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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: August 29, 2009

“(Twitter) was dreamed up by — and used almost exclusively by — the most self-obsessed, narcissistic, self-important generation that ever walked this earth, the generation that is ever poised just outside the confessional, ready to divulge personal information of great weight to the whole world (‘I have just tied up my shoelaces…’)
— Rod Liddle in the Spectator

WHAT IS IT that comes in a glitzy bottle made of Chinese plastic, from a country thousands of miles away run by a military dictatorship and is adored by Hollywood stars? The answer is Fiji Water, owned by Beverly Hills billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick, close friends of Arianna Huffington and greatly admired by all the pseudos who supposedly cherish the environment. The company gets its supplies from a 17-mile long aquifer from which (says Mother Jones’ report) “the notoriously corrupt and chronically-broke government has not been able to come up with the money or infrastructure to tap the water for its people.” In the nearest town, the water has been deemed unfit for human consumption and locals can buy bottled Fiji Water (at nearly New York prices). The Resnicks have been big-time donors to politicians as well as benefactors to various museums etc. (they recently gave $250,000 to become a founding partner of the Salt Lake City soccer stadium). After Fijians threatened to burn the plant down, the company set up a local charity to help villages near the aquifer. It dispensed $100,000 in 2007, the year before it spent $10million on marketing costs.  “We do so much for these forgotten people,” piously exclaimed Mrs. Resnick, as her company justifies shipping the millions of bottles 5,740 miles on the grounds (says MJ) that ”they travel on ships that would be making the trip anyway.”

CLASS WARFARE is the terminology too often selectively used by the media to portray “the ongoing persecution of the wealthy at the hands of the poor,” declares Extra! writers Radley Glasser and Steve Rendall. And the truth, reports the magazine of the media watch group FAIR, is that the phrase was almost 18 times more likely to depict ‘bottom-up’ action than ‘top-down’ action, one example of which was bailing out the banks at the expense of the taxpayer.

SMELL TECHNOLOGY is finding its place in the sun, turning up in such places as bottle caps which release an infusion into drinks as the bottle cap is removed. Pennsylvania-based ScentSational Technologies reports working with a baby food producer so parents can smell “freshness” when they open the jars. Fortune says most of what we call taste happens not in our mouths but in our noses. “Aromas, in essence, can trick your brain into thinking you are tasting certain flavors.”

SOME NEW INVENTIONS reported by Popular Science: A suitcase which can be locked and unlocked by a fingerprint on the sensor….Atlanta’s Hothead Technologies’ football helmet that can sound the alarm if a player gets overheated….the Rescue Reel, a self-propelled harness with which people trapped in burning skyscrapers can rappel themselves to safety….the Vegawatt, a filtration device with which restaurants can convert their waste oil into diesel fuel which powers a generator… ….green styrofoam (Greensulate) made from mushrooms.

“(Rahm) Emanuel says fuck more frequently than ‘if’ or ‘but’ insists political scientist Larry Sabato. “Obama himself regularly jokes about Emanuel’s profanity. ‘For Rahm, every day is a swearing-in ceremony.’” — from a piece titled Hothead of State in Psychology Today

An effective if obvious way to reduce excessive drinking is to raise the price of alcohol, and momentum is building internationally for price hikes suggests the New Scientist.  If 50 pence (about 75c) became the minimum charge for a unit of alcohol, coupled with a ban on cheap drink promotions, the mag says, there would be 34,000 fewer deaths in England alone, and hospital admissions would be reduced by 100,000.

RUSSIAN OIL BILLIONAIRE Roman Abramovich, who owns Chelsea Football Club, heads the Art News list of 200 Top Art Collectors and is one of the 49 remaining Russian billionaires, half as many as a few years back. (There are 793 billionaires today in a world that once had 1,125).

READY TO FLY at a leisurely 45mph on tests flights this fall is a plane whose huge wings are mounted with 12,000 photovoltaic cells providing just enough power for its four 10-horsepower motors. The Solar Impulse, built by a team led by Swiss inventor Bertrand Piccard, will start with overnight flights, heading eastwards to catch the most sun exposure, climbing by day to 28,500 feet and descending gradually at night.

YOU MAY REMEMBER olestra, that calorie-free oil used to make potato chips that promised not to add weight. What they did add, however, was a laxative tendency which didn’t help sales. Now olestra is back — as an additive to paint that Procter & Gamble claims prevent it from sticking to molds.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Despite the justifiable anger of Lockerbie victims, it was only humane to release the guy serving time for causing it since he’s already dying. There was always some doubt that he was solely responsible for bringing down the 747….Considering how much damage he did to Burma’s San Sui Kiy by swimming across the lake to see her, John Yettaw deserved to stay in jail but anyway, good to see him released, too….If the runways at that Alaskan island airport are too short, wouldn’t it be cheaper to use smaller planes than spend $15 million on a new airport?…..Is anyone surprised that Clarence (Uncle Tom) Thomas was supremely indifferent to a black man being executed even when there was new evidence to examine?….The inventor of the Segway, Dan Kamin, 57, who forecast it would be bought by millions (in eight years, the $3,000 device actually has sold only 50,000) will soon introduce a box that will burn cow dung to power a water purification device…..“The only thing to do with good advice,” said Oscar Wilde, “is to pass it on. It is never any use to oneself” ….The rooftop café at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art sells slices of cake replicating Mondrian paintings….And the cell phone that Yayoi Kusama designed for Japan’s KDDI phone company resembles a pink and white spotted Dalmatian… Deft definition Bozone — The substance surrounding stupid people, that stops bright ideas from penetrating…. Investors feel happier on sunny days but mistakenly attribute that happiness to stocks’ prospects,  UC Irvine professor David Hirshleifer told Psychology Today.  “It’s the halo effect”…Two Roads West, a play about the IRA’s former battles in Ireland, takes place in a taxi driving up and down Belfast streets with a backseat audience of five……Will Andy Rooney ever run out of trivia? ….Subsidizing opera is unfair to poor people writes Sunday Times columnist Stephen Pollard when football fans have to pay full price for their tickets but fans of “high culture” are generously subsidized by everybody else…“Man has lost the capacity to foresee and forestall. He will end by destroying the earth.” — Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)