the column of lasting insignificance: March 15, 2014
by John Wilcock
TWENTY YEARS AGO this month was the death of the revered writer Charles Bukowski, the California poet and novelist whose earliest appreciation came from the underground press in the Sixties. Time magazine once tagged him a “laureate of American lowlife” and he was the proud victim of an FBI investigation whose personnel were avid readers of his serialized Notes of a Dirty Old Man. Bukowski’s work appeared in Other Scenes, my ‘60s tabloid, along with dozens of other rags, all of which delighted in his matter-of-fact tales of ordinary folk.
TEN YEARS EDITING the innovative magazine Wired, and working for the renowned Economist before that, certainly gave Chris Anderson some heavy credentials. Then, four years ago, justifying his earlier nomination as one of the world’s most influential people, he became self-employed, heading south of the border to found 3D Robotics, one of the earliest drone companies, establishing his manufacturing in Tijuana and headquarters in Berkeley. In a recent Popular Mechanics he revealed that it all began for him with the purchase of an early 3D home-printing kit which started a revolution in manufacturing, allowing amateurs to handle processes that once required trained toolmakers. In effect, virtually anybody can start a small company and grow it into a big one. Talking of the 3D desktop printer, he explained, “You’d be surprised at how much of the manufacturing process can be done at this scale... Several thousand parts can be produced in a few days by someone with no special skills (its cost) as little as 1 or 2 per cent of what professional production would cost”.
TOUGH LOVE BY THE BOSS can definitely be a good thing—just as long as her/she doesn’t overdo it. That’s the advice from Inc. which suggests that the tough taskmaster of old seems to be a dying breed. “Rather than touting the structure and discipline of their companies, founders these days seem more interested in flaunting their quirks and perks”. Research shows that tough love can be an effective form of leadership, the mag avers, provided one strikes the proper balance between tough and love. Christine Porath, a professor at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, warns: You never want to use fear as your primary motivator. Even if it makes employees want to perform better, they can’t”.
AS MORE BUSINESSES shift online, hackers have plenty of targets to aim at points out the Economist, bringing us the saga of the Knowledge Consulting Group which spends most of its time trying to work into clients’ computer systems to assess how vulnerable they are. “We’re getting in almost every time” says the Group’s head, Andrew Whitaker referring significantly to the software that controls critical infrastructure such as water and power supplies. Stolen user names, encrypted passwords, and email addresses are apparently all easy targets to hackers who know what they are doing, with one popular trick—the sending of fake phishing emails, making requests that appear to be from legitimate sources. Countering such attacks is the practice known as ‘penetration testing’ (pentests) which smart companies use or commission because they believe that outsiders can spot things that internal security teams miss.
LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE is a sentence being served by at least 3,200 people for non-violent offences, reports the ACLU, with almost 80% of them for drug crimes. Most of these sentences were mandatory, not allowing the judge any alternative no matter how much mercy might be warranted. It will hardly be surprising to learn that blacks are 20 times more likely than whites, among non-violent life-without-parole prisoners in federal jails: 91% of them in Louisiana, 70% in Mississippi, 68% in South Carolina. “Long sentences have not made drugs harder to buy or Americans less likely to get high” says the Economist. “Evidence that they reduce crime is skimpy; the vast sums spent on them would surely reduce crime more if spent instead on detective work, drug treatment and rehabilitation”.
“AUTHENTICITY IS EVERYTHING TODAY, and bourbon, with its long history and made-in-America honesty, is as authentic as it gets” declares Fortune explaining why the famous sour mash—a legal requirement in Tennessee whiskey—is making a comeback. (Sour mash—a mixture of grain, malt, and water—contains a partly fermented mix with some yeast whose working together to create lactic acid is what gives bourbon its distinctive taste). “This is probably the best time to be in bourbon since Prohibition” says Brown-Forman’s Tim DeLong who supervises Jack Daniels’ and Woodford Reserve. His rival, Jim Beam, has just been bought by the Japanese Suntory distiller for $16bn. And scores of new entrants are hoping to cash in on the boom with domestic whiskey sales leaping by 40% in recent years and the number of craft distilleries from 24 to 430 in the past decade. “In the ‘70s and ‘80s” says Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers Association, “bourbon was your father’s drink, or worse, your grandfather’s drink. But it’s not just a drink anymore—it’s part of the culture”.
ART FOR THE OFFICE, or even the home, can now be rented, and changed every month if required, with the arrival of Art Remba, a New York company that has partnered with nine city galleries and several artist studios. “A lot of people I know have fabulous apartments and completely empty walls” Art Remba’s founder Nahema Mehta, told Bloomberg Businessweek. “Our whole impetus is, once it’s on your wall, you can feel more comfortable about starting to collect. The most expensive canvas currently on rental ($500 per month) sells for $150,000, but most artworks are in the under-$2,000 range, with rents as low as $50. Galleries and artists get as much as 50% of the fees.
THE WILCOCK WEB: In moving troops into the Crimea, Russia was predictably protecting its own people, but the US reacted with suspicious overkill, almost as if it was seeking an excuse to revive the Cold War.... It seems that the only thing that the dozens of Indian casinos have in common is jealousy about each other’s gambling greed and how to block it… Fryscraper is the catchy term for those recent glassy highrises—London’s Walkie Talkie, Las Vegas’ Vdara Hotel, Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall) whose reflective concave, structures focus the sun so precisely that they have melted cars caught in their glare… Once overpaid lawyers join the one per cent, you’d think that some sense of obligatory decency would compel them to offer their services more often as public defenders…. “The comfort of the rich” declared Voltaire, “depends upon an abundant supply of the poor”….Popular Science columnist Virginia Hughes says some European countries recycle up to 50% of the heat generated from making electricity so why do US companies waste most of it?....... Greenpoint Technologies says it already has one customer (price: “tens of millions of dollars”) for its new Aerolift to whisk billionaires into their private jet without having to climb steps. But it needs another order to make it worth building them..... Immigration proponents in South Carolina cheered a court decision relieving police of the obligation to check immigration papers, claiming that doing so was “police misconduct”…. A Daily Telegraph story about the Lego company, still based in the Danish town of Billund, revealed that there are 86 Lego bricks for every person on earth….. Responding to the increasing number of beer drinkers in their ‘20s who have been shifting to spirits, the big brewers are creating stronger beers, first Anheuser Busch’s Black Crown with 6% alcohol and now Miller’s Fortune with 6.9% in a stand-out black bottle that resembles vodka. Alcohol content of most widely distributed beers in the $30bn industry have been 4-5% alcohol….The relationship between California’s GOP gubernatorial aspirant Tim Donnelly and his guns is likely to end badly….… This is the 70th anniversary of the admirable Heifer organization (Heifer.com) which began with a shipment of cows to feed starving children in war-torn Europe, and now allows anyone anywhere to donate a cow (horse, pig, goat) to a poor family anywhere….The British version of Readers Digest, bought by an investment company for $20m a few years ago, was just sold for $2 to new owners who think they can revive it…..Junk & Disorderly, a used-items store in Chesterfield, won the title of Best Punning Name for a store in England (runner-up: Pane in the Glass for a window store)….“Selling your body is better than selling your soul” was the angry response to government critics who tried to crack down on Dongguan, widely known as China’s Sin City for its multitude of brothels… …. The latest model of lifeboat is built to survive tsunamis, capable of righting itself after capsizing and holding safely up to 35 people with adequate supplies for a week… Two hundred years ago this month, an alliance of European countries captured Paris and overthrew Napoleon…. “I believe there is something out there watching us. Unfortunately, it’s the government”—Woody Allen (1935– )
National Weed (1974, issue #3)
Bakewell and Chatsworth 2013 (part 1)
comments? send an email to John Wilcock
— Degree inflation—‘sorry, you're overqualified’; pedal-powered planes are back at Lasham airfield; More NAFTA, really?; tons of rattlers on the barbie—it all tastes like bony chicken, 3D babies printed to order; What's the FAA doing about all of those drones?; and of course, the Wilcock Web...
— Fussin' and cussin’ on 'Capital in the 21st Century'; meet Professor Dumpster; throw Congress in the trash; bring back the WPA!; the life and times of Alex Ferguson; and of course, the Wilcock Web...
— A conversation on Spring; Happy Centennial Current History magazine!; Democracy—still the best game in town; Switzerland proposes a guaranteed income; forced sexual orientation changes?; and of course, the Wilcock Web...
— All sonic, no boom—Aerion's new high-speed business-class jet; Susan Sontag, …after all these years; Goldman Sachs—still high on the list of “Best” companies to work for?; How long can the EU survive?; True love—this bra cracks the code, and releases the clasp; scalpel, sponge, retractor… all done by robots; life in the big house,—pay up!; and of course, the Wilcock Web...
— Matriarch II—the mother-in-law scenario played out in India; bikers without helmets—just plain dumb! …and costly; is Netflix reshaping the game?; inflatable avalanche rescue pack!; No, and I mean NO!!!; the Jeopardy computer gets a BIG upgrade; startup… smartup; and of course, the Wilcock Web...
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in the press...
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Participating in the Harvard Psilocybin Project (Part Three)
November 21, 2013
July 13, 2012
Manhattan Memories: an autobiography
(The complete review begins on p.175)
December 1, 2011
On the Ground: An Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U.S
November 28, 2011
The Book Bench - Loose leafs from the New Yorker Books Department
October 22, 2011
An authorized comic book biography of John Wilcock,
This is a book length comic series on John Wilcock. People who enjoy focusing on underground and alternative media are occasionally familiar with John's work, but most often the response is "who's that?" Outside of small press historians and collectors, John remains very unknown. Which makes no sense, the more you learn about him. We're very excited about the opportunity to tell his story. Art for THE STORY OF JOHN WILCOCK is by me and co-conspirator Scott Marshall. Story comes from an extended and ongoing year-long interview with Wilcock, himself. The focus is John's years in New York, roughly 1954-1971.
“The Return of the World's Worst Businessman”
John Wilcock is not what you would call a household name, and yet, he has had a measurable impact on art, journalism and culture-at-large over the last century. He co-founded Interview with Andy Warhol. He also was one of the co-founders of The Village Voice. He has written for countless print and online publications: Frommer’s, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Mail, The East Village Other, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Ojai Orange, etc. So why, one feels inclined to ask, is he relatively unknown? The answer seems simple: Wilcock has called himself “the world’s worst businessman.” This self-description makes sense because listening to him one hears the voice of a writer and a traveler and an enthusiast, not at all the voice of a businessman. In an age when it seems like everyone is all about business—art as a business, fashion as a business, everything as a business—it is refreshing to hear someone self-identify as “the world’s worst businessman.” It seems less like he has failed as a businessman and more like he has refused to become one. In addition to all his other accomplishments,...
Monday, November 15, 2010
A Reader Comment from the recent New York Times Frugal Traveler post
Not only did John Wilcock shake up staid publishing in the USA, from the Village Voice to the East Village Other, his influence extended to several continents, including Australia & the UK, where - in his mild mannered way - he pushed the boundaries of image and speech. The counter culture was nothing but a dull puddle, until John kicked out the jams and ignited the Underground Press, which attracted absurd prosecutions, that of course boosted circulations. An unsung hero of the sixties,
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.
"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."
The Autobiography and Sex Life of AndyWarhol