John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: June 5, 2010

John Wilcock

  …REPRINTING timeless columns

May 31/08

THE WILCOCK WEB: On May 26 it will be exactly 100 years since British geologists discovered oil in what is today’s Iran…..Serious problems arising from more passengers carrying their bags aboard planes and finding nowhere to put them have already begun…. Author Sebastian Faulks has been hired to write the 36th “Ian Fleming” novel about James Bond, Devil May Care, to mark the centenary of Fleming’s birth, May 28…Guy Negre, a 67-year-old engineer, has invented a car that runs on compressed air but it has limited range: the tank that holds it, weighs 200 lbs, and has to be refilled constantly…. The Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole has devised a “dinner bell” with which sea bass can be trained to enter a steel cage for feeding and be trapped…..Katherine Ashenberg’s new book, Clean: An Unsanitized History of Washing, writes that Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) bathed once a month declaring “whether I need it or not”…. San Francisco is about to designate a dozen parking meters as collectors for donations to the homeless. Other cities that have tried this, report disappointing results with donors opining they prefer the smile that meets their personal hand-out…. “Being a star,” mused the late Sammy Davis, “has made it possible for me to get insulted in places where the average Negro could never hope to go and get insulted” ….. Not everybody loves Sex and the City (which already opened in London) and which Times critic Michael Gove says “deserves to be remembered as an episode in emptiness”… …..“Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you.” — Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)

May 24/08

THE WILCOCK WEB: After operating for one year, that cheap bicycle rental scheme in Paris announced that 2,000 bicycles (out of 15,000) were never returned, with another 1,200 damaged beyond repair…. Hundreds of thousands of manuscripts in ancient Arabic, dating back as far as the 12th century from the “lost city” of Timbuktu, are being studied and cataloged with an $800,000 grant from the Ford Foundation….What we need is a law prohibiting excess salt and/or sugar in canned goods… An artistically-designed plastic key card at the classier Starwood Hotels also serves as admission to a local museum… What’s another word for synonym?…. GreenFuelTechnologies at Cambridge, Mass. is growing algae — green slime — from which it claims bio-fuels can be made faster and more cheaply than any other source…. Now that she’s reached 18 and entitled to the $20 million she’s earned from being “the Harry Potter girl,” Emma Watson, has been consigned (by her parents) to a course that instructs young millionaires how to use their money wisely….“Tact” observed inventor Isaac Newton, the 18th-century ‘inventor’ of modern engineering, “is the act of making a point without making an enemy”….. Harvard Medical School researchers are experimenting with a plan to cure blindness with an implant in the brain…. “Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor liberty to purchase power.” — Benjamin Franklin  (1706-90)


May 17/08

THE WILCOCK WEB: After rejecting hundreds of would-be students and raising tuition for the rest, why is UCLA paying the New York Times a quarter of a million bucks for full-page ads praising itself?….. Using cells extracted from mouse embryos, Tokyo University of Science professor Takashi Tsuji has succeeded in growing teeth in other mice…. Federal prosecutors have described those $100-a-month virtual offices as “a more elaborate version of an old-fashioned post office box.” And those springing up all over lower Manhattan as, “a breeding ground for fraud”….“Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel Dune will appear on the screen for the third time, the latest film by Richard Rubinstein who earlier produced a six-hour version for the Sci-Fi channel….. American children, which make up 4% of the world’s population, consume more than 40% of the world’s toys…..Wheat straw is in short supply for re-thatching village cottages and English Heritage has threatened $40,000 fines and jail sentences for thatchers who use substitutes…. …“I can’t hit on a girl in public like I used to,” Jack Nicholson told AARP magazine. “I never thought words like undignified would come into my own reflections on myself, but — I can’t do it anymore.”…..
John Wilcock” width=
John Wilcock

 Researchers at the University of Minnesota say that during their studies cat owners were 40% less likely to die from heart attacks although it might just be related to the personality of the animal lovers…. “The only way an investor can get killed,” declares Warren Buffett “is by high fees or trying to outsmart the market”…. Computerized shopping carts at all ShopRite stores will soon carry advertising on their screens. And Rite Aid stores are selling a $30 DNA paternity test, although lab tests cost a further $119…. Solar-cell garments with which you can power the gadgets in your pockets will be here before next year….“If at first, the idea is not absurd,” declared Albert Einstein, ”then there is no hope for it”….. Organic carrots and Lebanese soap are among the items to be sold in the shop opened by Prince Charles in the Gloucestershire town of Tetbury (pop: 5,250) which dates back to the 7th century. All profits will go to charity…..The Guardian Weekly called Salman Rushdie’s new book, The Enchantress of Florence, a “sumptuous, impetuous mixture of history and fable…a brilliant, gorgeous and fascinating novel.” But the Economist panned its “mediocre writing,” adding: “Mr. Rushdie ought to bear in mind that a novelist is at heart a storyteller, not a serial creator of self-delighting sentences”….. “There is nothing new except what has been forgotten.” — Marie Antoinette (1755-93)

May 10/08

THE WILCOCK WEB: Now that John Yoo, who handed George Bush his legal excuse for condoning torture, is back at UC Berkeley, what exactly is he teaching his law students there?…. TelevisionWeek claims that “multiple networks” want to make a series about surviving in the urban jungle from Cody Lundin’s book When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes…. After hiring an aroma therapist, Credit Suisse installed “a subtle blend” of peppermint, grapefruit, and green tea in three pilot “sensory branches’ to enhance customer satisfaction and is now extending the idea to 35 more of its banks…..For at least 20 years, Annie Liebowitz has been America’s most overrated photographer ….Guardian columnist Peter Preston says there’s such a “melee of contradictions” about tipping in 27 European countries that the EU ought to set a single standard….Some Silicon Valley firms are proposing more and more “topless meetings” which have nothing to do with clothes but a request for attendees to leave their laptops back in their offices…. Just standing still for 500 years has caused cracks in the legs of Michelangelo’s David statue reveals Science News. The software that discovered this while scanning the statue in Florence, suggests the mag, may soon help orthopedic surgeons study stress on human bodies….. For about $8,000, Spanish surgeon Luis de la Cruz will raise a person’s height with a silicone implant between top of the skull and the scalp. The doctor’s 17 patients to date, have each added about two inches….A Miami music company is battling in court with London-based Apple Corps Ltd. which is trying to prevent them issuing long-lost Beatles recordings made in Hamburg in 1962…In the latest excavation of Stonehenge archaeologists now theorize that the reason the bluestones were brought from 140 miles away is because they were believed to have healing properties….“Virtue has never been as respectable as money.” — Mark Twain (1835-1910)

May 3/08

THE WILCOCK WEB: Bravo to Boston Legal for going after the Supreme Court……Londoners, currently monitored by more street cameras than anyone else, will next month be able to read a new book, Surveillance Unlimited: How We’ve Become the Most Watched People on Earth…..Madonna, 49, wants to remake Casablanca, playing the leading role that Ingrid Bergman played in her twenties…. Belgian artist Delphine Boel, a bastard daughter of King Albert will exhibit her paper mâché sculptures of the king and queen as pigs, reports The Week…. By the year 2012, General Electric will be producing a holographic digital disk capable of holding your entire DVD collection….Combining restaurant and grocery in its new Scottsdale store, Whole Foods calls it a grocerant…..Greyhound racing, once the domain of the English working class — some of whose owners kept dogs in the home and used them to catch rabbits — is going upmarket “attracting a more prosperous constituency,” recounts the Economist…..“My ethics basically,” says Jack Nicholson, “are to live in the now, and that requires tremendous discipline. It’s as close to a religious sentiment as I have”…. Climatologist Gregory Jones points out that global warming will change the climate so much in future years that many of the world’s famous wines may change beyond recognition ….At booming Fort McMurray, nearest town to Canada’s Athabaska Oil Sands, hamburger flippers in fast food joints are making $17 per hour…. Eric Clapton told Esquire: “One of the most beneficial things I’ve learned (in life) is to keep my mouth shut”….. More than one million unsold copies of singer Robbie Williams’ latest CD (reports Discover) are being recycled to surface Chinese roads…. “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” — Winston Churchill (1874-1965)


Three years ago

May 5/07

Pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream are on sale at the 99¢ store — but so far only the unpopular strawberries and kiwi flavor….Mid-fifties man. Recently discovered guilt. Can’t wait to try it out. Box #729 reads a classified ad from the London Review of Books, reproduced in collection the mag recently published….. A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people, opined the great Thomas Mann….. ”Television has raised writing to a new low,” declared Samuel Goldwyn…..NBC’s Tim Russert says he’s offered “a full hour” to all leading presidential candidates but so far only John Edwards has done it…. Regional dialects are more pronounced than ever, despite the influence of television and other mass media according to the Atlas of North American English. Utne Reader says it’s because we don’t model our speech on radio or television, “we just want to sound like our friends”.….. A t-shirt bearing the iconic Che Guevara portrait flanked by Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him forms the cover to an eponymous book by the Conservative publisher American Compass…..The June issue of the cult magazine, Cigar Aficionado, is part-devoted to “Cuba after Fidel”…..Farmers in Bolivia want cocaine to be protected as an internationally recognized regional product (such as France’s champagne) and there is a drive to replace the olive branch on the national flag with the coca leaf ….. Road repair in North Wales is undergoing a reappraisal after the grit sprayed to de-ice frosty surfaces (made from a new blend of sugar, starch, and cereal) was eaten by nomadic sheep…..“Time is an herb that cures all diseases.” — Benjamin   Franklin ( 1706-90)

May 12

THE WILCOCK WEB: Hey suckers! The New York Mint (in Edna, MN) is offering the first of the new presidential dollar coins for a mere $8.98! (plus S&H)….“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make thee mad as hell,” opined Aldous Huxley….The Stray Shopping Carts of North America: A Guide to Field Education was the winner in the Bookseller’s oddest title category this year….. KFC wrote to ask Pope Benedict XVI if he would be kind enough to bestow his blessing on their new 99¢ Fish Snacker …. If the U.S. really believes in a separation of church and state, why does it approve a Catholic-dominated Supreme Court to be the final arbiter of contentious issues?….German doctors have discovered that when antibiotics don’t work on infected wounds, applying honey can be an effective substitute….Pizza Patrón, the Dallas-based franchise that caused an uproar by accepting pesos, reports its sales have increased by 34.5%….New York and London both are planning to cut back on the escalating number of pedicabs which are creating ever-bigger traffic jams (and aggravating their rivals who drive taxis)….Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated….“Perhaps the worst tough-guy-private-eye movie ever made….so bad it’s good,” is how Blackmail (1947) is described in the catalog for Palm Springs’ seventh annual FilmNoir Festival, May 31-June 3 …..British Airways, Europe’s worst baggage handler, admits it lost one million pieces of luggage last year….“Classical music is like sex,” says Rainer Hersch “You never know how long it will last and it’s embarrassing if you clap in the wrong place” …..Who invented the statute of limitations and who decides when it should expire — and why? ….“Madness is a rare thing in individuals, but in groups, parties, peoples, and ages it is the rule.” — Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900)

JW is currently vacationing in West Hollywood,
looking after his friend’s dog and cat