Boyd, Trump and OODA Loops

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 1.57.09 PM

This very long article and this shorter one both talk about Donald Trump in light of the theories of fighter pilot/Air Force Colonel John Boyd, and specifically his idea about the OODA Loop.

OODA stands for:

Observe

Orient

Decide

Act

Boyd says, whoever cycles through this loop faster wins the dogfight (or battle, orbusiness competition, or whatever).

It’s more complicated than that: see, for example, this version of Boyd’s own chart to describe his ideas:

picture_boyd_ooda_loop

For one thing, the goal isn’t just to get through your cycle faster.  It’s to screw up the other guy’s ability to get through his cycle.

In the longer version above about Trump, Dan McLaughlin makes the point that Trump, mainly via Twitter, is constantly messing with Bush and now Cruz’s abilities to observe, orient, decide and act.  Before they’ve even oriented he’s changing the whole landscape with some new outrageous thing like declaring he’s not gonna show up to the debate or whatever.

These guys, with their lumbering organizations of consultants and campaign managers, and their political limitations, just can’t orient, decide, or act with the speed and freedom Trump can.

Boyd is a fascinating dude.  I read once that he lived on basically a cot with no furniture because he decided the only ways to be truly free were either to be very wealthy or to have no material needs, and since he wasn’t gonna be wealthy he went full Spartan.

Seeing these articles convinced me it was finally time to pick up this book:

images

This book is fascinating, hats off to Robert Coram.  Let me tell you a bit about Boyd:

  • Boyd was considered the best fighter pilot of generation.  He could supposedly defeat anybody in forty seconds.  He was not humble about it either.
  • He had an insane appetite:

IMG_1729

  • Although Boyd fought in the Korean War, he never shot down a MiG.  This was considered kind of a knock on him by other fighter pilots who had shot down MiGs.  But then again, everyone seems to agree Boyd was still the most badass or at least equally badass pilot around.
  • He proved this during his time at the Air Force Weapons School at Nellis Air Force Base outside of Vegas.  In Boyd’s heyday pilots looking to test their stuff would meet over “the green spot,” a rare patch of green in the Nevada desert, and practice dogfighting.  Corum says the green spot could easily be found by any pilot.  I went looking for a picture “green spot Nellis AFB” on Google, and in a development that would no doubt be distressing to Boyd found only medical marijuana stores.   Maybe it was something like this?:Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 10.05.12 PM
  • Boyd was not really one for going along with the chain of command:IMG_1740
  • Boyd did indeed believe in living in super Spartan fashion.  This was not always easy on his wife and five children, nor on his youngest son’s collection of dangerous spiders and snakes:IMG_1732
  • Boyd became obsessed with designing planes that would give the pilot the most possible options .  He spent huge amounts of his own time developing Energy Maneuverability charts for various airplanes.
  • He was infuriated and frustrated by the bureaucratic stupidities he discovered in the Air Force as he fought for what he believed to be superior airplane design.  Reading Coram’s book, you can’t help but agree with Boyd and get outraged right along with him.  For example, I did not have any idea that in the Vietnam War US planes were often found to be inferior to North Vietnamese planes: IMG_2108
  • Boyd also had strong opinions about pilot training:IMG_2107
  • There were a group of admirers/pupils/younger officers around Boyd called his Acolytes.  He would regularly call them at 2am and talk about Clausewitz and so on:IMG_1737 IMG_1739 IMG_1741
  • Sometimes Boyd could be weird: “When Boyd talked to someone at a party, he gave them 100 percet of his attention.  He did not look over the person’s shoulder to see who else was in the room.  But there were times at a party when Boyd might sit down and sleep for an hour or so.”
  • and:IMG_1746

Dick Cheney was impressed with Boyd, and says of him that Boyd “clearly was a factor in my thinking” about strategy in the first Gulf War.

On YouTube, you can see Boyd give the “Patterns Of Conflict” presentation that became famous in the military.  It’s hard to look at this and see this guy as the amazing badass he must’ve been.  Perhaps it was more compelling in person or the guy was no longer at the height of his presenting powers:

Maybe he just wasn’t made for YouTube.

There’s lots of bros obsessed with Boyd online, and he definitely seems like a real hero, a kind of American samurai.  All the Boyd acolytes talk about a speech Boyd would give about whether you want to “be somebody or do something”:

IMG_2109

Something for all our candidates to think about!

Here’s another bit of advice for Trump’s opponents, especially:

IMG_2110

If you enjoy Helytimes, you should write to helphely@gmail.com and ask to subscribe to Helytimes Premium — bonus content right to your inbox no more than once a month.  


The Deaths Of Great Inventors

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 11.10.37 AM

In this NYRB wrapup on the movies about Steve Jobs, Sue Halpern gets to talking about public expressions of grief at Jobs’ death:

Yet if the making of popular consumer goods was driving this outpouring of grief, then why hadn’t it happened before? Why didn’t people sob in the streets when George Eastman or Thomas Edison or Alexander Graham Bell died—especially since these men, unlike Steve Jobs, actually invented the cameras, electric lights, and telephones that became the ubiquitous and essential artifacts of modern life?

“Awww hell no!” I giddily squealed, aflame with the joy-fire of Internet Outrage.  I was good and hot because I knew I had this Sue Halpern in my crosshairs.  I’d just been reading, in Paul Johnson’s Birth Of The Modern, about the death of steamboat inventor Robert Fulton.

Birth of the modern

Says Johnson:

By then Fulton was dead, of a neglected cold which became pneumonia.  The day of his funeral, the legislature went into mourning, and the New York shops shut — they respected inventors in those days.

62149-004-94D9B273

stud.

Johnson’s doing the reverse version of Sue Halpern: “they knew how to act in the old days” vs. “we’ve gotten so weird” but it’s the same conservative (right?) point: things used to be better, more appropriate, whatever.  It’s a point that I love getting mad about, because a quick inspection of the messy, insane past will usually prove it wrong.

“Ugh, Sue Halpern,” I thought, warm in smugness, “Don’t be such a presentist.  There’s nothing new under the sun, babe.  The style might be different, but they made a big show about the deaths of inventors (or maker/producer/facilitator whatever Jobs was) in the past, too.  Did you not know that at the conclusion of Alexander Graham Bell’s funeral they suspended phone service in all of North America in mourning?!  Did you not take two minutes to see if there’s footage on YouTube of people crowding the streets for Edison’s funeral?”

“Hell,” I thought, “when Edison died they preserved his last breath in a tube!”

Imagine my disappointment then when I got to work and discovered the NYRB had already dealt with this in a footnote:

When Bell died, every phone exchange in the United States was shut down for a moment of silence. When Edison died, President Hoover turned off the White House lights for a minute and encouraged others to do so as well.

Darn it, ruined a real satisfying chance for an “ACTUALLY.”  But I’m glad the whole thing happened because it got me reading about the death of George Eastman, founder of Kodak.  Here’s how he went out:

On March 14, 1932, Eastman invited some friends to witness a change of his will. After some joking and warm conversation, he asked them to leave so that he could write a note. Moments later, he shot himself once in the heart with an automatic pistol. The note found by the household staff read simply: “To my friends, My work is done–, Why wait?” When his casket was carried out of the Eastman House, the accompanying music was *Marche Romaine*.

