Friday, June 29, 2012

1037 The Virtual Barbecue

1037 The Virtual Barbecue

You could call this the “virtual formal dinner,” or any other gathering if you want.  But in keeping with the season, we’ll make it barbecues.

There no longer is a reason to hold real ones.  We have Facebook, Twitter, Skype, MySpace, “Go to meeting.com,” and all these connection services.  All that we need to stay at home with virtual friends are CARE packages and a webcam.  And if your computer doesn’t have a webcam, you can buy one for less than the cost of gasoline enough to go to someone’s house.

In Pennsylvania and some other backward states, these cannot contain adult beverages.  But you can always improvise.  In the real world, they can.

So, invite your friends.  Not just from the neighborhood, but from anywhere on the planet.

Send each one a CARE package and let the fun begin.

Aside: Everyone can get drunk and pose little or no danger to himself or the people around him.  And if someone gets unruly or obnoxious, you can cut him out of the video conference without having to take him aside and shake your finger in warning, or having him sleep it off on your couch.

If someone overeats, it’s HIS bathroom’ll get messed up, not yours.

Why should all meetings be business meetings, right?  You no longer travel from Portland East to Portland West for a conference, so why would you do that for a picnic or a barbecue.

And if you want to leave early, just tell everyone you have a low battery or your computer has become unstable or you forgot to pay your internet bill.

No parking worries.  No drinking worries.  No food poisoning worries (probably.)  No stalkers or stalkees.  No screaming bratty kids, no slobbering dogs.  And if you don’t want to watch the ball game on TV, you can avoid it easily.

You can still say something stupid.  But you can’t DO something stupid.  And you don’t have to drive home in the dark.


Shrapnel:

--Chief Justice Roberts’ approval of the Obama administration’s health care mandate certainly came as a surprise to many of us.  Guy starting to look at his legacy, seeing what he’s done and trying to make amends?  Or just a fluke...  maybe having a bad day and didn’t read over what he wrote.

--Fox and CNN got the health law decision wrong at first.  Can’t really blame them.  News organizations often write versions of big stories to match all kinds of outcomes.  Usually, though, the people who push the buttons that put out the stories check which button they’re pushing before they push it.

--Ann Curry has a new job and in it will give NBC News an international presence it can well use.  And the Katie-like Savannah Guthrie will be a big hit.  What the media writers who cluck about all this don’t always tell you is that the ratings loss at the hands of Good Morning America was pretty short-lived.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

1036 The Fading Charlie

1036 Fading Charlie

The Lion of Lenox Avenue lives to roar another day.  Seven hundred thirty days, more accurately.  But make no mistake about it, this is Charles Rangel’s last term. His win in the primary pretty much assures his win in the general election, though there is a Republican candidate and a Libertarian.

Charlie, looking better than any time in the last year or two, should savor the victory and so should the residents of his newly-configured district.  He’s 84 years old, tinged by scandal (more about which in a moment,) and was first elected in 1970.

Working against him this year:  The 2010 census reshaped the district to include parts of the Bronx and the population of the new shape is majority-Hispanic.  Working for him:  too many opponents for anyone to make any headway against a savvy guy with a savvy organization and plenty of money.

Also working for him:  enormous popularity in Harlem, where voter turnout is historically high.

Rangel’s constituents don’t much care about his rent-controlled office or the big Cadillac, ethical “challenges,” and all the fodder for the political junkies in Washington and Albany and other places that don’t have a vote.

They still throw flower petals along his path along 125th St.  They still see him working the streets when he doesn’t have to.  They still see plenty of the results of his seniority.  He’s not just a sentimental favorite.  He’s a favorite because he brings clout to the clout-less.

But in the era of identity politics, that Hispanic majority is going to put one of its own in office next time.

The New York political establishment (and the Harlem political establishment which is not the same thing) was behind him this time.  It won’t be again.  

The 2014 campaign is already underway.  And while Rangel’s primary foes have “pledged to work with him,”  they won’t.  He doesn’t need them.  And they need him to retire.  

This space routinely shows support for this guy, and in that way, nothing has changed.

So congratulations, Charlie.  See you for the Gospel Brunch at Sylvia’s.

Shrapnel (Sandusky aftershocks edition):

--The usual high tide of hate mail came rolling in after the Sandusky/Fourth Monkey post of earlier this week.  Penn State people are nothing if not loyal.  And defensive.

--Headline on the local paper: “Construction Projects Underway to Improve Campus.”  Guys, there isn’t a shovel big enough to improve what needs improvement.  Later they changed the headline to “Summer Projects Under Way Across Penn State Campus.”

--This may be the right time and place to introduce a new feature by the Associated Wes.  That’s the eldest offspring, living far away from the thriving metropolis of State College.   He writes:

Jerry Sandusky’s career-long rise to infamy has catapulted him to the top of the breakfast, lunch and dinner menu in prison.  And guards cite his bowlegged tiptoeing around the showers looking for soap.

Other stories in the pipeline:  Why people wear ties... and the currency market.  Stay tuned.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

1035 Jerry Sandusky and the Fourth Monkey

1035 Sandusky and the Fourth Monkey

(University Park PA) --  So the serial predator Sandusky has been convicted of... serial predation.   But this is just the tip of the iceberg.  In wait beneath the now- roiled waters is the College Built on Lies... many of which will no longer require sonar to spot.

Here are some of them, starting with the official seal and the founding date: 1855.   What was founded in 1855 was the Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania.  Seven years later, it became The Agricultural College of Pennsylvania.  It morphed into Pennsylvania State College only in 1875.  And it became the Pennsylvania State University only in 1953.  Pick any date you like between 1875 and 1953 as “minute one.”

Then there’s the location.  University Park?  It doesn’t really exist as a geographic entity.  It’s not a place, it’s just what they call the main campus.

So, you start with a lie, especially one that’s widely accepted, you continue down that path.

Here’s another.  The school has this peculiar ownership, part private, part state.  Answering to two masters is answering to none.  Which face is the real one, if either?  Pretty easy to play one part against the other.  Equally easy to hide behind either one, depending on the whim or perceived need of the moment.

Now, with the Sandusky boy rape issue out of the way, more or less, now let’s get to the real story, which is lies of omission.  

People knew about this stuff more than a decade ago.  Or at least they suspected.  So the fourth monkey won... Hear No Evil, See No Evil and Speak No Evil remained deaf, dumb and blind while the rogue or misnamed Do No Evil, founded in 1855, continued his/its rampage.

This school had been a two man show for a long time.  One star was the football coach, Joe Paterno, who may or may not have known about this stuff, but still is Saint Joseph to a lot of people and maybe he should be.  After all, what is Penn State without football?  The other was marathon president Graham Spanier, by all accounts a micromanager without whose advice and consent no one so much as sneezed.

Most colleges are rats nests of territoriality, ego and self delusion.  At Penn State, it’s not just a way of life, it’s on stone tablets and they confuse Mt. Sinai with Mt. Nittany.

No one knew about Sandusky?  Rubbish.  What else don’t they know about?  How deep did this deaf dumb and blindness reach.

Right now, the school is busy covering up what looks an awful lot like a coverup.  It has commissioned former FBI director Louis Freeh to conduct an internal investigation.  And the Freeh “Commission” as it’s being called around here, is bound to come up with some fall guys.  

But the real culprit is the corporate culture.  Penn State is General Motors.  Big, unwieldy, arrogant, slow to respond to its customers; a builder of mediocrity with lots of chrome and a horrible reliability record.

So, let’s hear it for the Fourth Monkey.  A pretty good run.  That’s going to end for awhile.  But no worries, it’ll be back before you know it.

The smart money is shorting this stock and buying banana futures.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
© WJR 2012

(A version of this appeared earlier at High Heels Hot Flashes)

Friday, June 22, 2012

1034 Don't Blame Curry

1034 Don’t Blame Curry

So someone at NBC is leaking these stories, testing the reaction to moving Ann Curry out of the co-anchor chair at the Today Show.  The program is the company’s current crown jewel, a great center of profit and a perpetual ratings winner.

But there are problems, the biggest one being you can’t be number one every week forever.  The competition from ABC -- cyclical -- is better now than it has been at any time since the mid 1990s. And even perpetually third place CBS has shown some signs of awakening from the 7-9am coma it slipped into when Captain Kangaroo went off the air in 1984.

It looks like they’re trying to hang their occasional #2-ness on Ann Curry and that ain’t right.  “Today” managed to survive Bryant Gumbel and Deborah Norville.  It managed to survive when Garroway decided to record the show the afternoon before broadcast.  It managed to survive Barbara Walters and Florence Henderson.  Of this crew, only Norville’s departure was as public as what’s happening to Curry.

Executive producer Jim Bell is a good guy, but he’s no Jeff Zucker.  Plus NBC has this habit of murdering EPs.  When Zucker turned Today into a hit, they rewarded him by making him produce Nightly News as well.  Bell is being stretched into helping lead Olympics coverage which is more than a full time job.  Something’s going to suffer.  Maybe everything.  Then, there’s this little lower third graphic from Thursday morning, 6/21/12:


Actually, they had all kinds of graphics problems at 30 Rock this week.  The local channel for New York put up the wrong intro to a newscast and thus momentarily revived the anchoring career of Sue Simmons. Simmons was “not renewed,” NBC-speak for “was fired after 32 years on the job.”

So, maybe they’ll can Curry, which would be their loss.   Or maybe they’ll find some special niche for her allowing her a graceful exit from the show.  This woman hasn’t used an agent in decades.  Now, she has a lawyer.  Who can blame her.

The Today Show looks a little tired. It’s become pretty predictable and safe, both virtues unless overdone.  And it’s really three shows: the main one from 7-9 in the morning followed by an engine tender and then a caboose.  Sometimes you can stretch a franchise just so thin before people can see through it.

One of the great things about Matt Lauer is that he understands that the star of the show is the show, not the star.  The rest of National Broadcasting Comcast ought to have learned that from him by now.

Ann has the best voice in broadcasting.  She worked her way through college doing the kind of work most of the rest of us wouldn’t do.  She’s paid her dues and earned her spot.  Deal with it.



Shrapnel:

--Too many British and Aussie accents on TV these days.  They must think it shows class, which it doesn’t.  It’s just annoying.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ® Disclosure: I wrote for NBC News in general and for Ann Curry in Particular from 1992-2000.
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

1033 Copy Edditers Is Unnesusary

1033 Copy Edditers Is Unnesusary

News Item:  The Denver Post newspaper is firing copy editors and from now on, reporters will edit each others’ work.

Yeah, save a few bucks.  And put reporter A’s work into the hands of reporter B.  The two hate each other and haven’t exchanged a word in 20 years.  But no matter.  It’ll work out just fine.  

That A and B were so busy fighting all these years that they never bothered to check a fact.  Let the copy desk take care of that.  “Hey, anyone know if there’s a 41st block on Colfax Avenue?”

Copy editors write the headlines.  Or used to.  
Can’t wait to see what results.

What the hell.  The system works for Wessays™ so why not the Denver Post? Write the stuff and filter it through Word’s spelling and grammar check.  Break the rules you normally break (“Fragment. Consider revising.”) Publish and then let the readers tell you where you screwed up.

Everyone needs an editor.  When it’s reporters editing each other, it’s the blind leading the blind.  Copy editors care about copy editing.  Reporters who edit each other will find some who care and can do and some who don’t care or can’t do.  And since everyone at every paper is doing double duty as it is, the new work is going to suffer.  Fatigue and resentment. And readers will learn to trust the Post as they trust the internet: not at all.

The other day, Yahoo News put up a three or four year old story and nobody seemed to notice.  Google News aggregates stories by machine.  The machine doesn’t read copy.  In reprinting stories, Google and other aggregators count on someone having proofed and fact-checked what it sends out.  Now, some of those someones will be doing that off a corner of the desk and you won’t know what you’re reading.  Brilliant.

Shrapnel (EU Edition):

--The Greeks sent a warning to the EU when they embraced the tough terms of the bailout.  A relatively small country with a relatively weak economy still has the power to topple the Euro and its house-of-cards superstructure.  Stick around, because someone’s going to do it and should.

--Write this down on a post-it note and stick it on your mirror:  Austerity does not mean recovery.  Make a second copy and attach it to your sample ballot around election time.

--The EU put its headquarters in Belgium for the same reason Vito Corleone named his company after an accomplice rather than himself.  Had they put it where it belongs, Frankfurt, the rest of the world would realize that the “union” is just the Germans going after lebensraum.  It didn’t work the first or second time.  And it won’t work this time.

MULTIPLE CHOICE READING TEST:

There are _____________ un-supported alleged facts and/or typos in this post:

[a] 23 [b] 4 [c] another number [d] I don’t know.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

1032 Watergate-Gate

1032 Watergate-Gate

Ironic, isn’t it?  The current owners of the Watergate Hotel in Washington also own Opryland in Nashville.  Want to book a room?  Well, you can’t.  The Watergate is closed for renovation.  Maybe after 40 years, the ‘billies have figured out a way to renovate the stink of the California Hillbilly Nixon out of the place.  

Sunday, June 17. 1972:  Nixon’s henchmen rented a couple of rooms as headquarters from which they burglarized the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Office Building next door.  That gave us our first presidential resignation and changed the language.  Shorthand for any scandal since has been a name, followed by a hyphen, followed by the word “gate.”

So, 40 years ago and it seems like yesterday.  The Dems moved out to a more secure location.  The HoJo across the street is a college dorm.  Most of the principal characters in this tragicomedy have died.  But we still have Woodward and Bernstein, the two young reporters who first printed news of the scandal in the Washington Post (back when it was a real newspaper,) and rode the story to lifetime careers.

Recently they joined by-lines for the first time since those days to write a Washpost story declaring the conventional wisdom -- the coverup was worse than the break-in -- is wrong.

It’s Woodstein who’s wrong.  The coverup is what did El Tricko in.  And it wasn’t just the Post that should get the credit.  It’s the wire services, The Associated Press and United Press International.  Without them, your local paper wouldn’t have been able to keep you informed.

Our MTV attention span prevents us from remembering the nature of this crisis.  It’s ancient history to today’s students of... ancient history.  You know:  first there were the dinosaurs, then Fred Flintstone, then George Washington, then Nixon.

What we learned from this was next to nothing.  Nixon -- regardless of what else he was was President of the United States.  And he could have put a stop to the nonsense in a heartbeat.  All he had to do was get up there, tell the truth and fire the felons.  That would have been the end of it, other than in the fringe media of the time which unlike today had no clout and amounted to little.


There would be no disclosure of secret tapes, no downfall of top aides like Mitchell, Haldeman and Ehrlichman.  Bit players like G. Gordon Liddy would be sweeping instead of talking on the radio. Chuck Colson would never have to had found Jesus and inflict himself on the public.  UPI’s Helen Thomas would never have been in a position where she disgraced herself and her profession.  And Nixon would have served his term and vanished into the oblivion of ex-presidents like Fillmore, Pierce, Harding and Carter.

You’d think they’d stop covering up stuff.  But, no.

Monica-gate, Trooper-gate, Billy-gate, Stripper-gate.  And coming soon to a New Jersey location near you Halfway House-gate.

“Sandusky-gate” is bound to make an appearance once people find that coverup.

The operating principle behind all of these gates is “I didn’t do anything wrong.  The law doesn’t apply to me and neither do your rules of ethics.”

And how many guys since Nixon have used the line “Make no mistake, I AM the President”?

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

1031 Skip This Ad

1031 Skip This Ad

Internet ads are getting more annoying every day.  Even the ones that allow you to “skip” after a few seconds get in the way.  So it’s time to plan a work-around.

We got rid of pop ups with pop up blockers.  Ads that pop down -- hide behind the main screen until you close it are easy to ignore, all you do is close them when you discover them and they don’t interrupt you.

The ones that are really REALLY annoying come up before you get to watch a You Tube video, and You Tube is the main source of music for those of us who want to program our own song lists and don’t like “internet radio” (why would you want to listen to bad music from, say, Minsk or Boise when you can get all the bad music you want right at home with nothing more than a radio?  Why would you want Pandora to choose what you hear?)

If you’re running ‘Tube in the background the ads will play forever until you notice and kill them.  

The local newspaper teases you thus:  Start reading an article and after a few seconds it grays out and is replaced by an almost full page animated ad and you can’t get rid of it.

This is besides the clutter of banners and little box ads that are forever jumping out at you.

Even the pay per view New York Times throws these things at you (you’d think if you had to pay to read they’d subject you to less advertising, but no.) Newsday is even worse.  It not only forces you to pay but it showers you with ads even on the page that previews the story you want and can’t read for free.

A modest proposal:  Since all your websites look like television shows anyway, why not schedule ads like the TV networks do?  Run content.  Run a “stop set” with ads, then resume whatever was stopped.  You could even insert little promos in the lower left or lower right corner like TV does, because we’ve learned to ignore those.
Give you a chance to go the bathroom or get another beer from the refrigerator.


Shrapnel (old media edition):

--If you’re looking for quick and concise info on the Sandusky case, you’d figure the best place to get it would be from the local paper in State College. But you’d be wrong.  The Harrisburg Patriot-News’ Pennlive.com is better, and no ads but the ones you click on.

--The Patriot News’ parent company has some pretty good papers including the Star Ledger, but also has its own problems.  For example, its Times-Picayune in New Orleans is putting itself into the river by cutting back its print edition to three days a week and firing an awful lot of good journalists.  This doesn’t bode well for some of its other publications like The New Yorker magazine, Architectural Digest and Vogue.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sandusky: The Entrance of the Gladiators and Mrs. McGinty's Pot

1030  Sandusky: The Entrance of the Gladiators and Mrs. McGinty’s Pot

(HAPPY VALLEY PA.) -- If you want to read or hear or see about the trial of Jerry Sandusky, accused serial little-boy sexual abuser, you have a wide variety of choices.  In fact, you have many more than you need, so this space won’t be one of them.

But if you want to read about a bunch of whistlers and jugglers running around the case like a bunch of roaches after Mrs. McGinty drops a pot of boiling water on them, stick around.

Sandusky’s trial is underway under the glare of enough television lights using enough electricity to cause a region-wide brownout.  Except those lights can’t focus inside the courtroom, so they’re focusing on the talking hairdos with every television network from ABC to the Zoo Channel.

To its credit, most of the media are not running the names of the alleged victims (or accusers if you’re one of the three people left pretending that this guy doesn’t deserve a trip through the wood chipper.)  But someone with a notebook and a twitter account will identify them before this is all over.

The judge has barred cameras in the courtroom -- again to his credit.  This is one of the few places on earth where you can read that kind of praise from a reporter.  

Mrs. McGinty didn’t just drop the boiling water on the courthouse.  She dropped it on the lofty Pennsylvania State University which seems not to know what hit it. The fired ex-President is suing the school so he can get e-mails which it turns out may implicate him in a coverup.  Two lesser officials are facing perjury charges.  A former FBI director hired by the school to investigate is investigating.  A bruising and meaningless election of alumni to the hapless board of trustees will have zero effect on anything.  

And all of a sudden, despite the unanimous decision to fire legendary head football coach Joe Paterno, no trustee fails to let you know that he was the lone voice of dissent.

So has the circus come to town. Or is it that the circus IS the town and the people watch to see which acrobat falls off the trapeze or the high wire first.  Or which clown gets crushed by the previously tame elephant that has had his fill of being taunted by a guy in a polka dot jumpsuit and with a red pingpong ball for a nose.

Sandusky himself comes off like a typical knuckle dragging football type who just learned to walk on his hind legs.  That doesn’t mean he’s guilty.  It just means that he leaves a bad taste in many mouths.  Maybe more so among the ten boys he’s accused of molesting.

Witness after witness will come forth to describe a relationship that starts paternally and ends in a communal shower.  And each time the chief defense counsel will try to pick apart the stories by discrediting the boys, now mostly grown young men.

He’ll try to tar them with “they’re just after money” or “they were too young to clearly understand that my client only wanted the best for them,” and on and on like that.

And since every circus needs a sideshow -- or a freak show -- that’s what we have for you folks.  Step right up and hear commentators who know nothing of the law and nothing of the history but have great makeup and good suits and who fret and strut and get all emotional or all grim as they juggle heart-tugging shards of data masquerading as information in front of you.

Step right up and watch a huge, storied, fractionally better than average college try to outrun Mrs. McGinty’s pot of boiling water and in so-doing scatter what’s left of its reputation into the surrounding cow pastures.

The circus is in town.  This way to the egress.

Shrapnel:


Entrance of the Gladiators


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

1029 OTB

1029 OTB

There’s no truth to the rumor that Jimmy The Book was running his recreational investment firm from his perch at the minimum security Moria Shock Correctional Facility, nestled in the scenic Adirondack hamlet of Mineville, New York.

He is too busy rising at 5:30 in the morning and exercising and getting therapized until 9:30 each night.  So, resourceful as he may be, he’s just not taking bets.

Bum luck that he has, he got sentenced toward the end of April, just in time to miss the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont.

There are some unfair minded people in Mineville who think Jimmy still is on the job from behind closed doors, using his kid sister Anna Marie to do the heavy lifting.  Hard to take that kind of mean-spirited rumor.  Borders on slander.

Plus Jimmy’s investment firm doesn’t have the resources to refund the early money that was going pretty heavily for I’ll Have Another all along, but more so between the Derby and the Preakness and even more in advance of the Belmont.

Jimmy, though, doesn’t buy the story of The Big Scratch.  Tendonitis?  Aw’ c'mon.  

Someone -- for the first time in awhile -- woke up the NYRA, the New York Racing Association which said “Gee, there are a lot of horses trained or owned by people with doping raps.  What should we do?  Ooh... I know... let’s put all the horses together in one barn and watch them until they’re in the starting gate.”  

That means those funny milkshakes the horses get had to be made of... um... milk.  And there could be nothing stronger in the syringes than Advil.

“Not good for business,” says Jimmy.

So “Another” was scratched and then retired.  Tendonitis is nasty in a horse as it is in a person.  But they shoot horses, don’t they?  Poor baby.  Boo Hoo!  Oh, and the years and years of stud fees?  That couldn’t have figured in this decision, right?

Eighty five thousand people came to Belmont.  That’s about half the number would be there if “Another” had run and become the first Triple Crown winner since the invention of the glue factory.




Shrapnel (wooden horse edition):

--Happy 100th Birthday to the Nunley Carousel, preserved for some years now despite the efforts of local politicians who hopped on to the refurbishing operation once they figured it was going to work even without them. The thing closed in Baldwin in 1995 and now is running on the county’s Museum Row near Mitchel Field, where a ride costs two bucks.  The merry-go-round was built by Stein & Goldstein in Brooklyn... finished in 1912.

--The Nunley was one of S&G’s first efforts.  They distinguished themselves by making their horses larger and scarier than anyone else of the era.  Another S&G is the huge one in Central Park, which was originally built for a trolley company’s headquarters terminal.  It, too, is restored and still in use.

--Tip for the vertigo crowd:  Riding a stationary horse or a bolt-on loveseat is no help.  The horses that move up and down while the wheel turns are easier to handle.  And there’s no difference between the inner and outer rims.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Friday, June 08, 2012

1028 Obomney

1028 OBomney

By now it’s obvious even to the most dedicated of us that we have kissed a prince and he’s turned into a frog.  And we’re all getting warts.

The Hope and Change President has left us mostly with little hope and with change for the worse.  So what’s a patriotic American to do when given the chance -- which we’ll get later this year?

Be realistic:  the war in Afghanistan is still ours.  The mess in Iraq?  We put our head in the sand and hope thereby to spot an oil reserve... meantime, we’ve given it all over to a bunch of religious fanatics of various flavors and degrees who can’t agree on anything, let alone a government.  Not that it was ours to “give” in the first place.

The economy is not improving.  It’s still traveling in circles, the kind you see when you flush a toilet.  The real unemployment bears no resemblance to the actual number.

The stock market looks like the aftermath of an explosion in the spaghetti sauce aisle.

The banks are counting on more relief, though they won’t admit it.  The bond rating agencies have become the dictators of policy.  Bernanke died on the dance floor two years ago but is so crowded by outstretched hands he hasn’t been able to fall down.

The Gold hawks want a return of those glorious days of yesteryear.  Herbert Hoover is cheering.  

The only alternative anyone’s offered is more of the same.  How much more depends on your candidate.  Obama is a known quantity and if we put him back in the oval office we’re going to get what we’ve already gotten.  Romney?  Same fellow, really, except without the charm or the brains.  But if one can extract a policy direction from the gibberish coming out of his mouth and the vitriol of his surrogates, it’s... more of the same.

Hold your nose and vote?  Hold your nose and don’t vote?  Speculate on the sudden appearance of a magic candidate who will save us all from ourselves? Like who?  A Ross Perot who neither reminds us of Beulah the Witch off her Xanax? A Mike Bloomberg who isn’t preoccupied with trans fats, smoking outdoors and the size of your Pepsi?  Almost seven years ago, this space recommended Judge Judith Scheindlin. No reason to change that now.


Shrapnel:

--Mini Television Review by Angela Richards:  The View (ABC)  cluckcluck SKWAAAAWK.  Cluckcluk SKWAAAWK.  Makes you want to run out and collect the eggs after your headache goes away.

--Egypt's Mubarak is said to be in "rapidly deteriorating" health.  Independent confirmation is hard to come by.  But shirtless construction workers have been spotted building a new pyramid.

--Another way to prove you're getting old. You see a tall, graceful blonde woman getting behind the wheel of a really, really nice car.  And the first thought that flashes into your mind is “wow... that’s a really really nice car.”

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

1027 Stop The O-Presses

1027 Stop the O-Presses, Hold the Front Page

It’s lovely, being a pioneer.  For years and years, this blog has been published three days a week.  Now, important publications are following suit, and coming out three times instead of six or seven.

Trend setters, that’s us.

The New Orleans Times-Picayune led the latest cutbacks.  That was quickly followed by its sister papers.  Their schedule is far more confusing than, say, the Christian Science Monitor which went all-digital some time ago, and US News & World Report, one of the former big three of weekly news magazines.  The other two, Time and Newsweek are positively anorexic.

But three days on the doorstep is not going to do it.  “A foolish Consistency may be the hobgoblin of small minds,” as Emerson said.  Seven days a week (or maybe six) is consistency, but not “a foolish consistency.”

There’s gramps at the front door in the dead of winter... “Do I have to go out to pick up the paper today?  Yeah.”  He bundles up and steps out into the freezing cold and snow and only then realizes “oh, it’s Tuesday.  No paper today.”

The all digital format works for the Monitor.   But the Monitor is a good and well regarded paper with an international following.  Most papers are neither good nor well regarded.  And when they publish in what most readers will consider an irregular schedule, they’ll soon be forgotten.

Publishers figure readers will migrate to their websites and be willing to pay for the privilege. Maybe.  Long Island Newsday, once good and well regarded and now in serious decline killed its entire distance readership by putting up a paywall that is both outrageously overpriced and incomplete.  McClatchy is pondering a similar move.

Those of us who subscribe to the digital New York Times do so because it has such a wide variety of stuff you can’t find anywhere else.  But unless you’re a serious news junkie, there’s no reason to.  You can get most everything by scanning Google News or Yahoo News and then whichever un-mediated, un-edited, un-fact-checked websites suit your particular interests, including this one.

You can get the rest of your news screeched at you by Fox or HLN or CNN which is so boring the makers of sleeping pills want to ban it as unfair competition.

Newspapers (some of them, sometimes) investigate.  TV doesn’t fill that niche and neither will the papers’ websites when they finally cut their staffs down to three guys each working overlapping 18 hour shifts.

That’s an invitation to get away with murder... both political and literal.

How to fix the problem?  It takes a village.  Advertisers and readers have to see the value of print and act on that value.

The barbarians are at the gate and they won’t be held off by the likes of the Huffington Post or the Drudge Report.

Still, it’s nice to be a pioneer and a trend setter, even if the territory is barren and the trend is downward.


Shrapnel:

--In the early days of radio, 24/7 broadcasts were rare.  Stations went on and off sporadically, sometimes with a schedule, sometimes not.  Probably that wouldn’t work today any better than a Sometimes-a-week newspaper.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2012