Monday, June 29, 2009

565 Jacko

565 Jacko

A lot of people are not going to like this....

Michael Jackson's music is flying off the shelves, off the download sites and off the internet at rates not seen in 25 years. Happens a lot at certain times in life -- like at its end. As Salvador Dali once said "a man becomes 10-thousand times greater when he dies." As was true of Dali, and is true of Jacko, 10 thousand times greater really means the sellers of stuff get to sell 10 thousand times more stuff for awhile after he dies.

But there are politically and musically incorrect among you who never had use for the guy or his music. Cute kid, sure. In the same way Chris Evert was a cute kid with a "stage parent" who seemed to force her to widespread recognition. There's a difference. Chrissy had talent.

This is not going to be a tirade about Jackson's private life. There's no need to go into details of his days in court, his money troubles and the little kiddies in his bed -- we know all about that. What we don't seem to realize is that his "art" such as it was, wasn't art and his music wasn't musical. Those dance moves? Not terrible. But you can see as good on streetcorners far and wide. Some critics called him the latter day Fred Astaire. Nope.

The voice? He sounded like a teenage girl, but one who wouldn't make it into the eighth grade chorus in middle school. Without the name and the publicity machinery, who'd listen to someone like that.

Those wonderfully surreal videos WERE art. But Jacko didn't have a whole lot to do with that.

A pal from the 'hood says he ruined R&B. No such thing. R&B music has ruined itself and Jacko wasn't nearly influential enough, especially lately, to accomplish anything that big. It's the musical, pop culture equivalent of saying Reagan brought down the Soviet Union. A carefully crafted myth.

Which Michael Jackson song will still be with us 50 years from now?

Ah! You can't think of one, either.

Jacko was a circus and an open sewer or a highway fender bender. People just couldn't pass by without looking, even if they feared clowns, worked in the cesspool cleaning or auto body repair industries.

It's too bad he died young. But c'mon... let's not turn him into Beethoven or even into Fats Domino.


--Billy Mays will liven up things in heaven. The king of cheap bellowed TV commercials dead at the age of 50, will bring his Oxy Clean stuff to the man upstairs and brighten up the dull walls and bathroom fixtures. But he'll have to learn not to shout and that won't be easy.

--Quote from a "friend" on Facebook, and used without permission. "I gave up smoking, drinking and men. It was the hardest 15 minutes of my life."

--This kid has potential. Maybe the next Henny Youngman. If the quote was original, of which there's some doubt.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

564 Got Firecrackers?

564 Got Firecrackers?

It's 55 degrees Fahrenheit in Buenos Aires, Argentina as this is written and 92 degrees in Columbia, the capital city of South Carolina. So who can blame Governor Mark Sanford for wanting to get out of the heat with a little jaunt even farther south. Thing is, the heat in the Carolinas went up considerably on Gov. Sanford's return.

Are we or are we not of teary politicians who get found out and publicly confess unfaithfulness to their spouses. Gary Hart, John Edwards, John Ensign, Mark Sanford, Don Sherwood, Tim Mahoney, Vito Fossella, Mark Foley, Larry Craig, Marion Barry, Elliot Spitzer, David Paterson, David Vitter, and earlier, Strom Thurmond, Franklin Roosevelt and -- if the allegations are true, and they well may be, Wilbur Mills (with Fanne Fox, who called herself "The Argentine Firecracker,") George W. Bush and John F. Kennedy. Bill Clinton's in a class by himself.

How many of these were "family values" guys who led double lives? Enough to make you wonder whether nature really DOES trump policy and preaching.

Some people have handled this problem better than others, for example a leading televangelist was found trolling for hookers. He used the Sanford approach, tears. Jesse Jackson, another preacher, admitted an affair and started paying his paramour support for the daughter they produced. Though not elected, both of these fellas had constituencies and in many, if not most cases, the constituents forgave them. But that was an age ago.
As for Bill Clinton? No one ever thought of him as a pillar of prissiness. But Sanford? Mr. Conservative? Mr. Hearth and home? The Carolina cracker had his own Argentine firecracker.


--The makers of "Swiffer" sweepers have "improved" refill cleaning cloths. What they did was to smooth out one side of each. That makes it impossible to continue reversing the cloth and forces you to either clean less often or buy twice the number of refills you used to.

--News of Walter Cronkite's illness at the age of 92 reminds us of how few broadcast news men and women remain who were first part of the golden age of United Press and United Press International. Cronkite, William Shirer, Howard K. Smith and many others learned their trade at UP or UPI. The wire service is now owned by the Washington Times, which in turn is owned by the Unification Church, the Moonies and a shadow of its former self.

--We at the Associated Press looked down our noses at UPI -- thought them a bunch of sensationalist interlopers, and we were wrong. In its prime, the competition gave us a good run for our money and with far fewer resources. And it's virtual demise made the AP grow flabby, it's present state.

--Michael Jackson dead at 50? Love him or hate him, think of him as a freak and a child molester or just a pitiable self-hating brat, he changed music at a time when there still was music to change. As opposed to what now passes for it.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

563 Irradiated

563 Irradiated

A local supermarket chain is having delusions. It thinks it's Whole Foods, the natural food emporium that sprouted (to coin an expression) in Texas and since has spread to almost every part of the country where people routinely recycle, eat whole grain breads and fight cholesterol with oat muffins and oatmeal. (Parenthetically, what would a store called "Half Foods" look like or feature?)

There is a difference between Whole and the local wannabee, and it ain't price. On price they can agree. More is better. The Wannabee brags that it sells irradiated meat. Not admits. Brags. It's fresher! It lasts longer! No E-Coli! And they advertise it as if it were health food. Is it safe? Maybe. Is it harmful? We Report You Decide, to coin another expression.

Here are some things to consider. The FDA lets processors beam 450,000 rads of gamma rays, electrons or x-rays at each piece of food. That's 150,000,000 times the radiation in a typical chest x-ray. Of course, you'll be assured that the cow you're eating did not have lung cancer. And, no, there won't be any malicious bugs in your burger.

The government, the WHO and the processing industry all will tell you this is a health benefit.

Well, then, why don't we just irradiate the air to get rid of greenhouse gases and pollution. Oh. Wait. It probably would put more pollution in the air than it removes.

It's like the doc who advises a patient with a cold to take a shower and stand in front of an open window because "we can't cure the cold, but we CAN cure pneumonia."

Well, we can't seem to kill e-coli. But we CAN cure radiation sickness. And it's almost a sure bet that your health insurance will cover that.

We could also zap water and flour. The water will be a bigggggg seller if bottled. The irradiated flour? Mix it with the irradiated water and that green glow in your Wonder Bread? That's not mold.


--When you hear about "States' Rights," worry. Governor Sanford of South Carolina went on a mystery vacation, Governor Schwarzenegger of California can't bail the leaky scow fast enough, the New York State Legislature is in some bizarre gridlock because of party switching. Maybe "State" is an outmoded concept.

--JD Power ranks the Mini Cooper last on the list of 37 cars in its owner satisfaction survey. The car sure is cute, an attention getter. But it's not so cute when things go wrong, despite its ever-so-British heritage and it's, German engineering.

--The fatal crash of two commuter subway-like trains in DC had to have a mechanical or electrical cause. But when the pilot of a plane or the engineer of a train dies in a crash, the cause always is labeled "human error." This might be, too, when they finally figure out who has jurisdiction over the investigation.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

562 Hi, It's Me

562 "Hi, It's Me."

Ah yes, another way technology changes our thinking and behavior. Well, not technology, but the way we use it and consider it.

Two radio announcers are attending an event. "A" has not seen "B" in several years and B's appearance has changed radically. B approaches A and greets him by name. At first, A doesn't recognize B, but then he hears the voice and does. B's appearance changed, but his sound didn't. Some of us call this capacity "disc jockey ears." It's something people enamored of sound acquire -- or already have when they reach adulthood.

But not everyone has disc jockey ears. And we have developed a way of greeting people on the telephone by saying "Hi, it's me." Okay if it's someone you talk with often. Not so okay if it's someone who is not a telephone regular.

In the past several months "Hi, it's me" calls or voice messages have come in from a fair number of people. Two adult children, three former colleagues, a near neighbor an employer and two complete strangers.

The kids are easy enough to recognize. The colleagues and the neighbor, not so much. And what of the strangers?

We've slipped into this sloppiness over the past decade or so and it's not going to change, but it should. (Ought the first stone be thrown from this blog? Probably not.)

Caller ID goes a long way to solving the problem of who "me" is. You may know only one person, for example, in Oklahoma. So when the caller ID shows a 405 area code, you kind of know who it is. If your caller is in your electronic phone book and when the phone rings it shows "Candy LaZonga," you pretty well can expect that Candy LaZonga is on the other end of the line.

But a lot of calls show "restricted" or other words that tell you the caller doesn't want to be identified. So when that pops up, or a number with which you're unfamiliar pops up and the message starts "Hi, it's me!" ... then what?

How tough is it to say "Hi, Joe, it's Bob...." Maybe that's too many syllables. "Hi, it's me" is three syllables, while "Hi, Joe, it's Bob" has four. Maybe Bob could say "Bob here," -- even shorter -- and continue the message.

The chief worry in this circumstance is telemarketers; many have learned to work around the "do not call" list.

When the cable company calls and leaves a message that starts "Hi, it's me..." you're likely to try to figure out who "me" is while listening to the rest of the message. And that means you listen to the rest of the message, which is what "me" wants.

It's time to fight this menace. Or to put the song "You Don't Know Me" on your outgoing message.


--Disc jockey ears isn't the only condition of its kind. There also is "TV Eyes." With this ability, you have the power to identify people who've changed their appearance by simply staring at them.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Friday, June 19, 2009

561 The Holy Brothers

561 The Holy Brothers

This nut ball Carter? You hear a guy like that braying about the middle east and you have to think "who's paying this guy off?" And another thing, who thinks this guy's words are worth a payoff?

Jimmy of giant rabbit and lusting heart fame is fast becoming almost as atrocious as Bush II. They share plenty. Hyper-moralizing, holier than thou-ism, for example. A myopic view of the middle east, though apparently not on the same side. And each has an advanced case of the smarmies.

Jimmuh was over in the desert the other day. While he was there, the very people he supports so vigorously were reported as trying to assassinate him. Didn't bother Mr. Peanut. Plus a spokesman for whichever mob of terrorists was thought to be ready to pull the trigger or blow up the limo denied they had any such intentions.

While the assassin was reported strapping on the suicide bomb, Carter was busy telling his co-freedom-fighters to recognize Israel. Brilliant. Immediately thereafter, he told the unrecognized Israel to stop bombing Hamas controlled territory, which they already had. Jimmuh called it "abuse," conveniently leaving out the reasons that Israel counterattacked in the first place. Oh, well, no one's perfect. Just a little oversight.

But what are the roots of what some of us have begun to call the Carter Problem? Pretty simple, really. Myopia. He sees the world as what he is: a religious cuckoo who figures he can impose his will (which he mistakes for God's will) on people who will have none of it. Jimbo -- and most of the rest of us -- haven't a clue about how things work over there -- to the extent they work at all.

The Washington Post of 6/17/09 quotes Jimmuh as saying "Palestinians" in Gaza are being treated more like animals than human beings. Um... Mr. President, who started?

Carter says in his latest book that the Israelis have to work to cool Arab animosity. Um... Mr. President, who started?

It appears that the Israelis saw Bush's America as friend and it's no secret that this week's Israeli government thinks the opposite today. Who can blame them?

Carter and Bush, two peanuts fighting in a shell.

Then, there's the Palin factor. She said something about being able to see Russia from her house. Russia is not going to attack Palin's house any time soon. But if you stand on the southern tip of Israel, all of nine miles wide, you can see Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. If you stand on the extreme northern tip, you can see Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Surrounded by friends like that, Mr. Peanut, what would you do?


--Don't you love assurances like this? The supreme leader of Iran says the rigged election there wasn't really rigged. You say you were expecting reform? Increase your meds.

--Let's hear it for Allen Stanford, the billionaire from Texas. He sold phony certificates of deposits which turned out to be worthless. A big fraud, but not of the kind or scope that Bernie Madoff, unless you were one of his investors.

--Cranky old ex CBS editor Larry McCoy has written a book called "Everyone Needs an Editor (Some Of Us More Than Others.)" Larry is the snapping turtle of newsmen. And the book is worth your time.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

560 Health Care Blues

560 Health Care Blues

A lot of the present debate about who pays for health care is focused on the uninsured, and it should be. But what about the under insured?

Blue Cross sends out a mountain of propaganda about preventive care. That, too, is as it should be, or at least the attitude is, if not the expense of producing and mailing said mountain.

They get enough dough for their individual coverage. Plenty dough. Three years worth would buy you a new car or a decent down payment on a house. Such are things in 21st century America.

But they don't put your money where their mouth is.

Comes time for the annual physical and the claim bounces back. "We don't cover annual physicals." What? Common sense leads you to believe that if a doc spots something early, fixing it will be faster, less invasive and cheaper than waiting until the patient can't walk or can't breathe or can't digest. You'd think that, right?

Blue Cross (and probably other plans) beg to differ. Well, not exactly beg. They just won't pay for it. Apparently, they have some clout behind them. If you put the phrase "annual physical as preventive medicine" into a search engine, you'll get pages of stuff that "prove" the concept is outdated, costly and ineffective.

But wait. Look a little closer. Where are all these web pages from? They're from insurance companies and their lobbyists and apologists. Shocking, right? If so, you sure shock easily.

"Oh, there are other ways to get preventive tests we DO cover," they'll tell you. How do you know what to look for? What to test? You don't. Mammograms, sure (most are covered,) colonoscopies likewise. Then what?

Maybe they figure you'll croak before you need treatment. That will "rob" them of your premiums. But what's one lost customer in a sea of millions?

The bill for the annual comes in the mail. You call the doctor. They tell you to call the insurance company. You call the insurance company. They tell you "that's not covered, sorry for the inconvenience."

Those exams are not cheap. So you pay the bill if you can and stall them if you can't.

You send an e-mail, "what's better preventive medicine than a doctor's exam? Wouldn't that save you money in the long run?"

No answer. That's because there IS no answer, at least not a rational one. Maybe they should be called Blue Double Cross.


--Found a good use for "Twitter." It forces you to edit your thoughts. Concise is beautiful.

--India has asked Pakistan to stop terrorism. Nice thought, guys, but not much use. Kind of like when the Pope offers public prayers for peace -- or you do.

--Letterman made a joke in iffy taste about Sarah Palin's daughter, then apologized. She accepted "on behalf of all... women." Which means she thinks she represents "all women." Which seems about as iffy as the joke.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

559 The Start Button

559 The Start Button and Other Contradictions

You think you have it all figured out, right? To start a machine going, you push "on," or "start." And to stop it, you push "off" or "end." Seems like a no-brainer, and at one time, it was.

But in a world of Microsoft and mobile telephones, off can be on and on can be... well, something.

Start with the computer programs. Vista and its predecessors have a "start" button. But you can't start the computer with it because it's invisible until you start the computer. Brilliant! To turn the computer off, you push the start button, which IS visible but really isn't a button, but more like a picture of a start button. Brilliant (squared.)

So you have to use something other than the start button to start the computer, but to stop it, you use... the start button.

Same thing on the cell phone. There is no "on." But there is an "end" button. And (will wonders never cease?) It’s an actual button. Of course, you can't just push it. You have to push and hold it. Then your phone turns on. Yes, it turns on by using the off button.

To turn it off, you start and hold the "end" button. Someone has obviously not thought this completely through. If you're looking to get things backward, you need to have an "on" button that turns the phone off. Next generation of phones, maybe.

What if this lunacy catches on? What would that mean for, say, the light switches on your wall, or the TV remote? Or the little gizmo that opens and locks your car doors?

What would it mean for your kitchen cabinets, your padlock or the laces on your shoes? Or your alarm clock? How about your checkbook, your supply of medicine, your blood pressure, your automotive forward speed or your blood alcohol level?

Getting things backward is one of the hallmarks of the era.

Backward is beautiful.

But it's confusing.


--Very few businesses put their street address on the front of their buildings. But a local Walmart just renovated and put up ITS address in big numbers, which seems kind of supererogatory. Especially since... who can miss seeing a 200,000 square foot Walmart sitting alone in a parking lot with little else around it?

--The builder of the Wessays Secret Mountain Laboratory put the address on the front of the building. But it's a trick. The number and the plaque in which the number is engraved are the same color and therefore cannot be seen from more than two feet away, kind of a stealth address sign.

--The former Wessays Secret Seaside Laboratory had a two digit address. But no one paid any attention and no one was able to spot it. That's because the buildings on either side of it had four digit addresses, and when you see four digits on one building, you're unlikely to guess the next one has only two. (It's true. You can't make this stuff up.)

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

©WJR 2009

Friday, June 12, 2009

558 The Hate Industry

558 The Hate Industry

Quick, what's the difference between a right wing wacko who talks on the radio and your average right wing wacko in the street?

The answer -- a favorite topic here -- plausible deniability.

Quick, what's another difference between a right wing wacko who talks on the radio and your average right wing wacko in the street?

The answer: the former is the inspiration, the latter is the inspired.

In Wichita, a guy who hears voices commits a murder of an abortion provider doctor in a church where, presumably, they strongly advise against shooting people dead (see Wessay #554.) Soon thereafter, a similar guy with a long gun walks into the Holocaust museum in Washington and shoots a guard dead.

Are these events connected? Of course.

The abortion shooter guy was a well known lunatic and a murderer-in-waiting. A lot of folks knew that.

The museum shooter guy was a well known anti-Semite, a pathetic little creep who made his living by running pathetic little franchise for the hate industry.

You might argue that these nutballs might have made their bones in said industry without goading from the radio or TV or the Internet. But maybe not.

They're like the anti-American Middle East terrorists, operating in discrete cells, not talking to one another but burning the same fuel.

What's the difference between a Middle East suicide bomber on a bus in Tel Aviv and a doddering old hate monger who shoots in the Holocaust Museum? Only the number of victims in the particular incident.

Meantime, in broadcast/internet land, the owners of the hate industry sit in their underground bunkers and put on innocent faces and say "who me? I've never advocated violence." And in most cases they're right. They haven't. Not in so many words.

But the constant anti-American drumbeat they produce has its effects. Sometimes it's tough for the gunslingers to distinguish between the voices in their heads and the voices on the broadcast spectrum.

Unfortunately there's only one real practical solution, which is giving both these motivational speakers and their followers their own medicine. And that is something real Americans would never contemplate, let alone do.


--The first "Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" was a jolting movie when it first appeared. It's the kind of thing this space calls "good junk," meaning nothing much but fun to watch or read. Now we have the remake, which is kind of like revivals of Broadway plays, as in "why change a good script when you have one already?"

--Headline: "Banks Cheer Escape from TARP Money..." Escape, indeed. They walked into the cell when it opened, then complained they were locked in.

--Speaking of prisoners, voluntary and otherwise: Roxanna Saberi has fallen off the front page now that she's home from captivity in Iran. Was this only a one or two week story, or is there more we haven't yet heard? And if there is more, do we have to wait for the book?

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

©WJR 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

557 Limited Lifetime Warranty

557 Limited Lifetime Warranty

That's what they all say. Then comes the fine print. You read the fine print, and they STILL don't tell you whose lifetime they're talking about. Is it yours, or is it the expected lifetime of the product or service and if the latter, how do they figure it out?

