John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: July 10, 2010

John Wilcock

what follows are reprints of columns
that have already appeared on this site


June 2, 2007

THE WILCOCK WEB: South Africa, scene of the 2010 World Cup, is thinking of changing its laws to allow prostitution and drinking in public after noticing the popularity of both at the 2006 WC in Germany (where there are 400,000 legal prostitutes)….Facility Architects, a British firm, hopes to develop “vibration-harvesting sensors” which embedded in heavy-trafficked grounds such as bus and rail stations, can capture and store the energy for re-use….Frank Abagnale, whose brazen $2m swindling impersonations inspired a movie (Catch Me If You Can) has authored a book about identity theft in which he recommends avoiding the use of checks, which carry too much ID that can be stolen…. “Any party that takes credit for the rain, must not be surprised if its opponents blame it for the drought,” remarked Dwight Morrow…. London’s Citadel Press will in June publish: Filthy, Funny and Totally Offensive: Jokes so Dirty Comedians and Entertainers Only Tell Them to Each Other ….Dr. Songpol Smsri, a Thai scientist, has just completed 30 years of research producing a hybrid durian so that the Asian fruit will no longer be the smelliest in the world….Mandated by the government, all food and drink advertisements in France must now include a simple health warning (avoid too much fat, salt, sugar….exercise regularly, etc)……“I have always joked that the growth industries are gay divorce and tattoo removal,” confesses outlandish movie director John Waters …..And now, from the London publisher Hodder: The Manga Bible, “highlighting some of the less well-known stories”…. Skybus Airlines, a new no-frills carrier in Columbus, Ohio, which carries advertising in and on its planes, is offering ten seats on every flight for $10 each….. “There is no such source of error as the pursuit of absolute truth.” — Samuel Butler (1835-1902)


June 9, 2007

THE WILCOCK WEB:   How curiously the Madeleine kidnapping case echoes that of Jon Benet Ramsey all those years ago…. Donating her collection of 50,000 jokes to the Smithsonian, Phyllis Diller, 89, had some advice for aspiring comics: “Go out and try it, and if you find out from the audience that you’re not funny, quit …..For the eighth successive year, Jacob is the favorite baby name in the U.S. and — for the 11th successive year — Emily for girls….. More companies are expected to copy the strategy of Coca-Cola and L’Oreal which has devised a soft drink that contains skin care treatment …..Glasgow-based Beautiful Vending, which has sold 700 of its coin-operated hair-straightening irons in Britain’s restrooms ($2 per minute), brings the concept to the U.S. next month….. “People who value their privileges above their principles”  cautioned Dwight Eisenhower, “soon lose both”… Maybe the single most useless gift on record, is the solitary white shoe (autographed by Pat Boone) offered in a sweepstake by the rightwing publisher American Compass…. Screening Casino Royale on some of its flights, British Airways airbrushed rival Richard Branson out of one scene…. How did the Soviets counter NASA spending $1 million to develop a pen that would write in space? They took a pencil…After grossing more than half a million dollars a week, the London production of Equus starring Daniel (Harry Potter) Radcliffe closes next week, opening on Broadway next year….Prozac’s new version for dogs is said to have a tasty beef flavor….Tracy Mann, a UC psychologist, says that when most people quit ”yo-yo dieting” they’re heavier than when they began….Writer H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that  someone, somewhere may be happy”….New mail order item:  a solar-powered talking bible ($120)….“Tis easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow it– Benjamin Franklin (1706-90).


June 23/07

With exacting idiocy, British churches have been told to post No Smoking signs in their entrances….The Elvis Presley Taking Care of Business Tribute Revolver, a .357 Magnum bearing an engraved picture of the late singer, is offered for $2,195 by a Virginia mail order company…. Jack Kerouac’s hometown of Lowell, MA, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his novel, On the Road…..The most popular new restaurant in Italy is inside the Fortezza Medicea prison near Pisa, where 120 carefully screened diners each night pay $33 for gourmet meals cooked by a convicted murderer and his fellow prisoners….. “The law does not content itself with classifying and punishing crime,” wisely said Norman Douglas, “it invents crime ”…..A surgeon’s skill at playing video games made them more proficient at controlling the tiny instruments inside a patient’s body (laparoscopic techniques) according to a study by New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center…..In its ludicrous drive to be “eco-friendly,” the British weapons company BAE, says it is developing lead-free bullets… A letter writer to Business Week reveals that Starbuck’s keeps a “secret” stash of ceramic cups in which you can ask for your coffee to be served ….. London publisher Duncan Baird’s first fiction series will be imaginary conversations (Coffee With…) with such names as Marilyn Monroe, Oscar Wilde, and Plato….“Politics is an honest effort to misunderstand each other,’’ mused Robert Frost….. “We have entered the Me-lennium. All the world is screaming Me! Me! Me! “ writes TV critic Tom Shales. “And every me has a story they deem themselves entitled, even mandated, to share.” — “All is ephemeral — fame and the famous as well.”— Marcus Aurelius (AD120-180)


