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the column of lasting insignificance: July 13, 2013
by John Wilcock

“Everything these days is filmed by imbeciles with mobile phones, later to be uploaded onto YouTube……As concerned citizens we worry ourselves stupid about the intrusion into our lives of the security services—the extent to which they spy on us all—and yet we have no qualms about the fact that our fellow citizens are pointing their iPhones at us almost every moment of the day and night…”
—Rod Liddle in the Spectator

TWENTY THREE YEARS AFTER the largest art theft in history, the famous heist at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the 13 paintings (worth $600m) are still missing. Somewhere two Rembrandts, a Vermeer, a Manet, five Degas and other works are in hiding despite thousands of tips and reported sightings in dozens of countries. “There is no part of the globe we haven’t scoured following up on credible leads”, the FBI’s Geoffrey J. Kelly told Art News publisher Milton Esterow whose rarely-seen byline led a recent story in the magazine. The story popped back into the news with the current trial of former mob boss Whitey Bulger although law enforcement thinks the connection with him is unlikely,
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist
FBI Photo
and even less with such unlikely names as Dick Cheney, Jackie Kennedy and Brad Pitt, who have all been mentioned. “This is a typical whodunit” muses Kelly. “The case is unique because there is no shortage of suspects. It’s like the Agatha Christie novel in which everyone confesses to the crime. In this case a number of people have claimed knowledge or involvement”.
    It was 1:24 in the morning of March 18, 1990, when a pair of thugs entered the museum, surprised and handcuffed the two guards and left with the pricey loot. After the announcement of a $5million reward, tips began to pour in: that the Vermeer was in a mobile home traveling around the country; the Rembrandt was for sale in a Florida carpet store; that one painting was displayed on the wall of a Tokyo apartment; even that the IRA had sold the art to raise funds. None of the tips has checked out.

THE BEST WAY to begin, in view of what’s to come, is probably with a quote from Melbourne’s daily paper, The Age

“A Sydney University painting lecturer (Mikala) Dwyer calls a spade a spade—or, in this case, a shit a shit. Not poo, crap, feces, stool, excrement, night soil, number twos, or plop. All are coy, while shit, she says, is about truth and universality, a base material. Such euphemisms either medicalise or infantilise (a subject) we all deal with”.

What on earth are they talking about? Well, art of course, or what some call art. To each his own. It’s all about a recent show “It’s a wonderful, powerful work” exclaims the Australian Center for Contemporary Art which recently staged the group defecation, featuring six Balletlab dancers—masked but naked beneath sheer garments. They wandered around the room before sitting on transparent stools and emptying their bowels.
   Previous “artworks” by Dwyer, 54, have included installations created from cigarette butts, gaudy panty hose, band aids, and domestic objects, but this is her first show about the base material we all deal with. “We might know about other planets, nanotechnology and incredibly complex philosophies” she blusters, “but when it comes down to it, we don’t know anything about shit…There is a lot of shame attached to it but when you can actually do it (communally) it is quite liberating and empowering”.
    National Review columnist James Lileks complains that the world’s contemporary museums already “are stuffed with forgettable truckloads of junk-shop agglomerations and conceptual ciphers” but couldn’t resist adding (NR is a rightwing mag, after all) “Bowel-moving…Finally some elimination rhetoric the Left can get behind!

“Ted Cruz’s surpassing arrogance, his refusal to hold his tongue or abide by Senate decorum and his devotion to the Tea Party platform—the qualities that led many to dismiss his chances in national politics—are precisely the qualities that make Tea Party activists go weak at the knees at the thought of a President Cruz. These folks don’t expect their politicians to get things done; they send them to Washington and to state capitals to prevent things from being done.”
—Abby Rapoport writing in The American Prospect about the “baffling notoriety” of the Texas senator

DESPITE ITS NEW GOVERNMENT, which of course is no longer new, South Africa has the same growing disparity between rich and poor as most Western countries. The World Bank reports that the top 10% of the population receives 58% of the country’s income while the bottom 50% receives less than 8 percent. “Despite an extensive welfare state and an established demographic system, the majority of South Africans have been left behind in the new nation, reveals Current History. “In response, popular discontent is swelling...Critics have repeatedly accused the ANC (the ruling party since 1994) of talking left and walking right.” The magazine says that although the African National Congress remains firmly in power, that internal factionalism, corruption and an increasing distance from ordinary people “undermine its ability to deliver on its promises.”
    As a result protests are spreading after local authorities repeatedly fail to meet with residents or address their concerns. The protests turn violent and are met with police crackdowns leaving the problems unsolved.
    “The continuing racial profile of inequality led former president Thabo Mbaki to describe the country as composed of two nations: a white, relatively prosperous one, and a larger black, poor one.” But this is only a practical picture of inequality, explains the magazine. “It fails to acknowledge a growing black elite that has joined the wealthiest quintile.”

