' John Wilcock - The Column of Lasting Insignificance for 26 January, 2013
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the column of lasting insignificance: Feb. 2, 2013
by John Wilcock

“Once upon a time movies played on our dreams and deepest longings. They transformed, enlightened and delighted us. Now they subvert and imprison us in a lower, violent world…The greedy types who produce violence on screen and DVD have utter disregard for our kids and communities. They pretend to see no connection between what they do and the results of what they do…The untalented Hollywood sharks know that violence pays and extreme violence pays even better.”
—Taki in the Spectator

A PRESIDENTIAL PARDON is one of the few exercises of power that POTUS can effect without having to cope with much objection, so it’s disappointing, to say the least, that the only pardon extended by Barack Obama last year was to a turkey. Meanwhile, he denied 872 applications for pardons and more than 3,000 for commutations of sentence. Both Bill Clinton and George Bush pardoned well over a hundred people while in the White House; for Obama, the figure has been less than two dozen. “A president who talks about more sensible, nuanced drug policy, and whose oratory frequently invokes what is best in the American political imagination”, writes Sasha Abramsky, “has shown himself remarkably reluctant to use one of the most important of presidential prerogatives—the power to right judicial wrongs.” The Nation’s story is centered on the outrageously unjust 55-year term imposed on a 23-year-old pot smoker, handed down by a judge who cried crocodile tears while claiming the usual nonsense about his hands being tied. The convicted felon has already served ten years and is still awaiting some compassion.

AUTHENTICATING PICASSO is easier said than done. Even when the famous artist was alive, it could present a problem. Art News reveals an occasion when, presented with an unsigned canvas he was asked to endorse, the great man declined, adding: “I can paint false Picassos just as well as anybody”. And, since his death in 1973 as one of the world’s wealthiest men, the multitude of fakes has bloomed almost beyond measure. At first the Picasso family were willing to separate the real from the phony, but much confusion resulted from members disagreeing with each other. Finally, a few months ago, four of the five surviving heirs designated two of their number, Maya, 77, and Claude, 65, to act as the authorities. These two occasionally argue over different canvases. The provenance of a cache of works claimed by a man,
Fake Picasso
Spanish police arrested four people trying to sell this version of a 1964 work called The bust of Jeune Garcon accompanied by false documents bearing the signature of Picasso’s daughter Paloma. —AP

who said they had been gifted to him after installing a burglar alarm in the Picasso home in 1970, have come under suspicion although the works themselves were established as genuine. Art News estimates that Picasso created as many as 50,000 works over 75 years and “one thing all players agree on is that the Picasso market is robust to say the least. Paintings by Picasso are among the most expensive ever sold at auction” often fetching prices in excess of $100million.

ABANDONED PUBS ARE proving to be an easily accessible refuge for the homeless in England where shifting drinking patterns and cheap booze offered by supermarkets is causing as many as 18 pubs to close down every week. Impoverished squatters are seizing the opportunity to move into the empty premises knowing that eviction orders take weeks, sometimes months to be put into force. “We hope to stay here for a few months” says Alessandra De Luca, 21, who moved into Chelsea’s Old Bull with her boyfriend David. “The people here are homeless and we survive only by doing a lot of ‘skipping’, finding food thrown out by supermarkets. We are looking for work”. Until recently, anti-squatting laws applied only to residences, now they have been extended to cover commercial properties, including pubs.

“My generation dabbled with tattoos but generally considered them the mark of sailors, rock stars, Maori Tribesmen and Dennis Rodman. Hell, most baby boomers are loathe to put stickers on their laptops. But every generation yearns to physically differentiate itself from their forebears and long hair and baggy pants and ironically retro t-shirts were already taken. Thus, the kids use piercings and tats as their ticket to Hipster City. Which remains to this day a gated community…..We find ourselves knee deep in a tattoo boom…. Makes you wonder if Angelina Jolie’s first husband, Billy Bob Thornton ever sees Brad Pitt and asks, “Hey buddy, how’s my name holding up?” –Will Durst

THE MOST CORRUPT NATION on earth is how the Sydney Morning Herald describes Afghanistan where the scale of wrongdoing is “jaw-dropping”. Just one example, it says, is the notorious Kabul Bank whose sole activity was to act as a vehicle for President Karzai’s clique to siphon off millions while the wretched Afghans who trusted “this $900bn Ponzi scheme” have lost everything.

IT LOOKS JUST LIKE a regular magazine, its profiles and fashion shots interspersed with the familiar glossy ads for perfumes, jewelry, electronics and auto parts. Its stars include Neil Patrick Harris and Cobie Smulders cavorting around Florence on a break from their TV show How I Met Your Mother and the appealingly precocious Sami Gayle, 16, from Blue Bloods. But, wait a minute: aren’t these both CBS shows? Yes, and so are The Good Wife’s Julianna Margulies and Bridget Moynihan (Blue Bloods) who are displayed revealing what kind of make-up they actually use. They’re all part of the uniquely readable bimonthly Watch!, a brilliant pr ploy by the network to advance its brand (cbswatchmagazine.com). Survivor’s Jeff Probst discusses his new talk show; Two Broke Girls do familiar capers; Entertainment Tonight’s Nancy O’Dell helps the Beverly Hills Hotel celebrate its century; 48 Hours producer Susan Zirinsky tells great stories about the documentary show; David Letterman is there in black tie for his Kennedy Center Honors, and Lucy Liu from Elementary looks delicious. Others. include the irresistible Kalinda whose pin-up picture might adorn any wall.

WIND FARMS ARE KILLING thousands of birds a day in all parts of the world, claims the Spectator, and the devastation is so bad that some species will soon be extinct. “Why is the public not more aware of this carnage? Because the wind industry (with the shameful complicity of some ornithological organizations) have gone to great trouble to cover it up”. Environmentalists don’t want to know the real facts, Clive Hambler writes, because they’re in a state of denial, desperate to believe in renewable energy. The essay quotes a survey by the conservation group SEO Birdlife which claims that at least six million birds and bats are killed by wind farms in Spain alone and says that the idea that the creatures can adapt to avoid turbine blades is absurd. “Birds have been flying unimpeded through the skies for millions of years. They’re hardly going to alter their habits in a few months”.

THE WILCOCK WEB: The number of lobbyists allowed to practice should be restricted to one or two per company……Falling property prices have created fabulous bargains in some countries suggests the AARP Bulletin. How about a house in Ireland or a cottage in Greece for a few thousand bucks?....Q: Suppose you were a Catholic cardinal accused of nurturing pedophile priests and you wanted to evade arrest, what would you do? A: Employ high-priced lawyers to keep delaying a showdown until the statute of limitations was in effect…. The US Treasury might retrieve $50bn in unpaid taxes, suggests Forbes, if they allow multinational corporations to bring back their money from overseas and charge a 7% interest rate….… Senator Harry Reid (D. NV) made the cover of the weekly Standard but the story wasn’t exactly a eulogy. “Reid is odd, temperamental, mercurial, obstinate and rude” wrote Michael WarrenDownton Abbey would get better ratings if PBS didn’t choose to run it against top-rated network shows on Sunday nights…. Reworked for Chinese tastes, Kraft’s venerable Oreo cookie has less sugar and a green tea flavor….Jane Harrup, 45, manager of an animal rescue center in Cambridgeshire, named this new arrival Charlie Chaplin Charlie Chaplin Cat because of the resemblance. She was the only person there old enough to know who Chaplin was….The sugar-saturated soda pop industry is bribing the NAACP to help keep blacks fat….Social Security checks are being phased out with the regulation—starting March—that all recipients of federal benefits to receive payments electronically. About five million of the 63.5 million beneficiaries will need to continue getting paper checks for the time being…...“If there was an anti-Nobel Peace Prize” muses columnist Thomas L. Freidman, “(Vladimir) Putin would win hands down” …..“Scum villages” are the epithet used to describe the new remotely situated and heavily policed trailer parks into which the Dutch are planning to move “anti-social” troublemakers accused of disturbing their council flat neighbors…... “No one is so lacking in compassion”, jeers Theodore Dalrymple, “that he is unable to feel sorry for himself”…. With his repetitive full page ads, does LA realtor Donald Sterling spend more money boasting about his generosity than on the charities themselves?...... A Chinese nursery school charges extra if parents want teachers to hug their children…. “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity” reflected Simone Weil…. The new 3-D printers that enable identical copies being made of a wide range of objects are being called “piracy machines” by some manufacturers who worry that sales will drop when people start making their own clones of copyrighted works…..“Politics have no relation to morals”—Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527)




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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):
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Bagan, Myanmar (Burma):
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A Guide to Occult Britain

Forty years ago the second of my three books about magic was published, A Guide to Occult Britain (Sidgwick & Jackson) covering a wide range of sites from Stonehenge to Loch Ness and King Arthur country to the witches of Pendle Hill. It is now available as an eBook on amazon.com.

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in the press...

Now on Boing-Boing!
January 17, 2013

The New York Years - Issue 3 The New York Years
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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.

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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.