David Brooks and the Sidney Awards

David Brooks is alternately interesting, thought-provoking, and punch in the face infuriating.

We reviewed his book The Road To Character here, published shortly before he divorced his wife and married his assistant? which kinda sums up the whole deal.  Believe we’ve read all his books, and most of his columns, so he’s doing his job of getting our attention.

Impression of Brooks was shaped in a new way when we read this book:

Bacevich reminds us of some of the brave, cavalier statements Brooks put out there in the runup to Iraq War Two

“Come on people, let’s get a grip!” says Brooks.

Bacevich’s son was killed in Iraq.

If you’re a columnist, you’re gonna be wrong a lot.  How should you deal with that?  Bacevich’s larger point is that we could all do a better job on behalf of the people we’re putting in harm’s way.

We do enjoy Brooks’ annual roundup of good essays, The Sidney Awards.

The oral testimony by Dr. Kevin Menes was a bit over my head in terms of technical, medical expertise, and Brooks’ summary sufficed for me.

Oral testimony is compelling, why isn’t more of it published?

Phil Christman’s essay On Being Midwestern: The Burden of Normality was interesting as well.

Christman touches on the Midwestern humor of Garrison Keillor and Letterman.  For our taste, writing about the Midwest gets stronger and more compelling the more humor it contains.  If you’re interested in a funny, personal, quirky take on the Midwest, might we recommend Andy Sturdevant’s book?

Full of drawings and peculiar observations, centered around Minneapolis.  We were put on to this one by the great and mysterious Raynor Ganan, an old Boyland discovery.  Raynor’s Internet presence has declined but one hopes his physical presence prospers.

Brooks includes Caitlin Flanagan’s article about a Penn State frat.  Caitlin Flanagan is a favorite of all of us at Helytimes.  All her writing is worth reading.  We thought this one of hers was a good one:

Next, Brooks has a Michael Lind essay about the rise of the managerial class, which was terrific.

In the American South, most populist politicians gave up or sold out. In some cases, like that of Texas governor and senator W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel, a country music singer, they were simply folksy fronts for corporate and upper-class interests all along. The few populists who maintained some independence were those who could finance themselves, usually by corrupt means. Louisiana governor Huey Long could battle the ruling families and the powerful corporations because he skimmed money from state employee checks and kept it in a locked “deduct box.” In Texas, anti-Klan populist governor James “Pa” Ferguson, along with his wife Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, who was elected governor after her husband was impeached on the slogan “Two Governors for the price of one,” sold pardons to the relatives of convicted criminals. As billionaires who could finance their own campaigns, Ross Perot and Donald Trump could claim, with some justification, to be free to run against the national establishment.

We took a class from Michael Lind at Harvard U., ground zero for managerial class thinking.  He was so cool!  One of the most profound, historically informed, balanced Big Picture thinkers out there.

(In this photo from Wikipedia he looks kinda like Steve Bannon’s better-behaved brother.)

But here’s a q: aren’t takes like this, taking on the managerial class, written by and for the managerial class, even if they’re attacking the managerial class, kind of a way of flattering the managerial class?

If David freakin’ Brooks is quoting approvingly an article about how guys like David Brooks are screwing everything up, where does that leave us?





(and now here we are writing about his take!)

Says Lind:

Neoliberalism plus, also called “inclusive capitalism,” is the preferred response of the transatlantic managerial class to the populist revolts in Europe and America. Essentially, neoliberalism plus is Reagan-Thatcher-Clinton-Blair neoliberalism with more subsidies to the “losers” of globalization. The disempowerment of non-elite citizens by the oligarchic capture of politics and the destruction of unions would not be altered. But the masses would be bribed into acquiescence by means of higher wage subsidies, like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in the United States, or perhaps a universal basic income providing every citizen a poverty wage.

Great!  Sounds good to me!  What is the next sentence?

While something like this will undoubtedly be tried in many Western countries, the economics do not work.

Dammit!  Elsewhere Lind is quite tough on The Economist’s worldview.

That is our roundup on the Sidney Awards, a subject that we predict will interest… Vali?  Maybe one or two other readers.

For those of you wondering, our series on the Book of Mark will continue in the New Year!

We’re developing a Very Interesting theory about who wrote Mark, and the bromance at the heart of the story.

“We’re working on a theory of the Gospel of Mark” is definitely something a not crazy person says on their website.

See you in 2018!



Training Literature Field Unit No. 1

Helytimes began in 2012.  Our idea was

  1. become good at writing for the Internet
  2. a writer should have a website
  3. have a space to collect, digest and share items of interest.

We’ve tried to come up with a mission statement or guiding purpose, but the truth is, this is stuff we had to get out of our head.

The healthiest thing to do was share it.

The best way to put it might be a place to share crazy interesting things we’ve come across.

Since then we’ve published over 1,050 posts.  We’re just now starting to get good at it, in our opinion.

Here are the twenty-one most popular posts:

  1. No On Measure S (by guest Hayes)

The moral here is probably that we should start a local LA news-and-takes site written by other people.

  1. Sundown, Gordon Lightfoot (1974)

  2. Mountaineering Movies on Netflix Instant, Ranked

  3. Fred Trump

  4. Cinderella and Interrogation Technique

  5. The Great Debates 

  6. Karl Ove Knausgaard

  7. Fascinated by: Ray Dalio

  8. How Big Was Mexico City in 1519?

  9. American Historical Figure Who Reminds Me Of Trump

  10. Losing The War by Lee Sandlin 

  11. Conversations With Kennedy

  12. Oil Wells In National Parks


  14. Gay Hobo Slang

  15. Vertigo Sucks

  16. Jackie Smoking Pregnant

  17. The story of Cahokia

  18. Ireland should take in two million refugees 

  19. Twenty Greatest Australian Artistic Accomplishments of All Time 

  20. The White House Pool 

One lesson here might be to have more local LA journalism written by other people.  Keep meaning to start a whole site for that but I do have a full-time job plus several other projects.

In our opinion the most successful post on Helytimes was

Record Group 80: Series: General Photographic File Of the Department of the Navy, 1943-1958 

although it didn’t crack the top 21, just felt like a time where we added something of value to the Internet and readers responded.

It’s about the work of the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit, also known as the Training Literature Field Unit No. 1, assembled by the great photographer Edward Steichen.

One thread of Helytimes is attempts to reach into the past and find the sources that give us understanding of the past.

Two personal favorites:

Everything is something.


Special Snowflakes

This has been the annual performance review and address to the Helytimes readership:

That photo taken by one of Steichen’s guys, Wayne Miller:

Thought this was interesting

Ever heard of Shijiazhuang?  Well it has ten million people.

Here’s an essay by Puzhong Yao, who tells of his journey from there to Goldman Sachs, and his love for Costco:

It seemed like whatever I wished would simply come true. But inside, I feared that one day these glories would pass. After all, not long ago, I was at the bottom of my class in China. And if I could not even catch up with my classmates in a city few people have even heard of, how am I now qualified to go to Cambridge University or Goldman? Have I gotten smarter? Or is it just that British people are stupider than the Chinese?

With these mixed thoughts, I began working as a trader at Goldman in 2007.

(ht Tyler Cowen)

One class was about strategy. It focused on how corporate mottos and logos could inspire employees. Many of the students had worked for nonprofits or health care or tech companies, all of which had mottos about changing the world, saving lives, saving the planet, etc. The professor seemed to like these mottos. I told him that at Goldman our motto was “be long-term greedy.” The professor couldn’t understand this motto or why it was inspiring. I explained to him that everyone else in the market was short-term greedy and, as a result, we took all their money. Since traders like money, this was inspiring.


Murdoch is, in person, charming. Everyone agrees. You get a glimpse of this in the account of working for him written by Philip Townsend, who was his butler in London during the 1980s. (Townsend had a dog who died, and whom he kept in Murdoch’s freezer.) When Murdoch made the switch to living more healthily – influenced by the fact that his father died at 67 – he did so by announcing to his butler: ‘Phil, I’m into yin and yang and all that shit.’ This charm is no small factor in his success, and comes across in many of the stories people tell about him, and in some of the things he says about himself. ‘I am sober after lunch, and in some parts of Fleet Street, that makes you a genius,’ he once said.

from this 2004 roundup on Rupert Murdoch by the great John Lanchester.


