Found this picture of John McCain Sr. (the Senator’s grandfather) and William “Bull” Halsey on Wiki while looking up something or another.
Here’s McCain Sr and Junior (the Senator’s dad) at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. McCain Sr. dropped dead four days later.
Our number one pick is: THE WONDER TRAIL: True Stories From Los Angeles To the End of The World, available at Amazon or your local indie bookstore. You’ll enjoy it.
Other items we enjoyed this year and can endorse:
Not exactly a steal at $299 but if Tony Robbins is to believed it’s very important for your lymph nodes to be shaken. We’ve found it stimulating!
Treat yourself or a loved one to a Coyuchi towel? ($48)
For the California adventurer, we recommend Tom Harrison maps? ($8.95)
Or perhaps a Delorme atlas?:
But really, what you want is:
Remember this guy? For some reason or another I bought this pamphlet of a speech he gave at King’s College, London, November 1993:
Stockdale was a 38 year old naval aviator when he got sent to Stanford for two years of study. He was pretty bored until a professor handed him a copy of The Enchiridion, a collection of the teachings of Epictetus.
What does Epictetus teach?
He taught how to play the game of life with perspective:
Five years later, this is what happened to Stockdale:
Stockdale was wrong about how long he’d be there. He was there for 7 1/2 years, much of it in solitary confinement:
How did he spend his time? Well, for one thing he constructed a sliderule in his mind from equations tapped to him in code through a concrete wall::
A bigger collection of Stockdale’s speeches and essays:
where he distills what he learned through his prison experience down to “one all-purpose idea, plus a few corollaries”:
What he has to say about public virtue is distressing as I watch the future president:
Recommend Courage Under Fire, which costs five bucks or $3.85 on Kindle. Thoughts Of A Philosophical Fighter Pilot is for the serious Stockdale student.
I think you can appreciate the greatness of Stockdale and also find this funny:
Coverage of another philosophical fighter pilot, John Boyd, here.
from the doc Hearts & Minds (1974) which was on TCM on Election Night.
He’s Chile’s own Donald Trump.
Shoutout to my pal Fabrizio Copano for telling me about him.
TO lighten the mood deep down in the San José Mine, the 33 trapped miners would playfully imitate Leonardo Farkas Klein, donning makeshift wigs to simulate the long curly blond mane of the mining executive.
Salving myself with fantasies of whole state delegations of presidential electors tossing out Trump when the Electoral College voting goes down.
The Electoral College never actually meets as one body. Electors meet in their respective state capitals (electors for the District of Columbia meet within the District) on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December, at which time they cast their electoral votes on separate ballots for president and vice president.
The history of “faithless electors” doesn’t break a five on a 1-10 scale of interesting (with 10 being reasonably interesting) but the case of the last faithless elector is kind of funny:
1 – 2004 election: An anonymous Minnesota elector, pledged for Democrats John Kerry and John Edwards, cast his or her presidential vote for John Ewards [sic],rather than Kerry, presumably by accident
There’s some talk of the Electoral College in The Federalist 68, which seems a little optimistic at the moment:
The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.
Also enjoyable, this photo from an Australian reader:
Read this Bloomberg profile by Joshua Green of the president-elect’s “chief strategist and senior counselor,” Steve Bannon:
And then, serendipitously, Bannon wound up in the entertainment business himself. Westinghouse Electric, a client, was looking to unload Castle Rock Entertainment, which had a big TV and movie presence, including Billy Crystal’s films. Bannon reeled in an eager buyer: Ted Turner. “Turner was going to build this huge studio,” he says, “so we were negotiating the deal at the St. Regis hotel in New York. As often happened with Turner, when it came time to actually close the deal, Ted was short of cash. … Westinghouse just wanted out. We told them, ‘You ought to take this deal. It’s a great deal.’ And they go, ‘If this is such a great deal, why don’t you defer some of your cash fee and keep an ownership stake in a package of TV rights?’ ” In lieu of a full adviser’s fee, the firm accepted a stake in five shows, including one in its third season regarded as the runt of the litter: Seinfeld. “We calculated what it would get us if it made it to syndication,” says Bannon. “We were wrong by a factor of five.”
That’s where Bannon popped up. He had left Goldman Sachs to start Bannon & Co., a boutique banking firm specializing in media companies. His firm was representing Westinghouse, and when Turner didn’t have the cash to close both deals, he offered as partial payment the right to participate in some of Castle Rock’s TV shows. Most were unremarkable titles that even insiders can’t quite recall (though some say The Ed Begley Jr. Show and Julie Brown: The Show were included). There also was Seinfeld, which was struggling to find an audience even in its third season. Bannon advised Westinghouse to accept Turner’s terms. Westinghouse executives countered that if Bannon was so confident, he should also accept participation rights instead of a portion of his bank’s $3 million fee. Bannon took the chance. Neither Seinfeld, Horn, Reiner nor anyone at Castle Rock were even aware of the arrangement.
What lessons are in this profile?
But this “conspiracy,” at least under Bannon, has mutated into something different from what Clinton described: It’s as eager to go after establishment Republicans such as Boehner or Jeb Bush as Democrats like Clinton.
Engineered Weiner downfall?:
Tipped to Weiner’s proclivity for sexting with female admirers, Bannon says, the site paid trackers to follow his Twitter account 24 hours a day and eventually intercepted a crotch shot Weiner inadvertently made public. The ensuing scandal culminated in the surreal scene, carried live on television, of Andrew Breitbart hijacking Weiner’s press conference and fielding questions from astonished reporters.
Let us be careful about punditry with oversold conclusions:
For Bannon, the Clinton Cash uproar validated a personal theory, informed by his Goldman Sachs experience, about how conservatives can influence the media and why they failed the last time a Clinton was running for the White House. “In the 1990s,” he told me, “conservative media couldn’t take down [Bill] Clinton because most of what they produced was punditry and opinion, and they always oversold the conclusion: ‘It’s clearly impeachable!’ So they wound up talking to themselves in an echo chamber.”
In response, Bannon developed two related insights. “One of the things Goldman teaches you is, don’t be the first guy through the door because you’re going to get all the arrows. If it’s junk bonds, let Michael Milken lead the way,” he says. “Goldman would never lead in any product. Find a business partner.” His other insight was that the reporters staffing the investigative units of major newspapers aren’t the liberal ideologues of conservative fever dreams but kindred souls who could be recruited into his larger enterprise. “What you realize hanging out with investigative reporters is that, while they may be personally liberal, they don’t let that get in the way of a good story,” he says. “And if you bring them a real story built on facts, they’re f—ing badasses, and they’re fair.”
Used the media outlets of his opponents to his advantage:
“It seems to me,” says Brock of Bannon and his team, “what they were able to do in this deal with the Times is the same strategy, but more sophisticated and potentially more effective and damaging because of the reputation of the Times. If you were trying to create doubt and qualms about [Hillary Clinton] among progressives, theTimes is the place to do it.” He pauses. “Looking at it from their point of view, theTimes is the perfect host body for the virus.”
The takeover boom:
Bannon landed in Goldman’s New York office at the height of the hostile takeover boom. “Everything in the Midwest was being raided by Milken,” he says. “It was like a firestorm.” Goldman didn’t do hostile takeovers, instead specializing in raid defense for companies targeted by the likes of Drexel Burnham and First Boston. The first few years, he worked every day except Christmas and loved it: “The camaraderie was amazing. It was like being in the Navy, in the wardroom of a ship.” Later, he worked on a series of leveraged buyouts, including a deal for Calumet Coach that involved Bain Capital and an up-and-comer named Mitt Romney.
Two big things were going on at Goldman Sachs in the late ’80s. The globalization of world capital markets meant that size suddenly mattered. Everyone realized that the firm, then a private partnership, would have to go public. Bankers also could see that the Glass-Steagall Act separating commercial and investment banking was going to fall, setting off a flurry of acquisitions. Specialists would command a premium. Bannon shipped out to Los Angeles to specialize in media and entertainment. “A lot of people were coming from outside buying media companies,” he says. “There was huge consolidation.”
