the column of lasting insignificance: April 19, 2014
by John Wilcock
COUNTRIES SPLITTING UP seems to be a global theme these days—Sudan and South Sudan, the Ukraine and Crimea, Belgium’s Flemish and Walloons, “Imagine how many secession movements there are in Africa” remarks the Guardian: six in Ethiopia alone; a dozen in Burma, Asia and the Americas... the list of would-be seceders around the world is staggering”. Even in such a long-established partnership as Britain, Scotland wants to break away from the United Kingdom, raising all kinds of problems about the currency and which ministers would still get to vote in Westminster after the scheduled referendum in September. In Spain, the Catalonians centered on Barcelona, have longed for their own state; Brittany would like to break away from France; even Venice would prefer to be alone. “That’s the problem with nationalism” writes Stephen Moss. “Where does it end? Once you stir the nationalist pot, you can never know where it will lead. We may be entering the age of the microstate”.
THE SMARTEST MAN in Russia, former world chess champion Gary Kasparov, thinks that Vladimir Putin will come to a bad end. “I think he will not die (before he leaves office); I think he will be removed, and unfortunately in Russia, I’m afraid it will not happen peacefully…The question is how violent this removal is, whether there’s bloodshed, whether it’s limited to the capital or just to the palace”. The Russian grandmaster, 51 this week, held his title for almost 20 years until his retirement in 2005, when he formed a political party to oppose Putin. He was interviewed for the Smithsonian by Ron Rosenbaum, the New York writer known as an authority on Hitler and Shakespeare, who has called him “a major player in that great game of liberty versus tyranny in which the globe is the board”. Russia’s failure, Kasparov suggested, was a reflection of the failure of the U.S. and Western Europe to recognize the new trends. “A lot of positive things could’ve happened. Clinton could have offered a plan for Russia, Eastern Europe, similar to the Marshall Plan. Any plan. We say in chess, a bad plan is better than no plan”.
YOUR SEX LIFE is likely to diminish if you take anti-depressants, warns Men’s Health, with the “drug-specific” benefits being “clinically negligible. The chemicals that seem to make life enjoyable, are the same ones that throttle lust”, it explains, quoting evolutionary biologist Helen Fisher: “When it comes to love and attachment, you want all your natural abilities in place. You don’t want them blunted or altered”. Pasadena psychiatrist Stuart Shipko estimates that two thirds of the people prescribed anti-depressants display diminished sex drive and suggests that the sexual disfunction by drugs is much worse than that caused by depression.
SAWBUCKED TO DEATH: “These days, the only thing harder than making money is hanging on to it. Easier to protect dandelion fuzz in a tornado. Everywhere you go, everyone wants a taste. Their only job is to get a grip on your money. And some of these folks are pretty darn good at their jobs.” The preceding is the opening of a column by Will Durst which I recommend everybody to read. Click here to read the rest of it.
RESPONDING TO OBJECTIONS about raising the minimum wage, Boston Review writes that even some right wingers such as former American Conservative publisher Ron Unz are now supporting the idea on the grounds that it would make jobs more desirable. (i) It would balance the huge uptick in the cost of higher education. “Many marginal students are dropping out... leaving them with student loan debts and no degree. Meanwhile the job market continues to produce jobs that do not need to be filled by highly educated workers”; (ii) It decreases the cost of welfare. “If wages are too low, workers still need government income support such as food stamps or tax credits”; (iii) “A higher minimum would make low-wage jobs more desirable to Americans, and in turn employers would rely less on undocumented workers”.
WHAT A GREAT IDEA, Peter Fox had. Give the guy a medal. Bothered by the closing of the village’s only shop in Clifton, Derbyshire, Fox, 50, figured that the answer was a giant vending
CALLING HIM “a thief, a fool, a man incapable of managing his own affairs” a writer in Johannesburg’s Daily Maverick nevertheless forecasts that South African president Jacob Zuma will be re-elected as the country’s president next month. Crookedness, cronyism, and “straight-up idiocy” are cited as among the faults of Zuma’s ANC party which has been steadily losing support, writes Richard Poplak, but is still strong enough to win. One of the main accusations against Zuma is the way he has turned his vacation home into an island of luxury in a “sea of poverty”, spending $23m on a swimming pool, visitor center and amphitheater, describing the additions as “security”.
GANGSTER NAMES have become popular for restaurants in Spain and the authorities in Italy regard this as an offer they’d like to refuse. A chain of more than 30 mob-themed pizza and pasta joints called La Mafia are decorated with images of notorious killers. Italian politicians first became aware of the theme by an article in La Repubblica, denouncing them as “squalid” and “offensive to our national image”.
THE WILCOCK WEB: Britain’s equivalent of the CIA, the Secret Intelligence Service known as MI6, is running full-page magazine ads seeking recruits. A circular chart eliminates most readers after each question (“Thank you for your time”) concluding with: www.sis.gov.uk/careers/working-for-us/fast-track.html ……. John Kerry will never solve the Mideast dilemma if both sides are as bored with him as everybody else…. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE—have withdrawn their ambassadors from Qatar because it says that its support of Al Jazeera “stirs sedition” ….. How much has Comcast spent bribing pols so far, and which ones, to make sure they vote for their merger with Time Warner?….”Television is a device that permits people who haven’t anything to do, watch people who can’t do anything” jibed Fred Allen….“Pakistan, not Afghanistan, has been the true enemy” writes veteran NYT reporter Carlotta Gall in her book, The Wrong Enemy, which strongly implies that the US military has known this all along……..“The past is never dead” proffered William Faulkner, “It’s not even past”....If you think the state might owe you some unclaimed money, check out MissingMoney.com….Even the possibility of a third Bush president is a scary thought….. Britain’s PoundPub has plans for a branch in Stockton-on-Tees where a pint of beer will cost just one pound ($1.70) …..It’s the rich against the rest….Sotheby’s is expecting that a solitary British Guiana 1c stamp from 1856 is expected to fetch $12 million bucks when it’s auctioned in June… Salma Hayek, 12 years after an Oscar nomination for her role as Frida Kahlo
complains that she is still defined as “Mexican, half-Arab” and even now offered “stripper and maid parts”…..The risk of a stroke rises three-fold and of a heart attack five-fold within two hours after you lose your temper, says the Daily Mail….It’s a definite mystery why people describe the miserably acerbic David Letterman as a comedian….That obnoxious and fraudulent billionaire Steven A. Cohen, shucking off most of his employees to run his renamed SAC Capital (now Point 2 Asset Management) as a firm to handle his personal wealth of $9bn, says he’ll only need a staff of 850….Newspapers are increasingly disguising ads as editorial, complains Andrew Sullivan in the Sunday Times. “But it’s not journalism” certainly not “honest journalism”....Aberdeen’s Brewdog Brewery has sent a case of its new “protest brew” bearing the label Hello My Name is Vladimir Putin to the Kremlin, declaring that the 8.2% pale ale contains Russian “Limmonik berries and traces of sarcasm”….Hong Kong’s media is experiencing “growing paranoia” about the recent trade agreements which they claim are making the former colony utterly dependent on the increasing settlement of mainland consumers whose numbers are growing alarmingly…. ….Operators of a new UK lesbian-dating app have complained that it has been inundated by men “who fancied their chances at bypassing the verification process”... The universe is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper” —Eden Philpotts (1862–1960)
National Weed (1974, issue #3)
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
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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