Wood Working: By the numbers - are we better off?Just when I think everything is right with the world, everyone’s getting an even shake, the government owes me money after April 15, I receive a new copy of Harper’s magazine and my hopes are dashed.
By: Dave Wood, columnist, River Falls Journal
Just when I think everything is right with the world, everyone’s getting an even shake, the government owes me money after April 15, I receive a new copy of Harper’s magazine and my hopes are dashed.
It’s not that Harper’s is all bad, since it was sold by my old employer, the Minneapolis Star Tribune to the MacArthur Foundation, its fortunes have improved.
The MacArthur Foundation paid Cowles Media $1 for the whole shebang. That’s right. One thin buck.
Apparently because Cowles Media thought that would be cheaper than losing millions yearly on the ancient magazine.
MacArthur quickly shook things up.
Got rid of a huge staff and turned it into a digest of interesting things culled from all manner of sources. Sort of a Reader’s Digest for wannabe intellectuals.
I’m no wannabe intellectual, but I’m a cheapskate and Harper’s now only costs $11 per year, so how can I lose?
Well, one way is by reading the most popular feature of the “new Harper’s. It’s called “Harper’s Index,” a MacArthur innovation, perhaps the most depressing news condensed in one page in the history of civilization.
The source for all this news is documented further along in the issue. Here’s a sample from May:
Number of insect fragments allowed by the Food and Drug Administration in a standard jar of peanut butter: 153; Number of rodent hairs: 5.
On February 21, 2012, the Slovakian government agency opened online voting to name a bridge over the Morava River. Percentage of voters who voted to name the bridge after Chuck Norris: 75%.
The amount of a USAID grant to create a Pakistani version of “Sesame Street: $10,000,001.
Like numbers? Try these:
1. Cost to become a citizen of St. Kitts and Nevis: $250,000.
2. Minimum number of U.S. citizens who have disclosed offshore accounts under IRS amnesty programs since 2009: 33,000.
3. Percentage of its profits that General Electric paid in federal taxes in past decades: 2.3 percent.
4. Percentage of the income gains in the first year of the recovery that went to 1 percent of U.S. earners: 93 percent.
5. Average cost of an American wedding: $25,631.
6. Percentage increase last year in the amount Americans spent on full-service wedding planners: 40%
And once married, different ethnic groups should have different aspirations:
Portion of black American households that have no assets other than a car: 25%
Amount by which the median U.S. newlywed white wife and Asian husband out earns the median newlywed white couple: $11,800; by which they out earn the median newlywed Hispanic couple, $36,222.
Percentage of lawyers who say their jobs may make the world worse: 3.6%
Percentage of fast food workers who say their jobs may make the world worse: 42.3%.
And now let’s end where we began. With the publishing industry.
In hindsight it’s probably a VERY good thing my old employer ditched Harper’s Magazine. According to the May Index the news was all bad for newspapers:
Total advertising revenue of the U.S. newspaper industry in 2011: $23,900,000,000.
Total advertising revenue of Google: $36,500,000,000.
But not all the news was bad. To quote the May Index:
Estimated decrease in metric tons of cocaine consumed in the U.S. each year between 1998 and 2008: 102 tons.
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 715-426-9554.