the column of lasting insignificance: June 9, 2012
by John Wilcock
[What follows are columns from the
month of June in previous years]
MORE COMPANIES ARE expected to copy the strategy of Coca Cola and L’Oreal which has devised a soft drink that contains skin care treatment …..Glasgow-based Beautiful Vending, which has sold 700 of its coin-operated hair-straightening irons in Britain’s restrooms ($2 per minute), brings the concept to the U.S. next month….. “People who value their privileges above their principles” cautioned Dwight Eisenhower, “soon lose both”… Maybe the single most useless gift on record, is the solitary white shoe (autographed by Pat Boone) offered in a sweepstake by the rightwing publisher American Compass…. …. How did the Soviets counter NASA spending $1 million to develop a pen that would write in space? They took a pencil… ….Tracy Mann, a UC psychologist, says that when most people quit ”yo-yo dieting” they’re heavier than when they began….Writer H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy”….New mail order item: a solar-powered talking bible ($120)….“Tis easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow it-- Benjamin Franklin (1706-90)
WITH EXACTING IDIOCY, British churches have been told to post No Smoking signs in their entrances….The Elvis Presley Taking Care of Business Tribute Revolver, a .357 Magnum bearing an engraved picture of the late singer, is offered for $2,195 by a Virginia mail order company…..The most popular new restaurant in Italy is inside the Fortezza Medicea prison near Pisa, where 120 carefully screened diners each night pay $33 for gourmet meals cooked by a convicted murderer and his fellow prisoners….. “The law does not content itself with classifying and punishing crime” wisely said Norman Douglas, “it invents crime”…..A surgeon’s skill at playing video games made them more proficient at controlling the tiny instruments inside a patient’s body (laparoscopic techniques) according to a study by New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center…..In its ludicrous drive to be “eco-friendly”, the British weapons company BAE, says it is developing lead-free bullets… Politics is an honest effort to misunderstand each other’’ mused Robert Frost…..”We have entered the Me-lennium. All the world is screaming Me! Me! Me!” writes TV critic Tom Shales. “And every me has a story they deem themselves entitled, even mandated, to share”--All is ephemeral—fame and the famous as well—Marcus Aurelius (AD120-180)
NOW THAT WE’VE LEARNED that all senators, and most of congress are multi-millionaires, what a pity there isn’t a law mandating that they use their own money for re-election, thus no longer being beholden to all the people who bribe them…..Referring to the new $600million U.S Embassy in Baghdad, Hong Kong’s Asia Times comments: “Nothing more perfectly sums up the futility of George Bush’s war than this perfect folly”… All new cars are to be equipped with automatic tire-monitors after research has shown that under-inflated tires lead to the wastage of more than one billion gallons of gas each year….. The demand for private jet planes—which can cost up to $50million—is so huge, says the Wall Street Journal, that potential buyers may have to wait “several years” for delivery …. For the first time in more than a century, houses with thatched roofs (whose insulation reduces utility bills) are being built in England….. “When people are free to do as they please” explained Eric Hoffer, “they usually imitate each other”…. Lucy O’Donnell, a 43-year-old housewife in Surrey, was the subject of a painting surrounded by stars by John Lennon’s son Julian when they were in school together 40 years ago. Julian told his father he’d titled it Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. The song came later…20% of the intrusive CCTV cameras in the world keep an eye on the British… ….The men who make revolutions are always despised by those who profit from them—Francoise Guizot (1787-1874)
THOUSANDS OF GAS STATION station owners are on a waiting list to pay $650 to have their pumps retrofitted so they can charge more than $3.99 per gallon. Or they can pay $10,000 for a new electronic pump… …..”The adversarial system is premised on the theory that if you have two liars testifying, the truth will come out” writes Professor David Bernstein in the Iowa Law Review …..London’s Daily Express charges that British jails are in a state of anarchy and that drugs are so prevalent that prisoners are smuggling them out to sell on the street…. ….Judging by CBS's new show Password, it doesn’t matter how puerile the program is, Regis Philbin seems always willing to host it…. ….After already being used to contain everything from soup to orange juice, the aluminum-coated paperboard known as Tetra Pak has been discovered by vintners as perfect to hold wine…. Striving to outdo the iPhone, several companies are working on designs for a cell phone with a built-in video projector…. The wise and brave dares own that he was wrong-Benjamin Franklin (1706-90)
