the column of lasting insignificance: Nov. 19, 2011
by John Wilcock
It’s great when we can disagree in a civilized way, but it’s getting pretty hard to avoid the conclusion that the phrase ‘right-wing logic,’ as delivered by the GOP and mimicked by Mitt Romney, has become the mother of all oxymorons.”
THOSE TWITTERING TWERPS who fondly imagined they were merely being fans of various B-grade celebrities, are now realizing that they were merely dupes, gullible suckers for advertisers who pay the stars for this captive audience. AP’s Christina Rexrode first broke the story that Twitter “is now changing the business of celebrity endorsements”, naming Snoop Dog (Toyota Sienna minivan), Tori Spelling (rental cars) and Khloe Kardashian (Old Navy) who have used 140-character tweets to sell out their followers, in KK’s case earning $71 per character. Inc. magazine revealed that Lindsay Lohen (2.5 million followers) was paid $2,353 as was Jwoww for her 1.5 million. Mike Tyson got $2.250 for his 851,168 fans. It’s estimated that 11% of Americans use Twitter, and Inc.’s feature, Social Media by the Numbers, points out that Facebook (“turning ‘likes’ into loot”), FourSquare (10m users) and YouTube (“from ‘must-see’ to ‘must-buy’”) are all replete with advertising. Michael Kreznik discovered that he could set up a fake company and buy thousands of ‘followers’ for a few hundred bucks. Says graphic designer Ed Aranda, 27: “If you can’t tell snake oil when it’s being sold to you, you probably deserve what you’re buying”.
GUARDS GET ENHANCED COMBAT PAY, even though they’re not in battle and the 171 prisoners get $38.45 worth of food per day, a tiny portion of what costs the government a total of $800,000 per prisoner each year. Where’s this? At Guantanamo Bay. You know, that place Obama promised to close down two years ago.
LIBRARIES NOT MUCH BIGGER than dog kennels are popping up around the country, especially in places where the larger alternatives have been forced to close down.
There’s even an organization to sponsor them, artist Colin McMullan’s Kindness and Imagination Development Society whose initial Corner Library appeared in Brooklyn and has been followed by others in this country as well as in Australia, Bulgaria and India. Most work on an honor system after members contact the local librarian to obtain a library card and code to the locked door. Each book contains a slip of paper on which the borrower signs out, returning the book two weeks later. Poets&Writers lists kidscornerlibrary.tumblr.com as the contact point for more information.
TELEVISION NOTES. The best show on television, The Good Wife, has lost two million viewers since stupidly switching to Sunday night opposite Desperate Housewives, an amusing serial with a somewhat similar audience. Apart from boosting the ego of programmers why does it make sense for networks to play this silly competition game, which not only frustrates viewers but effectively lowers the audiences (and thus, saleability) of both shows? And NBC’s The Office stopped being watchable just about the same time that the cast was joined by James Spader, once one of the most interesting actors on television but now just a buffoon. Does it have anything to do with the unfunny Ricky Gervais, described by the Observer’s Catherine Bennett as “an obnoxious bully”? Independent columnist Terence Blacker says we’re living “in the age of the bully. It has become fashionable to be nasty”.
ABOUT ONE-THIRD of Americans in the twenties, a quarter of those in their thirties and almost three quarters of NBA players have tattoos which may account for the current boom in a new business: tattoo removal. Chris Opfer calls it “tattoo remorse” and says that many in the “painted masses” are opting for the new (less-painful) Q-Switched laser system in which short bursts of highly-focused light energy heats up the ink and breaks it into fragments that are absorbed by the body. Five to fifteen treatments are needed at a cost of $49 per square inch, dropping for additional inches. Beverly Hills dermatologist Will Kerby explains that many customers got their tattoo as “an aesthetic statement” but now have a different lifestyle. “If you want to immediately ruin a relationship” he told Miller-McCune magazine, “get your significant other’s name tattooed on you.”
BULLET-PROOF KEVLAR which has been saving the lives of shooting victims for years is about to get a rival with a $70,000 grant to Novana, which claims that its ABC-Matrix is just as tough but less expensive. It will be ready for sale, at less than $10 a pound, in 2013. Made from melted, recycled plastic, ABC-Matrix—waterproof and flameproof—can withstand thousands of shots from a Kalakshikov.
