Monday, March 31, 2008

Obama Nation

#379 Obama Nation

Barak Obama, contestant for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination held a rally on the campus of Party State University in Midlanowhere County, Pennsylvania, and he was joined by an estimated 22-thousand close friends. If the election were held today and only here, this guy would be in the White House tomorrow. Too bad we have to wait for November. If he's nominated.

Bill Clinton was here the other day, too. Drew about eight thousand supporters for his wife's presidential candidacy. Not bad, considering that the hall in which he spoke has a capacity of six thousand. And it was a weekday evening. Still, Obama won in crowd count, almost three-to-one.

Maybe this was just a screwup and not a lie. Sen. Obama and several others were described in the local paper's website as having played a game of basketball before the rally. Said game was described as having taken place on the floor of the university's largest indoor concert and athletic venue, a place with a pretty name, the "Bryce Jordan Center," named for a guy named Bryce Jordan who isn't even dead yet.

Said venue is jammed to the rafters with the members of the local builders' association, holding its annual show, and crammed with booths pitching everything from houses to electrical and concrete and kitchen counter and mortgage hawkers. The booths are so tightly packed, there's scarce room for visitors (who paid five bucks a head) to wander around.

So, maybe they got it wrong. Or maybe the Obama campaign just lied to the paper, which would be less of a lie than, say, Hillary Clinton describing her landing in the Balkans as "under fire." Lying about basketball is less of a lie than lying about bullets.

Obama wants semi-universal health care. He wants to zap Bush's tax decreases for the rich and to reward the rest of us. He wants to get us out of Iraq forthwith. This is pie in the sky baloney. None of that's going to happen. So what? That the guy wants it is good enough. It's a tone-setter. It means things will get better, just not completely better. It's all we can hope for and all we should expect.

The most important single function of the President of the United States is nowhere in the Constitution. The President sets the tone. He or (gulp!) she sets the country's tone. We need someone who's tone-setting focuses on the ordinary American, not the corporate chieftain. We need someone who sets the tone about shared responsibility, instead of dog-eat-dog capitalism. We need someone who reminds us that what makes this country great is its institutionalized bootstrapping. We need someone who can remind us by his presence that we can do better than we've done under Reaganism and Bushism and even Clintonism.

If we don't elect this guy, we deserve what we get instead.

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

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Ceiling of Mushrooms

#378 A Ceiling of Mushrooms

Mushrooms grow under ground, right? Not always. Sometimes, they grow on the ceiling.

One of the neighboring towns, a place with a long and storied history, and which badly needs a paint job, recently set aside some money to renovate the high school. The project is not going perfectly.

A few things have come out about this renovation that are, well, unsettling.

First, it's running over budget and behind schedule. This in and of itself is not startling. It's happened with every public works project since the contruction of the Great Pyramids, and they found exciting and innovative ways to keep the cost of labor at a minimum.

Second, they put a new floor down in the gym. Sounds like standard stuff, right? They ripped up the old floor, sanded down the concrete beneath and put down the new wood, let it settle, then varnished it and let it sit. Small problem: there's a door in this gym that opens directly to the outside of the building. And one day, someone forgot to close the door. It rained that night and when everyone returned, the floor had kind of oceanic properties, only the waves didn't move.

These waves are too low to surf and too high for a legitimate game of basketball, volley ball, soccer or even roller skating. The finger pointing remains to this day.

The fella who runs the building wouldn't talk with us about it. And based on that, we're not even going to try to ask him about the Ceiling of Mushrooms.

Said crop was discovered when they removed part of the drop ceiling beneath it as part of that same renovation.

Mold on the ceiling above the ceiling. No biggie. They measured it. It was 800 square feet. Both state and federal regs say you have to report anything over 100 square feet. Eight hundred is bigger than 100. They teach that stuff in the very building with the ceiling mold.

Okay, so call the mold abatement people, clean the thing up, replace the drop ceiling and all's well, right? Wrong.

Along comes one of those people we're always "quoting on condition of anonymity because otherwise he'll be out of a job." He tells the local paper "Hey, there was a mold problem and they got rid of it, but didn't tell anyone."

So the paper goes to Building Guy and says "hey, Building Guy, we heard there was an 800 square foot mold problem...." And the Building Guy answers "Mold? There was no mold. What are you talking about?" And the paper noses around a little and finds a receipt from the mold killer company and goes back to Building Guy and says "hey, what's this receipt from the mold killer company if there was no mold?" And Building Guy says somethinglike "hmmmm. I don't remember that..." Then he shuffles through his desk drawer and says "well, lookie here! Yeah. We had some mold. I guess I just forgot about it. I have a lot of stuff cross my desk these days. Just slipped my mind. But there's nothing to worry about, it's all been taken care of."

Did the school board discuss this? No, at least not in a public meeting. Did the school district tell the kids, the parents, the teachers, the workers? Nope.

All this stuff makes the front page. And the school board sends hell-rockets to the paper for "blowing the story out of proportion."

So Building Guy is either a liar or incompetent. Or both. But who cares. The renovation is getting done, and it's a sure bet he enjoyed those ceiling mushrooms on his dinner salad.

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Kevorkian and Congress

#377 Kevorkian And Congress

From the sunny slopes of Southfield, Michigan comes word that the most talked about American doctor since Benjamin Spock, Jack Kevorkian, has decided on yet another career change, congressional candidate. His previous careers, jailbird, assisted suicide maven and medical doctor didn't work out. But at a sprightly 79 years of age, Jack has decided to try for a spot that puts him somewhere between jailbird and medical doctor on the pay scale.

For those who were born this morning, Dr. Kevorkian achieved national prominence by helping terminally ill patients die. Usually, he helped them along from the back of a truck, equipped with all the tools of his trade. Nothing crude, nothing inhumane. The guy was hounded to near-suicide by the zealous prosecutors of Michigan, who finally figured out a way to clip him for second degree murder, and he served eight years of a 10-to-25 year term, getting out early after exhibiting "good behavior," which means he didn't shank anyone -- even someone who might have been terminally ill, while behind bars.

Here's Dr. Death's platform:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Sound familiar? It should. It's the ninth amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Jack thinks that means it's really okay for him to help people kill themselves. And, he says, it makes mandatory seat belt laws unconstitutional. Funny thing about this amendment. No one really knows what it means. The "strict constructionists," the guys who are constitutional fundamentalists, the guys who believe the document means exclusively and exactly what it says and nothing more, think of it as kind of a verbal decoration. Funny, there's nothing else in the Constitution that they think that about. More liberal interpretations think it guarantees a right of privacy (something of a stretch, but okay) or the right to the presumption of innocence until proved guilty (also a stretch, but one we can all agree is a good thing.)

Of course, it might also mean that your right to an ice cream cone each Saturday or Sunday afternoon is guaranteed, though no one has tested that. James Madison, who was the driving force behind this rubberized one-liner, was the oldest of 12 kids. As such, he was probably really really good at devising systems to keep the other eleven in line and to become the transmitter and interpreter of his parents' wishes. He certainly did a pretty good job of transferring those skills to government in later life.

This strangely unique amendment, if phrased colloquially might read "Hey, you know, we can't think of EVERYTHING. And we hope that this thing will outlive us. And we figure times will change, but we have no idea how. So here's a little accordion you can use to squeeze or stretch whatever comes along. Good luck, bud."

So we come from James Madison to Jack Kevorkian. And you have to ask: what's wrong with this picture.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
Ninth amendment ©1791 The Republican National Flagwaving Committee, used by permission.
©WJR 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Real Easter Parade

#376 The Real Easter Parade

Getting cross town on 125th Street is always an iffy proposition. More so on Sundays than weekdays, because while there are fewer cars, there are fewer experienced drivers and a lot of them have Jersey plates, which could mean they don't know quite where they're going and therefore don't know which lane to block. On Easter Sunday, it's even worse, because everyone comes in from everywhere. And this year, with the temperature near 50 and the sun in the sky, it was especially inviting, though it still would have been crowded in a snowstorm.

The Big Churches of Harlem are mostly not on 125th Street. The Abyssinian Baptist Church, which is among the biggest, and arguably the most influential is on 138th. The Riverside's on Riverside. But along 125th Street, there's something of a church on pretty much every block. And if you thought attendance was falling, this is the place to disprove it.

Cross town traffic be damned. The double parking starts about 7:30 in the morning (earlier --- much earlier --- on Easter Sunday,) and lasts well into the late afternoon. On some blocks, it's triple parking. And we're talking nice cars, here. After all, the poor either walk or take the subway or the bus. So do the smart, come to think of it.

Some of these places give you little snippets of Jeremiah Wright-Light. But most of them don't, because that's not what the Ladies In Hats come to hear.

There is a firebrand tradition in the African-American Protestant church. And the Ladies in Hats know and expect and welcome it. But if you ask them, they'll tell you they don't come to church to find hate, that there's well enough of that in the land without having to hear it on a Sunday morning, an Easter Sunday morning at that. Firebrand for something good. Firebrand for Jesus. But don't firebrand about hatred.

I don't know how it is in Chicago, where Wright hung out. But in New York, the black churches have real power and the power behind that power is The Hat.

So you get these storefront churches up and down the block, and the parking which gives the word "block" a whole new meaning.

Luke Jordan has a nice condo in New Haven. He's a banker. On Easter Sunday, he goes down to Elmhurst and picks up Mama and takes her to church in Manhattan, on 125th between Broadway and Amsterdam. And Luke makes sure that Lexus shines. Because if it doesn't, she won't get in. He really didn't want that SUV. But he bought it instead of the Nissan Z because Mama and The Hat fit in without her having to step up or bend over or take The Hat off. He does it on Christmas, too.

The real Easter Parade is on 125th Street, not Fifth Avenue. And it happens every Sunday.

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

Friday, March 21, 2008

The U.S. Hour

#375 U.S. Time

The United States Hour is down against the Eurohour. This must be stopped. Spend an hour there and it's longer than an hour here. How have we let that happen.

The once might U.S. Hour has lost value to the relative newcomer. And it doesn't matter which zone you choose. (We've always been slower than GMT, so the British Hour doesn't really count. But the Eurohour?)

It's harder to measure this comparison than it is, say, the dollar. But it's humiliating. And not one of the Presidential candidates has addressed this critical issue.

Think about it. Let's say your company gives you a temporary overseas assignment. Maybe in -- oh -- Germany. What takes you an hour in Chicago will take you 1:20 in Berlin. This is not fair.

If you're paid by the hour, you earn one hour's pay in one hour in Seattle. In Paris, you have to work 70 minutes for the same pay.

You can accomplish much more here. The hour is definitely faster in Hackensack than it is in the Hague.

We need to grab this bull by the horns before things get completely out of hand. Because it's not just Europe. It's Japan, too. Used to be, a U.S. Hour had 100 Japanese minutes. Now it's down to 96. I tell you, they're coming at us from every angle. (It's probably happening in Russia and China, too. But no one can figure out how they tell time. Not even them.

The first thing we have to do is get the President up there to make a speechification. He has to tell the world that he favors a strong U.S. Hour. He has to let the rest of the world that we will not allow foreign speculators to devalue our time.

And you can help. Got one of those fancy watches with no numbers on the dial? Paint on the numbers. Got some of those fake Dali prints you bought from a slippery character in a hotel room? Burn 'em.

That's only symbolic, but every little act will help.

Now, how did all this happen in the first place? Well, it's White House policy, for one thing. Somehow it's supposed to help our balance of trade. But it doesn't.

There may come a time when we have to completely re-value our time. And that's going to put your watch and your paycheck out of date. And not just the watches without the numbers -- or the hours you spend as a guest worker at your company's headquarters in Naples. We have to guard against this. After all, we're the world's last remaining super power. How does it look when time here isn't as valuable as it is in some third world backwater? How does it look when our time isn't as valuable as that in some seedy old world capitol? Stand up for your time zone, America!

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

©WJR 2008

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


#374 Coupons

Okay, all you out of work investment bankers, here's something you can relate to: clipping coupons. Not the kind you're used to, granted. But coupons to clip, nevertheless.

Maybe you used to hang out at the country club or the yacht club or the gentleman's club. Now, you're going to hang out at the supermarket and the pizza joint. So here are some tips from the peasantry on how to save money - another concept that may be foreign to you, but won't be for long.

A coupon is something a store or a manufacturer gives out to get you to buy there stuff. There's a difference between their stuff and your stuff. Primarily, their stuff actually exists. It's not some fiction, created to haul in the suckers who up until the latest crash bought hot air that you peddled.

Green Giant corn exists. Mortgage backed securities do not.

Get a coupon for 25 cents off a can of Popeye Spinach, you buy a can of spinach and the cashier deducts 25 cents (or maybe even 50 cents, if you hit them on the right day,) from the price and you walk out with a can of actual canned corn. No "futures contracts," no "hedges," no nothing -- except a can of corn.

But you have to be careful. While manufacturers of canned corn or floor polish or toothpaste are different from you in that they make and try to sell actual stuff, they're pretty sneaky.

Coupons have expiration dates. They're written on the coupon, usually at the top and usually in small print. When you present a coupon after it's expired, it's no longer any good. And while those expiration dates are usually a few weeks off from the time you actually acquire the coupon, the time frames are getting smaller. It's not unusual to find a coupon in today's newspaper that expires at the end of the week. Use it or lose it.

The main source for coupons is the Sunday newspaper. That means you have to forgo a few minutes of the televised ball game to actually go through all the stuff in the paper. Who knows, you might stumble across an article that catches your attention. Maybe one about some other former investment bank putting guys like you on the street.

Searching for the coupons to save a few cents here and a few cents there possibly is something you've never bothered with. But now's the time start learning the tricks that normal people have known for ages.

And that idea that you're trading in actual values instead of imaginary concepts is foreign to you. Don't worry. There are lots of people who can help you understand the concept. Start with the minimum wage checker-outer. She may not be as smart or as snazzy as you. But at least she's earning a living, which you are not.

Some coupons come in the mail. There's one here on the desk that you can hide from your spouse. It says you can save thousands of dollars on divorce "for you or a loved one." And the DVD these guys are selling will be sent "discretely... via priority mail." Discretely. You know that word. It comes from "discretion," like what you practiced when you withheld the shakiness of the investments you used to peddle. But, again, don't let your spouse see the part that says "Divorce Smart. Live Happy." After all, she didn't marry you for love.

Clip those coupons, guy. You'll save a bit of money. Maybe with the savings, you can rejoin the country club or start a whole new kind of phony investment.

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

Monday, March 17, 2008

How To Debrief Terrorists

#373 How To Debrief Terrorists

All this stuff about holding terrorists in jail? Denying them lawyers? Not leveling formal charges? Not telling anyone we have them? Sending them to Egypt where there are no anti-torture laws? Totally ineffective.

Waterboarding? Inhumane and ineffective.

Getting women to canoodle with them? Nah. Total waste.

Here's how to get the answers.

Lock them up in a craft store.

Michaels. JoAnn's. Pearl Paint. Craft Warehouse. Crafts-R-Us. One of those. Or any independent retailer of similar ilk.

Twenty minutes in one of those and they'll break down into tears and spill every datum they know, even ones they don't know they know.

If you're a craft person, you won't understand this, because these stores are Craft Paradise (minus the 70 odd virgins.)

Put a youthful male suspect in one of these and in five minutes, he'll start choking. In ten minutes every inch of his skin will be itchy. In 15 minutes he'll be half way to a major migraine. And in 20 minutes, he'll be begging for mercy.

But you have to be crafty about how you do it. After all, you don't want to risk complete culture shock and have the guy turn into a vegetable before you learn what he can tell you.

Here's how. Start at the entrance. Usually, that's where they keep the artificial flowers. You'd think you can't get an allergic reaction to paper, but you're wrong. These flowers give off something that takes all the oxygen out of the area. The colors are blinding. Psychedelic flashback is a risk for subject and interrogator alike. Then, move along to the make-your-own jewelry aisles. Same color problems, but smaller stuff. Force them to examine every bead, every beading tool. Just don't let them at the wire cutters or linoleum knives.

By now, they're fading. Take them over to the unfinished furniture kits. Make them open and smell the bottles of primer and finish. Make them examine the brushes and rollers.

If they're still not ready to talk (they will be, trust me,) take them to the custom framing counter and make them listen to explanations of how the frames are put together.

And finally, bring them into the classroom where they'll have to listen to and watch all the wonderful things you can do with paint-on-velvet kits.

And if there's STILL no response, there's always the sewing machine and fabric departments. At the former, they can examine machinery that's so complicated, it makes their weapons of mass destruction and strap on explosives look like kid stuff. And the fabrics? Less air than among the flowers.

Our Homeland Security Department has it all wrong. We don't need waterboards. We don't need obvious means of torture. We need forced embroidery sessions, paint by numbers kits, calligraphy pen sets, bolts of rayon and acres of fake flowers.

If they don't knuckle under and spill the beans after a session like this, there were no beans to spill.

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

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Jar

#372 The Jar

I am setting up a "swearing jar." But instead of putting a quarter in it every time I swear, I'm going to put a quarter in it everytime I say -- or even think -- a good thought about anyone in politics, past, present or future. When I have accumulated enough money, I'm going to call up The Emperors Club -- or whatever name they've changed it to by then -- and ask for an appointment with someone Eliot Spitzer hasn't been with.

This is a medium term project, that is, under ten years. The cost of the phone call and the Viagra will come out of cash flow. There will be no crossing of state lines.

Thinking back on 50 years of covering politicians, I can pick out only a handful of the ones that weren't either on the take or abusing their office in some way. Maybe mayors Dinkins, Koch and Bloomberg. Maybe Congressman Otis Pike of Riverhead (although there's some doubt about that,) and Assembly speaker Perry Duryea of Montauk. Senators Javits, and Kennedy and Moynihan. (I like Al D'Amato personally, but that doesn't mean I am oblivious to some of his shenanigans.) Federal judge Eugene Nickerson, Assemblyman Jerry Kremer. Representatives Peter King and Allard Lowenstein. Not a long list.

The Nassau County State Supreme Court judge who performed a wedding ceremony in 1962, and whose name I have forgotten, got his job when appointed by the county Democratic party chairman. The chairman and the judge were the same guy. The same county sent one Republican party chairman to prison, after he took the place of a guy involved in shady land deals. Same county that spawned a Chief Appeals Court justice, Sol Wachtler, who resigned in disgrace after a smarmy affair during which he made what we now would call harassing telephone calls and disguised himself as a cowboy.

A commissioner who lived down the block got a new sidewalk from a municipal contractor. A town supervisor was on the take and did time and then got another municipal job. Prosecuted by a district attorney who also was on the take, and another one who became an anti-abortion activist, but restricted his activism, largely, to times he was on the clock.

Land deals, sewer deals, road deals, bridge deals, welfare deals, snow removal deals, park deals, stock deals, tuition deals. Relatives on the payroll, usually in no-show jobs. What are friends for?

And those are just the guys whose stories come easily to mind.

I have been alive through the administrations of a dozen Presidents, at least eight nine of whom had serious flaws, either personal or professional. And all twelve were liars.

I have covered dozens of campaigns in which sexist or racist rantings and other scare tactics were the order of the day. Fear taxes. Fear blacks. Fear immigrants. Fear women. Fear Arabs. Fear Catholics. Fear Mormons. Fear Evangelicals. Fear Italians, Irish and Jews. Fear homosexuals.

Gridlock. Deadlock. Gay liaisons. Non-gay liaisons. Guys who award themselves pay increases. Guys who get their houses painted by government employees on government time. Guys who are paid municipal or state or federal money to campaign?

Dunno. Maybe it's just I got to cover the bad lot. Maybe there are a lot of good types out there. Metzenbaum, maybe. But I keep going back to the line attributed to Henry Kissinger: 90 percent of politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.

I'm done with all this stuff, except when I have to not-be.

Emperors Club, it won't be long now. The jar is big. Those quarters already are mounting up, to coin a phrase.

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Eliot's Fall

#371 Eliot's Fall
(Note to readers: Can someone please explain why commandment-busting Client Nine is escorted to the gallows while the President of the United States, who started an oil war that can't be won, put the economy in the tank, politicized every single federal agency, appointed unqualified buddies to high ranking positions where they failed, and about whom rumors of a romantic link with a cabinet official have been circulating gets off scott free?)

Guys named Eliot were always the ones getting beaten up at PS 150. They were always the guys you would at least punch out if you had the nerve, and Eliot Spitzer is no different. Smarmy, holier than thou, too smart for his own good. And at heart, he's a prosecutor, which carries with it the obligation to behave as if you can do no wrong and everyone else can and does.

Not this time. But wait.

Spitzer threw a carload of cash at a woman to have sex. No biggie. The only difference between Eliot and a million other guys is that (a) he was the governor of New York and (b) he got caught -- and caught in just the kind of wire tap that he was always setting up as a prosecutor.

Poetic justice. And the last laugh for all the crooks on Wall Street who hated his guts for being Eliot -- the guy you always wanted to punch out if you only had the nerve.

So, now there's all the wringing of hands and the ashen-faced wife standing at his side on television and saying nothing, but looking like she wants to be anywhere in the universe but standing next to the guy -- and in her heart, she, too, wants to punch him out and should.

This is a big deal in politics because everyone's worried about what the next guy will think of you if you don't make a big deal out of it.

Eliot's real problem isn't a high priced hooker and an interstate rendezvous. It's that he was a lousy governor. Backroom deals, spying on the opposition, Machiavellian plots. There's no room in public life for that stuff. Plus, he didn't get anything done. No one ever went into a political race backed by higher public hope. Even the opposition Republicans wanted this guy to win after the nothing years of Spitzer's predecessor, George Pataki. Spitzer won with 70 percent of the vote.

As for the prosty thing? My pal and former colleague Ellis Henican said it best in an off-handed comment on Fox Business TV the other night: "Guys do that."

And they have always "done that." And they're doing it right now as you're reading and/or hearing these words.

Whatever happens to Eliot or the various evangelist types or the various corporate types or the average guys who are at this very moment in the act of having sex with women (or men) not their wives, this is going to continue and it should be legal and regulated and taxed.

The women engaged in these kinds of arrangements now call themselves "sex workers." Sex workers need supervised health care. They need protection against the johns who aren't Governor of New York and who might bring a 9mm to the hotel room.

And America needs to stop wasting time, effort and energy on prosecuting "crimes" like this.

Prostitution "rings" (whatever that means) should be paying tax on their income. This investigation started as a tax case.

The bottom line: Prostitution should be legal.

But since it isn't, Eliot has to take the punch. He's responsible for what he did. The question in many minds -- and it hasn't been asked publicly elsewhere: was he somehow set up by the politicians who want to get rid of him or the Wall Street types who wanted to get even?

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

Monday, March 10, 2008

Solar Powered Horror Films

#370 Solar Powered Horror Films

They happen in darkness, usually with a good wind blowing. Or in heavy rain, often accompanied by thunder and lightning. But the stories in horror movies are never told in sunshine, and that's not fair.

You ever see a zombie who's zombie-walking down a sunlit street? What about those guys whose faces look like hockey masks? Ever see one of them sitting around a veranda sipping a mint julep or even a latte? No. They're always hiding behind tombstones in midnight thunderstorm, just waiting for the innocent teens to skulk by in their olive drab slickers. And notice the skulking teens never wear yellow slickers. They're always olive drab or brown. And what are those teens doing out in the graveyard during a nighttime thunderstorm in the first place?

What this country needs is a good daylight horror film, preferably about an attempted attack at a Marine barracks. Then we'll see what they're made of. It's always Ozzie And Harriet couples or lone women who get the visits -- after the hockey mask-wearing zombies finish off the innocent teens skulking through the graveyard.

Such stereotyping.

It's as if nothing bad ever happens in the sun -- except maybe getting skin cancer. And no one's going to make a horror film about that.

We need to find some reptilian-looking creatures go after bluebirds or robins in a park on a Sunday afternoon in spring or summer. Enough of this shooting-film-in-darkness baloney.

Of course, the real scary stuff DOES happen in sunlight. Or at least in daytime. Ever see Congress in session? How about a meeting of the president's cabinet, the National Security Council or the OPEC Ministers?

But that's a different kind of horror.

Suicide bombs, pitched battles for square inches of iraq, they happen in daylight.

But nothing supernatural.

Ghosts in the house? Don't worry. You can get a hotel room for the night or pitch a tent in the back yard. The house is always ghost free in daylight. Soon as they see the guy who delivers the morning paper, they go back into the attic or the basement or the walls or wherever they stay during the day.

If your house is haunted, just get yourself a skin tanning set up and set it up. The ghosts'll go nowhere near it.

In an age when fairness and equality supposedly rule the land, it's just shocking the way we depict our ghosts, monsters, deranged serial killers and their kin. Besides, all that nocturnal activity is a slap in the face of night workers. Postal people, cops, fire fighters, doctors, nurses, toll collectors, road repair crews, telephone operators and the people who work at the TV stations, making sure everything is up and running so you can you get to see those wonderful late, late, late infomercials for floor sweepers, make up, positive thinking and pocket fishing kits.

Let's bring horror films out into the open, where they belong.

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

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Future of Big Ideas

#369 The Future of Big Ideas

Shlomo Tzedaka, the Last Bronx Jew, has a picture of Clara Bow on his wall.

A vistor asks about that and he says it's to remind him of how beautiful and attractive a woman on screen can be. Then he goes on about how she was thin and flabby and poorly-endowed and still "it," especially when compared to today's inflated "beauties," like Pamela Anderson and Tila Tequila.

"But that's just to remind me about great ideas," he says. "Great ideas get silicon implants and die."

Research shows that both Ms. Anderson and Ms. Tequila remain alive. But, okay, where's this going?

Shlomo offers a glass of tea which is rejected, places a cube of sugar between his lower jaw and left cheek and takes some tea for himself.

"Look at great ideas," he says "look at what happens to them!"

It's pointed out that Clara Bow was not a great idea, or even a great actress.

"True," he says, "but this change reminds me of everything else that's going on."

"You see out the window? A New York City public high school. Idiots, they turn out. Look a little further. You can see Our Lady of something-or-other high school just beyond. They turn out idiots who can read and count, but they can't think. Education is a disaster."

He picks up today's Post. "Look here on the newspaper. Al Sharpton. This is a civil rights leader? This is going to lead his people, like Moses, into the promised land? Look, here, the Chief Justice, Rabinowitz...."

I point out that it's Roberts.

"Yeah, but ask him what it USED to be! This is a Supreme Court judge? He's no Earl Warren. He isn't even Arthur Goldberg. This guy is reading the constituion? We're all dead men."

He turns to the financial section:

"Exxon makes billions and spills oil all over the place and some poor slob down the street gets evicted from his house? I'm the Last Bronx Jew only because Yitak Cohen lost his house and had to move in with his daughter and son in law in Scarsdale. And that's not going to last long. Yizzy isn't well, and his son-in-law hates him.

"He isn't well because he caught something when he was in Mount Sinai for palpitations. They sent him home with a jar of decaf and a staph infection. I don't dare even visit him.

"And Medicare? They ought to throw that one away and start over. You used to go to the doctor, he'd treat you, you'd pay him -- sometimes a little every week --- and you got better. Now you fill out a thousand forms and they tell you to go away, or even worse, they DON'T tell you to go away and you go to big shot Mount Sinai and you come back with a jar of decaf and a staph infection and find they've foreclosed on your house. And it isn't even major brand decaf, it's C-Town."

He looks at the picture.

"Aye, Clara, it's good you died so many years ago, before Pamela Anderson and C-Town."

I'm Wes Richards (but what did it USED to be?) My opinions are my own, buy you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2008

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Fight of the Century

#368 The Fight of the Century

Politicians are always promising to fight for us. Probably better than having them fight against us. But why is it we need to be fought for?

Someone bullying you? Um, maybe the question is "anyone bullying you except the guy who's promising to fight for your rights?"

Probably. The corner gas station, your mortgage lender, your credit card companies. Maybe your age, your occupation, your employer, your employees and they guy who keeps sneaking trash into your garbage can, filling it up and pretending not to know that you know.

Any elected official going to fight your gas station, mortgage lender, credit card company, age, occupation, employer, employees and that reverse-trash-bandit? Not likely.

They're fighting for your rights. Your right to go to war, or to stop going to war. Your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They're fighting the Washington/Albany/Austin/Sacramento bureaucracy. They're fighting for "the little guy." Fight, fight, fight. Anything vague enough so that they can get away with claiming victory or at least bravery.

Politicians are not the only ones guilty of fake fights. Even disregarding pro-wrestling, there are all kinds of fights going on.

Joe Schmoe died after a long battle with cancer. Some battle. Poor old Joe "fought" by lying in a bed with a bunch of tubes in his arms and various telemetry gear reading his every breath, heartbeat, change in blood pressure and a host of other things. Joe's fighting by lying there. Doesn't sound like a fight. But it's called one.

Patient Schmoe doesn't feel like he's fighting anything. But if he could rise from the dead, he would probably clock the obituary writer who described his last hours as a fight.

The teachers' union and the board of education are "fighting for the children." Oh. How are they doing that? By making sure there are 76 holidays on the annual schedule? By floating bond issues to build monumental new buildings? By attending seminars on the which ever coast they're least near?

Gun owners are fighting for your right to bear arms -- which is not the same as your right to bare arms, but equally dumb. "We'll fight for the right to own Uzis to protect our families from..." from whom? Guys who don't have Uzis? And how are they fighting? A real fight would see them heading for Washington and punching out Ruth Bader Ginsberg for what they see as bad decisions. THAT's a fight. Unless, of course, Justice Ginsberg packs heat. In which case, they'd fight by yelling at her.

Even real fights don't seem to be so fight-ful anymore.

Guy walking down, say, Guy Lombardo Avenue in Freeport, NY, is jumped by half a dozen guys with baseball bats. That's not a fight, it's a massacre.

World War II. That was a fight. Ali vs. Spinks II in September of 1978. That was a fight. The rest of the stuff is just blown smoke.

We have to find a new term. The old one doesn't mean anything, anymore.

So here's a promise: This column will attempt to find a new term. Notice, "attempt," or "try" or "strive" or "move." But it won't fight for it.

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

Monday, March 03, 2008

Honey Do

#367 Honey Do

You think women have the same number of senses as men? Wrong-o. They have a sixth sense. They can see and hear through walls. Here's proof:

You're just settling in to watch the ballgame, paint the fence, write the Great American Novel, practice the banjo. You've got the volume on the TV down low. You have arranged a bowl of chips and a six pack on the end table and have just put your feet up on the coffee table and leaned back onto the couch. Or you've washed and dried the fence, dragged the paint cans, rollers, brushes, trays, the can-opening screwdriver and the drop cloths out to the front yard and are about to pry open the lid on a gallon of Dutch Boy Oyster White. Or you've opened the word processor to the last line in the most recent chapter and are about to insert a brilliant twist of plot. Or you've opened the four latches on the banjo case, taken out the banjo, tuned it up and are about to do your opening exercise.

No sooner do any of those things happen, when the spouse with the x-ray eyes and bionic ears, who is two stories above you in the upstairs bedroom calls out to you and asks you to come up and help rearrange the color-order of slacks and tops in her closet, or the ties in your closet or the statuette display on her bureau top. Something -- anything -- that breaks your concentration.

You've carefully planned the day so you could watch the Yankees play Boston. Home Depot finally called and said your paint order is in. Or you've finally come up with that plot twist that's been eluding you for the past six weeks. Or you finally doped out the chords to "Foggy Mountain Breakdown," and you're ready to roll. But, no.

"Can you come here for a minute?"

How does she know? The only answer is x-ray eyes and bionic ears.

"Can it wait for a few minutes, honey?"

No answer.

That does not mean the x-ray eyes have stopped taking x-rays or that the bionic ear has returned to regular hearing. It means she's not going to answer you because she knows if she does, you'll just sit there and if she doesn't, you'll come upstairs with a cloth to polish the mirrors or a color chart to help with the rearranging of the slacks in the closet.

Valiant, you give it a second try.

"Can it wait a few minutes, honey."

Again, no answer.

So much for the ballgame, the fence, the novel and "Foggy." You're going to be spending the afternoon rearranging figurines that don't need rearranging.

She'll ask for your opinion. And you'll say the current arrangement is fine. But that won't be good enough. You've got to move some ceramic or some cotton and wood before she'll be satisfied. Shows you care. Shows you're thinking about IMPORTANT stuff -- not just baseball, painting, writing or bluegrass.

And then, after rearranging the slacks or the statuettes, she'll go ahead and put them where she wants them, anyway. By which time one of the teams will have a clear lead, it'll be two dark or cold or damp to start painting, you'll have forgotten the brilliant plot twist and you won't remember which song it was you were going to practice.

But you've shown you care. And that you think about the IMPORTANT stuff.

How DO they do that?

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

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 ...