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Ojai Orange | The Column of Lasting Insignificance | Books | Wait-A-Minute

August 16, 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

 

 



August 16, 2008

Wed., Feb. 4, 1959: I’d been saving this clip from the Times in which Lt. General Clarence B. Huebner, director of the State Civil Defense Commission, predicted that within five years “most Americans would be living in fallout shelters and would see sunshine only by taking a calculated risk.  Underground living would be enforced, he said by the grim realities of a world in which even small countries would posess standardized intercontinental ballistic missiles...

I felt I had to see the general and ask if he meant what he said.  He does.  He stayed at his office after hours to give me a thorough rundown of the state’s civil defense system, which looks very elaborate and will doubtless save many lives if there is ever an attack.  But will it save enough and will anything make it worth spending all our lives in shelter?  I raised these questions but the general seemed to feel I had the wrong attitude.  His aide asked:  “What would you have us do—abandon everything?”

I don’t know how to answer that question.  I suppose it’s inarguable that of there’s going to be war, we have to try to defend ourselves, however ineffectual such a defense might be.  But I think my quarrel is with the assumption about WHEN the war is going to be rather than IF.  The general, of course, is in the position that to do his job well he has to frighten people out an apathy which he confesses causes him alarm.

He said he thought the press had a definite responsibility to bring these matters to public attention and called me “emotionally sick” after I questioned the wisdom of pouring even more of our taxes into air raid shelters.  For all I know he may be right.  Certainly these matters make me emotionally upset.

+         +         +

Greed (like jealousy) would make an excellent subject for a lengthy thesis, and there are fine examples in the papers every day.  Last week the Times reported the case of a man in Saddle River, N. J., whose friend’s will included a bequest for him to buy himself a new car.  The scrooge bought himself an $18,700 Bentley, sent the bill to the executors, and sued them when they refused to pay.  The court, happily, upheld their refusal.  Go peddle your Bentley, Buster.

+         +         +

If you’ve ever been at Idlewild Airport when Swarms of photographers were busily banging away at some schnook whose name means nothing to you, what you have probably witnessed is one of the imaginative operations of the National Nonentity Service.

NNS exists solely to inject a little color and prestige into the humdrum lives of people who have nothing but money; the client needs only pay a handsome fee for the ego-building process to begin.  After two or three expensive—but tax-deductible —years’ fees he’s still a nonentity, of course, but people KNOW him.

The president and founder of NNS, a former nonentity himself, says:  “There is almost no limit to the things we can do to make a nonentity feel important, just so long as he can afford to pay.  Photographers meeting him at the airport...flowers delivered to his hotel room, with ambiguously written cards he can show to his friends...starlets posing with him for publicity pictures.

“We recently negotiated a tie-in with a vanity press whereby subsidy authors can dedicate their books to our fine roster of nonentities, and, although nobody buys the books, we let the client have a few dozen at trade prices.”

Some of the operations of NNS are particularly ingenious.  The vast quantities of liquor that have to be bought to get the nonentity’s pictures into the whiskey-endorsement ads, for example, are not wasted; they are saved until NNS manages to bribe enough thirsty reporters to attend a press conference (at which the nonentity announces the latest award he has been given by some non-existent association).

“In addition to such routine duties as getting our clients interviewed on daytime radio shows and having garden clubs name new hybrids after him,” says NNS president, “we are also able to offer a special service to clients who are troubled by feelings of sexual inadequacy.

“This aspect of our work in handled by our ‘Romantic-Linking’ department, which devotes its time to getting nonentities linked romantically with the names of celebrated female charmers.   In the earlier stages we find that our nonentity is quite content with the brief notation, in one of the syndicated columns, that he has been seen with a certain bosomy star.  Later, however, it becomes necessary for an affidavit to appear in print stating categorically that his name has been ‘linked romantically’ with that of the female personality.

“And, as a further progression, we can sometimes bribe the star to state publicly—and accurately—that there is no truth to the rumors.  That almost always gets both of their pictures in the newspapers.”

NNS fees are high, but the people who have only money pay willingly.

+         +         +

A few weeks ago I installed one of those recording devices on my telephone—the Bell system rents them for $12.50 a month—and since then I’ve been having a great deal of fun when I get home at night, playing back the messages people leave for me.  Anyone who calls my home number when I’m out hears my recorded voice and has about twenty seconds in which to leave a message of his own.  Many of the callers make wisecracks about how they’re coming to me in “live, stereophonic color: or about how they want to be my “first poison-pen telephone call.”

There aren’t too many of these machines in use—around two thousand in the N.Y.C. area—but a Bell official, while giving me a brief tour of a roomful of softly purring devices last week, told me about some of their varied uses.

“Sometimes the answering machines are used for purposes we can’t condone,” he said.  “Like the girl who was offering sexy pictures of herself until the Post Office stopped it.  But on the other hand, there’s a bird-watchers’ group in Boston that leaves a recorded message about what’s been sighted lately, churches that offer prayers of the day, movies with time schedules, stores announcing bargain items, groups giving fishing information and highway conditions, and an association up in Westchester that provides the latest stock  market news.”

The whole subject’s very interesting.  I think, and there’s almost no limit to the sort of taped messages I could leave for callers.  Wouldn’t you like to call up and hear me reciting a brief poem to a jazz background?  Or to find out where there was a party next Saturday?  I could leave definite and final word that No, I do NOT know about any vacant apartments (contrary to popular belief) or simply record the terse message: “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

Carole Janeway, a Village ceramist, also has one of these recording devices, and we’ve discussed the possibility of getting the two machines to talk to each other—so far without success.  Carole, incidentally, ends all her recorded messages with a commercial.  The current one is:  “And remember, the road to heaven is paved with Janeway tiles.”

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

[John Wilcock is currently cruising the Dalmatian coast]

 

8/9/08

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