smart little kid

Martin Anderson talking to Stephen Knott about Ronald Reagan for The Miller Center.

Anderson

Were you a smart little kid too?

Knott

I guess so. Yes, the feedback was mostly positive, so I should assume.

Anderson

Did that make you popular with the other little kids?

Knott

Not necessarily.

Young

No. No.

Anderson

Everybody says the same thing. I think it’s a fascinating—I’ve only done about 20 people so far, but everybody says the same thing. First of all, (A) they were really smart. I remember when I went to school, I knew all the alphabet, I knew everything and I used to raise my hand, I knew all the stuff and it was just terrific. The next thing you know, they were calling me Smarty Marty and I discovered this was not good.

Then, I don’t know about you, but the next step they all go to is that they all learn ways to cope with that. And one of the things they learned was that it’s not good to be smart and show other people how smart you are, at least if you want any friends. And that may be the key to Reagan, that he was incredibly smart and quick and he was also tall and he was handsome, he was good-looking. That’s a very powerful combination to drive on people and he laid back. That’s a pure guess.

the dimensions to this man. from an interview with Ken Adelman:

The next day we got there to the chateau in Geneva. We’d spent a long time setting up the meeting. It was in a neutral place in a neutral city and a neutral country. This chateau was owned by the Aga Khan, and Reagan was told he could take it if he fed the goldfish; he was very attentive about feeding the goldfish

The goldfish appears to have been a news item at the time.

Here’s more from Anderson (a loyalist and enthusiast) on Reagan’s nature:

Anderson

I once described him as warmly ruthless. He had this appearance of being friendly and jovial and nice, never argued with anyone, never complained. But if you shook your head and thought about it a little bit, he always did it his way. It was like there was a steel bar right down the middle of him and everything you touched was soft and fuzzy except the steel bar in the middle. He always did it his way. No matter how many people talked to him, no matter what happened, he always did it his way. If you were in the way, you were gone, you were fired. He never took any pleasure out of it, just gone.

I think if you really want to look at Reagan, one of the things we show with this new book we have, is something that I knew from dealing with him. He was incredibly smart. I know this doesn’t sound reasonable, but he was incredibly smart. I’ve dealt with professors at Columbia and professors at Stanford, but he could look at something and understand it and grasp it and turn it around and work with it and play with it. He was incredibly quick. I’d say he had a brain that was comparable to—and I’d talk to Milton Friedman or Ed Teller and Arthur, all those guys, he could stay with them.

Now, he hid that. He just backed off. He never argued with staff. You could have ten different people tell him the same thing and he’d just listen. He never said to them, Look, you dumb bunny, ten years ago I wrote an article on this, a long article. He’d just say, That’s an interesting idea. So many of the policy issues that were proposed to Reagan over time, by different people, he listened, That’s very interesting. Then when he did it, even though it was something he’d decided many, many years previously he would do, all these people were delighted. He was doing what they had told him. He was happy with that, he didn’t care.

He used to say privately, There’s no limit to what a person can get done if you don’t care who gets the credit. And he was just very smart. The second thing is, there was this feeling that he was lazy, that he took naps. Well, I traveled with him for almost four years. He never took a nap. It was total nonsense. In fact, he worked all the time. We have uncovered evidence with this book in terms of the handwritten documents and so on, he was writing all the time. He was studying, he was writing, he was working all the time, in private. As soon as he came out in public, put on the public persona, he was friendly and jovial and talking.

So I think people made the mistake of saying, Gee, this guy is an easy-going—obviously, we never see him working, so therefore the staff must be telling him what to say. Not true. And when they ran up against him, they assumed he could be persuaded and pushed around. Big mistake. And the woods are full of people that tried to do that, like Al Haig, Don Regan, a whole bunch of them.


Chapel Hill

The Carolina Inn is immaculate. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a tight ship of a hotel. Warm cookies in a jar as you check in? Yes.

It was built (by hand? -ed) by alumnus John Sprunt Hill and donated to the university in 1935.

Is “it” right, maybe it should be “she” like a ship. Top: you should stay in any hotel that has her own Wikipedia page.

They take the color scheme seriously at UNC Chapel Hill. This is from the Color Palette section of the University Branding and Identity Guidelines.

All anyone wanted to talk about in Chapel Hill (this was Thursday, March 31 of this year) was the Duke vs UNC basketball game. At The Dead Mule Club, anyone who walked in had one question: what time do you open on Saturday? (12noon, first come first serve, no cover).

My photos always feel inadequate to the emotional experience. I don’t have anything like the eye nor take the care Ansel Adams did.

I’d heard it said that the campus of UNC at Chapel Hill is one of the most beautiful in the USA. My sample is not total but from what I’ve seen yes, let’s include it. Who are the other contenders? University of Virginia. Harvard. Middlebury. I find the vibe off at Princeton but “it has to be in the conversation” as the televised sports discussers say. UCLA and Cal Berkeley, both are impressive to me, as are Amherst, Wellesley. Feel like I’ve seen both Smith and Mount Holyoke and they look nice? Although if they sorta blur together, is that judgment on their beauty? Did we see William & Mary when I was a boy? Anyway, UNC at Chapel Hill is beautiful.

Beautiful places are inspiring, old beautiful places especially so. That such a place can be not just created but sustained and maintained for generations.

Moved by the university cemetery. Students would die, and sending their bodies home on wet roads in winter wasn’t hygienic, so they started a cemetery.

Just after a rainstorm when I rolled in. Only late in the day maybe did people realize the rain was gone. . They came back out. First I had the walk pretty much for myself. Wet blooming trees. Some people waiting for the bus, some naval cadets getting together for a run. Dog walkers and stray errand doers.

On the walls of The Carolina Inn they have displays about distinguished grads of the university. Many, many, not just famous ones. White and black, men and women, on my floor law school alums. The vastness of the collection creates an impression, these countless dignified people who taught constitutional law for thirty years or were judges or the first black person to serve in some important role in some county.

How about the sad fate of Spaight?

Father and son both killed in duels. Like Hamilton. “As lucky as a Spaight in a duel” is a localism.

The most famous grad of UNC Chapel Hill has got to be Michael Jordan. Right? One way UNC is inspiring is it shows a state, public institution capable of producing excellence. The University of California is capable of that too, what treasures, do we appreciate them enough? How do we keep them?

Would this make a good movie? The music might not bang enough for modern ears. But maybe? Picture it as a small budget feel good festival kinda thing, it might find an audience.


not my favorite name

but if I’m in that part of Nevada I will stop.


Colson / Buchanan

One thing led to another and I’m reading an oral history of Charles Colson from the Nixon Library.

Hungry for more I read a Pat Buchanan one for the Gerald Ford Oral History Project:

“What I care about is the Law of the Sea Treaty.”


The price of hay

A friend of ours who runs a horse barn told me the price of hay is up $5 a bale, from $27 to $32.

(I know what you’re thinking, that’s a lot for hay, but trust me, these horses are getting primo stuff.)

(painting is Rhode Island Shore by Martin Johnson Heade, at LACMA, not on display last I was there).


The Price of Gas

Along old US Route 66 in West Hollywood

It’s so high! How can people do anything? Yet shouldn’t we want the price of gas to be high, so we don’t cook up the planet quite as fast? Though, won’t the high prices cause estimates and spreadsheets and algorithms across the oil and gas companies to be adjusted? When the calculations are revised, it suddenly makes sense to drill more and deeper and in crazier ways in more chaotic countries? They’ll capitalize new and more projects, dredging up our oil faster than ever.

Is this merely the boom and bust cycle we all must toil under, written many times over in the history of every boomtown and oil craze? From Nantucket to Houston to the Bakken to Bakersfield to Alaska we are told this story. Above LA looms the Getty, named for a man whose father left Minnesota for a boom in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The son took the lesson and was early in on Saudi Arabia. To get to the Getty from here you’d have to cross Doheny, he of Teapot Dome. But look, you saw the oil wells when you came in from the airport (in a car), and if you looked out the window of your plane as you landed at LAX you saw the diesel tankers and maybe even an oil tanker filling up at the offshore spigot. You get the idea.

Not so long ago I watched the documentary version of The Prize in small chunks, just before bed. Though the content can be bracing it is soothingly narrated by Donald Sutherland, and there is something relaxing about seeing how the pieces fit together. Finding the doc compelling I read Daniel Yergin’s original book, which is full of great characters and strange scenes:

In early March 1983 the oil ministers and their retinues hurriedly convened, ironically in London, the home court of their leading non-OPEC competitor, Great Britain.  They met at the Intercontinental Hotel at Hyde Park Corner, for what turned out to be twelve interminable, frustrating days – an experience that would leave some of them with an allergic reaction whenever, in future years, they set foot inside the hotel. 

and:

Later in the day, Silva Herzog was glumly eating a hamburger at the Mexican embassy, preparing to leave, when a call came from the United States Treasury saying that the $100 million fee had been rescinded.  The Americans could not risk a collapse.  Who knew what the effects would be on Monday?  And with that, the Mexican Weekend concluded, with the first part of the emergency package now in place.  

Some takeaways of value:

  • it’s not just the getting of the oil. It’s the refining. Rockefeller controlled the refining, and the shipping, and eventually everything
  • one of Rockefeller’s killer qualities: he was a visionary accountant. Can there be such a thing? Yes. Rockefeller.
  • The Great War, later World War One, was a gamechange for oil.  Railroads had been key in the US Civil War, but in World War One, the tank and the truck, oil powered vehicles, proved to be the crucial transport.  Churchill, head of the Admiralty at the time, switched the Royal Navy to oil from coal.  At the end of the war, the destruction of the Ottoman Empire left the British and French in control of oil fields in Mesopotamia.
  • both on the Eastern Front and in the Pacific in World War Two, oil was the key strategic factor. Really everywhere, but those offer clear examples. Decisions on how to invade the Soviet Union were based on gaining control of oil fields before the German forces ran out of oil. The Japanese navy’s decisions were bounded by limits on oil. The fleet had to be stationed near Singapore. The “Marianas turkey shoot” was a result of decisions made based on saving oil. There was not enough oil not only for active operations, but for pilot training.

How about this?:

When [J. Paul] Getty died in 1976, age eighty-three, the eulogy at his funeral was delivered by the Duke of Bedford.  “When I think of Paul,” said the Duke, “I think of money.” 

Many people and groups of people have attempted to control oil, but it’s unpredictable. Sometimes the board gets reshuffled: North Sea oil fields, Saudi, Alaska.  The North Sea oil fields saved the UK economy. Or did it ruin the UK economy? It saved Margaret Thatcher. You can’t send ships and helicopters to the coast of Argentina if you don’t have oil.

Look how rich Norway is. It doesn’t have to be this way, Norway used to be poor, that’s why Rose on Golden Girls is from St. Olaf.

Obama’s presidency coincided with a huge boom in US oil extraction. Is “coincided” the right word? Was it a coincidence? What’s at work here?

A character worth some study: Marcus Samuel. (Shell, the first oil tanker, Lord Mayor of London).

It was called Shell because his Iraqi Jewish family used to import and sell seashells. (That’s the story, anyway.)

Here’s a solid summary of The Prize.

Recall that Moby-Dick is about the oil business, and Ahab like Daniel Plainview is an oilman.


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.


Dodge City Kansas

seen from the train, back in December. Maybe you’ve heard the American colloquialism, let’s get the hell out of Dodge.


now this just seems wasteful

via


Xth

The ten year anniversary of Helytimes rolled around without our really noticing.  We started this website* in February 2012.  The posts from that month are as clear a reflection as there is of the idea (extinct links and lost images are a curse but come w/t/territory).

