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the column of lasting insignificance: Feb. 18, 2012
by John Wilcock

“According to the World Bank, the Western military aid presence accounts for 97% of Afghanistan’s GDP. And within a week of the West’s departure, it will be as if that 97% had never been there, and all that remains will be the same old 3% tribal dump of mullahs, warlords, poppy barons and pederasts, all as charmingly unspoiled as if the U.S. and its allies had quit 48 hours after toppling the Taliban in 2001.” --Mark Steyn in the National Review

THE IDEA OF INVISIBILITY has intrigued man for generations, just as the dream that one day he might be able to fly. And if one fantasy could be accomplished, why not the other? There’s been no shortage of writings about this vision over the years, but oddly enough almost nothing about experiments that might have taken place to achieve it. Most of the books, such as H.G. Wells’ famous The Invisible Man (a banal cops ’n robbers tale) are imaginative works of fiction, the best of which Harry F. Saint’s Memoirs of an Invisible Man concentrated mostly on the difficulties of actually being invisible (how would you ride a bus? Your presence would cause panic). Then there are the authors whose use the word as a

invisible man
The Invisible Man

metaphor, such as the music album by Genesis or Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Invisible Man concerning the way society demeans Blacks. In this century the word has been sadly diminished in its misuse by the military which delights in calling the stealth bomber, notably the B2, “invisible” when all they mean is that it can’t be detected by radar. Now the Air Force has budgeted $3.7bn for a successor which, says Popular Science, reduces radar reflection by minimizing hard edges”. And even better by its iron-heavy, radar-absorbing paint.
    In my early cable TV days, I made regular use of what was then known as chromakey and is now “green screen” (or, sometimes blue). If somebody covered with a blue drape walked in front of it, he was ‘invisible”. But this sort of thing is optical camouflage --quantum physics would define invisibility as “the absence of light”—whereas true invisibility could presumably be achieved only by ingesting something or employing some spiritual powers that are not yet a matter of common knowledge.
[For more on this subject, see issues of the Ojai Orange for May and Summer 2006]

ONLY THE IDIOTS of the Bush administration thought it was a good idea to spend $750 million building an embassy in Baghdad sprawling over 104 acres (almost the size of Vatican City) and costing $6bn a year to maintain. Staffed by 16,000, including 2,000 diplomats, it can be compared with the more relevant Turkish embassy which has 55 personnel including half a dozen diplomats. Now even the State Department has agreed it should be cut back, especially as it was built without Iraq’s agreement in the first place. Of course nobody ever gets blamed for these acts of near-criminal idiocy. In fact, there are probably officials in charge right now who yearn to repeat the folly in Afghanistan.

THE EARLIEST AGE AT which somebody committed his first crime and the more recent his last are better indicators of the chance of another offense than any other predictors according to Richard Berk, a professor working with the Pennsylvania Board of Probation. The state’s prison system works with 10,000 inmates every year and naturally seeks to avoid making the kind of mistakes over parole that can result in further crimes. One prisoner who killed four people after being released jibed: “Blame the parole board” after he was recaptured. Berk, a statistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, devised his algorithm about how to predict future crimes by analyzing 100,000 earlier cases and, according to the Atlantic, “his expertise is being sought at nearly every stage of the criminal justice process”.

“Yes, there are always people coming to visit. I appreciate those who support me, but I have very few close fiends. I think that’s very normal. Every person has his own life, with his own needs, beliefs and problems. I don’t have high expectations and don’t ask too much. With family, the same goes. It’s best to treat things with a light heart”.
--China’s most-admired artist Ai Weiwei interviewed by Art in America

THE STANDARD SPEED at which movies are projected is 24 frames per second (fps), “but if you really want to blow an audience’s mind” says Wired, “increase your frame rate”. Doubling the fps, results in “startling clarity and emotional impact” the mag says, explaining that the technique has been known for decades but any time a producer has wanted to try it, studios and theaters have snubbed “the pricey Showcam gear”. But speedier fps’ time might have finally arrived with Peter Jackson shooting The Hobbit in 3-D at 48fps and James Cameron promising Avatar sequels at 60fps.

SECRET RECIPES are more of a promotion tool than an actuality, seeing that it’s obvious that with today’s advanced scientific skills it wouldn’t take researchers long to analyze the ‘secret’ of anything including the famous Coca Cola recipe which the company moved—with exaggerated hype from its Atlanta bank to a new tourist attraction. There, the Vault of the Secret Formula, says Stores magazine, contains a “4D theater” where visitors can follow the trail of an eccentric scientist seeking to solve the mystery. Other ‘secrets’ the magazine story mentions are KFC’s original recipe of 11 herbs and spices kept in a vault at its Louisville KT, headquarters, and the so-called “special sauce” for McDonald’s Big Mac.

THE DISTINCTIVE SMELL of libraries comes from the decay of cellulose—lignite—from which the paper in books have been made since papermakers stopped using ground wood pulp in place of cotton or linen. Popular Science explains that acidic lignite breaks down over time making paper very brittle, and that the Library of Congress treats 25,000 books a year with magnesium oxide which slows decay,

THE WILCOCK WEB: Whether Scotland can detach itself from Britain and become a separate country, may depend on different referendums. The Brits think everybody should vote but Scots want it decided by its own citizens ...Now that Scotland Yard has arrested more of Rupert Murdoch's journalists from the Sun in the hacking scandal, hopefully they're closing in on its "red top" tabloid rival, the Mirror, whose former editor, the smarmy Piers Morgan, makes the unlikely claim that nothing like that happened while he was there... ...General Petraeus got out (and into a better job, running the C IA) just in time, before the lies about his so-called “progress” in Afghanistan began to emerge….Gingrich and Romney are calling each other liars; in a few months, both will pretend that they weren’t..….As for Santorum, if he ends up the GOP candidate, Obama will wipe him out….Silence is sometimes the best answer… Millions of Catholic women use contraceptives yet hypocritically support a church that wants to illegally deny them to others….As most recipients eventually discover, it saves time and energy to toss away unopened those repeated solicitations from Publishers Clearing House which for most are unlikely to result in prizes….”Of all the evil spirits abroad in the world” declares James A Froude, “insincerity is the most dangerous”…. A stationery bicycle, that automatically inclines and declines to mimic the topography of the Tour de France route, costs $1,300 from ProForm…. Those “printing” machines that can clone objects from plastic in three dimensions have been joined by one invented by McGill University’s Pieter Sijpkes which can create ice sculptures from successive thin layers of frozen water ….….Hey, all you rich bitches paying $2,575 for your second Hermes bag, how about springing ten bucks to take a homeless person to lunch?....Trader Joe’s celebrates the 10th anniversary of offering ‘two-buck Chuck’ (Charles Shaw’s $1.99 wine) during which time it claims to have sold 600 million bottles….Alabama took 23-pages to advertise the state in Fortune…. Railways in Indonesia are hanging concrete balls high above the tracks to discourager roof surfers who travel atop the carriages… Earmarks may have been banned, says the New York Times, but pols are just resubmitting them, calling them something else… An optimist is a guy that has never had much experience. ....A British outfit, the Centre for Retail Research, reports that employee theft and customer theft are neck and neck at stores it has checked….”It’s discouraging to think of how many people are shocked by honesty, and how few by deceit” mused Noel Coward…. More and more mobile shops are popping up that can shift to different places to catch moving foot traffic such as companies that sell at biker destinations…….How disappointingly sad that Haiti’s brand-new president, Michel Martelly, should shirk the chance of a new, hopeful beginning, instead giving a free pass to his old friends in the murderous Duvalier regime….….Tibetans will really get attention to their cause when they set a few Chinese on fire….A new Disneyland-type park outside Paris promises to include “a recreation of the guillotining of King Louis XVI in 1793”…. …. Republicans charge that food stamp recipients should get jobs instead. Makes you wonder what world these GOP dopes are living in…. “Powerful indeed, is the empire of habit”—Publilius Syrus (1st c. BC)

2/11/12

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