That was a good month of posts on Helytimes, if you’re one of those folks who likes poking around in the archives.
Bob Marley, John Adams, Bert Hölldobler, Deke Slayton, Amban, Ansel Adams.
Also feel I did fine work in July 2014.
E. B. White in the Paris Review. Thurber:
Does the fact that you’re dealing with humor slow down the production?
It’s possible. With humor you have to look out for traps. You’re likely to be very gleeful with what you’ve first put down, and you think it’s fine, very funny. One reason you go over and over it is to make the piece sound less as if you were having a lot of fun with it yourself. You try to play it down. In fact, if there’s such a thing as a New Yorker style, that would be it—playing it down.
The fries at Shake Shack are what I hoped Micro Magic fries would taste like, in my boyhood:
Anybody ever eat things? The packaging was attractive. They fooled me quite a few times.
Perhaps they failed in attempting to live up to an idea of a “fry.” A fry is firm, and Micro Magic just couldn’t get there. But they were making a salty mushed potato product that might’ve been attractive on its own terms.
A taxonomy error, perhaps.
Google led me to that image of Micro Magic fries on the website of New Adult Contemporary Romance author Jennifer Friess (don’t know if it’s a coincidence that her name is fries)
There was really a period there where the expectations put on the microwave were insane. Supermarkets were full of hallucinatory projections of what was gonna come out of the microwave.
The optics were never exactly right with this guy.
(Found this picture screensaved, and can’t even find where it’s from. Google thinks it’s the generic picture for “tuxedo.”)
In attempts to make narratives out of the movements of a stock’s price on a given day, the word “amid” does a lot of work.
Other articles at different places cited the Trump administration’s confused policies towards Chinese investment in tech as “stoking investor fears.”
That’s another phrase you come across a lot.
“Making investors jittery.” “Market jitters amid fears of…”
I’m struggling to decide whether, when we talk about why a stock or the stock market does something, we’re all that much different than those ancient diviners who pored over sheep entrails for clues to the future.
In the popular business press, the explanations given for stock price movement are so often oversimplified or misleading. The gun stocks fallacy an insidious case.
‘Twas ever thus I guess. “Amid” is a safe choice if the real answer is “who can say why it went up or down?”
I here perceive a bias towards narrative in a world that’s absurd and often ridiculous.
Reminded of E. M. Forster in Aspects Of The Novel.
Let us define a plot. We have defined a story as a narrative of events arranged in their time-sequence. A plot is also a narrative of events, the emphasis falling on causality. “The king died and then the queen died” is a story. “The king died, and then the queen died of grief” is a plot.
Amid is a word that lets you muddy up the distinction between story and plot.
was listening to KUSC the other day, and they said Venezuelan Teresa Carreño’s nickname was “the valkyrie of the piano.” What a nickname. Some of her compositions:
The tour guide at Dublin’s Farmleigh House used the expression “chalk and cheese.”
I took it to mean something like “apples and oranges,” “two things you can’t compare.”
Or maybe it’s more like, “two things that are very different but which you could mistake for each other.”
Went looking for real life examples and found this fine, civil exchange on a Linkedin story about Lagos and Tokyo, whether they are chalk and cheese:
Interesting point about Tokyo’s 23 wards! Sometimes I wonder if Los Angeles needs way localer governance.
Lots of INTENSE feedback about post yesterday on borders.
I’m just reporting reality as I perceive it.
Since Pershing went after Pancho Villa, it’s been clear that along one thousand nine hundred and blahblah miles of desert, even the fiercest efforts of government are gonna, at best, disappear into the dust.
And they had Patton!
(How ’bout this by the way:
Pershing was permitted to bring into New Mexico 527 Chinese refugees who had assisted him during the expedition, despite the ban on Chinese immigration at that time under the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Chinese refugees, known as “Pershing’s Chinese”, were allowed to remain in the U.S. if they worked under the supervision of the military as cooks and servants on bases. In 1921, Congress passed Public Resolution 29, which allowed them to remain in the country permanently under the conditions of the 1892 Geary Act. Most of them settled in San Antonio, Texas.
What kind of conservative believes that the federal government can put a wall here and stop people from moving across it?
Does declaring an new federal attempt to impose “no tolerance” enforcement seem more tyrantish or freedomish to you?
Does the fear of brown people from south of our border, like the fear of psychotically violent black people, have something to say about our own guilty conscience? There isn’t a country from Mexico to Chile that hasn’t been severely screwed by the USA.
Look, I’m no expert. My book about Mexico, Central and South America was the work of an enthusiastic amateur, not a serious scholar!
From where I sit, in Los Angeles, California, USA, I can understand the traditional politician approach of talking any way you want to get elected and then not going anywhere near actually doing anything about the border.
The current president got elected by sticking his fork in this electrical socket. I’m not seeing how it ends? Best case he declares victory and moves on.
The Hubbard Scientific Relief Map of California giving me some insights into our state’s geography, a true passion.
The unusual and dramatic way Mount Shasta shoots up like a pimple.
The sharp, razorish line of the White Mountains beyond the Sierras.
And the bowl-like scoop of Saline Valley.
Feel like I am the only person in the world who accepts the reality that borders are over.
This isn’t a political position or something I’m advocating for. It’s an observation of fact.
Hard to say when we can date it, exactly. The first time we could see Earth from space? Maybe Malcolm McLean‘s pioneering of the shipping container. Stuff, an unstoppable amount of stuff, and money, and information, and people flow and move across borders in a way that is way beyond the ability of any state or government to stop.
The idea of a wall stopping this seems about as futile as Xerxes ordering his guys to whip the sea as punishment.
UAC there standing for unaccompanied children. That’s from the US Customs and Border Patrol website.
Tyler Cowen reports:
“What exactly is the plan here?” is the question for sure.
How much force and violence would be needed to stop this? Who would direct that? Do the guys in charge seem like they could handle that?
How many trans-border families already exist, and what to do about that?
I have no answers, only a feeling that statements like “if you don’t have a border you don’t have a country” or something are not in touch with reality.
We already don’t have a border. Without massive government expenditures, force and violence that would sicken any liberal or conservative, we never will again.
What’re we gonna do now?
We were up in San Luis Obispo and took a walk to the campus of Cal Poly.
In the college bookstore, among the unsold textbooks, I found this and bought it:
Man, I felt like Keats looking into Chapman’s Homer reading this thing. These lifeless translations can kill you when you take on foreign literature. The bad translation can put you off a whole literature for the rest of your life. In college I was supposed to read one of Chekhov’s plays. Trying to save a couple bucks bought the Dover Thrift translation, which is probably worse than putting the Russian into Google Translate. (We didn’t have Google Translate then, children).
I KNEW something was wrong here. There was something about Chekhov that moved people to tears, there was a reason theater people were still talking about Uncle Vanya.
Well, anyway, in this Annie Baker edition, you can feel it. The pain and the sadness and the funniness and the absurdity and the humanity of the whole situation. Man.
Here is an obituary of the Harvard philosopher, who has left this Earth. To be honest with you, most of Cavell’s work is over my head. Much of it seems to deal with the ultimate breakdown of language and the difficulty of meaning anything.
Cavell wrote the epigraph for my favorite book:
and at some point, somebody (Etan?) recommended I check out:
which meant a lot to me.
This book is a study of seven screwball comedies:
The Lady Eve
It Happened One Night
Bringing Up Baby
The Philadelphia Story
His Girl Friday
The Awful Truth
These Cavell calls comedies of remarriage. They’re stories (mostly) where the main characters have a history, and the plots involve the tangles as they struggle, fight, and reconnect.
What the book really gets it is: what is revealed about us or our society when we look at what we find pleasing and appropriate in romantic comedies? Why do we root for Cary Grant instead of Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story for instance?
It’s fun to watch these movies and read this book.
It’s dense for sure. I read it before the Age of Phones, not sure how I’d fair today. But I still think about insights from it.
At one point Cavell says (in a parenthetical!):
I do not wish, in trying for a moment to resist, or scrutinize, the power of Spencer Tracy’s playfulness, to deny that I sometimes feel Katherine Hepburn to lack a certain humor about herself, to count the till a little too often. But then I think of how often I have cast the world I want to live in as one in which my capacities for playfulness and for seriousness are not used against one another, so against me. I am the lady they always want to saw in half.
RIP to a real one!
- If you invest $100,000 in the island nation of Saint Lucia, they’ll make you a citizen.
- South Africa has an unemployment rate of 26%.
- Bernard Henri-Levy has been performing a one-man show about Brexit at Cadogan Hall in Chelsea.
The wind moves the arms of this plant back and forth and it sweeps this pattern on the sand.
My take? Yes! Definitely, sounds like he had some sisters too!
This isn’t that hard. Mark 6:
6 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples.2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph,[a] Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.
We’ve been talking about Mark, and how the evidence is compelling that it is probably the oldest record we have of a guy who lived and taught sometime around years now marked 1-30 AD named Jesus.
Mark says that guy had brothers and sisters.
The Greek word used is (I’m told) adelphos.
In Paul’s Letters, written sometime after this Jesus was executed, he mentions Jesus’ brother.
In a number of other early Christian sources, there are discussions of Jesus’ brothers.
Why is it a problem that Jesus had brothers, maybe sisters too?
Unless having brothers and sisters like a human of his time screws up what you think you’re supposed to believe about Jesus God status.
The Catholic and Orthodox churches are determined to insist that Mary was a perpetual virgin who never had sex.
That seems twisted and conjured up out of nowhere. When I hear that I’m like ok I think maybe you guys are a little weird about sex.
You can ponder and explore for yourself why the theologians cooked up that one. I’m sure there’s whole shelves in the Catholic libraries about it. It matters enough that you find scholars twisting themselves into pretzels about the meanings of different words for brother in 1st century Greek and Aramaic.
But hey, maybe they really were his cousins!
Well, if you are trying to get back to primary sources about a historical Jesus, and what that guy actually said, and what he was like, and possible brothers, or cousins so close they used the same word to describe them, that’s something.
Of the brothers, James comes up the most in early Christian history. What this James believed Jesus was up to is too big a question for us today.
What I can tell you about James’ views is that he and Paul did not see eye to eye.
Interesting to me, because it suggests you could be a Jesusist without being a Paulist.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions cites Romans 13.
Jesus, it’s easy to forget, was arrested and executed for causing trouble for the authorities.
Discussion question for brunch:
Which characters in the New Testament remind you most of the Attorney General and the President? Do you like those characters?
Have a joyful Sunday everyone! (We welcome your letters btw! I know we got some Bible scholars out there who can school me!)
Two cool names. From the 1966 album This Is Sparrow.
Michelle Wolf says that in this Vulture profile by Amy Larocca.
A very similar complaint voiced by Clinton Cash author Peter Schweitzer in the Devil’s Bargain book about Trump and Bannon:
But there are devices one can use to set up a story, aren’t there? Such as the love rack, or the algebraic analysis of a story.
Devices, yes. Like the old switcheroo. I used quite a few in my book called Past All Dishonor. It’s about Virginia City in the Civil War days of the big whorehouses. It’s about a boy who fell for a girl who worked in a house. Every guy in town could have her for ten bucks except him, and the reason was that she half-loved him. This was a very nice situation, and I was able to do something with it. I was able to top it, and that’s always what you try to do when you have a situation: You pull it, you switch it, you top it, which is the old Hollywood formula for a running gag.
Do you have any memory of the origins of The Postman Always Rings Twice?
Oh yes, I can remember the beginning of The Postman. It was based on the Snyder-Gray case, which was in the papers about then. You ever hear of it? Well, Grey and this woman Snyder killed her husband for the insurance money. Walter Lippmann went to that trial one day and she brushed by him, what was her name? Lee Snyder.* Walter said it seemed very odd to be inhaling the perfume or being brushed by the dress of a woman he knew was going to be electrocuted. So the Snyder-Grey case provided the basis. The big influence in how I wrote The Postman Always Rings Twice was this strange guy, Vincent Lawrence, who had more effect on my writing than anyone else. He had a device which he thought was so important—the “love rack” he called it. I have never yet, as I sit here, figured out how this goddamn rack was spelled . . . whether it was wrack, or rack, or what dictionary connection could be found between the word and his concept. What he meant by the “love rack” was the poetic situation whereby the audience felt the love between the characters. He called this the “one, the two and the three.” Someone, I think it was Phil Goodman, the producer and another great influence, once reminded him that this one, two, and three was nothing more than Aristotle’s beginning, middle, and end. “Okay, Goody,” Lawrence said, “who the hell was Aristotle, and who did he lick?” I always thought that was the perfect Philistinism.
How did it work?
Lawrence would explain what he meant with an illustration, say a picture like Susan Lenox, where Garbo was an ill-abused Swedish farm girl who jumped into a wagon and brought the whip down over the horses and went galloping away and ended up in front of this farmhouse which Clark Gable, who was an engineer, had rented. And he takes her in. He’s very honorable with her, doesn’t do anything, gives her a place to sleep, puts her horses away and feeds them . . . He didn’t have any horses himself, but he did have two dozen ears of corn to feed hers. Well, the next day he takes the day off and the two of them go fishing. He’s still very honorable, and she’s very self-conscious and standoffish. She reels in a fish (they used a live fish—must have had it in a bucket). She says, I’ll cook him for your supper. And with that she gave herself away; his arms went around her. This fish, this live fish, was what Lawrence meant by a “love rack”; the audience suddenly felt what the characters felt. Before Lawrence got to Hollywood, they had simpler effects, created by what was called the mixmaster system. You know, he’d look at her through the forest window, looking over the lilies, and this was thought to be the way to do it; then they’d go down to the amusement park together and go through the what do you call it? Shoot de chute?