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Poor Mojo's Almanac(k)
Thurs., Jan. 1, 2009

This post will remain here for one day. Scroll down for new news. Incoherent and intolerant-- what a combination! Giant Squid: Ask the Giant Squid: This I Resolve by the Giant Squid
The Giant Squid, Editor-in-Chief, PMjA: ON THE BALANCE, I REGRET HAVING TORN THE HAND FROM THE LIVING ARM OF A RUSSIAN GANGSTER BEFORE THE WIDE EYES OF HIS WEEPING WIFE AND FASCINATED CHILDREN, AS MANY, MANY READERS HAVE VOICED DISAPPROVAL IF THE ACTION, AND FOX 2 PROBLEM SOLVERS LABELLED MY "A TERRIBLE MENACE WITH UNCLEAR TAX STATUS." IN THE COMING YEAR, I WILL LIKEWISE REFRAIN FROM TEARING HANDS OFF OF ANYONE IN THE PRESENCE OF THEIR YOUNG, THEIR SPOUSES, THEIR YOUNG SPOUSES, OR THE SPOUSES OF THEIR YOUNG.
Fiction: One Day on Earth by Rhonda Parrish
"Is this one of your pranks?" Morgan demanded. Reginald sat up slowly, wincing at the bolt of lightning that ripped through his skull. Was this one of his pranks? It seemed unlikely but last night had been one hell of a bender, it was possible—No, no way. Something like this would take loads of preparation and money; he'd remember the money at least. "Hell no mate, this ain't no prank." "Jesus, Reggie, we're going to die."
Poetry: The Wind is a Bellows by Pamela Tyree Griffin
The wind is a bellows blowing off first my scarf then my hat. My head is altogether naked. Cold. I make my way up the path, past the willow trees leaning alongside the lake as if at rest.
Rant: International Relations by David Erik Nelson
This past August my wife, toddler, and I were invited to attend a wedding in Costa Rica (I'm including the link because many, many Americans—including basically anyone who answers a phone at the US State Department—believe Costa Rica is a Caribbean island. I don't fault anyone for not knowing where a tiny Central American country is, I just don't want you to feel stupid later.) The bride was one of my wife's high school pals—a West Michigan girl, like my wife—and the groom a Costa Rican lawyer she'd met while studying international law in England (globalization of the heart!) At the wedding we were seated at a table consisting of all of the bride's gringo lawyer friends and a very nice tico[*] couple: the wife was a lawyer at the groom's father's law offices (incidentally, the groom's father is also a radio personality and former Attorney General; he literally wrote the book on Costa Rican administrative law), and her spouse was an industrial engineer. The tico couple were very nice, despite having been stranded at a table with five gringo lawyers who had about a cantina-menu's worth of Spanish among them, and were all travelling together, sharing hotel rooms and a tiny Chevy Tracker 4-by-4; the gringos' rapidly forming feuds and alliances were unstable and volatile. Although this was stimulating to observe, you felt like you should be handling the situation with tongs and a rubberized lab apron.

January 01, 2009

Animal Crackers -- The Marx Bros. (1930)

I spent the first hour-and-a-half of 2009 following an old family tradition. Watching Marx Bros. movies. Animal Crackers part 1 Animal Crackers part 2 Animal Crackers part 3 Animal Crackers part 4 Animal Crackers part 5 Animal Crackers part 6 Animal Crackers part 7 Animal Crackers part 8 Animal Crackers part 9 Animal Crackers part 10 Animal Crackers part 11 Animal Crackers part 12 Animal Crackers part 13 Animal Crackers part 14

2009

1171302421_dfc2eb3617.jpg Pictured: Some fellow with a balloon.

December 31, 2008

160,000 stores closed this year -- worst in 35 years

The Press Association: US stores braced for major closures
Some experts predict the worst series of closures in 35 years is likely to cut across areas from electronics to clothing, shrinking the industry. The most dramatic fall in consumer spending in decades could transform the retail landscape as thousands of stores and entire shopping malls close. And analysts expect prolonged woes in the industry as the dramatic changes in shopping behaviour could linger for another two or three years amid worries about the deteriorating economy and rising job losses.... About 160,000 stores will have closed this year and 200,000 more could shutter next year according to one estimate. That would be the industry's biggest contraction in 35 years.

Rooshski prof: USA dead by 2010

Balkanize me, baby! rooshski.gif As if Things Weren't Bad Enough, Russian Professor Predicts End of U.S. - WSJ.com
MOSCOW -- For a decade, Russian academic Igor Panarin has been predicting the U.S. will fall apart in 2010. For most of that time, he admits, few took his argument -- that an economic and moral collapse will trigger a civil war and the eventual breakup of the U.S. -- very seriously. Now he's found an eager audience: Russian state media. In recent weeks, he's been interviewed as much as twice a day about his predictions. "It's a record," says Prof. Panarin. "But I think the attention is going to grow even stronger." Prof. Panarin, 50 years old, is not a fringe figure. A former KGB analyst, he is dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry's academy for future diplomats. He is invited to Kremlin receptions, lectures students, publishes books, and appears in the media as an expert on U.S.-Russia relations....
A polite and cheerful man with a buzz cut, Mr. Panarin insists he does not dislike Americans. But he warns that the outlook for them is dire. "There's a 55-45% chance right now that disintegration will occur," he says.... Mr. Panarin posits, in brief, that mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation will trigger a civil war next fall and the collapse of the dollar. Around the end of June 2010, or early July, he says, the U.S. will break into six pieces -- with Alaska reverting to Russian control.

December 29, 2008

UK: Net-nanny state to set MPAA-style ratings for Web?

Internet sites could be given 'cinema-style age ratings', Culture Secretary says - Telegraph
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Andy Burnham says he believes that new standards of decency need to be applied to the web. He is planning to negotiate with Barack Obama’s incoming American administration to draw up new international rules for English language websites. The Cabinet minister describes the internet as “quite a dangerous place” and says he wants internet-service providers (ISPs) to offer parents “child-safe” web services. Giving film-style ratings to individual websites is one of the options being considered, he confirms. When asked directly whether age ratings could be introduced, Mr Burnham replies: “Yes, that would be an option. This is an area that is really now coming into full focus.” ISPs, such as BT, Tiscali, AOL or Sky could also be forced to offer internet services where the only websites accessible are those deemed suitable for children.
See also: Uproar in Australia over plan to block Web sites

An Ann Arbor journalist analyzes the management missteps killing The Ann Arbor News

I returned from France in 1997 and decided I really had to take a shot -- at 33 -- at becoming a newspaper reporter. Luck, perseverance and a dash of talent made me one in suburban Chicago, and it was a great year. I moved on to manage a non-profit -- personally and professionally, a tragic mistake -- but was spared the inevitable disappearance of my job and probably my newspaper, along with most small-to-medium market newspapers. So, I care maybe as much as former Ann Arbor News reporter Mary Morgan does about the impending suicide by malfeasance of our local paper. She's got a lot to say about what might transform it into a business model that works and a journalistic platform that serves its community, and as much to say about why it probably won't happen. Read this if you care about your newspaper, large or small. The Ann Arbor Chronicle | Column: What The Ann Arbor News Needs
No amount of spin will change the realities confronting The News, but there is hope. A smaller newsroom could produce a smaller newspaper that’s a must-read, tightly focused on local news and events. But to do that, the paper’s leadership needs to overhaul its own approach to doing business. Here are a few places to start: * Don’t treat readers like idiots. Don’t tell people they’re getting more when they’re clearly not. ... You need readers on your side – employees too, for that matter. People will be advocates, even evangelists, for the the local paper, but not if they think you’re trying to swindle them with a product that costs more, delivers less and is being promoted as an upgrade. Everyone these days is dealing with the crappy economy – they understand you’ll have to make hard decisions. Don’t pretend it’s not happening. * Don’t try to be everything to everyone. ...the paper still tries to cover a little of everything, both topically and geographically. With fewer resources, you need to hone your focus. And when you do, make sure your readers understand your goals. * Communicate, communicate, communicate. If you don’t tell your story, someone else will. Vickie Elmer has been interviewing people for an article about changes at The News that’s scheduled to run in the January edition of The Ann Arbor Observer – it’s probably already being delivered to local households. If The News itself had been frank about what’s happening there, she wouldn’t have much of a story to tell. And I would be writing a much different column than the one you’re reading today. * Get out of the office. Like anything else, loyalty is built through relationships. If people don’t know the decision-makers at The News, they’ll view the institution as just that – an institution, making it a far easier target to lampoon. Speak to community groups, reach out to people you don’t already know, make sure all the senior managers are involved in as many different community efforts as possible. It’s easy to develop a defensive bunker mentality when you don’t leave the building and when most of your conversations are held with others in the newsroom. Relationships shape reality, and when you don’t have deep connections to the community you cover, you can’t really understand what’s important to your readers. The Ann Arbor News can emerge from its restructuring as a stronger, more relevant publication. But that won’t happen unless its leadership makes some fundamental changes in the way they operate. It’s not clear they’re willing to do that – even when it appears they have no other choice.