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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: June 4, 2011

John Wilcock


“No acceptable narrative for a broader Sudan has ever existed, nor a sense of nationhood; nor the harmony and tranquility associated with a normal state. Instead, the country has experienced discrimination and division, strain and struggle, fragmentation and friction, bickering and brutality. These were the underlying causes of the long north-south Sudanese civil war…Africa’s longest, claiming 2.5 million lives and displacing more than 4 million people.”
— former ambassador Richard S. Williamson writing in Current History about Sudan’s plan next month to split into two countries — or maybe return to civil war.


LONG BEFORE THE new wave of pot-smokers crested in the Sixties it was obvious that it would be impossible to stamp it out. There’ll never be a society in which some people don’t seek to get high and if one thing is hard to get, they’ll seek another. Which is why any “war on drugs” is so pointless.

Obviously, all laws are specific, so marihuana-like herbs are not marihuana, and therefore not illegal. All kinds of plants were soon being sold — ketamine and the hallucinatory salvia being among the most popular — invariably followed by belated attempts to ban them, a fruitless, never-ending pursuit. Now prohibition is getting even harder as designer drugs continue switching from herbal to chemical ingredients. Demand is growing so fast, reports Bloomberg Businessweek, that a UN narcotics control board has urged governments to prevent their manufacture and trafficking. Products such as Spice, Mr. Smiley, Voodoo Magic, and K2Solid Sex line the shelves of head shops, usually described as something innocuous like bath salts. Invariably they are legal by default. “You’re basically playing a game of whack-a-mole trying to keep ahead,” says William E. Marbaker of Missouri State Highway Patrol’s crime lab. And, often untested, the opiates can be dangerous, even lethal, hundreds of times more potent than heroin and causing “racing heartbeats, high blood pressure, and nausea.”

LARRY HAGMAN’S HOUSE was always such a delight to visit. Sprawled atop 43 acres of Ojai’s Sulphur Mountain with panoramic views, it was richly stocked with the superlative taste of the longtime TV star and his wife Maj. From the stylish entrance hall where a six-pack of cowboy hats perched above a carved oak table holding some of his awards, onwards to rooms embellished with an African drum, Alaska totem pole, or Mexican folk art, it had all the elegance of an art gallery with none of the sterility.

The front hallway in “Heaven.”

    It has been the scene of stimulating parties where theater folk from local stages or the Ojai Music Festival (of which Larry was a patron) mingled with the likes of flame-haired British designer Zandra Rhodes some of whose garments and prints — estimated in the $600 range — are now on sale along with so many other fragments of the eventful Hagman life.

Yes, that’s right, everything must go! The heavenly house is empty now, its contents to be sold next Saturday at Julien’s Auctions in Beverly Hills in 413 lots. The auction will be streamed live. The Hagmans, have moved to Malibu, and Heaven is for sale at $8.5million.

Among the artworks on offer are paintings and Hokusai-type prints by Larry’s daughter Kristi: “Here you see evidence,” she says, “of his many pursuits, from hunting and motorcycle ‘love rides’ with Mom, to Dad’s visionary dedication to renewable energy Here you find pieces from an eccentric passionate life that continues to surprise.”


Larry as “JR”

    Starring as the villainous oil tycoon JR Ewing in Dallas (1978-1991). Hagman has listed, in a 150-page catalog, dozens of artifacts from the show, along with his Western garb, his executive producer chair, ostrich skin boots, ringed deerskin jacket and pants, a Colt revolver, sporting and hunting clothing, games and promotional items, a painting of Southfork Ranch and Dallas cast photographs. Dozens of other items include a Scottish tartan kilt and cap, the red hat he wore with his Santa suit when he visited the White House in 1985, a replica pair of Hamilton-Burr dueling pistols (expected to fetch $1-2,000), Larry’s student passport from 1946 and an embroidered, sequined matador cape given to him by the Spanish bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguin ($1,000 to 2,000).

Visitors to the 26-room Hagman mansion, Heaven, always noted the pictures and memories of Larry’s mother, the much-loved singing, dancing actress Mary Martin (who died in 1990) and the auction includes a vast collection of her memorabilia: posters, photographs, and a musical score of Broadway’s 1949 South Pacific in which she starred with a cast (including Larry) all of whom signed the white cap she wore in the show and the inscribed silver plate the cast presented to her. There are also a pair of her vintage travel trunks ($400-600); an inscribed silver box “Mary from Noel” (Coward) and a first edition signed copy by artist Arthur Rackham of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan which Mary played on stage and in film.


London Daily Mail


    Hagman’s acting career began in 1956 but it was almost a decade later with his breakthrough role in I Dream of Jeannie (his co-star was Barbara Eden) that he became a star, and in 1979 Dallas became a huge hit mainly due to his role rescuing it from oblivion after the early episodes. Hagman, now 79, plans to reprise the JR Ewing role in a new version of Dallas in the fall.

IT MAY NEVER be necessary, but instructions on how an inexperienced layman could land a jumbo jet were featured in last month’s Popular Science. Of course, it would be imperative to first be able to access the secured cockpit and then to get in touch with some control tower where an experienced pilot was able to convey instructions. “It’s much like a VCR where you’ve got certain commands you have to set up to record, only much more difficult, explains Dale Wright, of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. But once you punch in the correct settings on the right instruments and then hit autopilot, the airplane does the rest.

IN THE WAKE OF some major break-ins at pharmaceutical warehouses, Big Pharma has begun to realize that minimal security has enabled criminal gangs to get away with literally tons of drugs. The average value of the 54 major pharma thefts reported last year was $3.7 million which were repackaged and sold back into the supply chain, usually to back street dealers. “Nobody is selling Lipitor on the street,” the FBI’s Tom Hauck told Fortune which reported on a sting the FBI conducted by setting up Pills Plus Inc. to buy the stolen goods. “We wanted these guys coming to us, not us chasing them,” Hauck explains. A major concern has been that the illegal medicine can lose its potency or turn toxic before it is used, and there have been some casualties. Apart from vowing to tighten up security, the industry is now planning “an electronic pedigree’ or audit trail that can measure medications as they move through the system.

THE WILCOCK WEB: There must be some way that the millions being spent on alleviating the floods in one state could be used to transport some of the water to its scorched-earth neighbors….You’re never too old to learn something stupid…. More than a billion people already have access to the internet, which means that the number of internet protocol addresses (they identify each owner) will soon be exhausted. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority are working on a new overlay (IPV6) which may initially slow things down…..“The more you read and observe about this Politics thing, you got to admit that each party is worse than the other,” mused Will Rogers. “The one that’s out always looks the best”. …A mass execution of everybody who’s been on death row for more than ten years would certainly reduce overcrowding……There are almost eight times as many distilleries in the U.S. as there were ten years ago….. Midnight marauders were caught sweeping up hundreds of dollars from coins that had been tossed into Rome’s Fontain de Trevi…..What kind of moron can’t wait 24 hours to download a song if it’s going to cost $10 more?….. Moscow’s restaurant king (100 eating places) Arkady Novikov kicked off his ambition to become a world restaurateur by opening a huge namesake place in London. (Russian food? Smoked meats, game, black cod, dumplings)…A correspondent to the London Times said a better way to run elections was for everybody to vote for the candidate they liked the least with the winner being the person who got the fewest votes….Why should colleges that are run for profit get government subsidies?…..It’s hard to imagine a bigger waste of newsprint than the Los Angeles Times’ Ministry of Gossip column whose concept of news is to boldface the names of people you’ve never heard of, having lunch somewhere…. Sixteen pages of ads in last week’s Hollywood Reporter congratulated the new Walk of Fame star-holder Simon Fuller, 51, producer of TV’s Idol show which is now seen in 42 countries…..Jenny Diski devoted 1,500 words in the NYTimes magazine to the “unspeakable” word (which she didn’t use) listing various classic books in which it had appeared. She mentioned when politicians and others had misspoken the word “cuts”….. Nothing you can’t spell will ever work, quipped Will Rogers…With almost two-thirds of its population (and its government) Palestinian, why isn’t Jordan the much-desired Palestine state?….Hostesses from Hong Kong Airlines are taking classes in wing chun, a martial art said to work within seconds…..The Guardian’s John Walsh writes that the prison gates were probably opened to let those 500 Taliban prisoners out and that the so-called “tunnel” was just a cover story…… .“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” — Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55)