Wednesday, February 27, 2013

1141 Throwing the Chinatown Bus Under the Bus

1141 Throwing the Chinatown Bus Under the Bus

News Item:  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has ordered the Fung Wah Transportation of New York and Massachusetts to suspend operations until after complete safety inspections of all 28 of its buses.

Massachusetts transit people urged that and thus put the brakes on the largest of the discount carriers running between Chinatown in New York and Boston.

More than 150 safety violations found on 21 of the 28 rolling sardine cans.  

No worries, travelers, there are more competitors than there are fortune cookies on Mott St.  Someone will fill the Boston/New York run before you finish reading this page.

And each of them is iffy.  Alert transit folk picked the biggest and one of the oldest for its first swing at life-saving. But each of those cookies will be cracked open and the data read eventually.  And it’s about time.

The Chinatown bus from State College PA to New York takes four hours and costs $25.  That’s about half the time and half the price of the corresponding Greyhound.

Rail and airplane fares are much higher and no faster when you include the time you use getting to the train station or the airport and then on to your final destination.

So this being America, it’s natural there would be competitors galore.

And in Chinatown, you don’t make reservations, you walk down the street and the first driver standing outside his bus that sees even a hint you want to travel (like maybe you’re carrying or pulling a suitcase) will cut you off in mid-walk to get you on board.

Every state has strict maintenance standards, strict documentation and strict driver training laws.  But also, every state has less than half the inspectors it needs.  So if Bus #27 hasn’t been inspected in awhile, who’ll notice?  Unless of course it crashes into a guardrail somewhere on the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Long distance bus drivers are overworked and under rested no matter who they drive for.  Sometimes they have “assistants” like international pilots.  Most times those assistants are perfectly capable and in most cases have actual and legitimate licenses to drive.  

But these guys are paid by the trip or by the mile.   And when there aren’t enough of them, everyone stretches the miles and the hours.

Data collection?  What office has time for data collection.  If they kept figures accurately, how could they stiff their employees?  And what fun would it be if your gambling trip to Atlantic City didn’t start the moment you boarded the $12 dollar ride?


Shrapnel:

--First it was Maker’s Mark, now it’s Bud.  Are they watering it down their beers to save a buck?  Several lawsuits in several states say “yes”  but offshore owners of this once great American brew deny it.

--At some point, someone is going to water down their water.  How are they going to do that?  Probably with air.


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Monday, February 25, 2013

1140 That Old Gang of Mine

1140 That Old Gang of Mine

Shlomo Tzedaka, the last Bronx Jew and Bernard Weinstein, the other last Bronx Jew are at Moishy’s Bakery on Lydig Ave. It’s mid-afternoon.

They were going to split a blintz to go with their glasses of tea, but ‘Mo wanted cherry and Bernie wanted potato and, as usual, compromise would mean defeat.  So each ordered his own and blamed the other for forcing up the cost.

‘Mo pops a sugar cube in his cheek takes a first sip of tea.  Bernie opens a packet of Splenda, pours it into his drink and then goes for a spoon, which isn’t there.

‘Mo says “how can you eat that dreck?  Use a cube like everyone else.”  Bernie doesn’t hear because (1) he don’t hear so good no more and (2) he’s off to find a spoon, which he does.

Bernie:  I miss the evening papers, used to come out about now.

Mo:  Speaking of that, you see the story about Khan the Deli King?

Bernie:  Khan?  A new Jewish Deli?

Mo: Nah, some A-rab.  Saheeb Khan or Sasquatch or something, owns a bunch of stores in Staten Island, got knocked for a loop by Sandy and wrote 82 million dollars in bad checks to cover his losses.

Bernie:  No!  I guess I’d better start reading the stuff from Jersey.

Papers say Khan is Pakistani, comes from a prominent family (doesn’t everyone) was a doctor in the old country (wasn’t everyone?) comes here starts doing business with the mob.  Make that The Mob.

Anything left of the five families?  The Feds want you to think “no.”  The five families want you to think “no.”  The Russian, Ukrainian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Colombian, Mexican, Nicaraguan, social clubbers want you to think “no.”

And yet, every now and then, an Italian name surfaces. In this case it’s Fat Johnny Bull, who was arrested in 2006 on one of those vague federal laws that prohibits Italian Americans in business attire from loitering on street corners in the middle of a weekday afternoon.

‘Mo and Bernie don’t agree on much.  But they’re both history buffs.  They miss the evening papers.  The black and white TV sets, phonograph records and the mob.  Make that The Mob.

Somehow it seems fair that every once in awhile some guy with a name that ends in a vowel gets busted for something like watering down cement or selling protection.  It brings comfort and stability to the hearts of guys like Shlomo and Bernie, nearing the end of their journeys.

Shrapnel (Self-congratulators’ edition):

--The Oscar for best picture went to “Argo” which is a movie about a fake movie... the announcement made by the 21st century version of the Huntley Brinkley Report...   Jack Nicholson in Los Angeles and Michelle Obama in Washington... only there was no “good night Goodnight Chet, Goodnight David.  It was, of course, not night anymore... it was Monday morning but the Academy Awards telecast has never... ever... ever... ended on time.

--The Daytona 500 winner turned out to be one of the regular good ole boys, Jimmie Johnson.  But most of the attention was on Danica Patrick, the first woman to win the pole position and later the first woman to lead the race.  It didn’t last... she finished 8th... but you can bet attendance and viewership was up -- maybe way up -- because of her.


I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Friday, February 22, 2013

1139 Algorithm and Blues (Ad Nauseam)

1139 Algorithm and Blues Ad Nauseam

The computer age has brought us yet another form of ad-noction.   First it was just advertising.  Then came pop ups.  We all made quick work of them.  Now, it’s the nag-a-tive advertising.

They email you constantly.  There even are companies that help business nag you to death.  Turnoff. How many emails can one take from one source before marking them spam and letting Google heave this stuff over the side of the ship for you.  No heavy lifting.

No more popups.  Now we have “pop-throughs”  You’re on a page.  You click on a link and instead of the link, you get a pop-through that takes up most but not all of your screen.  Brilliant.  There’s a solution.  Tell ya later, keep reading.

Newer animated ads or ads with sound are hard to ignore.  And many of them want to panic you into buying home security systems or computer security systems … “YOUR COMPUTER MAY BE AT RISK!!!!”  “WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU CAME HOME AND YOUR LITTLE BABY AND HIS BABY SITTER WERE KIDNAPPED????”

Along with pop-throughs, favorites of the newspaper websites that charge you for page views:  drop-downs.  They fall like a theater curtain. Sometimes you can’t raise them until they have their way with you.  And sometimes they keep coming back, no matter what.

But here’s some praise for one form of advertising, the little things in the right margin of G-mail.  Why praise?  Well, two reasons.  First, they’re usually based on some Google algorithm that scans your searches and emails and puts in related advertising.   But that’s not the best and here comes that solution.  You can use these ads to train your sense of selective blindness.  After awhile, you’ll find yourself focusing on the middle of the screen, completely ignoring the ads.

This will lead you to the next stage, which is reflexive selective blindness.  When the pop-throughs pop through, you can X them out before you even know what they’re for.  Training, friends, training.  And self discipline.

Do this with Youtube ads, too.  “Skip this ad in five seconds.... four... three...” start clicking on it when the countdown box reaches “two.”  Since these ads tend to be long, they generally introduce themselves slowly and by the time the first five seconds pass and you click “skip ad” they haven’t gotten around to telling you what the ad is trying to sell.

Constant Contact trains business to nag you.  You can strike back.  Write and give them hell.

Ad-nauseam, ad-nausiciam.  The algorithms give us all of us the blues.

Shrapnel:

--NBC showed up fifth in the ratings, behind CBS, ABC, Fox and Univision.  How the mighty have fallen.  But ratings are cyclical and everyone eventually gets a shot at number one.

--Admitted killer Jodi Arias is giving the prosecutor in her Arizona murder trial a run for his money.  He’s nasty and angry while she’s cool-headed and zings him quietly.  But in the end, it won’t matter because the jury will find her guilty of... something.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013, AD

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

1138 Neo-Loony Crime

1138 Neo-Loony Crime

Who do we blame for the latest spate of crazy crimes, some of them deadly?  Climate change?  Post traumatic stress syndrome?  The socialist monster eating America?  The fascist monster eating America?  High taxes? High unemployment?  Just getting high?  Too much sugar?  Brain distortions from artificial sweeteners?  The Devil?