LONDON’S WHITE CUBE GALLERY is offering—for $1.2 million—a dozen early Hitler paintings that Jake Chapman and his brother Dinos have amended by adding psychedelic rainbows, hearts and stars to the original Hitler works (which cost them $220,000)….“If at first you don’t succeed, failure may be your style” observed Quentin Crisp…. …..If marriage must be redefined, why approve same-sex but not polygamy?….Steve Chandler, a Brit, has invented the Titan Air Jack which is a bag attached to the exhaust pipe and extends under the car to raise it from the ground as it is inflated by running the engine…..Taking seemingly flattering phrases out of context from reviews to bolster ads for plays and films will be banned under new EU laws…. When you go to buy, use your eyes not your ears chides the old Czech proverb…. Ben Gulak’s prototype for a new electric motorcycle has two wheels side by side and gyroscope to keep it balanced--He who seeks problems will always find them or, if not, invent them—Chinese proverb
IF THEY BANNED speculation in oil futures, surely people wouldn’t stop buying and selling it? But the price would drop…. Nevada’s Renewal Fuels is selling a machine ($3,100) that allows anybody to convert used cooking oil into bio-diesel fuelA Maine seafood firm allows lobster lovers to buy the rights to an individual trap ($3,000) and have shipped to them the 40 to 60 lobsters it captures each year….….A coalition of store owners including Target, Wal-Mart, Walgreen and Macy’s are lobbying for legislation requiring auction sites to disclose more information about high-volume sellers after disclosures that about 18% (around $5.4 billion) of all stolen goods are sold via the Internet….. Arguing for better use of phonetics instead of teaching “15th century spelling to 21st century pupils” teachers attending a conference at Coventry University seek to change confusion over words like “caught and court” and “cough and through”….A letter writer in the London Times says that the fig leaf is unlikely to have covered Adam and Eve’s sensitive body parts because it contains “an extremely powerful enzyme--ficin....so powerful it burns earthworms which crawl over the leaves”. …. Popular Science magazine’s Reader Idea of the Month is the man who says because millions of office and shop doors are opened and closed every day, generators could be attached to charge batteries…..“Give a man a mask and he’ll tell you the truth” --Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
SCIENTISTS IN NORTH CAROLINA revealed that zapping rats’ testicles with ultra-sound waves is the equivalent of Viagra and maybe it will work on humans…. Forget the old, crappy cardboard versions: the 3D glasses that come with the new Panasonic and Samsung 3D television sets both cost $149, the former ones costing $2,500, the other $3,299…….Better is the enemy of good observed Voltaire….. ….Always famed for its beautiful hostesses, Singapore Airlines tops Fortune’s 2010 list of the World’s Most Admired Companies …. Ham and eggs: A day's work for a chicken, a lifetime commitment for a pig. ….A Chinese shopping mall in Guangzhou lined up rows of scantily dressed women and offered free vouchers to any men who could undo eight bras in less than one minute…. With 270 prisoners on death row, India is advertising for hangmen ($4 per execution), the last one of whom retired a few years ago…. ….Britain’s Pagan Police Association (who knew?) has signed an agreement with the government to allow its members eight religious days off each year including Hallow’en….…”All religions are the same” declares Australian’s Cathy Landman. “Religion is basically guilt with different holidays”…. Sales for coconut water have doubled (to $60 m) in the past year….. Writing in the Toronto magazine Maclean’s, Mark Steyn accuses Canada of being a bigoted country that restricts all the top jobs only to people who are bilingual…. Ever-ready to bring you a new word, here’s “haptic”. It refers to the new technology that enables computer (and other) screens to react with ‘feelings’ when you touch them …“Clever tyrants are never punished”—Voltaire (1694-1778)
2011 THE WILCOCK WEB: There must be some way that the millions being spent on alleviating the floods in one state could be used to transport some of the water to its scorched-earth neighbors….You're never too old to learn something stupid…. More than a billion people already have access to the internet, which means that the number of internet protocol addresses (they identify each owner) will soon be exhausted. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority are working on a new overlay (IPV6) which may initially slow things down…..