Out of context this little passage from The Atlantic’s article about millenials traveling was funny:

These skills can translate into a competitive advantage in the workplace. Elizabeth Harper, 25, discovered her career interests while backpacking in Southeast Asia. Traveling gave her time to read for pleasure, and she ended up leafing through books passed around in hostels about atrocities that had occurred in the countries she was visiting. 


Bezos developed an ambition to travel into space and help mankind migrate from Earth. He was the valedictorian of his high school class and in his speech he quoted from Star Trek and described a plan to build permanent human colonies in orbit so that Earth could be turned into a nature preserve. Years later, his high school girlfriend told reporters that Bezos had always wanted to become rich so that he could “get to outer space.”

from Steve Coll’s profile of the man/review of The Everything Store in NYRB.

History As Emergency

Here then we arrive at the rub.  To sort the actions of the past, to begin to unthread them and lay them out on our examiners’ table, is accomplished only with time, patience, argument.

But Time, cruel as she is, doesn’t stop moving, not even for the historian.  In the thirty or forty years it may take historians to come to some preliminary judgment on the recent past, the game’s been going on.  The same mistakes have already been made.  It is no question of history repeating itself.  History repeats itself before it’s even history.  The scholar emerges from his library, steps out on the balcony, and announces: “ah!  look!  tyrants oppress!  fools stumble! vanity clouds judgment! fear leads us to folly!” The man in the street – if one can be bothered to look up – says “well done, sir, but while you were in your study, all that’s already happened again.”

… in this sense, the historian is running a race that can only be lost.  One could argue that the historian then should work quick as a doctor, his business as pressing as the surgeons’, rushing to prescriptions before the patient collapses.  I don’t contend as much, however, not merely because the historians’ business is done sedentarily.  No; I think we are best advised to work with a philosopher’s unsurprise.  Indeed, for a historian, unsurprise is the beginning of wisdom.

Francis Dunnam, “History As Emergency,” Twombley memorial lecture at Oxford (1938).

For your consideration

from this old Vulture interview with Tom McCarthy:

Did you write that [The Station Agent] with Peter in mind?
I did. I met Pete in New York and directed him in a play [called The Killing Agent] way downtown and way, way, way off Broadway, and I just thought he was terrific and saw what everyone knows now. I thought, This guy is a leading man! He has the looks, he’s cool, he just carries himself in that way of a leading man. I started the idea of the script without him in mind, and then I realized, Oh, he fits truly well. It’s funny because I remember when we were distributing that movie, Miramax had this moment where they were trying to put him out there upfront. I said, “We should just have a one-page ad in the New York Times with Peter Dinklage because he’s just that cool.” And they were like, “Nah, nah, it’s too hard. But we’ll figure it out.” And now the guy’s everywhere. He’s the coolest guy on the planet.

Good line from the movie “His Girl Friday”

Next time you hear from me I will be riding in a Rolls Royce giving interviews about success.

What the guy at the nursery said to me when I bought a book about cactus identification:


I knew someone would want to study the cacti.

Three messages from writers I admire

1) George Saunders, from a Chipotle bag.

photo2) Rev. F. Washington Jarvis, speaking at the International Boys’ School Conference in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand in 2009:



3) Cormac McCarthy, in The New York Times magazine, April 19, 1992.

“There’s no such thing as life without bloodshed,” McCarthy says philosophically. “I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous.”



“Ben Dougan”

Really enjoyed tuning in to Late Show With David Letterman the other night.  No HelyTimes reader should miss the above clip.

I hadn’t watched the show in awhile: it brings back visceral memories of eating moist takeout on the 14th floor of the Ed Sullivan Theater, watching the taping alone on a little TV in my office.

Watching the show again I thought came closer to understanding the show than I ever did then.  David Letterman and Paul Schaffer operate in some shared inbetween land of irony and genuine, earnest love for the thing they’re being ironic about.  It’s like they’re making a parody of a TV show, but a parody that comes from an almost painful longing. Paul is more joyful.

Consider this, from a 1984 Playboy interview with DL:

Playboy: Paul Shaffer’s comical character provides a nice counterpoint to your cynicism. Was that something designed, or did it just happen?

