Clancy Brothers & Makem:
Like the film, the hamburger is a non-California invention that has achieved a kind of symbolic apotheosis in Los Angeles; symbolic, that is, of the way fantasy can lord it over function in Southern California. The purely functional hamburger, as delivered across the counter of say, the Gipsy Wagon on the UCLA campus, the Surf-Boarder at Hermosa Beach or any McDonald’s or Jack-In-The Box outlet anywhere, is a pretty well-balanced meal that he who runs (surfs, drives, studies) can eat with one hand; not only the ground beef but all the sauce, cheese, shredded lettuce, and other garnishes are firmly gripped between two halves of the bun.
But the fantastic hamburger as served on a platter at a sit-down restaurant is something else again. Its component parts have been carefully opened up and separated out into an assemblage of functional and symbolic elements, or alternatively, a fantasia on functional themes. The two halves of the bun lie face up with the ground beef on one and, sometimes, the cheese on the other. Around and alongside on the platter are the lettuce leaves, gherkins, onion rings, fried potatoes, paper cups of relish or coleslaw, pineapple rings, and much more besides, because the invention of new varieties of hamburger is a major Angeleno culinary art. Assembled with proper care it can be a work of visual art as well; indeed, it must be considered as visual art first and foremost, since some components are present in too small a quantity generally to make a significant gustatory as opposed to visual contribution – for instance, the seemingly mandatory ring of red-dyed apple, which does a lot for the eye as a foil to the general greenery of the salads, but precious little for the palate.
Reyner Banham was writing in 1971. I have a used addition, in which someone (I like to imagine a foreign student) has underlined the word “hamburger.”
Many amazing things in this book:
I have to thank the Chennai office for recommending it. Two of the more amazing quotes come from Dick Wolf:
Dick Wolf: Most dramas make my skin itch because they give you personal stuff with a soup ladle. When you go into work and look around your office, how many of your colleagues’ apartments have you been in? Ours is a workplace show. All we’re interested in is what happens in the eight or ten hours when the characters are actually at work.
There’s also no time. That’s why there are no establishing shots, no driving shots, no people walking into buildings. Each half of the show is the equivalent to a normal hour cop show or legal show. You’re essentially doing an hour’s worth of content in half the time.
I grew up on N. Y. P. D., the original, and Naked City. Naked City is much more the prototype for Law & Order than anything else on TV. The best pictures about conflict are the ones that almost look like news. Like The Battle of Algiers.
Later, Dick Wolf weighs in on the contractual disputes at Friends. The Friends cast all banded together to negotiate their contracts, and the result was they got huge amounts of money. Dick Wolf would’ve handled it differently:
Dick Wolf: When they made the Friends deal, the $100,000 apiece [per episode] deal, I was pretty upset. What I would have done was come out the first day, say I was disappointed the cast had chosen to negotiate in the press, and I had the unpleasant news that Matt LeBlanc wouldn’t be on the show next year. I guarantee that you’d never have gotten to a second name.
Of the people of the States that I have now passed, I best like the Georgians. They have charming manners, and their dwellings are mostly larger and better than those of adjacent States. However costly or ornamental their homes or their manners, they do not, like those of the New Englander, appear as the fruits of intense painful sacrifice and training, but are entirely divested of artificial weights and measures, and seem to pervade and twine about their characters as spontaneous growths with the durability and charm of living nature.
In particular, Georgians, even the commonest, have a most charmingly cordial way of saying to strangers, as they proceed on their journey, “I wish you well, sir.”
Ansel Adams, the original king of US 395.
In 1867, 29 year old John Muir decided to walk from Indiana to the Gulf of Mexico, making botanical observations. In the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee, he knocks on the door of a farmhouse:
My knock on the door was answered by a bright, good-natured, good-looking little woman, who in reply to my request for a night’s lodging and food, said “Oh, I guess so. I think you can stay. Come in and I’ll call my husband.” “But I must first warn you,” I said, “that I have nothing smaller to offer you than a five-dollar bill for my entertainment. I don’t want you to think that I am trying to impose on your hospitality.”
She then called her husband, a blacksmith, who was at work at his forge. He came out, hammer in hand, bare-breasted, sweaty, begrimed, and covered with shaggy black hair. In reply to his wife’s statement, that this young man wished to stop over night, he quickly replied, “That’s all right; tell him to go into the house.” He was turning to go back to his shop, when his wife added, “But he says he hasn’t any change to pay. He has nothing smaller than a five-dollar bill.” Hesitating only a moment, he turned on his heel and said, “Tell him to go into the house. A man that comes right out like that beforehand is welcome to eat my bread.”
When he came in after his hard day’s work and sat down to dinner, he solemnly asked a blessing on the frugal meal, consisting solely of corn bread and bacon. Then, looking across the table at me, he said, “Young man, what are you doing down here?” I replied that I was looking at plants. “Plants? What kind of plants?” I said, “Oh, all kinds; grass, weeds, flowers, trees, mosses, ferns – almost everything that grows is interesting to me.”
“Well, young man,” he queried, “you mean to say that you are not employed by the Government on some private business?” “No, I said, “I am not employed by any one except just myself. I love all kinds of plants, and I came down here to these Southern States to get acquainted with as many of them as possible.”
“You look like a strong-minded man,” he replied, “and surely you are able to do something better than wander over the country and look at weeds and blossoms. These are hard times, and real work is required of every man that is able. Picking up blossoms doesn’t seem to be a man’s work at all in any kind of times.”
To this I replied, “You are a believer in the Bible, are you not?” “Oh, yes.” “Well, you know Solomon was a strong-minded man, and he is generally believed to have been the very wisest man the world ever saw, and yet he considered it was worth while to study plants; not only to go and pick them up as I am doing, but to study them; and you know we are told that he wrote a book about plants, not only of the great cedars of Lebanon, but of little bits of things growing in the cracks of the walls.
“Therefore, you see that Solomon differed very much more from you than from me in this matter. I’ll warrant you he had many a long ramble in the mountains of Judea, and had he been a Yankee he would likely have visited every weed in the land. And again, do you not remember that Christ told his disciples to ‘consider the lilies how they grow,’ and compared their beauty with Solomon in all his glory? Now, whose advice am I to take, yours or Christ’s? Christ says, ‘Consider the lilies.’ You say, ‘Don’t consider them. It isn’t worth while for any strong-minded man.'”
What do you think happens next?
a) The blacksmith beats up John Muir
b) “This evidently satisfied him, and he acknowledged that he had never thought of blossoms in that way before.”