' 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: Dec. 17, 2011
by John Wilcock
Between 2008 and 2010, “thirty companies paid a negative tax rate, meaning that through clever accounting and generous subsidies, they got money from the government while raking in $160.4bn in profits.”
--The Nation, quoting from a report by Citizens for Tax Justice

THE CLIMATE OF HATE that built up before, and probably contributed to, the assassination of President Kennedy seems dangerously similar to what’s happening today about President Obama Frank Rich asserted in New York magazine. The hate, he said, went into temporary hiding but has been “a growth industry” ever since. “There are plenty of comparisons to be made between the two men, but the most telling is the vitriol that engulfed both their presidencies,…The hatred (JFK) aroused, while from a minority of voters, was “heated and ominous”. Rich recalled “the torrid atmosphere of political rage” prevailing in Dallas where both Lady Bird Johnson and Adlai Stevenson had been spit upon before the Kennedy visit.
    And today’s atmosphere is just as “nightmarishly disproportional” to either president’s actual beliefs. “Both presidents were centrists in the Democratic parties of their respective eras” says Rich. “Neither could remotely be described as radical, let alone ‘socialist’, as critics of both have contended…The tragedy of the Kennedy cult is that even as it fades, the hothouse brand of American malice that stalked its hero, stalks our country still”. Last week, many readers of the mag agreed, although some begged the question by maintaining that it was Oswald who killed and not “haters”. One reader called Rich an “apologist” and described the Kennedy murder as “an orchestrated takedown of a president who was pushing the envelope too far”.

REMEMBER THAT FIASCO in Afghanistan a couple of years ago when some clueless commanders set up a base close to an enemy village in the bottom of a valley, hemmed in by mountains full of Taliban? The tribal fighters swooped down pretty much before the Army had finished building it, firing from the rooftops of the village where they’d stashed their arms. Vanity Fair’s December issue recaps the story suggesting that Army bigwigs, far from being brilliant strategists, could be at least as stupid as any sinful civilian. The broken base was eventually terminated, and 14 closely-detailed pages, reveals that an inquiry team first exonerated the brilliant plotting planners, then reversed their verdict, finally deciding more research was needed before the final whitewash.

An American tourist was boasting to a Kerryman about the fact that the Americans had just put a man on the moon. ‘That’s nothing,’ said the Kerryman, ‘we have plans to land a man on the sun.’ ‘That’s crazy,’ said the American, ‘he would burn to a cinder before he got within a million miles of the sun.’‘We’ve thought of that too,’ said the Kerryman, ‘we’re sending him at night.’

A PILL-POPPING NATION is what Fortune calls us, with the revelation that deaths from “opioid” overdoes have tripled in the last few years: Opioids refer to such as Percocet, Vicodin and Fentanyl—all derived from natural or synthetic forms of opium or morphine. Their chemical composition, explains the mag, “is such that the U.S. is just a few carbon molecules from being a nation of heroin addicts”. OxyContin, made by the number one drugmaker in this class, Purdue Pharma, surfaced in 2007, when Purdue was fined $653 million for misbranding the drug “with intent to defraud and mislead the public”. Defensively, Alan Must, one of the company’s VPs, acknowledged that it was not unusual for patients to become physically dependent, but he added, “the idea that our business model is based on getting patients addicted is absurd”. Fortune concedes that Purdue (OxyContin sales: $3.1bn) is spending large sums of money to fight abuse and law-breaking, but also makes known that the company has given thousands of height charts to pharmacies “to help witnesses guess the height of robbers”. In a separate story, the AARP Bulletin reported that drug dealers were flying to Florida—described as the nation’s prescription drug-abuse capital—to buy oxycodon pills for $2 each which they sell in Kentucky for $80 each.

IF THE POST OFFICE had given more thought to their financial problems it might have occurred to them that people who value first class mail would not protest a substantial increase in postage costs (say, 50c). Other countries pay much more for first class mail. And if junk mailers think their mass solicitations are effective they should also be paying first-class postage rates, especially as very few recipients want to receive their wares. Surely, not many people would miss Saturday deliveries, but why not lease space for post offices in local shops in small places?

THE BACKLASH AGAINST the saintly Steve Jobs (“a genius and also an SOB”) is partly based on how little he dispensed his $8.3bn assets according to Nation columnist Eric Alterman who compared him to “poor, square Bill Gates who is devoting the better part of his fortune to improving the lives of millions of the world’s poorest people”. [In Commentary, Andrew Ferguson writes: "There is no public record of (Jobs) giving a dime to charity"]. The American Spectator takes a different view of the matter, characterizing it as ”Steve Jobs vs Bill Gates”, a contest they claim was won by the former, Apple’s value increasing from $6bn to $364bn while Microsoft’s dropped from $642bn to $229bn. Gates, declare the authors, “lack(ed) Jobs’s charisma and his outrageous, uncanny and often hilarious ability to bend other people to his will”. Both men were born in 1955.

Banana Carving
Erin Baiano for the New York Times.

HOW EXCITING IT SEEMED to learn that Archie Panjabi had leaked a week’s worth of her personal diary to the New York Times. Maybe it would assuage the yearning for The Good Wife’s redoubtable Kalinda about whom every red-blooded male has a helpless crush. Here’s a typical extract from the diary:

“Later that evening, I dressed for dinner at Kyo Ya in the East Village. Wore a pair of Helmut Lang stretch back leather skinny pants, an Alexander Wang draped wrap cardigan in aubergine and a herringbone Smythe coat. I also looped on beaded necklace given to me by the people of Lolyangalani in Northern Kenya and wore silver bracelets from Morocco.”

What a bummer! Only belatedly did one notice the diary’s subhead: WHAT I WORE. But naturally, we red-blooded males don’t give a fig for fashion.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Most countries don’t see a push for democracy until per capita incomes exceed about $10,000 says Bruce Gilley in Current History, and in China it’s so far reached about three quarters of that….The filthy rich Goldman Sachs says it’s cutting down its bonuses this year and handing out a mere $10bn to its already overpaid executives….The reason why cities and states usually have to trim back all their plans is that unlike sensible households they base their budgets on what they think they might get instead of what they know they have…. And what kind of incompetent idiots devise contracts that mandate employees who are fired receive million-dollar payoffs?.....Once Gingrich arrived even Romney started to look good…..BTW, that famous magic underwear has to be shown to allow admission to a Mormon temple….That British director should change or amend this name. There’s only one Steve McQueen…. …. “If you worship money” says artist Tom Sachs, “you’ll always feel poor”…Santa Barbara is about to spend $30,000 on poverty—not relieving poverty, studying poverty….…One question that Barbara Walters omitted to ask Syria’s dictator: how does he justify his family’s stranglehold on the country for four decades?......Jonathan Kaplan (who invented the Flip video) has opened an eatery in San Francisco, The Melt, what he says is the first of what will be 500 restaurants specializing in melted cheese sandwiches. “Customers come in with a smile on their face” he says…. Bristol University is testing a way to reduce obesity by serving meals on an electronically-rigged plate that monitors people who eat from it and remarks on whether they’re consuming too fast and too much…. Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it…..Seeking to add prostitution charges to women arrested by the Egyptian military for protesting, “virginity testing” is said to be on the rise…..Endorsed by the Conan Doyle estate and greeted with rave reviews, The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz pretends to be the reminiscences of Dr. Watson who embargoed it until a century after his death…. Santa’s elves are subordinate clauses…. “You can always tell a lot about somebody by the way they put their hands on an animal” says Betty White, for whom the Los Angeles Zoo is Christmas all the timestaging a 90th birthday party next month….Another January birthday (55) will be that of fanatic rightwinger John Roberts, 17th boss of the Supreme Court, who is responsible more than most people for the birth of the Occupy movement, triggered partly by his “Corporate Personhood” nonsense…... A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat…. The misbegotten US air strike from Pakistan that killed 24 Afghanistanis is described as “a misunderstanding”. Maybe they were aiming at some other country….….Indian-born sculptor Anish Kapoor who designed the “looping steel tower” for next year’s London Olympics made $48million last year, only slightly less than our richest movie star Johnny Depp….…. Perhaps the only way to get those criminals heading Countrywide, Bank of America and Citibank behind bars, would be to write in Eliot Spitzer for president…Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom—Thomas Jefferson1743-1826)



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...
The New York Years
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 on West 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 Andy Warhol 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.