John Wilcock column header


The Column of Lasting Insignificance: September 3, 2011

by John Wilcock


[What follow are the end-portions of August columns]


THE WILCOCK WEB: Having sex with robots is a distinct possibility within five years or so according to Stockholm’s Dr. Henrik Christensen, described by National Review as “a high-level roboticist,” and who says: ”People are willing to have sex with inflatable dolls, so initially anything that moves will be an improvement”…. A letter writer in the New Statesman suggested that ballot forms should not only have a listing for ”none of the above,” but that every such vote should deduct one from the overall total …..Widely distributed in Germany are tons of fake currency marked Eros in the corner (instead of Euro) and displaying pictures of provocative nudes…..“Happiness is not getting what you want,” says Andrew Clark, “it is wanting what you have”…. In Mogadishu, sharia law allowed the son of a stabbing victim to stab the killer to death …. A jury, somebody said, consists of 12 persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer….Confirming the huge profits made by movie theater concession stands, one supplier of the ingredients for a fruit-filled drink revealed that it would cost exhibitors about $1 to make but was likely to retail for $6.50….According to the Times, the top three of the world’s 793 billionaires possess more wealth than the 600 million poorest people put together….….“History does not repeat itself,” observed Mark Twain, “but it rhymes”….The vision of building a staircase to the stars always seemed far-fetched until recently when the NASA-backed US Spaceward Foundation launched a contest to build a space elevator that could carry a cable car up to a sky hotel 22,000 miles from the earth. The cable, made of newly-invented carbon nanotubes, would be attached to a satellite….. Distribution of watermelon juice is about to go national….. …. Estimating the eventual cost of the Iraq war $1.27 trillion. The American Prospect explains that a trillion is what you get if you spend a million dollars a day for a million days, 2,737 years…..An unidentified Chinese man from Jiaxing, who offered his soul for sale, received 60 offers before Taobao (China’s eBay) pulled the posting stating that it would be allowed only if he could provide permission from “a higher authority”…. A car battery now costs the same to buy as 14 new cars were a decade ago, says a report on inflation in Zimbabwe…. “Many people would sooner die than think,” said Bertrand Russell. “In fact they do” …On a planet comprised of more ocean than dry land, the obvious solution to the water “shortage” is solar distillation as the world will belatedly realize. “No man is rich enough to buy back his past,” explained Oscar Wilde…. Britain’s National Health Service has okayed the use of magnets strapped to the leg to reduce ulcers despite widespread skepticism that the treatment works… …. “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” — Voltaire (1694-1773). [August 06]



THE WILCOCK WEB: As awareness grows about the environmental damage engendered by the processing and transport of billions of plastic bottles of water, you can bet the bottlers are about to give us a million reasons why you should keep buying the flavored stuff (added herbs, flavors, vitamins, etc.)…. LATimes subscribers are leaving in such numbers that they’re offering $1.90 a week deals to win them back….If you type (_8^(I) and turn it sideways, you’re looking at Homer Simpson….Who decides what the statute of limitations is, and why?…. Liverpool police are testing a 3-ft wide chopper which can be controlled from 550 yards away to hover for 20 minutes sending back surveillance pictures….. Bumper Sticker: THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT IS NEITHER…. Leopards menacing villagers in the Indian state of Gujarat are enticed (then captured and transported elsewhere) by the voices of goats and cows emanating from telephone ring tones…. Since Irish shops started charging 20c each for plastic bags, their use has dropped by 90%….“The great virtue of a democracy,” suggested historian A.J.P Taylor, “is that it always thinks its leaders are frightful”…NYTimes columnist Gail Collins says the best way to thin out the pack of would-be presidents is to have viewers vote one off the island after every debate….Major pharmaceutical companies are researching the cannabis plant, seeking pain-killing and anti-nausea compounds that can be patented. Simultaneously they are spending millions on PR hoping to keep the plant illegal — Nearly half of the thousands of alcoholism deaths in Russia each year are from drinking household products such as eau de cologne…Savonlinna in Finland is the site of the mobile phone throwing world championship on August 25…. Announced for October publication by Doubleday is John O’Farrell’s An Utterly Impartial History of Britain or 2000 Years of Upper Class Idiots in Charge…..“It seems to be a law of nature that Republicans are more boring than Democrats,” concluded Stewart Alsop …One of Beijing’s 6,530 road signs being tidied up in preference for next year’s Olympics has been changed from Dongda Hospital for Anus and Intestine Disease to Dongda Proctology Hospital….A British reader of the Guardian defined American football as “random violence interrupted by committee meetings”….More than two out of every three items returned to big stores have been shoplifted and returned for cash reports Texas A&M’s Center for Retailing Studies which notices such things… Manhattan’s famed Plaza Hotel will reopen with 181 condos (one costing $56 million) on its 100th birthday in October….“No one lies so boldly as the man who is indignant.” — Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) (August/07)



