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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: May 5, 2007


AN UN-NAMED U.S. SPONSOR has funded a pair of full-time gamblers to check out the casinos in England with a view to setting up shop there. One of the things Mr. X wants to know, however, is to what extent having constant sex affects a gambler’s luck. “We are a very active couple into tantric sex for as much as 12 hours a day” says Wild Jack (his preferred pseudonym), “and our sponsor’s theory is that sex makes you more alert and helps you to pick up on helpful little pointers you might otherwise miss.” His partner, Crazy Amy, 33, says the 30-year age gap between them is unimportant. “I am madly in love with Jack and think he is totally sexy.” So far, Mr. X’s investment — he’s promised $100,000 a year for three years — seems to be paying off. The sex-crazed pair won almost $2500 their first week.

THE FULL PAGE ADS scream FREE! for an offer of the first four of the new “presidential” dollar coins. All you have to do is to send $8 for the packaging they come in — plus shipping and handling, of course. Truly it is said that a sucker is born every minute.

A RECKLESS RAP DVD called Stop Fucking Snitching has so permeated some communities that gang-bangers are getting away with murder — literally. Witness intimidation has made it increasingly difficult for prosecutors to win murder cases and “brutal retaliation” has resulted in mistrust of the police who are usually unable to provide adequate protection. “In many Baltimore neighborhoods, talking to the law has become a mortal sin, a dishonorable act punishable by social banishment or worse” writes Jeremy Kahn in the Atlantic. “The gang-land code of silence, or omerta, has spread from organized crime to the population at large.”

The magazine says that gangsta culture has been romanticized through rap music and other forms of entertainment… the motto Stop Snitching expounded in hip-hop lyrics and emblazoned on caps and T-shirts has become a creed. “Think how bold criminals must be to make a DVD” says Judge M. Glynn. “It shows that threatening snitches has become mainstream.”

THE NEW LIQUID GOLD with which North Africa hopes to cash in on world markets is oil — olive oil. All but 5% of the world’s olive trees grow round the Mediterranean with Spain, Italy and Greece the world’s top three producers of olive oil. Eager to supplant Spain as leader, Italy is helping to upgrade facilities in Tunisia where 56 million olive trees support more than half a million families. Technology is still so old fashioned in some places that many presses continue to use a donkey walking around in circles dragging a stone to crush the crop. Spain, in its turn, is helping Morocco to increase the area under olive cultivation tenfold. Officials there are hopeful that more olive trees will be as lucrative as the cannabis plants they replace.

SPEAKING OF OIL or, in this case, oils, CFO magazine carried a story about former media tycoon Walter Maninnen who spends up to $50,000 on art and estimates it accounts for 40% of his net worth. “My art assets have outperformed everything else over the past 25 years” he says, estimating that he has averaged 11% annual growth mainly because of his art. Some works have doubled in value, and one painting — Lilies of the Field by Theresa Bernstein cost him $2,000 and is now valued at $150,000. Web-based information has helped potential art investors to get into the field but, warns CFO, “You need a keen eye, hours of research and perhaps a savvy adviser or two to discern good values.”

“New Orleans is the only place in America where it’s essential to have two or three long dresses. It’s an English thing, men in black tie and I love dressing up. There’s some serious partying here. We used to think our friends were just glad to see us, just celebrating our return. Now we know life is like that all the time” — Helen Mirren talking about the house in New Orleans she shares with her director husband Taylor Hackford. (They also a house in Los Angeles, a flat in London, and a farmhouse in France).

PLANNING TO EXPAND its coverage, EuroNews has signed a deal with the Dish network to transmit its almost all-image programs and is in discussion with major cable companies. What makes it easier to transmit in six languages is that there is minimal narration accompanying the pictures – no anchormen, no commentators — just bare bones pictorial, especially the best-known show, No Comment, which has no words at all, just original sound. Owned by a collection of different TV networks, EuroNews runs pictures from amateurs as well as professionals and claims 6.6million viewers.

THE WILCOCK WEB: 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 a 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)