the column of lasting insignificance...
—November 25, 2017 by John Wilcock

From the archives...

BUMBLING ARMY GENERALS are a category not often in the news but their genre goes back a long way. Abe Lincoln had to remove several of them during the Civil War—McClellan, Halek, Buell—before entrusting the fighting to the redoubtable Ulysses S. Grant who finished the job to the benefit of all of us. Historians point out that more than a third of the 560 generals in that war were West Pointers who had been taught next to nothing about strategy. Things hardly changed over the ages as more and more of these supposedly superior mortals could be seen strutting around, chests pyramided with fruit salad decorations, many of which were awarded for just showing up. Many people might recall the inept General Westmoreland with his ridiculous (and fabricated) “body counts” of the Vietnam War which, more than anybody, he was responsible for losing.
Military medals    “Why don’t most Americans realize that most US Army and US Marine Generals are incompetent?” asked Breaker McCoy in a 2007 book with that title. US Generals, he wrote, were an elite “born into wealth and influence, fortified by attendance at prestige American universities and awarded the best jobs in government.. That ideology was taught at places like Harvard and Yale where they learned the ideas of a decadent mandarin caste. Premier among those ideas was the belief that America’ s military was essentially a servile, mediocre collection of lower-class brutes, unimaginative enough to be left to their own devices yet useful as builders or toilers in construction”.
    More recent were the comments of Col. Paul Yingling who retired this year after three tours in Iraq. He suggested (in the Armed Forces Journal) like many critics before him, that our military leaders, suffered from conformity, lack of vision and creativity, were always fighting the previous war, failing to appreciate that the art of war had moved on. "It is unreasonable to expect that an officer who spends 25 years conforming to institutional expectations, will emerge as an innovator in his late forties. As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war”.
    It’s ironic that the David Petraeus scandale, (which the French must think is gloriously trivial) should have concerned his private, rather than public life because, all things considered, he was at least more intelligent, than his predecessors. So General Betray-us turned out be to correct after all—but that’s more something for his family to say.

MAKING CONGRESS PAY OFF? Business writer Sheila Bair’s idea, which she outlines in Fortune, is to remunerate these pampered pols the way that corporate directors are paid, ie. half of it not in cash but in stock (specifically 10-year Treasury bonds) which are redeemed when they hit their targets (ie. do their jobs properly). The rate of the country’s GDP growth and the percentage of the working-age population who have jobs could be suitable benchmarks, she suggests. “With every two-year election cycle, we should get to vote on whether we think Congress and the President collectively are earning their paychecks”.

INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR the Elimination of Violence Against Women is scheduled for November 25. “Violence is largely a guy thing” says Harvard professor Steven Pinter whose latest book, The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined notes, somewhat surprisingly, that although the last century was the deadliest in history, the era before that found the world in a nearly constant state of war. The second half of the 20th century, he argues, marked the longest period of peace among the great powers in 500 years—“a result of one of those psychological retunings that take place now and again over the course of history”.

“Risk takers need backers. Good ideas need evangelists. Forgotten communities need advocates. And whether your chief resource is volunteer time or hard-earned dollars, for a relatively small investment, catalytic philanthropy can make a big impact. For me it’s proven the best job in the world, as thrilling and humbling as anything I’ve ever done.”
—Bill Gates, espousing the rewards for investing in the “vast, unexplored space of innovation” untouched by government or business.

SELLING HER VIRGINITY for $780,000—the highest of 15 bids—Brazilian 20-year-old Catarina Migliorini plans to use the money to build houses for the poor in her southern state of Santa Catarina. Winning seducer, a Japanese man named Natsu, agreeing to use a condom, will do the deed aboard a plane flying between
Catarina Migliorini Australia and the US. The encounter, but not the intercourse itself, will be recorded by a film crew with no word yet on where the film will be shown. “I see this as as a business” declared Catarina, in response to outraged protests. “I have the opportunity to travel, to be part of a movie and get a bonus. If you only do it once in your life you’re not a prostitute”.

THE MOST PERSUASIVE movie of this decade, Park Avenue: Money, Power & the American Dream, should be mandatory viewing for all those clueless fly-over-country dupes who think the rich Republicans give a shit about their welfare. Centered on Manhattan’s 740 Park Avenue, the home of America’s greediest billionaires, it contrasts the gilded life there with poverty-stricken neighbors across the tracks and makes you wonder why a tycoon worth $20bn dollars doesn’t even tip the doorman. Writer/producer Alex Gibney, winner of an Oscar (for his Taxi to the Dark Side, 2007) will probably get another for this documentary. Asked what impact he expects the film to have, he responded: “I hope it will make people as angry as I am”.

CREATING GASOLINE FROM ALGAE is the object of Sapphire Energy’s Green Crude Farm in the New Mexico desert where 1.5million gallons of green crude oil a year are produced from acres of pond scum processed by sunlight and carbon dioxide. Forbes says the company’s target is the U.S. military, the nation’s biggest oil user, which has been buying biofuels in the hope of getting half of its renewable energy from renewable sources by 2020. “Whether the biofuels industry can scale up to the 8 million barrels the Navy needs annually—at a price Uncle Sam can afford—is the big unknown” says the mag.

DINNER PLATES ARE OFTEN piled too high for many customers claims the Texas-based company Halfsies which, true to its name, is enlisting restaurants in a campaign to offer dishes with half-size portions for which customers will still pay full price. Most of the money will be devoted to a campaign to reduce world hunger which includes 50 million in the U.S. alone reports the company, which began its operations in Austin and next plans to tackle New York.

THE FIRST OF FOUR organized trips to Cuba next year will include participants from the Occupy Wall Street movement and will deal with “emancipatory paradigms” (whatever they are). Cliff DuRand’s Global Justice Center has been organizing similar trips to this engrossing island for two decades now and three more are scheduled for 2013. Dates and information from Cuba@globaljusticecenter.org

THE WILCOCK WEB: You’d think that Republican leaders would realize that what voters rejected at the election were Paul Ryan’s ruinous ideas as much—if not more than—Romney himself. So to start the buildup for Ryan as their next presidential hopeful just dooms them to the same fate …. If people keep rebuilding houses that are washed away why does the government keep paying to rebuild?.... Too often the world’s troubles are caused by people from one country infiltrating their neighbor and then seeking to change things in their favor: (Burma + Bangladesh, Sri Lanka + India, Yugoslavia + Albania, Cyprus + Turkey etc etc)…. “The conventional view” mused John Kenneth Galbraith, “serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking”… The New York Times’ new boss, Mark Thompson, is either a liar or a complete fool if he could spend 30 years at the BBC without hearing that their biggest star was a pedophile, seeing as it was widely rumored within and even outside the corporation… Protesters yell Mwizil (Swahili for ‘thief’) as Kenya’s $325-a-day politicians pass by, reports the Economist which adds that by contrast laborers’ daily pay is less than $2… There are postcards
Sardines post card depicting pretty much everything—even for selling French sardines (at right) and billionaire Leonard Lauder (the son of Estée) will talk next week (Nov 28) about his huge collection of cards at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts where they are on show through the winter……. At a cost of $450, gravestones can be fitted with QR codes by a funeral parlor in Dorset (UK) that enable mourners with smart phones to access a video of the deceased….. Environmentalist Elisabeth Rosenthal, writing in the NYT, says the fact that cyclists are required to wear helmets kills cycling and bike-sharing because it ‘promotes a sense of danger’ which drives would-be cyclists away. In many cities—where the accident rate is low—including Melbourne, Montreal and Mexico City, helmet use is voluntary…. ….“Freedom”, defined by George Orwell, “is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear”… A Michigan firm, Protean Electric, has developed a motorized device which can replace the rear wheels of a car enabling it to be driven by electric power….. MIT’s Media Lab reports that in congested urban areas, about 40% of gasoline use is in cars seeking parking…..“The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.”—Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

11/17/12

(this column first appeared in November 2012)


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National Weed (1974, issue #3)

it's here...
Marijuana--The Weed That Changed the World


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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.

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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.

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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,...

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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.

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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