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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: November 15, 2008

(Sydney NSW) Saturday, November 8, 2008 The Sydney Morning Herald’s top story in the Saturday edition informs readers that Australian bookies won’t pay off on bets on President Elect Obama until he has been sworn in because, the bookies surmise, something might happen to him in the interim.

WHETHER OR NOT THE RUMOR is true that when the Clintons left the White House they removed the ‘W’ from all the typewriters, the Bush crowd is said to be bequeathing a more enduring problem. It’s a controversial practice known as “burrowing in”, explains Mother Jones, and consists of “transferring from a political position to a career slot, often under circumstances involving a conspicuous lack of competition.” There’s been a marked increase in such tactics, the mag claims, and in some cases “jobs seem tailored to the strengths of the applicant if not created for them outright.”

WALMARTS IN MEXICO are refusing to stock Malverde beer named after Jesus Malverde, a bandit hanged 99 years ago after gaining a reputation as a “Robin Hood”. Malverde, who has become a patron saint of the Sinaloa drug smugglers, has been the subject of at least three venerating movies, and thousands of devotees each year pray for miracles and leave offerings at his Culiacan shrine, to which the Guadalajara brewery devotes 1% of its profits.

THE DOCUMENTARY won’t be seen until next year but the bitching and belly-aching are already taking place in cities where Complaint Choirs are operating. Here’s a project which allows people to sing their cares away. “We want to make a truly collective experience out of the complaints of individual people,” the German artist Oliver Kochta-Kalleinin told Art News. “Anybody can take part. And it’s free. It would be crazy to charge for complaining.” With his Finnish wife Tellerva he has set up Complaint Choirs in Chicago, New York, and four other cities around the world. Sample crooned complaints have been “My boyfriend gets a little pee on the floor” and “I want my money back.” In Chicago, half the complaints were about traffic, in St. Petersburg about unrequited love.

THE RIDICULOUS SUMS of money that cash-starved Britain is devoting to hosting the 2012 Olympics is raising angry protests now some of the extravagance has been disclosed. One of the least-paid officials, for example, is raking in $400,000, members of the Organizing Committee are recompensed $1,700 for attending meetings and 3,000 limos have been set aside for officials and VIPs. “These people say they are building a ‘legacy’ for London,” writes Simon Jenkins in the Guardian, “(but) perhaps they mean a collection of white elephants.”

VIRGINIA ARTIST Andreas claims to have redefined the term mixed media “by connecting philosophy, psychology, political science, literature, and cinematography.” He devoted a full-page ad in Art News, explaining that he does not sell his major works because he “did not want to distract this development with marketing.” The Corcoran Museum in Washington, DC, will stage a retrospective of his works next year after which some will be sold — value enhanced, of course, by the show.

KONA COFFEE GROWERS in Hawaii want to change a state law that allows sellers of packaged coffee to affix a ‘Kona’ sticker to bags containing as little as 10% of those specific beans. As a result, they claim, five million pounds of “Kona coffee”  are sold each year on an island that produces only three million pounds. “If you put a drop of French champagne into a cheap bottle from upstate New York, is it the same thing?” asks Bruce Corker, president of the Kona Coffee Farmers Association.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Maybe the Mormons would be willing to support changing marriage to allow same-sex liaisons if gays would help them revive polygamy?…. Stalin was the first choice of online voters in Russia in a poll for “the most outstanding Russian”…. Writing to the magazine The Trucker, a lady in Nipomo, CA, asked if somebody could come up with a solution (no pun intended) to a little-known problem: the growing practice by truckers of leaving bottles or urine along freeways and roadways because of the lack of suitable places to dump them….How long will it be before Mexicans become angry enough about the drug massacres to restore the death penalty?…This Is Your Life, a big television hit from 1952 to 1961 when subjects were confronted with people from their past, is to be revived by Survivor producer Mark Burnett… After mandating that shopkeepers must sweep garbage from the sidewalk in front of their stores, Montreal is now battling local union leaders who say that would violate labor laws….Would the Taliban become much less eager to fight if the U.S. military really did grease all their bullets with pig fat?….. Solar panels attractively designed by the Scottish firm ZM Architecture as illuminated lily pads will be mounted on the River Clyde in Glasgow…..Police have discovered more than 100 illegal bakeries near Naples, most selling contaminated bread and owned by the Camorra (the local Mafia…..With no parking for less than $5 near Niagara Falls on the Canadian side, a reader of Budget Travel suggests getting a free Players’ Advantage Card at the nearby Fallsview Casino and using the parking lot… Among the awards at Popular Mechanics’ Breakthrough Innovators conference was one to Procter & Gamble’s public health researchers whose inexpensive PUR powder can scrub parasite-filled water in Third World countries clean enough to drink….“You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift,” said Abraham Lincoln….Third-quarter profits at McDonald’s having risen after the introduction of $1 items, might suggest regular prices are higher than they should be…. Government officials in Britain are considering the idea of forcing tobacco companies to remove brand names from their cigarette packets…. Outsourcing has been so rewarding to India, that the country is now itself outsourcing jobs, led by software giant Infosys which is spending $250,000 buying call centers in Mexico and China….Frozen beer on a stick, Hopsickles, are becoming popular at restaurants in Alexandria, Va….. And another self-explanatory book title: Dr. Robert Burton’s On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When you’re Not. With a mini-review (from the Skeptical Inquirer): “Modern neuro-physiology tells us.….decisions are made subconsciously before we are aware of deciding”— “Be content to seem what you really are.” — Marcus Aurelius (121-80 BC)