the column of lasting insignificance: August 18, 2012
by John Wilcock
STUBBORN GLOBAL-WARMING DENIERS will stop at nothing to spread their skeptical ideas, threatening and even attacking climate scientists who persist in trying to warn the world. It’s not even surprising that these delusionary dimwits have their own lobbyist to spread their myopic message. Popular Science introduces us to Steve Milloy who (surprise!) used to flack for the tobacco industry and is now paid to trash “global--warming alarmists (with their) ingenious plan to exert government control over everything that we do”. Pointing out that 98% of climate scientists believe in global warming, the mag says they have become targets of hate mail, threats, nuisance suits and—in one case—a dead rat on the doorstep.
REDEMPTION THROUGH READING is the name of a new program introduced to Brazilian jails which slices four days off a prisoner’s sentence for every book he/she reads. The limit is 12 books a year and readers will have to prove they read the books by submitting legible and “grammatically sound” essays about each book. “A person can leave prison with an enlarged view of the world” says lawyer Andre Kehdi who runs a book-donation project.
RUDE EMPLOYEES, categorized as impolite or unfriendly, top the list of grievances that drive customers crazy according to a poll by Stores magazine of 6,000 shoppers. “One customer service meltdown can sabotage years of customer-centric goodwill”, the mag wrote, citing last year’s Rasmussen Report which concluded that Americans are becoming ruder and less civil. Lisa Gache, co-founder of Beverly Hills Manners (who knew?) noted a gradual decline in the use of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, affirming that casual conversation, dress and behavior had ‘hijacked’ good manners. “The slow erosion of the magic words in our everyday vernacular has to do with the predilection toward all things casual in our society today”, she said (apparently with a mouth full of marbles). “Whether retail sales associates are as dreadful as the survey results suggest” concludes Stores, “doesn’t really matter. The bottom line is that the collective wisdom of the crowd is so overwhelmingly negative that turning a deaf ear to the feedback could impact a retailer’s long-term profitability”.
AMERICA’S RULING CLASS, the wealthy and powerful people who have gotten a stranglehold on the country, are the subject of a serious new book. The Betrayal of the American Dream by Donald L. Bartlett and James B. Steele reveals “how a small number of people in power have deliberately put in place policies that have enriched themselves while cutting the ground out from underneath America’s greatest asset—its middle class”. In a country where the will of the people—as in a democracy—is supposed to prevail, the book claims, it no longer does.
AT LEAST THE Ford Foundation is doing something to delay the decline—and sometimes disappearance of newspapers. Describing it as “a helping hand”, the Columbian Journalism Review comments on the recent million-dollar grant to the Los Angeles Times, with no strings attached “beyond the foundation’s larger goal of using journalism to address inequality and injustice”. The Times plans to use the money to hire five beat reporters to cover prisons, immigrant communities, the Mexican borderlands and Brazil. “Our belief is that this kind of deeply nuanced journalism is important to our democracy” said Alfred Ironside, spokesman for the Foundation which plans to give out $10millon a year, mostly to public media, with 15% of the funds being earmarked for experiments with for-profit news outlets. [Maybe there should be additional grants at a lower level. Any actual journalists—as opposed to wealthy corporations—that sought to advertise in CJR, might find the rates forbidding. The smallest b&w ad, one sixth of a page, costs $950]
WATCHING TELEVISION CAN make you fat according to a behavioral study of 10-year-olds in Canada which stated that waistlines could increase by a centimeter for every couple of hours in front of the box. Physical inactivity is said to be responsible for one in ten deaths, mainly from heart disease, diabetes and cancer, wrote Jeremy Laurance in The Independent. Doctors have warned that sitting about doing nothing is as damaging to health as smoking. “Television enables you to be entertained in your home by people you wouldn’t have in your home” quipped David Frost.
COLORFUL LANGUAGE deserves to be preserved, and in London’s East End schoolchildren are being given lessons in Cockney rhyming slang which offers such colorful examples as ‘apples and pears’ for stairs or ‘dog and bone’ for phone. Originating in Victorian times, the slang (it’s not specifically Cockney) was first charted in an 1859 dictionary and was generally regarded as a code to hide things from the uninitiated, but has been dying out in recent years despite some contemporary additions (‘current bun’ to refer to Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid, the Sun). In Australia, ‘steak and kidney’ is slang for Sydney and a few words have even been heard in the US, for example ‘86’ meaning ‘nix’ (none).
THE WILCOCK WEB: The London Philharmonic Orchestra recorded 205 foreign anthems, to play as winners collected their Olympic medals….Instead of paying the usual billions of dollars of bribes to the corrupt Afghanistan government, why don’t we just give them all that army equipment that we’re shipping back home? It must be valuable or we wouldn’t be bringing it back at such great expense….A few dissenting voices are likely to be the most interesting things at the GOP Convention. The only thing the Republicans and the Democrats have in common, is that they both dislike Mitt Romney....In a recent poll, only a quarter of the workmen on building sites said there was nothing wrong with wolf-whistling passing women. About 19% of the workers bravely defined it as sexual harassment….Norway’s offshore oil-drilling platforms could bypass using fossil fuels to produce fossil fuels by running their drills on wind power, researchers say… Nearly four million of the 911 calls New Yorkers made last year were “accidental” , triggered by cell phones in pockets or purses…..Sussex (UK) police fitted nine cell phones with tracking devices and left them lying around various pubs and nightclubs, hoping to catch some opportunistic thieves. But none were stolen, all were turned in or remained where they were….The Damson Dene Hotel near Lake Windermere in northwest England replaced bedside bibles with copies of Fifty Shades of Grey….Holland’s Queen Beatrix receives an annual salary of almost $1million and the cost to the Dutch taxpayer of supporting the Royal family is $45m (Britain’s Royals cost a bit less)….THIS MONTH’S GREEDHEADS: Some unscrupulous companies, aware that they can get $multi-million credits for destroying greenhouse gas, have turned to creating huge volumes of it so that they can be paid for eliminating it ….In Fortune’s list of the world’s top corporations, three US oil companies and Walmart are among the top ten, which also includes Britain’s BP, Japan’s Toyota, three Chinese companies and—at no. 1—Royal Dutch Shell….If H20 actually means anything why don’t they ship hydrogen and oxygen to drought areas and combine them there?.....“There is no such thing as chance” declared Johann von Schiller, “and what seems to us the merest accident springs from the deepest source of destiny"…..Brit retailer Fabstuff is offering what it calls the world’s most expensive computer mouse ($25,700). Studded with 59 diamonds, its mouse is paneled in 18karat gold …. Samsung is selling, in Russia, Brazil and Africa, it’s new netbook which it claims is the
first to be totally solar-powered….. When two egotists meet, it's an I for an I ….Is the true definition of irony the Boy Scout movement, which is castigated for having scoutmasters that play with boys, and gay boys who wage endless legal fights to be allowed to join?..... Controversial artist Damien Hirst has submitted plans for a 66-ft high statue of a pregnant woman to be erected in a car park in the North Devon resort of Ilfracombe ….. …John Carville, a professor at Wayne State University, is in favor of same-sex marriages; his wife, Maggie Gallagher, founder of the National Organization for Marriage, is against it. The book they have written together, Debating Same-Sex Marriage, is 296 pages of arguments…. None of the bars still exist in which Charles Bukowski—post office clerk-turned novelist—drank back in the Sixties, but a celebratory walking tour along their route takes place in San Pedro on Thursday. Bukowski, dubbed by Time as ”the laureate of lowlife” died aged 73 in 1994… “To get profit without risk, experience without danger, and reward without work, is as impossible as it is to live without being born.” –A.P. Gouthey (dates unknown)
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- Complete column archives: 2006 - present
— 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