the column of lasting insignificance...
IT’S SAFE TO GUESS that the general public never hears about what really goes on in our hallowed halls of congress—the wasted time, the hypocrisies, the idiocies, the basic indifference to and contempt for the ordinary people that these inflated, god-like humans display. Some hint of it is displayed in George Packer’s piece, The Empty Chamber, in last week’s New Yorker:
We don’t hear about what really goes on because there aren’t any reporters gutsy enough, or foolhardy enough, to tell us. There was one once in England, Bernard Levin, who was the first writer in modern times to pull back the curtain and show us what fools and knaves most politicians are. He was Arianna’s early mentor and companion, and so you might think that her Huffington Post could be a suitable place for such a similar ongoing exposé.
EATING JELLYFISH is what we’ll all be doing in a few years time if the depredation of the world’s fish population continues unchecked. This gloomy prediction comes from the Smithsonian which points out that in many places there are now more jellyfish (“brainless, bloodless and mostly aimless”) than actual fish. Many of the 1,000+ types of medusa are already eaten (dried and seasoned with soy sauce) in China and Japan and one research paper has termed it “the ultimate modern diet food”. Jellyfish have been proliferating so fast they have wiped out salmon farms, helped to exterminate the beluga sturgeon in the Caspian Sea, shut down nuclear plants by clogging the cooling equipment and sting or kill thousands of swimmers every year. In the Black Sea there are estimated to be 900 million tons of them (not a good place to swim). Their expansion is attributed partly to the fact that their natural predators have been almost fished to extinction causing jellyfish, says the mag, “to assume dominance in one marine ecosystem after another”.
TODAY’S NOVELISTS ARE avoiding writing about sex because they’re scared of winning a famous British literary prize, the Bad Sex Award, suggests Andrew Motion, one of the judges for the annual Man Booker Prize. “If there is one thing worse than a lousy lover, it is undoubtedly a lousy describer of the act of love,” says an editorial in the Observer. “Maybe “embarrassment now achieves what censorship used to”
NOT BEFORE TIME, the concept of what’s known as “restorative justice”—rehabilitation rather than jail—is beginning to take hold here and there. “Some states and localities are…putting offenders to work to repair the damage they caused the community rather than simply warehousing them in prisons” writes Sasha Abramsky in the Nation. Notoriously prison-tough Texas has been investing in such things as residential drug treatment centers, mental health facilities, halfway houses; Kansas and Michigan have followed suit. “All told ten states have embraced ‘justice reinvestment’ strategies” says the mag, “reducing prison spending, investing a portion of the savings in a more effective anticrime infrastructure…The era of ‘lock ’em up and throw away the key’ seems slowly to be drawing to a close”.
A FAMILIAR PROBLEM surfaces across the world as China tries to cope with illegal immigrants pouring across its border with Vietnam. Also among the undocumented are Cambodian and Burmese workers in search of a $5-a-day jobs in sugarcane fields, garment workshops and construction sites. Although the wages are meager they are sometimes triple what the immigrants can make back home and, fortuitously for employers, coincide with a time when Chinese factory workers are beginning to strike for higher pay. And Newsmax reports that the same nations that protest when the U.S. tries to enforce its immigration laws, have themselves some of the world’s harshest immigration policies. It names China, Egypt, Iran, Japan, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
WHAT MAY BE the world’s most dangerous city, Ciudad Juarez, logged 1,300 homicides in the first six months of this year, but its neighbor across the border, El Paso, had only one. Why the difference? asks Duncan Currie in National Review, suggesting that “community policing” might be the answer, coupled with the fact that smugglers coming through “jump on the interstate highway and head for more lucrative drug markets”. But the picture is not quite as rosy as it might appear. What El Paso lacks in murders, it makes up for in kidnappings of which some estimate there are “dozens”, although this is downplayed by the FBI.
YOUR DOG A STAR is the business model of a Santa Monica company, A Dog’s Life, which holds monthly contests inviting its customers to submit photos of their pets and vote on others on the company’s website. Winning pooches end up adorning the packets of such organic treats as jerky or lamb stew, and the owners say the extra $30,000 in sales from changing the packets every month is well worth the 20% extra printing costs.
THE WILCOCK WEB: So now that we’re (almost ready for) leaving Iraq, expect the age-old civil war to resume, something that was scheduled to happen several years ago (before the thousands of people we lost and killed in the meantime)…. Following its boring television blitz, hardly a day goes by when the JPMorganChase bank doesn’t run extravagant full-page ads in both Times….. Protestors have offered a $50,000 reward to anybody who succeeds in arresting former British prime minister Tony Blair when he attends a signing of his autobiography at a London bookstore next month. The Daily Mail says it will cost “a fortune” of taxpayers’ money to protect him….Union organizers are zeroing in on fast-food restaurants which, claims the Labor Relations Institute’s Philip Wilson, are “sitting ducks" for his recruiters.... When a war criminal who should have been shot at first sight. is on trial for three years, it just makes “justice” look ridiculous…. If both parties really want to erase the filibuster (“an absurd and destructive anachronism” says the Nation) why don’t they mutually agree to stop using it?…. Digital noises that match a car’s various sounds such as idling or accelerating, needed to warn unwary pedestrians or cyclists of the approach of otherwise silent electric models, have been devised by Harman International….. Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?…. Legal costs would be less exorbitant if law firms didn’t pay such ridiculously inflated salaries….Almost ready for testing is the male equivalent of a birth control pill which will work for up to three months at a time…. If marihuana was encouraged in jails instead of being banned, the ambience for both prisoners and guards would be much more serene …. Gloomy mosaics from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment dot the walls of Moscow’s new subway station, named for the novelist ….Children aged five and up are being given condoms at schools in Provincetown, MA.….. AccessMyID allows travelers to upload images of their passports, health insurance and other documents to a site from which you can print out temporary copies if you lose the originals… UNCOMPLIMENT: “He has Van Gogh’s ear for music”—Billy Wilder…. Procter & Gamble is backing Oprah Winfrey’s new cable channel with $100m worth of advertising over its first three years reports the Wall Street Journal …. The loveliest birthday cards I’ve ever seen are crafted in a tiny southern English village by jacquielawson.com…. When Obama is blamed by both sides of the same thing (health/Wall Street, not enough/too much), maybe that means he’s doing something right…. The search for someone to blame is always successful opined Robert Hall...Examine carefully unemployment benefit checks on official-looking state letterheads because many of them are fakes…. “Historically, Islam has always built mosques on the most sacred sites of the people they conquered” says Frank Gaffrey Jr., prexy of the Center for Security Policy…. “In the mountains of truth, you never climb in vain”—Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900)
This column first appeared on 8/14/10
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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