The Column of Lasting Insignificance: May 8, 2010
“American is perilously close to the return of a 21st century McCarthyism…Step forward President-Elect Liz Cheney, the old fool’s elder daughter… in six or ten years’ time Liz Cheney, now still only 43, will no longer be a soccer mom; what could be more natural than a run for the White House?”
— Andrew Stephen in the New Statesman
ECONOMY IN CRISIS is the actual name of an organization that works to remind the public of why everything is in such bad shape. Its latest warning is a two-page ad in The American Prospect blasting the World Trade Organization which it terms “this foreign undemocratic body…operating with comparatively little input or control by us and with no concern for what is in our best interest.” Under pressure from foreign lobbyists, charges EIC, the Feds “mistakenly invited the trade organization to rule over us when they signed the treaty,” since which we have lost nine out of every ten trade disputes brought before this body. Hearings are closed to the public and all its decisions are final and uncontestable. Because of NAFTA and the WTO (charges the website Economyincrisis.com), the kind of “free trade” practiced by such countries as China, Japan, and Mexico puts U.S. companies out of business without the chance of appeal, and we must change or get out of these organizations.
THE FIRST PATENT for 3D film was filed in 1890. It’s an idea from the past (that has petered out twice previously) and should stay there, says Mark Kermode in the Observer. This is not some “creative leap on a par with the advent of color and sound,” but a “con” designed to head off piracy and force us all to watch films in “over-priced multiplexes.” The writer terms it “a carnival sideshow” that adds nothing to narrative cinema.
THAT ELUSIVE BIRD which may or may not exist caused quite a stir when it was supposedly observed in eastern Arkansas six years ago. The ivory-billed woodpecker (wingspan: 30 in.) hadn’t been spotted for half a century before, was believed to be extinct, and in fact hasn’t been seen since. Brinkley (pop: 3,940), previously a mecca for duck hunters, underwent a brief tourist boom with the local barber shop offering a duck-billed haircut (a modified Mohawk) and international bird-watchers falling over each other. Now, after five years of searching at a cost of $10million, there’s a new movie, Ghost Bird, which suggests that even the report of the original sighting might have gained undue credibility from a cover story in Science. Says director Scott Crocker: “Without that article and the magazine’s enormous clout, I don’t think the rediscovery would have had much traction…their editorial staff seemingly looked the other way and gave the ornithologists the benefit of the doubt.” Nevertheless, there’s a $50,000 reward for anybody who can prove the bird’s still around.
AN AIR-CONDITIONED tree house with chef’s kitchen, bathtub and heated floors is featured in that magazine for the rich and extravagant, Forbes Life which locates it in Ramona, CA., and says it cost the owner $300,000 to build. The story describes other luxury tree shelters and quotes New York designer Roderick Romero: “People think ‘tree house’ and imagine creaky plywood forts where kids sneak away to have their first kiss. But it’s moved so far beyond that.”
“Criticism doesn’t bother me — I think I’m being honest when I say that. I’ve never fumed over a bad review. The thing I don’t like is reviewers that say, ‘This is a nice book.’ I would much prefer, ‘Who the fuck does this asshole think he is?’”
—Jonathan Safran Foer, author of a couple of near-impenetrable novels, interviewed by the New Statesman
ALTHOUGH ARTIFICIAL TURF can cost as much as three times the cost of growing the real thing, it’s becoming so widespread that 60 million square feet of it was installed last year in lawns across the country. The Association of Synthetic Grass Installers (who could have imagined their existence?) says that’s a 20% increase from a year or two back, a definite gain over the days when (says their vp Annie Costa) people used to think of artificial turf as little more than “Brillo pad on a sponge.” These days, claim its promoters, you have to get up really close to see it isn’t real.
AFTER STUDYING SOME gross ads — one depicting a woman fishing a purse from a pool containing a floating corpse (Jimmy Choo shoes) — university researchers concluded that some women regarded fashion ads as a sort of form into which they could enter “transported into the story world set in motion by the ad’s pictures.” The merely pretty was merely passed over, concluded the Journal of Consumer Research. “Grotesque juxtapositions were required to stop and hold the fashion consumer flipping through Vogue.”
OUR BARBAROUS ALLY Saudi Arabia, a country which thinks of itself as civilized, has just condemned to death by public beheading a visiting Lebanese TV psychic, Ali Sibat, 46, in whose Medina hotel room was discovered harmless medicinal herbs. Le Figaro reports that the sentence was imposed to discourage “foreign magicians” from entering the country.
THE WILCOCK WEB: Arizona’s 4m illegals are unwelcome in that state yet San Francisco would love to have them. But who’ll pay the bus fares?…. By issuing 1.2bn identity cards, India becomes the latest of almost 100 countries (seven in Europe) to catalog all its citizens….Whoever it is in California law enforcement that’s so insistent on the return of Roman Polanski, must be about to run for office …. If Lehman Brothers’ Richard Fuld lied to Congress about his salary, shouldn’t he be in jail?…..Dow is experimenting with solar panels that can double as roof shingles. “(Could be) solar for the masses” predicts Dow CEO Andrew Liveris….Since cigarettes were banned in Isle of Man prisons, inmates have been smoking tea bags…. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still…..Workers at Carlsberg’s Copenhagen warehouse just ended a strike protesting that their daily three bottles of beer ration had been cut to one….. It’s a blessing that security officials trying to stop suicide bombers believe in racial profiling. It’s only common sense. To pretend that the least likely-looking people are the most likely lawbreakers is ridiculous…..The new protective helmets being adopted by NFL teams include sensors that assess the strength of collisions and transmit the information to sideline computers…. Forbes cover story about Glenn Beck reveals the talk jock heads a $34m a year business including $13m from his books and Fusion magazine…. I respect faith, said Wilson Mizner, but doubt is what gets you an education….After more than 5,000 attacks by dogs on Brits last year, the government is contemplating mandatory insurance and microchips on every beast….If anyone’s keeping a check on staggering new technological developments, they’ll already know about “augmented reality” which is holding objects up to your webcam and having hitherto unseen pictures pop up on your computer screen (such as Shaquille O’Neal emerging from a bottle of the sports drink Muscle Milk)…. And, by the way, real milk is now coming in bags with Canada’s lead being followed by England’s Sainsbury chain which is using them to replace cartons….“The universe is change: our life is what our thoughts make it.” — Marcus Aurelius (121-180 A.D.)