katrina with your Greatest Zydeco Super Rap Hits MP3 playing in your head. Or you’re zooming along unlit State Route 11232 at 70 in the middle of the night and you don’t know the bridge up ahead has washed out or fallen into the river. Or there’s been a radiation leak at your neighborhood nuke plant.

But don’t worry, be happy, at least you’ll crash or drown or get a good dose of some poisonous element in a “positive” state of mind as the music goes round and round and it comes out ...nowhere.

Or you can just turn on the radio.




Shrapnel:

--A friend writes of our Orwell piece (#851 4/22/11) “why not call them Spi-pads instead of iPads?” Politics aside, Paul Harvey would be proud of you. So would How-wid Co-sell.

--Guitar maker Jerry Jones has called it a day, auctioned off his tools, and remaining stock and retired. Jerry’s stuff was low priced, high quality and described thus by a player: his stuff is “like a dog on a leash that knows where it wants to go and drags you there.” They were Danelectro knockoffs, built of such exotic woods as Masonite and equipped with exotic pickups made from lipstick tubes. And oh, how they sing!

--The Don Birth Society: What’s in it for Donald Trump to kick up yet another fuss about Obama’s birth certificate? Same thing that’s in pretty much everything he does, publicity.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com.
© WJR 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

851 Orwell Was Wrong. And Right.

851 Orwell Was Wrong. And Right

What he was wrong about: picking the year 1984.

What he was right about: what would happen.

We’re about one or two notches away from those universal tracking devices. Orwell didn’t think beyond two-way telescreens. Pretty advanced techno thinking for his time, but way out of date now.

Orwell’s tracking devices were fictional and imposed. Today, they’re real, and more or less voluntary. In some cases, not just voluntary, but lusted for.

And even these devices will soon be outdated. We’re talking here about iPhones and iPads, and probably Android phones and tablet computers hooked to the cell tower networks. The cell companies are storing your GPS and cell phone data, deep in the bowels of their servers. Nothing really new about that. At the moment and for the foreseeable future, that will remain true. But wait. There’s more. They’re also storing it on your device.

So how long will it be until hackers find a way in (it’s already started, really) and sell your data to... who knows who?

We’re talking real time, date and time, latitude and longitude coordinate tracking, down to maybe 12 feet.

They need this for... what? The spokes-chorus says it’s so your device can find the nearest and/or most efficient tower to use. That begs the question of why they “need” a permanent record.

Not only is it on your device, the one you waited on line at Best Buy to buy on day-of-issue, but when you replace that device and transfer the stored data, this will go right along with your internet bookmarks, your browsing history and your contacts. You won’t see that part of the transfer, nor will you be able to find the files that contain the data. But they’ll be there.

Combine this with your MetroCard, you EZ Pass and your credit card, and your whole history will be there for anyone clever enough or willing to pay enough to get it. Call that 1984-point-one.

Orwellian vocabulary already abounds for those who care to recognize it. “Public Assistance.” “Spokesman.” “Peacekeeper Missiles.” “Valued Customer.” How far is that from NewSpeak and the Ministry of Truth?

In the generation after next, the tracking devices will grow eyes and ears and shrink in size to the point where when they implant them in a newborn or even in a fetus at seven months without telling the parents, no one will need to lust for an iPad.

Call that 1984-point-two.


Shrapnel:

--Charles Manson speaks out for the first time in 20 years, to say he has founded a group to fight global warming. Who cares and why? Environmentalists, because with friends like that (you know the rest.)

--Car talk: Fiat has increased its stake in Chrysler to 46 percent and the federal government apparently is speeding efforts to dump what’s left of its General Motors shares in a pell-mell race to break even. What do these guys know about these companies that the rest of us don’t?

--Remembering Ludwig Frohman, born 4/22/1901. “Uncle Ludy” to us all. And the kindest, gentlest gentleman who ever lived, and who lived far too few years.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com. Although that won’t soon be necessary, as I will tune you in and know what you’re thinking without your saying so.

Thanks to Charles Richards for the terms 1984.2 and .2.
© WJR 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

850 Greetings TO Your Uncle Sam

850 Greetings To Your Uncle Sam

Nostalgia Item: Greetings FROM your Uncle Sam once was shorthand for “you’re drafted.”

News Item: The rating service Standard & Poors has lowered the long term outlook for US debt and deficit to “negative,” believing that America might face lowering of its AAA (top) rating within in the next two years if it doesn’t get its house in order.

Explanation of News Item: What it means is that Treasury Securities could be removed from the list of top investments, which would mean Uncle’s borrowing costs would increase, piling on still more debt.

Further Explanation of News Item: Even the financial mavens have had their fill of the B.S. that passes for “working on deficit reduction” in D.C.

Greetings To Your Uncle Sam:

Dear Cardmember,

Although your credit report shows you’re having trouble with your budget, you are a valued customer with an excellent repayment record. So we have a special offer for you. Use the enclosed checks to get a great rate on purchases, cash or balance transfers for 12 months.

Pay off higher interest creditors, buy a fleet of battleships or a bridge to nowhere, fund Social Security and Medicare, clean up the environment, give tax breaks to zillionaires without feeling the pinch. Use the checks any way you want and pay only a low 5.99% APR on your balance. Just make sure you don’t exceed your credit limit. And don’t use the money to pay your debt to us.

Please be sure to use these checks right away, as they must post to your account by May 2, 2011.

Sincerely,

Your Friends at Capital Kneecapper Bank MasterCard of Howard Beach, Queens.

One way to solve the “crisis.” Of course, if it costs Uncle a little more to borrow when the credit rating drops. So who’s going to benefit? Why, many of the companies who are on the S&P 500 at least 80 of which are in the category “financials” and who knows how many plain ole banks.

After the expiration of the “low interest” year, the price goes up to your regular rate, which for many is about 15% a year, and no one at Kneecapper bank is going to be arrested for that.

The customer retention specialists at S&P must be working overtime, as in “Look what we’re going to hand over to you if you can wait a year or two!”

As the ad slogan goes, “What’s in YOUR wallet?”

Shrapnel (getting even edition):

--Got lousy marks in high school? Some who did got even in a survey by giving bad grades back to the schools. Turnabout is fair play.

--Are you a disappointed Mets fan? Get even by getting legit bargain tickets for the best seats in the house. Great ploy by a team that’s having its second consecutive bad season and needs to fill the seats so they can mend their financial fence.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com.
© WJR 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

849 Sure It's A Coincidence!

849 Sure, It’s a Coincidence!

A long time ago in a far-off place called America, radio stations were pretty much locally owned and operated. There were a zillion broadcasting companies with a zillion owners.

Today, things have changed. There remain a zillion radio stations, but only a handful of owners.

In olden times, radio tried to be “most things to most people.” Today, it formats are niche-a-fied so thinly that you almost have your own station, no matter what your interest.

But long ago in that far off place called America, when radio was most things to most people, there was an interesting phenomenon that took place.

When “top 40” stations competed, you’d likely hear a song on one of them and then five minutes later, you’d hear the same song on their competition. Coincidence? Maybe. Everyone based their music rotations on the same charts. But maybe not. Were they listening to one another? Everyone denied that. But who knows?

This doesn’t happen on today’s radio. But it does happen on the TV shopping channels.

Say it’s “Diamond Day” on the Liquidation Channel. Somehow it’s also “Diamond Day” on the Jewelry Channel and on Shop NBC.

If QVC is running a celebrity chef special on a food processor or a set of kitchen knives, chances are there will be something similar on Shop NBC or Home Shopping Network.

One of the channels has Emeril. At the same time, another has Wolfgang Puck. Bedroom stuff on HSN? Flip over to QVC and get... bedroom stuff. Watches on Shop NBC? Watches on JTV. Computers on HSN? Computers on QVC.

Yanking a record from the rack and playing it on air is pretty easy. But having a full blown “show” on one channel and another on another? Not nearly as easy to do.

So, how do they do that?

Shrapnel:

--We are fast approaching the 23rd anniversary of the death of Sandy Denny, Irish songster and writer of “Who Knows Where the Time Goes.” Sandy was the Woody Guthrie of Ireland, but had problems with alcohol and drugs, and pregnancy, and wanted to be remembered as someone who died in the explosion of a car bomb in Belfast. But it wasn’t that simple. She killed herself in a dozen different ways, none of them having to do with Irish patriotism and none with intent.

--And we are slowly approaching the fourth anniversary of the death of Tommy Makem of lung cancer. Tommy was an Irish songwriter performer and story teller, and an innkeeper of fine repute with a joint on 57th Street that was second to none for corned beef and cabbage and music of the Emerald Isle.

--Congratulations to Connell McShane, soon to replace the venerable Charles McCord as Don Imus’ news guy and probable foil. Watching McShane grow from smart kid to top shelf journalist has been one of life’s great pleasures. Guys like this promote hope that journalism and commentary will survive the current wasteland which it has become.



I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com.
© WJR 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

848 It's The Producer, Stupid

848 It’s The Producer, Stupid

“American Idol” is winding up for the Big Finish. That means the endless and most boring season, the tenth, mercifully, will soon end. Even in its dotage, even without the elements that made it famous and closely watched in the first place, Idol scores well in the ratings.

And the contestants in this year have been widely acclaimed as the “best ever,” even by critics who (rightly) hate the show.

But it’s a fact: the stuff we’ve heard from the intentionally diminishing roster of finalists gets better each week.

Without getting into who’s better than whom, and who should or shouldn’t win, those remaining in the race are putting on star-quality performances and showing winning personalities.

Today, this troupe is far better than the gaggle of no-talents we saw at the beginning of the season. And why is that? Is it because suddenly hidden talent has emerged and flowered? No. It’s because now, these kids are working with full orchestras, backup singers, makeup artists, movement coaches, vocal coaches, professional sets, highly polished, top shelf audio and video people and first rate music producers.

