the column of lasting insignificance...
—December 9, 2017 by John Wilcock

From the archives...

(this column first appeared six years ago this week.)

NEWS FLASH (from Phil Proctor)
The Supreme Court has ruled that there cannot be a Nativity Scene in the United States’ Capital this Christmas season. This isn’t for any religious reason. They simply have been unable to find three Wise Men in the Nation’s Capitol. A search for a virgin continues. There was no problem, however, finding enough asses to fill the stable.

PERHAPS THE LUCKIEST thing about not being born in this country is never having been inducted into the religion of Violence&Statistics, otherwise known as college football. Football? It’s a silly title to begin with seeing how little the feet are involved. It should be called Body-Banging or Try-to-Run. There is something called football, a subtly skillful game predominating in the rest of the world where the players don’t go into a huddle every few seconds and un-helmeted heads are used to propel the ball and not to batter other players.
    “You ever been in a car crash?” asks former All-Pro Kris Jenkins. “Football is like that but ten times worse. I got my first NFL concussion against Green Bay, my rookie year…I’ve had more than 10, including college and the pros…The brain fog? It still hasn’t stopped. It feels like you’re punch drunk..it’s like you knock yourself stupid”. Jenkins, 32, played for ten years with the Carolina Panthers until injuries forced his retirement, and he recently reminisced to the New York Times about the reality of the game. “I’ve had my ankles twisted. I’ve been bit. I’ve done stuff. I’ve tried to break guys’ elbows, pinching people, twisting ankles, trying to bend up their arms, pop an elbow out. Why? I had to fight back…We consider football a gladiator sport because we understand you’re going to get hurt. You’re putting your life on the line”.
    Americans are a violent people and maybe this is where it all begins. “There aren’t too many places” ponders the onetime 360lb Super Bowl veteran, “that a 400lb guy with an attitude can go and beat the crap out of somebody. We love it. We love measuring ourselves in it”.
    An infantile passion for stats—rushing, passing, throwing, running—measures every part of American football, but here are some other statistics: Since 1890 when the U.S. massacred 300 Lahota Indians at Wounded Knee, the country has instigated 140 military interventions, brutally suppressing strikes; engineering CIA coups to overthrow governments in Iran, Guatemala and Cuba; interfering in Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Haiti and the Dominican Republic to serve the corporate interests of a land with as many guns as people. Violence? In this country, it’s taught in school.

CREATING NEW JOBS was a priority for government administrators in the 1930’s recession when the Civil Works Administration spent millions putting people to work, shoveling snow, fixing roads, digging ditches and so on. So why can’t something similar happen today? asks Thomas Frank in Harper’s. “If the economic stimulus moneys were spent directly hiring individuals” says Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute “they would have created 21 million jobs”. There have been attempts to promote some sort of WPA-type program through which local governments could offer jobs, (such as sending unemployed construction workers to repair “bedraggled school buildings”) but such schemes have always been rejected by the millionaires of the do-nothing Congress. Republicans who claim that lower taxes are what create jobs are blocking action, but Frank says “there’s something profoundly attractive about the idea that we can control our own economic fate, rather than waiting upon the whim of those self-designated job creators”.

AN UNTHINKABLE IDEA—the merging of India and Pakistan into a single country—is gaining some traction with a story in the weekly Standard suggesting that it might be the solution to “a problem like Pakistan”. The partition in 1947 of what had formerly been a British colony resulted initially in chaos and thousands of deaths and, even physically separated, the animosity between Hindus and Muslims has never abated. “In retrospect” says the mag, “splitting British India into East and West Pakistan and India may have been one of the 20th century’s greatest geostrategic errors…a reunited India would give Pakistani modernizers strategic depth: economically, demographically, socially and geographically”. But although such a reunion would have value, say Pakistani intellectuals, such a “solution” would probably take a generation.

