the column of lasting insignificance: June 25, 2011
by John Wilcock
SEX IN POLITICS is assuredly in the news in England where a new website, sexymp.co.uk invites constituents to vote for which politician they’d most like to sleep with. The site’s originator Francis Boulle, a 22-year-old reality TV star, says: "The more you vote, the more accurate the rankings will become." Prime Minister David Cameron is 101st out of 506 male MPs on the site (there are 648 MPs altogether. Contenders for top place change all the time, but in the lead at the moment are the Scottish National Party’s Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) and the Conservative Edward Vaisey (Wantage). Understandably, pols themselves are not too happy about this latest attempt to popularize democracy. Lib Dem blogger Paul Walter says haughtily: "Young people's political ambitions are, almost invariably, shaped by role models. Those role models should be held up for their passion and views, not looks."
KEITH OLBERMANN WAS more or less kicked out of MSNBC for being outspoken, but it’s he who’s likely to have the last laugh. “I don’t think they expected this would be the outcome”, he says. “They expected, ‘OK, he’s going to go away now, probably for so long that nobody would be interested in bringing him back’”. But almost immediately he was brought back—by Al Gore who saw in him a perfect fit for his Current TV show, on which he’ll make his debut next week. “We’re not doing this for me to have a home” Olbermann, 52. told Rolling Stone. “We’re going to take the MSNBC’s business away from them—that’s the idea, to do it better”.
HOW LONG REMAINS in one’s life, is a question that most people have probably asked and soon there may be a way to find an answer. It all depends on something called telomeres which prevent the straggly ends of your chromosomes from getting tangled. “We know that shorter telemores can cause a short lifespan” explains Dr. María Blasco of Madrid’s Spanish Cancer Research Center who devised a blood test to read a person’s biological age (the rate at which they are aging). And she predicts it will become commonplace within a few years. Unfortunately, she says, the test can only offer clues how healthy you’ll remain and not tell you in months and years how long you will live. Each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter, say scientists at the University of Utah. “And when they get too short, the cell no longer can divide and becomes inactive or ‘senescent’ or dies. This process is associated with aging, cancer and a higher risk of death. So telomeres also have been compared with a bomb fuse”. Of course, there’s always a downside to any new discovery, and in this case it concerns life insurance companies who might start pricing their policies on when they’re likely to pay off.
THOSE SHOPWORN CLICHES about psychoanalysis which scoff about penis envy or the Oedipal complex are so last century writes Molly Knight Raskin in Psychology Today, an essay that declares that therapy has special relevance to today’s wired world. Technology, she affirms can leave us feeling “distracted, over-stimulated, hollowed-out and alienated”, quoting psychoanalyst Rodd Essig’s affirmation that while technology compels us to live in a constant presence, “psychoanalysis connects us with memory, the past and what we want next. It stretches the existential muscles that are atrophying when we spent too much time with our Blackberries.” Essig, a trainer and supervisor at New York’s William Alanson White Institute, maintains that such mental discipline is a way “to recapture the important piece of life that is being leached out of our experience”. The magazine’s story, titled The Great Idea That Wouldn’t Die, makes a largely defensive case for the continued relevance of analysis—“a profound exploration of human inner world of desires and impulses.’
“OVER-ACHIEVING BRATS” is what designer Simon Doonan thinks of today’s youth – “a bunch of…materialistic, conformist, mentally turgid losers whose only discernible skill is the ability to sext pics of their genitals to each other”. The former Brit arrived in the US in 1978 and landed a job as Barney’s window-dresser from which he was fired earlier this year. About to turn 60 he married fellow designer Jonathan Adler in 2008 and now writes a column for Slate in which appeared his comparison of youth then and now. Lifetime achievement awards once went to octogenarians, he pouts, but now a kid of 22 can win the ‘Most Important Fashion Designer in History’.
THE WILCOCK WEB: If there really was a God looking down on all this mess, he might be tempted to move everybody in the world to a different country overnight and then sit back and have a good laugh …. Earth is the insane asylum for the universe…..Full time politicians should be just that, banned from taking additional jobs. If they complain they can’t afford it, let them get out; it’s not that there’s any shortage of better applicants to replace them….… Our constitution protects aliens, drunks and U.S. Senators noted Will Rogers….. It’s so pretentious for anybody to give themselves such a ridiculous name as The Edge…. A previously unknown mineral consisting of sulfur and titanium crystallized inside a meteorite has been discovered in Antarctica. Can’t have been easy to detect as it’s said to have covered an area one-thousandth the thickness of a piece of paper…. Unsuccessfully completing the 103-mile swim between Cuba and Florida back in 1978, Diana Nyad, now 60, is about to make another attempt…. The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement …..A Lenovo laptop with a
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— Manhattan Memories: Introduction.
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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
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