John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: July 12, 2008

“The Palestinian national movement is not and never has been a national movement in the ordinary sense of the term. It was for a long time the vanguard of the Arab nationalist movement, and is today the front line of aggressive Islamism. The establishment of a state is not the goal. The elimination of a foreign, non-Arab, non-Muslim entity in the Levant is.” Jonathan Keiler in a letter to the Atlantic

THE COMING WAVE is how the Economist punningly heads a story about how wave power is belatedly beginning to catch up with wind turbines and solar panels as a viable source of renewable energy. Pacific Gas & Electric is planning to install, off the California coast, the Aquabuoy, a long tube tethered to the ocean floor whose bobbing motion creates enough pressure to spin a turbine; Pelamis Wave Power operates a similar device currently off the coast of Portugal and will soon off Scotland and Cornwall;  Aquamarine Power promotes the Oyster, an oscillating metal flap close to shore which flexes backwards and forwards. A recurring problem,  the Economist says, is the power of the sea which has overcome some of the devices. Nevertheless, “big utilities are taking the technology seriously and are teaming up with wave-energy companies (and) venture capitalists are piling in too, as they look for new opportunities.”

IN HIS BLOG LAST week  Los Angeles Times columnist Al Martinez called the editor who last year fired him from the paper “a graceless little man…an anomaly on a staff of otherwise good, qualified people.” But that’s a mild criticism compared with comments from other staffers about his nemesis, John Montorio, a former LATimes m/e who himself was fired earlier this year. This decision was greeted with joy by Montorio’s former colleagues. who accused him of “ruling with arrogance, secretiveness, and closed-door clubbiness” adding that he had a “toxic personality,”  was “loathed,” and called him “deceitful, anarchistic and charming like a snake.” Martinez had his column restored by Montorio’s successor, Russ Stanton, after a flood of reader complaints.

THE INFURIATING WAY that the New York Times treats page 2-6 as a dead zone for news, devoting most of the space to ‘article abstracts,’ is the paper’s way of trying to compete with the Internet according to Nicholas Carr in the Atlantic. But it’s dumb to pander to airheads at the expense of serious subscribers who buy the paper to read, not glance at it. Meanwhile, the beleaguered LA Times could save a few million inches of newsprint just by eliminating the surplus inch of margin on each page of the Book Review. They could use the savings to buy ink for the numerous pages too faint to read….

SINCE BEING RECLASSIFIED as a “curio” by the Bush administration, the 50-year-old semi-automatic carbine — once the mainstay of the Soviet army — has become the weapon of choice among criminals and can be bought for as little as $89 reports Mother Jones. And it’s even more lethal successor, the AK-47, while banned from import, is legally “made in this country” by manufacturers who simply import the parts and assemble them here. Miami police chief John Timoney describes how 20% of his city’s homicides are being killed with this weapon. “We’re being flooded with these AK-47s,” he gripes.

IT’S JUST SNOBBRERY says a writer for the Spectator, referring to the current craze for genealogy that has 10 percent of the British population searching the archives for details about their ancestors to ”bring some color to their mundane lives.” Genealogy sites, writes Leo McKinstry, are the second most popular sites (after pornography) on the Internet which, of course, has made it so much easier for researchers “to find that they are descended from blue blood, criminal rogues, and poor immigrant stock.” Elaine Collins of the company Find My Past explains: “The reason our society is so obsessed with genealogy is because identity politics is the only way of providing us with an anchor in an increasingly fragmented world.”

THE WORLD’S NUMBER ONE wine appraiser, Robert Parker is not the favorite choice of Alice Feiring, 52, the title of whose book — The Battle for Wine and Love; Or How I saved the World from Parkerization — says it all. Terming one of Parker’s favorites to resemble “Hawaiian punch,” Fiering claims that winemakers are so focused on pleasing the 61-year-old arbiter (annual income: $6.2 million) that they produce what she terms “Frankenwines,” speeding up the fermentation process and flooding the grapes with sulphur to fend off natural airborne yeasts.

THE WILCOCK WEB: The Nation has been running a contest in which the winner gets a day (airfares & accommodations paid) at the magazine, attending editorial conferences and lunch with writers….If the Belgian brewer InBev really wants to make Budweiser into an internationally distributed drink, why not choose the original,  stronger, and infinitely superior Budweiser of the Czech Republic?…..“It is sometimes said that the magician’s best friend is a good tailor,” writes Alex Stone in an extensive piece “The Magic Olympics” in Harper’s about magicians’ hidden pockets….Is Joe Lieberman going to be the first person to lose as a potential VP twice?….As Spain faces recession, it is about to strip the half-million British ex-pats on the Costa Rivera of free healthcare… How to Get Rich is a new book by multi-millionaire Felix Dennis, 61, who got his first break publishing a biography of kung fu star Bruce Lee, founded ‘laddie’ mag Maxim and the topnotch TheWeek and has authored four books of poetry…..The London Daily Mirror reports that Queen Elizabeth got up and danced to Abba’s Dancing Queen at a Windsor Castle party proclaiming, “because I am the Queen and I like to dance”….By next month, the number of mobile phones will be 3.3 billion—more than half the world’s population…..At least 75 golden eagles have been sliced to death each year since 1980 by the whirling blades of wind turbines in California’s Altamont Pass……“You don’t get what you deserve,” says Stephen Pollard, “you get what you negotiate”….Sales of men’s underwear have risen by 7.8% over the past couple of years, almost three times that of women’s underwear. Stores magazine attributes it to the increased male demand for “waist-trimming” spandex girdles….Foreign visitors can expect even more delays at airports if Homeland Security gets permission to add fingerprinting to its checking….Public smoking will be banned in Holland next month but marijuana smoking in the country’s 700 coffee shops will still be okay. “Beware the fury of a patient man.” — John Dryden (1631-1700)