Monday, June 29, 2015

1505 An Old Wristwatch

1505 An Old Wristwatch

There’s something comforting about a piece of antique technology.  It recalls a simpler time.

When you see a cobblestone street, don’t you just have to walk on it?  Of course you do, even if only briefly.  There are reasons we don’t make roads that way anymore. Good reasons.  But when you spot one, there’s a charm about it, and you just have to try it.

The bentwood rocking chair is not nearly as long-term comfortable as the La-Z-Boy, but it’s a treat to sit and rock in one for awhile.

Old pocket watches make an impression… mostly on your leg.  But when someone de-pockets one, other people want to sneak a peek.

Then, there are wrist watches. You remember those, right?

They wind up. If you wind them, that is.  There’s one on the workbench here at the Wessays™ secret mountain laboratory.  It’s fittingly quirky.

It goes tick-tock so quietly, you have to strain to hear it.  And it’s hungry.  It needs two windings a day. If it doesn’t get “fed,” it goes on strike.

The people who made it were Swiss.  The parts were made in Switzerland. It was assembled there. It did not cost a fortune when bought new more than 50 years ago.

It just tells time.  Sort of.  Approximate analog time. No counting of fitness footsteps, no alarm, no date. No blood pressure measurement.  You can’t use it to answer your telephone or read your email.  It isn’t self setting or even self-winding. It doesn’t pick up the time signal from the “official” radio station WWV in Ft. Collins or the enormously powerful Allouis Longwave counterpart in France.  There’s no alarm.

It is not nearly as accurate as your cellphone.  The hands don’t always align perfectly.  But so what?  It looks cool.  Cooler than your imitation Rolex.  Cooler than your Apple Watch.  Even cooler than the latest fake antiques from Seiko or Fossil.

At some point it probably will stop. Again. It does that for no apparent reason and has since new.  But, really, it’s a decoration with limited utility.  So an occasional stall is just fine, thank you.

Anyone got the time?

Shrapnel:

--Scalia has given up one of his two titles.  At first he was the wrongest justice of the Supreme Court, but also the most entertaining.  His dissent on gay marriage jumped the shark in the entertainment department, leaving him with only “wrongest” in place.  We hope he gets his act together.

--We frequently refer to His Honor as Antonin “Tony Ducks” Scalia.  When they called Anthony Corallo “Tony Ducks” it was because he always managed to duck conviction (until he didn’t.)  In Scalia’s case, it comes from that famous hunting trip with that other master of the universe, Dick Cheney, when a case involving the vice president was on the Supreme Court case list.

Grapeshot:

-Let’s hear it for activist filmmaker Bree Newsome, 30, of North Carolina, star of this video from Vox taken on the lawn of the South Carolina state capitol:


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

© WJR

Friday, June 26, 2015

1504 First Name Basis

Napoleon.  Liberace. Madonna. Sting. Cher. Cantinflas. Pink. Kreskin. Twiggy. Vampira.


See… famous people with only one name. Of course, they all had first and last names.  But when you say Rihanna, everyone knows who you’re talking about. Or Houdini.  Or even someone who two famous names but you only use one.  Say “Einstein” and everyone knows you’re talking about Albert Einstein.


So why do people use one name?  It’s different (though not as different as it once was.) It’s catchy if you spell it phonetically (unlike Sade.)  But some people hide behind a single name in hopes you won’t remember who they are.


Like John Ellis Bush.


He’s been known as “Jeb” for most of his life.  Kind of easy when (a) your family is big and famous, (b) your first and last names start with consonants and your middle name starts with a vowel, (c ) you don’t want people to remember your last name {because it is} (1) hard to say, (2) too hard to remember, (3) to easy to remember, (4) a blight on the landscape.


Hence John Ellis Bush is “Jeb.”  Good thing it wasn’t John Samuel Bush.  How would you pronounce “Jsb?”


In Jeb’s case, we go for C-4.


When you’re the grandson of a US Senator, the son of one president and the brother of another, what does it say about you when you don’t want people to remember that too clearly?  And what does it say about underestimating the memory of the electorate.  No one either forgets or ignores what would typically be considered a lofty political pedigree?


Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders was born Bernie Sanders. His father’s name was Eli Sanders. Eli was born in Poland.  C’mon! No one from Poland is named “Sanders.” So you can bet Bernie’s New England-tinged Brooklynese that the name was changed either by the hurried and essentially illiterate clerks on Ellis Island or by Eli himself… after all, that was back in the day when everyone who came here wanted to fit in here.


Bill Clinton’s birth name was William Jefferson Blyth III. Blyth probably fits the man better than “Clinton.”  But the legal change came under extenuating circumstances and he’s never tried to hide it.


So here he is, John Ellis Bush.  The guy everyone thought would waltz into the Republican nomination.  And with the same silver foot he inherited from his “Poppy,” with every word he speaks, with every step he takes, he walks either into a wall or atop one of those land mines just like his brother and father blew up in the middle east.


You have to feel sorry for the guy in a way.  He never seemed to realize that in order to run, your feet should first be on the ground.


Shrapnel:


--Remembering Mario Biaggi, a hero in many a Bronx home, and who has died at 97. They sent him away once for accepting a low-priced Florida vacation he maybe shouldn’t have. But he got his revenge by outliving his foes and we remember him now as a public servant who knew how to serve the public and did so.


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

© WJR 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

1503 Car or Armored Car?

This was a tough decision: buy a new car or a used armored truck.  Both were available. The truck was cheaper.  Also older and scarred with an interesting pattern of bullet dents.  Proof, evidently, that the armor works.

The window glass was pristine.  So there’s no knowing how resistant it is to incoming bullets.

Why take an armored truck over a shiny new sedan?  Easy. Someone bashes into it in a parking lot, no biggie.  Ditto if someone keys what’s left of the paint job.

And it’s great for busting through DWI checkpoints.

When the cop tells you to roll the window down, you can’t.  And he can’t make you.  When you try to parallel park and hit a fire hydrant, no damage to the bumper.

The truck gets lousy gas mileage.  But if you drive only locally, that’s no biggie either.  It also rattles your bones something awful, but it’s smoother than a WWII era Jeep and more maneuverable and simpler than an F-250.

Fans of older cars worry that their carefully restored 1956 Packard would become a magnet for vandals.  Same with fancy sports cars.  The truck would invite the same vandalism and then repel it with a smirk. (Go ahead. Make my day!)

But we settled on the plain-Jane sedan.  And that’s not a sexist reference.  The car’s “voice” is female.  And slinky.  Seductive, even.

Didn’t know she was there.  But then, one day, out of the blue, “What would you like me to do?”  The reply was something the editors here would blue pencil. But it had to do with increasing the earth’s population. Indirectly.

We’ve become friends since then.  She dials telephone numbers, plays music and teaches how to avoid the dreary superfund site that radio has become.

So, the sedan with the talking slinky woman was the logical choice.  And when making a major purchase, logic should play at least some role.

Someone else bought the armored truck.  It is rolling around town, a moving billboard for a sandwich shop. Pangs of regret?  Sure.  But pangs of regret beat buyer’s remorse any day of the week.


Shrapnel:

--Takata, famous for making vehicle airbags with minds of their own stopped safety audits to cut costs. How’s that working out for you, fellas?  Probably a little more expensive than your bean counters figured.

--Have you noticed that ads for pet medicine have started warning of possible side effects and advising precautions?  Not a bad idea.  But how about labeling small toys as choking hazards for Great Danes and Irish Wolfhounds?

--Anyone else wondering about this?  Non-candidate Mitt Romney might be waiting in the wings while the mob of competing competitors for the Republican presidential nomination kill each other off?  We didn’t believe 47% of what came out of Mitt’s mouth last time around, so why believe him now when he says he won’t run?

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

© WJR 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015

1502 Final Thoughts: Brian Williams

1502 Final Thoughts:  Brian Williams

Note to readers: This will be the last time this space offers a main story about former journalist Brian Williams.  You’ve heard this only once before when I promised that a particular column would be the last main story about child abuser Jerry Sandusky. That was about three years ago.  I’ve stuck to that and I’ll stick to this. -- WR 6/22/15)

It’s 6 PM and Mrs. Peterson comes home from a long day at the office.  Once inside, she hears strange noises coming from upstairs. She follows the sound and opens the bedroom door to find Mr. Peterson and an 18- year- old girl naked on the bed.

“Honey, it’s not what you think,” says Mr. Peterson.

And that’s about the substance of defrocked news anchor Brian Williams’ interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show last Friday.

Williams was suspended and demoted for lying about his role in some stories he covered. He kept his job, or at least *A* job at NBC. But he’s been demoted.  No more anchoring the Nightly News.  Instead he’ll become a part of the company’s MSNBC cable, the largest unwatched channel owned by a major broadcaster since CNN Money shut down.

He thus morphs into the highest paid typist and telephone message taker in the history of television.  If that.  

Standard operating procedure at the real networks -- and for all its faults, NBC remains a real network -- is the Jimmy Hoffa Solution, making a hard to fire employee simply evaporate.

Step one: assign him a job. Step two: give him an office or cubicle and stationery.  Step three: let him sit there and rot until his contract runs out.  NBC has done that to Ann Curry and to Scott Simon.  CBS did it to Dan Rather.

In Williams’ case it could be as expensive as was Milton Berle, awarded a $30 million contract just a couple of sweeps before his show bombed and was cancelled.  NBC kept paying him.  

Williams’ contract is five years and $50 million. Likely they’ll feed his checking account until time’s up, although water cooler scuttlebutt says he took a handsome pay cut.

As for the televised interview, you’ve never heard so much psychobabble in one spot since Wayne Dyer and Dr. Phil had a seance with Sigmund Freud.

And you never heard such evasiveness in one room since Richard Nixon dined alone.

Here are some Williams quotes:

When he started his suspension, “...I was reading these newspaper stories (about me) not liking the person I was reading about.”  (A common reaction to those stories.)

But was he lying?  “...I was not trying to mislead people.” (Then what WERE you doing?)

Lauer again asked the question, but worded it a little differently.  The answer: “...I told stories over the years that weren't true. I never intended to.”

Not once did Williams say “I lied.”  

Maybe he should be named euphemism editor.

And as for Mrs. Peterson... she didn’t believe a word her husband said, either.  After a thorough investigation and months-long suspension, she elected to remain married to him, but demoted him to the living room couch, confiscated his house keys  and installed a time lock on the bedroom door.   The teenage girl, now 25, writes an advice column for Larry Flynt’s magazines.

Disclaimer:  The poster was a writer for The Today Show and NBC Nightly News for eight years and worked with Williams occasionally and with Lauer regularly.  I do not know Lester Holt.  But I’m a fan and have been since long before the Williams Hullabaloo developed.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

1501 Rachel and the Charleston Gunman

Puzzlingly nuts, this woman, Rachel Dolezal, former head of the Spokane, Washington N-Double-A-C-P, born blonde, but now wearing a dye job and curls that mock what we loosely refer to as “black hair.”  A woman with a tanning salon brownish skin who says she “identifies black” and pretends to be.


Soon after Dolezal’s parents outed her as white, there was an incident at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  In the original Hebrew, Emmanuel (with two “m”s) means “God is with us.”


Not Wednesday, night, evidently.  Not on Calhoun St. in downtown Charleston when a white man with a gun opened the doors to the bright white building sat down for Bible study with the mostly African American parishioners and then an hour later began firing the gun his father gave him as a 21st birthday gift a short time ago.


At least nine people died.  Police call it a hate crime, which it obviously is.  Out in Spokane, Rachel was still cranking about her “experiencing life as a black woman.”  Right.


While South Carolinians were planning the funerals of loved ones, reporters around the country continued writing and speaking of Rachel’s numb suit against a historically black college that wouldn’t admit her. Discrimination, she said.  


She was white, then, she had said. Then, she “became black” and white people discriminated against her.  Poor Rachel can’t catch a break.  Now, she’s “trans-racial.” Huh?


There are easier ways to get on the Jerry Springer show, which is about the only place they should let her appear outside a padded cell.


They’ve caught the “man” they think is the Charlotte shooter.  He’ll talk about his tough childhood.  He’ll talk about the “war on white Christian men.”  He’ll tell the sentencing hearing after his conviction “I’m not a bad person.”  Yes you are.


This is not the first execution at  Emanuel AME.  One of its founders tried during the days of slavery to foment rebellion. He was put to death.


You don’t get used to things like that, you pass it on.  The people of Charleston and all other ordinary people are horrified but not mystified.


That, Ms. Dolezal, is “the black experience,” you play at being close to. And it has nothing to do with a dye job and a curling iron.


Shrapnel:


--Yeah, we know his name. Since it’s all over everywhere else, do we need to say it here? If so, why?


--South Carolina has no hate crime law, but it appears this shooting can qualify for the death penalty because there was more than one murder and the general public was endangered.  But like Fox News, we think the locals should be left to their own devices and the feds should remain in Washington.  With Fox it’s an anti-government position. For Wessays™ it’s for speed and simplicity.


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

© WJR 2015

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

1500 How are You Today?

How often does someone ask you how you are?  And of those incidents, how many times do you respond with anything other than “fine” or if you’re feeling polite, “fine, thank you.”  Or if you’re feeling polite and you’ve turned your hearing aid off “fine, thank you.  And how are you?

Admit it.  You don’t care.  And neither does the other person. And most of the time neither of you should.

Yet, we need a way to open a conversation or transaction.  “Hello” or its variations seems too abrupt.  “Good day” sounds stuffy and old fashioned and heaven knows, old fashioned is so… well… out of date.

Radio talk show hosts have learned to gloss over the greetings of callers. Most of them respond to the how are you by asking a question like “So what do you think of Jeb Bush finally admitting he’s a candidate?”

But you can’t waltz up to the cash register and expect the clerk to ask you what you think of the war in Ukraine.  And anyway, you probably don’t know what you think. Why should you be any different? No one knows what to think about that.  Or at least no one not on the battlefield.

Some sharp minded pilots of cash registers don’t ask how you are.  They ask “did you find everything ok?”

If this conversation takes place in a supermarket, and you answer “I was looking for valve gaskets and couldn’t find the automotive aisle” they’ll think you’re nuts.

Ditto if you’re at AutoZone or Pep Boys and ask for the vegetable aisle.

And “how are you today” anywhere with “I am because I shop” you will draw either a blank stare or a call to security to escort you from the building. Either would be a suitable response.  But the latter is better because you probably shouldn’t be on the street alone.

All of which brings us back to choosing a new inanity to replace “how are you today?”

Hot enough for you?
Cold enough for you?
At last the rain has stopped.
Hope you have an umbrella with you.

All of the above are better than “how are you?” (And better than “how about those Mets” or “Do you know the way to San Jose?”)

But maybe a smile and a nod or saying “mmmm” would do the trick.

Shrapnel:

--Since our most recent look at political BS (sorry, that’s redundant) Trump has declared for the white house.  He sounds a little like Perot and a little like Reagan. And if you forget who they are and who he is, he sounds almost ok.


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

© WJR 2015

Monday, June 15, 2015

1499 Side Effects

1499 Side Effects

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

So, sadly, we abandon our long and unsuccessful fight against pharmaceutical ads that encourage you pressure your doctor into prescribing the latest greatest overpriced drug for everything from ingrown toenails to liver cancer and then go on to list up to a dozen possible side effects, most of which are worse than the condition the stuff’s supposed to treat.

Instead, we now recommend an extension.  Side effect warnings in all ads. Everything. It’s going to be a tough fight.  But if we all work together, we can do it.

The drug ads follow a format.  

--Person is suffering from the slings and arrows of outrageous acne or dandruff or high cholesterol.  Looks miserable.
--Peppy announcer peppily announces some new potion.
--Suffering person talks to his or her doctor about said potion.
--Doctor prescribes it.
--Patient takes it and voila! Cured.
--Fast talking announcer then lists possible side effects and reminds you that “Dozart is not for everyone because it might kill you.”
--While that’s being said, the picture shows a happy person cradling a baby or a grandchild or swinging a golf club with a blissful smile on her face and “almost clear” skin.

It’s enough to scare you to death, saving you unwanted trips to the doctor.

But why restrict this to medicine?

Ad for “Bingo Spring Water.”

--Person gets off the tennis court, winded and sweating. Looks miserable.
--Peppy announcer peppily announces the debut of “Bingo Spring Water” to get your body back to normal.
--Depressed tennis player (possibly because he keeps losing, but probably just from overactivity) opens a bottle, drinks it and suddenly becomes Happy Harry Hydrate with a big smile on his face.
--Peppy announcer becomes Very Serious and Quiet announcer and announces that “Bingo Spring Water” and products like it are packed in plastic bottles that if not properly disposed of will overflow the landfill and destroy the planet.  And too much water taken too quickly can lead to upset stomach.  And cold water that’s too cold can give you cramps.
--The final picture is a man in a tuxedo holding a tennis racquet in one hand and a bottle of Bingo in the other and smiling broadly as he walks toward a Bentley.

Printer paper warning: Printer paper can cut you, use only as directed.

Truck tire warning: Driving over spikes can cause sudden deflation.  Do not drive over spikes.

Dress warning: Sizes are approximate. If you look fat in it, remove immediately and return to vendor.

Razor blade warning: For external use only.

Diamond warning: Can pose choking hazard. Not for children under the age of four.

There.  Don’t you feel safer and healthier now?

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015

1498 Breakfast At Denny's

Note: Adult language, adult content.


That sausage catch in your throat, Mr. Speaker?  Next time have your Banana Boat Breakfast Slam with bacon instead. And drink the coffee without sugar or … um… cream.


Ah, Dennis, you roly poly bundle of all American joviality, what’s a rich guy like you doing in a dive like this?


Denny Hastert, former Speaker of the House and now disgraced crook and possible boy boinker.  A former congressman from a flyover town in Illinois who got rich and now is accused of violating the banking law to bribe a guy who says he acted inappropriately a million years ago when Denny was his high school wrestling coach.


The bribe was to be $3.5 million.  But you hadn’t yet paid it off when the FBI stopped you.  Your excuse for withdrawing all that money? You don’t trust the banks?  All of a sudden, you don’t trust the banks? All of a sudden you have the urge to run barefoot through a wading pool of small unsequenced bills?


So how do you go about becoming a multimillionaire on a congressional salary?  Even with the bonus bucks they give you as speaker?


Easy.  Buy up cheap land on a proposed highway route… then use your position to make sure the road gets funded.  And finally, sell the cheap land for gazillions. Anyone can do this.  Anyone in a position of legislative power and with access to inside info and suckers who sell for pennies and other suckers who lend you pennies.  Nothing to it.


Oh, and then throw your considerable weight around as a lobbyist.  That’s good for a few coins, no?  So Denny’s gone to court and apparently now spends his days wandering around his backyard, says Mediaite.com, “like a Sasquatch.”


No worries, chap. You can do the same thing in the exercise yard when you eventually get there.


Meantime, let’s staple the guy’s pictures on telephone poles or print them on milk cartons just to protect the little kids in Illinois.


And Denny, have breakfast at Denny's again some day soon. It's a good introduction to prison food, but with better coffee.


Shrapnel:


--Let’s see… do we have this straight? Jeb Bush is not (yet) running for president but collected scads of contributions and announced he’s shuffling or replacing members of his campaign team?  How do you have a campaign team if you don’t have a campaign?


--Let’s hear it for Sacramento’s former Fox40 television anchor Sabrina Rodriguez, candidate for entrepreneur of the year. She and her fiance had a nice business selling bargain priced leather goods, redefining "purse snatcher." Authorities say she got them the old fashioned way, she stole them.


A tweet:


Twitter CEO@Dickcosolo out. Cites Wall St. pressure. Resignation letter  = 140 characters & spaces:"take this job and shove it as of  7/15"

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

© WJR 2015

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

1497 Foster Child NBC Still Riles Comcast

1497 NBC: Foster Child NBC Still Riles Comcast

The crystal ball is cloudy.  Well, partly cloudy.  Hence you won’t find a firm prediction here about whether Brian Williams will return to the NBC anchor chair when his suspension ends in early August. But there are signs.

NBC became a serial foster child starting in the mid 1980s.  And from a corporate point of view, it’s a trouble kid. One who won’t listen.  One that breaks curfew, cuts class and has a dog that eats its homework.

The NBC culture hasn’t changed much over the decades and therein is a signal.  It pays off the contracts of people it wants to get rid of.

Example, and probably the biggest one: Milton Berle remained on the payroll for 28 years after his show was cancelled.  He wasn’t allowed to work elsewhere without permission, rarely asked, rarely given.

Example and probably the second biggest one: David Brinkley walked uptown to ABC when NBC failed to renew his contract. That helped put the then-struggling third network on the Sunday talk show map.

Ann Curry: when they yanked her off the Today Show, they gave her a sweetheart deal which allowed her to do what she wanted. She didn’t want to do much and didn’t.  And more recently they “helped” her establish her own company which also hasn’t done anything.

Scott Simon: The first anchor of Saturday Today was given an office and nothing to do but still got paid after they replaced him on camera.

So it’s pretty easy to divine that Williams will either walk away with what’s left on his 50- million dollar contract or run out the clock by becoming a “correspondent at large” or host of a daytime game show or “The Real Housewives of Paramus.”

If Lester Holt is named “permanent” anchor of NBC Nightly News, the peasants will celebrate.  If he isn’t, the peasants will riot.

Holt has a lot going for him.  Calm, apparently easy going, earnest, serious, friendly, well-liked, doing as good a job and easy to work with.

That last one is his achilles heel.  

Nighttime anchors traditionally rule by fear.  No one is afraid of Lester.  In fact, they like him.  They want to watch him.  They want to work with/for him. They want him to succeed. And they should.

The last NBC anchor with a nice guy reputation was John Chancellor.  And look what happened to him: Walter Cronkite.

Shrapnel:

--The writer of the New York Post headline that made headlines, “Headless Body in Topless Bar” has died. Vincent Musetto was 74. He was retired but still contributing reviews for the Post.

--There are two competing tabloidy New York headlines- of- the- century.  The other one is “Ford to New York: Drop Dead.”  That was in the Daily News which still reports actual events, unlike its main competitor.

--You say you never heard of any production or person nominated or winning any of this year’s Tony Awards?  Congratulations.  Wear that unawareness as a badge of honor.

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

© WJR 2015