' John Wilcock - The Column of Lasting Insignificance
The column of lasting insignificance   Ojai Orange   blog   Books   Marijuana   Press   Archives   Contact

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.
Military medals    “Why don’t most Americans realize that most US Army and US Marine Generals are incompetent?” asked Breaker McCoy in a 2007 book with that title. US Generals, he wrote, were an elite “born into wealth and influence, fortified by attendance at prestige American universities and awarded the best jobs in government.. That ideology was taught at places like Harvard and Yale where they learned the ideas of a decadent mandarin caste. Premier among those ideas was the belief that America’ s military was essentially a servile, mediocre collection of lower-class brutes, unimaginative enough to be left to their own devices yet useful as builders or toilers in construction”.
    More recent were the comments of Col. Paul Yingling who retired this year after three tours in Iraq. He suggested (in the Armed Forces Journal) like many critics before him, that our military leaders, suffered from conformity, lack of vision and creativity, were always fighting the previous war, failing to appreciate that the art of war had moved on. "It is unreasonable to expect that an officer who spends 25 years conforming to institutional expectations, will emerge as an innovator in his late forties. As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war”.
    It’s ironic that the David Petraeus scandale, (which the French must think is gloriously trivial) should have concerned his private, rather than public life because, all things considered, he was at least more intelligent, than his predecessors. So General Betray-us turned out be to correct after all—but that’s more something for his family to say.

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”.

“Risk takers need backers. Good ideas need evangelists. Forgotten communities need advocates. And whether your chief resource is volunteer time or hard-earned dollars, for a relatively small investment, catalytic philanthropy can make a big impact. For me it’s proven the best job in the world, as thrilling and humbling as anything I’ve ever done.”
—Bill Gates, espousing the rewards for investing in the “vast, unexplored space of innovation” untouched by government or business.

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
Catarina Migliorini Australia and the US. The encounter, but not the intercourse itself, will be recorded by a film crew with no word yet on where the film will be shown. “I see this as as a business” declared Catarina, in response to outraged protests. “I have the opportunity to travel, to be part of a movie and get a bonus. If you only do it once in your life you’re not a prostitute”.

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
Sardines post card depicting pretty much everything—even for selling French sardines (at right) and billionaire Leonard Lauder (the son of Estée) will talk next week (Nov 28) about his huge collection of cards at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts where they are on show through the winter……. At a cost of $450, gravestones can be fitted with QR codes by a funeral parlor in Dorset (UK) that enable mourners with smart phones to access a video of the deceased….. Environmentalist Elisabeth Rosenthal, writing in the NYT, says the fact that cyclists are required to wear helmets kills cycling and bike-sharing because it ‘promotes a sense of danger’ which drives would-be cyclists away. In many cities—where the accident rate is low—including Melbourne, Montreal and Mexico City, helmet use is voluntary…. ….“Freedom”, defined by George Orwell, “is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”… A Michigan firm, Protean Electric, has developed a motorized device which can replace the rear wheels of a car enabling it to be driven by electric power….. MIT’s Media Lab reports that in congested urban areas, about 40% of gasoline use is in cars seeking parking…..“The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.”—Winston Churchill (1874-1965)




Email this link to a friend

Sign-up to receive this column weekly by email

send a comment to John Wilcock



Bagan, Myanmar (Burma):
Seeking the Drama of Everyday Life in Burma: part 4 - Bagan

Lompoc, CA:

Seeking the Drama of Everyday Life in Lompoc, CA:

Inle Lake, Myanmar (Burma):
Seeking the Drama of Everyday Life in Burma: part 3 - Inle Lake

Bagan, Myanmar (Burma):
Seeking the Drama of Everyday Life in Burma: part 2 - Bagan

Seeking the Drama of Everyday Life in Burma: part 1 - Yangon

recent columns...

- Complete column archives: 2006 - present

The real, true, history...
Week of May 5, 2018

Alice, Alice at 85, seed money, supermax, and of course, the Wilcock Web...
Week of April 28, 2018

About being in love..., Persoff and Marshall, and of course, the Wilcock Web...
Week of April 21, 2018

The Candy Store
Week of January 20, 2018

From the archives... The religion of Violence & Statistics, otherwise known as college football; WPA II; Would it be called Indiastan or Pakindia?; Who you Gonna call? Crime Predictors; Being a Bank means you never having to say you're sorry; Oil vs. Democracy, and of course, the Wilcock Web...
Week of December 9, 2017

From the archives... The Mother of All Family Feuds, Otaku Means Geek in Japanese, Affirmative Action or 'It all depends on who you know', The Moonies are packin', and of course, the Wilcock Web......
Week of December 2, 2017

Taxing land, not people, Is Socialism Scary?, Stars acting as assholes, Big Thinkers can be such Morons, and of course, The Wilcock Web...
Week of November 18, 2017

Dear Reader,
Week of August 23, 2017

Dear Readers...
Week of January 25, 2017

John Wilcock ... Marijuana, the symbolic center of the underground society
Week of June 8, 2016

John Wilcock ... From the Archives: Cuba Diary—Havana, April 2011
Week of April 20, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Nineteen (continued)--Travels
Week of April 16, 2016

