One Two Three Four: The Beatles In Time by Craig Brown

1966.  The Beatles return from the US, having played what will be their “last proper concert,” Candlestick Park, San Francisco, August 29.  They have some time off.

For the first time in years, the four of them were able to take a break from being Beatles.  With three months free, they could do what they liked.  Ringo chose to relax at home with his wife and new baby.  John went to Europe to play Private Gripweed in Richard Lester’s film How I Won The War.  George flew to Bombay to study yoga and to be taught to play the sitar by Ravi Shankar.  This left Paul to his own devices.

For a while he hangs out in London, where he’s surely the most famous person.  It gets a tiresome, really.  Paul gets the idea of going incognito.  He arranges a fake mustache, and fake glasses, and slicks his hair back with Vasoline.  He has an Aston Martin DB6 shipped to France, and across the Channel he goes.  He drives around France for a bit, relaxing in Paris, sitting in cafes unrecognized.  From his hotel window he shoots experimental film of cars passing a gendarme.  On he goes.

Upon reaching Bordeaux, he felt a hankering for the night life.  Still in disguise, he turned up at a local discothèque, but was refused entry.  “I looked like old jerko. ‘No, no monsieur, non’ – you schmuck, we can’t let you in.” So he went back to his hotel and took off his scruffy overcoat, his moustache and his glasses.  Then he returned to the disco where he was welcomed with open arms.

I absolutely hoovered up this book.  I’ve read a bunch of Beatles books in the last few years: Rob Sheffield’s Dreaming The Beatles, the gossipy The Love You Make by Peter Brown and Steven Gaines, You Never Give Me Your Money by Peter Doggett, about the Beatles post Beatles.  This last one may have been the most compelling, even though much of it is patient unraveling of complex business and tax situations (plus anecdotes about decadence.)  A tragedy about the years the Beatles spent suing each other.  Maybe because how a person handles that kind of stress – the stress of tedious meetings – is more revealing, the personalities really came to life.

You’d think I’d be bored of the Beatles.  The facts of the history don’t even interest me that much, and I doubt there’s a Beatles song on my top 100 most played.  I’m not that much of a Beatles fan, to be honest, not compared to the psychos.  (A funny bit in this book is Craig Brown, saying he’s spent a few years in deep on Beatles books and lore, acknowledging he’s barely scratched the surface of like, people who know every version of the lineup of the Quarrymen.)

We don’t need a recounting of the basic beats of the plot of the Beatles.  We know.

Craig Brown goes so far beyond that.  He assumes you know the rough outlines, and somehow he breathes new life into these old bones.  He makes moments pop.  Specimens of time, how far can we go to recapturing them?  That’s the real question of this book.

Brown will take an incident – the day Bob Dylan turned the Beatles on to marijuana, for instance – and turn it over from every angle, consider every account.  How do we know what we know?  Who’s telling us?  What was their agenda?  How much can they be trusted? The historigraphy, you might say.  At the same time, he puts us right there as Brian Epstein looks at himself in the mirror, repeating a single word over and over.

Take Pete Best.  You probably know that story, the original drummer, they replaced him with Ringo.  The cruelty of how that went down, how the Beatles treated him, shocks here in Brown’s retelling.  I didn’t know, for instance, that in 1967 Pete Best tried to kill himself.  Brown takes us thereL

He locks the door, blocks any air gaps, places a pillow on the floor in front of the gas fire, and turns on the gas.  He is fading way when his brother Rory arrives, smells gas, batters the door down and, screaming “Bloody idiot!” saves his life.

If you want to know what happened to the comedians who had to perform in between the Beatles’ sets on Ed Sullivan, this is the book for you.

Can I reprint all of Chapter 30?

Seems like I’m just approximating picking this book up in a bookshop.  What harm in that?

Craig Brown: going on my Role Models and Inspirations board. In a random, unrelated search I learn that he is aunt by marriage to Florence Welch, of Florence + The Machine.  That’s the kind of connection Craig Brown would track down and work over for any possible meaning.  Maybe there’s something there, maybe he’d discard it to the flotsam of chance, who knows.  The point is he’d track it down.

Brown’s 99 Glimpses of Princess Margaret is great too, if you’re into The Crown type stuff.

 

 


Meat – Plants – Stuffing

I’ve created a new taxonomy of food, I believe it is correct.

There are three types of food:

  • meat
  • plant
  • stuffing

All foods can be fit into these categories.

Questions:

Yes, what is bread?

Bread is stuffing, obviously.

Potatoes are a plant, aren’t– 

Let me stop you right there, potatoes are stuffing.  Fries are stuffing, chips are stuffing, mashed potatoes are stuffing.  Potatoes in all forms are stuffing, you know this.

And corn?

All corn is stuffing.  Most American stuffing comes in the form of compressed corn.

What are carrots?

Carrots are plant.  Boiled, mushy carrots approach stuffing, this is because you’ve beaten out of them their plant nature.  The highest forms of cooking retain the true nature of the meat or plant.  The cooking and preparations of stuffing take wider forms.

What is cheese?

All dairy is stuffing, again, you know this in your heart.

What about ice cream?  Ice cream is its own thing.

I’m willing to accept those who create a mental category called “ice,” “ices,” or “ice cream” which includes Popsicles, sherbets, etc.  I think you’re being dishonest with yourself though if you don’t accept that ice cream is a form of stuffing, however joyful and harmless.

What about fish?

Hmm ok I guess we were including fish with meat but I will allow fish as its own category.  There are four types of food,

  • meat
  • plant
  • fish
  • stuffing.

What is soup?

Vegetable soup?  Plant.  If there’s a potato in there, that’s stuffing.  Corn of any kind is stuffing.

OK what is miso soup?

That is a liquid.

Wait a —

There is a category called “spice,” if you insist miso soup could be a spice, along with salt, bbq sauce, gravy etc, things we eat that are not in the three food categories.

What is a tomato?

Some call it spice, and we respect that, but it is plant.

What about the cheese on a pizza?

Stuffing, as is the crust.  Pizza is a stuffing food, even if it contains some plant (tomato, if you believe tomato to be a plant not a spice).

Evan Amos photographed “Chicken McNuggets

What is a McDonald’s Chicken Nugget*?

Great question, let’s say the answer together on three, one, two, three, stuffing, you said stuffing didn’t you?  Because it is stuffing.

For that matter, some low-quality burgers are in fact not meat but stuffing.  I’d suggest even a 100% beef burger, if made from corn-fed, lot-processed beef, is stuffing.  And the cheese is stuffing, and the bun is stuffing.  That’s why it’s so important to get lettuce on there, so at least you get plant.

In what proportion should I eat these foods?

Look, that’s up to you, I’m not here to dictate diets which I think are VERY personal and person-specific.  But we do feel that being honest about this taxonomy, saying to yourself “this is stuffing, I’m eating stuffing,” keeping track of how much of each category you eat, may be helpful towards establishing nourishing and sustaining and sustainable food habits.

What’s an apple?

Plant.

Apple pie?

Stuffing.  The vanilla ice cream scoop is possibly “ice cream,” its at the very least a different kind of stuffing, but we don’t let ourselves get sidetracked into subcategories.  Short answer, stuffing.

(I’ve got him now, watch this:) Excuse me, what about apple pie?

Stuffing, please leave.

What about my beloved bivalves, oysters and clams?

Those are meat, or if you insist, fish.  Lobster is stuffing, as is any crab whose carapace is larger than a quarter.

What about like a chip, but it’s made out of lettuce?  Some kind of Veggie Crisp?

Plant covered in stuffing.

I don’t think I have any more questions, thank you.

You’re welcome, please enjoy these categories and spread them widely.

UPDATES:

The comments roll in:

Fish is meat and lobster is fish.

Agree that fish is meat.  Lobster is stuffing.  A lobster eats meat (fish) or stuffing (waste, carrion, etc) and turns it into more stuffing.  It does not magically turn stuffing into fish.  Unfortunately, by the way, would be great if it did!

(Getting some pushback on this.  Maybe lobster is meat)

What is a chickpea?

Stuffing!  Look, there’s nothing wrong with many stuffings, especially natural stuffings.  They have an important place in any diet!  My favorite food is spaghetti, a stuffing! (with tomato sauce, a spice/plant).

Hello! Some questions from @ccheever and me: what about eggs (hard boiled or sunny-side up no stuffing/frills)? What about tofu (also by itself), which could fit any of the 3 categories?

Hi Helen!  Eggs are… meat!  Once it becomes an omelette, an egg is stuffing.  Tofu is stuffing!

What about nuts?

Nuts are stuffing.

Ok one more: cauliflower.  Seems like the stuffing of vegetables.

Plant.

What about mushrooms?

This is a tricky one.  Fungi is special.  But I will say 90% of mushrooms are served as stuffing.

 

* Bourdain had many funny takes on the McNugget, here’s one from a 2014 interview with Kam Williams, Baltimore Black:

AB: I think it’s very hard to make an argument that a Chicken McNugget is either chicken or a nugget? If you’re eating unwholesome, street food in a country where they have to make do with whatever scraps are left to them, at least you know what it is, and generally have some sense of where it came from. Whereas a McNugget, to my way of thinking, is a Frankenfood whose name doesn’t necessarily reflect what it is. I’m still not sure what it is. Listen, Kam, when drunk, I will eat a McNugget. It’s not the worst tasting thing in the world, but it’s one of the things I’m least likely to eat, because I choose not to.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ray Dalio

In a “Principles” app that takes its name and lessons from a bestselling memoir by Mr. Dalio, this week’s case study on meaningful work and relationships features a video from a 2013 “Family Reunion” for employees who had been at Bridgewater for at least a decade.

“Every one of these people here is, you know, my family,” Mr. Dalio said in the video. “I’ve watched them grow up, like, coming out of college and watching them get married and have their kids. You know, I didn’t behave any different to the people I work with than with my kids.”

Some of the employees who appeared in the video were among those laid off this month, said people familiar with the matter.

from Friday’s Wall Street Journal piece, “Bridgewater Associates Lays Off Several Dozen Employees,” by Juliet Chung.

Ray Dalio is a beloved figure here at Helytimes.  If you’ve read Principles, this behavior is not inconsistent, I’m sure he told these employees that to achieve success they must first face and accept harsh realities.


Scrapbasket

Some local street art (by Bandit?).  Since painted over I believe.  At least I can’t find it.

Photo I took in William Faulkner’s house, Rowan Oak, Oxford, MS.

from this WSJ commentary by Kate Bachelder Odell about leadership failures in the US Navy.

“Soldiers bathing, North Anna River, Va.–ruins of railroad bridge in background,” by Timothy O’Sullivan.  May 1864.  The work of Timothy O’Sullivan has my attention.  Follow his photos on the Library of Congress and you’ll travel in time.

by Alexander Hope.

Original Caption: Subway train on the Brooklyn Bridge in Manhattan, New York. The problem of how to move people and goods is ultimately bound up with the quality of life everywhere. The lands adjacent to the Bight, rivers flowing into it, and bays and estuaries edging it have direct upon the environment of the coastal water. The New York, New Jersey metropolitan region is one of the most congested in the world, 05/1974.

Just thought this was funny.


San Francisco (and Los Angeles)

Earlier this year, you moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco. How is the transition going?

