Stray Items


Sorry I haven’t been posting more.  Trying to finish my book and get Great Debates Live organized (get your tickets by emailing  We are legit almost sold out).  Honestly it’s a LITTLE unfair to be mad at me for not producing enough free content.

A few items too good to ignore came across our desk:

1) Reader Robert P. in Los Angeles sends us this item:

Dear Helytimes, 

Thought you might enjoy this wiki. There’s a great part about a riddle and another great part about conducting a trial.

Gotta say, this is one of the most intriguing Wikipedia pages I can remember.  I love when Wikipedia takes myth at face value.

2) Re: our recent post about Tanya Tucker, reader Bobby M. writes:

Saw that Tanya Tucker’s Delta Dawn popped up.  Love that one.  We like to joke that the lyrics are a conversation wherein some jerk is taunting an insanse person.  “Oh, and, Delta?  Did I hear you say he was meeting you here today?  And (aside to chittering friend: ‘get a load of this’) did I also hear you say he’d be taking you to his mansion.  In the sky?  Yeah, that’s what I thought you said, Delta.  Nice flower you have on.”  Midler’s version blows.

Bobby M. is one of the contributors to Lost Almanac, a truly funny print and online comedy mag.

3) We ran into reader Leila S. in New York City.  She was reading the letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and sends in some highlights:

to John Peale Bishop, March, 1925, he wrote “I am quite drunk” at the top of the paper above the date, then later in the letter: “I have lost my pen so I will have to continue in pencil. It turned up– I was writing with it all the time and hadn’t noticed.”
to H.L. Mencken, May 4, 1925, re: Great Gatsby:

“You say, ‘the story is fundamentally trivial.'”

to Gertrude Stein, June 1925, after a long letter kissing her ass:

“Like Gatsby, I have only hope.” Dude quoted his own book he just wrote!

to Mrs. Bayard Turnbull, May 31, 1934, after a long apology about his embarrassing behavior at a tea party:

“P.S. I’m sorry this is typed but I seem to have contracted Scottie’s poison ivy and my hands are swathed in bandages.”

to Joseph Hergesheimer, Fall 1935, re: Tender Is The Night
“I could tell in the Stafford Bar that afternoon when you said that it was ‘almost impossible to write a book about an actress’ that you hadn’t read it thru because the actress fades out of it in the first third and is only a catalytic agent.”
to Arnold Gingrich, March 20, 1936:
“In my ‘Ant’ satire, the phrase ‘Lebanon School for the Blind’ should be changed to ‘New Jersey School for Drug Addicts.'” [The letter continues about other things, then at the very end, emphasis his] “Please don’t forget this change in ‘Ants.'”

to Ernest Hemingway, August, 1936

“Please lay off me in print.”

As always you can reach helytimes at helphely at

The News


Man, I miss Andrew Sullivan.  I’d been reading him since he got rolling in 2001, when the Internet to me was just him and (since devolved into deeply unreadable garbage).

Andrew Sullivan was interesting, almost every day.  He changed sides, he was passionate.  He posted disagreements people had with him, admitted he was wrong maybe not every time but plenty.  He was not an idea tip-toer.  He’d say things he knew would draw outrage and was prepared to be a rare dissenter when necessary.

One of the main ideas he had, that gay marriage might be a good idea, went from totally nuts to pretty much accepted reality, just in the time I was reading him.  But he self-identified as conservative, he believed that sometimes very old ideas were still best thinking on a subject.

I could calibrate to him, feel his moods and changes, he became familiar to me.   Sometimes he was frustrating, or overdramatic, or wrong-headed, but he still surprised, kept me engaged.  When something happened I wanted his take.

The Internet’s worse without him.

Not sure there’s an exact connection, maybe there’s none, but lately: I haven’t cared too much about “the news”

I used to love “the news,” presidential elections especially.  This time around though?  It got me thinking about:


My memory of this book is of Sean Penn’s voice from the audiobook, as I drive back and forth to


After I was done with the audiobook, I gave the CDs to Justin Spitzer.  Who knows what happened to after that.  But I did remember Dylan (Sean Penn) saying something like: “I didn’t care about the news.  ‘Mr. Garfield’s been shot down, shot down.’ To me, that was the news.”

The motto of Helytimes is GO BACK TO THE SOURCE, so I did.

As usual, I didn’t have it quite right.

IMG_7946 IMG_7945

Also got to thinking about Bob Dylan’s friend, Herman Melville.  I (half-mis-)remembered a point he made, almost backhanded, about the news being awful repetitive:


Minus Ishmael, but with the misspelling, could that be on Drudge tomorrow?

Surprised to find how many interesting things I forgot from Chronicles.   For example: been thinking myself lately about Robert E. Lee (mainly I guess because of Ta-Nahesi Coates’ writings on the Civil War).

RE Lee Here is a man who fought for a country that kept humans as slaves.  But he was also, in very many ways, indisputably excellent. Even (maybe especially) his enemies were in awe of him.  In a way, maybe that’s his worst crime.

Douglas Southall Freeman studied Lee more than anybody else ever had.  That was while Freeman was also a newspaper editor (The Richmond News Leader) and sought-after advisor to Dwight Eisenhower and George Marshall:

Freeman stresses how Lee, and some other generals, were objects of great affection among their men. They were spoken of like they were gods, even years after the war was over. One wonders if this was because of shared risks. One of the best books about the Vietnam War, The Long Gray Line*, notes that in the Civil War, the risk of battle death to a general was twice that of a private. (Whereas in eleven years of fighting in the Vietnam War, only three general officers were killed in action.) The halo effect over Lee is centered on his concern for the lives of his troops, particularly in never ordering them to make unwarranted charges into death traps.

How many World War II generals had grandfathers who fought with Lee?


George S. Patton, Sr.  Patton’s grandfather, who died fighting with Lee.

What are we gonna do with this guy?RE Lee 2 How many high schools are named after him?:

RE Lee high school

Here is Bob Dylan’s take:


Dylan!  Nobody else could put it quite the same way.  He’s in his friends’ apartment, on Vestry Street if I read right, reading books. On Al Capone vs. Pretty Boy Floyd:


These people had the greatest apartment library in New York:




If Dylan had gone to West Point, I wonder if he would’ve ended up something like James Salter.


Also recommended:

Long Gray Line

Man.  That one knocked my head off.  Very glad I read it when I did, should read it again.  Part of it is about North Korea.  Not to be confused with: