They’re Watching You

There are more CCTV cameras (an estimated 4.2 million) keeping an eye on Brits than all the rest of the EU countries combined, a fact about which critics are beginning to express alarm. The all-seeing eyes have proliferated in the past few years with the public scarcely noticing. They scan most major streets in towns large and small and are monitored in a Big Brotherly way by the police and other security agencies. In addition, reports the Daily Telegraph, Britain also has the world’s largest DNA database containing about 3.6 million profiles with 400,000 more added every month. A surveillance society, wrote Henry Porter in the Guardian, is “one that necessarily reduces us all from citizens to subjects.” The government has plans to extend the snooping by introducing a biometric identity card system and computerize medical records, making them available to police and security services.

Super Telenovas

Korean TV dramas are next in line for adaptation now that American networks – impressed by the success of the former telenova “Ugly Betty” – are looking more closely at foreign television for ideas. “Unlike U.S. soap operas, which go on for years,” writes ad executive Karen Wang, “(Korean telenovas) have a story arc that eventually comes to a close.”

A TV Wager

A German game show, “Wetten dass?” (Wanna bet?), which has been a hit for almost 20 years, has been bought and is being adapted by ABC. “You get real people who claim they can do something outrageous like being dropped into a chair from fifty feet in the air,” explains producer Phil Gurin. A team of observing contestants bet money on whether the stunt can be accomplished successfully.

Awash in Brainwash

What Richard Hofstadter called “the paranoid style in American politics” is still alive and well, says Christopher Hayes writing in the Nation about the belief by one-third of Americans that the government either carried out the 9/11 attack or allowed it to happen. He suggests that public cynicism has led people to reason that because the government “has acquired a justified reputation for deception…what else are they hiding?” Truth activists maintain they are merely asking questions and the commission report into 9/11 was clearly a whitewash so it’s hard to blame people for thinking we lack the whole story, Hayes writes, but a full scale investigation by a Popular Mechanics team in March 2005 found the most common allegations “almost entirely without merit.”

Moon Talk

Calling NASA’s plan to build a base on the moon “an outrageous waste of money,” Gregg Esterbrook writes in that “the real purpose of the base, of course, is simply to keep budget lines and contracts flowing to NASA’s beloved contractors.”

The Oscar Fix

Denying charges that his tactics had turned Oscar campaigns “nuclear,” Harvey Weinstein said that what he actually did was “democratize the process” from being merely a studio club. “Every year, the studios would award themselves Oscars,” Weinstein said. “If you were an independent it was pretty hard to get in there. The fix was in.”

The Wilcock Web

Nudged by chef Jamie Oliver’s campaign to revitalize nutritional standards for children, British education authorities will reintroduce cookery lessons into the school syllabus next year…. Autumn Damask, a rose that dates back to the 1st century BC, is one of the 3,500 bushes being currently pruned by a dozen docents at the Huntington Museum’s Rose Garden which, by the way, needs more of them (volunteer docents, not roses)…. Researchers at the University of Rhode Island affirm that eating more slowly consumes less calories. ”Satiety signals need time to develop,” explains spokeswoman Kathleen Melanson…. Paranoia means having all the facts, said William Burroughs…. Large billion-dollar companies are obliged to deal with an average of more than 10 lawsuits a week, reports a study by the law firm Fulbright & Jaworski…. Hot tubs at a spa near Japan’s Mount Fuji are filled with a choice of green tea, sake or Beaujolais wine…. A study in which CFO magazine asked air travelers for their biggest complaints found 75% listed cramped seating…. “Whitney (Houston) once pronounced that she would kill her children if they ended up like Madonna,” says columnist Barbara Ellen. “These days Madonna would presumably kill her children if they ended up like Whitney”…. “All is ephemeral – fame and the famous as well,” said Marcus Aurelius (121-180 AD).

John Wilcock’s column and weekly travel show can be accessed at