Friday, March 29, 2013


1154  The Bay Shack

(Moote Pointe, NY) -- You know what a bay shack is... it’s a little house near enough to the water for storms far milder than Sandy to damage.  Usually, they look unpainted because salt water and wind have a way of skinning vertical surfaces.  This particular bay shack is named in the inflated self-important language of bumbling and bankrupt Nauseous County, New York.  It is called The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, located just north of Moote Pointe in Uniondale. (No one quite knows why they spell it that way.  Maybe it’s because it fits the signs better than colosseum.)

It is a ramshackle mess with a storied early history and an equally storied present.

It once was home to the New York Nets of the American Basketball Association when Dr. J., Julius Erving of Roosevelt, now 63, was the guy everyone wanted to be. It was home to the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League in those glory years when no opponent could get a puck past goalie Billy Smith, now 62, and guys like Potvin, and Bossy and Trottier were household names.

Well, the Nets got absorbed by the NBA and moved first to New Jersey and then to Brooklyn.

The Islanders haven’t won a game in the last 75 years and are about to join the Nets in Brooklyn.

And the Coliseum?  It was ramshackle from day one, and you couldn’t get there except by car and you had to pay for parking, but who cared... it was the Nets and the Islanders.  Glory!

Isles owner Charles Wang, now 68, and rich from a company of iffy reputation, Computer Associates, has been the ping pong ball in a game of “who can be stupider,” the Town of Hempstead or Nassau County in efforts to redevelop the land.  Granted, some of his proposals bordered on the looney and all of them required public funding.  A 61 story building and a new arena?  C’mon.  Okay, then two 30 story buildings and a new arena?  You crazy, or what? But some redevelopment was necessary, even the dumbest of the dummies in government conceded.

So, Wang picks up his sorry puck and heads for Brooklyn, where they have fans and subways.  And the crumbling Coliseum, less colossal by the day, is left to drift with such exciting attractions as the NYPD/NYFD charity hockey game, Romeo Santos (who?) New Kids on the Block and Mickey’s (Disney) Music festival.

Of course, the Isles are stuck there for a season or two more.  

The latest bedragglement?  A lawsuit charging workers have been exposed to asbestos.  It took three years to build the place starting in 1969 and EVERYTHING back then had asbestos, which generally doesn’t bother anyone unless they start stirring it up.  So NOW they sue?  Talk about beating a dead horse.


Shrapnel:

--Chinese lesson.  Wang’s name is pronounced “Wong” and the name Wong also is pronounced “Wong.”  But the names have different meanings with the former written 王 and the latter written 皇, a slight difference in sound not normally picked up by American ears.  The “a” is the same as the a in “amen” and the o is the same as the o in soap.

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, March 27, 2013

1153 How to Avoid a Seder


1153  How to Avoid a Seder

It’s a little too late this year.  But we have some tips you can clip and file for next year... a little advance notice, even though the more observant among us have several more opportunities to miss any but the first Seder.

The best way is to sleep through the entire day. Get sick, go to bed.  If you can’t get sick, fake it.

If you can’t do that, make sure you live in an area where there are few Jews.  If you’re invited to someone’s Seder, tell them “Oh, I’d love to go, but I already promised cousin Velvel I’d go to his house.”

Live in an area where the main grocery store doesn’t carry matzo or any of the other stuff... go to McDonald's.  Have the Big Mac without bread.  Pray first.

Sneak the bread out the door with you and eat it in the car, after dark.  No one will notice.  Unless they’re Jewish and also having McDonald Seders.

Oh... there’s also the “I forgot” excuse.  This one works better if it’s true.  “You know, my memory isn’t what it used to be.” But it’s on the calendar, so you have to be prepared to say you don’t often read the calendar or -- even better -- “I forgot to flip from February to March and you never know when these holidays are going to pop up.”

Now, about the guilt part.  We love to do guilt.  Do you suppose God has nothing more to do on Passover but kick butt and take names?  Forget about it.  He probably won’t notice.  And even if he does, you’ll probably never find out about it.

If you absolutely must go to one of these things, go early.  Sneak into the dining room or kitchen.  Take every copy of the Haggadah and carefully cut out every other page.  No one will know the difference.



Shrapnel:

--For anyone interested, the elephant in the COPD medicine ad is real but not really sitting on the chests of the actors.  Her name is Tai, she’s “over 40” (no woman admits her age,) is eight feet eight inches tall and weighs something around nine thousand pounds.  She also starred in the movie “Water for Elephants,” and several other movies.

--The digital age has brought changes to movies, always a casual  description.  The upper crust used to call them “motion pictures,” which is true but pretentious, or called them “films.”  But many of them don’t use film anymore, so how do you ask someone to go on a date...“You want to go see a digital?”

--Some people have too damn much money.  Steven Cohen is one of them.   He’s agreed to pay $616 million to settle an insider trading case. And then, reports the ever-reliable New York Post, he agreed to buy Picasso’s Le Reve for $155 million, which may be the highest price an American collector has paid for a painting.


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, March 25, 2013

1152 Trouble on Treasure Island or the Watch With No Hands


1152 Trouble on Treasure Island or The Watch With No Hands

News Item:  The European Union has reached tentative agreement to bail out ailing Cyprus, force most of the most crooked banks to close, dropped a proposed tax on individual deposits and potentially saved the country from bankruptcy.

In the old days in Nicosia, his name was Charalambos Kenthos.  Here in the states, he’s Charlie Kent.  Doesn’t fool anyone but they all assume he’s Greek, not Greek Cypriot because no one here knows the difference.

Charlie left the old country about the time the Euro became high fashion money, sometime in the early 90s.

Why?  “This is bogus.  If you’re a country, you can’t use someone else’s money.” The Cyprus Pound wasn’t terribly healthy at the time.  And now, all these years later, the Euro doesn’t look all that healthy either, especially from Charlie’s little island.

“The Greek Cypriots are shady and the Turkish Cypriots are not getting sunburned either,” says Charlie.  “We have more banks per capita than any other country in the E.U. and that tax the deposits thing?  Talk about your weasel deals!”

Charlie says the main business of banking in his homeland is money laundering.  “Who do you think has all the big deposits?  It’s Russian thieves, Turkish thieves, American thieves and anyone else who is lowlife enough to be unwelcome in Switzerland, the Bahamas, Italy, India and a half dozen African republics.”

The big money boys are the people pressuring the Cyprus banks and government.  The little guys  -- surprise, surprise -- don’t count. And what do the banks do with all that money?  Why they invest it in such lucrative, high return products as the Governments of Greece and Portugal.  Smart fellas, these bankers.

Charlie likens the EU to a watch with no hands... dozens of moving parts whirring away with furious speed and energy but function-free; making loud ticking sounds, being glanced at every so often just out of habit.


Shrapnel:

--Doubt as we may, there could be something to all this physical fitness nonsense.  Remember Jack LaLanne who lived to 96?  Joe Weider, the weight lifter guy, just passed away at a relatively young 93. Charles Atlas, creator of the “I was a 98 pound weakling” only made it to 82, so there’s hope for the rest of us.

--Homeopathic remedies are all the rage these days, the theory being lotions and potions of old are more effective than modern day pharmaceuticals.  This raises an important question:  Why has life expectancy risen steadily since the advent of real medicine?  The mystics of flower power don’t have an answer.

--Once people came up with the germ theory, made aspirin and started using Listerine as an operating room antiseptic, life grew longer.  Granted Big Pharma comes from the same philosophical base as the Cypriot bankers and has gotten out of hand, they’re still why 85 is the new 65.  Fixing bad chemistry with good chemistry still beats the useless witches’ brews the homeopathics would have us use.


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, March 22, 2013

1151 Why We Hate the Media


1151 Why We Hate the Media

Is it because they don’t have enough reporters to cover the news?  Maybe.  Is it because the reporters they DO have are awful?  Maybe. Is it because the right wing says they have a liberal bias?  No, that’s not enough reason for most of us, plus they don’t.  Is it because the (limping) left wing media says they have a conservative bias?

It’s none of the above.  It’s because they turn serious but relatively inconsequential stuff into a circus.  Well, not a circus.  More like a sideshow.

One extreme example tells the tale.  The Jodi Arias trial.  The cute twinkie Arias is accused of and has admitted killing her one-time boyfriend, Travis Alexander, supposed pillar of the community but really a cheap huckster.  Cheap hucksterism isn't a crime.  If it were, the jails would be even more overcrowded than they are now.  Murder IS a crime.

The woman has lied and lied and lied and now is pleading self defense so the State of Arizona will keep its poison needle in the closet.

The murder was was one of the grossest in history.  Twenty nine stab wounds, a shot to the head topped off with a throat slit from ear to ear and adams apple to spine.

Enter the TV channel HLN which is CNN’s low rent cousin.

They cover the trial live gavel to gavel.  They've been doing it since it began three months ago.  Their talk show drones, Jane Velez-Mitchell, Nancy Grace and their Great Oracle, “Dr. Drew” Pinsky use their nightly talk hours to go over the day’s testimony. And over and over.

But the final insult is their latest show, “HLN After Dark,” in which a live “jury” hands up verdicts on various aspects of the case after watching “experts” like Jose Baez of Casey Anthony fame analyze every detail.

Salivating and un-vetted men-and-women-on-the-streets gather in a studio to give their uninformed opinions to a home audience that appears by its Twitter and Facebook comments -- offered in real time -- that long ago decided she’s guilty.

Arias is a twisted, glib if not intelligent and reasonably attractive nut case.  The rest of the cast is also pretty interesting: the pit bull prosecutor who got his degree at Overzealous University School of Law, the Hindenburg-size defense lawyer who is starting to look like a deer in the headlights, the bored judge who can’t seem to keep her eyes open, the expert witnesses who stumble all over themselves, gracelessly but grammatically.

The “jury” on “After Dark” hasn't yet gotten to applaud or boo as points are made.  But it’s only a matter of time.

This is one disturbing television show.  And something says this is the future of the media.

Some quotes about this case:

--“I have my needles in the autoclave all ready to go”  -- Leonard White Feather, freelance executioner, Phoenix, AZ.

--“Can we get her to cut the flank steak and peppers?  She’s much faster than you.”  Y.C. Richards, retired nurse, State College, PA.
--“Juan Martinez eats his young. Kirk Nurmy just sits on them.” -- Anonymous source in the Maricopa County office of Public Defender.

--“Please send her phone number.” -- William Jefferson Clinton.

--“Please send her phone number.” -- Eliot Spitzer.

--“Please send her phone number.” -- John Edwards.

--“Please send her phone number.” -- Heidi Fleiss

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, March 20, 2013

1150 If We Don't See It, it Isn't There



1150  If We Don’t See It, it Isn’t There

Fresh from his triumph over Big Gulps, Mayor Bloomberg has started tilting at a new windmill.

The mayor wants to hide the cigarettes.  He can’t ban the sale, but he can make it harder for merchants and smokers alike by forcing stores to store them away from the prying eyes of the easily seduced.  Keep ‘em out of site and maybe they won’t buy so many of them, he says.   

Bloomberg is to smoking as anti-abortion activists are to Roe v. Wade.  They can’t knock it out all at once, so they start the death of a thousand bites.

The mayor, a reformed smoker, has raised the cigarette tax to the point that ordinary New Yorkers are as angry as a collection of tea partiers at a convention in the Medicaid building.

He has banned smoking in parks, offices, beaches and elsewhere.  Soon you’ll see cops in riot gear and wearing night vision goggles patrolling Orchard Beach and the Bronx zoo.  (Wouldn't want those lions and tigers and bears to die from secondhand smoke.)

The latest iteration:  Convenience stores would have to put their stock out of sight.  That means moving a lot of stuff around, or putting curtains in front of the displays that now take up the entire back wall of the checkout counter.

And this will do exactly what?  Well, it will discourage other former smokers from being tempted to resume the Evil Addiction.

Really!

The Food and Drug Administration was ready to require tobacco companies to put big and graphic pictures of smoke damage on the packs.  But that effort is stalled in court.  If the hide-the-smokes law passes and the Feds win their case for the Super Ugly Lung pack pictures, who really wins the fight?

If you’re a pack a day smoker in the five boroughs, you can’t afford to smoke unless you’re on the Forbes 400 list.  The mayor is on the Forbes 400 list and one of the ways he got rich was by not buying cigarettes and instead putting the money in a jar.

Earth to Mike:  you can’t stop a dedicated addict by hiding smokes in a bank vault.


Shrapnel:

--Stock analysts make a good living but are often wrong.  Someone should start analyzing the analysts by name and employer.  That might cut out the deadwood and the sheep who follow it.  Where else do people get major raises for being wrong?

--Bankrupt American Airlines is “merging” with US Scareways and wants to pay its outgoing CEO, Thomas Horton $20 million in severance.  The bankruptcy court doesn’t like the figure (neither do you,)  but the parent company, AMR, has a weasel answer... something about the newly combined company making the payment after it comes out of bankruptcy.  So why submit the thing to the court to begin with?

--A small town in central Pennsylvania is going to start charging homeowners for skunk removal, saving an estimated three thousand dollars a season, beginning next year.  Previously, it paid for the removal but now wants to homeowners to “share the cost.”  As a result, the skunks in town hall are likely to see people gladly pay for their removal.

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, March 18, 2013

1149 Title Inflation

1149 Title Inflation

Titles used to mean something.  Often, no more.  “Doctor,” “president,” “your honor.”

President... why that used to mean the top position in the company.  Now, the guy who runs the convenience store downstairs isn’t the president.  He’s the Chairman and CEO.  Maybe he’s also the only employee.  But look at that title!

Dr... why that used to mean a person who healed or cured you.  But now, there are so many doctorates you have to figure out what it means on a case by case basis.

Doctor of philosophy?  Hmmm.  Aristotle didn’t need -- or have -- one of those.  Doctor of divinity?  First, that’s usually honorary.  Second, did Isaiah need one of those?   How about Juris doctor?  That’s not a doctorate, it’s a second bachelor’s degree.

Doctor of Education:  Ever meet one?  Were you impressed?  Didn’t think so.

But it’s not just degrees and company presidents.  It’s everywhere.

What are the qualifications for being a parade’s grand marshal... how grand do you have to be?

Your honor:  many a judge may be called your dishonor.

AccuWeather:  oh, really?

Editor-in-chief:  Big publications rarely have those.  The title is reserved for the top of the heap in high school newspapers.  The New York Times, Herald Trib, Chicago Trib, Wall St. Journal never had one.  But Bloomberg news does.  And so does the New Roses PA high school yearbook.

What do we call the woman who is number two in the Miss America contest?  We call her “first runner up,” and she has a function.  Should Miss America be discovered to have hidden a rap sheet, number two takes over.  But what about the “third runner up?”  Nothing.  Number two is quickly forgotten until and unless there’s a problem.  Number three is quickly forgotten, period.

It’s gotten to the point that some titles are facing hyperinflation.  Example:  “certified pre owned.”  Certified means “we went over this car a little more carefully than we normally would, checked off a bunch of stuff on a fancy checklist and charged you a whole lot more for it.”  “Pre owned” means used.

So, the president generally isn’t the top guy.  The JD comes from a profession that rewards itself as special just because it can and is bent that way to begin with.  The doctor of divinity is the religious equivalent of “famous for being well known.”

The third runner up isn’t even as well rewarded as the third horse over the finish line.

And General Washington did not attend West Point.


Shrapnel:

--How to not run an economy:  confiscate a part of every citizen’s bank accounts to help pay for a bailout.  That’s what happened in Cyprus this weekend, and it’s caused a run on the banks.  What comes next are similar runs on bigger and more important places that also are in financial trouble and fear the European Central Bank’s hand creeping their way.



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, March 15, 2013

1148 The South Rises

1148 The South Rises

No, no. Not that south.  The southern hemisphere.  The Church of Rome has picked a fellow from Argentina to lead it as pope.  Pope Francis is no kid.  He’s 76.  But he looks vigorous and friendly.

No, no, not that kind of friendly... the kind of tickle-monster friendly of a Jerry Sandusky or the pseudo devout kind of friendly of the too many priests caught with too many young boys and an occasional underage girl.  REAL friendly.  In the more traditional use of the word.

But friendly isn’t enough to decontaminate the kind of poison that’s been this institution’s hallmark for too many years, maybe too many decades.

The electing cardinals have elected the first pope from the Americas.  But Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio’s family roots are in Italy.  So they’ve elected the first non-Euro pope in 1200 years, but only sort of.

This guy’s strong suit, as is the strong suit of many Latin American bishops and cardinals, is his powerful stand on poverty.  He’s against it. And in his years in the church, he seems to have done all one can to combat it.

This is called doing the right thing.  Now, all he needs to do is do the right thing in a wider context.

It’s time to quit covering up the excesses of the clergy in any organized faith.  Child abusers, check kiters, money launderers and all kinds of other ne’er do wells.

This problem is in no way unique to catholicism.  But because of the church’s size, power and financial clout it’s a great place to start cleaning up.

Chances are pope Francis, as he now is known, won’t do much to interfere with the mechanics.  It’s not for us to evaluate that kind of thing.  It’s unlikely he will allow priests to marry or women to become priests. Don’t look for any breakthroughs on abortions or birth control.

But as a huge, multinational corporation, this outfit needs to clean house, to throw the felons to the proper wolves instead of sweeping all this stuff under the rug.

The Vatican Bank needs to clean its books and to disavow those who allegedly have been using it as a mechanism of money laundering.

If pope Francis can shine some light on this rats nest, he may someday become the third guy known as St. Francis.

At his age, he may have enough time to bring the troops and the institution into line.  He has the clout.  Let’s hope he has the will, the vigor and the determination.


Shrapnel:

--Speaking of institutions in tatters, the governor of Michigan has named a manager to try to straighten out the miserable mess in Detroit.  With the nation’s largest ever municipal bankruptcy waiting in the wings, Kevyn Orr has his work cut out for him.  Corruption aplenty aside, it’s the money class that has bankrupted the city by screwing up and killing America’s single most important industry, building cars and trucks.

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, March 13, 2013

1147 Sugar Shock

1147 Sugar Shock

Were it not for a judge acting at almost the last minute, New York City’s landmark big sugary drink ban would have taken effect already.  And we expected instantly noticeable changes.  It wouldn’t have been just a rise in temperature that would have put a spring in peoples’ steps You wouldn’t be able to spot a fat kid on the street even at the time schools open, and the health clubs and gyms would have been abandoned because who would still need them?

Not since Ed Koch banned a ticker tape parade for the Super Bowl-winning Giants in 1986 because they really are from New Jersey has there been a ban of this magnitude proposed in New York.

Although the current mayor is a businessman he has not grasped the effect on business.  People would have bought fewer or smaller soft drinks.  This could cause economic hardship first on the people who sell them.  They, in turn, would reduce the size of their syrup orders which would mean a sharp downturn in the drink manufacturing and wholesale distribution industries.   Then, delivery truck drivers would have fewer deliveries to make and that, in turn, would force some gasoline and diesel pumping stations out of business, which would further drive up the price of fuel.

All those kids taking in less sugar would have suddenly not only lost all that weight, they’d lose their hyperactivity as well, possibly causing a serious downturn in the pharmaceutical, health insurance, psychiatry and -- again -- the trucking business.

An economic disaster right when things were starting to look up.

As mayor, Rudolph Giuliani was a man of boundless energy.  In his first term, he cleaned up wide swaths of dirt, got the squeegee men off the streets, reduced crime, brought turnstile jumpers almost to a halt and turned Times Square into Disneyland Northeast.  

In his second term, he maintained his energy level but ran out of ideas.

But it had to go somewhere, so he declared war on the homeless, drew the wrath of the city’s two million self-identified black people by declaring he could do more for them if their leadership would only stop meddling.  At the time the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center took place, Giuliani was about as popular as a Saturday afternoon pig roast in Boro Park.  It was only when the bodies started flying that he had a place to put all that energy.

But about the sugar rationing... it’s not just soft drinks, it’s coffee, too.   The huge coffees often come with huge amounts of sugar.  The immediate fix is to either use artificial sweeteners in recipes that call for sugar or to make the customer put his own sugar in the drink.  Fine if it’s not fancy coffee.  But when coffee shops make you add your own, uncle Bob’s Double Espresso sweet frappe from Coffee Heaven is going to taste more or less like the version he makes at home. So why would he spend five bucks for the same thing on the street?  Another economic factor to consider.

All this nonsense would have been solved if only the city council had voted to maintain the two term limit for mayor, even though it wouldn’t have helped in the Giuliani years.

Oh, and in a shocking and completely unexpected move the Bloomberg administration plans to appeal the judge’s order.  And the mayor hopes for voluntary cooperation with the spirit of the proposal.  Yeah.  Right.

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

Sunday, March 10, 2013

1146 Goodbye to a Young Old Friend

       Jim Kingsland
         (1963-2013)
Jim Kingsland denied owning the coffee mug on the desk in his cubicle.  The enormous cup.  Printed on it: “Thank God it’s Monday.”  But that’s how he looked at the job and at the people he worked with and for and for the people who worked for him.

And work he did, though rarely did it seem that way.  Every once in awhile some wiseguy would pass him and then ask the next person down the line “does that guy have a pulse?”  It was a joke then, because of his perpetual calmness. But only a few years later, it became a serious question.

And last week, the answer changed.

You see that picture up top?  That was taken in 1999... a man in his prime.  An expert on the markets,  economics, metals and coins; on human relations.  The go-to guy for answers, for help, for sanity in one of America’s most chaotic major international news rooms.

If Mike Bloomberg could have imagined the ideal worker from scratch, Jim is who would have been it.   Mike did the next best thing: found and hired Jim Kingsland at the very start of the company’s radio efforts.

Jim spoke slowly and quietly, maybe even shyly when not on the air.  Not only quietly, but sparingly.  And if you had a question, you generally got a short answer, which later you realized was all you needed.  No curlicues, no swirls and flourishes.  No long, involved explanations. Just straight talk.

One can’t summarize or describe a life in a few hundred words, nor express the sense of loss.  The obits try and this one from the Lower Hudson Journal Register comes close.

But really, it’s impossible.

Jim’s influence in the workplace was so subtle sometimes that we didn’t know it was happening.  That’s the best kind.  And the worst.  Best because it wasn’t showboating.  Worst because many have yet to realize that was what happened to them.

It’s easy to say things like “I know how you feel” or “time heals...”  But you don’t, and it doesn’t.

So please don’t tell his three children, his widow, his mother or his brother any of that.

Instead remember the smartest guy in the room, with an outlook on life that we can all learn from; with a spirit and will to fight that in and for  those last few years when it was almost able to stave off a series of catastrophic and stunningly complex physical problems.  Remember the kindest guy in the room who took his work and his obligations seriously, and himself with a grain of salt.

There has been a huge outpouring of information and condolences on Facebook and through e-mail from a long list of his friends, each offering  praise and sorrow.

It’s too bad Jim wasn’t around to see them.  On the other hand, he probably would have been embarrassed by all the attention.

We last spoke only a few days ago.  And while he sounded weak, he also sounded hopeful.  Would that it were “We most recently spoke” instead of “we last spoke.”


Forty nine years old. God called the wrong man home at the wrong time.
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, March 08, 2013

1145 Roy Brown

1145 Roy Brown

You remember Roy Brown, right?  Oh?  You don’t? Okay, well you know him by his work if you’re of a certain age.
Yes, Roy Brown is the guy who designed what may be the greatest automotive punchline of all time.

Mr. Brown was an automotive innovator of a sort.  But in one regard, he was truly Old School Detroit.  Now, 54 years after the car went out of production, he’s quoted in the New York Times obituary which is quoting an interview from the Orlando Sun Sentinel as saying he remained proud of the Edsel and “There’s not a bad line on this car.”

This debacle cost Ford $350,000,000.  What is that in today’s money?  One dollar in 1959 is worth $8.02 now. You do the math.

This debacle had Brown exiled to the company’s offices in Britain, but not fired.  Very 1960s.

Ugly as it was, the Edsel wasn’t a bad car.  There were things about it that were just fine, especially from the inside looking out.  Push button transmission, standard seat belts, decent engines and transmissions, sturdy construction and so on.

The problem was that double dose of ugly.  Oh, and one other thing:  There was no market for the car.  The original plan was to build something more expensive than the Ford and a little cheaper than the Lincoln/Mercury division’s panoply of boring.  The production reality resulted in so much overlap with the older brands that it competed only with its stablemates.

Old School Detroit again.  The ad above?  The ‘59 model will show the “...Edsel... is here to stay...”?  Uh... nope.  That was its final year the car was built. There was a 1960 model, but they stopped production in November of 1959.

Today, there would be outrage among the company stockholders, and there was then, too.  Today they would have thrown out the entire front office.  But stockholders of Ford then as now cannot do that.

Ford went public in 1956, but like many family outfits that do that, there were two classes of stock, the kind you could buy and the kind that only went to the Ford family.  Guess which one had (and still has) the votes.  (Here’s a hint.  If you own one share of Ford, you get one vote.  If a family member owns one share of Ford stock, he gets 16.)

There’s an advantage to such an arrangement, especially with legacy companies like Ford and the New York Times. They get to raise money in the market, but vest control with friends and family.  

But back to the Edsel, which has become a cult car. There’s an outfit in Florida called Edsel World that brokers sales of parts and cars.  That’s all they do. And they do plenty of business, or so it seems.

When Ford was pregnant with the Edsel, they hadn’t yet come up with a name. The company chairman decided “Edsel” would be a great marque because it was the first name of the company founder’s only child. The public relations director at the time, Gayle Warnock, is quoted in a newspaper article on that “world” website as saying a name like that would mean the loss of 200,000 sales.  Again, the double dose of ugly was no help.

Poor Mr. Brown.  He wasn’t a bad guy.  He just had a tin eye while working for a company that had a tin ear.

One of the great automotive journalists of the era, Tom McCahill, said the Edsel from the front looked like an “Oldsmobile sucking a lemon.”  It was indeed a lemon.

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, March 06, 2013

1144 Sticky

1144  Sticky

They make non-stick cookware, they make non-stick oil sprays.  They make non-stick shaving cream.  Everywhere you turn... non-stick.  

When, though, will they make non-stick honey?  What’s the matter with today’s bees and beekeepers?  You’d think they’d find a way to make the stuff so you can use some honey today and not break your hands or run half a tank of hot water trying to open the same jar tomorrow.  Squirt bottles don’t help, the ones in the shape of cute little bears.  They gum up the same as any bottle, though they don’t gum up your hands when you squirt them.  Aerosol honey might be a good compromise.

Non-stick peanut butter would be a help, too.  So would plastic wrap that doesn’t stick to itself to the point where you waste half the roll trying to pry the layers apart.

And if modern industry wants to create new non-stick products, they have an easy place to start looking:  the adhesive business.

Gorilla Glue, Krazy Glue and plain old fashioned horse glue do a fine job.  Sometimes, too fine. With Krazy and its imitators you find your fingers stuck together but the china plate you’re trying to mend laughs at you and remains in pieces. Still, much of the world of adhesives is non-stick.

“Sticky notes,” especially the off brand ones, often don’t stick.  How many times have you said “I know I put a note on the wall here and it just vanished,” only to find it two years later under something.

Envelopes:  either they don’t close completely or the sponge water or saliva you use to close it pokes through everything and shows up as a blotch on the front.

When Testors found out kids were sniffing their glue -- which held, by the way -- they changed the formula.  Same with Duco.  Today’s model planes often mimic those old airliners whose wings fell off in mid air.

Mid price furniture falls apart in dry climates.  Ditto stringed instruments, including pianos.


So let’s hear it for non-stick honey and a return of the glue that used to bind us together as Americans.

Shrapnel:

--Tough luck, Court TV fans... the five of you who stuck with the channel when it turned into TruTV.  They’ve cut their live trial coverage by ⅔ and moved it to nine in the morning in the middle of a high profile case that runs on Arizona time.  And now we get endless reruns of such scintillating fare as “Lizard Lick Towing,” “Full Throttle Saloon” and “Forensic Files” for the rest of the day, until the early morning hours when Tony Robbins and Lee Press-on nails infomercials take over.

--Dr. Drew, Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil.  All worth avoiding. Nancy Grouse, Jane Velez-Bitchell  likewise.  Maybe they can lure Jerry Springer, Maury, “Steve” and “Duck Dynasty” to their channel to up the intellectual level.

--Semi annual rant, a little earlier than usual.  This coming Sunday morning, we will move the clocks ahead to daylight saving time.  Saving, not savings.


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