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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: December 27, 2008

“By every measure of American interest in international relations, Condoleeza Rice has failed…Historians will have to explain how a mediocre student of international relations managed to sweet-talk herself into the highest offices of government.” — letter from a Harvard professor in the New York Times magazine

COWBOYS AND POETS, sometimes the same thing, will meet for their 25th-anniversary gathering in Elko (pop: 17,000) next month when thousands of visitors descend on the tiny Nevada town for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. “The bone-jarring job of herding cattle and the ceaseless demands of life on the ranch and range tend to bring out the philosophical nature of the cowpuncher,” declares Cowboys & Indians magazine. “For generations, these sons and daughters of the prairie have found an outlet for their hopes, fears, longings, and loves in poems and songs honoring a life of challenge and reward that is unique to the American West.” Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor will deliver the keynote address on January 24 and 53 poets plus 24 musicians and musical groups will attend.

A ONE-PAGE STORY in Forbes attracted a lot of thoughtful attention. The title says it all: NEIGHBORHOOD NUKES — Nuclear plants are shrinking to the point where they could power remote towns or a factory one at a time.

MICROSOFT, ONE OF the most profitable companies of all time, just can’t seem to make progress against Google when it comes to the competition for “search queries,” reports Fortune, listing the respective percentages as 8.5% vs 63%.  “It is quite possible that Microsoft is going after the Internet with too much energy,” the mag suggests, “or at least attacking in too many directions….And Facebook, MySpace, Google’s YouTube, and other, newer sites have reduced MSN to also-ran status in terms of web popularity.”

MORE CONTENTED CREWS and happier cruise passengers have resulted from the increasing use of satellite services that have enabled emails and cell phone calls to be made from out in the ocean. So reports Via Satellite magazine which says that in addition to enhancing a ship’s information technology, satellites will enable all seagoing vessels to have instant access to electronic charting display information (it reveals buoys and the depths of the shifting sea floor), replacing the often out-of-date paper charts.


Anthony Haden-Guest: What are the characteristics an artist needs for success?

Damien Hirst: First of all you’ve got to be oblivious to other people — the push and pull of other people’s opinions, the way other people measure success. It’s then that you realize that you are 100% who you are and you have to use that 100% in order to create great things. And that’s very difficult, because everyone wants to be better than they are. You’ve really got to get down on the floor with yourself and get in order to make great art.

                                       –-from the December Interview


RONALD REAGAN’s MISGUIDED missile scheme has so far cost the country $160 billion, is still leaking $10 billion a year, and, apart from its futility, “has prompted America’s opponents to build up their own nuclear arsenals,” charges Johann Hari in the Independent. “One of the great things about Barack Obama’s victory is that we might finally see the last of America’s absurd ‘Star Wars’ fantasy.”.

A football-sized field in the center of Royal Caribbean’s 220,000-ton Oasis of the Seas when it debuts soon will be “Central Park” a tropical landscape with cafes,  boutiques, bars, a sculpture garden, an area for chess players, and all overlooked by six decks of cabins.

THE WILCOCK WEB: So there never were any billions after all? Just vast columns of duplicitous figures on paper, manipulated by criminals known as financiers (plus endless print runs of $$$ bills backed by nothing but faith)…. Heading Advertising Age’s Dubious Attempts at Public Relations list for 2008 was RECESSION SPECIAL — “a godsend for flacks everywhere(giving) them the hook they needed for lame press releases claiming that some marketing solution was the cure”….London’s biggest white elephant, the Millennium Dome, will be the scene this year of an $8 million production of Ben Hur with a live chariot race, crucifixion, sea battles, and a staged orgy…. Starting early, Frankfurt stages its annual trade fair for the suppliers of Christmas decorations on Jan 30…. Deft definition: Glibido: All talk and no action…..Computer experts at UC San Diego showed that a locksmith provided with the right software can duplicate keys from a photograph…. Canada’s Iboga Therapy House reports encouraging success with using the West African psychotropic herb to wean addicts off heroin….When the organizations that do this sort of thing ranked female representation in the world’s legislatures for 2008, the U.S. came in 69th — below Cuba, Nepal, and Kyrhgyzstan….. Almost 90 years after getting the vote, women now hold 15% of Congressional seats….Another bargain provoked by the money crunch: the 164ft yacht Alibella is for sale at a mere $30 million, a reduction of almost $12 million over last year’s price…. A Mintel survey notes that 134 new beers have been introduced in the U.S. this year… My person of the year would be that seductive, bewitching blonde violinist with the Celtic singers on PBS…Writing in the Nation, Robert Dreyfuss reports the rumor that General David Petraeus may run for political office… A neo-fascist party in Italy hoping that Benito Mussolini’s name will live on is offering couples $2500 to give their babies the former Fascist dictator’s name…..New: a bicycle lock that screeches at 100 decibels when tampered with (…. All the Art That’s Fit to Print is an appropriate title for the new book by Jerelle Kraus, art director of the NYT’s Op-Ed page for 25+ years but the subtitle points to the most interesting part: And Some That Wasn’t….And seven pages in last Thursday’s New York Times were devoted to printing reviews for Revolutionary Road — one full page for each review….A new T-shirt in the color of London’s major business paper bears the slogan Financial Crimes ….“Force and fraud, are in war the two cardinal virtues.” — Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)