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

the column of lasting insignificance: Mar. 26, 2011
by John Wilcock

“We are widely—and accurately—viewed in much of the third world as neutral or distant supporters of freedom but as the bulwark of dictatorships. We train their police, arm their militaries, base our troops on their soil. American people and culture are widely admired abroad, but our government is just as widely despised”
--editorial in The Nation

is a phenomenon that has been spreading so widely, that police departments have been developing special intervention teams to combat it. “There are few circumstances more terrifying for a police officer than facing a person with nothing to lose” says Miller-McCune magazine, which reveals that each year at least 35 people “use the police as instruments of their own destruction”. How many of the other three or four hundred victims of police action were pre-determined is uncertain. “Just because a subject displays aggression towards the police doesn’t necessarily mean he has the intent to die” says Sean Joe, a psychiatry professor at the University of Michigan, who studies suicide. Oklahoma City, whose 600 police officers now includes 117 crisis interventionists, is just one of many departments where training includes how to deal with situations where it may be imperative to distinguish between “a bad guy” and “a sad guy”.

sendaiIf you want to read about Sendai in 1969, click on the image at the right.

WRAP RAGE is a term that’s been used to describe the angry frustration of customers trying to open those clamshell or blister packs in which so many items are wrapped these days. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 6,000 people end up in emergency rooms for sliced fingers or other injuries from trying to open what Popular Mechanics calls “nearly impenetrable shells” which were devised mainly to combat theft in the stores in which they are sold. But Amazon and other online retailers don’t have this problem and they’ve been pushing manufacturers for simpler wrapping. PM checked out three devices on sale to open clamshell packages but concludes that one of them ($10-20) is no better than a simple pair of shears.

“Marketers envision billboards that could tell if a passerby is paying attention, and whether that person is male or female, then alter its images and message accordingly”
-- from a Wall Street Journal story about the promising future of billboard advertising

IN WHAT SEEMS LIKE the millionth business magazine take on the subject, gold pops up as a Smart Money cover story this month which defines its “unique status in the public imagination—equally fascinating and repulsive”. What most fascinates the business press is the uncertainty about whether the value of the glittering metal will continue to climb (it’s currently $1,416 per oz., compared with its low point of $252 in 1999) or whether the whole thing’s a bubble which at any moment will burst without warning. “Many experts say its price really moves on people’s perception of world events, inflation and currencies” SM‘s Russell Pearlman writes, “not because of its beauty or even its scarcity”. Of course, that’s true about most stocks, but there’s something about gold that makes people suspicious. “I don’t like to invest in things that depend on people’s nervousness” says Apollo Voss, a former fund manager. In the past year, Americans have bought 100 tons of gold, at an average rate of $81 million a week, but Smart Money says only 15% of the gold on earth has been mined. The Federal government’s stash is about one quarter of that, currently worth $365bn.

THE DELOREAN CAR, that gull-winged peculiarity that evoked so much scorn in the 1980s, is back in style with several hundred under construction in Texas by Stephen Wynne, 54, a former mechanic from Liverpool. Although it featured in the 1985 film, Back to the Future, and was bought ($25,000) by a few thousand fans, the car disappeared after John DeLorean was busted by the FBI on a coke-smuggling rap. Jurors decided he’d been entrapped and acquitted him but he died (aged 80) in 2005. The car’s revival began when Wynne discovered a cache of original parts—enough to build 500 cars which will each sell for $57,000.

Delorean 007 Astin Martin
The DeLorean 007 Astin Martin

recently sold for $4.2 million, due to the perspicacity of its owner, entrepreneur Jerry Lee who bought it as a promotional item for his Philadelphia radio station after Sean (007) Connery finished driving it in Goldfinger in 1964. Savvy enough to know a cultural icon when he saw one, Lee kept it in mint condition and barely drove it, thus netting a huge profit over the $12,000 ($72,000 in today’s dollars) that he originally paid for it. Revolving license plates and an ability to spread oil or nails on the road behind it, the car may need a makeover before taking to the highway.

“As a woman who enjoys men who enjoy cleavage, I humbly request that you instruct men on the proper way to refer to breasts. Tits are tits and should not, in the presence of women, be referred to as boobs. Boobs is a term reserved for third-grade boys”
–Kara, Kansas City
--- letter in Esquire

A NIGHT IN AN American hospital costs 25 times as much as one in an Indian, Brazilian or Chinese one and, naturally, there are reasons for that. One is that China and India are way ahead of the US in devising the kind of basic equipment that every hospital needs: scanners costing $10,000 instead of $100,000; portable electrocardiographs for $500 instead of $5,000. “Patients neither know nor care how much anything costs” says the Economist, “so they demand the best of everything which is wonderful for the makers of hugely expensive equipment”. The magazine urges Western politicians to push their governments into being more careful purchasers, thus transforming the market just as Japanese cars improved the domestic auto industry.

DESPITE THE DISCOMFORT it has caused and the anger it has engendered, the TSA has yet to catch a single terrorist with its intrusive airport checks. “The abuse happens because people with authority are dying to use the authority” writes Paul Craig Roberts, a former Wall Street Journal associate editor, who charges that submission is what government and the police are seeking. “Anyone who argues (with them) will be abused” he writes in the Rock Creek Free Press. “TSA has announced that such Americans are ‘suspects’ and will be held in indefinite detention….We have a police state and anyone who forgets it, is in deep trouble”.

INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM is a rare commodity in Spain which lacks the kind of freedom-of-the-press laws that are standard in England and America. “Reports prepared with public funds on everything from day care inspection to crime statistics are available only for those who can provide a ‘need-to-know’ sand a direct relationship to the information …journalists are systematically denied the most irrelevant data, things that in no way involve something like national security” charges the Columbia Journalism Review. Barcelona reporter Xavier Mas de Xaxàs says one bright spot is the rise of young bloggers. “Anybody who comes along with the kind of journalism that really informs the Spanish public is going to devour the Spanish market” he predicts.

BACK IN THE 20TH CENTURY, it would have seemed impossible for the U.S. to become a Third World country, run by obscenely rich politicians and plutocrats, riding herd over millions of folk who can barely make ends meet. And the most unbelievable thing of all? That millions of the have-nots still naively vote for Republicans, who got us into this mess in the first place and plan to benefit even more from it, because they don’t have enough. (They’ll never have enough).

THE WILCOCK WEB: Three quarters of the country want us to leave Afghanistan, three quarters of Congress voted for billions more to keep paying to stay there. Of course, it’s not their money that pays for the war, it’s ours…. Remember when people voted for Barack Obama because they thought he had the guts to end the war?…..Kucinich for president…It’s sadly inevitable that the people who could most painlessly afford paying more taxes to improve everybody’s life, are the ones who most indignantly oppose the idea…And it’s naïve to think that health costs could ever be affordable so long as it’s a business run for profit …. Polling consumers for what items they could most do without when finances were low, the trade magazine Stores reported that the highest number (82%) said they couldn’t give up the Internet…...Running for election in eastern Russia’s Chukotka, tycoon Roman Abramovich—who owns Chelsea soccer club—reveals he owns seven homes in England, three in France, one in Moscow and six cars. His Communist opponent earns $40,000 a year and drives a 23-year-old Nissan….The major attraction at a new museum in Tasmania is a device that, fed regularly by attendants, “produces excrement daily at 3pm”…..Fortune reports that the best-performing currency in 2010 was the Mongolian tugrik that increased 15% against the dollar, largely due to the tripling in the value of copper (now $11,000 per ton), the country’s biggest export….“Robin seems to disappear a little more each year”, quoth a marketing consultant in Nottingham, urging the city to pay more attention to publicizing the city’s most famous “brand”, the legendary 13th century outlaw Robin Hood…. Starbucks signed a deal to stock half a million luxury hotel rooms… DAFFY DEFINITION: Beelzebug: Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out …..University of Arizona researchers are developing the prototype of a farm that can be stashed underground on the moon to grow food for the first settlers (whenever that might be)…. Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick has belatedly applied to copyright the famous icon of Che Guevara which he created from Alberto Korda’s photograph….Marks & Spencer stores have launched a service that allows customers to email friends and family to ask for clothing sizes…… Scientists claim that because of better diets hens are producing eggs with 13% less cholesterol than a decade ago with a medium-sized egg measured at 100mg, one-third of the safe daily allowance…Vogue’s Joan Juliet Buck gushed 3,000 words of praise for the fashion-loving wife of Syria’s mass-murdering president….Tycoons with more money than sense might well think that paying $200,000 for four minutes in space offers a bargain they could boast about at dinner parties, but taxpayers who are footing the bill for scientists to study surface tension with these distant experiments might not consider it worth the expense….Scientists at Wyoming’s U of Notre Dame are genetically engineering the genes of spiders with those of silkworms to mass-produce a silk they claim is tougher than Kevlar…. … There are three religious truths: Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah; Protestants do not recognize the Pope as the leader of the Christian faith; and Baptists do not recognize each other in the liquor store or Hooters…. Why do croutons come in airtight packages? Aren't they just stale bread to begin with?…. Volunteers at a hospital in Denmark stood in bowls full of Karloff vodka for three hours to disprove the legend that drunkenness could be induced via absorption…“There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen"—Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924)



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.