IMG_7779if someone finds a copy of this at a decent price, I want!

What do kids want?


And MY Christmas shopping is done.

My little niece Deirdre already has a pretty rad aesthetic going.  Very much into this scene:


Seamus on the other hand has been having some trouble at school.  Luckily I found a book that should help.

IMG_7875This year we want to make Giuseppe really feel like part of the family.  I know he’s sometimes a high-strung kid so I got him:


Caddie and I always have fun doing a little project together over the holidays, so I got her:

IMG_7872Caddie’s crazy about the Cape Horners and Down-Easters.  Think she’ll also be into the new knits:


Ian’s my most intense nephew – the kid is like a mini-Kierkegaard.  I think he’ll be into:

IMG_7874On the other hand, I know Amy’s been kinda stressing a little lately so I picked her up:


IMG_7888Not as easy as it sounds, unfortunately.

Tim is quite mature for his age, but you don’t want to weird a kid out.  He’s been asking me a lot about Zola lately so I grabbed him:


I don’t think he’s read Nana yet, let alone got into the debates about which is the real original, but who knows.

Phil loves ancient Rome so I picked up:


Hope I am not jumping him ahead in the Testament of Man series.  I KNOW he’s finished Children of Dune but not Heretics Of Dune so duh I got him:


Ezra kind of freaks me out, actually.  He’s kind of a junior Machiavelli or something.  But, whatever, I guess you can just help him along, so I got him:

IMG_7882I just hope he directs his ambition in a healthy way.

As for Fred?  Kid needs a positive male role model in his life.



Carla in Texas writes:

Dear Helytimes, I found your blog because I have a news alert set for my hometown of Balmorhea, Texas (go Bears!).  I am a retired educator with the BISD now living the sweet life AKA retirement.  Had to write after I LOL’d about your description of Ron’s lizard & reptile show, Ron is a very sweet man an admired eccentric we all love him in our community .

Bone to PICK with you: you are way off on Vertigo.  I first saw it when I was ten and it scared the DAYLIGHTS out of me.  AS for sexy WRONG AGAIN that movie gets me horny as hell.  [TMI, Carla?]  Not Kim Novak — JAMES STEWART.  Are you kidding?  He we a bomber pilot who flew over 200 missions. [20 says wikipedia].

You are right though about Midge.

Keep writin’,


Thanks Carla, and thank you for reading.

Please address all letters for the HelyTimes mailbag to helphely at gmail dot com.

Kennedy Exaggeration

From The New Yorker blog:

In 1962, the Trillings were invited to the White House for a dinner honoring that year’s Nobel laureates. Jacqueline Kennedy, Trilling wrote, was “a hundred times more beautiful than any photograph had ever indicated”

Start reading about the Kennedys and you’ll never stop.

… the greatest thrill I had in my life was when the President’s wife, Mrs. Kennedy, addressed a corwd of about 600 people at this Michelangelo School when he was running for the senatorship against Lodge, and the gracious lady stood up before the big crowd and the Italian people, the elderly people, were there, didn’t know who she was, and when she opened her mouth and introduced herself in Italian, fluent Italian may I say, as the wife of Senator Kennedy, all pandemonium broke loose in the hall.  All the people went over and started to kiss her, and the old women spoke to her as if she was a native of the North End.

So says William DeMarco, JFK’s first campaign manager, in this oral history you can read at the Kennedy Library.  DeMarco says this happened during the campaign against Lodge, 1952.  Is his memory off?  The Kennedys didn’t get married until Sept. ’53.

Things like this come up all the time if you get deep in Kennedyana.  How could it not?  The basic facts of his life are absurd. While he was president he essentially raped a nineteen year old.  He could’ve easily died of various ailments before World War II, during which he ended up stranded on a straight-out-of-cartoon desert island:

Massive insurance but if you haven’t seen Errol Morris’ eight minute documentary The Umbrella Man do yourself a favor.

(Cartoon swiped from here)

One of my bitch older sisters

emailed me just to mock me by saying she got to go see the dinosaur footprints out in western Mass.

which I’ve NEVER SEEN.

I’m telling you: they’ve been doing shit like this to me my whole damn life.  

Vertigo Sucks

1) I like many old movies.  

Many of them* are “still” good, even though now-movies are faster louder and full of incredible innovations.

2) The cause of encouraging people to enjoy old movies is hurt when we pretend bad old movies are good. 

If you’re on the fence about old movies, and you hear about one that’s supposedly good, and then you watch it and it’s boring nonsense, you might conclude “old movies are boring and shitty.”

3) Vertigo sucks.  

It is boring to watch.  The plot is ridiculous and implausible, multiple times over.  This plot is explained in tedious, boring ways.

I absolutely concede that Vertigo might have been AMAZING when it came out in 1958, full of crazy innovations and sexiness.  This shot, say – still very cool:


As cool as the paintings on old rides at Disneyland.

4) People pretend Vertigo is good for some reason.  This is destructive.

It’s possible that these people just have different taste than me.

But I don’t think so.  That’s how much I hated Vertigo.  I believe it is either 1) old people who remember seeing Vertigo in 1958, and having their minds blown, which, fine I totally concede or 2) people who for some micro-cultural reason have bought into liking Vertigo as some kind of status indicator or something.  Possibly uncharitable, I know, but understand: I hated Vertigo.

I don’t even not like Hitchcock.  I would say Rope is 2x better than Vertigo.  Psycho is better than Vertigo.  So is North by Northwest which also doesn’t make a ton of sense.  Rear Window is way better than Vertigo.


1) I only just saw Vertigo a couple days ago, maybe I would’ve liked it more if I saw before I’d seen, say 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, and The Counselor.

3) I’m wrong all the time

But I think this is an important cause.

Vertigo was voted in first place in Sight & Sound‘s 2012 poll of the greatest films of all time, both in the crime genre and in general, displacing Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane from the position it had occupied since 1962.

Ok: lists are stupid, deliberately provocative, Sight & Sound is a British magazine so maybe they are biased, and also who cares, and maybe, as Sight & Sound editor Nick James says, it might just be that critics love j. o.’ing to the idea of disguised/impersonated movie stars (paraphrasing).

The problem is that Citizen Kane is good.  I think if you’d never seen Citizen Kane tomorrow and you watched it it would still be interesting.

By hyping Vertigo to youths, we encourage them to watch a boring piece of shit, and their conclusion will be “don’t trust the fuckers who say old movies are good.”

5) Don’t believe anyone who tells you Kim Novak is “sexy” in Vertigo.

The sexy one is tragic, confused Midge.







Nice work boys.


Wilson got his start doing a survey of all the ants in Alabama.

There’s the question of, why did I pick ants, you know? Why not butterflies or whatever? And the answer is that they’re so abundant, they’re easy to find, and they’re easy to study, and they’re so interesting. They have social habits that differ from one kind of ant to the next. You know, each kind of ant has almost the equivalent of a different human culture. So each species is a wonderful object to study in itself. In fact, I honestly can’t…cannot understand why most people don’t study ants.


Plus look at the wild coolness on Bert Hölldobler:


Bert Hölldobler: