John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: October 24, 2009

John Wilcock
the column of lasting insignificance

In an effort to pay bills of hundreds of thousands of dollars for leaking roofs and collapsing outbuildings, enormous English country homes are being rented out for orgies and porn shoots.  Maintenance and repair bills can cost $15,000 or more each month, says the Sunday Times Magazine but directors of porn movies are willing to pay up to $7,000 a day for the elegant backgrounds behind their cavorting couples.  One American director explained, “We’ve got a Victorian piece coming up soon and you can’t shoot a girl in a corset walking around a trailer park.  You really need a grand scale.  These houses are filled with texture, sophistication, and the smell of leather.” Country homes are also gaining in popularity for weddings and more than one venue has managed to pull off double duty with a wedding upstairs simultaneously with an S&M sex club orgy taking place in the basement dungeons.

The legend about Colman’s mustard (invented in 1814) is that Mr. Colman made a fortune from the amount people left on their plates.  But the famed English condiment has dropped 5.2 percent of its sales recently as customers shift to smoother or blander French and American versions. Salesman Mark Bosworth told The Grocer Magazine that young people have lost their taste for Colman’s and it needs to be given a new image.

The supermarket chain Waitrose’s purchase of food products company Duchy Originals (owned by Prince Charles) “raises uncomfortable questions of potential conflicts,” charges Jon Temple, author of the deliciously named Living Off the State: a Critical Guide to Royal Finance.” Duchy originals, says Temple “has been able to exploit what is most definitely a public asset…to promote the Prince, his charities and his pet causes, seemingly without Parliamentary authorization or any fee payable to the Exchequer.”

CLAIMING TO BE the first city shopping center to launch itself online as a virtual world, will appear with buses running up and down Oxford, Regent, and Bond streets, and billboards streaming film trailers from Leicester Square cinemas. Project director Alex Wrottesley promises that a link with Facebook will allow friends to meet and go shopping together. Boldly promising that the realism will even include actual weather in real time, the organizers may have forgotten how often it rains in November.

“Even from the trite snippets of information gathered here, it is as clear as crystal that he is a world-class control freak.   The fear of saying something deep and wrong that eminates from the book can be smelled from the other side of the bookshop.” — Waldenmar Januszczak reviewing the autobiography of art dealer Charles Saatchi.

Funerals in the sky are becoming popular with a dozen different companies ready to zoom your remains into space.  Bristol’s Heaven on Earth charges about $7000 to send you off returning “as a shooting star.”  Orbiting the moon costs $8000 and for $14,000 Heavens Above Fireworks offers a ten-minute aerial show.

ANNOYED BY UPGRADES in technology almost every day, a group of “refuseniks” have begun to question the logic of staying “state of the art.”  A new website, encourages people to think before they upgrade and get the most out of their existing equipment. In Indonesia, Abram Tam asks “why buy something new when the old one still does its job?”  He maintains you don’t have to be technically minded to fix older gadgets, “the parts are everywhere and older gadgets seemed to be made from better materials.”  England’s Arid Dash talks about the incessant focus on what’s new on the market, “it makes even those of us who have great fancy expensive devices feel we are slipping behind.”  In a story in the Independent, headed “The High Refuseniks,” Nick Harding comments:  “Modern day digital appliances are mayflies, beautiful but fleeting, useful for a few months before they outline their purpose and wither away.”

Commenting on the environmental book tour by Margaret Atwood, in which the Canadian novelist eschewed meat, wore black clothes (to minimize washing), and demanded programs printed on recyclable paper, London columnist Terence Blader wrote “there is something fairly absurd about her boastful eco-exhibitionism.”

THERE’S NOT MUCH PLEASURE in directing, gripes Woody Allen who’s currently making his fourth film in London. “I get up very early and come to the set and stand around all day while the photographer spends three hours lighting the set, then I get 30 seconds to do the scene and then we move on, then gets another three hours and I get another 30 seconds. It’s very tedious. The pleasure is when I get home and look at all the footage and sit down and put it together and put in the music and make it look like something.”

THE WILCOCK WEB: Pubs are closing in England every week but 71 new breweries were established last year. All kinds of special ales are being brewed. “Britain has more small craft breweries per head of population than all other major industrialized countries,” says Roger Protz, editor of the Good Beer Guide….Dark blue Greyhound buses now run from London to Portsmouth and Southampton making eight trips each day (about two hours) and with introductory fares of £1 each way… With growing opposition to the mandatory TV license fee, 280,000 viewers have paid fines of up to £1,000 for evasion … Virginia Woolf and the rest of that Victorian Bloomsbury crowd wrote so many letters, that they’re still finding batches of them and 700 letters recently fetched £50,000 at a Sussex auction. …..New traffic plans have shown that fewer signs, road markings, and traffic lights have reduced accidents so next should come a 20 mph speed limit in residential and urban areas, advises the Independent, so that cyclists and other road users “can mix happily”….. Swear words listed as fxxx, shxx and pxxx were uttered on British television 155 times in a recent work, reported the Sunday Telegraph, with 103 of them by Gordon Ramsay on his Kitchen Nightmares USA show…..Senior army officers are among the hundreds who have criticized politicians for their abuse of the expenses system that have seen some MI’s claiming for porn movies or repairs to their duck ponds….. Two London women have invented an umbrella whose Jackson Pollock-inspired designs dramatically change color when wet….. A portable solar charger, Solio ( which can be fanned open to the sun for an hour, will then recharge your cell phone for 15 minutes of talk….. London’s Islington Council has adapted a Honda motorcycle into a vacuum cleaner to remove dog doo and spray the sidewalk with “a flower-scented sterilizing wash”…..The $1.1 million pay paycheck of BBC Director General Mark Thompson should be reduced to the same as Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s $280,000 says Tony MP Jeremy Hunt. “We should look at the Prime Minister’s salary as a benchmark”….. Heart attacks decreased by 10% in the first year after Britain banned public smoking July 2007 says a Department of Health spokesman….. Nearly half of the shops in the now-defunct Woolworth’s chain have turned into £1 stores (£1 is about $1.50)…..Hurt by declining circulation like almost everywhere else, several provincial dailies have converted to weeklies and more are expected to follow….. Researchers in Poole, Dorset, have been combing householder’s garbage bins, analyzing their contents to find if recyclable items are being dumped incorrectly…..…..The Digital Video Memo ($42) is a refrigerator magnet with a built-in video camera and audio with a flashing light to alert your family to the 30-second message you have left for them….Claiming to have 100,000 on the mailing list of her Big Beautiful Women organization, Linda Koch is auditioning fatties for a national contest scheduled for next spring as well as a television series. It will be led by a cabaret group called Moulin Huge.