John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: July 14, 2007


POLLS IN THE U.S. show that a Muslim or a homosexual has a better chance of being elected president than an atheist, according to the Atlantic, which suggests that “a symbolic statement” against the pious right is what was caused Americans to distance themselves from organized religion. “The more extreme secular voices regard religion as a virus or poison” writes associate editor Ross Douthat, while “more nuanced polemicists” regard faith-based politics as “a stalking horse for theocracy.” Comparing Europe’s relative disdain for religion against America’s professed beliefs, forecasts that nevertheless both continents are likely to experience increasing tension over religious issues.

SPEAKING OF WHICH, THE NEW ATHEISTS is how the Nation entitled its essay on the five anti-religious books that have become best sellers in recent years. “In attacking religion (they) have been… breaking the spell in which every other area of life can be critically analyzed while admittedly irrational religious faith is made central to American life but exempted from serious discussion. Writer Ronald Aronson estimates that “the possible sum of unbelievers” is nearly one in four Americans, and suggests that they have become beleaguered with tens of millions of godless Americans “voiceless in the public arena.” A report last year by the Pew Research Center declared that 49% of those interviewed complained that the religious right had gone too far “on trying to impose their religious values on the country.”

“Geneticists and physicians would like us all to have our DNA sequenced (but) widespread testing could reveal many uncomfortable details about what went on in our parents’ and grandparents’ bedrooms… as many as one of every seven men who proudly carry their newborn children out of a hospital could be cuckold”
Steve Olson in the Atlantic

THE HEART ATTACK GRILL whose burgers are named Single, Double, and Triple Bypass, has done so well in Tempe, AZ, that owner Jon Basso is planning to open a branch in Phoenix this month, and a third in New Orleans before the end of the year. No low-calorie salads are on the menu, nor are any of the drinks low-calorie or decaffeinated. “Yes, we’re against political correctness’ says Basso. “I give people what they want: good food and drink served by beautiful girls.” The “girls” are his waitresses, originally called “nurses” (ready to deal with any heart attacks) until the state attorney general warned that nurses can be used legally only in reference to duly licensed practitioners.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER is an essay in Discover questioning the fad for The Secret which has enticed millions of suckers into paying to be informed that the inexorable route to success is to convince yourself that you’re successful. The method is best applied in the same “foggy arenas“ from which it emerged, the mag concludes. “It’s great for self-help gurus, spiritual evangelists salespeople, and multi-level marketers because it’s based on the same mythology on which they’re always relied&.rdquo;

WHEN THE TRADE MAGAZINE Stores compiled research about shoppers’ attitudes they quickly discovered that the five top complaints were (i) employees don’t know/care (21%); (ii) understaffed (21%); (iii) bad customer service (20%); (iv) rude employees; and (v) staff no help (19%). Studying 7,000 responses from BIGresearch, the magazine commented: “The biggest complaint is that employees don’t know about merchandise and don’t seem to care that the shopper can’t find what they’re looking for.” But, discouraging as that is, things could get worse (when) “Gen Y takes its place on the selling floor. Say what you will about the waves of youth that preceded it” Shopper adds, “but this over-indulged, over-praised generation has real issues with the concept of serving others.”

MOST OF THE PROBLEMS with the once-liberal The New Republic are the fault of its former owner, Marty Peretz, who recently sold the magazine after 33 years after doing what The American Prospect described as ”lasting damage to the cause of American liberalism.” TNR has suffered many tribulations in recent years: plagiarism by Ruth Shalit; faked stories by Stephen Glass; racist fear-mongering by Charles Murray; and literary abuse by Camille Paglia — all under the discredited former editorship of Andrew Sullivan who was succeeded by Michael Kelly with his “obsessive hatred” of Bill Clinton. TNR’s circulation dropped by half and Peretz, “pretending to speak as a liberal… enlisted (the magazine) in the service of a ruinous neo-conservative doctrine” charges its leftwing rival.

THE WILCOCK WEB: “Show business salaries are so inflated” says Woody Allen, “that next to normal salaries, they’re like a pasha’s or something. It’s unbelievable. But I’m not Hollywood wealthy. I never took advantage of the sellout opportunities I had. I’ve never agreed to do Annie Hall 2…” Digital Anarchy’s Toonit transfers real-life footage into instant animation… In late July, the Spanish town of Neves celebrates the Fiesta of the Near-Death Experience when people who claim to have died and then revived are paraded around a local church”… Mat Groening says: “This is my advice to cartoonists: if you want to invent a memorable cartoon, draw characters that can be identified in silhouette”… Would you have guessed that after corn, wheat, and rice the fourth most-consumed item (by humans) in the world is bananas?… We’re fighting them over there to help them rehearse for fighting over here… Black Swan is a slang term used to describe an unlikely circumstance that popped up after you had complacently (and mistakenly) decided you had accounted for all possibilities. It’s also the title of a new Random House book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb which is subtitled The Impact of the Highly Improbable… Quotes from Independence Day: columnist Thomas L. Friedman wrote “Muslims have got to understand that a death cult has taken root in the bosom of their religion, feeding off it like a cancerous tumor” and Sasha commented: “What a country! They traded in King George the 3rd for King George the Turd….MIT’s recent experiments with what’s called WiTricity have demonstrated that electric current can be transmitted without wires and may eventually make wires obsolete…. Broken and unused iPods are bought by, a company that repairs them and resells them in bulk to small businesses…. China’s Kumho Tire company has produced a lavender-scented tire and hopes to follow up with tires smelling of jasmine and oranges…. It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you; it’s the things you know that ain’t so.Mark Twain (1835-1910)