Mark Two

Miniature 2427, “Archaic Mark,” turns out is actually a forgery?

Why Mark?”, I asked. “Because it’s short“, he replied. I was willing to give anything a go, so I took the vicar’s advice and read it and the Gospel of Mark just swept me up.

So says Australian musician Nick Cave

in his intro to the Gospel of Mark, which I found on this Italian Nick Cave fan site.

The Gospel of Mark has to be one of the weirdest and most compelling books ever written.  Nick Cave continues:

Scholars generally agree that Mark’s was the first of the four gospels to be written. Mark took from the mouths of teachers and prophets the jumble of events that comprised Christ’s life and fixed these events into some kind of biographical form. He did this with such breathless insistence, such compulsive narrative intensity, that one is reminded of a child recounting some amazing tale, piling fact upon fact, as if the whole worlddepended upon it – which , of course, to Mark it did. ‘Straightway’ and ‘immediately’ link one event to another, everyone ‘runs’, ‘shouts’, is ‘amazed’, inflaming Christ’s mission with a dazzling urgency. Mark’s Gospel is a clatter of bones, so raw, nervy and lean on information that the narrative aches with the melancholy of absence. Scenes of deep tragedy are treated with such a matter of factness and raw economy they become almost palpable in their unprotected sorrowfulness.

Couple things about the Gospel of Mark:

  • there’s no Christmas.  Jesus just turns up one day down by the river where John The Baptist is doing his thing.
  • the oldest gospel.  “Most scholars agree” is a term you come across again and again when you read into Bible stuff, especially New Testament stuff.  Let’s acronym that as msa.  As far as I can tell most scholars do agree on this one.
  • the shortest gospel.  11,304 words.  Very cool.
  • simple language.  Mark is written in Koine Greek which I can’t read.  I’m told this was a simple version of Greek that people could use all over the Mediterranean.  “Koine” just means “Common.”  Mark wrote Common Greek.

I’m told Mark’s Greek is “rough”:

(from:

Now, “rough” sure but “unrehearsed”?  Isn’t it likely Mark was writing down stories and quotes that had been transmitted orally, and thus were quite rehearsed?)

The version I’m reading is:

Here’s what J. B. says:

J. B. seems more confident than others that Mark = John Mark, but who cares?

It’s cool to imagine in the rubble of burned out Rome Mark starts going around saying “guys, I got some good news.”

“Who wants to read my book?”

Other scholars insist that Mark was written after 70 AD, because that’s when the Temple was destroyed after the Roman Siege of Jerusalem:

David Roberts’ lost painting of the siege of Jerusalem, source

which was a traumatic time.  That chronology is the one Reza Aslan believes:

Me personally? I’m no expert but I think it’s possible someone like the writer of Mark might’ve been obsessed with the idea of the destruction of the Temple before it happened.

Maybe Mark saw things coming the way the Simpsons saw President Trump coming:

But let’s say Mark was written in 70.  He’s writing about Jesus, who msa died around 33.  So it’s like writing a book, today, about a guy who died in 1980.

John Lennon, say, or Colonel Sanders.

 

Mark isn’t writing a biography of Jesus though, he’s writing the “good news.”  A good point by theologian Marcus Borg over at HuffPo:

  • Placing the Gospels after Paul makes it clear that as written documents they are not the source of early Christianity but its product. The Gospel — the good news — of and about Jesus existed before the Gospels. They are the products of early Christian communities several decades after Jesus’ historical life and tell us how those communities saw his significance in their historical context.

Here’s the craziest part about Mark imo.  The last sentence of the original version, msa, is 16:8.

The women were shaking and confused. They went out and ran away from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

What a freaky ending to your book!

Learned a lot about the Gospel origins from the PBS series From Jesus To Christ.  Li’l snippet from this essay by Marilyn Matthews on their website:

What message did Mark intend to send to his audience? Scholars do not agree. Some argue that Mark deliberately constructs a bleak and frightening picture because that was the experience of the people for whom Mark composed his work. Elaine Pagels offers a different interpretation: “And the last words of the original gospel are ‘and they were terrified.’ It would be very bad news if it weren’t that underneath this rather dark story is an enormous hope . . . that this very promising story and its terrible anguished ending is nevertheless not the ending. That there’s a mystery in it, a divine mystery of God’s revelation that will happen yet. And I think it’s that sense of hope that is deeply appealing.”

This is Helytimes so next time we will have a look and see if we can find the oldest source of Mark.

 


Market research

My data-driven advice for getting rich for someone with good analytical skills and deep experience in a field is to start a market research business. Use your specialized knowledge in the field to write up reports; sell them widely and charge a fortune to your contacts in the field. I have estimated that more than 10 percent of owners of market research businesses are in the top 0.1 percent.

from this NY Times op-ed, “The Rich Are Not Who We Think They Are,” by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz.

Intrigued, I Googled “how to start a market research business” and found:

There are a number of market researchers out there fighting for the same business you are. Consider your own business the firm’s first client. What does your target audience respond most to? Build a marketing strategy around that. Highlight your strengths through the use of existing contacts, networking, and cold calling. Get involved by attending conferences. Offer to speak at a conference or become a committee member.

Bold is mine, that’s brilliant. It does sound like a lot of work though. But, Stephens-Davidowitz tells us:

study of thousands of millionaires led by researchers at Harvard Business School did find a gain in happiness that kicks in when people’s net worth rises above $8 million. But the effect was small: A net worth of $8 million offers a boost of happiness that is roughly half as large as the happiness boost from being married.

That sounds good?


The stock market is pretend until it isn’t

Sometimes, calls get called. When the stock market becomes real, it becomes very real.

Consider the naked short, explained in this medium post, “GameStop: Power To The Market Players,” by Nope, It’s Lily:

If you’ve been anywhere in the trading universe, it’s been partly a meme and partly a higher calling to long $GME since about July/August 2020, when everyone suddenly realized the short interest on $GME actually exceeded its available float. In English, this meant that there were more shares sold short (a strategy to benefit from the stock price going down, this involves borrowing a share to sell with the intent to repurchase it at a lower cost later) than actually available to buy. How does this happen exactly?

This can happen one of two ways:

Naked shorting — This is a mostly illegal practice in which an individual or institution first sells shares without locating that they well, actually exist. This is fairly sneaky, but works as long as they can find the shares before the settlement period (delivery date) of the shares actually occurs. If they find it before then, no one is the wiser (except the SEC, when it decides to do anything ever).

Despite what idiots online believe, naked shorting isn’t always illegal (hence the word mostly). In particular, the ban on naked short-selling (Regulation SHO) isn’t because the government thinks you’re a meanie for doing it, but because of its hypothesized connections to the 2008 financial crash (actual data on it is mixed). In general, the belief was that naked short sellers helped destabilize investor confidence in the banks, leading to that fun period best remember by watching The Big Short accompanied by a full handle of Svedka.

Naked shorting, however, is legal by bona-fide market makers, which according to our SEC friends means simply it is done to hedge an option position sold (as part of market making duties, to buy and sell a security at publicly stated prices) rather than for speculation. If you want to read boring legal stuff, here’s a link to Regulation SHO.

Similarly, despite what your favorite rocket-emoji’ing internet guru believes, causing an actual short squeeze is hard, and almost always mostly illegal. The last public short interest (the next one should be released on January 27th, per FINRA reporting) on GME was released on Dec 31st, 2020.

Second bold mine.

I can’t say I understand the article. My first experience with this journalist. I’ll be interested to see what happens on January 27th.

The GameStop story is very compelling. Matt Levine’s take as always definitive. Comparisons to what Trump and Trumpians did to the GOP (and then the country) in 2016: an ebullient Internet-centered group of trolls realize there are tricks they can use to mock and demolish the establishment players, moving faster than the other guys can say “hey, what a second, that isn’t how we play!” The end result of that gleeful message board based takeover was (glances at Washington) huh looks like establishment people with 40 plus year careers are back in control of all branches after a brief reign of chaos (though they are rattled by what happened).


Mile Marker Zero: The Moveable Feast of Key West by William McKeen

This is a book about a scene, and the scene was Key West in the late ’60s-’70s, centered on Thomas McGuane, Jim Harrison, Hunter Thompson, Jimmy Buffett, and some lesser known but memorable characters.  I tried to think of other books about scenes, and came up with Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind, and maybe Astral Weeks: A Secret History of 1968 by Ryan H. Walsh, about Van Morrison’s Boston.  Then of course there’s Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, referenced here in the subtitle, a mean-spirited but often beautiful book about 1920s Paris.

I was drawn to this book after I heard Walter Kirn talking about it on Bret Easton Ellis podcast (McGuane is Kirn’s ex-father-in-law, which must be one of life’s more interesting relationships).  I’ve been drawn lately to books about the actual practicalities of the writing life.  How do other writers do it?  How do they organize their day?  What time do they get to work?  What do they eat and drink?  How do they avoid distraction?

From this book we learn that Jim Harrison worked until 5pm, not 4:59 but 5pm, after which he cut loose.  McGuane was more disciplined, even hermitish for a time (while still getting plenty of fishing done) but eventually temptation took over, he started partying with the boys, eventually was given the chance to direct the movie from his novel 92 In The Shade.  That’s when things got really crazy.  The movie was not a big success.

“The Sixties” (the craziest excesses bled well into the ’70s) musta really been something.

On page one of this book I felt there was an error:

That’s not the line.  The line (from the Poetry Foundation) is:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
          Gang aft agley,
but maybe I’m being a hopeless stickler and we can translate Burns from Scots into English whenever we feel like it.
After that small bump, I got swept up in the rhythm and the fun of this book and enjoyed it very much.  A vacation in book form.  From this book I learned that it was Jerry Jeff Walker who introduced then-failing country singer Jimmy Buffett to Key West, when Buffett went to Miami for what he thought was a gig, found out he wouldn’t be playing for two weeks, so the two of them took an impromptu road trip.

Part of what these writers found special about Key West, beyond the Hemingway and Tennessee Williams legends, was it just wasn’t a regular, straight and narrow place.  Being a writer is a queer job, someone’s liable to wonder what it is you do all day.  In Key West, that wasn’t a problem.

Key West was so irregular and libertine that you could get away with the apparent layaboutism of the writer’s life.

Some years ago I was writing a TV pilot I’d pitched called Florida Courthouse.  I went down to Florida to do some research, and people kept telling me about Key West, making it sound like Florida’s Florida.  Down I went on that fantastic drive where you feel like you’re flying, over Pigeon Key, surely one of the cooler drives in the USA if not the world.

The town I found at the end of the road was truly different.  Louche, kind of disgusting, and there was an element of tourists chasing a Buffett fantasy.  Some of the people I encountered seemed like untrustworthy semi-pirates, and some put themselves way out to help a stranger.  You’re literally and figuratively way out there, halfway to Havana.  The old houses, the chickens wandering, the cemetery, the heat and the shore and the breeze and the old fort and the general sense of license and liberty has an intoxicating quality.  There was a slight element of forced fun, and trying to capture some spirit that may have existed mostly in legend.  McKeen captures that aspect in his book:

 

Like McGuane, I found the mornings in Key West to be the best attraction.  Quiet, promising, unbothered, potentially productive.  Then in the afternoon you could go out and see what trouble was to be found.  Somebody introduced me to a former sheriff of Key West, who helped me understand his philosophy of law enforcement: “look, you can’t put that much law on people if it’s not in their hearts.”

I enjoyed my time there in this salty beachside min-New Orleans and hope to return some day, although I don’t really think I’m a Key West person in my heart.  I went looking for photos from that trip, and one I found was of the Audubon House.

After finishing this book I was recounting some of the stories to my wife and we put on Jimmy Buffett radio, and that led of course to drinking a bunch of margaritas and I woke up hungover.

I rate this book: four and a half margaritas.

 

 


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:

 


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.
I

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.?

Thanks!

NEXT TIME:

Mark Five: Strange Tales Of Jesus!

 


Mark Three: Secret Mark?

Latest posts in our series on the Book of Mark, one of the weirdest and most popular books of all time.

Mark One

on Papyrus One

Mark Two

Why Mark?

and now:

MARK THREE

Did Mark look like this? by Bronzino

Or like this?

or this? by Mantegna

Here we see the Mar Saba monastery in Israel, twelve miles outside Jerusalem:

Cool structure.  Would make a dope boutique hotel.

This is where Morton Smith supposedly found a

 previously unknown letter of Clement of Alexandria transcribed into the endpapers of a 17th-century printed edition of the works of Ignatius of Antioch

The letter, which would’ve been from like the year 200, says (I paraphrase) “hey there’s a more spiritual, weirder version of the Gospel of Mark floating around, heads up.”

Was there a “Secret Gospel Of Mark”?  Says Wiki:

Ron Cameron (1982) and Helmut Koester (1990) argued that Secret Mark preceded the canonical Mark, and that the canonical Mark is in fact an abbreviation of Secret Mark. This would explain the narrative discontinuity above. John Dominic Crossan (1985) has also been supportive of these views of Koester: “I consider that canonical Mark is a very deliberate revision of Secret Mark.”

An interesting question for sure.  As Wiki says:

The process of canonization of the New Testament was complex and lengthy.

The version I’m using is this one:

I don’t think the late J. B. will mind my excerpting his helpful introduction:

When J. B. talks about “the manuscript of Mark,” I’m not sure what he means.  Wiki tells me the oldest complete version is the Codex Vaticanus,

and the Codex Sinaiticus, which they found at St. Catherine’s Monastery:

which would also make a cool boutique hotel.  The Codex got taken to Russia, and then:

In 1933, the Soviet Union sold the codex to the British Museum for £100,000 raised by public subscription (worth £6.5 million in 2017)

You can read it if you want online.

The oldest known written scrap of Mark appears to be Papyrus 45:

which came from who knows where.  American-Anglo-Irish industrialist Chester Beatty, the “king of copper,” was mad for papyri apparently and bought tons of them from illegal dealers.

His first job in the mines earned him $2 per day as a ‘mucker’, clearing away rock and soil from mine tunnels.  He was quickly promoted to supervisor of the Kektonga Silver Mine.

Alfred Chester Beatty by Colin Colahan.
© Mrs. Monique Colahan.  From the Chester Beatty Library website.

Papyrus 45 is now in Chester’s library/museum in Dublin:

source: Wiki user Charles Curling

So, that’s how we get to Mark.

 

NEXT TIME in our series on Mark:

Translator J. B. Phillips, who started working on the New Testament in a bomb shelter during the London Blitz.


Mark One

1: 1] genealogy library YY YY YY yyyid [YY] Abraham [1: 2] Abraham [Heaven] nor did he [be] present in [his] [1: 3] take care of him and take him out of him they did not greet the embassy [1: 4] did not give birth and they have been in the midst of the sea

1: 5] Salvation shall not [be] of the rabbi did not recognize him from the p [o] y [to be] s een [1: 6]  the dairy farm has been re-established it was the sausage of the sky. [1: 7] nor is it possible to do so ạμ does not enforce the [lacuna] you will be able to find [ gap [1:12] gap the man who gave birth to [n and he did not have the olive tree, [1:15] [Oliver] ḍε̣ [[in] η̣̣̣ [σ] ε̣ [ν] ο ελέξΑζζάρ ελέ [and] he did not do [the] knowledge of [ [1:16] and [he] is not [ [to] enforce the law of the [ ̣̣̣̣̣ []] ξ </s> </s> </s> </s> </s> </s> </s> </s> </s> </s> </s> </s> </s> </s> </s> </s> </s> [1:17] ̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣ ̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣ I have been born and I have been born [d] ạ [υ] ι̣δ̣ [ε] ω̣σ̣ τ̣η̣ [ς] (s) of [b] the weight of the toilet seat [to] of the YYYYyyyyyy [I] D [1:18] and YYYYY genera so that it can not be misinterpreted he shall have [his] name before the [e] found that this is the case of a gypsy [1:19] [ωσηφ̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣̣] and [those] who do not desire it, compass [t] e [is] [1:20] [th] thou hast thou vnto him, []] [[]] [] [] [] [] that] [appears] [to] say [h] φ son] ḍ [da] ṃ [η] φ̣̣ β β β</s></s></s></s></s></s> [receive] [make] the [you] know [your] name the birth of [t] ns [estin] α̣ [son] [1: 21-23] the gap with [heat-treated methane]

Put some of Papyrus One through Google Translate and this is what I got.

Probably a li’l jumbled between the 2nd century Greek and the modern Greek.

Wiki tells me that what’s on Papyrus One is, in fact, Mark 1 1-9.

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’”

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.

I baptize you with[e] water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

The papyrus skips over Mark 10:

1Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.

Cool edit.  The dove is a little much, too John Woo.

Then it continues:

11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness,

13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

That from the New International version via Bible Gateway.

Grenfell and Hunt found Papyrus One at Oxyrhynchus in Egypt, along with a lot of other paperwork:

Administrative Documents assembled and transcribed from the Oxyrhynchus excavation so far include:

  • The contract of a wrestler agreeing to throw his next match for a fee.

  • Various and sundry ancient recipes for treating haemorrhoids, hangovers and cataracts.

  • Details of a corn dole mirroring a similar program in the Roman capital.

Plus some comedy scripts:

The classical author who has most benefited from the finds at Oxyrhynchus is the Athenian playwright Menander (342–291 BC), whose comedies were very popular in Hellenistic times and whose works are frequently found in papyrus fragments.

The Grouch at the Louvre by Wiki’s Rennet Stowe

Menander’s most popular character was a kind of proto Oscar the Grouch it sounds like.

Menander or literally me:

photo by Wiki’s Dave & Margie Hill of a relief of Menander choosing New Comedy masks.

Papyrus One is dated to the early 3rd century.  Is Papyrus One the earliest fragment of Mark known to exist?  We’ll take that up another time.

It’s interesting that there’s no birth of Jesus (“Christmas”) in Mark.  Mark just jumps right in.

Here are the things Jesus says in Mark, Chapter One.

The time has come at last – the kingdom of God has arrived.  You must change your hearts and minds and believe the good news.

 

Come and follow me, and I will teach you to catch men!

 

(to a demon) Hold your tongue and get out of him.

 

Then we will go somewhere else, to the neighboring towns, so that I may give my message there too – that is why I have come.  

 

(to a leper) Of course I want to – be clean!

 

(also to a leper) Mind you say nothing at all to anybody.  Go straight off and show yourself to the priest, and make the offerings for your cleansing which Moses prescribed as public proof of your recovery.

NEXT TIME:

Mark Two: what is the oldest version of Mark?


Public Land, Part Two: What Happened with H. R. 621

We can’t all be experts on every outrage that’s going to come along.  At Helytimes we’ve taken on the issue of

Our Public Land

up in the national forest

up in the national forest

the land owned by the US government in the form of national parks, national forests, national monuments, and much more.’ The land we, the American People, own together, in other words.

Part One covered HJ Res 46, which proposes to ease up the rules for oil, gas, and mineral drilling and extraction in our national parkland.

Part Two: 

Victory on H. R. 621 and What We Can Learn From It

Meet Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz

You may have heard of him, he was in the news this week catching hell at his town hall:

You may have seen some these videos on Twitter.

Chaffetz is an interesting character.

  • Born to a Jewish family in California
  • he was the placekicker on BYU’s football team.
  • Married a Mormon woman and converted to Mormonism.
  • Utah campaign manager for Michael Dukakis in 1988
  • at some point he became a Republican.  Possibly after meeting Ronald Reagan in 1990 (when, remember, Reagan had a decent degree of dementia)
  • Ran an aggressive Tea Party-style primary campaign in 2008 against a longtime Utah Republican, Chris Cannon, and knocked him out
  • An aggressive Benghazi investigator
  • Was all over the map on Trump: endorsing, unendorsing.  In the end he did vote for him
  • Has made it difficult for the residents of Washington DC to implement the legalization of marijuana they voted for

Here’s a funny article by Thomas Burr in the Salt Lake City Tribune about Chaffetz involving himself in DC local politics, and then getting payback where some DC politicians are like “fine Utah bitch you gonna tell us how to run our city then help us fix our potholes.”

Today though, we’re going to focus on a bill he introduced that comes up in the town hall.

H. R. 621: Story of a Victory

On Jan 24, Chaffetz introduced H. R. 621, which he titled “Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2017” which proposed to “dispose” – sell off – some land that is owned by you and me.

The Cosumnes River Preserve is home to California’s largest remaining valley oak riparian forest, and is one of the few protected wetland habitat areas in the state.

“The Cosumnes River Preserve is home to California’s largest remaining valley oak riparian forest, and is one of the few protected wetland habitat areas in the state.” Photo on BLM instagram by the legend, Bob Wick

 

Let’s back up.

Do the Republicans Want To Sell Off Our Land?

screen-shot-2017-01-22-at-9-53-07-pm

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-6-51-29-pm

Is this true?  Will Trump / The GOP Sell Off Our Public Land?!

Joshua Tree

JTree by Helytimes

My take: they definitely tried to do so.  Given nearly complete power after the 2016 election, it was a top priority for several Republicans.

The rush to sell off public land has been beaten back, for now.

There’s a lot to learn from what went down about how to win against the Republican Party of Donald Trump.

Bias: Love for national lands

I love national lands.  I love national parks and national forests and national historic sites and national seashores.  I love national monuments and national battlefields.

hartwells

Minuteman National Historical Park

from Acadia National Parks Instagram

from Acadia National Park’s Instagram

crater

Crater Lake

The best of the United States is on display in a US Park Service uniform.

from the NPS instagram

from the NPS instagram

The National Parks are the gems.  Most federal land is not like this at all.

