John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: February 6, 2010

John Wilcock

“Whenever the word sex is involved, people kind of lose their consciousness immediately. It’s like the red rag to the bull. Whatever constructive or educational dialog that might come out of it — I haven’t found yet the waters are actually calm enough to have that conversation.” —

ROWING ACROSS THE ATLANIC is a kind of jaw-dropping prospect to contemplate and the idea becomes even more sensational when the swashbuckler planning to do it is a 22-year-old girl, Katie Spotz whose 19-foot rowboat was featured in the January Popular Mechanics. The boat is big enough to house watertight cabins for supplies and sleeping plus a desalinization machine that will convert sea water for drinking. Her 2,500-mile route — from Dakar, Senegal to Cayenne, French Guyana — is targeted for 70-100 days all of which time she plans to be “100 percent focused and aware.” Quite an adventurer young Katie: she’s already swum all 352 miles of the Allegheny River and cycled 3,300 miles across the U.S.

IF SHEPHARD FAIREY unsuccessfully loses to the Associated Press the case for transforming an AP photograph into his Obama poster, say goodbye to the art of collage. For hundreds of years artists have improvised on original images to create something new (Andy Warhol’s Flower paintings originated in Patricia Caulfield’s photograph.) “Bad poets (artists) copy” says the old adage. “Good poets steal.”

THE TROUBLE WITH TINTIN, the legendary hero of dozens of best-selling Belgian books, is that their author, Georges Rémi, was a racist who was prone to referring to blacks as “stupid.” This might present something of a problem when the books are published in the U.S. later this year. Brussels daily Le Soir suggests that, as a “dignified gesture,” publishers might like to explain in an apologetic foreword to Rémi’s books that attitudes were different in the 1930s when they were written. The politically incorrect author/illustrator (known as Hergé) who died in 1983, produced most of his work in the 1930s when attitudes were more permissive. More than 200 million of the books — collections of the serial strip — have been sold in 50 different languages.

COMMENTING IN A LETTER to Wired about the opposition to vaccination, a Colorado reader wrote: It’s an “attitude which combines stunning intellectual laziness, the erroneous concept that all information is equal, and the internet to create a witches’ brew that we’re using to commit national suicide.”

STAR SPONSORSHIP ISN’T looking so good these days. “Drug cheating, thuggery, and sleaze have taken their toll,” says Forbes. “Marketers are wondering whether they’re getting their money’s worth from their dollars.” For years sponsorship spending rose dependably by 10% a year, but that was before the Tiger Woods scandal and the growing realization that people began to suspect that celebrities didn’t necessarily use the products they endorsed. Last year sponsorship dropped by $100 million (although it still tops $11bn). There’s recognition that “having a star is too risky,” says sports attorney Matthew Pace. “You may hitch your wagon to a person who can hurt you.”

“The question is how come these terrorists are able to come all the way from the border to Kabul with all their ammunition and stuff?” asked Noor ul-Haq Uloumi, a member of Parliament. He said that corruption was involved. There are many reports of cases where guards have been bribed to enable criminals or insurgents to move through the area.”
— The New York Times commenting on last month’s report by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime


A LAND SPEED RECORD in the seven hundreds — 763 mph — is not fast enough for rival teams of racers which are aiming at 800mph — and then, of course, 1,000mph. The current record, 763 mph, set in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in 1997 by Richard Noble’s twin-engine Thrust SSC (driver: Andy Green), is what Noble will try to surpass this year. But months before his Fall attempt, he’ll face a challenge from Keith Zanghi and Ed Shadle,  whose North American Eagle car was previously a supersonic Lockheed attack jet.  “You can compare (our venture) with people who want to climb Mt. Rainier or Mt. Everest or whatever,” Shadle told Popular Science.

      [Why do these egomaniacs do this? What are the benefits?]

THE WILCOCK WEB: If suicide bombers, caught just before they exploded their charge, were shot on the spot, they would get the heavenly reward they were eagerly anticipating while saving the cost of a trial… Researchers at Philadelphia’s Temple University say that it’s just an illusion to believe that a cup of coffee will sober you up….. A hangover is the wrath of grapes ….Medics have discovered a gene through which they may be able to predict how late in life women could delay getting pregnant…. Just when successful women are reportedly anxious to share living quarters with supportive men who’ll do the housework, I’m too old to benefit from it….…. As bonuses are obligatory when bankers exceed their quota, shouldn’t salary deductions be made when they don’t?….How could it possibly be cheaper to build and maintain Mexican prisons in which to keep the million illegal immigrant criminals currently in California jails, than simply deporting them?…..Can those airport body scanners detect a bomb hidden in the ass?… Enough oil to supply the world until the end of the century still lies underground in tar sands and shale, says New Scientist, but unfortunately, it is difficult to extract, in a polluting process that is currently not economic ….Although the Supreme Court still seems sacrosanct, even Obama has publicly joined the growing number of critics. Can it be long before widespread demands for their terms to be limited?….A full-page ad in National Review is offering (for $375) “a priceless historical experience” — attending a two-day high school conference in March at the Ronald Reagan ranch near Santa Barbara…. The father of Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, is called Homer…,Questions about Social Security, Medicare, immigration matters — now they can all be answered by calling a single government number: 800 FED-INFO…. It’s ludicrous for the killer of the abortion doctor to plead justification unless all murderers are allowed the same defense….How to feed dogs and cats in shelters without it costing you anything and without moving from your computer: click on….. The days when people were eager to pay $3 for 15 seconds of sound seem to be over, says Fortune, as buyers of ring tones decline and the number of text messages doubles….. Britain’s Channel Four TV is seeking a terminally-ill man or woman who will agree to donate their body for mummification…..“The special relationship is so special that only the English know it exists,” declared former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder …“There’s no money in poetry said Robert Graves, “but there’s no poetry in money either”… The AMA wants hospital doctors to stop wearing ties which it says are a source of infection…. “The important work of moving the world forward does not wait to be done by perfect men.“ — George Eliot (1819-80)