the column of lasting insignificance: August 16, 2014
by John Wilcock
There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents, and only one for birthday presents, you know.
From the Archives: August 15, 2009
WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? Obviously it’s not “rule by the people” because different sections of “the people” have different wishes and desires, often contradictory. How about “rule by a majority of the people”?
Well, this can produce ugly, unacceptable results. “No one would endorse a system in which 51% of the people can exploit, oppress or slay the other 49%” writes James L. Payne in The Independent Review.
One definition of democracy is a system that operates through representation after free elections, but the flaws in this are that not only do the representatives have to take positions on a wide variety of issues but that they are not honest about their intentions. “For most candidates” says Payne, “taking positions is a shallow advertising operation (which)..cannot be taken seriously as a guide to action”.
Making the World Safe for Muddle is the title of the Review’s piece and it makes the point that although Americans don’t care to admit it publicly, they have always understood that elections are not the essence of our system. Because if they believed that, they wouldn’t tolerate an unelected Supreme Court having as much power (if not more) to decide important policy questions, as presidents and senators. Not to mention the Electoral College—“a perfect negation of the theory of democratic elections”.
“The problem with democracy” Payne writes, “is not that it has no meaning, but that it has too many meanings”. And for an alternative, he points to George Washington’s farewell address urging the United States to “cultivate peace and harmony with all”.
So instead of assertively trying to impose our views on the rest of the world, we should strive to be a good neighbor and set a good example. “It would be eminently logical and moral for the United States to make the promotion of peace its main goal in world affairs”.
WORKING AT A satellite tracking station in Australia at the time of the moon launch, Gary Peach says it was his idea that the first words from the moon should be, One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. “I thought that, being Americans, they might say, ‘Holy chicken shit, look at all that fucking dust” says Peach, now 73. Astronaut Neil Armstrong claims he thought up the mankind phrase himself on the spur of the moment.
NOBODY HAS HAD the chutzpah to use the swastika as a sales pitch yet, but the hammer and sickle has become fair game. Panties, thongs and bras emblazoned with the old Soviet symbols are available via HammerSickleStuff.com, just one of the firms to spring up since London Fashion Week launched “Communist chic” a few years back. (The Daily Telegraph described it as: “Soviet style comes in from the cold”).
Now Real Soda in Real Bottles Ltd., the California company started by Danny Ginsburg who began collecting bottle caps as a teenager, has launched Leninade (almost 20 bucks a case).
IT WAS THE 15th century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus who discovered—much to the aggravation of the Catholic church—that the Earth revolves around the sun. This summer he gets a belated award with the naming of a new element after him, copernicium. On the Table of the Elements its symbol is cp, number 12. (numbers 1,2,3 and 4 are respectively hydrogen, helium, lithium and beryllum). How do you find a new element? This one was created at Germany’s Centrer for Heavy Ion Research by firing zinc atoms at lead atoms in a 400-ft long particle accelerator (whatever that is). As there are 118 elements altogether (although number 117 is mysteriously said to be “undiscovered”), this would seem to open up all kinds of possibilities.
THREE YEARS AFTER paying $1.65b in stock to acquire YouTube, Google is still in the red although it does makes money from about 13% of its videos (which are being uploaded to it at the astonishing rate of 20 hours each minute). At least it’s the world’s most-watched online video site (Hulu is second) and the Google folk seem willing to keep pouring in funds and support. “It ultimately is more interested in making sure that the company becomes the primary platform consumers use to generate, store, sort and view all their video content and communications” comments Fortune.
GET READY FOR a new way of evaluating food, not by fat or calories but with a new system: the Overall Nutritional Quality Index (ONQI) which compares such positive qualities as fiber, vitamins and fatty acids with such negatives as fat, sugar and salt content. On a scale in which broccoli rates as 100, for example, prunes would be 45 and popsicles a mere 1.
THE WILCOCK WEB: How can anyone deal with a religion that kills people on ‘rumors’ of a Koran being defaced, even if they’re not true?….It’s not in Britain’s interests to keep troops in Afghanistan, writes Malalai Joya in the Guardian, just to keep “a gang of corrupt warlords in power in Kabul”….”There is no situation so bad” wrote Brendan Behan, “that the arrival of a policeman cannot make it worse”…It’s a pity that Paula Abdul can only evaluate her worth by comparing it to other stars, instead of accepting that five million bucks a year is more than nine out of ten people will see in a lifetime… Thinking environ-mentally, Berlin’s Maison d’Envie brothel offers a discount to customers who arrive by bicycle ….”Flat rate sex is an immoral development” declares interior minister Herbert Rech referring to the way Stuttgart brothels are countering the recent drop in business by offering sex with multiple prostitutes ….British farmers are expecting a million visitors this summer to admire mazes built into cornfields, “maize mazes” as they are known…. Idiots who text while driving shouldn’t need a law to convince them of how stupid they are…. It’s a crazy world when Exxon Mobil moans over last quarter’s profit of “only” $3.95 billion (compared to double that for the same period last year ….Once much admired for his common sense. NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg increasingly reveals himself to be a typically self-regarding, sleazy pol….Any lawyer defending those hikers for trespassing across the Iran border should clearly plead insanity … The BBC’s Radio 4 is considering opening its religious slot, Thought for Today, to atheists….And, expanding their days off for religious holidays, British police forces are allowing a day off for pagans to celebrate the summer solstice….“There is no such source of error as the pursuit of absolute truth”—Samuel Butler (1835-1902)
Bakewell (part 2), its mayor, and its pudding...
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!
JOHN WILCOCK: Writing the Book "Mexico on 5 Dollars a Day" (Part One)
June 5, 2014
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