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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: November 8, 2008

Under every stone, lurks a politician. — Aristophanes (450-385BC)

NOVELIST ALEXANDER BESHER launched his new book last week via the barcode on a T-shirt. By pointing a cell phone at the barcode, the potential reader can download The Manga Man right onto their phone, formatted and ready to read in small bites. The book,  subtitled a novel set in the neuro future, follows Beshers’ Rim Trilogy — hailed as pioneers in the world of contemporary science fiction, and which, among other things, predicted by many years the kind of scenario which eventually became Second Life. The bar-code book includes Butoh dance performances and accompanying commentary about post-Zen Japanese philosophy. Besher and his partners plan to develop this into a meta-multimedia publishing venture named

WITH WORLD FOOD PRICES having jumped 83% in the past two years, there have already been food riots in 30 countries, including one in Haiti which brought down the prime minister. To the typical household in four countries, food is the equivalent of energy in the U.S., writes Paul Collier in Foreign Affairs. And, in some households, it can consume half of the family budget, five times the norm in high-income countries. Global food prices must be brought down fast (or) the consequences will be grim, both ethically and politically, Collier forecasts. (Revolution is brewing!\ed.)

THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU, it seems, may not be the best recipient of your complaints about firms with which it is affiliated. Companies pay between a few hundred dollars and $10,000 to be an accredited BBB member reports Smart Money, and some see a conflict of interest. And, say some critics, both its complaint process and those famed reliability reports are designed (in an atmosphere of) pro-business. Almost half the mission firms are members of the BBB, which fields more than twice that many consumer grievances each year. Sometimes the online complaint forms are passed onto the firms themselves (Cingular, for example, paid the Bureau $50,000 for such information) and often the matter is resolved merely by the company responding, regardless of whether action was taken or not. In response, the BBB claims it has to take care of business first and if it didn’t, it would have to charge consumers for the service.

OVER-PROTECTIVE MOMS AND DADS who hover over their children constantly even when they go to college were tagged helicopter parents in a Guardian story. Constantly bugging college authorities with questions, some admitted to calling their offspring several times a day well into their twenties, and Huddersfield University in England has found it necessary to reassure parents by setting up a family liaison officer, available 24/7. This infantilization is even worse in the U.S. says Donna Miller, director of a car rental firm, who reports that some parents even accompany their kids to job interviews asking questions like What will they be doing? Can you explain the benefits?

BRITAIN WAS DESCRIBED as the shoplifting center of Europe in a recent Daily Telegraph story which estimated that stealing from stores had become a $2.5 billion dollar business. Eight-member teams were identified as hitting the motorways to visit town after town, where a typical raid might last under six minutes but yield more than $ 4,000 worth of goods. Watching these raids on security videotapes later. said one police officer,  is like watching a skilled piece of choreography.

THE WILCOCK WEB: The difference between a president in denial and a president denied? One’s a flustered Bush, the other a busted flush. With Sarah Palin’s autobiography presumably now less in demand by publishers, how long before Larry Flynt now offers her a couple of mil for a nude centerfold? Tentatively introducing some tabloid techniques into its new layout suggests that the Los Angeles Times could benefit from transforming itself into becoming a real tabloid. November 13 kicks off LA’s week-long getting-ready-for-the-big-one earthquake drill. Check out for details. The New York Post warned Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Graydon Carter, and Charlie Rose that the garbage cans outside their Washington Square apartment complex were accessible to snoopers after reporting that Weeds star Mary-Louise Parker had her trash ravaged and its contents publicized. Solar panels attractively designed by the Scottish firm ZM Architecture as illuminated lily pads will be mounted on the River Clyde at Glasgow. It is forbidden by law (fine of $300) in Wilbur, WA. to ride an ugly horse. Another of those new words invented in a Washington Post competition: Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating. Democracy run amok\the tyranny of the individual’s right to pursue his or her own happiness above the community wrote reviewer Susan Salter Reynolds summarizing Herve L Kemp’s How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth. In India, solar-powered rickshaws are appearing among the traffic in Delhi streets. Scientists at Limerick University in Ireland are developing self-sterilizing hospital sheets aimed at killing superbugs. Affluent homeowners in the gated Parisian community of Villa Montgomery are protesting in the streets about a plan to build low-income housing near to their exclusive community. Only entrepreneurs willing to give away at least $1million in the next year are welcome at this week’s Philanthropy Round Table annual gathering at Naples, FL. How long will it be before Mexicans, angry about the drug massacres, restore the death penalty? Of all the stupid additions (apps) available for free downloading to iPhones, the three most popular are a clanking cowbell, a man yelling ewooo! and the sound of a stapler clicking. We never really know what stupidity is, wrote Paul Gauguin,  until we have experimented on ourselves. Brit artist David Penfound’s horse-print T-shirts cost $1,395 from designer Martin Margiela but are said to be available on the Internet for $19.85.  Kids’ panties bearing the words Dive In (themed from the movie High School Musical) have been condemned by Britain’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children after parents objected that they were inappropriate for young children. “If you insist too long that you are right, you are wrong.” — author unknown.