How much land does the federal government

– the US –

– us –

own?

The federal government owns a huge amount of land.  For instance, the federal government owns about 84% of the total land area of Nevada.

Here is federal land ownership in California:

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-8-27-35-pm

The federal government owns 47% of California.

As you can see, this is a much different issue for some states than others.  Here is Utah:

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-9-55-57-pm

The feds own 66.5% of Utah.

from Boston Kayaker

from Boston Kayaker

The feds own a mere .8% of Rhode Island, mainly coastal scrubland.

Getting all that from this great piece in the Deseret (UT) News by Jackie Hicken.

All told the federal government owns about 28% of the nation’s total surface, 2.27 billion acres.

Isn’t that crazy?

Here is a reasonable position:

The federal government shouldn’t own that much land.  It’s not in the Constitution as a job for the federal government to own a buncha land.

Here’s a sample of that take:

Now: I think Lars Larson may even have a point about cutting down forests.  Forestry is a science, I’m not well-informed enough to opine on it except to say I believe any forester will tell you burns are part of a life cycle of a forest.

But I disagree with Lars Larson on his first part.  Because when we say “the government owns this land,”  really we mean we own this land.  What could be more “the people’s land” than land we all own together?  “Give the people’s land back to the people?”  It already is ours!

You and me.  The taxpayers.  The voters.  The government is just us.

 

 

What Are The Kinds Of Our Lands?

Here are the percentages of our land, broken down by which agency manages them for us.  The  “Big Five”:

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Proud of this chart I made.

(getting my data from here, from 2013.  The pie would be slightly bigger if we included the Department of Energy, and there’s the Indian reservations, but that’s a whole other thing.)

As you can see, the National Park Service owns a mere 13% of US federal land.

National Park Service handles:

  • National Parks
  • National Monuments
  • National Preserves

Plus battlefields, historic sites, seashores, etc.  As I understand it, the only way to get rid of these would be to pass a bill through both houses of Congress and have the president sign it.  A cool power of the President is that he can create a National Monument out of any existing federal land.  Obama did this often.

The Forest Service under the Department of Agriculture handles:

our National Forests.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service handles:

our National Wildlife Refuges.  (Their slice of the pie gets way bigger if you count marine acres.)

There are National Wildernesses, administered by various different folks because they’re usually part of some other land.

There’s lots of land owned by the Department of Defense,

Air Force, Marine Corps, and Army bases and such.  The Navy owns a surprising amount of inland land here in California for dropping bombs on.

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And there is a bunch of leftover extra land, BLM land, managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM owns about 47% of the west and one-eighth of the land of the United States.

(Here’s a good Gizmodo article by Wes Siller about this same topic).

blm

The biggest chunk of public land is BLM land

On a trip to California in 2002 or so the Jeppson-Gamez brothers took me to some BLM land.  I learned you can shoot a gun and drive a Jeep and do whatever the fuck you want on BLM land.  What a great privilege as an American.

Here’s some BLM land in California:

from BLM's instagram

from BLM’s instagram

Here are some facts:

A lot of federal land is already used, mined, logged, grazed, and exploited now

There’s logging in national forests, and mining and grazing on BLM land.  The major operating principle for BLM land law is “multi use.”  Please correct me if I’m wrong, I’m no expert just an interested citizen, but I believe most BLM rules stem from the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976.

The National Forest Service, National Park Service, and now, the Bureau of Land Management, are commissioned in FLPMA to allow a variety of uses on their land (of greater concern for the BLM, who is the least restrictive in terms of uses) while simultaneously trying to preserve the natural resources in them. This concept is best summarized by the term ‘multiple-use.’ ‘Multiple use’ is defined in the Act as “management of the public lands and their various resource values so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people.”

Who should handle this junk land has a long, contentious history

Here is a readable summary of some history on the subject.  Who should own and manage land that looks like this?:

sagebrush

Should the states manage it?  In the Depression the states didn’t want it.

Fights over which of the multiple uses should be favored come up all the time.  The most newsworthy fight in recent years on this topic, the weird Oregon standoff originated with Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s dispute with the BLM over grazing his cattle on their lands:

the dispute started in 1993, when, in protest against changes to grazing rules, Bundy declined to renew his permit for cattle grazing on BLM-administered lands near Bunkerville, Nevada. According to the BLM, Bundy continued to graze his cattle on public lands without a permit. In 1998, Bundy was prohibited by the United States District Court for the District of Nevada from grazing his cattle on an area of land later called the Bunkerville Allotment.

Cliven Bundy refused to recognize federal ownership of the land, claiming it rightfully belonged to Nevada, which would maybe be chiller about letting him graze his cattle there.

Cliven, found on this CNN piece about him claiming he's not a racist

Cliven, found on this CNN piece: Cliven Bundy says he’s not racist

This being the USA, Cliven’s stand led to, a few years later, Bundy’s sons sitting around with guns at a remote bird refuge while Dad reflected on his views on “the Negro“:

they abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy?

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Where does the GOP Congress stand on federal land ownership?

All over the place, is the answer.

1) the Republican Party’s platform supports returning some federal land to the states.

See here for a Snopes breakdown of this.  Here’s the language on federal land transfer in the Republican Platform:

The federal government owns or controls over 640 million acres of land in the United States, most of which is in the West. These are public lands, and the public should have access to them for appropriate activities like hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting. Federal ownership or management of land also places an economic burden on counties and local communities in terms of lost revenue to pay for things such as schools, police, and emergency services. It is absurd to think that all that acreage must remain under the absentee ownership or management of official Washington. Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing for a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to states. We call upon all national and state leaders and representatives to exert their utmost power and influence to urge the transfer of those lands, identified in the review process, to all willing states for the benefit of the states and the nation as a whole. The residents of state and local communities know best how to protect the land where they work and live. They practice boots-on- the-ground conservation in their states every day. We support amending the Antiquities Act of 1906 to establish Congress’ right to approve the designation of national monuments and to further require the approval of the state where a national monument is designated or a national park is proposed.

Key word there is “certain”?

I think it’s possible to be passionate about maintaining our treasured national land, and still think some federal land could be better managed by the states.

There’s a lot of wack stuff in the GOP platform, like this:

A Republican administration should streamline personnel procedures to expedite the firing of bad workers, tax cheats, and scammers.

Obviously they’re not worried about the Commander in Chief who won’t release his tax returns.  Maybe they will be similarly hypocritical about conveying federally controlled land to states.

Ah-Shi-Sie-Pah Wilderness Study Area in New Mexico

Ah-Shi-Sie-Pah Wilderness Study Area in New Mexico

2) the Republican Congress changed rules to allow the federal government to give up land while counting it as “budget neutral”

Meet Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah:

rob-bishop

A Republican Congressman.  He is apparently responsible for a change in House of Representatives rules.  Now, I don’t know anything about House budgeting rules. This article, from The Salt Lake City Tribune, written by Juliet Eilperin, seems fair and clear:

Under current Congressional Budget Office accounting rules, any transfer of federal land that generates revenue for the U.S. Treasury — whether through energy extraction, logging, grazing or other activities — has a cost. If lawmakers wanted to give land-generating receipts to a given state, local government or tribe, they would have to account for that loss in expected cash flow. If the federal government conveys land where there is no economic activity, such as wilderness, there is no estimated cost associated with it.

But House Natural Resources Committee Chairman [Rob] Bishop [Republican Congressman of Utah], who backs the idea of providing state and local officials with greater control over federal land, has authored language in the new rules package saying any such transfers “shall not be considered as providing new budget authority, decreasing revenues, increasing mandatory spending or increasing outlays.”

This was the same rules package that had the ethics loosening thing that got people to call their reps in an effective show of democratic displeasure.  Here is a much-tweeted Guardian article on the topic.

There’s lots about public land on Rob Bishop’s website. One issue that seems to bother Rob Bishop in particular is Wilderness Study Areas.  And I agree they represent the complex mess of interests when you deal with public land.

A Case Study: How A Wilderness Study Area Becomes A Wilderness

The Wilderness Study Areas are roadless sections of land that the BLM puts a hold on until Congress decides whether to designate them as wilderness or not.

Here’s my personal favorite:

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Here’s what Rob Bishop says:

For decades, unsettled land-use designations, such as wilderness study areas, have fueled distrust and acrimony. The uncertainty about the future of these lands created conflict amongst those favoring differing types of uses. The diverse uses of public lands have an important role in making Utah healthy, viable, and inviting. The future of the state depends on a responsible balance of both conservation and development.

There are 86 Wilderness Study Areas in Utah.  Myself, I think we should err on the side of keeping wildernesses — once they’re gone, they’ll never come back.

Once you’re a WSA, you either become a Wilderness, federally protected, or you get dropped and you can get chopped up and mineraled and whatnot like any old BLM land.  Or you get downgraded to Conservation Area, or some other designation.

The most recent Wilderness Study Area bill I can find in Congress was from last year, when some WSAs inside federal conservation areas were proposed to get dropped.  It’s been referred to committee.  Here’s an article about it, it sounds like a complicated issue.

You can see how this all gets pretty slow-moving and bureaucratic.

Maybe Rob Bishop has a point

The bottom line of what Rep. Bishop wants to do is made pretty clear on his website:

Congressman Bishop’s views on public land use differ from mine, why should I trust that this is a good faith effort to make new conservation areas?

Congressman Bishop is committed to conservation and economic development as part of the Public Lands Initiative. Throughout his career, Congressman Bishop has had a strong record of both conservation and development. The Cedar Mountain Wilderness area was created in 2006 after Congressman Bishop facilitated a locally-driven, collaborative process similar to the Public Lands Initiative. As a former high school teacher, Congressman Bishop also has pushed for increased energy production in Utah to help support and fund public education. Congressman Bishop is committed to elements of both conservation and development as part of any Public Lands Initiative legislative proposal.

How will the state of Utah benefit from this?

The state of Utah’s public education system will benefit from increased energy and mineral production. Public land users will benefit from the regulatory certainty that comes from congressionally designated lands. Local governments will benefit from revenue generated from multiple use of the land, including recreation, mineral development, and energy production. The outdoor recreation businesses will benefit from the improved certainty about land use and conservation. Future generations will benefit by having responsible policies that utilize the land in the most responsible and reasonable ways that make sense now and into the future.

Here’s more:

Proponents argue, however, that taking the federal government out of the picture will help the budget and offer economic benefits for the many communities located near federally-guarded land.

“In many cases, federal lands create a significant burden for the surrounding communities,” Molly Block, spokeswoman for the House Natural Resources Committee, said. “Allowing communities to actually manage and use these lands will generate not only state and local income tax, but also federal income tax revenues.”

That’s from this UPI article by Stephen Feller and Doug C. Ware.

Look, Rob Bishop’s there in Utah.  Maybe he knows best what should happen with this land.  In tough Western areas he could see roped off federal preserves with no clear purpose, and point out those could be jobs and money for his district, or even just better managed wilderness under local control.

BUT:

Why shouldn’t disposed-of land be marked as a loss to the federal revenue, when it is?  Isn’t this a form of the federal government lying to itself?  Lying to its citizens?  As an American taxpayer, I don’t see how this rather sneaky accounting change is at all good for me.

Plus what the hell?!  This land belongs to us, American citizens.  These guys want to sell away our inheritance?

High Desert News‘ Elizabeth Shongren puts it clearly:

Previously, when Congress wanted to transfer public lands managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management or other federal agency, the Congressional Budget Office, Congress’ research arm, calculated the cost to the U.S. Treasury by computing what revenues the lands provide over 10 years, such as grazing fees or oil and gas royalties. Under House rules, before a bill approving a transfer could be adopted, budget cuts would have to be made in other federal programs equal to the value of that land. The rules change eliminates that budgetary barrier to land transfer bills.

I’d have to explore this more, but I have a feeling the House somehow tied itself into knots on spending and budgetary rules to make various political points, and is trying to untangle this particular aspect so they can get rid of public land.

Can the government sell off our treasured national lands?

Yes, but it’s not that easy.

Let’s start with the BLM.  Can the BLM sell off their land?  From their website:

How are these lands selected for sale?

The law states that the BLM can select lands for sale if, through land use planning, they are found to meet one of three criteria: 1) they are scattered, isolated tracts, difficult or uneconomic to manage; 2) they were acquired for a specific purpose and are no longer needed for that purpose; or 3) disposal of the land will serve important public objectives, such as community expansion and economic development.

More:

The BLM does not offer much land for sale because of a congressional mandate in 1976 to generally retain these lands in public ownership. The BLM does, however, occasionally sell parcels of land where our land use planning finds disposal is appropriate.

Of the Big Five Agencies, only DoD and BLM lost land between 1990 and 2013 (again, source here).  In those years, the BLM went down by 24, 777, 190 acres.

Where did those acres go?

This decline in Alaska is largely the result of the disposal of BLM land, under law, to the State of Alaska, Alaska Natives, and Alaska Native Corporations.

Seems fine to me.  The Congressional Research Service goes on:

With regard to disposal, the NPS and FWS have virtually no authority to dispose of the lands they administer, and the FS disposal authorities are restricted.

Last big push to dispose of national lands failed.  It was HR 350: State National Forest Management Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Don Young of Alaska.

don-young

Didn’t pass.

 

HR 621: Story of A Victory

Let’s return to Utah rep Jason Chaffetz:

jason-chaffetz

Which land did he try to sell away?

Great question.

It’s not immediately clear.  Chaffetz’s website links to a 1997 report of disposable lands.   Ryan Krogh at Men’s Journal identifies some of the choice land included in the 1997 report:

State: Wyoming

County: Sheridan

The Potential Land: 35,200 acres of BLM-managed land in the Powder River Basin, which is just east of the Bighorn Mountains, popular with hikers, campers, horseback riders, and hunters.

Here’s what’s going on on BLM land in the Powder River right now:

Powder River, from a BLM website

Powder River, from a BLM website

State: Wyoming

County: Park

The Potential Land: 27,300 acres surrounding the Shoshone River, a popular fly-fishing stream in northern Wyoming. Most of the BLM-managed land in Park County is downstream of the town of Cody, which sits between the Big Horn, Owl Creek, Bridger, and Absaroka mountain ranges. Tourism is the town’s primary industry.

State: Oregon

County: Harney

The Potential Land: 44,000 acres in a county that’s home to Steens Mountain, a 9,733-foot peak that’s popular with campers and hunters, and Malheur National Forest.

State: New Mexico

County: Catron

The Potential Land: 25,000 acres that contain “cultural resources,” meaning it’s probably home to pueblo ruins. The land is most likely a giant tract southwest of the town of Quemado, and some of the land abuts the Gila National Forest, home to the endangered Mexican gray wolf, the Gila trout, and some of the best elk hunting in the U.S.

State: Colorado

County: Montrose

The Potential Land: 2,105 acres that is home to endangered species and “historic/cultural resources.” The surrounding area contains the Gunnison Gorge, famous for its rafting and fly-fishing trips, and Uncompahgre National Forest, which is home to elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat.

State: Nevada

County: Elko

The Potential Land: 208,900 acres that contains endangered species, historic resources, and is home to “wetlands/floodplain.” BLM-managed land makes up a giant percentage of land in Elko County, but exactly what land is up for consideration is unclear, or what the effects might be.

State: Arizona

County: Mohave

The Potential Land: 23,525 acres with mining claims and historic resources. A comment attached to the description notes that the land is “classified as habitat for the Desert Tortoise (a sensitive species).”

Now I heard about this, and I was pissed, because this land belongs to me.  And you.  And us.  Any time we wanna go there, it’s there.

And Jason Chaffetz tried to sell it off.  

Backcountry Backlash

Well this did not play.  Word spread via strong, aggressive groups like Backcountry Hunters & Anglers:

Google HR 621 and you fill find angry, mobilized publicity from groups like TheMeatEater.com, BowHunter.com, WiredToHunt (“Deer Hunting Strategies for the Next Generation”), and TexasBowhunter.com.

There were rallies in Helena, MT and Santa Fe, NM which BHA says drew a thousand people.

Chaffetz backed down by last night — six days after introducing the bill:

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What can we learn from the defeat (for now) of HR 621?

  • Strong, organized, motivated, attentive citizens can win, easily, on issues that matter.
  • Play to a politician’s fears.  Jason Chaffetz got to Congress by primarying a guy in his own party.  He’s got to watch his back constantly.  His greatest fear has got to be somebody doing to him what he did to Chris Cannon, outrunning him on the right.
  • Push the pushable.  Chaffetz wasn’t moved by people who would never vote for him.  He was moved by hunters and fishermen,  people who probably would vote for him, as long as he doesn’t fuck them on something they care about.
  • Look at the focus on these groups: bow-hunters, meat-eating hunters.  They have clear interests, goals, and passions.  They follow their issues and inform each other.
  • Powerful allies.  Look at the sponsors for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.  These are big corporations with big interests in keeping their customers happy and hunting and fishing.  Yeti coolers has a partnership with MeatEater.com.  What are rich companies that have interests that could align with yours?
  • Specific targets.  They learned something from all that bow-hunting.
  • See how fast and aggressively they responded to the slightest hint of a challenge and you can get an answer to the seemingly baffling question of why gun control bills get crushed so easily.  Strong, organized people are paying attention to the slightest threat to their gun rights and they do not let up.

The Trump hurricane has achieved an effect of constantly shifting focus.  When we compare what bow-hunters did to the stammering, confused, bafflement of the Hollywood libtards we follow on Twitter, and my own flabbergasted reactions, we realize we have much to learn from Texas bow-hunters on how to stay focused on a few issues that matter to us most.

The biggest lesson:

This issue brought together, on the same side, Joyce Carol Oates:

and these kind of guys:

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And the bros on the Texas Bowhunter forums.

They’re both passionate on the same side on this issue.

For me, the strongest takeaway is don’t insist on too much ideological purity.

Build coalitions on issues you care about.

That is the way to win in politics.

Plus who do you think Jason Chaffetz is most scared of?

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I’m guessing it’s this kinda guy? (seen here killing a huge deer with a bow and arrow).

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This guy and I may have different ideas about what to do with the land we share.

But we share an interest.  We can team up.

One of the most illuminating things I read about the election was “David Wong”‘s piece on Cracked.com about the rural vs. urban divide. Here I am very far from Powder River, WY.  The odds of me visiting it in the next ten years are small (but real).  But here I am allied with people who live near there and use it all the time.

Gotta Hear Both Sides

Look, it’s fair to say maybe we should sell off some public land.  The clearest expression I found of this ambiguity was put up by this poster on TexasBowhunter.com — I hope user 175gr7.62 won’t mind me quoting him, I think it’s a valid take (encourage you to read him in context):

I’m torn on it. The Constitutional side of me says the Fed should have never owned it anyway. The Constitution says the government can acquire and retain land necessary for carrying out its enumerated powers. This includes parcels for military bases, post offices and buildings to house federal employees undertaking enumerated functions. I don’t think anything the BLM or Forest Service does counts as anything enumerated. Several Supreme Court cases have said the govt can own it but I think that’s just case law.

The hunter in me said it could be bad if the Feds sell the land because it could be bought by a private citizen who can then prevent its use. That being said, if they sell it and I don’t have the money to buy it that’s my fault…I should have gotten a better education or made better investment decisions.

Tough call.

Reasonable people can disagree on how public land should be managed and who should managed it.

What bothers me, and what puts me on edge, is the sneakiness of what Bishop and Chaffetz appear to be doing.

And the misguided priorities.  This is the first thing they got to post-election.

Well, Chaffetz at least got called to the carpet for it.

A Passionate Plea

Here’s a full video of Jason Chaffetz’s town hall.  Listen to this guy at 11:39 say our free public lands are all he has.

Please write to us (helphely at gmail or in the comments) if we got something wrong or you have a strong take.  

These are complicated issues, I did my best and in good faith but it’s easy to make an error.  

In our Next Installment:

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Part Three:  Strange Allies.  

And why this:

ryan-zinke

is better than this:

cathy-mcmorris-rogers

 

 


Tennessee Williams -> Dr. Feelgood -> Mark Shaw

 

Tennessee Williams in Key West

Strewn around the apartment of a friend this weekend were a few biographies of Tennessee Williams.

I don’t know much about Tennessee Williams.  The most I ever thought about him was when I was briefly in Key West, where there’s some stuff named after him.  He jockeys with Hemingway for local literary mascot top honors.

Looking into it, I found this stupefying article about TW in Key West from People Magazine, 1979, entitled “In His Beloved Key West, Tennessee Williams Is Center Stage In A Furor Over Gays.”  Tough reading, on the one hand.  On the other maybe we can find some optimism in how far things have come?:

Some of Williams’ friends are less sanguine—notably Rader (whom some Key West sympathizers find faintly hysterical on the subject). “It has been terrible,” he said in the aftermath. “Tenn won’t talk about it, but it has been really frightening what’s happening in Key West and in this house. The worst was the night they stood outside his front porch and threw beer cans, shouting, ‘Come on out, faggot.’ When they set off the firecrackers, I remember thinking, ‘God, this is it. We’re under attack. They’ve started shooting.’ ”

Williams’ imperturbability springs both from a matter of principle (he once defined gallantry as “the grace with which one survives appalling experiences”) and from a diminished interest in the Key West gay scene. “I’ve retired from the field of homosexuality at present,” he explains, “because of age. I have no desires—isn’t that strange? I have dreams, but no waking interest.” The thought does not cheer him. “I’ve always found life unsatisfactory,” he says. “It’s unsatisfactory now, especially since I’ve given up sex.” His own problems seem far more pressing to him than the city’s. “I suspect I’ll only live another two years,” says Williams, 68, who tipples white wine from morning on and complains of heart and pancreas disorders. “I’ve been working like a son of a bitch since 1969 to make an artistic comeback. I don’t care about the money, but I can’t give up art—there’s no release short of death. It’s quite painful. I’ll be dictating on my deathbed. I want people to say, ‘Yes, this man is still an artist.’ They haven’t been saying it much lately.”

As a consummate prober of human passions, Williams does have theories on why his adopted hometown is under siege. “There are punks here,” he explains. “That’s because a couple of gay magazines publicized this place as if it were the Fire Island of Florida. It isn’t. One Fire Island is quite enough. But it attracted the wrong sort of people here: the predators who are looking for homosexuals. I think the violence will be gone by next year.”

Other residents seem less willing to wait. The leader of the anti-gay forces, the Reverend Wright, says Anita Bryant has promised to come to Key West to help his crusade. Recalling nostalgically the days when “female impersonators and queers were loaded into a deputy’s automobile and shipped to the county line,” Wright warns: “We’ll either have a revival of our society or the homosexuals will take it over in five years.”

Mamet On Williams

This morning happened to pick up in my garage this book by David Mamet:

IMG_6629

Highly recommend this book as well as Three Uses Of The Knife, True And False: Heresy And Common Sense For The Actor, and On Directing Film by Mamet.  All short, all tight, all good.  (His subsequent nonfiction seems to me to be a bit… deranged?)

Found this, and thought it was great:

IMG_6630 IMG_6631

Wikipedia Hole

Reading about Tennessee on Wikipedia, I learn:

As he had feared, in the years following Merlo’s death Williams was plunged into a period of nearly catatonic depression and increasing drug use resulting in several hospitalizations and commitments to mental health facilities. He submitted to injections by Dr. Max Jacobson – known popularly as Dr. Feelgood – who used increasing amounts of amphetamines to overcome his depression and combined these with prescriptions for the sedative Seconal to relieve his insomnia. Williams appeared several times in interviews in a nearly incoherent state, and his reputation both as a playwright and as a public personality suffered.[citation needed] He was never truly able to recoup his earlier success, or to entirely overcome his dependence on prescription drugs.

Let’s learn about Dr. Feelgood, who was also screwing up Elvis and everybody else cool back then:

John F. Kennedy first visited Jacobson in September 1960, shortly before the 1960 presidential election debates.[9] Jacobson was part of the Presidential entourage at the Vienna summit in 1961, where he administered injections to combat severe back pain. Some of the potential side effects included hyperactivity, impaired judgment, nervousness, and wild mood swings. Kennedy, however, was untroubled by FDA reports on the contents of Jacobson’s injections and proclaimed: “I don’t care if it’s horse piss. It works.”[10] Jacobson was used for the most severe bouts of back pain.[11] By May 1962, Jacobson had visited the White House to treat the President thirty-four times.[12][13]

By the late 1960s, Jacobson’s behavior became increasingly erratic as his own amphetamine usage increased. He began working 24-hour days and was seeing up to 30 patients per day. In 1969, one of Jacobson’s clients, former Presidential photographer Mark Shaw, died at the age of 47. An autopsy showed that Shaw had died of “acute and chronic intravenous amphetamine poisoning.”

Well, that takes us to

Mark Shaw

Born Mark Schlossman on the Lower East Side, a pilot on the India/China Hump in World War II, he became a freelance photographer for life:

In 1953, probably because of his fashion experience, Shaw was assigned to photograph the young actress Audrey Hepburn during the filming of Paramount’s Sabrina. Evasive at first, Hepburn became comfortable with Shaw’s presence over a two-week period and allowed him to record many of her casual and private moments.

Audrey 1

Audrey 2

He married singer Pat Suzuki, “who is best known for her role in the original Broadway production of the musical Flower Drum Song, and her performance of the song “I Enjoy Being a Girl” in the show”:

In 1959, Life chose Shaw to photograph Jacqueline Kennedy while her husband, Senator John F. Kennedy, was running for President.[8] This assignment was the beginning of an enduring working relationship and personal friendship with the Kennedys that would eventually lead to Shaw’s acceptance as the Kennedys’ de facto “family photographer”. He visited them at theWhite House and at Hyannisport; during this time he produced his most famous photographs, portraying the couple and their children in both official and casual settings. In 1964, Shaw published a collection of these images in his book The John F. Kennedys: A Family Album, which was very successful.

Jackie 3

Jackie 1

 

A bunch of even better ones can be found here, at the tragically disorganized website of the Monroe Gallery, they’re stamped “No Reproduction Without Permission” so whatever.  Don’t miss this one.

Here’s another famous Jackie Mark photo’d:

Jackie Gleason1959© 2000 Mark Shaw

And finally:

BB 1

 

 

 

 


Mark Helprin

from The Paris Review:

INTERVIEWER

Why don’t you like to give interviews?

MARK HELPRIN

When I was young it was impossible to stop me from talking about myself, but I now find it difficult to start. As an adolescent (which stage in life took me to about the age of thirty) I had a facile tongue, a prodigious memory, and an all-consuming fear of sociality (a fear and distaste that is, if anything, stronger now than it ever was, but now I am disciplined enough just to suffer through it and, quite frankly, I’m tired of trying to keep back a sea of discomfort with the flood of my own words).

The source of my aversion is partly hereditary, in that my father and many of my relatives were much the same, and partly an acquisition that I owe to my early upbringing. When this was far more serious a matter than it is now, I was born two months prematurely, with malformations of the spine (spina bifida) and lungs, and what was later diagnosed as “hyperconvulsive neurological syndrome.” Whatever that is, it was sufficient to have kept me out of the United States Army, though not the Israeli infantry and air force or the British Merchant Navy.

To make a rather long story extremely short, I spent many weeks in an incubator, came home as damaged goods, and spent much of my early life in the throes of respiratory diseases that kept me out of school and apart from others. As a small child, I once ran a fever for, literally, a year. I had pneumonia half a dozen times, double pneumonia, whooping cough—all because of the circumstances of my birth.

Now, combine that, and all that you can imagine might flow from it, with the place in which I was raised—Ossining, New York. Culturally, the character of the area was formed during the Revolutionary War, when it was a no-man’s-land between the Americans and the British, and every criminal, deserter, and malcontent for hundreds of miles found his way there and left his genes. When I was a child, I would always look at people’s hands, to see if they had six fingers, and sometimes they did.

My draft board, I am told (although it may be myth), had, of all draft boards in the United States, the highest proportion of men killed in Vietnam—where, incidentally, my godfather, the photographer Robert Capa, was the first American to die, though he was a Hungarian and had nothing to do with the Hudson. The area was salted with military institutions—West Point, military academies, veterans’ hospitals—and old soldiers, including even, when I was young, some from the Civil War. The play of the boys was guerilla warfare in the extensive woods. Every stranger was a threat, an enemy. Indeed, there were a lot of bad apples around—escaped convicts from Sing Sing (twice as I remember), standard criminals, gangs in the fifties, child molesters (a beautiful little girl was taken from my third-grade schoolyard and raped and beaten over a period of many hours), and hoboes (not Shakespearian woodwinds) on the rail line that was the geographical locus of my childhood. I ran wild through all this, protected by my paranoia, by my sharply-honed guerilla skills, and by a rather extensive arsenal. Had you turned me upside down and shaken me, the floor would have looked like a military museum after an earthquake.

INTERVIEWER

I was asking about your dislike of being interviewed.

(photo found here, by Jim Harrison for Harvard Magazine)


Shantyboat life

After the devastating Panic of 1893, thousands of abruptly unemployed and now homeless industrial workers, in river towns from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, found that they could cobble together a livable house on top of an abandoned commercial barge down on the waterfront, or build a shantyboat from scratch from the broad selection of cast-off timbers and driftwood lining virtually every mile of riverbank. Each year, hundreds of shanytboat families imply cast off from Memphis or Cincinnati and spent the warm months drifting down river, camping on remote islands, planting gardens or harvesting wild berries… During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration estimated that as many as fifty thousand Americans lived on shantyboats.

A version of this lifestyle on the river in Knoxville described in Cormac McCarthy’s Suttree.

Rinker Buck manages to get his shantyboat from Elizabeth, Pennsylvania on the Ohio River all the way to New Orleans. He’s warned that he’s going to die, but in fact he has a mostly peaceful cruise. One problem he notes is that long stretches of the Mississippi are fuel deserts: there are no marinas or places to gas up your boat. He attributes this to a combination of factors, including a decline in recreational boating post the 2008 recession, and the record flooding of 2011.

He’s warned that the Coast Guard will remove his boat if he gets caught on a sandbar and has to leave it for awhile, but after some experience he scoffs at that. No one is bothering to clean up the river or remove obstacles to navigation, gas cans float by, it’s full of trash, old refrigerators, sunken cars, etc.

The Ohio and the Mississippi are nothing but Superfund sites with water running through them.

Really good chapter about Natchez, MS and the new national park project there to commemorate the Forks In the Road slave market. Bleak!

I’m giving this book away if anyone wants it!


Coca-Cola

Even the Coca-Cola Company regards as out of the ordinary—though it is rather fond of the old girl—a wrinkled Indian woman in a remote Mexican province who told an inquiring explorer in 1954 that she had never heard of the United States but had heard of Coke. (There are fifty-one plants in Mexico that bottle it.) Two years after that, a Coca-Cola man pushed a hundred and fifty miles into the jungles outside Lima, Peru, in search of a really primitive Indian to whom, for publicity purposes, he could introduce Coca-Cola. Deep in the bush, he flushed a likely-looking woman, and, through an interpreter, explained his errand, whereupon the woman reached into a sack she was carrying, plucked forth a bottle of Coke, and offered him a swig.

There can be exceedingly few North Americans who are unacquainted with Coca-Cola, which a Swedish sociologist has said bears the same nourishing relationship to the body of Homo americanus that television does to his soul. One such ignoramus came to light ten years ago, when the Army quizzed six hundred and fifty recruits stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Two hundred and twenty-nine of them had never heard of Louisville, twenty miles away; eighty-five had never been to the dentist; and twenty-one had never tasted cow’s milk. A single soldier had never drunk a Coke. All in all it was a set of findings far more encouraging to the Coca-Cola Company than to the Department of Defense.

In contrast to that innocent rookie, some of his fellow-citizens drink Coca-Cola at a staggering clip. “You can drink Coke every day all day long and you don’t get tired of it,” a member of the company’s indefatigable market-research staff has said. “Fifteen minutes after you’ve finished a Coke, you’re a new customer again, and that’s where we’ve got you.” One of the most faithful customers on record is an Alabama woman who on her ninety-seventh birthday attributed her durability to her habit of consuming a Coca-Cola at exactly ten o’clock every morning since the stuff first came on the market, in 1886. Possibly the outstanding Coke drinker of all time is a used-car salesman in Memphis who revealed in 1954, when he was sixty-five, that for fifty years he had been averaging twenty-five bottles daily, and that on some days he had hit fifty. He added, inevitably, that he had attended the funerals of half a dozen doctors who had called his pace killing.

from a 1959 New Yorker article, “The Universal Drink,” by E. J. Kahn Jr., bolds mine. (I was looking up every New Yorker article that mentions Memphis – not many!)

Recently scoured up a Reddit thread on the topic of how much cocaine you’d need to add to modern day Coca-Cola to recreate the original. The conclusion was you’d need to add tons, and it wouldn’t have much effect anyway: a modern caffeinated Coke gets you way more amped than the old coca version.


Around the town

The Del Mar sandwiches aren’t at the Santa Anita level, but not bad

Professor McHugh is off to Berlin to deliver a talk. In ancient India, they conceived of thought, the mind, and the soul as being located in the heart. So what did they think the brain was for? That’s the theme, wish we could attend. Haven’t been to Berlin since Jones was working on a movie there (Speed Racer?). Mat W is just back from Pittsburgh, where he toured an old iron factory…

Beyers says he plans to come down for Thanksgiving, should be rowdy as always.  He’s been watching Hip Hop Evolution on Netflix, hosted by Shad. A fun introduction to various hiphop scenes, organized semi-geographically.  We watched the one about Memphis and Three Six Mafia, the one about New Orleans bounce and Cash Money records, the one about Houston and chopped and screwed (DJ Screw was making thousands of dollars selling tapes out of his house), and the one about Atlanta crunk and Lil Jon: very fun.  Lil Jon in particular seems to have bloomed into something like a civic booster and public face of Atlanta.  

Hip Hop Evolution led to watching The Carter documentary about Lil Wayne.  The most dramatic moment of the film occurs around 56:00 when Wayne has had it with a European reporter who’s trying to get him to place himself in a New Orleans musical tradition.  Lil Wayne’s not having it.  

We played a game called Ranker (or is it Rancor?) over at Vali’s.  Someone leaves the room, and the group then comes up with a number from one to ten.  Eight say.  The guesser then returns and takes turns asking people questions like “US cities” or “movies from the 70s.”  You try and give an answer that will steer them towards the correct number.  It’s fun, try it, Jen Crittenden is credited with introducing it to us.

Dave and Esther are back from Italy.  Esther’s been doing great work on TikTok on the categories “Hot Girls” vs “Pretty Girls” (no offense is intended, take it in spirit its intended).  Dave’s excited to see Pavement at the Orpheum this week, we’ll be joining. 

Boy, how about Flightline? We trained down to Del Mar on Amtrak’s Surfliner for the Pacific Classic, and we weren’t disappointed. Standing right by the rail I was convinced I’d just seen the fastest horse to ever run, but in fact Flightline was seventeen one hundredths short of breaking the track record (set by Candy Ride, 2003). Two seconds shy of the 1 1/4 mile world record. Maybe it was the heat. Still, nice to see excellence of any kind. After the race you can bet Red Tracton’s was lively.

If you’re going down to Del Mar, bring an old racing book you don’t need anymore, and you can trade it for another at the Helen Watts’ Memorial Library, at the southeast corner of 17 Hands. You wouldn’t think a bar would be a likely place for a trading library, but there it is!

Everyone’s excited for the release of W. David Marx’s book on status and culture. The galley was hard to get, an instant “status galley” – cunning marketing on Dave’s part? Sounds like we might get to hear him on How Long Gone soon… Greaney’s on his way to Mexico to see his buddy Alma, who built himself a house out of volcanic rocks. We lunched at, you guessed it, Terroni… Congrats to Tim Robinson on winning an Emmy, he earned that one!… Our correspondents from overseas had reports for us: Chileans rejected their draft constitution. A boy in New Zealand discovered a giant worm (click that link at your peril if you have Scoleciphobia)… We’re under the heat dome here in Los Angeles but we’ll make it, we always do. The Giants are coming to Dodger Stadium this week, if you’re going over there make sure you’ve studied the shade map.


That’s where the juice comes from

Traditional sportsbooks are market makers. They set a betting line—the Cubs will win by two runs or more, for example—to attract a roughly equal number of wagers on each side while keeping a small amount for themselves. DraftKings and competitors start with the same approach, but other techniques they use are controversial and likely to attract regulatory scrutiny if the apps draw tens of millions of new customers, as many analysts expect.

The companies harvest user data to ensure that losing bets outnumber winning ones. This process starts with the companies’ ability, so far permitted by state regulators, to profile customers based on betting histories and limit the size of wagers from those expected to win, much like traditional casinos kicking out sharps from the blackjack table. The apps use internal ratings to target the biggest losers, marshaling online tracking technology in a way that casinos—which once handed out rolls of quarters to entice repeat business—could only have dreamed of. DraftKings and FanDuel hire spokespeople, often retired athletes, to pitch risky multi-leg bets that aren’t likely to pay out. In states where it’s allowed, the ultimate prize is cross-selling sportsbook customers into online casino games. “That’s where the juice comes from,” Adam Kaplan, FanDuel’s general manager and vice president for content until last year, said at an industry conference in New York in April.

from this Bloomberg piece about the DraftKings bar coming to Wrigley Field.


Tahoe

Finally had a chance to explore Lake Tahoe. The place has power, for sure. The whole lake’s contained in a high altitude basin. You’re 6000 feet above sea level on the beach. Aside from the southeastern corner where Nevada and California meet, and again on the northwestern corner, same thing, there’s not much development. Can’t be, the walls are too steep. The lake is deep, spooky deep: 1,644 feet or half a kilometer, at deepest. And cold.

Scuba diving in a lake at high altitude is a particular challenge. In July, 2011, two divers were exploring the lake using a “mixed gas” method:

Mixed gas divers can safely descend to about 350 feet without suffering nitrogen narcosis, or “rapture of the depths,” among other problems. Conventional scuba divers have to stop at about 100 feet.

While exploring, the mixed-gasers found a well-preserved body just kinda sitting there, underwater. It was a diver who’d died while diving in the lake seventeen years before in 1994.

Byers said those in the diving group were startled to see [the deceased’s] motionless form. “It was pretty scary for them. They were wondering, ‘What’s this person doing down here?’” he said. He did not identify members of the group.

The surprising condition of the body is attributable to the 35-degree water and the increased pressure at the 265-foot depth, Byers said.

All that from a 2011 LA Times article by Bob Pool, who notes some other myths of the lake:

Some Tahoe locals insist that bodies of boaters and swimmers who drowned in Lake Tahoe have turned up Pyramid Lake and vice versa. They insist the tunnels are the result of volcanic activity.

“Lava tube connections between Lake Tahoe and other lakes are an urban myth,” Byers said.

Other stories about oddities beneath Lake Tahoe have been debunked by experts. Some in the region insist that famed diver and naturalist Jacques Cousteau explored the lake in a mini-submarine in the mid-1970s and emerged pale and shaken.

Asked what he’d seen and filmed on the lake bottom, Cousteau reportedly replied, “The world isn’t ready for what’s down there.”

Depending on who is telling the story, Cousteau either encountered a Loch Ness-type monster that locals have dubbed “Tahoe Tessie” or came upon a bunch of dead people.

and:

Tales persist that a “longtime Tahoe fire chief” responded to a drowning call and found the body of a well-preserved Native American girl, fully clothed in a 19th century ceremonial dress, floating in the lake.

However:

Cousteau never explored the lake. Some say his grandson, Philippe Cousteau Jr., visited there, but only for a 2002 speaking engagement. And authorities say they have used sonar and mini-subs to map the lake’s bottom and never found such a graveyard. Nobody knows the name or affiliation of the supposed “longtime Tahoe fire chief.”

On Emerald Bay is the grand and tragic house of Vikingsholm, built with local materials in a single summer by 200 craftsmen.

Here is Mark Twain, in Roughing It, on Tahoe:

Three months of camp life on Lake Tahoe would restore an Egyptian mummy to his pristine vigor, and give him an appetite like an alligator. I do not mean the oldest and driest mummies, of course, but the fresher ones. The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be?—it is the same the angels breathe. I think that hardly any amount of fatigue can be gathered together that a man cannot sleep off in one night on the sand by its side. Not under a roof, but under the sky; it seldom or never rains there in the summer time. I know a man who went there to die. But he made a failure of it. He was a skeleton when he came, and could barely stand. He had no appetite, and did nothing but read tracts and reflect on the future. Three months later he was sleeping out of doors regularly, eating all he could hold, three times a day, and chasing game over mountains three thousand feet high for recreation. And he was a skeleton no longer, but weighed part of a ton. This is no fancy sketch, but the truth. His disease was consumption. I confidently commend his experience to other skeletons.

Others report difficulty sleeping, perhaps due to the altitude. But they were sleeping indoors.

Seen from the lake, the casinos at Stateline, Nevada look like Chernobyl or something from The World Without Us, like they got abandoned and a forest grew around them.

Shouldn’t there be a dock there? Maybe the focus is gambling only on that part of the shore. Still, the Encore in Chelsea, Mass has a nice casino boat that’ll take you to/from Boston’s Long Wharf. Could be an idea for Stateline.

You get the sense the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the Forest Service keeps it tight on development.

Larry Ellison has, I’m told, purchased the old Cal Neva in Crystal Bay, once part owned by Frank Sinatra. He’s also buying the currently running casino-hotel Hyatt Regency in Incline Village, a town famous as a tax haven.


Genius of the system

The sheer number of movies Hollywood cranked out during the peak of the studio system is wild. In 1936, for example, Paramount released 69 movies, RKO had 39, Fox had 50 movies, MGM put out 48 movies, Warner 56, Universal 34.

This was the factory-like story production processes Faulkner was working under.

Thomas Schatz’s book The Genius of the System is of daunting thickness, but it’s very readable, and I like the thesis: despite the factory nature and control by the money guys rather than the directors, real style and art was achieved.

Auterism itself would not be worth bothering with if it hadn’t been so influential, effectively stalling film history and criticism in a prolonged stage of adolescent romanticism. But the closer we look at Hollywood’s relations of power and hierarchy of authority during the studio era, at its division of labor and assembly-line production process, the less sense it makes to assess filmmaking or film style in terms of the individual director – or any individual, for that matter.

Should we look at the old studio system trying to find cases where a rare director snuck art past the suits? Or should we look at it and see a miraculous time, when thousands of artists and craftspeople came together for a brief period to create the collective dreams of a nation?

Schatz gives a good short summary of his work and the rise and fall of the studio system in this 1989 Fresh Air interview.

