the column of lasting insignificance...
UNLIKELY AS IT MIGHT SEEM, Cuba has the latent prospect of being at the forefront of the next “intelligence-driven boom” if opening up trade allows a blossoming of its creativity and entrepreneurial innovation. So predicts Wired, pointing to the island’s investment in medical research, the ingenuity of its artisans (think of how they’re kept those 50-year-old cars running!), their language skills, a capacity for high-tech outsourcing. “There’s tremendous potential” says Gustav Ranis, an economic development expert at Yale. “Cubans are eerily well-educated, particularly for such an impoverished people. Education is one thing Castro has done right: 98.8 percent of adults are literate and nearly a third have graduated from high school, many with the sort of vocational training the U.S. foolishly let slip a generation ago”.
IT’S TRUE THAT building a pipeline from San Francisco Bay in the west or Suisan Bay in the northeast all the way to the parched San Joaquin Valley would be expensive, but sooner or later more arid agriculture regions will be obliged to do something similar. What happens next? The sea water is pumped into vast meter-deep pools, atop which glass or plastic is angled so that solar rays condense fresh water which runs off endlessly from the underside of the cover. There’s plenty of precedents for this process around the world with Dupont being a major researcher about the subject.
The way that countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have been buying farmland to grow food in poor countries has been described as “the great water grab” reports the Economist, explaining that water shortages have been the “hidden impulse” behind many of the deals. The total area concerned is equivalent to one-fifth of all the farmland in the European Union. With the land comes the right to draw the water linked to it, says the magazine, asking: “Is this beneficial foreign investment or neocolonialism?”
ICELAND MAY HAVE BEEN the first Western country to declare bankruptcy but it may also become the first to achieve a comeback from what’s underground. And that’s not oil, coal, gas or gold, but hot water. “The island is basically one big volcano” explains Popular Science, “formed over millions of years as molten rock bubbled up from the seafloor”. And what this Kentucky-sized country plans to do with this geothermal resource, is to drill far enough down (they’re two miles deep already) for an endless supply of steam to drive turbines able to deliver as much energy as a small nuclear plant becoming “the global model for geothermal projects”. Eventually the country hopes its successful scheme will enable it to offload energy to the rest of Europe.
IN WHAT IT CALLED “The Ideas Issue” Atlantic magazine offered six pages of Quick Fixes to current problems. They included the suggestion that banks be required to allow occupants of foreclosed homes to remain in the property indefinitely paying fair market rent; that the UN overcome its objections to “mercenaries” and hire private military companies for peacekeeping duties; sell huge chunks of the ocean to profit-making companies which will have an obvious incentive for seeing they are not over-fished to extinction; hand out temporary work visas to immigrants from poor countries; abolish all taxes except one on the ownership of land; redesign the dollar; allow 18-year-olds to drink after they’ve completed an alcohol education course; and abolish the vice presidency.
THE THIRD WHEEL in Meg Hirshberg’s marriage, she reveals, is Bond Girl who’s everywhere with them—in the restaurant, at the tennis court, on the boat and at the beach. “Bond Girl is an irresistible superwoman... she has become too big to fire”. Bond Girl, aka her husband’s Blackberry, “knows all Gary’s secrets and contains all his memories. She alone knows where he’ll be today, tomorrow and ever after”. Writing about “Sharing Gary” in Inc., the frustrated wife quotes MIT professor Sherry Turkle who says that most people feel anxious about a disconnect from the world. “We’re losing the knack for solitude and the desire to ‘be here now’”.
THE WILCOCK WEB: According to The Book of Days (1979), Egyptian priests identified July 21 as the first day of the world…. One month before the 40th anniversary of the Charlie Manson murders, Los Angeles is running an 18-page pictorial recap of the horrifying tale….It’s not unthinkable that Iran’s Supreme Leader may become the former Supreme Leader before too long…. Hong Kong’s Asia Times reports on China’s growing problem with government officials gambling away public funds: the head of one state-owned company blew $14 million betting with online casinos…If the Swiss bank UBS doesn’t care to observe U.S. laws, why isn’t it banned from doing business in this country?….No matter how far you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery….New 20p coins lacking a date issued by Britain’s Royal Mint have been selling for thousands of bucks on eBay…. .Future astronauts will be spending so many years en route to distant planets that they may as well amputate their legs suggests University College of London professor Lewis Dartnell because “in space legs are just a hindrance, dragging around behind you”….London’s Royal Court Theatre will stage Enron: the Musical in September….Hoping to compensate for declining cigarette sales with a renewed emphasis on snuff, Philip Morris will presumably be shifting cancer from the lungs to the gums….“A lot of people” observed Doug Larson, “mistake a short memory for a clear conscience”…. There are still companies that will allow you to drive a car across country for them (with a $350 refundable deposit), one of which is Auto Driveaway (800/346-2277)… If fear alters your behavior, you’re already defeated”—Brenda Hammond
This column first appeared on 7/11/09
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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.
- column archives: 2006 - present
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February 12, 2015
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