Sunday, June 30, 2019

Wessays Mini 001 How to be an Eco-hero



Save those plastic grocery bags.  One municipality after another is either banning them or charging for them.  

If you bring your own, you'll beat the fee and fill the void left by the disappearance of new ones.  Chances are you can accumulate a lifetime supply before the ban or tax begins in your town.

Sure we need to reduce our use of plastics. But your re-useds are part of that.  If you keep using them, they'll never hit the landfill. You'll be an eco-hero.

Like almost everything these days, this is not fully thought out.  No one seems to have addressed the future of the little plastic bags in which you're instructed to pack the vegetables before checkout.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Note To Readers

Full Size Wessays will resume July 22, 2019.

Meantime, there will be an occasional thought or two.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

2104 Irradiated


Walk a cow under this machine. 


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 World Health Organization, 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 sort of 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.

SHRAPNEL:
--WestraDamus the Non-prophet may be retired, but he ain’t dead. And while he typically only predicted past events, he has spoken out on the race for District Attorney of Queens County, NY.  “After the Democratic primary, there’s a good chance Queens will get its first elected Republican district attorney since 1921.”

--RIP Steve Dunleavy, the reporter and columnist who kept Murdoch’s newspapers in circulation and TV shows drawing viewers by combining daring-do with gallons of adult beverages, good writing and bad company. Dunleavy was 81. He did for journalism what Bernie Madoff did for finance.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please send comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

Monday, June 24, 2019

2103 Guitar Wars

Which Twin has the Toni?


We all know Gibson is a big guitar brand. It’s been around since the 1890s and has had more ups and downs than the elevators in the Empire State Building.  Dean is a big guitar importer and has been around since the 1970s.  It knocks off the designs of other makers and sells them for less money. A LOT less.

Now, Gibson is taking Dean to court for copyright violations.  It says “they replicate our stuff.”  Well, yeah, they do. But no one confuses you guys.  Plus the copied instruments are pretty much like Kleenex and aspirin.  They may have been original at some point, but they’re generic now and have been since long before Elvis was a glint in Vernon Presley’s eye.

Do you want me to go into guitar history at this point?  Nah. Me, neither.  Suffice it to say that the “traditional shape” has been around since the 12th century. The modern version isn’t nearly that old. But the outline of the body and neck area.

So the whacky shapes in the pictures today were created by Gibson in the 1950s.  Everyone in the musical merchandise industry copies everyone else.

Back to the ups and downs for a moment.  Gibson was in descent and was recently sold. The new owners want publicity. They’re going about it in several ways.  One of which is a lawsuit.

It gets some air and lots of ink.  Eventually, it’s unlikely anything will happen.  Maybe Dean will be compelled to make shapes that zig where they now zag.  But that’s about all.

But the entire Asian guitar industry was born because of an American lawsuit.  Back in the day, Japanese companies were making inexpensive knockoffs -- inexpensive but not cheap -- of best-selling models by Gibson, Martin, Fender, Guild and others.  The suit forced the Japanese to stop.

But they kept making instruments of their own design and some became best sellers.  US manufacturers manufactured competition where there had been none. 

Nice going, you marketing geniuses.  Let’s see what pops out of the woodwork while you guys fight over … nothing.

SHRAPNEL:
--The number of declared Democratic presidential hopefuls has risen to 25.  Okay, boys and girls, don’t be driving trunk-to-grille behind one another.  Because if the lead car stalls, the pileup will be horrific.

--A woman fell asleep on an Air Canada plane and no one woke her up after landing, so she found herself alone in the dark.  Eventually she was able to signal the driver of a passing baggage car for help. The airline apologized for “the inconvenience.”

TODAY’S QUOTE:
- “Just remember: The Iranians are great negotiators with a bad hand and you are a terrible negotiator with a good hand.” -- Maureen Dowd advising president trump on the prospects of war with Persia.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com

© WJR 2015

Friday, June 21, 2019

2102 More On Food




Might as well make it three in a row about food.  Let’s get one thing clear at the start: those people who take your order at restaurants, the ones who deliver the food to your table?  They’re waiters.

They are not waiters and waitresses.  They are certainly not servers. What a horrible word.  Server.  It’s so… servile.

Time was, waiting tables was a respected and respectable profession. The waiter had to know the food, how to describe it, make recommendations, suggest wine, have a reasonable conversation.

Regulars at a restaurant would get to know their waiter or waiters. There was a relationship.  There was comradery, even if restricted to the transactions. 

Things have changed.  Today, with some exceptions, waiters are on their way to or from other jobs.  They’re college kids scraping together small tips to help pay off student loans.  They are parolees who need work or they’ll be violated and sent back to jail.  They are single parents who are working to support their kids.  They are middle agers trying to support their old and ailing parents.

And somewhere, there’s a school for those who remain in the trade.  The National Servers’ Academy.”  The main thing taught? Lingo.

“Hi, I’m Stacy. I’ll be helping you out this evening.”

Great, Stacy. I need all the help I can get.  I brought along my geometry homework.  Maybe you can help me figure out some theorems.

“Good evening, I’m Willie. Can I start you off with something to drink?”

Sure, Willie. I’d like a house vodka double on the rocks in a tall glass with plenty of ice and a glass of water.

“Uh… what?”

Surely, there’s a “Famous Servers School.”  And all of these newcomers seem to attend. Some graduate with honors.

Here’s how the first encounter works.  You come in, a host or hostess seats you and says “Bethesda will be here shortly to take your order.”

You sit.  And wait. And wait. And wait some more.

Finally, you go back to the welcome stand and ask the person behind it a telling question: “Can you see me?” The host(ess) says “sure.”

You answer “Oh, good.  I’ve been waiting for Bethesda’s debut appearance for so long I thought I might have become invisible.”

Bethesda shows up.  We order drinks.  The cocktail comes back only after the non-alcoholic beverages are served.  How long does it take an idle bartender to pop a few ice cubes into a glass and splash a shot of vodka into it?

If you’ve ordered a beer, you can bet by the time it gets to your table, it’s lost its head.  And it’s getting warm.

“I’d like a cheeseburger, medium rare with no onions, and a steak knife.”  (Plastic teeth.) “We can only make burgers that have pink centers or no pink centers.”  
“Okay, pink, please.”

The Executive Chef (or chef-ette) is colorblind.  Pink and brown are the same to him.”

Bethesda puts the food down.  Thirty seconds, she’s back.  “Everything taste alright?”  How would we know at this point?

You ask for a magnifying glass.

“A magnifying glass?”

“Yes, so I can find the mashed potatoes.”

Bethesda then goes … um … somewhere to practice her vanishing act.

Eventually, she rematerializes and asks (and this is why she was a Dean’s List student at Famous Servers”) “may I take these plates out of your way?”  

Suggested answers:

-Yes, thank you.
-No thank you.
-Please do, we can’t put up the ping pong net if the table is full of dishes. (If you want to play intellectual, substitute chess board.)
-They’re not in my way.  This is table art.

Or if you want to go back to an earlier class from Famous Servers:
-No problem.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments here: wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019






Wednesday, June 19, 2019

2101 Fakeburger shortage



Can you tell the difference?  In a picture, probably not. In person, no problem.

There’s a shortage of “Impossible Burgers.”  Relax. It’s only temporary.  But once you’ve eaten one, you’ll be back to McD’s or Burger King or Wendy’s.

For now, though, two big chains, White Castle and Red Robin are screaming for more and no one’s rushing in emergency supplies.

The I.B. looks like a hamburger, especially when it’s all dressed up in Red Robin’s burger costume … a robust bun with a beefy-looking slab of, um, something on a bed of lettuce and tomatoes.  The White Castle version is smaller because everything at White Castle is smaller.

But appearance and reality often diverge.

The basic idea of a veg burger that looks and tastes like the real thing is a fine idea.  Vegetarians and those who fear the Red Meat Death Squad are pleased and should be.

But these things taste like roast cardboard.  Now, if you’ve ever had roast cardboard, no surprise.  You don’t get Wolfgang or Emeril or even Rachel Ray showing you how to cook this.  It’s strictly a DIY affair. And it’s not a popular dish.  A lot of kitchen fires start when you pre-heat to 350 degrees and put oil brushed cardboard in for five minutes per side.  Mom tried defrosting frozen beef that way when it still was sold in cardboard trays. We had no smoke alarms.  We didn’t need them.

We have no beef with beef-free burgers. All kinds of health food and pseudo-health food makers have been making them for years.  At one time McDonald’s experimented with an all-vegetable burger. It was delicious. And it was quickly discontinued.

The nationally distributed frozen ones are mostly ok, but they cover a lot of dull with spices. The locally distributed frozen ones taste better, have actual spinach leaves you can see but no one seems to know where they really come from.

And answer Clara Peller's 1984 question for Wendy’s: Where’s the beef?”

SHRAPNEL:
--The headline says Egypt’s Morsi was “Buried after courtroom death.”  Good thing, too.  Even in Egypt, burying someone before they die is illegal.

--Members of accused sexual assaulter Harvey Weinstein’s legal team are defecting at a pretty rapid rate.  He’s down to three remaining. Looks like once these lawyers get to know their client better, they run for the hills.

--“Ya load 16 Tons, what do you get… another day older and deeper in debt” or maybe arrested. What Merle Travis wrote about and Tennessee Ernie Ford sang about was coal.  But the current 16 tons -- in Philadelphia -- is cocaine loaded in seaport shipping containers.”

GRAPESHOT:
-Two front page stories in the local paper on the same day, one describing the big store closings at the mall, the other, new small ones opening and leaving us guessing what’s really going on there.

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

Monday, June 17, 2019

2100 Self Eating Doughnuts



It’s five years from now, and what’s a cop to do? All cars are self-driving.  No live drivers, so no officer-driven prowl cars on traffic duty. Self-driving prowl cars.  The officers sit in the passenger seat and operate the computer.  The car does the driving.

This has caused a sharp decline in revenue, what with every car obeying every traffic law.  Stopping at stop signs. Really stopping. No kind-a stopping which most human drivers do.  Obeying the speed limit.  Fifty five is 55 and 25 is 25 and 15 in a school zone is 15 in a school zone. 

Every once in a while, the sergeant drives around and stops the self-driving cop cars.  That’s to make sure the not-driver is also not looking at the weather or game or porn or social media sites on the computer. Or asleep at the wheel.  Well, not the wheel. Asleep in the passenger seat.

Officer Cooper of the Moote Pointe traffic squad coops. “Cooping” is copspeak for sleeping on the job.  What else is he going to do?

These patrol cars aren’t cheap.  And revenues are down.  DWIs are down, too… because the self-driving private cars never drink, don’t do drugs and do warn the passengers when a taillight fails.

So the police have to look for new revenue streams.  And -- trust me -- they’ll find ‘em.

With less wear and tear, the cars last longer so fewer precinct mechanics are necessary.  They use less fuel, too because there are no lead feet on the gas pedals. In fact, there are no gas pedals.

Automation. It’s a beautiful thing.

There’s also less on the job socializing.  And this is a crisis for private enterprise.  Less socializing means fewer meet-ups at Dunkin’ or Krispy Kreme. Bakers no longer can estimate demand, so they’ve come up with self-eating doughnuts.  (See picture.)

Meantime, cops all over the country are scrambling to find new revenue sources to pay for all that self driving stuff.

Jaywalking is a good start.  Littering?  There isn’t much out there you can do on patrol except maybe practice chokeholds and busting kids with a loose joint in a pocket.

Stop and frisk, where are you when we need you?

SHRAPNEL:
--trump suggests the people may demand he remain in office beyond a second term.  How does he think he can wangle that? Fake news… the re-election campaign begins tomorrow in Orlando… real news: it began on inauguration day.

--Why do politicians say such stupid things?  The president of Argentina tells reporters his country’s power system is “robust.” This, after a failure wipes out electric service for 44 million people there, plus around 10 million more in Paraguay and Uruguay.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019



Friday, June 14, 2019

3002 The Downtrodden Landlord




A funny thing happened in Albany, New York the other day.  The landlords of New York City had owned the state legislature for decades.  Now… they’ve been evicted.

Well, not exactly evicted.  Just had their paws declawed.  The legislature took a look at the latest proposal from the various real estate associations.  These included new ways to raise rents even in rent-controlled buildings. And new ways to build skyscrapers made of ticky-tacky and sell them for… well, much more than they’d be worth.

The legislature, now entirely in the hands of members of the Democratic Party, decided enough was enough and approved the new city housing bill and the landlords and their versions of the NRA were stunned.  Not only did they fail to get everything they wanted, but they’d have to even put up with some “rollbacks,” as stealing union-won benefits have recently come to be called.

What?  

Train, bus, plane and helicopter loads of lobbyists and consultants and academics with landlord-endowed chairs at landlord-endowed “universities” flooded the state capital.

They appealed to the governor -- a Democrat -- to “reason with the Senate and Assembly that made changes that will mean a few million dollars in dollars that won’t be stuffed into used coffee cans and buried beneath private putting greens in Scarsdale and Kings Point or winter homes in Key Biscayne or Mar A Largo.

The governor shrugs.  He tells the Gimme Chorus at his doorstep to take things up with the legislature and that he will sign the “best bill they can pass,” whatever it is.

The chorus disassembled and went back home without its claws.  Members were heard to mutter things like “this is going to affect the lives of soooo many construction workers.  Wow! Sticking up for the working class… the unionized working class at that.

Rent gouging and slumlording is as old as the founding of the city itself.  And it’s not going to go away.  But it’s not going to get worse, either.  At least for now.

As the late Oscar Brand would sing

Pitty the downtrodden landlord,
And his back that’s all burdened and bent.
Respect his gray hairs.
Don’t ask for repairs.
And don’t be behind in the rent.

SHRAPNEL:
--We first met Brand in the late 1950s, while was living on W. 12th St. in Greenwich Village.  He made fun of us “suburban kids.” When he died some years ago in his 90s, he was living on Baker Hill Road in Great Neck, around the corner and down the block where someone whose work you are now reading misspent part of his youth.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments? Send ‘em here: wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2019

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

3001 When Texas Hands You a Lemon






Gregg Abbott, the only recent Texas governor to not (yet) run for President, has signed a law allowing unlicensed kids to operate lemonade stands without first securing a license.  This spectacular issue has been moldering around Austin for about four years. Things move slow in the low i.q. states.

It all started when cops in Overton TX, Pop. 2500, made two sisters shut down their stand. They were trying to raise money to take their dad to a theme park for Fathers’ Day.  Andria and Zoey Green did not have a peddler license.  Soon, they won’t need one.

But this being Texas, the girls aren’t home free yet.  Here’s the catch: the law doesn’t take effect until September first.  September?  Well, in Overton, it’s still pretty warm in September.  90-ish, most days.  But by that time, the consumer demand for Lemonade probably has been satisfied for the summer.

Chances are, police won’t enforce the old law now that the Governor has signed the new one.  But -- again -- it’s Texas.  So you never can tell.

Here’s a workaround.  Adults and older kids can hire front-children.  Little Betsy and her younger brother Billybob can be used as stand-ins while the real owners are a couple of almost-teens from around the block or --Texas -- the next ranch over.

This works in big city construction jobs where minority-owned companies sometimes get a nudge in the contract selection, so white guys hire black front men and women to sit at desks, collect good salaries and have zero input on operations.  No one gets fooled except the people who believe that the CEO who is African American named the company Copenhagen Associates after his great grandfather from Denmark.

Meantime, here’s to you, Governor Abbott (R-Wichita Falls).  Just don’t get caught buying a cup of juice from a couple of fake kids before September.

--SHRAPNEL:
--You have to love politicians.  All of a sudden, the Justice Department caves on sending the Mueller report to congress.  And that has nothing -- Ab-so-lootly nothing to do with the congressional decision not to charge the Attorney General with contempt.

--Thanks to fellow Long Islander Sean Hannity for highlighting all of those health problems Biden supposedly has… very much like the health problems Hillary Clinton didn’t have. Oh, and Sean, babes, if you have access to Biden’s medical records, you ought to share them unless somewhere there’s an alternative universe in which there’s Patient Rabble-rouser confidentiality.

--Stopped clock Dept: trump is right, the “merger” of United Tech and Raytheon is wrong because it could lead to increased prices for the military.  It doesn’t matter what he thinks.  But it does matter when the hedge fund that’s heavy into United says the same thing and may have the power to top the deal.

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

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...