the column of lasting insignificance: February 1, 2014
by John Wilcock
A MASSIVE POOL OF CASH that is looking to invest ‘wherever it sees the potential for long term profits’, is how Fortune describes the $115bn in revenue of the Koch brothers (oil, timber, food, fertilizers, household products). “Chances are, nearly every store you walk into sells a Koch company product” says the website KochWatch.org which calls them “billionaires corrupting democracy” and urges a boycott. The site’s ire is triggered by the huge sums that Charles, 78, and David, 73, (each worth $36bn) have invested in such rightwing causes as repealing Obamacare and backing Tea Party candidates. They have “a distaste for big government and, some would argue, regulation that might infringe on the profitability of their businesses” says the mag, becoming in the process “all purpose bogeymen to those on the left”. Their father, it will come as no surprise, was one of the original members of the radical rightwing John Birch Society. Huge future profits for the company are expected to come from their increasing determination to privatize (and doubtless monopolize) water supplies. “Fresh clean water is increasingly scarce” Fortune notes, “and demand is growing”.
AWARENESS OF CONCUSSION, probably boosted by the current NFL payoffs, has brought new attention to its deadly presence in boxing. “The growing unease among some boxing writers is something new” writes Alan Neuhauser in Columbia Journalism Review. “The violence that makes the sport compelling has become its biggest problem”. Recent studies from Boston’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy (the word means ‘disorder or disease of the brain’) demonstrate that permanent brain damage from pugilism is almost certain. “Before, people were like ‘Okay, this is part of boxing, this isn’t something we’re focusing on” writes Ring Magazine’s editor Michael Rosenthal. “Now people are focusing on it”. And veteran sportswriter William Nack covered what he termed ‘a hell of a sport’ for 20 years but finally quit, confessing, “If you have any kind of sensibility, you’ve got to feel some kind of, not guilt, but misgiving about it. That’s probably too weak a word. Maybe guilt is the right word”. Why haven’t we covered this brutal sport more in the past? the magazine asked, quoting boxing promoter Lou DiBella: “I don’t think the writers give a rat’s ass about concussions”.
DECADES OF RESEARCH may finally have produced a vaccine for malaria which, in a typical year, chalks up as many as 200 million victims, 90% of them in Africa. Later this year, the British pharmaceutical firm of GlaxoSmithKlyne will seek regulatory approval for KTS,S which some tests have shown can counter the tiny single-celled malaria parasite which has shown to be much more complex than the bacteria and viruses that are the usual targets of vaccines. The World Health Organization reports 660 deaths from malaria in 2010.
BLASTING POP MUSIC at excruciatingly loud levels to repel pirates has been reported in the past, usually associated with specifying the music of Britney Spears. But this might have been a light-hearted—and possibly untrue—exaggeration of what actually happened, suggests the Media Watch Group’s newsletter Extra. The actual weapon, reports Germany’s Spiegel, is a tool called Long Range Acoustic Device, which the magazine describes as a futuristic sonic cannon developed by the Pentagon which can cause “excruciating headache and ear pain to the point that (the pirates) could no longer see or hear”.
ISN’T IT ALREADY conventional wisdom that global warning is threatening the world’s future unless we do something about it, asap? Not so, according to Richard Lindzen, an MIT meteorology professor and leading climate skeptic. He dismisses the threat as “small…and nothing to be alarmed about” and suggests that the widespread belief can all be explained by money, “to the incentive structure of academic research funded by government grants”, as the Weekly Standard puts it. “Almost all funding comes from the government which makes scientists essentially vassals of the state”. Generating fear, Lindzen contends, “is now the best way to ensure that policymakers keep the spigot open”. Undeniably, his opinions are definitely in the minority and often met with sarcasm by his colleagues. “Most people who think they’re a Galileo, are just wrong” scoffs climate scientist Richard C.J. Somerville.
THE WILCOCK WEB: After a less successful year, Goldman Sachs has cut its pay “showing a discipline on compensation that no other bank is showing”, according to financial observers. It has set aside for last year’s pay $12.61bn compared to $12.94bn the previous year…..Is Sochi equipped to shoot down bomb-carrying drones?.....California is undergoing yet another drought—and all those billions of gallons of nearby sea water just waiting for somebody to get serious about solar distillation…..An anti-bribe campaign in India has devised fake 50-rupee bills to hand out to people soliciting illegal payoffs….
A Personal Note
NEXT WEEK I BEGIN a series of chemotherapy sessions in which some noxious chemicals are injected into my veins attempting to eradicate the traces of cancer that still exist in my lymph nodes after the recent lung operation. The oncologist reports that my survival odds, normally about 50/50, improve to 60/40 in my favor by these treatments: at least three at three-week intervals. From all accounts it’s not a particularly pleasant experience, although apparently not as bad as it used to be, with some of the many potential after-effects including nausea and lack of sleep, with consequent weariness. It’s possible, therefore, that I might soon have to take a rest from this weekly column although, as a lifelong journalist, I will still fill the space, possibly with repeats of earlier work..
It’s eight years since I received any payment for my column—when it ran in the Montecito Journal—and so it is truly a work of love, the centerpiece of my life at an age when I don’t have much else to do. I once contemplated charging a small sum, but realized that would mean losing most of my readers and, in any case, I believe in my mission of forecasting the future, which I do by reading 50 magazines or so every month—political, scientific, artistic, social, cultural etc. An occasional reader might have defined the column as consisting merely of random quotes, but my regulars could have sensed that behind it is a specific viewpoint and philosophy. Just as in my underground paper days I am attempting to foresee what’s likely to happen through the vision of writers who explore trends long before they become newspaper stories. (The underground press used to jest that we wrote about stuff that would be on Time’s cover two years hence). “Coming events cast their shadows before” wrote Thomas Campbell in 1781, the impetus for my “column of lasting insignificance” which is meant to imply that something you read or learn which might not have much impact at the time, may assume more importance when you later become aware of its echo.
Most my writing has been documentation—birth of the Village Voice and the international underground, travel books covering a score of countries, three books about natural magic in 20 countries, history of the popes, 30 years co-editing the Witches Almanac, interviews with many of Andy Warhol’s friends, 60 issues of the Ojai Orange, and of course, all these years of reporting the zeitgeist via half a century of weekly columns—so I anticipate my work will have some value for researchers long after I am gone, Meanwhile, thanks for being here.
Bakewell and Chatsworth 2013 (part 1)
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In the Cannes
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— 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
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The Shinjuku Sutra
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— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six (continued)--Tom Forcade: smuggler supreme; That pathetic drug czar
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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
— 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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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