the column of lasting insignificance: May 19, 2012
by John Wilcock
SAME SEX MARRIAGE is beginning to have unexpected consequences, just as some critics foretold. The latest response is from the Muslim community who see it as a justification for the polygamy that their religion has always favored. “Islam sanctions polygamy—more specifically, polygyny—allowing Muslim men to keep up to four wives at once” says the National Review, pointing out that in France there are estimated to be as many as 20,000 polygamous families, and in the UK, men with extra wives receive extra benefits. “The opportunity presented by the redefining of marriage make it very likely that direct appeals for official recognition will ramp up over the next decade, as more Muslims join vocal non-Muslims already laying out the case that polygamists deserve no fewer rights than gays” writes David J. Rusin of the Middle East Forum. “Almost nine in ten Americans still see the practice as morally wrong. However, neither bureaucratic obstacles nor public exposure of the social ills accompanying polygamy will deter polygamous Muslims from seeking what they desire”.
THE CURRENT CRAZE for comic book superheroes might at first seem surprising says the Philadelphia Trumpet. “Superheroes have taken charge of the theaters; vampires, like Star Trek’s Tribble creatures, are multiplying so quickly they threaten to overwhelm the whole enterprise. The common thread is that these characters all possess superhuman abilities. Why are they so massively popular?” Actually, the phenomenon isn’t new, the mag explains. “After all, how is the Marvel Comics universe different from the pantheon of Greek gods and goddesses?" It’s common for modern comic authors to lift characters directly from the pantheon of ancient cultures. And “during the interval between gods and superheroes, Eastern culture invented Samurai and Ninja myths in which heroes could control weather, walk on water, become invisible and so on”.
IT’S RIDICULOUS how few people accept that this country will NEVER have a health system that it can afford until it can eliminate the forprofit insurance companies from the system. It’s obscene that people should devote themselves to making money out of other people’s sickness. A callous industry that depends on the more innocent victims the better. Obviously, with billions of dollars at stake, the insurance vultures will never let go until they meet with sufficient opposition, but when, oh when, will that opposition start to appear? Forbes May issue admiringly profiles two healthcare billionaires, Cerner’s Neal Patterson and Epic’s Judith Faulkner who in a saner world might be expected to show some shame for making their fortunes off sick people…
MEXICAN DRUG CARTELS—“fearless and with no regard for authority”—are already established in hundreds of American cities according to the Philadelphia Trump which claims they have teamed up with local gangs to distribute their wares. A national survey by the US Department of Health last year estimates that roughly 12 million Americans were regular drug users who, together, hand over at least $8bn a year to the cartels. “Right now, it’ s in the best interests of the cartels operating in the US to lie low” the mag says. “With so much money at stake they try to avoid local and federal authorities, resorting to violence only when necessary. But how long can we expect it to remain like that?...The goal of the cartels is to take over”.
BRITAIN’S STREETS are littered with discarded elastic bands, the result of the postal service’s habit of bundling letters together for delivery. The organization Keep Britain Tidy reveals that Royal Mail has spent $8million buying the rubber bands over the past five years, contributing to the postal service’s annual $60 million loss.
SACRAMENTO HAS BEEN pinpointed as the country’s most wasteful user of water, reported to be squandering almost 300 gallons per person each day, double the national average. (Londoners use 42 gallons per day, the Dutch 33 gallons). “Water is just too easy to take for granted” says Tom Gohring, whose Sacramento Water Forum searches for solutions. In the book Blue Revolution, Cynthia Barnett writes that water is much more important to our future than oil because, unlike the latter, there is no substitute. And we’re using it with no thought about the consequences, guzzling nationally about 410 billion gallons a day, more than the daily flow of the entire Mississippi River. Another mind-boggling figure is the 19 trillion gallons a year that is used merely to irrigate what the book calls out “51st state”—the hundreds of square miles of turf comprising lawns, gold courses, highway medians, sports fields. All this in a world where more than a billion people have no access to clean drinking water, where consumption per person is four times what it was in the mid-20th century. There’s only one possible way we’ll be able to survive someday and that’s when we start desalinating the oceans, by whatever means.
DOomSDAY APARTMENTS are being built into a former missile silo in Salina, KS, by, Kansas property developer, Larry Hall who expects Earth to be devastated by a solar flare. An indoor swimming pool, hydroponic lake for growing food underground and wind and solar power sources will all fit into the 170ft complex.
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— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve (continued)--Traveling with Nomad; SoHo Confidential
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— 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
The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol