the column of lasting insignificance: Nov. 24, 2012
by John Wilcock
BUMBLING ARMY GENERALS are a category not often in the news but their genre goes back a long way. Abe Lincoln had to remove several of them during the Civil War—McClellan, Halek, Buell—before entrusting the fighting to the redoubtable Ulysses S. Grant who finished the job to the benefit of all of us. Historians point out that more than a third of the 560 generals in that war were West Pointers who had been taught next to nothing about strategy. Things hardly changed over the ages as more and more of these supposedly superior mortals could be seen strutting around, chests pyramided with fruit salad decorations, many of which were awarded for just showing up. Many people might recall the inept General Westmoreland with his ridiculous (and fabricated) “body counts” of the Vietnam War which, more than anybody, he was responsible for losing.
MAKING CONGRESS PAY OFF? Business writer Sheila Bair’s idea, which she outlines in Fortune, is to remunerate these pampered pols the way that corporate directors are paid, ie. half of it not in cash but in stock (specifically 10-year Treasury bonds) which are redeemed when they hit their targets (ie. do their jobs properly). The rate of the country’s GDP growth and the percentage of the working-age population who have jobs could be suitable benchmarks, she suggests. “With every two-year election cycle, we should get to vote on whether we think Congress and the President collectively are earning their paychecks”.
INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR the Elimination of Violence Against Women is scheduled for November 25. “Violence is largely a guy thing” says Harvard professor Steven Pinter whose latest book, The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined notes, somewhat surprisingly, that although the last century was the deadliest in history, the era before that found the world in a nearly constant state of war. The second half of the 20th century, he argues, marked the longest period of peace among the great powers in 500 years—“a result of one of those psychological retunings that take place now and again over the course of history”.
SELLING HER VIRGINITY for $780,000—the highest of 15 bids—Brazilian 20-year-old Catarina Migliorini plans to use the money to build houses for the poor in her southern state of Santa Catarina. Winning seducer, a Japanese man named Natsu, agreeing to use a condom, will do the deed aboard a plane flying between
THE MOST PERSUASIVE movie of this decade, Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream, should be mandatory viewing for all those clueless fly-over-country dupes who think the rich Republicans give a shit about their welfare. Centered on Manhattan’s 740 Park Avenue, the home of America’s greediest billionaires, it contrasts the gilded life there with poverty-stricken neighbors across the tracks and makes you wonder why a tycoon worth $20bn dollars doesn’t even tip the doorman. Writer/producer Alex Gibney, winner of an Oscar (for his Taxi to the Dark Side, 2007) will probably get another for this documentary. Asked what impact he expects the film to have, he responded: “I hope it will make people as angry as I am”.
CREATING GASOLINE FROM ALGAE is the object of Sapphire Energy’s Green Crude Farm in the New Mexico desert where 1.5million gallons of green crude oil a year are produced from acres of pond scum processed by sunlight and carbon dioxide. Forbes says the company’s target is the U.S. military, the nation’s biggest oil user, which has been buying biofuels in the hope of getting half of its renewable energy from renewable sources by 2020. “Whether the biofuels industry can scale up to the 8 million barrels the Navy needs annually—at a price Uncle Sam can afford—is the big unknown” says the mag.
DINNER PLATES ARE OFTEN piled too high for many customers claims the Texas-based company Halfsies which, true to its name, is enlisting restaurants in a campaign to offer dishes with half-size portions for which customers will still pay full price. Most of the money will be devoted to a campaign to reduce world hunger which includes 50 million in the U.S. alone reports the company, which began its operations in Austin and next plans to tackle New York.
THE FIRST OF FOUR organized trips to Cuba next year will include participants from the Occupy Wall Street movement and will deal with “emancipatory paradigms” (whatever they are). Cliff DuRand’s Global Justice Center has been organizing similar trips to this engrossing island for two decades now and three more are scheduled for 2013. Dates and information from Cuba@globaljusticecenter.org
THE WILCOCK WEB: You’d think that Republican leaders would realize that what voters rejected at the election were Paul Ryan’s ruinous ideas as much—if not more than—Romney himself. So to start the buildup for Ryan as their next presidential hopeful just dooms them to the same fate …. If people keep rebuilding houses that are washed away why does the government keep paying to rebuild?.... Too often the world’s troubles are caused by people from one country infiltrating their neighbor and then seeking to change things in their favor: (Burma + Bangladesh, Sri Lanka + India, Yugoslavia + Albania, Cyprus + Turkey etc etc)…. “The conventional view” mused John Kenneth Galbraith, “serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking”… The New York Times’ new boss, Mark Thompson, is either a liar or a complete fool if he could spend 30 years at the BBC without hearing that their biggest star was a pedophile, seeing as it was widely rumored within and even outside the corporation… Protesters yell Mwizil (Swahili for ‘thief’) as Kenya’s $325-a-day politicians pass by, reports the Economist which adds that by contrast laborers’ daily pay is less than $2… There are postcards
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— 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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