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the column of lasting insignificance: January 24, 2015
by John Wilcock

What I was actually trying to do in my early movies was show how people can meet other people and what they can do and what they can say to each other. That was the whole idea: two people getting acquainted.
—Andy Warhol

[ From the Archives ]

IS ONLINE DATING threatening monogamy? That’s the premise of the Atlantic’s story titled A Million First Dates which makes the case that partnerships are being undermined “by the allure of the Internet dating pool”. In other words, awareness of the multitude of available partners out there tends to make any current one a little shaky. “Internet dating has made people more disposable” is the way Mark Brooks expressed it last year in a book that also pointed out that it helped people realize “that there’s no need to settle for a mediocre relationship”. Relationships that begin online tend to move quickly because by the time participants meet, “they already have a level of intimacy”. But they’re also relationships that everybody is aware might not last, “changing people’s ideas” says Match.com’s CEO Greg Blatt, “about whether commitment itself is a life value”. Naturally, it’s very much in the interests of match-making firms to promote that particular view. “A permanently paired-off dater”, the magazine wryly comments, “means a lost revenue stream”.

THE RELIGION OF Brutality & Statistics, aka American football is getting some long-overdue attention as nearly 4,000 retired players sue the NFL over the link between football and long-term brain damage. A book on the concussion crisis by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada will be published next year. Sensible parents are beginning to realize that the U.S. teaches violence from an early age and the dreams of small boys to be NFL players may end as nightmares. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has so far refused to be interviewed by the authors. In the course of a 12-page story about the various helmets now available to minimize concussion, Popular Science revealed that professional football players receive as many as 1,500 hits to the head in a single season. “And those hits have consequent concussions, and according to recent research, permanent brain damage.”

“A VAST EMPIRE of pep” is how Fortune describes the company called Varsity which sprang out of the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (who knew?). Publisher of American Cheerleader magazine and vendor of cheerleading uniforms and equipment, and its founder, Jeff Webb, told Fortune that this year he plans to open a cheerleading academy in Guangzhou, China.

HOW LIGHT CAN YOU build a bicycle? The earliest ones were made from wood and in the past they’ve been made from steel tubes, aluminum alloys, even carbon fiber. Israeli engineer Izhar Gafni has now adopted the principles of origami folding to build a bike out of cardboard with solid—somewhat bumpy—rubber tires.

The Economist

Along with plastic pedals from recycled bottles and a ’chain’ made from rubber, the whole caboodle weighs about 20lbs and can support a rider weighing up to 300lbs. Gafni estimates the cycle can be built for about $12 a unit and would surely be an asset in poor countries.

OFFERING JOBS TO VETERANS might not be enough to quell criticism of WalMart where, alleges Mark Engle in the New Internationalist, not a single one of its. 4,500 North America retail locations in North America is home to a unionized work force. Although it’s the largest private employer in the world, the company strives hard to create “a climate of fear: by eavesdropping on employees and training surveillance cameras on union supporters, the writer charges, quoting a report by Human Rights Watch. At the moment the company suspects stirring of collective action. “a call results in the dispatch of a squad of union-busters to the store in question”.

TO PEOPLE NOT in the know, it seemed like this new magazine, Miller-McCune, just suddenly appeared out of the blue. But to those in the behavioral sciences, Sara Miller-McCune has long been a familiar figure as an academic, a philanthropist and the leader of the publishing house, SAGE, which she started with her late husband George when she was 23 (She’s now 71). She says that while at her desk there she was constantly pondering how to solve some of the world’s problems such as how to deliver basic, affordable health care for everybody; to educate children so that more are trained for lives of success; to create a more just and democratic world in the face of rising inequality; to develop an environmentally sustainable society. Big issues, all, and deserving of some thoughtful solutions. “I would worry about how to get these important ideas to a wider audience” says Ms. McCune. Her solution was to found a research center which paired experienced journalists with various experts, subsequently printing their conclusions in her magazine. Last year the title was changed to Pacific Standard and it’s a magazine well worth reading. Some of the stories in the current issue explain NASCAR crashes and the Gini formula, define ‘authenticity’ in pop music, predict a polar bear’s future in a changing climate, and introduce an avatar or two.

FRANCE’S SUDDEN BATTLE against Muslim rebels in Mali has taken its domestic critics by surprise after longtime criticism that it would do anything to avoid anything that might possibly offend Muslims. Joseph A. Harris recently wrote that the country now harbors so many of them that if America’s Muslim population was proportionate, it would number 40 million. France is still in denial about the extent of the Islamist threat, Harris maintained in The American Spectator story, citing a study by a French ministry of education inspector that was never—maybe understandably—released. Most of the country’s Muslim population comes from the festering housing projects surrounding all major cities—“lawless neighborhoods where police dare not venture for fear of provoking violent, stone-throwing, car-burning riots….
    Muslim pupils increasingly refuse to sing, dance, participate in sports, draw a human face or play a musical instrument. They shun school cafeteria food that isn’t halal, refuse to draw a right angle in maths class because it looks like part of a Christian cross…”
    The magazine says that a 2005 book, Eurabia, predicting all this, offered a pretty fair description of today’s France, suggesting that some European nations would adopt “a strict political correctness that brooks no criticism of Arab governments or Muslim immigrants and, in deference to Arab prejudices, promotes anti-American, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attitudes”.

THE WILCOCK WEB: It would be helpful to see a list showing the exact sum with which each individual member of Congress has been bribed by the NRA. Shouldn’t information like this be public knowledge?….Instead of drunkenness and sexual humiliation being the qualification for admittance to college fraternities, how about requiring a display of intellectual savvy and an ability to answer questions indicating the possession of common sense?....“Be content to seem what you really are” urged Marcus Aurelius…..Is Attorney General Eric Holder a pot-smoker? Just askin’… How dare the head of the US Military Court decree what Bradley Manning is allowed to say in his defence!…The ghastly Lloyd Blankfein was ill-advisedly chosen by CBS News to advise viewers about the fiscal cliff, says Extra, but mainly succeeded “in showing how clueless he is about ordinary people’s lives”….And what a pity that the frustrated Securities and Exchange can’t jail greedy hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen just on suspicion of something or other…..…”The world will end right about the time that Libertarians admit they are actually Republicans only they like drugs” sez Joe Queenan……Traffic-soaked streets have impelled the French supermarket chain Franprix to replace truck delivery with river barges on the Seine which drop off their cargoes near the Eiffel Tower, followed by a short ride to midtown stores…..…”A station like Al Jazeera” comments the weekly Standard, “shows that there is more gray in the world than black and white”….. Designating the successor to the throne might be a problem if the pregnancy of the Duchess of Cambridge (aka Kate Middleton) results in twins as her acute morning sickness sometimes suggests…..With a $50 cartridge, the new Metal Vapor Torch by a a Texas firm will cut through a half-inch steel bar in less than a second…. New ‘un-meltable’ chocolate bars that stay solid in 100-degree temperatures are being exported by Cadbury’s…..Too many magazines are “knocking themselves out whoring after the young” says columnist Joseph Epstein, and they might do better “returning to the simple formula of providing articles that remind readers that the world is an endlessly rich, complex and amusing place”… T-shirt I DON'T NEED GOOGLE, MY WIFE KNOWS EVERYTHING …… Operating in four resorts with plans to spread worldwide, Lee Ann Sauter’s Seaside Luxe company is transforming drab hotel gift shops into attractively redesigned boutiques.….Studying the flexible wings of bats, researchers at Syracuse University have created a polymer material that may enable planes to fly at lower speeds in similar fashion….. Discarded cigarette butts are being picked up by city birds, reports the New Scientist, that use them to line their nests after realizing the nicotine repels parasites …. The percentage of smokers in the US has dropped to 19% says the AMA, but that’s still 45m smokers—with 800,000 young new ones each year….. More than three quarters of the adults who quit smoking start again within six months, report scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College where they have developed a vaccine that negates nicotine absorption….. If the US Postal Service always lost money, it surely didn’t need to spend millions sponsoring a cycling team. Did it expect cycling fans would write more letters?...…“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever”—Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)

1/19/13

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[ This column originally appeared two years ago ]


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