In A Narrow Grave

In anticipation of a trip to Texas, I got this one off the shelf.  Neither McMurtry’s best (that would be Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen, in which he gives a recipe for lime Dr. Pepper) or his worst (that would be Paradise, where he proves his point that Tahiti is boring), in this fan’s opinion.

McMurtry’s essay on the sexual attitudes of the post-frontier Texas of his youth is pretty interesting:

He also says it wasn’t a big deal in his youth for a young man to have sex with a cow or pig.




That’s from this study in the Swiss Journal of Psychology.  Happened to see that on Twitter somehow.

Was struck when I actually read The Prince and realized Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney either hadn’t read it or hadn’t taken some of its blunter advice.

foxes, being foxlike

from the piles of Rumsefeld memos you can read online.

On about page six of this book (haven’t finished) he says don’t invade countries where you don’t know the language.

Maybe a new rule should be that when we invade a country, the President or at least the Secretary of Defense should have to live there:

Dictionary of National Biography

When you come across this book, it’s fun to take it down and open it at random and read about some guy.  For instance, Caleb Jeacocke, debater and roll-maker:

The Crown’s JFK

Peggy Noonan raises concern about the depiction of JFK on episode 8, season 2 of The Crown on Netflix:

There is nothing—literally nothing—to support the assertion in “The Crown” that after the trip JFK, in a rage at being upstaged by his wife, drank, threw things and lunged at her. There is no historical evidence that he ever got rapey with his wife.

(what a sentence!)

Also he didn’t smoke cigarettes.

All of this, and more, is so vulgar, dumb and careless. It is disrespectful not only of real human beings but of history itself.

Interesting points.  JFK did at least sometimes smoke small stubby cigarillo things, as we can see in Primary.

He famously got himself a bunch of Cuban cigars before announcing the embargo (a story that’s told as a funny, cute anecdote rather than an example of small but representative corruption).

JFK was rapey with other young women in his employ, if we believe Mimi Alford.

Caitlin Flanagan points to more evidence.

I loved The Crown’s version of JFK.  His psychopathic side.  A worthwhile distinction: the way the story is told in The Crown, what we see is Jackie’s perception of JFK.  That could be different than like historical truth.

Consider what Errol Morris says here (talking Wormwood) about “reenactments”:

Well, I noticed that even with the scripted elements of Wormwood, people call them “reenactments,” but they’re not reenacting anything, properly speaking. I got so tired of it that. First of all, reenactments came out of a sort of see-and-say type of stuff. You’d have an interview, the person would go, “Blah blah blah,” and then you’d illustrate them with the subsequent reenactment.

“On the night of June 4, 1973, I went to the store and bought a pack of cigarettes,” and you cut to an actor in a wide-lapel shirt and bell bottoms walking into a store and buying a pack of cigarettes.
That’s correct. So I pointed out like, “What exactly am I reenacting?” Am I reenacting truth? No. Am I reenacting belief? More often than not, I’m reenacting claims of what people saw or didn’t see. A version of events, a belief about what transpired, rather than what actually transpired. And I got in the habit — out of annoyance, I would say — of pointing out how consciousness is a reenactment of reality inside of our skulls. This idea that we have some immediate and privileged access to the world around us? Excuuuse me! We do not!

If we’re seeing Jackie’s reality, as imagined by The Crown, is that wrong?

But I’m a sucker for this kinda thing.  I loved Dennis Quaid as Bill Clinton in The Special Relationship.  I felt he showed the alpha dog side of Bill Clinton that must be present.

Hope Davis as Hillary also.  Chilling.

To see the past in all its complexity is impossible and compelling.  A key theme of Helytimes.



Eleven Tweets

getting pretty into Van Gogh since I bought this book for $19.99 at the Taschen store

Feel like a sucker writing for free from @jack’s website, but I love Twitter, so I am experimenting with putting my Twitter length thoughts over here on Sundays.  

so easy to get people’s credit card numbers. all you have to do is be a store

Nervous I will be blamed for the government shutdown

Saw a girl wearing a bright orange sweater yesterday. She looked great!