PREDICTING WHERE CRIMES will take place sounds like a pipe dream but it’s a technique getting attention from several police departments. Among them Richmond, VA., Chicago and Memphis. Popular Science examines this phenomenon in Santa Cruz, CA. where a 30-year-old mathematician, George Mohler, has produced software simulating the algorithm used by seismologists to predict earthquakes. Algorithm is a word that pops up often in this sort of story. “We use algorithms every day” explains Webopedia. “For example, a recipe for baking a cake is an algorithm”. In other words, Mohler is copying the kind of formula which, surprisingly, is replicated in all kinds of ways such as changes in the weather and consumer patterns. “Criminals are just another type of consumer” says psychologist Colleen Mc Cue, co-author of a book examining what could be learned by studying Amazon and Walmart’s customers. In the case of Santa Cruz, parts of the city where the most crimes had taken place were defined as “hotspots” and patrolled on a regular basis as being the most likely scenes of future crimes. (Which, unsurprisingly, turned out to be the case). According to PS, McCue says that someday police officers “will be as adept at predicting what branch a bank robber will hold up next as Netflix and Amazon are at predicting what movie or book a customer will like”. Good luck with that.

NEVER HAVING TO SAY they’re sorry is another example of how there’s one law for banks and another for the rest of us. The Security Exchange Commission’s fraud cases against such as Citibank, J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America have been settled with comparatively minuscule fines without them having to admit guilt. (They’re worried they might get justifiably sued by their investors if they’re found to have done anything wrong.) You might try this gambit next time you’re in court. And isn’t it amusing that a firm is found to have “mislaid” more than a billion dollars but the stories keep emphasizing how they “haven’t been accused” of anything.

OIL VS DEMOCRACY really is a fact of life and in a much more substantial way than most people realize. Since the formation of OPEC and the subsequent oil embargo and escalation of oil prices in the 1970s “no country has ever successfully gone from dictatorship to democracy” says Harper’s. The more oil there is, the less likely citizens will be free. Oil wealth” the mag says “leads to authoritarianism. economic instability, corruption and violent conflict’. A forthcoming book. The Oil Curse: How Petroleum Wealth Shapes the Development of Nations by Michael L. Ross, explains that the oil wealth allows autocrats to stay in power by buying off their citizens with benefits, no taxes; to lavishly fund armed forces to maintain control and to keep secret where all the money goes and who gets it. “The oil curse will last only as long as the world buys huge quantities of oil”. And that’s not going to change very soon.

THE WILCOCK WEB: Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins says nothing can stop Iran from making a nuclear bomb so let them have it. “Nuclear dissemination, though deplorable, is overhyped”: other countries have it and haven’t used it….When all the London tabloids, led by Rupert Murdoch’s Sun, were hacking into people’s telephones, Piers Moron claims his Daily Mirror was an innocent exception…. The use of pain-killers has reached “epidemic levels” warns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that these legal drugs kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined….One-third of all US college graduates hold jobs for which their expensive degrees are unnecessary reports the National Review and America is “probably the only nation with nearly 18,000 parking attendants and 300,000 restaurant waiters and waitresses with bachelor degrees”….. A letter in the Nation reminded readers that it was Joe Biden, while chairing the Senate Judicial Committee who voted Clarence (Uncle Tom) Thomas to be Supremo…. Mattel maintains that its new tattooed Barbie is for adult collectors…. Once you've seen one shopping center, you've seen a mall…. ….Imagine the international outrage when a Russian shuttle gets stuck in space with American astronauts aboard… Branko Crnigorac, a Serbian who choked while eating a bicycle pedal, was taken to hospital where doctors discovered hundreds of forks, light bulbs and vinyl records in his stomach…..Spanish police have arrested a drug gang which was smuggling cocaine into the country shaped and styled to look like Manolo Blahnik shoes ….….”Watching the Eurozone countries trying to resolve their debt crisis” opines John Lichfield, “has been like watching 17 people wearing oven gloves manipulating a Rubiks cube”….Snagajob.com specializes in promoting employers who can offer jobs by the hour….…. Europe’s greediest airline, Ryanair, is paying baggage handlers to spot people with overweight baggage who can then be charged $60…... Knitters throughout the world Penguins Sweaters responded to a New Zealand appeal for tiny sweaters to keep penguins caught in an oil spill warm until their feathers could be scrubbed clean…. Wisconsin has joined the growing list of states to slap extra taxes on those stores where customers have been allowed to buy tobacco and roll their own cigarettes instead of buying regular packs…, An interesting way to see Cuba is on one of this year’s two trips (April & October) organized by the socially-conscious group with which I traveled last year. Information from cuba@globaljusticecenter.org….In Seattle, Amazon has been sending their merchandise to be placed in lockers at 7-11 stores, e-mailing customers a PIN number and barcode….Eventually people will get tired of Groupon—currently overvalued at $12bn….Illinois’ Oberweis Dairy in North Aurora still delivers milk in glass bottles to customers’ doorsteps…….The definition of a will? It's a dead give away…..“The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.” -- Albert Einstein ( 1879-1955)

12/03/11

(this column first appeared six years ago this week.)


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National Weed (1974, issue #3)

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Marijuana--The Weed That Changed the World


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recent columns

- Complete column archives: 2006 - present

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!

JOHN WILCOCK: Leaving the trial, I realized Kennedy had just been killed.
February 12, 2015

The New York Years - Boing-Boing

July 13, 2012

Manhattan Memories: an autobiography
By John Wilcock (Lulu.com, 2010)
excerpt from A Book Review By Marshall Brooks
Provincetown Arts Annual 2012/13

On the Ground
IF
John Wilcock had lived in the Garden of Eden he would have started the world’s first under- ground newspaper there. One can easily picture it: a paradisiacal incarnation of John’s 1960s legendary tabloid, Other Scenes, featuring a lively threesome on its cover and an interview inside with the snake, who, it turns out, really dug (in the argot of the day) cool, mellow people. An Eden on $5 a Day guide would have been sure to follow, precursor to the dozens of travel books that John Wilcock actually has methodically researched and authored over the years, beginning with Mexico on $5 a Day in 1960 for enterprising guidebook publisher Arthur Frommer. Still traveling the world at age eighty-four, no moss grows on John Wilcock, which Manhattan Memories makes clear. But there is more.

(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
reviewed by Steve Heller in Imprint
On the Ground
The Underground Press, as it was called, was a groundswell of media activity running the gamut from radically political to seriously satirical. A new book, On the Ground: An Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U.S. (PM Press) Edited by Sean Stewart (who between 2007 and 2009 owned and operated Babylon Falling, a bookstore and gallery in San Francisco), recalls the Underground epoch. Through interlacing interviews with Emory Douglas (Black Panther), Paul Krassner (The Realist), Art Kunkin (The L.A. Free Press), Abe Peck (The Chicago Seed), John Wilcock (Other Scenes), Jeff Shero (The Rat), Trina Robbins (Gothic Blimp Works) and many more (including Al Goldstein of Screw), the remarkable journals that shaped my life (and career) are revived as oral history.

(read more)




November 28, 2011

The Book Bench - Loose leafs from the New Yorker Books Department
New Yorker Online
Check out the first installment of Ethan Persoff's serialized comic-book biography of the publisher and writer John Wilcock.

(read more)



October 22, 2011

The New York Years

An authorized comic book biography of John Wilcock,
art by Ethan Persoff and Scott Marshall

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.

(read more)



January, 2011


The Return of the World's Worst Businessman

Sneak Peak “The Return of the World's Worst Businessman”
Tyler Malone
PMc Magazine

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,...

(read more)




Monday, November 15, 2010

A Reader Comment from the recent New York Times Frugal Traveler post
RN—Sydney, Australia

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,

indifferent to self promotion and the hoarding of gold, it is great to see John get a dash of recognition.

(read more)




Wednesday,
October 27, 2010

A Budget Travel Pioneer on a Time When $5 a Day Was Real (Frugal) Money
nytimes.com: 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)


and in print...

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
order from lulu.com
also available at amazon.com (in paperback or for your Kindle)
and other online booksellers