the column of lasting insignificance: November 2, 2013
by John Wilcock
A SHORTAGE OF WOMEN was the inevitable result of China’s ‘one-child’ policy which prompted the majority of families to settle for a boy. Now experts claim that the country has between 30 and 40 million more boys than girls (a ratio of 118 to 100) at least half of them facing the prospect of a single life. There have been reports of parents kidnapping girls to raise as partners for their sons. Making the situation worse has been the practice of sex determination before birth—illegal but widely practiced—which has produced a similarly ill-balanced boy-girl ratio in other Asian countries such as India, Albania and Armenia. “Sex selection is a rampant, multi-billion dollar industry that everyone—the lawmakers, the law implementers, doctors and medical companies is benefiting from” gender activist Rita Banerji told the New Internationalist. “That’s what keeps it going. The law in India is so blatantly violated, it’s as good as having no law.” Banerji, a photographer who founded the aptly-named 50 Million Missing Campaign, says sex selection is essentially “greed-based because dowry is paid by the bride’s family… and every son is a way of getting money in, whereas every daughter represents an outflow of wealth from the family”.
DOWNTON ABBEY’S 4TH SEASON won’t be seen Stateside until the new year but it’s been running in England over ITV since September and the reviews are somewhat sub-par. The Spectator’s TV critic Clarissa Tan called it “disappointing”, opining “It seems the show has decided that instead of drama, what we want is to know about the practical aspects of running an estate—the rent-raising, sheep-rearing and suchlike”. “It's not the most auspicious of openers to the new season of the posh soap” wrote Sam Wollaston in the Guardian. “There's a dustiness and a mustiness about the place, a sense of same-old, same-old. Downton Drabbey. Even Dame Maggie's withering one-liners aren't as sharp as they once were. Dan Stevens' absence leaves an unfilled hole, just as Jessica Brown Findlay's did before. Yes, I do mean there's a dearth of talent about the place, a lack of glamour”.
IT’S NOT OFTEN that somebody is bold enough to express the kind of thoughts that are actually quite common although rarely openly voiced. One such notion, is that although service veterans deserve sympathy—and certainly shamelessly more support than the government presently gives them—on their return from disastrous wars, who’s to blame but themselves for enlisting in the first place? A letter writer in the Los Angeles Times (his name withheld here) says that volunteers were of an age and maturity and had enough access to injured soldiers returning home to be aware that war was not just about cowboys and Indians. Did they, the correspondent asks, ‘just want to kick somebody’s ass because they’re young and aggressive and didn’t know how else to channel their emotions?’ He writes that his perspective may not be agreeable to many people and some people might find him heartless, but suggests that the volunteers “are pawns of a government-controlled by corporate greed and dealers of mass destruction’ and that they bought into it “because of their failure to use common critical-thinking skills”. Phew! The reputations of generals” says a Chinese proverb, “are built on the bodies of 10,000 men”.
WORLD CHESS CHAMPION, 43-year-old Viswanathan Anand defends his title in his Indian hometown of Chennai this month against a Norwegian challenger, Magnus Carlsen who is barely half his age. Carlsen, who at 13 was the youngest grandmaster in history, has been tagged ‘the Mozart of chess’, presumably because the composer was also a child prodigy well before his teens. He will celebrate his 23rd birthday on November 30, less than a week after the championship ends with the dispensation of $2.55m in prizes. Anand, who celebrates his 44th birthday less than two weeks later, became India’s first grandmaster in 1988 and has been undisputed world champion since 2007. Although the U.S. is among 35 countries which includes chess in some school curricula, Americans are not even among the world’s ten top rated players which include an Armenian, a Ukrainian, and three Russians.
THE WILCOCK WEB: “People often talk about the Constitution as if it’s immaculate and holy” says the much published legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. “There are a bunch of things in the Constitution that I’d like to change, but on balance it’s better than anything any other country has come up with”……One thing that Bulgaria has come up with is a project called the Pause Campaign. In the center of capital city Sofia, a vending machine set up by Amstel beer asks passers-by to pause in silence for three minutes, monitored by a video camera. Patient standees are then delivered a free can of beer. About 84 users a day, so far …. Katy Perry owes some of her today’s acclaim from having the savvy to decouple her life from that alleged comedian Russell Brand…If all the even barely-known TV ‘stars’ who earn more than a quarter of a million dollars per episode—and there are a lot of them—were to kick in just 10% of one week’s takings (House of Hope Inc., 323-663-1215) thousands of homeless would get at least one decent meal….Even if you just have 99 TV channels, nine of them offer music…It’s shameful (but forever thus) that Big Pharma can block any law it likes merely by bribing the right pols. Drugs from Canada? No thanks, if it means life-saving drugs in this country can be sold at ten times the price…If there’s ever a revolution, the first priority should be to get the insurance companies out of the health biz…..London papers reacted with outrage when the National Lottery doubled ticket prices to £2 so it could give bonuses to its directors….Mia Farrow, 68, says that the father of her 25-year-old son (right) was probably Woody Allen but he may have been have been Frank Sinatra to whom she was married earlier….The Huffington Post says that about a quarter of the people who join a gym put on weight because they indulge themselves in sweet treats after a workout…..”Force has no place”, declared Herodotus, “where there is need of skill”…. Hard apple cider is getting so popular in the U.S. that sales have doubled—to $162million—in the past year…..”Too often, I think, we elect people who we assume are going to make fundamental changes” says former presidential adviser Robert Reich, “and then we go home and do whatever we were doing before without realizing that an election is just the beginning of the challenge. They need all our help and support if they are going to succeed”….Only idiots text while they drive…..With 11 million illegals already in the country, farmers are complaining they can’t get enough workers unless they’re allowed to bring in more…An English plant nursery has developed the Tom-Tato, a plant which grows tomatoes above ground and potatoes beneath….. Brooklyn Brewery, whose brands sell in 20 countries, has teamed up with Sweden’s Carlsberg Group to build a brewery in Stockholm … How sad that Martin Luther King’s greedy children have nothing better to do than alienate and sue their late father’s friends…… “Love is the crowning grace of humanity”—Francesco Petrarch (1304-74)
Bakewell and Chatsworth 2013 (part 1)
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October 24, 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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