Aziz wanted to start a conversation about Modern Romance and my god mission accomplished!

THEORY: bc of energy drinks and coffee chains, people have too much energy, they burn it off fighting about the news

The timeline equivalent of Paul writing about Jesus is somebody writing about a guy who died in 1997

A comedy can get away with not being funny if it’s so unfunny it becomes critically acclaimed. Like shooting the moon in Hearts.

Not sarcastic: I love all memes and can’t get enough of them.

I for one don’t want to be lumped in with other white people

Journalists are so horny about “ledes”

Theory: AI has begun conquest of Earth with help of autistic human allies (Thiel, Dorsey, Musk) who find computer rule more rational

The Red Vineyard, allegedly the only painting VVG sold in his lifetime. I’d argue: one of his worst and tackiest ones!  Source.

Mark Five: Weird

Fifth in our series about the Book of Mark: 

Mark One, about the scraps of Mark on Papyrus One. 

Mark Two, an intro to Mark, and what’s going on with it. 

Mark Three,  about “The Secret Gospel of Mark.”

Mark Four, about J. B. Phillips.

As a kid the first time I heard The Book of Mark was read aloud to me, in deliberate boring tone, in Catholic church, a notoriously stiff and elderly kind of place, not all that appealing to the average child.

On the plus side, you did get a good education in a way in the Bible and some aspects of human behavior.

Wanted to stand up and cheer when I got to this part of Ross Douthat and Tyler Cowen’s conversation.  Connecting Catholic theology to what the Guy says on the hillside in Galilee in the Gospels takes insane mental labyrinth building.  A fun project in a way but not what the Guy himself seems to describe as the way forward.

Take, for example, Mark Five.  (Turns out we’ve discussed it before).

Here’s what the NIV gives as the rough sections of this chapter.

Jesus Restores a Demon-Possessed Man

Jesus Raises a Dead Girl and Heals a Sick Woman

JB Philips gives it:

Jesus meets a violent lunatic

Faith is followed by healing

Weird, supernatural type stuff.  How’re you gonna deal with this?  Unpacking the events of Mark Five could probably be a career for a theologian.

Hard to make your church last 2,000 years without sanding the edges down a bit I guess but when you go back to the source you can sometimes feel like what’s missing is the compelling, almost alarming strangeness of the story.

Let’s say only that by Chapter Five of his book, Mark’s Jesus is unstoppable, coursing with power that flows almost like electricity.

If Mark is avail they should hire him for a Marvel movie.

Next time:



Liked this quote from PTA’s AMA where he says the script is “just a temporary thing”

Twelve Tweets


Resent the feeling I’m writing for @jack for free on his website, so I’m putting my Twitter-length thoughts here.

Anecdotally feel people are getting MORE into astrology as some demonstration or fuck you and I love it!

Already pissed about my smartass grandkids giving me some revisionist take on how Trump “actually did a lot of good”

I find it very boring to just sit and watch TV.  I don’t think I’m alone and I think this will lead to enormous changes.

Big Bang Theory is a less a comedy than a kind of therapy that helps American moms and dads love their gay sons

Feels impossible to express my main opinion, which is we don’t need everyone’s damn opinion on everything

What if Oprah runs and loses to Donald Trump?

Saying “you make me laugh” can either be loving or mean

My worst most evil opinion is I can’t help kind of liking Steve Bannon because he’s funny

Hard to really wrap your head around how unnecessary the movie The Trip To Spain is.  But here I am watching it.

Always enjoy the importance Drudge places on Bret Easton Ellis’s annual movie picks

Heard a sound outside like NRRNRNRNRNRNRN — it was a truck sucking the piss and shit out of the Port-A-Potties at the construction site!

Fun to try to eat a salad like it’s a bowl of chips

Mark Four

this is the fourth in our series on the Book Of Mark.

Mark One, about the scraps of Mark on Papyrus One.

