the column of lasting insignificance: August 4, 2012
by John Wilcock
WOMEN’S BATTLEFIELD ARMOR doesn’t fit right, probably because women soldiers have to choose from a dozen male-body sizes. Now the military is testing eight additional sizes, just for women, reports the Christian Science Monitor Weekly. Ill-fitting body armor is ‘more than a matter of comfort’ says an Army spokesman, “it affects combat effectiveness”. One of the problems is that the more curves the metal plates have, the heavier the armor gets. ““Some people would like to eventually make plates so it’s like
WHEN AN ASSASSIN walks out of his murder spree, the gun still in his hand, the sensible thing to do would be to shoot him in the head, and bury him as soon as possible. That would save a year of awaiting his trial, a ridiculous “not guilty” plea, excuses from his parents, millions of dollars of public funds, acres of ponderous newsprint, posturing by dozens of lawyers, arguments about everything from gun control to the death penalty and speculation about whether he’s nuts or not. In what way does society benefit from the expense of keeping a crazy killer alive? (“Mercy”, our laws explain, would be confining him to a cell for thirty or forty years.)
SPACE TRAFFIC LAWS don’t really exist yet, despite the fact that 20,000 man-made objects are whizzing around in orbit and very few are capable of maneuvering out of the way if a potential collision looms. At least their routes have been registered—with the International Telecom Union, a UN agency—and theoretically don’t veer much from their declared orbit 2,000 miles above the earth. Popular Science says that things like space shuttles don’t need international clearance but obviously all space agencies appreciate the value of staying out of each other’s way so they register launches with the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs which keeps track of more than 90% of space objects.
THOSE BLOODTHIRSTY YEARS when millions died from starvation following Mao Zedong’s faulty Great Leap Forward, have never been explained to citizens of mainland China. “The government is reluctant to take responsibility for this tragedy” says Yang Jisheng. “They want to avoid any challenge to the system”. And although his meticulously researched book about the 1959-61 disaster was published in Hong Kong three years ago, Yang predicts it won’t be published in China itself for another ten or 20 years. However, an English translation of the book, Tombstone, will appear in the U.S. in October, although even mention of it in Guangzhou’s Southern People’s Weekly brought censorship. “There are two kinds of history”, said a spokesman for the magazine, “history itself and history that can be admitted”.
WITH THE AVERAGE cost of a wedding now topping $25,000, says Smart Money, some intrepid couples are seeking something a bit more impromptu. “Many of my clients run away from the traditional scary wedding planning” says NY wedding photographer Kim Coccagnia. “They want small and intimate”. This was the way things were done early in the last century—before the bridal ‘industry’ started pushing ‘white weddings’—when couples often said vows at home and then went out to dinner. Some modern couples seek out unique backgrounds, such as a famous painting in the Museum of Modern Art, having sneaked a wedding dress and tux past guards and then doing a quick change on the spot (the Museum throws out any couples it catches). But such guerilla weddings require lots of planning and coordination. Early Friday afternoon is said to be a good time and the mag advises waiting until you get outside to take photographs.
MEANWHILE, DIVORCE HOTELS are popping up in Holland where Jim Halfens boasts that couples can check into any of his six establishments for the weekend and be provided with everything they need to end their marriage. “We have lawyers, mediators, psychologists” he says. “Divorces can cost a lot of time and money. Here it’s done in three days, and it’s a better solution than fighting for years”. Halfens says he plans to bring the concept Stateside and he’s exploring the possibility of a reality show.
ARGUMENTS ABOUT WIND POWER in Britain continue, but a new contender is water power whose advocates claim it is “eight times more mechanically efficient than wind”. Marine tidal turbines swing in stanchions 20 to 40 meters below the sea’s surface to rotate with both ebbs and flows all day and all night, explains Mick Humphries. Tides are utterly predictable and so is their power output. The turbines “do not need to be hauled up country lanes for installation or repair. They are silent and invisible”. The UK, he writes in The Week, is blessed with the second-highest tidal range in the world.” All this has been tried , tested and proved. Why are the vast and powerful power companies not investing?”
MY INTEREST IN expensive wine is roughly comparable to my affection for most poetry, which is to say hardly at all. And it pretty much matches the indifference towards the environment that is shown by people who want to cut down magnificent redwood trees and replace them with vines. Two-buck Chuck seems about the right price to me for vino so I can barely imagine what the excess profit must be on a bottle costing two or three hundred. Most of the finer stuff is bought by the sort of wealthy elitists who embrace such rhapsodies as
That particular example of foolishness was offered by Robert Benson who referred to typical reviews as “silly nonsense and lies” and indicated that we have lost our moorings. “The fact is,” he wrote in the Russian River Times, “nobody can taste this endless array of sensations because they are just made-up puffery by the winery or certain fatuous wine reviewers caught up in a sophomoric creative-writing game”.
THE WILCOCK WEB: It’s only when a group of Congressmen get together to collectively fight for gun control will any progress be made. In the meantime the NRA will continue to shoot down gutless pols one by one …. Why are Americans so violent? It begins when children in school are taught to be as belligerent as possible via the religion of brutality and statistics, aka football….Reviewing the show of paintings by Edvard Munch (1863-1944) at London’s Tate Modern, Andrew Lambirth describes him as “the great prophet of alienation, totally obsessed with himself and the dissection of his own concerns”, adding, “Not surprisingly he makes a particular appeal to this age, in which selfishness has been raised to a sacrament”…..Swimming in the Thames without a permit has now been banned by the Port of London Authority…..From what will they make a substitute for foie gras? Forbes suggests it will be tofu…Instead of forking over $800 for Louboutin shoes, thrifty shoppers have been painting the soles of cheaper shoes says The Week, adding that sales of red shades at Homebase stores have increased 40%.….“Do not corner
something” says The Ol’ Farmer, "that you know is meaner than you”…. How do you recognize a Kerry pirate? He’s got a patch over each eye….Some of those idiots who absolutely must always have the latest thing, are beginning to realize that the main aim of the companies from whom they buy, is to ensure that customers are always out of date. Thus, says the New York Times, some people aren’t buying the latest iPhone because they’re waiting for an even newer one..…The $21million golden parachute with which Janet Robinson left as New York Times publisher (in her seven years, the stock dropped 80%) would have paid the starting salaries ($91,000) of 230 reporters, according to the Columbia Journalism Review….Gawker devoted hundreds of words to back up their contention that Chevy Chase is a complete dick”…...If marihuana was legalized, there wouldn’t be such a big demand for those dangerous synthetic drugs….The Bottom Line newsletter says research has shown that if food is aromatic people tend to take smaller bites and eat less….When will Scotland Yard get around to investigating Piers Morgan, editor of the Daily Mirror—the Sun’s rival tabloid—at the same time Rupert Murdoch’s criminals were hacking celebs?….Ode, a San Francisco magazine replete with essays about human potential and organic agriculture, is celebrating its 18th birthday by changing its name to The Optimist which it describes as “the only strategy for positive change”…. If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, could electricians be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed, tree surgeons debarked, and dry cleaners depressed? ….. Malice drinks one half of its own poison – Seneca (4BC-AD 65)
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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