' John Wilcock - The Column of Lasting Insignificance for 14 December, 2013    
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the column of lasting insignificance: December 21, 2013
by John Wilcock

“Apocalyptic thinking—whether global contagion, environmental collapse collisions with non-existent rogue planets, alien invasions or zombies—(predicts that) something ends our world and civilization…is endemic in our population at the moment and I worry about the effects on young people growing up with the idea, formerly mostly confined to religious zealots, that the world has no future.”
—Kendrik Frazier in the Skeptical Inquirer

ART AS DESTRUCTION is a theme that probably began half a century ago with Jean Tinguely’s museum exhibition of the machine that he built to annihilate itself. “Much of the story of 20th century art” writes Ben Lerner,” can be told as a series of acts of vandalism” and in a thoughtful, but rambling piece in Harper’s, he cites such examples as Marcel Duchamp's reproduction of the Mona Lisa with an added mustache; Yoko Ono’s invitation to an audience to cut away her clothing; the spray-painting by Tony Shafrazi of Picasso’s Guernica; Rauchenberg’s erasure of a Willem de Kooning drawing (on view in San Francisco’s MOMA as “a landmark of post modern art”) and last year’s defacement of a Rothko work in the Tate Modern by a young Polish nutcase, Vladimir Umanets, promoting his Yellowism manifesto which Lerner dismisses as “Neo-Dadaist nonsense”. More intriguing was the action of Pierre Pinoncelli who urinated into a reproduction of the urinal that Duchamp called Fountain, and when charged with vandalism claimed on the contrary

Shot Orange Marilyn

that he had added value to it, restoring life to what had become “a mere monument”. But some accused ‘vandals’ have other motives. Consider the case of Rindy Sam, a 30 year old fan of Cy Twombly, who was so transported by her idol’s works that she kissed it, smearing it with lipstick. And how could this sort of tale conclude without some sort of reference to the ubiquitous Andy Warhol? Thus the appearance of a self-described witch named Dorothy Podber who visited Andy’s “factory” one day in 1964 and asked if she could “shoot” a stack of paintings of Marilyn Monroe. To everyone’s surprise she produced a gun and fired a shot through the canvases, which hardly phased the resourceful Andy who simply retitled the works for his ever-eager audience. Shot Red Marilyn alone, sold for $4 million.

CAN THERE BE social organization without authority, without government? The anarchists claim that there can be, wrote Colin Ward, and they also claim that it is desirable that there should be. In most of his 30 books, Ward boosted the anarchist claim that, at the basis of our social problems is the principle of governments, which prepare for war and wage war, even though others are obliged to fight in them and pay for them. Ward died in 2010 at 86, but for decades he wrote columns for Freedom (originally called War Commentary) and now some of his wisdom has been republished in Talking Anarchy by the fledgling PM Press whose David Goodway contends that “once you begin to look at human society from an anarchist point of view you discover that the alternatives are already there, in the interstices of the dominant power structure. If you want to build a free society, the parts are all at hand”.

“If you’re a politician you get hammered all the time. The phone rings off the wall and constituents come to your office and camp out and everybody wants something. They want their son out of jail, they want a DUI fixed, a long list of things, but primarily they want jobs and the jobs aren’t there. And they're mad at you because you can’t deliver. So I did not enjoy it.”
—best selling author John Grisham explaining to the Los Angeles Times why he gave up his post as a state politician in favor of his regular job

THE BELIEF THAT something healthy doesn’t taste as good is behind the way that fast food restaurants are only gradually tweaking their menus to contain less sodium and sugar according to Bloomberg Businessweek. “When you hear less sodium your mind hears less taste” says Elizabeth Stewart, marketing director of Subways which nevertheless has made such reductions in its 40,500 locations. Au Bon Pain (200 stores) briefly swapped its 550-calorie cinnamon roll with a 480-calorie version—then swapped it back after complaints. But it has reduced the salt in its chicken noodle soup in three successive years.

MY UNSOUGHT ADVENTURE began a few months ago with the accidental discovery (on an x-ray taken for pain in the ribs) of a dark patch on my left lung. Diagnosis: cancer—suggested remedy an operation to cut it out. Thence came a series of tests—more x-rays, cat scans, a pet scan, blood tests, a biopsy, pulmonary checks, visits to an oncologist and respiratory therapist, and finally a meeting with the surgeon who was about to conduct the operation. This took place in St. John’s hospital in Oxnard, CA., whose medical personnel couldn’t have been kinder and more solicitous. I was

MAKING THE ROUNDS of all the wards at St. John’s hospital is the official chaplain, the Rev. Donald E. Pederson, from whose book Encounters with the Extraordinary comes the following revealing extract:

One 70-year-old patient who was recovering from hip surgery reminded me of the importance of listening. When I asked where her family was, she replied she had had it with them and sent them home. “When they’re here” she said, “all they do is talk about themselves. No one listens to me. I’m the one in hospital, in pain, and you’d think I should be the center of attention—but no, all they do is talk about themselves. It’s all about them”. Sad to say, I have heard this more than once.

overwhelmed with their sympathy and efficiency, from the innumerable attending doctors, nurses and physical therapists, each adding words of encouragement and good cheer, all the way down to the service personnel who always had time for a cheery comment as they monitored the room.
    My surgeon, Bruce Toporoff, an affable, fifty-ish doctor, part of a group which promotes “minimally-invasive, video- and robotic-assisted valve surgery”, inspired complete confidence from the start (patients on his website proffer him a five-star rating) and minimized my apprehension about the coming three-hour event. I expected to dream, but didn’t and awoke comfortably in bed with very little pain.
    At my post-op meeting with Dr. Toporoff, I expressed my awe at what scalpel-equipped surgeons do, and asked what went through his mind just before he made the first incision on a patient. “It’s all in a day’s work” he responded, somewhat nonchalantly, proceeding to explain that, as he did around 200 operations (mostly heart surgeries) every year, he had accustomed himself to eschewing personal feelings about his subject so that he was able to concentrate on the job at hand. I’m still in awe.
    Recovering from lung cancer involves a routine involving constant exercise of the lungs, inhaling vapor and exhaling air and while in hospital this goes on every few hours, night and day. But there’s plenty of time for restorative sleep, which has occupied the main part of every day since my release. Understandably, I’m grateful to be still alive.

THE WILCOCK WEB: If it’s true that the Supremos, divided between four conservatives and four liberals, are deadlocked until Justice Anthony Kennedy decides by voting for one side or the other, why not fire everybody but him and save a ton of money and hours of pointless arguments?.... Most Americans want us to leave Afghanistan but our leaders are begging and pleading with the corrupt Karzai to allow us to stay there and pour in $$$billions more…. Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung says Germany should be grateful to whistle-blower Edward Snowden and give him sanctuary. “Face it, the real villains here are the U.S. spies and their criminal machinations”…. “The desire to reveal” quoth Carl Jung, “is greater than the desire to conceal”…. Ladbroke’s, Britain’s biggest gambling operator is allowing parents to place bets on the number of degrees their kids will get at college…. “In public and private schools alike, “upper middle class youngsters show alarmingly high rates of serious disturbance” observes Psychology Today in its essay ‘The Problem with Rich Kids.’ (It suggests that they feel under greater pressure to succeed, resulting in “crippling anxiety and depression”) …..“Some of us shouldn’t get married” suggests Kathy Bates, “and I’m one of them. I tried it but I wasn’t very good at it. It’s not a talent that I possess”… Hardly a surprise to find the 21st century’s biggest crooks, Bernie Madoff and JPMorganChase, are linked together…..Speaking of billions, if those Wall Street firms can afford to give their fledgling subordinates quarter-million dollar bonuses why not cough up a few thousand to buy Christmas dinner for the homeless?.....Commenting on the oversupply of commercials in a typical NFL game, the NYT’s Dana Jennings wrote “you wonder whether neuroscientists shouldn’t be investigating ACS: Ad Concussion Syndrome”…. Once a year is not nearly enough to do a live show. Television would be greatly improved if many scripts were dropped and mistakes were welcomed….The Cheney family, muses Will Durst, apparently feel about each other the same way the rest of us do….“If I owned hell and Texas” declared Union general Philip Sheridan in the Civil War, “I’d rent out Texas and live in hell”…Contact geezersportscards@gmail.com if you’d like a baseball card with your own face on it….Most of the 408 New York Times pieces mentioning Mexico’s Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, since he bought a stake in the paper five years ago, have been neutral stories says the Media Watch Group’s newsletter Extra. “Places where criticism of Slim would seem obvious sometimes find him conspicuously absent”…. “No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow.”—Euripides(480–406 BC)

12/14/13


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