Finally, some good news

Eric Bellman, Krishna Pokharal, Xiao Xiao and Yin Yijun report for the Wall Street Journal that China and Nepal have agreed on an official height for Chomolungma aka Mount Everest:

China’s official height for Chomolungma—its Tibetan name for Everest—was 29,017 feet, from a 2005 survey. China used “rock height,” estimating where the peak lay under the snow.

Nepal has used a “snow height” of 29,028 feet for the peak it calls Sagarmatha, from a 1954 survey India did. That’s where people stand, atop the snow, and the measure is standard practice in most countries.

Wade Davis in his Into The Silence has some great stuff about the early surveying expeditions in this region. Carrying drafting tables on their backs into the Himalayas to meticulously calculate and record measurements.

The official new height has not been declared. I’d speculate it will be between 29,017 feet and 29,028 feet, maybe somewhere around 29,021 or 29,022 feet or 8,845 meters.

But the 2015 earthquake means there could be a surprise here!


Hadn’t heard about this

source.


San Bernardino by Edward Leo Lyman

San Bernardino is a city (pop, 215, 941) and a county (pop. just over two million) east of Los Angeles (the city and the county).

County:

The county is close to the size of West Virginia.

In the southwestern section the county is urban, then there’s a band of wooded, alpine mountains and national forest, and Joshua Tree National Park, and on the western edge are some of the emptiest parts of the Mojave Desert, including the Mojave National Preserve.

City:

I’ve become reasonably well informed about the history of the central and western part of this county, but I know very little about the city of San Bernardino. Inspired by this Julia Wick thread on Twitter, I bought Edward Lyman’s book about the city.

Fascinating! Already I know more than I did!

After the Mormon exodus the city got itself on the expanded Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad subsidiary line, the California Southern, and thus connected to the rest of the country and to Los Angeles.

Route 66 ran through San Bernardino. Richard and Maurice McDonald established their first hamburger restaurant there.

If I finish the book I’ll let you know.


Interested by this developing story

about a possible job for Pete Buttigieg in a Biden administration:

(from Politico, 10/22). Low on reward and high on risk. Sounds like a job for a hero who’s interested in taking on tough problems.

But it sounds like, reasonably enough, Buttigieg wants an easier, more fun job. From CBS:

Buttigieg, meanwhile, is under consideration for U.N. ambassador. Aides to the military veteran and former South Bend, Indiana mayor were told that some transition officials envisioned him serving as secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. But the mayor made clear, along with his team, his preference for representing the U.S. before the world body or in another Cabinet position, two people familiar with the Cabinet discussions explained. A representative for Buttigieg declined to comment.

One factor in picking a VA secretary will be finding someone with experience managing large organizations, according to people involved in the transition. The VA is one of the largest federal departments and one of the largest hospitals systems in the world, requiring management of hundreds of thousands of employees.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens!


E in P

The purpose of “Emily in Paris” is to provide sympathetic background for staring at your phone, refreshing your own feeds—on which you’ll find “Emily in Paris” memes, including a whole genre of TikTok remakes. It’s O.K. to look at your phone all the time, the show seems to say, because Emily does it, too. The episodic plots are too thin to ever be confusing; when you glance back up at the television, chances are that you’ll find tracking shots of the Seine or cobblestoned alleyways, lovely but meaningless. If you want more drama, you can open Twitter, to augment the experience. Or just leave the show on while cleaning the inevitable domestic messes of quarantine.

from a New Yorker piece, “‘Emily in Paris’ and the Rise of Ambient TV,” in the NYer by Kyle Chayka.

I swear, meant to write about this very show and this very idea here on Helytimes but was too sluggish, kudos to Kyle Chayka . Watched the entire series of E in P. The outfits are funny, Emily is amusing, the shots are pretty and colorful, the plots don’t require any taxing neural processing. I don’t say that as a knock on the show at all, you try making one as appealing. But for me, ambient.

Other shows do this for others. Chayka doesn’t mention this one but Below Deck Med, I sense that might be part the appeal there.

Is this a reversion to what TV is meant for? Is TV truly just an appliance and the content is meant to be pablum you can sort of have on for an ambient effect? Was the “golden age of TV” just a glitch of art that emerged in between the end of movies being interesting and the arrival of all-consuming phone content?

What about rewatches? Does some of the ambient effect explain the popularity on streamers of F*R*I*E*N*D*S and The Office? You can tune it in and have some friends in the room without the stress of seeing what will happen with Jim and Pam?

We’ve been rewatching Game of Thrones, phones nearby if not in hand, and I find it very satisfying to watch while knowing what’s gonna happen. Come to think of it, spoilers never bothered me, almost all the famous spoiler things were “spoiled” for me by the time I saw them and I didn’t care. I thought The Crying Game was fantastic.


absolutely ridiculous

But here is a rough sense of how some senators see things. They are leaders in a sharply, at times violently divided country and represent a party half of whose base is fed, daily, algorithmic incitements to suspicion and anger. The president leads this, fans it, gains from it. They lack the credibility with Mr. Trump’s base that the president has. They don’t want to jeopardize themselves over something that will be resolved through time. So hold off, lower the temperature, support the system. Recounts and court decisions will reassure some voters that every effort was made to get at the truth. This can buttress confidence in democratic processes and encourage a sense of their fundamental soundness. Taking time to get it right will have the effect of tamping down a destructive stabbed-in-the-back mythology among Trump supporters inclined in that direction.

Here’s Peggy Noonan in her column, setting up the position of Republican senators who want a safe space, snowflake, sensitivity to their defeated voters, lest the facts hurt their feelings.


a haiku

The interviewer is Jon Wiener, LA Review of Books, Sept 11, 2003

JW: Most pundits emphasized the unique and unprecedented qualities of the Bush v. Gore contest in Florida that ended the 2000 election – but you wrote that the events in Florida were “not entirely predictable, but entirely familiar.” What do you mean.

JD: It was entirely predictable: at the most immediate level, the election was that close because both candidates had run the same campaign directed at the same small number of people. Florida had a certain poetry to it; it was like a haiku of what the process had become.


Last week’s Economist (highlights)

stephencdickson for Wikipedia
  • A Royal Marine describes an encounter with Somali pirates:

The pirates misread the troops’ intentions, and thought they were about to be abandoned at sea; a few jumped into the water while the rest attacked Mr Tennant’s team.

Temporary chaos and confusion gave way to swift action:

His team acted that way, Mr Tennant argues, because they were used to working with each other and they had wargamed what might go wrong. In contrast, the pirates were suffering from fear, stress and fatigue and acted on gut instinct. “If you haven’t gone through the decision-making process in advance, then gut instinct tends to kick in,” Mr Tennant says.

I recall hearing once that you should actually practice moving your fingers on the phone to the buttons 9-1-1.

  • A profile of NextEra:

It is already the world’s top generator of wind and solar electricity… It was quick to take advantage of generous tax credits to build wind farms across the Midwest.

  • From a piece on millennial investors:

When most boomers began saving a handful of investment firms loomed large, offering high-fee mutual funds. But electronic trading makes it much easier and cheaper to buy and sell directly. The cost of investing $100 on a stock exchanged has fallen from $6 in 1975 to less than a thousandth of a penny today.

  • Consideration of Peter Turchin’s idea of “elite overproduction:

“The next decade is likely to be a period of growing instability in the United States and western Europe, he asserted, pointing in part to ‘overproduction of young graduates with advances degrees.’

Is that a supply problem or a demand problem? I’d expect The Economist to offer an answer. A price signalling breakdown for sure.

From the Declaration’s website:

Who initiated the Declaration? 

Dr Kulldorff invited Dr Bhattacharya and Dr Gupta to Massachusetts to record a video outlining an alternative to the current COVID-19 strategy. While meeting, the three spontaneously decided to also write a short Declaration to summarize the thinking.  

Why was the Declaration signed in Great Barrington? 

The Declaration was written and signed at the American Institute for Economic Research, located in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. The Institute kindly offered to help with the video recording, providing a location, equipment and a camera man pro bono.  

When you hear about an institute for economic research, look for the agenda of the rich far-right donors.

  • Studies of the unintended consequences of wildlife fences:

Pangolins curl up into a ball when endangered, in order to protect their soft underbellies. This is generally a wise move, but not when it causes them to embrace the wire of an electrified fence.

  • Review of Rod Dreher’s Live Not By Lies.

Visiting Russia, Mr Dreher learns how honest Soviet citizens tried to avoid having much to do with the system. Geology was a popular discipline among scientists, as it let researchers spend a good portion of their lives in far-fling and unsullied places.

From a piece on what Biden would mean for Britain:

Bill Clinton was annoyed with John Major because Conservative activists publicized his dope-smoking at Oxford.

(Shouldn’t we encourage prospective politicians to smoke dope? It might take them off the path of ambitious grasping, or at least chill them out a hair).

  • Similar topic, different article:

in 2018, ABCD, a German-marketing firm, estimated that Delhi and Mumbai are among the top six cannabis-consuming cities in th world, together burning more than 70 tonnes each year.

Alberto Bonadona, an economist in Bolivia:

There is no lithium industry. What we have is salt for a good barbecue.


What is Amazon? by Zack Kanter

First, what is Wal-Mart?

