Wednesday, February 27, 2019

2057 The Oscars

2057 The Oscars

Hollywood had a grand old time patting itself on the back the other day.  But when a sugar-coated piece of nonsense called “The Green Book” won picture of the year, the audience, such as there was of it -- both in the seats and in front of their TVs -- was stunned.

It’s about a road trip. A white and out of work nightclub bouncer goes to work for a touring black piano player.  They are given “the Green Book,” which during Jim Crow days told black showmen and women where they could get food and shelter on the road.

One hundred 30 minutes of feel-good drivel.

Spike Lee, the black director walked out of the ceremony when his two entries failed to make the top spot. So long, Spike.  You should know Hollywood by now.

The TV program got its lowest ratings in a while, maybe ever.  The broadcast was slightly less boring and went into less overtime than usual because there was no host.

There was no host because they guy originally picked, “comedian” Kevin Hart, was found to have tweeted anti-gay stuff on Twitter years ago. Oh my!  

They save a lot of time when they don’t have some man or woman get up and do schtick to compete with the oh-so-overlong “thank you” s that winners babble out.

As an ordinary customer, it’s hard to evaluate some theater-borne movies these days.  The big screen is an endangered species.  You now need opera glasses to see the tiny screen from the back row of the 23 screen Imperial Movies viewing rooms.

If you want to see a movie on a small screen, get a 12 inch flat panel and Netflix.  The popcorn you make in your microwave oven, the Bon Bons you take out of your freezer and the Raisinettes you buy at the supermarket are way cheaper than what you get at the “theater.”

And the Taser folks are building a wonderful new device, a popcorn and candy detector.  They wand you on the way into Viewing Room 18 and if you set off the alarm, the ushers usher you into an “interview booth,” where you are required to fork over your hidden box of Jujubes or face a no-knock, no-warrant strip search.

The prototype of this gadget wouldn’t bother with those niceties. They’d simply zap you with relatively mild 50-thousand volts, then confiscate.  But tests on the kind of rodents that inhabit some theater food stands resulted in too many dead mice. So they took away the auto-zapper part but left the detector wand.

Remember the slogan “Movies are Better than Ever?”  Well, if that were ever true, it certainly isn’t now.  But the special effects and animations are.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
© WJR 2019

Monday, February 25, 2019

2056 Nutrition Labels for Talk Radio

Air supply for talk radio

Talk shows should come with nutrition labels. Or at least with ingredient lists.  What to put on them? 

Well, for that we can turn to beauty products. Putrefied water and lots of chemicals you never heard of and can’t pronounce.  Oh, wait. That’s purified water.

Start the talker ingredient list with hot air.  Then ask yourself “what are the minimum daily requirement of lies, deceptions, misstatements, calls-to-arms, old-time religion, false alarms, science bashing and ads for miracle cures, superfoods, debt consolidation loans, payday loans and thought-free thinktanks?

As usual, the federal trade and federal communications agencies are behind the times.  The FTC has established no standard for the above ingredients.  The FCC lets anyone say anything as long as it’s not bathroom wall grade obscenity.

Most of it is yelling fire in a sparsely populated theater: “The socialists are coming. One if by land, two if by air.”  It’s almost always by air. They’ll confiscate your guns. They’ll bankrupt the country, they’ll let people with brown skin overrun your neighborhoods and impregnate your daughters.
All the while, they’ll try to sell you the American Dream.  Build your own business. Live independently. Own it and zone it.

They’ll teach you how to “save” your “soul,” mostly by sending in donations.  

Of course, there’s no way to provide those labels.  But they could announce the figures before each program.  Maybe on one of those speeded up things that are the audible but not understandable versions of fine print.

Talk radio revived the flagging a.m. radio business, but now it’s killing it.  Station owners don’t have the money to build and maintain the staffs that locally focused, non-political programming requires.  They’re too busy putting their money in collecting more stations. 

There are technical reasons a.m. can’t reach the wide audiences they once did, but some can be overcome with a little help from regulators. There are reasons a.m. inherently can’t provide the sound quality of FM, Satellite and cable radio.  But sound problems can be at least partly improved.  That too requires spending money.

Ultimately, as the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys outlive their audiences, they will fall off the rating charts. And then what’s left?  Dead air?  In some cases, that would be health food instead of sugar and fat.  But that’s a hard sell to commercial clients.

--So, trump is going to hold a big shindig at the Lincoln Memorial on July 4th, featuring a speech by what he called “your favorite president, me,” and a big fireworks display. This is a campaign rally so the Democrats will have a chance for a counter-program. It will be called the Annual Macy’s celebration on a river in New York, will be bigger than trump’s and no politicians will deliver “elect me” speeches.

NOTE TO NEW READERS: this space intentionally declines to capitalize the “t” in “trump.”

-“Abraham Lincoln once posed the question: “If you call a dog’s tail a leg, how many legs does it have?” and then answered his own query: ‘Four, because calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it one.’ Abe would have felt lonely on Wall Street.” -- Warren Buffett in his annual letter to shareholders.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments to:
© WJR 2019 (except the quotation.)

Friday, February 22, 2019

2055 The Folding Univac

2055 The Folding Univac

Put this phone in your pocket.

A $2,000 smartphone?  The only smart thing about this is that Samsung is going to get away with selling its “folding” for two grand.  And sell it, they will. The early adapters are lining up at the newly liberated payday loan companies prepared to pay vigorish that would make a loan shark blush so they can adapt early.

What else can you do with that money?

Well, for starters, you can fly first class from New York to Newark.  But you have to walk back.  And the meal is served before takeoff.  But let’s keep this about phones.  For example, you can buy 57 flip phones for $35 each and have five bucks left to put into the tip jar at Best Buy.

Oh, but a flip phone, you say, doesn’t even receive the internet. True. But it folds.  

Sure there are advantages to a phone you can turn into a mobile tablet. Let’s see… you can run three apps at a time on the screen.  You know how important that is. You can be playing solitaire while texting with your girlfriend and calling your wife.  You can balance your checkbook while finding the best route back from Newark Airport and listening to Ariana Grande’s hairdresser tell us what she’s really like.

Three apps at a time.  Who can live without that?!

But c’mon, guys … two grand for a telephone?

Also, design buffs, why limit the pocket Univac to a pedestrian oblong?  How about making new shapes. 

The Umbrella Smartphone:  Looks like an ordinary umbrella, the kind you see sold on street corners at the first drops of rain. Only, this one would unfold into a 12 screen computer.  Just don’t get it wet.

The Shoe Phone: Maxwell Smart, eat your heart out. This thing not only makes calls, it has a screen in the sole.

The Totebag Computer: Looks like a shopping bag, computes like a Cray.

The Accordion Computer: Take it out of the case and view the internet, your email and your stock portfolio while playing “Lady of Spain” or “Red River Valley” to the joy and applause of whoever’s around you at the time.

The Golf bag Computer: email on the putter. Internet on the 1-wood.

These secondary ideas would mean some items that are harder to tote around, and harder to open while seated on a moving bus, train or non-self-driving car.  

So, for now, you’ll have to do with the folding Univac.

--Happy 287th birthday, President Washington. Maybe that “cannot tell a lie” thing is mythical, but even if you stretched the truth now and then, today’s liar-in-chief makes that myth about you close enough to real. Swill them with bumbo, Mr. President!

-Today’s Winning Number:
1020 and climbing.  That’s the count of US-based hate groups, per figures from Bloomberg TicToc.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
© WJR 1732

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

2054 The Great Amorphous "They"

You’ve attributed things to them for years without knowing who they are. But now you will.  How many times have you started or heard someone else use some variation of “they say?”

You see the six people above?  That’s The Great Amorphous They. They are all seeing and all knowing.  And they are who you’re quoting when so say “they say.”

Bottom row from left: Harold Sandler, 32 of Mundelein, Illinois, Keisa Jelani, 27 of Americus, Georgia, G. Emil Wentworth, 87 of Oyster Bay Cove, New York, Schmule Buttman, 72 of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, Peppi Piper, 18 of Enumclaw, Washington, Michael Quill, 104 of Port Salerno, Florida.

Top row from left: Rebecca Thundercloud, 47 of Pine Ridge, South Dakota, Griffen M. Meecham IV, 29 of Smithfield, Utah, Romeo Johnson, 54 of New York, New York, Martina Frangipanni, 21+ of Wilmington, Delaware, Amos Moses, 24 of Opelika, Alabama and Annabelle Kozma, 37, of Big Sandy, Texas.

Not pictured: Jethro Baker, 13 of Bloomoona, Kentucky, Pepe Jaramillo, 65 of Los Alamos, New Mexico, Wang Ying Chi, 21+ of NewRoses, Pennsylvania, Elizabeth Windsor, 92 of Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts and Rebecca Shively, 21+ of Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Now, you may wonder how They get the word out.  Part of that is classified.  A little-known law establishes They-questioner privilege. That means They can say anything to you in confidence, but since until just now you didn’t know there was an actual “They,” and who “They” is you can’t quote them by name.

That’s the first step.  The second is the classified part. “They” gets to you telepathically.  Sometimes what They Say hits you mentally. Sometimes They guide you to something to read, hear or see.  We don’t know how they do it.  But They Say it’s magic.

Now, some finer points.  “They” members don’t always agree on what to say.  Here’s an example:

“You know They Say a smart person acts cautiously.”

But They also Say “He who hesitates is lost.”

The unpictured Ms. Shively (above) is a conflict resolution specialist at Antioch College.  Usually, she resolves conflicts by telling both sides they have good points and that they should feel free to express and discuss them but to be polite -- civil if you will -- about them.  This never results in a joint communique but it keeps the fists from flying.

And, of course, it leaves you with freedom to choose when it comes to what They Say.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
© WJR 2019

Monday, February 18, 2019

2053 Viewing Amazon from a Street Corner

The building in the picture is the front entrance of 41-09 41st Street, New York, NY 11104.  If you climb to the roof above the sixth floor, there’s plenty to see, especially if you look east or south.  The UN building and the rest of the Manhattan skyline, the formerly huge Sunnyside Rail Yard, now reduced to a mere “Two extra-large,” the frayed Long Island City industrial zone, also shrunken and the Queensbridge Houses, largest public housing warehouse in the Western Hemisphere, a WPA project with no reported shootings in 2018.

It’s not bucolic.  It’s crowded there. Busy. Heavy traffic around the clock. Noise.  Trains, buses, cars.  And’s now abandoned planned site for HQ2.  

Notice this: Amazon founder and world’s richest person Jeff Bezos has been in the news for a bunch of reasons lately. But the story of his company’s coitus interruptus are mostly Bezos-free.  No comments. No requests for comments. No wondering why he says little to nothing.

What the neighborhood is saying: You can’t just mosey in here and upend our lives.  Just because if you cut yourself shaving you bleed money doesn’t give you the right to do this.

Amazon wanted secret talks about its plans.  Instead, politicians held public hearings.  Amazon promised a bazillion six-figure jobs.  Talk to its warehouse workers around the country about that.

Oh, sure everyone wants those job-creating monstrosities. But they want them in your neighborhood, not theirs. The mayor and the governor are tearing out their hair. That happens a lot when the mayor wants to win re-election from Staten Island, where Democrats are banned and the governor wants to be president of the US and could use this to get votes in Keokuk, Iowa and Wheeling, West Virginia.

It happens a lot when the doors to the conference room are locked and guarded; when you have to check your cell phone into a cubby before they’ll even see if you’re on the invitation list.

Of course, the whole process could have been more easily stopped.  All they had to do is put Bezos in a 25-year-old Buick on a snowy day and get him to drive from the corner of 41st Street and Skillman Avenue to East 60th St. in Manhattan.  He’d have plenty of time for a first hand look at the neighborhood and he’d be taking the same route in the same kind of car his workers would be using.  Better yet, take the 7 train under the same conditions.

“It’s an abuse of corporate power.” -- Mayor Bill de Blastoff of New York responding to Amazon’s decision to withdraw from a tentative agreement to locate a major tech facility there.  The mayor also said that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “didn’t understand” the Amazon deal.  Sorry, Bill. She understood it -- and abuse of corporate power -- far better than you ever will.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Correspondence to
© WJR 2019

Friday, February 15, 2019

2052 Stop!!

It has become impossible to do anything without interruption.  There's always something that comes along when you're in the middle of something else, demands your attention and distracts you from the task at hand.  This must be stopped.

Think about it.  You're sitting at the computer deeply engrossed in your work (of course it would be totally unlike you to be doing personal stuff during office hours and on the company's machine, right?)  First thing you know, there's a "live update" or some such that wants you to drop what you're doing and restart the computer.

(Is there such a thing as a "dead update" or maybe a pre-recorded update?  Probably not.)

You're getting dinner ready.  A kid comes in with a scraped knee.

You're sitting down to dinner and the phone rings and it's a telemarketer who hasn't read the latest "Do Not Call" list that you thought you were on.

You get to the best part of the TV movie and at just that moment, three fire trucks, a police car and an ambulance, sirens screaming, and the One Train pass your window simultaneously.  Or the power goes out.

Three ancient drivers are driving 30 in a 65 zone, blocking all the lanes.  Don't bother honking.  They can't hear you, anyway.

Everything is interrupted.   One nut case of a boss thought he had a system figured out.  He put a traffic light over his office door.  Green meant he wasn't doing anything -- or wasn't pretending to do anything, and you could walk in.  Orange meant he was occupied but not with anything important, so knock and come in, but "it better be for a good reason."  And red meant stay out.

Did it work?  No way to tell.  Probably he had fewer interruptions in his day than you do in yours.

We were all kind of hoping he'd put an electrified fence around his office and on leaving for the day, forget to turn it off when he returned the next morning.  No such luck.

That was decades ago, and the idea seems not to have caught on.  But the office traffic light points out that this is not a new problem, just one that's escalating.  Or maybe it's not an escalation, just a "surge."


--The Oscar shows often run overtime because of long boring speeches of long-boring people, so the Academy of Movies wants to cut some “minor awards” from the live broadcast.  This has sparked a revolt by “above the line” bigwig millionaire stars and directors who want the below the line awards to be seen.  It’s a smart director who sticks up for “the help,” like editors and hair and makeup types because they can make or break a film.

--Bezos to Queens: Drop Dead.  If you don’t knuckle under to Amazon, we’ll take our mitt and bat and go home. Queens to Bezos: don’t let the door slap your butt on the way out.

-Jeffy, when it comes to girlfriends, think Spitzer, not Wiener.
I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
Correspondence to
©WJR 2019

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

2051 So What Else is New?

A woman recently was sworn into her job as a member of the House of Representatives. Then she tweeted criticism of the lobby AIPAC, The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, an outfit with dirty hands aplenty.  

That would have been fine, but Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) chose to lace her tweet with what are being called “antisemitic tropes.”  This raised a storm of cow chips from both sides of the aisle, and she later issued a counter-tweet of profound apology, saying -- in not so many words -- that she was ignorant and meant no malice toward American Jews.

Around here we call that the Helen Thomas Syndrome. Thomas was a cranky, beloved, brilliant writer and later columnist of Lebanese extraction caught on mic saying the Jews of Israel should “... get the hell out of Palestine.”  That ended her career and the part about beloved and brilliant.  Thomas was in her 90s at the time of that cliff-jump.  Omar is in her 30s, so has many working years left. There’s a lot of potential in her.  As soon as the wound from the bullet she fired into her foot heals.

The apology was pretty thin, contrived and sounds like the work of second rate political handlers:

Um, apologize, then divert.  “Sorry. I didn’t know the gun was loaded. But the guy I shot deserved to die anyway.”

Well, at least we have a sane democratic Congresswoman from Michigan, Rashida Tlaib.  She’s also newly elected, and at 42 is at a calmer stage of life than the younger Omar.  She talks about car insurance, reining in the credit scoring agencies and famously called trump a Motherf***er. Oh, wait. She’s also troping about the boycott Israel movement.

No worries. We all know that Jewish people control the banks, all of the American politicians, the media and that Jews, being all in lockstep and united in every way possible all blindly follow their leaders. Not.

Be good to have diversity in Congress.  Be good to have more women. More Muslims like these two. Let’s not condemn a whole subculture for the supposed stumbles of a couple of pioneers some of whose best friends are Jewish.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Correspondence to
© WJR 5779

Monday, February 11, 2019

2050 Industrial Doughnuts

If it doesn’t have a hole, is it still a doughnut?

A few local doughnut shops are closing after making cameo appearances in their neighborhoods.  Alas! Now there are only 150 places per square mile to buy these things.

Dunkin’ has been opening stores around here at a furious pace.  Like other fast food franchises, you patronize those over the independents because you know just how much sugar shock you’re going to get with every bite.

This does not bode well for anyone who thinks there’s a market for “hand crafted” doughnuts. How do you “hand craft” something like that?  How about the purveyors of “gourmet doughnuts?” Can there be such a thing? And are we in the pre-dawn hours of Hand-Crafted Gourmet doughnuts?”  

That would be a tiny pastry served on a big, stark-white plate with a small cup of “dipping sauce” made from melted M&Ms.  Candles or small oil lamps on the tables. String Muzak on the loudspeakers and formally dressed waiters forbidden from saying “no problem” or “perfect” when taking an order or “Let me get this out of your way” before clearing the table.

People open businesses for a lot of reasons.  Among them: making a living.  Providing a service that’s otherwise lacking. Bossing around minimum wage, benefit-free part-timers who should “be glad they have a job in the first place” and fighting against any proposed increase in the minimum wage.

We’re all smitten with one of life’s great lies: “If you can dream it, you can do it.  All you have to do is work hard.” Wrong and wronger.

Open a doughnut shop in a relatively convenient location. Put announcement flyers in the police precincts.  The customers and the money will be arriving practically overnight?

Also wrong.  Around here, the cops go on doughnut runs but only in unmarked cars.  They don’t want you to see what they’re doing. No more “Lights and Sirens” to Dunkin.  Some rogue officers have gone so far as to eat “RingDings” or “Sno Balls,” or “Little Debbie’s (individual) Lemon Pies.”  

These men and women should be brought before the Civilian Review Board for conduct unbecoming a police officer.  There really is no excuse.  It’s worse than getting caught sleeping on the job.  RingDings, Indeed!

It’s also worse than snacking on carrots or celery stalks.  That’s WAY beyond normal.

The Wessays (™) research and review department had surveyed the wares of the shops which closed or are about to.  They were OK. Nothing special.  Plus it was tough to park and expensive.  That may have contributed to their early expiration.  

You want to compete in this market? You have to be better than the convenience store, the grocery store, Dunkin’, and the guy with the pushcart on the corner.
Better, faster and cheaper.  And the coffee has to be at least two notches above cleaning fluid.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2019

Friday, February 08, 2019

2049 Israel Young (1928-2019)

Izzy Young died the other day. He was 90. If you don’t know the name, you’re probably too young or too distracted or uncaring about what’s come to be known as the New York Folk Scare.

It happened in the 1950s and the 1960s.  Young owned and more or less operated a store at 110 Macdougal Street in Greenwich Village. The Folklore Center, he called it.  Records, tapes, a few musical instruments. Magazines. Books.  And Izzy who was the main attraction and didn’t cost you for a consultation. About … um… whatever.

He was gaunt.  He wore thick lensed and thick rimmed glasses that made his eyes look like a frog’s.  He had a lot to say about a lot of things.

Izzy and his shop were the center of that Folk Scare.  It was more than a hangout than a business.  And how he stayed in business remains one of the great mysteries of the era.

Well… he did produce concerts. Dylan, other people like that. He wrote. Mostly for free. “Sing Out!” Magazine didn’t pay much if anything.  He had a radio program on WBAI, a non-commercial station that has been described as chaotic and beleaguered for all 60-ish years of its existence.  But he was influential, just by showing up and turning the key in the door in the mists of the pre-noon hours. Nothing opens early in The Village.

Once open for the day, the store was always crowded.  That’s because it was so small that seven people made it look like New Year’s Eve in Times Square.  Minus the tourists.  And the confetti. And Ryan Seacrest. Also unlike Times Square, there was a working bathroom.

A visitor, a regular, joined the Scare there.  He walked in one day with a waitress from Figaro’s down the street on Bleecker who said she could sing. She was semi-shy. The visitor told her to sing for Izzy.  She sang for Izzy.  She was called Mary Travers.  You remember her, right?

Instant stardom followed.  Some context: Instant stardom in those days meant getting booked for a paying gig on a weeknight at Cafe Wha’ or The Gaslight, where applause wasn’t permitted -- it disturbed the neighbors -- but you could snap your fingers to show appreciation.

Some of the “paying” meant the coffee chef let you borrow his hat to pass around. Coffee chef?  Yeah. Al, the guy who ran the espresso machine on the days it would still run.

Once Izzy brought his parents to work. Immigrants from the Pogrom fields of Poland.  They looked confused.

When the city prohibited the Sunday singing gatherings in Washington Square Park, Izzy formed a committee to oppose the new rule.  He brought in clergymen. The visitor brought in newly minted lawyer Ed Koch who won the case and thus put himself on the legal map.  He’d been trying to put himself on the folk singing map.  Two problems:  carrying a tune was not part of his skill set.  Neither was guitar playing.

Decades later, Koch said he still had that piece-of-junk guitar.  That may have been a fib.

Izzy got tangled up in the fight against racism and lost.  So he moved to Sweden which at the time -- 1973 -- had a higher tolerance for people of color than even the socialist capital of America, New York.

He opened a store there. He took phone calls. But in that era, overseas phone calls were pretty expensive.  So he rarely made them and people who knew him and called would get their New York Tel bills and thereafter wrote letters.

We’ve missed you all these years, Izzy. Hope the end came easy.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
© WJR 2019

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 ...