Things I Want (or Need) to Know

Today is the seventh anniversary of the Sisyphus Project. I haven’t had anything profound to say in the last seven years, so why should I start now?

Another incidence of who do they think they’re marketing to. Expedia ran a commercial on Valentine’s Day showing lots of couples kissing. The ad went on to say that if you booked a room through on Valentine’s Day, they’d give you $50 off. My problem with the ad? The soundtrack is “This Is the Night For Love” by the Valiants. The song is 56 years old! What demographic are they trying to reach here?

I have the same complaint about the Bank of America’s current TV commercial which uses “Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton as a sound bed. Exactly what demographic are they marketing to?

Cho Hyun-ah, granddaughter of the founder of Korean Air and a vice president of the company, was sentenced in Seoul to a year in prison because of an incident at Kennedy Airport last December. You may remember news reports that she threw a tantrum when she was served macadamia nuts in a bag rather than a dish, confronting the cabin crew and ordering the plane to return to the gate to throw one crew member off the plane. According to a NY Post article attributed to the Associated Press, “The court said Cho was guilty of forcing a flight to change its route, obstructing the flight’s captain in the performance of his duties and forcing a crew member off a plane.” I don’t think what she did was right, but I do wonder how she gets to go to jail in South Korea over something she did in New York.

Do you have a memory foam mattress? If so, do you know what memory foam remembers? I know I don’t. Nancy Giles asked that question recently on CBS Sunday Morning and I wished so fervently that I had thought of it, I brought it to you to see if we can solve the mystery together. If I thought for a moment that memory foam mattresses were digital, I’d ask what kind of memory they had, and how many MB, but I don’t.

Things I Know

If you’re off TV for six months, network executives expect the audience to forget you. I’d be more surprised than ever if Brian Williams returns to TV in his former role as sole anchor of the NBC Nightly News after his six-month suspension is up in August.

Otto Von Bismark, the first Chancellor of Germany in the late 19th century, once said, “Laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made,” except, of course he said it in German. Still, I was in a market the other day that was selling sausage at $13.99 a pound and I do wonder what the hell is in that.

I’ve arrived at a new way to think of one of my pet peeves, the phrase “Very unique.” To repeat myself, unique doesn’t mean rare, it means only. So, if something is unique means there’s only one, then it follows that if something is very unique it doesn’t exist at all.

If your mechanic gets a Ferrari before you do, it’s time for a new mechanic.

Montana State Representative David Moore of Missoula made national news when he tried to get the state of Montana to outlaw yoga pants, claiming they’re too revealing. His effort failed and Matt Lauer on the Today Show said it was kind of a stretch.

An editorial in the Long Island newspaper Newsday called recently to make the New York State Legislature full-time, increase legislators salary and bar outside income as a way to fight corruption. New York State legislators salaries were last raised in the 1990’s and something needs to be done to fight corruption. Since former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was criminally charged, former Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (a Democrat) was convicted of trying to bribe his way into being the Republican candidate for Mayor of New York. Still, Newsday’s editorial board should know, but didn’t mention, that giving the New York State Legislature a raise can only be done for the next session. In other words, legislators elected last year can raise the salaries of legislators elected in 2016, but not before that. New York’s state constitution mandates that, so while it could be changed, a constitutional amendment can only pass the legislature in two consecutive sessions. Therefore, amending the State Constitution to give legislators a raise or to bar them from making outside income, would take longer.

You may have read newspaper or Internet reports or heard on TV or radio that a house trailer in Amagansett, Long Island, is for sale for $1.1 million. That’s misleading, deliberately misleading in my view. What’s for sale is the land the trailer sits on which is roughly .4 acres. The land is worth what a buildable lot in Amagansett close to the ocean is worth. It’s worth that, plus what it costs to remove the trailer. You can build a 4,000-square-foot house on that parcel. If you want the trailer, and who would, you can probably have it for free as long as you get it off the lot.

