Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Belt

#353 The Communications Belt

Ever notice what a cop wears around the middle? It's the nearest thing to Batman's Utility Belt that you find in the real world. Gun, baton, ammo, cuffs, two way radio, cell phone, and other secret cop stuff that we don't have clearance (or authority) to tell you about (not even the emergency spare donut case. Oops. Told you. Top that with pockets full of keys, summons books and who knows what-all else, they could send the belt and uniform to the gym to work off some of that weight.

The stuff they carry must way a ton. But we civilians are fast approaching the uniformed police for the carrying of gear. And while still mostly optional, we're getting big around the middle and all the expansion comes externally.

Think about it. We carry a cell phone, maybe even two of them. After all, you want to separate business and personal calls, don't you? Many do, hence, two cells. One of them may also be a Blackberry, hence, email on the go. Email at the restaurant. Email and text messaging in the car. Or on an airplane, or trapped inside a mine shaft. Email, telephones and texting in the bathroom. (See Wessay #330, "Death Knell for Newspapers," 12/7/07.) There are computers at the office, computers at home, computers everywhere. Also at home, you have at least one land line or cable phone. Back to your belt: you have an ipod, a set of ear buds for it. Maybe you even carry a radio or a CD player. The only thing missing is a TV set, and that's only because your Sony Watchman broke and no one will fix it.

Most of the communication stuff is two way. The phones, the 'berry, maybe a walkie talkie to keep up with your kids. We have more, better, cheaper, cleverer stuff than the US Army in World War II. We have more personal communication gear than the moon-landing Astronauts. We can "talk" with someone ten thousand miles away as easily as someone around the corner or standing next to us on the subway.

So, how come so few people respond to e-mails anymore? Or return calls?

Old excuses don't work. "I never got your message" once was a legit excuse. Not now. Voicemail has become technically so efficient that one almost never loses a message. Email often used to vanish into cyberspace. It doesn't do that a whole lot anymore. (You can hit something on the keyboard and an unsent message may explode, but that's a different story.)

So why?

Because secretly, we all have this stuff just to have this stuff. It's kind of like smoke alarms. We hang them up (the new religious icons?) and we hope never to have to use them. But if the fire inspector comes along and asks if you have one, you have one to display.

Same with the cell phone array and the accompanying chorus of Blackberries. They're not really tools of communication. They're talismans.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©2008 WJR

Monday, January 28, 2008

Gordon B. Hinckley

#352 Gordon B. Hinckley 1910-2008

Unusual fellow, Gordon Hinckley. Ran the Mormon church far longer than he headed it. Officially, they crowned him, or elected him or whatever it is they do out there where the desert sun bakes your brain and wrinkles your skin when he was 84 years old. Guy came up through the ranks. Did the scut work for decades and largely without complaint.

These folk call the head of their church the "president and prophet." Not an easy role to fill. Hinckley did it in different ways. Two, three notches down from the top (and promotion is expected, but not automatic,) he found himself the only mentally solvent guy in the house when Spencer Kimball started wandering around the presidential palace (which is an apartment,) and fading. Hinckley, then a relatively youthful 75, showed up every day and did whatever those guys do.

Everyone knew who the prophet was. and wasn't. And everyone knew Hinckley was running the place. Ran up some pretty good investments, ran up a pretty big expansion which continued right up until the time of his death.

Thing about it is the dementia that hits so many of us in our later years never really set in.

His immediate predecessors, Ezra taft Benson and Howard Hunter were not firing on all cylinders for their relatively short tenures. So when Hinckley got the superbowl ring in 1995, he was for all purposes the most vigorous of that bunch.

Hinckley ran the church businesses while the president got to sign declarations and do whatever else those guys out there do. And he continued running them as he was promoted through the ranks. His "thing" was expansion. And expand they did -- reaching a membership of about 12 million worldwide during his years.

Thing is, he wasn't one of those holier than thou guys you'd expect to run an outfit like that. He was accessible. He mingled with the peasants. And he didn't have any of the "revelations" of the kind that outsiders hear about and say "aw, c'mon."

Those revelations go back to the beginnings. For example, polygamy. Do you know how that ended? It ended at a very convenient time. The Mormons wanted the Utah Territory to become a state. Congress said "you have to end that multiple marriage thing or we won't even consider it." Just in the nick of time, the prophet got a message from above. It said "end multiple marriages." So they did and became a state.

Fast forward to Spencer Kimball. The church had become very active in the Boy Scouts. But if you were scout leader of a Mormon-sponsored troop, you had to be a "bishop," which meant you had to be white and male. The scouts, who have their own discrimination problems, didn't buy that excuse for keeping black men from being scout leaders and threatened to yank the charter.

Guess what? Spence gets up one morning and announces he's just heard from You-Know-Who in heaven that black men should now become bishops. And they did. So, the church kept the charter.

Hinckley's connection to that stuff must have been filled with static. He didn't have any of those earth shaking revelations. He just stuck to his knitting, building a worldwide organization.

He leaves behind a legacy of outreach, a fond memory as a good and engaged employer, as a man who earned the respect of his opponents, in and out of the organization as a man who could tell -- and could take -- a joke and who never let power, influence or almost 100 years of living rot his brain.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©2008 WJR

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Martians Are Coming

#351 The Martians Are Coming

There's a lot more going on in farm country than cow milking and sheep courting.

There's real science going on, and not just developing new growth hormones.

Take the case of Dipindaharda, Texas, where all kinds of reputable citizens swear by everything holy (and there's plenty of holy in Dipindaharda, Texas,) that they've seen a fleet of sleek, new unidentified flying objects. Reputable down there doesn't exactly mean reputable. But, okay. You've got a pilot, a cop, a member of the Good Ole Boy's council, a country singer, two farmers (one with sheep and one with cows,) and an ex Marine sergeant all saying, in effect, the flying saucers have landed.

Actually, the Martians abandoned the flying saucer around the same time the United States abandoned prop-driven passenger airplanes. The design wasn't working in either case, at least not as well as newer technology. That would mean the jet down here and the flying triangle up there. The former is more efficient, faster, easier to maintain and cheaper. The latter? Don't know. There are no aerodynamic problems in space, so a saucer should be as efficient as a triangle in zero gravity and zero air. But once inside a planet's atmosphere, the triangle could be more aerodynamic and therefore more efficient than the saucer.

This is a leading indicator that the Martians who come here and to other planets (a) have their own energy crisis, and (b) want to reduce the greenhouse gases they produce. Kind of a good neighbor policy. Anyway, flying triangles.

Flying triangles with lights. And the lights change patterns.

Dipindaharda Senior Deputy Sheriff Lawrence "Leather Larry" Luckhardt says "the lights keep changing. It's like a light show. Very cool." Actually Deputy Leather said "Them thar lahts..." But it's hard to catch the dialogue in print.

Experts from the World Flying Saucer Center, the WFSC (they have to modernize that name!) say the lights are advertisements from businesses on Mars, sponsors of the flight. (Free enterprise thrives on our neighboring planet. No government subsidies for these interplanetary excursions.) The President of the EFSC, Hans Fertig, an astrophysicist and first man to levitate on the White House lawn, says "when the ships take off, they rise slowly through the Martian atmosphere, and the lights are easily visible to Martians on the ground for hours. So some of the larger industrial companies and some service businesses have used the lights to promote themselves. It keeps costs down."

Back in Texas, Col. A. Harley Burkett (USMC-Ret.) says that "the triangles made no sound. And they were flying very low to the ground." He also says he saw one of the strange aircraft "chased by a couple of F-16 from the air base over the hill."

A check with the air base elicited three different responses. When the UFOs were first reported, a spokesman for the base, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak said "I cant talk about that." A check-back one day later and he said "those weren't our planes. We had no planes in the air at the time of the reports. And a week later, he said, still speaking on condition of anonymity, that they indeed DID have planes in the air over Dipindaharda that night, "so what they saw was us."

A spokesman not authorized to speak, speaks. And we believe him.

By now, of course, the Martians have established a base camp in Texas farm country, and sent their ad-bearing flying triangles back to Mars for supplies.

Somebody call Chertoff.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Scaife Wing

#350 The Scaife Wing

Richard Mellon Scaifre of Nowhere, PA ain't what he used to be. But the memory lingers on.

Scaife is the newspaper zillionaire who funded Kenneth Starr and his clones, the guys who seemed like all-Americans trying to take over America and turn it into a skinhead paradise.

Scaife has started opposing the war and isn't so sure anymore that Kenny, baby is the right guy to dictate to America.

And we're not all that sure that he's the funding behind the current Scaife Wing. But someone like him certainly is.

We think of Rush Limbaugh as a buffoon. But he isn't. He's an influence. And in recent days he's been campaigning against Sen. John McCain's presidential bid and for former Governor Willard Romney's.

He liked Fred Thompson, too. But dead Fred had the electrodes pulled from his head and the body politic that was this Frankenstein has ceased to function.

Now, it's Romney for President.

Why? What does this radio talk moron know that we don't?

Where is the money coming from beside Romney's own prodigious bankroll?

From anyone who wants to destroy the Republican party in the name of conservatism.

Day after day this buffoon tells us how McCain, nice guy that he is, is not true to conservative principles and that Romney, who has switched his position on so many issues no one can count them, is.

Thompson's withdrawal from the race for the Republican presidential nonination leaves a pretty dry field of conservatives.

So the Scaifies have to come up with someone to out-Fred Fred.

Somewhere in the back of all this is someone's money. Probably not Scaife. He doesn't have enough. And these days, he doesn't even seem to have the will he once did to destroy American values. So someone is feeding the Limbaugh monster.

The question is is anyone paying any attention to this guy?

The answer is yes.

People listen and believe "it wouldn't be on the radio if it weren't true."

Guys like Rush want power. They want to dethrone the east and west coast men and women who are the real republicans. And while he spends a lot of time and energy trying to make McCain and former Arkansas Governor Mike Hucklebuck seem like raving liberals (i.e. Democrats from 1945,) he's become a man without a candidate, but not without principles. He wants to turn you into a plow horse.

He wants to give you "choices." Choices in health insurance, choices in jobs, choices in investments. Translation: he wants you to spend so much time and effort on this claptrap that you don't have any time to evaluate what's gong on around you.

Here's what's going on around you: a theoretical end to the compromise and colaborations that have made America great, all the while denying that's the reaon for our national greatness. Here's what's going on around you: a denyal of reason couched in the most reasonable-sounding terms. Here's what's going on around you: a theocracy in the making, but not just a theocracy, but one which aims to make Christianity the State Religion. (The Constitution forbids that, but no one with any clout is watching.

Here's what's going on around you: an attempt to take over the means of communication, the media.

Once these guys get into power, you can forget American values, you can forget cooperation, you can forget coalition.

These people want nothing more than total power over you and yours.

They pay lip service to individualism, but that's all it is. What they want is to control you.

Why? Because they're a bunch of frightened psychotics who think that they know how the world works, but haven't a clue.

And they're being led by someone who makes Goebbels look like a rank amateur.

Are you going to get sucked in? Or are you going to turn what's left of your brain back on?

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©2008 WJR

Monday, January 21, 2008

English Muffins

#349 English Muffins

Sam Thomas was a genius. He hasn't been around for a long time, but you know him, even if you don't know you know him.

He's the guy who either invented or stole the idea for the English muffin.

Thomas arrived in New York from England around 1880 and immediately started baking. Some say the thing's been around since maybe 1710 or so, but everyone associates the name Thomas' with English muffins. And even if he did borrow the basic idea, he should be credited with breaking the laws of physics.

That's because a 12 ounce pack of six muffins can (and usually does) produce 40 pounds of crumbs. No one but Thomas knows how that happens. But it happens in millions of toasters across America every day.

Maybe it's biology, not physics. English muffins may reproduce at a rate that would turn Peter Rabbit (or Bugs Bunny) green with envy. But biologists don't know whether all those crumbs are embryonic muffins or new matter, like, say, positrons.

When you buy the package, it weighs 12 ounces.

If you leave the package standing for a couple of months, it may weigh a little more, because eventually the bread molds and mold has weight. But just a LITTLE weight. When you pick it up to throw it way, it doesn't feel any heavier than the day you bought it.

But if you do what most of us do, you open the package within a day or so of its purchase. And that's when the new matter starts to form, or the embryos spread.

Cut one to put in the toaster and all of a sudden you have an acre of crumbs. (How you cut it makes a difference. If you use a knife, you only get three quarters of an acre. If you stab the edges with a fork -- as the packager recommends -- you get the full acre.)

We've consulted with two or three science guys and they agree that this form of creation does not generally work with other items, such as bananas, inner tubes or your kids. bad idea. Here at the Wessays Secret Mountain Laboratory, we tried it with a hard roll and got a fair result, and with an apple and just got wet, but no crumbs.

You open the muffin, the muffin doesn't seem to get heavier -- and certainly doesn't seem to get lighter. But there they are. A million crumbs. On the counter top, on the floor, in the sink.

You toast the thing and it STILL doesn't much change size. But there's a whole new set of crumbs on the bottom of the toaster. They weren't there before. They are there NOW. The only thing we can tell for sure is once you eat the main muffin, it stops making news matter (or emitting embryos.)

We need to know two things: (1) how does this process work, and (2) how can we build cars and furnaces that run on English muffin crumbs. It's an amazingly prolific form of self renewing fuel, if we can only figure out how to harness it.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©2008 WJR

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Listerine Theory

#348 The Listerine Theory

Call it the fight for authenticity. Since 1879, Listerine Antiseptic has tasted lousy. There's a reason. We believe stuff that tastes lousy works.

The stuff was first put together to ward off germs in hospital operating rooms (some of which still were in the backs of barber shops in those days, hence the red, white and blue barber polls.) It was an early germ fighter that got crowded out of the surgery business after more effective things came along. But it DIDN'T get crowded out of everything. Yes, those enterprising Americans found other uses for the stuff and capitalize on the myth that something that tastes bad or stings or vaguely resembles what you put into those little cups at the doctor's office works better than something that tastes sweet, doesn't sting and looks like the stuff with which they color candy-coated gum balls.

It's only recently that the makers have decided to make sweet tasting, tooth whitening, gum ball blue colored Listerine and they may be having a tough time convincing generations of users of the original that they're getting the same effectivness.

We'll get back to this in a moment. But first, a trip down the cat food aisle, and a visit to the Cat Food Theory.

Most cats can't read. Or if they can, they don't admit it.

So when you see pretty pictures of fish or other creatures on the labels of cat food, guess who they're there for, if not the cats.

Further, your cat -- no matter how smart or clever -- does not know the difference between Salmon Fillet Deluxe and plain old salmon. She does not know the difference between Ocean Whitefish and Tuna and plain old whitefish and tuna. So, guess why they give the stuff those names, if not for the cats.

Yes, yes... the Listerine theory. Not yet. Please be patient, or as your computer would say "please wait," like you have a choice when it tells you that?

Baby meds. Cold medicines for kids under the age of two.

Babies generally don't read any better than cats. So those fancy looking over-the-counter cold remedies for kids don't appeal to them. If an 18-month-old feels lousy, he knows only that he feels lousy, not that he has a cold or sniffles or congestion or a loose cough or the flu.

So, you, being a caring parent, buy this cold stuff.

Same reason you buy the Ocean Whitefish and Tuna. You want to do something that will benefit the kid or the cat, even if the kid or the cat.

NOW we get back to the Listerine theory.

You, being concerned test out the kids' cold medicine. It tastes lousy. Now you know it's real medicine.

Small problem, though: The Food and Drug Administration says the stuff doesn't work for kids under age two. And it might do serious damage.

Like the originators of Listerine, this is not going to stop sales.

Here's a marketing suggestion: give the "remedies" new names. PediaKill comes to mind. And the ad campaign? "Kid always cranky? Pain in the neck? Always into everything? Not a minutes peace? Cure them with PediaKill. Fast, effective, and no more annoying behavior. (Use only as directed.)

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©2008 WJR

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The King Thing

# 347 The King Thing

This space devotes one submission a year on "Don't try to second guess Martin." Or more accurately we don't know what he'd say about today's conditions and circumstances. Don't speak in his name if you're not him. Don't try to impose YOUR ideas and label them "Martin-late" or even "Martin-lite." This year there are some extra thoughts, in addition to "don't try to guess what he'd say from the Great Beyond."

King's national holiday is around the corner. There's a big hoo-hah going on because Hillary Clinton said --more or less -- that he'd have gotten nowhere without President Johnson pushing the civil rights bills.

This has gotten a lot of people into a twist. They say it is hurtful. They say it diminishes -- or tries to diminish his legacy and his prominence.

There's no doubt today that historically, King was the most important figure of the civil rights era. But he did not act alone.

By his words and by his actions, Dr. King was a coalitionist, a collaborator, a recruiter who wanted as wide a range of supporters as he could find and gather, and as many.

So when Lyndon Johnson went to congress -- with triple clout -- as the president of the United States, with enormous influence as carrier of the Kennedy legacy and as the former top guy in the Senate, the legislators listened and did what they were asked, albeit some of them kicking and screaming.

We heard no squawking from the sidelines when he did that. At least, not from followers of Martin Luther King. In fact, they were pleased that he -- or someone -- had recruited the President of the United States, a southerner, to the cause.

But it wasn't only LBJ. It was also the leaders of the country's northern-based Protestant churches who said "this guy," meaning King, "was right. We should support him." Without the Bishops of the Methodist Church, the civil rights legislation of the time might still be languishing in committee. But they directed their ministers to get up and support their fellow minister's good works. And they did.

And that got ordinary people to thinking "yeah, what were we thinking?"

The decision of the President cost his Democratic Party, in his own words, the south "for a long time..." as he put in an interview with Bill Moyers.

Actually, after the aforementioned kicking and screaming was over, the south fell in line much more rapidly and rigorously than the north. Southern bigots were always pretty up front about their bigotry. Northern bigots (including many of my fellow New York Liberals) were much more circumspect about it, and much more subtle.

The south said "okay, we have to change. We don't want to, but we will." And they did. The north said "we were never bigots in the first place. So nothing's different. No 'colored only' water fountains and lunch counters up here. Now, let's all move to Levittown." Baloney!

Martin Luther King did not work alone.

And he never claimed to.

So giving credit to those who helped him along the way is a compliment, not a criticism.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2008

Monday, January 14, 2008

A commentator's Quandary

#346 A Commentator's Quandary

So here's Young Einstein on the radio, doing a talk show under strange conditions.

Two jobs in a row now, the owners say "It's your show, do what you want."

Anyone who's ever done a program knows that's almost too good to be true.

First time, the guy saying it was Mike Bloomberg, who meant it and had both the clout and the money to protect Einey and his own operation, maybe not in that order.

Now, here it is eight years later and it's being said by people with a world of less money and clout, but no less sincerity.

And along comes an opportunity to do some real good for the audience, but at what cost to those good and well meaning folks who will not be getting on the Forbes 400 list any time soon?

Here's the situation: A member of Congress who needed to retire before he was elected has finally decided to retire. For the record, he's a Republican in a Republican district and a primary for his job would probably be the real contest, with the actual election a formality.

For now, there are two guys who want this job. One is a public drunk of a kid, the other a pompous, blathering senior citizen recently twice rejected by the voters for a lower office.

The public drunk of a kid is the son of a relatively wealthy business type (again, not Forbes 400 class, or even close. But compared to the rest of the locals, Mister Moneybags.)

When you're the local Mister Moneybags, you have local influence. If MM goes to, say, Honest Bob's Used Cars and says "Hey, Honest Bob, my kid's getting dissed something awful on that Young Einstein Radio guy." Honest Bob will think "hey, if I stop advertising on the radio station with the Young Einstein show, I'll score brownie points with Mister Moneybags." So, without being asked, Honest Bob pulls his ad schedule. Moneybags notices and sends a lot of business Honest Bob's way in return. Not a word's ever said. And there are a lot of guys like Honest Bob who advertise on the Young Einstein show.

So, this increases the chances of Public Drunk Kid getting elected, because even though everyone knows about his bottoms-up lifestyle, it might not be shoved into their ears day in and day out.

Thing is, it SHOULD be shoved into their ears day in and day out. And the guy should drink all he wants whenever he wants, but not on the public dime and not in the halls of congress.

The other guy is slightly less influential, but only slightly so the same quandary applies. This guy's got a PhD in some subject that doesn't help you get honest work, and is living proof anyone can earn a doctorate. The part of the degree he gets right is the part that teaches you that if you have one of these you walk on water, and possibly air. It's a fake lesson. But an awful lot of people believe it.

So here you have two guys shooting at the same target (either election to congress or us. Or both.) And one of them's going to get closer to the bull's eye than the other, and close enough is enough to win.

What can Young Einstein do? He "needs" to get the truth out there in stark relief. But he also has to make sure he doesn't damage those good people who say "do what you want," because it could be an economic and reputational hit they can't take -- and shouldn't have to.

Solutions anyone?

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2008

Friday, January 11, 2008

An Unlucky Number

#345 An Unlucky Number

The unlucky number is eighty eight.

Ask the skinheads. They use it to signify allegiance to their long-dead leader. This was a big secret until someone figured out that H is the eighth letter and that 88 meant "Heil Hitler." This makes people uncomfortable with the number. In one case, New York radio station WCBS, which used to call itself "News Radio 88" took to calling itself "News Radio 880." The owners say the change was made to more accurately describe its dial position (880 Khz,) but maybe not.

Then there was the most famous model of one of America's most famous car. The Oldsmobile 88. The Olds, named for Ransom E. Olds, who also built the Reo, turned into typical GM tin and plastic in its last decades. And one day, one of the financial geniuses at General Motors figured out no one needed the Olds. So goodbye, "88."

Then there's the sort-a general store that recently elected to close its doors after doing business for 88 years.

Are these 88s really connected? Probably not. The problems of the skinheads (redundant as that phrase may seem, since BEING a skin head is the chief problem of being a skinhead. That there's an 88" involved is probably incidental.

Was it the model 88 that killed Oldsmobile? No. They had models with other labels, though the "Rocket 88," was the most famous. Olds was just a homeless brand amid other slow selling GM cars whose division heads probably had more clout with the board room wheels.

And the store that closed its door? Yes, it was 88 years old. But they probably could have closed it at 78 or 68 with equal justification. And maybe they could have hung on until they were 89.

The guy who started it wanted, he said, to have a place where "...people could come for anything from flat (roofing) shingles to a steak." And that's what they did for most of those 88 years.

Announcement of the closing was made only three days before the event (or, more accurately, the non-event,) itself.

Fifty people out of work.

And while there are plenty of other places around where you can buy roofing shingles and steaks, and the canned goods and window curtains and work clothes and furniture and appliances and coffee makers and shelf knickknacks they sold, there were things you could get that you CAN'T get anywhere else.

The houses in its neighborhood were built early in the last century; some of them in the century before last. These buildings require plumbing fixtures that they don't sell in Wal-Mart, Home Despot or Plastico's Home Improvement Centers. It's going to be tough when the sinks and toilets start breaking and Joe Homeowner has to get custom made elbow joints from.... from.... well, from somewhere.

The place had character. And characters. And an elevator that made you obey a list of obscure and anti-intuitive laws before it would deign to carry you, wobbling, to the upper floor or the basement.

Walking into that building was like stepping into 1948. While it was decently clean, it had a World War II era sag and dinginess to it that a lot of customers found endearing.

Well, not a LOT of customers. A FEW customers. If they'd had a LOT of customers, they'd probably be open today.

It's tough to compete in the Big Box era. Some still manage. Would that they all could.

I'm Wes Richards My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©2008 WJR

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Liars!

#344 The Liars

Those closed mouthed, sneaky stone farmers in New Hampshire? They're liars. They told us they were going to make Sen. Obama of Illinois their choice for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Then they turn around, and go to the ballot box, and stuff it full of paper for Hillary Clinton!

Teach us to believe what voters tell poll takers.

Lies. Damned lies.

You ask 'em if they think it's going to rain, and they pause for half an hour and say "yep," and no rain for a month.

You ask 'em who they want for President, they say Obama. THEN it rains. But only on the candidate.

Oh, the pundits say, "we missed something... but WHAT?"

Yeah, you missed something. You missed that people from places like Maine and New Hampshire and Vermont don't like to be pigeon-holed, and when they feel they're in a coop, they do the opposite of what they led you to expect.

And you missed this: Hillary Clinton won the primary

This New Hampshire Primary was supposed to be hang-up-your-cackle-and-tears time for Clinton.

"Ehhh, nope."

So what else are they lying about?

Not McCain. The voters spoke the truth and the polls were right.

But since the whole state is just a tryout in advance of the Broadway opening, the results don't matter beyond giving new life to a winning candidate everyone expected to lose.

Nice that Sen. John made a hurrah, perhaps his last, though who knows, because there are liars in every state.

Second place horse Romney says he's going to carry on. Great. A big show for people who buy kaleidoscopes or have pet chameleons.

He made a little speech when it became clear he wasn't going to win, which itself was not a terrible shock for anyone beside the 182 members of his immediate family.

Third place (show horse) Democrat John Edwards, who often is confused with Romney (they share a barber and a dentist) came out with that same speech. He's going to carry on.

Oh Joy.

About the best thing you can say for the New Hampshire thing is that the turnout was heavy. Probably, that's a function of the spring-like weather, as much as it was the passion of the voters. We could take a poll about why they voted. But since we've established that New Hampshire is populated almost exclusively by liars, who'd believe the figures.

A lot of people missed two important points:

(1) Global warming is, indeed, man made. Look at the hot air generated in this thing. And
(2) No one is trying to figure out how to harness the output of hundreds of blowhards -- the politicians and their lackey legions, the advertising creators and the talking heads of the media world.

By the time the campaign ends and the election is held, we'd have enough wind power to put ExxonMobil, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and a raft of otherwise needless entities out of business.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©2008 WJR

Monday, January 07, 2008


#343 Moooo

Ever try to bust up one of those plastic milk bottles? Can't be done. You need an H-bomb and a platoon of jackhammers and even then, it's iffy.

They could fix all the decaying bridges by propping them up with these things. They could build escape-proof jails out of this stuff. You can bury one in a landfill and come back 60-million years later and still be able to read the label. If Detroit built cars out of this stuff, they'd put the entire auto body repair industry out of business overnight.

And of the seven trillion of these things manufactured since the dawn of the Plastic Age, none has ever leaked. Until now.

And when it leaked, it leaked big time, first filling the plastic grocery bag in which it was wrapped, then the trunk of the car in which the bag was placed and finally the street below (trunks may be water proof, but they're not milk proof.)

Fortunately this happened in the parking lot of the supermarket. The same parking lot where that guy (Wessay #349, "The Flashback") was caught whistling "Jingle Bells" well after Christmas. Fortunately, because a squadron of customer service women came out to help clean up the mess.

That wasn't the plan. The plan was to buy a half gallon of milk and put it in the refrigerator. But when both the container and the bag started leaking, then trailing milk in on the pavement and all the way back into the store and then onto the customer service counter, the ladies came out with their bottles of Windex and their cleaning cloths and paper towels, back tracking all the way to the car.

It's nice to rub shoulders, a store counter, pavement, a wet market cart and a car trunk with Cute Young Things.

Checker-outer Kim asked (appalled,) "was that MY fault?"

"Kim, is your last name Scissorhands?"

"Um... no..."

"Can you crush stones with your bare hands?"

"Um... no..."

"Do you have a silent jackhammer in the bagging area of your checkout counter?"

"Um... no..."

"Well then probably it's not your fault."

(Obvious sigh of relief.)

The good news is that there was nothing in the broken bag but the broken bottle. So nothing else was damaged. In fact, the milk that leaked onto an adjacent bag didn't penetrate it, so its contents, two bottles of hand lotion, a tube of Neosporin, a loaf of bread two broccoli crowns and a copy of "The Globe" were undamaged.

Meantime, there's a chance to check out one of the great untested scientific principles of modern times. The guy in the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" says Windex is good for everything from cleaning glass to treating cuts and bruises. We'll see how it does with the carpets that line the trunks of cars.

The back of the car smells like Windex. When that fades -- and it will -- the result will be either no scent, or the stink of milk sitting in a carpet for a week.

Let's hope he was right.

I'm Wes Richard. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2008

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Iowa Crocuses


The election is over, now we can all go back to normal. Oh. Wait, wasn't the election, it just seems like it. It's the Iowa crocuses, where people get together and quilt and tat and tell the rest of the country who the next President of the United States will be. Or at least who the contestants will be. Here's a state that in no way is a microcosm of America, that has relatively little electoral clout and hardly enough electricity to run all the cable TV and satellite news trucks that flood in once every four years, telling the future for the rest of us. News Satellites. Crystal balls in space.

The best thing you can say about the whole sorry mess is that a goofy, bass playing mini-state governor is scaring hell out of the neo-con dominated Republican Party. If you look at the guy's record, you see a bunch of actions and policies most of which could easily be accepted by a normal American. Except too much New Testament and not enough foreign policy. The neos and the reaganauts thought they had the party in a pin fall, or, at the very least, a headlock. Apparently not. This will make the Think tank crowd crazy. They'll be up on the tube for the next six months frothing and drooling about Iraq and releasing criminals and coddling illegals and how their hard work has been betrayed by an ungrateful voting public. Democracy goes just so far, after all. At least when your guys lose.

The second best thing you can say about the whole sorry mess is that the arrogant and detached Hillary Clinton got whumped. She managed a show (as in win-place-show,) but that's not good enough. And someone's sure to whine about how she lost because she's a woman. That ain't so. There are roughly 150-million women in America, and plenty of 'em are qualified to be President. Golda Meir she's not.

In hindsight, Obama's win on the Democratic Party side is not surprising. He's young and articulate, and unlike Edwards, he shows little sign of down-spiraling into another hysterical Howard Dean. Further, there aren't enough African Americans in Iowa to get a decent "there goes the neighborhood" movement going among the state's white population. That he's been in the US Senate for something like 20 minutes doesn't seem to matter much, at least not yet.

Poor Governor Richardson and Senator Biden, probably the best qualified of this lot. Guys like that rarely stand a chance. Of course, even though it seems that this campaign started before the invention of the wheel, it's only just now really getting rolling.

By the time this all ends, our minds will be totally numbed and our eyes totally glazed over. Or we'll feel like we're six feet under, pushing up crocuses.

And they wonder why the turnouts are so low.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them. ®
©2008 WJR

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Sound Off

#341 Sound Off

Cruising through the antique mall the other day, a book of Norman Rockwell paintings popped up and asked to be noticed. Rockwell, as did Ronald Reagan, sought to depict or take us back to a time that never was. All those perfectly featured white guys. (There were a few African Americans. Usually railroad porters, dining car waiters and shoe shine men.) All those kindly elderly people -- the doctor, the dentist, the teacher. All those well behaved children (except a couple of 1920s or 1930s looking boys with taxi driver hats and the occasional black eye.

Life never was as Rockwell portrayed it. Mostly, we knew that in his heyday. Certainly we know it now. But he was an illustrator of grand ability, portraying with photographic reality things that could never be photographed because they didn't exist.

Near the book was a 1920s Royal Typewriter. (Owned a few of those. Wish I still did.) Hit a few keys on the thing, and realized how the wonderful clacking sound those things made has vanished. Wish there were a Norman Rockwell of sound.

As we cruise along in the 21st century, there are sounds from the past that today's young people will never hear and the rest of us never will hear again. The typewriter probably is the most familiar. But there are a slew of others.

Almost no one in a newsroom today has heard the sound of an active teletype machine. It's like a typewriter on usually much steadier. That's because people at the transmitting end typed with a regularity and a rhythm that no one has (or needs) today.

The only place you can hear a telegraph key is in a museum, and there's probably nowhere on the planet you can hear the music made by several of them in use simultaneously.

The sound of an electric car is, well, creepy. It's practically no sound at all. This does not make sense to the senses. Cars don't go uphill silently. Something's wrong.

The sound of an internal combustion engine has changed radically, too. Exhaust systems are now "tuned." They used to just rumble. And you could tell months in advance when you were going to need to replace them, because they got louder and louder and louder over time, and more raucus.

Cash registers, adding machines, record changers, door latches, windows, trains, propeller planes, horse-pulled wagons on cobblestone, the report of an M-1 rifle, a wind up watch, a dog-house bass fiddle, the sound the card catalogue drawer made in the library.

All of these are gone. The stuff that made those sounds was generally inferior to what has replaced them. No one wants to type when there's a word processor. Electric cars are good for the environment, or so it's said. What would you do with an adding machine that you can't do with a calculator and twice the speed, one tenth the cost and one per cent of the space?

We preserve images. We preserve textures. We preserve smells -- at least to an extent. But not sounds. And we should.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©2008 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 ...