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”.
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.
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
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)
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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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— 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)
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— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen (Part Two--Manhattan phone book, JW'S Secret Diary
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— 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
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