Salt has an UNlimited lifetime warranty, implied if not expressed. Put it on a shelf somewhere and a million years later the shelf may be gone, but the salt's still there.

Lands' End, the clothing company says "Guaranteed. Period." And if your no-iron shirt comes out of the laundry wrinkled after the 35th wash instead of the 50th, they'll replace it. Actually, if it comes out wrinkled after the 100th, they'll likely also replace it.

But what about other stuff?

Some musical instruments have lifetime warranties good only to the original owner. So when you croak, your Martin D-28 guitar no longer qualifies. But what would happen if your heirs wanted to fight it?

One of the big 2.5 car makers has a limited lifetime warranty on its transmissions and some parts of the engine. Uh...WHOSE life? If you bring the thing back to the dealer (if there still IS a dealer) after, say 60-thousand miles, will he say "60- thou is the lifetime of the transmission."

Or will he say "no problem. We'll just pop a new one right in. Can you wait 20 minutes?" Sure!

What else is or isn't in the fine print? Probably there's a list of exceptions. Probably you need a magnifying glass if not a microscope to read it. Probably even if you CAN read it, you won't understand it.

"We're glad you chose All American Fresh Mackerel. Your satisfaction is guaranteed!" (Does not apply to fresh fish exposed to sunlight or left unrefrigerated for more than 30 minutes.) "Your Roof-o-Matic faux thatched roof comes with a lifetime limited warranty. (Not responsible for acts of God, acts of war, tornadoes, hurricanes, brush fires or holes.)"

There are limits, and there are limits.


--New York's Park in the Sky has opened after umpteen years of planning and prep. It runs along the west side from Gansevoort St. to 20th and eventually stretch further north on an abandoned rail "El" once used to transport cattle. Don't play Frisbee to close to the edge and watch out for airborne muggers.

--Newt Gingrich bumped Sarah Palin off the top of the speakers list at a big Republican Party fundraiser this week. Obviously the good ole boys network (or newt-work) lives. What they need is a wise Latina not some hick town ditz and then maybe the newt-work won't work anymore.

--Please note the addition of a new link to your right. Or click here: Alan Colmes -- talk show host and old pal from the lean days. And somehow, he remains lean despite our aging, and will not disclose his secret.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Monday, June 08, 2009

#556 Chrysler Round 26

556 Chrysler Round 26

Stuff about Chrysler has appeared in this space 25 times since these commentaries starting taking this form in October, 2005.  Here's the 26th.

The company celebrated, or at least observed its 84th anniversary this month, making it 22years younger than Ford and 17 years younger than GM.  In this age range, it's not much difference.

But Chrysler has had more lives than a cat.  And it looks pretty much like the one that's looming now will be the final straw.  Chrysler is under attack from all sides, and there no longer are enough wagons (or mini vans) to circle.

It's a war on how many fronts?

Well, about 800 dealers are about to be closed and they're in court.  The current factory owner, Cerberus, wants to sell or give or will a good chunk of the company to Fiat.  But pension funds with Chrysler stock are fighting that.  Heaven knows what benefit they expect if the sale doesn't sail through and the company goes bust.

Of those dealers, a lot of those on the line leading to the firing squad were told to buy extra inventory back a few months or a year or so ago.  Now, they're unloading their remaining stock at fire sale prices.  That sounds like bad news for the dealers and good news for the customers.

Perhaps.  But, then, whatever price you pay, you're still getting a Chrysler. Check out the reviews on for critical concepts like "sub-par interior"  "Frumpy." "Outclassed by every competitor."  "Poor build quality."  Don't like Edmunds? How about US News?  They don't like 'em either.

Contrary to the Cerberus news releases of two years ago, the old "partnership" with Daimler did not "move the company forward."  Daimler was so busy playing corporate games, internal and external that it never "got" the American car business.

Cerberus appears to have figured that managing an auto manufacturer was the same as any other final project in MBA class.  It ain't.

So, now they're trying to pass this outfit around like a half-finished joint, and the Italians want a hit, or say they do.

This is not stuff you can blame on the UAW, though everyone's tried.  This is not something you can blame on market conditions.  This is a top heavy, over managed, under engineered industrial icon about to be reduced to a pile of milled aluminum corrosion. Walter P. Chrysler is rotating in his grave.  But not at an RPM great enough to generate a recovery.


--The New York State economic development office is looking for a new chief. Again.  Would you take developmental advice from an outfit that can't seem to advise itself well enough to function?

--Fifteen hours after the wedding, the bride and groom are outside the house, chatting with neighbors.  Must have been a short "wedding night."  Or maybe it hadn't yet started.

--Apparently, there was a reunion of WRFM radio people the other day.  Word didn't get around until after the fact, which may have left a lot of us long-timers wondering why no one told us.

I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

Friday, June 05, 2009

555 History By Committee

555 History By Committee

There's a book on the desk, now, a college text book.  In part, it's about the years in America since 1945, the end of WWII, and it was written by a committee.  When you have a committee of academics writing a book, you get a book written by a committee.  An unattached historian, one professor from the University of Delaware, another from Harvard, one from Bard College and one from the University of Texas at Austin.  The Gang of Five.

You can find almost anything on Google.  But not the days of birth for this crew.  Which unfortunate, because if you could, you be able to verify whether any of these folks were actually alive in 1945 or any of the other years about which they write.

It doesn't seem so.  Or, more accurately, it is strange to look at an academic view of something one has lived through.

The facts, well -- they seem to get much of that straight.   There is, for example a long piece about Harley Earl who was the design maven at General Motors (back when it was private enterprise.)  They picture a late 1950s Cadillac and call it an example and a metaphor for the excesses of that decade, which it was.

They tell us that the move from the cities to the suburbs which began right after the war and continues to this day impoverished the major cities.  They tell us that the cold war sucked up a lot of resources, maybe unnecessarily.  The erection of and then the erectile dysfunction of the Berlin Wall.  The establishment of the Interstate Highway system.

But there's an awful lot of academi--quacking about feelings.  They are trying to explore one era through the prism of another.

In the late 1940s and the 1950s you never heard much about feelings.  We went to war.  Tough on lots of us.  But we went.  Did our duty.  After victory, we rebuilt and then embraced the enemy and started a ping pong game with our then-ally, the Soviet Union.

While so much attention is paid to feelings today, we didn't think in those terms.  If we had, we'd probably never have escaped the Great Depression and would all be speaking German and Japanese today.

The death of a loved one on a battlefield?  How could that not make you grieve.  Having a Chevy in the driveway instead of a Lincoln?  Maybe that made us feel envious.  But it wasn't talked about -- and scant little attention was paid to it.  We were too busy recovering and trying to get our lives in the order we wanted.

Also missed in the book, one of the two greatest culture-changing pieces of technology since the discovery of fire and the invention of the wheel:  TV and the computer.

By 1947, television was becoming the cultural center of our universes, to be replaced 40 years later by the home computer.

Without adequately explaining the impact of those two machines, it's impossible to adequately explain the era.

Maybe the committee should have another meeting.


--Chet Currier's take on "protective" investing in gold:  You can't eat the stuff, and if it comes to the point where you'd have to no asset's an asset.  Chet's gone some years now.  But his wisdom lives on.

--Adversity breeds opportunity.  Maybe they could turn all those closing car dealers' showrooms into banks.  You can never have enough banks.

--Funny the stuff people keep.  Guy passed along a letter the other day, letter from a guy in the lockup.  Letter from the guy in the lockup was requesting that a radio station play a song, the letter was dated 11/26/57, so the guy's probably out of jail by now.

I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

4745 An Ounce of Cure

  Forget the ounce of prevention and the pound of cure.  With everything getting odder, let’s make it a Troy Ounce of prevention.   While “n...