the column of lasting insignificance: Mar. 19, 2011
by John Wilcock
DO YOU BELIEVE:
WEEPY PLEAS FROM BIG PHARMA always accompany any announcement that patents are about to expire on best-selling drugs, which have been phenomenally overpriced for years. For example, Pfizer’s Lipitor, which has been bringing the company $10bn a year is one of ten “megamedicines whose combined annual sales have neared $50bn” reports the New York Times.
WHATEVER OTHER PROBLEMS it might have, Cuba has emerged as “a medical super power” according to Cliff Durand, a researcher who spends part of his time at La Universidad de la Habana. Asking rhetorically how such a poor country lacking the sophisticated medical technology of the U.S. has managed to care for its population, he responds: “The answer is: doctors. Cuba has 5.3 doctors per 1,000 people--the highest ratio in the world, and nearly double that of the U.S.” That is just part of the story, because Cuba has more doctors serving abroad than the World Health Organization. Since 1963 100,000 doctors have served in 101 countries. Durand, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Baltimore’s Morgan State University, says that 10,000 students from 29 different countries (including the US) are currently studying at the decade-old Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). located outside Havana in a former naval base. “Most of the students would have found it impossible to study medicine at home without the financial grant they have obtained from Cuba” he says. The six-year course provides everything: lodging, clothing, food, books and a small amount of spending money.
NO-ALCOHOL BEER has been such a success in Japan that, with real beer sales slumping 20% in that country, one of Japan’s biggest brewers, Kirin, is about to flood California with 1,000 outlets for Kirin Free. Most American “near-beers”, such as Anheuser-Busch’s O’Douls, contain a small amount of alcohol. Kirin Free contains none.
ONLINE DATING has had a tremendous impact abroad, in China and especially countries like India where for centuries the custom of arranged marriages has been the norm, and where young people now have a chance to influence their parents’ choices. But everywhere, says the Economist, the services have shed an initial stigma and are changing the ways people find love. In the past two years, EHarmony claims to have fostered almost 5% of all marriages in the U.S. Membership, depending on duration, is $20-60 , but there are also free sites such as OKCupid (none of whose members ever answered my emails) and crass, illicit sex sites such as Ashley Madison which claims 8.3 million members in nine countries and has been described as “a business built on the back of broken hearts, ruined marriages and damaged families”. But, like love itself, the magazine adds, “ the world of online match-making is full of happy surprises”.
SATELLITE RADIO was being considered a loser as recently as 2008 when it lost hundreds of millions of dollars. But last year it made a dramatic comeback, reporting a $67m profit in the third quarter. Writing in Via Satellite, Max Engel attributes this not only to the system moving into more cars but the fact that its rival, Internet Radio, had limited nationwide access to compete. “We are a long way” says Engel, “from providing mobile access…via wireless access on the Internet”.
FEWER JOBS is not what most people would be hoping for but maybe when the reference is to fewer politicians the idea might gain some traction. Kansas is one of several states that are giving serious consideration to saving money by reducing the number of legislators-–in KS’ case by cutting senators down to 30 (from 40) and representatives to 90- (from 125). “Every legislator thinks he or she is so important that we could not possibly get by with fewer of us” Chris Steiger told the Wall Street Journal. “ (But) you just simply don’t need to make the decisions we make”, says Steiger, a state senator himself, WSJ says other states, including Pennsylvania, are considering similar measures.
SEEKING THINGS that were missing from various neighborhoods, New York’s pharmacy chain Duane Read zeroed in on suburban Williamsburg to install a beer bar—called Brew York City—in one corner of its store. “With each of our stores we’re trying to find what works in the community” says vp Paul Tiberio. “(This) was an area that was devoid of opportunities for beer”.
USELESS OBJECTS OFTEN sell for hugely outlandish prices if their previous owners were famous or notorious, and the Journal of Consumer Research issued a report on this not-unfamiliar circumstance under the title Celebrity Contagion and the Value of Objects. Contagion, JCR explains, results from “the magical thinking that a person’s immaterial qualities or essence can be transferred to an object through physical contact”, thus the simple tape measure that fetched $48,875 at the auction of Jackie Kennedy’s possessions or the $160 piece of bubble gum once chewed by Brittany Spears. JCR’s essay, compiled by two Yale professors and an Israeli psychologist, from what seem like ridiculously protracted research by others, details some fairly obvious conclusions such as bragging rights or sentimental attachment. In one of the experiments, subjects were asked about their willingness to acquire objects previously owned by, say, Hitler, Saddam, Charles Manson and agreed with enthusiasm. But would they wear a sweater once owned by those same villains? Er, no.
THE WILCOCK WEB: Old-timers won’t have failed to note the parallel between Khadafy vs. the Rebels stand-off and the Spanish Civil War, when US sympathizers volunteered for the decidedly-NGO Abraham Lincoln Brigade to join the mismatched battle against Franco. Good intentions were not enough. Franco won…. China Daily, currently widely and expensively being promoted in both the US, and Europe, is a fascinating paper as long as you don’t want to know anything they are determined to keep unknown….Downtown Shanghai’s almost-abandoned old telephone booths have been equipped with WiFi to allow passer-by with computers to access whatever parts of the Internet that China doesn’t prohibit….Every time Coca Cola re-emerges in the news, the legend is repeated about how the recipe is so secret it’s kept double-locked in a safe. But surely with all the skills that scientists have today it would be easy to analyze it in a laboratory and identify the ingredients? (if anyone cared)…Boston-born Bob Diamond, who as head of Barclays Bank in London reaped $30million in cash and shares last year reports the WSJ, has called for an end to “banker bashing” ….HEDGE FUNDS BET ON MIDEAST CONTAGION PUSHING OIL TO $150--Financial Times ….The Subway sandwich chain, with 33,749 outlets has just passed McDonald’s (32,737) as the world’s largest restaurant chain…The Federal agents who monitor gun sales, allowed Mexican drug gangs to buy and ship 150 guns south of the border so that when people were killed with them they’d know who was responsible…If Muslims decline to share the relaxed way of life in western countries to which they immigrate, and doggedly resist the local customs and beliefs, why do they feel the need to move there in the first place?…. …”Vampire lovers can sink their teeth into the profiles on offer at Vampire Passions” reports the Economist…. Viewers who find Saturday Night Live funny are still handicapped by never having progressed beyond teenage humor… Virtual tours of 17 of the world’s major museums, with more than 1,000 artworks displayed, can be accessed via Google’s Street View Art Project….Art historian Silvano Vinceti suggests that the original model for Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa was his young male lover Gian Giacomo Caprotti….--Common sense is not so common (Voltaire, 1694-1778)
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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