There wasn’t a master plan.  “I should know something about writing for the Internet.” The directness is powerful (and frightening): what writer of the past wouldn’t have dreamed of an instantaneous worldwide publishing platform you could control? A piece published on Helytimes generates a link that’s as accessible as a link to The New York Times. How could we not try that? Authors had websites; I’d published two books and hoped to do more.  The magic of putting up pieces that entered the great Google library, the creation of a personal wondermuseum, it seemed fun.  

A strong sense memory lingers about the day of origin: I was in my office on the TV show The Office. Across the hall was my college Alison Silverman. Our offices were in an annex trailer in the parking lot, which often roasted in the sun. Inside between our offices was a treadmill people sometimes used. That was a funny time and place. I told Alison I was thinking of starting a blog and I remember not having any reaction at all. It was like I said I’d had a salad for lunch. But what was I expecting?

WordPress provided the structure. I’m not sure I’d recommend WordPress, it feels flimsy, it feels like it could collapse tomorrow. GoDaddy sold us the URL. Although GoDaddy’s name and TV ads make it seem ridiculous, they are really dependable, we’ve never had a problem. I copied a simple design template my cousin was using and off we went.

Since then we’ve published 1,624 posts.  Some of the most popular are:

– a guest post by Hayes about a local political issue, No on Measure S (No prevailed, and thank goodness). This post shows the value of possessing an easy distribution platform

– a post about the alleged subject of Gordon Lightfoot’s song Sundown. People Google this person and find the site, it’s celebrity gossip.

– a comparison of the UK in size to California. Another Google inbounder.

Mountaineering movies on Netflix (needs updating, The Alpinist and 14 Peaks both great)

– an investigation of whether the last joke Abraham Lincoln heard was funny

– a consideration of how a mosaic at Disney World was made by Hanns Scharff, one of the Luftwaffe’s top interrogators (and revealing insights in interrogation)

– a look into the darkness of Donald Trump’s father and the destruction of Coney Island

Some posts about JFK were also quite popular, as was a post about The White House Pool.

Anything about Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger will pop.  

Anything about writing or writing advice from other people will move the needle.

We consider Record Group 80 to be kind of a signature post.

Ten years as an amount of time is significant.  We once heard an interview with Joseph Campbell, he was talking about a young student who was asking Campbell about whether he thought he, the student, could make it as a writer.

Well, can you go ten years without making it?

was Campbell’s question. A good question to ask.  

What would “making it” mean?  We don’t profit off this website, but it’s very valuable as as storehouse of material that caught our attention. And it feels contributive.  It’s brought about many connections and friendships of great value, even if you can’t put a price on them.  

Once I was talking to a guy who knew a thing or two about SEO and metrics and online business about the site. He suggested we should pick any one specific niche and go deep, make that our thing. For instance, “Navy photos.” But that’s not the idea (and it would be boring).

Once I was talking to a successful Hollywood type guy who’s a reader of Helytimes. I asked him what I should do to get more readers. He looked at me like I was kind of an idiot.

Write about the Kardashians

he said.

That’s not the idea here either.

This isn’t any kind of business. During the lifespan of this website we published a book, wrote several other books, wrote lots of television, co-hosted hundreds of episodes of The Great Debates. This is a straightup side project. But sometimes that’s where the life is.

My life times out so my growing up parallels the Internet growing up. My age 18 was close to the Internet’s age 18. So I followed and tracked the rise of what we unfortunately have to call blogging. 

Andrew Sullivan was an early one. Blogging eventually burned him out and he had to stop.  Matt Yglesias was my near contemporary in college (I don’t think I ever met him).  He seems built to be a blogger and has made a job of it.  That takes stamina, focus, and drive we don’t have.

Hot takes aren’t the game around here. Unless they’re hot takes on something from like the 15th century

We maintain this site out of desire to clean out the brain-attic, to keep an independent publishing vector open, to settle anything that’s gnawing at us, to share (and clear the mind of) passions, obsessions, curiosities and discoveries.  

Over the years we’ve had a worldwide readership, lured in some surprising customers, lost one contributor to death by tragedy, and had some touching comments.  The funniest people reach out to us. Usually about content we never would’ve thought anyone would care about. 

We made a scratchmark on the cave wall, which, what else are we here for?  

So, onward!  Thanks for reading, we really appreciate you.  

* the word blog just isn’t a winner, is it folks?


Healy

“I think that fact that we did it live really made the show what it was,” Ensley said in 1997. “We’d show film of me fishing someplace, then we’d have live guests. People from everywhere would call us to see if they could be on to show the fish they had caught. One time a guy from Hiawatha, Kansas came in with a 72-pound flathead catfish. We had it in a horse tank in the back of a pickup, and he drove it right onto the set. When he pulled that big catfish out of the tank, water went flying everywhere.

Harold Ensley probably the most famous person from Healy, Kansas. He hosted a TV show called The Sportsman’s Friend.

The cast of Gunsmoke appeared on his show, and he appeared on Gunsmoke as one of Festus Haggen‘s drunken cousins who was thrown in jail.

He really did it:

During their last conversation, Ensley claimed, to his son, to have been dreaming about fishing. “He said he’d been dreaming about bass fishing at Table Rock Lake using a buzzbait,” Dusty Ensley said. “He went out thinking about hunting and fishing.” Harold Ensley died at his home in Overland Park, Kansas, at the age of 92.

As for Healy, pop 195:

The community is served by Healy USD 468 public school district. Their mascot is “The Eagles”, and offer volleyball, basketball and track, collaborating with Ransom, KS. Since the 2012-2013 season, the Healy High School basketball team holds a record of 5-97, and according to MaxPreps, is ranked as the second worst team in the state of Kansas, just ahead of the Kansas School for the Deaf in Olathe


The Nineties

This was a decade of full-on metacognition, when people spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about why they were thinking whatever it was they were thinking.

This book was absolutely fantastic, I was riveted. The Nineties ran, for me, from age 11 to age 21. It’s kind of neat to have your life decades synced up to the actual decades, although as Klosterman describes in this book and related interviews, the Nineties might be the last time we think culturally in terms of decades: there’s no reason why we have to.

Chuck Klosterman is seven years older than me (if we believe Wikipedia). Some of his obsessions (Motley Crüe, Guns n Roses), even the idea of manically chasing to their endpoint the meaning of obsessions with a rock band, are just a click or two beyond of my own experience with pop culture, so some of his earlier books, although intriguing, I just never got the activation energy to read. Then I got this text from my buddy Sgro, who I met around 1993 or 94, with whom I spent many summers in the Nineties:

Flattery will get you everywhere bud. Here is Klosterman warming up to baseball in the 90s:

A football game in 1995 bore no resemblance to a football game from 1945. The greatest pro basketball player from the fifties, George Mikan, could not have made an NBA roster in the eighties. The physical and technical evolution of football and basketball had been so dramatic that the past wasn’t comparable with the present. That wasn’t true with baseball. Baseball had evolved less. The aesthetics and physiology were more similar than different, and it was not remotely unreasonable to suggest that the greatest player of all time was still an overweight alcoholic who’d retired in 1935. Part of what made baseball historically compelling was its ability to transcend time. The skills of hitting and pitching were static, frozen in amber. It was the rare game where statistics from the past were comparable with statistics from the present.

And then Brady Anderson hit 50 home runs on one season.

Klosterman points to a pivotal moment in Seinfeld. George, who’s been working with Jerry on a pilot for a show about nothing, is confronted by NBC executive Russell Dalrympe:

“Well, why am I watching it?” asks Dalrymple.

“Because it’s on TV,” replies George.

That was how it was then. You watched what was on TV. A related fact:

The Kirstie Alley vehicle Veronica’s Closet, when packaged in NBC’s Thursday night lineup, could sustain a weekly audience of 24 million viewers. When it was moved to Monday, its viewership dropped to 8 million.