My shoulders hurt, as usual. I was wondering if I could blame the nuns I had in Catholic grade school instead of myself, but I decided not. First, they hit me with a ruler on the hands, not on the shoulders and second, I was talking.

He never worked under just one name, as some other singers have, but if you look up the name “Waylon” in Google, you get over seven million hits. The first nine, and lots of the rest, refer to Waylon Jennings. In case you didn’t know, Waylon was a protégé of Buddy Holly and was on the Winter Dance Party tour with Buddy in February 1959. Buddy and Waylon chartered a light plane from Clear Lake, Iowa to the next tour stop. Waylon agreed to give up his seat on the plane to J.P. Richardson (the Big Bopper). Buddy told Waylon he hoped he would freeze on the tour bus and Waylon told Buddy that he hoped the plane crashed. It did, in the pre-dawn hours of February 3rd, killing Buddy, J.P. and Richie Valens as well as their pilot. Years later, Don McLean wrote a song about it and called it “The Day the Music Died.” Because of his off-handed remark, Waylon felt responsible for the crash for years. He even gave up performing for a while because of it.

The Life of Brian

George Washington probably did lie from time to time. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he never chopped down the famous cherry tree or any other. But, when George was alive, there was no Internet and there were no cell-phone video cameras.

Brian Williams, anchor of the most popular network newscast for the past ten years, “misremembered” his role in flying around in helicopters in a war zone in 2003. Then he repeated what he misremembered multiple times, in public and on TV. If you are a television news anchor, you are selling a few things. The most important of these (in no particular order) are your good looks, the personality you project on TV, your ability to read out loud in a pleasant speaking voice and your credibility. Can you misremember something? Sure particularly if the something you misremember is insignificant to you. I am unsure if my wife and I attended a wedding for the woman I took to my senior prom or whether we attended a wedding of another high school friend and that prom date was a bridesmaid. If I were shot down in a helicopter though, I’m pretty sure I would remember that, accurately.

One lie diminishes Brian’s credibility. Now, everyone in the media is out looking for other lies he might have told and several media outlets claim to have discovered some. And of the some, a subset seems significant. Did Brian Williams misremember or lie about whether he rescued one puppy or two from a fire? Who cares? Did he have to be rescued from possible gang attack in a stairwell of the hotel he stayed in during Hurricane Katrina? Did he see a corpse float by the same hotel? If they didn’t happen, did he report those things on TV? Those things reflect on whether he’s a good reporter or a good story teller. We know he’s a good story teller. He’s been a charming guest on the Late Show and the Tonight Show. A good story teller has to be entertaining, but to be a good reporter, we have to be sure we can believe him.

So on Saturday, he said he had decided to remove himself from his newscast for a few days. I have no personal knowledge of this, of course, but if he did decide, I suspect it was at the suggestion of his superiors at NBC News, NBC, or even its parent company, Comcast. When that kind of suggestion comes down, there’s always the possibility that if you don’t do what’s suggested, said suggestion will be imposed upon you. If Brian’s self-imposed hiatus lasts more than “a few days” I won’t be surprised.

Have the ratings tanked in the few days since the controversy erupted? Will ratings fall off this week with Lester Holt in the anchor seat? Is there anybody else on the horizon who could quickly take Brian Williams’ place? How much money would it cost the company to keep him, vs. how much it would cost to eat his recently signed multi-million contract is a big consideration. You can also be sure lawyers for the company and for Williams are looking into how much they would have to pay him to go away.

Do I think the few days Brian Williams will be away from the anchor chair at the NBC Nightly News will be more than a few days? Yes. In fact, even if he does comeback, I believe there’s a good likelihood that he won’t continue in his current role for very long afterwards. A lot of prominent media analysts are calling on him to resign. I’m not a prominent media analyst so nobody has consulted me on the matter.

Things I Know

I neglected to mention this earlier, so pardon me, but the Sisyphus Project is copyright 2015, as well as 2008-2014.

It also contains material that may be unsuitable for adults or other people with a modicum of maturity. I should probably have warned you about that years ago.

I want to like Comedy Central’s new Nightly Show with Larry Wllmore, but whether it’s a live audience or a laugh track, they find it a lot funnier than I do.

If you are responsible for making the payments on more than one student loan through Navient, the company’s bill collector tells me it cannot split a payment. If you’re on the hook for four years of loans, and using your bank’s on-line bill pay feature, I’m told you have to send four separate payments. I berated their computer programmers and suggested they switch to Quicken, which can handle split payments. BTW, four years ago, Navient’s predecessor, Sallie Mae, could handle split payments. Progress, I guess.

Sheldon Silver is out as Speaker of the NY State Assembly and Governor Cuomo was “shocked” to learn of the charges of corruption against him. There have been questions and rumors about Speaker Silver’s possible ethical lapses and involvement in outside law firms for years. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara now says he has proof Silver accepted bribes and kickbacks. It remains to be seen whether Bharara’s proof will stand up in court, but Governor Cuomo being shocked reminds me of Captain Renault in the movie “Casablanca” being shocked that there was gambling going on in Rick’s Place.

If the reports I’ve read about the terrible train accident in Valhalla NY a week ago on Tuesday night that killed six people are true, it was entirely avoidable, and having not been avoided, the woman driver whose car the train plowed into could at least have saved herself. First, you can drive over railroad tracks, but you should never drive on to them. In other words, don’t get on the railroad tracks if you can’t proceed across the tracks without stopping. Second, if you do get stuck on railroad tracks and there is a train coming, you exit your car and run toward the train. Why? Because when the train hits your car, both the train and the car will hurl in the direction the train is going. If you run to where the train just was, at least you won’t get hit by flying debris from the collision.

In addition to the Super Bowl, Sunday’s TV programs included the Puppy Bowl, the Kitten Bowl, the Lingerie Bowl, and the Fish Bowl. My next genius idea for TV programming is the Cereal Bowl. I figure we’ll have a bowl of corn flakes getting soggy and a bowl of Rice Krispies making that noise compete against each other.

The recorded voice on the phone said, “Hello. This is not a sales call.” I can’t tell you what kind of call it was though, because that’s when I hung up.

If you are a telemarketer or a survey operator, it’s bad enough from my perspective that you’re calling me at all, but when you call, at least be prepared to talk to me. If I say to you, “You called me. Talk,” you’d better have something I want to hear and say it fast or I’ll hang up.

Things I Want (or Need) to Know

Do Jehovah’s Witnesses ever proselytize at the homes of other Jehovah’s Witnesses by mistake?

If you get a blood transfusion, do you have to bring them some orange juice, so they’ll have it to give to the people who are donating blood?

Have you seen those commercials on TV where the car salesman tells you that if you have $200 and a job, he can put you in a new car? I’m not picking on one dealer. Lots of them do it. They do it with loans that may last longer than the car does. Subprime car loans are an increasing problem that may eventually bite the economy in the ass in much the same way the subprime mortgage crisis did back in 2008. If you have a job and only $200, you don’t belong in a new car, unless it belongs to someone else.

Over the weekend, my wife was making lunch and she asked if I wanted some bacon. I found myself wondering if there are really multiple answers to that question.

I know they’re all repeats because Tommy passed away late last year, but Click and Clack on NPR’s “Car Talk” asked an interesting question recently: Have you ever seen a UPS truck legally parked? I know I haven’t.

I’m not adding to my collection of CD’s as fast as I once did, but I got four or five new ones for Christmas and when I went to put them away, my CD storage was full, again. Every time I go to Ikea to buy something else to hold them, the store has discontinued the last thing I bought. In this case, it was an inexpensive wall-mounted metal rack. You can still find them on Ebay, but if you want them, you’ll pay about ten times what Ikea used to charge for them. If demand exceeds supply by that much, why did Ikea stop making them? I think the next time I want a CD cabinet, I’m going to have to make it myself. One made of wood will be heavy enough that I should probably mount it to the wall using French cleats.

I’ve been listening to a lot of old time radio. You’d be surprised how many of the radio dramas from the thirties to the fifties are available for free as MP3 downloads. One thing strikes me. A lot of people on those shows spoke English in a way different from what you and I are used to hearing. It’s an accent closer to British English than anything I hear today. Did a large group of people actually speak like that, or was it something they affected to be on the radio?

Corruption in New York

You don’t want ANY U.S. Attorney crawling up your ass. You especially don’t want the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York there. The Southern District of New York is one of the highest profile posts in the U.S. Justice Department. Slouches don’t get sent there. And’ it’s Preet Bharara, not Preet Bahara. It’s an Indian name and it isn’t that hard to pronounce. Seriously.

New York State government, especially the state legislature, has a problem with corruption–a big problem. I hope I didn’t miss any but as far as I can recall, six members of the New York State Legislature have been formally charged crimes having to do with corruption in the last six years. The latest is Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the New York State Assembly. Silver has reportedly submitted his resignation as Speaker effective tomorrow after more than 20 years on the job, because of the charges against him. He has been accused of accepting millions of dollars from law firms, doing no legal work for the money, and using his public position to benefit the law firm and himself. In other words, bribes and kickbacks. He’s 70 and, if convicted, he could be spending the rest of his life in jail. He’s also one of the three most powerful political office holders in the State of New York, so if he tries to swing a deal, who knows who else he could bring down.

In addition to Silver, I can also think of three other former Assembly Speakers in New York and one Senate Majority Leader who have been charged with crimes, Perry Duryea wasn’t convicted, and neither was Stanley Steingut. Mel Miller was convicted of something that had nothing to do with his Speakership. Across the aisle in the State Senate, Joe Bruno was first convicted, then the law was thrown out by the US Supreme Court, then he was tried again and acquitted, but it cost him millions of dollars. Then it cost the taxpayers of New York over two million because the people reimbursed that much of his legal expenses. In New York in my lifetime, we’ve also had Governor Eliot Spitzer and his prostitute. And then there was Sol Wachtler, former Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals who did 15 months in jail because of threats he made toward a former lover.

The New York State Legislature doesn’t work like most representative bodies. It is controlled almost 100 percent by the Assembly Speaker and the Senate Majority Leader. State budget negotiations in New York don’t involve committees of both houses. They involve the “three men in a room” that Bharara referred to in his news conference. The Governor and the leaders of both houses take care of it personally and the two houses of the legislature go along with their leaders or they are disciplined.

A lot of people have been calling New York the most corrupt state in the nation. It could very well be. I don’t follow politics in other states and as far as I know, in recent experience, Illinois only had a governor who tried to sell a US Senate seat after President Obama was elected back in 2008.

I’ve spent my career as an appointed, not elected public official, but to be elected or appointed where I live, you have to be active in politics. I’ve never been in a high enough echelon to encounter any of the corruption we’ve all been reading about lately, but I guess I am a politician and I think it’s not a perfect system. There’s more than one thing that needs to change, but corruption is at or near the top of the list.

My father-in-law used to say often and loudly that, “All politicians are crooks.” That’s not true. A lot of them are really trying to improve society and a lot of them are also in it for power rather than money. I finally got fed up with with my father-in-law and told him that he was welcomed to think whatever he wanted to think, but if he said all politicians are crooks again in my house, he would not be welcomed in my house anymore. Still, it often seems as if the old joke about car dealers applies here. The dishonest ones are giving the other five percent a bad name. It’s been my contention that the American public gets much better government than it deserves or has any right to expect, considering the low level of public interest and participation.

When U.S. Attorney Bharara announced the charges against Sheldon Silver, he advised the public to “stay tuned” for further developments. Since he implied more is coming, if you’re a corrupt politician in Albany, my advice to you isn’t to stay tuned, it is to quake in your boots.