the column of lasting insignificance: December 2, 2017
by John Wilcock

From the archives...

(this column first appeared 10 years ago this week.)

THE MOTHER OF ALL family feuds is the one between Viacom/CBS boss Sumner Redstone, 84, and his daughter Shari, 54, who was set to take over the company when the media tycoon died—until the old man changed his mind. “Now they barely speak” says Forbes, “choosing to communicate via faxes and lawyers….the saga is a Shakespearian tragedy”. The mag says that the conflict over succession was created by Redstone (worth $7.6 billion) who has a history of anointing senior executives only to banish them later, and in this case he feels his daughter has rankled the heads of Viacom and CBS by being too assertive and meddlesome. “She wants power and she doesn’t want to wait” says a Sumner supporter, according to Forbes which says that although the pair have been communicating via lawyers, a face to face meeting may be imminent.

OTAKU MEANS “GEEK” in Japanese and its origin in the Tokyo suburb of Akihabara (Akiba, for short) has made the formerly home appliance district the hippest part of town. Stores selling cheap electronics have been supplanted by chic restaurants, luxury condos and “maid cafes” where the waitresses dress in dainty Victorian costumes and call customers master or mistress. Manufacturers have been studying the callow culture of the area for clues to food and fashion fads. The Japan Journal calls the otaku culture “Japan’s coolest export product” and there are plans for a new subway line to connect Akiba in the east with Harajuku, the teen mecca in the western part of town, what the paper calls “the twin neighborhoods of J-Pop cool”.

ONE OF ONLY FOUR copies of the Magna Carta created in 1297 is expected to fetch $30 million at a Sotheby’s auction this month. An updated version of the original vellum document that King John was forced by angry barons angered by the abuse of the king’s powers to sign in 1215, the Magna Carta was the origin of the Habeas Corpus principle which guaranteed that freemen would not “be imprisoned or derived of property without due process”. The copy to be sold has been owned by H. Ross Perot since 1984.

THE ASSUMPTION THAT affirmative action is the reason why better qualified students are not entering college is nonsense according to the Boston Globe reporting that it was not the reason why college admissions were not based purely on merit. A five-year study of 146 top colleges found that white students with sub-par qualifications were “nearly twice as prevalent on such campuses as Black and Hispanic students who received an admissions break based on their ethnicity or race”. Most of these white students, explained Peter Schmidt, has connections to alumni, donors, and politicians and had jumped the queue “by knowing the management or flashing cash”.

UNDER THE GUISE OF being a religious organization, the Moonies have built a multi-billion dollar business comprising real estate, shipbuilding, seafood distribution, soccer teams, auto-making in North Korea, land in Brazil, the Washington Times and the wire service, UPI. But most ominous of all, says a lengthy story in Portfolio, is Kahr Arms, a gun company started by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon’s eldest son, Justin, who seems likely to be the future head of the Unification Church. Kahr Arms markets 13 types of guns of which the most deadly is a palm-sized weapon, some of which have been smuggled out of its Worcester, MA. factory without serial numbers (“untraceable, perfect for criminals”) and involved in murders. “The church says it’s for peace but that’s all part of the deception” says former Moonie Steve Hassan who predicts that Moon’s ultimate plan is to take over when the global economy falls apart.

ATTEMPTING TO PARE the huge production costs ($22 billion last year) from 435  offshore drilling rigs in the seas north of Scotland, oil companies are installing fiber optic cables which enable geologists onshore to analyze data from drilling as it occurs. This means it can suffice with only a fraction of the 300 staff usually needed for each platform (each of whom costs $2,000 to ferry back and forth by helicopter). Drilling at an angle so that multiple fields can be served from a single platform and the installation of more pipelines are also helping to reduce costs. “Fifteen years from now” predicts GE’s Claudi Santiagh, “the vision is that offshore platforms will disappear”.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Greedy billionaire Rupert Murdoch is a notable absentee from Business Week’s “50 Most Generous Philanthropists”. Could the media tycoon even be included in the Top 1,000?….In its continuing quest to be the Middle East’s most “Western” center, Abu Dhabi plans to launch an English-language daily next year having already recruited a former Daily Telegraph editor along with 200 other European and American journalists…….What was the best thing before sliced bread?… After Sao Paulo banned advertising billboards, Clear Channel -–the world’s biggest outdoor advertising agency—sued, as its worries mounted that other cities might get the same idea…. The New Yorker reports that it receives 600 poems each week…..Probing the recent scandal in which Brit TV viewers made telephone calls trying for a jackpot, investigators claimed that $15 million had been earned by false pretences…. Big decisions are taken at small meetings, small decisions are taken at big meetings goes a Chinese proverb…. Japan’s low 1.4 birth rate coupled with its opposition to immigration is shrinking its population by one million people per year and within two decades the economy will face collapse forecasts Paris’ Le Monde….The Spanish government is showing in Senegal a movie it made to dissuade immigrants from making the perilous trip to the Canary Islands.... “Modern government is no longer interested in getting things done” says Roland White, "but in giving the impression of activity"....It may be 15 more years before it’s complete, but plans are in place for a 12-mile underground expressway—the nation’s longest —under the Santa Ana mountains connecting California’s Riverside and Orange counties….. A new Japanese camera automatically takes a picture only when it detects a smile…. The more things are forbidden the more popular they become—Mark Twain (1835-1910)

(this column first appeared ten years ago this week.)

National Weed (1974, issue #3)


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