McKinley 2

What with the news being abuzz with Mount McKinley fuss, really enjoyed this, from former Army Ranger Andrew Exum’s Twitter:

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Here it is:

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A Fuck You Ode To Flowers


Walking down the street in the crazy heat recently I stopped into this spot to get some shade.  A beautiful place!  Here’s what was going on inside:


What do you guys think?  Was it a successful fuck you ode?:


Story about what it was like to live in a house with John Quincy Adams


John Quincy Adams isn’t our most cinematic president, but Anthony Hopkins does a grand old job playing him in Amistad.

(Never forget that McConaughey was in Amistad, by the way:



Now, if you ask me (nobody did) Amistad doesn’t totally nail it as a movie, because the courtroom battle, instead of being about the rightness or wrongness of slavery, ends up coming down to like some points of international and maritime law.  But there’s a great speech by JQA, seen here starting at minute 1:30, about telling a story:

Recently I picked up recently Paul Johnson’s The Birth Of The Modern, a book I’d been seeing on distinguished bookshelves for years, with that great cover art by CDF:


What an absolute boss of a book, one of the highest interesting-information-per-page books I’ve ever come across.  How did Paul Johnson write it, on top of everything else he was up to? From PJ’s Wikipedia page:

The following year, he attacked Ian Fleming’s James Bondnovel Dr No and in 1964 he warned of “The Menace of Beatlism” in an article contemporarily described as being “rather exaggerated” by Henry Fairlie in The Spectator.

Johnson started out as kind of a lefty it appears, but he’d end up working for Margaret Thatcher:

“‘I was instantly drawn to her,’ he recalls. ‘I’d known Margaret at Oxford. She was not a party person. She was an individual who made up her own mind. People would say that she was much influenced by Karl Popper or Frederick Hayek. The result was that Thatcher followed three guiding principles: truthfulness, honesty and never borrowing money.'”

Speaking of not a party person, Johnson has a great description the odd couple times that were had when John Quincy Adams, John Calhoun, and James Ashton Bayard went to negotiate the treaty that would end the War Of 1812.

Seems JQA could come off as a bit of a pill:



Imagine referring your bros to Martens, Book vii, chapter 55, section 3!

Poor guy.  JQ was probably just trying to live up to his dad, who was no slouch either.  Van Wyck Brooks sums up Adams The First in a footnote in The Flowering Of New England: 


They don’t make ’em like they used to.

Miracle Man by Bob Carpenter

in honor of cousin’s birthday, she put me on to this one.

Very positive way to spin the death of Tiffany 2

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from the Guinness Book of World Records, exciting news from Oregon:

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Professor James McHugh sends us a good one

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Just a modest little book.  That’s from The Diary of Abraham De La Pryme, the Yorkshire Antiquary.  Prof. McHugh suggested reading pages 20-29, which I did and enjoyed.  Some highlights:

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And how about this?:

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Coming soon: a review of a book about cricket!


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from this bit about an ancient Mediterranean monolith.  Look you guys know I love monoliths but this one is failing to get me too excited.

Let’s Go Hiking!


That’s a Tom Harrison map of course:

(check out this great photo of Bear Heaven on Mr. David Stillman’s blog)

Tar Creek 04-05-10 (3)But be careful, you don’t want to get partially consumed.

Reader Matt W. writes: “Bear Heaven is people hell!”

Good things about True Detective

Something was cheesing me off last night about critics on Twitter piling on to this show.  I mean, I guess that can be fun, I’ve been guilty of it myself.  But, also, what the hell?  You try making a TV show.

Sure, it didn’t make all the sense in the world.  But it’s hard to make good stuff.  I guess it’s worthwhile to explore why something doesn’t land, so you can think about how to make better stuff.  But what’s the point of ongoing negative criticism, especially when attention is at such a scarcity relative to content?  There’s so much TV out there, if you don’t like something shouldn’t you just skip it and talk about something you do like?

Anyway, I watched every episode of the show and here are some things I enjoyed. Rachel McA

  • Rachel McAdams wears very comfortable-looking hoodies/sweatshirt
  • CF redwoodsColin Farrell did a very good job I thought.
  • I liked seeing the redwoods
  • It was big and ambitious
  • It was about secret evil/darkness/power/corruption at the heart of southern California, which is worth thinking about
  • It was so unrelentingly bleak in a way that had to be a kind of pulpy choice, which is an interesting thing to do.
  • I liked the way the girls were dancing in the shots of Venezuela
  • The aerial footage of California was cool.

Archibald MacLeish


Knew both Ernest Hemingway and Bob Dylan.

Was Laura Dern’s great-great-uncle.



Julie London

came up on my Spotify.  One great sentence after another on her wiki page:

In 1947, London married actor Jack Webb (of Dragnet fame). This pairing arose from their common love of jazz.


Her widely regarded beauty and poise (she was a pin-up girl prized by GIs during World War II) contrasted strongly with her pedestrian appearance and streetwise acting technique (much parodied by impersonators).


London and Troup appeared as panelists on the game show Tattletales several times in the 1970s. In the 1950s, London appeared in an advertisement for Marlboro cigarettes singing the “Marlboro Song” and in 1978 appeared in television advertisements for Rose Milk Skin Care Cream.


A private and introverted lady,[13] London suffered a stroke in 1995 and was in poor health until her death on October 18, 2000 (the day her husband, Bobby Troup, would have been 82), in Encino, California, at age 74.


In an interview, Mantooth claimed London “was not impish nor a diva. She was a soul, kind of mother. She was the kindest person I have ever known.” He also added, “I don’t know if it was up to her, but Kevin and I were both kept calm by her personality, when we were shooting in the hospital. Only Bobby Troup knew who she was…she was just like Julie! She made us laugh!”

Aug 6 1945


Fireball of the Trinity Test, 0.016 second after explosion, July 16, 1945

At 10 a.m. on May 31, the committee members filed into the dark-paneled conference room of the War Department. The air was heavy with the presence of three Nobel laureates and Oppenheimer. Stimson opened the proceedings on a portentous note: “We do not regard it as a new weapon merely,” he said, “but as a revolutionary change in the relations of man to the universe.” The atomic bomb might mean the “doom of civilization,” or a “Frankenstein” that might “eat us up”; or it might secure world peace. The bomb’s implications “went far beyond the needs of the present war,” Stimson said. It must be controlled and nurtured in the service of peace.

Enola Gay

Stimson, meanwhile, was personally preoccupied with saving Kyoto, the ancient capital whose temples and shrines he had visited with his wife in 1926. He requested that it be struck from the shortlist of targets. Japan was not just a place on a map, or a nation that must be defeated, he insisted. The objective, surely, was military damage, not civilian lives. In Stimson’s mind the bomb should “be used as a weapon of war in the manner prescribed by the laws of war” and “dropped on a military target.” Stimson argued that Kyoto “must not be bombed. It lies in the form of a cup and thus would be exceptionally vulnerable. … It is exclusively a place of homes and art and shrines.”

gold temple


With the exception of Stimson on Kyoto—which was essentially an aesthetic objection—not one of the committee men raised the ethical, moral, or religious case against the use of an atomic bomb without warning on an undefended city. The businesslike tone, the strict adherence to form, the cool pragmatism, did not admit humanitarian arguments, however vibrantly they lived in the minds and diaries of several of the men present.


Stimson w/ Truman. George Skadding, LIFE Magazine.

Those quotes from this interesting Atlantic article by Paul Ham, excerpted from his book.

This blog goes deeper into the Kyoto decision, and the idea that Truman didn’t totally understand the power of the atomic bomb.  (where I found that Stimson photo)

Highly recommend a listen to Allison Silverman’s 20 minute piece about “This Is Your Life” on This American Life, which includes a story about how they introduced a (drunk) Captain Robert Lewis of the Enola Gay to “Hiroshima maidens” on TV.

”If I live a hundred years, I’ll never quite get these few minutes out of my mind,” Captain Lewis said in his log of the Enola Gay’s mission, written in pen and pencil on the back of War Department forms, on Aug. 6, 1945.

”Everyone on the ship is actually dumbstruck even though we had expected something fierce. It was the actual sight that we saw that caused the crew to feel that they were part of Buck Rodgers’ 25th century warriors.”


FDR sailing

No man should run for president until life has driven him to his knees a few times.

Who does young FDR look like?

Making a difference


Ashley Weinberg, a psychologist at the University of Salford who has interviewed dozens of former members of the British Parliament about why they liked their jobs, says that the phrase “being at the center of things” kept coming up. That yearning doesn’t require convictions. “You’re sensing things happening around you,” Weinberg says. “Which is quite different from whether you want specificthings to happen around you.”

That’s from this interesting article about George Pataki, and why a longshot guy would run for president.

MANY CANDIDATESWITH no chance of victory run for president because of conviction. Like, say, Ron Paul in 2012 or Bernie Sanders today, they have a set of issues they passionately want to advance.

