Thursday, 9 December 2010

A brief history of the octothorpe

Robert Fulford, National Post

The Big O is a sign with deep historical and cultural roots, part of our heritage. It didn’t deserve the neglect it suffered in recent times. It’s lived under many names: the hash, the crunch, the hex (that’s in Singapore), the flash, the grid. In some circles it’s called tic-tactoe, in others pig-pen. From a distance it looks like the sharp sign on a musical score. Whether you call it a pound sign or a number sign or anything else, it retains its identity. It’s so majestically simple that it always looks good, even if drawn by someone utterly without graphic talent. Good old #. It can’t go wrong.

Does a country still exist if it sinks under the sea?

Encroaching seas in the far Pacific are raising the salt level in the wells of the Marshall Islands. Waves threaten to cut one sliver of an island in two What happens if the 61,000 Marshallese must abandon their low-lying atolls? Would they still be a nation? With a U.N. seat? With control of their old fisheries and their undersea minerals? Where would they live, and how would they make a living? Who, precisely, would they and their children become?

It’s a question that the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu and other atoll nations will need an answer to very soon

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

An interview with Rick Meyerowitz on his National Lampoon book

Not only does Rick Meyerowitz’s new book, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Writers and Artists Who Made the National Lampoon Insanely Great look amazing, it doesn’t use the fucking ‘We’ll shoot this dog cover.’

Rupert Murdoch is serious about his iPad newspaper

It’s going to be called The Daily and he’s hired New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones as culture editor

Sunday, 14 November 2010

James Frey has a new business: mass producing books

James Frey, author of the controversial fictionalised memoir A Million Little Pieces, has gone into the young adult book-packaging business, working with new writers to mass produce new works.

The terms of the writers’ agreement with Frey, however, are somewhat one-sided:

In exchange for delivering a finished book within a set number of months, the writer would receive $250 (some contracts allowed for another $250 upon completion), along with a percentage of all revenue generated by the project, including television, film, and merchandise rights—30 percent if the idea was originally Frey’s, 40 percent if it was originally the writer’s. The writer would be financially responsible for any legal action brought against the book but would not own its copyright. Full Fathom Five could use the writer’s name or a pseudonym without his or her permission, even if the writer was no longer involved with the series, and the company could substitute the writer’s full name for a pseudonym at any point in the future. The writer was forbidden from signing contracts that would “conflict” with the project; what that might be wasn’t specified. The writer would not have approval over his or her publicity, pictures, or biographical materials. There was a $50,000 penalty if the writer publicly admitted to working with Full Fathom Five without permission.

Monday, 25 October 2010

The Onion begins franchising to other US cities

I’ve known that The Onion has been interested in franchising the paper to other cities for quite some time, but this is the first public request for inquiries that I have seen. You know I love freesheets, but it may be a little late, especially if the franchisees don’t get a cut of the web income. The Onion, Inc. already run company-owned weekly papers in Austin, Madison, Chicago, Denver, the Twin Cities, Milwaukee, and New York.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Goodbye to the Netherlands Antilles

Andrew Cusack

This morning, one country disappeared, two more were born, a fourth was expanded, and all are part of a single kingdom. The Netherlands Antilles, the collective islands of the Dutch West Indies which since 1954 has formed a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, was dissolved. Two of the islands in the archipelago, Curaçao and Sint Maarten, have become full constituent countries of the Kingdom (alongside Aruba, which was separated from the Antilles in 1986, and the Netherlands proper), while the islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba (the ‘B.E.S.’ islands) have been merged into the Netherlands proper as special municipalities.

How Google avoids tax from its world wide income

Bloomberg Businessweek

When a company in Europe, the Middle East, or Africa purchases a search ad through Google, it sends the money to Google Ireland. The Irish government taxes corporate profits at 12.5 percent, but Google mostly escapes that tax because its earnings don’t stay in the Dublin office, which reported a pretax profit of less than 1 percent of revenues in 2008.

Irish law makes it difficult for Google to send the money directly to Bermuda without incurring a large tax hit, so the payment makes a brief detour through the Netherlands, since Ireland doesn’t tax certain payments to companies in other European Union states. Once the money is in the Netherlands, Google can take advantage of generous Dutch tax laws. Its subsidiary there, Google Netherlands Holdings, is just a shell (it has no employees) and passes on about 99.8 percent of what it collects to Bermuda. (The subsidiary managed in Bermuda is technically an Irish company, hence the “Double Irish” nickname.)

Saturday, 9 October 2010

A ghost airport in North West Washington state along the I-5

Still in the 70s. I recall very clearly being driven down the I-5 from the Canadian border to somewhere south – Bellingham, probably, but possibly the seaside oasis of Birch Bay or the Emerald City. As we entered the farmland outside of the border town, Blaine, there was what appeared to be a wooden control tower, maybe five stories high. Sitting in a field. No planes, no runway. Blackberries taking over. Then it was gone. Today, I could no longer even place the field.

I just stumbled across this great site, Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields, and there, in the North West, Washington section was Blaine Municipal Airport, a grass runway opened in 1945. By 1975, the airport sported a 2,100’ paved runaway located away from the old grass one, the latter possibly now only serviced by my haunted control tower.

The Blaine airport closed permanently on New Year’s Eve, 2008.

National Lampoon's 1971 parody of Mad Magazine

As a kid in the 70s, I loved Mad Magazine. By the late 70s, early 80s, I had switched my loyalty to the National Lampoon. But I had never heard of this brutally dead-on 1971 National Lampoon parody of Mad. So much hate. It can only be a love affair gone wrong.