John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: March 28, 2009

“Uncertain times cause us to cast about more widely for explanations of our circumstances and rational reasoning, alas, does not always come naturally when we are desperate for answers….Human beings have a natural inclination for religious belief, especially in hard times…the more insecure we feel, the harder it is to resist the pull of (the) supernatural world. It seems that our minds are finely tuned to believe in gods.”—Michael Brooks in the New Scientist

WITH 175 MILLION USERS currently registered — more than 70% of them overseas — maybe Facebook is taking over our lives suggests Jessi Hempe, and yet its owners don’t seem to “feel any urgency” about putting the company in the black. With banner ads selling for as little as 15c per thousand clicks, he writes in Fortune, Facebook’s attempts to sell traditional ads online have failed miserably. And even the new approach, Facebook Connect, which lets users log on to company sites couldn’t have come at a worse time with online advertising predicted to drop in half in the current year.

FOLLOWING THE SUCCESS of e-books from Sony and Amazon we’ll next see a bigger model, an 8 by 11-inch plastic screen, on which to read magazines. Fortune reports that Hewlett Packard and Fujitsu are among several companies developing the project although color is said to be still a couple of years away. “Our device is the size of a magazine,” says CEO Richard Archuleta of Plastic Logic, “so it offers a way to maintain all the layout, the pages, and the design — and all the advertising — that are part of the publication’s brand.” The magazine says Plastic Logic’s device, on sale next spring, “has the feel of a clipboard.”

SENDING SUPERSONIC JET aircraft into the eye of a hurricane could choke off the impending storm, according to a theory dreamed up by the University of Akron’s Arkady Leonov, an engineer in the study of fluid dynamics. But there are skeptics, reports Popular Science, among whom is Hugh Willoughby, a hurricane researcher at Florida International University. He scoffs that Leonov’s plan would be “like trying to stop the wind with a tennis racket.”

“Blogs are vanity ‘publications’. They are not news. They are not factual. They are opinion — most often disguised as thoughtful, fair and balanced. Many blog entries on accumulation sites like Huffington Post do not contain original writing but come from other posts.”—Peter Stekel in a letter to Extra!, a media watch group newsletter.

A GROWING NUMBER of television viewers are seeking analysis along with their news explains Alissa Quart, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the Rachel Maddow Show which, she claims, embodies the rise of “sarcasm news.” Additionally, today’s audience is a more sophisticated “one that sees more clearly behind the manipulations and stagecraft of its political leaders.”

IRELAND MAY BE the first of the European Union countries to drop the euro and revert to its original currency after observers have predicted it may become “the next Iceland.” Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Gordon Rayner says the country now has 350,000 empty homes, its construction boom has collapsed and companies have seen business evaporate as customers cross the border into British-run Northern Ireland where goods in sterling cost less since the euro’s rise in value.

A few questions:

(1) Why not allocate one specific bill to earmarks and remove them from everything else?

(2) If politicians are incapable of saying anything without reading it, why are we never allowed to see the teleprompter?

(3) If AIG’s bonuses were paid to retain the ‘experts’ , why wasn’t it a provision of the contract?

(4) Why does it make sense to prohibit jurors from learning everything they can about the case they’re judging?

(5) Why is it fair that when a medical marihuana vendor appears in court that the jury is barred from hearing that he had acted legally according to state law? Because the law is rigged (see #4)

THE WILCOCK WEB: If the recession deepens, “the jobs that Americans won’t do” may soon be done by Americans…When unconscionable things are “legally contracted,” doesn’t anybody have the guts to illegally un-contract them? Let ‘em sue and hopefully appear before a judge with some common sense…. The obnoxious Dennis Rodman, Apprentice contestant, is this season’s Omarosa…..With fewer and fewer young readers, why does the NYTimes devote so much space to covering immature teenybopper pop groups?…..Couldn’t the folk who do “closed captioning” be taught to spell and not add additional, irrelevant letters?….Before returning to urbane academic life maybe Condoleeza Rice should apologize for condoning torture…. Rush Limbaugh called the president a joke. Surely this makes more sense the other way round?….Speaking of drug addicts, Iran has 1.7 million heroin addicts according to Hong Kong’s Asia Times, which adds that there are 100,000 prostitutes in Tehran alone and more than a third of the 15–29-year-olds would like to emigrate…. ”Idealism gets replaced by fashion,” says Paul Krassner. “The whole baby boomer demographic has become a marketing demographic”….. “Research has proved that it is absolutely essential to express emotion and anger, declares Sarah Lavely who runs San Diego’s Smash Shack where customers go to shatter plates and glasses ….“Scientists need to hire good marketing people,” wrote a reader to the New Scientist. “The crazy people are already spending millions to promote crazy ideas. Scientists need to counter this and promote sanity….Mikhail Baryshnikov told Details that it didn’t matter to society anymore about whether a dancer was gay or straight. “The dance world was always much more open about being queer.”…. Deft definition: Inoculatte — To take coffee intravenously when you are running late…. Because parasites and mosquitoes have grown resistant to insecticides and anti-malarial drugs, GlaxoSmithKline has developed a vaccine which it plans to test on 16,000 infants in four African countries next month…. Thieves who have been convicted of stealing more than once from NYC’s Staten Island Mall, have their mug shots posted on electronic billboards…. The Las Vegas shoe and leather goods company Zappos offers new employees a bonus to quit after four weeks training to gauge their commitment to the company….“What the public wants is the image of passion, not passion itself.”— Roland Barthes (1915-1980)