Breitbart’s genius was that he grasped better than anyone else what the early 20th century press barons understood—that most readers don’t approach the news as a clinical exercise in absorbing facts, but experience it viscerally as an ongoing drama, with distinct story lines, heroes, and villains. Breitbart excelled at creating these narratives, an editorial approach that’s lived on. “When we do an editorial call, I don’t even bring anything I feel like is only a one-off story, even if it’d be the best story on the site,” says Alex Marlow, the site’s editor in chief. “Our whole mindset is looking for these rolling narratives.” He rattles off the most popular ones, which Breitbart News covers intensively from a posture of aggrieved persecution. “The big ones won’t surprise you,” he says. “Immigration, ISIS, race riots, and what we call ‘the collapse of traditional values.’ But I’d say Hillary Clinton is tops.”
Schweizer grew disillusioned with Washington and became radicalized against what he perceived to be a bipartisan culture of corruption. “To me, Washington, D.C., is a little bit like professional wrestling,” he told me. “When I was growing up in Seattle, I’d turn on Channel 13, the public-access station, and watch wrestling. At first I thought, ‘Man, these guys hate each other because they’re beating the crap out of each other.’ But I eventually realized they’re actually business partners.”
Mission… accomplished? How about this:
Hillary Clinton’s story, they believed, was too sprawling and familiar to tackle in its entirety. So they’d focus only on the last decade, the least familiar period, and especially on the millions of dollars flowing into the Clinton Foundation. Bannon calls this approach “periodicity.”
“The modern economics of the newsroom don’t support big investigative reporting staffs,” says Bannon. “You wouldn’t get a Watergate, a Pentagon Papers today, because nobody can afford to let a reporter spend seven months on a story. We can. We’re working as a support function.”
More insight from this Hollywood Reporter article:
The Democratic Party betrayed its working-man roots, just as Hillary Clinton betrayed the long-time Clinton connection — Bill Clinton’s connection — to the working man. “The Clinton strength,” he says, “was to play to people without a college education. High school people. That’s how you win elections.”
To say that he sees this donor class — which in his telling is also “ascendant America,” e.g. the elites, as well as “the metrosexual bubble” that encompasses cosmopolitan sensibilities to be found as far and wide as Shanghai, London’s Chelsea, Hollywood and the Upper West Side — as a world apart, is an understatement. In his view, there’s hardly a connection between this world and its opposite — fly-over America, left-behind America, downwardly mobile America — hardly a common language. This is partly why he regards the liberal characterization of himself as socially vile, as the politically incorrect devil incarnate, as laughable — and why he is stoutly unapologetic. They —liberals and media — don’t understand what he is saying, or why, or to whom. Breitbart, with its casual provocations — lists of its varied incitements (among them: the conservative writer David Horowitz referred to conservative pundit Brill Kristol as a “renegade Jew,” and the site delighting in headlines the likes of “Trannies 49Xs Higher HIV Rate” and “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy”) were in hot exchange after the election among appalled Democrats — is as obtuse to the liberal-donor-globalist class as Lena Dunham might be to the out-of-work workingman class. And this, in the Bannon view, is all part of the profound misunderstanding that led liberals to believe that Donald Trump’s mouth would doom him, instead of elect him.
“The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get f—ed over. If we deliver—” by “we” he means the Trump White House “—we’ll get 60 percent of the white vote, and 40 percent of the black and Hispanic vote and we’ll govern for 50 years. That’s what the Democrats missed, they were talking to these people with companies with a $9 billion market cap employing nine people. It’s not reality. They lost sight of what the world is about.”
Much of this is the same kind of stuff which can be found in this book:
A good detail from it:
The closing note from that HR Bannon profile, btw:
“I am,” he says, with relish, “Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors.”
How did it end for Cromwell, I can’t remember?
Helytimes in on hiatus once again as we consider the work ahead.
This country’s always asked for work from its citizens, take these guys (by which I mean women and men) for instance:
Our hiatuses last an average of two days.
- being curious about the world
- the people south of us and how they got that way
- survivals in the face of the catastrophes in history.
After seeing Horrible Trump at the RNC, I was in a terrible mood, you can hear it in my voice in the episode of Great Debates we recorded right after.
Talked about it afterwards in Great Debates News, and I get upset anew when I remember what I thought then:
Here’s the simplest and worst thing I can say about a Trump rally: you’re way more likely to say “I hate you” to somebody afterwards.
Can already feel this feeling happening again, to me and to people around me. This is a nasty guy and hearing him and seeing him makes you feel nasty. For myself, gonna try hard to not get worse, ruder.
Need to think on some new judo.
Struck once on a visit to London by the power of the monument to Viscount Slim, at St. Paul’s:
Slim’s book gets a good place on my shelf:
Because I want a daily reminder of his attitude:
George MacDonald Fraser, later author of The Flashman Papers series of novels, then a nineteen-year-old lance corporal, recalled:
But the biggest boost to morale was the burly man who came to talk to the assembled battalion … it was unforgettable. Slim was like that: the only man I’ve ever seen who had a force that came out of him… British soldiers don’t love their commanders much less worship them; Fourteenth Army trusted Slim and thought of him as one of themselves, and perhaps his real secret was that the feeling was mutual.
Let us remember things have been dark before. When it comes to the pinch human beings are heroic, said Orwell (worth checking out the context).
Just finished reading:
A strange thing to read, maybe. Here is the story of how I came to read it.
Some years ago, filming the finale of The Office on Dwight Schrute’s farm:
I looked around at the inland Malibu landscape and got to wondering if there could be a show about the pioneers: people who arrived on empty* land and built their lives there.
So as research I picked up the first book I thought of:
Didn’t finish it. Got distracted before I got off the third page, probably at first by my phone and then by my life.
A true Save The Cat
On the first page of O Pioneers!, there is a true Save The Cat situation.
We’re in the middle of a blizzard, and Little Emil’s cat has gone up a telegraph pole, and he’s afraid it’ll freeze:
Down in Australia in August, I saw the cool Penguin Classics edition:
and picked it up thinking, eh what the hell I should find out what happened to that cat.
Well, I found out, and I found out what happened to Emil and his sister Alexandra for the next forty years.
I believe an error was made in choosing this quote for the front page:
It isn’t the most interesting one from the book. I might’ve chosen this:
Or even, if we’re going re: ducks, this:
This quote made me think of the news:
Also can’t say that the epigraph is especially sexy:
Perhaps it’s better in the original Polish.
But still I pressed on, and in the end, I gotta give it up to O Pioneers!
The life of Willa Cather
Willa Cather must’ve been quite something. She was born in Gore, Virginia, but as a girl she was brought to Red Cloud, Nebraska:
where she made a real impression:
Was Willa Cather a lesbian?
Willa Cather shot out of Nebraska like a rocket.
The closest relationships in her life were with women, and she lived with one Edith Lewis:
for close to thirty years. Some biographers hesitate to call her a lesbian, though, saying she never identified herself that way.
Willa Cather Memorial Prairie
Willa died in 1947. She has a memorial prairie named after her, it’s the number 2 thing to do in Red Cloud, NE after her house:
Willa on writing
O Pioneers! still holds up. I found myself moved by it, and it’s short. Cather has a way of summing up loneliness, heartache, longing, compassion, in a few short lines.
I went ahead and got Willa’s collected essays on writing.
Here she tells how she came to write O Pioneers!, her second book:
She wrote in some opposition to the detail-filled writing of Balzac:
Interesting point here:
Red Cloud, Nebraska
Here’s a picture of downtown Red Cloud from Google Maps:
About as solid a Trump country as you will find:
As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $26,389, and the median income for a family was $34,038. Males had a median income of $26,364 versus $17,232 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,772. About 8.4% of families and 13.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.9% of those under age 18 and 10.1% of those age 65 or over.
David McCullough has something moving to say about Red Cloud and Willa and her other famous book:
I found O Pioneers! very moving and powerful, let me share with you why:
Warning: O Pioneers! spoiler
Skip this if you intend to read the book with suspense in mind.
But I doubt you will. I found this the most moving passage, and worth all the reading. Let me set it up for you:
Emil, he of the lost cat on page 2, grows up under the guidance of his older sister, Alexandra. She’s really the focus of our story. Carl, the local boy who saves the cat, is in love with her, but he can’t really take it out on the plains, so he goes off, and leaves her behind. She’s left to care for her brothers.
Emil, youngest brother, does great. He goes on to college at the University of Nebraska, while Alexandra stays to watch over the farm. All the while Emil’s been in love with a neighbor girl, Marie. She marries another man, though.
Still, Emil and Marie are in love. Eventually Marie’s husband, Frank Shabata, finds his wife and Emil together. In a crazed rage he murders Marie and Emil both.
Alexandra, alone at age forty, is heartbroken, left adrift at the death of her brother. But still, she feels sympathy for Frank Shabata, who’s been sent to prison in Lincoln for his crime.
Alexandra, lost and in pain, decides to go visit Frank in prison. In afternoon/dusk, after arriving in Lincoln, she wanders the campus of the university, thinking of her murdered brother. Desperate for any kind of connection, she runs into a student:
Walt Whitman Reads: America
The Whitman Recording
The title of O Pioneers! comes from a poem by Walt Whitman.
Some years ago, a recording of Walt Whitman’s voice, said to have been recorded onto an Edison wax cylinder around 1889 or 1890, was rediscovered.
In these times when it seems maybe we lost our way, nationally, it made me feel good to hear this. Forty-six seconds long:
Need this lady in my political life at this moment.
Was it worse to experience this in horrific car crash realtime on the West Coast or to go to bed and wake up to it on the East Coast?
You can take this bit from Nate Silver and find it a depressing what if or a somewhat hopeful sign of how small actions can affect significant change:
Most perceptive, insightful thing I read this whole durned election was in Cracked.com, by “David Wong,” about the rural vs. urban divide.Tyler Cowen making baffled guesses at Trump on the economy:
If there is any common theme to my predictions, it stems from Trump’s history in franchising his name and putting relatively little capital into many of his business deals. I think his natural instinct will be to look for some quick symbolic victories to satisfy supporters, and then pursue mass popularity with a lot of government benefits, debt and free-lunch thinking. I don’t think the Trump presidency will be recognizable as traditionally conservative or right-wing.
I also expect U.S. trade relations to worsen significantly, as I’ve already discussed in an online conversation with Robert Zoellick. I foresee Trump renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, mostly picking on Mexico. Mexico would end up having to pay some kind of fee, either directly or indirectly, for continuing access to the U.S. market. That way, Trump could in fact make Mexico “pay for the wall.” It is no surprise that the peso plummeted as the tide started to turn in Trump’s favor Tuesday night.
Second, it will be interesting to see how Trump gets along with the generals he has condemned as losers and Obama cronies. Being the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will be one of the toughest jobs around. Second toughest: Being the legal advisor to the chairman. Imagine the exchanges:
President Trump: “That’s an order.”
General: “Sir, my JAG tells me that’s an illegal order.”
President Trump: “OK, your JAG is fired. Now find someone who will help me, not throw obstacles in my way.”
Trump also might find nettlesome the generals who say things like, “OK, if we do that, what happens after that? What’s the next step?” The Obama administration didn’t like that when General Mattis did in that in discussions of Iran, and Trump will like it even less.
Distraction, diversion, tales of sub-wall countries and the politics of dictatorships can be found in this:
Helytimes endorses Hillary Clinton for President.
Election coverage can be found here.
