' John Wilcock - The Column of Lasting Insignificance
The column of lasting insignificance   Ojai Orange   blog   Books   Marijuana   Press   Archives   Contact

the column of lasting insignificance: Sept. 17, 2011
by John Wilcock

“The recent budget deal is only the latest phase of a 30-year, top-down, one-sided war against the poor and working people in the name of a morally bankrupt policy of deregulating markets, lowering taxes and cutting spending for those already socially neglected and economically abandoned. Our two main political parties, each beholden to big money, offer merely alternative versions of oligarchic rule”.
--Cornel West in the New York Times

THE YEAR OF THE GREAT HOAX is when millions of otherwise sensible people get the crazy notion that they are able to do something to shape the society they live in; when dupes are told, and being dupes believe, that they are electing a president. Nobody tells the dupes that they're pawns; in fact, they're called voters and they're flattered and bribed, excited and entertained. Everybody joins in the game--newspapers, television, movie stars, wealthy novelists, even your friends. They all refer to the robot who's going to be president by different names and even pretend that he's different people!"
    In the year of The Great Hoax [ ran my argument in 1972 when I wrote this ], it was hard to find anything else to play because the people who ran the game were trying to make sure nobody dropped out and all the others wouldn't even talk about it.
    The best place from which to watch the game is from the top of the nearby hillside. That's where all the important people sit--the ones who don't care which way it comes out, because whoever 'wins' will still maintain the important things of life: oil depletion allowances, bank rates, germ warfare research, agribusiness, imperialism, the space race.
    From this hill there's rather an amusing view of the valley below. It's much like the medieval battles that kings used to watch: dozens of knights on grey horses (a trick of the light makes them appear white close up) rushing around with banners waving, some with a handful of camp followers, others with countless throngs.
    From time to time what at first had seemed like a minor rally on the sidelines suddenly surges forward sweeping hundreds of foot soldiers with it. The crowd twists and turns as all try to see if one of the mounted men has a clear advantage and can make a run up the valley. Which is a dead end, of course.
    In the year of the Great Hoax there's a role in the game for everybody, each according to his naiveté or cynicism. Some declare outright that one cipher is superior to another or else maintain that there's no difference between them (true) until the last moments of the game when they suddenly discover that more virtue resides in one quarter than the others (false).
    The all-important rule of the game is that it be confined to personalities: concepts and specifics are taboo. ‘Ending’ something (such as war or poverty) or ‘increasing’ something (the size of the Pentagon or welfare) may be advocated but the rules are insistent that as promises cannot—and will not—subsequently be kept that they must not be identifiable.
    Mainly though, it's important that the players keep their eyes on the board and don't start thinking in terms of 'ideas' which might distract attention from the game itself or, heaven forbid, to the people atop the hill who are running it. Welcome to the Year of the Great Hoax".

[ This column appeared in Other Scenes in 1972 ]

FAITH NO MORE is the title of a recent New Statesman feature in which 24 atheists were asked why they don’t believe in God. Some portions of their replies follow.

Every living thing on this planet evolved by processes that require no designer, no plans, no guidance and no foresight. We need no God to do this work. Where would he fit in? What would he do and why? If he did have any role in our creation, he would have to be immensely devious, finicky, deceitful and mind-bogglingly cruel, which would be a very odd kind of God to believe in.
—Susan Blackmore, psychologist and author

We can prove that books such as the Bible and the Quran bear no trace of divine authorship We know far too much about the history of these texts to accept what they say about their own origins…the notion that any ancient book could be an infallible guide to living in the present gets my vote for being the most dangerously stupid idea on earth.
—Sam Harris, neuroscientist

The more science learns about the world, the less room there is for God…There’s not only an absence of evidence for God, but good evidence against him. To the open-minded, religions were clearly invented by human beings to support their fervent wishes for what they wanted to be true.
—Jerry Coyne, biologist

There is no good reason to believe that anything that could coherently be called God exists. A rational person does not waste time believing or even being agnostic about things there are no good reasons to accept.
—John Harris, bioethicist

We are just insignificant lumps of carbon flying through a tiny section of the universe. Our destiny is totally in our own hands, and it is up to each of us to make the best of our life. Let’s stop worrying about mythical entities and start living.
—Richard Wiseman, psychologist

GEORGE MCGOVERN, who lost his 1972 bid for the presidency because he wanted to end the Vietnam War, has asked Obama to bring the troops home from Afghanistan. “Even if it were desirable for us to stay a decade more” he addresses the president ,“we simply cannot afford to do so”. For the same reason, he suggests in his letter (published in the Atlantic) “a few bold steps President Obama might consider for the good of his soul and that of the nation”.

  • We should close all US bases in the Arab world (which) incite rather than prevent terrorist attacks against us.

  • We should evaluate whether it is necessary to continue other American troop consignments in Europe, South Korea and elsewhere. When the US Army was sent to Korea in 1950, the deployment was described as a brief police action but sixty years later our troops are still here…in Europe 80,000 have been there for half a century.

  • Reduce the current military budget of $700 billion—a figure that accounts for almost half the world’s military expenditures —to $500bn next year, and then…to $200bn.

Finally, the former senator suggests, Medicare should be expanded to cover everybody. ”We could reduce the impenetrable legislation to a single sentence: ‘Congress hereby extends Medicare to all Americans’ ”.

THE WILCOCK WEB: If the US Treasury can print as many dollars as it likes, with nothing to back them up beyond a government heavily in debt, who decides when the currency will become worthless?....If Texas governor Rick Perry is such a strong advocate of states’ rights, presumably he supports legal marihuana smokers in California…. Freshly limited from ripping off credit card customers, banks--it’s reported--“need to make it up” from somewhere. Why is that? Sometimes you win and sometimes to lose, a concept unfamiliar to banks which, when things turn really bad, expect the government to pay….The old fallacy that humongous salaries have to be paid to Wall Street execs because nobody else could do the job, took something of a jolt with the verdict that Hewlett-Packard’s $$multi-million fired boss Mark Hurd was declared “dispensable….Ah, if only 10 million small taxpayers would agree not to pay their taxes until the big companies pay theirs……..Maybe Amazon could argue that if offshore companies can get away with not paying taxes, why not off-state companies?....TaskRabbit has registered 1,500 “runners” who can be hired to run any errand or do any task you’re willing to pay for , a service operating in SF, Boston and LA. Similar services are Agent Anything and Fancy Hands….The LA Times' George Skelton, among the latest advocates of repealing the death penalty, says it costs $308million for every execution. Obviously this (questionable) figure would drop precipitously if repetitive appeals didn’t continue for 20 years…. Renting 20ft shipping containers from big companies such as Maersk, the Pentagon has to pay a late fee for not returning them on time and its recent late-fee bill was $720million according to NationofChange. Does the Pentagon care? Of course not, it’s your money not theirs…..”…”Ask not what your country can do for you” quipped Orson Welles. “Ask what’s for lunch”…. North Korea’s Kim Jong-il ordered waitresses in all that country’s chain of restaurants across Asia to undergo double eyelid surgery to give them a more Western appearance… Lowered rental rates and added luxuries such as hot tubs, waterslides and satellite TV on the larger boats is contributing to a boom in the boating business reports Smart Money…..Between 2007 and last year, more than 30% of the trips made by jet planes operated by public companies, were to or from resorts says the Wall Street Journal....The United States, once first in the world in the percentage of its young adults with college degrees, is now tenth and slipping reports Washington Monthly….Here’s a book title that tells it all: Intern Nation-How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy. “Mass exploitation that saves firms $600 million a year” explains author Ross Perlin…. When we finally get out of Afghanistan, and the country resumes its civil war—after hundreds of thousands of deaths and $$billions spent—will somebody explain what was the point of it all...Do not do to others what angers you if done to you by others—Socrates (469BC-399BC)



Email this link to a friend

Sign-up to receive this column weekly by email

send a comment 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
nytimes.com: 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.