the column of lasting insignificance: October 25, 2014
by John Wilcock

“In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of. ”

Read my blog at Crowdsourcing survival.

* * *

The Following column ran one year ago.

“With the exception of Romania, no developed country has a higher percentage of kids in poverty than America…That so many leaders of a country with a $17trillion economy tolerate so much misery amid so much plenty—normalizing child hunger and allowing a significant part of the labor force to work fulltime (if not more) and still be unable to pay basic bills—is one of the scandals of our age.”
—Sasha Abramsky in the Nation

SURELY THE SADDEST sight of this depressing era is some poor, old lady sitting alone in her empty apartment wondering if she’ll have anything to eat tomorrow. “The reason is simple” writes Trudy Lieberman. “There’s not enough money from federal, state, or local governments to support most of the country’s meal programs…While funding for home-delivered meals increased 43% from 2001 to 2011, the number of seniors facing the threat of hunger rose 87% in that period. More and more seniors are going hungry”. Clearly, the sequester has made a bad situation even worse with $11.3million less to feed the elderly. The National Foundation to End Senior Hunger (NFESH), says that in the past decade the number of old folk facing this problem has increased by 78%.
    “The idea of giving a little bit more of the nation’s vast wealth to the elderly, especially those in dire need, has suffered in the drive by conservative think tanks to demonize old people—the ‘greedy geezer’ meme” Lieberman writes in the Nation. So it was probably no big surprise to those who listened to that loathsome Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein (who earned $26m last year) telling CBS Evening News: “You’re going to have to undoubtedly do something to lower people’s expectation—the entitlements and what people think they’re going to get. Because they’re not going to get it”.

THE PAINTED OUTLAW is not really an outlaw at all, claims the National Review, and motorcycles are no longer for Hells Angels but for Hell’s Dentists and Hell’s Bankers. “There are insurance agents and realtors and Rotary Club members across these United States with a better claim to being outlaws” declares Kevin D. Williamson, who suggests that what fuels their conceit are ample tattoos, once the mark of “(real) outlaws, gangsters, sailors, and other men living on the edge”. Fifty per cent of Americans still believe that getting a tattoo is “rebellious—call it the Johnny Depp effect: outlaw on the street, Disney in the bank”. Why we should admire outlaws at all, says Williamson, is another question, but “Mr. Depp is not an outlaw. He may in fact be the farthest thing from an outlaw it is possible to be: a contracted employee of the Walt Disney Company. A heavily tattooed employee of the Walt Disney Company…Getting a tattoo based on a movie starring you: That’s outlaw”.

YOUR LOCAL POLICE are certainly armed but may also be dangerous charges Radley Bolko. His recent book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, The Militarization of America’s Police Forces, outlines his grievance about the unchecked proliferation of out-of-control SWAT teams which he accuses of having been used to break up charity poker games, shut down legal marihuana dispensaries operating in the open, even serve warrants on people suspected of committing student loan fraud. This kind of overkill, he writes, gained momentum in the 1980s and 90s when Congress began to arm domestic police depts. with military surplus while simultaneously increasing the funding for antidrug efforts. This unanticipated collateral damage turned out to be very good for local police forces because it justified them seizing assets not just of convicted drug offenders but even from people remotely associated with crimes yet never charged. In the Weekly Standard, Mike Riggs said the book called for a return to community polling which required cops to be members of their community and to be on personal terms with the likes of business owners, school principals, and community power brokers. “SWAT teams often introduce violence where previously there had been none”, he wrote, “but police are too vital to modern society to be allowed to determine, without challenge or supervision, the best way to protect our democracy and preserve order”.

AT LEAST THREE governors vying for re-election next year (those of Arizona, Ohio and Florida) are facing a dilemma writes Abby Rapoport. “They all face tough battles for re-election in 2014. By backing Medicaid, they were guaranteed to inspire The Party wrath. By opposing it they would deny health coverage to large numbers of low-income residents, shut the door on billions in federal funding and risk further alienating voters”, The American Prospect columnist writes. Sixteen states oppose expansion but if any of the governors stick their necks out by bucking Tea Party demands, “making policy based on the needs of your state does not amount to certain political death. It might even save you from it.”

Musicians on marihuana (1) Mezz Mezzrow

“IT’S A FUNNY THING about marijuana—when you first begin smoking it you see things in a wonderful soothing, easygoing new light” wrote Mezz Mezzrow. “All of a sudden the world is stripped of its dirty gray shrouds and becomes one big bellyful of giggles, a spherical laugh, bathed in brilliant, sparkling colors that hit you like a heat wave. Nothing leaves you cold anymore; there’s a humorous tickle and great meaning in the least little thing, the twitch of somebody’s little finger or the click of a beer glass. All your pores open like funnels, your nerve ends stretch their mouths wide, hungry and thirsty for new sights and sounds and sensations; and every sensation, when it comes, in the most exciting one you’ve ever had. You can’t get enough of anything—you want to gobble up the whole goddamned universe just for an appetizer. Them first kicks are a killer, Jim.
     “Suppose you’re the critical and analytical type, always ripping things to pieces, tearing the covers off and being disgusted by what you find under the sheet. Well, under the influence of muta you don’t lose your surgical touch exactly, but you don’t come up evil and grimy about it. You still see what you saw before but in a different more tolerant way, through rose-colored glasses, and things that would have irritated you before just tickle you. Everything is good for a laugh; the wrinkles get ironed out of your face and you forget what a frown is, you just want to hold on to your belly and roar till the tears come. Some women especially, instead of being nasty and mean just go off bellowing until hysteria comes on. All the larceny kind of dissolves out of them—they relax and grin from ear to ear, and get right on the ground floor with you. Maybe no power on earth can work out a lasting armistice in that eternal battle of the sexes, but muggles are the one thing I know that can even bring about an overnight order to ‘Cease firing’.”
—Mezz Mezzrow (1899-1972)

[Extracts from The Weed that Changed the World, an eBook available from Amazon for $9]

THE WILCOCK WEB: “If voting changed anything, they’d abolish it” says former London mayor Ken Livingstone….Compensating for falling wine sales, one Bordeaux wine company is selling rouge sucerre—a red wine mixed with cola….Pouring urine over bacterial-filled fuel cells produces a small electrical current that can be stored, reports Britain’s Bristol Robotics Laboratory which suggests that it might become a practical power source….…If an ‘illegal immigrant’ can raise a huge sum to pay a smuggler, why doesn’t he just buy an airline ticket and enter as a tourist?..... “The ‘g’ is silent—the only thing about her that is," sneers London columnist Julie Burchill about fellow author Camille Paglia….….England is planning to ban smoking in its prisons where more than three quarters of the 85,000 inmates smoke…..A man hired a Kerryman as an assistant to take phone calls. One day the phone rang and when the Kerryman answered he hung up immediately. ‘Who was that?’ asked his boss. ‘Some fool saying it was a long distance from New York. I told him everybody knew that.’ …Long-famous for his self-important arrogance, Kanye West complained that a carpet was too bumpy in his BBC dressing room, and insisted that it be ironed…....Forbes issue for October 7, devoted to the top 400 tycoons has five glossy covers, one after another: Warren Buffet and Alice Walton (2nd and 8th on the list); Sam Zell (real estate, 110th); Stewart Rahr (drug distributor, 240th) and Michael Rubin (online retail, 218th). All but 61 on the 400 List are billionaires….."I started out with nothing” reminisces John Gaza, “and I still have most of it left" …. The Sunday Assembly movement has been setting up gatherings all over the world for atheists who need to get together and sit together in contemplation…….. Recycling is getting easier, reports Popular Science, with the increasing number of single-stream facilities in which elaborate systems separate mingled quantities of dumped paper, glass and plastic… “I've been married to a communist and a fascist” Zsa Zsa Gabor recalled “and neither would take out the garbage"….

Mezz Mezzrow

These Green Grass Flip Tops, fitted with fake grass, cost around fifty bucks a pair from …..….“An abstainer is a weak person who yields to the temptation of denying himself a pleasure” was Ambrose Bierce’s opinion…..This month marks the 40th anniversary of Scientology being granted tax exempt status after a long battle with the Feds….Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban says they shoot 12 hours a day, five days in a row. “A deal that takes ten minutes on TV could go two and a half hours in real life”Sunday Times art critic Waldemar Janusczak accuses curators of controlling the art world from within “by privileging their creativity ahead of the artist’s”…. How ridiculous closing down the national parks. Why not just leave them open and let people choose whether to enter or not? ….“With knowledge comes more doubt”—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832)



Bakewell (part 2), its mayor, and its pudding...

National Weed (1974, issue #3)

it's here...
Marijuana--The Weed That Changed the World

Email this link to a friend

Sign-up to receive this column weekly by email

Bakewell and Chatsworth 2013 (part 1)

comments? send an email to John Wilcock

recent columns

“The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.”
—Andy Warhol

Week of October 18, 2014

“I suppose I have a really loose interpretation of 'work,' because I think that just being alive is so much work at something you don't always want to do. The machinery is always going. Even when you sleep.”
—Andy Warhol

Week of October 11, 2014

“I try to stay in a constant state of confusion just because of the expression it leaves on my face.”
—Johnny Depp

Week of October 4, 2014

“During the 1960s, I think, people forgot what emotions were supposed to be. And I don't think they've ever remembered.”
—Andy Warhol

Week of September 27, 2014

“The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, familiar things new.”
—William Makepeace Thackeray

Week of September 20, 2014

“And when suddenly the god stopped her and, with anguish in his cry, uttered the words: ‘He has turned round’ — she comprehended nothing and said softly: ‘Who?’ ”
—Rainer Marie Rilke

Week of September 13, 2014

“The free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it - basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them.”
—Charles Bukowski

Week of September 6, 2014

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. ”
—John Steinbeck

Week of August 30, 2014

“We're blind to our blindness. We have very little idea of how little we know. We're not designed to know how little we know.”
—Daniel Kahneman

Week of August 23, 2014

“There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents, and only one for birthday presents, you know.”
—Lewis Carroll

Week of August 16, 2014

“Only a few find the way, some don't recognize it when they do—some… don't ever want to.”
—The Cheshire Cat

Week of August 9, 2014

“I wonder if I've been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning?”
—Lewis Carrol from Alice in Wonderland

Week of August 2, 2014

“The Death of Marilyn Monroe (and George Whitman's Girlfriends)”
—A comic by Ethan Persoff and Scott Marshall

Week of July 26, 2014

“Living is easy with eyes closed”
—John Lennon

Week of July 19, 2014

If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense.
Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't ...

Week of July 12, 2014

Wait-a-Minute: Seeking the Tranquility of Everyday Life along the Yangtze River in China
Week of July 5, 2014

John Wilcock: New York Years—Writing the Book "Mexico on 5 Dollars a Day" (Part One)
Week of June 28, 2014

John Wilcock: New York Years—Tips on Smuggling Pot into the United States
Week of June 21, 2014

Dear Readers, as I address you this summer, I am unable to write...
Week of June 14, 2014

LSD History: Michael Hollingshead Turns on the World
Week of June 7, 2014

Sneaking Julie Bovasso into McSorley's 'Men's Only' Saloon in 1961
Week of May 31, 2014

“The story of life is quicker than the blink of an eye, the story of love is hello, goodbye. ”
—Jimi Hendrix

Week of May 24, 2014

“Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition, is yet to be developed.”
—Abraham Lincoln

Week of May 17, 2014

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
—Andy Warhol

Week of May 10, 2014

Save the world—with Quinoa?; Silence isn't…; Chelsea—heir apparent to the Clinton Foundation; Junk Science is…; the Smell of York; and of course, the Wilcock Web...
Week of May 3, 2014

Bernie Sanders for Prez?; The Working Families Party—hatching movements one organization at a time; penny pot stocks—not without obvious risk; tall timber building—9 story apartment complex in East London employs 'plywood on steroids'; The Philosopher's Mail—populist news outlet alive to traditional philosophical virtues; Casinos know when to fold ‘em; and of course, the Wilcock Web...
Week of April 26, 2014

Breaking up is hard to do…; Kasparov vs. Putin--some pretty crushing moves; Your sex life on drugs…; 'Sawbucked to Death' by Will Durst; Right-wing support for a healthy minimum wage?; A novel 'convenient store'; Jacob Zuma--anything but presidential material, and he'll likely stay in power; estilo gángster pizzería en España; and of course, the Wilcock Web...
Week of April 19, 2014

'Everybody is assumed to be an ally…'; from the archives
Week of April 12, 2014

The Kessler Syndrome—one huge traffic accident in space just waiting to happen; Dominique Strauss-Kahn—on forcing his way…; running the FCC with your hands tied behind your back; Black Tie or Tie-die?; Bill Gates the optimist; Mum's the word from the NRA regarding alarming gun owner behavior research; and of course, the Wilcock Web...
Week of April 5, 2014

Washington lobbyists—unless they say they're not…; groin rivalry?; Phillip Roth on the need to write; move over Fox TV; voter demographics by choice of booze; that 'wasted' space at the bottom of every page of the NYT; and of course, the Wilcock Web...
Week of March 29, 2014

Old friends will be aware that I published a tabloid underground newspaper in Manhattan in the '60s called Other Scenes, and although I have only a handful of these myself, I occasionally see others offered for sale on various websites....
Week of March 22, 2014

- column archives: 2006 - present

Sign-up to receive the column weekly by email

in the press...

Now on Boing-Boing!

JOHN WILCOCK: Writing the Book "Mexico on 5 Dollars a Day" (Part One)
June 5, 2014

The New York Years - Boing-Boing

July 13, 2012

Manhattan Memories: an autobiography
By John Wilcock (, 2010)
excerpt from A Book Review By Marshall Brooks
Provincetown Arts Annual 2012/13

On the Ground
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.

(The complete review begins on p.175)

December 1, 2011

On the Ground: An Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U.S
reviewed by Steve Heller in Imprint
On the Ground
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.

(read more)

November 28, 2011

The Book Bench - Loose leafs from the New Yorker Books Department
New Yorker Online
Check out the first installment of Ethan Persoff's serialized comic-book biography of the publisher and writer John Wilcock.

(read more)

October 22, 2011

The New York Years

An authorized comic book biography of John Wilcock,
art by Ethan Persoff and Scott Marshall

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.

(read more)

January, 2011

The Return of the World's Worst Businessman

Sneak Peak “The Return of the World's Worst Businessman”
Tyler Malone
PMc Magazine

John Wilcock is not what you would call a household name, and yet, he has had a measurable impact on art, journalism and culture-at-large over the last century. He co-founded Interview with Andy Warhol. He also was one of the co-founders of The Village Voice. He has written for countless print and online publications: Frommer’s, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail, The East Village Other, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Ojai Orange, etc. So why, one feels inclined to ask, is he relatively unknown? The answer seems simple: Wilcock has called himself “the world’s worst businessman.” This self-description makes sense because listening to him one hears the voice of a writer and a traveler and an enthusiast, not at all the voice of a businessman. In an age when it seems like everyone is all about business—art as a business, fashion as a business, everything as a business—it is refreshing to hear someone self-identify as “the world’s worst businessman.” It seems less like he has failed as a businessman and more like he has refused to become one. In addition to all his other accomplishments,...

(read more)

Monday, November 15, 2010

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.

(read more)

October 27, 2010

A Budget Travel Pioneer on a Time When $5 a Day Was Real (Frugal) Money Frugal Traveler

by Seth Kugel
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.

(read more)

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
also available at (in paperback or for your Kindle)
and other online booksellers