the column of lasting insignificance: July 20, 2013
by John Wilcock
BAN NUKES! was a slogan with which all those of a certain age became more than familiar half a century ago. The quest was doomed to failure, of course, in a world where progress and profit will always overcome idealism. Notwithstanding the 1986 Ukrainian Chernobyl disaster, which devastated a huge region and caused the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people, and the more recent Japanese catastrophe, nuclear development is expanding, and the US increasingly seems behind the curve with no new reactor built for 25 years.
EUROPE’S OLDEST COOKBOOK will get a work-out at the Getty Villa next week when the “delicately flavored dishes” of Archestratus will be plucked and cooked from his ancient volume and served to guests who’ve paid $125 each for dinner. The Life of Luxury was written by the Sicilian Greek author from Gela in 350BC but only about 300 lines of his poetic epic have been preserved, such as “Parrotfish should be coated in cheese, seasoned with cumin and baked whole. But fine oily fish needs only a sprinkle of salt and oil, for they possess in themselves the fullness of delight". Fish, along with pulses (beans, peas, lentils) and such additions as figs and onions, were his preferred ingredients (ancient gourmets felt
that meat was barbaric) and Archestratus, being a travel writer, often listed sources for his preferences (“And if you come to the holy city of famous Byzantion, I urge you again to eat a steak of peak-season tuna; for it is very good and soft.") Described by his contemporary, Athenaeus, as having “sailed round the inhabited world for the sake of his belly", he left us with five golden rules: (1) Use raw food materials of good quality; (2) Combine them harmoniously; (3) Avoid hot sauces and spices; (4) Prefer lighter sauces to enjoy the meal; and (5) Use spices moderately, so as to not interfere with natural flavors. They still seem applicable today.
THE NEW SEASON of Breaking Bad, it’s seventh and last, begins on August 11 and Los Angeles magazine says it’s become so addictive that “nobody can imagine life without it”. The show tells a story that—from Christopher Marlowe’s Elizabethan plays to the Godfather—is central to Western civilization, the mag maintains: A man who gains the world but loses his soul. Producer Vince Gilligan says: “For six years I’ve been engaged in a long slow chess match with Walter White, always examining hundreds of permutations and possibilities. And I don’t really play chess, so it’s been exhausting”. Walter White, of course, is triple Emmy winner Bryan Cranston, 57, who evolves from mild-mannered mathematics teacher to maniacal meth dealer. The LAmag piece talks about how closely show runner Gilligan works with his writers, and how receptive he is to new suggestions.
UNTUTORED POLITICIANS have mistaken “prestige and hype, for skill and sensitivity” by hiring Frank O. Gehry—“the most flattered architect in the world”—to enact the new memorial to Dwight Eisenhower near Washington’s Capitol Hill claims Andrew Ferguson. Writing in the weekly Standard he charges the $142million project is “weirdly claustrophobic …at once grandiose and trivial”. Criticism began when the design for the four-acre memorial was announced last year, regarded by some as too elaborate and extravagant. Utah’s Republican congressman Rob Bishop hopes to make the whole thing history. He has introduced a bill to start over, a nationwide competition for a more modest and less expensive design. The magazine comments that Gehry and the commissioners have been “shell-shocked by the public outcry”.
BRITBITS: After clicking on www.arteverywhere.org.uk to view 100 examples of fine art, viewers can vote for the ones that will go on display across London next month on 15,000 billboards financed by the poster industry….”Daniel Radcliffe, 24, is modest. He’s reported to be worth more than £50million, but he’s got a keen sense of self-mockery and he’s really good company” writes Molly Guinness in the Spectator…..John Milton (1608-74 ), who received only £10 in royalties for Paradise Lost is competing with Jane Austen to replace Charles Dickens on the new £10 note….There is still a huge division between the wealth of North and South in England reports the office for National Statistics which found the median household worth to be £220,000 in the Northeast, compared with £433,000 in the country’s Southeast.…. Vice is vanishing in England, claims Leo McKinstry in the Spectator, with Home Office statistics showing drug use at its lowest level since 1966 and prostitutes having to lower their prices because of dwindling demand…..Under British law, writes Spectator columnist Charles Moore, sexual intercourse with another male in a same-sex marriage will not be regarded as adultery, whereas with a female it would be….A woman in Oxfordshire sent an e-mail to her local fire station to report a fire. Fortunately somebody also called 911 minutes later….. Radio personality Terry Wogan suggested that the French reputation for gastronomy was overrated. On his recent visit to Lyon he’d found the famed bouchons (traditional eateries) to be mediocre, and at least half French mothers surveyed stuck a ready-made meal in the microwave for dinner instead of doing any cooking.
GOODBYE MIAMI headlines a Rolling Stone piece which predicts that rising seas are destined to turn the Florida city into “an American Atlantis”, a fate about which the state’s politicians are almost universally in denial. “Miami as we know it today is doomed” says Harold Wanless, a U of Miami geological science professor. “It’s not a question of if, it’s when”. Half of the area that surrounds the city is a mere four or five feet above sea level and, as in the rest of southern Florida, the most valuable real estate, sits right at water’s edge. More than $416bn in assets is at risk to storm-related flood damage and sea level rise according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which lists Miami as the number-one city worldwide most vulnerable in terms of property damage. But the number-one problem, says the mag, is that the statehouse in Tallahassee is a monument to climate-change denial. “You can’t even say the words climate change on the House floor without being run out of the building” declares Tom Gustafson, a former speaker of the House.
THE WILCOCK WEB: TransCanada claims that its controversial Keystone XL pipeline, while creating havoc across half a dozen states, will create 9,000 jobs; the U.S. Department of State estimates 35…. For a teenager to lose his virginity to a horny teacher is a joyous educational experience, and the teacher should get a medal not a jail term…. … Pippa Middleton, sister of England’s future queen Kate, reported from Wimbledon on the ‘gruntometer’ which has rated Maria Sharapova at 101 decibels and Serena Williams at 88.9decibels…. ….“The person who shall have done the most…for fraternity between nations” was Alfred Nobel’s description of who should win his annual prize and, as last year it went to the European Community. The 2013 prize should go to Google, suggests Wired… Chinese authorities are cracking down on the sale of plain white T-shirts having noticed how readily they can become subversive billboards….Two million smuggled cigarettes, which were found by Dutch border police, will be burned at a power station to provide energy….… Robotic lawn mowers that can be programmed to mow the lawn unaided on specific days were a big hit ($2200) at the recent Chelsea Flower Show…. As robots increasingly take over jobs of factory workers, traffic police, drivers, supermarket checkers, writes the Observer’s Will Hutton, what we can expect is “a dystopian world” in which good jobs will be “the preserve of an educated, computer-literate elite”…..With continued perseverance and a slice of luck, the SAC will eventually nail Steven A. Cohen, the greediest man in America, for insider trading….….A Bloomberg terminal costs $20,000 a year to rent, reports the Economist, and there are 315,000 of them in use throughout the world…. Among the items that Beyonce’s contract demands in her on-tour dressing room is an ample supply of red toilet paper…..The simplest way to reduce violence in prisons would be to allow hookers to visit…… If even a million people refused to pay their taxes—swore they’d go to jail first—until the big corporations paid what they really owed, even Congress would start discussing a change in the tax laws…“Change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better”—Samuel Johnson (1709-84)
OTHER SCENES, my ‘60s underground paper, cost 25c on the newsstands, but I’ll pay 100 times that cover price—$25—for any copy that you can dig up and mail to me at P.O. Box 1359, Ojai, CA. 93024
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— Manhattan Memories: Introduction.
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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