John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: September 26, 2009

[ The following columns ran here two years ago this month ]

Sept 22
THE WILCOCK WEB: India’s Minister of Railways banned plastic cups, replacing them with aesthetically preferable biodegradable clay cups and incidentally providing jobs for 100,000 potters… In California’s Santa Cruz county, a nonprofit called Ecology Action is offering $200 rebates and discounted bus passes to people who buy folding bicycles and take a two-hour bike-safety course…. “Rock journalism is for people who can’t write, interviewing people who can’t talk, for people who can’t read,” charged Frank Zappa …. A new manual, The Modern History of Russia, 1945-2006, which has been issued to teachers in that country, contains the appraisal by Vladimir Putin that Josef Stalin was “the most successful Soviet leader ever”….Small farmers around Britain are participating in a virtual farmers’ market which is about to go online, inviting shoppers to order through the mail… You’d think that the more opinions you could solicit on a matter in dispute, the likelier you were to find the truth. So why are jurors prohibited from talking to others about the case?….. A $1,799 toilet seat from the long-gone Concorde is among parts on offer at the auction in Toulouse of spare parts from the defunct plane….  To ensure their security personnel do a thorough check, El Al Airlines randomly selects one of them to fly on the flight they’ve just monitored…. Women are said to be most enticing when they’re ovulating and the University of Mexico researchers at gentleman’s clubs demonstrated that that was when strippers garnered the biggest tips. The sleuths said they were surprised nobody had mentioned it before…. “It is the imagination that lights the slow fuse of the impossible.” — Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

Sept 15
THE WILCOCK WEB:  What a pity there isn’t a cheap television listings instead of the vapid TV Guide with its mess of pages devoted to obscure stars you’ve never heard of, and certainly wouldn’t care to watch….And speaking of publications: whatever happened to Harper’s, once one of the best magazines around but for the past year has turned into terminal dullness, full of boring, overlong stories brimming with tedious ennui? It once broke news stories — as the Atlantic still does — and the advertisers have clearly noticed the difference, buying more than three times as many September pages in the latter… …One critic calls Conde Nast’s new Portfolio “the Paris Hilton of business magazines”…“You are only young once,” wrote Germaine Greer, “but you can be immature for ever”…. At this 70th anniversary year of Snow White, who remembers that Walt Disney’s wife told him: “I predict nobody’ll ever pay a dime to see a dwarf picture”?…. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to buy from Afghanistan farmers all their opium crop (and then destroy it) rather than spend so much money and so many lives trying to eliminate it?….An Ethiopian support group, SOS Addis, is paying women $65 a month to collect the capital’s abandoned plastic bags, thereby both giving employment and helping the environment…..More than three-quarters of employers now track the Internet use of their employees, according to a survey by the American Management Association…. ….Just removed from Japanese amusement arcades: an electronic arm wrestling game called Arm Spirit after too many customers broke their arms.….“What the state has, is theft. What the state says, is lies.” — Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Sept 8
THE WILCOCK WEB: Walmart’s plan to open 1,000 Money Centers in its stores, offering check-cashing and money transfers, is being criticized as “a back door into banking”…..Powered by eight powerful rotary engines and fueled with water and ethanol, Moller International’s 9ft wide “flying saucer” can glide 10 feet above land or water (and costs a mere $90,000)…. A tri-lingual German website that does $10million worth of business each week by renting what seems to be everything, began by renting slogan-chanting, sign-waving protesters for $188 per shift….India’s Science and Technology minister recently decreed that every chemistry student must take a year of ”green” chemistry seeking ways to eliminate hazardous substances…. “The American people generally do the right thing,” commented  Winston Churchill, “after first exhausting every available alternative” ….More than 600,000 of the country’s military were enlisted before they were 20, reports In These Times, reporting a study by the National Institute of Mental Health that noted a teenager’s brain is still undergoing structural change in the prefrontal cortex “which polices impulse control” and thus the ability to make thoughtful decisions…. The number of tourists to Antarctica has doubled — to 30,000 — in the past three years…‘Open source,’ once a mere computer term, has gained currency in almost every part of life, even to the Australian beer Blowfly whose “open source” recipe can be tampered with by others ….After 15 years publishing Venus, a publication for black lesbians, Charlene Cothran got religion overnight, declared that “same-sex relationships are not what God intended for us” and turned the magazine straight…. “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.” — Napoleon Hill (1883-1970)

Sept 1
THE WILCOCK WEB: Scheduled to operate between Dusseldorf and Japan, Germany’s Smokers International Airways (SIA) has powerful air conditioning, a cocktail bar serving oysters, caviar and champagne, and business return fares beginning at $8,500…“Nothing tasteful has ever come out of a stretch limo,” wrote Ariel Leve in the Sunday Times…. Brightly-colored individual newsstand boxes are due to disappear from downtown Dallas after the city council decreed that all papers must in future share space in “modular black news racks holding up to eight papers apiece…. “If it is not necessary to change,” wisely opined Lord Falkland, “it is necessary not to change” ….Aspirin was first synthesized 110 years ago this week…. Is this the longest palindrome in the English language? Madame, not one man is selfless; I am not one Madam ….…. “Diaper sniper” is a prison term for a child molester, and “jump the broom” describes when one prisoner ‘marries’ another ….Skeptical Inquirer editor Kendrick Frazier wrote that among the “furious” letters the mag had received after running its piece on global warming, were two from subscribers who had canceled. “Science is a methodology, not an ideology,” he emphasized…. Slightly more than half of U.S. households are now headed by a single person….About Paul McCartney, once said Michael Jackson: “Okay writer, not much of an entertainer. I do better box office than he does.” A new Japanese device can assess stress levels of a dog or cat by measuring the amount of sweat secreted on the animal’s paw ….“Technology is the knack of organizing the world so that we don’t have to experience it.” — Max Frisch (1911-91).