June 30/07

THE WILCOCK WEB: Now that we’ve learned that all senators and most of Congress are multi-millionaires, what a pity there isn’t a law mandating that they use their own money for re-election, thus no longer being beholden to all the people who bribe them…. With a 50% chance of rain falling on August 8 as the Beijing Olympics opens next year (based on 30 years of records), authorities will have five planes standing by loaded with silver-iodine pellets to seed the clouds ….Referring to the new $600million U.S Embassy in Baghdad, Hong Kong’s Asia Times comments: “Nothing more perfectly sums up the futility of George Bush’s war than this perfect folly”… All new cars are to be equipped with automatic tire-monitors after research has shown that under-inflated tires lead to the wastage of more than one billion gallons of gas each year…. The demand for private jet planes — which can cost up to $50million — is so huge, says the Wall Street Journal, that potential buyers may have to wait “several years” for delivery …. For the first time in more than a century, houses with thatched roofs (whose insulation reduces utility bills) are being built in England….. “When people are free to do as they please,” explained Eric Hoffer, “they usually imitate each other”…. The lease on Manhattan’s iconic Tavern on the Green doesn’t expire until the end of 2009 but already greedhead Donald Trump is bidding to take it away from the daughter of legendary restaurateur Warner LeRoyLucy O’Donnell, a 43-year-old housewife in Surrey, was the subject of a painting surrounded by stars by John Lennon’s son Julian when they were in school together 40 years ago. Julian told his father he’d titled it Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. The song came later….“Doing something is a damn sight better than being someone,” observed British columnist Roy Hattersley……20% of the intrusive CCTV cameras in the world keep an eye on the British…Clint Eastwood will write the introduction to the Warner Brothers history being written by Richard Schickel and George Perry. There’ll also be a TV documentary….“The men who make revolutions are always despised by those who profit from them.” — Francoise Guizot (1787-1874)


June 7/08

THE WILCOCK WEB: What phony ”incident” will the Bushies manufacture to justify an attack on Iran just before the November election?…. After incomprehensible French novelist, Michael Houellebecq called his mother, Lucie Ceccaldi, 83, an “old slut’ in one of his books, she responded with a book of her own in which she terms him “a little upstart willing to do anything for fame and fortune”…. “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die,” in the opinion of Carrie Fisher…..Maybe you hadn’t noticed how many English candy bars are now licensed to Hershey’s — Nestle’s Rolo along with some the in the Cadbury range. Kraft makes the Swiss Toblerone but so far no company has grabbed France’s delicious Nuts…Whisky Magazine voted a Japanese single malt ($300 a bottle) best in the world….The world’s fifth richest man, Mukesh Ambani (a $43bn petro-chemicals tycoon) is building himself a 27-story, $1.7bn house in Bombay. Six floors are devoted to parking and there’s an “ice room” (it gets hot in Bombay)…Three years after his death, the best program on television, Classic Arts Showcase, just celebrated its 14th anniversary in May with a tribute to its visionary founder, Lloyd E. Rigler…. …..“I tend to think that the more people like something, the worse it is,” suggests Laurie Anderson….This month, Take Me Out to the Ball Game will become the first song to be featured on a US postage stamp…. Why isn’t phonetic spelled the way that it sounds? …..Local activist Dmitris Lambrou says residents of the Greek island of Lesbos have suffered “psychological and moral rape” by the “seizure” of their name by gay women…..“Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.” — Samuel Butler (1612-80)

June 14/08

THE WILCOCK WEB: The first thing Obama should do is to dump the embarrassingly ego-driven Terence McAuliffe…..Something similar could be said about the “sleazy and slimy” Todd S. Purdum who now can be seen as a boring addition to those tedious Sunday morning pundits…..“The adversarial system is premised on the theory that if you have two liars testifying, the truth will come out,” writes Professor David Bernstein in the Iowa Law Review ….Being exposed to a familiar logo triggers associations that affect our behavior, claims Duke University professor Gavan Fitzsimons, with experiments that seemed to indicate, for example, that when we regarded a logo with trust we were more likely to answer subsequent questions truthfully …..Mike Sheldrake has created a working surfboard from cardboard covered with fiberglass….London’s Daily Express charges that British jails are in a state of anarchy and that drugs are so prevalent that prisoners are smuggling them out to sell on the street….Salman Rushdie, the 1981 winner of Britain’s annual Booker Prize, is 6-4 bookie’s favorite to win the Best of Booker, an extra award to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the famed literary prize….Judging by CBS’s new show Password, it doesn’t matter how puerile the program is, Regis Philbin seems always willing to host it…. Thousands of gas station owners are on a waiting list to pay $650 to have their pumps retrofitted so they can charge more than $3.99 per gallon. Or they can pay $10,000 for a new electronic pump….After already being used to contain everything from soup to orange juice, the aluminum-coated paperboard known as Tetra Pak has been discovered by vintners as perfect to hold wine…. Striving to outdo the iPhone, several companies are working on designs for a cell phone with a built-in video projector….  “The wise and brave dares own that he was wrong.” — Benjamin Franklin (1706-90)


June 21/08

THE WILCOCK WEB: A program called Fail-Safe being built into new computers allows users to track its whereabouts if a thief, after stealing it, tries to connect to the Internet….In his Guardian review for the new production of Pygmalion in London, Michael Billington claims it “far superior to the sugar-candied My Fair Lady that Lerner and Loewe fashioned from it.” And Higgins loses Eliza at the end…….London’s White Cube Gallery is offering — for $1.2 million — a dozen early Hitler paintings that Jake Chapman and his brother Dinos have amended by adding psychedelic rainbows, hearts, and stars to the original Hitler works (which cost them $220,000)….“If at first, you don’t succeed, failure may be your style,” observed Quentin Crisp…. A July book from Simon & Schuster, The Fall of the House of Bush, is by Craig Unger who describes its subject as driven by “delusional idealism and ideological and religious zeal” …..If marriage must be redefined, why approve same-sex but not polygamy?….Steve Chandler, a Brit, has invented the Titan Air Jack which is a bag attached to the exhaust pipe and extends under the car to raise it from the ground as it is inflated by running the engine…..Taking seemingly flattering phrases out of context from reviews to bolster ads for plays and films will be banned under new EU laws…. When you go to buy, use your eyes not your ears chides the old Czech proverb…. Ben Gulak’s prototype for a new electric motorcycle has two wheels side by side and gyroscope to keep it balanced. “He who seeks problems will always find them or, if not, invent them.” — Chinese proverb


June 28/08

If they banned speculation in oil futures, surely people wouldn’t stop buying and selling it? But the price would drop…. Nevada’s Renewal Fuels is selling a machine ($3,100) that allows anybody to convert used cooking oil into bio-diesel fuel….  A psychologist at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, Professor Adrian North, claims that music influences our sense of taste because the brain, when stimulated by “powerful sounds” is more ready “to confer power on what is being tasted”…..A Maine seafood firm allows lobster lovers to buy the rights to an individual trap ($3,000) and have shipped to them the 40 to 60 lobsters it captures each year….The Feds says they discovered a restaurant where nine people got salmonella from tainted tomatoes but that they can’t trace the source. Ever think of asking the restaurant where they got the tomatoes?….A coalition of store owners including Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreen, and Macy’s are lobbying for legislation requiring auction sites to disclose more information about high-volume sellers after disclosures that about 18% (around $5.4 billion) of all stolen goods are sold via the Internet….. Arguing for better use of phonetics instead of teaching “15th-century spelling to 21st-century pupils,” teachers attending a conference at Coventry University seek to change confusion over words like “caught and court” and “cough and through”….A letter writer in the London Times says that the fig leaf is unlikely to have covered Adam and Eve’s sensitive body parts because it contains “an extremely powerful enzyme — ficin….so powerful it burns earthworms which crawl over the leaves”. …. Popular Science magazine’s Reader Idea of the Month is the man who says because millions of office and shop doors are opened and closed every day, generators could be attached to charge batteries….. “Give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth.” — Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)