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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: June 2, 2007


“I went to a psychiatrist once. I was doing something that had become a pattern in my life, and I thought, ‘Well, I should go talk to a psychiatrist.’ When I got into the room, I asked him. ‘Do you think that this process could, in any way, damage my creativity?’ And he said, ‘Well, David, I have to be honest. It could.’ And I shook his hand and left” — filmmaker David Lynch

ONE BILLION DOLLARS — less than 20% of his personal worth — is said to have been set aside by NYC mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to make a third party run for president. “A third party candidate is almost inevitable in 2008” says Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Paul Goldman who points out that third party candidates have affected the outcome of five of the past 10 presidential elections. H. Ross Perot did best, garnering almost 19% of the vote in 1992 (when Bill Clinton won). The Washington Times claims that Bloomberg’s team have been studying the Perot strategies for that year and quotes former Federal Election Commission Chairman Michael Toner as saying that Bloomberg could turn the political landscape upside down, spending as much as he wanted with “more money on hand than either of the two major party candidates.”

AFTER WHAT SEEMS like a long wait, LA Weekly founder Jay Levin’s new magazine is finally out. And a what a disappointment. A big glossy yawn from a formerly hip New Yorker, Jay’s Real Talk LA seems to have swapped interest for ethnicity. Among its contributors are “culture producer” Patrick Herbert, a Latino art collector described as “a gatekeeper of the Purist flame”; a deep Asian thinker who, asked Do you still believe in philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s theory of rhizomes?, responds with “What else is there to believe in?”; a man said to be ”the best Latino motivational expert in the business”; a Hispanic woman “spiritual teacher”; and a ”smart-ass, smart interviewer” for a local radio station who encourages receptivity in “topics of interest to the African American community.” Most of the writing is uninspired which shows that you don’t have to be Caucasian to be boring, although Kelly Potts’ unfunny humor piece about traffic is as puerile as any of the other psychobabble (defined as, lots of words but very little content). In his editorial, Levin says Real Talk LA’s editorial mission is to “engage this ethnic diversity.” The premiere issue is full of shiny, colorful ads and free.

BECAUSE POLITICAL BLOGS are invariably aimed at like-minded readers, writes the Guardian’s Oliver Kamm, balance and persuasion are usually replaced by smug insularity. “The blogosphere, in short, is a vehicle for the coagulation of opinion and the poisoning of debate.”

INVESTMENTS IN SOLAR POWER reached $308million last year, more than five times the figure for two years before reports the Economist, adding that the market for solar power has grown 40% a year for the past five years. A big boost has come from its growing use by both the US and the Soviets in outer space. “At present solar power is at least two or three times as expensive as the typical electricity generated for retail customers,” the mag says, but “within three to eight years many in the industry expect (its) price to be cost competitive with electricity from the grid.” Even with current growth however, it will take another decade before the industry is able to provide more than 1% of the world’s electricity needs. The story doesn’t mention the obvious necessity for the world to start using solar distillation to make use of the world’s abundant seawater.

WHAT ROLE BILL CLINTON might play if Hillary becomes president was the subject of speculation by Marc Aubinder in Atlantic magazine. “The Kreminology of the Clinton political universe is forever murky and subject to interpretation,” the writer says, but so far Hillary “has played it safe and kept him in a traditional spousal role, or as much of one as a former popular president can assume.“

LATIN IS PRETTY MUCH regarded as a dead language but Pope Benedict XVI plans to revive it by urging wider use of the Latin mass. Perhaps as a backup, the ATM machine at the Vatican now urges customers to insert their cards with the words Inserito scidulam quaeso ut faciundam cognoscas rationem while in Sicily, students at the university radio station broadcasts the Friday news bulletin in Latin. Classics student Alessandra Jacono says: “The point is not so much to offer the news to people as a chance to hear a beautiful language.”

THE ESSENTIAL REQUIREMENT for a marketeer today is authenticity writes Bill Breen. “Overloaded by sales pitches, consumers are gravitating towards brands that they sense are true and genuine.” But determining what is real and what is fake is not an easy task when the coffee icon Juan Valdez proves to be a New York actor and Häagen Dazs a name dreamed up by a Bronx entrepreneur. (An imitator, Frusen Glädjé, failed to last). And even well-established brands such as Levis have to keep reinforcing their image or they can get bypassed by newer rivals. “To maintain its integrity, a brand must remain true to its values,” says Breen in Fast Company. “And yet to be relevant — or cool — a brand must be as dynamic as change itself.”

WHEN RUBBER IMPORTS from Southeast Asia dried up during WW2, the US turned to a native plant called guayule and now that wiry little shrub is due for a revival with forecasts that rubber consumption will increase by 50% in the next decade. Indigenous to the American southwest, guayule is being harvested by an Arizona company, Yulex, which has planted 4,000 acres of it throughout the state and is awaiting approval from the FDA to go into full-scale manufacturing. One advantage is that some people are latex-intolerant and so guayule’s best prospects might be for medical devices. “ We’re not talking about just a new product,” says Yulex CEO Jeff Martin. “This is a whole new industry.”

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 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)