The column of lasting insignificance   Ojai Orange   blog   Books   Marijuana   Press   Archives   Contact

the column of lasting insignificance: Feb. 5, 2011
by John Wilcock

“Why are we in Afghanistan? The current rationale is that we want to prevent (that country) from becoming a safe haven for Osama Bin Laden and his followers. But they already have safe havens in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia” --Fox News commentator Andrea Tantaros

that the Big Money guys would eventually jump into the marihuana business and Mother Jones introduces us to two of them, Derek Peterson, 36, and Dhat Mann, 26, who envisions his hydroponic grow store in Oakland as becoming “the Wal-Mart of Weed”. Peterson, an investment banker, is even bolder, forecasting that a year from now the pot business ”is gonna be as ruthless as Wall Street”. All this is not likely to bode well for the hundreds of mom and pop growers in California’s Humboldt County where, says MJ, “the mainstreaming of California’s largest cash crop, worth $14bn annually, has sparked a battle for market share”. To survive in the new economy, says Hank Sims, editor of Eureka’s North Coast Journal, the old yeoman growers “have to get out and hustle”.

Mother Jones’ fascinating story on this whole matter presented the magazine with a problem, which is that an equally important story was on their desk concerned the heartbreaking situation in Haiti—an on-the-spot report about the millions who live in displacement camps suffering exposure to the elements, rapes and near-starvation. Which of these stories should go on the magazine’s cover? “Compelling as (Haiti) is” say MJ’s editors, “it’s a tough sell on the newsstand. Even assuming that anyone tempted to buy this magazine probably isn’t expecting cheerful (tales) .…rape gangs are pretty heavy stuff with which to hit a new reader”. The solution to this dilemma? The magazine decided to go with both covers: the pot one for newsstands, the Haiti one for subscribers. They invite comments at

CATS AND DOGS can cost a family as much as the children or the car these days—especially when they get sick. Smart Money says pet owners are “developing a severe case of sticker shock” on discovering that implanting a pacemaker in the animal can cost $1,500, or treating kidney failure might run to $25,000. Packaged Facts, a market research company, estimates that the $20bn Americans spent on veterinary bills last year points to the increasing tendency to humanize pets. “All those people paying for pet massages and buying designer doggie clothes find it all but impossible to say no when the health—or life—of their pet is at stake”.

“I’m always trying to feed my knowledge base and pass on what I learn in constructive ways. One of my messages these days is that ageism is rampant in the U.S. I want older people to see how much we bring to society.”
—Jane Fonda, 73, interviewed by Kenneth Miller

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.

EXCERCISE GYMS are mostly a scam, “one of the great cons of our age” says Guardian columnist Zoe Williams suggesting that any sensible person seeing the word ‘gym’ should add the words ‘stimulates appetite’. After a vigorous 20-minute workout you might burn off a couple of hundred calories—which you’ll immediately replace by eating even more calories.

Exercise doesn’t make people slimmer, just hungrier. “With our private gym subscriptions we’re just shelling out a fortune each month for a joyless, dressed-up beauty regime that doesn’t even work”.

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.

IT’S NO BIG SURPRISE to learn that the people who climb Everest are not suffused with a warm spirit of friendly cooperation. Jealously, one-up-manship and downright obstruction are more likely, reports the Journal of Consumer Research, as “status-seeking” climbers “jostle for position…far from any spirit of real community. Money versus personal skill and experience compete as climbers argue that they deserve to summit the mountain while others there do not”. The Journal’s researchers discovered that climbers were most likely to be focused on their individual accomplishments, and they surmised that the commercial aspects of the endeavor reinforced “an individualistic and competitive ethos that I, the climber, am the only one who matters”.

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.”
—Andrew J. Bacevich in the Atlantic

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.

One of its favorite themes, for example, is that of the “9/11 truthers” who suspect the U.S. government of being behind the attack on the World Trade Center, publishing on its website suggestions that it may have been “an inside job”. Unsurprisingly, the “birther” nuts who maintain that Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S. also get sympathetic treatment with the channel, failing to point out that the birth certificate is posted on the Internet. “Russia Today is clearly serving the interests of those who promote the burgeoning Patriot Movement” the report concludes.

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”.

“Only when they give me no choice!. If they say to me, ‘Boss, you must fuck me or I will kill myself’, then I do it. Think if I don’t! The karma!”
—Bikram Choudhury,64, billionaire owner of 5,000 yoga studios asked if he has sex with his students

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

Consumer Reports magazine

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 ( 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)



Email this link to a friend

Sign-up to receive this column weekly by email

comments? send an email to John Wilcock


recent columns...

- Complete column archives: 2006 - present

The real, true, history...
Week of May 5, 2018

Alice, Alice at 85, seed money, supermax, and of course, the Wilcock Web...
Week of April 28, 2018

About being in love..., Persoff and Marshall, and of course, the Wilcock Web...
Week of April 21, 2018

The Candy Store
Week of January 20, 2018

From the archives... The religion of Violence & Statistics, otherwise known as college football; WPA II; Would it be called Indiastan or Pakindia?; Who you Gonna call? Crime Predictors; Being a Bank means you never having to say you're sorry; Oil vs. Democracy, and of course, the Wilcock Web...
Week of December 9, 2017

From the archives... The Mother of All Family Feuds, Otaku Means Geek in Japanese, Affirmative Action or 'It all depends on who you know', The Moonies are packin', and of course, the Wilcock Web......
Week of December 2, 2017

Taxing land, not people, Is Socialism Scary?, Stars acting as assholes, Big Thinkers can be such Morons, and of course, The Wilcock Web...
Week of November 18, 2017

