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March 15, 2008
John Wilcock - January 5, 2008

 

  The column of lasting insignificance
     


also posted:



2011
November 26 2011
November 19, 2011
November 12, 2011
November 5, 2011
October 29, 2011
October 22, 2011
October 15, 2011
October 8, 2011
October 1, 2011
September 24, 2011
September 17, 2011
September 10, 2011
September 4, 2011
August 27, 2011
August 20, 2011
August 13, 2011
August 6, 2011
July 30, 2011
July 23, 2011
July 16, 2011
July 9, 2011
July 2, 2011
June 25, 2011
June 18, 2011
June 11, 2011
June 4, 2011
May 28, 2011
May 21, 2011
May 14, 2011
May 7, 2011
April 30, 2011
April 23, 2011
April 16, 2011
April 9, 2011
April 2, 2011
March 26, 2011
March 19, 2011
March 12, 2011
March 5, 2011
February 26, 2011
February 19, 2011
February 12, 2011
February 5, 2011
February 5, 2011
January 29, 2011
January 22, 2011
January 15, 2011
January 6, 2011

2010
December 25, 2010
December 18, 2010
December 11, 2010
December 4, 2010
November 27, 2010
November 20, 2010
November 13, 2010
November 6, 2010
October 30, 2010
October 23, 2010
October 16, 2010
October 9, 2010
October 2, 2010
September 25, 2010
September 18, 2010
September 11, 2010
September 4, 2010
August 28, 2010
August 21, 2010
August 14, 2010
August 7, 2010
July 31, 2010
July 24, 2010
July 17, 2010
July 10, 2010
July 3, 2010
June 26, 2010
June 19, 2010
June 12, 2010
June 5, 2010
May 29, 2010
May 22, 2010
May 15, 2010
May 8, 2010
May 1, 2010
April 24, 2010
April 17, 2010
April 10, 2010
April 3, 2010
March 27, 2010
March 20, 2010
March 13, 2010
March 6, 2010
February 27, 2010
February 20, 2010
February 13, 2010
February 6, 2010
January 30, 2010
January 23, 2010
January 16, 2010
January 9, 2010
January 2, 2010

2009
December 26, 2009
December 19, 2009
December 12, 2009
December 5, 2009
November 28, 2009
November 21, 2009
November 14, 2009
November 7, 2009
October 31, 2009
October 24, 2009
October 17, 2009
October 10, 2009
October 3, 2009
September 26, 2009
September 19, 2009
September 12, 2009
September 5, 2009
August 29, 2009
August 22, 2009
August 15, 2009
August 8, 2009
August 1, 2009
July 25, 2009
July 18, 2009
July 11, 2009
July 4, 2009
June 27, 2009
June 20, 2009
June 13, 2009
June 6, 2009
May 30, 2009
May 23, 2009
May 16, 2009
May 9, 2009
May 2, 2009
April 25, 2009
April 18, 2009
April 11, 2009
April 4, 2009
March 28, 2009
March 21, 2009
March 14, 2009
March 7, 2009
February 28, 2009
February 21, 2009
February 14, 2009
February 7, 2009
January 31, 2009
January 24, 2009
January 17, 2009
January 3, 2009

2008
December 27, 2008
December 20, 2008
December 13, 2008
December 6, 2008
November 29, 2008
November 22, 2008
November 15, 2008
November 8, 2008
November 5, 2008
November 1, 2008
October 25, 2008
October 18, 2008
October 11, 2008
October 4, 2008
September 27, 2008
September 20, 2008
September 13, 2008
September 6, 2008
August 30, 2008
August 23, 2008
August 16, 2008
August 9, 2008
August 2, 2008
July 26, 2008
July 19, 2008
July 12, 2008
July 5, 2008
June 28, 2008
June 21, 2008
June 14, 2008
June 7, 2008
May 31, 2008
May 24, 2008
May 17, 2008
May 10, 2008
May 3, 2008
April 26, 2008
April 19, 2008
April 12, 2008
April 5, 2008
March 29, 2008
March 22, 2008
March 15, 2008
March 8, 2008
March 1, 2008
February 23, 2008
February 16, 2008
February 9, 2008
February 2, 2008
January 26, 2008
January 19, 2008
January 12, 2008
January 5, 2008

2007
December 29, 2007
December 22, 2007
December 15, 2007
December 8, 2007
December 1, 2007
November 24, 2007
November 17, 2007
November 10, 2007
November 3, 2007
October 27, 2007
October 20, 2007
October 13, 2007
October 6, 2007
September 29, 2007
September 22, 2007
September 15, 2007
September 8, 2007
September 1, 2007
August 25, 2007
August 18, 2007
August 11, 2007
August 4, 2007
July 28, 2007
July 21, 2007
July 14, 2007
July 7, 2007
June 30, 2007
June 23, 2007
June 16, 2007
June 9, 2007
June 2, 2007
May 19, 2007
May 12, 2007
May 5, 2007
April 28, 2007
April 21, 2007
April 14, 2007
April 7, 2007
March 31, 2007
March 24, 2007
March 17, 2007
March 10, 2007
March 3, 2007
February 24, 2007
February 17, 2007
February 10, 2007
February 3, 2007
January 20, 2007
January 13, 2007
January 6, 2007

2006
December 30, 2006
December 23, 2006
December 16, 2006
December 9, 2006
December 2, 2006
November 25, 2006
November 18, 2006
November 11, 2006
November 4, 2006
October 28, 2006
October 21, 2006
October 14, 2006
October 7, 2006
September 30, 2006
September 23, 2006
September 16, 2006
September 9, 2006
September 2, 2006
August 26, 2006
August 19, 2006
August 12, 2006
August 5, 2006
July 29, 2006
July 22, 2006
July 15, 2006

 

 

March 15, 2008

From the Archives:
Wednesday October 3, 1956

Met a talented young art student, Robert Pincus, at a party in Queens and he told me that his summer job had been at the Museum of Modern Art as a designer.  When I asked him what the job had entailed he fidgeted, then said: “Oh there were lots of things.  I designed the layout of some tables and I worked on and helped to install that fabric show that’s currently running.”

It didn’t sound like twelve weeks’ work to me.  I asked him if he’d managed to get any of his own work into the show considering he’s regarded as both prolific and promising.

“Well, yes”, he replied, “I suppose I should mention the signs.”  He paused, reached for two cocktail glasses or ruby-colored punch from a passing tray and handed me one.  “Looks like Jell-O”, he remarked.  “Better drink it before it sets.”  Then sipping from his glass he added:  “Yes, the signs.  There were two of them and the first one said ‘Men’.

“It has a limited audience but don’t think it was an easy job.  Signs at the MOMA can’t just be tossed off.  To start with they have to be done in a special kind of type—the Museum used to use Futura for its signs but now it uses Sandberg.  The type has to be traced and then checked.  Then it’s sent off for stats, enlarged to the right size and checked again.  The whole process takes a long time and costs a lot of money.”

What about the second sign, I prompted.  What did that say?

“The second sign?” echoed Bob, wrinkling his brow.  “What was that?  Oh I remember.  It said:  NOBODY ADMITTED TO FILM SHOW WITHOUT A RESERVATION.  RESERVATIONS MUST BE OBTAINED AT THE FIRST FLOOR DESK.  How many words is that?”

I told him seventeen.

“Seventeen”, he repeated, “and a freelance would get ten bucks per word.  That’s the usual rate.  Seventeen.  Gee, that’s $170!”

Yes, I agreed, there certainly is a lot of money in art.

The Indifferent Photographer, who doesn’t care what people’s opinions are, was sent out on assignment last week to interview the Floating Voter, who doesn’t have any.  It was a superb piece of casting.

“I understand,” asked the Indifferent Photographer, in a bored sort of way, “I understand that you’re one of the forty-nine per cent of people polled who always answer:  ‘I don’t know’?”

“Well, that’s not exactly true”, the Floating Voter hedged.  “I’m always lumped into that category, admittedly, but quite often I’ve been misquoted.  My reply on many occasions has actually been:  ‘So what?” 

“But surely,” the I-P persisted, in spite of his apathy, “surely you must have some opinions?  There are so many controversial issues—bribery in government, the road through Washington Square...”

“If God had meant us to have a road through Washington Square:  the F-V interrupted piously.  “He would have built one through Washington Square.”

“Well, how about international issues?  There’s the question of sending arms to Cuba, of sharing atomic secrets, of continuing aid to dictatorships....”

The F-V shifted uneasily on the fence.  “Aw, what’s it to me?” he snapped.  “Why can’t all those foreigners learn English?”

The Indifferent Photographer folded his notebook and prepared to leave.  “I suppose you’re married?” he asked.  “Does your wife share your indecisions?”

“Hell, no,” his companion answered.  “My wife’s not bad for a woman, but you know what they always say—‘You can lead a girl to Vassar but you can’t make her drink.’”

There’s a brightly lit, gleaming machine in the Times Square subway station that offers printed slips giving directions on how to reach just about anywhere.  Even Mars.  For curious people who press the “Free Trip to Mars” button, Number 120, the machine dispenses the following advice:  “If you can prove you’re a real Martian, we’ll send you home to your native planet.  Write Martian Ambassador, Earth Colony, c/o Directomat, Hotel Roosevelt.”

Intrigued by this bizarre development, I looked up the Martian ambassador at the Roosevelt.  He turned out to be Max M. Tamir, inventor of the machine (called a Directomat) which he plans to install in every major subway station in the city.  The transit Authority supplies free space, and inventor Tamir, who holds a city-planning directorate from the Paris Sorbonne, recoups his expenses by selling ads on the direction slips.

About one million customers have used the machine since its installation two years ago, and not surprisingly, the Mars button has been pressed a great deal.  It has brought Dr. Tamir a fascinating harvest of letters—some in code from imaginative children, but others neatly typed and eloquently worded.  Almost all offer cogent reasons for being returned “home.”

A trio from Staten Island related that, since being stranded there, they had found earth food inedible and were subsisting on phonograph records which, besides lacking the necessary solar energy, were expensive.  One man, who said he’d been here one hundred years already, added:  “I miss my kid and seven wives”; another Martian said he’d left his driver’s license “in my other space suit, so I lack identification.”

Although most of the writers claim Martian nationality—including one who says his space ship sank in Lake Champlain and he’s hiding out—a Manhattan doctor said he was mentally and ethically up to Martian standards, and offered his services “especially for the improvement of badly neglected relations between our two planets.”

All respondents get a reply from the imaginative Dr. Tamir, a sympathetic letter noting they have been put on the waiting list for transport, except in cases where they list no address.  One such example was the Martian who wrote in to deplore the whole business and demanded removal of the machine.  “I wish to state emphatically that we will not allow Earthlings on our planet,” he warned.  As for Martians, he added, he’s the only genuine one here.

        (from The Village Square  by John Wilcock, Lyle Stuart, 1961)   

John Wilcock is currently visiting Lisbon

3/8/2008

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