the column of lasting insignificance: December 13, 2014
by John Wilcock
KILL THE P@55WOrD is the cover story in the December issue of Wired which tells the dismal story of how the hackers have won and, no matter how
elaborate your precautions, the idea that a password will protect your information
is a fallacy. Our digital lives are just too easy to crack. “The age of the password has come to an end” Honan declares. “We just haven’t realized it yet and no one has
figured out what will take its place. The Internet doesn’t do secrets. Everyone is a
few clicks away from knowing everything”.
MAKING FAKE ID CARDS is a booming business, so profitable that—according, to one Florida expert—what might have cost you less than $50 a decade ago, is now priced ten times as much. Especially in Asian countries they’re cheap to forge and prosecution is rare. The Economist says that in China their main function is allowing admission to internet cafes. A study in 2009 concluded that, in this country, 17% of university freshmen and almost twice as many seniors owned a false ID. The percentage is probably higher today. With a pack of photo paper, laminating sheets, spray glue and a dash of Photoshop experience even an amateur forger can earn as much as $1,500 a week, the mag says.
A SLEAZY TRIANGLE OF ACADEMIA is how the Washington Monthly describes the pervasive ghost-writing business that encourages students to buy their essays instead of writing them. The mag reviews the book, The Shadow Scholar: How I made a living helping college students cheat, whose author Dave Tomar confesses to churning out five or six papers a day on every conceivable subject and once wrote a 160-page doctoral dissertation (for $4,000) based on a single-page instruction. The simplest way to bypass plagiarism-detection software, apparently, is with heavy use of a thesaurus. The book, says the magazine, is “ultimately an indictment not just of the paper mill industry…but of the contemporary higher education system which allows the industry to flourish”.
BLINDINGLY WHITE MARBLE statues don’t represent the way things were in ancient Greece, according to the Smithsonian which says their painted palette “displayed a sophisticated understanding of color and shading”. They commissioned Vinzenz Brinkmann to create a photomechanical reconstruction of the famous 1st century Lovatelli Venus from a Pompeii garden. It was an easy task, explained the German archaeologist, because a spectroscopical examination uncovered traces of the original pigment.
EXACTLY HOW MUCH TIME it took Marcel Proust to write Remembrance of Things Past is not known, but he worked on what became a seven-volume tome of “involuntary memory” for 13 years altogether, until his death aged 51 in 1922. Now, if you don’t have the patience to read it, you can listen for 150 hours to Neville Jason’s reading of 3,000 pages of the labyrinthine sentences. The longest audiobook in existence (120 CDs, costing $600), it features scores of male and female characters, all portrayed by Jason, a trained singer.
WHAT BIG PHARMA doesn’t like you to know about, is that public money pays more than three quarters of all research and development funds for new drugs, with patents awarded to companies in the late stage of development. The drugs are then priced so high that all around the world desperately sick people can’t afford them. “Treating illness is a social need and should not be a commercial goal like producing better phones” says Michelle Childs of Médecins Sans Frontières. The New Internationalist says that pharmaceutical companies claim that R&D costs are around $1.3bn per new drug but never produce the data to back up these claims. The mag mentions only one company, Novartis, which lists dozens of products on its website—of which the best-known is probably Ritalin—is posting quarterly earnings of double that. “Money before morals is the depressing bottom line”.
WITH A MAP illustrating how all but two of the 23 new network TV shows this year were filmed away from Los Angeles, Details revealed that the average cost of $2.7m per episode was keeping actors, key grips and boom operators well fed—but not in Hollywood. One reason for the exodus is that grants, discounts, and tax credits offered by some states are as high as 35%, at least 10% better than California’s tax relief.
THE TRIAL OF the Muslim army major who murdered 13 people at Fort Hood five years ago has become a farce with one judge after another sticking his nose into the affair to delay the trial even further. Disobeying an order to remove a newly-grown forbidden beard, the “alleged” killer was told it had to be removed because it changed his appearance from when witnesses saw him do the shooting and it would have to be shaved off. His lawyers want the judge who made the ruling to be removed.(“Alleged” is a ridiculous word seeing as the major indisputably did the shooting. And shaving off his beard would be a minor thing considering justice would best be served by shaving off his head).
THE WILCOCK WEB: How much longer will it take the Feds to admit that the war against marijuana has been lost?....Afghanistan’s corrupt boss Hamid Karzai is undoubtedly right that US behavior there with its contractors has made things worse for that country, but let’s get out anyway. Tomorrow….MoveOn.org’s Dump the Trump campaign to oust the Donald as Macy’s spokesman has collected 650,000 signatures, but Macy’s is stubbornly undeterred….One of the ways that the huge financial burdens on students could be reduced would be if more employers admitted their jobs could be done quite well without a college degree. Obviously this would not include work that included special training such as scientific, medical, educational etc, but so many other jobs really don’t need over-qualified employees…. …And if colleges made shorter contracts with football coaches, they couldn’t be stuck with such huge buyouts when they fire them (replacing them with expensive hires that rarely do any better)….… Consumers will spend more just to get rid of grimy currency bills because they evoke feelings of disgust, reports the Journal of Consumer Research, which guessed that they hang on to the crisp new currency to proudly spend around other people…..… Stamping dollar bills with slogans such as Money is not speech and Not to be used for bribing politicians is a campaign involving Ben & Jerry’s Ben Cohen which seeks to overturn Citizens United…..Rich French people, as greedy as any other tycoons are moving across the border to Belgium to avoid the new leftwing government’s 75% tax rate on incomes over $1.7m. Latest star to move is Gérard Depardieu….. Meanwhile the Belgian post office announced it would introduce chocolate-flavored stamps to celebrate the country’s best known export….Tennessee’s Wilton Tools Co. is offering $1,000 to anyone who destroys its new sledgehammer during normal use….. Omnishambles, a self-explanatory term, was named by the Oxford English Dictionary as its word of the year…. ….Lawyers for that Russian group Pussy Riot—jailed for their demo in Moscow’s cathedral—are trademarking the name and hoping to make millions from marketing subsidiary products….Supermodel Kate Moss admitted she had a tattoo on her lower back (two swallows) done by the artist Lucian Freud just before he died….…..“All profoundly original art looks ugly at first” explained art critic Clement Greenburg. Popular Science describes a new pill infused with copper and magnesium, when interacting with stomach fluids, sends an electrical impulse to a patch on the patient’s torso, confirming for the doctor that the meds have been taken….. Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont, which the NYT once wrote “has witnessed the misbehavior of generations of stars”, will itself be the star of Aaron Sorkin’s miniseries for HBO….And HBO, Universal Pictures and WikiLeaks are just three of the participants who have announced documentaries, bios or movies about Julian Assange, with most of the attention so far devoted to the plans of Megan Ellison, 26 year-old daughter of America’s second richest man, to film a story about Assange by Bill Keller….Rotating imprisoned gang members to different jails every now and again would surely lessen their influence?....An 1882 letter by Paul Gauguin complaining to artist Camille Pissaro that his job in finance has restricted him to being an “amateur painter”, is among historical mss (Van Gogh, Monet, Washington, Jefferson, Paul Revere , Darwin, Einstein, Edison) to be auctioned in New York on Dec 18 … ….A new poll, confirming what has long been standard wisdom, reveals that if they ever hold that long-promised referendum, 49% of Brits would leave the EU…. Judging by the apparently endless “80%-off” ads by competing rug companies in the Los Angeles Times over the past year, there must be millions of exotic rugs out there that nobody wants….“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.”—Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
From the Archives: this column originally ran two years ago this week...
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— 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.
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May 2, 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