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the column of lasting insignificance: February 8, 2014
by John Wilcock

“Perhaps it is time to seriously reconsider a political system, that in which five, life-tenured, politically unaccountable judges have the final say on so many of our most pressing problems.”
—Eric J. Segal, author of Supreme Myths: Why the Supreme Court is Not a Court and the Justices are not Judges, pointing to the nine, non-elected nonentities who are just the usual politicians

MOTHERS-IN-LAW are rarely the most popular relatives in any culture, but in India, the saas is the mostly unsympathetic subject along with her daughter-in-law, bahu, of at least a score of Hindi soap operas. “The crucial relationship between a wife and her husband’s mother”, explains the Economist, “is because young women traditionally move in with the groom’s relatives after marriage, to be fed, housed and subsumed by them…the tutelage could easily tip over into abuse. The (teenage) bride often arrived as little more than a skivvy”. Noted Indian author Veena Venugopal says sex and shame are often behind such obsessive control. Mothers-in-law “don’t trust daughters in law to be faithful, so they try to desexualize them, locking them up, fattening them up, phoning several times a day”. Her new book, Mother in Law: the Other Woman in Your Marriage will contain what the mag describes as “true life horror stories that interpret that interpretation”.

MOTORCYCLE RIDERS WHO don’t wear helmets think of themselves as free-spirited warriors who are exploiting their individuality to stick it to the man. Actually, they are foolish, selfish individuals who cost everybody else thousands of dollars when they have serious accidents. At the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln NE, doctors know immediately the home state of casualties they admit: Nebraska insists on helmets, neighboring states of Iowa, Kansas and Dakota do not. And they are the ones, says Dr. Lori Terryberry Spohr, who suffer “diffuse internal bleeding and cell death across large areas”. Their hospital bills, typically exceed a million dollars, but of course they don’t pay—other taxpayers do. And yet the trend is in the wrong direction. Lobbying in Michigan managed to get helmet laws repealed. Biker deaths rose by 18%.

“I think men are increasingly passive, and that might be just what we are looking for. Maybe it’s just that I’m older. But I think men are the new women. And that means women might be the new men, and that might not be a bad thing. Men could cook for us, clean for us, look after our babies. It could work really well. I’m up for it.”
–Angelica Huston talking to the London Times

THE SUCCESS OF NETFLIX is mostly due to its willingness to adopt Hollywood ways which means forking out the same kind of money—“big names and big bucks”—to pay for it. So says an analysis by Fast Company which refers to the way the red-envelope company has surrendered control to creators, allowed subscribers to binge on a complete season at once while eschewing the ratings game. One result has been that it has netted 31 million US subscribers, (it’s in 40 countries) a couple of million more than HBO. “But what really has Hollywood worried”, says the mag, “is that the company seems in a hurry to redefine the very rules of the entertainment industry. Its willingness to sign up shows for an entire season without first ordering a pilot… has forced network executives to rethink a system that has defined television since its inception”. One big difference is still in the bottom line: HBO makes $1.7bn in profits for its parent company, Time Warner; Netflix made $100million in profits last year.

CAUGHT IN AN AVALANCHE? Just inflate the Halo 28 Jefferson backpack you’re wearing and its buoyancy will enable you to rise to the top of the slide. It’s one of the new inventions featured in December’s Popular Science which also features Cabela’s ColorPhase Camouflage jacket for hunters, which changes color to match the seasons… an indestructible tent pole which bends in super-high winds….a DIY ‘battery’ that can be constructed from zinc pennies and a lemon… and the baseball-size Explorer which, when tossed into a hazardous room, takes and transmits pictures via cameras with wide angle lens.

NO IS NOT ALWAYS a negative. In fact sometimes it can imply an assertion instead of a denial. “Negativity is an ongoing attitude” declares Psychology Today. “No, is a moment of clear choice. It announces, however indirectly, something affirmative about you… all because you have goals of your own from which you refuse to be deflected”. The mag says that we might be unaware of the surge of strength we derive from a firm “no” because it can be easily interpreted as a rejection, rather than an awareness that one’s own needs take priority. “It says that while each of us interacts with others, and loves, respects and values those relationships, we do not and cannot allow ourselves always to be influenced by them. The strength we derive from saying ‘No’, is that it underscores this hard truth of maturity: the buck stops here.” Also to be considered is the ‘no’ that we say to ourselves. This “comes from an internal self-governor whose job it is to contain our urges and manage our priorities within an iron fist of reason”.

THE COMPUTER THAT IBM invented to beat Jeopardy contestants three years ago prompted Big Blue to invest $1bn in creating the eponymously-named Watson Group. This new division’s boss, Mike Rhodin, boasts that this almost-human robot will draw on the huge stockpiles of data they have acquired to solve such problems as those concerning wealth management and cancer diagnoses. He says Watson is now small, more efficient and “24 times faster than when it (he?) won on Jeopardy”. IBM forecasts it will be a $10bn business within a decade.

FRONTPAGING A STORY about how companies get started, Inc. listed Spanx, Five Guys, Flipboard and Klout, demonstrating the gap between us old fogeys and another generation. At least I’d heard of Spanx, which offered the whimsical (and oft-told) tale of how founder Sarah Blakely saw ungainly lines beneath her, comely, tight white pants. Then she cut off the feet of her pantyhose, wore them next to her skin. Voila! A seamless and handsome fit. She demonstrated it to Neiman Marcus, to Bloomingdale's, to Saks and Bergdoff Goodman “I wore those white pants for three years to sell Spanx” she recalls And ended up with a $250 million business.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Why doesn’t Canada ship its dirty oil out of its own ports instead of corrupting several US states with its Keystone pipeline?...The top Marine general in Afghanistan wants 1,000 troops to stay another year to train Afghan forces. Isn’t that what they claim to have been doing for the past 11 years during which less than half of them have been taught to read and write…”The success of most things” noted Montesquieu in 1748, “depends on knowing how long it will take to succeed”….History will surely note that most of the 21st century’s international turmoil is attributable to one man, George W. Bush….The 9/11 Memorial, on the site of the this country’s worst calamity, will charge $24 for admission—due, say critics, to the six-figure salaries of the organizers. You’d think that they’d donate their ‘services’ out of common decency, but greedheads like this don’t have any…. (“If your conduct is determined solely by considerations of profit” said Confucius. “you will arouse great resentment”) ….Invite the Chinese to pay for and build California’s high-speed rail road. They’d save the country billions, do it faster and more efficiently and if they got their money back from fares, they’d deserve every nickel…..Fast Company asked its readers what historical character they’d like to bring back to their company and the top choice was Leonardo da Vinci (in second place, Steve Jobs)…..”Top state officials give warped allegations about church, wearing the correct facial impression, but they lie and in doing so sin more than we ever did” proclaimed Nadesha Tolokennikova (released from jail) in Masha Gessen’s book, Words Will Break Cement, the Passion of Pussy Riot…..There are dozens of poisons that kill within seconds, so why don’t they use those for executions?....Describing the movie about Walt Disney, Saving Mr. Banks, as “an appalling disgrace”, the weekly Standard’s John Podhoretz opined that the early 1960s Disney studio was far from being “a paradise on earth in which delightfully unpretentious regular folk were producing unaffectedly awe-inspiring work”, but actually “a stagnant pit of mediocrity”….A tip of the hat, as WW used to say, to documentary-maker Robert Weide, for his (extremely) long defense in the Daily Beast answering those 21-year-old allegations about the marriage between the esteemed Woody Allen and his “stepdaughter”…. Researchers at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute claim that eating an ounce of nuts every day led to a 20% lesser risk of dying…Nurse Pat, at the office of my oncologist where last week I had my first tranquil and Stressed Zebra trouble-free chemo session, gave me a copy of the stressed zebra which I admired on her office wall….Floating around dangerously in space, warns NASA, are 21,000 random pieces of wreckage the size of a grapefruit or bigger…. Weep for poor, old Tom Boucher who moans that if he has to pay the waiters at his seven NH restaurants more than seven bucks an hour, he’ll have to fire some of them….An aroma-equipped watch, invented by computer teacher Carol Chacin, at NY’s Parsons School for Design, releases the scent of espresso in the morning and three other odors during the day…..If it’s true, as the Los Angeles Times claims, that more than half of the Superbowl’s 110 million viewers are “tuning in to see the commercials as much as for the action on the field”, the advertisers should offer them a separate show (minus the need to behold the annual ceremony of brutality and statistics). The audience would still be about double of everything else on television….”Force has no place when there is need of skill”—Herodotus (484-425 BC)


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