The column of lasting insignificance   Ojai Orange   blog   Books   Marijuana   Press   Archives   Contact

the column of lasting insignificance...
—for July 20, 2016 by John Wilcock

"You cannot hope to bribe or twist, thank God,
The British journalist
But seeing what the man will do, unbribed,
There is no reason to."
--popular ditty from the 1940s

was a travesty that sent many innocent people to jail during its heyday in the ‘80s and ‘90s. And although it may well be that there are people who were molested by their relatives during their childhood, many others—sometimes coached by therapists, law enforcers or trouble-makers-- just made up their stories. It was years before honest investigators could get a grip on the nationwide ”moral panic” to expose the fallacies, and much of the credit goes to a UC Irvine psychology and law professor Elizabeth Loftus, 66, who was recently honored with a Scientific Freedom and Responsibility citation by the American Association for Advancement of Science.
      Accepting the award, she recounted the “relentless vitriol and harassment” she had endured from a public culture “that alternates between hostility to science and irrational expectations of what science can provide”. Stressing the words freedom and responsibility, she modestly declared that she was “merely a scientist interested in the fallibility and malleability of memory”.

James Randi Elizabeth Loftus Joe Nickell
James Randi Elizabeth Loftus Joe Nickell

      Along with God-botherer Richard Dawkins and the magicians Penn and Teller, Professor Loftus will be in Las Vegas next week addressing James Randi’s annual ”Amazing Meeting” which assembles most of the country’s naysayers, all doubtless fans of Randi’s Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds & Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural. The late Martin Gardner, a brilliant polymath if ever there was one, will appear via video and Penn Jilette’s Private Rock & Roll Doughnut & Bacon Party will be a feature.
      Although various associations of skeptics will collaborate in this event, much of the cynicism about so-called “magical” occurrences center around the monthly magazine, the Skeptical Inquirer whose editor Kendrick Frazier writes: ”Our minds are a wonder. They have grand capacities for creativity. Sometimes, influenced by the pop culture all around us, they create things we then think are real”.

Virgin Mary
Virgin Mary Crying for No Reason
Picture and comment from the Onion

      A potent example is the subject of “miracle oil” whose manifestation happens to be last month’s inquiry by SI’s chief paranormal investigator Joe Nickell, another of the scheduled speakers. Nickell, 66, whose earlier careers have included carnival pitchman, blackjack dealer and private detective, visited a home in California’s Union City where a statue of the Virgin Mary was reported to weep real tears.
      “I showed (the owner) how a trickle that is already on a statue could go unnoticed from one low-light vantage point, then as the viewer moved could catch light and glint as if it had suddenly appeared” Nickell wrote. “I have been at sites where flickering candles placed before an oil icon could cause the trickles to seem to be moving, flowing”.
      But there are also well-charted tricks such as mingling the oil with animal fat which melts and flows realistically with the rising heat of the room.
      In the Union City case, the investigators sent a sample of the oil for analysis, finding it contained a synthetic compound used by the perfume industry to keep elements together. “Presumably a deity could use any substance it wished (to produce tears)” was Nickell’s summary, “but it was unlikely God would need to use a synthetic material”.

EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE unique is the reminder from the Journal of Consumer Research. They really dislike it when the copycat is someone similar to them. “Have you ever gone to a party only to learn upon arrival that another guest is wearing the same dress or shirt as you?” ask authors Katherine White (University of British Columbia) and Jennifer J. Argo (University of Alberta). The researchers looked at what happens when someone else copies a consumer’s product choice and they found that participants showed a surprising eagerness to change or get rid of products that had nothing wrong with them, simply because of the likeness. Is this simply a womanly thing? The report doesn’t say.

Dear reader,

Today's column is on of the almost 500 columns I ran on the Ojai Orange site between 2006 and 2014. These will, of course, be free as is everything on my sites, and has been for the past decade or so. But, I do request that if you find these columns interesting, that you consider sending a donation, which you could possibly write off as a gift for my birthday on August 4, when I will be 90.

Chapters from my autobiography, Manhattan Memories will continue to run on


John Wilcock
Ojai, CA 93023

ONLY A FEW MORE months from now the world’s best-selling prescription drug Lipitor will go into the public domain. It has been yielding Pfizer around $12bn a year which will presumably end when other companies are allowed to manufacture generic versions of this statin whose actual name is avorvastatin, Federal rules will theoretically allow Pfizer’s designated successor, Ranbaxy, India’s largest pharmaceutical company to have exclusive rights for six months but there is a potential snag. “The Food and Drug Administration has accused Ranbaxy of ‘a pattern of systemic fraudulent conduct’ over the years” reports Fortune. The Indian company has denied misconduct and claims it has cooperated fully with the government, but one of the other seven generic drugmakers has sued the FDA complaining about the agency’s continuing “indecision”.

Virgin Mary
Gregory Bull - AP

AFTER HIS SUCCESS dispensing deep-fried Girl Scout cookies, Twinkies, Klondike bars, two million Oreo cookies and a Krispi Kreme chicken sandwich, Charlie Boghosian found new success at last month’s San Diego County Fair with fried Kool Aid balls (he adds flour and water to the powder). The Associated Press reports that 42-year-old “Chicken Charlie” has spent two decades “testing the limits of what can be cooked in grease and still taste good”. The 300-lb Boghosian says his deep-fried $5.95 Kool Aid treat has been a huge seller. “I just love how frying makes things crunchy on the outside and good on the inside. We leave all the calories in the oil”.

TOO SNOOTY to attract mass appeal is the rueful conclusion made by the moguls of yacht racing who have decided that, beginning this year, World Cup events will be made more popular. “They hope to convert sailing from an obscure sport, associated with old school preppies and temperamental billionaires, to a commercially viable version of NASCAR or snowboarding” explains Fortune in a story quoting Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s view that the sport lacked “the right TV coverage”. The billionaire tycoon, whose Oracle Racing team won the Cup last year, is already planning a challenge for the 2013 races (whose finals will be held in San Francisco Bay) but with faster 72-ft catamarans, smaller crews and shorter events.

THE RISE OF CHARITY RACES are the subject of Smart Money’s story “Cashathon” which claims that the events have become not only redundant but often give the charity less than they cost to produce. “These days’, says the mag, “ the walkathon business boasts its own event producers, consultants, trade shows, and technology vendors (and) charities have assembled massive in-house staffs to support the strategy”.
      But Barbara Jo Kirshbaum, a 73-year-old California therapist who has completed 123 long-distance breast cancer walks across the country, pleads, “It takes money to make money”. The high cost of staging these events—venue rental, sound system, rave gear, permits and security, fences and barricades, T-shirts, are just some expenses—often account for at least half of the money raised. The American Institute of Philanthropy estimates that the Avon Foundation for Women spends 52 cents on logistics and promotion for every dollar raised, compared with the nonprofit average of 15 to 20 cents.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Among the 163 people who have registered as candidates for the presidency in 2012, are Savannah Bush and Tanner Bush, both claiming to be legal children of former Florida governor Jeb Bush (who does not have children by either name). Other candidates include President Emperor Caesar Buonaparte of the Absolute Dictator Party and Jonathan “The Impaler” Sharkey. (Anybody can fill out a form to be a candidate)….If you’ve ever wondered why Supremo Clarence ‘Uncle Tom’ Thomas is such a jerk, the fact that Ayn Rand is his favorite author may help to explain it…”My whole life I was taught that it was okay to call a woman a bitch once you get in a position of power” confesses Snoop Dogg. “But as I became a man, and seeing that wasn’t the right way, I changed direction.”….If U/S. consumers paid the same as Canadians (rather than 38% more) for the same brand-name meds, writes In These TimesTerry J. Allen they would save as much as $50-bn a year…. When I give to the poor” says Brazilian bishop Dom Hélder Cãmara “they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor they call me a communist”…. There are still believers in that Mayan fantasy that the world will end next year and they have been flocking to the southern France hilltop village of Bugarach (pop: 189) which believers say will be spared…. …. If Fed Ex and UPS were to merge, would they call it Fed UP?.....Novelist Salman Rushdie is writing a one-hour sci-fi drama for Showtime, claiming (says The Week) that “highbrow television series have all but replaced the novel in the popular imagination”….. “The nice thing about being a celebrity” says Henry Kissinger, “is that, if you bore people, they think it’s their fault”…..David Sedaris claims that “one in three Americans weigh as much as the other two”…...The University of Pittsburg’s Dr. Eric Nofzinger invented a water-filled cap which, when worn on the head, reduces insomnia-causing metabolism and appears to promote sleep…. The U.S. has more prisons than China, despite having a billion fewer citizens writes Peter Mokos in the Washington Post, blaming for the imbalance “idiotic war on drugs” and America’s vast “prison-industrial complex”…. “We don't know what we want”, mused Will Rogers, “but we are ready to bite somebody to get it”….. Hackers managed to meddle with the online dating site (whose members have to vote on new applicants) resulting in 30,000 “ugly” new members which the site has just evicted…. The wise and brave dares own that he was wrong—-Benjamin Franklin (1706-90)

This column first appeared on 7/9/11

comments? send an email to John Wilcock

Now Available in Print!!

John Wilcock: New York Years, Book One

A comic book history of the rise of the 1960s underground media.
by Ethan Persoff and Scott Marshall

Don't let a real-life comic strip sneak by unnoticed. This one's too unusual (and brilliant) for that!

also available on
Marijuana—The Weed That Changed the World

National Weed (1974, issue #3)


Over the past year, my combined medical and support costs from a stroke I had in April 2014 have been more than $100,000. If you'd like to help, use the Paypal donate button, or better yet, buy my book, and thank you. —JW


recent columns...

- Complete column archives: 2006 - present

The real, true, history...
Week of May 5, 2018

Alice, Alice at 85, seed money, supermax, and of course, the Wilcock Web...
Week of April 28, 2018

About being in love..., Persoff and Marshall, and of course, the Wilcock Web...
Week of April 21, 2018

The Candy Store
Week of January 20, 2018

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...
Week of December 9, 2017

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......
Week of December 2, 2017

Taxing land, not people, Is Socialism Scary?, Stars acting as assholes, Big Thinkers can be such Morons, and of course, The Wilcock Web...
Week of November 18, 2017

Dear Reader,
Week of August 23, 2017

Dear Readers...
Week of January 25, 2017

John Wilcock ... Marijuana, the symbolic center of the underground society
Week of June 8, 2016

John Wilcock ... From the Archives: Cuba Diary—Havana, April 2011
Week of April 20, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Nineteen (continued)--Travels
Week of April 16, 2016

John Wilcock ... From the Archives: When you vote, don’t forget the Republican Paradox
Week of April 13, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Nineteen--Travels: Tokyo-Rick Kennedy recalls; Japan on $5 a Day; About Chapbooks; Magic in South America
Week of April 9, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eighteen (continued)--Theory & Practice of Travel Writing; Remoteness of Callanish; Jim's Paris dinners
Week of April 2, 2016

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
Week of March 26, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen (continued)--London's Magical library; In the Cannes
Week of March 19, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seventeen--The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Week of March 12, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary (continued)
Week of March 5, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Sixteen--JW'S Secret Diary
Week of February 27, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen (Part Two--Manhattan phone book, JW'S Secret Diary
Week of February 20, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourteen--Party Circuit
Week of February 13, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part two, Soho Saturday
Week of February 6, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Thirteen--Figaro Diary, part one, Soho Saturday
Week of January 30, 2016

John Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve (continued)--Traveling with Nomad; SoHo Confidential
Week of January 23, 2016

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Twelve--Andy Gets Shot: Max's Kansas City; Jane Fonda's gesture; Christo & Jeanne-Claude
Week of January 16, 2016

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eleven (continued)-- We go to Rutgers, Ann Arbor ... What people say about Andy
Week of January 9, 2016

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eleven -- Andy Warhol First encounter....People talk about him....His movies...
Week of January 2, 2016

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Ten (continued)--The 'Movement' splits: Eldridge Cleaver Year of the Great Hoax…The OZ trial
Week of December 26, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Chapter Ten--Tom Forcade's smuggling funds High Times; Rolling Stone's underground sabotage
Week of December 19, 2015

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
Week of December 12, 2015

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
Week of December 5, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Eight (continued)--Japan: a working honeymoon; The Shinjuku Sutra
Week of November 28, 2015

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
Week of November 21, 2015

John-Wilcock ... Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seven (continued)--The Underground Press; Army revolt:  fragging officers; Bowart goes to Millbrook
Week of November 14, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Seven--The singing Tit-o-Gram; The East Village Other; Art & Forgery; Birth of Black Power; The Underground Press
Week of November 7, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six (continued)--Tom Forcade: smuggler supreme; That pathetic drug czar
Week of October 31, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Six—The weed that changed the world--Confessions of a pot smoker
Week of October 24, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Five—Reefer Madness (continued)--Jan and Stan change my life; The man who turned on the world
Week of October 17, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Five—Reefer Madness--The man who turned on the world; Tested by Harvard professors; Jan and Stan change my life
Week of October 10, 2015

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
Week of October 3, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Four—Into the '60s--More Working at The New York Times; Mexico On $5 a Day; What Richard Condon taught me; Henry Miller's wise words
Week of September 26, 2015

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
Week of September 19, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Three--More trouble with our star novelist; Lasting insignificance: the 3-dot column; Jean Shepherd’s phantom novel
Week of September 12, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Two--Steve Allen derides TV columnist; Marlene Dietrich--glamorous grandmother
Week of September 5, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter Two--Gilbert Seldes' The Lively Arts; Norman Mailer’s Voice column; Giving parties to meet strangers
Week of August 29, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter One--Chatting with Marilyn Monroe
Week of August 22, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Chapter One--Jack Kent Cooke tells me to stay in Canada; Becoming a New Yorker ;A new Village newspaper; The casual wisdom of Steve Allen
Week of August 15, 2015

Manhattan Memories: Introduction.
Week of August 8, 2015

- column archives: 2006 - present

in the press...

Now on Boing-Boing!
February 12, 2015

The New York Years - Issue 3 The New York Years
October 27, 2010

A Budget Travel Pioneer on a Time When $5 a Day Was Real (Frugal) Frugal Traveler
by Seth Kugel
John Wilcock at the New York Times

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.

(read more)

A Guide to Occult Britain

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

Manhattan MemoriesManhattan Memories
An Autobiography
by John Wilcock

“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