the column of lasting insignificance...
—November 30, 2016 by John Wilcock
NOW THERE’S A CAMPAIGN to make the carrying of knives legal, anytime and anywhere, and the chief lobbyist is somebody who sits on the board of the overbearing National Rifle Association which blackmails so many members of Congress. Mother Jones says the laws against carrying lethal knives are complicated and contradictory, listing Arizona as an example where different towns allow or disallow different kinds of knives in different circumstances. Knife Rights Inc. managed to get these local laws coordinated resulting in Arizonians allowed to carry knives everywhere. (In New York City carrying them is banned outright). Knife Rights’ founder, Doug Ritter, a 59-year-old survival expert, says the group’s 2,200 members include hikers, kayakers, environmentalists, and points to occasions when somebody having a knife has saved lives. “It’s irrational to believe that if you ban certain types of knives, criminals will somehow stop being criminals” he avers.
VERY FEW PEOPLE would enjoy watching animals being slaughtered, and still fewer doing the slaughtering themselves. “Our slaughterhouse workers are themselves deeply uneasy about the cruelty they are forced to inflict”, writes B.R. Myers. “Evidently there is no un-cruel way to kill a large and terrified animal every 12 seconds, the pace now set by industry greed”. Estimates that the annual employee turnover in the American slaughterhouse business is more than 100 percent is the claim of a book, Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight by Timothy Pachirat. These kind of dire statistics are compiled by undercover cooperators who sneak into slaughterhouses to document abuses and code violations, but the industry is trying to ensure that in future their practices remain a secret. According to the Atlantic, laws have been passed in Iowa and Utah to make it a crime to undertake such covert reporting and similar "agag" bills are pending in other states.
ADOPTING A DIET that is too much like the American one with junk food and unhealthy snacks predominating, is changing the lifestyle of the French, more than seven million of whom are now classified as obese. This is twice the number at the end of the recent century writes Hannah Betts in the Daily Telegraph which quotes a government report that the heftiest weight gains have been made by 18–24-year-olds “addicted to fast food”. Only eight years ago, the book French Women Don’t Get Fat was a best seller.
THAT BRILLIANT POLLSTER, Nate Silver, who accurately predicted the result of every state in the recent election has attracted strong interest from the movie industry, says the Hollywood Reporter, and is fielding offers from talent agents and TV producers. Silver, 34, who is pondering a follow-up to his best-seller The Signal and the Noise, told THR: “Everything is on the table. I have to think about how not to spread myself too thin. It’s a really a great problem to have”.
THE CASE OF CHAVEZ is a complex and conflicting one. Here’s a man, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, who has made himself a virtual dictator while indisputably being on the side of the have-nots. “During (his) 14 years in power, according to both World Bank and UN figures, around five million out of 29 million Venezuelans have been lifted out of poverty and the gap between the rich and the poor has narrowed” says The Week. His welfare projects have wiped out illiteracy and provided housing, education, free healthcare and subsidized food for the poor. What has made this possible has been the country’s vast supply of oil which has also enabled Chavez to carve out what the West regards as controversial foreign policies. His friends, for example, have included Syria’s al-Assad, Iran’s Ahmadinejad and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. But while dispensing a trillion dollars of income via the state’s oil company—which he completely controls—Venezuela’s big daddy has also been troubled by 20% inflation and one of the world’s highest murder rates. “Some economic analysts predict a currency crisis for the country as early as next year.” Chavez’ new term runs until 2019.
MOST INTERNS ARE obliged to work without pay and the companies that have sprung up to facilitate the arrangements profit handsomely by supplying the young workers. The Economist describes one London firm that grossed $1m last year by charging companies $779 per month for each intern, plus 10% of starting salaries. To critics who complain that only well-heeled interns can work for nothing, others respond that any chance to gain experience is a good thing.
HALF A CENTURY AGO, South Korean wives averaged six children apiece; today its fertility rate of 1.2 is the lowest in the world and has the government worried that the population will drop by more than half to 21.5 million. Mostly this is due to efforts to reduce last century’s high birth rate, which have been much too successful and, combined with the abortion rate and over-use of ultra-sound methods enabling parents to abort girls, the birth rate plummeted to dangerous levels. “Koreans are having so few babies” says the weekly Standard, “that the country is about to grow very old, very quickly”.
FLASH ROBS is the term the retail trade has chosen to describe the ravaging mobs that rush unexpectedly into stores and grab everything in sight. Washington state senator Mike Carrell, who tried unsuccessfully to get a bill passed making it a felony, told Stores that what started as an inner-city problem has spread far and wide and that “legislation is very much needed at present”. The magazine, which says most members of these intrusive groups are under 18 and in some cases as young as 11 or 12, warns store owners to “resist the impulse to challenge the mob. Call the police or security as soon as possible”.
THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE has registered 1,575 suicides since it opened in 1937 and that’s just counting the bodies that have been found. In his book, The Final Leap—the first book-length treatment of the subject—John Bateson says a safety net beneath the bridge or a high railing along the pedestrian walkway would probably cut down the deaths, but for more than 70 years Bridge officials have declined to install either.
THE WILCOCK WEB: Santa Claus should be prohibited from making any appearances before December….Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly are so clueless they’ve never been able to understand that ‘global warming’, an admittedly inexact term, describes worldwide climate changes. Thus, every time the temperature doesn’t rise they scoff at ‘global warning’ as a myth….Next year maybe the bankrupt Los Angeles Times will be a Rupert Murdoch tabloid….Leading choice for the next head of the CIA, presidential terrorism adviser John Brennan, is a guy who naively believes that killing innocent families with misdirected drones doesn’t recruit anti-American terrorists….Tourists visiting Amsterdam will not be banned from visiting the city’s cannabis cafés after all. The mayor decided that a ban wouldn’t stop visitors who’d be relentless in their search for marijuana and might just cause more trouble (and crime)….Thursday of next week (29th) marks the 80th anniversary of opening the tomb of King Tutankhamun….Asking souvenir hunters to return artifacts stolen from the hotel over the years, New York’s Waldorf Astoria has received a plethora of items—ashtrays, coffee pots etc—but is still mourning the biggest theft: the monogrammed door to the shower in the suite that Frank Sinatra occupied….Cheapest seats for the 50th anniversary tour of the greedy, sleazy Rolling Stones are $190. “Well, we've got to make something” says billionaire Ronnie Wood....Still making big bucks is Elizabeth Taylor whose estate raked in $210 million last year through perfume, auctioned possessions and movie residuals. She topped the list of deceased money makers with Michael Jackson ($145m) and Elvis ($95m) runners-up…..The unlikely tale of a man surviving at sea in an open boat with only a tiger for company is obviously impossible, and sure enough, they made the movie with a mechanical tiger….Wired, whose current issue carries an interview with Elon Musk about his dream of sending one of his spaceships to Mars, invited readers to
suggest postage stamp designs for the distant future and one of them celebrates the so-called red planet….. An AP story about increasingly widespread challenges to prayers preceding meetings of local councils, predicts that eventually “the Supreme Court will weigh in to resolve the differences…”. …The easiest way to send a gift to somebody in England is to use a mail order house there. Check out egerton-barnett.co.uk….. A company called Day2Night Convertible Heels is selling shoes with interchangeable heels allowing walking shoes to be changed to stilettos…..”The current isolation of Cuba has long outlasted its original purpose” announced the US Chamber of Commerce calling for the embargo (now 50 years old) to be ended…. There aren’t many gaps that advertising hasn’t filled; even individual stalls—are up for grabs at institutions such as Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania reports Fast Company…..”When will these mail order beggars realize that a “free gift” is decidedly not when it’s actually yet another unwelcome batch of printed address labels? ….“The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper”—Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
This column first appeared on
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 one of my books, and thank you. —JW
comments? send an email to John Wilcock
- Complete column archives: 2006 - present
— 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, don’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 Six—The weed that changed the world--Confessions of a pot smoker
— 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
— 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
— 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
in the press...
Now on Boing-Boing!
JOHN WILCOCK: Leaving the trial, I realized Kennedy had just been killed.
February 12, 2015
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."