VANATU TRUMPS DISNEYLAND

Where’s the happiest place on earth? Try the South Pacific island of Vanatu, reports something called the Happy Planet Index, compiled by the New Economics Foundation and Friends of the Earth. ”People are generally happy here because they are very satisfied with very little,” says Mark Lowery of the island’s online newspaper. “This is not a consumer-driven society. Life here is about community and family and goodwill to other people.” With a population of 200,000, Vanatu fears only cyclones or the occasional earthquake. The Happy Planet Index places the U.S. in 150th place and Russia at number 172 out of 178 countries.

Movie Magic

Who do you think is making the most movies these days, Hollywood or Bollywood? Well, the surprising answer is neither of them. By far the most movies, explains the Economist, are coming from Nollywood – the hyperactive film industry of Nigeria that produced 2,000 films last year, none of them costing more than $100,000, and most for a fraction of that figure. Witchcraft and “juju” are the most popular subjects because black magic is “a way to explain why a man has gone from being poor to being a millionaire overnight,” says Onookome Okome, professor of African literature and film at the University of Alberta.

Humane Face of China

Executing people by firing squad in front of large crowds is being phased out in China, which wants to offer the world a more humane face in advance of the 2008 Olympics. So the new method, reports Asia Times, is to have a four-man team pick up a prisoner from jail, park somewhere quiet and kill him by lethal injection. China is estimated to conduct 8,000 executions a year and to sell the bodies for medical transplants.

Return of ‘RV Generation’

There’s such a shortage of long-range truck drivers, reports the Wall Street Journal, that freight companies are turning to mom and pop teams of “the RV generation” and training them to handle the big rigs. At some companies the roster of these older couples has reached 20%, and because of their age (plus stability and background) truck stops have begun to supplement their hot rod mags and girlie books with more sophisticated reading, as well as salons where trucker moms can get their hair and nails done.

Fishy Situation

Jellyfish, don’t you hate ‘em? Well, with good reason. It turns out that some have tentacles 120 feet long and collectively they kill more people every year than do Great White Sharks. Last year, fishermen hauled in nearly half a million tons of jellyfish, more than twice as much as a decade ago. Why? The Week suggests that planetary increases in temperature have promoted breeding by raising ocean temperatures four degrees, and “overdosing” the oceans with more and more pollutants. These “feed the growth of primitive organisms that dominated the seas before the advent of fish,” the magazine reports.

The Wilcock Web

“What Einstein Told His Cook” is the title of a November book by Washington Post columnist Robert L. Wolke…. Distribution of watermelon juice is about to go national…. Quoting would-be politician Kinky Friedman as saying, “Politics is the only field in which the more experience you have, the worse you get,” the Economist comments: “He is certainly the most amusing candidate for governor of Texas”…. A new five-foot tall “fireplace” (available from heatnglo.com for $50) which, when plugged in, uses electrolysis to separate hydrogen and oxygen and burns above a copper and steel base…. Charmain Blattner’s Great American Axiom: “Some is good, more is better, too much is just right”…. A hardy perennial – the story about how we all consume too much sugar – popped up in Experience Life magazine…. A new drug called Prialt, synthesized from a deadly sea snail, is said to be 1,000 times more powerful than morphine, yet non-addictive…. “Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees and then names the streets after them,” Bill Vaughan told the Montreal Gazette…. A car battery now costs the same as 14 new cars were a decade ago, says a report on inflation in Zimbabwe…. “There is no such source of error as the pursuit of absolute truth” – Samuel Butler (1835-1902).

John Wilcock’s weekly column can be read at www.ojaiorange.com