the column of lasting insignificance: Feb. 23, 2013
by John Wilcock
THE FERAL RICH is the current cover story of the New Internationalist and the reference is to those rapacious, selfish, greedy capitalists who think the world was created for them—and fuck everybody else. In the past year alone, the 400 richest Americans have seen their wealth grow by $200bn (about what it would cost to give every student in the country a free education). The 1,000 richest Britons now share $667bn, a 5% increase on the year, India’s ultra-rich increased by 30%. It’s a global phenomenon. Meanwhile, the progress on reducing world hunger has stalled, leaving one in seven people without enough to eat. “How did we get here?” asks Vanessa Baird. “How did members of this new plutocracy manage to peel themselves off from the rest of humanity, to feed off the crisis?”
WHEN THE POPE DIES the biggest story in the world stays on the front pages for at least 15 days until 135 cardinals assemble to choose his successor. Who will it be? The choice has immense implications, and not just for the world's 950 million Catholics. [click here to read more from my book Popes and Anti-Popes]
FREE CANDY DISPENSERS are among the ways that the management of Mars Inc. keeps their workers happy. And some unnamed employees at the plant in Hackettstown, NJ, are reported to eat 1½ pounds of M&Ms a day. (Every eight hours, 192 million M&Ms, in 25 colors, are produced here as well as Snickers and Twix). “A pretty sweet gig” is how Fortune describes it as, for the first time, it enrolls America’s third-largest private company (behind Cargil and Koch Industries) into its annual roster of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. “Employees thrive” the
WELL BRED PEOPLE love well-bred dogs. They’re a comely addition to their immaculate apartments, ridiculously expensive high fashion, superfine cars, and all the other proofs of the good life to impress the neighbors. Of course, not all owners of pure-bred dogs are rich but all of them are adamant that the dogs must be pedigreed. No mutts or mongrels, (horrors!) of course; how could a beast like that impress anybody with one’s character and worthiness? The great and good were all in attendance at their annual exhibition last week, the Westminster Dog Show where the greatest and goodest was James Moses who’s been breeding and judging dogs for half a century, a conflict of interest that, as it happens, is raising some questions. But Moses doesn’t mind because he’ll soon be back at his favorite pastime: killing things. “Hunting is my true passion”, he says.
GRASS ROOTS DEMOCRACY is bidding for attention in New Hampshire where what the Nation calls “rebel towns” are passing resolutions that defy higher authorities. The activities are centered around a non-profit group called The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund which trains communities how to advocate for “rights-based ordinances” such as the installation of transmission lines , sewage dumps or the building of dams which the community rejects. What CELFD’s Thomas Linzey is battling, of course, is nothing less than the Constitution which has oft been declared “the supreme law of the land” together with an 1868 ruling local governments subservient to state legislatures which “breathes into them the breath of life without which they cannot exist. Linzey, a 43-year-old environmental lawyer and co-author (with Anneke Campbell) a new book, Be The Change: How to Get What You Want in Your Community, claims that the only recourse is open defiance of the law, an organizing tactic that he predicts will trigger a backlash to the status quo.
REEFER MADNESS BEGAN with the almost forgotten scoundrel Harry Ainslinger who for three decades directed the Federal Bureau of Narcotics from its beginning in 1930, all the time using marijuana as his means for gaining malevolent power. His major ally was William Randolph Hearst, the megalomaniac publisher who saw an irresistible opportunity to smear the immigrants he deemed responsible for spreading use of the evil, lecherous weed. “To gain public support for his crusade, Ainslinger depicted marijuana as a sinister substance that made Mexican and African men lust after white women” writes Martin A. Lee in a new book, Smoke Signals.
THE WILCOCK WEB: To avoid having to share digs with the new pope in the Vatican, Benedict XVI might consider becoming a humble parish priest to make amends for his evil reign as a facilitator of sexual abuse…..Men who actively oppose abortion should be legally obliged to adopt the children they save….Melbourne police report that Mexico’s drug cartels have invaded Australia with Sinaloa gangs discovered working with local biker gangs to smuggle drugs into the city…….And Brazil’s only the most recent example of prison inmates directing outside gangs who supposedly can’t be stopped because so many of them possess cell phones and laptops. But these reasons are bogus—as they are here—because it’s not difficult to install devices that block electronic communication…. When Poland joined the EU Britain’s Labor government predicted 13,000 Poles would enter Britain but the figure has been more than 400,000, so authorities are anxious about a similar influx when Romania and Bulgaria are admitted next year…. A shortage of organists has led to installation of karaoke machine in some English churches….With the millions he made from plastics and polyester, Wisconsin’s Ronald Johnson, 57. bought himself a senate seat from which he opposes abortion, calls global warming theories “lunacy” and says talking about gun control is “a waste of time”….“If a person has no delicacy”, warned William Hazlitt, “he has you in his power”…. Instead of selling his half-century old North Dakota supermarkets, Lueken’s Village Foods, retiring owner Joe Lueken, 70, is transferring the stock to his 400 employees….”People who choose traditional names for their children also tend to value traditional values such as good behavior” writes Frances Childs, “while people who want their children to stand out and have little respect and who have little respect for standard spelling, often don’t”…… Following successful experiments by Cardiff University, York Minster and other UK heritage sites have been coated with a thick layer of colorless olive oil which is said to bind with calcium in the limestone and resist acid rain…Anticipate a “great comeback” for Lance Armstrong if he manages to appease the authorities predicts a columnist in the Observer…Scientists at Oak Ridge, TN, are assembling a “radioactive library” which they hope will enable them to deduct the source of any nuclear device that an enemy country secretly releases to terrorists…. Argentina’s vp Amado Boudou says that when the inhabitants of the adjacent Falkland Islands vote next month on whether or not they want to stay British it’s “a referendum in which the colonists that will take part (are) the descendants of those who evicted the true inhabitants”….…..Adding titanium oxide to laundry detergent will reduce pollution by minimizing the atmosphere’s nitrogen oxide when garments are washed with it…. ….Post-run showers, food and a beer garden await the thousands of runners taking part in California’s Irvine Lake Mud Run…Ah, if only Japan and China could agree to jointly share and run those contested islands, what a giant step towards a new kind of international relations that would be, a world of tomorrow….“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will” explained Frederick Douglas who died 118 years ago this week….”In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible”—George Orwell(1903-50)
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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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February 14, 2013
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