the column of lasting insignificance: Jan. 7, 2012
by John Wilcock
THE WILCOCK WEB: How about holding back those billions we donate to Egypt and Afghanistan until they hold honest elections?….London Times columnist Vernon Bogdanor advocates copying the democracy of 5th c, BC Athens and selecting pols randomly instead of electing them, because “ordinary citizens are quite capable of undertaking complex government tasks”….Amazon has been accused by the London Daily Mail of running fake reviews by rival publishers criticizing each other’s books….The Scottish Tartan Authority (who knew?) says too many men with kilts aren’t wearing anything underneath, and baring all is “childish and unhygienic”…. India’s Gou Brands Private have distilled an aftershave from cow’s urine….”The trouble with being punctual” laments Franklin P. Jones, “is that nobody’s there to appreciate it”….Why must we continue to accept cable companies’ regional monopolies when competition would end blockages and lower costs?… Italian antiquarians have angrily denounced as unauthentic, Silvio Berlusconi’s addition of a new penis to the ancient statue of the god of Mars, replacing one chipped off in ancient times….Idaho’s Solar Roadways has been granted $100,000 by the U.S. Department of Energy to develop photovoltaic panels that can be embedded in roads and parking lots to produce energy… “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity” quoth some heavy-thinker…Is there any connection between the facts that Mexico, one of the world leaders in violence and murder, doesn’t believe in the death penalty?…. A rousing round of applause for the most fascinating actress currently on television, Archie Panjabi, 38, celebrating her supporting actress Emmy award nomination for The Good Wife…. Those petroleum-based packing bubbles that get stuffed into parcels to keep the contents from shifting about are about to be replaced by a new type, a form of fungus from mushroom roots made with one-eighth of the energy and environmentally better…. The philosophy of one century is the common sense of the next …..A group of Harvard students have devised a soccer ball that just has to be kicked around for a while and then it can be connected to an LED which provides three hours of light …..“True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing” —Socrates (469BC-399BC)
THE WILCOCK WEB: The corruptness of the Senate has no better illustration than the tradition that allows a solitary senator to hold up just about any legislation until his bribe is big enough….Egypt rejects as “interference” the observers we planned to send to ensure fair elections. No comment though on the interfering way we hand them billions of dollars a year….… Unless they want to get fooled again, voters in 2012 should give their votes only to candidates who sign an iron-clad pledge to end the un-winnable war immediately….Every day, 400 names of suspected terrorists are added to the National Counter-Terrorism Center’s watch list says its director Michael Leiter….And, rumor has it, that all of TSA’s millions of searches, pat-downs, shoe-shuffles and confiscations over the past few years hasn’t identified a single terrorist ….That phony Taliban leader we’ve been bribing for years to talk to us, isn’t the only imposter in Afghanistan; there’s also Hamid Karzai who’s been pretending to be a democratic president…. A major aim of the aircraft industry, says New Science, is to reduce weight in planes by replacing miles of copper wiring with an intricate sensor-linked wireless system…. ….London’s famous black taxis are being made in China with a left hand drive, for use in Paris…. Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience…. .. How could otherwise serious people take a self-promoting nonentity like Fran Lebowitz, mistress of the obvious utterance, seriously? ….With the installation of 3G connections, climbers reaching the 17,000ft base camp on Mt Everest are now sending videos and emails….. Nude models wearing dresses sprayed directly onto their bodies took part in a recent London fashion show (Google ‘Fabricon Spray-On’ to see the process …. A bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don't need it…..Don’t waste money jailing the organizers of cockfights—just use their own knives to cut them up a bit…. …”If you don’t have enemies in life, you have never stood up for anything”—Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
THE WILCOCK WEB: If Dubai finds itself in financial trouble why doesn’t it just print more money like the U.S. does?…. …..When Gone With the Wind premiered in Atlanta 70 years ago on December 15, black actress Hattie McDaniel was banned from attending….Banning old-fashioned cathode tube televisions and seeking more efficient designs of fridges, freezers and washing machines are next year’s projects by the European community’s “energy police”. The same folk who declared the incandescent light bulb obsolete….Secret Service agents slip up on their security duties and are punished with a paid vacation? Nice job....Have you ever wondered why companies, cities, states don’t make a priority of paying down their debt so that so much of their budget wasn’t seized for interest every year?… ….Santa Barbara Independent columnist Nick Welch suggests that for the same $1m a year we spend on each U.S. soldier, we could hire 600 Talibanistas (at double their current wages) to put down their guns and go home …..Earning most votes from readers to the question by U.S. News & World Report about which entertainer they’d like to see run for office was Tom Selleck….. The slump in property values has halved the price of islands for which a dozen are for sale off Australia’s Queensland coast, costing about the same as a two bedroom house elsewhere….. Meanwhile, researchers in the region have developed an apple that can stay fresh in the refrigerator for months…Thriller writer James Ellroy, 61, claiming that “the American language has become horribly mangled”, adds: “I find the canonization of rock ‘n roll especially puerile: institutionalized rebelliousness of the worst sort”…..But he also said: “I want to find the guy who invented sex and ask him what he’s working on now”... Xerox has invented a washing machine with two cylinders, which uses minimal soap and water. Nylon beads interface with the laundry for the spin cycle ….“Most of the cost of drug development is the price of failure” – says Merck’s strategy chief Mervyn Turner explaining that developing the new high-tech wonder drugs, fashioned from living cells, might take eight years and cost more than a billion dollars….. “Growing old is compulsory” said Enid Blyton, “but growing up is optional”… …As it costs more to make a penny than it’s worth, why make any more? We could probably get by with the 300 million already in circulation…. "Political correctness is to thought what sentimentality is to compassion"—source unknown
THE WILCOCK WEB: Italy’s Supreme Court justices serve only nine years. Doesn’t that sound like a superior idea?…And when you think of how many miscreants escape punishment due to our Statute of Limitations, Roman Polanski’s re-indictment after 30 years seems a bit strained…. …. The criminal who runs Afghanistan says the U.S. will need to be there for another 20 years but optimists suggest that he may clean up his act and steal only ten per cent of the $30 billion a year that it’ll cost American taxpayers…. Alaska’s Kodiak Kenai Cable Company is seeking stimulus funds to extend its undersea fiber optic cable to come ashore at ten remote communities…. The Monopoly company allowed early Christmas buyers to buy boards that included their personal favorite places…. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana….. A cure for gerrymandering, suggests Boston Globe columnist Joe Keohane, would be for congressional districts to be redrawn to have each corner right angle, eliminating the crooked constituencies in which pols try to contain only their own voters….NBC should can those incompetent closed captioners…. Forty years after the Apollo expedition (on which 400,000 people worked) at least 10% of the population still believes that the Moon expedition was faked and that the astronauts never went there reports the Skeptical Inquirer …..Why join the Army when you can get better paid for killing as one of Blackwater’s U.S. mercenaries?…..Reacting to the news that Japan’s birthrate had dropped lower than ever, Mitsubishi bank managers sent its employees home early that day to enjoy some “family time”….And British banks assert that electronic transfers are so much cheaper than processing checks that the latter will be phased out within a few years…. …The boss of the ACLU cut his salary back to a mere $302,000. Well, presumably he’s a lawyer, so that works out to only about $860 an hour….Harvard grumbles that it’s down to its last $26 billion…...The Borders book chain went bust in England….”By acting bravely we become brave” says London columnist Matthew Parris, “and not the other way round”….Did you ever notice how many famous people there are, that you’ve never heard of?… ….Technology is the knack of organizing the world so that we don’t have to experience it—Max Frisch (1911-91)
THE WILCOCK WEB: “Global warming would be reduced if all the politicians going to Copenhagen to talk about carbon emissions would stay home and keep quiet” wrote Timothy Stroud in the Daily Telegraph. “The hot air being produced by politicians to show that they care is ludicrous”….. Now that we know that Harvard law school grads start work at around $160,000 it’s easy to see why lawyers charge such rip-off hourly rates…. Eddie Murphy’s 2002 movie Adventures of Pluto Nash which reeled in a pathetic $7.2 million, and basketball star Michael Jackson’s 1994 dud baseball career are among Parade magazine’s list of 50 Biggest Flops…... After 62 years, the last of the weekly crossword puzzles constructed for the Nation by Frank W. Lewis appeared this week….. And the 125-year-old Orient Express between Paris and Istanbul (1,400 miles) closed down….Five white tigers newly installed at China’s Chongqing Wild Animal Park which had lost their savage instincts while starring in a circus, ran away in terror when a supposedly ‘dead’ chicken--thrown to them for food--woke up and squawked….. British police have started tracking, and taking to court, hackers who steal “virtual goods” from such cyber games as Runescape…. A new version of Rubik’s Cube entails twisting a plastic globe until six colored balls drop into their correct slots….. The ancient art of crafting dry stone walls without any reinforcement, is under threat in England by theft of the stones for garden decoration. Now some walls are being strengthened with cement …Research scientists in China claim that fruit bats practice oral sex…. Somebody should make a 21st c. version of Citizen Kane, but with the acquisitive Rupert Murdoch as its anti-hero…..What we have in this country is socialism for the rich and free enterprise for the poor—Gore Vidal (1925--)
THE WILCOCK WEB: If those five mass-murderers responsible for 9/11 are so eager to plead guilty and be executed, it sure would save a lot of time and money if they were just taken out and shot….If you watched black and white television as you grew up, says University of Dundee researchers, it’s likely your dreams will still be in monochrome… Red Bull’s new cola drink (made in Switzerland and not yet nationally distributed here) contains 30% more caffeine than its better known rivals… Naïve males wonder why a politician would need a ”stylist” costing $54,900; a hairdresser ($42,225) and a make-up lady ($68,400) to pose as an ordinary hockey mom?…..There’s no limit to the inhumanity of Mexican criminals who prey on their compatriots. A paper in Culiacan, El Debate, reports that a prime target for theft are villagers returning home from the U.S. with Christmas gifts for their families are routinely robbed as they cross the border….Deadline is Dec. 30 for your 25-word suggestion about what Dubya should do when he leaves the White House (email@example.com)… Madonna has decreed that when Guy Ritchie gets to have their two kids to stay, they must have a macrobiotic diet, no television and be read to at bedtime from the haughty star’s book, The English Roses….New York, New York—the Vegas resort—devoted two pages in Los Angeles magazine to its slanderous ad: All the fun of New York without the hot garbage smell…. The Euro (€) is ten years old next month…. Ben & Jerry’s turned down a suggestion from the People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals (PETA) to reduce the suffering of cows by substituting human breast milk in its ice cream…..”China is a poor country” says Chaz Miller of the National Solid Wastes Management Association, “so our recycled paper has become their forest, in a way”…After a tip-off. DEA agents discovered a hydroponic nursery containing 200 marihuana plants in a second floor storage room at Miami’s Mall of the Americas…. People who value their privileges above their principles soon lose both—Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969)
THE WILCOCK WEB: The seeds of the jatropha plant, which grow in the most arid soil in Mali on the edge of the Sahara desert, are being turned into diesel oil and touted as a solution to the country’s energy needs…. Cider drinking has increased by 50% in Britain over the past years and is now a $4 billion a year business…Apart from the doctor, the only man who should be allowed to have an opinion about an abortion is the father….Plagued by excessive 10% absenteeism, General Motors is planning to award a free car to workers who complete a year of perfect attendance… “If you don’t read the newspapers you are uninformed; if you do read the newspapers you are misinformed” alleged Mark Twain…. The World Congress on Neck Pain meets in Los Angeles on Jan 22…. Studies show that if you look away before answering a difficult question it will improve your concentration….A new restaurant in Germany allows diners to order from a touch screen on the table, delivering the meal without waiters via a spiraling metal contraption from the kitchen upstairs….The only problem with common sense is that it’s not very common—Voltaire
THE WILCOCK WEB: Any magazine whose readers combine greed with stupidity would be a rewarding one for an advert offering a “free” $1 coin in return for “delivery and processing”, vide the full page ad in the National Review….Outsourcing has been so rewarding to India, that the country is now itself outsourcing jobs, led by software giant Infosys which is spending $250,000 buying call centers in Mexico and China…. When one is in love, one begins to deceive oneself, mused Oscar Wilde, “and one ends by deceiving others”….Cute-sy title of the tabloid published at West Point’s military academy: Pointer View….. People who know best advise removing the cotton from the aspirin bottle. It’s there to stop breakage in transit, and meanwhile attracts unwanted moisture….With three quarters of the planet composed of oceans and seas, and drought predicted for most of the world in the future, it’s only a matter of time before somebody figures out that solar distillation is the obvious solution…. Farmers in North Carolina are prohibited from using elephants for plowing…. “I never think of the future” mused Albert Einstein, “it comes soon enough”….More than two million South Koreans pick up television beamed directly from the studios onto their cell phones or other portable devices…. With selective inbreeding, Japanese scientists have produced a frog with transparent skin to study the effect of drugs on its internal organs without killing it…. A study by the World Health Organization concludes there is little variance in the number of abortions between countries where it is legal and countries where it isn’t. The main difference being that it is safer in the former….We do not deal much in fact when we are contemplating ourselves—Mark Twain (1835-1910)
THE WILCOCK WEB: Greedy billionaire Rupert Murdoch is a notable absentee from Business Week’s “50 Most Generous Philanthropists”. Could the media tycoon even be included in the Top 1,000?….In its continuing quest to be the Middle East’s most “Western” center, Abu Dhabi plans to launch an English-language daily next year having already recruited a former Daily Telegraph editor along with 200 other European and American journalists…….What was the best thing before sliced bread?… After Sao Paulo banned advertising billboards, Clear Channel -–the world’s biggest outdoor advertising agency—sued, as it worried that other cities might get the same idea…. The New Yorker reports that it receives 600 poems each week…..Probing the recent scandal in which Brit TV viewers made telephone calls trying for a jackpot, investigators claimed that $15 million had been earned by false pretences…. Big decisions are taken at small meetings, small decisions are taken at big meetings goes a Chinese proverb…. Japan’s low 1.4 birth rate coupled with its opposition to immigration is shrinking its population by one million people per year and within two decades the economy will face collapse forecasts Paris’ Le Monde….The Spanish government is showing in Senegal a movie it made to dissuade immigrants from making the perilous trip to the Canary Islands.... “Modern government is no longer interested in getting things done” says Roland White, "but in giving the impression of activity"....It may be 15 more years before it’s complete, but plans are in place for a 12-mile underground expressway—the nation’s longest —under the Santa Ana mountains connecting California’s Riverside and Orange counties….. A new Japanese camera automatically takes a picture only when it detects a smile…. The more things are forbidden the more popular they become—Mark Twain (1835-1910)
THE WILCOCK WEB: Eyebrow transplants are the latest craze among people who want to look like their favorite celebrity says Dr. Richard Rogers who charges about $3,800 for transferring hair from the back of the head to the eyebrows….. Extending the easing of its gambling laws, Britain will allow poker--for limited stakes--in pubs from next fall …..“Carbon offsetting” is the new charge by travel companies added to airline tickets based on what they term “the CO2 emissions of the flight” and the cost of compensating for them….. The fastest growing section of the luxury fashion business is accessories and especially oversized handbags some of which Gucci ($1000), Channel ($1700) have been fetching outlandish prices….. Thousands of pounds have been invested by various companies in making commemorative plates for the anticipated (so far unannounced) wedding of Prince William and his girlfriend Kate Middleton….. Friendly tax breaks and accessibility are credited with London’s appeal to billionaires according to Forbes which says that of the city’s 23 billionaires, only a dozen are British whom the best known is Sir Richard Branson ($2.8 billion)….Using plastic resin instead of wood pulp for the pages, London publisher Charles Melcher will produce a series of waterproof books for reading in the bath or at the beach…..A new powerful pogo stick, the Flybar 1200, costs $400 and can bounce its rider six feet in the air…Denying charges that his tactics turned Oscar campaigns “nuclear”, Harvey Weinstein said that what he actually did was “democratize the process” from being merely a studio club. “Every year, the studios would award themselves Oscars. If you were an independent it was pretty hard to get in there. The fix was in”…..WalMart discovered that stores that employed greeters who said ‘hello’ and offered assistance to customers reduced shoplifting by 35%…“People are never more dangerous than when they have nothing left to believe in except God” –- J.G. Ballard
THE WILCOCK WEB: Britain’s Labor government spent more than $2 billion on ‘consultants’ last year, many of whom charged almost $5,000 a day for their advice. What do government departments actually do if so many of their plans come from outside?…Britain’s richest teenager Daniel Radcliffe, 16, received $200,000 for the first Harry Potter film, $13 million for the latest…. “American movies today are aimed at three kinds of audiences: kids, cokeheads and those seeking any kind of loud and vulgar stimulation with which to fill up a gaping inner emptiness for a couple of hours”— Michael Potemra in National Review….If your car could go straight upwards, says the astronomer Fred Hoyle, space wouldn’t be remote at all--only one hours’ drive away…. London publisher Headline plans to draw attention to its books next year by making them slimmer than, and taller than, existing formats…A new mini espresso-machine in a leather case plugs into a car’s cigarette lighter socket. Cost: $1,000… Venice authorities, studying a $125 million plan to pump millions of gallons of water into the sand below the city hoping to stop it sinking any further, was warned that the sand would rise at different levels and damage scores of buildings. One expert called the idea “science fiction”….. ….On sale at some stationers: antiversary cards for bitter folk who seek to celebrate the date of their divorce….One way to solve Britain’s overcrowded prisons crisis writes Joan Bakewell in the Independent is to send home the 4,500 women in prison, all but a handful for minor crimes, and use the space for men…..An intellectual, explained Aldous Huxley, is “a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex’…. -- If all economists were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion—George Bernard Shaw…. Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström forecasts that telephone calls will eventually cost nothing. “You don’t pay for each email or each web page you unload; it’s the same with phone calls. That’s where it’s going. It will be free…“There is more to life than increasing its speed” -- Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
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- Complete column archives: 2006 - present
— 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...
— 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......
— Dear Reader,
— Dear Readers...
— 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;
Regarding armchair travelers;
Pisa's Leaning Tower;
The magical Alhambra
— 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.
- column archives: 2006 - present
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