The latest but not the greatest is the yutz who slapped a 19 month old on a plane (which he denies) and hurled a racial epithet at him (which he denies.)  The guy got fired.  He’s had temper troubles before, at least according to the Smoking Gun website.

Ranking far above that is the case of Oscar Pistorius, the legless runner and South African national hero charged with shooting his girlfriend dead. Pistorius, like the accused baby beater, Joe Hundley, has lost his jobs... in this case endorsement deals with Nike and Oakley.

Going up the list, another jobless cuckoo, Christopher Dorner, the fired ex-LAPD cop who went on a killing spree and then up smoked in a little house which the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s office vociferously denies have started intentionally.

Newtown.  Aurora.  And...

Jodi Arias, on trial in Arizona, charged with murdering her boyfriend by stabbing him almost 30 times, then cutting his throat ear to ear down to the bone and for dessert, shooting him in the face.  Self defense, she says.

And who can forget that blast from the recent past, accused but not found guilty Casey Anthony, and that blast from the future, George Zimmerman, who shot a teenaged boy for the crime of wearing a hoodie while black.

Are these crimes really strange?  In the context of the age-old history of criminality, not really.  But there’s an anecdotal update in progress now, and while it’s hard to define “crazy,” modern technology has helped create the unofficial neo-loonies.  

Was ex-officer Dorner’s “manifesto” any more intense than that of Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski’s? No.  Ted just had a longer run.

Does baby slapper Hundley’s baby slap rise to the level of Dina and Markiece Palmer’s beating to death her seven year old son because he refused to read the Bible?  Certainly not.  But everyone has heard about Hundley and you probably never heard about the Palmers.

Again, who do we blame?  Let’s consider CNN founder Ted Turner.  If he hadn’t sold his TV channels, Nancy “verdict overturned” Grace might still be an ordinary angry high-decibel continuously outraged prosecutor in a Georgia courtroom and the crime lessons she helps teach each evening on national television would be confined to a single venue, thus eliminating most of the students.

Or Helicopters.  Helicopters cause crazy crimes. Everyone’s riveted by searches in snowy mountains and chases on California highways.


Shrapnel:

--Okay, conspiracy fans, here’s one that hasn’t happened... yet... that we know of.  That cute lab tech at the clinic taking your “routine” blood samples may be taking a little more so they can send your DNA to the insurance company.  If you have the gene for Dread Gonk or some other horrible disease, they’ll find a way to drop you or raise your rates, and not by a little.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

1137 Three Coins in a Cesspool

1137  Three Coins in a Cesspool

So Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Robert Menendez may soon be sharing a cell somewhere.  It’s unlikely.  But it is possible.  Jackson, (D-Ill.) is charged with taking three quarters of a million dollars from his campaign funds to buy some little doodads, like a hat that belonged to Michael Jackson and a wristwatch worth five figures, among other things.  

Three quarters of a million also figures in the case of Menendez (D-NJ.) He received something like that from a contributor, then turned around and did some nice little favors for the guy’s business, favors that put the contributor well ahead of his competitors.

News reports say the Menendez thing was started by a right wing hit group with good research and includes allegations he engaged with underage girls in the Dominican Republic.  All this is accusation.  It hasn’t been proven.  Yet.

Some supporters are in a quandary.  If the hit squad research hadn’t pushed and pushed and pushed the charges would never have been noticed.  But they have been.  And no matter the source, if the allegations are true, off with his head, and the sooner the better.  Let him join the ranks of the corrupt, the wide of stance and guys who jump into the water after drunken strippers.

Jackson left congress for medical reasons, and they apparently are legit.  He’s smart enough to know that if he did siphon off that ton of cash, he’d be charged whether a sitting congressman or not.

The former mayor of San Diego ran up a one-billion dollar gambling bill.  She’s a Democrat, too.  And she’s not charged with any political shenanigans, just bilking her late husband’s big bucks foundation of all kinds of money.

She, like Jackson, has a medical condition that combined with her gambling addiction.  But unlike Jackson, she IS blaming illness for her current woes.  It’s entirely possible that a brain tumor (alleged) was responsible for her major league heist.  So what.

Ahah! you say.  Treacherous Democrats.  Nah.  The Republicans have their own sleazeballs. It’s treacherous politicians.

Scarce few people leave office poorer than they entered.  And Henry Kissinger’s quote is truer today than ever: Ninety percent of politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.


Shrapnel:

--That hotshot reactionary from Texas, Cruz?  Fine to oppose the president’s proposed cabinet members.  But not with venom and unsubstantiated charges that would be considered libelous if made off the floor of the Senate.

--Can someone teach pedestrians who walk four abreast on a one lane sidewalk that they’re in the way?  Same story on subway platforms.  You don’t need eyes in the back of your head to know that there’s someone behind you.

--Update:  Makers Mark Bourbon has recanted (is that a pun?) and will not cut the amount of alcohol in its booze, after all.   We’d like to take credit for starting the protest that overturned that stupid decision, but won’t.  Also, bet you didn’t know Kentucky produces 95% of the world’s bourbon with 4.9 million barrels aging right now... which is more barrels than people (currently 4.3 million) also aging right now.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

1136 A Promise Kept

1136 A Promise Kept

The other day, Andy Borowitz in the New Yorker Magazine wrote a story about the Republicans “reacting” in advance to President Obama’s State of the Union address.  It was meant as parody, but he pretty much got it right.  It didn’t take much to anticipate what the President would say or how the “loyal” opposition would reply.

So here at the Wessays Mountainside Laboratory and research center we decided to conduct an experiment.  The question:  can a political semi-junkie, a news junkie and a TV junkie completely avoid watching this stuff for the first time in... well, a long time?

We started with a pledge.  No speeches on Tuesday night, no reading of transcripts Wednesday morning.

Contrary to popular belief, conventional wisdom and several forecasts, it was an easy promise to keep and to keep without regret.

What is hard to understand is why there is a “rebuttal.”

Article II section 3 of the constitution says this:  The President “...shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them...”  That’s it.

So why have a rebuttal at all?  Especially one that can be forecast in advance so accurately as to have it pass for a humor column.  Is this an attempt to be “Fair and Balanced?”  Is it because the State of the Union Address (it can be in a note, it doesn’t have to be on TV and it doesn’t have to happen every year) is essentially a campaign speech?

What ever happened to the idea that when a news story breaks reporters then follow it up by seeking reaction from key people with some sway over things.  Or even “persons in the street” where dolts and Einsteins alike get to voice their opinions, display their dolitism and their smartitude.
Oh, wait.  That’s work.  It’s much easier to plunk Marco Rubio or Rand Paul in front of a microphone and let them prattle than it is to question them.  Yeah. That must be it.



Shrapnel:

--Love how deregulation is increasing competition these days.  Everyone’s combining... American Airlines and US Airways, Budweiser and Corona, Berkshire Hathaway and Heinz, Comcast eating the rest of NBC, on and on.  Reminder: these are not mergers -- there hasn’t been a real merger since Chemical Bank and Chase, and even that eventually turned into a buyout -- these are takeovers.


--Soon everything will be one thing, a giant corporation that owns everything.  Then we can change the name of the country to the United State.  Think of the savings and profitability we can achieve by printing one less “s.”

--The body in the Big Bear bungalow has been positively identified as California’s crazy cop-killer cop Christopher Dorner. Thanks to the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Dept we are spared the dreadful drag of a trial that will last forever.  Guns don’t kill people... fires do.


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

1135 The Whiskey Rebellion

1135 The Whiskey Rebellion

No, not the tea party-like tax uprising of 1791.  This one’s happening right now.  And unlike then, the ire is directed not at the government but at the distillers of Maker’s Mark Bourbon which is pretty good if you like a Southern drink.  It’s also very fancy and fairly expensive and at 90 proof (that’s 45% alcohol for you non-drinkers,) it’s extremely potent.

In New York, the drink of the older natives is Rye or Rye-and … something.  No one batted an eye years ago when the equally potent Fleischmann’s whiskey went from 90 proof to 80 proof for its bottom shelf starter booze, but Fleischmann’s is only a few steps up from a medicinal rub and priced accordingly.  And you still can get the 90 proof version if you hunt carefully in bad neighborhoods.

Maker’s Mark hangs its water-down on increased demand. It’s going from 90 proof to 84.  Eighty four?  This was announced only recently.  But as you know, adult beverages are aged for a few years.  And it was a few years back that they made the decisions that affects buyers today.  They just kept their mouths shut about it until now.

Distillery boss Rob Sanders says no one will notice the difference.  Not even their taste testers could tell, he claims.

Oh?  NPR broke into its endless stream of long, sound effect-filled boring reports about third world transportation disasters, water shortages in countries no one ever heard of and fundraising marathons to announce that in Kentucky, bourbon country, this move is not easily swallowed.   Kentuckians are switching in droves to Knob Creek and other fancy brands. (The Old Grand-dad Old Crow Wild Turkey crowd doesn’t care. They’re drinking the instant coffees of bourbon anyway.)

All of this has an economic impact, too.  The original stuff gave you more bang for the buck.  So now, if you drink it at all, you have to drink more of it.  And you can bet the price isn’t going down.

“We study this kind of impact a lot,” says economist Bertha Fumpfhausen-Yang of The Pennsylvania State University College of Hospitality in State College, PA.  “As one of the country’s premier drinking towns, we keep an eye both on the impact on our student consumers and the 482 bars and (state owned) liquor stores that serve them. This is bad news all around.”

So MM probably hopes the snob drinkers of the rest of the country and in Europe and Asia will just accept the change.  Economist Fumpfhausen-Yang
doesn’t think so:  “Our drinkers will probably switch to 151 Rum, which is much more expensive but is 75.5% alcohol.  One drink will make MM look like mountain dew... the real thing, not the soda.

We leave this topic now with a song.


Shrapnel:

--Your correspondent promised himself that he wouldn’t watch the state of the union speech and kept his promise.  It doesn’t matter what President Obama proposes, the Republicans in congress will find a way to stall it.  Their definition of good faith negotiating is to put on their Joe Cool sunglasses and turn off their hearing aids and voting “no” on everything that’s decent, fair and feasible.

--GE is selling its remaining 49% of NBC to Comcast, and doing it earlier than they’d planned because the price is right and the interest is low.  No major objections here except they’re buying the company’s real estate along with it... including the condo floors of what was once called the RCA building and now is the GE building... and probably will re-name it the Comcast building.  While Comcast has so far been a reasonable steward of the NBC legacy, but naming a historic major landmark building for itself in the heart of New York is blasphemous.

(Self plagiarism alert: The final shrapnel item was written for this post, but appeared earlier on the New York Radio Message Board website.)

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Monday, February 11, 2013

1134 Technology Fever

1134 Technology Fever

Technology.  Everything has technology.  While this is true, it's only recently that anyone -- make that everyone-- seems to have to say so. Maybe it's a substitute for "latest" or "newest" or something that includes innovation that the others lack.

But c'mon guys.  Technology is fine when you apply the description to things like LCD lightbulbs or the latest flat screen TV or even those awful and distracting computerized controls in the new cars.  But laundry detergent? Tooth brushes?  

Did you know, for example, that Tink’s B-Tech laundry detergent uses “Byotrol Technology?”  Bet not.  Becha don’t know what that is and that probably you’ve never heard of Byotrol Technology.  Other obscure brands have other technologies.  

Okay, how about a brand you HAVE heard of.  Oxyclean uses oxygen bleach technology.  Not just oxygen bleach, mind you, but oxygen bleach TECHNOLOGY.

Back in 1914 when Proctor & Gamble came up with its very first detergent they called it Oxydol.  Guess what?  Yep, oxygen bleach.  No technology.  Just oxygen bleach.

A well known hair brush uses Gemstone technology to make its bristles.  It’s a hairbrush, fer cryin’ out loud.  The “technology” involved is attaching crushed Tourmaline and silicon.  Granted it’s more high tech than pig bristles or nylon, c’mon.  Don’t sell your Intel shares.

Wella hair dye features “ShineGuard Technology” whatever that is.
Bounty Towels have “trap and lock” technology.

The office supply boutique Levenger uses the word on nearly every page of its catalog.  But only because it struggles to create and then meet the need for binders and covers for your iPad or phone while basically it grinds out stuff for use in the offices of 1910.


Now, what kind of animal is missing from this technology-crazed crowd?  Why, it’s actual technology companies! You never see the word in an ad for Microsoft or Intel or Apple, LG, Sony, or Boeing.  Why not?

Corporate analyst Anka Blanca of Slivovitz Strategic Partners in Prestina, Illinois says “it’s because it’s self evident.”

Every company boasts of technology except technology companies?

So here we have another word that will soon lose its meaning.  It’s right up there with “solution,” “premium” and “awesome.”

Shrapnel:

--Speaking of technology, here’s the latest from The Other Wes on the Wes Coast who says his favorite thing about weather reporters is how much they're pushing high definition. Do I really need to see the fog snow and rain in HD...  HD fog? What's next, HD pitch black and HD static?

--The pope is taking early retirement at 85, citing age and infirmity, the first to step down since the 1400s.  Here’s a refresher for smoke watchers: White means we found our guy, black means we’re still looking.  For reservations call Ticketmaster and remember, both Rome and Vatican City have anti scalping laws.

--Senate Republicans, in a show of true patriotism, have figured out a way to gut the Consumer Protection agency and the SEC, two arms of the government that actually get the job done.  In doing that, they make life tough and costly for some of the parties biggest supporters, the banking and securities industries. Great news, because for a while it looked like the bankers and brokers were going to have to play straight with us … and what fun is that?


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Friday, February 08, 2013

1133 How To Cover a Storm

1133  How to Cover a Storm

With snow falling, not exactly a winter aberration, it’s time to refresh our memories of how to report it.

This one has caused a bank-run on the word “brace.”  You see it in every headline.  “Northeast bracing...”  “New England braces...”  other than that... it’s a storm.  (How do you brace for a storm?  Do you stand outside at attention and wait for it to hit?  Put on suspenders?)

Meteorologists will tell you that each storm has a distinct personality, a unique behavior and its own fur coat.  This is not true.  It's the same damn thing over and over.

And they're all covered by reporters and producers and camera crews in the same way.

First, there's the run-up.  When the Big One is forecast, it is necessary to dispatch reporters to the barn or garage where they keep the plows and the sand trucks.  They'll set up the picture so there's some poor beleaguered guy in need of a shave, bundled up and with a watch cap on in the center.  In the background will be huge stacks of bags of something, most likely sand or salt and fork lifts going back and forth carrying smaller stacks of bags from one side of the room to another.  No one has ever determined why  the fork lifts have to move the stuff from side to side when the entrance to the barn or garage is where the camera is standing.  Probably they have to move the stuff under their contracts, but don't want to risk moving it so as to bury the poor beleaguered guy in need of a shave, bundled up and with a watch cap.  Or the camera.  

The guy will then say something like "we're ready for this one, Bob, we have X tons of salt and X tons of sand and we're in good shape."  The reporter then peers into the camera with that oh-so-sincere and serious look and says something like "...so we'll soon see all of these men and women out on the roads, clearing the paths ... blah blah blah..."

When the snow starts, possibly a day later, the Street Cams take over.  The news anchor will go from outdoor scene to outdoor scene showing you, the viewer, what it looks like on this road and that corner.

Then the meteorologist steps in and talks in front of colorful charts that show the projected path of the storm and seven different alternatives in case the first is wrong.  By the time that's finished, you wish you were watching the shopping channel.

Finally, comes the snow.  So now it's time to bundle up the reporters and send them out into chin-high drifts.  If there aren't chin-high drifts, seat them on hip high drifts.  If there aren't hip high drifts just let 'em stand up and prattle.

Every damned one of them is the same.  Only the punch line differs.  There are two possibilities:  (1) "We made it through the storm! or (2) We dodged the bullet this time.

(Portions of the above were excavated and scraped from a similar piece in 2010.)


Shrapnel:

--Are you sick enough of those “we’ll double the offer, just pay separate shipping and handling” commercials?  Do you realize that “handling” is a profit center and that usually, the one + one free = 1.5 after you pay all the fees? Anyone out there can use half a frying pan?

--What’s all the fuss about drones?  They’re just fine as any player of banjo, dulcimer or bagpipes will tell you.  And drones have been running both the government and many private corporations for centuries.

--The “Atlas Shrugged” movies were box office bombs.  So what do the filmmakers plan to do?  Why, make Part III.  Maybe they’re trying to achieve cult status like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.”

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2010, 2013

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

1132 Move over E! TV, Here Comes G! TV

1132 Move over E! TV, Here Comes G! TV

E! TV -- Entertainment Television --pumps out 24 hours of celebrity pseudo news and pulp every day.  Entertainment news, Joan Rivers’ truly funny Fashion Police, Sex and the City Reruns.  It’s a continuous sewer flow of Kardashian, Spears, Lohan, Seacrest,  Kate Middleton’s baby bump, Carry, J. Lo, and blah-blah about people most of us have never heard of.  (You lose 2 points for every one of the above names you recognize, three if you follow any on Facebook.)

But, gunsels, don’t chide these shallow, name-obsessed “reporters” and their programs.  We True Americans soon will have our own TV Channel: G! TV. Gun Television.

Things will start gradually.  Many of our first programs will be reruns.  Gunsmoke, The Untouchables, some old John Wayne movies, the James Bond films.

But we’ll have plenty of original programming, too, starting with our nightly feature “Gun News.”  With “Gun News,” you’ll hear all about the latest in modern hardware.  You’ll see all the news stories where good guys stop bad guys in schools, homes, shopping malls and banks, shooting ranges and bunkers.  Plus all the latest news about famous gun owners from Barack Obama and Wayne LaPierre on down to Elmer Fudd and the uptown drug entrepreneur with a stash of Saturday Night Specials and Steyer TMPs in back of the canned food in the kitchen cabinet.

“Famous Gunsel of the Day” will feature people like Donald Trump, Robert Di Niro, Howard Stern, Miranda Lambert.  The whole red blooded Red Carpet crowd.  And we’ll keep you up to date with all the news and views of our enemies, like Sean Connery, Shania Twain, and the worst of them, Sylvester “Rambo” Stallone who once said America should go door to door and confiscate guns.

In the late night hours, we’ll turn into a kind of combination of E! and the shopping channels, offering the best values in handguns and rifles, complete with easy-pay and free shipping, a toll-free phone and a magnificent website.

And we expect to turn a huge profit.  Already, sponsors are lining up to buy air time.  All the big arms makers in this country and in Europe are on board.  We’re still trying to figure out whether we’ll allow bottom feeders, like the makers of trigger locks and gun safes to advertise.  Probably at the start it’ll be “yes,” and we’ll test viewer reaction.


We’ll also have hate minutes throughout the day.  We borrowed the idea from George Orwell.  We’ll put up pictures of guys like Jim Brady and Gabby Giffords for between three and five minutes.  And our off-camera cheerleaders will lead the venom fest.

We’re even debating a farm and cooking show:  Grow your own weed, brew your own corn liquor, the latest meth cooking techniques... that sort of thing.  And a medical show.  Wound dressing, filling Oxycontin prescriptions, and sticking up clinics. (What better use for that AK 47?)

It’s going to be a lot of fun, plus informative.  A place where we defenders of our Second Amendment Rights, our homes and our persons can gather and call our own.

For now, we’re having a little trouble securing clearances from the cable and satellite companies.  It’s hard to imagine why.  They seem to think there’s no market for this kind of thing.  They are wrong, wrong, wrong.

Check your local listings for a channel near you.


I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Monday, February 04, 2013

1131 Bank On It

1131 Bank On It

So, this guy in the banking industry says Visa and MasterCard are changing their rules.  They’re going to allow merchants to stop paying user fees and make you pay them instead.  

The other big card issuers haven’t yet said they’ll follow, but chances are they will.

That means if you want to pay the sticker price, pay with cash.  Means you have to keep better records than you probably do now, or at least get them out of the shoe box and into marked folders.

The teller of this tale heads a credit union, the kind of local outfit that knows your name when you walk in and provides essentially the same services as a bank, often at lower costs.

But if the rules come from the card companies  -- and they do -- credit union- issued cards also will be affected.  

At the moment, we’re talking only about credit cards.  Debit cards and checking cards are another story -- at least for now.  But it won’t be long before they charge you for using your own bank balance, just as they do when the charge a fee for taking your own money out of an ATM machine.

Of course, you have to feel a little sorry for some of the banks.  Things are not all that rosy at Chase, Citi, Bank of America, etc. what with fines and damages they have to pay for doing the damage they did to the rest of us.

No.  Wait.  No you don’t.

Banks can’t gouge as freely as they used to, so they have to find new markets to abuse, and guess what, pal... we’re it.

The upside of all that felony is banks can go back to being like insurance companies, whose first commandment is “Thou shalt not pay claims.”  The “lenders” will bring back the grumpy guys in ugly tweed suits who sit behind big mahogany desks, greet you like an old friend and then deny your loan application.  Gets them aroused.


Shrapnel:
--Speaking of insurance companies, what’s with all the auto policy advertising.  You can’t turn on a TV without seeing “Flo,” that lizard character or his brother the flying pig... the strange little animated “General,” the handlebar moustache guy who drops shopping carts on cars, the agents who suddenly appear when a policyholder sings the company song and Dennis Haysbert.  It’s really wearying.

--But not as wearying as the ads for ambulance chasing accident lawyers.  Or class action medical suit lawyers.  Or drug companies that smilingly list possible side effects, “...sometimes fatal.”

--Expect the jury to convict Jodi Arias of murdering her boyfriend.  Unlike Casey Anthony, Arias admits the killing.  And whatever tricks and confusions her lawyers pull trying for a not guilty verdict, no jury wants to be put through the ringer of hatred, hate mail, demonstrations and death threats like the members of the Anthony jury.

Note to readers:  Thank you one and all for the kind words and the expressions of sympathy after my post about Ed Koch.  I tried to show you the man I knew, rather than the “Minutes of the meeting” obituaries about this blustering, funny, often accurate, sometimes way off base man I knew and loved.  He was a man of virtue and wisdom, complexities and paradoxes and at once all of us who have roots in the grime and bedrock of New York City.  But I have one objection to the way he is being characterized as “larger than life.”  He wasn’t.  He only seemed that way because life has gotten so small for so many.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013

Friday, February 01, 2013

1130 Ed Koch (1924-2013)

1130 Ed Koch (1924-2013)

The thing about this guy was that he was the same in private as he was in public.  And there was no difference between the symbol and the man. If you need to know what that means, stop reading this and do something else.

This is not for people who are hearing about him for the first time and not for people who don’t know that he pronounced his name the way it’s spelled, and not “coke.”

You want to read history?  The New York Times has a wonderful ten million word obit that’s been years in the making and more complete than anything that’ll be said here.

The Big Question about Ed Koch is “what made this guy stick in our heads and hearts all these years when he (insert whatever it is he did that made you angry.)”

And the Big Answer is “because he was real.  Because he was all of us.” He gave form and voice to what it means to be a New Yorker.  Brash.  Rushed, Rumpled, loud, opinionated, good hearted, practical, funny, a sucker for a sob story and a man of his word.

Partnering with him on the radio for six years was more fun than anyone deserved to have in a small room with bullet proof windows.  Highlight of the day when he arrived, sat down at the microphone and promptly fell asleep.  Anyone want to hear a few recorded minutes of The Mayor snoring?

“What’s that ugly spot on your head, Ed?”  “My face?”  “No, no, the real spot...”  this would be followed by a long explanation of the medical condition of the moment.  Old guys have medical conditions, and by this time, the man already was old, as was this friendship.

He took a hardball as well as he threw one.

“Mr. Mayor, I fear you are turning into a right wing whacko.”
“Just because I support George W. Bush doesn’t mean I’ve sold out.  I love America and this is the guy who’ll protect us -- and Israel.”

The kind of variability and complexity of what he supported or condemned was just another way he represented and made real the picture many of us have of ourselves.  If it was Okay with The Mayor, it was okay.

Stuff you won’t read in the obituaries and maybe not even in all those books he wrote or the books that were written about him:

--I like taking my shoes off at the airport security check.  Everyone knows who I am and if I have to do it, you shouldn’t complain when YOU have to do it.  And you should.

--You’re making a mistake.  Don’t retire.  You’ll hate it.  You’ll be bored to death.

--Queens is getting too conservative.

--I was born in the Bronx.  We moved to Newark.  Nice town, but I couldn’t wait to get back.  No, wait.  Forget the nice town part.

On Governor (Mario) Cuomo:  The primary voters were wrong.

On standing up straight:  I’m tall enough even when I slouch and it’s a lot less work.

Endless little stories go together to make the big picture.  And the picture was big.  Big enough so that you needed a room big enough to see it in perspective.  New York was that room.  It’s a good thing he wasn’t mayor of Pocatello.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2013