the column of lasting insignificance: June 8, 2013
by John Wilcock
June columns, 2007-2012
2007THE WILCOCK WEB: For the eighth successive year, Jacob is the favorite baby name in the U.S. and—for the 11th successive year—Emily for girls….. South Africa, scene of the 2010 World Cup, is thinking of changing its laws to allow prostitution and drinking in public after noticing the popularity of both at the 2006 WC in Germany (where there are 400,000 legal prostitutes)….Facility Architects, a British firm, hopes to develop “vibration-harvesting sensors” which embedded in heavy-trafficked grounds such as bus and rail stations can capture and store the energy for re-use….. London's Citadel will in June publish: Filthy, Funny and Totally Offensive: Jokes so Dirty Comedians and Entertainers Only Tell Them to Each Other ….Dr. Songpol Smsri, a Thai scientist, has just completed 30 years of research producing a hybrid durian so that the Asian fruit will no longer be the smelliest in the world….. ….”Doing something is a damn sight better than being someone” observed British columnist Roy Hattersley……Skybus Airlnes, a new no-frills carrier in Columbus, Ohio, which carries advertising in and on its planes, is offering ten seats on every flight for $10 each…. Donating her collection of 50,000 jokes to the Smithsonian, Phyllis Diller, 89, had some advice for aspiring comics: “Go out and try it, and if you find out from the audience that you're not funny, quit ….... “People who value their privileges above their principles” cautioned Dwight Eisenhower, “soon lose both”… ….Screening Casino Royale on some of its flights, British Airways airbrushed rival Richard (Virgin Airlines) Branson out of one scene…. How did the Soviets counter NASA spending $1 million to develop a pen that would write in space? They took a pencil….Tracy Mann, a UC psychologist, says that when most people quit ”yo-yo dieting” they're heavier than when they began….Writer H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy”….New mail order item: a solar-powered talking bible ($120)…..The most popular new restaurant in Italy is inside the Fortezza Medicea prison near Pisa, where 120 carefully screened diners each night pay $33 for gourmet meals cooked by a convicted murderer and his fellow prisoners….. “The law does not content itself with classifying and punishing crime” wisely said Norman Douglas, “it invents crime”…..A surgeon's skill at playing video games made them more proficient at controlling the tiny instruments inside a patient's body (laparoscopic techniques) according to a study by New York's Beth Israel Medical Center…..In its ludicrous drive to be “eco-friendly”, the British weapons company BAE, says it is developing lead-free bullets… A letter writer to BusinessWeek reveals that Starbuck's keeps a “secret” stash of ceramic cups in which you can ask for your coffee to be served ….. Now that we've learned that all senators, and most of congress are multi-millionaires, how about a law mandating that they use their own money for re-election, thus no longer being beholden to all the people who bribe them……….”Politics is an honest effort to misunderstand each other'' mused Robert Frost…..Referring to the new $600million U.S Embassy in Baghdad, Hong Kong's Asia Times comments: “Nothing more perfectly sums up the futility of George Bush's war than this perfect folly …. The demand for private jet planes—which can cost up to $50million—is so huge, says the Wall Street Journal, that potential buyers may have to wait “several years” for delivery …. ….. .”We have entered the Me-lennium. All the world is screaming Me! Me! Me! “ writes TV critic Tom Shales. “And every me has a story they deem themselves entitled, even mandated, to share”—All is ephemeral—fame and the famous as well—Marcus Aurelius (AD120-180)…..
2008 THE WILCOCK WEB: Arguing for better use of phonetics instead of teaching “15th century spelling to 21st century pupils” teachers attending a conference at Coventry University seek to change confusion over words like “caught and court” and “cough and through”….After incomprehensible French novelist Michael Houellebecq called his mother, Lucie Ceccaldi, 83, an “old slut' in one of his books, she responded with a book of her own in which she terms him “a little upstart willing to do anything for fame and fortune”…. “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die” in the opinion of Carrie Fisher….. ….The world's fifth richest man, Mukesh Ambani (a $43bn petro-chemicals tycoon) is building himself a 27-story, $1.7bn house in Bombay. Six floors are devoted to parking and there's an “ice room” (it gets hot in Bombay)…Three years after his death, the best program on television, Classic Arts Showcase, just celebrated its 14th anniversary in last month with a tribute to its visionary founder, Lloyd E. Rigler…. …..”I tend to think that the more people like something, the worse it is” suggests Laurie Anderson….This month, Take Me Out to the Ball Game will become the first song to be featured on a US postage stamp…. Why isn't phonetic spelled the way that it sounds? …..Local activist Dmitris Lambrou says residents of the Greek island of Lesbos have suffered “psychological and moral rape” by the “seizure” of their name by gay women …..The adversarial system is premised on the theory that if you have two liars testifying, the truth will come out” writes Professor David Bernstein in the Iowa Law Review …...Mike Sheldrake has created a working surf board from cardboard covered with fiberglass….London's Daily Express charges that British jails are in a state of anarchy and that drugs are so prevalent that prisoners are smuggling them out to sell on the street…. Thousands of gas station owners are expecting to pay $650 to have their pumps retrofitted so they can charge more than $3.99 per gallon. ..If at first you don't succeed, failure may be your style” observed Quentin Crisp…. A July book from Simon & Schuster, The Fall of the House of Bush is by Craig Unger who describes its subject as driven by ”delusional idealism and ideological and religious zeal” …..Taking seemingly flattering phrases out of context from reviews to bolster ads for plays and films will be banned under new EU laws….If they banned speculation in oil futures, surely people wouldn't stop buying and selling it? But the price would drop…. Nevada's Renewal Fuels is selling a machine ($3,100) that allows anybody to convert used cooking oil into bio-diesel fuel…. .A Maine seafood firm allows lobster lovers to buy the rights to an individual trap ($3,000) and have shipped to them the 40 to 60 lobsters it captures each year…. A letter writer in the London Times says that the fig leaf is unlikely to have covered Adam and Eve's sensitive body parts because it contains “an extremely powerful enzyme--ficin....so powerful it burns earthworms which crawl over the leaves”. …. Popular Science magazine's Reader Idea of the Month is the man who says because millions of office and shop doors are opened and closed every day, generators could be attached to charge batteries…. He who seeks problems will always find them or, if not, invent them—Chinese proverb
2009 THE WILCOCK WEB: An estimated 16,000 pieces of junk are circling the Earth along with 3,000 satellites writes Glenn Harlan Reynolds in Popular Mechanics. “Space is getting crowded and the problem needs attention”…. Recounting the reason for his success, George Hamilton explains: “I was able to pass myself off as this Palm Beach millionaire with the aid of a good tan and the bespoke English clothes I picked up in thrift shops. I decided that sun-tanning was going to be for me what the funny blue suit was to Superman”….. If there really was a God looking down on all this mess, he might be tempted to move everybody in the world to a different country overnight and then sit back and have a good laugh …. Earth is the insane asylum for the universe…..Full time politicians should be just that, banned from taking additional jobs. If they complain they can't afford it, let them get out; it's not that there's any shortage of better applicants to replace them. Every year, 1.7 million bicycles are sold in the Netherlands but more than 2,000 are stolen every day…..”Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you, and scorn in the one ahead” claims Mike McCleary…..”If work was a good thing” said Elmore Leonard, “the rich would have it all and not let you do it”…. There are a growing number of reports of people buying universal remote controls and using them surreptitiously to turn off televisions in sports bars, airports and in whatever public places from which they can escape undetected…..Only a malicious person is always at his best—Somerset Maugham (1864-1965)
2010 THE WILCOCK WEB: The fastest way to get California drivers to shift to public transport says a letter in the Los Angeles Times would be to allow anybody with a driver's license to travel free…. The Professional Elvis Impersonators Association says membership now tops 500…. How many different types of 3D glasses are you going to eventually need?….The original point and click interface was a Smith & Weston….The Pentagon has invested $10milion to develop an anti-flu vaccine from specially-treated tobacco leaves which are then ground up to extract the protein…….”Nobody is more covetous and greedy than those who have far too much” says Christopher Hitchens ….… Marketing guru Seth Godin says Amazon should produce a $49 Kindle which could be given away to readers who signed up for a $10 book-a-month…. What's badly needed is an app that will provide explanations of New Yorker cartoons when shown to a cell phone camera…The original list of 801 Jews whom Oskar Schindler saved from Nazi death camps is on sale for $2.2m…… ……..It would be costly to desalinate enough sea water to satisfy the parched needs of Beijing. But wouldn't it be cheaper than transporting six trillion gallons of water per year 800 miles, relocating 350,000 villagers and building 400 sewage plants?.....Britain's Ministry of Defence is urging women soldiers to carry condoms…. “Wine makes a man mistake words for thoughts”—Samuel Johnson (1709-84)
2011 THE WILCOCK WEB: A correspondent to the London Times said a better way to run elections was for everybody to vote for the candidate they liked the least with the winner being the person who got the fewest votes…There must be some way that the millions being spent on alleviating the floods in one state could be used to transport some of the water to its scorched-earth neighbors. If they built open storage tanks in big holes in the ground, the flood would fill them..You're never too old to learn something stupid…. More than a billion people already have access to the Internet, which means that the number of internet protocol addresses (they identify each owner) will soon be exhausted. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority are working on a new overlay (IPV6) which may initially slow things down…..“The more you read and observe about this Politics thing, you got to admit that each party is worse than the other”, mused Will Rogers. “The one that's out always looks the best”. ….Why should colleges that are run for profit get government subsidies?..... It's hard to imagine a bigger waste of newsprint than the Los Angeles Times' Ministry of Gossip column whose concept of news is to boldface the names of people you've never heard of having lunch somewhere…. Sixteen pages of ads in last week's Hollywood Reporter congratulated the new Walk of Fame star-holder Simon Fuller, 51, producer of TV's Idol show which is now seen in 42 countries…..…With almost two-thirds of its population (and its government) Palestinian, why isn't Jordan the much-desired Palestine state?..... The UN's former boss Kofi Anan and a group of “high profile world leaders” declared the 40-year-old “war on drugs” to be a failure and should be abandoned. But Obama and Mexican president Felipe Calderon are too myopic to take advantage of this excellent cover for doing something sensible, and turned down the idea, opting to continue what everybody but them knows is an extravagantly wasteful losing policy ….. ….“A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned to walk forward” declared Franklin Delano Roosevelt…. Frustrated with being the last place dealt with by the international financial markets, Samoa is to advance its calendar by one day so they'll be the first…. Rabbit jumping began in Scandinavia but now has 22 clubs in Germany and the sport is spreading across Europe. Twelve hurdles about 15 inches high line the course…. .….Sponsored by a $517million contract from the military, Northrop Grumman is building a 300-foot helium-filled airship which can lift 200 tons and stay aloft for 21 days….”The smug belief in our superiority exists” writes Richard Cohen in the Washington Post. “American exceptionalism ought to be called American narcissism. We look perfect only to ourselves”…. …Popular Science warns people carrying credit cards embedded with radio frequency identification (the device that enables the bearer to just point the card at a cash register) that any thieving passer-by with $70 RFID reader can point it at your pocket or briefcase and copy the number…...Wearing a suit with sneakers is “Hollywood's current look” says the Hollywood Reporter…. “Humor can get in under the door” said G.K. Chesterton, “while seriousness is still fumbling at the handle”…. More than 250 wrongly-convicted prisoners have been exonerated by DNA testing in the past 30 years (17 of them were on death row) according to Brandon. L. Garrett's new book Convicting the Innocent. In three quarters of the cases guilt was established as a result of faulty eyewitness identification….Our constitution protects aliens, drunks and U.S. Senators noted Will Rogers. The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement ….NBC's revival of the stupidest show of last year, The Marriage Ref, must be solely because of their fear of alienating producer Jerry Seinfeld…. Meanwhile, Daily Mail critic Chris Tookey called The Hangover, Part 2 “the worst sequel in the history of cinema”…. The Mexican government says that in the past four years it has recovered 60,000 guns traceable to dealers in the United States… …..”All great truths begin as blasphemies”—George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
2012 THE WILCOCK WEB: If Pakistan actually wants us to pay $5,000 for each of the thousands of trucks removing our stuff when we leave their benighted land, wouldn't it be cheaper to trash it on site and replace it over here?.....Why don't cities, counties, states underestimate what's coming in, so they'd always have a surplus for emergencies?..... … “Rudeness” scoffed Eric Hoffer, “is the weak man's imitation of strength"… A movie will be made, Cow on the Run, about Yvonne, the fugitive Holstein which escaped from a Bavarian slaughterhouse last year and evaded pursuing police cars and helicopters for three months….…. "Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you're a good person”, says author Dennis Wholey, “is like expecting the bull not to attack you because you're a vegetarian”… Entering the market for men's razors—currently dominated by P&G's Gillette and Energizer Holdings' Schick and Wilkinson Sword—is the Dollar Shave Club whose boss, Michael Dubin, claims that his rivals add “useless fixtures as an excuse to raise prices... Celebrating 50 years this month since the first James Bond film (Dr. No, 1962) with a 24-page spread, Variety says more than half the world's population has seen at least one of the nearly two dozen 007 adventures…. Newark mayor Cory Booker found a way to dispose of the huge pile of weapons the city had confiscated when he met Jessica Mindich whose Jewelry for a Cause was delighted to have the guns melted down into a pile of metal she can turn into pretty baubles…“We get swamped by people who bring us meteor wrongs” quips the University of New Mexico's Carl Agee whose Institute of Meteorites inspects fakes almost every day……...... New York State Senate passed an ethics bill that is so curiously ineffectual that any verdicts can be negated by either party …. If, starting tomorrow, all lawyers received only sensible pay (say, a hundred bucks per hour) this country's financial problems would be over in a New York minute…. If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain… ….. …. “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for freedom of thought”, quipped Soren Kierkegaard. “Which they seldom use”…..More than three quarters of today's American brewing industry is now controlled by foreign industries, says Advertising Age—South Africa's Miller-Coors and Brazil's InBev companies….Most of the sort of people who use Twitter have such short attention spans, they'll be tired of it before too long…. . …“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people”, suggested Thomas Mann, who did plenty of it … …. …. Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if you wish they weren't..…More and more employers refuse to consider unemployed people for job openings, on the grounds they were laid off for performance problems or have out of date skills. “These days” comments the AARP Bulletin, “you may need a job to get a job”…. ….How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?.... …In a revolution, as in a novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end”—Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59)
[JW is currently in England]
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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