the column of lasting insignificance: August 10, 2013
by John Wilcock
ALMOST HALF A CENTURY ago, I began publishing Other Scenes, the first international underground newspaper. It was sold on New York City newsstands and distributed spasmodically around the world. I had correspondents in Greece, Italy, France, India, Japan, England and Australia. This 25c tabloid was barely noticed outside underground circles but it recorded that particular socio-political history well enough for it to become a collectors’ item. Among my contributors were Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, John Chamberlain, Ed Ruscha, Gilbert Shelton, Hunter Thompson, Abbie Hoffman, Tim Leary, and Phil Proctor (whose cover collage after the Watts riots was so sensational that newsstands refused to display it).
CAPITALISM WON’T JUST COLLAPSE despite the wishful thinking of misguided Lefties declares a recent book which declaims it as “an unfounded belief” that, despite the evidence, never seems to die. “Many leftists still cling to the hope that economic crisis, war or environmental catastrophe could topple capitalism or suddenly transform the consciousness of the workers”, writes Mike Schauerte. In the Socialist Standard, he reviews the book Catastrophism: The Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth, wherein four “partisans of the radical left” critique those on both left and right, who believe society is headed for some sort of total collapse that will either usher in a new age or “awaken the masses from their long slumber”. This mistaken idea, writes Berkeley’s KPFA co-host Sasha Lilly is typically based on a one-dimensional reading of Karl Marx.
AT LEAST THREE COMPANIES around the world are breeding flies which are boiled, dried and ground into a powder along with vitamins, minerals and grain, the final product used as food for fish, shrimp and chicken, a diet much cheaper than the traditional corn or soybeans. An Ohio company, EnviroFlight is seeking permission from the FDA to sell this kind of livestock food, reports Bloomberg Businessweek which points to “the issue of getting Americans to stomach the idea of eating seared shrimp that's fed on flies”. The major selling point is the lower cost, explains Tony Forshey of Ohio’s Department of Agriculture. “For farmers, about 65–70% of production is the cost of feed”.
PART OF LIFE—that’s what risk is, maintain the authors of a new book, charging that the super-caution we exercise towards our children and even ourselves may not necessarily be the best preparation for a productive life. “Statistically, the chances of your child being harmed (in an accident) are miniscule” says David Spiegelhalter, co-author with Michael Blastland of The Norm Chronicles: Stories and Numbers about Danger. “But because you value (your child), you’re haunted by the nightmare of being the unlucky one”. Blessed with the encompassing title of Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University, Spiegelhalter notes that what he defines as “the asymmetry of regret” has been exacerbated by “the creeping culture of litigation and risk aversion”, impeding inventiveness and advances in science and business. “Today shareholders are increasingly unwilling to gamble on innovation, while governments are nervous about giving the green light to anything that could endanger lives …In creative areas also, publishers, television executives and music and film producers are all increasingly reluctant to back original voices, preferring to follow tried formulas—take the endless Hollywood sequels or the slew of copycat Shades of Grey”.
GIANT PANDAS ARE nature’s benefit scroungers, spending most of their time sitting around doing nothing much and doing it badly. So says the Ugly Animal Preservation Society (who knew?) which charges that humans have become too fixated on saving the world’s most photogenic inhabitants. “We care so much about mammals—cute, furry cuddly things” UAPS president Simon Watt told the Times. “Pandas are all right. But if we’re only interested in those charismatic mega fauna we’re going to leave our lives a lot duller. Between 200 and 250 species become extinct every single day.”
THE GROWING DEMAND for food produced locally has moved on a stage. Now, says Fortune, more and more farms are inviting diners to “make a pilgrimage back to the land and sample the harvest in its native habitat”. Elegantly decorated dinner tables laid out in the fields are depicted, in addition to more formal presentations in slicked up barns. “We want to elevate the position of the farmer culturally” declares chef Jim Denevan whose Outstanding in the Field organization sprang from his invitations to purveyors to visit his former Santa Cruz restaurant and talk to the diners, “I kind of sprung it on the guests” he says. “They’d come for a romantic dinner and there’d be this farmer talking about growing the carrots or raising the animals”. He reports that his planned country dinners, which combine farm tours with lavish meals in the fields, sell out within minutes of being announced, and he expects to do 90 of them in Europe and North America this year. The cost is around $200 including wine, and free seats are reserved for the suppliers.
THE WILCOCK WEB: The general who runs everything from his comfortable office in Kabul, says our troops in Afghanistan should stay for another four years. Well, he would wouldn’t he?..….“Find something you love, because if you love what you do” says restaurateur Mario Batali, “you’ll never spend a day at work”…....“A swamp with sidewalks” is how Will Durst defines Florida…. “If you could steal $125 million with the only downside being that if you got caught you might have to give the money back and lose a single day’s income, would you give it a go? Me, too”, writes LATimes columnist Michael Hiltzik referring to the slap-on-the-wrist penalty for criminality by America’s crookedest bank JPMorgan Chase…. Next time you find yourself in court, try saying you’re not going to plead, but you’ll willingly pay a fine. See if you can get away with it; big companies do it all the time….God is Alive and Well, the Future of Religion in America by Frank Newport claims that 55% of Americans who say religion is important to them is unchanged from 30 years ago…. Why not impose a maximum wage? Asks the New Internationalist’s Mark Engler suggesting that CEOs be limited to receiving 100 times an employee’s wage instead of the current 380-1…The first Death Café opened in Switzerland but the idea has been copied in other countries—places (writes the Spectator) for discussing “the difficulty with accepting our own mortality”….There were three centuries between popes becoming saints (St Pius V, 1572 and St Pius X, 1914) says a letter in the Times but every pope since 1939 is under consideration for beatification… Bachelorette is a made-up network word to replace the actual word, ‘spinster’…..For somebody arrested with a smoking gun still in his hands and dead bodies all around, a trial is a waste of time and money (but a bonanza for lying lawyers)….“I’m interested in the legitimacy of dance phenomena that are not within the high-art realm” pretentiously explains Gillian Walsh about her ludicrous prancing….…. Powered by paws on the ground, Peru’s skateboarding dog Biuf has been training other canine pals to
follow his lead…. Learning from a college study that “a moderately ambient noise” of 70 decibels boosted the ability to come up with creative ideas Justin Kauszler, 24, launched an app that offers the persuasive sound at home….. "Popular music depresses me” says Larry Russell, “Rock music is like wading in a kiddy pool. Jazz is like swimming in the ocean. Rock musicians play three chords for 3,000 people and jazz musicians play 3,000 chords for three people.”….. As of last year, reports the Washington Monthly’s Charles Peters, there were 1.6million tax exempt organizations—supposedly on the basis they were non-profit. “If the NFL is truly non-profit” he asks, “how can it afford to pay its CEO Roger Goodell, $29.5 million a year?”…. If your unexpected caller begins, “This is a very important message…”, it’s safe to hang up immediately… “Do not plan for ventures before finishing what is at hand” –Euripides (484-407BC)
Bakewell and Chatsworth 2013 (part 1)
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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
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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
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