Didion on Hollywood/gamblingPosted: December 27, 2021 Filed under: Uncategorized Leave a comment
The place makes everyone a gambler. Its spirit is speedy, obsessive, immaterial. The action itself is the art form, and is described in aesthetic terms: “A very imaginative deal,” they say, or, “He writes the most creative deals in the business.” There is in Hollywood, as in all cultures in which gambling is the central activity, a lowered sexual energy, an inability to devote more than token attention to the preoccupations of the society outside. The action is everything, more consuming than sex, more immediate than politics; more important always than the acquisition of money, which is never, for the gambler, the true point of the exercise.
I think about this one all the time. Source. Nobody was tougher on “critics.”
To recognize that the picture is but the by-product of the action is to make rather more arduous the task of maintaining one’s self-image as (Kauffmann’s own job definition) “a critic of new works.” Making judgments on films is in many ways so peculiarly vaporous an occupation that the only question is why, beyond the obvious opportunities for a few lecture fees and a little careerism at a dispiritingly self-limiting level, anyone does it in the first place.
Perhaps the difficulty of knowing who made which choices in a picture makes this airiness so expedient that it eventually infects any writer who makes a career of reviewing; perhaps the initial error is in making a career of it. Reviewing motion pictures, like reviewing new cars, may or may not be a useful consumer service (since people respond to a lighted screen in a dark room in the same secret and powerfully irrational way they respond to most sensory stimuli, I tend to think most of it beside the point, but never mind that); the review of pictures has been, as well, a traditional diversion for writers whose actual work is somewhere else. Some 400 mornings spent at press screenings in the late 1930s were, for Graham Greene, an “escape,” a way of life “adopted quite voluntarily from a sense of fun.” Perhaps it is only when one inflates this sense of fun into (Kauffmann again) “a continuing relation with an art” that one passes so headily beyond the reality principle.
The guinea and the ETHPosted: December 23, 2021 Filed under: money Leave a comment
The guinea was an English unit of currency, minted as a coin between 1663-1814. Today you won’t find guinea coins or notes, but a guinea still exists as an idea, at least among a certain class.
A guinea is 21 shillings, versus a pound, 20 shillings. Some kinds of high-status bills were reckoned in guineas: solicitor or barrister fees, for example, bespoke tailoring, or gentlemen’s wagers. There is a famous horse race, the 2000 Guineas.
Bids are still made in guineas for the sale of racehorses at auction, at which the purchaser will pay the guinea-equivalent amount but the seller will receive only that number of pounds. The difference (5p in each guinea) is traditionally the auctioneer’s commission (which thus, effectively, amounts to 5% on top of the sales price free from commission).
The guinea as idea like much distinct and unique in England is mostly vanished now, I’ve never paid a debt in guineas or heard of anyone doing so, it’s from the past. But I thought of the idea of the guinea while trying to understand Ethereum, ETH.
As far as I can tell, ETH is the currency of the NFT market. NFTs, which you’ve probably heard are “non-fungible tokens” or a digital art form, the most desired examples of which are trading at very high prices, at least in ETH, which translates to the dollar at a fluctuating price, currently somewhere around $1=.00024 ETH, or 1 ETH = $4,113.23. I am told that ETH is also somehow “useful,” “you could build a whole economy on it,” it’s a basis for trustless transactions, I don’t understand that. I keep trying to but it involves watching YouTubes of people who seem like they took too many nootropics.
But I am interested in a prestige currency for a niche art market.
Space briefingPosted: December 22, 2021 Filed under: America Since 1945 Leave a comment
A briefing is given by Major Rocco Petrone (off camera) to President John F. Kennedy during a tour of Blockhouse 34 at the Cape Canaveral Missile Test Annex. Also seen are NASA administrator James Webb, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, NASA Launch Center director Kurt Heinrich Debus, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and other dignitaries.
Shooter CorridorPosted: December 22, 2021 Filed under: America Since 1945 Leave a comment
Perhaps you’ve seen this scene in Full Metal Jacket, where R. Lee Ermey’s drill sergeant connects Charles Whitman’s shooting spree from the UT Austin tower and Lee Harvey Oswald’s shooting of JFK to the training they received as Marines.
My mind did some pondering of these incidents as I drove on I-35, which connects the two sites of these incidents, Austin to Dallas.
Since my ultimate destination was Oklahoma City, my mind couldn’t help but turn to another former US military member who perpetuated a freakish, difficult to comprehend outburst of violence. Timothy McVeigh, a washed out failure from Army Ranger school with vague anti-government grievances bombed the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
McVeigh was obsessed with another violent American incident which happened along the route, the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, TX.
Along this route, you’ll also pass Killeen, Texas, where in 1991 there was a mass shooting at a Luby’s cafeteria. Up until that time it was the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in the USA (the Virginia Tech massacre would overtake it).
Killeen is home to Fort Hood. In 2009 a US army major and psychiatrist killed 13 people and wounded 30 others in a mass shooting at Fort Hood. The Wikipedia page for that shooting has an amazing American detail:
Fort Hood, set to be renamed sometime in the future, is currently named after John Bell Hood, another renegade US soldier and dramatic personality with visions of violence, who once said to Sherman:
Better die a thousand deaths than submit to live under you or your Government and your Negro allies.
If you throw the site of the Alamo into the mix, I-35 really pops with scenes of strange fanatic American violence.
The big unmarked portion there in Oklahoma is of course the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations, destination for the southeastern Indian removals, themselves an act of American violence, but perhaps beyond the scope of this post.
You could probably take any 400 mile stretch of American interstate and string together a few outbursts of historical violence, but I can’t help but observe this stretch of I-35 feels like an unusually haunted and scarred stretch of our national geopsyche.
Some excellent barbecue, steak and catfish can however be found.
Update: an Oklahoma reader sends us this one
Our suburb of Edmond is sadly another spot you could add to Shooter Corridor: the ‘86 post office shooting that inspired the phrase “going postal” happened here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmond_post_office_shooting
Platt National ParkPosted: December 21, 2021 Filed under: Uncategorized Leave a comment
Recently I had occasion to road trip from Austin, TX to Kansas City, MO, so I got out this 1974 National Geographic map to look for any interesting sites along the route. This map was preserved in a family map collection from a time when maps were rare and precious.
This caught my eye:
A national park I’d never heard of?
Turns out, Platt National Park lost its NP designation and was relegated to be part of Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
“It’s really different from the other national parks because it doesn’t have this grand scenery,” says Heidi Hohmann, a professor of landscape architecture at Iowa State University. She says Platt always struggled to stand out at the national level. Platt was the smallest national park. It had streams but no raging rivers. It had hills but no majestic mountains. And most of what you see today isn’t natural. During the New Deal, the Civilian Conservation Corps planted hundreds of thousands of trees and shrubs, carved trails and piped spring water to pavilions. Even the bison herd was transplanted.
Platt thrived in the 1950s as war-weary Americans flocked to leisure activities like boating and camping. But the conservation movement in the 1960s saw a push for more inspiring wilderness. In 1976, Platt was demoted. It was combined with a nearby reservoir and rebranded the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.
from “In Oklahoma, A National Park That Got Demoted” by Joe Wertz for All Things Considered. Some Oklahomans I spoke with wondered if the the demotion may have been part of a larger reorganization of federal lands in that area, as Native people reclaimed more autonomy and control over public land management in eastern Oklahoma.
The park is quite nice, even late in the afternoon in the dead of winter, but I’d say if we’re being honest it’s more on the county or regional park level. It’d be a generous selection as even a state park.
The nearby town of Sulphur really does smell like sulphur.
I’d say superior sites of interest in Oklahoma for the casual tourist are the Oklahoma City Stockyards (cattle auctions Monday and Tuesday starting ~9am, Monday said to be better, on our particular Monday they were going through 15,000 head)
and the Golden Driller of Tulsa.
The Myth of Santa Fe: Creating a Modern Regional Tradition by Chris WilsonPosted: December 6, 2021 Filed under: Uncategorized Leave a comment
Santa Fe is old. Founded in 1610, Santa Fe is older than Boston, older than Plymouth, older than any town in New England, older than any still-existing town in Virginia, older than Williamsburg, Charleston, Savannah, New Orleans. Quebec City is only two years older.
Santa Fe was laid out on the prinicples of the Laws of the Indes.
The Laws codified seventy years of Spanish town planning experience in the Americas and drew from a variety of European sources, Roman and Renaissance planning theory from Vitruvius to Alberti, monastic complexes and military encampments, and the siege towns built during the reconquest of Spain from the Moors.
Santa Fe is almost medieval, laid out (like Los Angeles) according to the Laws in a place “in an elevated and healthful location; with means of fortification; fertile soil with plenty of land for farming and pasturage; have fuel, timber and resources; fresh water, a native population.” It’s still has fresh water running right through it, it’s in an elevated and healthful location, timber and resources, a native population. It has the feel of being old, it’s small, it’s at a high, almost intoxicating altitude, it’s surrounded by forest and mountains, it’s charming and special. But in 2021, real estate is incredibly expensive, the buying of second homes is a huge force in the city. Is Santa Fe becoming a tourist attraction of itself? Is there the authentic still there? What even counts as authentic? How does this happen to a city?
This book The Myth of Santa Fe was for sale in Albuquerque, which struck me as funny, since I’d never seen it in Santa Fe. Comical to sell a book about how your rival city is a myth.
The New Deal populists of the 1930s sought to balance the myth of Santa Fe between the economic necessity of tourism and the use of its symbols to promote more broadly conceived social objectives such as public education and local economic self-sufficiency. Progressive regionalism peaked again in the early 1970s, with the counterculture and the Chicano and environmental movements.
But in the 1980s, this balance tilted almost completely toward the manipulation of the myth as a tourism marketing image. Simultaneously Ronald Reagan led a reallocation of resources from social programs to the military and from the lower and middle classes to the wealthy. Some of those with conspicuous new wealth were attracted to the city by the upsurge of international publicity that projected Santa Fe as a Tahiti in the desert, bathed in rosy sunsets, and elevated it (or reduced it, depending on your point of view) to a chic style of interior design and a world-class tourist destination.
The book is great, it functions as an informative and readable history of the city, as well as a catalogue of cultural shifts in self-understanding, belief, feelings towards that history which took form in architecture. Here’s a great summary of the book from 99% Invisible. Roughly the story told is how Santa Fe tried to be not Santa Fe, then stopped not being Santa Fe and switched to being more Santa Fe than ever (or at least an idea of Santa Fe, which may or may not have ever been the “real” Santa Fe) maybe to the point that it became so “Santa Fe” it risks not being Santa Fe any longer.
What is authentic, really?
OrovillePosted: December 2, 2021 Filed under: the California Condition Leave a comment
In August, the state had to take the hydroelectric power plant at Lake Oroville, the second-biggest reservoir in California, off line for the first time since it was built in 1967 because the water level in the lake was too low.
“California Will Curtail Water to Farms and Cities Next Year as Drought Worsens” by Michael B Marois over in Bloomberg. Imagine taking a power plant offline. Who makes that call? Did the engineers kind of enjoy the challenge?
The shutdown isn’t even what’s referred to when we talk about the Oroville Dam Crisis. Had a chance to drive through Oroville last summer, there are many beautiful old houses, and the downtown has a lost in time feel. If you want to see what Steinbeck’s California might’ve been like, Oroville might be a better main street time capsule than Salinas.
On August 7, 1881, pioneer Jack Crum was allegedly stomped to death by local bully Tom Noacks in Chico, California. The young Noacks was feared by the locals of Butte County, not only because of his size and strength, but allegedly because he was mentally unbalanced and enjoyed punching oxen in the head.
Noacks was arrested and jailed in the Chico jail. Once word got out that the old pioneer had been murdered, the authorities moved Noacks to the Butte County county jail in Oroville for his safety. Crum’s friends, knowing that Noacks was in the county jail, made their way to Oroville with rope in hand. Knocking on the jail door, the men told the jailer that they had a prisoner from the town of Biggs, California. Once inside the jail, they overpowered the jailer and dragged Noacks from his cell. They took Noacks to Crum’s former farm and hanged him from an old cottonwood tree. Nobody was ever prosecuted for the lynching.