Elizabeth Warren, Pocahontas, and The Pow Wow Chow Cookbook

What is the deal here when Trump calls Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas?

At Helytimes, we like to go back to the source.

Sometime between 1987 and 1992 Elizabeth Warren put down on a faculty directory that she was Native American.  Says Snopes:

it is true that while Warren was at U. Penn. Law School she put herself on the “Minority Law Teacher” list as Native American) in the faculty directory of the Association of American Law Schools

This became a story in 2012, when Elizabeth Warren was running for Senate against Scott Brown.  In late April of that year, The Boston Herald, a NY Post style tabloid, dug up a 1996 article in the Harvard Crimson by Theresa J. Chung that says this:

Of 71 current Law School professors and assistant professors, 11 are women, five are black, one is Native American and one is Hispanic, said Mike Chmura, spokesperson for the Law School.

Although the conventional wisdom among students and faculty is that the Law School faculty includes no minority women, Chmura said Professor of Law Elizabeth Warren is Native American.

Asked about it, here’s what Elizabeth Warren said:

From there the story kinda spun out of control.  It came up in the Senate debate, and there were ads about it on both sides.

A genealogist looked into it, and determined that Warren was 1/32nd Cherokee, or about as Cherokee as Helytimes is West African.  But then even that was disputed.

Her inability to name any specific Native American ancestor has kept the story alive, though, as pundits left and right have argued the case. Supporters touted her as part Cherokee after genealogist Christopher Child of the New England Historic Genealogical Society said he’d found a marriage certificate that described her great-great-great-grandmother, who was born in the late 18th century, as a Cherokee. But that story fell apart once people looked at it more closely. The Society, it turned out, was referencing a quote by an amateur genealogist in the March 2006 Buracker & Boraker Family History Research Newsletters about an application for a marriage certificate.

Well, Elizabeth Warren won.  Now Scott Brown is Donald Trump’s Ambassador to New Zealand, where he’s doing an amazing job.

source: The Guardian

The part of the story that lit me up was this:

The best argument she’s got in her defense is that, based on the public evidence so far, she doesn’t appear to have used her claim of Native American ancestry to gain access to anything much more significant than a cookbook; in 1984 she contributed five recipes to the Pow Wow Chow cookbook published by the Five Civilized Tribes Museum in Muskogee, signing the items, “Elizabeth Warren — Cherokee.”

OK let’s find an Elizabeth Warren one:
Damn that does not sound good!
Lady loves crab!
It’s claimed here that the book was edited by Elizabeth Warren’s cousin?
If this is the worst thing you can come up with on Elizabeth Warren, pretty weak.   It was a family story.  The cookbook suggests she believed it.  All families have odd stories that may or may not be true.  Maybe she got too enthusiastic?
Btw by far the worst recipe in the Pow Wow Chow cookbook is :

“I like my corn with olives!” source

What is the best way to handle it, the best strategy, when the President is treating you like a third grade bully, repeatedly and publicly calling you a mean name?

Best advice to someone getting bullied?  I googled:

We would amend “don’t show your feelings” to stay calm.  We would urge any kid to put “tell an adult” as a last resort. 

A suggestion:

  • if the problem persists, hit back as hard as possible, calmly but forcefully, at the bully’s weakest, tenderest points.

In Trump’s case that is his obsessive fear that he is an unpopular loser nobody likes.  What about:

You can call me Pocahontas all you like.  Childish names are only one of the many ways you show the whole world you are  a fool and a joke.  The facts are simple.  You are the least popular president in modern history.  You don’t understand much at all about being president, and you are failing at it.  Everyone in your party who has any sense is abandoning you.  Because they know you are a loser, and being associated with you is a losing path.  Nobody likes you.  The sooner you go away, the happier the nation and the world will be.

Such a Lisa Simpson / Nelson vibe to Warren / Trump.  Are all our elections gonna be Lisa vs. Nelson for awhile?


from this 2003 episode:

Lisa easily wins the election. Worried by her determination and popularity, the faculty discusses how to control her.




Empty Bucket Land


Deluxe mac & cheese costs LESS than regular mac & cheese?

There must be a term in economics for where the fancier version is less desirable than the regular ol’ version and ends up less expensive.

I’ll pay more for minions, sure.