Two of the more popular posts in this site’s history are Fred Trump and American historical figure who reminds me of Trump
Ran into four all-star Americans at the polls:
Kevin Drum voting guide if you live in California. (Interesting to note that Mother Jones herself didn’t want women to vote:
Jones was ideologically separated from many of the other female activists of the pre-Nineteenth Amendment days due to her aversion to female suffrage. She was quoted as saying that “you don’t need the vote to raise hell!” Her opposition to women taking an active role in politics was based on her belief that the neglect of motherhood was a primary cause of juvenile delinquency.
Is it ridiculous or cool that a California voter has to make themselves a sheet like this:
I say: ridiculous! Tempted to vote no on 63 because this seems like a legislative issue, as do many of these.
Would love to hear it if I’m wrong! helphely at gmail or the comments.
If you’re looking for something to read while rechecking Nate Silver, let us suggest:
Pretty into two articles this week about enormous imaginative projects.
In 1931, a legal scholar named Austin Tappan Wright died in a car accident in Las Vegas, New Mexico, not far from Santa Fe. He was forty-eight. His father had been one of the preëminent academics of the previous century—“A History of All Nations from the Earliest Times,” for which he served as editor, runs to more than twenty volumes—and his mother, Mary Tappan Wright, was a famous novelist, a progenitor of what we now think of as the campus novel. Wright’s own career was more quietly successful. Before his death, he taught at Penn, Stanford, and Michigan, and published articles on maritime law, their scope profoundly, almost rebukingly more modest than that of his father’s work—“Supervening Impossibility of Performing Conditions in Admiralty,” for example, or “Private Carriers and the Harter Act.”
After his unexpected death, Wright’s wife and daughter had the task of going through his papers. They were unprepared for what they discovered there.
In an afterword to the novel, Wright’s daughter recalls that when her father spoke to his wife from a telephone booth, he would remove his hat. This small gesture explains “Islandia,” to me: Wright was part of that great age of anonymous managerial Harvard men who assumed their expected places in society while also maintaining the most intense imaginable internal worlds—Wallace Stevens, T. S. Eliot, Charles Ives if you expand the range to include Yale.
(Ugh, must we include Yale?)
Also wild was this New Yorker thing by Esther Yi about German writer Arno Schmidt and the effort to translate his 1300 page book:
“Zettel’s Traum” is both Schmidt’s most famous book and his least read, and for the same reason:
because it’s thirteen hundred pages long?
it is dedicated almost entirely to applying a Freudian theory of language to the works of Poe. (This was familiar ground: Schmidt spent years translating Poe, in collaboration with Hans Wollschläger.) Dan argues that words are composed of units of sound, or “etyms,” that reveal an author or speaker’s unconscious thoughts. To say “whole” is to think “hole,” for instance. With his ear cocked to sexual harmonics, Dan finds in Poe an impotent man who is possessed by the erotic and, unable to express his sexuality in bed, resorts to voyeurism, notably of what people do on the toilet.
“One could not tell if this was amazing, or if this was something for crazy people,” Susanne Fischer, the head of the Arno Schmidt Foundation, which manages the writer’s literary estate, told me.
There was a method to Schmidt’s madness:
Each night, at 2 a.m., he would begin writing in the upstairs room, from which even his cats were barred (not least because the one he called Conte Fosco, after a Wilkie Collins character, had urinated on his prized edition of James Fenimore Cooper). He compiled roughly a hundred and twenty thousand scraps of paper, or Zettel, in shallow wooden boxes, which he spread out on his desk. On each Zettel, there was written a bit of dialogue or sexual wordplay (“Im=pussy=bell’–!”) or a literary quote rerouted through his one-track mind (“the fleshy man=drake’s stem. / That shrieks, when torn at night”). After twenty-five thousand hours of knitting the pieces together, Schmidt handed the manuscript to his publisher in a large cardboard box tied with a curtain sash.
For a less hefty read might I recommend:
So glad you enjoy what you find here. We’re on a brief hiatus but look forward to a return.
If you’ve read my book, do send me a picture of it in some cool setting, on your shelf or next to some good coffee or your favorite houseplant. I’ve been collecting and compiling these photos, they’re a joy.
Riches await in the archives, on such topics as:
Adios for now!