John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: December 12, 2009

John Wilcock
the column of lasting insignificance

“An aggressive lack of consideration for others is spreading across the country (and) although people are quick to blame rampant rudeness on advances in technology, the truth is, rudeness is the human condition…We modern humans are a bunch of self-involved jerks, the same as generations of humans before us. We’re guided by quaint Stone Age brains suited to manage social interactions within a small tribe — yet we’re living in endlessly sprawling areas that would more accurately be called ‘stranger-hoods’ than neighborhoods.”
flame-haired syndicated advice columnist Amy Alkon in her book I See Rude People.

DISENCHANTMENT WITH DEMOCRACY has been spreading. Is there any alternative to the current electoral system? Well, at least five current authors think so. Two books — A People’s Parliament by Keith Sutherland and The Athenian Option by Anthony Barnet and Peter Carty — both offer some variation on the idea of a parliament composed of people selected at random (or by lottery) to make the necessary decisions. And Independent explores the role of independents not obligated to a particular party. One of the authors of this one, Martin Bell (with Richard Taylor) actually was an independent British MP for a time. In the middle of the last century, the Houses of Parliament included scores of them. Information on all these books at

LITTLE TOUCHES OF FAKERY seem to have crept into the home-building business since it began to be impacted by the recession. Smart Money says the industry calls it “value engineering” and, what it typically involves, is paint and polyurethane substituting for costlier wood; “double” garages narrowed to 17 feet wide and fixed windows that don’t move.  A massive “wooden beam” above the garage door might prove to be merely painted foam, for example. Builders are asking architects to revise home designs in ways that cut costs without diminishing what pros call “perceived value.”

HOW RIDICULOUS THAT the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is still planning to raise $multimillions to hang Jeff Koon’s railroad car from a 161-foot crane outside the museum. This is art? What kind of idiots run museums these days?

PAYING HUGE FINES is just written off as the cost of doing business for the contractors who do business with the federal government. Pfizer, for example, paid $2.3 billion a few months ago to settle several cases including Medicaid fraud. But the pharmaceutical giant gained  $77 billion of federal contracts in 2007,  made $40 billion profits last year, and is still doing business with the government. Not bad for a “corporate felon” remarks the Nation which says that the top 100 government contractors made nearly $300billion in 2007, the same companies responsible for 676 cases of ‘misconduct’ since 1995, for which they were fined $26billion for fraud.

Cheap Chinese goods are flooding Middle Eastern countries. Textile factories in Aleppo and Hebron are among those that have closed due to the cheaper imports from China whose exports to the region have quintupled in the past decade. Meanwhile, in Shanghai, businessmen are spending $15m to build a replica of Michael Jackson’s Neverland. “His music is a legacy to the world and should not be forgotten,” investor Qiu Xuefan told China Daily.

The Smithsonian printed a picture of Jackson Pollock’s huge 1943 canvas Mural along with the hypothesis by art historian Marianne Berardi that the painter’s name was embedded within.

The magazine ran this interpretation below along with the suggestion that Pollock often began with a diagram, or basis structure, around which he painted a picture. But other art critics — who don’t see the letters — are skeptical.

THE WILCOCK WEB: If Dubai finds itself in financial trouble why doesn’t it just print more money like the U.S. does?….Anybody who refuses to be listed in Britain’s new, all-embracing ID Database will be refused a passport, according to an organization called No2ID: Stop the database state….. The movie Gone With the Wind premiered in Atlanta 70 years ago on December 15. Black actress Hattie McDaniel was banned from attending….Banning old-fashioned cathode tube televisions and seeking more efficient designs of fridges, freezers, and washing machines are next year’s projects by the European community’s “energy police.” The same folk who declared the incandescent light bulb obsolete….Secret Service agents slip up on their security duties and are punished with a paid vacation? Nice job….Have you ever wondered why companies, cities, states don’t make a priority of paying down their debt so that so much of their budget wasn’t seized for interest every year?… ….Santa Barbara Independent columnist Nick Welch suggests that for the same $1m a year we spend on each U.S. soldier, we could hire 600 Talibanistas  (at double their current wages) to put down their guns and go home …..Earning most votes from readers to the question by U.S. News & World Report about which entertainer they’d like to see run for office was Tom Selleck….. The slump in property values has halved the price of islands for which a dozen are for sale off Australia’s Queensland coast, costing about the same as a two-bedroom house elsewhere….. Meanwhile, researchers in the region have developed an apple that can stay fresh in the refrigerator for months…Thriller writer James Ellroy, 61, claiming that “the American language has become horribly mangled,” adds: “I find the canonization of rock ‘n roll especially puerile: institutionalized rebelliousness of the worst sort”…..But he also said: “I want to find the guy who invented sex and ask him what he’s working on now”… Xerox has invented a washing machine with two cylinders, which uses minimal soap and water. Nylon beads interface with the laundry for the spin cycle ….“Most of the cost of drug development is the price of failure” – says Merck’s strategy chief Mervyn Turner explaining that developing the new high-tech wonder drugs, fashioned from living cells, might take eight years and cost more than a billion dollars….. “Growing old is compulsory,” said Enid Blyton, “but growing up is optional”… …As it costs more to make a penny than it’s worth, why make any more? We could probably get by with the 300 million already in circulation…. Political correctness is to thought what sentimentality is to compassion.” — source unknown