Few people outside of Walmart realize Walmart’s historical scope of innovation. It built the largest private satellite communications network, enabling unprecedented coordination at enormous scale. Computerized point of sale systems, a massive trucking fleet to enable best-in-class logistics, innovations in EDI, the Sam’s Club format. The list goes on. But all of these innovations were really just developed in order to optimize what was a very simple formula: that is, the selection, pricing, and inventory of SKUs in, say, a 30,000-200,000 square foot store.

from this essay here


there are enough of these guys

that you can always find one of them to say anything. (that one from Bloomberg but could’ve been Wall Street J)

Also, new (to me) term:

That from Joe Wallace in WSJ.


Stock market narratives

The invention of narratives to explain why there are more total sellers than buyers in particular stock indices can seem to me like an act as creative and fanciful as astrology or reading meaning from sheep entrails.

Maybe “the stock market” is down because people are starting to realize the holidays will be a bummer, or the election picture feels less clear than it did a week ago, or weather has turned in gloomy ways, or the elections in Chile and Bolivia indicate the left is on the march and the right is in retreat, or it’s foggy in New York City today, or instability in general is in the air when the President storms out of his 60 Minutes interview and the other guy is hardly at the top of his game.

Or just because October is spooky, to markets and in general.

Maybe it’s down because it’s been overinflated for a long time, and it doesn’t take much to make it turn. The market is a herd. Herds can turn on a sudden startle, on almost nothing, as Larry McMurtry tells us:

Long ago, when I was a young cowboy, I witnessed a herd reaction in a real herd – about one hundred cattle that some cowboys and I were moving from one pasture to another along a small asphalt farm-to-market road.  It was mid-afternoon in mid-summer.  Men, horses, and cattle were all drowsy, the herd just barely plodding along, until one cow happened to drag her hoof on the rough asphalt, making a loud rasping sound.  In an instant that sleepy herd was in full flight, and our horses too.  A single sound on a summer afternoon produced a short but violent stampede.  The cattle and horses ran full-out for perhaps one hundred yards.  It was the only stampede I was ever in, and a dragging hoof caused it.

Maybe the vibe is just off.

I’m not saying this headline is wrong, just that it might be. Words like “on” or “amidst” can be made to do more work than they ought to. The idea stock market study or business analysis is a hard science is silly. There’s absolutely room to consider the role of unquantifiable vibes. You might as fairly say Stocks Fall On Gloomy Animal Spirits.

Further, the human need to put a story on events is unstoppable. Narrative investing is kind of becoming a thing, but I still feel there’s a flawed sense that you can make a science of it.

intense sunset I saw


Intrigued by what was on TV in 1940

From Larry McMurtry’s review of Connie Bruck’s bio of Lew Wasserman, in the newly unlocked NYRofB archives.

From those same archives, Renata Adler’s savage attack on Pauline Kael drops a parenthetical on TV:


Marilyn Monroe’s best ever

They trade sex stories. Capote tells of a homosexual fling he had with Errol Flynn. Marilyn: “It’s not as if you told me anything new. I’ve always known Errol zigzagged. I have a masseur, he’s practically my sister, and he was Tyrone Power’s masseur, and he told me all about the things Errol and Ty Power were doing…. So let’s hear your best experience. Along those lines.”

Capote: “The best? The most memorable? Suppose you answer the question first.”

Marilyn: “And I  drive hard bargains! Ha! (Swallowing champagne)  Joe’s not bad. He can hit home runs. If that’s all it takes, we’d still be married. I still love him, though. He’s genuine.”

Capote: “Husbands don’t count. Not in this game.”

Marilyn (nibbling her nail, really thinking): “Well, I met a man, he’s related to Gary Cooper somehow. A stockbroker, and nothing much to look at– sixty-five, and he wears those very thick glasses. Thick as jellyfish. I can’t say what it was, but–”

Capote:  “You can stop right there. I’ve heard all about him from other girls… He’s Rocky Cooper’s stepfather. He’s supposed to be sensational.”

Marilyn: “He is. Okay, smart-ass. Your turn.”

That, from Truman Capote’s Music for Chameleons, quoted in this fantastic post about Marilyn’s social networks by the always interesting Randall Collins, frequent Helytimes subject.

Who was this mysterious man?

Veronica “Rocky” Cooper. From her Wikipedia:

Veronica Balfe was born to Veronica Gibbons and Harry Balfe, Jr. Following her parents’ divorce, she lived in Paris with her mother. Balfe did not see her father for many years, but kept in touch with her grandfather, who owned a ranch in California. Balfe saw her father a few years before his death in the 1950s. Her mother married Paul Shields, a successful Wall Street financier.

An avid sportswoman, Balfe was known to her friends by the nickname, “Rocky.” [1]

Source. “Discusses Wall Street reforms with Roosevelt. Washington, D.C., Oct. 29. Paul Shields, New York Utilities expert, shown leaving the White House after conferring with President Roosevelt in relation to Wall Street reforms growing out of the Richard Whitney case. Shields, recommends greater safeguards for brokerage customer funds, 10/29/38”

Aside from that and this, the man seems to slip through the internet. But what else do you need to know, really?

Always the possibility that Truman Capote made all this up for whatever reason.


Trader Joe

Great interview with Joe Coloumbe, Trader Joe himself, from Coriolis Research (ht somebody or another on Twitter.

They have all kinds of great reports over there by the way. Should I grow mungbeans in Northwest Queensland??


Rich people paying for elections

From Hogarth’s Humours of An Election

This is “good” in a way I guess, but this isn’t supposed to be how this works:

CASH SPLASH — “Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan donate $100 million more to election administrators, despite conservative pushback,” by WaPo’s Michael Scherer: “Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, announced Tuesday an additional $100 million in donations to local governments to pay for polling place rentals, poll workers, personal protective equipment and other election administration costs over the coming weeks.

“The donation, which follows a previous gift of $300 million for state and local governments to help fund U.S. elections, comes in the face of a lawsuits from a conservative legal group seeking to block the use of private funds for the state and local administration of elections, an expense that has historically been paid for by governments. But Zuckerberg has been unmoved by legal threats, arguing in a Facebook post expected to go live Tuesday that his decision to fund election administration does not have a partisan political motive.” WaPo

Via Politico. Shouldn’t states and local areas tax appropriately to have the money needed to run elections, rather than rely on the largesse of billionaires? Troubled. Are we veering to more of a straight-up oligarchy/democracy hybrid?


Absalom, Absalom

Finally finished this one. How about this part, about New Orleans:

I can imagine him, with his puritan heritage – that heritage peculiarly Anglo-Saxon – of fierce proud mysticism and that ability to be ashamed of ignorance and inexperience, in that city foreign and paradoxical, with its atmosphere at once fatal and languorous, at once feminine and steel-hard – this grim humorless yokel out of a granite heritage where even the houses, let alone clothing and conduct, are built in the image of a jealous and sadistic Jehovah, put suddenly down in a place whose denizens had created their All-Powerful and His supporting hierarchy-chorus of beautiful saints and handsome angels in the image of their houses and personal ornaments and voluptuous lives.

The Civil War approaches:

And who knows? there was the War now; who knows but what the fatality and the fatality’s victim’s did not both think, hope, that the War would settle the matter, leave free one of the two irreconciliables, since it would not be the first time that youth has taken catastrophe as a direct act of Providence for the sole purpose of solving a personal problem which youth itself could not solve.

The cover of my 1987 edition:

MW tells me he doesn’t approve, because Sutpen’s beard is supposed to be red (I myself didn’t clock that in the text, which probably requires a couple readings).

The barebones plot of this book: ambitious youth sets out to make his fortune, rises through courage and violence, through will hacks out an empire for himself, is dest on its own could make for a pretty sexy TV miniseries or something: ambition, pride, violence, incest. But the way it’s told, with the story embedded in retellings of retellings, and sentences that fold upon themselves for six or seven pages isn’t too breezy. From Wikipedia:

The 1983 Guinness Book of World Records says the “Longest Sentence in Literature” is a sentence from Absalom, Absalom! containing 1,288 words.[8] The sentence can be found in Chapter 6; it begins with the words “Just exactly like father”, and ends with “the eye could not see from any point”. The passage is entirely italicized and incomplete.

Strange analogy but some of the verbal pyrotechnics of this book sort of reminded me of the FX show Dave.

when Dave busts out one of his long raps. Indisputably impressive feat of language and cognition but… to what end? A stunning demonstration of what a person might be capable of, itself maybe a worthy achievement, but do I need to pretend that it made me feel anything other than kind of numbed? At what point are we just showing off, or just pounding the reader’s head in?

I don’t think Faulkner would necessarily appreciate that comparison.

Shelby Foote, in one of his interviews, tells us that Faulkner had hopes this would be a bestseller:

I wonder if more people last year read Absalom, Absalom or Gone With The Wind.

The story of David’s rebellious son Absalom is recounted in the Bible and the subject of a popular (?) Sacred Harp song.


Cocoanut milk

Petey21 for Wikipedia

I’ve been adding a dash of cocoanut milk to my cold brew in the mornings. Recommend! Just when you think, “there can’t be a new milk to play with!”


Time for a walk?

from:

Important to remember: Bruce Chatwin made stuff up all the time.

That image taken from Robert Shaw’s 1871 book, Visits to High Tartary, via wikipedia

The Kun Lung mountains are no joke:


Imagine

Imagine being the anonymous stranger who inspired Stevie Nicks’ whole style. From an LA Times/Yahoo profile by Amy Kaufman.


beautiful poem