John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: April 16, 2011

John Wilcock


{the columns that follow
have run previously in this space}


April 7
THE WILCOCK WEB: Advertisers are experimenting with a hand-held device with which drivers can trigger personal messages on billboards as they drive by…..SensorFreshQ ($89.95 at Sharper Image) is a hand-held electronic “nose” that can detect high bacteria levels by sniffing uncooked meat and poultry…..New York City’s Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden says he is opposed to the growing demand by people who want to change the sex on their birth certificates without having to undergo an operation …..“I wish I loved somebody very dearly besides myself; I don’t care about anybody except myself,” confessed Tennessee Williams in Notebooks, a recently-published collection of his diaries.….. Coca-Cola’s new diluted orange drink, selling for about 30¢, which has become the top-seller in China, has now been launched in Thailand…..“People are never more dangerous than when they have nothing left to believe in except God,” declared the novelist J.G. Ballard….. In most advertisements, the time on a watch is shown as 10:10”… Lonely farmers in Wales are seeking brides with their photographs and web addresses on the side of milk cartons… Only 10% of Britain’s pub-goers play darts these days, compared to almost half of them five years ago….. “The more corrupt the republic, the more numerous the laws.” — Tacitus (c.55-120AD)


April 14
THE WILCOCK WEB: It might be a risky business buying property in Turkish-ruled northern Cyprus, as thousands of Russians, Israelis, and Brits have done, because — until the Turks pushed them out — most of the property was once owned by Greeks who hope one day to get it back…..Widely regarded as “the father of economics,” Adam Smith (1723-90) will replace composer Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934) on Britain’s £20 notes.….California’s answer to Donald Trump in the ego stakes is Donald T. Sterling whose picture usually appears at least twice in his ads in the Los Angeles Times (last week it was four pictures, accompanied by a double-page spread announcing four different condos bearing his name)…. Imagination is more important than knowledge declared Albert Einstein….Bruce Cutler, the hoodlum-loving lawyer who’s currently defending Phil Spector, will preside as judge in a new syndicated TV show, Jury Duty, due in September…. Farmers in North Carolina are prohibited from using elephants for plowing …. “It’s an open secret in Hollywood that many of the movies supposedly picked up at Sundance have, in fact, been pre-financed by the studios, who are only pretending to come on board after the film has been made,” writes Toby Young in the Spectator….. Linked by rumor to Bill Clinton, is Belinda Stronach, a Canadian Liberal MP who will be 41 on May 2 ….. “The universe is change: our life is what our thoughts make it.” — Marcus Aurelius (AD120–180)


April 21
THE WILCOCK WEB: The Electric Sheep Company, which designs three-dimensional properties in virtual worlds such as Second Life, has made a deal with CBS to create commercials….. That aspirin can be used to revive a dead car battery is one of the 2,209 useful tips in the new Reader’s Digest Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things to be published next week…. Those ludicrous misspellings in television close-captioning have long had their counterpart in movie subtitles where things are likely to get worse. Movie producers are being enticed to outsource subtitling to India and Malaysia where translators are offering cut rates…. Men are always asking what women want in bed, says Kathy Lette. The answer is breakfast…..Yahoo plans to add a singing anchorman to its newscasts who, a spokesman promises, “will leave you tapping your feet”…..High Times magazine is pitching the networks with plans for a reality TV show set in its Manhattan office where, says editor Steve Hager, no toking takes place….Some companies could save as much as a million dollars in printing costs after July 1, reports CFO magazine, when the Securities and Exchange Commission will allow them to distribute their proxy statements via the Web….Women may fake orgasms, reflects Sharon Stone, but men fake whole relationships ….“Has Google replaced Microsoft as the almighty pariah that everyone wants to cut down to size?” asks the Observer’s Richard Wachman …. TelevisionWeek devoted 20 pages of editorial and ads to praising Bob Wright who recently stepped down as NBC’s boss…..You don’t have to be rich to help with one of those far-sighted schemes that lends money to poor people in distant lands to lift them out of poverty because they’re always looking for helpers at….. “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor liberty to purchase power.” — Benjamin Franklin (1706–90)


April 28
THE WILCOCK WEB: Challenges by civil rights organizations to the Defense Department’s “stop-loss” policies that call up servicemen for repeated tours have gone nowhere. But New York lawyers Stuart and Barry Slotnick have won five individual cases by claiming that the Army was denying their clients due process — “the right to be free”….As always, the presidential candidate who is most ignored is the one with the most sensible questions. Dennis Kucinich asks why, if the so-called Democratic Congress is anxious to end the war, did it agree to an additional $300billion to finance it?….. In an essay for the May Popular Mechanics, Jay Leno says he has two electric cars, a Baker Electric (1909) and an Owen Mechanic (1915) and both still run, but he closed with Thomas Edison’s alleged 1896 quote: “The electric car is dead.”….Fox TV’s Roger Ailes headed TelevisionWeek’s annual Top 10 Most Powerful last week with Keith Olberman (ratings up 76% first quarter of this year) in sixth place….When a developer plans to do something dastardly with hitherto unspoiled land, it would be fascinating to learn how he acquired the land in the first place….. Originality is the art of concealing your sources, explains Franklin P. Jones…..One of the hottest current words, avatar, is also the title of the new 3D sci-fi film that James (Titanic) Cameron has just started shooting….The title of Sonia Shah’s new book says it all: The Body Hunters: Testing New Drugs on the World’s Poorest Patients….. Merle Streep is the current favorite to portray Margaret Thatcher in the BBC’s projected film about the Iron Lady….. “All is ephemeral — fame and the famous as well.” — Marcus Aurelius (AD 120–18)


April 12
THE WILCOCK WEB: ….“A letter writer to the New York Times magazine advises President Obama to fill the first Supreme Court vacancy with Hillary Clinton…. The Times now wastes three pages listing its contents and correcting errors. No wonder people are getting tired of such editorial misjudgment….Apple ceo Steve Jobs‘ appearance on Fortune‘s cover last month was his 11th….. The Italian papers are advertising new sunglasses from Giorgio Armani as Accesorio Must Have (a mere $300 a pair)…. “The AK was once my baby, but it has got out of my control,” 85-year-old General Kalashnikov told author Michael Hodges on learning that there are 70 million of the assault rifle that he originally designed in 1947 to win a competition….“The best exercise for losing weight,” says Joan Collins, “is pushing yourself away from the table”….British surfer Ted Deerhurst says that challenging a notorious 50ft wave off Ireland’s West Coast is like “jumping off a three-story house and then having the house chase you down the street”….“In the end game,” said chess wiz Jose Raul Capablanca, “don’t think in terms of moves but in terms of plans”…. “If you don’t have an understanding of your opponent,” cautions Donald Trump, “things aren’t going to work out very well for you”….The influence of his movie Sicko, Michael Moore claims, has mostly helped journalists realize “there’s a whole other side to this story — the non-corporate side, the side of nurses, the side of working people, the side of people who have no insurance”….An experimental bridge built of processed bamboo at the Chinese city of Leiyang has proved durable enough to carry trucks weighing up to 90 tons and is forecast to last for 20 years….By offering a 40% tax incentive, Louisiana has leapt into the third most popular state to make movies of which 53 were made there last year…. The Kiplinger Letter says that a drought typically hits the Midwest every 19 years and it’s been 20 years since the last one…. Some of those laser eye doctors claim to have performed 80,000 operations. Let’s see, that would be three every single day for the past 80 years….Claiming that the bus schedule in Bristol is “a work of fiction that bears absolutely no relation to the actual times or frequencies of the buses’ journeys,” a disgruntled passenger has nominated the schedule for the annual Man Booker Prize for Fiction…. “There’s always something suspect about an intellectual on the winning side.” — Vaclav Havel (b.1936)


April 19
THE WILCOCK WEB: Fifty years ago this week, textile designer Gerald Holton devised the peace symbol, first publicly unveiled on the 52-mile march from London to Aldermaston where the A-bomb was being planned….After a spate of thefts of medieval icons from churches north of Moscow, police have advised priests to buy guns….Christie’s expects to raise $4,000 at next month’s auction of a 15-year-old nude photograph of former model Carla Bruni, now married to French premier Nicolas Sarkozy…. Among the items for sale ($2million) at the Millionaire Fair at Kortrijk, Belgium, this week is a rare Bugatti Veyron car (it average 8miles per gallon)…. On a local route north of Glasgow, the diesel-operating Stagecoach bus line offers passengers 40¢ off their fare for every container of used cooking oil…All sensible people told London authorities it was madness to split up the organization of the Metro (Underground) years ago and now, predictably, the taxpayers will foot the cost of $3billion worth of failures for which private companies invested a few million…. Barbara Walters says it’s important to maintain an optimistic point of view. “It’s the ability to accept loss. It’s the ability to move on…those who live to be very old aren’t necessarily religious but they are spiritual.”..Within two years scientists hope that a new chemical solution tagged C-KAD might act as a substitute for surgical operations, clearing the eyes of cataracts and relieving glaucoma…. “I can remember when the air was clean and sex was dirty,” reminisced George Burns…. Britain imports more champagne each year than Japan, Spain, and the U.S. combined, around five bottles for every home in the country…. Every artist is an intellectual outlaw … “There’s always something suspect about an intellectual on the winning side.” — Vaclav Havel (b.1936)


April 26
THE WILCOCK WEB: A writer in Delhi’s Outlook magazine claims that as part of an internal power struggle in China, the “Tibetan monks that initiated the violence were actually disguised Chinese soldiers…. Abu Dhabi paid $525 million for use of the Louvre name on a museum that will share a cultural complex with the Guggenheim on Saadiyat Island…. After only two sightings of the Loch Ness monster were reported last year, local observer Steve Feltham suggested there used to be more monsters, “but I believe we’re now down to the last half-dozen…. Financial columnist Avi Tiomkin, a hedge fund adviser, forecasting that within three years several countries will drop the Euro and return to their old currency, writes: “The euro zone has never existed except as a construct in the minds of bureaucrats and politicians…. Supermarket (Gristedes) magnate and oil refinery owner John Catsimatidis, 59, a lifelong Democrat, says he is willing to turn Republican and spend $100 million to become New York’s next mayor. Greek-born son of a lighthouse keeper, he has no political experience apart from being a Clinton fundraiser….Even if it’s only from self-interest/greed, Fox TV is doing the right thing by refusing to pay the puritanical FCC’s fines for alleged on-air indecencies….“Most problems do not get solved. They get superseded by other concerns,” elucidates economist Thomas Sowell…. Although too polite to say so, last week’s study of Supreme Court confirmations (published in the U of Minnesota Laws School’s Constitutional Commentary) clearly suggests that Justices Antonio Scalia and Clarence Thomas lied about their intentions when they sought affirmation…. After yet another temper tantrum, this time aboard a plane, Naomi Campbell has been banned from British Airways for life… Why did kamikaze pilots wear helmets?…. April 23 is so-called Tax Freedom Day. the day by which you have theoretically earned enough from working to pay all local, state, and federal taxes….“The lack of money is the root of all evil.” — Mark Twain (1835–1910)


April 4
THE WILCOCK WEB: Does the U.S. Treasury know the exact tipping point between printing more and more currency, and inflation?….. If this country finds itself at war with China over Taiwan (or anything else), will that mean we can keep all the money we owe them?…..Although China is nominally a Communist country, Karl Marx would be horrified to see it today, declares a writer in The American Prospect. “With policies that favor the urban elite and virtually no social welfare programs left, this ‘communist’ nation has become one of the most unequal countries in Asia”…. And maybe Mexico would be in less of a mess today if the French occupiers hadn’t abandoned it (143 years ago next month)…… Suicide is a lonely death and not many people would do it in front of a washed-up record producer….More of McDonald’s 58 million daily customers buy chicken than beef… Indian army recruits in Karnataka no longer have to capture and eat a venomous snake to prove their survival skills….. Prison authorities say they could save money by letting minor offenders out early. And they could save even more if they were given alternatives to prison…..Sweet tooth fans are “comfort-eating their way through the recession,” says The Week, commenting on the fact that Cadbury’s annual profits are up 30%…. “It’s more important that there be a red carpet for valued people when they leave than when someone joins,” declares DreamWorks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg. “We try to be very generous when someone has an opportunity outside the company because we usually want them back” … Only one out of the first 27 listees (Toyoto, #3) in Fortune’s “The World’s Most Admired Companies” is not American….“Hope is a good breakfast but a bad supper.” — Spanish proverb


April 18
THE WILCOCK WEB: An international force should invade that Somali coastal hideaway. Weren’t pirates hanged at one time? After all, they don’t have a government to protect them…Now both Russia and the U.S. are planning trips to the moon. Silly extravagance: Why don’t they just collaborate?…. Whenever there’s a business downturn, big companies always act like they just appeared on the scene and haven’t had time to make (or save) any profits….Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi appointed as his “Equal Opportunities minister” a dancer named Mara Carfagna. You can watch her sing and strip on YouTube….…..“Women should put pictures of missing husbands on beer cans,” suggested some anonymous lady….. Felix Dennis is closing down the London edition of his magazine Maxim, but will still publish the best newsmagazine in the English language (The Week), whose English edition is far superior to the U.S. one….Continually complaining about rip-off prices for concerts, fans don’t have the smarts to understand that they’ll keep rising as long as they’re willing to pay them…. Minnesota’s Norm Coleman is a sore loser and a Republican which, these days, of course, is the same thing..…Organic food was deemed “expendable” by 84% of customers polled on what they would give up to cut down their expenses. And shoppers 18–34 as well as those over 50 were agreed that their top three “untouchable” items were internet service, cell phones, and cable/satellite TV…. Hef’s daughter Christie, giving up her seat on the company’s board, says she’ll never wear the Playboy insignia because it makes her too easy to recognize. “I’m remarkably successful at being invisible until I pull out a credit card and somebody asks, ‘Oh how’s your dad?’”….. Disturbed by the drop in DVD sales because of cheapo $1 rentals, maybe movie studios will be obliged to learn to make less extravagant movies …..Tiger Woods is rumored to be paid $25 million for the first golf course he is designing (near Asheville. NC) with similar fees for courses in Dubai and Mexico. “The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.” — Karl Marx (1818-83)


April 25
THE WILCOCK WEB: Almost all bankruptcies, whether individual or business, stem from a single source: buying something you can’t afford….John McCain’s 17-year-old Straight Talk bus (40-feet long, $89,000) is on offer at……Donors to the NYC-based Fresh Air Fund are asking why the charity needed to blow half a million dollars for a NYTimes ad boasting about its achievements…..And having wasted three pages a day for the past year telling readers what’s in the paper, the Times will now cut back that surfeit to a single page….….NASA’s Kepler space telescope is currently scanning 100,000 stars searching for any with a climate that could sustain life…. NBC’s highly-touted new show, Parks & Recreation, is too feeble to be funny….After losing a legal challenge, Britain’s Department of Work and Pensions was obliged to include erotic strippers and sex chat line workers in vacancies listed at local job centers…. A recent study, reported by the Independent, showed that the lower a country’s newspaper circulation, the more corruption it registered…. “A good relationship with a few journalists is worth a thousand press releases,” advises Red Pepper magazine’s feature on how to get media attention…. Barry Manilow says he didn’t seek to be a star and you can’t possibly prepare for it. “I fought it constantly and think I was rude. I’m telling you, when success hits, you go through your asshole period”…… Testing the electronic cigarettes in which tobacco is dissolved in propylene glycol — vaporized by an electric heating coil — the New Scientist reported that each boring puff delivered only one-third the amount of nicotine from a regular cigarette….. Revelation Research, which monitors supermarkets claims that almost three-quarters of customers are ‘pullers’ (who “tend to be more aggressive and impatient about shopping”) compared with those who push their carts (mostly, Hispanics)….“Madness is a rare thing in individuals, but in groups, parties, peoples, and ages, it is the rule.” — Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844–1900)


April 10
THE WILCOCK WEB: As a current book reminds us, when FDR failed to pack the Supreme Court he finally got rid of some of the old duffers by offering them full pay forever in their retirement. Maybe Obama could do the same thing today. Doubling their pension might do it. Of course, we’d still be stuck with the retrogressive young Roberts….Eleven hundred readers asked by Consumer Reports to name the things that annoyed them most, listed as their top four: (i) hidden fees; (ii) not getting a human on the phone; (iii) tailgating, and (iv) cell phone use by drivers… Despite the renowned gentleness of the Burmese people, it surely can’t be long now before some frustrated suicide bomber knocks off a general or two…. Brazilian-born Morena Baccarin, 30, who plays the chilling Anna in V, went to school in Greenwich Village…. The latest fire-fighting equipment includes sensors attached to firefighters which transmit their location, condition, and room temperature to the commander’s laptop outside the blazing building…DEFT DEFINITION: Osteopornosis — a degenerate disease….. The flight plan for Apollo 11, the initial trip to the moon (July 16, 1959) is expected to fetch $60,000 when it goes on sale at Bonham’s in London next week (Apr 13)….If that crook Hamid Karzai thinks that the U.S. is Afghanistan’s enemy, what are we doing there?….Items on sale, from a $150,000 jeweled Montblanc fountain pen to a $130,000,000 mansion, are posted in the current issue of Billionaire magazine…..Long after the rest of the world, Britain will begin construction of a high-speed rail network in 2017…. The 1960s cult TV show, The Prisoner, redone as a recent movie and to be revived as a television series this month, will be republished as a Penguin paperback….John Malkovich got back all the money he invested with Bernie Madoff but says the crook made a profit so he wants more….By studying a survey of the “sweat response” from very young children who were exposed to scary sounds, and then following up their records decades later, U of Pennsylvania researchers surmised that the children who were the most fearless were the ones most likely to become criminals (just another theory, take it or leave it)…..“If a man is proud of his wealth, he should not be praised until it is known how he employs it.” — Socrates 469–399BC)


