Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Godfather

197 The Godfather

The big guns of yesteryear must be green with envy. Capone, Gotti, Luciano, Lansky. All drooling and wondering why they hadn’t thought of it.

Protection, prostitution, numbers, sports books, race track books. Concrete, labor unions, even drugs: small potatoes.

Look what the White House Crime Family is about to accomplish. A stooge in every federal regulatory agency. This isn’t hidden. It’s right there in the Federal Register. They call it establishing a policy office headed by an appointee. But this really is a gold mine.

You’re the electric company. You want to burn old coal, which is dirty. You go to the Environmental Protection Agency, and there sits a White House Family capo. You want freedom from the oppression of regulation? Sure. No problem. I do you a favor and maybe – and this time may never come (to quote Vito Corleone,) I might ask you one in return – not something you can’t do, but something you might do anyway. Brilliant.

Maybe you have a chicken factory and there’s salmonella hanging out. You know this. OSHA knows this. But – there’s that trade of favors again.

Fooling around with concrete and construction? That’s chicken feed.

The Waterfront? The Family tried to muscle in on that, too, when they wanted to put their Kuwaiti stooges in charge of the shipping ports. It didn’t work. But have they stopped trying?

Can the present Godfather make this “policy” thing happen? Yes, by “executive order.” Does The Council (or Congress) need to go along? Nah.

This Crime Family doesn’t believe in councils. Almost every other crime family in the world sends representatives to the UN. These guys don’t care. They’re going to do what they’re going to do.

Wars? The Mob wars of New York and Chicago have nothing on the mob wars today. Then it was about who gets to run the loan sharking on which block. Now, it’s about oil.

The fictional Corleone family wanted to “go legit.” This bunch couldn’t care less. And they have a LOT of soldiers to enforce their whims.

The Moustache Petes brought guys over from Sicily to do the small jobs and the dirty work. A boatload here and there every now and again.

The White House Family brings over boatloads of Mexicans and Guatemalans and Hondurans. Same thing. Ask either Pete or George and they’ll deny it. But that’s what they do.

We should have laws against this stuff. Oh, wait. We DO. Small matter when you control the pawns on the Supreme Court.

They had a small setback in the election of 2006. Opposing gangsters made a move on them and won a lot of territory and the rights to parts of the spoils. But no worries. There’s plenty to go around for everyone.

Wetting the beak is what the Sicilians call it. That’s kindly. To the rest of us, stealing is what they call it.

So where are the “RICO” laws? Because if this ain’t racketeering, what is?

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Monday, January 29, 2007

Liner Notes

196 Liner Notes

Here’s a question you probably never have been asked before. Ever buy a record album you didn’t care about just because you love the liner notes?

Wouldn’t be surprising if the answer were “no.”

After all, most liner notes are worthless, when they bother with putting any together at all these days.

They’re either boring: “Beethoven lived in an attic and wrote Symphony No. 9 while almost completely deaf….”

Or they’re irrelevant: “Chet Atkins prefers to play his own guitar, but sounds fine on any.”

Or they’re just silly: “Before he was convicted of murder, Charles Manson would spend the times between club dates writing new songs and doing drugs and sex with members of his cult, ‘the Manson Family.”

But the other day, a copy of Jimmy Dorsey’s last album dropped out of the sky, and on the back were liner notes by Earl Wilson, one-time gossip and Broadway columnist for the New York Post when it was slightly more respectable and oodles more left of center than it is now.

In fact, the Post had a stable of columnists that were (or should have been) the envy of any other newspaper (with the possible exception of the Herald-Tribune.)

Jimmy Cannon, Murray Kempton, Paul Sann and Wilson, just to name a few. There’s been enough about newspapers here recently, so we’ll just concentrate on the pictures these liner notes conjured up.

Some background: Jimmy Dorsey and his younger brother, Tommy had individual and occasionally combined “big band” orchestras, and each had a bunch of hits. Jimmy played saxophone and clarinet and fought bitterly with Tommy, mostly over music, all their lives.

He was nearly on his deathbed when Fraternity Records asked him to record the album and he got five tracks done, was hospitalized and others finished the remaining eight tracks.

The record company says the four tracks with Dorsey were recorded on November 11, 1956. Four tracks in one day would be considered a miracle today. Four tracks in six months is more like it, now. But these were club musicians. The set up, played their set, packed up and left.

