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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: April 19, 2008

The God of the Old Testament is “arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction: jealous and proud of it, a petty, unjust unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomachistic, capriciously malevolent bully” — Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion (2006)

WHO HAS INHERITED the dream? asked Ebony magazine reporting on the battle between Martin Luther King’s heirs for control of the Center for Non-Violent Social Change that bears his name. All of King’s surviving children are on the board along with his sister, Christine King Farris, but her son — King’s nephew, Isaac N. Farris — has a different vision for the Center’s future according to Ebony. Meanwhile, another dispute centers on the three-story granite statue of King by the Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin scheduled to rise on the National Mall. Atlanta-based artist Gilbert Young calls the assignment “a national disgrace” and asserts that the job should have gone to Black sculptor Ed Dwight who, in turn, says the statue doesn’t even look like King who would be ‘spinning in his grave’ if he could see it.

THE SWEDISH STORE Ikea, with its reputation for innovations, last month introduced the world to the husselmarkt, or organized furniture swap, to which 250 customers in Amsterdam brought items they could exchange with each other. Ikea’s rationale was that having rearranged their living space, participants might then be prompted to buy some new items to complete the makeover.

OTHER COUNTRIES HAVE ARMIES, “but Pakistan’s army has a country,” declares the Spectator in a story revealing that the army owns 12% of the land and the 100 most senior military officials are worth at least $7 billion. Most of its data comes from a 2007 book, Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, which has been banned in the country itself for disclosing that in a country where average incomes are $3,000 a year, top brass (including President Musharraf) are billionaires and the military runs everything from bakeries and banks to heavy industry. “Its flagrant profiteering engenders huge resentment in rural and smaller provinces,” says the mag, “where the army is increasingly seen as an invading force rather than a protector.”

DESPITE CRITICISM FROM the FDA which prompted the earlier recall of its energy drink called Cocaine, Nevada’s Redux Beverages has reissued the drink along with a video ( in which the red cans ambush and crush a blue and silver can of Red Bull.

“I get asked a lot, ‘What’s it like to write in Brooklyn?’ I get invited to do panels with other Brooklyn writers to discuss what it’s like to be a writer in Brooklyn. I expect it’s like writing in Manhattan but there aren’t many tourists walking very slowly in front of you when you step out for a coffee.” — Colson Whitehead in a New York Times piece entitled “I Write In Brooklyn. Get Over It”.

ASKED BY THE MAGAZINE Psychology Today why he is always silent onstage, 60-year-old, single-named magician Teller replied: “To strip away absolutely everything except the purest action, occasionally in college I did fraternity parties and I found out that if I didn’t talk, didn’t use music, and just got these compelling stories going that people had to put together, there was a power to that, a power that completely disabled hecklers.” The former Latin teacher said he and his partner Penn Jilette shared artistic taste but fought their way to new ideas. “We disagree all the time and we don’t disagree very politely.”

AN EARLIER ART PIECE called Make a Salad will be revived at London’s Tate Modern museum next month to the music of Mozart and the sounds of chopping the ingredients (lettuce, cucumber, carrots, tomatoes) relayed over loudspeakers to the 300-strong audience. Head chef will be Fluxus artist Allison Knowles, assisted by members of the museum’s catering department. An earlier Knowles’ performance consisted of her eating a tuna fish sandwich at the same time every day.

DESPITE WORLDWIDE PROTESTS, Japan has promised to kill 1,000 whales this year, ostensibly for “scientific research” although critics claim that this is a cover for the industrial-scale hunting of whales for food. After the whales are killed and processed at sea, the meat is sold and served in restaurants. “Some humpback experts point out that it is not necessary to kill whales to study them,” writes Virginia Morrell in the Smithsonian. Adult humpbacks grow as long as 50 feet and weigh up to 50 tons.

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 Sarkovy…. Among the items for sale ($2million) at the Millionaire Fair at Korteijk, 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 40c 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)