SFJ: There’s a lot to talk about in that it mirrors the larger economy… You know, all the mergers that happened at the corporate level are now happening at the musical level. I was talking to someone who was handwringing about Spotify, a fellow musician who wrote an editorial, and when we were talking about the whole thing, he said, “You know, there’s no reason to yell at any particular party, because they all have equity in each other. It’s all one thing, and they’re completely aligned against the artist in every case.”
What we had in the ’90s was… what another very famous, huge record executive [said to me] in a very, very hilarious way. We went to his Fifth Avenue townhouse, gorgeous space, and he said—maybe I’ll give it away if I can do his accent properly—but he said [Affects accent.], “You know what this is? This right here? It’s stupid money. It’s CD money. That’s the kind of money that made dumb people feel smart.” You have the biggest fucking markup in retail history, and somehow in one winter, the music business—with Phillips leading the way—said, “Hey, that $7.99 album you love? Guess what? Your lucky day: You get to buy it for $18.99, it’s going to sound worse, and you have to buy fucking pieces of equipment.” And everyone said, “Great, I’d like to buy more of them please.” And so there was this incredible surplus of money. And then musicians like me [Frere-Jones played in the post-rock/punk-funk band Ui at the time. —ed.] get a day job doing very little at Columbia House, and go on tour, because those jobs existed.
Wait! You can’t be shut down for summer! I need my Helytimes!
writes reader Melanie in Nashville. Aw, thanks! Don’t worry, there’s tons to read… in the archive!
There have been over 560 posts on Helytimes. Here are the ten most popular:
Off the charts most popular post, because of people googling supposed inspiration/John Belushi partyfriend Cathy Smith
Those’ll keep coming over the summer!
Disney + Nazis will bring ’em in.
A personal passion
Feel like this is my wheelhouse, summarizing dense history of the general reader, but it’s a lot of work to write posts like this.
6) Ships’ Cats
I mean, for Convoy alone.
The “it man” of Norwegian literature!
Just a real great story.
This blew my mind, some of the best writing I’ve ever read on WWII.
About Pete Carroll, Nick Saban, and Bill Belichick
Now, here are just some personal favorites:
Here’s stuff related to a current project:
Here is some backstory on Donald Trump, lately in the news:
You can also browse yourself by category. Probably the deepest holes are
See you later!
Time for summer vacation here at Helytimes!
Before I go there were a couple things to get out of my system:
New David Brooks book
I like David Brooks, I’ve read all his books. Lately he’s been getting hammered by the millennials. That’s gonna happen when you tell people stuff they don’t wanna hear, true or not, and you don’t seem to actually have it all figured out yourself. Whatever, he has an exhausting job. Shouldn’t Times columnists take a year off every so often?
The message that’s at the center of this book might be, you must work hard every day at being a better person.
Who would disagree with this? Yet it’s not really a message we hear that often.
Brooks thinks people used to hear this message all the time, it was part of the public life or public religion or culture of this country. As his sparker example, he cites a radio broadcast he heard from the end of WW2:
Well, ok. But maybe they were somber because three hundred thousand American guys had gotten killed, half of Europe was leveled, China was fucked, they’d just dropped two world-changing weapons on Japan, there was footage somewhere of bodies being shoved into ditches by bulldozers at Nazi camps, and we might have to fight the Soviets tomorrow.
Maybe they were just tired and exhausted and depressed.
As for the football thing, you know durn well that’s not a fair comparison, Brooks. You’re being glib. An adrenalined athlete and a broadcast at the end of a war are going to have different tones.
Anyway. The book is mini-biographies of:
A. Philip Randolph
Dorothy Day (a fox, Brooks, you should’ve mentioned that, kind of part of the story here)
Samuel Johnson plus there’s Johnny Unitas, etc.
Those are all good. Who doesn’t love little biographies?
The basic message is that all these people worked hard to be their best, to find what that was, sort out their values and then live up to them. They overcome crazy challenges, achieved impossibilities, etc.
The world these people grew up in was very different. For one thing it was way poorer. It was way slower. It was traditional. It was segregated. Some of these people worked to change those things, others were like the embodiment of preserving those values.
So not all the lessons are easily transferable. Eisenhower and Marshall were military guys. Day worked in the Catholic tradition. Perkins and Eliot were from rigid semi-aristocracies. Maybe a moral of this book might be “use the values you’ve been taught. Lock into some tradition and try to advance it.” That’s an interesting idea.
One thing that I think is a fake claim in the Brooks book is this:
Well whatever, Joel Osteen gives me the willies, but all these characters Brooks describes believed they were “made to excel… to leave a mark on this generation… chosen, set apart”
On the whole though, the book was a fine read, and it’s worth thinking about this stuff. It reminded me of the lectures my high school headmaster used to give. There was a lot of sense in them, I look over this book of them a lot.
This is a fair slam on Brooks’ book.
When Your Enemy Wants To Surrender, Let Him.
Disappointed Brooks wrote a column about Lee without noting my and Bob Dylan’s work on the topic. As it happens I’ve been thinking about Lee a lot lately.
Grant, who’d seen thousands of people, many of them children, die horrible deaths because of Lee’s brilliance, because of his perseverance, because of his ability to inspire an army, Grant who’d lost friends and had to send his own guys to get killed by the thousands because of Lee, treated him with utmost magnanimity.
Here is what Grant says about Lee when they met at Appomattox:
The best one hour about Lee for my money is this PBS American Experience doc, avail free on my PBS Roku channel:
(How hard does American Experience dominate?)
Union General Montgomery Meigs thought of a punishment for Lee. He turned Lee’s wife’s ancestral home, to which Lee hoped to retire one day, into a fucking cemetery:
As for naming schools after him? Sure — maybe it’s a good lesson about how you can have some amazing qualities but be wrong about the most important things of your age. Kids can be reminded every day to ask “what might I be wrong about? what are we ALL wrong about?”
But also who cares? We can and should change our heroes as time goes on. Name it after the next guy. Name all those schools after Harriet Tubman or Sally Ride. Or Francis Perkins or Bayard Rustin.
(I enjoy fails but I do prefer when I know for sure the guy isn’t paralyzed.)
If you need me btw you can find me here!:
– one of the prettiest songs ever written, says Dick Clark.
Really enjoyed this AV Club thing about Columbia House:
SFJ: Scattered through many musician interviews and oral histories, you hear a lot of stories of people early on who really did have no other way of getting music, and how important it was to them. And, even as a kid in Fort Greene [in Brooklyn], I subscribed to Columbia House because I wasn’t allowed to go buy things on my own yet. I would wait and wait for my ELO record. One of the most disappointing moments of my life was [when] I came back from vacation knowing that Kiss’ Alive II was going to be in my mailbox, and for some reason the son-of-a-bitch mailman, as if he didn’t know what he was doing, folded the fucking thing in half and put it through the slot.
All: [Rousing chorus of everyone groaning and saying, “Nooooooo!”]
Om Malik: I’ve been reading about you, and I have been fascinated by your progress and more importantly how you have conducted your business. Where did you find the inspiration to follow this path?
Brunello Cucinelli: From the teary eyes of my father. When we were living in the countryside, the atmosphere, the ambiance — life was good. We were just farmers, nothing special. Then he went to work in a factory. He was being humiliated and offended, and he was doing a hard job. He would not complain about the hardship or the tiny wages he received, but what he did say was, “What have I done evil to God to be subject to such humiliation?”
Basically, what is human dignity made of? If we work together, say, and, even with one look, I make you understand that you are worth nothing and I look down on you, I have killed you. But if I give you regards and respect — out of esteem, responsibility is spawned. Then out of responsibility comes creativity, because every human being has an amount of genius in them. Man needs dignity even more than he needs bread.
A correspondent sends this one along, subject line: “Most interesting thing I read today.” Fantastic:
Here, no meetings with mobile phones. No one is allowed to bring them into the meeting room. You must look me in the eye. You must know things by heart. You must know all of your business with a 1 to 2 percent error rate. It is also training for your mind. It is also a question of respect, because I have never called someone on a Saturday or a Sunday. No one is allowed to do so. We must discover this, because if individuals rest properly, then it is better.
Do you know the word otium in Latin, meaning, “doing nothing”? The Roman people were all laid back. In all the pictures, they were all laying around. They were doing nothing, just staring. In the winter on a Sunday afternoon, I can spend six hours in front of the fireplace, just looking at the flames and thinking. In the evening, I’m drunk with beautiful thoughts. My wife says to me, “What are you looking at?” I say, “The fire.” We have to take a step backward.
I’m not about to buy a $3,500 sweater but if I was it’d be from this man:
Om: What’s the correlation? All these people you are quoting are very interesting, but why mention them? Also how are they correlated to all these people whose photos you have on the wall here?
Brunello: Those are the ancient thinkers, philosophers: Socrates, Confucius, Constantine, Palladio. These people are the contemporary figures that left me with a different view on the world. Dostoyevsky, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Kafka, Kennedy and the Pope. At the end of the day, all these great people, what do they focus on? Human dignity. They all talk about being custodians in the world. Hadrian, the emperor said, “I feel responsible for the beauty in the world.”
Can I ask you, how old are you? I am 60 myself.
Brunello: You are not far away from my mindset.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a great enlightened man, but he was the first of the Romantic movement, too. I think that in the last 30 years, we have tried to govern mankind through enlightenment, through the use of reason, our mind. This is no good.
This century is where enlightenment and romanticism must blend. A great idea that is born out of the mind and then goes through the soul — there is no doubt that the outcome is marvelous. If this idea is true, fair, beautiful, there’s no doubt that it is also a good idea. I think this applies to everything.
All words and pictures from this gorgeous website. There’s other great stuff. Take this, from an interview with photographer Vincent Laforet:
Om: When I was a young reporter in India, I had this one photographer friend, Anu Pushkarna. He would take the flattest pictures ever, but he was the bravest guy ever. If there was a riot or some other craziness going on, he was right in the middle of everything. It wasn’t art, but they were real. He would get hit on the head for taking a picture.The same event captured by some of the bigger-name photographers in India like Raghu Rai, the same perspective, it would be like, “Wow.” The pictures were what made the story better.
Vincent: It’s a perfect marriage. It’s like a movie, with film and sound and acting and directing and music. I wish there was more mutual respect between the different professions. I can tell you that the joke amongst war photographers has always been that most war correspondents work from their hotel rooms at the suite at the Ritz-Carlton, whereas the war photographer has to go where the bullets are flying.
AND there’s an interview with my old college nemesis! (not a bad guy, actually pretty impressive, just tragically humorless)
Hey, Readers, send me more stuff like this! I’d love to evolve Helytimes into something more like Wonderful Digest magazine, all sent in by correspondents. Helytimes’ email is helphely@gmail.
Gonna take a break for the summer soon, but send me the most interesting thing you read!
Found this one in some ancient folder on my desktop. From a series about the biggest statues in the world by Fabrice Fouillet.
Once, back when I lived in New York, I went down to Coney Island to have a look around. On Surf Avenue, there was a man with glasses, maybe sixty but energetic, and good-humored, standing behind a table, handing out fliers about some neighborhood development thing or another. He was opposed to it. I got to talking to this guy, and he brought up Fred Trump, Donald Trump’s father, and the various destruction he’d done to Coney Island. To this man, Fred Trump was both laughable and a villain.
Some time after that I looked up Fred Trump’s obituary in The New York Times. He died in 1999. It’s a great obituary, written by Tracie Rozhon:
Frederick Christ (pronounced Krist) Trump was born in New York City in 1905. From World War II until the 1980’s, Mr. Trump would tell friends and acquaintances that he was of Swedish origin, although both his parents were born in Germany. John Walter, his nephew and the family historian, explained, ”He had a lot of Jewish tenants and it wasn’t a good thing to be German in those days.”
His father was a barber who arrived from Kallstadt, Germany, in 1885 and joined the Alaska gold rush. By the turn of the century, he owned the White Horse Restaurant and Inn in White Horse, Alaska, while also supplying food and lumber to the miners.
Fred Trump started a construction business at fifteen. With the money he made he paid for his kid brother to go to college and get a Ph.D.
”He made a great contribution; he filled a very big hole in the market,” Mr. LeFrak recalled. ”We took Queens; he did more in Brooklyn. He was a great builder who rallied to the cause like we did; he built housing for the returning veterans. I guess you could say we’re the last of the old dinosaurs.”
Fred Trump married a Scottish immigrant. When he died they’d been married 63 years.
His estate has been estimated by the family at $250 million to $300 million, but Mr. Trump did not believe in displays of wealth — with one exception. For decades, he insisted on a Cadillac, always navy blue, always gleaming, and always replaced every three years, its ”FCT” license plate announcing its owner wherever he went.
Fred Trump was frugal:
Mr. Trump was a demon for controlling costs. Besides collecting unused nails, Mr. Gordon said, Mr. Trump often performed the exterminating chores in his buildings by himself. ”He became an expert,” Mr. Gordon said.
When it was time to order the thousands of gallons of disinfectant necessary for his thousands of apartments, Mr. Trump gathered samples of all the available floor cleaners on his desk. ”Then he sent them out to a lab and found out what was in them and had it mixed himself,” Donald Trump recalled. ”What had cost $2 a bottle, he got mixed for 50 cents.”
What the guy on Coney Island didn’t like was the destruction of Steeplechase Park, told here by Wikipedia:
After acquiring the site in 1965, Fred Trump intended to build a low-cost housing development. Trump was unable to get a change to the zoning of the area, which required “amusements” only (largely due to the efforts of the Coney Island Chamber of Commerce), and decided to demolish the park in 1966 before it could obtain landmark status. Trump held a “demolition party,” at which invited guests threw bricks through the Park’s facade. Trump bulldozed the majority of the park, save for a few rides and concessions stands, among them the Parachute Jump, that were along the boardwalk.
The housing development never happened though, and Coney Island is a bit of a wasteland.
The story of the demolition party is also told in this book:
This book is incredibly poignant. Charles Denson is a good writer, and his book is very personal. Some it is about how his memories of the park were tied up with his longing for his disappearing father.
This one prompted me to pick up a book I’d been hearing about for awhile. Wade Davis has been featured on Helytimes before.
The opening chapter of this book is intense, vivid writing about the British experience on the Western Front during World War I. Thought I’d read enough about that horror show: Robert Graves and Paul Fussell and Geoff Dyer. Maybe the guy who hit me in the guts the hardest was Siegfried Sassoon, in part because of what a groovy idyllic life got catastrophically ruined for him.
But Wade Davis makes it all new again. One paragraph will do:
Click here if you want to see a photo of Mallory’s dead body, discovered in 1999, seventy five years after he was lost on Everest. Only halfway through Davis’ book, at the moment I’m deep in Tibet suffering along on the painstaking surveying expeditions.
A character keeps popping like a fox into the story and then disappearing — a rival mountaineer, the Duke Of Abruzzi.
(You can read about Abruzzi, why I’d be interested in a duke from there here.) What a life. Says Wiki:
He had begun to train as a mountaineer in 1892 on Mont Blanc and Monte Rosa (Italian Alps): in 1897 he made the first ascent of Mount Saint Elias (Canada/U.S., 5,489 m). There the expedition searched for a mirage, known as the Silent City of Alaska, that natives and prospectors claimed to see over a glacier. C. W. Thornton, a member of the expedition, wrote: “It required no effort of the imagination to liken it to a city, but was so distinct that it required, instead, faith to believe that it was not in reality a city.”
Another witness wrote in The New York Times: “We could plainly see houses, well-defined streets, and trees. Here and there rose tall spires over huge buildings which appeared to be ancient mosques or cathedrals.”
If you’re climbing K2 you’re liable to be on the Abruzzi Spur:
Late in life:
In 1918, the Duke returned to Italian Somaliland. In 1920, he founded the “Village of the Duke of Abruzzi” (Villaggio Duca degli Abruzzi orVillabruzzi) some ninety kilometres north of Mogadishu. It was an agricultural settlement experimenting with new cultivation techniques. By 1926, the colony comprised 16 villages, with 3,000 Somali and 200 Italian (Italian Somalis) inhabitants. Abruzzi raised funds for a number of development projects in the town, including roads, dams, schools, hospitals, a church and a mosque. He died in the village on 18 March 1933. After Italian Somaliland was dissolved, the town was later renamed to Jowhar.
Let’s skip to the best part of any Wikipedia page, “Personal Life:”
In the early years of the twentieth century the Abruzzi was in a relationship with Katherine Hallie “Kitty” Elkins, daughter of the wealthy American senator Stephen Benton Elkins, but the Abruzzi’s cousin King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy refused to grant him permission to marry a commoner. His brother, Emanuele Filiberto, to whom Luigi was very close, convinced him to give up the relationship. His brother later approved of young Antoinette “Amber” Brizzi, the daughter of Quinto Brizzi, one of the largest vineyard owners in northern Italy. In the later years of his life, Abruzzi married a young Somali woman named Faduma Ali.
Here is a picture of the Duke of Abruzzi:
That was taken by Vittorio Sella.
The high quality of Sella’s photography was in part due to his use of 30×40 cm photographic plates, in spite of the difficulty of carrying bulky and fragile equipment into remote places. He had to invent equipment, including modified pack saddles and rucksacks, to allow these particularly large glass plates to be transported safely. His photographs were widely published and exhibited, and highly praised; Ansel Adams, who saw thirty-one that Sella had presented to the US Sierra Club, said they inspired “a definitely religious awe”.
Hey again I just yank photos and stuff from books from all over — not sure if that’s like an ok practice but this is a non-profit site, try to credit everyone, the whole point is that maybe you will want to go look at/read the originals.
I spent the ensuing weeks across a table from Nic, hashing out plotlines. It gave me a chance to study him at close quarters. No one was more vehement about character and motivation than Nic. Now and then, he’d do the voices or act out a scene, turning his wrist to demonstrate the pop-pop of gunplay. He was 37 but somehow ageless. He could’ve stepped out of a novel by Steinbeck. The writer as crusader, chronicler of love and depravity. His shirt was rumpled, his hair mussed, his manner that of a man who’d just hiked along the railroad tracks or rolled out from under a box. He is fine-featured, with fierce eyes a little too small for his face. It gives him the aura of a bear or some other species of dangerous animal. When I was a boy and dreamed of literature, this is how I imagined a writer—a kind of outlaw, always ready to fight or go on a spree. After a few drinks, you realize the night will culminate with pledges of undying friendship or the two of you on the floor, trying to gouge each other’s eyes out.
I love True Detective and I loved, loved reading this profile of Nic Pizzolatto in Vanity Fair (from which I steal the above photo, credited to Art Streiber).
I did have a quibble, though.
Here’s what profile writer Rich Cohen says about F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood:
Early in the history of film, when the big-time writers of the day, Fitzgerald most famously, were offered a role in the movies, they decided to write for the cash, forswearing deeper participation in a medium they considered second-rate. Perhaps as a result of this decision, the author came to be the forgotten figure in Hollywood, well paid but disregarded. According to the old joke, “the actress was so stupid she slept with the writer.”
Credit and power are shared. But by tossing out that first season and beginning again, Nic has a chance to finally undo the early error of Fitzgerald and the rest. If he fails and the show tanks, he’ll be just another writer with one great big freakish hit. But if he succeeds, he will have generated a model in which the stars and the stories come and go but the writer remains as guru and king.
Not sure this is totally accurate. I’ve read a decent amount about F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood. The more you read, the more it seems like Fitzgerald really loved Hollywood, and tried really hard to be good at writing movies, and was distressed by his failures. Fitzgerald loved movies:
When Fitzgerald worked on movies, it seems like he worked hard, was hurt when he was (frequently) fired, which sent him into tailspins that made things worse. But he was trying:
Those are from the great Marc Norman’s book, highly recommended:
Or how about this?:
That’s from this great one, by Scott Donaldson:
Now, that’s not to say that Fitzgerald always did everything perfectly:
(from this one, very entertaining read:
On the other hand, William Faulkner did well in Hollywood. He’s credited on at least two movies — The Big Sleep and To Have And Have Not, that you’d have to put in the all-time good list. If he’d never written a single book, you could look at those credits and call Faulkner a pretty successful screenwriter.
What did Faulkner do differently than Fitzgerald? Possibly, his secret was caring less:
Murky, to be sure.
But you might say: the big difference in the Hollywood careers of Fitzgerald and Faulkner is that Faulkner teamed with a great director, Howard Hawks, who liked him and liked working with him.
That’s what Pizzolatto did too. He teamed up with Cary Fukunaga. Cary Fukunaga directed all eight episodes of season one of True Detective (and a bunch of other things worth seeing).
Fukunaga’s not mentioned once in that Vanity Fair article. That’s crazy.
Anyway. I’m excited for season two, it sounds super interesting.
Finally getting down to this one. Not all old philosophical classics are easy reading but Boethius gets off to a rip-roaring start. He’s got the Muses of Poetry at his bedside trying to cheer him up when all of a sudden Philosophy appears:
Philosophy is like
A lot of credit is probably due to the translator, Victor Watts. He sounds like just the man for the job:
Got interested in the sociologist Randall Collins via his blog, which I think Tyler Cowen linked to.
Collins also wrote a book about violence.
If you find yourself in a bar fight, his main advice on avoiding “damage” seems to be:
1) maintain calm, steady eye contact.
2) speak in a calm clear assertive voice
3) assert emotional dominance, or at least hold your own, emotional dominance-wise.
Most of the damage gets done, says Collins (who watched hundreds of hours of tapes of bar fights) when you’ve already lost the emotional encounter. Even worse if there’s a crowd.
At the heart of Collins’ micro-sociological theory is the concept of “confrontational tension.” As people enter into an antagonistic interactional situation, their fear/tension is heightened. These emotions become a roadblock to violence, and so flight and stalemate often result. Actual violence only occurs when pathways around this roadblock can be found that lead people into a “tunnel of violence.” Collins identifies several pathways into this tunnel, the most dangerous of which is “forward panic.” In these situations, the confrontational tension builds up and is suddenly released so that it spills forward into atrocities ranging from the Rodney King beating to the My Lai massacre, the rape of Nanking, and the Rwandan genocide. Other ways around the stalemate of confrontational tension are to attack a weak victim (e.g., domestic violence) or to be encouraged by an audience (e.g., lynch mobs). Clearly, these pathways can also be combined, as when a schoolyard bully is encouraged by a crowd of classmates or when forward panic is stimulated by a group of bystanders.
Best posts from his blog, I’d say:
this one, on Napoleon and emotional energy.
this one, on Tank Man, is very interesting (although it goes against some other ideas I’ve heard, like Filip Hammar’s claim that it was well-known in his neighborhood of Beijing that Tank Man had been binge-drinking for days leading up to this event.)
this one, about fame, network bridging, and Lawrence of Arabia, is just fantastic.
This one about Moby-Dick and bullfighting had some really interesting, new to me ideas.
I bought Professor Collins’ ebook, about emotional energy in Napoleon, Steve Jobs, and Alexander the Great. Lots of good stuff in there. And I got his magnum Interaction Ritual Chains. That’s a bit drier, but I’m learning a lot:
W. B. Yeats the poet had a kid brother, Jack Yeats, a painter.
Early in his career he worked as an illustrator for magazines like the Boy’s Own Paper and Judy, drew comic strips, including the Sherlock Holmes parody “Chubb-Lock Homes” for Comic Cuts
Jack Yeats won a silver medal at the 1924 Olympics (the Chariots Of Fire Olympics). They used to give out medals in art and culture categories, and Jack won for The Liffey Swim:
The juried art competitions were abandoned in 1954 because artists were considered to be professionals, while Olympic athletes were required to be amateurs.
Bring ’em back I say!