the column of lasting insignificance: April 19, 2014
by John Wilcock

“It is no coincidence that some of the most equal countries in the world are those in which union membership is highest: Finland, 69% of workers belong to a union: Sweden (68%); Denmark (67%); Norway (55%). Strong unions are a guarantee not just of social justice but also of economic efficiency.”
—George Eaton in the New Statesman

COUNTRIES SPLITTING UP seems to be a global theme these days—Sudan and South Sudan, the Ukraine and Crimea, Belgium’s Flemish and Walloons, “Imagine how many secession movements there are in Africa” remarks the Guardian: six in Ethiopia alone; a dozen in Burma, Asia and the Americas... the list of would-be seceders around the world is staggering”. Even in such a long-established partnership as Britain, Scotland wants to break away from the United Kingdom, raising all kinds of problems about the currency and which ministers would still get to vote in Westminster after the scheduled referendum in September. In Spain, the Catalonians centered on Barcelona, have longed for their own state; Brittany would like to break away from France; even Venice would prefer to be alone. “That’s the problem with nationalism” writes Stephen Moss. “Where does it end? Once you stir the nationalist pot, you can never know where it will lead. We may be entering the age of the microstate”.

THE SMARTEST MAN in Russia, former world chess champion Gary Kasparov, thinks that Vladimir Putin will come to a bad end. “I think he will not die (before he leaves office); I think he will be removed, and unfortunately in Russia, I’m afraid it will not happen peacefully…The question is how violent this removal is, whether there’s bloodshed, whether it’s limited to the capital or just to the palace”. The Russian grandmaster, 51 this week, held his title for almost 20 years until his retirement in 2005, when he formed a political party to oppose Putin. He was interviewed for the Smithsonian by Ron Rosenbaum, the New York writer known as an authority on Hitler and Shakespeare, who has called him “a major player in that great game of liberty versus tyranny in which the globe is the board”. Russia’s failure, Kasparov suggested, was a reflection of the failure of the U.S. and Western Europe to recognize the new trends. “A lot of positive things could’ve happened. Clinton could have offered a plan for Russia, Eastern Europe, similar to the Marshall Plan. Any plan. We say in chess, a bad plan is better than no plan”.

YOUR SEX LIFE is likely to diminish if you take anti-depressants, warns Men’s Health, with the “drug-specific” benefits being “clinically negligible. The chemicals that seem to make life enjoyable, are the same ones that throttle lust”, it explains, quoting evolutionary biologist Helen Fisher: “When it comes to love and attachment, you want all your natural abilities in place. You don’t want them blunted or altered”. Pasadena psychiatrist Stuart Shipko estimates that two thirds of the people prescribed anti-depressants display diminished sex drive and suggests that the sexual disfunction by drugs is much worse than that caused by depression.

SAWBUCKED TO DEATH: “These days, the only thing harder than making money is hanging on to it. Easier to protect dandelion fuzz in a tornado. Everywhere you go, everyone wants a taste. Their only job is to get a grip on your money. And some of these folks are pretty darn good at their jobs.” The preceding is the opening of a column by Will Durst which I recommend everybody to read. Click here to read the rest of it.

RESPONDING TO OBJECTIONS about raising the minimum wage, Boston Review writes that even some right wingers such as former American Conservative publisher Ron Unz are now supporting the idea on the grounds that it would make jobs more desirable. (i) It would balance the huge uptick in the cost of higher education. “Many marginal students are dropping out... leaving them with student loan debts and no degree. Meanwhile the job market continues to produce jobs that do not need to be filled by highly educated workers”; (ii) It decreases the cost of welfare. “If wages are too low, workers still need government income support such as food stamps or tax credits”; (iii) “A higher minimum would make low-wage jobs more desirable to Americans, and in turn employers would rely less on undocumented workers”.

WHAT A GREAT IDEA, Peter Fox had. Give the guy a medal. Bothered by the closing of the village’s only shop in Clifton, Derbyshire, Fox, 50, figured that the answer was a giant vending

Peter Fox Vending Machine
Daily Mail
machine that would offer such basic essentials as milk, butter, eggs, pet food, bread. And because he couldn’t get a manufacturer interested, he built the thing himself. Customers can use cash or card to buy goods and view available stock on the web, while the machine alerts the manufacturer via email when supplies are running low. This could be the future for so many similar places where all the shops have closed. In fact, Fox says he already has other villages in mind, an idea that could spread around the world.

CALLING HIM “a thief, a fool, a man incapable of managing his own affairs” a writer in Johannesburg’s Daily Maverick nevertheless forecasts that South African president Jacob Zuma will be re-elected as the country’s president next month. Crookedness, cronyism, and “straight-up idiocy” are cited as among the faults of Zuma’s ANC party which has been steadily losing support, writes Richard Poplak, but is still strong enough to win. One of the main accusations against Zuma is the way he has turned his vacation home into an island of luxury in a “sea of poverty”, spending $23m on a swimming pool, visitor center and amphitheater, describing the additions as “security”.

GANGSTER NAMES have become popular for restaurants in Spain and the authorities in Italy regard this as an offer they’d like to refuse. A chain of more than 30 mob-themed pizza and pasta joints called La Mafia are decorated with images of notorious killers. Italian politicians first became aware of the theme by an article in La Repubblica, denouncing them as “squalid” and “offensive to our national image”.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Britain’s equivalent of the CIA, the Secret Intelligence Service known as MI6, is running full-page magazine ads seeking recruits. A circular chart eliminates most readers after each question (“Thank you for your time”) concluding with: ……. John Kerry will never solve the Mideast dilemma if both sides are as bored with him as everybody else…. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE—have withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar because it says that its support of Al Jazeera “stirs sedition” ….. How much has Comcast spent bribing pols so far, and which ones, to make sure they vote for their merger with Time Warner?….”Television is a device that permits people who haven’t anything to do, watch people who can’t do anything” jibed Fred Allen….“Pakistan, not Afghanistan, has been the true enemy” writes veteran NYT reporter Carlotta Gall in her book, The Wrong Enemy, which strongly implies that the US military has known this all along……..“The past is never dead” proffered William Faulkner, “It’s not even past”....If you think the state might owe you some unclaimed money, check out….Even the possibility of a third Bush president is a scary thought….. Britain’s PoundPub has plans for a branch in Stockton-on-Tees where a pint of beer will cost just one pound ($1.70) …..It’s the rich against the rest….Sotheby’s is expecting that a solitary British Guiana 1c stamp from 1856 is expected to fetch $12 million bucks when it’s auctioned in June… Salma Hayek, 12 years after an Oscar nomination for her role as Frida Kahlo complains that

Can't See Your Face Book Getty Images

she is still defined as “Mexican, half-Arab” and even now offered “stripper and maid parts”…..The risk of a stroke rises three-fold and of a heart attack five-fold within two hours after you lose your temper, says the Daily Mail….It’s a definite mystery why people describe the miserably acerbic David Letterman as a comedian….That obnoxious and fraudulent billionaire Steven A. Cohen, shucking off most of his employees to run his renamed SAC Capital (now Point 2 Asset Management) as a firm to handle his personal wealth of $9bn, says he’ll only need a staff of 850….Newspapers are increasingly disguising ads as editorial, complains Andrew Sullivan in the Sunday Times. “But it’s not journalism” certainly not “honest journalism”....Aberdeen’s Brewdog Brewery has sent a case of its new “protest brew” bearing the label Hello My Name is Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin, declaring that the 8.2% pale ale contains Russian “Limmonik berries and traces of sarcasm”….Hong Kong’s media is experiencing “growing paranoia” about the recent trade agreements which they claim are making the former colony utterly dependent on the increasing settlement of mainland consumers whose numbers are growing alarmingly…. ….Operators of a new UK lesbian-dating app have complained that it has been inundated by men “who fancied their chances at bypassing the verification process”... The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper” —Eden Philpotts (1862–1960)


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recent columns

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

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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

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in the press...

Now on Boing-Boing!

Participating in the Harvard Psilocybin Project (Part Three)
November 21, 2013

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
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