the column of lasting insignificance: Oct. 15, 2011
by John Wilcock
THAT IMMIGRATION LOTTERY which has been dishing out 50,000 random green cards to foreigners may soon be terminated, following a recommendation from the House Judiciary Committee. And that would be a good thing says Jason Richwine who claims that the lottery's “dubious and potentially counterproductive goal” was misguided from the beginning. About 78% of immigrants arriving on “diversity visas” last year were born in Africa and Asia, with Ethiopia, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh in the lead. Just 19% came from Europe. “But keeping diversity as a goal in any selection system randomized or not, would be a mistake” writes Richwine in the National Review. “Recent academic evidence suggests that diversity weakens social ties that bind neighborhoods and towns together… (what’s called) ‘social capital’—a broad term for networks of friends, family, businesses and civic groups—is the ‘stuff of life’ and communities that have more of it tend to be happier and more successful”. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam claims that diversity reduces social capital and while diversity of skills can be highly beneficial, “diversity of ethnicity language or culture is often an obstacle rather than a benefit”
KEN BURNS’ SUPERLATIVE tale of Prohibition will surely give a huge boost to efforts to end the pointless and unwinnable Drug War. The parallels between the two attempts to frustrate people’s desires are astonishing. Both led to a huge escalation in organized crime and consequent disdain for both the law and the corrupted political and judicial establishment linked to it. Both phenomena misjudged by presidents totally unforeseeing of “unintended consequences”.
ON ITS TRADITIONALLY satirical LAST PAGE, the Smithsonian ran an imaginary 2015 letter from the Secretary of the Treasury listing the rules for the new policy of selling advertising on US currency. Only one advertiser per bill would be allowed with no alteration to buildings and signs or structures in front of them (the golden arches, for example) and allowed to cover only 15% of each side. No nicknames (Walbucks, McDollars, etc.) allowed on the bills themselves and only tiny symbols (Mickey Mouse, the Nike swoosh) at corners. “Under no circumstances” reads the satire, “shall currency denominations be changed (no $19.95 bills)”.
RUTHLESS CAPITALISTS AREN’T just bankers, oil companies and health insurers in George Monbiot’s opinion, but are actually topped by academic publishers “whose monopolistic practices make Rupert Murdoch look like a socialist”. Monbiot writes in the Guardian that the research these scholastic rip-off artists publish has been commissioned and funded by taxpayers through grants and academic stipends but cost outlandish sums to access which researchers and libraries have to pay because it’s the only source. Securing a single article in one of Elsevier’s journals, for example, costs $31.50.
PAMPLONA-STYLE BULLS are to chase macho men on Phil Immordio’s AZ ranch. It costs twenty five bucks to be a runner, tauntingly just ahead of 1,500 charging beasts, and the gig is being promoted as “better than drugs”. Paying millions in insurance, Immordio has pulled off these races before, with no deaths. Responding to a complaint by PETA, who have called for a boycott, and more ‘compassion,’ a BULLS-R-US spokesman termed them killjoys, and their views bullshit. “Why are they so heartless?” asked VIB Blood Money, currently planning to run again this year, “Why are they trying to take away the most exciting day of our lives?”
DRAGGING ICEBERGS TO AFRICA, as a source of fresh water, is an old idea that’s long been discredited because it was thought that it would all melt en route. But the Sunday Times reports that a computer simulation suggests that if an iceberg weighing 7million tons (some are four times the size) was towed from Newfoundland to the Canary Islands—a trip taking four or five months—that well more than half of it would arrive intact. It would cost $6million, and a French engineer, Georges Mougin, is trying to raise funds for a trial run from Antarctica to Australia.
DRINKING DIET SODAS might make people feel virtuous but can have unexpectedly adverse effects. ”If you have a diet soda you might feel as if you can have dessert” says the American Dietetic Association’s Dr. Christine Gerbstadt. “But then you are displacing nutrient-rich foods with less healthy foods”. The problem is, reports AARP Magazine, that no-calorie diet drinks contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose which are about 180 times sweeter than sugar and can trigger a craving for sweeter and higher-fat foods.
THE WILCOCK WEB: New York’s mayor reports that residents of Zucotti Park, several blocks from Wall Street, are complaining about noise and disruption from the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. Maybe he’s forgotten that he wouldn’t allow them to occupy Wall Street….Objecting to the new “redistricting" (read 'gerrymandering') Arizona politicians claim it is “political”. No change there, then….The religious crowd wants to abolish the law that forbids them from preaching politics from the pulpit. Isn’t that the same law that exempts them from paying taxes?....Once all the preliminaries out of the way, both Republicans and Democrats used to make the final candidate selection by a vote at their convention. Wasn’t that a better way.?...And why should the date for primaries be left to individual states when a Federal decree would assign all the primaries to the same day? Wouldn’t that would be fairer, too?… What a hilarious Simpson’s episode could hinge on a bunch of voice-over greedheads struggling to get by on a mere $4 million apiece…. The Kiplinger Letter reports that although the catastrophe in Japan has soured some countries on nuclear power, plenty of others such as Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Turkey are just three of the 25 countries that will be producing nuclear power by 2030… Sarah P’s right: it’s much more fun watching her out than in…..Why are we still importing oil and yet building that pipeline Keystone XL) from Canada to Texas so that it can be exported ?....Five Catholic Supremes determine the ultimate rules for everybody yet won’t allow television to show how they operate. “Open up the High Court to cameras” demands the New York Times….…. When a man tells you he got rich through hard work, said Don Marquis, ask him “Whose?” …As we’re already bribing politicians, warlords and the Taliban in Afghanistan, why don’t we just pay off everybody else in the country with the billions we’re spending killing them?..... …That super egotist Kanye West, now fancying himself a designer, boasted that he’d “change the course of fashion”. After inspecting his first show, the industry declared itself unimpressed…. Copying the bite of a mosquito, scientists at Japan’s Kansai University have developed a hypodermic needle only one-tenth of the normal length and said to be painless……. Always be ready to change your bank….A modest $20 fine for an unfastened seat belt becomes an exorbitant $141 fine when California has added eight enhancements (surcharge, court penalty, court security, county penalty, etc.) reports Westways, the AAA magazine…...….Class warfare is inevitable when one class is determined to keep all the money… Heaven sends down its good and evil symbols and wise men act accordingly—Confucius (551-479BC)
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— “I like to be the right thing in the wrong place and the wrong thing in the right place. Being the right thing in the wrong place and the wrong thing in the right place is worth it because something interesting always happens.”
— “Human beings are born solitary, but everywhere they are in chains - daisy chains - of interactivity. Social actions are makeshift forms, often courageous, sometimes ridiculous, always strange. And in a way, every social action is a negotiation, a compromise between 'his,' 'her' or 'their' wish and yours.”
— “What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke. Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too.”
— “The idea of waiting for something makes it more exciting.”
— “I suppose I have a really loose interpretation of 'work,' because I think that just being alive is so much work at something you don't always want to do. The machinery is always going. Even when you sleep.”
— “I try to stay in a constant state of confusion just because of the expression it leaves on my face.”
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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
The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol