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the column of lasting insignificance: Jan. 21, 2012
by John Wilcock


THE OVERALL CHILDISHNESS which has been creeping into every aspect of American life marks a 50-year journey that has been gradual but unrelenting declares Gerald Nachtman. “In (an earlier era) before adults tried to emulate teenagers, the world was run by grownups who were content to act their age” he writes. Men wore suits and ties to work; women skirts, not pantsuits and boots. “Many women now seem to be dressing like their teenage daughters”. Spouting off in The American Spectator, Nachtman dates the time when the country first began to “split apart at the seams” (which was) when adults wore Levis in the 1960s; when teenagers seized the country in a bloodless coup, led by Elvis and the Beatles holding everybody hostage to 15-year-olds’ tastes. Every other adult barrier fell: fashion, food, four-letter words in songs, films, fiction, plays. ”A sort of Stockholm syndrome occurred…adults tiptoed away, vanquished, too exhaustive to battle massive teen power and finally caved in completely. The former youth culture became the reigning culture of the land…(now) even the New York Times regularly review video games, most of whose players are 14 years old and don’t read newspapers.
   “Part of the populace is into baby talk…Facebook is just junior high school run amok…Movies have pretty much turned into comic books…Ninety per cent of all comedies—all movies, really—seemed to be aimed at teenagers”, Nachtman concludes. “It’s almost as if much of the country’s grownup population can’t wait to grow down”.

WHO’S A TRAITOR?? asks the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, talking about the military trial of the unfortunate Bradley Manning, who’s being crucified over the WikiLeaks. “For what he’s alleged to have given the world, Manning deserves a medal, not a life in prison”. The Guardian writer refers to the spitefully “sadistic” treatment the 24-year-old army private has undergone, and says that no individual has been known to be harmed by the revelations (about US diplomats and others) but that the atrocities that were revealed helped to start the Arab Spring.

YOU’VE GOT TO ADMIRE the kind of political writer who can summarize Syria’s complex affairs of state in a succinct way that explains it all. After discussing in Current History, the motives of countless contending would-be powers on the country’s eve-of-civil-war scene, Sami Moubayed, editor of the Damascus magazine, Forward, concludes:

“Can Syria avoid the sort of bloody civil war that Libya experienced? If an irreversible decision was made to withdraw the army from the streets, end single-party rule, arrest all wrong-doers, combat corruption no matter at what[ever] level, set political prisoners free, write a new constitution that heralds a parliamentary republic, and call for early and internationally-supervised presidential and parliamentary elections. Then the North African storms might be avoided in Syria”.

Andy Warhol Red Portrait

ART IN AMERICA reported that the Andy Warhol Foundation will soon dissolve its Art Authentication Board which its president Joel Wachs said was costing up to half a million dollars a year to operate in addition to the millions of dollars in legal fees defending its decisions. One fifth of the works passing through the process so far have been deemed fakes. “Work by Warhol is notoriously difficult to authenticate” says the magazine, “given his many collaborations and open-ended definition of ‘art’”. The so-called Red Self-Portrait seen here has twice been rejected by the Warhol Authentication Board , and is the center of a lawsuit brought by its owner, Joe Simon-Whelan.

CURRENT EATING FADS seems determined to elevate the role of what was formerly comfort food into gourmet fare. Jonathan Kaplan’s forthcoming chain of melted cheese restaurants are just the proletarian underpinning for New York’s latest adoption of grilled cheese (with mushrooms and black truffles) sandwiches offered by the Park Avenue bistro Artisanal (a mere $19.50) or the $16 version at the Greenwich Village corner bistro Lyon. “It takes a cook to make one” declares owner Francois Latapie who tosses in ham and béchamel sauce. Then there’s the no-longer humble meatball which, according to Wallpaper, has begotten a Meatball Shop in Manhattan and a global trend which includes Afghanistan (minced lamb with spices), China (fatty pork with leafy vegetables), and Japan (minced chicken meat). “Ikea” says the mag, “is facing some serious competition”.

“I’m less and less interested in seeing myself on screen. I want as an actor to become more economic in terms of the kinds of things I play. As you get older, and you sort of slowly move into that character actor world, there’s actually some fun stuff to do. But I don’t enjoy seeing myself on screen in certain things anymore
--George Clooney discussing his future, with the Los Angeles Times

BBC HISTORY, a London-based magazine, replying to a reader’s frustration about the way the Tudors (1485-1603) “get more than their share of attention” replied that cover stories about “that particular bunch” always sold the most copies. Of course, any era that includes Henry VIII (1509-47) is likely to maintain interest, and what followed the muchly-married (six wives) king, was Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen. Speaking of which, BBC History (a mag undeservedly little known this side of the water) includes another letter from a reader who points out how smart Elizabeth was to stay unmarried, considering that not only was birth a risky event for “even the most privileged”, but that spawning an heir to survive “at the mercy of factional interests” was an unacceptable risk in those uncertain times.

HISTORIANS TEND TO rave over some tiny things and in this case it’s some flecks of the original white paint in a cranny of the White Tower, which got its name from the whitewash applied to it in the time of Henry III (1216-72). Part of the monumental Tower of London, the building has seen thousands of gallons of paint lavished on it in the eight centuries since, but tiny fragments of the original paint job have survived, been analyzed and found to be genuine.

“At every stage of your life you know everything. At twelve, you’ve got it sussed out. At sixteen you couldn’t tell me anything. Twenty-one, I knew it all. Hadn’t lived it, but I knew it. You think you’ve got a hook on it at thirty. After a while, though, you realize what my dad said was completely true. You never, ever know”
--Randy Jackson talking to Cal Fussman in Esquire

THE WILCOCK WEB: Now it seems that we’re trying not to offend Pakistan for fear it decides not to continue accepting our $$billions…. Hillary Clinton for vp ….In his new book, Blue Collar Intellectuals: When the Enlightened and the Everyman Elevated America, Daniel J. Flynn contends that popular culture has separated itself from the life of the mind. “Stupid is the new smart”, he avers….”Polls show that Americans feel more comfortable about a black person leading the country than about one marrying a white person” writes Gary Younge in the Nation …. By the time Mitt becomes the GOP nominee, there’ll be no shortage of testimonials from his rivals about what a lousy president he’d be…. The U.S. should just get out of the way and let those mutual enemies Saudi Arabia and Iran knock each other out…. Columnist Monte Lazarus in Florida’s Coastal Breeze offers a welcomingly negative appraisal of the way that Guy Ritchie has turned loveable old Sherlock Holmes into “a macho gunslinger. He’s now more of a comic book version with massive explosions”……. Brooklyn has become “a cult entity” claims the New York Post. In a sort of reverse snobbery, “it is the antithesis of Manhattan’s glittering skyline”….The number of people who “forget” they have a loaded gun in their briefcase as they try to board a plane, would be greatly reduced if violators were banned from the flight and fined on the spot…..Walmart took its first shot at New York City with a new store in the Garment District but didn’t like the results and is moving out next month….. Two hats were hanging on a rack in the Smart Cat Earshallway. One said to the other, 'You stay here, I'll go on a-head…..'Euro-wear, a Japanese company (natch), is selling a cat-eared headband that’s powered by brain waves, the ears rising when you’re excited or concentrating…. Peering through the folds in their niqabs, Muslim teenagers in Egypt have been joyfully screaming for Moez Masoud, a charismatic, young televangelist who attracts Beatles-like hysteria…. “An intellectual”, Aldous Huxley insisted, “is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex”…..Calling it “a rebirth, of sorts” for the obsolete blimp, Fast Company reports that military contractor Northrop Grumman has sold (for $3.3bn) 45 of its- new Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV’s) to Canada’s Discovery Air for oil and mining transport…...Avoid dangerous cults; practice safe sects…. “I thought I was a good tipper” muses Allison Janney, “until I heard that George Clooney tips twice the bill”…. …Pissing on a jellyfish sting to alleviate the pain is “an old wives tale that does not appear to bear any merit” explains the Naples Daily News… …. Profiting from the country’s spreading wealth, the world’s biggest jeweler, China’s Chow Tai Fook (1,500 stores, $4.5bn annual profits) is about to float $4bn-worth of shares on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange …. …. Religions (but not their worshippers) have millions, and should be taxed writes Rellis Smith in the VCReporter, and their tax-exemptions should be removed when they dabble in politics by spending huge amounts to influence the legislature…. “It is one of the tragedies of our age that so few people dare to be eccentric—John Stuart Mill (1806-73)

1/14/12

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