September 3, 2016 by John Wilcock
It’s not easy to take sides on breakaway factions, regions, or countries that seek independence. Common sense would seem to favor the view that if a majority seeks to detach themselves from the Mother country, why not let them go? Especially if they are willing to seek no financial backing from the country they leave, although often these would-be freedom-lovers want to have it both ways with a sort of subsidized independence. (Scotland, anyone?)
What usually makes the parting impossible is the understandable unwillingness of legislators to endorse their homeland giving up any territory. For a politician, such reasonableness is tantamount to suicide.
And there’s another factor to consider. So often in our recent history, foreigners infiltrate somebody else’s country—the Tamils from Madras into Sri Lanka; the Albanians into Serbian Kosovo; the Russians into Georgia—and the results are inevitably war. You’d think that logic would dictate that if you choose to live in another country it would be because you were willing to accept that particular lifestyle, but that is rarely the case. The nerve of these intruders who want to change their new home into a replica of the one they have left! If the militant Muslims, for example, want a country in which the mosques loudly summon people to prayer several times a day or seek to be ruled by sharia law or feel obligated to murder their daughters who marry infidels, why did they not stay in countries that favor these kind of rules?
There’ll never be an accommodation between the space-nuts and the rest of us because the former feel that it’s a sacred mission to leave this planet and explore what’s out there, and I share the beliefs of the rest that we have too many problems here to waste billions playing space games.
Recently I read about NASA historian Stephen Dick who suggests that there might be a race of super robots somewhere out there in space, with an intelligence so highly developed they don’t think it’s worth their while to communicate with us. Their brains may already be equipped with artificial intelligence after exhausting the potential of their biological brains, he says, and sooner or later the robots we have armed with computer brains will become sentient and surpass human intelligence.
But, firstly, I think all that is a pipe dream and even if it’s true, what are we looking for out there and what good will it do us? I share the view of Alex Gross who maintains that the entire space program has never been anything more than a vastly expensive fantasy quest whose main goal has been military in nature. In any case, he says, there are no habitable planets anywhere near us and even if there were, there’s no way to transfer earthlings there and keep them alive.
As for the International Space Station, that darling of the space-nut spendthrifts, no less a personage than the president of the British Royal Society Lord Martin Rees, calls it “a turkey in the sky’, plainly not worth spending the additional $50 billion needed to complete it. Most European scientists regret having got involved, says Rees who is Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at the University of Cambridge.
He envisions that future expeditions to the Moon and beyond “will only be politically and financially feasible if they are cut-price ventures, perhaps privately funded, spearheaded by individuals prepared to accept high risks—maybe even one-way tickets. Perhaps future space probes will be plastered in commercial logos, just as Formula One racers are now.”
But the latest version of the dream—“too deeply embedded in national imagination to go away” says Robert Park—is the determined plan to go to Mars, at a cost as infinite as space itself. Each new administration will concoct a new justification for this quest, he predicts.
In his book, Voodoo Science, Park wrote that the Space Station was already outdated by 1984 because its original proposed functions for global communications, monitoring the weather, detecting clandestine military operations, aiding navigation for ships and aircraft, and astronomical observations, were all being performed by satellites better and more cheaply. As for the proposed trip to Mars, that would take three years and cost half a trillion dollars.
How can anybody say that’s money well spent when people everywhere are starving, people are dying because they can’t afford health care, bridges are collapsing and so on and so on? Of course spending half a trillion dollars is good for some people, such as the military-industrial complex and all the fat cats who bribe the legislators to ensure the money will be spent the right way. But shouldn’t there be some limitations on how much can be wasted on boondoggles like this without a referendum in which voters give their permission?
Something similar could be said about this year’s triumphal scientific experiment, the Large Hadron Collider—a decade-long, $8 billion project to build a 17-mile tunnel in which protons are caused to collide. And the motive? So that we could (hopefully) recreate the conditions that existed when the world began. This, the experts, tell us may tell us where mass came from. Really, does anybody except scientists give a shit? Nobody has bothered to explain how we’re supposed to benefit from this billion dollar boondoggle.
Thinking the Unthinkable
Rounding up all the gang bangers with felony records and shipping them off to create their own violent society on some uninhabited island where they won’t prey on the rest of us (Hey, it worked for Australia).
Manhattan Memories is available at amazon.com.
An updated A Guide to Occult Britain, complete with new illustrations, is also available at amazon.com.
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Don't let a real-life comic strip sneak by unnoticed. This one's too unusual (and brilliant) for that!
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National Weed (1974, issue #3)
Forty years ago the second of my three books about magic was published, A Guide to Occult Britain (Sidgwick & Jackson) covering a wide range of sites from Stonehenge to Loch Ness and King Arthur country to the witches of Pendle Hill. It is now available as an eBook
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 my books, and thank you. —JW
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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.
January 2, 2011
A way with Andy Warhol : John Wilcock recalls life in iconic pop artist's inner circle
During a journalism career that began when he was 16, John Wilcock has interviewed celebrities — Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Milton Berle, Steve Allen and Bob Dylan, to name a few — was part of enigmatic pop artist Andy Warhol's intimate circle in the 1960s, traveled to exotic locations all over the globe, has written dozens of books ranging from frugal travel to magic, was one of five founders (Norman Mailer was one of them) of the Village Voice and co-founded Interview magazine (still in circulation) with Mr. Warhol.
“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,...
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Jewcy Top 10 Art Books of 2010
This brilliant remake of a pop primary document is brought to you by John Wilcock, probably the Most Interesting Man in the World in the realm of writers. The Village Voice cofounder had also edited Warhol’s seminal mag Interview in the 70s. The fruit of the book is in the genius of its redesign. After 40 years out-of-print, the newly edited edition is “beautifully redesigned in a bright, Warholian palette” that surrounds a trail of Harry Shunk’s internationally Pop-art-informed camera as well as transcribed interviews with those closest to Warhol that ultimately make up an oral history of the artist’s Factory period. By looking at him through the scope of his peers, this book is the equivalent of Pittsburgh’s Warhol Museum in illuminating qualities of Warhol’s warped mirror on which our American culture was briefly reflected.
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 Săo 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.”