the column of lasting insignificance: Feb. 25, 2012
by John Wilcock
THE EARTHQUAKE LADY is the name by which Pasadena’s Lucy Jones has become known, and she’s identified by the Smithsonian magazine as a researcher for the U.S. Geological Survey, as an expert on foreshocks. That means tremblors that might offer advance warning of The Big One which tends to move to the forefront of otherwise nonchalant Californian minds whenever a reminder like this appears. The mag reports that the famous San Andreas Fault, which runs 810 miles from around Mendocino southeast to the Salton Sea ruptures about every 150 years with the last one being 300 years ago. If this overdue quake hits Los Angeles, for example, massive damage will be done to roads, rail lines, water tunnels, with disruption costing $200 billion to repair. Apart from deaths and injuries, households will be without power or water for months. The 1906 San Francisco quake, measured as a 7 on the Richter scale, killed 3,000 people but was not even particularly unusual. “A magnitude 7 quake happens somewhere in the world every month...a magnitude 6 happens every week…” says Jones. She urges people to be prepared by making sure their homes are safe. ”We have an irrational fear of earthquakes partly because they create a feeling of being out of control.. We’re afraid of dying in them, even though the risk is extremely small. You’re almost undoubtedly going to live through it. It’s the aftermath that we need to prepare for”.
THEY ALL LAUGHED when China first tried to compete in the European condom market with its Safedom rubber. Durex and America’s Trojan had everything already wrapped up, so to speak, with their macho packs of Performa, Magnum and Jissbon (Chinese for 'James Bond'). But Safedom had another hand to play. In a small test, dangling condoms in a weak virus solution, Safedom claims to have what was the sole brand to let no liquid in. Back home in China, more than three quarters of its contraceptive customers are women, with condoms named Elegant Winter, Beautiful Girl and Green Lemon. They expect to have one billion customers this year.
AN ARCTIC OIL RUSH looks like being the next battle between the countries whose frozen waters surround the North Pole. That means Canada, Russia , the U.S., Norway and Denmark which are “right at the heart of the next great scramble for natural resources” –an estimated 16-bn barrels of oil worth trillions of dollars at current prices. ExxonMobil and Shell are about to begin drilling even as Greenpeace campaigns against colonizing and industrializing “the world’s most pristine ecosystem” reports the Independent on Sunday. The BBC has launched a movement advocating that the area around the Pole be internationalized and kept free from drilling.
THE PROCLAMATION BY the League of Nations in the 1920s was that "every person" should only have one nationality” but increasing mobility, cross-border marriages and immigration have undermined that edict, even though it was universally accepted a couple of centuries ago. The trend in recent years, though it has been for most countries—more than half, says the Migration Policy Institute—was to tolerate dual nationality. So it’s perhaps surprising that liberal-minded Holland is going the other way by banning it, their decision probably based on the fact that the number of ‘duals’ tripled in the last decade and now number 1.2 million. (Dutch population c. 16m).
HOW FAR UNDERGROUND is it safe to go and allow miners to keep working? The question is in play at South Africa’s Mponeng gold mine which is already, at 13,000 feet, the deepest mine in the world, but seeking a new goal of 14,500 feet—ten times as deep as the Empire State Building is high. At that depth, temperatures are around 125F and the mine’s air conditioning circulates 145 gallons of water per second through miles of underground pipes, water that is continually pumped out. Workers dug out 23 tons of gold last year and there is still plenty left. But it involves digging deeper and deeper because “the best resources are mined out” says Douglas Morrison, vp for a research organization, “and in every region of the world today, extraction of minerals is more difficult, more technically challenging and more expensive”. Popular Science predicts that one day new machines to solve the problems will include ”thousands of expendable machines the height of wine bottles” to mine the narrow seams.
TEQUILA CONSUMPTION has grown so much that the five states to which the name is restricted can’t supply enough of it to keep up even with the huge amounts of it that Americans alone drink (120 million litres per year). Until now, distillers who make the stuff—from the same agave cactus—have been describing their (cheaper) product as “agave liquor”. This has annoyed the tequila industry which has been trying so far unsuccessfully to get that name banned.
THE WILCOCK WEB: A New York shirt company spends thousands on a lavish booklet offering its “premium quality” shirts for $39.50. It boasts that the shirts “normally” cost $140 or $160. If they make a profit at forty bucks, imagine what the “normal” profit must be…. Subliminal perception is still with us, reports the Journal of Consumer Research, credibly claiming that flashing the word “health” has increased the lure of healthy products, even when a consumer was not consciously aware of it….. “It’s not what you say” comments Frank Luntz, “it’s what people hear”…... German designer and biochemist Anke Domaske has produced from milk a new fabric, Qmilch, from which clothing can be made for 40% less than cotton.....All companies have secrets, of course.“ writes Adam Lishinsky in Inside Apple, How America’s Most Admired—and Secretive—Company Really Works. “The difference is that at Apple everything is a secret”….Over one third of the world’s airline fleet is now rented says the Economist, the leasing company bearing the cost of a slump in the second-hand market… ….” Will the first George Bush ever apologize for the way his son wrecked the country?.......”Forgive your enemies” says The Old Farmer, “it messes up their heads”….. China is being accused of stealing our trade secrets. Of course, the US wouldn’t do anything like that… The Italians dislike tax men as much as everybody else and members of the delightfully-named Informal Anarchist Federation have been bombing the government tax offices of Equitalia….Impressed by Brazil’s claim that road deaths have dropped by a third since they banned all booze on the highways, South Africa wants to adopt a similar law. The World Health Organization says South Africans are binge drinkers and too many booze nonstop from payday on Friday until Monday morning….”……. “Is it possible to be religious” asks Lyle Lovett “without being judgmental about other people’s religions?”…... Maybe a fair compromise in the religious wars would be for Roman Catholics agreeing to overlook one abortion for each young boy the priests and bishops have molested…. Malice drinks one half of its own poison – Seneca (4BC-AD 65)
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— 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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The magical Alhambra
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen (continued)--London's Magical library;
In the Cannes
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— 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
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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
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