Letterman: Paul was originally hired solely for the music. We wanted old R&B stuff and good, solid rock ‘n’ roll—the kind of music you never hear on TV talk shows. But while we were talking with him, we were reminded of all the wonderful things he had done on Saturday Night Live,playing Don Kirshner and Marvin Hamlisch. And he is a very, very funny guy. So we just naturally began utilizing more and more of his talents.

Playboy: But where did that character come from?

Letterman: From Paul, who really does love showbiz kitsch. It’s his hobby. He records The Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon and plays back Jerry introducing Chad Everett 100 times in a row. On vacations, he goes to Las Vegas and listens to lounge comics and lounge piano players and memorizes their clichés. It’s not that he’s making fun of it; he’s fascinated by it.

Playboy: What you say makes us wonder if the character he plays really is a character.

Letterman: When people come up to me on the street, probably the most asked question is “Is Paul Shaffer for real?” What he does is an extension of an aspect of his personality. So it would not be inaccurate to say, “Yeah, that’s him.” But he’s also a very nice man; a sweet, sensitive human being. See? Maybe it is impossible to describe Paul without lapsing into those stupid showbiz clichés. You know him, you love him, you can’t live without him.

Another interesting thing from that interview:

Playboy: Your college years were 1965 through 1969, the anti-Vietnam war protest era. Were you involved in the radical politics of that time?

Letterman: Ball State was pretty much isolated from all of that. I’m not sure why, since Kent State was not far off or too different. And I was not what you would call politicized. While other campuses were staging major demonstrations, our biggest worry was “How are we gonna get beer for the big dance?” I was hardly aware of the Vietnam war until a friend of mine flunked out and was drafted and [snaps fingers] was dead like that. One day, here’s a guy setting fire to the housemother’s panty hose, and the next day, he’s gone. That got my attention.

It’s no wonder DFW thought so much about Letterman.  I’m not gonna try and articulate something that stumped that dude.

A shame this above clip cuts off before a callback about Ben Dougan’s nose for a free lunch.  That was pure joy.


Lone Pine


Man, next time I’m up in Lone Pine, I’m gonna see if I can buy local writer Llewelyn Kent a cup of coffee.

From an interview with him in Eastern Sierra Review*:

ESR: You’ve been in various emergency-type situations–

L. Kent: Yah, you could call ’em that.

ESR: What’s one lesson these experiences have taught you.

L. Kent: To keep calm.  Sounds easy, it isn’t.  It’s hard and I can’t say I learned it perfectly.  But I did learn, pretty quick: the worse things are, the calmer you ought to be.  Just remembering that is useful.


* possible I am the only subscriber south of, say, Mojave.  Although someone claimed they saw a copy at Skylight. 

Happy belated Bloomsday, ya’ll

A puzzle I turn over in my head sometimes is whether it’s worth someone’s time to read Ulysses.  Depends how much time you have, I guess.

I remember reading once that you can’t really begin to approach this book unless you can speak English, Old English, Irish, Greek, and Latin, and you’d probably best know Hebrew too.


My favorite part, from Episode 8, Lestrygonians.  Bloom sees a walking advertisement for his former employer:

A procession of whitesmocked men marched slowly towards him along the gutter, scarlet sashes across their boards. Bargains. Like that priest they are this morning: we have sinned: we have suffered. He read the scarlet letters on their five tall white hats: H. E. L. Y. S. Wisdom Hely’s. Y lagging behind drew a chunk of bread from under his foreboard, crammed it into his mouth and munched as he walked. Our staple food. Three bob a day, walking along the gutters, street after street. Just keep skin and bone together, bread and skilly. They are not Boyl: no: M’Glade’s men. Doesn’t bring in any business either. I suggested to him about a transparent show cart with two smart girls sitting inside writing letters, copybooks, envelopes, blotting paper. I bet that would have caught on. Smart girls writing something catch the eye at once. Everyone dying to know what she’s writing.

The Fault In Our Stars

Man, I’ll give it up to this movie.

They nailed this movie.  Just crushed it.

If there’s a problem with this movie, it’s that the character August “Gus” Whippledorp sucks.  Shailene Woodley blasts the poor dude playing him off the screen.

On the other hand, Shailene Woodley is so good at acting that you buy she loves him, so the problem solves itself.

The name of the guy who directed this movie is Josh Boone.  Jesus Christ, of course it is.  The confidence, the earnestness – “Josh Boone.”  This is the Josh Boone of movies.

At one point in this movie, the main characters are in Amsterdam.  (Won’t apologize for that spoiler).  A shitty thing happens.  So the kind woman decides to cheer up our main characters by suggesting they all go to see the Anne Frank House.

I saw this movie in the UTA screening room at 12:45pm (thanks Halps!).  The audience was mostly UTA assistants I guess, 24 year olds in their suits.  You could hear audible, heaving sobs.  Just weeping and struggling to breath through sobs.  People were losing it worse than at any funeral I’ve ever been to.

(Someone at CAA is gonna read this and think “signs of weakness at UTA… time to pounce?”)


You Don’t Know What It’s Like


photo 1

Some good stuff in this Rolling Stone I picked up.

photo 4




How about this, from an interview with Carlos Santana?

photo 2

I bet!

From another article, about the history of concert festivals:

photo 5


This article was sad:photo 1


photo 2

They wrote this one for Otis Redding, who died before he could record it.


Quiet swagger

Desus and Mero referred to Kevin Durant as “swaggerless” a couple times.  Don’t know shit about Kevin Durant but I thought that was a funny phrase.  Mentioned it to Seattle office, who said, “if you think Kevin Durant is swaggerless you should watch his MVP acceptance speech.  Quiet swagger.”

This is indeed an incredible speech.

“Never change who you are.”

“God directed our paths to work together.”

Jump to 23:36 if you’re pressed for time.


He got me.



Here’s a piece of advice for anyone who lives in Los Angeles: never, ever drive to Las Vegas.  Somewhere around Barstow you will realize the wisdom in this. If Fate demands you appear in Las Vegas, you gotta fly. If the marginal savings are important to you, you shouldn’t be going to Las Vegas.

(I guess maybe drive if you’re smuggling a trunkload of illegal drugs.)


When it comes to airplanes I am Team Window Seat.  You stare out at the weird American landscape for an hour?  It’s better than the best ride at Disneyland.  The best ride at California Adventure just simulates being in an airplane over California.

But of course you need a good album to listen to.

The other day I put out requests for good music on Twitter and got many wonderful and thoughtful responses.

A band that kept coming up is War On Drugs.

Had only kind of heard of these dudes.  But my memory was jogged.  I realized I went to high school with the singer of this band.  If I remember right he was a very good, decent, and funny dude.  I can’t remember if he was on the cross-country team or not; I think so?  Regardless this would be a good album to listen to on a November ride to the New England Class C Championships.

Another suggestion I got pretty into is “What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?” by The Vaccines:

One of the most passionate responses came in from New York’s Tom Ceraulo, and I turn it over to him:

Okay so Old ’97s MOST MESSED UP (my favorite album by a band I’ve been a fan of forever, going to see them tonight and I’m particularly excited to hear the new stuff), Joe Henry’s INVISIBLE HOUR (consistently terrific songwriting & spare, lived-in arrangements that let the songs breathe), and Sturgill Simpson’s METAMODERN SOUNDS IN COUNTRY MUSIC (an amazing dose of bona fide outlaw country with some genuinely exciting twists – produced by Dave Cobb, who produced Jason Isbell’s stunning SOUTHEASTERN from last year) are great, as I mentioned. Some others:
The War on Drugs – LOST IN THE DREAM (might be the best album of the year, I can’t stop listening to it)
Hamilton Leithauser – BLACK HOURS (the former frontman of the Walkmen)
Bob Mould – BEAUTY & RUIN (another loud rock album from Bob with the super talented and ever-entertaining Jon Wurster on drums)
Sharon Van Etten – ARE WE THERE (heart/gut-wrenching beauty from a Brooklyn singer-songwriter who keeps getting better)
Willie Watson – FOLK SINGER VOL. 1 (did you see the Showtime documentary on the Inside Llewyn Davis concert?  He’s the guy who did Midnight Special – produced by Dave Rawlings)
Joseph Arthur – LOU (quiet and tasteful collection of Lou Reed covers)
Lykke Li – I NEVER LEARN (a beautiful breakup record, epic in sound if not length)
Damon Albarn – EVERYDAY ROBOTS (I think people would prefer if he put out a Blur record but I quite like this)
Rosanne Cash – THE RIVER AND THE THREAD (beautiful new Rosanne songs, beautiful production by John Leventhal)
I could go on (The Hold Steady, Woods, Lake Street Dive…) but I won’t because I have to run to the show.  Oh, and if you like jazz I might have some more to give you.  Most people hate jazz though.  Or think they do.
Thanks Tom!  Incidentally Tom is quite the soft touch in terms of Twitter favoriting (54 thousand!), a testament to his generous spirit.


 (photo of Barstow from

Rock & Ice


In Puerto Natales, Chile, I came across some issues of a magazine called Rock & Ice.


I looked at two issues, from eighteen years apart.  Both had incredible stories.

Take, for example, the story about Basque mountaineer Edurne Pasaban, the first woman to climb all fourteen eight-thousand foot mountains in the world (the first one she did was Everest).


What about her affair with her mentor, Silvio Mondinelli?


Ladies, do not let your man attempt Kangchenjunga with this minx.

There was another great story about Hans Kraus, King of the Gunks, who as a boy in Switzerland had James Joyce as an English tutor:

“Ya,” says Kraus, whose sharp wit is still expressed with a thick Austrian accent.  “But he didn’t do a goot chob, dit he?”

As a young doctor Kraus adapted remedies he learned from circus performers.  Later he lunched with President Eisenhower. From wiki:

Kraus’s medical records show that by the time of Kennedy’s death in Dallas, using exercise, Kraus had virtually cured Kennedy of his lifelong back pain.Kraus’s White House medical records also contain several entries about Kennedy’s back corset, which Kennedy had worn since Harvard. As Kraus wrote in the medical records, Kraus had grown convinced that the corset was impeding Kennedy’s recovery and that Kennedy needed permanently to stop wearing it. Finally, in October 1963, Kennedy told Kraus that he would stop wearing his corset permanently in January 1964. Several leading presidential historians, including James Reston and Robert Dallek, have theorized that Kennedy might have survived Dallas if he had not been wearing his corset.

IMG_3463 IMG_3435

Local Politics

Attention any HelyTimes readers living in LA County:

This is genuine: I’m pretty uninformed about local politics, but I know someone who is.  He’s a guy I would vote for if I could.

It’s this man, Johnny Abbot.  Johnny Abbott assures me:

photo 3

I trust this man and will be taking his endorsements to the ballot box:

photo 2-1


photo 1

photo 3




The Atlantic can be silly sometimes.

photoUm, cause a guy’s head got eggsploded?


Fight scene on last night’s Game Of Thrones*

Still at best a distant number two in “upsetting fight scenes on HBO serials,” falling well behind to Deadwood, season 3 episode 5.

HelyTimes will always be in the tank for Milch.  Milch on (parentheticals) in scripts:


Taking it as always to it’s conclusion…IMG_6200


One more bonus Milch:


* what a bunch of wimps we are about “spoilers.”  All-time favorite Mindy Kaling rant is about how whining about spoilers is disgusting and unmanly.  Take your spoilers with courage and dignity.




Martha from Port Washington writes,

Dear Helytimes, 

I know you were on a long trip recently.  (What can I say?  “The private is public now, isn’t it wonderful?” – Andy Warhol.) Just clue in an innocent reader: was the most interesting place you went?


Well Martha, first of all thank you for reading.  No apology necessary, I know how it is.

Truth is, it”d take me a long time to think that through.

Here’s one that comes to mind that I can easily illustrate with photographs: the Amazon.

On the way back up (or down?) river to Iquitos, Peru, my guide took me to this weird kind of zoo.  It was just a cabin where two unenergetic guys were sitting around.  They had some weak, old seeming animals around.

They had some good birds.




They asked me if I wanted to hold the sloth, but he seemed to have enough problems.