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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: October 31, 2009

John Wilcock
the column of lasting insignificance

“America must fall to her knees. America must connect with the Almighty. America must understand the only thing that will save this country is God.” Glenn Beck, interviewed by Newsmax

THERE’S BEEN A RETURN to the days when a man’s success depended on how many concubines he was supporting, reports Stephen Wong in Hong Kong’s Asia Times, and many of China’s rich and powerful keep at least one ‘second wife’ as a status symbol. Coastal cities have seen the emergence of so-called concubine villages from which bankers and others have been making their selections, adding to the widespread corruption that already bothers officialdom.

DEVOTING ITS FRONT PAGE to a head reading is POT already legal? alongside a  woman wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the familiar leaf, Fortune devoted 11 pages to a story explaining that 700 medical marihuana clinics in California are dispensing the blessed herb to as many as 400,000 customers. With 15 states having legalized medpot and 13 others considering it, the mag says that “over the years, the government’s position has become progressively more embattled, if not untenable.”

AN EXPLORATION OF JEALOUSY was conducted by Psychology Today which unsurprisingly found its origins in primitive man’s uncertainty about whether he was the genetic father of his children. “The burden of manhood is the uncertainty of paternity,” as the magazine phrased it. And although jealousy was defined as a survival mechanism, “more often than not feelings of jealousy flare with such intensity that they burn a hole in the brain, obliterating rational thought and setting off behaviors that fulfill a self-fulfilling prophecy by pushing away the very person one desires, or needs the most.” (Recognize anyone you know?) But jealousy can have its advantages, too — it’s “a necessary emotion,” declares Texas psychologist David Buss, who suggests it can be used strategically. “Jealousy as a test of affection,” the mag adds. “A little pang can go a long way.”

STAND-UP COMICS aren’t much different from other people declares Psychology Today. But they are more disagreeable. “We’re observers,” comedian Michael Showalter told the mag. “A by-product is being judgmental.”

Standing up to the Sicilian Mafia who have long demanded payoffs for virtually every business in Palermo, a courageous women’s group has asked tourists and visitors to patronize only shops, hotels, and restaurants which refuse to pay off the gangsters.  Silvia Pellegrino, 28, estimates that 80% of the city’s businesses succumb to Mafia pressure.  “We don’t have the police on our side as many often are bought off by Cosa Nostra,” she says “but we have become so much stronger as a collective.  We’re not immune from threats.  We’ve humiliated them, so we’ve become targets.”

Dissing one of her earlier lovers in her newly published autobiography, Leslie Caron wrote, “Warren (Beatty) was the leading playboy, he couldn’t keep his hands off pretty girls…his sister was Shirley McLain, slightly older, who made a hit movie before he did.  He couldn’t dominate her so I think he took a certain pleasure in being able to dominate the girl he was with.”

FOLLOWING THROUGH ON its front page teaser “Why It’s Okay to Stare at Fat People,” Details magazine says the American viewer has developed “an insatiable appetite” for fatties. The best thing would be for TV to have a show about obesity, how we got that way, and what can be done about it. “But people aren’t going to watch that,” says University of North Dakota psychology professor Ric Ferraro. “Instead we’ve got a flurry of shows that degrade the participants.” Humiliating fatties, says the magazine, has “ballooned into a growth industry.”

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS after founding the Reader he named after himself, Eric Utne reflected in its anniversary issue, on some of the societal changes (for which he was too modest to claim credit): an acceptance of alternative medical practices such as homeopathic, acupuncture, and chiropractic as well as such contemplative practices such as meditation and yoga. He was optimistic about a future in which he foresaw more people joining social networks and getting to know and care for each other, a turn of events in which the Utne Reader, that invaluable compendium of alternate media, has also played a large part.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Zombies and their fans have a lot in common …. The New York Times is now selling dirt in its overpriced mail order store: some of it “game-used dirt from Yankee Stadium” in a crystal paperweight ($79) and a capsule of it in a framed memorabilia piece ($225)….Embarrassing drunken remarks and/or unpleasant random encounters are among memories we might want to target, says North Carolina neurologist Ashok Hegde commenting on the drug being developed by a Swiss laboratory to enable users to selectively forget things.  Hegde says mockery topped many people’s lists of memories they’d like to erase.  “Public humiliation is a constant source of lingering memories.”…Richard Schickel’s review of the new Robert Altman bio reveals the arrogant nastiness of the late director (speaking from my solitary ‘interview’ with him at Cannes long ago)….Fewer birds have been killed since oil and gas rigs in the North Sea have changed their lights from white to green…. If any ordinary citizen had dodged paying so much income tax as Congressman Charlie Rangel, he/she perhaps would have been indicted long ago…..Karma was always lying in wait for the greedy and extravagantly overrated photog Annie Liebovitz….Apart from diamonds, perfume is the world’s most over-priced item…..“The war on drugs so-called,” says author Philip Pullman,is a policy of utter and unforgivable folly; you might as well make war on human nature.”….To celebrate the centennial of its Japanese Garden, Pasadena’s Huntington Museum is trying to collect old family pictures snapped beside its iconic moon bridge….Surely the un-funniest writer in America is David Sedaris, misleadingly described by the New Yorker as “a humorist ….About 80% of Africa’s computers are said to be infected with at least one virus, more than double the incidence in Europe…. Hard to understand how anybody with taste or moral sensitivity can praise the works of Quentin Tarantino…“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity,” wrote some perceptive wise-ass….The Washington town of Forks (pop: 3,271) becomes a tourist mecca after Twilight series author Stephenie Meyer said it was the rainiest town in the country….. “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”  — George Eliot  (1819-80)