the column of lasting insignificance: May 25, 2013
by John Wilcock
SOME PEOPLE THINK that when you write and publish a popular book, that might bring you lots of money, but I'm here to tell you that is not necessarily the case. In fact, you might, like me, make virtually nothing at all.
My well-received Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol first appeared in 1971, printed by a New York firm that never paid me any money on the spurious grounds that it never made any profit. It was a collection of interviews of Andy's friends and associates that I had conducted during my seven years around the Factory scene. Launched at the Whitney Museum retrospective for Warhol, the book cost $5, soon sold out but could be found listed as a rare book by the Strand Bookstore, which offered copies for $100. By the turn of the century it was fetching prices of up to $800 a copy on Amazon. Needless to say, none of this money came to me.
THE BRILLIANT ARTIST of light, James Turrell, 70, who for 35 years has been working in the Arizona desert on his volcanic Roden Crater, moves into town next month with a spectacular show in the rotunda of New York's Guggenheim Museum. The collection will also appear at LACMA in Los Angeles and Houston's Museum of Fine Arts. Turrell's captivating art has always been hard to describe—“spatially disorienting ambient light” says Art News—but has an unforgettable impact on viewers. “Until you experience it in person” explains curator Nat Trotman, “you don't really get it. It's pretty anti-conceptual—it's about the feelings it creates for you”.
THE WORLD'S BIGGEST seller of wines surprisingly turns out to be Costco, which has sold one million cars in the past five years and just before Thanksgiving unloads more than 8 million dollars worth of pumpkin pies. The $2.5bn chain, which has shown a profit every year since it was launched in 1999, earns a nod from Stores editor Susan Reda who commends its generosity to employees, most of whom have health care, earn $21 per hour and register a turnover rate of 11%, well below the industry average. Stocking about 4,000 items, says Reda, “Costco practices operating efficiency and cost containment at every turn”.
MAYBE IRAN'S NUCLEAR ambitions really are peaceful, contrary to what Americans are continually taught, suggests British author Peter Oborne in his book with a self-explanatory title: A Dangerous Delusion: Why the West is Wrong About Nuclear Iran. The author claims that Britain has been brainwashed into accepting “the bellicose proposition that Iran is an aggressive power ruled by irrational clerics, hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons… to bomb Israel”. The actual situation, he says, is that Iran has never threatened its neighbors (which doesn't mean they won't in the future) and according to US intelligence does not even possess a nuclear weapons program. “Again and again it has offered a settlement with the West and been rebuffed”, Oborne asserts. Naturally, Oborne's thesis has caused outrage in political circles where critics have been all-too-ready to refute every part of it. Only time will tell, hopefully not interrupted by yet another war.
LITTLE FREE LIBRARIES, a charming idea that began in Wisconsin, is spreading widely. It's based on the fact that there are a lot of spare books around and lots of folk who would be delighted to borrow them. Tod Bol, a carpenter, and with his pal Rick Brooks constructed a miniature wooden schoolhouse which they erected on a pole, filled with books and invited anybody to borrow. Currently there are 200 Little Free Libraries around the world, created says Yes! magazine by “builders, artists, stewards, book donors, borrowers, neighbors and friends”. Many have appeared in places that never had any library before, all promoting “literacy, the love of reading and a sense of community”.
SMALL ENGLISH VILLAGES have always interested me because that's where the leisurely life of yesteryear is still likely to linger, if only in minor ways. A dozen years ago I had a rewarding summertime stay in Calver which happens to be near where Charlotte Bronte wrote Jane Eyre, as well as some of England's nicest scenery sojourn.
THE WILCOCK WEB: Surely, the IRS has always targeted certain unpopular customers? It probably began even before Nixon's time……Cyprus announced it would escape its debts by taxing bank depositors with more than €100,000 euros but, says Forbes, “like in Animal Farm, some big depositors are more equal than others”. It's referring to banks and others with political influence who'll be exempt from the cuts……OJ Simpson thinks his trial wasn't fair, and there should be a retrial. Aw shucks, he's just talking about his ‘burglary’ trial……The Supremos got few votes in a poll to find America’s most popular judge, who turned out to be TV’s Judge Judy……Starbucks says that since it invited ideas from customers, it's fielded 150,000, and implemented 277 of them (sample: the Mocha Coconut Frappuccino)…..Apple should be using its huge $145bn stockpile to reward its own low-wage employees instead of increasing the wealth of its stockholders suggests Newsweek…..Only on Wall Street could a guy who lost his bank six billion dollars be still hailed as a hero and eminently worthy of keeping the top job…..And those crooked hedge fund traders found guilty of insider trading, never have the guts to accept their well-deserved sentence, but whine like little boys at the injustice of it all and spend millions more appealing their fate….“The mind is always prone to believe” wrote the 3rd century Greek author Heliodorus, “what it wishes to be true”….Benghazi is all about Be(i)ng hazi…..A teenager who asked Popular Mechanics if you can replace a night's sleep with a series of naps was told no, because “a good night's sleep requires harmonizing your body's sense of time or circadian rhythm and your perceived need for sleep...” Osaka's mayor has predictably been vilified for his sensible suggestion that sexual crimes would diminish if US servicemen in Japan would take more advantage of the country's “adult entertainment industry”. He surely meant to include the ubiquitous and entertaining “Turkish” baths where gentle treatment concludes with a very satisfying massage ……“Next to excellence is the appreciation of it” wrote William Makepeace Thackeray ….The gaudiest and most psychedelic of ‘60s underground papers, the San Francisco Oracle, is being revived….Exploited immigrant victims and wealthy invalids are matched up in Kosovo which has become ground zero for illegal kidney transplants costing up to $100,000 apiece….The current generation of jihadists choose it as a lifestyle explains the Times' Peter Watson (“revenge against everything”) compared to the first generation who were motivated by intense religious study….What better example of the idiocy of contemporary art world prices could you possibly find than that dumb-ass who thought it was worth paying $49million
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- Complete column archives: 2006 - present
— Dear Readers...
— John Wilcock ... Marijuana, the symbolic center of the underground society
— 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;
Regarding armchair travelers;
Pisa's Leaning Tower;
The magical Alhambra
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen (continued)--London's Magical library;
In the Cannes
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen--The Sorcerer's Apprentice
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary (continued)
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen (Part Two--Manhattan phone book, JW'S Secret Diary
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen--Party Circuit
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part two, Soho Saturday
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part one, Soho Saturday
— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve (continued)--Traveling with Nomad; SoHo Confidential
— 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
— 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
— John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eight (continued)--Japan: a working honeymoon;
The Shinjuku Sutra
— 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
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six (continued)--Tom Forcade: smuggler supreme; That pathetic drug czar
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six—The weed that changed the world--Confessions of a pot smoker
— 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
— 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.
- column archives: 2006 - present
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May 2, 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.
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.
"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