the column of lasting insignificance: August 30, 2014
by John Wilcock

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

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.
—Leonardo di Vinci

From the Archives: August 29, 2009

“(Twitter) was dreamed up by —and used almost exclusively by—the most self-obsessed, narcissistic, self-important generation that ever walked this earth, the generation that is ever poised just outside the confessional, ready to divulge personal information of great weight to the whole world (‘I have just tied up my shoelaces…’)
—Rod Liddle in the Spectator

WHAT IS IT that comes in a glitzy bottle made of Chinese plastic, from a country thousands of miles away run by a military dictatorship and is adored by Hollywood stars? The answer is Fiji Water, owned by Beverly Hills billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick, close friends of Arianna Huffington and greatly admired by all the pseudos who supposedly cherish the environment. The company gets its supplies from a 17-mile long aquifer from which (says Mother Jones’ report) “the notoriously corrupt and chronically-broke government has not been able to come up with the money or infrastructure to tap the water for its people”. In the nearest town, the water has been deemed unfit for human consumption and locals can buy bottled Fiji Water (at nearly New York prices). The Resnicks have been big-time donors to politicians as well as benefactors and to various museums etc. (they recently gave $250,000 to become a founding partner of the Salt Lake City soccer stadium). After Fijians threatened to burn the plant down, the company set up a local charity to help villages near the aquifer. It dispensed $100,000 in 2007, the year before it spent $10million on marketing costs.  “We do so much for these forgotten people” piously exclaimed Mrs. Resnick, as her company justifies shipping the millions of bottles 5,740 miles on the grounds (says MJ) that ”they travel on ships that would be making the trip anyway”.

CLASS WARFARE is the terminology too often selectively used by the media to portray “the ongoing persecution of the wealthy at the hands of the poor” declares Extra! writers Radley Glasser and Steve Rendall. And the truth, reports the magazine of the media watch group FAIR, is that the phrase was almost 18 times more likely to depict ‘bottom-up’ action than ‘top-down’ action, one example of which was bailing out the banks at the expense of the taxpayer.

SMELL TECHNOLOGY is finding its place in the sun, turning up in such places as bottle caps which release an infusion into drinks as the bottle cap is removed. Pennsylvania-based ScentSational Technologies reports working with a baby food producer so parents can smell “freshness” when they open the jars. Fortune says most of what we call taste happens not in our mouths but our noses. “Aromas, in essence can trick your brain into thinking you are tasting certain flavors”.

SOME NEW INVENTIONS reported by Popular Science: A suitcase which can be locked and unlocked by a fingerprint on the sensor….Atlanta’s Hothead Technologies’ football helmet that can sound the alarm if a player gets overheated….the Rescue Reel, a self-propelled harness with which people trapped in burning skyscrapers can rappel themselves to safety….the Vegawatt, a filtration device with which restaurants can convert their waste oil into diesel fuel which powers a generator… ….green styrofoam (Greensulate) made from mushrooms.

“(Rahm) Emanuel says fuck more frequently than ‘if’ or ‘but’ insists political scientist Larry Sabato. “Obama himself regularly jokes about Emanuel’s profanity. ‘For Rahm, every day is a swearing-in ceremony’” —from a piece titled Hothead of State in Psychology Today

An effective if obvious way to reduce excessive drinking is to raise the price of alcohol, and momentum is building internationally for price hikes suggests the New Scientist.  If 50 pence (about 75c) became the minimum charge for a unit of alcohol, coupled with a ban on cheap drink promotions, the mag says, there would be 34,000 fewer deaths in England alone and hospital admissions would be reduced by 100,000.

RUSSIAN OIL BILLIONAIRE Roman Abramovich, who owns Chelsea Football Club, heads the Art News list of 200 Top Art Collectors and is one of the 49 remaining Russian billionaires, half as many as a few years back. (There are 793 billionaires today in a world that once had 1,125).

READY TO FLY at a leisurely 45mph on tests flights this fall is a plane whose huge wings are mounted with 12,000 photovoltaic cells providing just enough power for its four 10-horsepower motors. The Solar Impulse, built by a team led by Swiss inventor Bertrand Piccard, will start with overnight flights, heading eastwards to catch the most sun exposure, climbing by day to 28,500 feet and descending gradually at night.

YOU MAY REMEMBER olestra, that calorie-free oil used to make  potato chips that promised not to add weight. What they did add, however, was a laxative tendency which didn’t help sales. Now olestra is back—as an additive to paint that Procter & Gamble claims prevent it sticking to molds.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Despite the justifiable anger of Lockerbee victims, it was only humane to release the guy serving time for causing it since he’s already dying. There was always some doubt that he was solely responsible for bringing down the 747….Considering how much damage he did to Burma’s San Sui Kiy by swimming across the lake to see her, John Yettaw deserved to stay in jail but anyway, good to see him released, too….If the runways at that Alaskan island airport are too short,  wouldn’t it be cheaper to use smaller planes than spend $15 million on a new airport?…..Is anyone surprised that Clarence (Uncle Tom) Thomas was supremely indifferent to a black man being executed even when there was new evidence to examine?….The inventor of the Segway, Dan Kamin, 57, who forecast it would be bought by millions (in eight years, the $3,000 device actually has sold only 50,000) will soon introduce a box that will burn cow dung to power a water purification device…..“The only thing to do with good advice” said Oscar Wilde, “is to pass it on. It is never any use to oneself” ….The rooftop café at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art sells slices of cake replicating Mondrian paintings….And the cell phone that Yayoi Kusama designed for Japan’s KDDI phone company, resembles a pink and white spotted Dalmatian… Deft definition Bozone --The substance surrounding stupid people, that stops bright ideas from penetrating…. Investors feel happier on sunny days but mistakenly attribute that happiness to stocks’ prospects,  UC Irvine professor David Hirshleifer told Psychology Today.  “It’s the halo effect”…Two Roads West, a play about the IRA’s former battles in Ireland, takes place in a taxi driving up and down Belfast streets with a backseat audience of five…...Will Andy Rooney ever run out of trivia? ….Subsidizing opera is unfair to poor people writes Sunday Times columnist Stephen Pollard when football fans have to pay full price for their tickets but fans of “high culture” are generously subsidized by everybody else…”Man has lost the capacity to foresee and forestall. He will end by destroying the earth”—Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)


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

National Weed (1974, issue #3)

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

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Bakewell and Chatsworth 2013 (part 1)

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recent columns

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in the press...

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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
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