the column of lasting insignificance: January 25, 2014
by John Wilcock
PLASTIC SURGERY is not universally admired, and following the 14.6 million of them that took place last year, says the Utne Reader, a backlash has set in. Breast augmentations, nose jobs and liposuction are the surgeries in the lead, followed by eyelid surgeries, face lifts, and tummy tucks. Halle Berry calls this proliferation “really insane, and I feel sad that’s what society is doing to women” and a trio of stars—Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet and Rachel Weisz—have formed what they have dubbed the British Anti-Plastic Surgery League. “I feel like we’ve reached a tipping point and women are waking up,” says sixtyish model Cindy Joseph. “It’s exciting to see how many women are beginning to see themselves proudly”.
INSIDER TRADING is obviously impossible to stamp out because there’ll always be plenty of people who know what the market is going to do next and greedheads who’ll be willing to pay for that information. The Feds have been after SAC boss Steven A. Cohen for almost a decade, during which time several of his aides have been busted. Cohen must have known what they were doing, and almost certainly was implicated. But how do you prove it unless somebody blows the whistle on him? The whole financial structure is so wickedly unfair to everybody outside it (i.e. the 99%) and so lucrative to the insiders, that how could it ever change? Another crook who should be in jail is JPMorganChase’s Jamie Dimon. His company has now coughed up $20bn for its offences but, untouched, he walks away with his multi millions.
WEARABLE ELECTRONICS are now available to check out almost anything about yourself that the average person doesn’t need to know. Inc. carries a two-page picture of some tiresome athletic stud, loaded down with armbands, posture belt even a ‘smart shirt’ that measures the user’s heart rate and breathing, duplicated by a chest strap that adds ‘calories burned’. Google’s Glass (of course), plus helmet with video camera and a device to check the brainwaves. Smart socks track ‘speed and cadence’, a mini tape recorder catches all conversation and, just in case you bump into some foreigners, there’s also a device you can clip to your lapel able to translate speech into 25 languages. I’m speechless. The mag says wearable technology brought in $1.4bn last year but forecasts this will be $10bn by 2018.
IT WAS PROBABLY PREDICTABLE that Russia’s rush job on getting isolated Sochi ready for the winter Olympics would offer opportunities for graft but the payoffs have broken all records. It’s a tale of Putin-era Russia in microcosm, says Bloomberg BusinessWeek—“a story of ambition, hubris and greed”. The mag quotes Moscow consultant Igor Nikolaev: “In the beginning, money was a reason and argument for Russia to win the right to host the Olympics. But it turned out we spent so much that nobody is trying to talk about it any more”. Much of the $51bn cost—almost 25% more than China’s much bigger Summer Games—went in kickbacks to companies run by Putin’s friends, often without competition. An article in Russian Esquire estimated that for the $8.7bn the government spent on the road from Sochi to the mountain ski sites, it could have been paved entirely with a centimeter-thick coating of beluga caviar. “It can be hard to determine at which point inefficient and repeated work becomes outright theft” says BB, “but there seems to have been plenty of that in Sochi”.
THE ‘OCCUPY’ MOVEMENT wasn’t just something that happened and then was over writes Nathan Schneider in his book, Thank You, Anarchy. It should be thought of as practice for the future. “I saw a veil being lifted. Nobody who worked to make Occupy Wall Street happen imagined anything like what it actually did; it altered them and transformed them and, and messed with them…after that one can’t go back unchanged”.
THE EVER-GROWING BICYCLE lobby is getting more pushy than is justified by its size suggests Christopher Caldwell, who writes that the million or so cyclists in this country seem devoted to taking over up to one-third of the road space “ranged against the 200 million drivers who have a vague sense they are being duped”. In his essay in the Weekly Standard, Caldwell says that, confident as they are, doing good for the environment and public health, cyclists have been surprised to find that they are provoking mistrust and hostility. Bike riders don’t ‘share’ the road, he says, so much as take it over, often riding three or four abreast so drivers can’t pass, and disobeying traffic laws such as stop signs and red lights. In a recent year, more than 700 cyclists died on the road although obviously not all victims were to blame. Nevertheless, the mag concludes, “drivers are being taxed to subsidize their own eviction”.
FEDERAL COURTS ARE being “intellectually degraded” because politicians in both parties try to keep the brightest and most articulate lawyers from becoming judges writes John R. Lott, Jr. in a new book, Dumbing Down the Courts; How Politics Keep the Smartest Judges off the Bench. “Neither side wants to trust the other side’s brightest minds in such positions of power.” Lott asserts. “Judges who understand the law and are articulate can convince other judges hearing cases to change how they vote”.
THE WILCOCK WEB: When cell phones are allowed on planes they’re contemplating an extra charge for phone-free sections. Isn’t that the wrong way round?....If the CIA and the FBI didn’t so jealously guard their turf and decline to cooperate with each other, say the critics, the 911 disaster might have been prevented—and something like this could happen again unless they loosen up….Martin Aircraft’s new jetpack allows the wearer to soar to 8,000 feet at 63mph. It includes a parachute…. Lying face down and pumping his legs like pistons , Scottish inventor Graeme Obree, 42, says he has reached 56mph on the bicycle he built in his garage....The 65 descendants of the Bounty mutineers still living on remote Pitcairn island (3,000 miles east of New Zealand) account for about $81,000 in British subsidies each year. But tourist income is now expected to expand with the region’s designation of a marine protected area. A similar MPA around the Great Barrier Reef nets Australian billions every year…. The Guardian says that Edward Snowden has so far released only 1% of the documents he liberated….“For now”, writes NYT columnist Paul Krugman, “Republicans are in a deep sense enemies of America’s poor. And that will remain true no matter how hard the likes of Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio try to convince us otherwise”…. Maybe he’s been in hibernation, but appearing on Meet the Press, Time’s Mark Halperin referred to NJ governor Chris Christie as “someone who is magical in the way that politicians can be magical, like our last three presidents”. Huh?….…. New York’s attorney general has vowed to crack down on businesses who pay for favorable reviews on web sites… Those reactionary members of the Curia credited with making Benedict an ex-pope, must be plotting incessantly about how to regain the power that Pope Francis continues to take away… Resentful of turning over nearly $5bn a year to the BBC, TV-watchers in Britain were told it can’t be changed until 2017 when the rip-off is due for renewal….More is less, reads the truism, amply illustrated by Rite Aid’s five-blade razor whose shave is measurably less-efficient than any single-blade model….. A generic form of Bayer’s Nexaway cancer drug costs $140, compared with over-the-counter price of $4,500. Big Pharma insists it needs these obscene profits to pay for research but isn’t it time to pause with the research and let victims do a bit of catch up?... History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.” —Ambrose Bierce (1842-2014)
Bakewell and Chatsworth 2013 (part 1)
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— John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve (continued)--Traveling with Nomad; SoHo Confidential
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— 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