the column of lasting insignificance: December 21, 2013
by John Wilcock
ART AS DESTRUCTION is a theme that probably began half a century ago with Jean Tinguely’s museum exhibition of the machine that he built to annihilate itself. “Much of the story of 20th century art” writes Ben Lerner,” can be told as a series of acts of vandalism” and in a thoughtful, but rambling piece in Harper’s, he cites such examples as Marcel Duchamp's reproduction of the Mona Lisa with an added mustache; Yoko Ono’s invitation to an audience to cut away her clothing; the spray-painting by Tony Shafrazi of Picasso’s Guernica; Rauchenberg’s erasure of a Willem de Kooning drawing (on view in San Francisco’s MOMA as “a landmark of post modern art”) and last year’s defacement of a Rothko work in the Tate Modern by a young Polish nutcase, Vladimir Umanets, promoting his Yellowism manifesto which Lerner dismisses as “Neo-Dadaist nonsense”. More intriguing was the action of Pierre Pinoncelli who urinated into a reproduction of the urinal that Duchamp called Fountain, and when charged with vandalism claimed on the contrary
that he had added value to it, restoring life to what had become “a mere monument”. But some accused ‘vandals’ have other motives. Consider the case of Rindy Sam, a 30 year old fan of Cy Twombly, who was so transported by her idol’s works that she kissed it, smearing it with lipstick. And how could this sort of tale conclude without some sort of reference to the ubiquitous Andy Warhol? Thus the appearance of a self-described witch named Dorothy Podber who visited Andy’s “factory” one day in 1964 and asked if she could “shoot” a stack of paintings of Marilyn Monroe. To everyone’s surprise she produced a gun and fired a shot through the canvases, which hardly phased the resourceful Andy who simply retitled the works for his ever-eager audience. Shot Red Marilyn alone, sold for $4 million.
CAN THERE BE social organization without authority, without government? The anarchists claim that there can be, wrote Colin Ward, and they also claim that it is desirable that there should be. In most of his 30 books, Ward boosted the anarchist claim that, at the basis of our social problems is the principle of governments, which prepare for war and wage war, even though others are obliged to fight in them and pay for them. Ward died in 2010 at 86, but for decades he wrote columns for Freedom (originally called War Commentary) and now some of his wisdom has been republished in Talking Anarchy by the fledgling PM Press whose David Goodway contends that “once you begin to look at human society from an anarchist point of view you discover that the alternatives are already there, in the interstices of the dominant power structure. If you want to build a free society, the parts are all at hand”.
THE BELIEF THAT something healthy doesn’t taste as good is behind the way that fast food restaurants are only gradually tweaking their menus to contain less sodium and sugar according to Bloomberg Businessweek. “When you hear less sodium your mind hears less taste” says Elizabeth Stewart, marketing director of Subways which nevertheless has made such reductions in its 40,500 locations. Au Bon Pain (200 stores) briefly swapped its 550-calorie cinnamon roll with a 480-calorie version—then swapped it back after complaints. But it has reduced the salt in its chicken noodle soup in three successive years.
MY UNSOUGHT ADVENTURE began a few months ago with the accidental discovery (on an x-ray taken for pain in the ribs) of a dark patch on my left lung. Diagnosis: cancer—suggested remedy an operation to cut it out. Thence came a series of tests—more x-rays, cat scans, a pet scan, blood tests, a biopsy, pulmonary checks, visits to an oncologist and respiratory therapist, and finally a meeting with the surgeon who was about to conduct the operation. This took place in St. John’s hospital in Oxnard, CA., whose medical personnel couldn’t have been kinder and more solicitous. I was
overwhelmed with their sympathy and efficiency, from the innumerable attending doctors, nurses and physical therapists, each adding words of encouragement and good cheer, all the way down to the service personnel who always had time for a cheery comment as they monitored the room.
THE WILCOCK WEB: If it’s true that the Supremos, divided between four conservatives and four liberals, are deadlocked until Justice Anthony Kennedy decides by voting for one side or the other, why not fire everybody but him and save a ton of money and hours of pointless arguments?.... Most Americans want us to leave Afghanistan but our leaders are begging and pleading with the corrupt Karzai to allow us to stay there and pour in $$$billions more…. Munich’s Süddeutsche Zeitung says Germany should be grateful to whistle-blower Edward Snowden and give him sanctuary. “Face it, the real villains here are the U.S. spies and their criminal machinations”…. “The desire to reveal” quoth Carl Jung, “is greater than the desire to conceal”…. Ladbroke’s, Britain’s biggest gambling operator is allowing parents to place bets on the number of degrees their kids will get at college…. “In public and private schools alike, “upper middle class youngsters show alarmingly high rates of serious disturbance” observes Psychology Today in its essay ‘The Problem with Rich Kids.’ (It suggests that they feel under greater pressure to succeed, resulting in “crippling anxiety and depression”) …..“Some of us shouldn’t get married” suggests Kathy Bates, “and I’m one of them. I tried it but I wasn’t very good at it. It’s not a talent that I possess”… Hardly a surprise to find the 21st century’s biggest crooks, Bernie Madoff and JPMorganChase, are linked together…..Speaking of billions, if those Wall Street firms can afford to give their fledgling subordinates quarter-million dollar bonuses why not cough up a few thousand to buy Christmas dinner for the homeless?.....Commenting on the oversupply of commercials in a typical NFL game, the NYT’s Dana Jennings wrote “you wonder whether neuroscientists shouldn’t be investigating ACS: Ad Concussion Syndrome”…. Once a year is not nearly enough to do a live show. Television would be greatly improved if many scripts were dropped and mistakes were welcomed….The Cheney family, muses Will Durst, apparently feel about each other the same way the rest of us do….“If I owned hell and Texas” declared Union general Philip Sheridan in the Civil War, “I’d rent out Texas and live in hell”…Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like a baseball card with your own face on it….Most of the 408 New York Times pieces mentioning Mexico’s Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, since he bought a stake in the paper five years ago, have been neutral stories says the Media Watch Group’s newsletter Extra. “Places where criticism of Slim would seem obvious sometimes find him conspicuously absent”…. “No one can confidently say that he will still be living tomorrow.”—Euripides(480–406 BC)
Bakewell and Chatsworth 2013 (part 1)
send a comment to John Wilcock
- 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
Now on Boing-Boing!
Participating in the Harvard Psilocybin Project (Part Three)
November 21, 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