John Wilcock ... From the Archives: When you vote, don’t forget the Republican Paradox
Week of April 13, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Nineteen--Travels: Tokyo-Rick Kennedy recalls; Japan on $5 a Day; About Chapbooks; Magic in South America
Week of April 9, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eighteen (continued)--Theory & Practice of Travel Writing; Remoteness of Callanish; Jim's Paris dinners
Week of April 2, 2016

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
Week of March 26, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen (continued)--London's Magical library; In the Cannes
Week of March 19, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen--The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Week of March 12, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary (continued)
Week of March 5, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary
Week of February 27, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen (Part Two--Manhattan phone book, JW'S Secret Diary
Week of February 20, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen--Party Circuit
Week of February 13, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part two, Soho Saturday
Week of February 6, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part one, Soho Saturday
Week of January 30, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve (continued)--Traveling with Nomad; SoHo Confidential
Week of January 23, 2016

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve--Andy Gets Shot: Max's Kansas City; Jane Fonda's gesture; Christo & Jeanne-Claude
Week of January 16, 2016

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eleven (continued)-- We go to Rutgers, Ann Arbor ... What people say about Andy
Week of January 9, 2016

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eleven -- Andy Warhol First encounter....People talk about him....His movies...
Week of January 2, 2016

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Ten (continued)--The 'Movement' splits: Eldridge Cleaver Year of the Great Hoax…The OZ trial
Week of December 26, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Ten--Tom Forcade's smuggling funds High Times; Rolling Stone's underground sabotage
Week of December 19, 2015

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
Week of December 12, 2015

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
Week of December 5, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eight (continued)--Japan: a working honeymoon; The Shinjuku Sutra
Week of November 28, 2015

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
Week of November 21, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seven (continued)--The Underground Press; Army revolt:  fragging officers; Bowart goes to Millbrook
Week of November 14, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seven--The singing Tit-o-Gram; The East Village Other; Art & Forgery; Birth of Black Power; The Underground Press
Week of November 7, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six (continued)--Tom Forcade: smuggler supreme; That pathetic drug czar
Week of October 31, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six—The weed that changed the world--Confessions of a pot smoker
Week of October 24, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Five—Reefer Madness (continued)--Jan and Stan change my life; The man who turned on the world
Week of October 17, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Five—Reefer Madness--The man who turned on the world; Tested by Harvard professors; Jan and Stan change my life
Week of October 10, 2015

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
Week of October 3, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Four—Into the '60s--More Working at The New York Times; Mexico On $5 a Day; What Richard Condon taught me; Henry Miller's wise words
Week of September 26, 2015

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
Week of September 19, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Three--More trouble with our star novelist; Lasting insignificance: the 3-dot column; Jean Shepherd’s phantom novel
Week of September 12, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Two--Steve Allen derides TV columnist; Marlene Dietrich--glamorous grandmother
Week of September 5, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Two--Gilbert Seldes' The Lively Arts; Norman Mailer’s Voice column; Giving parties to meet strangers
Week of August 29, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter One--Chatting with Marilyn Monroe
Week of August 22, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter One--Jack Kent Cooke tells me to stay in Canada; Becoming a New Yorker ;A new Village newspaper; The casual wisdom of Steve Allen
Week of August 15, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Introduction.
Week of August 8, 2015

- column archives: 2006 - present

in the press...
The New York Years
October 27, 2010

A Budget Travel Pioneer on a Time When $5 a Day Was Real (Frugal) Money
nytimes.com: Frugal Traveler

by Seth Kugel
John Wilcock at the New York Times

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.

(read more)

Manhattan MemoriesManhattan Memories
An Autobiography
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

The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol
by John Wilcock
Edited by Christopher Trela
Photographs by Shunk-Kender

Village Voice and Interview cofounder John Wilcock was first drawn into the milieu of Andy Warhol through film-maker Jonas Mekas, assisting on some of Warhol’s early films, hanging out at his parties and quickly becoming a regular at the Factory. “About six months after I started hanging out at the old, silvery Factory on West 47th Street,” he recalls, “[Gerard] Malanga came up to me and asked, ‘When are you going to write something about us?’” Already fascinated by Warhol’s persona, Wilcock went to work, interviewing the artist’s closest associates, supporters and superstars. Among these were Malanga, Naomi Levine, Taylor Mead and Ultra Violet, all of whom had been in the earliest films; scriptwriter Ronnie Tavel, and photographer Gretchen Berg; art dealers Sam Green, Ivan Karp, Eleanor Ward and Leo Castelli, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Henry Geldzahler; the poets Charles Henri Ford and Taylor Mead, and the artist Marisol; and the musicians Lou Reed and Nico. Paul Morrisey supplied the title: The Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol was the first oral biography of the artist. First published in 1971, and pitched against the colorful backdrop of the 1960s, it assembles a prismatic portrait of one of modern art’s least knowable artists during the early years of his fame. The Autobiography and Sex Life is likely the most revealing portrait of Warhol, being composite instead of singular; each of its interviewees offers a piece of the puzzle that was Andy Warhol. This new edition corrects the many errors of the first, and is beautifully designed in a bright, Warholian palette with numerous illustrations. The British-born writer John Wilcock co-founded The Village Voice in 1955, and went on to edit seminal publications such as The East Village Other, Los Angeles Free Press, Other Scenes and (in 1970) Interview, with Andy Warhol.