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Making The World A Bitter Place

Archive for April 2011

NY Times to Switch to Tabloid Format

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By Jay Walker

NEW YORK, April 30 – Responding to a decades-long trend in newspaper marketing, the New York Times announced today that as of June 30 it would change its classic broadsheet layout to tabloid format. The decision follows months of studies commissioned by the Times management and comparisons with the fates of other newspapers in both the broadsheet and tabloid formats.

Long associated with higher-quality journalism, the broadsheet format has fallen out of favor with purchasers of newspapers over the last thirty years. Although tabloid newspapers have suffered declining sales during the same period, the tabloid format has proved somewhat more resilient, as it remains more conducive to compelling or dramatic photos and headlines that help attract readers.

Although the impending switch took some industry analysts by surprise, many print media experts saw the newsprint on the walls ages ago, says Harold Perlmutter, Associate Professor of Media at George Mason University. “The Times took the revolutionary step – at least by its own conservative standards – and introduced color photography to its front page in the 1990’s,” he said, “but in recent years even the stodgy folks at the Times realized that they needed a wholesale makeover, not some cosmetic touch-ups here and there.”

The announcement garnered mixed reactions among media consumers. According to a CBS poll, 48% of respondents expected the change not to affect sales to any significant degree, while 38% expressed excitement at seeing the paper of record feature front-page headlines such as, “Guv: Feds Too Nosy” and “Cops Nab Pair in Mob Hit”. The other 14% expressed no opinion on the matter. The poll’s margin of error was four percentage points.

Alison Morgan, 38, of New Hyde Park, NY, has had a subscription to the NY Times for seven years, and welcomes the change. “I know it’s supposed to be the best paper and all, but I just can’t wade through everything I need to in the little time I have. It’s great to know the Times will now be on the same level as the Daily News and the New York Post.”

Others are not so keen on the switch. Maureen Baker, 52, of Brooklyn Heights, plans to cancel her subscription once the change takes effect. “I can’t believe they’re selling out,” she said.

Beyond the announcement itself in a press release today, the Times has remained unusually silent on the matter. The press release said, in its entirety, “As of June 30, 2011, The New York Times will switch from broadsheet to tabloid format, in keeping with worldwide trends in print journalism. We anticipate that the change will attract new readers, and we will work to retain our current demanding readership by demonstrating that the format of the paper will not affect the kwality of the publication they have come to expect.”


Written by Thag

April 30, 2011 at 9:32 pm

Co-op Board By-Law Number Two: No Farting

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Please note that I provide this information only because you seem to need it so desperately. This is not an exhaustive list, mind you. You may contribute little puffs of inspiration of your own should you feel so moved.

When a Fart Is an Inappropriate Response

1. “Would you like a side dish with that?”
2. “What’s your name, soldier?!”
3. “…and let us say, ‘Amen’.”
4. “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
5. “License and registration, please.”
6. “You have my deepest condolences.”
7. “…and do you, George, take this woman to be your lawful, wedded wife?”
8. “…and the Oscar goes to…”
9. “Lights…camera…action!”
10. “On your marks…get set…go!”
11. “Now be very careful as I light the blowtorch.”
12. “What a lovely dress.”
13. “Sleep tight, dear.”
14. “Let us relax and feel the energy flowing through us…take a deeeep breath through your nose…”
15. “Everyone say, ‘Cheese’!”

Written by Thag

April 28, 2011 at 10:36 pm

…and If Everyone Looks to the Right, the Plane Will Tip Over

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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for choosing Thag Airlines, and welcome aboard flight 3.14159 to, uh, let me check again…Newark. Huh. That’s funny. Isn’t that in New Jersey? It sounds so much like “New York,” but it’s not. It’s close, though, so don’t worry. Anyway, yeah, welcome aboard.

This is Captain Thag, and with me is copilot Miggtha. Together we have almost three weeks of commercial aviation experience, unless you count the times we got locked in the baggage compartment for a transatlantic flight back in ’05. Those jokers at Logan did that to us more often than I care to remember! But you can just relax in the comfort of the cabin, because we don’t want you in here with us any longer than you do.

Our flight time today will be about six hours, not counting any last-minute refueling stops we have to make along the way. Not many passengers are aware of this, but we experienced pilots know about all the little jet fuel stations with amazingly low prices, and at what times they’re not crowded. So we’ll probably be going only a bit out of our way. You just sit tight and enjoy Thag Airlines service in the meantime.