In The Offer, Paramount +’s show about the making of Paramount Pictures’ The Godfather, you can see dramatized some of the problems from the end of the true studio system days. The show was shot on the Paramount lot, doubling as the Paramount lot from 1971. There’s a studio, but when they start a movie, they start from scratch. Casting, finding the right people for technical roles, chain of command, getting a workflow going, dealing with the unions, the mob: all these are begun anew for each production. Poor Al Ruddy has to solve each problem fresh. Robert Evans is there, but he’s no Thalberg, with central command over all the gears in the machine. When the movie’s, it’s over. Everything resets. In the year The Godfather came out, Paramount put out sixteen pictures.

Sometimes companies manage to recreate the cohesion of the studio system. Take Pixar, for example, or the Marvel movies. How about Hallmark movies? Individual directors and producers can have runs like this too: Selznick was doing it by 1935. But at nowhere like the studio scale.

Studios had specialties, flavors: MGM had musicals, Universal had monster movies, Warner Brothers had gangster pictures. In 2022, do the streamers have anything like this? I know what BritBox is.

Even on our startup model, plenty of dreams get produced. Movies might be uncountable, how many are there? 403? How many scripted TV shows are there? 532?

Gracenote, a Nielsen company, listed more than 817,000 unique program titles across U.S. traditional TV and streaming services, with many of those titles featuring hundreds of individual episodes and chapters. Back in December 2019, there were just over 646,000 unique program titles.

So says Nielsen’s State of Play report. I found this Hollywood Reporter piece citing an FX report from 2016 that lists all 1,400 primetime shows, starting with Big Bang Theory and ending with:

The Paramount decree in 1948 stopped the studios from owning the theaters. One of many blows, along with TV, shifting lifestyles, etc that forced change on the system. But we’ve re-evolved back around on vertical integration. Disney, for example, is a studio yet owns its own distribution: Disney +. Is that a violation of the Paramount decree? Let’s look into it:

As part of a 2019 review of its ongoing decrees, the Department of Justice issued a two-year sunsetting notice for the Paramount Decree in August 2020, believing the antitrust restriction was no longer necessary as the old model could never be recreated in contemporary settings.

Oh!


Santa Barbara, 1834

Strolling through El Paseo in Santa Barbara, I saw this on the wall and got to thinking about Dana.

The year was 1834. Richard Henry Dana Jr was a Harvard student who caught the measles and then noticed he was losing his eyesight. Thinking it might be good for him, he left school and enlisted as a sailor on a trip around Cape Horn to California.

The ship’s trade was in buying up cow hides from the ranches of Mexican California:

(from illustrations for a 1911 edition. Wikipedia credits this one to Sidney Chase but I think it’s by E. Boyd Smith.)

At one point, finding themselves at the top of a cliff, threw the hides down to the ocean over the edge. The site where this occurred is now Dana Point, California.

Dana doesn’t have much to say about Los Angeles, although he spent some miserable time doing hard work in San Pedro. Here he is on Santa Barbara, where he had a chance to get a slice of life:

In the middle of this crescent, directly opposite the anchoring ground, lie the mission and town of Santa Barbara, on a low, flat plain, but little above the level of the sea, covered with grass, though entirely without trees, and surrounded on three sides by an amphitheatre of mountains, which slant off to the distance of fifteen or twenty miles. The mission stands a little back of the town, and is a large building, or rather a collection of buildings, in the centre of which is a high tower, with a belfry of five bells; and the whole, being plastered, makes quite a show at a distance, and is the mark by which vessels come to anchor. The town lies a little nearer to the beach—about half a mile from it—and is composed of one-story houses built of brown clay—some of them plastered—with red tiles on the roofs. I should judge that there were about an hundred of them; and in the midst of them stands the Presidio, or fort, built of the same materials, and apparently but little stronger. The town is certainly finely situated, with a bay in front, and an amphitheatre of hills behind. The only thing which diminishes its beauty is, that the hills have no large trees upon them, they having been all burnt by a great fire which swept them off about a dozen years before, and they had not yet grown up again. The fire was described to me by an inhabitant, as having been a very terrible and magnificent sight. The air of the whole valley was so heated that the people were obliged to leave the town and take up their quarters for several days upon the beach.

He goes ashore:

We were then pulled ashore in the stern of the boat, and, with orders to be on the beach at sundown, we took our way for the town. There, everything wore the appearance of a holyday. The people were all dressed in their best; the men riding about on horseback among the houses, and the women sitting on carpets before the doors. Under the piazza of a “pulperia,” two men were seated, decked out with knots of ribbons and bouquets, and playing the violin and the Spanish guitar. These are the only instruments, with the exception of the drums and trumpets at Monterey that I ever heard in California; and I suspect they play upon no others, for at a great fandango at which I was afterwards present, and where they mustered all the music they could find, there were three violins and two guitars, and no other instrument. As it was now too near the middle of the day to see any dancing and hearing that a bull was expected down from the country, to be baited in the presidio square, in the course of an hour or two we took a stroll among the houses. Inquiring for an American who, we had been told, had married in the place, and kept a shop, we were directed to a long, low building, at the end of which was a door, with a sign over it, in Spanish. Entering the shop, we found no one in it, and the whole had an empty, deserted appearance. In a few minutes the man made his appearance, and apologized for having nothing to entertain us with, saying that he had had a fandango at his house the night before, and the people had eaten and drunk up everything.

“Oh yes!” said I, “Easter holydays?”

“No!” said he, with a singular expression to his face; “I had a little daughter die the other day, and that’s the custom of the country.”

Here I felt a little strangely, not knowing what to say, or whether to offer consolation or no, and was beginning to retire, when he opened a side door and told us to walk in. Here I was no less astonished; for I found a large room, filled with young girls, from three or four years of age up to fifteen and sixteen, dressed all in white, with wreaths of flowers on their heads, and bouquets in their hands. Following our conductor through all these girls, who were playing about in high spirits, we came to a table, at the end of the room, covered with a white cloth, on which lay a coffin, about three feet long, with the body of his child. The coffin was lined on the outside with white cloth, and on the inside with white satin, and was strewed with flowers. Through an open door we saw, in another room, a few elderly people in common dresses; while the benches and tables thrown up in a corner, and the stained walls, gave evident signs of the last night’s “high go.” Feeling, like Garrick, between tragedy and comedy, an uncertainty of purpose and a little awkwardness, I asked the man when the funeral would take place, and being told that it would move toward the mission in about an hour, took my leave.

A funeral procession, a cockfight, a horse race:

Here was as peculiar a sight as we had seen before in the house; the one looking as much like a funeral procession as the other did like a house of mourning. The little coffin was borne by eight girls, who were continually relieved by others, running forward from the procession and taking their places. Behind it came a straggling company of girls, dressed as before, in white and flowers, and including, I should suppose by their numbers, nearly all the girls between five and fifteen in the place. They played along on the way, frequently stopping and running all together to talk to some one, or to pick up a flower, and then running on again to overtake the coffin. There were a few elderly women in common colors; and a herd of young men and boys, some on foot and others mounted, followed them, or walked or rode by their side, frequently interrupting them by jokes and questions. But the most singular thing of all was, that two men walked, one on each side of the coffin, carrying muskets in their hands, which they continually loaded, and fired into the air. Whether this was to keep off the evil spirits or not, I do not know. It was the only interpretation that I could put upon it.

As we drew near the mission, we saw the great gate thrown open, and the pádre standing on the steps, with a crucifix in hand. The mission is a large and deserted-looking place, the out-buildings going to ruin, and everything giving one the impression of decayed grandeur. A large stone fountain threw out pure water, from four mouths, into a basin, before the church door; and we were on the point of riding up to let our horses drink, when it occurred to us that it might be consecrated, and we forbore. Just at this moment, the bells set up their harsh, discordant clang; and the procession moved into the court. I was anxious to follow, and see the ceremony, but the horse of one of my companions had become frightened, and was tearing off toward the town; and having thrown his rider, and got one of his feet caught in the saddle, which had slipped, was fast dragging and ripping it to pieces. Knowing that my shipmate could not speak a word of Spanish, and fearing that he would get into difficulty, I was obliged to leave the ceremony and ride after him. I soon overtook him, trudging along, swearing at the horse, and carrying the remains of the saddle, which he had picked up on the road. Going to the owner of the horse, we made a settlement with him, and found him surprisingly liberal. All parts of the saddle were brought back, and, being capable of repair, he was satisfied with six reáls. We thought it would have been a few dollars. We pointed to the horse, which was now half way up one of the mountains; but he shook his head, saying, “No importe!” and giving us to understand that he had plenty more.

Having returned to the town, we saw a great crowd collected in the square before the principal pulperia, and riding up, found that all these people—men, women, and children—had been drawn together by a couple of bantam cocks. The cocks were in full tilt, springing into one another, and the people were as eager, laughing and shouting, as though the combatants had been men. There had been a disappointment about the bull; he had broken his bail, and taken himself off, and it was too late to get another; so the people were obliged to put up with a cock-fight. One of the bantams having been knocked in the head, and had an eye put out, he gave in, and two monstrous prize-cocks were brought on. These were the object of the whole affair; the two bantams having been merely served up as a first course, to collect the people together. Two fellows came into the ring holding the cocks in their arms, and stroking them, and running about on all fours, encouraging and setting them on. Bets ran high, and, like most other contests, it remained for some time undecided. They both showed great pluck, and fought probably better and longer than their masters would have done. Whether, in the end, it was the white or the red that beat, I do not recollect; but, whichever it was, he strutted off with the true veni-vidi-vici look, leaving the other lying panting on his beam-ends.

This matter having been settled, we heard some talk about “caballos” and “carrera” and seeing the people all streaming off in one direction, we followed, and came upon a level piece of ground, just out of the town, which was used as a race-course. Here the crowd soon became thick again; the ground was marked off; the judges stationed; and the horses led up to one end. Two fine-looking old gentlemen—Don Carlos and Don Domingo, so called—held the stakes, and all was now ready. We waited some time, during which we could just see the horses twisting round and turning, until, at length, there was a shout along the lines, and on they came—heads stretched out and eyes starting;—working all over, both man and beast. The steeds came by us like a couple of chain-shot—neck and neck; and now we could see nothing but their backs, and their hind hoofs flying in the air. As fast as the horses passed, the crowd broke up behind them, and ran to the goal. When we got there, we found the horses returning on a slow walk, having run far beyond the mark, and heard that the long, bony one had come in head and shoulders before the other. The riders were light-built men; had handkerchiefs tied round their heads; and were bare-armed and bare-legged. The horses were noble-looking beasts, not so sleek and combed as our Boston stable-horses, but with fine limbs, and spirited eyes. After this had been settled, and fully talked over, the crowd scattered again and flocked back to the town.

Returning to the large pulperia, we found the violin and guitar screaming and twanging away under the piazza, where they had been all day. As it was now sundown, there began to be some dancing. The Italian sailors danced, and one of our crew exhibited himself in a sort of West India shuffle, much to the amusement of the bystanders, who cried out, “Bravo!” “Otra vez!” and “Vivan los marineros!” but the dancing did not become general, as the women and the “gente de razón” had not yet made their appearance. We wished very much to stay and see the style of dancing; but, although we had had our own way during the day, yet we were, after all, but ‘foremast Jacks; and having been ordered to be on the beach by sundown, did not venture to be more than an hour behind the time; so we took our way down

A return:

Santa Barbara looked very much as it did when I left it five months before: the long sand beach, with the heavy rollers, breaking upon it in a continual roar, and the little town, imbedded on the plain, girt by its amphitheatre of mountains. Day after day, the sun shone clear and bright upon the wide bay and the red roofs of the houses; everything being as still as death, the people really hardly seeming to earn their sun-light. Daylight actually seemed thrown away upon them. 

He attends a wedding:

The great amusement of the evening,—which I suppose was owing to its being carnival—was the breaking of eggs filled with cologne, or other essences, upon the heads of the company. One end of the egg is broken and the inside taken out, then it is partly filled with cologne, and the whole sealed up. The women bring a great number of these secretly about them, and the amusement is to break one upon the head of a gentleman when his back is turned. He is bound in gallantry to find out the lady and return the compliment, though it must not be done if the person sees you. A tall, stately Don, with immense grey whiskers, and a look of great importance, was standing before me, when I felt a light hand on my shoulder, and turning round, saw Donna Angustia, (whom we all knew, as she had been up to Monterey, and down again, in the Alert,) with her finger upon her lip, motioning me gently aside. I stepped back a little, when she went up behind the Don, and with one hand knocked off his huge sombrero, and at the same instant, with the other, broke the egg upon his head, and springing behind me, was out of sight in a moment. The Don turned slowly round, the cologne, running down his face, and over his clothes, and a loud laugh breaking out from every quarter. He looked round in vain, for some time, until the direction of so many laughing eyes showed him the fair offender. She was his niece, and a great favorite with him, so old Don Domingo had to join in the laugh. A great many such tricks were played, and many a war of sharp manoeuvering was carried on between couples of the younger people, and at every successful exploit a general laugh was raised.

Another singular custom I was for some time at a loss about. A pretty young girl was dancing, named, after what would appear to us the sacrilegious custom of the country—Espiritu Santo, when a young man went behind her and placed his hat directly upon her head, letting it fall down over her eyes, and sprang back among the crowd. She danced for some time with the hat on, when she threw it off, which called forth a general shout; and the young man was obliged to go out upon the floor and pick it up. Some of the ladies, upon whose heads hats had been placed, threw them off at once, and a few kept them on throughout the dance, and took them off at the end, and held them out in their hands, when the owner stepped out, bowed, and took it from them. I soon began to suspect the meaning of the thing, and was afterward told that it was a compliment, and an offer to become the lady’s gallant for the rest of the evening, and to wait upon her home. If the hat was thrown off, the offer was refused, and the gentleman was obliged to pick up his hat amid a general laugh. Much amusement was caused sometimes by gentlemen putting hats on the ladies’ heads, without permitting them to see whom it was done by. This obliged them to throw them off, or keep them on at a venture, and when they came to discover the owner, the laugh was often turned upon them.

Twenty-four years later, 1859, he returns:

Santa Barbara has gained but little. I should not know, from anything I saw, that she was now a seaport of the United States, a part of the enterprising Yankee nation, and not still a lifeless Mexican town. At the same old house, where Señor Noriego lived, on the piazza in front of the court-yard, where was the gay scene of the marriage of our agent, Mr. Robinson, to Doña Anita, where Don Juan Bandini and Doña Augustia danced, Don Pablo de la Guerra received me in a courtly fashion. I passed the day with the family, and in walking about the place; and ate the old dinner with its accompaniments of frijoles, native olives and grapes, and native wines. In due time I paid my respects to Doña Augustia, and notwithstanding what Wilson told me, I could hardly believe that after twenty-four years there would still be so much of the enchanting woman about her.

A visit to Los Angeles:

The Pueblo de los Angeles I found a large and flourishing town of about twenty thousand inhabitants, with brick sidewalks, and blocks of stone or brick houses. The three principal traders when we were here for hides in the Pilgrim and Alert are still among the chief traders of the place,—Stearns, Temple, and Warner, the two former being reputed very rich.

There used to be a replica of Dana’s ship, the Pilgrim, in Dana Point, CA, but I’m just now learning it keeled over and sank in 2020!

Sorry these excerpts are kinda long, I just wanted to have all of Dana’s thoughts on Santa Barbara in one place.

Dana


Local origin of the AR-15 rifle

from Wikipedia’s article on ArmaLite:

ArmaLite began as a small arms engineering concern founded by George Sullivan, the patent counsel for Lockheed Corporation, and funded by Fairchild Engine and Airplane Corporation. After leasing a small machine shop at 6567 Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, California, Sullivan hired several employees and began work on a prototype for a lightweight survival rifle for use by downed aircrew.On October 1, 1954, the company was incorporated as the Armalite Corporation, becoming a subdivision of Fairchild. With its limited capital and tiny machine shop, ArmaLite was never intended to be an arms manufacturer but was instead focused on producing small arms concepts and designs to be sold or licensed to other manufacturers.

Right near Paramount Studios, and Rao’s.

ArmaLite continued to market the AR-10 based on a limited production of rifles at its Hollywood facility. These limited-production, virtually hand-built rifles are referred to today as the “Hollywood” model AR-10.

A key figure was Eugene Stoner:

On May 16, 1990, Stoner and Mikhail Kalashnikov, inventor of the AK-47 and its derivatives, would meet for the first time. They would spend the next few days talking, sharing stories, shopping, going out to dinner and touring Washington D.C. They visited the Smithsonian Institution, the NRA’s National Firearms Museum, and a hunting lodge owned by the gun club at Star Tannery, where they went shooting. They would also visit the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, where they watched new weapons being tested. During this short visit, both men, intimately familiar with the other’s work, shared a common bond and became friends, “not needing an interpreter to get their thoughts across.”

I first came across the name ArmaLite in 1990s readings about the Northern Ireland Troubles and the Provisional IRA. ArmaLites were an important goal of their gunrunning operations, becoming almost a totemic object in IRA lore.

Harrison spent an estimated US$1 million in the 1970s purchasing over 2,500 guns for the IRA. According to Brendan Hughes, a key figure in the Belfast Brigade, the IRA smuggled small arms from the United States by sea on Queen Elizabeth 2 from New York via Southampton, through Irish members of her crew, until the network was cracked down on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the 1980s. These Queen Elizabeth 2 shipments included Armalite rifles, and were driven from Southampton to Belfast in small consignments.

Perhaps you have seen this iconic photograph of an unidentified woman in Belfast:

Source. More info. The rifle there is an AR-18.


A Pirate Looks At Fifty by Jimmy Buffett

How many of Jimmy Buffett’s Big Eight (now the Big Ten) could you name? A few weeks ago I could’ve gotten two for sure, maybe three, I’m no Parrothead.  When I thought of “Jimmy Buffett,” I thought of MW’s story of listening to his greatest hits on cassette on their way to family vacation, with his mom reaching over to frantically fast forward whenever “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw” came around.

In Mile Marker Zero I loved the origin story of Jimmy Buffett: down on his luck in Nashville, goes to Miami for a gig, only to find either he or the club owner got the dates wrong.  Stuck, he calls his friend Jerry Jeff Walker, whose girlfriend suggests they take the unexpected week and go down to Key West.  When Jimmy Buffett sees the lifestyle there he knows he’s in the right place and never turns back.

The Margaritaville retirement community was profiled in The New Yorker.  How many of the singer-songwriters of the ’70s have a retirement community based on their worldview? John Prine? Kris Kristofferson? Only one. At the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting they sold a Jimmy Buffett boat. The man is a phenomenon. Why?

On a warm spring morning driving from Chapel HIll to Wilmington, NC in a rented Ford Escape armed with Sirius Satellite XM, I put on Parrothead Radio.  They were playing a live concert from March 2001.  “Before 9/11,” I thought.  The contagious fun of this man came through, and the joy of the audience. It’s strange since, can you even really picture Jimmy Buffett?  You can picture what kind of shirt he wears.  

He’s in that kinda shirt on the cover of the mass market paperback of A Pirate Looks at Fifty. On a sunny beach obviously.  Behind him is an enormous Albatross seaplane, the Hemisphere II. 

This is a travel book, and a great one.  I’d rank it up there with Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines, which it references a few times.  I bet more of A Pirate Looks at Fifty is true.  I saved this book to read on the beach in Malibu – perfect setting. The book, leisurely, describes a trip around the Caribbean Sea to commemorate his fiftieth birthday, with stops in Grand Cayman, Costa Rica, Cartagena, St. Barts.  A treasure map opens the book, you can follow the voyage.  Along the way, Buffett tells of his rise and his adventures.  He desired to be a Serious Southern Writer, but that wasn’t him.  As a boy he was struck by a parade at Mobile Mardi Gras of Folly chasing Death.  That was him.  Catholicism plays a bigger role than you may suspect, with St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans his home church, but plenty of bad behavior to balance the ledger.  A friend at Auburn teaches him the D and C chords on a guitar. He busks on the corner of Chartres and Conti in New Orleans.

My talent came in working an audience.

Buffett begins the book with four hundred words summing up his life to present. An excerpt:

I signed a record deal, got married, moved to Nashville, had my guitars stolen, bought a Mercedes, worked at Billboard magazine, put out my first album, went broke, met Jerry Jeff Walker, wrecked the Mercedes, got divorced, and moved to Key West. I sang and worked on a fishing boat, went totally crazy, did a lot of dope, met the right girl, made another record, had a hit, bought a bought, and sailed away to the Caribbean.

Having brought us up to speed, he gets going. This is a memoir more of flying and fishing than of music. Buffett is a pilot, and recounts many adventures in the air, usually flying somewhere to fish or surf.

In looking back, I see there wasn’t that much difference between Jimi Hendrix playing “The Star-Spangled Banner at dawn at Woodstock and Jimmy Stewart playing Charles Lindbergh in “The Spirit of St. Louis.”

Memorable meals are described: cucumber and tomato sandwiches at the brassiere on the Trocadero in Paris for example.  And bars: Buck Forty Nine, New Orleans; Trade Winds, St. Augustine; The Hub Pub Club, Boone NC; Big Pine Inn; The Hangout, Gulf Shores; The Vapors, Biloxi; Le Select, St. Barts. 

Of a visit to paintings of Winslow Homer and Frederick Edward Church:

I can’t put the feeling into words; the closest I can come is to say that the sights and sounds of such things may enter the body through the senses but they find their way to the heart, and that is what art is really about.  

Buffett says:

Anyone bellying up to a bar with a few shots of tequila swimming around the bloodstream can tell a story. The challenge is to wake up the next day and carve through the hangover minefield and a million other excuses and be able to cohesively get it down on paper.

Mission accomplished.