the column of lasting insignificance: Nov. 26, 2011
by John Wilcock
"Every move Republicans make, from gutting consumer protections to polluting the environment, is designed to aid the rich—even if it requires borrowing from China, dismantling Medicare and taxing the middle class”
A FILM ABOUT Elvis Presley would surely be a winner, but prohibitively expensive royalty fees have so far kept would-be producers at a distance. Some have estimated that licensing just one song might run to a million bucks, probably paid to what the Hollywood Reporter refers to as “the famously tight-fisted CKX” company which in 2005 gave Presley’s daughter $100million for the rights. The late singer brought in $55million last year alone, with more than $5m of it from Graceland during the first quarter of 2011. Now, reports THR, the field is being all shook up with four unauthorized Elvis projects in various stages of development.
DEFINING DEPRESSION AS “a disease of affluence”, Dr. Andrew Weil calls it a disorder of modern life in the industrialized world. People living in poorer countries have a lower risk of depression, he writes in his new book Spontaneous Happiness, and the lowest rates of depression are found in countries much less industrialized than our own. Dr Weil suggests that the processed food we eat (“much altered from its natural source”) may be affecting our brain activity and our moods and is “eerily (similar to) “the allure of synthetic entertainment, television and the Internet.”
POETRY AND MONEY are words not often found in the same sentence except in the back pages of Poets&Writers magazine where thousands of dollars are awaiting claimants. The Academy of American Poets, for example, promotes the annual Walt Whitman Award of $5,000 via Louisiana State University Press for a poetry collection by a US citizen; the Cleveland Foundation awards $10,000 for a book of poetry, and Canadian and international poets or translators are eligible for two $65,000 prizes offered by the Oakville, Ont. Griffin Trust. Most of the prizes are a modest one to three thousand dollars for poems, but there are at least a score of them ranging from San Diego’s Cider Press Review which throws in 25 free copies along with its award, to Yale University Press which promises publication but doesn’t mention cash. Some of the awards are regional, such as the one by the Texas Institute of Letters which restricts entrants to Texans or those who have lived there, and almost all require an entry fee along with the work.
PERSONALLY, I’VE NEVER been much of a fan of poetry. Most of it, I feel, is nonsense – strings of words laid out in non-linear form that usually don’t add up to much in terms of common sense or communication. Usually I don’t “get” it and I don’t “understand” it, and quite often it’s because there’s nothing to get or understand. Most poems, if written in prose, would be laughed out of the room.
ALMOST HALF OF the country’s corn is now destined not for food but to make ethanol which is ridiculous—and shameful in a world where so many are near starvation. It’s the fault of greedy farmers and their dumb, corrupt politician partners (who aren’t even aware that corn is only half as efficient at making ethanol as other products, sugar cane for example). Short-sighted and ignorant mandates have turned the whole business into what the weekly Standard describes as “the biofuels fiasco” which sees the US exporting some of this corn-fed ethanol at the same time as importing sugar-fed ethanol from Brazil (with hefty tariffs so that it won’t be competitive). The mag reports that there are proposals in Congress to address the problem. “But even if they are adopted, a mind-numbingly convoluted regulatory regime will be left in place”.
NEW YORK’S BRAINY MAYOR, Michael R. Bloomberg, still has a couple of years to go but what will he do next? ”The possibilities are vast” says Fast Company, “when you’re a self-made billionaire and world renowned figure”, even one who’s been reluctant to talk about himself. Ranked by Forbes as the world’s 30th richest person, he has always been a generous donor, vowing in the past to give away all his money before he dies and aiming—through his foundation—“to fund things nobody else is interested in”. Bloomberg LP produces $7billion a year, most of it via the 300,000 terminals which provide business with financial and other information. This is predicted to increase to $10billion by 2014 and most of it will presumably go into the foundation which funds, among other things, an international coalition of cities. Sierra Club chairman Carl Pope told Inc, that he envisions Bloomberg “helping other mayors succeed by giving them a global voice that can compete with heads of state”.
THE WILCOCK WEB: Do any of the 99% conceivably believe that, with or without the presidency, the Party of the Rich would so much as raise a finger to help them?....As the authorities gradually and meticulously close down the Occupy movements, a disgruntled hardcore will inevitably turn to violence…. Too many anonymous quotes are popping up in the papers, says the Media Watch Group’s bulletin Extra which charges that it lets officials off the hook for their views. “That works out swell for powerful people who’d prefer to avoid accountability for what they say, and terribly for citizens for whom accountability is crucial”…....It's Ron Paul's turn!....When they can’t fill those back-breaking “jobs that Americans won’t do”, wouldn’t visas be more attractive than money?.... When they pull the troops out of Iraq next month there’ll still be 16,000 Americans crowding the billion dollar embassy….. Did you ever wonder what happened to that idiot Peter Bremer, who screwed up Iraq beyond repair?.... Insensitive stupidity, declared Aldous Huxley, is the root of all the other vices… If the Feds can print money whenever we need it, why are we ever short of funds?....Not content with the $106 billion it has reaped from Lipitor, Pfizer is now trying to bribe or bully pharmacists to block the cheaper generics which can finally be allowed…. A sycophantic piece in National Review about Justice Clarence Thomas by one of his former clerks, describes him, as “a beacon for conservative jurists”….Former Mexico City mayor Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador who caused chaos after claiming he was robbed of the presidency by Felipe Calderòn, will again represent the leftwing PRD party at next year’s election….Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish….. Acupuncture is a jab well done….. New York magazine devoted a cover story to Gloria Steinem whose initial issue of Ms magazine began as an insert in its pages 40 years ago… Variety reports that an (un-named) actress is suing the showbiz credits site IMDb for revealing her age, because “if one is perceived to be ‘over—the-hill’, i.e. approaching 40, it is nearly impossible for an up-and-coming actress”….If Saudi women really seek the right to drive they must sooner or later summon the courage for mass protests… “He who asks fearfully” chastened Seneca, “invites denial”…“(Bosses) tend to overplay their strengths and downplay their weaknesses” writes April Joyner in Inc, “so by hiring people like themselves, business leaders may inadvertently populate their companies with CEO-level egos”….... The decline of Newsweek under editor Tina Brown has shown that the onetime golden girl is not as smart as she thinks she is….“The capacity of human beings to bore one another” quipped H.L. Mencken, “seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal”…. …. The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered….Before the post office becomes bankrupt, writes Robert Verbruggen in National Review, “Congress should sell (it) to the highest bidder and eliminate its monopoly on mail delivery”…. When you answer the phone and there’s a one-second silence before anybody says something, hang up immediately on this robotcall……. “All is ephemeral—fame and the famous as well”-- Marcus Aurelius (121-180AD)
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— Dear Readers...
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— John Wilcock ... From the Archives: Cuba Diary—Havana, April 2011
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Nineteen (continued)--Travels
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— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eighteen--The Quest for Magic: Around Europe by VW bus;
Regarding armchair travelers;
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— 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.
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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