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the column of lasting insignificance: Mar. 31, 2012
by John Wilcock

CATHOLIC BASHING reached new heights with a full page ad in the New York Times calling for Catholics to quit the church. ”Why are you aiding and abetting a church that has repeatedly engaged in a crusade…to deny the right of all women everywhere, whether Catholic or not, to decide whether and when to become mothers?” the ad asks. Sponsored by the Freedom from Religion Foundation and accompanied by the traditional appeal for funds, it has seemingly had few repercussions. Neither the Times itself, nor its Los Angeles counterpart, has made any editorial reference, although it must have prompted fury among the church hierarchy which is unused to such outspoken criticism. “Think of the acute misery, poverty, needless suffering, unwanted pregnancies, overpopulation, social evil and deaths that can be laid directly at the door of your church’s pernicious doctrine that birth control is a sin and must be outlawed” say the FFRF’s co-presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker. “The Church that hasn’t persuaded you to shun contraception now wants to use the force of secular law to deny birth control to non-Catholics”. Defining itself as an “open letter to ‘liberal’ and ’nominal’ Catholics, the ad calls on them to “Please, exit en mass” inviting readers to “Join those of us who put humanity above dogma…free yourself from incense-fogged ritual, from ideas uttered long ago by ignorant men, from blind obedience to an illusory religious authority”.

Quit Catholic

RALPH NADER WAS a man misunderstood, claims Oliver Hall in the Washington Monthly because in that fateful 2000 election there were seven candidates on the Florida ballot whose votes totaled more than the margin with which Bush beat Gore. “Moreover” writes Hall, a member of the Center for Competitive Democracy, “to label any candidate a ‘spoiler’…implies that the major party candidates are the only legitimate contenders…but citizens that belong to neither major party have an equal right—and valid reasons—for participating in the electoral process”.

HIGH-PITCHED SOUNDS that can’t be heard by most humans are a feature of one of the delightful TV dog food commercials for Bakers’ Gravy Bites. Aimed at fooling the owners, the plan is to distract doggie viewers from what they are doing so that they’ll fix their attention on the screen.

THE BEIJING COMPANY that used to concentrate on making Mao jackets and military uniforms, has signed deals with such famous luxury clothing brands as Gucci and Ermenegildo Zegna in Italy where state-owned China Brands now produces $2500 suits for China’s new millionaires. Sorgere (meaning ‘to rise’) and the Chinese Sheji (‘nation’) have been combined to produce the brand name. “Rather than having a fake Italian brand made in China, it was thought wiser to have a real Chinese brand made in Italy” clothing tycoon Umberto Angeloni told Bloomberg Business Week. The apparel will be shown at a March 29 fashion show.

WRITING ABOUT COLLEGE YEARS in the National Review, James Lileks declared that the college model is broken because it costs too much and promises too much. We should replace the traditional model with four alternatives, he suggests: “Trade school with functional electives; fun school where you can pursue things that cannot possibly lead to a job but you’re required to lean how to fix a leaky toilet; hard school, where they throw everything at you; and ultra-hard school, where you work on cadavers or law or chemicals or the means to build things that don’t fall down”.

BRITISH TABLOIDS REALLY can be a joy with their often punningly big heads and what appear to be highly unlikely tales. Here are some examples of headlines from a recent Sunday Express on stories that are self-sufficient in themselves without the need for further text:

Sign of the Times: ‘No booze’ poster is in seven languages

Parking Fine isn’t printed in Welsh,so I won’t pay it

Love triangle of the public schoolgirl in bizarre fake kidnap

Sham marriage immigrants get £23k in benefit handouts

Scandal of the £230m EU bill for overseas junkets

No talk of sex (or money) please, we are British

Lords blow for benefits cap as bishops revolt

Beefeater is thrown out of pub for speaking German

Talking of blithering inefficiency

A short history of short marriages

Why I laugh in the face of depression

ASKED BY the New Statesman: “You said you wanted to expand the G20 into the G25. What were the five?” Muhammad Yunus, the economist who founded the microfinance-led Grameem Bank, replied: “You brought the biggest economies by GDP into the G20. That’s fine. But if you do not have the poorest economies with the smallest GDP per capita at the table, you’ll forget. Out of sight, out of mind. Out of mind, out of policy”.

WHAT FILMS AND TV have given the world is an endless number of fake history sites which, more and more, have come to replace the real thing. The latest example might well be 221b Baker Street, known for a century as the address of the Sherlock Holmes office. There is an actual 221b Baker Street—not far from the Baker Street tube station—home today to an insurance company whose staff used to include “Mr. Holmes’ secretary”, the person designated to answer the heaps of fan mail that arrived for the fictitious detective. But more in the news today is another “221b Baker Street” which is actually on North Gower Street near Euston Station. This is the location to which Sherlock’s fans now gravitate. Why? Because it is the location of the recent BBC series about Sherlock Holmes. There’s an apartment for rent there ($500 a week) and a café, Speedy’s, which became famous through the BBC series.

“I am compelled by God, my commitment to justice and by my humanity to speak out”
-- Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council of Public Affairs, arrested along with George Clooney outside the Sudanese embassy for protesting Assad’s murders

THE WILCOCK WEB: Many countries have lost their wars with Afghanistan over the centuries but none more ignominiously nor as expensively as the U.S. which has little to show for ten years of mismanagement beyond thousands of casualties and the murder of even more thousands of innocent Afghanis. As if the corrupt government we have supported there hasn’t done enough, a recent report revealed that more than a quarter of the country’s annual $15bn economy currently leaves the country, en route to Swiss banks and similar hiding places….If Sgt Bates’ army colleagues had mistaken him for the enemy and shot him while he was surreptitiously crawling back to base, it would have saved years of legal maneuvering….…..Gary L. Bauer, a so-called “evangelical Christian leader”, would like us to get into another war (with Iran) as soon as possible…. Wilfully ignorant pundits are speculating on how Chief Justice John G. Roberts will vote on the Health Care issue when it comes before him, all the while knowing for a certainty that, as usual, his verdict will support whatever his fellow-Republicans want……. The new King of Greed is Texas congressman Henry Cuellar who personally lent his election campaign $100,000 and then—when he’d cadged enough from his constituents—paid himself back plus $25,000 “interest”….The Boston Globe called the ban that prevents women being sent into combat “paternalism” and cheered the Pentagon’s proposal to end it…The North Korean National Symphony Orchestra will visit Atlanta next month but how many musicians will not go back?....”When did we get it into our heads that we have the right never to hear anything we don’t like?" asks Bill Maher…. Subway, the world’s largest fast food chain, added 24,000 jobs last year and plans to add 25,000 more this year…Former colleagues of Mitt Romney complain that when he was Massachusetts governor he rarely knew legislator’s names, didn’t mingle and reserved a

Romney's secret weapon
Mormon undergarments: Romney's secret weapon?

private elevator for his sole use. Maybe he was worried they might catch a glimpse of his magic Mormon underwear…. "Vote for me, I’ll fix this shit” is her campaign slogan as Roseanne Barr runs for president promising to legalize dope, end war and ”outlaw bullshit”….…Technology entrepreneur Richard Stromback says that, with the parties he organizes at Davos, his ambition is to create “a Burning Man for billionaires”… One of Scientific American’s brainy readers says that if we’re really short of rare earth elements we should check out the 60million tons of used nuclear fuel we’ve accumulated in the past 50 years because “significant amounts” can be found therein….The editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr Arnold S Relman, calls the private insurance company “a parasite on the healthcare system”….Parking Wars reveals how today’s slave masters hire cheap black labor to harass even poorer blacks..... The Pope says he won’t be meeting any dissidents on his visit to Cuba this week because he doesn’t have time…...Pointing out that Apple is sitting on about $100bn in available cash, the Toronto Star’s Heather Mallick asked why it doesn’t charge a little more for its products “and spend money improving the lives of its Chinese contractors?”…..The media watchdog, Extra, accuses the New York Times of “letting Apple off the hook for labor abuses” revealing that in the 385 articles the paper has published about Apple, ‘genius’ has been used 119 times, and ‘labor’ a dozen times …. If they’re fighting to remove some of the (Hunger Games) violence from TV, maybe they should stop televising ‘football’, thus changing it back from a spectacle to a sport…….”Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.”—Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011)

3/24/12

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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.