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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: June 19, 2010

John Wilcock

“My take is that you cannot speak the truth about as many things as I do without incurring the wrath of some people who vow every year not to vote for me.”

SOME OF THESE so-called miracle foods aren’t actually much help says Forbes in a feature titled “Snake Oil In Your Snacks.” The mag states that foods masquerading as drugs are currently “the hot spot” in the packaged food business, quoting the opinion of a cardiologist that most of the claims are unsubstantiated. Particular attention is devoted to the reputed “energy drinks” such as Red Bull. “It’s the marketing folks with these companies that make decisions, not scientists,” declares the University of Georgia’s Kirk Cureton. “When the marketing people decide what they want to say, they go try and find some evidence to back it up.”

BLOCKED BY GOVERNMENT censors from accessing critical sites on the Internet, Iranians are now able to bypass such restrictions via software devised by San Francisco webmaster Austin Heap. He claims that his remedy has been so successful that he’s fielding requests from human rights activists in Cuba and China, hoping to replicate the process in those countries.

A SALUTARY WARNING about what’s likely to happen if your innocent flying adventure strays a few feet into federally-protected territory is spelled out in the Smithsonian’s Air & Space magazine which reports that infractions have sometimes numbered three per day. Don’t Cross That Line warns author Craig Mellow, an editor at Bloomberg News, who recounts how even a careless pilot can come within seconds of being shot down by ever-alert traffic controllers. “Since 9/11 the U.S. government has been in no mood to take chances in the sky or assume that suicide pilots won’t destroy their targets,” the mag says, affirming that spending $1,711 per hour to deploy a couple of $15million jets is not considered an extravagance. “A little Cessna with 250 pounds of explosives behind the pilot is all it would take to ruin Washington’s day.”

WATCHING TOO MANY television procedurals is prompting what criminologists describe as “the CSI effect” according to the Economist quoting one expert who defines it as “the phenomenon in which jurors hold unrealistic expectations of forensic evidence and investigation techniques.” Not only have jurors been seduced by television ‘science’, the mag says, but criminals themselves are changing their behavior having learned to seal envelopes with tape rather than saliva and that bleach effectively destroys DNA.

The Good Wife’s Julianna Margulies says she was surprised that CBS picked up (what has proved to be a hit series). “I felt that network TV had mostly embraced reality TV or franchise shows with a formulaic approach. As much as I thought the writers were trying to incorporate a procedural, Alicia was a very complex character in a multilayered dramatic series.”

LAST MONTH’S WARNING from the American Academy of Pediatrics that hot dogs should come with a warning label because in their present form, they might choke kids, is a bit over the top writes Lenore Skenazy. About one out of every six million eaters choke to death on franks, she says in Funny Times, which is tragic but to call it ‘high risk’ means calling most of life high risk. “Especially getting in a car! About 1,300 kids die each year as car passengers, compared with 10 a year from hot dogs. What’s happening is that the concept of ‘risk’ is broadening to encompass almost everything a kid ever does, from running to sitting to sleeping.”

THAT LITTLE BLACK DRESS that women have always deemed indispensable becomes electrified in Diana Eng’s  LED version, embedded as it is with tiny microphones which pick up the wearer’s voice and light up when she speaks. The dress, embroidered with conductive, silverized thread, introduces us to the concept of “piezo-electric” materials which transfer vibrations from movement into electricity and are turning up in other designs to the delight of the fashion-conscious.

Funny Times asked readers to come up with suggested chapter titles for a history book approved by the antediluvian Texas Board of Education. Some of the winners were:

  • Mission Accomplished: The Alamo
  • The War on Indian Aggression
  • 1835-1850: Americans Liberate Texas Territory
    from Mexican Illegal Immigrants
  • Victory in Vietnam

ALBERT EINSTEIN, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1971, will be the subject of a movie written by Stephen Schiff, currently responsible for scripting the new Wall Street film. Some help will come from Walter Isaacson’s 2007 bio of Einstein (1879-1955) who once declared: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

THE WILCOCK WEB: Shareholders in oil companies don’t give a shit about the environment, so why should anybody care about them losing money when BP acts irresponsibly, breaks the law, and befouls the landscape?…And btw, does BP really need to spend oodles of cash repeating that insincere commercial?…. Robot-driven cars will soon be taking to the highways. The fastest way to get California drivers to shift to public transport, says a letter in the Los Angeles Times, would be to allow anybody with a driver’s license to travel free…. The Professional Elvis Impersonators Association says membership now tops 500…. How many different types of 3D glasses are you going to eventually need?….The original point-and-click interface was a Smith & Weston…“If I had committed all the crimes that appear in my films and books,” John Waters told the Times Deborah Solomon, I would have been given the death penalty 20,000 times”….The Pentagon has invested $10milion to develop an anti-flu vaccine from specially-treated tobacco leaves which are then ground up to extract the protein…Marketing guru Seth Godin says Amazon should produce a $49 Kindle which could be given away to readers who signed up for a $10 book-a-month….Is there something suspect about those Smile Train ads picturing kids with cleft palates ubiquitous in every magazine in existence? Donated space, we hope, else it’s costing millions…. What’s badly needed is an app that will provide explanations of New Yorker cartoons when shown to a cell phone camera…The original list of 801 Jews whom Oskar Schindler saved from Nazi death camps is on sale for $2.2m……You might think it would be almost impossible to make a subject as fascinating as journalism boring, but somehow the Columbia Journalism Review manages it….Britain’s Ministry of Defence is urging women soldiers to carry condoms…. “Wine makes a man mistake words for thoughts.” — Samuel Johnson (1709-84)