THE WILCOCK WEB: Forbes’ editor Steve Forbes says the NY State Supreme Court has ruled the legislature must increase judges’ salaries. “Judges decreeing pay increases for themselves. Talk about the ultimate ATM!”….. The price of liberty is eternal publicity quipped Pete Seeger…. Despite the $100,000 cost per screen to convert to digital, enabling movies to be received electronically, 4,000 have already been converted, reports Via Satellite, with another 2,600 committed. Projectionists are on the way out…. Brit artist Martin Creed hired 50 runners to sprint through the gallery at 30-second intervals for his latest show at Tate Britain…. The Future of the Internet and How To Stop It is the title of a book by Jonathan Zittrain who warns that increasing e-mail spamming, no-longer-innocent hacking, “skillfully designed viruses,” and identity theft is likely to drive users to more secure information appliances like the iPhone…. A new zero-calorie sweetener called Truvia (derived from the stevia bush) will be launched next month…. Imagination is more important than knowledge, declared Albert Einstein…..Romania’s Parliament has drafted a law stipulating that at least half of TV news bulletins be devoted to good news, suggesting that too much negativity leads to ”nervous breakdowns and chronic diseases … The alleged advantage swimmers gain from those corset-like body suits are described by the Italian coach as “technical doping”….Goodbye to Kinkos as its new owner begins renaming 1,600 stores as FedEx Office… Asked by the NYT’s Deborah Solomon what playground bullies grow up to be, former labor secretary Robert Reich replied: Right-wing Republicans”….A Colombian clothing store selling $2,000 bulletproof business suits has opened a branch in Mexico City….. ….After merging with the “intimate apparel” manufacturer Movie Star, the doyen of sexy underwear, Fredericks of Hollywood, is planning to open 50 new stores….Ding Dong the Witch is Dead is a popular choice for funerals in Australia according to a poll in that country….“You’re only young once,” explains Germaine Greer, “but you can be immature forever” … ForbesLife reports that a firm called Eleven Forty will make cufflinks of your own profile (or favorite pet) in silver, gold or platinum for a mere $1,190…. London’s weekly Publishing News bit the dust last month after 29 years, attributing its demise to advertisers shifting to the Internet…..“Bipartisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.” — George Carlin (1937-2008) (August/08)



THE WILCOCK WEB: Burma’s universally admired heroine Daw Aung Sa Suu Kyi could hugely advance the cause of the country’s freedom if she could escape long enough to make a worldwide tour….“It’s not enough to drill a well and then walk away,” says a report by the World Water Forum, complaining that $300 million spent on drilling wells in Ghana and Mali has been wasted because villagers can’t afford to maintain them…..The touristy Somerset village of Wookey Hole is auditioning witches this weekend, offering a $75,000 job to live in its famous cave… ….Tasmania’s opium fields have been invaded by a surplus of wallabies which are eating the crop (used for pharmaceuticals)….And Asia Times reports that switching Afghan farmers from opium crops to saffron could bring in ten times the income….….“Every national park on the west coast” has been infiltrated by marihuana growing, charges Terrain, the eco-news magazine of Berkeley’s Ecology Center….“A gateway drug for vegetarians” is what restaurateur Ron Silver calls bacon in Detail’s piece about the delicious porcine pleasure whose sales have risen 42% in the past year….There’ll never be enough money for universal health care until it’s clawed back from rip-off insurance companies…. Offered the choice between a tedious Letterman and the vapid O’Brien, it’s hardly surprising that so many late-night viewers have turned to ABC’s Nightline …. Utah scientists have devised a battery that can store power from rooftop solar panels…Companies whose bottled water comes from the tap should be obliged to admit it on the label….And if water is H20, why can’t they produce it wherever it’s most needed, by combining hydrogen and oxygen?.… “Making predictions is difficult,” mused Sam Goldwyn. “Especially about the future…..Dolce & Gabbana is selling $275 T-shirts….. “Television’s obsession with the youth market is 20 years out of date and it’s high time TV executives caught up,” writes Mariella Frostrup in the Daily Mail…America’s 4.8 million notaries — one for every 62 people — are welcoming the agreement signed with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) which guarantees the security of signatures transmitted electronically to the 27 nations of the European Union…. “The wise and brave dares own that he was wrong.” — Benjamin Franklin (1706-9) (August/09)



THE WILCOCK WEB: Recent elections have shown that the longest war in U.S. history is a low priority with voters. Of course, if they reintroduced the draft, we’d be out of Afghanistan in about ten minutes….And the preliminary gift of $180million to Yemen to combat Al Qaeda is probably the preface to our third war….. Congressman Charles Rangel is so arrogant that he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong…Strapping a live snake to the ceiling of a brain scanner, Science News reported that researchers studied the brain waves to measure the “fear” of entrapped volunteers as they moved the reptile closer and closer to their heads… After too many birds died by crashing into glass doors, Toronto now requires new buildings to incorporate window treatments and similar elements to reduce reflection…. The surfeit of lawyers involved in the Gulf oil spill will undoubtedly clean up as much money as BP lost…. The battle against Arizona’s attempt to curb illegal immigration is turning Sheriff Joe Arpaio into an unlikely hero….. …. EMILY, a 4ft-long talking robot buoy, that can speed towards a drowning swimmer at 28mph, is being tested off Malibu beaches…. “It’s never too late to be what you might have been,” advised George Eliot ……. A German sewage plant has found that the vibrations from playing Mozart at high volume stimulates microbes to break down the waste ….Banned in France, the face veil (niquåb), is described as representing a “sexist, inegalitarian, and violent” ideology by La Figaro which asks why its self-righteous defenders are so “disturbingly blind” to Islam’s “creeping apartheid”…. In a fit of political correctness, a mall in the northern England town of Rochdale added a couple of hole-in-the-ground toilets to accommodate their Middle Eastern customers…..Credit card transactions that require signatures are “a waste of time,” says Jamie Henry of Walmart which is refining its smart card so that it doesn’t need them…Having published The Strategic Victory last week, Fidel Castro is now working on the second volume of his memoirs…“Many people feel that paying the leader of a charity a six-figure salary is outrageous,” says Ken Berger whose Charity Navigation researches non-profit groups ….What’s the point of voting for anything if the people who lose can have the courts overturn the vote?….. Anybody who’s been in political office for 34 years should be investigated by the Ethics Committee whether she’s accused of anything or not…. Chief Justice John G. Roberts promised during his confirmation hearings not to make new judicial law. Predictably, he’s proven to be a liar….. Conservatives feel they deserve everything they’ve stolen quipped Mort Sahl….. So now that we’re (almost ready for) leaving Iraq, expect the age-old civil war to resume, something that was scheduled to happen several years ago (before the thousands of people we lost and killed in the meantime)…. Following its boring television blitz, hardly a day goes by when the JPMorgan Chase bank doesn’t run extravagant full-page ads in both Times….. Protestors have offered a $50,000 reward to anybody who succeeds in arresting former British prime minister Tony Blair when he attends a signing of his autobiography at a London bookstore next month. ….Union organizers are zeroing in on fast-food restaurants which, claims the Labor Relations Institute’s Philip Wilson, are “sitting ducks” for his recruiters….. Digital noises that match a car’s various sounds such as idling or accelerating, needed to warn unwary pedestrians or cyclists of the approach of otherwise silent electric models, have been devised by Harman International….. Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?…. Legal costs would be less exorbitant if law firms didn’t pay such ridiculously inflated salaries…. If marihuana was encouraged in jails instead of being banned, the ambiance for both prisoners and guards would be much more serene …. Gloomy mosaics from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment dot the walls of Moscow’s new subway station, named for the novelist ….Children aged five and up are being given condoms at schools in Provincetown, MA.….. … …. Procter & Gamble is backing Oprah Winfrey’s new cable channel with $100m worth of advertising over its first three years reports the Wall Street Journal …. The loveliest birthday cards I’ve ever seen are crafted in a tiny southern English village by…. When Obama is blamed by both sides of the same thing (health/Wall Street, not enough/too much), maybe that means he’s doing something right…. The search for someone to blame is always successful opined Robert Hall… … This week, the UK removed the Holocaust and the death camp pictures from its school curriculum because it ‘offended’ the Muslim population which claims it never occurred…. What China needs is a new Mao Tse-Tung who will represent a repressed underclass against a government that claims to be communist but is actually fascist (fascism: “a political philosophy, movement or regime that exalts nation over the individual and that stands for a centralized, autocratic government…” (Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary)…. When lobbyists insist (ridiculously) that their donations don’t influence legislators, maybe they should agree to put all the bribes into a common pool and be shared equally….According to a real estate column, actress Scarlett Johansson just sold for $4m a house she bought in 2007 for $7m. Just imagine having so much spare cash you can afford to lose more on selling your house than most people make in a lifetime…. …. …. The World Gravy Wrestling Championships is a feature of the Pennine Lancashire Festival of Food and Culture in northern England on August 30…… An eruv is the physical manifestation of hypocrisy…. MISFORTUNE COOKIES: Take comfort or fame, but you can’t have both…. …. “The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand,” declares Google’s boss Eric Schmidt, “the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had”…. London’s Spectator magazine will sponsor a debate on whether to curtail the “special relationship” with the U.S. and “look across the Channel for friendship”….. “An ideal form of government is democracy tempered with assassination.” — Voltaire (1694-1778) (August/10)