Monday, May 31, 2021

4730 Do It Yourself News

 For the Zoom users who have everything, the perfect gift, your very own professional video cam and anchor desk.

 You don’t need the papers, the internet, radio or TV to know what’s going on, you already do, but may not realize it.   So as a public service here’s your personal copy of...

 

The Wessays™ do it yourself guide to the news:

 

Just cross out what you don’t need. Or fill in the blanks provided below and improve your Zoom apparatus as in the photo above.

 

Here are the basics:

 

-Democrat "A" proposes something.  Republicans swarm in to drag their feet and probably block it. This is a little trickier than in past days because control of the senate is in the hands of one guy from a state everyone forgets is there, West Virginia.

 

-Budget cuts are coming to the (federal) (state) (municipal) government. And taxes will rise. Or not rise.

-Somewhere in America there is a municipality or state that is trying to screw with the electoral process under the guise of improving honesty and putting friends and relatives on a payroll.

 

-Somewhere in America, a local school board is planning a "controversial" project that will raise taxes and probably is unnecessary or at least more elaborate than it needs to be.

 

- A rap artist will be arrested on (assault charges) (weapons charges) (attempted murder charges) (murder charges.)  

 

-A starlet will go into, escape from or be released from rehab. 

 

-A mass transit machine (bus, ferry boat, airplane) in (the The Philippines,) (Malaysia,) (India,) will sink or crash or hit something killing X number of people and injuring Y others.  Later, investigators will determine (the cockpit crew was playing cards instead of flying,) (the bus driver fell asleep at the wheel) (the ferry was way overcrowded.) 

 

-Toys and children's jewelry imported from (China) (Indonesia) (Vietnam) (Thailand) will be found to have greater than acceptable levels of (lead) (mercury) (small component choking hazards,) and will be removed from the market by (Wal-Mart) (Target) (Kohls) (a shopping channel) (amazon.com).

 

A US citizen has been detained in (North Korea,) (China,) (Somalia) (Russia).

 

Experts say a “toxic climate” is being created by (Fox News) (MSNBC) (the Property Brothers) (PBS) (Public Access TV) (The supermarket tabloids) 

 

In sports:

 

-Teams that seem never to lose will lose.  Or actually win.

 

-A baseball star will be accused of using or defending himself against charges of using (steroids) (human growth hormone) (spitballs.)

 

-Tiger Woods will (win) (finish in the top five) (not finish in the top five) (injure a critical body part) on the PGA tour.

 

On Wall Street:

 

-The Dow will close x-points lower because of (the tsunami in Japan,) (the oil situation,) (the worsening financial situation in Portugal.) (the noise made by windmill generators of electricity) (Melting solar panels.)

 

-The Dow will close x-points higher because of (mass firings at a Fortune 500 company,) (a change at the top of a Fortune 500 company,) (increased retail sales,) (decreased wholesale inventories.)

 

-Authorities in (New York,) (Washington,) (Cleveland,) will uncover what they describe as a Ponzi scheme and arrested (fill in the blank,) accusing him of being a “Mini Madoff.”

 

And that's the news... yesterday, today and tomorrow.

 

See?  You knew it all the time.

 

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

Any Questions? wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Friday, May 28, 2021

4729 Cicadas

 His name is Alfredd. If you write to him, don’t insult him by leaving off the second “d.” He has a lot of friends and a huge family, all of them sticklers for spelling.  And they know where you live.

 The invasion comes every 17 years. Tens of millions of ugly, noisy and harmless bugs emerge from deep underground and fill the air in the northeast with their chorus of buzzing.  

 

Seventeen years. How do they know?  The first thought is an internet calendar.  But this has been happening for longer than there’s been an internet and maybe longer than there have been calendars.

 

We know we’re not the only creatures who know how to count.  Monkeys know.  Some horses, too. Crows are said to be able to count all the way up to seven.  That’s pretty sharp for a birdbrain.  But bugs?

 

And not only do they count, but you can tell the boys from the girls.  The girls do not buzz. The male buzz is a mating call.

 

Can you speak Cicada?  To us, it all sounds the same.  But chances are the males are testing their pickup lines. “Hey, cutie, do you come here often?” “Miss, you look like a Pisces.”  “I saw you below ground. You’re looking fine up here.” “May I buy you a root?”  “Bartender, I’m drinking the same sap she’s drinking.”

 

The guys, being bugs, don’t come up with much that’s original.  The girls, being bugs, don’t fall for anyone they weren’t interested in to begin with.  But it’s easy for the males to find prospects because cicada women love “girls’ night out.”

 

Kids want to make them pets.  But they have to outpace cats who have an inbuilt recipe that starts with catching the insects, then tossing them like a salad so they land on concrete and are stunned.  Kind of like seagulls dropping shells on the highway to open them or you choosing a live lobster from a fish tank at a seafood joint.

 

Let’s get back to that timing and calendar thing for a moment.  The county that’s home to the Wessays Secret Hillside Laboratory is off schedule. Instead of this year, cicadas here are not scheduled to arrive until 2025, four years from now.  How did that happen?  Yeah, we’re generally behind the times here.  But still…

 

Makes you feel left out.  Makes you feel the same way you feel when you’re the last pick for the pick up basketball game.

 

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

Any Questions? wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Wednesday, May 26, 2021

MINI 020 Two and a Half Restaurant Critics

 Unknown person at my all-time favorite restaurant, The Automat, this one on 7th Avenue. It was an art deco palace with sandwiches and pies in little glass jail cells and coffee that poured from the mouths of chrome plated lions. Smoking was permitted but there were no ashtrays on the tables to discourage customers from lingering.

This is about three guys who write or once wrote regularly about restaurants.  Two of them were paid by major news outlets.  One of them -- me -- writes for free and therefore counts as only half.

 

Peter Elliot of Bloomberg News visits the finest of the fine in New York City. He writes entertaining biographies.  He knows his food.  He is rail thin.

 

The late Mike McGrady of Newsday visited the finest of the fine and the lowest of the low on Long Island. He knew his food.  He became enormous and he wasn’t a little guy to begin with.

 

I test restaurants in those two locations and in central Pennsylvania, then post findings on Google which just announced that I am in the top 10% of their reviewers.  I do not know food. In fact, I eat only because I have to, not because I want to or like to.  I have lost a ton of weight during the pandemic and wasn’t all that rotund to begin with.

 

Google doesn’t disclose much about what that alleged honor means. But I’ll take it. There could be 10 thousand of us. But there also could be oh, 14. Since every Google user has a minimum of four or five accounts, that could mean there are 14 guys with Discover Cards writing about 10- thousand places under cover of a forest of pen names.

 

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

Any Questions? Wes Richards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

  

Monday, May 24, 2021

4728 Fish and Game

 This is a Loftus “Gigantic Rubber Fish,” not a real one.

 

Fishermen and women abound here in The Real America. But real as it is, this place is filled with the spirit of human kindness.  Catch and release is the order of the day.

 

If you’re going to throw ‘em back, why bother with all the folderol of catching them?  You spend the cold weather making fake bait. You spend the warm weather dragging your dinghy behind your F-150 and schlepping a tackle box the size of a steamer trunk and a bunch of rods and reels around. You spend a ton of time and money, why?

 

Why of course! It’s so you can have someone take a picture of you holding your catch.  Earth to the fisher-persons: A rubber fish like the one above can fool anyone looking at your snapshot.  You can’t tell the difference between it and a live one. (Take stills, not videos!)

 

You can use the money you save to keep that overpriced underused truck in excellent shape suitable for outrunning the prowl car that will someday chase you because you ran a stop sign.

 

But there’s more to this than mere fishing.  Hunters take note:  There also are full size fake deer.  They’re sold as lures for real ones. But how often does that work?  Unfortunately, the fake deer don’t come looking dead.  So it’s a little tougher than fishing when it comes to taking the picture.

 

But when you DO have the picture taken, it can be in your backyard or the school yard or any place where a bunch of amateurs are firing live ammunition without thought of what they might hit… which is trees and each other more often than not.

 

Your next picture should be in the aisle of a restaurant supply store where you can have yourself photographed standing over a huge pot with fake antlers sticking out the top.

 

Another money saving idea.  The fake deer will never try to cross the highway.  You will never wreck the Silverado or the Ram by hitting one.

 

But why restrict yourself to a mere deer?  You can rent a fake tiger and maybe even a fake elephant.  Check that out on line. Get yourself a pith helmet and one of those khaki safari jackets.  Then borrow an elephant gun. Stand in front of Rubber Jumbo and don’t forget to smile. 


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

Any Questions?  wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Friday, May 21, 2021

Mini 019 Wearing a Work of Art

 

The lofty Design Museum of London, England is putting on a show of sneakers. It’s called “unboxed.” Sneakers as a work of art?  An example of design?  What… they have Art Deco sneakers?  Maybe Bauhaus? Did i.m. Pei or Frank Lloyd Wright make extra money in the slow season by designing footwear?

 

Sneakers started their lives much less grandly. They were made for use on the courts and sandlots.  Cheap shoes with good soles suitable for a sprint or someone running bases.

 

Basketball until recently was the sport of the poor.  You could outfit a team of five with sneakers at five bucks a pop and make a hoop out of a wire hanger.

 

Not anymore.  Gotta have those Air Jordans or Jimmy Choos or Nike “Red Octobers” that went for $7500 a pair. $3750 per foot.  More expensive per foot than your average highway or a house in a gentrified neighborhood.

 

This is even worse than the designer gown crowd. Leave it to the rag trade to make 50 bucks worth of fabric into an ugly red carpet gown that sells for eleven grand and gets worn once by the original owner.

 

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

Any Questions?  wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Wednesday, May 19, 2021

4727 A Letter to Sally Buzbee

 

Dear Ms. Buzbee,

Congratulations. In four years, you’ve scored two of the three most important jobs in journalism. First in 2017, you became the executive editor of the Associated Press.  And in a few days, you’ll be the executive editor of the Washington Post.

 

The top prize: who gets to replace the retiring Dean Baquet at the NY Times.  If you applied for that, you probably got serious consideration, though not the job itself.

 

Your new job has a big advantage over the old. At the Post, you’ll only have one boss, Bezos, and by all accounts he doesn’t poke around all that hard or all that often.  At the AP, you had bosses by the thousands because every publisher, editor or TV news director who pays to keep the wire service running thinks he or she’s “it.”

 

Great that the Post has finally caught onto the notion that a woman can lead a big time newspaper.  It’s about time. You may be a first at the paper. You were the second at the AP.  But please note that you are standing on the work of other field-hardened women in news, people who started as lowly reporters much as you did: Maggie Higgins at the New York Herald Tribune. Helen Thomas at UPI.  Prudence Heller and Linda Deutsch at the AP, Andrea Mitchell at NBC. Not to mention Barbara Walters, Gwen Ifill, Christine Amanpour and Ida Tarbell.

 

Now about some ghosts prowling the hallways (They stay even if the company switches buildings.) At the AP, the ghosts of Wes Gallagher and Otis Chandler roam the halls.  Fierce men, both, they were.  At the Post, it’s the ghosts of Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee.  Fierce folks, they were too. They sometimes offer guidance.  But sometimes as ghosts, they’re tricksters… so be careful.

 

Back when the Associated Press was housed in that creepy, creaking runt-of-the-litter building on Rockefeller Plaza, the union put a chart up on the bulletin board just outside the equally creepy lunchroom.  It was a list of three employers with their starting wages.



1.   Associated Press writer. $252 per week.

2.   Washington Post reporter: $400 per week.

3.   New York City Sanitation worker: $450 per week.

 

Wages have risen.  Yours, too, one can assume.  But not all that much and probably in the same proportion.  All three jobs can be risky and only one comes with real security. Yours is not it. But maybe you can help some folks by taking them with you on this trip.  Remember, you can’t spell cheap without AP.

 

But not to worry if it doesn’t work out at the Bezos Post… there’s always the speech circuit.  And you can write a book. Probably in your sleep.

 

Good luck from Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®

Any Questions? Wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Monday, May 17, 2021

4726 Unmasked

 Everyone who buys one from us gets a free cubic yard of plastic packing peanuts, America’s new breakfast treat.

 Well, we don’t all have to mask up all the time anymore.  Now, what we do with the 10-thousand masks we hoarded? 

 

This hoarding was no easy trick.  It was real work.  But there always was the expectation that demand would continue to outstrip supply and we could cash in for big bucks.

 

First, we tried Amazon.  It was backordered.  Then we tried the websites of eight of the nine top shopping TV channels. No luck.

 

Finally, the ninth channel had some. Bingo! We stocked up.

 

And waited.

 

And waited some more.

 

And then still more.

 

Finally, there was the DHL driver at the door.

DHL? Who uses DHL on this continent?

“Packages from India, Sir. Sign here.”

India? OK. 

 

We sign.

 

The guy loads a big box onto a hand truck and plunks it on the doorstep.

 

In India, they pack like Amazon.

 

Huge box. Full of packing peanuts, those little electrostatically charged Styrofoam “s” shaped chunks of plastic you have to chase and never fully catch.  Someone wrote they taste like Cheerios.  Um… no thanks. A small box of 50 masks in the middle of all those Cheerios.

 

The delivery man said “You have two more boxes of this size… I’ll go get them.  He got them.

 

So… 150 masks, enough packing peanuts to safely ship a piano. 

 

Let’s try out the masks.  The elastic pulled out of three of the first five.  But even with a defect rate like that, our customers snapped them up.

 

Meantime we hunted for new sources.  The Vermont Country Store or some outfit like it had some.  We ordered.  Masks-R- us sold us 500 for pennies each.  

 

Then…  there was the DHL guy again, this time with a package from China. More Cheerios. 

 

What, we can’t make this stuff here?  

 

But now, we were drowning in masks and moving them out at a good clip.

 

HSN or was it QVC had a special with auto delivery subscriptions and time payments.  We subscribed.

 

And then, suddenly, every store on the planet had plenty. Target, Wal-Mart, Publix, Ace, Home Despot, Lowe’s, the three remaining Sears stores and their poor cousins, the two remaining KMarts.  

 

The Exxon Quick-Bite had them. So did the Bargain Outlet, Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Men's Wearhouse, McDonald’s, and the liquor store.  The neighborhood Quilting Society had them. So did the VFW. And Kiwanis.  High school kids were peddling them door to door. “Support our Soccer Team… Buy a mask!”

 

But no one beat our prices!

 

Now, suddenly, here comes the CDC with word we don’t need all those masks anymore.  We and all of the smarter merchants listed above are out big bucks and our warehouses are overstuffed.

 

Maybe the Quilting Society can take them off our hands.

 

Or maybe we should just keep them under wraps until the next pandemic.

 

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

Any Questions? wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 

Friday, May 14, 2021

4725 Gas Lines

 There was plenty to like about the 1970s. Then this happened.

 There are a lot of good things to say about the early 70s. Nice movies. Good music, at least some, where you still understand the lyrics.  Mainland China.  No more Nixon. But one thing may be the most memorable.  Gas lines.

 

Our close allies in the middle east, you know… friendly nations like Saudi Arabia decided they’d withhold oil and that resulted in one of the worst episodes of the decade, gas lines.

 

We lined up. We waited.  We made sure our license plate number ended on the right day, odd or even numbers... Odd plates on odd days, even plates on even days. It wasn’t quite rationing.  But restrictions applied.  

 

Never did find out what day you went -- odd or even number -- if you had a vanity plate with no numbers. What day did “Hot Shot” legally get on the line?  Or “Martha?” Or “Bobs Toy?”

 

The price of gasoline averaged out to about 69 cents a gallon in the early years.  It shot up to (gasp!) one dollar and then went even higher.  That was big money in those days. 

 

And now, history repeats itself.  A bunch of hackers shut down the Colonial Pipeline and demanded owners pay a ransom.  Who were these hackers?  Maybe a kid fighting acne and loneliness in his parents’ basement in Bulgaria.  Maybe whatever initials the KGB goes by these days.

 

The shutdown… just five days… resulted in shortages, price increases and -- wait for it -- gas lines.  Not everywhere. But not nowhere, either.  No shortage.  Just no transportation.  Amazing what you can do on the internet with a few keystrokes.

 

Does this strike you as strange?  The pipeline starts in Texas and ends in Greater New York.  But the shortages hit the southern end of the pipe harder than the terminal.

 

How about this for strange?  Ransomware shuts down the computer until the ransom is paid.  The pipeline is moving again.  So who paid whom and how much? Current reports put the payoff as $5 million in the artificial internet currency “Bitcoin.” This from a company that has said all along “we don’t pay ransom demands.”

 

Or was it a matter of “our” hackers were better than “their” hackers and undid the lockout with a few keystrokes and not even a call to Microsoft Customer Support.  They’d still be waiting if they relied on outside help.  

 

One thing’s pretty sure.  The problem wasn’t solved with software self-monitoring.  That takes even longer than waiting for an operator.  And they don’t even bother insulting our intelligence by telling them “Your self-diagnosis is very important to us.”  They just put up a rotating hourglass.

 

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

Any Questions? wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

MINI 018 The Other Side of Mystery

We Know what the victim and the cops think when someone breaks into one of these.  But what about the safecracker? What goes on in her head?

 

Sometimes, we lend this space to others. It doesn’t happen often. Most recently it was in august of 2015, when a ghost ghost-wrote a story from the ghost-viewpoint of a haunted house.

 

We read a lot of mystery novels.  And the heroes are always a detective or other law enforcer type. Some of them are about a psychologist who helps solve crimes.  Or a lawyer and in one case, a district attorney.

 

But never have we read one where the main character is the criminal.  Wouldn’t you like to know the mind of a mobster or murderer?  Or, for that matter, a Madoff?

 

What went through Bernie's head while he scammed all those people and organizations.  Did he think he was ultimately doing the right thing? Can thievery like that ever be right?  Did he have some kind of higher motive? It's unlikely but possible.  And if true, wouldn’t it be interesting to hear the reasoning behind it?

 

Here’s a link to the Ghost Story from August 2015.

 

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

Any Questions? wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2010

  

Monday, May 10, 2021

4724 Informed Delivery

 

The Post Office has a new trick up its sleeve.  It’s a “service” called “Informed Delivery.”  Sign up, log in, see pictures of the mail that either is or soon will be in your mailbox.

 

If your mailbox is inconveniently situated a block or more from the house, it can save you the schlep there only to find there’s nothing inside.  It’s a big time saver.

 

Someone bought some cameras for the USPS. Now they photograph everything.  They’re slower than ever in delivery and here’s why.  Every time they stop the sorters to take a picture, some piece of mail moves and they have to do retakes.

 

The more creative postal photographers will photoshop some pieces of mail.  Usually that means cropping part of the picture, so you don’t know what’s in the envelope or who it’s from.  But the day is near that the real creative types at the post office will edit the pictures for entertainment value.

 

The gas bill will thus be transformed into a desert island scene or a lush field of oats or onions. The propaganda from your congressman will be changed into a picture of a lighthouse at sunrise.

 

Thus, just by clicking on your Informed Delivery account, you will be transported to all kinds of exotic and far flung places. Looking at Bali is much more fun than looking at the credit card bill or the ad for some schlock shop down the road.

 

But the whole photography thing raises some questions.  The biggest of them?  Why take pictures in the first place? Is it so you can see whether each piece of mail was properly placed in the correct mailbox?  What if it wasn’t?  Do you put it in the “outgoing” slot? Destroy it?  Read someone else’s copy of the LL Bean Catalog or “Soldier of Fortune” magazine, then recycle it?

 

If the postal service is being used as a photography school, why not also focus on movies.  Think of it… not just pictures of your mail but animations of cute little critters hauling each letter before the camera.  We know some mice and ducks and bunnies and that would be perfect.

 

Maybe Cancan dancers can hold each of your letters in an attractive tribute to the Rockettes of Radio City Music Hall.  Or how about animated Pony Express ponies.

 

Add a musical score and before you know it, the Post Office will be in competition with YouTube and Netflix.

 

SHRAPNEL:

--Are you shocked that the Kentucky Derby winning horse failed a post-race drug test?  You can bet the owner and trainer were.  At least that’s what it looked like.

 

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

Any Questions? wesrichards@gmail.com

© WR 2021

 


4761 J-6

  Motivational speaker and discoverer of Jewish Space Lasers Marjorie Taylor Green.   So, who showed up at the Million Moron March on Wa...