the column of lasting insignificance: January 11, 2014
by John Wilcock
DREAMS OF REVOLUTION are in the air again as probably has been the case since earliest times, ever since the gap between the haves and have-nots grew large enough to first stoke angry resentment. “Inequality should worry everyone, even the rich” says The Week, quoting the Washington Post’s Dan Balz’ appraisal that “the sentiment is widespread and that something is fundamentally wrong with the way that the benefits of the economic system are distributed”. But, of course, there couldn’t be an actual revolution here, could there? smirk the pundits. The authorities are too powerful, the masters of the universe too well established. History, however, has taught us to expect the unexpected, with changes unforeseen by smug elitists. It’s doubtful if it ever occurred to Marie Antionette that her plushly pampered lifestyle would ever come to an end.
DeGraw castigates the so-called House of “Representatives” for speeding up their own decline by blocking food stamps for millions of people “who are a missed meal away from taking to the streets with pitchforks and torches.” [He urges readers to join the 99% at evolvesociety.org—“an ad-free network that will not sell you out.]
The growing perception that the game is rigged should worry the wealthy said Frida Ghitis on CNN.com. A nation dogged by “a sense that unfairness permeates the system” is an unstable nation, “and nobody benefits from stability more than the wealthy”.
SOME VISITING STUDENTS from China have barely been in the country for two or three days when they buy themselves expensive cars in the $50,000 range. Bloomberg Businessweek explains that a high-end car such as a Mercedes or a Lexus is viewed as “an affordable status symbol” compared with back home where such cars can cost two or three times as much. Sid Krommenhoek, a rental company consultant, said that almost two-thirds of the 25,000 Chinese students interviewed last year were expecting to spend an affordable $40,000 annually on their education, not including the cost of cars. In the past two years, Chinese students in this country (of which there were 236,000) have spent $15.5bn in new and used cars nudging dealers into hiring Mandarin-speaking sales staff.
SHOOTING PIGS FROM HELICOPTERS didn’t turn out very well in Texas and not just because of the protests. Helicopters are so noisy the pigs soon learned to hide from them so now a pest-eradication firm, Louisiana Hog Control, has turned to drones whose lasers can spot the pigs warm bodies from 4,000 feet and point them out to hunters on the ground. Killing the beasts is necessary because the country’s six million feral pigs cause an estimated $1.5bn of damage each year to crops, lawns and wildlife.
CONJUGAL VISITS to prisoners in jail are believed by some authorities to “calm supposedly fiery passions” while others maintain that they help rehabilitation. Turkish prisons recently introduced them for the first time and in September Qatar’s Central Prison built villas in which wives and children can visit inmates. Costa Rica and Mexico have even allowed visits for homosexual inmates. But in America and Britain, reports the Economist, “policymakers look on them with distaste. Only five American states allow them and in Britain they are banned”.
“EXISTENCE IS RESISTANCE”, a sign sprawled across walls in some Israeli jails where five thousand Palestinians are imprisoned, hints at the fact that some prisoners have defied tight security to smuggle out their sperm. The New Internationalist, reporting that three women gave birth to these ‘prison babies’ last year with another 16 said to be pregnant, suggests that because of the restrictions on visits “it is likely that couples get help from families visiting other prisoners”.
THE WILCOCK WEB: The armchair pundits, who never serve, are predicting once again that if we leave Afghanistan the Taliban will take over. So after 11 years, thousands of lives and billions of dollars we’re exactly where we began….“He who defends everything, defends nothing” declared Frederick the Great, back in the 18th century….....The long-hallowed principle of separating editorial and advertising (‘church vs. state’) is starting to crumble with Time’s edict that in future the former will coordinate with the latter…Hundreds of millions brought in by Somali piracy has enabled pirates to be paid from $35,000-75,000 per operation but they are fined for ‘bad behavior’…..Dutch police have trained rats to sniff out drugs and explosives…”We may be thwarting hackers with our passwords” notes Will Durst, “but the first casuality is usually ourselves. Half our time is spent logging in.”….. A British company has developed the Morpher Helmet of tough polystyrene and nylon that can fold into a block that fits into a cyclists’s briefcase….Note also Maddak’s Morph Wheels, for wheelchairs, whose jointed rims and solid tires let them fold into half their regular height….And the first folding kayak is the 12-foot Oru which can be easily assembled in five minutes…..St. Louis (pop: 3m) celebrates its 250th anniversary this year…. the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, following its 100th anniversary last year, is featuring ten, huge watercolors interpreting the L.A. Aqueduct which is also celebrating its century….. “I’m afraid, based on my experience, that fascism will come to America in the name of National Security”, forecast Jim Garrison in 1968…..”Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed” says an NYT editorial, “Mr. (Edward) Snowden deserves better than a life of exile, fear and flight…It is time to offer (him) a plea bargain or some form of clemency”…. Researchers at Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute claim that eating an ounce of nuts every day led to a 20% lesser risk of dying….Happy New Year, Nigella, and may your show be a big success…..The crossword puzzle was invented 100 years ago last month by Arthur Wynne. I’ve still got the same attitude I had when I started” reminisced the much missed Robert Mitchum. “I haven’t changed anything except my underwear”…. ….Nature Neutroscience journal reported that a group of mice exposed to the smell of cherry blossoms showed signs of fear and unease. The mice were offspring of others who had been given mild shocks to their feet while smelling cherry blossoms. “Epigenic inheritance” is the way this curiously sadistic experiment was categorized… Whatever was voted the most annoying word for 5 years in a row…. “The revolution is a bridge that connects the past to the future. It is necessary, unpredictable, and inevitable.”—Ai Weiwei (1957– )
Bakewell and Chatsworth 2013 (part 1)
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— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Nineteen (continued)--Travels
— John Wilcock ... From the Archives: When you vote, don’t forget the Republican Paradox
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— 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.
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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