April 17
THE WILCOCK WEB: Shooting innocent civilians from overhead might sometimes be justified, but as last week’s pix showed it’s occasionally pure murder, and listen to how gleefully the killers do it. From here on, it’s all excuses… Under international agreement, Russia and the U.S. will cut down their nukes to 700 each. Gee, what a relief to know that if war breaks out we’ll be bombed a hundred times a day for only one week…Tickets in Dubai’s $2million lottery cost $550 each…. When you place Sony’s new TransferJet camera on the keyboard of your computer it automatically transfers the pictures to screen without further ado….Serial seducers Joseph Smith and Brigham Young were last week shown in PBS’ show The Mormons to be the Tiger Woods of their day…. DEFT DEFINITION: Dopeler Effect– The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly……Projecting from experiments in which he exposed mice with “Alzheimer-like conditions” to the same EMF frequencies emanating from cell phones, a University of South Florida researcher claimed not only were no tumors created, but the creatures’ memories improved…. “The Vatican is against surrogate mothers,” observes Elayne Boosler. “Good thing they didn’t have that rule when Jesus was born”… Beware of Drunks in the road! Romania has erected traffic signs warning of drunks ahead… The latest Swiss Army knives include a laser pointer and flash drive……A Vietnamese engineering firm, TOSY, promises that its new ping pong-playing robot Topio, will be able to beat all-comers at Munich’s trade show Automatica in June…. Having discovered that the white sap in dandelion stalks is a natural latex and a possible substitute for rubber, German scientists are seeking ways to prevent its instant solidifying…. New Statesman columnist Andrew Stephen predicts that Hillary Clinton may end up on the Supreme Court…. Spain’s remaining fascists are trying to shut down that crusading justice Baltasar Garzón because he keeps indicting killers from the Franco era…. “The men who make revolutions are always despised by those who profit from them.” — Francoise Guizot (1787–1874)


April 24
THE WILCOCK WEB: Tuesday will be National Pot Smoking Day (4/20. dig?)….Seeing as, like any other politicians, the Supremos regard themselves as above the law, it’s not unlikely that some of them are nursing scandalous secrets. Maybe there lies next year’s Pulitzer for National Inquirer‘s new DC bureau. ….“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies,” quipped Groucho Marx…. Fortune says there’s a growing demand for “executive temps,” short-term bosses who can earn huge salaries turning around distressed companies before a permanent ceo is appointed…. “When one is in love, one begins to deceive oneself.” quipped the astute Oscar Wilde. “And one ends by deceiving others”….. Immigration officers from customs and border control absently left nearly 200 guns in restrooms, bowling alleys and other public places last year. Homeland Security promises 185,000 employees will get “extra training”….It’s childishly stupid at this time in history for countries still to be competing with each other as to which can spend the most $$trillions on exploring space. Call in the UN (or something) to organize joint missions to Mars (or wherever)… Nineteen countries are contributing to the $1.3bn cost of the world’s biggest telescope whose 115 separate dishes will dot a 78 square-mile tract of northern Chile by the year after next….If homosexuality and pedophilia are unrelated, what age is the dividing line?…. It was obvious that the brilliant microfinance scheme was doomed as soon as the banks jumped in….So many 12-year-old Swiss kids complained that condoms were too big that Lamprecht AG has made a smaller version…“Prison is a very expensive way of making bad people worse,” quoth former British minister Douglas Hurd….. “Is man one of God’s blunders, or is God one of man’s?” — Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900)

{John Wilcock will return next week }