This does not, as far as I can tell, apply to George Pataki. As Jonah Goldberg put it in a column last month, Pataki seems to be “pretending to have core convictions just so he can run.” Even the Pataki website motto—”People over politics”—suggests a desire to avoid serious thought. And such an impression is nothing new. As Pataki’s third term as governor of New York was winding down in 2005 and 2006, The New York Sun wrote that “one looks in vain to discern any principle or idea that Mr. Pataki stands for consistently.” Columnist Deroy Murdoch wrote in National Review that Pataki was “a politician of breathtaking mediocrity” whose “lack of competence, charisma, and character composes a sickening trifecta.” Kindest was The New York Times, which complained that under Pataki “reform was a talking point, not a doing point,” while nonetheless conceding that, overall, “New Yorkers are well aware that it is possible to do worse.”

Another common explanation for why people choose to run doomed presidential campaigns is that it raises the odds of getting a Cabinet post. Perhaps Pataki wishes to be secretary of Agriculture? But that’s unlikely. While steering a federal department is prestigious, the work is hard. Which, I’m afraid, brings us to another harsh point made by many observers of Albany: that Pataki is not only light on convictions but also disinclined to exertion. “The consensus was he was a lazy guy,” says George Marlin, a leader of New York’s Conservative Party, who was appointed by Pataki to head the Port Authority but later became a prominent critic of the governor. “Energy was not his strong suit.”

In 2006, New York Post state editor Fredric Dicker described Pataki’s administration as one “marked by a torpidity unprecedented in modern times” and estimated, based on testimony from sources in Albany, that Pataki averaged about 15 hours of work per week. Meanwhile, The New York Observer saw a “legacy of laziness, mediocrity and pervasive neglect of the public interest.” The 15-hour-a-week claim seems improbable, of course, and Pataki’s spokesperson David Catalfamo calls it “ludicrous,” saying no one lazy could get elected three times, enact numerous changes, or steer the state through the aftermath of September 11. But it’s fair to say that those who praise Pataki tend to mention intelligence or analytical power rather than midnight oil.


It reminded me of seeing Rahm Emanuel once on Charlie Rose.  Asked why he’d wanted to run for Congress, he said “to make a difference.”  Charlie nodded.  Humans are obsessed with “making a difference” in general, but (duh) not all difference is good.

It seems, when you read about politics, that a lot of people go into it to sort of pretend to others and maybe to themselves to be doing something, without necessarily figuring out what they should be doing.  


Governor William Weld and Senator John Kerry sang together in 1997 during the St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast. Michael Robinson-Chavez/Globe Staff/File 1997

A guy who seemed to be a great case study in this when I was growing up reading the newspaper was Bill Weld, Governor of Massachusetts, who, it seemed pretty clear, basically got bored of the job before he was out of office.  How about this, from a 2004 James Fallows article previewing Bush-Kerry debates.  Fallows is talking about when Weld and Kerry debated during the 1996 campaign for Senate

But they differed in a crucial way. Kerry tried harder. His tone was more appropriate to a TV debate (Kerry was understated and almost languid, Weld strangely blustering). He was quicker to turn each answer into an attack. And he more clearly figured out the theme that would be troublesome for his opponent, as he hammered home the idea that Weld was a comrade of Newt Gingrich and the national Republican Party—a kiss of death in Massachusetts. (Perhaps illustrating the truism that aristocrats don’t sweat off the squash court, on the day of the first debate Weld was worrying about a chess match against a journalist. “I would advise the President not to engage in any chess games by mail while engaged in debates with Senator Kerry,” Weld told me. “I was studying the chess game in my office and also preparing for the debate that night—and I made just a little bit of a mistake and lost a pawn. And I really hated losing that pawn.”)

Obviously he’s being a bit of a showoff, WASPy understatement etc., but man.  Everything’s just an amusing game to this guy.  From Weld’s wikipedia page:

In July 1997, Weld was nominated to become United States Ambassador to Mexico by President Bill Clinton. His nomination stalled after Senate Foreign Relations committee Chairman Jesse Helms refused to hold a hearing on the nomination, effectively blocking it. … This refusal to hold hearings was also rumored to be at the request of former United States Attorney General and friend of Helms, Edwin Meese. Meese had a long-standing grudge against Weld stemming from Weld’s investigation of Meese during the Iran-Contra affair. Weld publicly criticised Helms, which the White House discouraged him from doing, but Weld relished the opportunity, saying: “It feels like being in a campaign. I feel newly energized. I love to stir up the pot. I seem to click on more cylinders when the pot is stirred up.”

Very human, I guess.  But perhaps either unsettling or amusingly absurd to think on how much of history might be driven by just people’s desire to stir the pot and click their cylinders.  Boredom, in other words.