Here’s Earl:

“…Jimmy died knowing he had accomplished a rather unbelievable comeback in the recording field.

“’It’s the first band hit in 15 years,’ his friends informed him, even in the hospital room where he passed away.

“’That record will bring back the band business’ prophesied Guy Lombardo at the funeral in St. Patrick’s as the honorary pallbearers stood huddled around.

“With his characteristic meekness, Jimmy hadn’t wanted to cut the record…

“’I just don’t want you to get hurt, he told Harry Carlson of Fraternity records. Why fool around with a has-been?’

“Thus a whole new generation became smitten with ‘the has-been.’”

And some more: “Even when he had little time left, Jimmywould talk to (substitute conductor) Lee Castle about the tremendous enthusiasm for the record… and Jimmy would even call from the hospital to discuss with Lee whether he had the tempo just right.”

Even if you never heard of Jimmy Dorsey, these words brought out the essence of the personality, mostly in short quotes, sometimes in brief descriptions.

Fifty lines is all it took. There aren’t a lotta guys around now who can do something like that.

It was and is, like the hit song on the album, “So Rare.”

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Friday, January 26, 2007

In A Moment

195 In A Moment

The Big Lie of television, revealed.

TV folks speak a different language. You THINK it’s English, but it amen’t. It SOUNDS like English and uses English words. But it’s TVspeak.

The favorite and most often used are “coming up,” and “after these messages.”

When they say “…coming up…” they mean they’ll soon show you this or that, so don’t go away. As in “coming up, we’ll show you how you can cook a ten course dinner in under 20 minutes.” But it always sounds like a prelude to the onset of stomach distress, to be followed by in involuntary expulsion of an oral projectile.

When you hear, say, Brian Williams or Katie Couric say they’ll be “…back after these messages,” you expect that an audience of several million viewers will whip out their pencil and paper in case any of the messages are for THEM.

Sample messages from the first “message break” in the NBC Nightly News:

“Dear Harry, I’ve decided to run off with your brother. Dinner’s in the fridge. Have a nice life.”

“Alfred, clean up your room.”

“Jack, the Friday night poker game is off because Harry can’t make it.”

“Attention all members of the Moote Pointe Country Club… the swimming pool will be closed for maintenance until next Monday.”

“Dad, can you pick me up after school tomorrow?”

But these aren’t the “messages” we receive. The messages we receive are those exhorting us to buy sleeping pills (ask your doctor about Lunesta.) Or heatburn medicine or a new Chevy.

Earth to TV: how about being up front and calling the “messages” what they really are?

The late David Brinkley was found of saying he would be “…back in a moment.” But word-lover Dave wasn’t using the word in its true or original meaning, which was 90 seconds, or even in its present-day distortion, “about a minute or so.”

TV is also guilty of overusing promotional announcements, or promos. In fact, it’s gotten to the point of promo-scuity.

On “Entertainment Tonight” and its clones, you get six promos for a report before anyone thinks of showing a report.

But the higher falutin’ among us are not immune from this, either.

“Dateline NBC goes under ground to cover ground hog day… and you won’t believe what we found. On Dateline Sunday.”

“Dateline” is up against the newly-diluted CBS 60 Minutes, which although is generally classy is not shy when it comes to promo-scuity, either. They just talk slower.

Probably the worst of these things is the weather promo: “Snow on the way. We’ll tell you how much.” This is accompanied by pictures of people shoveling out from chin-high drifts. But it could mean half an inch. Besides, there’s ALWAYS snow on the way.

Anyway… coming up next week in this space…. Behind the scenes at the Supreme Court Prom… SCOTUS unrobed.

I’m Wes Richards and I’ll be back after these messages. In a moment.

(c) 2007 WJR

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Surge Protector

194 Surge Protector

The pro-war among us are calling it a “surge.” The anti-war among us is calling it an escalation.

It’s not an escalation, because escalators go down as well as up. Escalation was popularized by the Johnson administration as a make-nice-ism to describe the intensifying of the Vietnam war and increasing the death, maiming, burning and destruction.

Surge is a make-nice-ism for escalation, and so is a make-nice-ism for a make-nice-ism. An escalation can be a horrible thing, whereas a surge is just a cuddly little increase, kind of like a surge in the value of your stock portfolio.

Aside: when you get an electrical power surge, you computer, your TV set and your refrigerator can easily fry. That’s why they have surge protectors – available cheap in electronics stores, office supply stores, supermarkets, drug stores, hardware stores (are there any hardware stores left?) 7-11s and practically anywhere else.

What we need is a surge protector for our involvement in Iraq.

When the engineering geniuses at Con Ed throw too much juice into the system, your surge protector deflects (or is supposed to deflect) the excess, thus saving you from destruction of your internet porn, your “WWE Monday Night Raw” and your beer.

When the strategic geniuses in the White House throw too much juice into the system, people (some innocent, some not,) die.

In his State of the Union Address, the president asked us to be patient and to give his Iraq policy a chance to work. Pardon? Haven’t we done that?

The Democratic Party Replier said today’s soldiers no longer trust the judgment of the Commander-in-Chief. If true, this is not a good sign. Military operations are based on trust and cooperation. It’s more important for the foot soldier to trust the sergeant and the lieutenant and the captain than it is to trust the president. But erosion is erosion. Welcome to the down escalator.

Aside: Since when do we need a “reply” from the party-not-in-the-White House? This is not an election debate where everyone gets a shot. It’s the presidents required report to Congress on the state of the union.

If you unravel the notion behind the notion of a reply, you have to figure that the government is made up of two private contractors, each making a bid for the attention, hearts and minds of the American public. This is, in fact, true, as has been pointed out in this space before. And often. Ford vs. Chevy. Four wheels and an engine. Not a whole lot of difference. But why be so blatant about it.

Hey, wait! Maybe THAT’s the surge protector.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Monday, January 22, 2007

Off and On and Off

193 Off and On And Off

Turn on the lights by flipping up a switch. Turn them off using the same switch only flipping down the switch, right? Well, mostly right.

But in modern times, we are faced with a complications. Some stuff you have to turn off by turning on the ON switch.

Like your computer. If it runs “Windows,” you shut it off by pushing the “Start button,” which is not really a button at all, but a picture that says “Start.” Only after pushing the start button (for something that’s already started, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to see the “Start button,”) can you turn it off.

Then, there are those lights that can be operated from more than one switch – like those that light a staircase, for example.

Turn on by flipping up a switch. Use the stairs, and once at the other end, turn off the light by flipping the second switch to “on.” So, now you have two switches in the on position, but the lights are off. In order to turn the lights back on, you have to flip the nearest switch to “off.” This turns on the light.

Somehow, these switches never go back to the original positions, which is that both of them are “off” and so is the light.

There’s no consistency in the locations of hot and cold water taps, either. This comes from the same general school of engineering. And it’s especially true of those single knob faucets where one device controls both the hot and cold water. Do you turn it clockwise or counterclockwise for hot? Varies. Even varies among sinks and tubs in the same house. Most are unmarked (putting “C” and “H” on one of those elegant faucets would be so gauche. So, you burn or freeze as the faucet maker or installation plumber decides.

Many cell phones are turned on by pressing and holding the “off” button, which is a real button you can actually push.

Some ATM machines have similar quirks. For example, once you get onto the “withdrawal” screen, they want you to confirm whatever decision you’re making by pushing one of a column of buttons (real buttons, not “Start button” buttons.) They have arrows leading from words toward the buttons. Invariably, the arrows fall between the location of the actual buttons and you have to figure out whether the machine means the button that’s higher than the arrow or the one that’s lower. Equally invariable, you pick the wrong one and have to start over.

We are very lucky that these things haven’t become more popular.

Let’s say you’re tooling along the Triboro Bridge, and come to the toll booth. The machine “reads” your “EZ Pass,” and the gate comes down, blocking your way. That wouldn’t work.

Suppose you turned on a stovetop burner and that extinguished the pilot light? THAT wouldn’t work too well, either.

How would you like a telephone that rang all the time except when someone was calling?

Or a blog that required a password to stop reading.

Ah, technology. What’ll they un-think of next?

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Buchwald's Cigar

192 Buchwald’s Cigar

In the end, did anyone actually READ Art Buchwald? Mostly it was the Washington crowd and other writers. The Washingtonians either loved or hated to see their name in print, any print. The other writers were looking to steal.

Some were brazen (Marvin Kitman comes to mind.) Some were more subtle (Dave Barry comes to mind.)

The rest SAID they read, but didn’t.


There’s a newsroom saying “fooled ‘em again.” It’s usually said when the newscast is over or the paper comes out. It’s said sardonically.

But Buchwald really DID fool us again. When he went into that hospice, he was supposed to die. That’s what hospices are for. But he didn’t. Now, THAT is fooling us. And then, there’s the posthumous video that starts out “Hi, I’m Art Buchwald, and I just died.”

But, what was the secret of his delayed death? Cigars. The miracle life prolonging of cigars.

The guy always had one in his mouth. He lived well beyond what the doctors say was his expected exipiration.

And Buchwald’s not the only one.

Look at Castro. When did he get sick? A few years after giving up those famous cigars.

Famous cigar smoker George Burns lived to 100.

How old was Groucho Marx when he died? Not as old as George, but, nevertheless, old.

Bill Clinton –fairly young – had a major health scare a few years back. He’d probably be dead now if it weren’t for the cigars. Same with Schwarzenegger. He also isn’t that old. But if you abuse yourself with all those years of weight training, and whatever “supplements” go with it, and DON’T smoke cigars, you die.

Buchwald “fooled us again…” and again and again. But he didn’t GET fooled. Not by the politicians who were in his cuddly crosshairs, and not by the people who outright stole from him.

The makers of the movie “Coming To America” come to mind. The movie, you may remember, is about a prince from Africa who comes to America and tries to live as an ordinary citizen while he searches for a wife.

Buchwald wrote “King for a Day” in the 1980s. There was an option for a movie, which expired and wasn’t renewed. And all of a sudden up pops the Paramount picture starring Eddie Murphy. Art and a cohort sued for a large bunch of money (a bunch is slightly smaller than a passel, for you technical types.) The studio promptly opened its books and demonstrated how the picture didn’t really make any money. A judge says that’s as phony as an African prince – the kind who sends out those scam e-mails asking for your bank account number so he can “deposit” money in your account, and awarded $900,000 (which is smaller than either a bunch or a passel.)

You can copyright a book or a script or a column, but you can’t copyright a style.

Anyone who’s written anything even faintly funny about politics in the last 50 years has “borrowed” from Buchwald.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Friday, January 19, 2007

Naming Your Rooms

191 Naming Your Rooms

Even if you live in just one room, you still need to call it something, right? Chances are you can get away with “my place…” or “crib” or “house,” or somesuch.

But what about if you have more than one?

What do you call the part that’s below ground? Some people call it the basement. But that has a tacky feel to it. You get WATER in your basement. Your furnace is situated there. If you’re a department store, “basement” is the short version of “bargain basement,” where you dump all the junk you couldn’t sell on the regular floors.

Come to think of it, you probably dump a lot of stuff in your basement, too. Old boxes, bags, furniture you no longer can use, lamps, broken appliances. Junk.

But you don’t do that to your CELLAR!. No. You keep WINE in your cellar. Macy’s used to have a bargain basement, called “Macy’s Basement.” It was filled with, well, all the junk they couldn’t sell upstairs.

They don’t have that, anymore. Now, it’s a CELLAR, and it’s filled with gourmet cooking utensils and stylish tableware and the like. In fact, even in their stores with nothing below ground, they still have a cellar. It’s on the main floor – or the only floor. But it has its own look and feel and its own typograpy.

Same room, different meaning.

So what about the other rooms in your house? Is that room with your TV a DEN, where you can slip away from everyone else for a little privacy and get some work done; maybe have a quiet cocktail in the evening? Or is it a FAMILY ROOM, where everyone comes and goes as he pleases and no one – or everyone – has a sense of ownership.

Maybe you have a foyer. Or is it a foy-YAY? Depends on how you think of it. (Vase, Vahs, tomayto, toMAHtoh.)

Is there something in your house called a “dressing room?” What do you do in it?

How about a “half bath?” Is that somewhere that’s so small, you can only bathe half of yourself? Or is it a gen-u-ine British style water closet?

We do more in the bathroom than bathe.

Most dens would escape notice of den-dwelling animals, like lions.

The names we use denote concepts, usually in need of fuller development. For example, do you live in the living room? What do you do in the hall, then, die?

Many of us now have what we call “computer rooms.” Some have “video game rooms.” These have not yet been around long enough to have fictionalized names like “sun room” or “breakfast room.” And they may never. A sewing room has always been a sewing room (why aren’t there knitting rooms?)

Maybe you should name your rooms differently. Bob. Joe. Martha. Blue, green, rough, smooth, Let people guess what goes on in them. They won’t be any more wrong than they are now.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Hangman

190 The Hangman

We have learned from recent news reports from Iraq, that yet another time-honored profession has been diluted and given over to incompetents. Several recent hangings have been botched, and this calls into question the training of executioners, and the lower standards to which they now adhere.

Lopping a guy’s head off during a hanging would have brought shame to the American West. Now, it apparently is perfectly “normal,” if we are to believe the English translation of the most recent post-execution news conference from Baghdad. “It’s rare, but not unheard of…” said the government spokes-being, meaning, of course, that it happens a lot.

That said, there must, then, be a lot of hangings in greater Baghdad and vicinity. Which brings up the notion that we really don’t know how many and of that number, how many heads remain attached to the bodies. Something for the statisticians to play with.

Hanging is passé in this country. We have more humane means of executing our unwanted and unneeded. Most states have retired their electric chairs, gas chambers, gallows, firing squads and guillotines. Now, we use lethal injections.

We are led to believe (but can’t possibly know) that the intravenous method is relatively pain free. Probably it isn’t. But we’ll never know, because when the guy on the gurney dies, there’s no way to ask him if it hurt.

But the average American (and for that matter, the average Iraqi) never gets an up front execution. We have ways even more subtle than the lethal injecting of executing our undesirables. Much of it comes from withholding stuff than it does from DOING stuff.

How much longer would we live and how much healthier would we be if there were universal health care, for example? We get a rid of a lot of people by not doing enough stem cell or genetic research. We execute a lot of AIDS patients (even though the affliction is 100% preventable.)

We send our boys (and often, these days, our girls) to war. Executing those who can’t escape or who are misled into believing that military service helps the country, somehow. They get shot a lot.

We don’t do much about gangs, which keeps the underclass population reduced.

What we DO do about gangs also is a form of execution.

We warehouse the old and the young. We put people on welfare, which kills them, then take them off welfare, which kills them.

These killing mechanisms are still pretty efficient. But things are going to get “better.” Like pretty much everything else, they’ll deteriorate, too.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Monday, January 15, 2007

Fifty Two Pickup

189 Fifty Two Pickup

Back at PS 150 in the 1940s, if you were maybe in the fourth or fifth grade and had a deck of cards or a bunch of baseball cards or a bunch of war cards, some sixth grader’d come up and asked if you wanted to play fifty-two pickup and then pull the cards out of your hands and throw them on the ground. And you’d pick ‘em up and then try the trick on someone else.

But if you think about it, you get at least a full deck of cards in your lifetime. Some get Canasta decks.

01. You start with a birth certificate.

02. Social Security Card (they used to wait until you went for work for this one, but you get it right away now.)

03. School ID.

04. Library card.

05. High School ID.

06. Lerner’s Permit.

07. Driver’s License.

09. Voter ID.

10. Draft Card.

11. College ID.

12. Visa.

13. MasterCard.

14. Discover Card.

15. American Express Card.

16. ExxonMobil Card.

17. Macy’s/Sears/Penny’s or other department store card.

18. Moose/Kiwanis/Shriners/Lions card.

19. Union card.

20. Health Insurance card.

20-30. Employee ID cards.

31. MetroCard.

32. LIRR Monthly Pass.

33. Wedding license.

34. Green Card or other proof of legality.

35-48. More credit cards, Costco, BJ’s Wholesale/Sam’s Club, Waldbaum’s Shopper card, replacement birth certificate, new library card. And maybe the HessExpress “free coffee” club.

49. Deed to the cemetery plot.

50. Senior Citizen ID.

51. Medicare Card.

52. Death Certificate.

Of course, you have to keep all this stuff. Most cards are small and easily stored. And equally easily lost.

Notice, that there are no jokers. Your voter card, your union card and half your employee IDs or school IDs probably qualify.

And if you don’t drive or didn’t go to school or are an illegal alien, you can always fill in with some of the thousands of useless business cards you can collect over the course of a lifetime.

Start with your own. Remember the card they printed for you when you joined Enron or RCA or Amstrad Computer or any other company that’s out of business?

Then there are cards from ten or twelve auto dealerships, five or six real estate brokers, five or six stock brokers, the stamp shop, the shoe repair guy. You have appointment cards from doctors who retired 20 years ago, from a dozen antique shops, furniture stores, encyclopedia sellers, missionaries, carpenters, electricians, restaurants (that card from Longchamp’s is a treasure!) Cards from office suppliers, reporters, auto repair shops, public relations types, your landlord, the telephone store, the cable company, the massage parlor, the claims adjuster, the appraiser, the pawn shop, 15 banks, two funeral homes Thomas Edison and your immigration lawyer.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Therapocracy

188 The Therapocracy

Everyone’s in therapy. And if you believe the therapocracy, everyone should be. And they’re probably right.

In earlier times, the “talking cure” was open only to the rich. The well-off would flock to their psychiatrists’ offices, lie down on the couch and blabber on about what-all. The therapist, who had been trained by Freud or one of the Elder Little Freudlings and who had gone through extensive (and expensive) psychoanalysis would nod and say “hmmmm,” in appropriate or pseudo appropriate places in the monologue just to prove to the patient he (and it was almost always a “he,”) hadn’t been bored to death or bored to sleep.

Those with severe psychological problems and who lacked means to pay for putting the shrink to sleep would get a one-shot dose of parental or supervisory therapy that consisted of the therapist saying something along the lines of

“You’re a lazy, good-for-nothing irresponsible scrunge with a chip on his shoulder and who blames the whole world -- which you think owes you a living-- for your screwups and you’ll end up in the gutter dying a slow, painful but well deserved death if you continue. Now knock it off and get on with your life.”

More often than not, that worked better than three times a week on the couch. Today, you can’t say stuff like that.

Today, you have to babble on as the Freud crowd did, but your health insurance pays for it and there likely isn’t a couch, you – poor thing – have to remain seated.

In an effort to drum up business, the Therapocracy has devised a whole bunch of stuff to keep you coming back.

“Next week, let’s talk about why your mother went out to work instead of staying home to raise you.”

This needs some translation, and here it is: “next week, let’s talk about how your mother struggled to help support the household, leaving you home to find new and better ways of feeling sorry for yourself.”

Or “Next week, let’s talk about your absentee father.”

Which translates into “Let’s talk about how your father was trying to build a career or a business, and like 100-million other men went to work every day so there would be food on your plate and he could actually accomplish something in life beside sitting home and wiping your nose.”

You can bet those translations are what’s going on in your therapist’s head as he conducts another 40 minute hour of the cure for your “abandonment” by your parents.

Let’s all jump on the bandwagon: “Dr. Zirconium, I had a perfectly normal childhood. A loving home, great relationships with my parents and my brothers and sisters. Now, I feel guilty because there are so many people who didn’t have that.”


Dr Polyethylene I think I’m suffering from Post Traumatic Stress syndrome brought on by the events of 9/11/01 and that’s why I beat my cat and rob convenience stores.

Or: “Dr. Quantum I can’t get a decent job because the whole world’s against me because I’m a misunderstood (White Male, African American Female, Asian, Jewish, Muslim, Native American, dwarf, wheel chair user…etc.)

Now, knock it off and get to work.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


187 Spokes-o-Mania

Recent news item: Suzanne Somers’ Malibu home was destroyed by fire, a spokesman for the former actress said.

This leads to the question “why does a FORMER actress need a spokesman?

But an even broader question is why does anyone, and are there too many.

A search of Google News on the same day showed the term “spokesman” was in more than 237,000 relatively current items, “spokeswoman” in about 100,000 others and “spokesPERSON” (a double abomination both for the term itself and what it signifies,) added another 18,000 mentions.

To be fair, a check of Yahoo News followed. The results: “Spokesman” 134,000, “Spokeswoman” 57,000 and “spokesperson” 14,000.

Assuming there is plenty of duplication between the news services, there are still more than a quarter of a million spokes-mentions in recent news items.

Contrarians in the news business tried for a time to solve the dual problems of gender neutrality and truth by labeling all of these people “publicists.” That works to a point, but only a point.

Telephone caller: “Is this the home of Bill Smithers?”

Answerer: “Yes it is.”

TC: “may I speak with him? I’m calling from the Knights of the Bulbous Tuber, we’re having a recruiting drive in the neighborhood.”

A: “I’m sorry, but Mr. Smithers unavailable right now. I’m his spokesperson. May I help you?”

TC: “I really need to speak with Mr. Smithers directly about his joining the Knights.”

A: Well, Mr. Smithers isn’t presently available. I’ll be happy to answer any questions I can, though.”

Yes, today, everyone can have a spokesman to handle the little daily annoyances that previously required personal attention.

Have your spokesman tell the IRS that you are not free to comment right now about the 30-thousand dollars in income you failed to report in 2001.

Have your spokesman tell the cop that you weren’t going 80 in a school zone at 7:30 on a weekday morning, and that you are unavailable to personally accept the ticket he’s writing.

This could get complicated, since the cop sees you behind the wheel and is talking right to you, and the dufus in the back is talking for you. If the cop isn’t thoroughly modern and up to date on his communications skills, he’s likely to call for backup and haul the both of you to the slammer.

A spokesman for Big Cow Supermarkets denies you were overcharged for scallions.

If the president has Tony Snow, why can’t you hire your own ex-fox anchorman as a spokesman?

Or woman.

Bill Smithers’ spokeswoman, Linda Vester, said Mr. Smithers was in a meeting and unavailable to attend the audit, and neither confirms nor denies any wrongdoing.

(Smithers is in high demand. The IRS wants him. The Knights of the Bulbous Tuber wants him. He’s GOT to have a spokesperson.)

Most of the time we can tell whether the publicist is male or female.

Sometimes the term “spokesperson” is used because the person doing the job is of dubious gender.

He’s Wes Richards, and his opinions are his own, but you're welcome to them, according to a spokes-being.

(c) 2007 WJR

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Employment Interview

186 The Employment Interview

Okay, job types, here’s yet another set of tips and tricks to help the employment interview go smooth as a cat’s coat and productive as a fertility drug.

But this one’s for the person DOING the interviewing.

Here are some things to remember heading into the interview: (1) Personnel, People and Human Resources Departments are totally disconnected from real life in your company. You don’t have a clue about how things really work, and chances are you are in the job you’re in because you can’t do much of anything else.

(2) Most of the applicants you interview will know more about what your outfit does than you do and most of them will know more than your CEO.

(3) Everyone has read countless tipsheets on how to be interviewed for a job. So they already have pat and rehearsed answers to the standard moronic questions you’re likely to ask, such as “tell me about yourself,” “what are your strong points?” “what are your weak points?” and “Why do you qualify for this job.”

You can ask the questions, but don’t expect spontaneous answers.

Everyone you interview will have been a member of the Community Chest or the March of Dimes or some similar do-good organization. He or she will be the fan of whatever sports team is presently in or near last place. He or she will be a life-long Republican with an “independent streak” that sometimes leads to voting Democratic or a life-long Democrat with an “independent streak” that sometimes leads to voting Republican.

No one you interview will have had drug or alcohol problems.

Since you’re no longer allowed to ask women about whether they’re married, whether they have children or whether they plan to have children, don’t do that.

Be ready to answer intelligent questions like “how long is the probationary period?” or “what kind of health insurance and/or retirement programs do you offer?” and “why should I work here instead of at ‘competitor X?”

Don’t stare at the chests of applying women (if you’re a straight male or a lesbian,) or at the flies of applying men (if you’re a straight woman or a gay male.)

Read the applicant’s resume and cover letter just before the interview so you don’t sound like a total dummy (which, likely, you are,) by asking questions that the applicant’s already answered.

If an applicant makes the cut and goes on to the next round (who would give YOU ultimate authority to hire anyone?) then call or write or e-mail those who DIDN’T make the cut, tell them you’ll keep their resumes on file for six months and then, DO that.

If you are part of a search or selection committee, remember the poor schlub you’re interviewing is badly outnumbered and probably feels like the representative of Pluto at the “what-is-a-planet” committee meeting.

And if you’re a patronizing SOB, keep in mind that the guy who gets hired will remember that and maybe thereafter, you’ll be getting YOUR resume updated.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Friday, January 05, 2007

Accounting For Health

185 Accounting for Health

Those wonderful folks who brought us slavery, the poll tax, snake oil, country music and grits have done it again! They don’t know it. But they have.

Deep in the heart of Texas and Mississippi, a new form of improved wellness was born from the ashes of the Enron and WorldCom scandals. Accounting for health. The way to fitness and longevity never before imagined. And all it takes is a few strokes of the pencil.

First some background: Some companies have no product or service other than their stock price. And the way they make their stock price rise when there’s no underlying value to support it is to cook the books. But the recipes developed recently put simple graft and embezzlement to shame.

You’re having a bad quarter? Sell assets to yourself. But be sneaky about it. Form a subsidiary to buy the bad stuff. That way, the bad stuff goes off your balance sheet or at least into the footnotes that no one reads.

But why limit this brilliant concept to mere money? Apply it to your annual physical.

Figures came back lousy? No worries. Form another person and get the bad stuff off your medical records.

Overweight? Let’s say you should be, oh, 165 or 170 pounds and you weigh 210. No problem. Donate or sell 30 or 40 pounds to You Associates, LP. Your weight’s normal. Your medical report shines. And the derivative? Who cares about You Associates.

Cholesterol up? Nothing to worry about. Y-A awaits your overage. The figure’s 280? Sell 100 points to the subsidiary. Get the bad stuff off your medical report.

Blood pressure too high? Form a second subsidiary, Y-A-II LP. Sell the diastolic overage to Y-A and the systolic to Y-A II. Gone. Practically impossible to trace. And your medical report shines even brighter.

Now that you have those two subsidiaries, why limit your generosity to health.

You can work the same magic with you GPA or report card. You can work the same magic with the whole planet. Global warming a problem? Get those spare degrees of temperature off the climate charts. Form a “special purpose” satellite or better yet a special purpose PLANET. A few degrees to spare? Get them off the books. Sell those fine assets to Second Moon LP. Leave the worries elsewhere.

You live in the Mississippi flood zone? No worries. Create a Special Purpose River, and put the extra water on THEIR books, not your basement.

Of course, the companies were this stuff was invented are out of business. And some of the inventors are in jail. But they took actual dollars from other people, while you’re merely giving things away.

Now, go have a nice Big Mac or Whopper for dinner.

Your cholesterol level is fabulous, so you know what to say when they ask you “you want fries with that?

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Cure for Old

184 The Cure for Old

Here it is. The fountain of youth. The way to stay young for longer, if not forever.

Credit Billingame the steamfitter for this one. Billingame was fiddling with the furnace in a big downtown office building a few years ago and it came to him, just like that.

The light bulb went off right over his head, so strong, you could practically see it.

Don’t have a birthday every year. Make it once every 18 months.

So your birthday comes in, say, January, 2007 and you’re maybe 45 years old. In 2008, you wait until June. In January, 2008, you’re still 45. You don’t get to be 46 until June, 2008.

In June, 2008, you celebrate your 46th birthday. And then, you want another 18 months so that you don’t turn 47 until January of 2010.

Had Billingame started this the year he was born, 1962, he’d already be much younger. But you have to play the hand you were delt.

There is a kind of a conflict here, though. For some years, Billingame is a Capricorn and for others he’s a Gemini. That makes for some interesting internal clashes. And it’s murder when the three of them try to get together.

What about doing this with your taxes? Corporations often do it, so why not you. You pay taxes every April? How old fashioned. April 07. Then you wait until October 08. Then April 2010. The IRS will probably frown on this. But you can always remind them that you have shifted to an 18 month year. That ought to hold them.

Of course, this will delay your entry into medicair. And it will lengthen the time you’re draft-bait (not to mention jail bait.) It’ll take longer for you to drink legally and longer to retire. But the retirement systems are a shambles, anyway. A small price to pay for the extended youth.

Use Billingame’s system and you will be in the “desirable” demographic much longer than your friends and neighbors.

And, of course, you will look older than you “are.”

But, again, a small price to pay when you can say in all honesty that you’re not yet legally 50.

These days, age is a disease. Just ask any boomer yuppie. It’ll be hard to accept the source of this new calculation, because the guy who thought it up is neither a boomer nor a yuppie, but an ordinary working stiff. A steamfitter.

So throw off the shackles that bind you to a mere number.

Accounting magic can work for everyone.

I'm Wes Richards, my opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.

(c) 2007 WJR

4744 The Running of the Bull

  Newsday Photo   A bull escaped from a farm in Moriches on New York’s Long Island and has been playing hide and seek ever since.  It’s not ...