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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: July 29, 2006


CONSIDERING HOW CENSORIOUS Iran is, it may come as a surprise to learn that blogs (in Farsi) there are as ubiquitous as everywhere else. Soft Skull Press published a collection of them last year, We Are Iran: The Persian Blogs by Nasrin Alavi. In Iran, where almost three-quarters of the population is under 30 and, comments The Sun, “where the ruling clerics have placed severe restrictions on freedom of speech and the press, blogs offer the people a way to circumvent the state-controlled media and communicate directly with one another about their lives.” Some of the letters in the April issue tell of such horrors as the Morality Police beating women for uncovered heads and cutting off lipstick with razors. ( “In a society where one is taken to history’s abattoir for the mere crime of thinking”. reads one, “I write so as not to be lost in my despair so that I feel that I am someplace where my calls for justice can be uttered”.

IRRESPECTIVE OF RELIGION, most of the world’s troubles are caused by young men who are the enemies of us all says a letter in the Independent, suggesting that from teens to twenties “young men (should) be suspended in cryogenic hibernation, while we harvest the hormones, testosterone, etc to run small environmental friendly power stations. And at a stroke, we will have eliminated rape, violence, war.”

ONE OF THE PROBLEMS engendered by what The Guardian calls Ireland’s “newfound prosperity” is the inevitable clash between preserving history and building new highways, and in a country where pagan monuments still abound there have been plenty of disputes. Currently, the battle is over one of the most sacred sites of all: the Hill of Tara, a mere 30 miles from Dublin, the site of monuments since 2500BC and from which more than 100 successively kings ruled the land. Ireland’s National Roads Authority says a highway passing the site is an absolute necessity and that delays by environmental protesters are costing more than a million dollars a week.

A Daily Mail CRITIC says the English movie Pierrepoint is “not anyone’s idea of a jolly night out,” an opinion prompted by the fact that Albert Pierrepoint was responsible for 400 deaths between 1932 and 1956 when he was Britain’s official hangman. “A shift in public attitudes” comments The Week, “brings his profession into disrepute.” The veteran hangman claimed to have done his task in as little as seven seconds — faster than lethal injection.

McDONALD’S HAS BEEN selling off some of its subsidiary chains to concentrate on its main theme, but have retained ownership of Boston Market because “It’s just not that valuable” says Business Week. They’re quoting McD’s CFO Matthew Paul who regrets buying it in the first place.

THE SUPPOSED CLASH of civilizations between Muslims and the West is much less significant than the battle between reformers and fundamentalists in the Muslim world according to the Observer. “The (Danish) cartoons were a handy distraction from the real issue writes Nick Cohen, “ the struggle between theocratic reaction and the beleaguered forces of liberty and modernity.”

NAMING JON STEWART among its Top Ten Newspros (others include Tim Russert, Katie Couric, and her agent Alan BergerTelevisionWeek forecasts that in the fall elections, “he will be the analyst who puts lampshades on the heads of both parties, a talent who will be the preferred guest of morning news programs because he will say what they cannot.”

THE WILCOCK WEB: More than three million plots on the moon have been sold due to a loophole in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty which failed to outlaw the practice…. Prostitutes in Oxford have started riding bicycles, the police report, in an effort to blend in with the students…. Hearing something you like about someone you don’t is how columnist Earl Wilson described gossip…. After studying the mating habits of black swans in Australia — and the DNA of the cygnets — research has shown the birds are more promiscuous than had been thought…. For a mere forty bucks, you can order a truffle tree for your garden, its fungal spores embedded in oak and hazel seedlings…. “Youth” opined Bertholt Brecht, “is when you blame your troubles on your parents. Maturity is when you learn that everything is the fault of the younger generation….” Arthur ($5-a-Day) Frommer’s daughter has launched Pauline Frommer Guides, eight titles a year reports Publishing News, “aimed at adults who don’t want five-star hotels but don’t want the YHA either….” Forty years after selling his film rights to The Graduate for a one-off payment and living in penury for years, author Charles Webb has produced a sequel, Home School, to be published next year…. Half the land in Europe is owned by 0.2% of the population and 0.7% of the US population owns 44% of this country….. The water from desert wells could be desalinated and used to farm fish and shrimp says a UN report which forecasts a tougher future for the 500 million people who live in the world’s deserts and will face less rainfall and higher temperatures in the future…. “The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none” —Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881)