the column of lasting insignificance: Feb. 5, 2011
by John Wilcock
MACHINE PLAYS JEOPARDY will be the headline when that television game’s champions—Ken Jennings, who won 74 games in a row in 2004/5, and Brad Rutter, who won $3.25m in prize money—battle against a specially-trained IBM machine called Watson later this month. Before IBM pitted Deep Blue (which won) against chess master Garry Kasparov in 1997, it had spent six years fine-tuning the supercomputer; and as much tutoring has gone into this challenge, with Watson (named after IBM’s founder) inputted with the equivalent of millions of books. “It understands anagrams, wordplay and has memorized every Shakespeare soliloquy, major river and world capital” says Forbes. Winner of the contest, Feb. 14-16, gets $1million with $300,000 and $200,000 for second and third place. Jennings and Rutter have promised half their winning to charity, Watson all of it.
HERE WE HAVE 12-year-old Michelito Lagravere who’s already killed
300 bulls in his short life -–the first one at the age of six—but can’t get into the Guinness Book of Records. (“We don’t accept records based on the killing or harming of animals” explains its website). But Michelito who, says Details, “has a preternatural confidence in his own future greatness”, isn’t too concerned, because he’ll become a full-fledged matador when he’s 14, like his father before him. Then he’ll be ready to earn the million of dollars a year that top Mexican matadors routinely pull in.
THE MOST HATED BAND in the world is the proud inscription on the T-shirts of the Insane Clown Posse (ICP) and, of course, its two members—Joseph Bruce, 38, and Joey Utsler, 36—couldn’t be prouder of the title. “The more (they) are shunted to the margins, whether by critics, labels, or kvetchy bloggers, the more their outcast fans love them” explains Wired which describes a visit to the Detroit HQ of Psychopathic Records. There in a vast warehouse, a staff of 30 tend to a recording studio, an Internet radio station (www.FUCKOFF) and other ICP acts ranging from killer-rap, gangsta-zombie rap and southern-Gothic rap. Indeed, it takes all kinds…
“To train, equip and maintain one American soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan for one year costs a cool million dollars.”
UNSEEN BY MOST Americans, the Kremlin-financed Russia Today television network devotes much of its programming to making America look bad, says Intelligence Report, published by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
BOTH THE “birthers” and the “truthers” are discussed in the Humanist by Brian Trent who explains that their “blind allegiance” thrives on the false principle that all opinions are equal. “even those without a shred of factual data, documentation or reasoned methodology”. Trent says that throughout history there have always been irrational true believers but ominously “we have taken this tendency to new heights”. In 2009, he writes, half the U.S, population accepted creationism—“one of the only developed nations where the subject is even a debate anymore”.
THE WILCOCK WEB: The U.S. always seems to find some good reason to back a dictator but it usually turns out to be not such a great idea in the long run. Especially when power changes hands. If we have to pay dictators $3bn a year to keep the peace, maybe we should impose some conditions…..Some countries have friends because they share common interests. America has friends because it buys them....That commission investigating why the country got into such a financial mess, reports that the financial industry spent $2.7bn in advance lobbying.. Oh, and another billion went for bribes to politicians. Business as usual, then….“Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for” quipped Will Rogers...…If all those produce-nothing Wall Streeters would give up their bonuses for just one year, most states wouldn’t have a financial problem. (And if the insurance companies were kicked out of the medical business, we wouldn’t have a health problem either)….Alcohol is more dangerous than illegal drugs, according to research by Britain’s Center or Crime and Justice Studies, which reported that booze is connected to higher death rates and a greater percentage of crime than most drugs… Publishers and agents are arguing over what the author’s royalty should be on e-books….What happens if you get scared half to death twice?…In Uganda there are already twice as many people with a mobile phone as have electricity….. California’s glorious Huntington Museum, which began as a ranch in 1903, has returned part of its site to a ranch, incorporating the original orange grove…. The logical conclusion to
the NRA’s twisted reasoning is that if everybody was armed, there’d be less shooting….Right from childhood we’re all taught that arsenic and strychnine will kill within seconds, so why are only impossible-to-get drugs needed for the death penalty?…...Now there’s a sensor-equipped trash can ($225) that opens up when it sees you coming …. When the Feds hand over millions of bucks of taxpayers’ money to banks, why not make it obligatory that they can’t foreclose on anybody who continues to pay rent?….. .Canada’s prohibition of vehicles from sections of the border to allow access by bears, is a threat to security claim U.S. Border agents….Gun freaks are complaining about a new California law intended to stop delivery of ammunition bought on the Internet without further checks…. Holland, of all places, is trying to close down illegal marihuana plantations, and has issued scratch ‘n’ sniff cards so that people who seek to file complaints can identify the smell (does any Dutchman not know the smell of pot?) … If people from Poland are called Poles, why aren't people from Holland called Holes?….An English company (surfaceview.co.uk) specializes in converting pretty well any picture into a huge mural that fills an entire wall of your room….… Now that scientists have devised a headset that enables people to power video games with just their mind, can they eventually use it to power other people’s minds?--Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.—Langston Hughes (Feb 1, 1902-1967)
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- Complete column archives: 2006 - present
— Dear Readers...
— John Wilcock ... Marijuana, the symbolic center of the underground society
— John Wilcock ... From the Archives: Cuba Diary—Havana, April 2011
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Nineteen (continued)--Travels
— John Wilcock ... From the Archives: When you vote, donâ€™t forget the Republican Paradox
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eighteen--The Quest for Magic: Around Europe by VW bus;
Regarding armchair travelers;
Pisa's Leaning Tower;
The magical Alhambra
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen (continued)--London's Magical library;
In the Cannes
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen--The Sorcerer's Apprentice
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary (continued)
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen (Part Two--Manhattan phone book, JW'S Secret Diary
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen--Party Circuit
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part two, Soho Saturday
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part one, Soho Saturday
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve (continued)--Traveling with Nomad; SoHo Confidential
— John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Nine (continued)--Rip Torn on stardom… Robert Mitchum's gift; London: Julian Beck’s critique; Emmett Grogan and the Diggers; Greece: The Junta, Charlotte Rampling, and art hero Daniel Spoerri
— John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Nine--Bob Dylan in the Village, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, Richard Neville and OZ, What Does London Need Most?, The International Times
— John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eight (continued)--Japan: a working honeymoon;
The Shinjuku Sutra
— John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eight--Art Kunkin's LA Free Press; In LA with Hunter Thompson, Lenny Bruce; Visit by Warhol; Hakim Jamal plays god; The San Francisco 'Be-In'; Underground papers meet
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six (continued)--Tom Forcade: smuggler supreme; That pathetic drug czar
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixâ€”The weed that changed the world--Confessions of a pot smoker
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourâ€”Into the '60s--London's underground press; Jean-Jacques Lebel burns US flag; Everybody's friend: Jim Haynes; Lenny Bruce and the kitchen tapes
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Three--The Village Voice (continued) --Lasting insignificance: the 3-dot column, ECHOÂ and Larry Adler, Woody Allen plays classic nerd, A sample Village Square column
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Two--Steve Allen derides TV columnist; Marlene Dietrich--glamorous grandmother
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter One--Chatting with Marilyn Monroe
— Manhattan Memories: Introduction.
- column archives: 2006 - present
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.
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
The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol