Weekly Review — January 3, 2012, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: Babylonian lion, 1875]

People around the world celebrated the passing of another year as 2012 began. The first to ring in the new year were the South Pacific nations of Samoa and Tokelau, which officially switched to the Western side of the international date line by jumping ahead to Saturday on Thursday at midnight. New York City celebrated by dropping the Times Square Ball; objects dropped in other American cities included a giant peach, in Atlanta, a giant sardine, in Eastport, Maine, and a giant conch, a pirate wench, and a giant glittering red high-heeled shoe bearing a drag queen named Sushi, in Key West, Florida. In the Philippines, powerful illegal fireworks sold under such names as “Goodbye Philippines” caused nearly 200 injuries. “Doctors are waiting with surgical saws, bone cutters, and drills in case your fingers need to be amputated,” said health official Enrique Tayag.APUSA TodayUSA TodayOfficials in Beebe, Arkansas, began an investigation when, for the second year in a row, New Yearâ??s fireworks sent blackbirds, which are nightblind, flying at top speed into houses, signs, trees, and the ground, killing scores. “There [was] evidence of fireworks set off in the middle of the roost,” said an Arkansas Game and Fish spokeswoman. “We know it wasnâ??t a coincidence.” CNNScientists showed that ingestion of the planktonic diatom Pseudo-nitzschia likely caused a wave of apparently crazed seabirds to fly into homes and fall from the sky in Monterey Bay, California, in 1961â??the event that is said to have inspired Alfred Hitchcockâ??s “The Birds.”USA TodayNature GeoscienceUSA Today

Tens of thousands of citizens and military personnel gathered in Pyongyang for the funeral procession of Kim Jong-Il, who ruled North Korea for seventeen years. Kimâ??s body, a large portrait of him, and a giant wreath were each carried atop mid-1970s armored black Lincoln Continentals. “What are we supposed to do without you?” shouted mourners. Kimâ??s son, Kim Jong-Un, was formally named North Koreaâ??s new Supreme Leader. Boasting that parts of the country were “socialist fairylands,” a joint editorial published by three major newspapers said “The whole party, the entire army, and all the people should possess a firm conviction that they will become human bulwarks and human shields in defending Kim Jong-Un unto death.”ABCNYTimesGuardianNew York TimesTelegraphWhile on vacation with his family in Hawaii, U.S. President Barack Obama released four sea turtles into Hanauma Bay and signed into law a military-spending bill, despite expressing reservations about certain provisions, including one that imposes sanctions on Iranian oil exports. USA TodayNew York TimesIran announced that it had successfully built and tested the countryâ??s first domestically produced nuclear fuel rod, and threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz to oil tankers in response to sanction threats from the West. “Our response to threats is threats,” said Revolutionary Guard deputy commander Hossein Salami. CNNAFP via Raw StoryRival monks brawled with brooms during the annual cleaning of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, GuardianAmericans were found to have purchased record numbers of guns in December. TelegraphLos Angeles police arrested a man believed to have set 53 fires in four nights in and around Hollywood, and impounded his van, which was suspected to contain fire-starting materials. “Thatâ??s headed to the crime lab,” said councilman Tom LaBonge.San Jose Mercury NewsNew York TimesLos Angeles Times

A Montoursville, Pennsylvania, couple reportedly pleaded guilty to having sex on a city bus while a friend held their infant daughter in the seat in front of them. “randell was in jail PRC [pre-release center] when it happend,” the woman wrote in response to criticism on Facebook. “i was ridin for my HUSBAND SO STOP TALKIN SHIT.” Smoking GunOne day after Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced that she will undergo surgery for thyroid cancer, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez suggested that the United States might have given cancer to several recently diagnosed South American heads of stateâ??a group that includes Fernández, Paraguayâ??s Fernando Lugo, Brazilâ??s Dilma Rousseff, and Chávez himself. “It would not be strange if they had developed the technology to induce cancer and nobody knew about it until know,” said Chávez. “Itâ??s a bit difficult to explain this, to reason it, including using the law of probabilities.” New York TimesReutersAn administrative court ruled that the Egyptian military violated female protestersâ?? rights by subjecting them to invasive “virginity tests” last spring.New York TimesShell Oil denied an environmental groupâ??s claim that oil from an offshore spill had reached the Nigerian coastline. “It must have come from a third party,” said Shell spokesman Precious Okolobo.AFP via Raw StoryNigeriaâ??s president, Goodluck Jonathan, declared a state of emergency in parts of the country struck by a recent surge of Islamist violence, and ended government fuel subsidies for Nigerians, causing an immediate rise in gas prices and riots in Abuja and Kano. “We intend,” said an official with the Nigeria Labour Congress, “to make the country ungovernable.”ReutersBBCAFPWorkers at more than 800 IP addresses belonging to the U.S. House of Representatives were revealed to have illegally downloaded software, television shows, Hollywood films, and pornography, as well as self-help and reference books. Among the books were “Crucial Conversationsâ??Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High,” “Do Not Openâ??An Encyclopedia of the Worldâ??s Best-Kept Secrets,” and “How to Answer Hard Interview Questions And Everything Else You Need to Know to Get the Job You Want.”TorrentFreakBoing Boing

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Editor's Note

Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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“He explained how sober Doug structured the bits and worked out the material’s logic; drunk Doug found the funny.”
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