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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: May 1, 2010

John Wilcock

“Russia now supplies 40% of the EU’s imported gas and we have allowed Russia to divide EU member states over energy policy. (Its) aim is clearly to increase European dependence on its gas supplies…and there is opposition to the creation of a single European policy that would enable Brussels to speak with one strong voice. Dealing with Russia has probably been the biggest failure in the attempt to make a common European foreign policy.”
veteran former British minister Chris Patten in The New York Review of Books

A HEAVY MAGAZINE arrived in the mail last week, and I do mean heavy (500 pp., it weighs just under 2 kilos). It was the combined issues 26-34 of monochrom, a cutting-edge collection out of Vienna whose editors flew in just before the Iceland earthquake to meet some of their L.A. readers. The first issue of the Austrian magazine completely in English, monochrom describes itself as ”an open field of experimentation…an un-peculiar mixture of proto-aesthetic fringe work, pop attitude, sub-cultural science, and political activism.” And you could definitely call it cutting edge. Articles such as Etiology of Romero-Fulci Disease: the case for Prions and A Mnemonic of Longing are way above my academic grade, but I can just manage to get my head around Cannibalism at Sea and The Medium is the Messiah and even A social-centric, canine-inspired perspective on the placebo effect.

the editors in Vienna

The editors read short extracts of some of these pieces — to riotous laughter and applause — at an Alameda Street storefront, selling a few copies ($24) before packing up in preparation for taking the show upstate to Noisebridge in San Francisco.  In Europe, at least, the underground is clearly alive and well.
Site of the readings, a warren of rooms and basements called the Machine Shop, is a sort of arts lab, performance space, mini cinema where I stumbled upon another interesting magazine called Citizen ( I had planned a quick skim through it but was stopped in my tracks by a provocative piece that began

“If I need a man to really focus on what I’m saying,
I have found that working the words ‘tiny panties’
into our conversation works like a charm.”

It certainly kept me reading.

from monochrom magazine

RANDOMLY DISTRIBUTED to the extent that copies occasionally turn up at bus stops or on park benches, the Rock Creek Free Press is a curious monthly broadsheet out of Washington, DC. Containing minimal advertising, it’s not clear from whence its finances emanate but, calling itself “a fiercely independent newspaper,” it leans leftwards and is described by Wikipedia as “anti-fascist.” Conspiracy theorists will be delighted by articles predicting internet censorship, the Peace Movement vs. the 9/11 Truth Movement, the White House’s supposed ban on certain questions, and Big Pharma’s faking of drug studies, along with allegations that Americans are on the government’s assassination list and “the criminal conspiracy” of the AIG bailout was “the world’s greatest insurance heist.” Unsupported by advertising, Rock Creek says it distributes 15,000 copies and is supported by its readers.

PERSIAN RUG SELLERS are in the second month of their battle for attention, to the amusement of readers of the Los Angeles Times which has been running two nearly identical ads by Pasadena dealers day after day. One claims to be going out of business, the other that one of its (four) stores are closing but both keep claiming FINAL DAYS! in two full columns (50 square inches) that must be costing each at least $10,000. Every day. Each store lists a score of different carpets from Antique Sarouk (reduced from $54,500 to $10,369) to Modern Nepal ($1,950 to $279).

FOLLOWING THE not-very-successful filming of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, there’ll next be an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s equally-famous book, On the Road, which first appeared in 1958 as a 120 ft. scroll of pasted-together typed pages. Much admired by the likes of Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, and Hunter Thompson, the record of Kerouac’s 1947 cross-country trip is being adapted appropriately by Walter Salles and Jose Rivera who were responsible for Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries. According to Newsmax, Kerouac — who died an alcoholic at 47 — became a politically conservative Catholic and supported the Vietnam War.

SOMETIMES THE NEWS is just too much — meaning there’s just too much of it. Surveying the reaction to some recent events, for example, a company called HCD Research (its website is MediaCurves) reported that 78% of its respondents said they’d heard more than they wanted to about the death of Michael Jackson. On the other hand, 62% complained the media didn’t explain the lengthy healthcare debate enough. But when it came to the tsunami in the Far East and the earthquake in Haiti, more than 70% felt the coverage was appropriate.

THERE ARE GOOD REASONS why lawyers are reviled via so many jokes (Dead skunk and dead lawyer in the road, skid marks in front of the skunk) and the main one is the rigged legal system itself wherein you can’t just get up in court and tell your story honestly without official help. The basic principle that every defendant — no matter how wicked — needs a lawyer, sounds unarguable but it never emphasizes that a lawyer doesn’t have to represent some rotten human being. Such a defense is undertaken by greedy choice as must surely be the representation by David Boies of the criminal who ran AIG.

THE WAY THINGS SMELL may be affected by what you’re hearing at the time according to Daniel Wesson and Donald Wilson at the Psychiatric Research Institute, Orangeburg, NY, who explain in the Journal of Neuroscience that it’s all due to something called “tubercle” cells. Admittedly, they say, the experiments so far have been confined to mice, but they’re not as irrelevant as they sound because it may help to solve a longtime mystery about a disorder called synesthesia whose patients ‘taste’ colors and ‘see’ flavors.

THE WILCOCK WEB: If it’s true that the government “(takes) in barely $1 for every $2 the government spends” (USA TODAY) wouldn’t everybody be better off if there weren’t any taxes to collect?…..Soon there’ll be a Goldman Sachs dartboard with the evil Lloyd C. Blankfein at its center…. Condé Nast devoted a full-page ad in the New York Times to congratulating Vogue’s Anna Wintour on being named to the American Society of Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame. Five pix on the page, none of them the ice lady….. “Most problems do not get solved. They get superseded by other concerns,” expounds economist Thomas Sowell…. Launched by compressed air and with a parachute that allows its quarter mile of rope to spread evenly over the water, the Buccaneer is devised to allow ships to defend themselves by entangling the propeller shaft of an attacking pirate ship…….Fifteen hundred lobbyists gathered to oppose regulating the finance industry? What a tempting target for somebody…… Stuff you don’t need, but really, really want is the sales pitch for, one of whose items is a classic novel produced with the names of your friends as the original characters…Why don’t Arabs and Jews move into the 21st century and abandon the cruel slaughter that’s necessitated by halal and kosher meat?……. Gallo bought 18 million dollars of a cheap French wine between 2006 and 2008 and passed it off as pinot noir but nobody complained…. The folk who expected to be disillusioned by Barack Obama are happily disillusioned, but do they seriously think we’d be better off with President Palin?…. Hope is a good breakfast but a bad supper — Spanish proverb