the column of lasting insignificance: April 5, 2014
by John Wilcock
THE KESSLER SYNDROME is the latest tag for the ongoing problems in space, in particular the increasing number of collisions predicted unless something is done to deal with the thousands of chunks of debris that are floating around without any curbs. But some things are being done, or at least imagined, notably the idea that if these rogue missiles can be slowed down enough, their altitude will drop and they’ll eventually burn up as they enter the earth’s atmosphere. Sean Shepherd of Eastern New Mexico University envisions a giant sticky ball that will become encrusted with loose fragments, finally sinking of its own weight, and Japan’s space agency JAXA plans to test a half-mile long fishing net, a tangle of electrified aluminum and steel wires, which will gather loose bits and fashion in similar fashion. In an illustrated feature titled Spring Cleaning in Space, the BBC’s Focus magazine points to a proposal by the University of Surrey that future satellites be equipped with a 5m x 5m sail that extends itself at the end of a mission and pulls the space vehicle back to earth.
THAT OVERSEXED FRENCHMAN Dominique Strauss-Kahn who got away with raping the chambermaid in a New York Hotel, returns to the scene in the April Harper’s where Ken Kalfus fictionalizes what he imagines might have been a letter to his victim. And although a product of Kalfus’ imagination, the tale is credibly all there in all its seedy glory, from the pompous boasting of the author’s worldwide renown and his tireless quest for female victims, to the moment when his “throbbing, searching, yearning soulless sixty-two-year-old over-Viagraed dick” found its target (for 20 seconds) in the mouth of an unwilling housekeeper.
MUST HAVE BEEN a lonely job to find yourself the only fighter trying to hold back the wave of consolidations that have begun to define Big Media. But that’s the position that former FCC commissioner Michael J. Copps found himself in when he was the sole vote against the purchase by Comcast of NBC-Universal. “Too much, too big, too powerful, too lacking in benefits for American consumers and citizens” was his unsuccessful protest at the time, and now—no longer a commissioner—he is alarmed by the pending further acquisition by Comcast of Time-Warner. Which would lead to one company controlling two-thirds of the market (Customers have rated both as the most disliked among all cable companies). “The agency” he muses sadly, “seldom met an industry transaction it didn’t approve”, and what he recalls about his tenure—in an open letter to journalists in the Columbia Journalism Review—was his front seat “watching government policy undermine your profession and our democracy”.
WEARING A TIE certainly doesn’t have the cachet it used to. “For most of my working life the primary risk was that if you didn’t wear a tie you might appear underdressed” writes Fortune’s managing editor Andy Serwer. “Now the bigger risk is that if you do wear a tie you might appear overdressed. In other words, a tie is no longer benign, it’s a negative”. Not only do ties serve no function, he declares, they make life more difficult and whereas tie sales peaked at 1.8bn, today they’re less than half of that. In creative fields, opines Lauren A. Rothman, author of Style Bible: What to Wear to Work, “no one wears them except as a fashion accessory”.
THE WORLD’S RICHEST MAN, Bill Gates, 58, with a fortune that’s now more than $76bn, was interviewed by Rolling Stone’s Jeff Goodell who said that he might also be the most optimistic.
ON INCOME INEQUALITY: When tax rates are below, say, 50percent I believe there often is room for additional taxation. And I’ve been very upfront on the need to increase estate taxes….You can’t have a rigid view that all new taxes are evil. Yes, they have negative effects, but I’m like (Paul) Krugman in that if you expect the state to do these things, they are going to cost money”.
ON MARK ZUCKERBERG: We’re both Harvard dropouts, we both had strong, stubborn views of what software could do. I give him more credit for shaping the interface of his product. He’s more of a product manager than I was. I’m more of a coder, down in the bowels and the architecture, than he is. But you know that’s not a major difference. I start with architecture and Mark starts with products, and Steve Jobs started with aesthetics.
ON IMMIGRATION: Yes, the US immigration laws are bad—really really bad. I’d say treatment of immigrants is one of the greatest injustices done in our government’s name. Well, our bad education system might top it—but immigration is pretty insane. You’ve got 12 million people living in fear of arbitrary things that might happen to them.
ON INNOVATION Before 1700, everybody was poor as hell. Life was short and brutish…But then we started inventing—electricity, steam engines, microprocessors, understanding genetics and medicine and things like that. Stability and education are important—I’m not taking anything away from that—but innovation is the real driver of progress.
WHAT THE NRA doesn’t want you to know is that public health research about gun ownership shows that it may be more likely to lead to suicide or homicide than self-defense. So claims Bloomberg Businessweek, which explains that the reason why the NRA is “panicked” about the possibility of Dr. Vivek Murphy’s elevation to the post of Surgeon General is the likelihood of more research about gun ownership. “What if professional, peer-reviewed science exposes most of the gun grips’ claims as nonsense? Over the past two decades the NRA has made it abundantly clear that it views quality research as a threat to its agenda”.
THE WILCOCK WEB: The billion dollars that Congress is offering the Ukraine will presumably go soon enough to Russia as it jacks up its energy prices for its beleaguered neighbor…. The Saturday Evening Post re-purposed one of its 1960 Norman Rockwell covers by replacing the figures in a room with the cast of AMC’s Mad Men which returns to television next week…. Analyzing your online activity to guess what you’ll buy next, Amazon may start shipping these items to a warehouse near you, hoping to deliver your order faster, says Focus….. A religious “law” is an oxymoron, whatever the religion, and if it prohibits a divorced woman from getting married again she should defiantly use both common sense and courage to ignore it….All the big greedy auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christies are paying lobbyists millions to oppose a proposed law which would allow artists to get a share when their pictures are resold….The “patent trolls” who have been snapping up patents just so they can sue companies who use them, are being countered by John Amster’s company RPX which has already spent $500m getting to the patents first….Unbeaten in his last 45 fights, welterweight Floyd Mayweather, 37, with ten homes, 17 cars and 1,000 pairs of shoes, fights Argentinian Marcos Maidana, 31 at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand next month….. Coca Cola says the billions it will be paying to its executives is for being the “custodians of the secret formula” as if that legendary formula couldn’t be cracked by any research scientist at any time….…Determined to get more aficionados for hummus, Pepsico has six colorful trucks touring the country handing out thousands of free samples of its Sabra brand every day claiming that 70% of recipients buy some within a few weeks afterwards….Beard transplants, costing thousands of dollars, are in vogue in New York and London says The Week, for men who can’t grow their own…. Spurred by Obama’s comments, Extra concludes that not all
National Weed (1974, issue #3)
Bakewell and Chatsworth 2013 (part 1)
send a comment to John Wilcock
- Complete column archives: 2006 - present
— The real, true, history...
— Alice, Alice at 85, seed money, supermax, and of course, the Wilcock Web...
— About being in love..., Persoff and Marshall, and of course, the Wilcock Web...
— The Candy Store
— From the archives... The religion of Violence & Statistics, otherwise known as college football; WPA II; Would it be called Indiastan or Pakindia?; Who you Gonna call? Crime Predictors; Being a Bank means you never having to say you're sorry; Oil vs. Democracy, and of course, the Wilcock Web...
— From the archives... The Mother of All Family Feuds, Otaku Means Geek in Japanese, Affirmative Action or 'It all depends on who you know', The Moonies are packin', and of course, the Wilcock Web......
— Dear Reader,
— 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