That’s from this site related to the PBS American Experience about Eastman.  They go on:

If there is one thing that can be said about Eastman, it is that he was a rational man. Throughout his life, he sounded the same themes again and again — adventure, happiness and control, and the greatest of these was control. The early death of his father and his family’s subsequent poverty stamped him with an insatiable need for stability, which he found in bachelorhood and a financial empire and held close ever after. As far as he was concerned, there was no world beyond the one he could dominate. Even when he punctuated his labors with travel, his drive for order went with him in his compulsion to plan out every last detail of his itinerary. In this light, Eastman’s career can be seen as act of self-sacrifice. With one of his cameras in hand, it became possible to capture an instant of abandon, even happiness, and so we came to possess, as part of our human heritage, images of people smiling on adventures large and small. Of course, Eastman was often caught in camera in far-off locations as well, but in the end one fact is inescapable: one must look long and hard to find a picture of George Eastman smiling. In harnessing his impulses, he gave the world an experience that he never permitted himself.

Sure enough:

ieastmg001p1

About Halpern’s original point tho: maybe there’s something to public expressions about Jobs’ death that have to do with what people use Apple products for: music, photos, videos, social media, personal expressions of themselves.

If we’re talking about the emotional meaning of Jobs, couldn’t we see him as the guy who did the most to take cold computers and turn them into facilitators of human connection and self-expression machines?  Isn’t that what all Apple ads end up being about, from the 1984 ad to the Think Different ones to this?:

In doing that, wasn’t Jobs not just a tech pioneer but a part of a social revolution?  Who more than Jobs made it as easy to be the star of your own movie and the spectator of everyone else’s?  Is that why we care about him?

And is caring about Jobs wildly exaggerated anyway except among Silicon Valley bros?  Nobody really saw the movie.


Great headline sent by our Rhode Island office

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 10.57.40 AM


New book coming in June!

IMG_2087

You can pre-order it here on Amazon, and on 6/14/16 your postman or woman will deliver this nice present to you.

Or start gently nudging your friendly indie bookseller to order a pile!

It is 102 short chapters about everything interesting I could find, learn about, or experience between Los Angeles and Patagonia. Topics include:

I hope you enjoy it!

How about that rad cover designed by Anna Laytham?

 


Triggerfish selfie

via this blogpost, “25 Creepiest Creatures of Narragansett Bay,” ht Sis.


Why wear clothes?

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 11.10.46 AM

From this NYT obit of constitutional scholar Forest McDonald:

Interviewed by Brian Lamb on C-Span’s “Booknotes” in 1994, Dr. McDonald revealed that he typically wrote in longhand on a yellow legal pad and in the nude. (“We’ve got wonderful isolation,” he said, “and it’s warm most of the year in Alabama, and why wear clothes?”)


Ridiculous

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 12.35.50 PM

Amazing letter from The Academy.  Imagine sending out an email in which you described your own organization’s action of slightly adjusting membership rules as “courageous.”


Experimental film

I made a one minute experimental film of Trump watching Sarah Palin talk.


Jo Mora

jo mora yosemite

Jo Mora has to be in the conversation about top Uruguayan-Californian artists, yet I’d only heard of him a few weeks ago when co-worker Charles called my attention to the cover art for The Byrds’ Sweetheart Of The Rodeo album:

drawn from a Mora poster of a rodeo in Salinas:

rodeo poster

Here is Mora’s 1946 book Californios: The Saga of The Hard-Riding Vaqueros, America’s First Cowboys:

IMG_2037 (1)

IMG_2039

IMG_2040

IMG_2041

Look at these fucking hipsters.

IMG_2042

IMG_2043

“He won added renown for his beautifully executed and historically accurate dioramas.”  What a thing to say about a man!  Let’s have a look at the dioramas for his friend Will Rogers:

 

 

will rogers diorama trip advisor

These dioramas look so great, and there aren’t many photos of them online.  This one is fantastic, and so is this one.  And don’t miss this one!  I didn’t copy them here because Flickr user Todd Carr has all his rights reserved.  I feel pretty ok about reproducing most widely-available photos, but I dunno, Todd went to the trouble of going to Claremore, Oklahoma, and since he’s pretty much the only source on these,and he did a great job, it doesn’t feel quite right.  Still, I hope Mr. Carr doesn’t mind me showing just this one, of what must be the plane crash that ended Will’s life:

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 11.11.59 AM

Hope you don’t mind Todd, you are a great photographer!

Mora was also a gifted sculptor — he made, for instance, these guys for the Pacific Mutual Building, right here at 6th and Grand in downtown Los Angeles:

mora sculpture

Here’s a list of Mora’s public artworks.  The list was put together by Peter Hiller, curator of the Jo Mora Trust Collection, and we thank him for his help and great work!  You can see and learn more about Mora over at their website, and Peter Hiller tells us he has the Los Angeles map for sale.

Mora began his career as a cartoonist in Boston.  Here’s an early cartoon, The Foolish Walrus:

the foolish walrus

How about his map of Los Angeles?

Jo Mora LA

Or this menu?

menu

Mora visited many Spanish missions in California that summer by horseback. He followed the “Mission Trail”, also called the “Kings Highway”.

What a boss.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 11.06.26 AM

 


What.

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 12.40.45 PM

Can’t front like I was the world’s biggest David Bowie fan in life, but reading about him after his death I’m getting more and more into the guy!  From The New York Times:

After he became Ziggy Stardust, and a huge star, Mr. Bowie found refuge at the West 20th Street apartment of his publicist, Cherry Vanilla. In her memoir, “Lick Me,” she recounts how he would do brain-sizzling amounts of cocaine and drink milk for nourishment (no solid food in those years), and they’d rap about “power, symbols, communication, music, the occult, Aleister Crowley and Merlin the Magician.”

Says Cherry Vanilla:

David liked my apartment on 20th Street, and he also liked Norman Fisher’s coke, something for which he’d recently acquired an insatiable appetite and for which I had, of course, hooked him up. And since my days were winding down at Mainman, I guess David felt comfortable getting high with me and opening up about anything and everything that was on his mind. He spent many an evening, often an all-nighter, sitting in one of my canary-yellow enameled wicker chairs, doing lines, drinking milk (he never ate at all during this period), and telling me one crazy story after another — Defries and Adolf Hitler were buddies . . . Lou Reed was the devil . . .he himself was from another planet and was being held prisoner on earth — going on and on about power, symbols, communication, music, the occult, Aleister Crowley, and Merlin the Magician. I never did any of David’s coke (and, what’s more, he never offered). I just sat there, smoked my pot, sipped my Café Bustelo, and got totally into his rap. This was probably the period when I was most in love with him.

Sometimes David would busy himself with my record collection — Duke Ellington’s Live at Newport and the Ohio Players’ Skin Tightamong his favorite LPs. And occasionally he and I would have sex in my mirrored, mosquito-netted, dycro-lit, pink-satin bedroom, taking everything a bit further than we had that first time in Boston, and utilizing the many new sex toys I’d since acquired. One time, after I’d arranged for him to shop privately at the new Yves Saint Laurent boutique on Madison Avenue and get the most fabulous black wool overcoat, he came up the five flights of stairs to my apartment, and fucked me without ever taking off the coat and then left immediately to hang out with Mick Jagger. Bowie liked my bedroom so much, he even brought Claudia Lennear and Jean Millington (the other sister from Fanny) there for sex on occasion. I didn’t participate, but I got off on how much he appreciated the setting.

Cherry Vanilla

photo from Cherry Vanilla’s website attributed to Arlene Pachasa


The Dilbertito

DilBeriTO

Dilbert creator Scott Adams has many interesting ideas.  Reader Mike Yank put me on to his analysis of Trump:

The $10 billion estimate Trump uses for his own net worth is also an “anchor” in your mind. That’s another classic negotiation/persuasion method. I remember the $10 billion estimate because it is big and round and a bit outrageous. And he keeps repeating it because repetition is persuasion too.

I don’t remember the smaller estimates of Trump’s wealth that critics provided. But I certainly remember the $10 billion estimate from Trump himself. Thanks to this disparity in my memory, my mind automatically floats toward Trump’s anchor of $10 billion being my reality. That is classic persuasion. And I would be amazed if any of this is an accident. Remember, Trump literally wrote the book on this stuff.

Over the holidays I read Scott Adams’ book:

images

which was full of interesting stuff as well as plenty of boring stuff.  Scott Adams practical, experienced-based ideas on what you should eat, for instance: he talks about how he has found that white starches and potatoes (my two favorite foods) are nothing but energy saps.  Adams also suggests you drink as much coffee as you want.  He also makes a good case for “systems instead of goals.”

On Friday at work I got into an argument because I brought up Scott Adams, and a female co-worker was like “that crazy misogynist”?  And indeed Scott Adams has written some stuff that could justifiably make steam come out of ears:

Women have made an issue of the fact that men talk over women in meetings. In my experience, that’s true. But for full context, I interrupt anyone who talks too long without adding enough value. If most of my victims turn out to be women, I am still assumed to be the problem in this situation, not the talkers. The alternative interpretation of the situation – that women are more verbal than men – is never discussed as a contributing factor to interruptions. Can you imagine a situation where – on average – the people who talk the most do NOT get interrupted the most? I don’t know if the amount of talking each person does is related to the amount of interrupting they experience, or if there is a gender difference to it, but it seems like a reasonable hypothesis. My point is that men are assumed guilty in this country. We don’t even explore their alibis. (And watch the reaction to even bringing up the topic.)

It’s an ongoing issue in his writings.

I can’t and don’t want to defend everything Scott Adams has written, but I tried to make the case that maybe Scott Adams isn’t a misogynist, he’s a nerdy weirdo who’s working out ideas and we should cut him some slack. I read all kinds of weird thinkers, it’s healthy.  I follow The Federalist on Twitter — they like Ted Cruz over there, but sometimes they make some interesting argument I’ve never thought about before.  You can read The Federalist and Mother Jones and subscribe to Ann Friedman’s newsletter and go see the Entourage movie.

Somebody somewhere on Twitter directed me to this piece by Ryan Holiday:

Any publicist will tell you this. A scandal is awful while you’re in it, almost unbearably awful as the headlines from bigger and bigger outlets pour in. But as time passes, whatever those headlines said begins to blur, the pointed words lose their potency and the residue that’s left, that residue is raw fame. And fame is a precious resource that most people, companies, and causes will never have but always seek.

And while people have always been willing to debase themselves to get famous, this mindset has metastasized through our more important institutions—from journalism to government.

The Gawker’s of this world publish the most vicious and shameful story of 2015, and as long as  their writers can successfully pretend they didn’t do anything wrong, they can get right back on their high horse and blog like it never happened. A Donald Trump can make serious—even alarming—progress towards the nation’s highest office so long as he refuses to laugh at the joke of it all.

One can imagine these folks surfing a large and monstrous wave of attention. It looks dangerous and indeed it is, but they know—having been on or watched others on such waves before—that if they can just ride it out they’ll emerge intact, ever the more famous for it, since so few have.

 

Anyway this all a long way of getting to the interesting trivia that in the late ’90s Scott Adams used his Dilbert money to try and launch an all-in-one superfood product called the Dilberito:

First announced in The Dilbert Future and introduced in 1999[1] the Dilberito came in flavors of Mexican, Indian, Barbecue, and Garlic& Herb and was sold through some health food stores.

Said Fortune in 2001:

Adams’s invention, the Dilberito, is sober and utilitarian. It’s a tortilla-wrapped comestible consisting of vegetables, rice, beans, and seasonings that contains all of the 23 vitamins and minerals that nutritionists say are essential.

The product was not a success.

 


All Roads

Happening to watch half of Jarhead on TV (Saarsgaard so good! *) leads to reading screenwriter William Broyles Jr.’s Wiki page, which leads to reading his essay “Why Men Love War”:

A lieutenant colonel I knew, a true intellectual, was put in charge of civil affairs, the work we did helping the Vietnamese grow rice and otherwise improve their lives. He was a sensitive man who kept a journal and seemed far better equipped for winning hearts and minds than for combat command. But he got one, and I remember flying out to visit his fire base the night after it had been attacked by an NVA sapper unit. Most of the combat troops I had been out on an operation, so this colonel mustered a motley crew of clerks and cooks and drove the sappers off, chasing them across tile rice paddies and killing dozens of these elite enemy troops by the light of flares. That morning, as they were surveying what they had done and loading the dead NVA–all naked and covered with grease and mud so they could penetrate the barbed wire–on mechanical mules like so much garbage, there was a look of beatific contentment on tile colonel’s face that I had not seen except in charismatic churches. It was the look of a person transported into ecstasy.

And I–what did I do, confronted with this beastly scene? I smiled back. ‘as filled with bliss as he was. That was another of the times I stood on the edge of my humanity, looked into the pit, and loved what I saw there. I had surrendered to an aesthetic that was divorced from that crucial quality of empathy that lets us feel the sufferings of others. And I saw a terrible beauty there. War is not simply the spirit of ugliness, although it is certainly that, the devil’s work. But to give the devil his due,it is also an affair of great and seductive beauty.

Which leads me to decide to finally read Chris Hedges’ book War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning:

Chris Hedges was a graduate student in divinity at Harvard before he went to war. He spent fifteen years as a war correspondent for the Dallas Morning News, theChristian Science Monitor, and the New York Times, reporting on conflicts in El Salvador, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq.

While on Amazon their robot recommends to me Ernst Jünger’s Storm Of Steel —

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 10.50.07 AM

that’s a pass for now, but I will check out Ernst’s Wiki page:

Throughout the war, Jünger kept a diary, which would become the basis of his 1920 Storm of Steel. He spent his free time reading the works of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Ariosto andKubin, besides entomological journals he was sent from home. During 1917, he was collecting beetles in the trenches and while on patrol, 149 specimens between 2 January and 27 July, which he listed under the title of Fauna coleopterologica douchyensis (“Coleopterological fauna of the Douchy region”).

leatherhead beetle

a leatherhead beetle in Death Valley illustrates the wiki page on coleopterology

which leads me to the wiki page for Wandervogel:

Wandervogel is the name adopted by a popular movement of German youth groups from 1896 onward. The name can be translated as rambling, hiking, or wandering bird (differing in meaning from “Zugvogel” or migratory bird) and the ethos is to shake off the restrictions of society and get back to nature and freedom.

which leads us both to the Japanese pastime of sawanobori, which looks semi-fun:

mitani2

a bit silly but in the best way

and to History Of The Hippie Movement, subsection “Nature Boys Of Southern California” and thus to Nat King Cole’s song Nature Boy:

which has maybe the longest wiki page of any of these, culminating in

The song was a central theme in Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! “Nature Boy” was initially arranged as a techno song with singer David Bowie’s vocals, before being sent to the group Massive Attack, whose remix was used in the film’s closing credits. Bowie described the rendition as “slinky and mysterious”, adding that Robert ‘3D’ Del Naja from the group had “put together a riveting piece of work,” and that Bowie was “totally pleased with the end result.”

And just like that we’re back to Bowie.

*Saarsgaard on Catholicism:

In an interview with the New York Times, Sarsgaard stated that he followed Catholicism, saying: “I like the death-cult aspect of Catholicism. Every religion is interested in death, but Catholicism takes it to a particularly high level. […] Seriously, in Catholicism, you’re supposed to love your enemy. That really impressed me as a kid, and it has helped me as an actor. […] The way that I view the characters I play is part of my religious upbringing. To abandon curiosity in all personalities, good or bad, is to give up hope in humanity.”


Treated myself to a couple

FullSizeRender (12)

from Bowie’s top 100 books.  Will report!  He was a fan of Jaynes and Chatwin as well.

In my limited experience musicians are always reading a lot!

 


RIP Red

It’s not just Bowie — this week music also lost Red Simpson, writer/performer of the above song (discussed briefly in this book).

Red Simpson

From his NY Times’ obituary I learn that he performed regularly at Trout’s:

trouts

pic from this interesting blog: https://wayfarenotes.wordpress.com/ “Stories of Music Towns you Haven’t heard of yet”

Joseph Cecil Simpson was born on March 6, 1934, in Higley, Ariz., the youngest of 13 children, and grew up in Bakersfield, where he learned to play guitar as a child. His red hair earned him his nickname.

He enlisted in the Navy during the Korean War and served on the hospital ship Repose, where he played with a shipboard group, the Repose Ramblers.

REpose

Speaking of Simpsons, I can’t hear about a ship like this without thinking of the Simpsons’ landing on the USS Walter Mondale:

but the Repose had a dramatic history:

Arriving on 3 January 1966, she was permanently deployed to Southeast Asia and earned the nickname “Angel of the Orient.” Operating mainly in the I Corps area, she treated over 9,000 battle casualties and 24,000 inpatients while deployed. Notably, USS Repose was on station during the 1967 USS Forrestal fire that killed 134 sailors and injured 161.

Forrestal

the Forrestal fire.  Future Senator John McCain’s plane was destroyed in the fire — one of many exciting events in his not-boring life.

According to Wiki Red’s last release was “Hey Bin Laden” but I cannot find that tune on YouTube.

I wonder if Red liked Bowie.

REMINDER: if you enjoy Helytimes, subscribe to Helytimes Newsletter by emailing helphely@gmail.com.  No more than one email a month, with bonus content and fun!  


Travel Tips From Bill and Tony

Bonn

Bonn

Bonn

Fascinated with these recently released transcripts of convos between Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.

Durham

Durham cathedral

There’s not a ton of chitchat, aside from some travel discussion.

Florence

Florence

Tony also likes Vienna:

Vienna

Vienna

Bill likes Siena:

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 1.44.47 PM

Siena

Billiam does most of the talking.  One takeaway is how insanely expansive and versatile BC’s mind is as he pivots from topic to another:

smarts

He thinks highly of Bono:

Bono

The only other cultural figures I found mentioned are Spielberg and Tom Hanks:

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 12.59.58 PM

Bill reminds Tony Blair of the importance of taking time for young people:

Young People

Talking about IRA splinter groups, Bill Clinton raises a problem that’s still all too relevant:

Thinking about terrorism

Bill sums up Central America:

Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 12.59.58 PM

But as they mention often, they’re not on a secure line.  Who knows what they say there?!

 


San Francisco

IMG_1415

Right before Christmas had a chance to visit San Francisco — always great!IMG_1447

In San Francisco you can really feel like you’re halfway in the ocean.  IMG_1387

Finding myself with an idle hour I went to go check out Diego Rivera’s mural Allegory of California over at the City Club in the former Pacific Stock Exchange building.  The City Club was all done up for a Christmas party.

IMG_1408

Pictures of the mural often leave out the amazing ceiling part:

IMG_1400

Rivera painted this one in 1931,   He modeled the lady on tennis champ Helen Wills Moody, who was at that time one of California’s most famous daughters:

helen wills

She was a painter herself:

Wills was an artist by avocation. She received a degree in fine arts along with a Phi Beta Kappa key from the University of California, and painted throughout her life. She was delighted to be chosen as the model for Diego Rivera’s two-story mural “The Riches of California,” commissioned for $2,500 in 1930. Wills and the first of her two husbands, the financier Frederick Moody, invited Rivera and his wife, the painter Frieda Kahlo, to a celebratory tea after the mural’s unveiling at the former San Francisco Stock Exchange.

For Wills, who confessed to suffering the intangible pangs of “a restless heart,” tennis and painting were the best antidotes for melancholy. She maintained an artist’s studio at her residences in San Francisco and later in Carmel, once sold 40 paintings for $100 each and illustrated her own articles for The Saturday Evening Post.

Here’s one of her own drawings:

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 1.26.20 PMLifting that one from San Francisco’s Lost Art Salon.   Reader Schoboats calls our attention to a good detail from Wills Moody’s NY Times obit:

Perhaps Wills’s most infamous match, and certainly the one she extolled as the focal point of her playing career, was her only meeting with Lenglen, the queen of the continent, in a much ballyhooed showdown at Cannes in 1926. Lenglen was 26 and tactically superior; Wills was 20 and physically stronger. Lenglen won the raucous encounter, 6-3, 8-6.

There was a prizefight atmosphere, with tickets scalped at a then-shocking rate of $50 each, and an international gallery of spectators that included King Gustaf, a group of stowaway French schoolboys in a eucalyptus tree at one end of the court and Wills’s future husband, Frederick Moody, who introduced himself to her after the match. Wills was fond of noting that although she lost the match, she not only gained perspective on necessary changes to her game, which tended to be without nuance and relied on battering her opponents into submission with repetitious forehand ground strokes, but also gained a husband.

IMG_1399

Maybe next time I’m up there I will get to see Making Of A Fresco:

making of a fresco


Khipus

 

khipu 3

A khipu from the Museo Radicati in Lima, photo from Harvard’s Khipu Database Project website.

We know that the ancient Inca used systems of rope-based accounting called quipus or khipus.  Beyond that, it seems like many scholars have come close to losing their marbles trying to sort them out.

Were they something like an abacus?  Musical notation?  A binary system like a simple computer code?  How about this, from Wikipedia:

The Khipu Database Project (KDP), begun by Gary Urton, may have already decoded the first word from a quipu—the name of a village, Puruchuco, which Urton believes was represented by a three-number sequence, similar to a ZIP code. If this conjecture is correct, quipus are the only known example of a complex language recorded in a 3-D system.

quipus

Marcia and Robert Ascher, a married couple, he an anthropologist and she a mathematician, collaborated on on ethnomathematic projects, including a good hard look at quipus/khipus and came up with this :

For example, if 4s represents four simple knots, 3L represents a long knot with three turns, E represents a figure-of-eight knot and X represents a space:

  • The number 731 would be represented by 7s, 3s, E.
  • The number 804 would be represented by 8s, X, 4L.
  • The number 107 followed by the number 51 would be represented by 1s, X, 7L, 5s, E.

This reading can be confirmed by a fortunate fact: quipus regularly contain sums in a systematic way. For instance, a cord may contain the sum of the next n cords, and this relationship is repeated throughout the quipu. Sometimes there are sums of sums as well. Such a relationship would be very improbable if the knots were incorrectly read.

Marcia Ascher

Marcia Ascher

Robert Ascher

Robert Ascher, both pictures from their obituaries over on legacy.com

Now comes news in the NY Times, “Untangling an Accounting Tool and an Ancient Incan Mystery” by William Neuman, that some quipus have been found in an excavated Incan storehouse in Incahuasi, Peru:

Incahuasi

Incahuasi, from wiki.

Says the Times:

Now the Incahuasi researchers hope that by studying the khipus and comparing them with others in a large database, they may find that the khipus discovered with the peanuts contain a color, knot or other signifier for “peanut.” The same goes for those found with chili peppers, beans and corn.

“We can look at how the chili pepper khipu differs from the peanut khipu and from the corn khipu in terms of their color and other characteristics and we can build up a kind of sign vocabulary of how they were signifying this or that thing in their world,” said Gary Urton, a leading expert on khipus who is studying the new trove with Alejandro Chu, the archaeologist who led the excavation.

“It’s not the great Rosetta Stone but it’s quite an important new body of data to work with,” he said, adding, “It’s tremendously exciting.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 11.27.21 AM

Prof. Gary Urton, from the website for Harvard’s Khipu Database Project.

Prof. Urton has been working on khipu for almost as long as I’ve been alive.  He started his archaeological career helping out at Cahokia.

The Times article introduces us to Patricia Landa, who cleans and untangles the khipu.  It sounds like she takes a reverse Marie Kondo approach:

“You have a very special relationship with the material,” Ms. Landa, 59, said. “I talk to them. I say, ‘Excuse me for disturbing your rest but you’re helping us to understand your ancestors.’ ”

There is something deeply moving and wonderful and absurd and human about spending years of your life trying to decipher how 15th century people counted beans and corn.  What a worthy challenge to try and sort this out:

khipu

William Neuman for NY Times

To the khipu guys and gals, I say: good luck.

You can read more about khipu/quipu and the Inca/Inka in my book, The Wonder Trail: True Stories From Los Angeles To The End Of The World, coming June 2016.


Granite

FullSizeRender (17)

If you can find a more boring-sounding television program I’ll be impressed!  I can guess why this might be on, say, WSBE in Providence, but why was KVCR in Riverside/San Bernardino airing it?

FullSizeRender (18)

If I’d known “Granite Historian” was a job everything might’ve been different.

IMG_1886

Haven’t made it through the whole program yet but it ain’t going anywhere.

 


Movie Roundup!

LRS

QUICK ANNOUNCEMENT:

Hey!  Do you enjoy Helytimes?

I hope so.  If you do, let me encourage you to sign up for Helytimes Newsletter.  It’s FREE.  No more than once a month, you will receive bonus content to your email.  

And it’s free.  Just email helphely@gmail.com and you’d like to subscribe to Helytimes (unjoining at any time is as easy).

I’m not joking — I’m experimenting with expanding to like a once a month e-magazine you can subscribe to.  

Thanks!

OK on we go!

FullSizeRender (13)

Before we begin: We need to redefine “spoiler.”

Any news about what happens in a TV show or movie shouldn’t count as a “spoiler.”  Saying Walter White meets a guy named Tuco is not a “spoiler.”  It is perhaps unwelcome information, but you know what, you’ll survive.  A true “spoiler” is something that would truly spoil the experience of watching the thing.  That is a very high standard.  Even then, you’ll friggin’ survive.  I gotta say, I watched a recent famous episode of Game Of Thrones and The Crying Game knowing the “spoilers,” and found both to still be very compelling.  Maybe my enjoyment was diminished 15%, but I mean come on.

Also I believe you don’t really remember stuff you hear about shows you aren’t watching, so most “spoilers” pass by like harmless gusts of wind.

A passionate Mindy Kaling take I am on board with: it is unmanly to whine about spoilers.  Take your spoilers like a man.  As a society we’ve become much too weak on this.

These write ups contain no true spoilers, but they assume you’ve seen the movie, so skip as you will.

A word about criticism, too: anyone criticizing anything should begin by saying “it’s really hard and brave to make any work of art.  I have never made a movie.  Making a movie is a crazy accomplishment.  The credit belongs to the man in the arena.  It’s a lot easier to sit here and criticize.”  BUT: it’s also a good way to get yourself thinking about what you care about in movies and why, so it’s worth doing.  Plus it’s fun!

Now I don’t know anything about shots and cinematography and all that film stuff.  I do know a little about acting, mainly that it is way harder than it looks and that to make it look effortless is amazing.  I do know a little about telling stories.

What I think about with movies is usually the stories so that is where I will focus my attention.  

Let’s have some fun with movies!

THE MARTIAN

martian-tifrss0009frnleft-1001rrgb

stealing this movie photo from Newsweek

What the fuck went wrong with this movie?  I saw the trailer for it and was moved to near-tears, like “YES!  Goddamn it, let’s go rescue The Martian!  He will never stop fighting to survive!”

But then in the movie, it’s like who cares.  Does the Martian have anyone on Earth who cares about him?  Does he have a family?  A wife?  A mom?  A cute kid?  Go for it!  Tug on my heartstrings! Is a class of schoolchildren watching him?

It felt like The Martian was like deliberately choosing not to do that, out of some kind of integrity or something.  As I understand it, the book The Martian was written by an engineer and has none of that bullshit, it’s just hard-ass science.  Which, I guess is cool but c’mon.  You got Matt Damon there!  Give me a reason to care whether he lives or dies!

Also, the Martian has that awesome speech in the trailer about fighting to survive when the shit goes down.  In the movie, that speech is plopped down as literally a classroom lecture after the Martian is safe and sound and the movie is essentially over.  Who gives a shit anymore?

Ridley Scott is amazing.  He made Alien which is as perfect a movie as has ever been made.

He also made Kingdom Of Heaven.  I remember vouching for that movie to friends, being like “hey Ridley Scott made a movie about the Crusades.  It’s gotta be at least worth seeing!”  I believe I was still making this argument to myself, having failed to convince my friends, when I saw that movie alone.  It taught me the lesson that a truly great director with near-infinite resources is still left with a piece of shit if the story doesn’t make sense.  Kingdom Of Heaven twisted itself into story knots trying to make Orlando Bloom friends with the Muslim guy.  Hey man, if you’re gonna make a movie about the Crusades, either do it or don’t.  And maybe don’t, because the Crusades were fucked up and I don’t want Orlando Bloom getting involved.

