the column of lasting insignificance: April 20, 2013
by John Wilcock
WHAT’S BEEN TAGGED “the mortality gap” is the difference between the life expectancy of Americans and much of the rest of the world. Monaco, with a life expectancy of 89.68, heads the list, with 31 other countries down to Britain and Greece all higher than 80. Life expectancy in the U.S. last year was 78.19, placing it 51st on the list of countries. Researchers found “a pervasive pattern of shorter lives and poor health” in a National Institute of Health study of deaths involving drugs, alcohol, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, infant mortality, injuries, homicide and AIDS. “Although the U.S. spends nearly twice as much on health as other countries” commented the AARP Bulletin, “Americans eat too much, rely on cars too much, and get medical care that is often inaccessible and unaffordable…While Americans drink and smoke less than their peers, they eat more calories per person, use seat belts less, are more prone to gun violence and have higher rates of drug abuse”.
THE PERVASIVENESS OF SUGAR in the Western diet, declares Robert Lustig, is making Americans sick, obese and bankrupt. Seventy five percent of food items sold in the United States have added sugar, and it’s the aim of Lustig, 55, an endocrinologist at UC San Francisco, to get the sweetener removed from an FDA list which allows manufacturers to use as much of it as they like. “Lustig’s dream” says the Pacific Standard, “is that sugar policy and litigation will follow the path of tobacco…What finally worked were lawsuits by states arguing that cigarette manufacturers were triggering huge public health costs”. The mag quotes Lustig’s theory that our bodies react to some types of calories differently than others. “Specifically he believes that sugar calories alter our biochemistry to make us hungry and lazy in ways that fat and protein do not……Maybe someday sugar will replace saturated fat as the villain in our diets”.
ALL THOSE CAT-LOVERS who don’t actually own one will welcome the emergence of the cat café, a phenomenon in Asia where an increasing number of places have opened up allowing customers to pet kitties while they sip tea or coffee. Soon to open in London is Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium,owned by Lauren Pears who is currently trying to get around the laws that prohibit animals in eating places. Because of Brits’ love of warm pubs, cozy sofas and roaring fires they will welcome a place where they can commune with “cute, fluffy and personable” Pears forecasts. “In ancient times”, says Terry Pratchett, cats were worshipped as gods; they’ve not forgotten this.”
TO MY SURPRISE, Fran Lebowitz is actually pretty funny. In a recent issue of the CBS mag Watch! she described herself as “quite gluttonous. I like to eat. But I do not think it is an art form…Usually cultures that are this decadent have reached a high peak of civilization first. We didn’t. We went right from primitivism to decadence without having a culture in between.”
“THE BIGGEST, MOST IMPORTANT company you’ve never heard of” is the subject of a Fortune piece which describes it as “the unseen hand that moves the world’s oil”. This would be the Vitol Group (2012 revenue: $303bn), the world’s largest independent trader, which buys oil in one place—5million barrels a day—and sells it in another. This can sometimes create problems. “Because we’re going to trade everywhere around the world” says Ian Taylor, the company’s 57-year-old CEO, “we will occasionally be trading in countries where people feel maybe we shouldn’t be”. An example of this might be the request from Qatar—which Vitol fulfilled—to supply gasoline to the rebels fighting the late Muammar Gaddafi. Taylor would like Vitol to be known as a company that plays “a reasonably useful role” making the energy business function more efficiently, says Fortune, not a firm to be feared. “We’re primarily a trading business” Taylor explains. “With public markets we have always to ask ourselves, ‘Is it the right place for a business which will be very difficult to explain?’”.
THE WILCOCK WEB: The rave reviews chalked up by The Book of Mormon on Broadway have not been matched in London where it has been tagged “morally null and casually racist” (Times); a “sophomorically infantile musical” (Sunday Times); “codswallop” (Guardian); and “toothless, jokeless. plotless and pointless” (Spectator)……… Ninety years ago next week (April 15) Lord Carnarvon died in a Cairo hotel shortly after he excavated the tomb of Tutankhamen, a death the tabloids attributed to “the mummy’s curse”… After you pick up the phone and answer it, three seconds of silence always precedes a sales call, so hang up immediately ….Copyright Unbalanced, From Invention to Excess, a new book by Jerry Brito, charges that recent rulings have unfairly granted copyright laws to everything created. “The public domain is no more”….. A few years ago some of those folk who are bashing the Boy Scouts because they don’t want to admit gays, were complaining about Scout leaders who happened to be gay…..The low cost of caring for “pocket pets” may account for the fact that half a million families own a rat or a mouse according to the American Pet Products Association. “As small critters go” says Parade, “there’s something about rats that generates particular ardor among their owners”….“In the Middle Ages” writes London columnist Rory Sutherland, “they would have burned 50 random bankers in the town square: normal business would have resumed the next day. You can’t trust anyone who is too big to jail”….. You’ll enjoy your dinner more if you close the menu after you’ve made your choice says the Journal of Consumer Research. Closure eliminates that worrisome second-guessing…….”The magic illusions of today” says the Magic Castle’s Milt Larsen, “are often the scientific realities of the future”…. Identifying the super strong glue, dopa, that enables mussels to cling to rocks through the fiercest storms, scientists hope that it will prove to have many uses in medical procedures….”An actor’s a guy” quoth Marlon Brando, “who, if you ain’t talking about him, ain’t listening”….. “The structure of a play” explained Arthur Miller, “is always the story of how the birds came home to roost”…..Book sales in Britain, according to BBC History, have been dropping for the past few years except for books about archaeology and history, especially military history…. The Week’s Jeremy O’Grady predicts that Facebook will prove a passing fad, that people “will tire of the false friendship and bonhomie” and “with luck we will all become strangers once again….Growing pear in molds to look like babies, Chinese farmers found that customers wouldn’t eat them, complaining they looked “too cute”…. Environmentalists probably would think that cutting down part of a forest to produce a 50,000-page report on the impact of Britain’s high-speed trains is a bad bargain......Scientists predict that “maybe graphene, a cousin of graphite, could be the silicon of the next century”. It’s the strongest and thinnest material known to science and will fist turn up in flexible electronic screens and solar cells….. Carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin on April 21, 1988, determined that it dated from the medieval era……Wrangler’s new “Denim Spa’ line of jeans are infused with micro-capsules of lotion that burst on the wearer’s legs and diminish dry skin irritation….Iceland’s laws already prohibit the distribution of pornography and bar strip clubs, now they hope to ban internet porn….. “Men reject their prophets and slay them, but they love their martyrs and honor those whom they have slain”—Fedor Dostoevsky (1821-81)
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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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— John Wilcock ... From the Archives: Cuba Diary—Havana, April 2011
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Nineteen (continued)--Travels
— John Wilcock ... From the Archives: When you vote, don’t forget the Republican Paradox
— 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 Twelve (continued)--Traveling with Nomad; SoHo Confidential
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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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April 11, 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