It felt like the opening minute of Randy Newman’s song “I Love L.A.” Looking back on the twentieth century, I recall it was Los Angeles that was always the city of the future, and the city of craft and guilds. Every movie was essentially a six-month startup that brought together know-how and expertise from so many different areas: art, set design, costume, carpentry—and all the weirdly named professions like grips, gaffers, and boom operators. That ethos still lives on in the spirit of the place. With SpaceX and other aerospace companies making headway, I wouldn’t discount Southern California in the race to become the next big creative cluster. Of course, Sacramento may ruin the entire state before that happens. But that’s another story.

Michael Gibson (had never heard of) in City Journal.  Gibson wrote a piece for City Journal where he called San Francisco “America’s Havana.”  He pointed out inarguable problems with San Francisco, which is a shocking mess.

But, like Havana, San Francisco is also magical.  There’s just something about it.  Maybe it’s the drastic geography, set on hillsides over a bay that’s both perfect and hidden.  The sea air is part of it, for sure, and the lushness of the flora.  In both Havana and San Francisco, the very air is magical.

When you read the history of San Francisco, a certain tolerance of criminality always seems to have been part of the mix.  Stepping over a druggie passed out on the street wouldn’t’ve been unfamiliar to a resident of Gold Rush-era San Francisco or Barbary Coast San Francisco, or the 1940s San Francisco that inspired all the noir movies.

I’ve had in my files this bit by Lillian Symes from a 1932 Harper’s, reprinted from the archive:

The city of cheap yet superb living:

More:

When I got to LA in 2004, I found the living superb.  It was cheaper than New York City, but I’m not sure it could really be called cheap.  And it’s gotten less cheap.  Readers, where would you say, these days, the living is cheap yet superb?

San Francisco scenes:

 


I’m no expert on our 21st President

but somehow get the sense that Chester Alan Arthur did his best.  I guess signing the Chinese Exclusion Act would be the ugliest mark on his record.  He tried to stop it!

 


Valparaiso

Went back to watch one of my all time favorites.  Read more about Valparaiso in my book!


All right, good for him

Willie Nelson in Vulture.  And:

I read that you and Snoop Dogg were doing a new song. Is he also a fan of Willie’s Reserve?
Oh yeah. I was over in Amsterdam one time and I called him. I said, “Come on, Snoop. This is where you and me need to be.” We had a heck of a good time.


Uh oh


Pickett’s Charge: A microhistory of the final attack at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863 by George R. Stewart

Forget where I came across a mention of George R. Stewart’s microhistory of Pickett’s Charge. could’ve been anywhere.  The idea of a microhistory intrigued so I got a used copy.

How about the career of George R. StewartMan: An Autobiography.  Genius.

If we grant – as many would be ready to do – that the Civil War furnishes the great dramatic episode of the history of the United States, and that Gettysburg provides the climax of the war, then the climax of the climax, the central moment of our history, must be Pickett’s Charge.

Thus to hold, indeed, is not to maintain that a different result, there by the clump of trees and the angle in the stone wall, would of itself have reversed the course of the war and decisively altered history.

Stewart takes you there, to the clump of trees and the angle in the stone wall.  If you want to know where Hancock was at approximately 3:30 pm that day, and from where Longstreet watched what he knew was likely a doomed advance, this is the book for you.

The task at hand is to make sense out of what must’ve been absolute insanity, deafening, smoky confusion for the participants.  Consider the 19th Massachusetts, around 3:50 pm:

The men were jammed in to an average of six deep.  When a man had loaded, he pushed his way to the front to fire.  Sometimes he had to doge around to get a place through which to point his musket, and in the confusion men might be shot from the rear.  With men firing from everywhere the noise of the discharges was deafening.

Sometimes the lines even surged together, and there was a sudden swinging of clubbed muskets.  In one of these encounters, Private De Castro of the 19th knocked down the color-bearer of the 14th Virginia, he himself using the staff of the Massachusetts state colors as a club.  He seized the Virginia flag, brought it back, and thrust it into the hands of his colonel.

Some of the events seem almost mystical to the modern reader.  The wounded Confederate general Armistead falls at the Union lines:

Armistead had been heard, in some lull of the musketry, calling for help, “as the son of a widow.”  This we must take to be the code of some secret society; at least, the words gained immediate response.  Some of the men of the 72nd Pennsylvania requested permission of their officer to go to his aid, and carried him behind the Union lines.

As a wounded general, even though of the wrong side, he was granted much attention and every courtesy.  A surgeon, Henry H. Bingham, soon arrived, but could only inform Armistead that he was dying.  Bingham promised to deliver any personal effects that the general might desire forwarded to his family.

Armistead was, according to Bingham, a man “seriously wounded, completely exhausted, and seemingly broken spirited.”  The words that he then spoke were destined to become a small storm-center of controversy: “Say to General Hancock for me, that I have done him, and you all, a grievous injury, which I shall always regret.”  He was then carried to the hospital.

Attitudes were at play which seem hard for us to access.  Stewart:

Horrors there were in plenty – men struck in the eyes, through the intestines, in the genitals.  Men were carried away maimed for life, and at least one wounded man drew his revolver and shot himself.  But to write of Gettysburg in terms of the Somme or of Monte Cassino would be a painful falsification of history.  Nothing is more striking in the sources generally than the absence of gloom.  The armies suffered casualties such as few modern armies have endured, but the men did not seem to feel sorry for themselves.  Did some primitive spirit of combat sustain them?  Or a romantic sense of glory?  Or an intense patriotism?  Or was it a more imminent hint of immortality, as when a private of Brown’s battery died in a religious ecstasy?

One of Stewart’s great sources is the records of a trial, twenty-five years after the battle, which resulted from a dispute between the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association and the Survivors’ Association of the 72nd Pennsylvania about where on the battlefield they were permitted to put their statue:

Some of the testimony is of a remarkable poignancy, even though the heat of battle was so many years in the past.  We have the boiling over of pride in the regiment:

Q.  Did you see any Massachusetts or New York regiment come down and run over the Seventy-second?

A. I would like to see somebody say so!  I would like to meet the man who said it!

We have the vivid personal memory:

Q. Where did you find the bodies in the angle; I mean of the Seventy-second people in the angle?

A. The most I can remember was one by the name of Metz belonging to my company – him and me were great chums – and he fell across the stone wall.  He fell crossways across the stone wall.

As for Pickett himself?

He himself realized that his conduct during the afternoon had been such that he would be accused of cowardice . . . His career really ended at Five Forks, April 1, 1865, when he again lost most of his division.  On this occasion, while his men were being crushed, Pickett was behind the lines and out of touch, enjoying a shad-bake.  These were the last days of the war, and the scandal was somewhat hushed up.  But Pickett thereafter had only some fragmentary regiments, and he was relieved of his command the day before the surrender.  Lee, seeing him at Appomattox, remarked, “I thought that man was no longer with the army.”

(Should we rename the fort named after this guy?)

You needn’t bother adding this volume to your library unless you’re a fairly serious student of the battle, but it’s impressive to observe Stewart’s achievement, and to think on these events.

If I have a criticism of this book it’s that Stewart is so entertaining he can make all this seem like sort of just a violent field day.  To clear up that impression real fast, one can look at any of a number of grim photographs Timothy O’Sullivan took that day, and after, photographs which still shock.  This one, “Dead Horses of Bigelow’s Battery,” for instance.

How Lee took the devastating day:

Summoned to receive orders, [General John D. Imboden] found the commander so exhausted that he could scarcely dismount from his horse.  Shocked by this weariness and by the sadness of the face, Imboden ventured to remark, when Lee stood silent, “General, this has been a hard day on you.”

Lee looked up, and then spoke mournfully, “Yes, it has been a sad, sad day to us.”  After another lingering silence, Lee commented on the gallantry of Pickett’s men, and then after another pause, he cried out, in a loud voice, in a tone almost of agony, “Too bad!  Too bad!  Oh!  TOO BAD!”