the column of lasting insignificance: Sept. 22, 2012
by John Wilcock
YOU PROBABLY HAVEN’T heard of the Poseidon Award because the earliest that anybody’s expected to win it is 2015, when some new nation that’s not already claimed by another country has arisen somewhere in the ocean. A think tank called the Seasteading Institute will make the award when it’s convinced that the new country is “politically independent and financially self-sufficient”; not easy to accomplish. “All land on earth is already claimed, making the oceans humanity’s next frontier” reports the Institute’s website which expresses the belief that “innovative political systems could serve humanity far better than governments do today”. The dream of a country starting from scratch has been around for a while and attempted many times. One such, the Principality of Sealand on a former military platform in international waters off England’s east coast, has been around since 1967 and sells royal titles (Count/Countess) and its own postage stamps.
MISLEADING LABELS ON FOOD might be able to convince you that the animal you’re eating was treated—and died—humanely, but it isn’t necessarily true. ”A betrayal of public trust… cheapening the language” is how Karen Dav, president of an advocacy group, United Poultry Concerns, describes “laughable” so-called ‘welfare labels’. Although it reputedly described a comprehensive assessment of a farm animal’s experience, reports Harper’s, endorsement by the Global Animal Partnership might mean that its treatment has passed only one level and that the sad creature has not seen the outdoors or been granted any period of darkness. Too often, says the mag, “all the pleasant-sounding ratings and stamps now decorating our grocery stores serve to make us feel a little bit better about this corrupt bargain”.
BETTER GET USED to the idea that sooner or later we’ll be eating a lot more insects instead of meat, and drinking gallons of recycled urine as the earth’s water supply runs short. In Singapore, for example, where access to potable water has become a major concern, four treatment plants filter sewage through several membranes and make it safe to drink by exposing it to ultraviolet light. Now such “reclaimed” water, reports Wired supplies almost a third of that country’s demand. As for insects, farming them produces only one-tenth as much methane gas as the equivalent amount of livestock. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization last year recommended that they become a major source of diet. Crunchy crickets are extremely high in calcium and juicy caterpillars are said to be a fantastic source of such key nutrients as iron, thiamin and riboflavin.
A GOOD EXAMPLE of why Conservatives are rarely funny, according to a new book, is the pre-9/11 Dennis Miller described as “famous for his knowing, referential brand of humor”. But the September 11 attacks turned Miller “into a fawning admirer of the same president he’d held in contempt” writes Alison Dagnes. “He lost his sense of irony and adopted the full complement of Fox News-Republican vices: the chest-thumping America-first bravado, the angry paranoia, the presumption of bad faith in anyone who
didn’t share his views”. Dagnes, a political scientist at Pennsylvania’s Shippensburg University, maintains in her book, A Conservative Walks Into a Bar: The Politics of Political Humor, that conservatism is philosophically incompatible with satire (“it originates from a place that repudiates humor, because it is absolute”) and that Miller’s act—according to a Washington Monthly review of the book—which “requires an audience with deep cultural fluency and a finely honed sense of irony, has wound up performing for the boobs who watch the O’Reilly Factor…His fall has been long and precipitous”.
THEY’VE BEEN ARGUING about raw milk for years. Is it potentially lethal, as critics claim? Or can it bolster the immune system in a way nothing else does? “People see amazing results when they give this stuff to their kids” Mark McAfee told Mother Jones. “They have ear infections and asthma and allergies, and with raw milk it all goes away”. McAfee is CEO of Organic Pastures, an $8million company operating in California where raw milk is still legal (In 18 other states it is banned). Most raw milk is pasteurized, a heating process that kills e.coli as well as other sometimes-death-dealing pathogens. Fans of the untreated version swear by it, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that of the 239 hospitalizations caused by dairy products from 1993 to 2006, more than two hundred involved raw milk or raw-milk cheese.
THERE’S STILL FALLOUT from Dr. Phil’s May television show that promised “a healthy degree of skepticism” about psychic ability, yet presented a panel comprised of four psychics and one skeptic. “With that kind of unskeptical stance from the host, is it any wonder that 84% of your audience claimed belief in psychic ability by the show’s end?” asked Bryan Farha in the Skeptical Inquirer. Lacking controlled, scientific conditions the show seemed to be done “primarily for ratings” she suggested.
THE WILCOCK WEB: There must be scores of people with interesting, insightful political opinions, so why do the networks inflict on us the same boring pundits every Sunday morning?...…. Facebook has become “the worst imaginable advertisement for capitalism” says the Financial Times, commenting on “insiders profiting at the expense of outsiders”…..The “tens of thousands” of new workers that Foxconn apparently needs to complete its order for Apple products, would make quite a difference if Apple chose to spend some of its surplus billions hiring workers in this country instead of China….Gleeful schadenfreude all around about billionaires Ronald Perelman and Larry Gagosian suing each other over the sale of a ridiculous $4m ‘sculpture’ by so-called artist Jeff Koons….Three states—Washington, Colorado and. Oregon—will all vote next month for legalizing marihuana….. Huge, greedy corporations that have muscled their way into the organic market with secretly owned subsidiaries, are spending millions to oppose a law requiring their ingredients be listed….More than one-third of the airline passengers surveyed by a tour company, declared they’d willingly pay extra for child-free flights ….Those letters of the Hollywood Sign, which collectively weigh 225 tons and extend 13 feet underground, will be repainted next year—for the first time since 2005 when it took 300 gallons of paint….. No beef or pork available at the 271 McDonalds in India, but next year, says Bloomberg Businessweek, the chain will add such vegetarian treats as the Pizza McPuff (vegetable and cheese pastry) and the McAloo Tikki burger with a mashed potato patty…. A Texas couple are suing the police for searching their ranch on a phony psychic’s tip that it was the site of a mass grave….Shed Simove’s paperback What Every Man Thinks About Apart from Sex is selling for $8.95. on Amazon.. Its 200 pages are blank. (You can buy a ‘used’ copy for about half-price)……. “In the fight between you and the world, back the world”—Franz Kafka (1883-1924)
FORTY YEARS AFTER it was first devised, Michel Choquette’s The Someday Funnies (Abrams) is finally in print and the huge book is an absolute delight. Containing the work of 170 underground cartoonists, as well as the hitherto-unknown graphic work of some major writers it’s a light-hearted Sixties saga which again demonstrates the sometimes-unrecognized skill of this international art form. There is so much good stuff, it posed the problem of what to quote, so the simplest solution seemed to point to reproducing the cover (below) which conveys much of the flavor.
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— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve (continued)--Traveling with Nomad; SoHo Confidential
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— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six (continued)--Tom Forcade: smuggler supreme; That pathetic drug czar
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— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Four—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, ECHO 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
The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol