Click here to read my column in The Sunday Wall Street Journal.
Archive for December, 2011
Embattled Execs / Comments Off
What do you get the man or woman who has taken everything?
Click here to read my column in The Sunday Wall Street Journal: Wishes for the top executives who’ve helped keep the U.S. economy a wintery hell.
Bah-Hambug! I always suspected Christmas was a waste. Now I’ve found an economist who confirms my view.
Meet Joel Waldfogel, the Frederick R. Kappel Professor of Applied Economics at the University of Minnesota and author of “Scroogenomics: Why You Shouldn’t Buy Presents for the Holidays,” published in 2009.
Click here to read my column on MarketWatch.
Washington / Comments Off
If the United States were a publicly traded company, it’s stock would be plunging and its creditors would be dumping its debts, says former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker.
Walker is the founder of the Comeback America Initiative. If our nation fails to avert a debt crisis, you can’t say it’s because he didn’t warn us.
“If the U.S. Government was a public company, the Board would be calling an emergency meeting and the CEO would be conducting conference calls to calm nervous investors who might otherwise be shorting the stock and dumping their holdings in the company’s debt,” Walker said in a statement released today.
Companies / Comments Off
Kodak CEO Antonio Perez has presided over a 97% decline in his company’s stock since 2005, and the 131-year-old company is just a click away from having to file bankruptcy, whether it wants to accept that picture it or not.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve been amused by headlines using photography puns to capture the situation. You know like, “Not A Kodak Moment.” Or “Kodak’s Long Fade To Black.”
I soon realized photography is a language unto itself and started writing some of my own Kodak headlines, with a bit of help from Facebook friends. The result is this column “Taking A Shot At Kodak.”
Click here to read it on MarketWatch. Knowing I’d only begun to tap the possibilities for puns, I invited readers to send me some of there own Kodak headlines and here what they said:
“I shutter to think what the industry will look like without Kodak. Perhaps some good news will develop over the holidays.” – Unsigned.
“Kodak was a flash in the pan.” “Kodak is in the can.” “For Kodak it is a wrap.” – Robert Shanebrook, Rochester, NY.
“I guess Kodak just had a hard time focusing on the future.” – Stuart Sampson.
“Certainly Kodak has lost its focus. “ “Investor’s not seeing the big picture.” “The picture looks dark for Kodak.” “Kodak ‘lens’ itself to ridicule.” “Kodak moment lost.” – Brian Suveges, Old Tappan, N.J.
“Kodak not focused on success.” – DF.
“Kodak just doesn’t see the whole picture.” – Jim.
“Hell’uv a job, Brownie.” – Bob.
“If a picture is worth a thousand dollars, Kodak has a should sell its gallery. ” “Kodak – A snapshot of the past.” “Kodak changes its name to Kodark.” -Peter Caplan.
“EK phone home!” “”Kodak slides to new low.” “Kodak film-flam leaves investors overexposed.” “Kodak needs new kind of Insta-magic.” “Kodak’s Blurry Focus Leads to Negative Developments.” “Kodak’s Ink is Fading.” “Kodak Still Four Colors: Red Red, Red and more Red.” “Oh, Rochester? Would you please turn out the lights?” “Kiosk Krisis – Kodak exposed.” – Unsigned.
“Kodak, soon worth only a thousand words.” - Charles Bartulla.
“Just thought that you might be interested in other terms to develop puns for that we used in the industry: Dodging, Burning, Reticulation, Contrast, Overexposed, Underexposed, Chemistry, Lens, Shutter, Composition, Easel, Slides, Depth of field, Focal length, Focal point, 1/3 rule, Darkroom, Rinse, Stop Bath, Enlargement, Reduction. I could go on and on….but you are probably already losing focus (notice the pun). - Jay T. Carter, Cottonwood Heights, UT.
Puns, as a rule, are tacky and cliche. Understandably, some readers didn’t appreciate this column, viewing it as mocking the thousands of people who are losing their jobs. The column, however, was not intended this way. It was really as a mockery of 1) headline writers and 2) a company that refuses to honest acknowledge its situation and its gaffes in a technological revolution. But here’s what not-so-pun-loving readers said:
“I read your piece. What an a–hole you are! You seem to take delight on the fading of a great American company. Everything changes. But Kodak developed and manufactured the best slide film ever: Kodachrome. And what have you done that’s so important? Like you, the piece you wrote is a piece of sh-t. – Larry Merkle, Photographer.