(last week, by comparison, the most popular non-Olympics broadcast show, FBI, got seven and a half million viewers. I don’t think any comedy came close to even 5 million viewers).

On the OJ trial:

It is a hinge moment in U. S. media history, ostensibly for its effect on race and celebrity but mostly for the way it combined tragedy and stupidity on a scope and scale that would foretell America’s deterioration into a superpower that was also a failed state. It was a TV show that proved everything that had always been feared and suspected about the medium of TV.

Within a brilliant riff/exploration on Bill Clinton and the much-imitated (though only once actually said) “I feel your pain”:

Without even trying, [90s Americans] could dissect a broadcast like Clinton’s Oklahoma City address with the acuteness of self-taught media analysts. And within those conditions – within the context of grading a speech’s sincerity as much as feeling that sincerity – Clinton was unstoppable.

This is an error:

Proof:

But, I forgive! I thought Klosterman’s analysis of Garth Brooks/Chris Gaines alone was worth the price of admission.

It’s interesting how we talk about a writer having a voice: Klosterman literally has a distinctive speaking voice (as do Sarah Vowell, David Sedaris, who else?)


Truckin’

signing of the Staggers Rail Act (source)

Until 1980, long-haul truckers were generally employed by regulated companies whose routes and rates had to pass muster with the Interstate Commerce Commission. Under the terms of the 1935 Motor Carrier Act, the ICC kept potential lowball, low-wage competitors out of the market. Drivers were also highly unionized, under a Master Freight Agreement between the Teamsters and close to 1,000 trucking firms. For which reasons, truck driving was a pretty damn good blue-collar job, with decent pay, livable hours, and ample benefits.

The Motor Carrier Act of 1980 changed all that, scrapping the rules of the 1935 act so that startups, charging far less than the pre-1980 rates and paying their drivers far less as well, flooded the market. Facing that competition, established companies dropped their rates and pay scales, too. By 1998, drivers were making between 30 percent and 40 percent less than their pre-1980 predecessors had made. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, following the steep decline in wages in the decades after the 1980 deregulation, trucker income has flatlined for the past 20 years. 

Why Trucking Can’t Deliver The Goods by Harold Meyerson in Prospect. If I recall right from The Box, the regulation of trucking kept Malcolm Mclean from expanding his routes, which led him to the idea of putting containers on barges and sending them by sea to Houston, thus inventing containerization, which changed the world. Wal-Mart, Apple, the decline of American manufacturing, all of this emerged from how containerization accelerated the ability to ship stuff fast and cheap all over the world.

In an editorial shortly after his death, Baltimore Sun stated that “he ranks next to Robert Fulton as the greatest revolutionary in the history of maritime trade.” Forbes Magazine called McLean “one of the few men who changed the world.”

On the morning of McLean’s funeral, container ships around the world blew their whistles in his honor.

Because this change happened in 1980, and it’s a deregulation, I assumed it was a Reagan thing, but no. Jimmy Carter signed it (and Ted Kennedy was involved). President Carter at the time:

This is historic legislation. It will remove 45 years of excessive and inflationary Government restrictions and redtape. It will have a powerful anti-inflationary effect, reducing consumer costs by as much as $8 billion each year. And by ending wasteful practices, it will conserve annually hundreds of millions of gallons of precious fuel. 

It was Carter and Harley Staggers, D-WV, who brought on railway deregulation around the same time. Staggers was ahead of his time on civil rights, and behind the time on other issues:

In 1973, Staggers heard on the radio the John Lennon song “Working Class Hero” — which includes the lines “‘Til you’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules” and “But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see” — on WGTB and lodged a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The manager of the station, Ken Sleeman, faced a year in prison and a $10,000 fine, but defended his decision to play the song saying, “The People of Washington, DC are sophisticated enough to accept the occasional four-letter word in context, and not become sexually aroused, offended, or upset.” The charges were dropped


Scrapbasket

Not a type you see too much anymore>

from James L. Haley’s Passionate Nation: The Epic History of Texas.

Off-gassing from my lead acid batteries has gotten real bad. Losing the war on corrosion.

Ad in the LRB.

Drawing impression from the Pro Bull Riding finals back in November.

Wild book cover. Easy to fall into the delusion that the present is the craziest period in American history. Far from it.

Just an LA scene I liked.

from Mark Twain’s Roughing It.

Are these songs in conversation? Internet offers no answer. I keep seeing Caroline Polachek’s name (ex. Jia Tolentino’s Instagram, on the marquee in Lawrence, KS, on concert festival posters).

from Gemma Sieff’s review of Literary Alchemist: The Writing Life of Evan S. Connell, by Steve Paul, in Harper’s.

Stewart Brand talking to Tyler Cowen.

To me the best style is no style.

Got a lot from Chuck Klosterman on Longform podcast.

Desert scene in winter.


amazing thing to put in your news article

That’s from Bloomberg, article headlined: Anxiety Over Beef Shortages Reaches Fever Pitch in Golden Corral Fistfight, and subheadlined When a fistfight broke out at the chain, initial reports attributed it to steak shortages

The gist seems to be that: there was a widely shared on social media video showing a fight at a buffet restaurant in Bensalem, PA (Bloomberg says “Bansalem”). In the video someone can be heard saying something about steaks. Tt was then incorrectly inferred by people who didn’t give enough study to the facts of the incident that the fight was about a shortage of steaks at the buffet. But if I read between the lines of the article, there may have been plenty of steaks, the fight was unrelated?

I only call attention to the weirdness of “the media” and “news” in 2022. As to the true origins of this incident, I’ll defer to Evan S. Connell’s epigraph for his Son of the Morning Star:


Space briefing

A briefing is given by Major Rocco Petrone (off camera) to President John F. Kennedy during a tour of Blockhouse 34 at the Cape Canaveral Missile Test Annex. Also seen are NASA administrator James Webb, Vice President Lyndon Johnson, NASA Launch Center director Kurt Heinrich Debus, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and other dignitaries.

(source)


Shooter Corridor

Perhaps you’ve seen this scene in Full Metal Jacket, where R. Lee Ermey’s drill sergeant connects Charles Whitman’s shooting spree from the UT Austin tower and Lee Harvey Oswald’s shooting of JFK to the training they received as Marines.

My mind did some pondering of these incidents as I drove on I-35, which connects the two sites of these incidents, Austin to Dallas.

Since my ultimate destination was Oklahoma City, my mind couldn’t help but turn to another former US military member who perpetuated a freakish, difficult to comprehend outburst of violence. Timothy McVeigh, a washed out failure from Army Ranger school with vague anti-government grievances bombed the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

McVeigh was obsessed with another violent American incident which happened along the route, the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, TX.

Along this route, you’ll also pass Killeen, Texas, where in 1991 there was a mass shooting at a Luby’s cafeteria. Up until that time it was the deadliest mass shooting by a lone gunman in the USA (the Virginia Tech massacre would overtake it).

Killeen is home to Fort Hood. In 2009 a US army major and psychiatrist killed 13 people and wounded 30 others in a mass shooting at Fort Hood. The Wikipedia page for that shooting has an amazing American detail:

Fort Hood, set to be renamed sometime in the future, is currently named after John Bell Hood, another renegade US soldier and dramatic personality with visions of violence, who once said to Sherman:

Better die a thousand deaths than submit to live under you or your Government and your Negro allies.

If you throw the site of the Alamo into the mix, I-35 really pops with scenes of strange fanatic American violence.

The big unmarked portion there in Oklahoma is of course the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations, destination for the southeastern Indian removals, themselves an act of American violence, but perhaps beyond the scope of this post.

You could probably take any 400 mile stretch of American interstate and string together a few outbursts of historical violence, but I can’t help but observe this stretch of I-35 feels like an unusually haunted and scarred stretch of our national geopsyche.

Some excellent barbecue, steak and catfish can however be found.

Update: an Oklahoma reader sends us this one

Our suburb of Edmond is sadly another spot you could add to Shooter Corridor: the ‘86 post office shooting that inspired the phrase “going postal” happened here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmond_post_office_shooting

Wild.


Culture notes

  • I didn’t think Dave Chappelle’s most recent special, The Closer, was his best, although there were some funny jokes in it (on JK Rowling: “this woman sold so many books The Bible got nervous”). The tone was off, or something. Dave Chappelle is a contender for GOAT standup comedian, and also man who’s made impressive choices with significant amounts of money on the line. But I like observing that myself; when he reminds me of these things multiple times in his own special, I find it diminishes the value, akin Matthew 6:2 or the kidney donation lady.

I was texting a friend who had not seen it about the special, and he wrote me something like “what is the obsession with trans people? Why doesn’t he just stop?” In a way the special is Chappelle’s answer to this question, with the conclusion “maybe I will just stop.” If you watch the special, you will see Dave himself describe the feeling of being attacked, harassed, and threatened, which is the same feeling his most extreme critics point to as a reason for being careful about material like this.

Language as spell, as magic, words as having power to cause real harm and violence, to even be violence in themselves, is a belief that is growing over my lifetime. Could that have something to do with a blending of what were once more isolated dialects into a great shared language that incorporates more people, with more divergent opinions and backgrounds? The way English was forming around Shakespeare’s time from like Kentish and Pictish and East Anglian and whatever, blended with Norman French and pieces of Gaelic and Latin all the rest? Such an expansion will not be without confusion.

In 2016 I remember going to the source of a news item that was inspiring controversy, a Department of Education memo on Transgender Students. Here is the Notice of Language Assistance that prefaces the letter:

We’re already in a language mess and we’re not even on page one. I’m not used to reading federal Department of Education documents, I assume this is kind of boilerplate, and well-intentioned. Page 1 of the letter is an attempt to clarify terminology:

An important part of the issue is getting the language right, which will not be easy, language being notoriously tricky and fluid. But if language has the violent power we imbue to it, getting it wrong is very dangerous, like miscasting a spell!

(source)

  • Sun & Sea at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA was great! An immersive exhibit / opera? I visit Lithuanian Wikipedia to learn about the creators, Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, Vaiva Graintė, Lina Lapelytė,

I was pleased with my burger from Burger She Wrote, although I don’t understand the pun. It’s not like the place is Jessica Fletcher themed or anything. Is it a play on how all burgers are murder?


Politics, Oct 2021

  • On Youngkin and Trump: “You can’t run ads telling me you’re a regular ol’ hoops-playing, dish-washing, fleece-wearing guy, but quietly cultivate support from those who seek to tear down our democracy.” 

Uh, you absolutely can, it’s the entire playbook. Whether you should is another question, but I don’t even think you can argue it doesn’t work.

  • On fatigue among Dems: “I know a lot of people are tired of politics right now. We don’t have time to be tired. What is required is sustained effort.”

I don’t think “sustained effort from you!” is a winning message for a political campaign. Often I spot sustained effort from my elected officials, but I don’t know what the effort is towards? Most often it seems towards “not doing anything that would upset existing power structures but while avoiding the appearance of giving up, while also fundraising,” which must be exhausting indeed, and is no doubt effortful, but is not effective at improving outcomes.

Anyway, that was former President Barack Obama yesterday in the Virginia governors race, where Terry McAuliffe, a guy who was a Democratic party functionary for like 30 years, who was chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, and already was governor of Virginia, is running on a program of… change? Keep doing the same stuff? The alternative is worse? Seems like the third, but I haven’t been on the ground in Virginia for a couple years.

Any Virginians with takes please weigh in.


Miles Davis

from the American Masters doc Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool