Thursday, December 20, 2018

Winter Break

Wessays is on Winter Break.  We'll be back on Friday, January 4, 2019.  Happy holidays, one and all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

2033 Internet News v. Radio News

Since the early days of radio news, the people at newspapers have called us names or hurled accusations.  Shallow. Lacking context. Headline service without substance.

And since the early days of radio news, we have been firing back:  Too much detail. “You work on only one story a day?”  “It takes a bunch of people to put out that one story?” And worst of all: It’s yesterday’s news.

Well, for the most part, radio news is dead.  That’s because radio news either doesn’t exist or meets the anti-criteria in the first paragraph.  

But writing news for on-line reading is the same as writing for radio.  What works best is conversational style and sometimes a needle in the balloon of conventional grammar.

WMCA, New York used to have a slogan: “No sooner done than said.”

The Associated Press had a slogan “Deadline Every Minute” which was truer than true at the broadcast wire that served thousands of radio and TV networks and stations.

And people making the transition from working for papers to working for websites now face the same time deadline.

Oh, say the ink-stained wretches, but we have to be careful.  Check every fact. Make sure we get the quotations right.  Yes, you do and so do we.  But if you do, how come you get so much wrong so often?

The newspapers with true transparency often have elephantine correction sections.  With radio and the internet, we either fix it right away or at worst during the next hourly report.

So, welcome to the 21st century, ladies and gentlemen of the ink world.  Some of you will catch on. The rest of you? Well… there are schools of communication everywhere and you can either learn or teach.  And there’s always the Dark Side: public relations.

-Newspapers fail -- and always have -- when they locate their newsrooms where they’re more than staggering distance from a decent saloon.

-Here’s how to help kill the language: either start your own dialect which no one will understand or wrap it in the straightjacket of the APA or MLA stylebooks or Miss Grundy’s 19th Century grammar book.

--People complain that a certain famous and nearly defunct retail store is awarding zillions of dollars in bonuses to upper echelon executives.  But it’s truly worth the money.  It’s not easy to find a death squad that can make mass murder look like an accident.

--People are making a huge fuss over the apparent threat of suicide by a cast member of Saturday Night Live, Pete Davidson.  And yes, it would be a shame if he offed himself.  But there are thousands of others in the same boat as Pete and where’s the fuss about them?

--The so-called President wants to find out if it’s legal for Saturday Night Live to make fun of him. Maybe he should ask one or another of his lawyer friends.  Michael Cohen comes to mind as do Crooked Hillary, Little Marco, Low Energy Jeb, Lyin’ Ted, for starters.

-“If the stock market is going to have a Santa Claus Rally this year, it must peel Santa off the pavement first.” -- Bloomberg Newsletter

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

Monday, December 17, 2018

2032 Baby It's Cold Outside

Jo & Frank Loesser

She and He have been coworkers for years but never see each other outside of the office.  One day, they decide to go out for breakfast.  This dialogue follows:

He: I want to warn you, I never do anything on a first date.
She: Aww. Too bad.

This role reversal doesn’t much happen in real life.  But it was a joke between friendly co-workers.

Today, if a woman says “no,” it means just that, “no.”  As opposed to “No means ‘convince me,’” or “No means yes but I don’t want to be responsible for allowing this.”

And belatedly, women -- #MeToo” victims and others are looking askance at what’s happening in a song that’s been on this hit parade since 1944: “Baby, it’s Cold Outside.”

In the unlikely event you’re unfamiliar with it, here are the basics:

--A woman is visiting a man at his home.
--It’s late.
--It’s cold outside.
--The man wants her to stay the night.
--She is flirty but keeps saying “no,” worrying about her mother worrying and…
        -what the neighbors might think
        -“What’s in this drink?”
        -“My sister might be suspicious”
        -“Oh well I tried” (to leave)
She has another drink and he says “that took a lot of convincing.”

Now that you see it, you get it, right?

Songwriter Frank Loesser wrote that song and recorded it with his wife who came to her senses shortly thereafter and divorced him.

The song has become a wintertime “standard” and to many an expected part of a Christmas music rotation.

Until now.

Broadcast program directors and other people who decide what music you hear and when have removed it from the playlist.

So, is this political correctness in high gear or is it just moving a “how-to” manual to the adults-only section of the internet?  Depends on who’s asked.

Defenders of manly manhood say it’s a holiday tradition, like getting drunk, credit card bills, leaving milk and cookies near the fireplace for Santa and festive lights that blow fuses and circuit breakers. Plus, she’s obviously going along with his game.

Many -- but not all -- women are saying “no.”  The Wessays(™) Editorial Bored Board agrees with them except for enthusiastically consenting adults.

--Consider shopping for a mass card. This, because Giuliani says he’ll let Mueller interview trump over “my dead body.”  Give that lawyer the Charlton Heston “cold dead hand” award.

--Here’s a publishing tip from your friends at Facebook.  If you have news you know that can damage you, don’t let it out unless you do it on a Friday afternoon.  Less chance of it going viral.

--Here’s an application tip for unqualified high schoolers applying for admission to elite colleges. Lie, but keep it believable. No one checks that stuff unless it’s absolutely outrageous.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

Friday, December 14, 2018

2031 Catch and Kill

What’s going on with this?  We trust the National Enquirer but not the New York Times or CNN?  How did that happen?

Yes, the Enquirer has come a long way from the days when its predecessor, the New York Enquirer, put stories on its front page about two headed babies from outer space and “actual” pictures of Bigfoot.

And, in fact, they have pioneered a new and threatening kind of journalism called catch and kill.

Let’s say some starlet has a fling with someone important or potentially important. Maybe a candidate for President of the United States.  The Enquirer rushes in and pays her for an “exclusive” and then goes to said candidate and offers to withhold the story.

Ms. Starlet is legally prevented from telling her story elsewhere.  So the story is dead, often to the benefit of the campaigner.  Evidently, this three-way exchange is considered a campaign contribution, but not a legal one.

Can this happen in real life? Dunno. Some people say it can and some others even say it does. Or has. Perish forbid.

The supermarket tabloids are among the few print publications that see regular and loyal buyers and readers.  And there are sure-fire stories that guarantee this.

A favorite topic is Hillary Clinton.  “Hillary fighting for her life” is a good headline.  You can always invent something that’s troubling Mrs. Clinton and make it sounds like it’s a struggle for her to keep breathing. Contrast that with “Hillary in Pain From Ingrown Toenail.”

No one would buy that headline.  But that life and death struggle with a toe could lead to much juicier front pages.

How about “Proof Obama Birth Certificate Fake!”  Well, sure.  Easy enough to play make believe with that lie.

Here are some real and recent Enquirer headlines:

--“Meagan & Kate: warring wives tear princes apart.”
Really?  Well, anything about the British royals sells. America has both Brit envy and royalty envy.

--“Regis Philbin’s Dying Regrets.” Facts were MIA.

And here’s the kind of headline that provoked the creation of WestraDamus parodies three decades ago: “Mystic Baba Vanga Predicts 2019’s major shocks.” Go ahead, buy the issue.  Clip the article.  And in 2020 look for the followup.  There will be none.

So, no more two-headed babies from outer space.  But close enough as the tabs get closer to earth.

Can you imagine what would happen if someone tried to foist a buy-and-kill to the Associated Press or any of the major TV networks?

They’d be run out of the office with pitchfork wielding security personnel.

--We’re at the 25th anniversary of the Monica and Bill thing.  All of a sudden, she’s #MeToo?  After 25 years of calling it “mutual attraction?”

“I voted Republican this year. The Democrats left a bad taste in my mouth.” --Monica Lewinsky quoted by

-The Senate has passed a resolution blaming that Saudi prince for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and now the we’re all waiting for the prince to fess up and fall on his sword.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

2030 What Retail Apocalypse

With Christmas just weeks away, retailers were bracing for throngs of customers.  Surprisingly, they were right.  People started crowding malls (relatively speaking) and specialty shops just like any other December.

Everyone has his game face on. Everyone’s playing hardball by selling low ball. But the TV shopping channels are doing plenty of business, too. And sometimes that’s surprising given the stuff they sell.

There are two big channels, QVC and HSN, now jointly owned... and a few lag-behinds like Jewelry Television and Evine Live, formerly Shop HQ, formerly Shop NBC, formerly ValueVision.

They hawk every kind of clothing, makeup, skin cream, hair goo, vacuum cleaners, other small appliances, exercise machines, vitamins, toys, computers, iPads… you name it.  But some items are just downright silly.


"Good afternoon and welcome to the Office Supplies Shopping Channel, where you can get all the office supplies you need delivered right to your door.  I'm Sunny Chirpy, your host and this hour's special is this marvelous Penciline genuine wood pencil at a special price.

"You know you can never find a pencil when you need one, so we're making a special offer -- including six in a box at one low price -- $6.98.  

Now I have to tell you, the last time we had these on the air, the Number Two-black sold out almost instantly.  So get on those phones, people.

And today we're going to make it even easier for you to own.  Yes, we've broken the price down to two EZ payments of just $3.49.  So, less than $3.50 gets these pencils on their way to you.  Not only that, but for this broadcast and this broadcast only, shipping and handling are free -- a saving of more than four dollars.

"Now, just take a look at these pencils!  And we have them in several colors.  There's a regular #2 with a yellow barrel, a red #2 with a red barrel and we also have a limited supply of green, blue and -- new for this season -- pink!  Plus we have a limited number of #4s but only in the red and the regular black.

"Can you come in a little closer, Mr. Cameraman?  Thanks.  I want to show the viewers the quality construction of this genuine wood Penciline pencil.

 Note the smooth easy grip finish. These are USA made, by the way.  Perfectly polished and painted wood.   Up here, toward the eraser, there is a first quality and beautifully decorated neckband, made from a special alloy of iron and copper.  It holds this beautifully shaped low-shred eraser, perfectly cylindrical.   But the real beauty of this pencil is down here, it's the point!  What's a pencil without a good point?  

"Now these Penciline graphite "leads" are long lasting and withstand high pressure writing.  But we all know that eventually, every point either wears down or breaks.  So look what those clever people at Penciline have done!  They've built a mini sharpener right into the box!  If you break a point, you just reach into your desk drawer pull out the box, and presto!  You have a convenient sharpener right at your fingertips.

"Two EZ payment of just $3.49.  And for this hour only, free shipping and handling, a saving of more than four dollars.

"Charge it to your Office Supplies Shopping Channel Visa, and we'll include a coupon for a steep discount on your next order, whether it's computer paper or ink, pens, more pencils, or file folders.  All the things you have come to rely on from Office Supplies Shopping Channel.

"I'm Sunny Chirpy, and call the number on your screen right now for this one time only special from Penciline and Office Supplies Shopping Chanel."

SHRAPNEL (time bending edition):
--What happens in Santa’s workshop now that all the gifts are packed and ready for Christmas eve? They’re getting busy making signs for Presidents Day which is 2/18/2019. That’s because Santa wasn’t the low bidder for signs announcing January White Sales which begin December 26th.

--Anyone else remember this?  Next year’s cars were released for sale toward the end of the year. They no longer are.  You could by 2019 models of some cars as early as last July.

--Newsies used to have a slogan: “Get it first. But first get it right.” Now we just post the stories and if we have to, we lie about the date and time of posting. No readers pay attention to that anyway.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

Monday, December 10, 2018

2029 One Step Back

Some guys just can’t help themselves.  Either from hubris, hormonal lizard-brain thinking or certifiable anti- womanism, they just can’t keep their hands where she can see ‘em or their pants zipped.

And, rightfully, women have started to notice and strike back.  Maybe it took the likes of people like trump and Weinstein and Moonves and Lauer and Ailes and O’Reilly and Rose to break the inertial silence. But broken it is.

But now, there’s a counter movement to #MeToo and while it will not be near as damaging to women in general, it won’t be any help, either.

In company after company the word is going out: Avoid women.  Have as little as possible to do with women.  Bloomberg News reported this a few days ago and says it’s becoming almost standard operating procedure in the world of finance.

Well, de-objectifying women is good, right?  Sure. But isolating them isn’t.  Time was in some companies’ women not only had to be better than their male counterparts, but they had to at least be flirty and in some cases, well…

But whatever the circumstances there was social intercourse between men and women though it often turned to unwanted sexual intercourse.

The spark for this traces back to two men, Billy Graham, the self-appointed pastor to Presidents and vice president Mike Pence.

Billy was the most prominent of his era to declare he would never be caught with his only company a lone woman.  And he wasn’t. Or he wasn’t caught.

Fast forward to 2016 and Mike Pence, the obscure governor a midwestern state and possible Vice President of the United States made a similar statement. No hanging out with a lone member of the female sex other than his wife in public or privately.

No one caught him otherwise, either.

Wall Street listens to Billy and Mike.  And what’s already a boys club (sometimes a bad boys club) will become more of one as the guys at the top don’t know enough and won’t learn enough about the company women to know who to promote and when.  The price of standing up for their rights and against our wrongs, women may be hurting their own trip up the ladder.

So is this a backlash?  Or is it a bunch of scared guys hiding behind a wall of self imposed isolation and ignorance?  Or is it just the good old boys trying to do the right thing and overdoing it?

--New York State legislators are paid about $80,000 a year and haven’t had a raise in ages. So they’re considering giving themselves another $50,000 over the next three years.  Public office already is a racket and these people think they’re as deserving as Wall Street money shufflers, the pharmaceutical titans and the ten most wanted stickup artists.

--The medical subspecialty pain management often prescribes opioids which are addictive because health insurers won’t approve use of more expensive drugs that are not.  It’s time to change that.  And the place to start is on the yacht of the nearest insurance CEO.

--The company formerly known as Philip Morris is investing almost $2 billion with a Canadian cannabis outfit called Cronos. That’ll put the mom and pop pot dealers on main street out of business. Can’t wait to buy a pack of Marlboro Browns at the 7-11.   

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Friday, December 07, 2018

2028 Holiday Lights

Did you put yours up yet?  A lot of people did, some of them as early as Labor Day.  Many others waited until Thanksgiving.  But everyone else is slacking.  C’mon. Hanukkah is almost over. Christmas is near.  Kwanzaa starts 12/26.

We’re leaning toward leaving the lights up all year.  We lean that way every year when we start unloading and testing the lights, the little decorations and what feel like thousands of other things jammed into two huge plastic bins.  

We delay taking them down, thinking “Yes! This is the year we’re going to leave them in place. But by early January, they seem kind of forlorn over the living room window, the dining room window, the sunroom window, the main bedroom and the front door.

Actually, our front door is on the side of the house and we rarely see it.  But sometimes the Condo Association sends around what we’ve come to call “the exterior police” to remind us that “The association says Christmas decorations need to be removed before January 10th, according to ‘Rule #483, Paragraph “d” subsection 14. Line 23.’”

Well, now.

Dear Condo Cops: we are not Christians and don’t celebrate Christmas.  Therefore, these are simple decorations, not Christmas decorations and therefore Rule 483 does not apply.

But we comply, anyway. Because according to 483:d:14:24 spells out fines and possible prison terms for violation of line 23.

So far this year, no one has put up one of those mega-light traffic stoppers, the kind that turns neighbors into enemies and divides a region and increases the calls to the police to a seasonal high. “So far” doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

Somehow, these displays mean less when they feature dancing Santas, leaping reindeer, giant inflated snowmen with loudspeakers playing songs from Bing Crosby and The Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Maybe a little more Mary, Joseph and Jesus, three wise men and a star in the East would be better.

--They had Fox and Friends on in the car repair waiting room and for a while I could tune it out by concentrating on Android Solitaire. But eventually, the program took on the kind of must-watch aura of the type that forces people to stop and gawk at overflowing cesspools. It was a fine lesson in how to sugarcoat the present and future troubles of almost every Republi-con in the country.

--The “administration” thinks China’s electronics giant Huawei is entangled with Iran. It has asked for the daughter of the founder now visiting Canada “extradited” to the United States.  That’s going to be a big help in maintaining a trade war truce with China.

“The man couldn’t stomach vegetables, especially broccoli. And by the way, he passed these genetic defects along to us.” -- Former President George W. Bush in his eulogy for his father, former President George HW Bush.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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Wednesday, December 05, 2018

2027 Long Island Fare Beaters

Help me out here, please.  New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority says LIRR riders beat $20 million in fares each year.  How does that happen?

As a rider for about 50 years, most as a regular commuter, it’s hard to believe that figure even if it’s only a small part of the Long Island Railroad’s projected multi-zillion dollar deficit.

For the uninitiated, the LIRR is an ancient formation of several railroads, most of which combined so long ago no one now living can think of the names of any of them.  Unlike many commuter rail lines, its routes are tangled and complicated.

The parent body, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority was formed to bring sense to trains, subways and buses and bridges in the region.  Anyone who rides the NYC Subways, Metro North, and the other arms of this monstrosity knows it can’t work, but can’t not work either.

The Authority’s regionalization was only part of then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s plan. Plan? Yes, plan to blunt the still-sharp talons of bridge, tunnel and highway czar Robert Moses.  That part was not terribly well publicized, is meaningless in the 21st Century and worked perfectly.  The regionalization? Well…

Fare beaters on the New York subway system are legendarily ahead of efforts to stop them.  Jumping or crawling under turnstiles, entering exits and stealing MetroCards is a competition sport.

But how do jump a fare when uniformed conductors snail-walk through every train demanding to see and -- depending on the era -- punch tickets?

You can’t forge the tickets.  You can’t bribe the conductor without spending more than the fare you’re trying to beat.  You can’t seduce them. You can’t threaten them.  And crowded as many of the cars have become, your chances of successfully hiding are pretty slim.

How does it happen?  Well, to find out you first need to accept Long Island Railroad Logic.  The railroad sends secret agents onto trains.  They hunt down slack conductors, passengers- in- hiding and some others.  Then they crunch the numbers.  The system they use is similar to the way the Pentagon calculated “enemy” casualties in Viet Nam.

Private Dogface reports to his sergeant that “my unit may have wounded a North Viet regular.”  The Sgt. reports to his Lieutenant that a North Viet detail was “wiped out.” As the story makes its way up the chain of command, the count grows. Often exponentially. And by the time it’s reported to Washington it has become an “enemy brigade.”  Spin Colonels and Generals at the Pentagon then tell the press that a North Division was knocked out.


So the Secret Agents of the railroad gather in a coffee shop near Jamaica Station and compare notes. And before you know it, the number of fare evaders has grown to a crowd worth $20 million in tickets.

Since the railroad takes in about $750 million a year in legitimate fares this looks major.  And it would be if it is real.  But numbers have a funny way of growing or shrinking with the stated needs and goals of any organization.

If you don’t believe that, try to wade your way through the morass of GAAP, Generally Accepted Accounting Practices.  Or the US Tax Code.

This is not to say that there aren’t a lot of fare escapees.  But one thing is for sure: If you try it, you’ll be the one who gets caught.

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