IF PEOPLE ASSOCIATE bigger products such as cars, houses, TVs with greater status, do they feel the same way about food? The answer is yes, according to the Journal of Consumer Research, which actually undertakes that kind of inquiry. Experiments conducted at Northwestern University, suggested that participants who chose a large coffee felt it gave them more status than someone who chose medium or small, even when the price was the same and that participants chose larger smoothies when they were at a social event than when they were alone. The authors conclude, in that endearing academic way, that an understanding of this simple equation “is an important tool at the disposal of policy makers to effectively fight against overconsumption.”
ONE MORE DICTATOR, in fact the one who has been labeled “the last dictator in Europe” may be nearing the end of his 17-year rule. This is Aleksandr Lukashenko, the ruler of tiny Belarus (pop: 9.5m) via rigged elections and Russian sponsorship—which is beginning to look shaky. “Russia’s tactic seems to be pushing his head down repeatedly so it is only just above water” writes Andrew Wilson in Current History. “Lukashenko benefited greatly from balancing Russia and the West but now he has no good option on either side. Russia will undermine his power base by taking over the profitable parts of the economy, if it can.” A recent poll found more than 80% of Belarusians believe their economy is in crisis, about the same number blaming the president and/or government.
SWATTING A FLY is problematic because of its speed. It can change direction in one-fifth of a second when its 360-degree vision spots trouble. The key to outwitting the little beast is included in Wired’s ‘Better Living Through Science’ feature which also includes Navigating a Crowd (keep to the edges); Eating Spaghetti; Removing Stains and Microwaving Food Evenly. The fly, Wired explains, bends its legs to go backwards if threatened from the front and vice versa. You just have to strike where it will go next.
THE WILCOCK WEB: Step forward any adults who didn’t harass some woman 15 years ago….With pols even more corrupt than ours (if that’s possible), Greece is seeking some new way that democracy could be conducted….Any politician who signs a pledge not to raise taxes or, indeed, commits themselves irregardless to anything, should be recalled immediately…....”We always want the best man to win” quipped Will Rogers. “Unfortunately he never runs”…. “Despite being one of the world’s best-known ‘alternative medicines’ writes Benjamin Radford in the Skeptical Inquirer, homeopathy is ineffective and makes no sense. “Homeopathic medications are often so literally watered down that they don’t contain a single molecule of the original medicine or substance”….. If every religion could ordain what could be printed and what couldn’t, all newspapers, magazines and books would be defunct. But, of course, not every religion believes in murdering anybody who disagrees with it…. Is anyone surprised that the religion of statistics-and-brutality (otherwise known as college football) eventually revealed a sex scandal, considering that most of its flock is young lads?.... Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine…..Right-wingers accuse Michael Moore of hypocrisy for backing the have-nots after making millions from his movies. But Moore has always backed the have-nots, so kudos for still doing so.....The Week reports that scores of people have been walking out of a London production of the 1964 play Marat/Sade said to feature “nudity, torture, farting, simulated masturbation, gang rape with a sex toy and lewd acts between a bishop and a dwarf”…. Russian film circles have become polarized by the selection of Nikita Mikhalkov’s When Burnt By the Sun 2: Citadel as its official entry for the Oscars. Mikhalkov is a member of the selection jury that chose the film, which is a sequel. “Critics savaged both films” says Moscow’s Rossiyskata Gazeta and audiences largely dismissed them”…..In its early stages, and still free, Verbling is a video platform that allows speakers of various languages to locate fellow language learners around the world with whom to chat….Variety says fewer under-25s are going to the movies, most of them citing increasing costs…. Although Christo finally got the Bureau of Land Management’s approval to mount his 5.9 miles of fabric over the Colorado River, it will be two years before it happens…. Governments, with over-staffed existing structures, don’t need to make a profit so why do they contract out projects to companies that do?..…… Researchers are developing an app that will enable people in remote places to send blood samples for analysis via a cell phone….. If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something… “The first and great commandment is: ‘Don’t let them scare you’” --Elmer David (1890-1958)
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— 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;
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In the Cannes
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— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary (continued)
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— 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.
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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