BRITAIN vs CHINA in the 19th century Opium Wars were conflicts fought “to balance the books” for the huge amount of tea that the Brits were then consuming, according to historians. And victory enslaved the Chinese in a much more insidious way than most Colonial policies. The narcotic “dulled pain, quelled appetites, blurred time and relaxed muscles”, writes Peter Watts, making it desirable for coolies and manual laborers who spent long, desperate hours engaged in back-breaking work with minimal food. It was


popular with other classes, too, often dissolved in sherry and served as laudanum, offering a psychedelic, almost religious experience. “Opium was the LSD of its time” Carl Williams told the Independent on Sunday, which publicized a show of opium paraphernalia at his Mayfair bookstore, Maggs, in Berkeley Square. The exhibition, which runs until the end of this month, displays an array of pipes made from ebony, ivory, jade, porcelain, and buffalo horn, often with bowls resembling crabs, shells, or poppy heads. “The elite made opium smoking fashionable, while the lower classes made its consequences undesirable” noted Zheng Yangwen in The Social Life of Opium in China. (2005).

THE WILCOCK WEB: The sobering thought that Chief Justice John G. Roberts will still be heading the Supreme Court twenty years from now, should be enough to activate those who seek to end lifetime tenure for judges……It would be beneficial for those supreme overlords, and certainly for the country at large, if they were obliged to live for a year on the minimum wage. It’s a world they ought to know about but never will…..Term limits should mean getting out of politics, not continuing on the public teat in some other office ….“Civilizations” declared Arnold Toynbee, “die from suicide, not murder”...Maybe it’s reassuring to learn that Chinese banks are crooked, too….The US subsidizes its sugar producers with $3.7bn a year, writes George Will in the Washington Post, a gift that keeps prices higher than they need be for consumers, but one that Congress declines to remove despite the fact that it was introduced as a “temporary” measure in the Great Depression….…If the value of Bitcoins varies as much as has been noted, why would they be a safe investment for anybody?....…The New York Hilton is the latest in a growing number of hotels that have eliminated room service because, despite the exorbitant prices, it rarely pays for itself, according to Trip Advisor. ….Even dumber than she looks, Jennifer Lopez tripped to Turkmenistan to sing happy birthday to its murderous dictator, claiming she didn’t know anything about him….The distinctive red soles on Christian Louboutin shoes will soon have a companion: running shoes with a green sole made of kale that the world-famous designer has created  in collaboration with Whole Foods….
Kale Sneakers
Following the recent lifting of long-standing restrictions, Mexican distillers now hope to flood China with high-class tequila….“Man of Steel. Feet of Clay. Waste of Time.” was one review of the 1960s movie quoted by London columnist Charles Moore… What huge salary must a vp of Tiffany’s have been making? And yet she still had to steal from the company....The Vatican, building on its first exhibition at the Venice Bienniale in centuries, says the Holy See will “reclaim” its role as a patron of the arts by investing millions on building new churches and hiring contemporary artists to furnish them…..“It’s okay to date a nun once in while”, warns Phil Proctor, “just don't get in the habit”…..Jay-Z’s pretensions will make him history sooner than he thinks….....Apparently the ASPCA has so much money to piss away that members happily paid its president a preposterous $566,000 a year. No word on whether his successor is taking a pay cut….“I have no intention of retiring anytime soon”, declares Martha Stewart, 72. “I still feel that there are many things to be done, that my creativity hasn’t waned, and to be sent out to the pasture prematurely for me and many others would be the worst death.”…..Built upon thousands of KFC and Taco Bell minimum wage workers, YUM Brands has a president who makes $1.3m a year and “helped lead the battle against sick days” reports the New York Times…“There is enough in the world for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”—Frank Buchman (1878-1961)




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