By Thane Peterson Come gentle readers, lend me your ear,
For a stirring tale to kick off the New Year.
The old millennium has gone, a fresh one has started.
Surely it won't be for the weak or fainthearted.
First let us salute those on whom fortune smiled
From G.W. Bush to Julia Child.
We wish you good health and greater prosperity
Though with stock markets tanking, that may be a rarity.
Let's mourn the passing of Tom Landry and John Gielgud --
Reviewing the list of departed doesn't feel good.
To all those who passed to the great beyond,
We offer a toast and memories fond.
On to business, and there are naught but grim issues,
Investors are dabbing their eyes with their tissues.
Will Congress ever really cut taxes?
Can Microsoft escape trustbusters' axes?
Can Alan Greenspan engineer a soft landing?
Can advertisers succeed at world branding?
Is George W. Bush the equal of his dad?
Is the Internet a chimera, the New Economy a fad?
Net heroes have stumbled, including Shawn Fanning,
Now they promise they'll do financial planning.
Jeff Bezos, Ernst Malmsten, and Priceline's Jay Walker
Caused investors worldwide to gobble beta-blockers.
Net stocks have tumbled to incredible lows,
From eBay to Amazon, they've all suffered woes.
Ask Jeeves doesn't seem so very all-knowing,
Its shares hit $1.88, and it can barely keep going.
Tech stocks in general suffered almost as greatly.
When PCs stopped selling, it was tough news for Gateway.
IBM, JDS Uniphase, Compaq, and Dell,
At times, they all had a moldy smell.
Even poor Bill Gates deserves a tear,
With Microsoft's stock off 60% for the year.
And what about archrival Steve Jobs at the stake?
If Apple keeps sliding, he could be out of his namesake.
CEOs are easily ousted, no matter their sex.
That's why Mattel's Jill Barad is now just an ex.
Lucent's Richard McGinn also is history.
How others hang on is a bit of a mystery.
Some execs had a good year, others mediocre,
For Jurgen Schrempp, it was like being jabbed with a poker.
When Daimler bought Chrysler, it was a "merger of equals,"
But this is a story with unpleasant sequels.
Profits turned to losses, minivans didn't sell,
And Daimler's poor chieftain landed in executive hell.
James Holden went packing, but shareholders still kvetched
When his job was turned over to a German called Zetsche.
Even storied Tinseltown failed to shine.
No great pictures this year, the critics whine.
Could Erin Brockovich possibly be our best movie?
If the Grinch stole this year's Oscars, it might be groovy.
Not all is bad news, thank our lucky stars.
The human genome was mapped, as were parts of Mars.
Ted Turner bailed out the U.N. -- yet again.
And Steve Case buddied up to Gerald Levin.
Other big deals also were marked paid.
For $13 billion, Pepsi lapped up Gatorade.
Vivendi downed Seagram, J.P Morgan to Chase fell,
And wily old Jack Welch spent $54 billion on Honeywell.
Welch also got big bucks (though not as much as Hillary).
That's one management book critics probably won't pillory.
Phillip Morris' shares rose so fast they fairly smoked.
(Too much for coffin nails, the wags all joked.)
Tiger Woods' golf swing couldn't have been cleaner.
And hey, how about Venus Williams and sister Serena?
Let's not forget Marion Jones and Michael Johnson.
Their Olympic feats were hailed from Australia to Wisconsin.
What will the New Year hold for sports fans and investors?
For Washington politicians and their many court jesters?
Will Bill Clinton be just a dutiful Senate spouse,
With a young Bush taking root in the White House?
Will Lewis box Holyfield down to the deck?
Will the price of oil be slashed by OPEC?
Will Saddam Hussein remain in his lair?
Which politician will be caught in an affair?
Will the Nasdaq soar or remain consumptive?
To make any predictions would be presumptive.
The best advice is to stay calm and undisgusted,
Even when your portfolio becomes unadjusted.
Seek balance in your life, be kind to the poor.
When the grim reaper's finally at the door,
There's no time to lament, "Hold on, you jerk.
I can't die yet. I've got too much work." When he's not writing poems, Peterson is a contributing editor at Business Week Online. Follow his weekly Moveable Feast column, only on BW Online