the column of lasting insignificance: Oct. 27, 2012
by John Wilcock
TWENTY-EIGHT PAGES from a Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 were censored when the report came out and have remained so. They are believed to contain evidence of just how much the Saudi Arabian government was behind the attack but are part of what former Florida senator Bob Graham describes as “the carefully orchestrated campaign to protect our Saudi ‘friends’”.
ONE YEAR AFTER the Occupy movement peaked, says the Nation, the media lost interest, giving the impression that the movement no longer exists. “In a society ruled by capitalism and hierarchy, anarchist utopia isn’t easy to keep up for long”. But people organizing for economic justice, especially young people, now know each other, the magazine points out, having practiced direct democracy in general assemblies and risked their bodies in direct actions. They are talking with each other, creating networks and building their capacity for future action. “We’ve formed really close bonds” says Chris Longenecker, one of Occupy Wall Street’s organizers, and the mag adds that young people who once were merely interested in social change “are now committed to it”.
ITS REAL NAME is the “at sign”, as you doubtless know, but it didn’t just arrive with the internet. The first documented use, says the Smithsonian, was in the 16th century by a Florentine merchant who used it to denote units of wine called amphorae. It retained a role in commerce signifying “at the rate of” but didn’t appear on the first typewriters in the mid-1800s or even in the computer punch-card tabulating systems, half a century later. In 1971, it was reintroduced by computer scientist Ray Tomlinson who was seeking a way to connect people who programmed computers with one another. “I was mostly looking for a symbol that wasn’t used much” he explains. Everybody loved it, even the Museum of Modern Art which cited its modern use as an example of “elegance, economy, intellectual transparency and a sense of the possible future directions that are imbedded in the arts of our time”.
MANUFACTURING METH is no casual enterprise, it requires a meticulously observed formula, and when Donna Nelson first watched television’s Breaking Bad, it seemed to her that producer Vince Gilligan didn’t know it. “He said that neither he nor his writers knew the formula and so they had to rely on Wikipedia and the web.” Donna, a chemistry professor at the University of Oklahoma, says. “When I read that I thought, ‘we scientists are always complaining about shows getting the science wrong…This would be a great opportunity to work with one’”. So she followed up, with a trip to meet stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul at AMC’s Burbank studios and told them how to do it right (for fictional purposes, of course). “The show is now in its fifth season” says Pacific Standard, “and Nelson is clearly enjoying the secondhand glamour it brings her…she’s hoping to leverage her Hollywood cred by making a public service announcement warning Oklahomans about the dangers of crank”.
THE ANTI-SCIENCE STANCE that has been attributed to the Republicans is a relatively recent phenomenon according to Chris Mooney, whose new book, The Republican Brain, attempts to define the major philosophies of the major parties. “The big change in the Republican Party came when it allied itself with the religious right—a marriage consummated by Reagan—in an effort to build a successful political coalition between fiscal and social conservatives,” he writes. Controversially, Mooney suggests that whereas liberals are more likely to change their beliefs based on factual evidence, conservatives may refuse to consider new evidence once their minds are made up. But it’s the Dogmatic Brain we need to worry about, not the liberal, conservative, Democratic or Republican Brain, he declares. “Dogmatism blinds people to reality. Dogmatists will dismiss inconvenient facts that threaten their deeply held beliefs. This is true for fascists and communists; it’s true for extreme liberals and extreme conservatives; and it’s true for the devoutly religious—a group that unfortunately is currently holding the Republican Party in thrall”.
DAVE LETTERMAN’S TOP TEN list is echoed in the AARP magazine with a top ten list about him in which no. 3 is “Religiously avoids public places. If Johnny Carson was a hermit, David is a recluse”. The list was compiled by Tom Dreesen, described as one of the talk show host’s ‘comedy pals’ who says that once Dave leaves the show, he “won’t make any comebacks, (he’ll) pack it up and you’ll never see him again”.
THE WILCOCK WEB: Why are we killing and being killed in Afghanistan for two more years, a country that doesn’t want us and which will return to Taliban rule whether we leave now or later? Why are we still pouring billions into Pakistan, a country that actively dislikes us?.... The next president may get the chance to appoint four Supreme Court Justices, warns The Kiplinger Letter, pointing out that Ginsburg, Breyer, Scalia and Kennedy are all in their seventies …..People who bitch about the millions it costs to maintain the death penalty to eliminate murderers, don’t seem concerned that we spend many times as much on drone-killing innocent strangers in other countries……Hundreds of cell phones are smuggled into jails by prison guards (in exchange for money or sex) but the California Correctional Peace Officers Association says it would be ‘insulting’ to search their union members… Reviewing Vagina: a new biography in the National Review, Florence King writes “Naomi Wolf's new book makes going back to the womb sound more like going through a car wash:”…..At least one lesson gained from the recent revelations about how Wall Street manipulated Main Street, may be the revelation about how easily the financial system can be diverted by skillful techies, something that will surely prove irresistible to skillful revolutionaries… New York’s Bauman Rare Books is advertising signed copies of autobiographies by ten presidents, the most expensive being by JFK ($11,000), Theodore Roosevelt ($9,000) and FDR ($7,000)….And in a two-page spread, Art in America displayed the prints by Gehry, Johns, Serra, Ruscha, Rosenquist and 14 others comprising Artists for Obama, a portfolio offered for $28,000. Single prints unavailable but $250 buys you a shot in the sweepstakes…..If they’re ever looking for a real scary cast for a play about Halloween, the models in the New York Times Style Section would be a good place to start… The simplest way to stop Apple making their products obsolete every few months is for customers to stop buying the new versions…. How pathetic it is that Russia and the U.S. can’t jointly explore space together instead of wasting billions duplicating each other’s programs…. …Revelations of how widespread and long-lasting was homosexuality in the Boy Scouts, may explain why the organization fought so hard to keep out young gays. But was it also the reason why gays fought so hard to join?.....
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— John Wilcock ... From the Archives: Cuba Diary—Havana, April 2011
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Nineteen (continued)--Travels
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— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eighteen--The Quest for Magic: Around Europe by VW bus;
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In the Cannes
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— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen (Part Two--Manhattan phone book, JW'S Secret Diary
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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 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
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