the column of lasting insignificance: May 14, 2011
by John Wilcock
“Virtually all US senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1% when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1% and know that if they serve the top 1% well, they will be rewarded by the top 1% when they leave office.”
IT WON’T BE LONG before the world comes to appreciate that artist Al Weiwei, is one of the most important people in it. China is a powder keg approaching the “explosion point” says former Communist Gao Wenquian, now living in New York, who forecasts the artist that could be the match to ignite it. “He had to be snuffed out”. In the style of all important artists with a conscience, Weiwei, 53, has been provoking his government to respect human rights and uncover corruption and now, not for the first time, he has been arrested. His politics have become his art, writes Barbara Pollack, author of a book about the Chinese art world. “What he has done is really quite heroic” she told Newsweek. “Many people felt he was emerging as a leader of a protest movement”.
But wait a minute; it’s not quite as simple as that. Baker makes a good point about the waning days of WW2 when Hitler still had millions of Jews captive—but still alive. If we had negotiated, he says, instead of continuing the war, maybe they wouldn’t all have been killed. And that’s probably true. But what about the war’s beginning when the Germans were invading one country after another? Negotiations were tried and all they did was delay the onset of the war itself. Nobody has ever been able to solve the problem of how to satisfactorily respond to force without counter force. Yes, Harper’s will surely get a lot of letters.
SOME FOLK LOVE graffiti but they’re invariably the same people who would shudder at the idea of having it on their property or even in their own neighborhood. Go make your colorful mess somewhere else and we’ll come there to admire it, pretty much sums up their attitude.
BEING TRASHED BY Oprah Winfrey would not be everybody’s preferred route to fame, but it worked for author James Frey who, five years ago confessed on the diva’s TV show that his autobiographical ‘memoir’ was not exactly true. Oprah raged that she’d been “duped” but the book, A Million Little Pieces, went on to sell eight million copies and then financed Frey’s sojourn in Paris, to which he fled to escape the furor. Now he’s back and—with the sponsorship of the world’s major art dealer—is peddling a book described as a work of art. Art in America writes that, “In aligning himself with (Larry) Gagosian, Frey has turned his back on the American publishing industry, which, he observed, ‘doesn’t respect my work’”. Nevertheless, Frey’s new work is a book, described as an artwork, a single, unedited version of Final Testament “consisting of 229 inkjet-on-stretched canvas panels” that Gagosian--says Art in America --plans to hang in one of his Manhattan galleries. Modeled on the structure of the Bible, the tale apparently narrates the trials of a present-day Messiah in New York “through the voices of his friends family and acquaintances”. A print version, signed by the author, costs $1,000, with a cheaper edition sold at Gagosian galleries for $150.
A FEW YEARS AGO tech hounds were swearing they couldn’t live without their Blackberries. Now RIM, the owner company, is worried that sales are falling because they might not be as “relevant”; other companies have brought out models with some additional, pointless gimmick. Will this childish quest for the new ever end? Of course not. There’ll always be millions of sheep-like fools wiling to be gullible victims of the capitalistic system. Hey, it’s what makes America great.
MANY OF THOSE GREEDY BILLIONAIRES who would like to correct “a widespread impression that they are too rich/powerful/selfish” try to alter perceptions with some kind of charitable enterprise in Africa says Charles Moore. So much time could be saved, he writes in the Spectator, if they could pose beside some London hillside labeled ‘Africa’ with tribal dancers and black babies on call for the occasion. Then business stars such as Barclays Bank $12m boss Bob Diamond, “could fly in for breakfast, get photographed and be back in London for dinner”.
THE WILCOCK WEB: While America continues robbing the poor to help the rich get richer, the Chinese are….oh, wait!…they’re doing the same thing. Only they call it communism…. Primogeniture, the age-old tradition that the daughter of a sovereign, can be bypassed for the succession by a son, may be changed before future queen Kate Middleton gives birth…. Instead of throwing away millions on a (negatively-reviewed) museum monument to himself, Carlos Slim would have served indigent Mexicans better by lowering his rip-off telephone rates which are among the world’s highest….Why aren’t constantly-re-elected senators subject to term limits like other pols?…. “There ought to be one day, just one”, said Will Rogers, “when there is open season on senators”….Having lost the Afghanistan war, Petraeus is now predicted to be a loser once more as head of the CIA …. Calling our Bin Laden raid “a misadventure” Pakistan’s pissed-off army chief wants us to pull out our military. Hopefully, we’ll take out our $$billions, too….After half a century of unremitting flattery for J.D. Salinger’s books, what may be the start of a revised appraisal has begun with a backlash by the LA Times’ Mary McNamara describing the writer’s “pretentious talk”…. The biggest food manufacturers switched from sugar to high fructose corn syrup a few years ago but now, discovering that it’s just as bad for you as sugar (if not worse), they’re switching back….What about that other idiot on Celebrity Apprentice, does he ever take off his shades?….Last week, on the 50th anniversary of the blast-off of Freedom 7 carrying Alan Shepard, the first American in space, a Bonham’s auction sold space memorabilia including two astronaut’s suits (although not his)… Abercrombie& Fitch have added “breast enhancement” padding to its bikinis for pre-teenies….Things you can now get from vending machines (a $20bn industry): marihuana (after registering at a clinic and signing in with a fingerprint); gold bars (in Las Vegas and Boca Raton, FL.); earthworms and slugs (from PA Live Bait Vending)….. After somebody wearing a niqab turns out to be an undetected suicide bomber, maybe then the French will know they were right to ban it… National Review’s Rob Long points out that one of Donald Trump’s chocolate lines is called “de-luxe nut”….. The Afghan War, says Extra, costs $4bn a week, has caused the death of over 1,500 troops and tens of thousands of Afghans, “A majority of the US public favors withdrawal and yet that perspective still can’t find a solid foothold on cable news”…..“In a revolution, as in a novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end”—Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59)
comments? send an email to John Wilcock
- Complete column archives: 2006 - present
— The Candy Store
— 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...
— 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......
— Dear Reader,
— 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