Dear Reader,
Week of August 23, 2017

Dear Readers...
Week of January 25, 2017

John Wilcock ... Marijuana, the symbolic center of the underground society
Week of June 8, 2016

John Wilcock ... From the Archives: Cuba Diary—Havana, April 2011
Week of April 20, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Nineteen (continued)--Travels
Week of April 16, 2016

John Wilcock ... From the Archives: When you vote, don’t forget the Republican Paradox
Week of April 13, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Nineteen--Travels: Tokyo-Rick Kennedy recalls; Japan on $5 a Day; About Chapbooks; Magic in South America
Week of April 9, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eighteen (continued)--Theory & Practice of Travel Writing; Remoteness of Callanish; Jim's Paris dinners
Week of April 2, 2016

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
Week of March 26, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen (continued)--London's Magical library; In the Cannes
Week of March 19, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen--The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Week of March 12, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary (continued)
Week of March 5, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary
Week of February 27, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen (Part Two--Manhattan phone book, JW'S Secret Diary
Week of February 20, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen--Party Circuit
Week of February 13, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part two, Soho Saturday
Week of February 6, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part one, Soho Saturday
Week of January 30, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve (continued)--Traveling with Nomad; SoHo Confidential
Week of January 23, 2016

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve--Andy Gets Shot: Max's Kansas City; Jane Fonda's gesture; Christo & Jeanne-Claude
Week of January 16, 2016

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eleven (continued)-- We go to Rutgers, Ann Arbor ... What people say about Andy
Week of January 9, 2016

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eleven -- Andy Warhol First encounter....People talk about him....His movies...
Week of January 2, 2016

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Ten (continued)--The 'Movement' splits: Eldridge Cleaver Year of the Great Hoax…The OZ trial
Week of December 26, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Ten--Tom Forcade's smuggling funds High Times; Rolling Stone's underground sabotage
Week of December 19, 2015

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
Week of December 12, 2015

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
Week of December 5, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eight (continued)--Japan: a working honeymoon; The Shinjuku Sutra
Week of November 28, 2015

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
Week of November 21, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seven (continued)--The Underground Press; Army revolt:  fragging officers; Bowart goes to Millbrook
Week of November 14, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seven--The singing Tit-o-Gram; The East Village Other; Art & Forgery; Birth of Black Power; The Underground Press
Week of November 7, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six (continued)--Tom Forcade: smuggler supreme; That pathetic drug czar
Week of October 31, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six—The weed that changed the world--Confessions of a pot smoker
Week of October 24, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Five—Reefer Madness (continued)--Jan and Stan change my life; The man who turned on the world
Week of October 17, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Five—Reefer Madness--The man who turned on the world; Tested by Harvard professors; Jan and Stan change my life
Week of October 10, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Four—Into the '60s--London's underground press; Jean-Jacques Lebel burns US flag; Everybody's friend: Jim Haynes; Lenny Bruce and the kitchen tapes
Week of October 3, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Four—Into the '60s--More Working at The New York Times; Mexico On $5 a Day; What Richard Condon taught me; Henry Miller's wise words
Week of September 26, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Three--The Village Voice (continued) --Lasting insignificance: the 3-dot column, ECHO  and Larry Adler, Woody Allen plays classic nerd, A sample Village Square column
Week of September 19, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Three--More trouble with our star novelist; Lasting insignificance: the 3-dot column; Jean Shepherd’s phantom novel
Week of September 12, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Two--Steve Allen derides TV columnist; Marlene Dietrich--glamorous grandmother
Week of September 5, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Two--Gilbert Seldes' The Lively Arts; Norman Mailer’s Voice column; Giving parties to meet strangers
Week of August 29, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter One--Chatting with Marilyn Monroe
Week of August 22, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter One--Jack Kent Cooke tells me to stay in Canada; Becoming a New Yorker ;A new Village newspaper; The casual wisdom of Steve Allen
Week of August 15, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Introduction.
Week of August 8, 2015

- column archives: 2006 - present

in the press...

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)

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

The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol

The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol
by John Wilcock
Edited by Christopher Trela
Photographs by Shunk-Kender

Village Voice and Interview cofounder John Wilcock was first drawn into the milieu of Andy Warhol through film-maker Jonas Mekas, assisting on some of Warhol’s early films, hanging out at his parties and quickly becoming a regular at the Factory. “About six months after I started hanging out at the old, silvery Factory onWest 47th Street,” he recalls, “[Gerard] Malanga came up to me and asked, ‘When are you going to write something about us?’” Already fascinated by Warhol’s persona, Wilcock went to work, interviewing the artist’s closest associates, supporters and superstars. Among these were Malanga, Naomi Levine, Taylor Mead and Ultra Violet, all of whom had been in the earliest films; scriptwriter Ronnie Tavel, and photographer Gretchen Berg; art dealers Sam Green, Ivan Karp, Eleanor Ward and Leo Castelli, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Henry Geldzahler; the poets Charles Henri Ford and Taylor Mead, and the artist Marisol; and the musicians Lou Reed and Nico. Paul Morrisey supplied the title: The Autobiography and Sex Life of AndyWarhol was the first oral biography of the artist. First published in 1971, and pitched against the colorful backdrop of the 1960s, it assembles a prismatic portrait of one of modern art’s least knowable artists during the early years of his fame. The Autobiography and Sex Life is likely the most revealing portrait of Warhol, being composite instead of singular; each of its interviewees offers a piece of the puzzle that was Andy Warhol. This new edition corrects the many errors of the first, and is beautifully designed in a bright, Warholian palette with numerous illustrations. The British-born writer John Wilcock co-founded The Village Voice in 1955, and went on to edit seminal publications such as The East Village Other, Los Angeles Free Press, Other Scenes and (in 1970) Interview, with Andy Warhol.