These are the people behind the stars... yesterday, today and tomorrow. These are the people who fearlessly tell a performer “You screwed up. Here’s how. Now, do it again.”

The performers have to have the instinct. But the producers can take lemons and turn them into lemonade.

This program has shown over the years that America loves:

--Fat blonde women.
--Fat black women.
--Southerners.
--People with previous record deals.
--People who scream instead of sing.
--People who are willing to sign restrictive management contracts with the owners of the show.

By that measure, the biggest talent still on the show, North Carolina’s Scotty McCreary, 17, and a stunning country basso, probably won’t win because he’s okay with only one out of the six qualifications. And the biggest talent of the season, Pia Toscano of Howard Beach, Queens has already been voted off. (New Yorker, average weight, dark hair, screams only when it’s demanded instead of habitually, brilliant, near-operatic voice.)

The smart money is betting on Lauren Alaina because she’s ( a ) a fat blonde, ( b ) a southerner, ( c ) a screamer and ( d ) apparently willing to sign the deal.

But she’s also become ( e ) brilliantly produced. And it’s the producer, stupid.

Shrapnel (James Edition):

--Jim at the Gym is in his eighties and a lifelong Democrat. Watching Obama’s budget speech, he was speechless -- perhaps stunned to silence is a better description. Not as speechless as he and others are going to be when they realize what’s going to happen to their retirement funds, such as there are left of them after the Loyal Opposition takes a bad plan and makes it worse.

--RIP Jim Branch, former news director at WRFM, 78 or 79, depending on who you ask. Jim was a fine colleague and co worker, a lively commentator and a tireless truth teller when reporting the news. Cause of death was not listed in his obituary in the St. Petersburg, Fl Times.

--Jim Kingsland (see blog links at the right,) has managed to tell his readers that there are a lot of them, without blowing his own horn about it. Second lowest-keyed guy on the planet. Right behind retired MD George R. Caso of Moote Pointe, NY, who would diagnose Humpty Dumpty after the fall by saying “well, looks like you have a crack or two there, let’s we what we can do to put you back together again.”

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com.
© WJR 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

847 Do It Yourself News

847 Do It Yourself News

You don’t need the papers, the internet, radio or TV to know what’s going on, you already do, but may not realize it. So as a public service here’s your personal copy of...

The Wessays™ do it yourself guide to the news:

Just cross out what you don’t need.

-Democrat "A" proposes something. Republicans swarm in to drag their feet and probably block it.

-Budget cuts are coming to the (federal) (state) (municipal) government.

-Somewhere in America, a local school board is planning a "controversial" project that will raise taxes and probably is unnecessary or at least more elaborate than it needs to be.

- A rap artist will be arrested on (assault charges) (weapons charges) (attempted murder charges) (murder charges.)

-A starlet will go into, escape from or be released from rehab.

-A mass transit machine (bus, ferry boat, airplane) in (the Philippines,) (Malaysia,) (India,) will sink or crash or hit something killing X number of people and injuring Y others. Later, investigators will determine (the cockpit crew was playing cards instead of flying,) (the bus driver fell asleep at the wheel) (the ferry was way overcrowded.)

-Toys and children's jewelry imported from (China) (Indonesia) (Vietnam) (Thailand) will be found to have greater than acceptable levels of (lead) (mercury) (small component choking hazards,) and will be removed from the market by (Wal-Mart) (Target) (Toys R Us.)

A US citizen has been detained in (Libya,) (North Korea,) (China,) (Somalia.)

Experts say a “toxic climate” is being created by (Glenn Beck,) (Rush Limbaugh,) (Keith Olbermann,) (Fox News,) (The supermarket tabloids.)

In sports:

-Teams that seem never to lose will lose. Or win again.

-A baseball star will be accused of using or defend himself against charges of using (steroids) (human growth hormone) (spitballs.)

-Tiger Woods will (win) (finish in the top five) (not finish in the top five) on the PGA tour.

On Wall Street:

-The Dow will close x-points lower because of (the tsunami in Japan,) (the Libyan oil situation,) (the worsening financial situation in Portugal.)

-The Dow will close x-points higher because of (mass firings at a Fortune 500 company,) (a change at the top of a Fortune 500 company,) (increased retail sales,) (decreased wholesale inventories.)

-Authorities in (New York,) (Washington,) (Cleveland,) will uncover what they describe as a Ponzi scheme and arrested (fill in the blank,) accusing him of being a “Mini Madoff.”

And that's the news... yesterday, today and tomorrow.

See? You knew it all the time.

Shrapnel:

--Waterboard Watch: People have “confessed” to the Belarus subway bombing that killed a dozen and injured 200 others. Thus, Law & Order Minsk is probably a better TV show than Law & Order Gilgo Beach. (More on the latter to be posted 4/15/11.)

--You’ll be happy to note a positive earnings report. It’s from JP Morgan Chase bank. Now, if they could teach their contractor to how to keep customer info secret, we might stop thinking of them as “Bank of the Walking Dead.”

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com.
© WJR 2011