Monday, 24 October 2016

Escaping from Turkmenistan when your US employers want you to break the law

This is an incredible story.

My friend Marina Roganovic took a promotion from administering a private school for diplomats children in Montenegro to running one for the same organisation in Turkmenistan, a country that can make North Korea look like your local cat cafe. It’s not a country that one breaks local law carelessly.

You see, there is a very active currency black market in Turkmenistan. Turkmen currency, the Manat, was pegged at 3.4913 TMT to $1. Black market rate at that time was 4.5 TMT to $1.

Bill suggested he takes $1000, exchange the money on the black market, give the school 3500 TMT, and we would pocket the rest. He would do this will all of the dollars we needed to convert – and by the end of the three year project, he said we could make a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

When I reported him to [the US-based bosses], I was told that, instead of investigating their dear friend, [they] made a decision that I will be the one to break this law in Turkmenistan. The school will be the beneficiary of the illegal currency exchange.

Let me paint a picture here – a 15 year old Turkmen exchanged $100 on the black market. His whole family went to jail for seven years.

Earlier: Hockey Night in Turkmenistan by Roganovic’s husband, Brian Salmi

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

SPY magazine reboots for the 2016 US election

SPY cofounder Kurt Anderson:

As Trump became the Republicans’ presumptive nominee, lots more people, pretty much every day, said to me, “SPY really needs to be rebooted, if only just for the election. SPY really needs to be rebooted, if only just for the election.”

I guess maybe they’re right, so I’m very pleased that Esquire has decided to produce an online pop-up SPY during the last thirty days of the presidential campaign. It has my whole-hearted best wishes. And it’s also a nice serendipity that this October will mark the magazine’s thirtieth anniversary. It’s as if SPY, a retired superhero, is making a brief but necessary comeback.

Read it here.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

The entire run of Avant Garde magazine is now online

I have written about Avant Garde magazine before. It’s one of the great 60s magazines, and the beginning of the modern magazine.

Now you can read the entire run of Avant Garde online.

Hockey Night in Turkmenistan

Had I known there were no bookstores in Turkmenistan maybe I would have said, ‘No way,’ when my wife told me she’d been offered a job there. Any nation that bans bookstores is no place for a writer.

There were other signs that the Central Asian petro state was not going to embrace me as a comrade: I am an anarchist (funarchist, actually) – whereas Turkmen authorities once jailed a young man, for a year, for organizing a flash-mob dance party. The ultra authoritarian police state, known to expats who reside there as North Korea Lite, is a vast desert where the summer temperature usually hovers around 45 degrees – whereas as I am a tree-hugging, snow-loving Canadian whose genetic roots are buried in the Finnish permafrost.

Brian Salmi’s story on how he hoped to arrange the first Turkmenistanly Cup just gets weirder from there.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Textpattern 4.6 released

Textpattern has been my goto CMS since 2004, which is prehistoric in CMS years. Wordpress people love the zillion of templates out there, Textpatterners love that TXP lets you essentially turn regular webpages into CMS’s. This new release is a significant upgrade and lead developer Stef Dawson should be proud of his team.

"Okay boys, this is what they pay us for"

This Politico oral history of the passengers of Air Force One on 9/11 is fascinating. What is mind blowing is that George W. Bush and company were getting most of their information via rabbit ears from broadcast stations that faded in and out as they cruised for hours.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Forget what they're selling, their home page animated gif is amazing

Cards against humanity has opened a new service for creators of things to do proper distribution and package mailouts. Looks perfect for people who successfully pull off Kickstarters then must deliver the damn pledges.

But the header gif by Paul Robertson is something else.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Vice tried to buy the News Of The World from Rupert Murdoch

Keach Hagey writing in the Wall Street Journal

[Vice co-founder Shane] Smith says he really got to know the younger Mr. Murdoch when Vice tried to buy News Corp’s News of the World tabloid at the height of its phone-hacking scandal, arguing he could use the paper’s notoriety to turn it into a new kind of international news outlet. The idea didn’t fly, but Mr. Murdoch “liked our cockiness,” Mr. Smith said.

H/T James Waterson

Politico: NY Times is opening a Canadian newsroom

Joe Pompeo, writing for Politico

Morning Media has learned that the next two places The New York Times is targeting for expansion are Canada and Australia. The company has already dispatched research teams to lay the groundwork and has begun recruiting journalists to build out small newsrooms in both countries, similar to the Mexico City-based, digital Spanish-language operation for Latin America that the Times launched earlier this year.

I have actually noticed a lot of Canadian stories lately in the New York Times, beyond Justin. It’s a good plan: Postmedia has been cutting back its reporters, particularly on culture. Sure, the Canadian market is only 10 per cent the size of the US market, but what newspaper would turn down possible 10 per cent growth now?

This story reminded me of the a 1990 article in Spy Magazine after they noticed that the Globe & Mail had placed 29 boxes in New York City.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead

Last November, illustrator Rick Meyerowitz, former editor Tony Hendra, and former art director Peter Kleinman discussed the National Lampoon, moderated by graphic design historian Steve Heller. It’s a great session.

I need to watch the doc, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead on iTunes soon.