In response to your article regarding Kodak’s bankruptcy. Creative, yes, but hardly sensitive for the many people losing their jobs. Kodak has provided for many American families (like mine) for generations. I was sad to see your article mocking the situation. – April.
All very funny of course but you and the rest of the media have had a field day with Kodak and in many ways contributed to their woes.
I lost my job there last year and there are still thousands of people trying desperately to hold on to theirs. Is it really so much fun to continue to poke them in the eye or rub salt in the wound? Is this what the media is all about now? You are not reporting any longer but acting as though you would be happy if your reports could actually bring the company down.
Sure, management has sucked for years and they have made some real blunders but will you media pukes not be happy until Kodak is gone?
Is this how you make your living? Sad. – David.
Your article on Kodak was not helpful in any way. It is a very sad thing when a company of this age and heritage goes down, not to mention all the people’s lives that are affected. It’s one thing when a company such as Enron does the Big One–we all want to get our baseball bats out, but even then all the employees that got hurt in that mess was a tragedy caused by the greed and deception of a few.
Kodak has certainly made some decisions that have proven to be totally wrong, and now they are pointed to bankruptcy as you aptly pointed out. They have tried many things to come out of this and have met with little success—but they are still fighting daily, I will guarantee you. The pressure on these people must be immense. It is sad and it is an overall loss to this world when a company who have brought us so far in so many directions ceases to exist.
I didn’t find anything remotely funny or clever in your article. It was damaging, hurtful I’m sure to anyone closely associated with the company, and if anything hastened the demise or lessened any slim chances they had of recovery.
You, as a professional writer, should be ashamed. Sincerely, Dave Flowers
A lot of people’s lives will be affected by this circumstance and all you can do is ask for the best jokes? Please, report the business news like an adult. – Michael Sharpe, Orchard Park, NY
I read your story on Kodak Headlines. You have way too much time on your hands. Have a happy holiday!! – Eric.
How many ex-retailers can you even remember?
Linens ‘N Things, Computer City, HomeBase, Musicland … Montgomery Wards.
Retailers have been killing each other for a long time, but now they have a more efficient way to do it: The price comparison app.
Click here to read my column in The Sunday Wall Street Journal.
Media / Comments Off
Time magazine’s generic choice of “the protester” as “2011 Person of the Year” is a sign that nobody in America really accomplished anything in 2011.
The piece wasn’t even all that flattering to Occupy Wall Street protesters, focusing most of its attention on protesters around the world who risk their very lives to speak their minds.
Patrick Reynolds, grandson of R.J. Reynolds, has spent much of his life fighting Big Tobacco after cigarettes took the life of his father, as well as the lives of other family members.
As the executive director of the Foundation for a Smoke Free America, he has made a long career out of warning people about the dangers of smoking, much to the displeasure of his family.
Click here to read my column about Reynolds on MarketWatch.
Reynold’s is also behind BeAnElf.org, a non-profit group trying to bring a merrier Christmas to underprivileged children and their families.
The group recruits volunteers, or elves, for the U.S. Postal Service’s Operation Santa program.
The elves visit post offices and read letters that needy children have written to Santa, like this one:
“Dear Santa, My Mom needs money to pay bills. … Our furniture don’t match. Our fridge and oven don’t work a little. She prays for me. My Mom is sad. Please help. Sincerely, Katrina.”
They then deliver gifts to needy children and their families.
You must be Santa Clause, I told Reynolds during an interview. “No, I’m just an elf,” he said. “I’m not the big man.”
Still, I don’t think it’s a good idea to ask Santa for a carton of Camels.
If you think the economy is worse than the conditions being reported, here’s another example of why you may be right.
The National Association of Realtors now concedes far fewer homes have been sold over the past five years than it had estimated. Click here to read more on that.
This is why they call economics the dismal science. It’s a set of assumptions based on a set of assumptions. And the bias is often to the upside.
The nation’s gross domestic product is yet another example of data that is revised downward after its initially released. When that happens, it means the whole economy is worse than initially reported.
Since it was the housing market that tipped the U.S. into this abyss, it would seem having the most accurate data on home sales would be a paramount indicator as to the recovery. But when you read about homes being counted twice, as you can in the linked story above, I suppose all an economist can say is, “Whoops!”
Embattled Execs / Comments Off
A brutal two-day hearing in a federal district courtroom in Chicago ended in a 14-year prison sentence for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. I share my thoughts on the case with Matt Flener of Denver’s NBC affiliate, 9News. Click here if the embedded video above does not display.