the column of lasting insignificance: Feb. 12, 2011
by John Wilcock
IS SOCIALISM SCARY? Well, it is to many Americans who have been brainwashed into believing that it’s the next worst thing to communism. But “an economic and political theory advocating public or common ownership and cooperative management of the means of production and allocation of resources” is not itself inherently threatening. What usually happens is that like most ”isms” it often turns into a mechanism that is exploited for gaining power by a group that then doesn’t want to let go. But, ideally, if and when socialism actually works, it offers a fairer deal to a large number of people without taking advantage of them the way that capitalism allegedly does.
STARS ACTING AS ASSHOLES is the subject of David Walters’ essay in Details which says the idea began with Larry David who pioneered “the actor as himself” approach. “Even though you assume Larry is an exaggerated character” says Episodes co-creator Jeffrey Klarik, “there’s a part of you that thinks, ‘I bet that’s who he is.’”. When the cameras start rolling, everyone on Jersey Shore, for example, turns into “an irredeemable jackass” and similarly, Extras fans also know Harry Potter’s Daniel Radclife as “a sex-obsessed, condom-snapping creep”. Walters writes that reality television has made everyone aware that ‘being yourself’ is a performance. “Dozens of actors are willing to play obnoxious, narcissistic or criminal versions of themselves these days. They see it as a savvy career move”.
HEROES AND VILLAINS is what Newsmax decided to celebrate as it summarized the past year and apart from some predictable choices such as Steve Jobs (“a tyrannical focus on product esthetics”), Bill Clinton and George W Bush (for their teamwork in Haiti ), Michelle Obama (“one of the most admired women in the world”), Arizona governor Jan Brewer (“for championing integrity on the border”) and Sheriff Joe Arpaio (“for enforcing the law with no reservations”) there are some surprises. Washington DC’s Michelle Rhee is honored as a “passionate educator”, Lance Orton ( “for his ‘See something, Say something’ campaign”). the Children’s Scholarship Fund’s Daria Romio (“scholarships to 110,000 low-income kids”) and the Rev. Franklin Graham (“a major force driving the debate over terrorism and religious education”). The Villains include BP’s Tony Hayward, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (“a Hitler wannabe”) and Kim Jong Il (“a legacy of destruction and despair”).
INSIDER TRADING is illegal for the average person, it being deemed that having advance knowledge before other people of whether stocks are going to rise or fall yields an unfair edge in the market. But apparently the law doesn’t apply to members of Congress. Newsmax writes that staffers and legislators routinely attend high-level, closed door meetings providing such information and that senators acting on such information beat the market by 12% a year, double what even corporate insiders are able to achieve. After all these crooks just make the laws: why should they have to observe them?
BIG THINKERS CAN BE such morons. Take, for example, Aaron Clauset, 31, who studies what’s been termed “the physics of terrorism”. Here’s one of Aaron’s brilliant discoveries as reported by Miller-McCune magazine. ‘Terrorist attacks happen less often in the developed world, but when they do happen they’re often bigger than in the developing world. That was striking. We have no explanations for why that was the case’. (Really? Think about it, Mr. Obvious)…”Because terrorists aim, for high density targets ‘the bombs are attracted to where the people are’, he explains. ”Clauset finds this model intellectually satisfying” the magazine adds. Duh. Do research institutes actually pay for this kind of vacuous nonsense? Clauset, who’s an assistant professor at the University of Colorado, is apparently “searching for universal patterns hidden in human conflicts” with a view to being able to predict future attacks. This is clearly ridiculous in the first place because terrorists don’t match their plans to some kind of mythical earth cycle. Miller-McCune’s story tends to agree with this, quoting Rand Corporation scientist Walter L. Perry: “The groups that do these terrorist attacks are loose cannons. There’s no two alike and it’s all very localized and depends on local grievances.’ Inevitably, he says, such long-term modeling assumes that the past is prologue to the future—and that’s a big assumption”.
THE WILCOCK WEB: If most giant corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes because Congress is bribed by lobbyists, surely disabling , or at least curbing, the lobbyists should be the first priority?….After establishing offices in half a dozen cities and offering free sample subscriptions to thousands of Americans, China Daily has now opened eight offices in Europe where, from London, it is distributing the paper to 27 countries ….Banks are indignantly denying that they knew about Bernie Madoff being a conman. They weren’t collaborating fraudsters, they claim, just stupid and incompetent…Banks are legalized criminals….….Because the lifting capacity of helicopters is limited to about 20 tons, the new Skylifter topped with a discus-shaped canopy can handle seven times that weight….And, in its Technology section, the Economist reports two more inventions: “liquid armor” capable of deflecting bullets and a ship capable of blowing enough bubbles under the hull to increase its speed over the water….”Sometimes the best question you can ask on TV” says Piers Morgan, “is ‘Why did you do that?’”…. Relentlessly determined to stay on the wrong side of history by ruling for the haves against the have-nots, the Supremes are merely echoing their 19th century racist past as indicated by the new book, Inherently Unequal: The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1865-1903….….….Costing less than $50,000 to finance, a chocolate company is among the most profitable businesses to start, claims the Fine Chocolate Industry Association, with 80% of such becoming profitable…. But cocoa production is becoming so unprofitable for growers, that the Coca Research Association’s Tony Liss predicts that by 2030 chocolate will become as rare and expensive as caviar….….Harvard biomedical engineer David Edwards has produced a lipstick-sized sniffer through which powdered vitamins have a faster route into the bloodstream…. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research…. An interesting list to see would be that of people who support the death penalty but oppose abortion….Westin hotels are offering the loan of running shoes to guests who find them too bulky to bring in their bags….At a speedy two pages per second, the Ion Book Saver will transfer any book into an e-format… “An ignorant person” said Will Rogers, “is one who doesn't know what you have just found out”…. Missionaries are expected to be among the major buyers of the Maverick car that can fly (Subaru engine, collapsible, powered parachute). It costs $84,000… Be content to seem what you really are--Marcus Aurelius (121 to 180AD)
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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