We will show you a safety and evacuation video in a few minutes, as required by FAA regulations. Additional information regarding this aircraft can be found in the pouch in front of each seat, blah blah blah. Come on; we all know you’ll only feel like looking at that under two conditions: (1) you’re an inquisitive boy, or (2) at some point after we announce, about two hours from now, that the video equipment is malfunctioning, you will be so starved for visual input that you will willingly search through the stack of detritus for something that might, under highly rare circumstances, manage to hold your attention for more than fifteen seconds. Select seats in coach and business class have also been provided with copies of Cramped!, our in-flight magazine. The rest of you have been provided with vintage issues of Woman’s Day.

Once we are at cruising altitude and the “Fasten Seat Belt” light is off, our cabin crew will come around with a beverage cart, specially designed to block every inch of aisle space. Please do not mistreat our flight attendants, as we have authorized them, at their discretion, to kick people off the plane in midair.

Dinner will be served about three hours into the flight, just when you thought you could get some shut-eye. Your choices of entrée will be meat loaf made during the Reagan administration, or meat loaf made during the Johnson administration. Andrew Johnson, in case that makes a difference to you. Please enjoy our complimentary tea and coffee, which is usually still warm when served.

Please turn off your electronic devices and refrain from using them again until the seatbelt sign is off. This includes phones of any sort, not only the amazingly pretentious iPhones that somehow the world managed without until now, but also laptop computers and the remote control for your DVR. Did you honestly think you could control it from far away? Please stow them in your carry-on baggage until their use is permitted. Please note that we have also authorized our cabin crew to eject in midair any mobile devices being used in an improper manner. Be advised that some of our staff understand “in an improper manner” to mean “at all.”

Once again, thank you for choosing Thag. Have a pleasant flight.

Written by Thag

April 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Passed Your Road Test? Here’s Your Flamethrower

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Driver’s Ed vs. Actual Driving

What they taught you in driver’s ed

How you drove for about a day and a half following the test

The way you actually drive now

Keep your hands in the 10:00 and 2:00 positions. Hold the steering wheel any which way you feel comfortable. Grip the steering wheel with the pinky and ring fingers of your left hand, using the other fingers of your left hand to hold your mobile device and text with it; use your right hand to adjust the car stereo, A/C, etc.
Come to a complete stop at a stop sign. Slow to a crawl at a stop sign, making sure no one else is coming from the other streets, and proceed. Reduce your speed a token amount, but barrel through the intersection if you could see it was clear from way back.
Do not put the car in gear until everyone is safely strapped in. Fasten your seatbelt as soon as you get onto the main road, or when you see a cop. Seatbelts are for people who aren’t confident enough in their driving ability.
Parallel parking must be accomplished in one smooth motion, without touching the curb or other cars. Parallel parking can be achieved any old way, as long as the car isn’t sticking out into the street or up on the sidewalk too egregiously, and contact with other cars is minimal. They’re called “bumpers” for a reason, dude.
If the traffic signal turns yellow as you approach it, stop. If the traffic signal turns yellow and you can probably make it through before the red at your current speed, go ahead. If the traffic signal turns yellow, speed up to get through before it turns red. Even if it does, the drivers from the other directions won’t start moving right away anyway, so you can even go through the first few seconds of red.
Scan the rear view and side mirrors every few seconds to monitor the changing conditions around you. Use the mirrors primarily for changing lanes or reversing, but occasionally to check out whether someone is following you, or if kids are misbehaving back there. You don’t need mirrors at all. Just turn around to see things for yourself. If you’re backing up, make sure to put your right arm behind the head rest of the passenger seat.
Pedestrians at crosswalks have the right of way. Pedestrians who manage to make eye contact with you at crosswalks might be allowed safe passage. Pedestrians should jaywalk like real men.

Written by Thag

April 27, 2011 at 7:39 pm

Oh, Kate’s Dress Will Be White. WHY DO YOU CARE?

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I thought I could not care less about the impending nuptials of Prince William and Kate Whatsername. Then an article in today’s NY Times made me realize that in some small way I do care, if indirectly. The article discussed, with no sense of irony or existential shame, how watching the wedding on TV will serve to bridge a generational divide as parents and children bond over the event.

Although I could not bring myself to read the article – my gag reflex did its job – I realized that I could care less – that there was a little bit of caring I still had in me: I care that our society has degraded to the point that the marriage of a person famous for nothing at all other than being born to other people famous for nothing at all, etc., can so captivate an international audience. I care that people in general feel such a lack in their own lives that they must latch onto the lives of celebrities for vicarious excitement. Why do you give a damn one way or the other what Kate’s dress looks like? Does it change your existence in any way? Would not knowing be unspeakable? So why do you waste time reading about it, discussing it and possibly imitating it? What is WRONG with you people?

Serious journalism should not involve Kate Middleton’s dress. The roster of people involved in discussing Kate Middleton’s dress should be: the designer, the craftspeople, Ms. Middleton herself, and possibly William, if he cares enough. Really, that’s it. The dress is an accessory. It will be worn once, featured in photographs of the day, and should then be either left to rot or donated to a dress bank for indigent brides. Or a costume shop. But otherwise reputable news organizations have teams of journalists covering this thing, as if it deserves even a fraction of the attention of the developing Syrian crisis.

I appreciate the little-girl princess fantasy. I, personally, have one daughter and three sons, so the princessing is kept to a minimum; but I do have two nieces whose mother is much more inclined than my wife is to indulge those fantasies. That’s what this whole hullabaloo amounts to, after all: an adult princess fantasy. And that’s just the problem: the idiots yammering away about every last glamorous detail of this party have not matured past the point of the princess fantasy. News flash: that point should have passed at about age twelve, and if you are male, age four.

“But that’s what our audience wants to read about,” protest these news organizations, citing market pressures. Market pressures, my foot. Your audience, as a rule, doesn’t give a fig about border skirmishes between Thailand and Cambodia, but there it is, smack dab among the headlines. Make up your mind, then, and don’t pretend to engage in genuine journalism while peddling hyperbolic nonsense. The Public Interest does not mean, “what the public is interested in seeing,” but, “what the public would be interested in knowing if they knew what was good for them.”

From here, it looks like the public needs a swift kick in the pants.

Written by Thag

April 27, 2011 at 11:27 am

Summertime, When the Living Is – OW! Who Threw That?!

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Summer must be coming, but this realization has little to do with the ambient temperature. I can get all the calendar information I need without even clicking around to find a weather report. All I have to do is sit here, minding my own business, and the unmistakable sounds and sights of the changing seasons come my way from the neighbors across the street. Summer’s approach can be divined from the increasing frequency of their stereo on full blast in their front yard.

I have written before of their taste in music. Far be it from me to judge the aesthetic merits of this brand of ethnic pop. Raised on a diet of classical music where my parents could help it, and the top-forty hits of the eighties and nineties where they could not, I can hardly lay claim to real knowledge of what makes a good Middle Eastern song good. I do, however, possess clear opinions on the matter, so at risk of alienating the neighbors, who can’t read much English anyway, I shall tell you exactly what makes a good Middle Eastern song good: brevity. Preferably, such brevity as to render the thing nonexistent.

I don’t mind the beats. I don’t mind the words, which are no more insipid or uninspired than your run-of-the-mill Britney Spears number. I don’t mind the intervals or instruments, which even Mozart and the Beatles relished in their own ways.

I do mind the incessant whining. Nothing renders a mediocre song bad more effectively than a vocalist sounding like he’s trying to shove the microphone through his nose from the inside. Yet the neighbors love it. They can’t get enough, to the point that they’ll have a single wretched song on repeat for hours at a time. At least I think it’s on repeat. The song goes on and on as it is, with the repetition introducing nothing new, nothing different from the previous fourteen times the guy sang the refrain.

I’d keep my objections to myself, being the non-confrontational sort much of the time, but then, if they kept their music to themselves I’d not be inclined to object in the first place. I enjoy my music collection as fervently as the next fellow (albeit with decreasing resources to do so, as our stereo system no longer likes half the media we try to insert into it), but for some reason I feel no desire to share it with the neighborhood, despite the manifest bodaciousness of Brahms and The Who. And I do like sharing: we all but run a hostel in our home; we love sharing our good food; we give generously, if irregularly, to local charitable causes. So it must be more than generosity of spirit that impels these folks to favor us all with ear-splitting whining to what might be called a tune.

Another indication of summer that these neighbors provide involves the need for body armor. I exaggerate slightly, as the projectiles hurled from their side of the fence seldom threaten life or limb, unless we’re talking old floor tiles, or perhaps glass bottles. The darling child of our dear neighbors thinks it’s a hoot to engage in emptying the yard of accumulated debris, and more of a hoot to do so by making said debris airborne in the process. It’s a good thing our car’s paint is peeling, or we’d never park it in front of our house. When summer comes, and the tyke attends neither school nor camp, he is left to his own devices. He has some entertaining devices, such as a video game system, and, obviously, a stereo, but the attraction of those items pales in comparison with the simple rush to be had by chucking fruit, trash, rocks, sticks or raw eggs over the wall.

It used to be one could tell the changing of the seasons by looking outside. But thanks to modern technology – such as the amplifier – I no longer need to do so.

Written by Thag

April 26, 2011 at 8:48 pm

A Plague of…Rats in Bikinis? Back to the Drawing Board, Moses

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Moses, I’ve reviewed your list of proposed plagues to visit upon the Egyptians. While I can appreciate a good ironic twist as much as the next omnipotent, infinite being, I think I need to step in here and edit your work. I shall explain presently.

For the first plague, you suggested traffic jams. I wholeheartedly agree with the upheaval such an occurrence would cause, but I did make clear earlier that we’re looking for something a bit more manifestly miraculous. I’m going to override this one and call for all the Egyptians’ water turning to blood.

Your second recommendation has the Egyptian network going down for a week. This would indeed cripple the Egyptian economy, if the Egyptian economy were that of three and a half thousand years from now. I do wish you would pay more attention to anachronisms, Moses. I understand that your unparalleled clarity of prophetic vision grants you amazing insights into future developments, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Frogs, Moses. Write that down.

Lice, we can keep, but it needn’t be mutant alien brain-snatching lice. Though I do admit that for a moment I considered putting something radioactive in there. We’ll have to save that for later in history, I suppose.

For the fourth plague you couldn’t decide between wild beasts and swarms of insects. I understand your ambivalence, Moses, so how about the following: we use an ambiguous term that could mean either one, and leave it to scholars in future generations to debate which one it was.

Because we need to introduce some actual death into the equation at this point – even if only that of some animals – I’m going to veto your proposed plague of lawyers and instead ordain some pestilence. Not to worry, Moses, the lawyers will have plenty of other civilizations to wreck.

As for number six, I must say I appreciate your creativity: an epidemic of paper cuts, exacerbated by rains of lemon juice. However, lemons won’t reach this part of the world for some time, and the Egyptians have barely gotten the hang of papyrus so far, so let’s just go with boils.

Now, number seven: the land gets overrun by hordes of insufferable New England Patriots fans. It is indeed horrifying, but unfortunately, the intended effect will be completely lost on the Egyptians, so let’s keep this one in reserve for when some future society needs to be taken down a peg or two. Let’s go with hail. Bodacious hail, I might add: fire inside the ice. Why, thank you; it is pretty neat, yes.

Your next suggestion had me scratching my metaphorical head, Moses: the seventies return with a vengeance. While even I can’t think of many situations more disturbing or disorienting, again, we’re not talking about a society that would know the difference. Pharaoh and company would feel right at home in the garish getup and cosmetics, so we need to rework this one. If you’d said that an ear-splitting disco party breaks out, I could work with that, but the Egyptians might not distinguish between that and a plain old earthquake. Write down locusts, please.

For the penultimate plague, you propose a really bad acid trip. I see where you’re coming from – we’ve already had non-burning burning bushes and sticks-cum-snakes swallowing other sticks-cum-snakes – but I think we should go to the opposite extreme: not too much for the brain to comprehend, but utter lack of visual input. Let’s have utter darkness for a  few days. Oh, and warn the Israelites that the Egyptians are going to be too scared to go relieve themselves outside, so things might get unsanitary.

Almost done. We just need to finalize the last plague. I see you’re torn between a non-stop, inescapable Jerry Lewis movie marathon and an orchestra of demons playing twenty-first-century avant-garde music at deafening volume. We needn’t be that vicious, Moses. Let’s tone down the suffering a bit and just make it the death of all Egyptian firstborns.

OK, that’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’ll discuss whether the Hebrews should daub blood on the doorposts and lintels, or use it for anti-Egyptian graffiti.

Written by Thag

April 26, 2011 at 12:59 am