Friday, February 26, 2021

4699 Naked Without Your Mask


It was Halloween eve back last October, a Friday. They put a sign up on the door to the bank. It said, “No masks!” Of course not. Who wears a mask into a bank?  


Now the sign on the same door says, “no admittance if you’re not wearing a mask.”


Times change.


Sometimes, change is temporary.  This time, maybe not.


Are we going to need masks this coming Halloween eve?


Chances are the answer is yes.  Now we may ask… how long do we have to put up with this nonsense?  But conversely, we also can ask “when we don’t have to do it anymore, will we continue anyway?” (Or anywayS as is too often substituted.)


I refer you to the early days of auto seatbelts.  At first, they were an encumbrance. Then we started getting used to them. Now, admit it: if you’re a diligent user, you feel naked if you climb into the driver’s seat or the front passenger seat and don’t buckle up.


Yes, some people don’t wear belts and don’t feel naked. And a certain element doesn’t wear masks, but we haven’t yet learned to ostracize them.  


We don’t go peering into stopped cars to see if belts are in place.  That would be gauche.  But not wearing a mask is like not wearing your pants. Or -- at least for now -- it should feel that way.


So, even if we don’t need them in some far-off time ahead, we’re going to feel at least funny if not naked without them.


And, by the way, if you walk into the bank wearing a ski mask, even a ski mask with a covid mask covering your mouth and nose, you’re going to raise suspicions.  Even if it’s cold as a broken pipe winter in Texas.



--We have designer masks with all kinds of nifty printed slogans and designs.  How is it we don’t have the same art with auto seatbelts?  What are the homebound arts and embroiderers waiting for, an invitation?


--The Mr. Potatohead toy is going gender neutral.  Its new name will be “Potatohead.”  And you can compose the make-up of your potato family using any variation you choose.


--Mercifully, Barbie became multiracial years ago. She’s not just a blonde, white girl anymore… she’s available in a whole menu of skin tones. But do we now have to re-think the relationship of Barbie and Ken?


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

Any Questions?

© WR 2021


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

4698 Big Numbers


 America has just hit half a million Covid deaths.  A tragic figure and one that probably would have been smaller at this point had the White House not lied to us about the pandemic’s severity.


We in the business of reporting the news have this obsession with benchmark numbers, which usually are too large or ungainly to grasp. So here is some perspective.


500-thousand is about the population of Atlanta.  Can you imagine everyone in there losing their lives over the course of about a year? Chances are, you can’t.  It’s too big a number over too large an area for the typical human to imagine.


Here’s another.  If you lined up 500,000 feet of Toyota Corollas in a massive traffic jam, you would need about 33,000 of them.  If you had half a million gallons of water, it would fill up most but not all of an Olympic sized swimming pool.  You could buy half-a-million McDonald’s hamburgers if there were no tax on them. Or 666,000 Hershey Bars. Or 125-thousand copies of the National Enquirer.


The point is these big numbers don’t mean much.  Here are some others:

--60 Home Runs in one baseball season.

--Seven Superbowl rings in ten years.

--4500 Big Macs per minute.


The important figure to you depends on how many deaths have there been among your friends, family and neighbors? How many Big Macs did you eat for lunch? How many times did your little league kid’s bat connect with a thrown ball this season?


But we can’t report that stuff. We try. We do little stories about a 100-year-old nun in France who survived a bout with Covid. Or how long it took to get through the drive-through line at Wendy’s.  These items make an impact. But we still need those huge incomprehensible numbers.


Why?  Is this something the media force on us? Or is it just easier to talk about?  Are these numbers important to us or do they just make it easier to ignore?


President Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic package?  Who can visualize a figure of that size? We could present perspectives as we just did with the half-million deaths. Would that help? Would your mind’s eye be able to see a wall of two trillion one-dollar burgers?  Of course not.  It’s hard enough to get through the camping song “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” or seven million Texans standing in their kitchens boiling pots of water after the recent cold and snowstorm.


If someone can come up with an alternative, there are 50-thousand reporters waiting for your solution.  And ten thousand editors.  And three readers.



Remembering Fern Karen Mullen Baptista, friend, neighbor, reader and relentless comment poster on the Facebook page of this blog.  Fern passed away this week after a brief illness. She is survived by her husband Tom, her son Josh, two sisters and a brother. And by hundreds of friends who appreciated and admired her loving art and her loving heart.


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

© WR 2021


Monday, February 22, 2021

4697 Martha and Ed

When you use these machines for a while, things happen. One thing: if you work at it, you get good at it.  Rolling around the supermarket at 6 or 7 in the morning means you can eventually learn not to crash into shelves.  You can learn how to position the machine so it fits in the narrow register aisles designed to frustrate motorized users and send them to the (usually only) one open lane with the wheelchair logo on the lighted sign.


You learn how not to knock things over.  You learn about the turning radius. You learn how to pack a week’s worth of stuff in a basket designed to hold little more than enough for tonight’s dinner and maybe tomorrow’s breakfast without squishing the loaf of bread, breaking the eggs or crushing the tomatoes atop which you’ve stuck a bag of onions or potatoes.  Or one of those gallon jugs of Tide with Febreze or is it Snuggles?


But there’s a second thing to know about these carts: Each one is different.  Each one has a personality of its own.  Each one has its own quirks.  Standing at the ready or the sorta-ready, they look like they’re identical.  Not so. They’re obviously related; closely related.  But they have different personalities and different attitudes. Oh, and different flaws.


Which brings us to Martha and Ed.  I give these carts names.  I’m still awaiting word from Wal-mart’s legal department. My question was whether I would be guilty of or at least charged with vandalism if I brought my plastic label tape along and made stick-on nametags for them.


They may not have taken the question seriously. They should have.


Here’s my naming standard:  The few that are flawless get women’s names.  The rest are guys.  These carts get hard use, so there are few without flaws.  One is Martha, named for the oh-so-elegant Connecticut lady who has a magazine, does cooking shows on TV and hawks a line of casual clothing on one of the shopping channels. I’ve forgotten her last name.  You might remember.


Martha cruises the aisles of the grocery department with grace and elegance.  It is as smooth in reverse as it is going forward.  It turns smoothly.  It makes no extraneous noise other than the obnoxious beep they all emit when you put them into reverse.  Martha is pretty new as these machines go. So the battery retains power long enough for two consecutive drivers to get through their trips without having to call the manager while stuck in an aisle where you are surrounded by the frigid air-leaking cabinets of frozen vegetables or ice cream.


Ed is an older machine and has steering problems. The mechanism jams when you try to make a left turn.  Right turns? Perfect. Every bit as good as Martha.  But no left turn. It is named for a friend because its turn protocol matches his politics. 


Another male: Drill Sgt. Sol. He won’t go unless your rump is firmly planted at the back of the seat and you’re sitting at attention.


And there’s one I haven’t yet named, but not for lack of trying.  This one takes off like a shot and then comes to a dead stop at the first opportunity to block both foot and manual cart traffic and then … Absolutely. Refuses. To. Move. Even with a fully charged battery. Even if you’re sitting with your rear end precisely positioned and are sitting up with Military Parade Straightness.


If they don’t allow me to label this gang, at least maybe they’ll let me tie a small pink ribbon on Martha’s handlebars and a miniature “no left turn” sign on Ed’s.


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

© WR 2021


Friday, February 19, 2021

4696 Rush to Judgment


This won’t be as harsh as you might expect.  Rush Limbaugh rose a.m. radio from the dead and then he killed it. He turned old fashioned radio into an old fashioned revival hour for conservatives wandering through a rock ‘n’ roll desert. He built an army of followers, then a conservative movement. In doing so he brought us a lot of what we have today, mini trumps breathing fire and lies and conspiracy theories, white supremacy and a well-worn path that stops at the edge of the cliff we were about to step into.


Now, he’s dead.  But his legacy will live on.  What did this guy do that was so special?   A failed chicken-rock disc jockey from a fifth-rate town in a third-rate state weaponized talk radio and became a convivial kingmaker and divider of a nation that once had bragging rights in every field you can think of and some you can’t.


His obituaries are peppered with words like bombastic, conspiratorial, power-mad, liar, opportunist, wise guy, drug addict, lawbreaker, humorist, entertainer, climate denier, Obama birther, trump’s role model. 


But they also say things like “hard-working” and “generous.” He was all those things.  He started trends and ended them. And for better or worse -- mostly for worse -- told millions of his dittoheads, as he called them, what to think. 


He was anti-woman, but many women loved him. He was an unabashed small towner, but his show was a hit in big cities with small but loud conservative abscesses.


An odd creature of the kind only old fashioned mass media could create. Radio, conventional television, movies, all that. If he had a position on contemporary or social media, it was relatively small other than an elaborate website.


He satisfied two great social needs.  He gave some people someone to look up to. And he gave others a larger-than-life target.


He went deaf through the abuse of pain killers and turned his hearing loss into a show-biz asset.  He spewed hate. His followers returned that with love.


He called himself an entertainer and bristled when others called him that.  But he got what radio once was all about: there may have been millions of listeners. But each of them thought he was talking directly to them. That’s an art and these days there are few such artists. He understood and took advantage of your “lizard brain,” the early part before the birth of human reason.

What he said to them was often wrong and sometimes dangerous. Dangerous to the listener, dangerous to the country. He spawned a legion of imitators. None reached his level of bizarre artistry, grotesque influence, and bad boy good humor.


It’s like lauding Jack McGurn, Capone’s favorite hitman. He was brilliant at what he did.  Best in the business. But he was still a hitman.


Now there’s a rush to replace Rush. And the winner is… Rush. His syndicator is preparing moveable and reusable segments from past programs to be introduced by guest hosts.  Sounds like a plan, at least for the near term.


Limbaugh: Venom with a punchline. He led America into the politics of the moment. His work is done. Ours is just beginning.


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

Any Questions?

© WR 2021


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

4695 Go Ahead, Form a Commission


Big events get a big response. So it’s unsurprising that they’re going to form a commission to discover what caused the attempted coup at the US Capitol on January 6th.  


Our sense of history or of record keeping all but forces us to go along.  Spend a few bucks that could otherwise be used for stimulus checks or fixing potholes on the highway or building a bridge to nowhere.  We “have” to have something for the record.

But this isn’t the Kennedy assassinations. It is not the MLK assassination.  It isn’t even 9/11.  This played out in real time on every TV or computer screen in America.  We are all witnesses.


And it’s been brewing for years. You can pick your starting point. Maybe it was during the primaries or the election of 2016. Maybe it was when the first tweet rolled out of donald trump’s iPhone.  Maybe it was the rally that he held just before the start of the insurrection.  


It doesn’t matter. It was inevitable and we saw its deadly, shabby end product as it happened.  It started with a sitting president urging -- demanding -- his coven of acolytes to march on the seat of government, promising that he’d be right there with them, which he wasn’t.


We watched the coward-in-chief slink back into the relative safety of a secure White House while his hooligans killed cops or were killed by cops. We watched the suddenly heroic-seeming vice president and other high ranking government types crouched in the screwball corners of the building that until that moment stood as a symbol of American values and American democracy, imperfect as it may be. We watched as that building turned into just another palace of a banana republic or a soviet slave state.


So, sure. Name a commission. It will conclude something close to what we all saw. Close but stripped of some of the horror and wrapped in the twisted terms that serve bureaucrats and lawyers both public and private.  It will satisfy nothing. 


Like the Warren Commission, and the investigations that followed the murders of RFK and MLK it will spawn conspiracy theories that will keep scholars and wannabe investigators busy for years to come.  It will prove nothing more than what we heard with our own ears; saw with our own eyes.


It will not bring closure.  It will not un-ring the bell or put the evil genie back in the bottle.  What it will do is fuel our hardwired need to guess and second guess and invent stories that haunt or titillate. It will make us vow “never again.” Again.


Sure, go ahead and investigate.  Write down what you find. Bind it in leather. Then leave it where we can all read it, though few actually will.


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

Any Questions?

© WR 2021


Monday, February 15, 2021

4694 The Assistant Principal

To the ladies of the laptop, the dashboard, the iPhone.  Your computerized voice soothes, cajoles, entices. You wrap your instructions or your searches or your weather reports in the pleasant tones of someone who knows how to talk to a guy in a bar or an upscale department store. Sometimes to someone behind the wheel and lost.


But what many of us need is not the ladies of Girls’ Night Out, but that of the junior high or middle school Assistant Principal. It’s usually a he. He is direct, abrupt and you dare not disobey because he has access to all kinds of punishment for disobedience and he’s not afraid to use them.


When you’re on the road, you don’t need some sweet-talking lady to tell you “In one thousand feet, turn right onto Old Field Lane.”  You need “Mr. D.” or “Uncle Freddie” to say, “listen up, Old Field Lane comes up on your right down the block. There are a few cross streets before that. Don’t make a wrong turn. Keep one eye on the road and the other on the street signs and don’t miss it or you’ll be spending the rest of the day in my office.”


Politeness and kindness surely have their place. But when you’re driving on unfamiliar streets in an unfamiliar town, you want a straight-shooting -- maybe even a threat-implying -- Assistant principal to order you around.”

When you ask “Cortana” or “Siri” or the nameless ghost girl of Google how to use a split screen in Windows 10, you don’t want some nice girl-next-door type to tell you “Screen snapping is easy with Windows 10. Much easier than it was in Version 7 or Version 8. So let’s get started.” You need Mr. T to tell you “This ain’t rocket science, kid, here’s what you do…”


Your existing robot has too many emotions. When you’re asking for directions to the Roosevelt Field Shopping Center, and Toyota Tanya-of-the-Dashboard can’t find the Meadowbrook Parkway she’ll tell you so in robotic versions of shame and embarrassment.”


The Assistant Principal has another take: “First of all, kid, they don’t call it that anymore. So look for signs that say “Shopping Mall.  I don’t know how to get you to the highway. But you probably can see it over there on your left.  Wander around the back streets; you’re sure to find an entry ramp eventually. Let me know when you’re there and I’ll get you where you’re going.”


Assistant Principals may be a little rough around the edges, but they know how to put a semicolon in their advice.


--The Senate voted 57-43 to convict trump, short of the ⅔ majority required, so the accused goes free. Please note, no armed mob stormed Mar a Largo. And no one made phone calls to “find me votes” even though this “election” really was stolen by thugs in cheap suits.


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

Any Questions?

© WR 2021


Friday, February 12, 2021

4693 The Contract


Time to renew the homeowner’s insurance and here comes the bill and it’s maybe 15% higher than last year’s.  Hmmm... maybe the house has gotten more vulnerable in a year.  Or is it something else? 


Let’s call around and get some quotes.  It’s no problem to find a policy with more coverage for about 40% less than the bill sitting here, so we sign up.


One thing about insurance companies, they bill early.  Okay, we’ll cancel this policy when we get the “second notice.”  Sure enough, a second notice arrives and we call the insurance company to cancel and guess what? They don’t admit to having a customer service department, at least not via telephone.


But sneaky us!  We fool around with the telephone keypad for a while and sure enough, there IS such a department, only they don’t advertise it because (1) this is not a claim and (2) why bother with people like... um … customers needing customer service.


Surprisingly, the department is not in India, it’s in Hartford.  Unsurprisingly they don’t want you to cancel, so they don’t make it easy. 


“Call your agent.”


“I’m not on speaking terms with my agent.” 


“I’ll send you the forms you have to fill out. You’ll get them in about ten business days.”


“What if I just don’t pay the bill?”


“We’ll cancel for non-payment and report it to the credit bureaus.”


“Why can’t I just tell you on the phone?”


“We have a contract with you.”


“Yeah, but it has an expiration date and I want it to expire.”


Why all this hullabaloo?  Why the price increase? Probably, because there was a claim during the past year.  Not a payment, just a claim, later withdrawn.


But the “adjuster” did her job.  A chirpy young woman who knows that her job is to make sure no claim is ever paid, and who knows her customers know and are not shy about reminding her.


Ever read the fine print in your insurance policies?  It makes the credit card companies seem like they actually speak English.  They should issue a dictionary or at least a glossary with the policy.

Shrapnel (insurance edition):


--Fifteen minutes did not help at least one customer save 15% or more on insurance and did not present a quantity discount for combined home and car insurance, so, so much for that company.


--Another tells you to ask your neighbor about the quality of their work.  Can’t find a soul with a policy, or even the one that assures you you’re in good hands and protects you against driving teen texters.  So, so much for THOSE companies.


--Then there’s the one that “keeps you legal for less” and one that says “yes” without your having to supply any personal information.  The first means “barely legal,” and the second is on death watch. It’s a pinfall with a one-count.

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

Any Questions?

© WIR 2021


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

4692 It's Always Quiet in New Port Richey


New Port Richey is a small town in Pasco County, Florida, near Tampa and they have a pretty restrictive anti-noise law.  It says anything louder than a quiet conversation is illegal.  So it’s not surprising that the cops came out to shoosh demonstrators from Black Lives Matter recently.


It also is not surprising that white supremacist Proud Boys noticed the demonstration and sent in the clowns.  That’s when the noise level rose above the hushed tones the law demands.


So the cops did what cops are supposed to do. They started breaking up the Loud Noise Matters vs. Loud Boys with guns.  After all, the population skews older and those of us of a certain age value our peace and quiet.


Things never got fully out of hand. But there were arrests and there have been charges, though nothing truly serious.  You’ll never guess who got charged and who didn’t.  Or maybe you will.


Spoiler alert: All the charges went to the Black Lives Matter demonstrators.


All this is happening before a backdrop of new general restrictions. Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis wants laws that would attach even larger fines and jail time against protesters.  Fifteen years in jail if “more than nine people participated in a riot.” 


Parse that concept. First, how can there be a “riot” with only ten people? More important, what is a riot?  Surely you know one when you see it. The attempt to overthrow the US Government at the Capitol building on January 6th was one. But what about when nine people watch a tenth try to topple a light pole or even an empty police car?  


What about ten people chanting in front of a church or a city hall? Do cops run up with drawn decibel detectors, meter needles waggling in the red zone? 


Someone throws a brick through a store window. Is that a riot? Certainly, it’s a crime. Wild guess: something about that already is on the books. But should it be a crime with a 15-year punishment?


Are there silent riots, as when seven or eight linebackers with assault rifles stand silently glowering at a bunch of black teenagers with “matter” signs?


Florida is not alone. Twenty-eight states have passed or are considering stronger anti-demonstration laws. Most, if not all those states already also are making it harder to vote. They’re trying to create a caste system that will evolve into a new definition of “human,” dependent on such characteristics as skin color or viewpoint.


When you drive to New Port Richey you will pass along roads with “sponsored” zones. Probably there are sections naming the service clubs or veterans’ organizations. But you’ll also find one paid for by the Ku Klux Klan. It’s been there since 1993.


Oh, and when you drive into town, make sure you’re wearing a gag under your mask.


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

Any Questions?

© WIR 2021


Monday, February 08, 2021

4691 Watching the Game


 I watched the Superbowl beginning to end. I thought I should pick a team. I picked Kansas City. I was wrong and knew it midway through the second quarter. But I watched for the spectacle of seeing a live broadcast that gracefully and forcefully accomplices the impossible.


This isn’t about the “legendary” Tom Brady, admittedly a stellar but aging quarterback who won his seventh ring out of ten Superbowl’s played. It isn’t about the beleaguered Kansas City Chiefs hoping for a second consecutive win in the annual event.


It isn’t about the boatload of expensive commercials that draw fans of their own to watch this pseudo spectacle. Commercials, by the way, often so memorable for their content that people forget the product or service they advertise.  


It isn’t about the “special team,” to use football jargon, that gathers in the announce booth to pontificate and comment endlessly relying on its flock of on-site researchers to make them sound informed, knowledgeable and familiar. 


Yes, they are there to call the action. But that’s a sideline. You can see that for yourself. More important, they are there to fill your ears during the endless times-out and other clock-stopping events that stretch a 15 minute quarter to last a half an hour, sometimes more.


The viewing gave me control room Flashbacks. I’ve always marveled at the way a group of men and women can sit behind consoles and put together a flawless broadcast of a dizzying complex series of unpredictable interactions and make it look easy to the viewers.


My vote for Most Valuable Player was not anyone on the field, it was for the CBS director playing deity over a 55 camera shoot.  I have to say that again: 55 cameras.  Plus graphics pods.  That is a show of reflexes, athletic prowess and timing that dwarfs anything that happened during the actual game. Or could happen.


Live TV control rooms are crazy noisy and crazy active. But a 55 camera shoot? That requires people with the compound eyes of a horseshoe crab, the agility of a pronghorn antelope and the sure-footedness of a mountain goat.


My vote’s always for the crab-eyed antelopian goat.


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

Any Questions?

© WIR 2020


Friday, February 05, 2021

4690 Kings of the Road


Caution: Professional walker This was photographed on a closed course. Do not try this near home.  Wessays is not responsible for oncoming cars or people actually riding their bikes.


We Americans love our cars. Sometimes we “need” to use them, if only to drive a 6,000 pound machine down the block to buy a doughnut.  


Drivers come at all levels of skills. But it’s both safe and prudent to assume that an oncoming SUV on a doughnut run is driven by someone who earned their driver’s license by buying it over the counter at Dollar General and knows not what that big interior wheel and brake pedal are there for. 


Bad drivers outnumber good ones by a wide margin. They run stop signs and sometimes red lights.  They travel 45 MPH in the passing lane. They don’t signal for a turn or a lane change.  They pump the brakes suddenly and for no discernable reason, cut you off, tailgate you, and they text. This is despite user surveys that “prove” everyone considers himself an above average driver.


Walkers and bicycle riders are at constant risk. But they are not without fault, either.

Many walkers daydream during their mid-day mosey. They ignore traffic signals with the same enthusiasm as drivers. And they foolishly believe in the law and the myth that pedestrians have the right of way and that you -- yes, you with the Dollar General license, you in the Lincoln Navigator -- will obey and defer.


And the enviable American literacy rate often vaporizes when someone on foot is confronted by a flashing sign that says “don’t walk.”


But the worst of the bad lot are the bicyclists because not only have they flunked out of the same schools as the bad drivers and walkers, but they are also given special high marks for social superiority.


Noses aloft when anything with an engine comes within sight, these people smugly deride any lowlife who dares put a touch of carbon dioxide into the air and believes that drivers are by definition bad citizens and destroyers of the earth and the road -- probably funded by gasoline tax -- belongs to them.


For decades, bicycle riders clamored for special lanes.  Now, they have them.  They never wear out because almost no one uses them.  The only part that shows use is the marking and that’s only because riders regularly wear out the painted lines while crossing randomly into and out of the regular motor traffic lanes.


The municipalities that have bike lanes are not merely bending to the will of the peddle lobby.  They’re showing off their ecological chops.  “Look! We have more bike lane miles than any town of similar size in all of Nebraska.” Meantime, members of the Town Council travel to work in Town-owned Tahoes fueled using town-issued credit cards.


Except for Council President Bob, 102, half blind, and now serving his 56th continuous term.  Dollar General wouldn’t renew his license after age 97 so he pedals to the meetings. 


Be sure to check the calendar for the dates, then be extra careful because Bob’s out there in the bike lane and sometimes he forgets his glasses or his hearing aid. Or both. And you’d feel terrible if they arrested you after discovering the grille print of your Escalade on his backside.


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

Any Questions: Peddle them somewhere else or write to

© WIR 2021


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...