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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: March 27, 2010

John Wilcock

THERE’S AMUSING IRONY in the fact that after ruthlessly and fruitlessly battling against marihuana for half a century, the Feds may now legalize it because they need the money. What could be more American than a victory for commerce?

Rolling Stone reports a Harvard economist’s estimate that legalizing pot could save the government $13bn annually in prohibition costs and reap a further $7bn by taxing the benevolent herb. Meanwhile, High Times is playing its part. Along with listing contacts in 300 cities, from Aberdeen to Zaragoza, who are making plans for the May 1 Worldwide Marihuana March, the mag’s current issue announced the birth of a new spin-off magazine that couldn’t be more topical.

SEX AND RELIGION seem to be irretrievably entangled in virtually every country and hypocrisy always seems to be involved. Mother Jones points out that in Iran, sex outside of marriage is punishable by 100 lashes, or even stoning to death, but of course, there’s an exception. Of course. In Iran’s case it involves the little matter of sigheh, the Parsi word for “temporary marriage” in which an unmarried couple are permitted to fuck their brains out — endorsed by the Shiite clerics as “a sexual escape valve.” Mehr is the specific amount paid to the woman for this little adventure.  The custom is not unfamiliar here, of course. We call it prostitution. “Men do it for fun. Women do it for money; they don’t enjoy it at all,” says Rezvan Moghadam, director of an Iranian women’s health clinic.

Unpublished letter to the
Los Angeles Times:

The lengthy article about Tila Tequila (Calendar, March 14) epitomizes everything that is so crassly wrong about today’s celebrity journalism. Thousands of words devoted to a talentless “tabloid mainstay” whose only apparent skills are being able to attract media coverage via her shameless behavior. It would be naïve to suppose that such free publicity doesn’t enhance her ego and bank account.

The fact that voracious paparazzi have already made her a lame “star” is apparently all it takes to justify an allegedly serious paper like the Los Angeles Times enhancing her brand. There is no hint of disdain or disapproval of this way of life in a story written apparently by some awe-stricken, pre-pubescent “reporter” who was ironically defined by Ms. Tequila herself.

“I thought you were a real journalist,” she reportedly said, “not a trash mag gossip blogger.”

DIGITAL FILM-MAKING has barely begun, considering what might be in store. At stake, warns Forbes, is who owns the rights to a movie star’s image and what does it mean to be an actor in the future. The theme of its essay, ‘A Star is Reborn’ is that technological magic now allows the injection of long-gone actors into new films. “Directors will cast anyone they want, living or dead, with a talented unknown as the basis for a digital puppet on which will be plastered the computer-manipulated face of somebody famous,” says the mag.

LIVE EVENTS SUCH AS opera and college bowl games will be seen in movie theaters more often predicts Smart Money. Such events can fill as many as 75% of a theater’s seats on days when movies attract less than half as many. Updated 3D technology will also be installed in more and more theaters, and serving drinks and meals will become more commonplace. Pre-performance advertising, the bane of many moviegoers’ experience, will only increase because surveys have shown surprisingly that most patrons accept them. And the rising price that customers are paying for snacks and sodas — it’s now $3.09 — accounts for  25% of a theater’s revenue.

EXOTIC AFRICAN FRUITS barely known outside rural areas of the country are to be developed for wider use and increasingly exported. The continent is home to 3,000 wild fruit trees many of which are ripe for domestication reports New Scientist which calls it “a peasant revolution taking place in the fields of Africa’s smallholders.” Farmers are being trained in horticultural techniques such as grafting such species as gingerbread plums (“the crunch of an apple, flavor of a strawberry”), chocolate berries, and ebony fruit (like succulent sweet persimmons). Experts say that the allanblackia tree has seeds which can be processed into margarine and has the potential to earn $2bn a year. In addition to producing an income, the new crops are encouraging young people to stay in their villages rather than leaving to seek work in far-off cities.

IT’S NO LONGER SURPRISING to read about young boys being mistreated, bullied, and sometimes beaten after being committed to a training camp. Now the story moves to an internet addiction camp in China, a “rigid hyper-competitive society,” says Wired which sees the internet explosion as “an existential threat.” China’s 338 million online users have made internet addiction a national obsession. The boot camp at Qihang in Guangxi province states that 80% of Chinese youth suffer from it, and “salvation training” is the way to cure it. The result has been hundreds of the camps are “unregulated, un-credentialed and relying on a grab bag of treatments,” including electroshock therapy administered by untrained personnel. This has now been banned by the authorities who are looking into the whole phenomenon.

THE WILCOCK WEB: After you’ve read Michael Lewis’ book, you’ll wonder: Why aren’t the Goldman Sachs crooks in jail for fraud?…. And when you read about these oversized greedy companies suing each other don’t you hope they’ll both go bankrupt?…. Speaking of which, what kind of a crazy financial system allows somebody to buy (and then bankrupt) a company with its own money? (See Manchester United & Malcolm Glazer, the Los Angeles Times & Sam Zell etc. )…..New York dietician Ken Glassman suggests a plate of artichokes every day is a good way to lose weight. “It’s low-calorie and takes a while to eat”…. Senator Mitch McConnell’s pathto-nowhere tactics are excellent proof of why Kentucky is regarded as “flyover country”…..Thousands of priests all over the world have been diddling young altar boys for decades, so why have the German cases only just come to light?….Celebrating its 75th anniversary with a circular board, Monopoly has added electronic sound effects…..

A supermarket chain in England has introduced super-soft toilet paper crafted partly of cashmere…. Ironic indeed, that the Salvation Army used to be castigated for harboring gays and now it’s criticized for keeping them out……It seems inevitable that food or funds donated to poor countries will be ripped off by corrupt officials. Does anybody ever follow up on these billion-dollar give-aways?…..Abandoned watermelons, formerly left to rot in the field, are now being transformed into biofuel… One-time beauty queen Anita Bryant whose major fame stemmed from trashing gays while she was pitching Florida orange juice in the Sixties, will be the subject of an HBO biopic…. This year, the 20th  anniversary of Carlos Slim Helú’s rip-off of Mexican telephone customers, he became the world’s richest man…. South of the Border, Down ex-a-foe Way….They’re still touting the Turin Shroud claiming that it once wrapped Jesus. Two million visitors are expected to attend when it goes on show next month, but in 1988 carbon dating said it originated just a few hundred years ago… … Simon Cowell, boss of the stupendously over-promoted American Idol, a talent contest for amateur singers, is quitting to introduce the X Factor, a  talent contest for amateur singers….For one more month, the Smithsonian Museum is exhibiting one of those tiny Tata Nao cars that sells in India for under $2,500… Do Muslim women bump the ground with their noses in prayer five times a day, too? Never seen a picture….A Michigan firm has invented a passenger seat belt that inflates to five times its size when the car is in a collision….If he can raise $500 million in the next seven years, physicist John Hunter claims his 3,600-ft gun will be able to shoot objects to an orbital outpost in space for $250 per pound compared with twenty times that cost by rocket…. The support that Israel has lost by its determination to keep building where it shouldn’t, is incalculable ….. “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false and by the rulers as useful.” — Seneca the Younger (c.4BC to AD 65)