the column of lasting insignificance: Mar. 5, 2011
by John Wilcock
“THE SALE OF The Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million, and the tidy profit of reportedly at least several million dollars made by principal owner and founder Arianna Huffington, who was already rich”, wrote Chris Hedges on Truthout, “(and) is emblematic of this new paradigm of American journalism. “If Huffington has a conscience she will sit down when the AOL check arrives and make sure every cent of it is paid out to those who worked free or at minimal wages for her over the last six years”.
JUST SETTING OFF down the ski slopes with high hopes and cold fingers isn’t enough these days if the $170bn consumer-electronics industry has anything to do with it. Smart Money reports that batteries are being upgraded so that they don’t short out in the cold (two-thirds of avid skiers carry cell phones); GPS systems improved; Tec Touch gloves made sensitive enough to operate cyber screens, and goggles equipped with the capacity to calculate speed, altitude and distance traveled.
DARK MATTER is the new Holy Grail for scientists and in South Dakota they’re sinking a huge cylinder down an abandoned 4,800ft mineshaft in hopes of trapping some of it. What does it looks like? Ah, there’s the problem. “No one knows what dark matter is or even if it really exists” says Popular Science, theorizing that it must be what’s left over when they measure the gap between the speed of spinning galaxies and the light that they should have transmitted. (Newton’s second law of motion says the speed should indicate the size of the mass. That’s an over-simplification, but you get the general idea). “As of yet, all arguments for the existence of dark matter are made from inference” the mag says, but if the mineshaft experiment is successful in picking up “a few particles” of this mysterious--maybe mythical—material, they’ll end up with “possibly the secret to understanding the universe".
ALTHOUGH AGAINST THE LAW, Chinese householders have been hiring Filipino maids who, says China Daily, “are believed to be “more industrious, attentive and educated”. Their monthly pay at around 4,000 yuan (about $600) is about 20% higher than locals. Visas are hard to get so it’s not easy to hire them , says one employer, “since we can’t even guarantee the candidate can successfully come to China”.
DO AURAS ACTUALLY EXIST? Psychics claim they can see them but the Skeptical Inquirer reports on tests that concluded there was “limited or no evidence for (their) reality”. Although various mechanical devices have been used to detect visible radiation, says SI, most such visions are likely to result from “perceptual distortions, illusions, hallucinations…and imaginative fantasy experiences”. And sightings sometimes can be attributed to people who suffer from synesthesia which roughly means when one sense is triggered by another (something like dreaming in color).
TEN THINGS TO DO when you’re feeling hopeless was the title of Dave Pollard’s essay in the Utne Reader in which, expressing what may be a very common opinion, he said that he felt “as if our whole human civilization is unraveling and there is nothing I or anyone can do about it”. Summarizing, he writes: “Embrace hopelessness…share with a close friend thoughts about what each of you is good at…celebrate the fact that you’re smart enough, strong enough, informed enough, sensitive enough to feel utterly hopeless…cry…listen to kids (they live in the present without hope)…throw out all of those ‘self-help’ books with their glib prescriptions about how you should live…dream”.
CORRECTING MISSPELLED SIGNS became a crusade for a couple of Dartmouth students and their journey across the country resulted in a book, The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time. Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson listed 437 mistakes they found, the most frequent being the misuse or non-use of apostrophes (Restroom’s/ Lets Go Cavaliers ). Sometimes they were able to correct the signs with crayons, Wite-Out or Sharpies, but on other occasions they were inaccessible or made of neon. Printing an interview with the couple, Stores magazine noted the “hidden damage” that typos inflicted on the shops that displayed them. They also emphasized how often bringing the mistakes to the attention of the employees was useless. “Sometimes we’d see that disconnect in the form of apathy—they didn’t care if we corrected the typo or not…it was just a job and they were paycheck players”, mused Deck.
THE WILCOCK WEB: The war between the world’s have-nots and the haves will define the 20-teens and neither China nor America will be exceptions…..Presumably million-dollar whores like Maria Carey and Beyoncé, who are only too willing to perform for murderous dictators, will claim that entertainment has nothing to do with politics….The first branch of the 16,858 Starbucks cafes opened in Seattle, 40 years ago this month….Why don’t the browbeaten members of Scientology get some backbone and vote out of office their scary leader, David Miscavige?….The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (who knew?) says that already there are 73 fast-food places for Detroit’s 951,000 population. It has asked the city to ban any more….“On account of being a democracy and run by the people,” mused Will Rogers, “we are the only nation in the world that has to keep a government four years, no matter what it does”….. Even if they do make the incandescent light bulb illegal, you can guarantee that as long as millions prefer them, somebody will still produce them.….While Lady Gaga--who’ll be 25 this month--was growing up, in Manhattan, she must have been aware of Colette, whose role on the Soho scene was presenting herself in public
as a living art work (but without the song and dance)…..Tropicana is phasing out the
big plastic cartons, replacing them with transparent carafes.…Billionaire Macau casino owner Stanley Ho, 89, is suing his daughters Pansy and Daisy for the $1,45bn he claims that they owe him. (He has four wives and 16 daughters)…. Anybody who in these times can pay $74,000 to buy a dress, as did one rich bitch the Wall Street Journal featured last week, is obviously not paying their fair share of taxes….San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge plans to replace its toll takers with robots….Who do we owe the national debt to? And to whom is it paid?…. WikiLeaks is about to release a list of corporations and banks which avoid paying taxes by locating in the Cayman Islands… For decades, the exact same items always cost more in Eng land than America, so it’s to be expected that London’s equivalent of the 99c store is Poundland…. England’s Education Maintenance
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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, don’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 Six—The weed that changed the world--Confessions of a pot smoker
— 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
— 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
— 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