the column of lasting insignificance: September 6, 2014
The free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it - basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them.
I am trying to find myself. Sometimes that's not easy.
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From the Archives: September 5, 2009
THE BEST CHEF in the world is what innumerable people have called Spain’s Ferran Adrià whose Costa Brava restaurant elBulli manages to seat a mere 8,000 of the 300,000 potential customers who request a reservation every year. Adrià, 47, is notorious for such dishes as fried tobacco balls, a chicken skin and orange blossom envelope and ice cream served on garlic oil and vinegar. Delicious! (to some), but is it art? It’s provoked a fierce argument in art and foodie circles, exacerbated by the publication of Adrià’s book, Food for Thought, Thought for Food, already in three languages and claimed to have “revolutionized the world of gastronomy”. Some critics lashed into the chef when his recent ‘artwork’ was to create special dinners at Documenta (held every five years at Kassel in Germany). One, José de la Sota, wrote: “Adriá is not Picasso…What is art now? Is it something or nothing?”
LIES ARE EVERYWHERE and we can’t survive without them writes psychologist Robert Feldman in his new book, The Liar in Your Life. “Teens who are good liars tend to be more successful socially, and cancer patients who can deceive themselves into believing a falsely sunny prognosis are better at combating the disease”.
CALIFORNIA AS A Third World country. That’s the prospect envisaged by Alex Alexiev as he forecasts that “immigrants will likely soon dominate the state’s overall population and politics”. It’s not just that Hispanics are already a minority in the schools and that 40 per cent of immigrant families depend on public assistance, he writes in National Review, but that even after 20 years in the U.S. most remain “poor, unskilled and culturally isolated, a new permanent underclass”. And the site now has the country’s highest adult illiteracy. “We are witnessing a highly advanced and prosperous state, long endowed with superior human capital turning into the exact opposite in just one generation” Alexiev declares.
THE CSI EFFECT may be wonderfully convincing to television viewers but is very misleading to jurors, says Popular Mechanics, who “routinely afford confident scientific experts an almost mythic infallibility because they evoke the bold characters from crime dramas”. The magazine devotes eight pages to examining ballistics, bite marks, blood splatter patterns to conclude that much of the ‘science’ behind forensic science “rests on surprisingly shaky foundations”. In fact, it says, it was developed not by scientists but by cops “often guided by little more than common sense”. Even fingerprints have their limitations, although DNA evidence “has become the strongest tool in the courtroom”.
RACING AGAINST EACH OTHER, teams milked a cow, rushed the milk in a steaming pitcher to a home espresso machine and created a cappuccino on the spot for the judges. The report in barista magazine is of an earlier contest for the annual Nordic Barista Cup, an event that will take place Sept 16-19 in Iceland’s capital of Reykjavik. For this year’s event, to be attended by baristas from dozens of countries, teams will spend two days in the wilderness together, before returning to the capital to study in depth the coffee culture of Costa Rica to which the winning team will be transported next spring.
MACHISMO IN MEXICO is being undermined by the growing number of edecans (models hired for what Ms reports is a “steady stream” of expositions at the five enormous convention centers in the capital, whose population now tops 22 million. “The edecan is the first image clients get when they arrive” comments Isaac Abadi, head of a design firm, although it’s reported that as part of the job involves flirting, the ladies still have to deal with a lot of harassment and are sometimes regarded as prostitutes. Brazilians, Venezuelans, Argentinians and Czechs fill most of the $300-a-day jobs—“typically tall, voluptuous and golden skinned” the magazine explains, “representing an ideal Latin or European woman with little resemblance to the average Mexican woman”.
BORN OUT OF the space industry, solar energy has Bell Labs to thank for its initial success declares Ron Pernick in a Via Satellite story which declares that it is via space that solar power will eventually reach its high point. “Five power satellites could supply 2 percent of the energy needs for the United States” claims John Mankins, prexy of the Space Power Association which monitors current technology. “The development of space solar power must be an international undertaking and the U.S. should definitely play the leadership role in developing that effort”. The magazine cautions that not only will it be considerably more expensive to place this solar array in space rather than on the ground, but that the geo-stationery orbit where it must go, is already perilously crowded with satellites. Nevertheless, says Mankin, it would “encourage countries to start working together instead of in isolation”.
BY THE TIME the Fed caught up with Albert Talton in March, he’d successfully created and passed seven million dollars, maybe even more, and America’s most successful forger is now serving nine years. The story is told in this month’s Details: how Talton, 44, a career criminal, learned to counterfeit watermarks and security strips, to emulate the 75/25% cotton-linen paper, and fool the detection pens that make a yellow mark on genuine bills. “The security features make it more difficult” says Treasury Agent Edwin Donovan, “but there’s no such thing as uncounterfeitable”. After hanging them up to dry on a clothesline, Talton distributed the $100 bills (for about $12-16 apiece) to intermediaries, one of whom carelessly betrayed him. “A wise printer insulates himself do that the person who spends the money has no idea of its source” comments the magazine.
THE WILCOCK WEB: At a time when path-breaking advances are being made in biotechnology, nanotechnology and a dozen other similar areas, science journalism is declining says the Nation reporting that the number of U.S. papers with newspaper science sections has shrunk by almost-thirds….Involuntarily swearing when you hit your thumb with a hammer may be a good thing, says Keele University’s Dr. Richard Stephens, raising levels of adrenaline which acts as an anaesthetic?….. For a contest at Cambridge University next spring, 18 competitors are competing--for a prize of $15,000—at sending some half-ounce sized object into orbit on a miniscule budget of $1,500 ….“Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone” jeered Gertrude Stein…. You may think that burquas and niquabs demean women, says Christopher Caldwell, but what about “jeans that cinch halfway down the bumcrack?”…..Maybe that firm that invested (and lost) $585 in Readers’ Digest didn’t read the magazine first….A dozen members of Britain’s Upper House known as Law Lords, who have up to now been responsible for hearing final appeals, will don robes next month and be renamed as the country’s first Supreme Court… Small time preachers go to jail for stealing a few thousand bucks from church funds so how come televangelists who take millions get a pass?….Longchamp indubitably has the ugliest models…. Available soon: Inflatable walls, inset with air filters and oxygen supplies, that can be moved along on a cart by coal miners to block off the tunnel after an underground disaster....At a cost of $30,000 each, San Francisco is installing 360 new bus shelters whose solar panel roofs will channel thousands of kilowatts into the city’s grid…..Obviously New York’s blind Governor David A. Paterson can’t do the job as well as a sighted person but it’s not politically correct to say so, so nobody does….More than 200 people have booked $200,000 seats on Virgin Galactic’s space flights scheduled to begin next year. Among other operators planning flights are Xcor (offering four-minute fights for a bargain $95,000; the European Commission’s Fast 20XX (from Sweden but not before 2015); and $20 million seats available for Russia’s next flight in 2011… Deft definition: Osteopornosis -- a degenerate disease….…On Washington’s National Mall next month, 20 student teams will compete to build the most efficient solar-powered home….”The secret to creativity” alleged Albert Einstein,“is knowing how to hide your sources …. Getting attention on some college campuses are contests with the atlatl, a 25,000-year-old weapon which is described by Celine Rainville as “a stick that can hold a spear, or dart, and acts like another joint for your arm, giving you the ability to hurl a spear further.”…”To be wronged is nothing, unless you continue to remember it”—Confucius (550-479BC)
Bakewell and Chatsworth 2013 (part 1)
comments? send an email to John Wilcock
— “A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. ”
— “Only a few find the way, some don't recognize it when they do—some… don't ever want to.”
— “I wonder if I've been changed in the night. Let me think. Was I the same when I got up this morning?”
— “The Death of Marilyn Monroe (and George Whitman's Girlfriends)”
— “Living is easy with eyes closed”
— Wait-a-Minute: Seeking the Tranquility of Everyday Life along the Yangtze River in China
— John Wilcock: New York Years—Writing the Book "Mexico on 5 Dollars a Day" (Part One)
— John Wilcock: New York Years—Tips on Smuggling Pot into the United States
— Dear Readers, as I address you this summer, I am unable to write...
— LSD History: Michael Hollingshead Turns on the World
— Sneaking Julie Bovasso into McSorley's 'Men's Only' Saloon in 1961
— “Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem. How far I shall succeed in gratifying this ambition, is yet to be developed.”
— “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
— Bernie Sanders for Prez?; The Working Families Party—hatching movements one organization at a time; penny pot stocks—not without obvious risk; tall timber building—9 story apartment complex in East London employs 'plywood on steroids'; The Philosopher's Mail—populist news outlet alive to traditional philosophical virtues; Casinos know when to fold ‘em; and of course, the Wilcock Web...
— Breaking up is hard to do…; Kasparov vs. Putin--some pretty crushing moves; Your sex life on drugs…; 'Sawbucked to Death' by Will Durst; Right-wing support for a healthy minimum wage?; A novel 'convenient store'; Jacob Zuma--anything but presidential material, and he'll likely stay in power; estilo gángster pizzería en España; and of course, the Wilcock Web...
— 'Everybody is assumed to be an ally…'; from the archives
— The Kessler Syndrome—one huge traffic accident in space just waiting to happen; Dominique Strauss-Kahn—on forcing his way…; running the FCC with your hands tied behind your back; Black Tie or Tie-die?; Bill Gates the optimist; Mum's the word from the NRA regarding alarming gun owner behavior research; and of course, the Wilcock Web...
— Washington lobbyists—unless they say they're not…; groin rivalry?; Phillip Roth on the need to write; move over Fox TV; voter demographics by choice of booze; that 'wasted' space at the bottom of every page of the NYT; and of course, the Wilcock Web...
— Old friends will be aware that I published a tabloid underground newspaper in Manhattan in the '60s called Other Scenes, and although I have only a handful of these myself, I occasionally see others offered for sale on various websites....
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in the press...
Now on Boing-Boing!
JOHN WILCOCK: Writing the Book "Mexico on 5 Dollars a Day" (Part One)
June 5, 2014
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."