“The more you read and observe about this Politics thing, you got to admit that each party is worse than the other”, mused Will Rogers. “The one that's out always looks the best”. …A mass execution of everybody who’s been on death row for more than ten years would certainly reduce overcrowding…...There are almost eight times as many distilleries in the U.S. than there were ten years ago….. Midnight marauders were caught sweeping up hundreds of dollars from coins that had been tossed into Rome’s Fontain de Trevi…..What kind of moron can’t wait 24 hours to download a song if it’s going cost $10 more?..... Moscow’s restaurant king (100 eating places) Arkady Novikov kicked off his ambition to become a world restaurateur by opening a huge namesake place in London. (Russian food? Smoked meats, game, black cod, dumplings)…A correspondent to the London Times said a better way to run elections was for everybody to vote for the candidate they liked the least with the winner being the person who got the fewest votes….Why should colleges that are run for profit get government subsidies?..... It’s hard to imagine a bigger waste of newsprint than the Los Angeles Times’ Ministry of Gossip column whose concept of news is to boldface the names of people you’ve never heard of, having lunch somewhere…. Sixteen pages of ads in last week’s Hollywood Reporter congratulated the new Walk of Fame star-holder Simon Fuller, 51, producer of TV’s Idol show which is now seen in 42 countries…..Jenny Diski devoted 1,500 words in the NYTimes magazine to the “unspeakable” word (which she didn’t use) listing various classic books in which it had appeared. She mentioned when politicians and others had misspoken the word “cuts”….. Nothing you can't spell, will ever work, quipped Will Rogers…With almost two-thirds of its population (and its government) Palestinian, why isn’t Jordan the much-desired Palestine state?....Hostesses from Hong Kong Airlines are taking classes in wing chun, a martial art said to work within seconds.....The Guardian’s John Walsh writes that the prison gates were probably opened to let those 500 Taliban prisoners out and that the so-called “tunnel” was just a cover story…... .“Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom”—Soren Kierkegaard (1813-55)
UN FORMER BOSS Kofi Anan and a group of “high profile world leaders” declared the 40-year-old “war on drugs” to be a failure and should be abandoned. But Obama and Mexican president Felipe Calderon are too myopic to take advantage of this excellent cover for doing something sensible, and turned down the idea, opting to continue what everybody but them knows is an extravagantly wasteful losing policy….….”Social desirability pressure” is what causes people to tell poll takers what they think they want to hear rather than their true beliefs according to UC Berkeley’s Alexander Janus. He reports in Social Science Quarterly that 34% of interviewees said that immigration should be kept at present levels but a more disguised poll assessed that figure at almost double….Why do you always choose the right man inside the USA and the wrong man in other countries?” was one of the questions submitted to an Egyptian website for the attention of Hillary Clinton on her visit to the country…. It will be 2013 before the $5bn undersea power grid is completed off 350 miles of America’s East Coast. But when completed it will be the base for the Atlantic Wind Connection which will produce as much power as ten coal-fired plants…. ….“A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward” declared, Franklin Delano Roosevelt…. Frustrated with being the last place dealt with by the international financial markets, Samoa is to advance its calendar by one day so they’ll be the first…. Rabbit jumping began in Scandinavia but now has 22 clubs in Germany and the sport is spreading across Europe. Twelve hurdles about 15 inches high line the course…..….Sponsored by a $517million contract from the … military, Northrop Grumman is building a 300-foot helium-filled airship which can lift 200 tons and stay aloft for 21 days….”The smug belief in our superiority exists” writes Richard Cohen in the Washington Post. “American exceptionalism ought to be called American narcissism. We look perfect only to ourselves”…. …Popular Science warns people carrying credit cards embedded with radio frequency identification (the device that enables the bearer to just point the card at a cash register) that any thieving passer-by with $70 RFID reader can point it at your pocket or briefcase and copy the number…..It would be costly to desalinate enough sea water to satisfy the parched needs of Beijing. But wouldn’t it be cheaper than transporting six trillion gallons of water per year 800 miles, relocating 350,000 villagers and building 400 sewage plants?....Wearing a suit with sneakers is “Hollywood’s current look” says the Hollywood Reporter…. “Humor can get in under the door” said G.K. Chesterton, “while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle”…. More than 250 wrongly-convicted prisoners have been exonerated by DNA testing in the past 30 years (17 of them were on death row) according to Brandon. L. Garrett’s new book Convicting the Innocent. In three quarters of the cases guilt was established a a result of faulty eyewitness identification….-“There is no such source of error as the pursuit of absolute truth”—Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
NEW YORK STATE SENATE passed an ethics bill that is so curiously ineffectual that any verdicts can be negated by either party …. If, starting tomorrow, all lawyers received only sensible pay (say, a hundred bucks per hour) this country’s financial problems would be over in a New York minute…. If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain… …. Dog bones, snacks and bowls of water are on the menu for four-legged pets at the monthly Canine Cocktails night at San Diego’s Hotel Indigo…. With its sophisticated camera system plus wireless censors, Park Assist is a company that malls are hiring to install in their multi-level parking lots which point motorists to constantly opening vacant spots…. “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for freedom of thought”, quipped Soren Kierkegaard, “which they seldom use”…..More than three quarters of today’s American brewing industry is now controlled by foreign industries, says Advertising Age—South Africa’s Miller-Coors and Brazil’s InBe companies…. Most of the sort of people who use Twitter have such short attention spans, they’ll be tired of it before too long…. .For fledgling companies that don’t want to pay $$thousands to have a logo designed, suggests Inc., there are sites such as 99designs or HatchWise. where you can sponsor a contest for considerably less……“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people”, suggested Thomas Mann, who did plenty of it …Visitors to Kettering University’s Craft Safety Center are invited to watch a test car crash and then pose with the injured dummy…. …. Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they weren't..…More and more employers refuse to consider unemployed people for job openings, on the grounds they were laid off for performance problems or have out of date skills. “These days” comments the AARP Bulletin, “you may need a job to get a job”….The museum in Rouen celebrating the French heroine Joan of Arc, burned at the stake in 1501, may close for lack of visitors…. The American Lung Association reports that Los Angeles and three other California cities are among the top five most polluted in America (Cheyenne, WY, is the least polluted)…..Swim alongside 50-ft fish—the world’s largest —at the Whaleshark Festival in Isla Mujeres, Mexico , next month….How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?.... ….Seeing what makes health care so untenable is the need for insurance companies to make substantial profits, how could anybody with any common sense believe that turning Medicare over to them could be an improvement?..... In a revolution, as in a novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end”—Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59)
IF THERE REALLY was a God looking down on all this mess, he might be tempted to move everybody in the world to a different country overnight and then sit back and have a good laugh …. Earth is the insane asylum for the universe…..Full time politicians should be just that, banned from taking additional jobs. If they complain they can’t afford it, let them get out; it’s not that there’s any shortage of better applicants to replace them….… Our constitution protects aliens, drunks and U.S. Senators noted Will Rogers….. It’s so pretentious for anybody to give themselves such a ridiculous name as The Edge…. A previously unknown mineral consisting of sulfur and titanium crystallized inside a meteorite has been discovered in Antarctica. Can’t have been easy to detect as it’s said to have covered an area one-thousandth the thickness of a piece of paper…. Unsuccessfully completing the 103-mile swim between Cuba and Florida back in 1978, Diana Nyad, now 60, is about to make another attempt…. The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement …..A Lenovo laptop with a sensor that will focus on your eyes and act accordingly; an electric bicycle with no spokes or wires; 3-D phones that don’t need glasses; and a radio that, when connected to your shower, is driven by a water-powered generator—all in the ‘What’s New’ pages of Popular Science….NBC’s revival of the stupidest show of last year, The Marriage Ref, must be solely because of their fear of alienating producer Jerry Seinfeld…. Meanwhile, Daily Mail critic Chris Tookey called The Hangover, Part 2 “the worst sequel in the history of cinema”…. MISFORTUNE COOKIE: It is a simple task to make things complex, but a complex task to make things simple ….The Mexican government says that in the past four years it has recovered 60,000 guns traceable to dealers in the United States…. Virgin Airlines’ boss Sir Richard Branson is planning to enter the banking business…. ….”Nobody is more covetous and greedy than those who have far too much” says Christopher Hitchens…. Which is more boring: modern dance or reading reviews about it?....”All great truths begin as blasphemies”—George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
[ John Wilcock is currently exploring Burma]
comments? send an email to John Wilcock
- Complete column archives: 2006 - present
— The real, true, history...
— Alice, Alice at 85, seed money, supermax, and of course, the Wilcock Web...
— About being in love..., Persoff and Marshall, and of course, the Wilcock Web...
— The Candy Store
— 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