Mark Two, an intro to Mark, and what’s going on with it.

Mark Three,  about “The Secret Gospel of Mark,” and now Mark Four, about J. B. Phillips.

Also He said to them, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

That’s how the King James Version does Mark 4:21.  Here’s how J. B. Philips does it:

Then he said to them,

“Is a lamp brought into the room to be put under a bucket or underneath the bed?  Surely it’s place is on the lamp-stand!  There is nothing hidden which is not meant to be made perfectly plain one day, and there are no secrets which are not meant one day to be common knowledge.  If a man has ears he should use them!

Wanting to know more about the guy I was trusting to translate my Mark for me, I read J. B.’s book:

It’s good and short and clearly written, much like Mark.  J. B.’s strongest point is that the Gospels seem true to him because, well, who could make this stuff up?


That kind of reminded me of the several times in the Quran where Allah says, hey, if you don’t believe this, let’s see you write a Quran.

Surprised to find, in the next Phillips I picked up, a description of my workplace.

I can’t say The Price Of Success was exactly a page-turner.  JB Phillips had a hard childhood, but through diligence earned himself a place at Cambridge, became an Anglican churchman, and started translating The New Testament during World War II.

No surprise that he was pals, or at least sometime correspondents, with C. S. Lewis.

I often heard Lewis’s Screwtape Letters recommended for young Christians in my youth.  When I finally got to the book (audiobook) I found it a really stiff and unattractive vision.  How did Christianity, which, when you get back to the source, was unquestionably weird, get claimed by stiff collar types like C. S. Lewis?

I found Ring Of Truth to be a more compelling read.

In Price of Success, Phillips is very open and honest about his struggles with depression.

No doubt hearing this, from a respected Christian leader in 1984, was really helpful to people.  The book was published two years after his death.

Am I allowed you quote you by the way, J. B.?



Mark Five: Strange Tales Of Jesus!


Mary Anne Trump

One of our most popular posts is on Fred Trump, outrageous, villainous, smiling agent of chaos much like his son.

But we never really thought about Trump’s mother.  Mothers should be off limits maybe?  Even Trumps have mothers.  A hasty misreading of this Kellyanne Conway quote:

Got us to look into it.

Stunned to find Trump’s mother was a Gaelic-speaking immigrant from a remote Scottish island.

Hailing from the Outer Hebrides

Mary Anne MacLeod was born in Tong, on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, United Kingdom, in a pebbledashcroft house numbered “5 Tong”


She was raised in a Scottish Gaelic-speaking household with her second language being English, which she learned at Tong school where it was reported she was a star pupil. Mary attended the school up until the eighth grade. Her father was a crofter, fisherman and compulsory officer (truancy officer). According to one profile, she was “brought up in an environment marked by isolation, privation and gloom.”

Wow.  She’s pretty much from the Iron Islands.

You can see her interviewed in 1994 on Irish television, RTé, here.  She has an interesting accent.  She speaks of her love of Irish and Scottish music.

She claims Trump is meeting Steven Spielberg?


Dreamtime and Dreaming

This book is absolutely great.  A+.  

Read it because my explorations of Aboriginal art

led me to want to know more about the Dreamtime and the Dreaming concept.

Stanner is so thoughtful and patient.  This book is worth it for the essay on Aboriginal humor alone:

What do Aborigines think is funny?

One of Stanner’s points is the “abiding” quality of Aboriginal life: the sense that the world is not necessary here for us to change and improve it.  As Robert Manne says in his intro,

for them changelessness was both the desired and the anticipated state of the world.

Very pleased this book was published by my own Australian publisher, Black Inc Books

Leading lights of Australian lit.  

Some of W. E. H. Stanner’s essays were originally published by Australian National University Press as White Man Got No Dreaming (1979).  That’s not true, I thought, so I picked up a book about white man’s dreaming.

We certainly do have different ways of thinking about dreaming, and Dreamtime. 



Reviewing my notes and recalling that one of my projects over the holidays was designing a house.