I thought The Counselor was very cool.  I think a flaw with the Counselor, which is not really Cameron Diaz’s fault, is that Cameron Diaz is supposed to play a character who is like the pure distillation of female evil.  And, that can’t happen because I like Cameron Diaz even when she’s telling me “the slaughter to come will be beyond our imagining.”  Maybe that was the idea?

Anyway back to The Martian:

Science-wise: was the solution Donald Glover proposes in The Martian anything?  I mean, I don’t know a ton about space travel but I thought the most basic idea is that you’re slingshotting with gravity, how had they not thought of that at NASA?

Worth reading Ridley Scott’s quotes page on IMDb.  Two good ones:

I’m a yarnteller. My job is to engage you as much as I can and as often as I can. I love the process and still continue to adore the process, actually. I don’t get attached to anything. I’m like a good antique dealer. I’m prepared to sell my most valuable table.

Never let yourself be seen in public unless they pay for it.

It might be crazy but I did leave The Martian hungry for potatoes.

The writer Caleb Crain has a neat blog, and at this time of year he puts up a bunch of stray matter under the heading NOTES.  I printed it out to read at Tatsu, and his take on The Martian was so interesting I ripped it out to save:

FullSizeRender (14)

(I will also use the word “suthering” now!)

A+ acting I thought by Matt Damon.

Great Debates Topic: Matt Damon is as good at what he does as Tom Brady is at what he does.

BROOKLYN

brooklyn

photo from Variety. If they can use it can I? I’m not even charging money

Somehow I started following Dublin-based journalist Amy O’Connor on Twitter.  She is terrific.  Enjoyed her take:

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 11.43.02 AM

This movie was excellent, very well-made.  It dig bug me a bit though why Saoirse got married — like, why include that at that point in the plot?  If she’s already married, she doesn’t really have much of a choice in Ireland, does she?  At least it’s a lot messier.  If she’s married, she’s kind of jerking poor Domhnall Gleeson around, no?

Domhnall_Gleeson_by_Gage_Skidmore

Anyway good film.  Why didn’t we get the screener on this one?  A rare miss in a bonanza year of screeners.

Kudos to this movie for not shying away from the physical ugliness of the Irish people.

A+ acting by Saoirse and Domhnall.

JOY

Joy

Into it!  Any movie that can get your emotions up around a scene of a woman vouching for her self-invented mop is terrific.  Great job.

A+ acting by Jennifer Lawrence.  Does it seem like I’m grading on a curve?  Well, maybe we’re just blessed with good actors.  B+ to Bradley Cooper.  A+ to Isabella Rosselini.

Sympathized with this take from the great Tom Scharpling:

FullSizeRender (16)

ANOMALISA

anomalisa

Ugh, am I really gonna have to see this?  I guess so.  Man, I love Charlie Kaufman but it just seems like a bit much to ask me to drag myself to the Arclight to watch some puppets mourn over how the cost of consciousness is despair or whatever.

Ugh, it’s probably great, haven’t seen it, is a thought I had a lot in 2015.

Everyone should read this BAFTA speech by Charlie Kaufman.

THE REVENANT

085d03068aa497f3bb9bf2a3d0babc6c

LOVED!  A triumph!  Any movie that tries to really depict the earthy details of some fucked-up primitive period in American history I am INTO!  Previous title holder in this category was The New World.

Drudge was not being crazy to hype the bear rape element of this movie.  That scene was definitely shot to at least suggest/hint at rape, don’t be cute Alejandro Iñárritu, you knew damn well what you were doing.

Thanks to Cherry for demanding I see this, really might’ve missed it, it seemed like too much snow for me.

Michael Punke, who wrote the book on which The Revenant is “based in part on” (why say that?  felt a bit petty) sounds like my kinda guy:

When he was a teenager, he also spent at least three summers working at the Fort Laramie National Historic Site as a “living history interpreter.”

fort laramie

nationalparks.org

(Should we have seen Fort Laramie’s Three-Mile Hog Ranch in the movie?:

The ranch was described by U.S. Army Lieutenant John Gregory Bourke:[3]

… tenanted by as hardened and depraved set of witches as could be found on the face of the globe. It [was] a rum mill of the worst kind [with] half a dozen Cyprians, virgins whose lamps were always burning brightly in expectancy of the coming of the bridegroom, and who lured to destruction the soldiers of the garrison. In all my experience I have never seen a lower, more beastly set of people of both sexes.

Um, try the parking lot at Whole Foods Bourke!

(Bourke is fascinating, he could read Irish, Greek Latin and Apache.  His field notes, Evan Connell tell us, fill eight feet of shelf space. More on him in the next Helytimes Premium.))

And now Michael Punke is the US Ambassador to the World Trade Organization in Geneva?  What a dope dude!

Punke allegedly came up with the idea to write the novel while on an airplane, after reading a couple of lines in a history book about real-life frontier fur trapper Hugh Glass. Punke was also working at the law firm of Mayer Brown at the time when he started the book (1997), so he would go to the office as early as 5:00 AM in the morning before anyone else got there to write pages for roughly three hours, and then do his job for eight to ten hours. The book took a total of four years to complete and according to his brother Tim, Punke actually caught pneumonia at least four times during the writing process.

You KNOW I clicked the wiki for Hugh Glass spoilers!!:

Glass was thereafter referred to as “the revenant,” from the 19th century French verb revenant, meaning someone who returns from a long absence, or a person or thing reborn.[citation needed]

After recovering, Glass set out again to find Fitzgerald and Bridger, motivated either by murderous revenge or the desire to get his weapons back. He eventually traveled to Fort Henry on the Yellowstone River, but found it deserted; a note indicated that Andrew Henry and company had relocated to a new camp at the mouth of the Bighorn River. Arriving there, Glass found Bridger but apparently forgave him because of his youth, and then re-enlisted with Ashley’s company.

Man Tom Hardy is fucking crushing it this year.

Tom Hardy

from reelfilmchatter.net uncredited

A+ to him.  A+ to Leo as well, although who had the harder job?

Hypothetical: If Leonardo DiCaprio’s sole goal in doing The Revenant was to try to win an Oscar (and I don’t think it was but play along) was pairing himself was Tom Hardy:

a) brave: compete/push yourself with the best to raise your game

b) sensible: not brave, just be with the best and make a good movie and maybe you’ll get lucky

c) an accident: he didn’t consider that element

d) a huge miscalculation: Tom Hardy blew him away?

e) neither, DiCaprio knows the Oscars are a fucked up contest where your work at enacting yourself as a movie star over years matters far more than what you did in the one movie

It wasn’t c.

Hardy made his big screen debut in Black Hawk Down, a great one by Ridley.  Now, that movie had a simple, clear story: heroes vs. savages.  What’s that?  Problematic take?  Oh well we moved on.

Says Hardy to The Guardian a few years ago:

So what drives Tom Hardy? “I want everyone to love me.”

And has he got what he wanted? “You get to the point where you can’t please everyone. I don’t want constructive criticism, I want adulation,” he beams. “That’s immature but it’s totally there. King Baby.”

Tom Hardy is truly King Baby.

FURIOUS 7

furious 7

What a great movie to wrap Christmas presents to or to enjoy even if you don’t really speak English.  These guys are doing what they’re doing and they’re great at it.  I’m not sure what Vin Diesel does is “acting,” but he’s terrific at it.  I don’t like how Tyrese was made to be a bit of a coward and a fool.

In one of the earlier movies, do they show Michelle Rodriguez/Vin Diesel wedding?  Let me know, I would like to go back and watch that!  Seriously if that happens in one of the movies and you know about that please email helphely@gmail.com

It’s good to see Ronda Rousey in movies because it demonstrates how hard acting is.  Ronda Rousey, who is brave/confident/calm/controlled/disciplined/tight/skillful enough to fight another person in a cage, is noticeably bad at it.

JURASSIC WORLD

jurassic world

from business insider, credit Chuck Zlotnick, Universal Pictures, hope this ok Chuck/Universal!

Had a good time, seemed fun enough to me!  Admittedly I was watching while helping build the White House out of LEGOs.

IMG_1793

Could Chris Pratt’s character in the movie be the same guy he was in Zero Dark Thirty, further down the road?  He was in the Navy in both movies.

I can see an argument that the migration from Laura Dern’s character in the old JP to Bryce Dallas Howard’s in this one illustrates a troubling backslide for feminism.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

Sure whatever.

A+ job by Daisy Ridley.  From her far too brief wikipedia:

Her great-uncle was actor and playwright Arnold Ridley, who played Private Godfrey in Dad’s Army.

Huh!  Is that… good?

A Brief Digression

While watching Star Wars I was reminded of a delightful episode from my young adulthood.

As a young apprentice writer in Los Angeles, I heard about a book published in the UK called The Seven Basic Plots.  The book was said to be over seven hundred pages long and the life’s work of one Christopher Booker.  “My God,” I thought.  “This man Booker’s cracked the code!  If I can get my hands on this book writing will never be hard again!”  So I sent away for it.  It arrived, no small book either:

IMG_1854

Maybe it should’ve told me all I needed to know that one of the seven plots is “comedy” but it didn’t.  With pencil and highlighter in hand, I set to my studies to learn Booker’s wisdom.  It started out well enough, but then I got to page 42.

FullSizeRender (15)

“Oh dear,” I thought.  Just to be safe I double-checked the very first words of the very first shot of the film Star Wars:

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 7.39.55 PM

Uh-oh.  Maybe this guy Booker wasn’t paying all that much attention to all these stories?

I wrote to Booker’s publisher, hoping they could fix this error, and they were actually kinda snooty about it!

Anyway.  Anybody can get something wrong but it is funny to get something that wrong.

MAD MAX

Mad Max

Don’t forget that Mad Max: Fury Road came out this year.  What a movie.  The main guy starts out the movie hanging upside down being used as a blood bag.  Now that is putting your hero in trouble.

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD - 2015 FILM STILL - Photo Credit: Jasin Boland © 2015 WV FILMS IV LLC AND RATPAC-DUNE ENTERTAINMENT LLC - U.S., CANADA, BAHAMAS & BERMUDA © 2015 VILLAGE ROADSHOW FILMS (BVI) LIMITED - ALL OTHER TERRITORIES

MAD MAX: FURY ROAD – 2015 FILM STILL –
Photo Credit: Jasin Boland © 2015 WV FILMS IV LLC AND RATPAC-DUNE ENTERTAINMENT LLC – U.S., CANADA, BAHAMAS & BERMUDA © 2015 VILLAGE ROADSHOW FILMS (BVI) LIMITED – ALL OTHER TERRITORIES  – Stealing this photo from Coral Gables Art Cinema’s website.

CAROL

Carol

lifted from the UK Telegraph, credit “Festival de Cannes”

I thought at some point, a desire to watch this movie would arise in me.  But it never did!  I bet it’s great, I hope someday I watch it.

Cate Blanchett is one of the actresses whose face can be made to look most like a bunraku puppet:

bunraku

from an article about a bunraku show at Princeton. Those guys know how to party.

Haynes knows puppets and human simulacra:

In 1987, while an MFA student at Bard College, Haynes made a short, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, which chronicles the life of American pop singer Karen Carpenter, using Barbie dolls as actors.

THE HATEFUL EIGHT

the_hateful_eight

Damn.  This guy is making stuff on such a crazy level it’s lucky just to be alive at the same time as he is.

If you’re a movie critic, how are you even supposed to write about this movie?  Just for starters, Quentin Tarantino definitely knows more about movies than you and if you say anything at all, you better be damn sure he wasn’t doing exactly what you’re accusing him of doing exactly on purpose.

I have listened to lots of interviews with this dude.  The one on Bret Easton Ellis’ podcast is very in depth.  Think what you will of BEE, he has a strong take. (thanks to BJN for the rec).

Listening to interviews with him, hearing about the insane typos in his screenplays, his play-it-backwards-just-for-fun level of total genius not just comprehension but ability to execute in his movies makes me wonder if QT isn’t something like the version of Mozart in Amadeus:

Is there anything this guy thinks of that he can’t make appear on the screen more or less as it popped out of his insane swirling noggin?

Think of the twists and turns and levels for the actors to play in this movie!  The stuff for Jennifer Jason Leigh alone!

Imagine QT walking Jennifer Jason Leigh through this character.  (Ugh, spoilers warning): “Ok, so, you’re going to be a murderous racist, you’re going to scream the n-word in Samuel L. Jackson’s face, you’re gonna get hit in the face five or six times, your face will be coated in blood and vomit for much of the film, you will play a heartbreakingly beautiful song, but that will be while taunting a man you know is about to die, you will cross and double cross and be a schemer beyond measure and a siren and a charmer and sister and and in the end you will hung and will die twitching, sound good?”

Incredible job by her.  All the actors were awesome.  A+ to everybody.

How about that Walton Goggins?  Are you kidding me?  There’s a guy named Walton Goggins?  (Imagine the casting department for Justified:

“Uh, who should we get to play Boyd Crawther?”

“Um, Walton Goggins?”

“Wow sounds perfect, but can he do the accent?  Where is he from?”

“Alabama, then Lithia Springs, Georgia?”)

Check out Walton Goggins’ blog where he posts photos from his travels and musings:

Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 12.39.06 PM

if Walton Goggins is half as good at blogging as he is at acting ain’t nobody gonna need Helytimes.

Did anybody else think Michael Madsen looks like kind of a roughed-up future version of Andy Jones?

Andy Jones

I saw The Hateful Eight twice.  First at a WGA screening a couple weeks ago with Medina.  We loved it.

Then I ended up seeing it again, at 8:30 in the morning the other day at the Arclight.  (I woke up too early because my bod was on East Coast time so I thought hell I guess I’ll go see Hateful Eight again.)

There was much that was illuminated on a second viewing.  Here’s a spoiler for you: the 8:30am 70mm showing of Hateful Eight is full of weirdos.  Nor what I would call a “ton” of ladies.  One guy had brought a girl, but if it was a date it was not a success.

At the intermission a very old man in a Warner Bros. jacket walked to the bathroom muttering to himself “enough dialogue for ten movies!”

You said it pal.

The men’s room at the intermission for this movie, which comes right after Mr. Jackson’s speech about his dingus, is quite an interesting scene.

Got to thinking during this movie about Martin McDonagh’s plays, like The Lieutenant of Inishmore, which ends with the stage covered in blood:

inishmore_376

from the website of Keira Keeley, production photographer: http://www.keirakeeley.com/photo15.html, she credits The Repertory Theater of St. Louis, I hope they don’t mind.

No doubt McDonagh learned a lot from Tarantino, and had the idea to push the stage to its limit of blood.  Now you can watch Tarantino himself try the same trick.  Spoiler he is good at it and there is a lot of blood on the stage.

There is much to be said for this point raised by comedian Todd Levin:

FullSizeRender

In my own theater no one was comfortable enjoying the use of that word, the laughter was half distress-call.

I feel like QT gave away the skeleton key to his whole deal on Fresh Air last year:

GROSS: So here’s something I was wondering, I know there’s so much like, you know, African-American popular culture that you really love. And I was wondering when you were growing up if you grew up in an integrated neighborhood, if you went to an integrated school, if you had African-American friends or if your contact with black people was largely through popular culture.

TARANTINO: No, no. I went to a mostly black school. You know, it wasn’t all-black because I was there, but it was mostly black.

(LAUGHTER)

TARANTINO: And the different points of my life I was raised by black people, raised in black homes – between my mom’s best friend that I lived a lot of times with her and her family and just the kind of United Nations aspect that my mom’s house was in the early ’70s, right at the explosion of black culture. So black culture is my culture growing up.

GROSS: Your mother had a United Nations kind of home?

TARANTINO: Yeah. Well, it was almost like a sitcom, actually the way we lived in the ’70s because she was in her 20s, she was hot, all right, she was a hot white girl. Her best friend was named Jackie. She was a hot black girl. And her other best friend was Lillian and she was a hot Mexican girl. And they lived in this like swinging singles apartment with me.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: What impact did that have on you?

TARANTINO: Yeah, well, it was just yeah, it was just, you know, it was the ’70s so it was, you know, I lived with these three hip ladies all going out on dates all the time and dating football players and basketball players and, you know, my mother…

GROSS: Professionals ones or…

TARANTINO: Yeah. Yeah. My mom dated Wilt Chamberlain. She’s one of the thousand.

GROSS: No.

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: Did that – this is getting too personal, but did that affect your sense of sexuality when you were growing up?

TARANTINO: In what way?

GROSS: Well, because most people can’t imagine their – so many people can’t imagine their parents having sex. And when you’re growing up with like your mother and two other women who are obviously engaging, you know, it makes you think of your own…

TARANTINO: Oh yeah. No, it was…

GROSS: Yeah.

TARANTINO: You know, she was a woman. She was a, you know, she was living the life. She was having a good time and everything, you know? She was taking care of me, too, so everything was fine. It was hip. It was just cool. You know the boyfriends would come over and they’d take me out. They’d take me blacksploitation movies trying to, you know, get me to like them.

And buy me footballs and stuff. And we’d go to, like, cool, you know, my mama and her friends would take me to cool bars and stuff where they’d be playing cool live rhythm and blues music. And I’d be drinking whatchamacallit, Shirley Temples, I think. I called them James Bond because, yeah, I didn’t like the name Shirley Temple.

(LAUGHTER)

TARANTINO: I drank Shirley Temples and, you know, eat Mexican food or whatever. While, like some, you know, Jimmy Soul and a cool band would be playing in some lava lounge-y kind of a ’70s cocktail lounge. It was really cool. It made me grow up in a real big way. When I would hang around with kids I’d think they were really childish. I always used to hang around with, like, really groovy adults.

GROSS: Well, I feel like I know you just a little bit better now.

(LAUGHTER)

TARANTINO: Yeah. No, no. You know, Saturday – every time Saturday would roll around, it would become 1 o’clock, everyone in the house (technical difficulties)

(When they come back Terry asks about the New Beverly)

Man, if in my childhood cool black dudes would have sex with my mom and then take me to bars?  I would remain quite fascinated with cool black dudes and their sexuality and language and behavior and values.

Two discussion questions about Hateful Eight:

Stories have values.  To tell a story you and the audience must share some basic ideas about what’s a good and bad way to act, and a good and bad outcome.  For instance, you couldn’t follow The Revenant if you didn’t understand that it’s not great to leave a guy for dead.

So, all stories have morality.  The story can be pretty easy-to-agree with principles: surviving is better than dying, say or it is right to seek justice for others or love is good.  (Greg Daniels was really good at talking about this, I learned a lot from thinking about things he said.)

What are we gonna do with the morality of a movie like Hateful Eight, where all the characters are, as stated clearly, hateful?  What does it mean to get me to root for… their twisted revenge or whatever?Where the only thing in the movie there is to root for, really, is the gleeful shock of seeing chaos and calamity?  Where nothing positive emerges at the end except our boyish delight in the total chaos of it all and our shrieking delight in the wicked talents of the filmmaker who made us enjoy at horrible words and deeds?

After ingesting hours of interviews with him, I feel like 1) I like QT and think he is not a bad guy and 2) whenever QT is challenged on something, he demonstrates that while he may not agree, he has certainly thought about the issue as deeply and usually much more deeply than the interviewer.

Like: you can’t charge him with a crime he hasn’t already put himself on trial and acquitted himself for.  I’m sure that’s the case here, too.

But is it disappointing to see the talent this guy has and then watch him use it to tell a story that’s just about hateful people destroying each other?  Can’t we ask of this guy, “give us a bit more joy than watching a mean bastard get hung?” Is it wrong to ask for some kind of positive energy to come from the movie experience?

I guess that energy comes from the staggering craft of the movie, the “fun” of its outrageousness, but… you gotta know in a movie where they’re screaming nigger at each other like they really mean it plus beating the shit out of a woman and being as cruel as possible, the energy of enjoyment is not gonna be all enriching clean fun.

Is telling an audience a completely unredeemed story like this a tiny bit wrong, wicked? dark magic?  Or, is what’s troubling about it part of the point?!

Maybe you could ask the same thing about Moby-Dick and The Counselor and Blood Meridian — at least this movie has cool songs.

IMG_1858

from the printed program you get when you see Hateful Eight in 70mm

Second question: is the way the music swells and the camera rises at the end when we hear the “Lincoln letter” joke meant to be a cruel joke about our civic pieties?  the idea that somehow Lincoln is an inspiring figure, whose words suggests progress and enlightenment can be the shared future for the races that share this country, is kinda turned on its head and suggested as a con and a trick?  Is the final idea of this movie like “a Lincoln letter — HA!  what a buncha saps we all are, when all there is is death and hate and blood and ruin?”

Even knowing it’s fake we’re semi-moved by it, is that the joke?  How much we (even Walton Goggins’ Hateful Sheriff) crave it?

I dunno!

OK this has been Movie Roundup!  Thanks to all of you for reading.  And thanks to these great movies for entertaining me!  I really like movies.

See you at the Oscars!

Don’t forget to sign up for Helytimes Premium!  helphely@gmail.com