the column of lasting insignificance...
—for July 11, 2015 by John Wilcock

from the archives…

Francis Bacon, who died in 1992 at the age of 92, may well be the greatest exemplar of a wrong-headed tradition that we have ever seen. What Bacon produced are not paintings, at least not satisfying ones…They are little more than rectangles of canvas inscribed with noirish graffiti: angst for dummies, the 20th century’s most august visual claptrap”

--Jed Perl in National Review on the Metropolitan Museum’s Francis Bacon retrospective

MARIHUANA WILL NEVER be legalized predicts Kevin Drum because for it to happen, the U.S. would have to renounce its agreement to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs  which was signed by virtually every other country in the world. Drum, a non-smoker himself, analyzed the pot situation in four pages of Mother Jones summer drug issue whose front cover bears the words “totally wasted.” He suggested that even if the blessed herb was legalized, consumption wouldn’t rise very much because most people who smoke it can already find it easily enough. And even though it’s freely available in Holland, use there is pretty much on a par with most other countries. One advantage of legalizing the weed could be to lower alcohol use, currently numbering 80,000 deaths a year. “Even a 50 per cent increase in cannabis use might be a benefit if it led to lower rates in the use of other drugs”, Drum claims. With widespread agreement that the so-called war on drugs as been a costly failure maybe we’ve reached a tipping point, Drum surmises. “Even GOP icon Arnold Schwarzenegger now says, ‘I think it’s time for debate’”.

IN CALIFORNIA, says the Nation, a bill is en route to the State Legislature to impose an excise tax on marihuana sellers and charge buyer‘s sales tax, a move that could reap the state about $1.3 billion a year. The mag claims that “an increasing number of the state’s political figures…argue that the country’s harsh drug policies are not financially viable and no longer command majority support among he voting public”.

ARGUMENTS ABOUT AUTHENTICITY certainly aren’t new to the art world but when a museum curator changes her mind about a work, the discussion gets more heated. At stake here is the reputation of Francisco Goya (1746-1838) whose The Colossus was venerated by Madrid’s Prado. Art News described the picture as “a sort of patriotic history lesson in oil on canvas by one of the nation’s most illustrious citizens”. The Prado’s curator of 18th century paintings, Manuela Mena, once proclaimed it a masterpiece, until she had second thoughts, writing that “the way it is painted… is technically opposed to Goya’s way of working”. Art specialists have jumped in on both sides, two calling Mena’s arguments “scandalous for their errors and sophistries”, and another describing the painting as “a poorly executed pastiche”. The furore, says Art News, has generated “heated responses in the contentious field of Goya scholarship”.

A GIANT AIRBAG, something like those that inflate in automobile crashes, might be ideal to protect houses when raging fires approach. Popular Science demonstrates a huge airbag made from fireproof fabric that can be inflated as the homeowner leaves and which is kept erect over the house by fans pumping air into flexible tubes that maintain a taught exoskeleton above the roof.

Fem philosopher Germaine Greer (b.1939) whose 1970 book The Female Eunuch (“a direct and candid description of female sexuality”-Wikipedia) sold millions because it was derided as much as praised, is the obvious model for next year’s The Female of the Species. Starring Annette Bening, the drama, at the Geffen Playhouse is about the author of a book called Madame Ovary. Her second title was The Complete Insignificance of Male Sexuality. (Quoth Ms. Greer: “Freud is the father of psychoanalysis. It has no mother.)

THE AVERAGE CUSTOMER for a Hewlett Packard printer subsequently spends three times as much for ink as he did for the printer writes columnist Anne Kadet in Smart Money, which explains why the company doesn’t bother about losing $30 on every printer sold. In fact Hp makes twice as much money on its print division as it does on personal computers, aided by the fact that a print cartridge costs three dollars to make and usually sells for $30.

IN A SUPPLEMENT labeled Do Almost Anything! (Count Cards…Stop a fight…Look Good on TV), Wired magazine relays instructions from the Chronobiology Research Institute on how to Sleep Two Hours a  Day. The secret, it reveals, is to take a 20-minute nap every two hours, something that presumably demands having a flexible work place. It warns that the first seven days of deprivation “will be sheer misery, but stay on track”.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Why aren’t state legislators obliged to buy and pay for their own cars?….And seeing that the ones in both New York and California aren’t actually working, why are they still being paid?…. The world’s richest soccer club, Real Madrid, just paid $120 million to the world’s second richest, Manchester United, for the services of Portuguese-born forward Cristiano Ronaldom 24, described by the Independent as “a quintessential peacock male”…. ….”Finance” quips Robert Sarnoff, “is the art of passing currency from hand to hand until it finally disappears”….Complaints about the inelegant grunting noises made by female tennis players  at Wimbledon prompted critics to measure their volume and one player clocked in at 109 decibels, “almost as loud as a plane taking off” remarks The Week…. A Dallas-based company, SkinzWraps, has produced an adhesive, dimpled fabric which can wrap cars offering an aerodynamic  surface like a golf ball which reportedly improves fuel efficiency by 20 per cent….Continental Airlines has developed a seat that extends outwards enough to allow lying down….Italian scientists are planning to burn algae from Venice’s canals to produce biofuels…. The substance found in red wine, resveratrol, touted by Dr. Mehmet Oz on Oprah Winfrey’s show has “given rise to an overnight industry of shadowy peddlers of the stuff” reports Forbes which advises caution by its potential users….The U.S. Army is developing a solar-powered flexible screen that can be worn on the wrist and receive maps and directions….“Political correctness is to thought what sentimentality is to compassion”--anonymous

7/4/09






National Weed (1974, issue #3)

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in the press...

Now on Boing-Boing!

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Manhattan Memories: an autobiography
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excerpt from A Book Review By Marshall Brooks
Provincetown Arts Annual 2012/13

On the Ground
IF
John Wilcock had lived in the Garden of Eden he would have started the world’s first under- ground newspaper there. One can easily picture it: a paradisiacal incarnation of John’s 1960s legendary tabloid, Other Scenes, featuring a lively threesome on its cover and an interview inside with the snake, who, it turns out, really dug (in the argot of the day) cool, mellow people. An Eden on $5 a Day guide would have been sure to follow, precursor to the dozens of travel books that John Wilcock actually has methodically researched and authored over the years, beginning with Mexico on $5 a Day in 1960 for enterprising guidebook publisher Arthur Frommer. Still traveling the world at age eighty-four, no moss grows on John Wilcock, which Manhattan Memories makes clear. But there is more.

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The Underground Press, as it was called, was a groundswell of media activity running the gamut from radically political to seriously satirical. A new book, On the Ground: An Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U.S. (PM Press) Edited by Sean Stewart (who between 2007 and 2009 owned and operated Babylon Falling, a bookstore and gallery in San Francisco), recalls the Underground epoch. Through interlacing interviews with Emory Douglas (Black Panther), Paul Krassner (The Realist), Art Kunkin (The L.A. Free Press), Abe Peck (The Chicago Seed), John Wilcock (Other Scenes), Jeff Shero (The Rat), Trina Robbins (Gothic Blimp Works) and many more (including Al Goldstein of Screw), the remarkable journals that shaped my life (and career) are revived as oral history.

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This is a book length comic series on John Wilcock. People who enjoy focusing on underground and alternative media are occasionally familiar with John's work, but most often the response is "who's that?" Outside of small press historians and collectors, John remains very unknown. Which makes no sense, the more you learn about him. We're very excited about the opportunity to tell his story. Art for THE STORY OF JOHN WILCOCK is by me and co-conspirator Scott Marshall. Story comes from an extended and ongoing year-long interview with Wilcock, himself. The focus is John's years in New York, roughly 1954-1971.

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A Reader Comment from the recent New York Times Frugal Traveler post
RN—Sydney, Australia

Not only did John Wilcock shake up staid publishing in the USA, from the Village Voice to the East Village Other, his influence extended to several continents, including Australia & the UK, where - in his mild mannered way - he pushed the boundaries of image and speech. The counter culture was nothing but a dull puddle, until John kicked out the jams and ignited the Underground Press, which attracted absurd prosecutions, that of course boosted circulations. An unsung hero of the sixties,

indifferent to self promotion and the hoarding of gold, it is great to see John get a dash of recognition.

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A Budget Travel Pioneer on a Time When $5 a Day Was Real (Frugal) Money
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John Wilcock at the New York Times

It was the first handwritten letter I’d received in 5 years. Or maybe 10. Signed by John Wilcock, a man I’d never heard of, and postmarked Ojai, Calif., it was waiting for me when I returned from my São Paulo-to-New York summer trip. Mr. Wilcock wrote that he had been an assistant editor at The Times Travel section back in the 1950s, and had written the first editions of “Mexico on $5 a Day,” “Greece on $5 a Day” and “Japan on $5 a Day” for Arthur Frommer in the 1960s.

By George, I thought. This man was the original Frugal Traveler.

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and in print...

Manhattan MemoriesManhattan Memories
An Autobiography
by John Wilcock

"A GOOD WAY to describe John Wilcock is to say that he is a talented bohemian counter-culture journalist who once played a major role in the emergence of America’s underground press. Born 1927 in Sheffield, England, he left school aged 16 to work on various newspapers in England, and on Toronto periodicals before moving to New York City. There in 1955 he became one of the five founders of the Village Voice in which he and co-founder Norman Mailer wrote weekly columns. Wilcock called his column “The Village Square”, an intended pun. He and young Mailer were not quite friends, although Wilcock was at times annoyed, but always amused, by Mailer’s monstrous ego."

-From the preface of Manhattan Memories, by Martin Gardner
order from lulu.com
also available at amazon.com (in paperback or for your Kindle)
and other online booksellers