the column of lasting insignificance: August 31, 2016
by John Wilcock
WHAT IS IT that comes in a glitzy bottle made of Chinese plastic, from a country thousands of miles away, run by a military dictatorship, and is adored by Hollywood stars? The answer is Fiji Water, owned by Beverly Hills billionaires Stewart and Lynda Resnick, close friends of Arianna Huffington and greatly admired by all the pseudos who supposedly cherish the environment. The company gets its supplies from a 17-mile long aquifer from which (says Mother Jones’ report) “the notoriously corrupt and chronically-broke government has not been able to come up with the money or infrastructure to tap the water for its people”. In the nearest town, the water has been deemed unfit for human consumption and locals can buy bottled Fiji Water (at nearly New York prices). The Resnicks have been big-time donors to politicians as well as benefactors and to various museums etc. (they recently gave $250,000 to become a founding partner of the Salt Lake City soccer stadium). After Fijians threatened to burn the plant down, the company set up a local charity to help villages near the aquifer. It dispensed $100,000 in 2007, the year before it spent $10million on marketing costs. “We do so much for these forgotten people” piously exclaimed Mrs. Resnick, as her company justifies shipping the millions of bottles 5,740 miles on the grounds (says MJ) that ”they travel on ships that would be making the trip anyway”.
CLASS WARFARE is the terminology too often selectively used by the media to portray “the ongoing persecution of the wealthy at the hands of the poor” declares Extra! writers Radley Glasser and Steve Rendall. And the truth, reports the magazine of the media watch group FAIR, is that the phrase was almost 18 times more likely to depict ‘bottom-up’ action than ‘top-down’ action, one example of which was bailing out the banks at the expense of the taxpayer.
SMELL TECHNOLOGY is finding its place in the sun, turning up in such places as bottle caps which release an infusion into drinks as the bottle cap is removed. Pennsylvania-based ScentSational Technologies reports working with a baby food producer so parents can smell “freshness” when they open the jars. Fortune says most of what we call taste happens not in our mouths but our noses. “Aromas, in essence, can trick your brain into thinking you are tasting certain flavors”.
SOME NEW INVENTIONS reported by Popular Science: A suitcase which can be locked and unlocked by a fingerprint on the sensor…. Atlanta’s Hothead Technologies’ football helmet that can sound the alarm if a player gets overheated…. the Rescue Reel, a self-propelled harness with which people trapped in burning skyscrapers can rappel themselves to safety…. the Vegawatt, a filtration device with which restaurants can convert their waste oil into diesel fuel which powers a generator… ….green styrofoam (Greensulate) made from mushrooms.
An effective if obvious way to reduce excessive drinking is to raise the price of alcohol, and momentum is building internationally for price hikes suggests the New Scientist. If 50 pence (about 75c) became the minimum charge for a unit of alcohol, coupled with a ban on cheap drink promotions, the mag says, there would be 34,000 fewer deaths in England alone and hospital admissions would be reduced by 100,000.
RUSSIAN OIL BILLIONAIRE Roman Abramovich, who owns Chelsea Football Club, heads the Art News list of 200 Top Art Collectors and is one of the 49 remaining Russian billionaires, half as many as a few years back. (There are 793 billionaires today in a world that once had 1,125).
READY TO FLY at a leisurely 45mph on tests flights this fall is a plane whose huge wings are mounted with 12,000 photovoltaic cells providing just enough power for its four 10-horsepower motors. The Solar Impulse, built by a team led by Swiss inventor Bertrand Piccard, will start with overnight flights, heading eastwards to catch the most sun exposure, climbing by day to 28,500 feet and descending gradually at night.
YOU MAY REMEMBER olestra, that calorie-free oil used to make potato chips that promised not to add weight. What they did add, however, was a laxative tendency which didn’t help sales. Now olestra is back—as an additive to paint that Procter & Gamble claims prevent it sticking to molds.
THE WILCOCK WEB: Despite the justifiable anger of Lockerbee victims, it was only humane to release the guy serving time for causing it since he’s already dying. There was always some doubt that he was solely responsible for bringing down the 747…. Considering how much damage he did to Burma’s San Sui Kiy by swimming across the lake to see her, John Yettaw deserved to stay in jail but anyway, good to see him released, too…. If the runways at that Alaskan island airport are too short, wouldn’t it be cheaper to use smaller planes than spend $15 million on a new airport?…. Is anyone surprised that Clarence (Uncle Tom) Thomas was supremely indifferent to a black man being executed even when there was new evidence to examine?…. The inventor of the Segway, Dan Kamin, 57, who forecast it would be bought by millions (in eight years, the $3,000 device actually has sold only 50,000) will soon introduce a box that will burn cow dung to power a water purification device…. “The only thing to do with good advice” said Oscar Wilde, “is to pass it on. It is never any use to oneself….” The rooftop café at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art sells slices of cake replicating Mondrian paintings…. And the cell phone that Yayoi Kusama designed for Japan’s KDDI phone company resembles a pink and white spotted Dalmatian… Deft definition Bozone—The substance surrounding stupid people, that stops bright ideas from penetrating…. Investors feel happier on sunny days but mistakenly attribute that happiness to stock prospects, UC Irvine professor David Hirshleifer told Psychology Today. “It’s the halo effect”… Two Roads West, a play about the IRA’s former battles in Ireland, takes place in a taxi driving up and down Belfast streets with a backseat audience of five…. Will Andy Rooney ever run out of trivia?…. Subsidizing opera is unfair to poor people writes Sunday Times columnist Stephen Pollard when football fans have to pay full price for their tickets but fans of “high culture” are generously subsidized by everybody else…”Man has lost the capacity to foresee and forestall. He will end by destroying the earth”—Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)
This column first appeared in 8/22/09
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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, donâ€™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 Sixâ€”The weed that changed the world--Confessions of a pot smoker
— Manhattan Memories: Chapter Fourâ€”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, ECHOÂ 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