the column of lasting insignificance: January 17, 2015
by John Wilcock
ONCE AN IDEA forces its way into the public domain, it can never be pushed back; it will only grow and spread, eventually fulfilling itself, even if it takes a long time. Consider, for example, the case of marijuana which as early as the Sixties we knew would one day become at least quasi-legal. (In the underground press, we used to joke that whatever we wrote about was likely to be on Time’s cover two years later). Currently there’s another hitherto impossible idea that’s finally beginning to surface: the idea of freedom coming to China. “It’s clear that reforms are critical for maintaining China’s stability” wrote the Nation in one of numerous similar assessments in contemporary magazines that followed the transfer to power in that country from one set of geriatrics to another.
OBAMA’S POT PROBLEM explains Rolling Stone is that federal agents like the DEA “are staffed with hardliners who have built their careers on going after pot”. What will the Feds do in response to the growing acceptance of the blessed herb? “Advocates of legalization are hoping that the Obama administration will recognize that it’s on the wrong side of history” writes Tim Dickinson, suggesting that before major changes kick in there may be a time for some kind of a truce between the government and states that have voted for legalization (WA and CO). “There’s no inherent need for a knee-jerk Federal response” says Drug Policy Alliance director Ethan Nadelman, whom RS has described as "the point man for drug-policy-reform efforts. “When it comes to pot, the government is both impotent and omnipotent” Dickinson writes. It’s within President Obama’s power to shut down DEA raids and order the Justice Department to make enforcement of marihuana laws the lowest priority. And with an eye on his legacy he should treat pot prohibition like another costly misadventure, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a boxed-off personal note imploring the president to “end this war”, RS publisher Jann Wenner termed it “a sham, a folly, a colossal waste of money and human potential”, a prohibition that last year wasted nearly $8bn and caused the arrest of 750,000 Americans. “And, Mr. President, you can end it with a few strokes of your pen”.
A WIN FOR EITHER SIDE in Syria’s civil war would be disastrous according to Glenn E Robinson, writing in Current History, where he suggests that a regime victory would leave the country totally isolated but for the tenuous lifeline offered by Russia, China and Iran. And a third round of civil war would loom in the future because “the regime would never allow the majority population to essentially vote it out of power”. On the other hand, regime collapse would likely bring out Islamic rule which would “almost certainly lead to significant levels of revenge killing…(and) the emigration of hundreds of thousands of Syrian Christians”. From America’s perspective, writes Robinson, an associate professor at the US Naval Postgraduate School, a continuing civil war maintaining a rough balance of power, would result in a peace brought about by compromise. But obviously it’s a tragedy that Bashar al-Assad can’t see that the logic of history verifies that he can’t possibly win the civil war.
NOT A SINGLE TERRORIST has been caught by the intrusive Transportation Security Administration despite its $8 billion budget writes Charles Keany in Businessweek. “All this spending on airline security is worse than wasteful” he charges, because not only have the ubiquitous searches turned US travel into an ordeal, but they have led many passengers “to ditch flying in favor of driving which is statistically far more dangerous”—an additional 242 traffic deaths a month, according to s Cornell University survey.
THE GENERALS, Thomas E. Ricks’ book of that title, explains that some of our military troubles are that however badly they perform, commanding officers just don’t get fired any more. He compares this with World War II when 600 officers were relieved by General George Marshall and Supreme Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower advised George Patton “to be cold-blooded about removing inefficient officers”. Reviewing the book in the weekly Standard, Tim Kane writes that officers are chosen today by “a faceless bureaucracy”. Leadership training programs are wasted, he maintains, because of “the refusal to distinguish or promote talent. The Pentagon has perfected teaching judgment to its officers but has abdicated passing judgment upon them”.
THE YEAR-END LOGJAM of movies being released puts earlier releases at a big disadvantage when it comes to voting for the Oscars writes the Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg. So he suggests that the Academy divide the year into two portions, asking members to vote for five ‘best’ films in each period. “That would give studios a tremendous incentive to release quality movies throughout the year”. Feinberg also urges the Academy to reach out more to the general public, maybe even being invited “in a limited degree” into the Oscar voting and the show itself.
A BIBLE ISN’T REQUIRED for the inaugural ceremony, although tradition decrees that one be used. President Obama, as in 2008, will take the oath of office on the same bible used by Lincoln in 1864, but it’s not that the Constitution requires it. Over the years, the ritual has “taken on some of the trappings of what the scholars call ‘civil religion’” explains Rob Boston in Church & State, a monthly newsletter devoted to keeping the two apart. “In an era in which many people feared the power of God more than the state” he writes, “swearing an oath on the Bible made a certain amount of sense…. failure to tell the truth meant more than time in jail; it put your immortal soul at risk”.
THE WILCOCK WEB: The Pentagon is finally starting to admit two truths: That the US can’t possibly win in Afghanistan while they’re there, and that The Taliban will regain control as soon as they leave….Meanwhile, if we capture any of the brave warriors who’ve been killing nurses doing vaccinations, the best way to teach them what they need to know, would be to shoot them with the polio virus instead of bullets….…..”There was a time in the world” says CBS reporter Lara Logan, 41, “when we honestly thought if people just know this is happening, nobody will stand for it…". When somebody marches into a movie theater and shoots 80 people, why is it necessary to hold a hearing to determine if there’s enough evidence for a trial?.....All it took was the introduction of tweetings to demonstrate what a petty, petulant nitwit Rupert Murdoch is. A typical Murdoch moronity: Why is Jewish-owned press so consistently anti-Israel?..... Mexico’s new president wants to change the country’s official name (Estados Unidos Mexicanos) into simply ‘Mexico’ ….“a word unprintable here” was the New York Times reference to an expletive used on the cover of some women’s magazine. How ridiculous! A word that’s the whole reason for the story and the paper can’t say what it is?.... …..,.Spending excessive time on Facebook enhances self-esteem, reports the Journal of Consumer Research, which in turn results in “increased binge eating, a lower credit score, and higher levels of credit card debt”…..... … Reviewing Quentin Tarantino’s violent movie Django Unchained, the National Review commented: “He is a clown selling tickets to slobs”….Isn’t it about time that churches paid taxes on their billion dollars-worth of property ?…. When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion ….Although they will still need to seek their husband’s permission, Saudi Arabian women with three years’ experience and a law degree will now be allowed to practice in that country’s courts…..“Don’t judge folks by their relatives” says The Ol’ Farmer… ….A teacher in every gunshop teaching morals, suggests Larry Russell, would be better than a gun in every school…. Italian fashion partners Domenico Dolce and Stefino Gabana are on trial
for tax evasion….…A one-way glass window allows users of this toilet (at right) in Sulphur Springs, TX, to admire the outside scenery while attending to more urgent matters ….….The big winners in the election of course, reports the Media Watch Group’s Extra were the ad agencies, DC consultants and media companies with CBS alone reporting an additional $180million in profits…. Although it receives $30,000 ‘sponsorship’ fees every time a star is inducted, the Hollywood Walk of Fame is requesting more from the studios to do necessary repairs and upgrading to the 15-block attraction…. Three hundred production companies, mostly lacking both funds and modern equipment, standing by ready to launch Sierra Leon’s movie industry (Sollywood), seeking to emulate Nigeria’s Nollywood, which earns that country $250m per year…. Is there such a shortage of abandoned children in the US that anxious couples have to go to other countries to adopt?....”We must teach future leaders that political courage is not political suicide”—Arnold Schwarzenegger (1947- )
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- Complete column archives: 2006 - present
— 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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November 20, 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