Hearts & Minds

from the doc Hearts & Minds (1974) which was on TCM on Election Night.


O Pioneers!

Just finished reading:

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A strange thing to read, maybe.  Here is the story of how I came to read it.

Some years ago, filming the finale of The Office on Dwight Schrute’s farm:

dwights-farm

I looked around at the inland Malibu landscape and got to wondering if there could be a show about the pioneers: people who arrived on empty* land and built their lives there.

So as research I picked up the first book I thought of:

wc

Didn’t finish it.  Got distracted before I got off the third page, probably at first by my phone and then by my life.

A true Save The Cat

On the first page of O Pioneers!, there is a true Save The Cat situation.

save-the-cat

We’re in the middle of a blizzard, and Little Emil’s cat has gone up a telegraph pole, and he’s afraid it’ll freeze:

save

Reunited

Down in Australia in August, I saw the cool Penguin Classics edition:

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and picked it up thinking, eh what the hell I should find out what happened to that cat.  

Well, I found out, and I found out what happened to Emil and his sister Alexandra for the next forty years.

I believe an error was made in choosing this quote for the front page:

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It isn’t the most interesting one from the book.  I might’ve chosen this:

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Or this:

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Or even, if we’re going re: ducks, this:

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Or this:

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This quote made me think of the news:

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Also can’t say that the epigraph is especially sexy:

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Perhaps it’s better in the original Polish.

Mickiewicz is bae?

Mickiewicz is bae?

But still I pressed on, and in the end, I gotta give it up to O Pioneers! 

The life of Willa Cather

Willa Cather must’ve been quite something.  She was born in Gore, Virginia, but as a girl she was brought to Red Cloud, Nebraska:

red-cloud

where she made a real impression:

red-cloud

Was Willa Cather a lesbian?

Willa Cather shot out of Nebraska like a rocket.

willa_cather_ca-_1912_wearing_necklace_from_sarah_orne_jewett

The closest relationships in her life were with women, and she lived with one Edith Lewis:

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for close to thirty years.  Some biographers hesitate to call her a lesbian, though, saying she never identified herself that way.

Willa Cather Memorial Prairie

Willa died in 1947.  She has a memorial prairie named after her, it’s the number 2 thing to do in Red Cloud, NE after her house:

willa-cather-memorial-prarire

it’s cool to have your own prairie

Willa on writing

O Pioneers! still holds up.  I found myself moved by it, and it’s short.  Cather has a way of summing up loneliness, heartache, longing, compassion, in a few short lines.

I went ahead and got Willa’s collected essays on writing.

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Here she tells how she came to write O Pioneers!, her second book:willa-3 willa-4 willa-5

She wrote in some opposition to the detail-filled writing of Balzac:

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Interesting point here:

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Red Cloud, Nebraska

Here’s a picture of downtown Red Cloud from Google Maps:

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About as solid a Trump country as you will find:screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-6-26-39-pm

As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $26,389, and the median income for a family was $34,038. Males had a median income of $26,364 versus $17,232 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,772. About 8.4% of families and 13.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.9% of those under age 18 and 10.1% of those age 65 or over.

Brave Companions

David McCullough has something moving to say about Red Cloud and Willa and her other famous book:

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from:

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I found O Pioneers! very moving and powerful, let me share with you why:

Warning: O Pioneers! spoiler

Skip this if you intend to read the book with suspense in mind.

But I doubt you will.  I found this the most moving passage, and worth all the reading.  Let me set it up for you:

Emil, he of the lost cat on page 2, grows up under the guidance of his older sister, Alexandra.  She’s really the focus of our story.  Carl, the local boy who saves the cat, is in love with her, but he can’t really take it out on the plains, so he goes off, and leaves her behind.  She’s left to care for her brothers.

Emil, youngest brother, does great.  He goes on to college at the University of Nebraska, while Alexandra stays to watch over the farm.  All the while Emil’s been in love with a neighbor girl, Marie.  She marries another man, though.

Still, Emil and Marie are in love.  Eventually Marie’s husband, Frank Shabata, finds his wife and Emil together. In a crazed rage he murders Marie and Emil both.

Alexandra, alone at age forty, is heartbroken, left adrift at the death of her brother.  But still, she feels sympathy for Frank Shabata, who’s been sent to prison in Lincoln for his crime.

Alexandra, lost and in pain, decides to go visit Frank in prison.  In afternoon/dusk, after arriving in Lincoln, she wanders the campus of the university, thinking of her murdered brother.  Desperate for any kind of connection, she runs into a student:

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Walt Whitman Reads: America

or

The Whitman Recording

The title of O Pioneers! comes from a poem by Walt Whitman.

Some years ago, a recording of Walt Whitman’s voice, said to have been recorded onto an Edison wax cylinder around 1889 or 1890, was rediscovered.

In these times when it seems maybe we lost our way, nationally, it made me feel good to hear this.  Forty-six seconds long:

 

 


Oh What A Slaughter and Sacagawea’s Nickname

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Getting pretty close to having read all of Larry McMurtry’s nonfiction.  LMcM has a rambling, conversational way in these books, I enjoy it.  Here is some previous coverage about his book Hollywood, and his road trip book Roads, and the best one of all imo, Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen.

Oh What A Slaughter is definitely worth a read.  A good quality of McMurtry and my all time favorite Evan S. Connell is that they really capture the weirdness of history.

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How about this, as McMurtry describes the buildup to the Wounded Knee massacre?:

ghost dance 1 ghost dance 2

Wovoka

Wovoka / Jack Wilson

How can you not like a book that has this in it?willie boy

Sacagawea’s Nickname wasn’t as compelling to me.

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It collects essays McMurtry wrote for the New York Review Of Books: a couple about Lewis & Clark, one about the great one-armed explorer/surveyor/ethnographer/proto-environmentalist John Wesley Powell:

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But for title alone I was def gonna read it.  Like every American kid I was taught about Sacagawea in school, whose name we were told was pronounced “Sack-a Jew-ee-uh.”

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Imagine my shock years later when my friend Leila, who was schooled in Oregon and thus had some cred on the issue, told me her name was pronounced “Sack Ahj Way.”  Well, sure.  How could we know?  Both Lewis and Clark, Clark especially, were crazy spellers, so their clues are confusing.  From Wiki:

Clark used Sahkahgarwea, Sahcahgagwea, Sarcargahwea, and Sahcahgahweah, while Lewis used Sahcahgahwea, Sahcahgarweah, Sahcargarweah, and Sahcahgar Wea.

From McMurtry:

sar car

Anyway let me go ahead and give you a spoiler that Sar car Ja we a’s nickname was Janey.

 


Something the founders were nonstop pondering

Junius Brutus StearnsHow did the Roman Republic turn into the Roman Empire?

Their situation was similar in some ways to ours but also different.

THERE!  I just wrote a David Brooks column!

I wrote a David Brooks column and it was a success.


Best things about this video

  • fave activity is “to take a little nap”
  • “she’s a jokester”
  • around 2:46 the woman describing her like she’s a zoo animal.  “It was a new experience for her.  She was scared, honestly, but she acclimated very quickly.”

ht: Davis.


Experimental film

I made a one minute experimental film of Trump watching Sarah Palin talk.


Reality can be hacky!

Reading this Jeffrey Goldberg article about Angola prison.

If you tried to come up with a name for a Louisiana prison warden, and you came up with Burl Cain, you would chide yourself for being a little “on the nose.”

 


E. L. Doctorow

INTERVIEWER

You once told me that the most difficult thing for a writer to write was a simple household note to someone coming to collect the laundry, or instructions to a cook.

E. L. DOCTOROW

What I was thinking of was a note I had to write to the teacher when one of my children missed a day of school. It was my daughter, Caroline, who was then in the second or third grade. I was having my breakfast one morning when she appeared with her lunch box, her rain slicker, and everything, and she said, “I need an absence note for the teacher and the bus is coming in a few minutes.” She gave me a pad and a pencil; even as a child she was very thoughtful. So I wrote down the date and I started, Dear Mrs. So-and-so, my daughter Caroline . . . and then I thought, No, that’s not right, obviously it’s my daughter Caroline. I tore that sheet off, and started again. Yesterday, my child . . . No, that wasn’t right either. Too much like a deposition. This went on until I heard a horn blowing outside. The child was in a state of panic. There was a pile of crumpled pages on the floor, and my wife was saying, “I can’t believe this. I can’t believe this.” She took the pad and pencil and dashed something off. I had been trying to write the perfect absence note. It was a very illuminating experience. Writing is immensely difficult. The short forms especially.

from here of course.

The only Doctorow I read is this one, which is great:

Billy Bathgate

I also read the beginning of this one:

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Billy Bathgate has a lot of sexy stuff in it that I really appreciated at the time (16?).  Both books start with one guy violently taking the woman of another guy as the other guy is more or less forced to watch.  It’s pretty primal and intense shit.  Welcome To Hard Times was even a little too much for me.

DOCTOROW

Well, it can be anything. It can be a voice, an image; it can be a deep moment of personal desperation. For instance, with Ragtime I was so desperate to write something, I was facing the wall of my study in my house in New Rochelle and so I started to write about the wall. That’s the kind of day we sometimes have, as writers. Then I wrote about the house that was attached to the wall. It was built in 1906, you see, so I thought about the era and what Broadview Avenue looked like then: trolley cars ran along the avenue down at the bottom of the hill; people wore white clothes in the summer to stay cool. Teddy Roosevelt was President. One thing led to another and that’s the way that book began: through desperation to those few images. With Loon Lake, in contrast, it was just a very strong sense of place, a heightened emotion when I found myself in the Adirondacks after many, many years of being away . . . and all this came to a point when I saw a sign, a road sign: Loon Lake. So it can be anything.

How about:

INTERVIEWER

For describing J. P. Morgan, for an example, did you spend a great deal of time in libraries?

DOCTOROW

The main research for Morgan was looking at the great photograph of him by Edward Steichen.

Google Image Search “Morgan by Edward Steichen”:

Screen Shot 2015-07-22 at 9.46.22 AM

 


Gay Hobo Slang

At Helytimes we love to get submissions for our roving correspondents.  Longtime friend of the blog Mat W. sends in this item:

A good many years ago, I was a pretty faithful reader of Alex Ross’s blog The Rest Is Noise (title later cannibalized for his book, which got him a MacArthur Genius Grant).  In those days I had a pretty boring job and would read almost anything on the internet that made it through the security filter of the company where I worked.  A lot of what Ross had to say made little sense since I didn’t (and still don’t) know much about music, but I would still skim the posts and found a few good bits and bobs.

One day, I came across this post:
http://www.therestisnoise.com/2004/10/interesting_pie.html

“Gay hobo subculture”!? WHA?! Of course long-time readers of Hely Times may recall Smokestack Adrian, but I was intrigued. At the time, searches of the internet didn’t turn up much. I did learn a little bit more about it in George Chauncey’s great Gay New York, but it offers a pretty light treatment, though the subject of the book, I suppose, required only a glancing discussion.

However, I recently found a great book, called Gay Talk: A (Sometimes Outrageous) Dictionary of Gay Slang. It’s by a guy named Bruce Rodgers, and was published in 1972 (under a different title, I believe).  It is GREAT and really reaches back into the pre-Stonewall era for lots of verbal treasures.  Guess what a Veronica’s Veil is, you guys!

AND while paging through I found a whole entry on the hobo! Rather than type up the highlights, I’ll just include a picture of the entry for all you candy kids out there.

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The story of Cahokia

Anyone who traveled up the Mississippi in 1100 A.D. would have seen it looming in the distance: a four-level earthen mound bigger than the Great Pyramid of Giza.  Around it like echoes were as many as 120 smaller mounds, some topped by tall wooden palisades, which were in turn ringed by a network of irrigation and transportation canals; carefully located fields of maize; and hundreds of wooden homes with mud-and-straw plastered floors and high-peaked, deeply thatched roofs like those on traditional Japanese farms.

Located near the confluence of the Missouri, Illinois, and Mississippi Rivers, the Indian city of Cahokia was a busy port.  Canoes flitted like hummingbirds across its waterfront: traders bringing copper and mother-of-pearl from faraway places; hunting parties bringing such rare treats as buffalo and elk; emissaries and soldiers in long vessels bristling with weaponry; workers ferrying wood from upstream for the ever hungry cookfires; the ubiquitous fishers with their nets and clubs.  Covering five square miles and housing at least fifteen hundred people, Cahokia was the biggest concentration of people north of the Rio Grande until the 18th century.

That is from the great Charles C. Mann’s 1491: New Revelations Of The Americas Before Columbus.  

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I can’t recommend this book highly enough.  Every American should read it.

Cahokia is very close to St. Louis – it’s about thirty miles away between what’s now East St. Louis and Collinsville, IL.

I wanted to visit, but I didn’t have a car.  I explained the predicament to the Ethiopian taxi driver who picked me up at the airport.  I asked him if he’d pick me up, take me there, wait an hour and take me back.  So the next morning he took me out there.  He and I visited the Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center and Museum together.  We watched the award-winning 17 minute movie.  Cahokia Mounds is one of only 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the US, and they do a nice job.

“It was very interesting,” agreed the cab driver.

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The idea that native Americans built cities was and remains a challenging ideas to different views of what life was like here before 1492. It fights with both 19th century views of Indians as primitive savages, and later ideas that they were chilled out wanderers in perfect harmony with nature.

How many people lived at Cahokia?

6,000, say some archaeologists, 40,000 say others.  Charles Mann is really good at sorting through competing views of numbers, and if he says 1500 I’m prepared to believe him.  In the grandest view, the museum’s view, at one time Cahokia looked like this:

and like this:

How did Cahokia emerge?

Cahokia archaeology is wildly controversial.  But it seems like there’s more or less consensus that Cahokia grew up around the year 1000 in a “big bang.” Here’s Mann:

As the millennium approached, the American Bottom had a resident population of several thousand.  Then, without much apparent warning, there was, according to the archaeologist Timothy R. Pauketat of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, what has been called a “Big Bang” – a few decades of tumultuous change.

To his way of thinking, the Big Bang occurred after a single ambitious person seized power, perhaps in a coup.  Although his reign may have begun idealistically, Cahokia quickly became an autocracy; in an Ozymandic extension of his ego, the supreme leader set in motion the construction projects.

Don’t worry: there’s lots of arguing already:

[William] Woods [of U. Kansas, who spent 20 years excavating the mounds] disagrees with what he calls the “proto-Stalinist work camp” scenario.  Nobody was forced to erect Monks Mound, he says.  Despite the intermittent displays of coercion, he says, Cahokians put it up “because they wanted to.”

Who knows?  Julian Jaynes might say that these people just started building because the two hemispheres of their brain weren’t yet in alignment so they heard voices like schizophrenics:

 

But that’s a topic for another day.

At the Cahokia gift shop, I picked up a copy of Pauketat’s book:

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It’s terrific, just the right length.  Pauketat says:

Civilizations can rise and fall, to adapt Margaret Mead’s famous quotation, as a result of the actions of a small group of people combined with the inaction of many others. Making sense of these actions and inacations can be a difficult task for archaeologists, who must distinguish between how people lived and how they wanted to be perceived as living.  Cahokia’s big bang is a case study in how people can combine to great historical change.

OK, groovy – but why did this happen around the year 1000?  If I can jump ahead in Pauketat’s story: This combination of the cultural power of immigrants and the economic base of Old Cahokia [don’t worry about that], with its access to large amounts of easy-to-farm river bottom, was a recipe for explosive growth.  That explosion might have been sparked early one morning in 1054.

On that morning, recorded by a Chinese astrologer as July 4, a brilliant new luminary appeared in the sky.  It was a “guest star,” a supernova, a visitor in the constellation Taurus, visible today with a high-powered telescope as the Crab Nebula.  One of only fifty supernovas ever recorded – only three in our own Milky Way galaxy* – this nuclear detonation was the last gasp of a dying star.  The inaudible explosion discharged a billion times more energy than the small star had previously emitted, and that morning a brilliant beacon – four times brighter than Venus – appeared in the daylight adjacent to a crescent moon…

Whatever i might have meant to the native peoples, a New Mexican Mimbres valley potter commemorated the celestial event by painting a pot with a star ad the foot of a crescent-shaped rabbit, a representation of the rabbit many indigenous North Americans believed resided in the moon.  Ancient rock art in Arizona also appears to illustrate the supernova, as do petrogylphs in Missouri, which show the moon and supernova astride rabbit tracks.  And in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, a map of the night sky in July 1054 was painted on the sandstone cliffs above a palatial-sized, multi-story Great House called Penasco Blanco, under construction at about the same time in the middle of the eleventh century.  The pictograph shows the exploding star next to a crescent moon and a human hand, the later possibly representing a group of stars still known among Plains Indians today as the Hand constellation.  Also in Chaco Canyon, construction began around this time on a massive new kiva, an underground ceremonial building, now called Casa Rinconada, just south of the largest Great House, Pueblo Bonito.

Pause for a sec.  This is a sexy theory: a supernova creates a new star, and everyone goes into a religious building frenzy.  But let’s take a look at the Penasco Blanco petroglyph.  Here is is, in a photo by Ron Lussier:

Could it be that we’re stretching things a BIT here?  That star/moon pattern appears in other petrogylphs that weren’t from the 1054 period.

Anyway, here’s some things we do know about Cahokia:

They had human sacrifices. 

Pakutet, talking about Cahokia’s “Mound 72”:

Over the next four summers, Fowler’s crew turned up pit after pit and row after row of human skeletons in other parts of the mound.  The lengths and widths of the pits were precisely suited to contain exactly the number of bodies interred within them.  The excavation of the largest pit was supervised by Al Meyer, who noticed the telltale signs of a tomb originally lined with logs (which had since disintegrated) as he dug around the pit’s margins downward to the bottom.  At the bottom were the remains of fifty-three sacrificed women, fifty-two of whom were young (most between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five).  The fifty-third individual was an “elderly” (thirtyish) female, whom Meyer thought of as “the matron,” sparking the notion that she had been the elder wife of some man’s harem.  Since there were no skeletal indications of how the women had died, it is likely that they were poisoned or strangled or that their throats had been slit…

Nearby were:

the bodies of thirty-nine men and women who had, without a doubt, been executed on the spot. In the dispassionate language of a forensic report, Rose describes: […]

Evidence of violence also distinguishes these burials from the other mass graves.  Three individuals had been decapitated prior to being thrown into the pit.  The heads were thrown in before the burials were covered.  Another male appears to have been incompletely decapitated

They played a game called chunkey.  

Man, read about Cahokia and you are gonna hear a lot about chunkey.  It was a game where you rolled a stone, and then tried to hit it with a spear.  It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s all over what little art we have from the Mississippian culture.  Pakutet has a lot more patience than me for the differences in various chunkey stones found at Mississippian sites:

Anthropologists seem to think that this was the same game native Americans were playing seven centuries later when whites first saw them.  Said Swiss painter Rudolf Kurz, who was traveling around:

they bet high; here you may see a savage come and bring all his skins, stake them and lose them, next his pipe, his beads, trinkets and ornaments; at last his blankets and other garments, and even all their arms, and after all that is is not uncommon for them to go home, borrow a gun and shoot themselves; an instance of this happened in 1771 at East Yasoo a short time before my arrival.

Rudolf Kurz

I’m telling you, the guys who get into Cahokia get deep into chunkey:

Emerson took the next step.  He worked with a geologist and an archaeometric specialist to develop, with the aid of the National Science Foundation, a new short-wave, infrared-light-beam method of measuring the mineral composition of rock.  Their device is called a Portable Infrared Mineral Analyzer (PIMA for short) and has the advantage of being able to precisely measure a specimen’s mineralogy without damaging it.  Functioning like a ray gun, the PIMA is powerful enough to determine where the Chunkey Player pipe and two dozen other Cahokia-style objects were made.  Between 2000 and 2003, Emerson and his team published their results: the red stone sculptures were made not from bauxite but from a raw material called flintclay, which could have been obtained only at a single source of stone originating from an outcrop as close as twenty miles west of Cahokia.

I gotta say, chunkey does not seem that fun to me that I can understand why they were shooting themselves over it seven centuries after it was invented but I’ve never tried it.

They had massive feasts.

Based on the sheer density of excavated remains, individual feasts that took place over the course of just a few days would have involved killing, butchering, and carting in as many as thirty-nine hundred deer, the use of up to seventy-nine hundred pots, and enough smoking tobacco to produce more than a million charred tobacco seeds.

I have no idea how much tobacco that is.  A lot?  Worth noting that Charles Mann points out that the tobacco back then was way stronger, possibly even slightly hallucinogenic.

Now as I’m reviewing Pakutet’s book I can’t help but be impressed by how much he likes archaeology.  here he is talking about a site that wasn’t even very important, it was basically twelve huts from poor people who lived miles away from Cahokia Central:

The trash itself was impressive, in both amount and type.

Imagine spending years digging up people’s trash from a thousand years ago so you could make discoveries like “THEY ATE DOGS!” and “THEY ATE MOSTLY CORN”!

At Cahokia Mounds Interpretive Center they make a big deal out of “borrow pits,” places where they took the dirt to make the mounds.  Borrow pits? It’s like: “dude, do you mean holes?”

God bless you, archaeologists.  Some of the characters he describes were pretty wild:

[Preston] Holder also joined the armed forces.  He signed up with the navy and was sent to fight the Japanese.  Years later, he would tell stories about his time as a coast watcher on a small island in the Pacific.  The Japanese had established an airbase on one side of the island, he was stationed on the opposite side, and the people of Espiritu Santo, who had practiced head-hunting before the war, were trapped in between.  Holder, intrepid archaeologist that he was, apparently convinced the natives to revive their traditional practice, and they began taking heads again, this time preying on the unsuspecting Japanese troops.  Holder’s unusual ploy demoralized the Japanese, and when American forces finally retook the island in 1945, the Japanese were all too ready to surrender.

They were into a mythological birdman.

That was the only Birdman image I saw at the Interpretive Center, but artist Herb Roe has painted a more fanciful depiction of the Birdman supposedly crucial to the Mississippian culture or “Southeastern Ceremonial Complex.”

Now, what don’t we know about Cahokia?

What happened to them?

Nobody knows, seems to have collapsed around 1250.

Did they have any connection to the big cities that sprang up in Mexico?

There’s no evidence of it, really, unless you realllllllly stretch the birdman idea.  Some of the archaeologists got into the idea that the 52 human sacrifices has something to do with the Mayan calendar, but c’mon bros.

I find the idea of a pre-Columbian city in the what’s now United States fascinating, and the tantalizing, inevitably frustrating effort to sort out what was going on in a place that left no record is a cool mystery.  As usual, the history about the history is as good as the history.  Here we have archaeologists spending five years digging in the mud of Illinois to try and figure out why people 1000 years ago dug in the mud of Illinois.

On the other hand, what we’re talking about is some piles of dirt.

Anyway, glad someone’s working on it.

By the way, for more on the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex, check out this great essay by John Jeremiah Sullivan.  

 

 


Nevis

Everybody knows Alexander Hamilton was born there, but did you know this?

United States Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has a vacation home on Nevis. In February 2012 he was robbed in his home at machete-point.


Happy Fourth, everybody

Here’s those lousy Brits marching into Concord:

as rendered by patriot Amos Doolittle, who wasn’t there but turned up a few weeks or so later and visited the sites.  Here’s those same Brits retreating:

Thank goodness we don’t have to put up with that bullshit anymore.

The young Trumbull entered the 1771 junior class at Harvard College at age fifteen and graduated in 1773. Due to a childhood accident, Trumbull lost use of one eye, which may have influenced his detailed painting style.


Am I allowed to say this?

Against my better judgment I watched a few minutes of the UCSB shooter’s video.

He seemed gay to me.

Is that a thing that can or should be discussed? Even if for no other reason than to suggest that the pathology of killers might be much weirder and more complicated than we might like to think? (Because don’t we all crave easily comprehended narratives? Especially when something this awful happens?)

Can I not say it because it’s offensive to say a despicable person “seems” gay when what I mean is just I’m making a guess, a hunch based on no actual evidence, based only on a subjective perception, so subconscious I can’t even articulate it? And thus it’s skewed somehow, I can’t even know in which ways, by cultural biases, assumptions, and cruel stereotypes?

I don’t know.

Whenever I go to the source document of a story I discover or at least begin to perceive some complexity that has not survived the filtering down to me.

In this case, let me do it for you.  Let me save you an unpleasant experience and bring back the information that my perception, watching a few minutes of this guy, was that his sexual conflicts and confusions may not have been what he said they were, that he might have been deluded and confused sexually beyond just the ways he claimed he was.


Dianne Feinstein

Helytimes isn’t usually the place for politics.  But we’re easing back in here after a long hiatus, and something this morning got my engines a li’l fired.

A perfectly nice person who’s my friend on Facebook posted this:

Now I’m a sane person who values his time.  Not gonna comment on some guy’s Facebook post certainly.

But this one did get me steamed.

I don’t know what specific quote this is referring to, if any, where Dianne Feinstein maybe claimed she’s a gun expert because she looked at lots of pictures of guns.  No source is cited except a link to the “Cold Dead Hands Guitars, Guns And Posters Giveaway Contest.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen Dianne Feinstein specifically mentioned as a villain to anti-gun control folks.

What got me steamed is that Dianne Feinstein is a terrible, terrible target to pick – pardon the metaphor – in an anti-gun control crusade.

I know hardly anything about Dianne Feinstein.

Except, one of the few things I know about her is that SHE SURVIVED A WORKPLACE GUN MASSACRE.

On November 27, 1978, disgruntled* ex-City Board of Supervisors member Dan White went to San Francisco City Hall and shot the Mayor, George Moscone twice in the chest and then twice in the head.  Then he went over and shot Supervisor Harvey Milk.

From a San Francisco Gate article on the anniversary of the shootings:

[Feinstein’s] office was on the other side of City Hall. She heard a door slam in Milk’s office, heard shots, saw the killer run out, went in herself and found Harvey Milk’s body. “I put my finger to see if there was any pulse, and it went in a bullet hole in his chest,” she said the other day. “I think of it as if it were yesterday. I remember Harvey’s body, his blood on me. I see it all.”**

With the Mayor now dead, Dianne Feinstein, president of the Board of Supervisors, became the acting mayor.

Here she is that day, around 2:30:

That’s how she became mayor.  You might say it was the major event in her political life.  In fact, if you truly hated Dianne Feinstein, then maybe you should become a gun control advocate, maybe if there’d been more gun control she would’ve just stayed as a San Francisco local politician.

Oh, also, separate incidents: some people once shot out the windows of Dianne Feinstein’s beach house (she’s super rich) and one time somebody put a bomb outside Dianne Feinstein’s window.  San Francisco was pretty weird in the 1970s.   With all that weirdness in the air, you know what Dianne Feinstein did?  Dianne Feinstein used to carry a pistol in her purse for safety.***

What makes you an expert on guns?  Shooting a lot of guns?  Knowing a lot about the mechanics, makes, models and varieties of guns?  Yes, that’s a kind of expertise.

But I dunno, in my opinion if you survive a gun massacre you get a little bit of cred on the issue of gun massacres.

My point is I wish there were some easily digestible and sharable video in which Dianne Feinstein herself made this point in such a clear, pointed manner, shutting down some chump for reals, slamming somebody who is obviously ignorant of her history with guns and gun massacres.  But I can’t find it.

Maybe my point is I wish The West Wing was still on, so Toby or Josh or best yet Leo could sum this up in a much punchier, pithier way than I ever could.

Anyway.

Helytimes will return to regular broadcasting as soon as possible!  Here’s a picture of a church in the Atacama desert of Chile, no filtah.

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* “You always hear about ‘disgruntled.’  Is anyone ever ‘gruntled’?” – Seinfeld maybe?  Or did I make this one up?

** the account of this event on this wikipedia page seems to be slightly inconsistent with the cited source, Randy Shilts’ book The Mayor Of Castro Street.

*** Mayor of Castro Street p. 207


Simpler and better.

John Ehrlichman, from the doc “Our Nixon” (avail on Netflix Instant).  I’d say this doc is “fascinating” but I’m already super interested in Nixon so please, be aware of my bias.

Following his release from prison, Ehrlichman held a number of jobs, first for a quality control firm, then writer, artist and commentator. Ehrlichman wrote several novels, including The Company, which served as the basis for the 1977 television miniseries Washington: Behind Closed Doors. He served as the executive vice-president of an Atlanta hazardous materials firm. In a 1981 interview, Ehrlichman referred to Nixon as “a very pathetic figure in American history.” His experiences in the Nixon administration were published in his 1982 book, Witness To Power. The book portrays Nixon in a very negative light, and is considered to be the culmination of his frustration at not being pardoned by Nixon prior to his own 1974 resignation. Shortly before his death, Ehrlichman teamed with best-selling novelist Tom Clancy to write, produce, and co-host a three-hour Watergate documentary, John Ehrlichman: In the Eye of the Storm.

(Idea occurred to me watching “Our Nixon”: JFK hired people who were extremely confident, raised in/part of  “the establishment.”  Nixon hired people who were extremely insecure, embittered and aggrieved with “the establishment.”  Danger with both.)


Everly Brothers

(tune in for the first forty seconds at least for a good lesson in evolutionary biology)


“It’s just like any other line of work only different.”

Saw on Drudge or someplace this article about Bob Dylan being charged with “inciting hatred” in France.

The offending remarks, which “sparked a complaint from the Council of Croats in France (CRICCF),” were given in an interview to Rolling Stone over a year ago, an interview I completely missed.

This is massive insurance/late to the party to many HelyTimes readers, but the whole interview is just astounding.  Here are the offending remarks, in their context:

Some of us have seen your calling as somebody who has done his best to pay witness to the world, and the history that made that world.
History’s a funny thing, isn’t it? History can be changed. The past can be changed and distorted and used for propaganda purposes. Things we’ve been told happened might not have happened at all. And things that we were told that didn’t happen actually might have happened. Newspapers do it all the time; history books do it all the time. Everybody changes the past in their own way. It’s habitual, you know? We always see things the way they really weren’t, or we see them the way we want to see them. We can’t change the present or the future. We can only change the past, and we do it all the time.

There’s that old wisdom “History is written by the victors.”
Absolutely. And then there’s Henry Ford. He didn’t have much use for history at all.

But you have a use for it. In Chronicles, you wrote about your interest in Civil War history. You said that the spirit of division in that time made a template for what you’ve written about in your music. You wrote about reading the accounts from that time. Reading, say, Grant’s remembrances is different than reading Shelby Foote’s history of the Civil War.
The reports are hardly the same. Shelby Foote is looking down from a high mountain, and Grant is actually down there in it. Shelby Foote wasn’t there. Neither were any of those guys who fight Civil War re-enactments. Grant was there, but he was off leading his army. He only wrote about it all once it was over. If you want to know what it was about, read the daily newspapers from that time from both the North and South. You’ll see things that you won’t believe. There is just too much to go into here, but it’s nothing like what you read in the history books. It’s way more deadly and hateful.

There doesn’t seem to be anything heroic or honorable about it at all. It was suicidal. Four years of looting and plunder and murder done the American way. It’s amazing what you see in those newspaper articles. Places like the Pittsburgh Gazette, where they were warning workers that if the Southern states have their way, they are going to overthrow our factories and use slave labor in place of our workers and put an end to our way of life. There’s all kinds of stuff like that, and that’s even before the first shot was fired.

But there were also claims and rumors from the South about the North . . . 
There’s a lot of that, too, about states’ rights and loyalty to our state. But that didn’t make any sense. The Southern states already had rights. Sometimes more than the Northern states. The North just wanted them to stop slavery, not even put an end to it – just stop exporting it. They weren’t trying to take the slaves away. They just wanted to keep slavery from spreading. That’s the only right that was being contested. Slavery didn’t provide a working wage for people. If that economic system was allowed to spread, then people in the North were going to take up arms. There was a lot of fear about slavery spreading.

Do you see any parallels between the 1860s and present-day America?
Mmm, I don’t know how to put it. It’s like . . . the United States burned and destroyed itself for the sake of slavery. The USA wouldn’t give it up. It had to be grinded out. The whole system had to be ripped out with force. A lot of killing. What, like, 500,000 people? A lot of destruction to end slavery. And that’s what it really was all about.

This country is just too fucked up about color. It’s a distraction. People at each other’s throats just because they are of a different color. It’s the height of insanity, and it will hold any nation back – or any neighborhood back. Or any anything back. Blacks know that some whites didn’t want to give up slavery – that if they had their way, they would still be under the yoke, and they can’t pretend they don’t know that. If you got a slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.

It’s doubtful that America’s ever going to get rid of that stigmatization. It’s a country founded on the backs of slaves. You know what I mean? Because it goes way back. It’s the root cause. If slavery had been given up in a more peaceful way, America would be far ahead today. Whoever invented the idea “lost cause . . . .” There’s nothing heroic about any lost cause. No such thing, though there are people who still believe it.

Here is another part of the interview that is also amazing:

[Dylan suddenly seems excited.] Let me show you something. I want to show you something. You might be interested in this. You might take this someplace. You might want to rephrase your questions, or think of new ones [laughs]. Let me show you this. [Gets up and walks to another table.]

You want me to come with you?
No, no, no, I got it right here. I thought this might interest you. [Brings a weathered paperback to the table!] See this book? Ever heard of this guy? [Shows me Hell’s Angel: The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club, by Sonny Barger.]

Yeah, sure.
He’s a Hell’s Angel.

He was “the” Hell’s Angel.
Look who wrote this book. [Points at coauthors’ names, Keith Zimmerman and Kent Zimmerman.] Do those names ring a bell? Do they look familiar? Do they? You wonder, “What’s that got to do with me?” But they do look familiar, don’t they? And there’s two of them there. Aren’t there two? One’s not enough? Right? [Dylan’s now seated, smiling.]

I’m going to refer to this place here. [Opens the book to a dog-eared page.] Read it out loud here. Just read it out loud into your tape recorder.

“One of the early presidents of the Berdoo Hell’s Angels was Bobby Zimmerman. On our way home from the 1964 Bass Lake Run, Bobby was riding in his customary spot – front left – when his muffler fell off his bike. Thinking he could go back and retrieve it, Bobby whipped a quick U-turn from the front of the pack. At that same moment, a Richmond Hell’s Angel named Jack Egan was hauling ass from the back of the pack toward the front. Egan was on the wrong side of the road, passing a long line of speeding bikes, just as Bobby whipped his U-turn. Jack broadsided poor Bobby and instantly killed him. We dragged Bobby’s lifeless body to the side of the road. There was nothing we could do but to send somebody on to town for help.” Poor Bobby.

Yeah, poor Bobby. You know what this is called? It’s called transfiguration. Have you ever heard of it?

Yes.
Well, you’re looking at somebody.

That . . . has been transfigured?
Yeah, absolutely. I’m not like you, am I? I’m not like him, either. I’m not like too many others. I’m only like another person who’s been transfigured. How many people like that or like me do you know?

By transfiguration, you mean it in the sense of being transformed? Or do you mean transmigration, when a soul passes into a different body?
Transmigration is not what we are talking about. This is something else. I had a motorcycle accident in 1966.1 already explained to you about new and old. Right? Now, you can put this together any way you want. You can work on it any way you want. Transfiguration: You can go and learn about it from the Catholic Church, you can learn about it in some old mystical books, but it’s a real concept. It’s happened throughout the ages. Nobody knows who it’s happened to, or why. But you get real proof of it here and there. It’s not like something you can dream up and think. It’s not like conjuring up a reality or like reincarnation – or like when you might think you’re somebody from the past but have no proof. It’s not anything to do with the past or the future.

So when you ask some of your questions, you’re asking them to a person who’s long dead. You’re asking them to a person that doesn’t exist. But people make that mistake about me all the time. I’ve lived through a lot. Have you ever heard of a book called No Man Knows My History? It’s about Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet. The title could refer to me.

Transfiguration is what allows you to crawl out from under the chaos and fly above it. That’s how I can still do what I do and write the songs I sing and just keep on moving.

When you say I’m talking to a person that’s dead, do you mean the motorcyclist Bobby Zimmerman, or do you mean Bob Dylan?
Bob Dylan’s here! You’re talking to him.

Then your transfiguration is . . . 
It is whatever it is. I couldn’t go back and find Bobby in a million years. Neither could you or anybody else on the face of the Earth. He’s gone. If I could, I would go back. I’d like to go back. At this point in time, I would love to go back and find him, put out my hand. And tell him he’s got a friend. But I can’t. He’s gone. He doesn’t exist.

OK, so when you speak of transfiguration . . . 
I only know what I told you. You’ll have to go and do the work yourself to find out what it’s about.

I’m trying to determine whom you’ve been transfigured from, or as.
I just showed you. Go read the book.

That’s who you have in mind? What could the connection to that Bobby Zimmerman be other than name?
I don’t have it in mind. I didn’t write that book. I didn’t make it up. I didn’t dream that. I’m not telling you I had a dream last night. Remember the song “Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream”? I didn’t write that, either.

I’m showing you a book that’s been written and published. I mean, look at all the connecting things: motorcycles, Bobby Zimmerman, Keith and Kent Zimmerman, 1964, 1966. And there’s more to it than even that. If you went to find this guy’s family, you’d find a whole bunch more that connected. I’m just explaining it to you. Go to the grave site.

Gee whiz.

Why is it that when people talk about me they have to go crazy? What the fuck is the matter with them?

Here’s Mount Tabor in Israel where Jesus got transfigured:

(Civil War photo from the website Florida Memory)

Did you hope or imagine that the election of President Obama would signal a shift, or that it was in fact a sea change?
I don’t have any opinion on that. You have to change your heart if you want to change.

Since his election, there’s been a great reaction by some against him They did the same to Bush, didn’t they? They did the same thing to Clinton, too, and Jimmy Carter before that. Look what they did to Kennedy. Anybody who’s going to take that job is going to be in for a rough time.

Don’t you think some of the reaction has stemmed from that kind of racial resonance you were talking about?
I don’t know. I don’t know, but I don’t think that’s the same thing. I have no idea what they are saying for or against him. I really don’t. I don’t know how deep it goes or how shallow it is.

You are aware that he’s been branded as un-American or a socialist —
You can’t pay any attention to that kind of stuff, as if you’ve never heard those kind of words before. Eisenhower was accused of being un-American. And wasn’t Nixon a socialist? Look what he did in China. They’ll say bad things about the next guy, too.

So you don’t think some of the reaction against Obama has been in reaction to the event that a black man has become president of the United States?
Do you want me to repeat what I just said, word for word? What are you talking about? People loved the guy when he was elected. So what are we talking about? People changing their minds? Well, who are these people that changed their minds? Talk to them. What are they changing their minds for? What’d they vote for him for? They should’ve voted for somebody else if they didn’t think they were going to like him.

The point I’m making is that perhaps lingering American resentments about race are resonant in the opposition to President Obama, which has not been a quiet opposition.
You mean in the press? I don’t know anybody personally that’s saying this stuff that you’re just saying. The press says all kinds of stuff. I don’t know what they would be saying. Or why they would be saying it. You can’t believe what you read in the press anyway.

Do you vote?
Uh . . .

Should we do that? Should we vote?
Yeah, why not vote? I respect the voting process. Everybody ought to have the right to vote. We live in a democracy. What do you want me to say? Voting is a good thing.

I was curious if you vote.
[Smiling] Huh?

What’s your estimation of President Obama been when you’ve met him?
What do I think of him? I like him. But you’re asking the wrong person. You know who you should be asking that to? You should be asking his wife what she thinks of him. She’s the only one that matters.

Look, I only met him a few times. I mean, what do you want me to say? He loves music. He’s personable. He dresses good. What the fuck do you want me to say?


Everything is something.

IMG_7241The bartender, a friend of my cousin’s, said that the drive from Fort Davis to Balmorhea – forty miles or so – was “some of the prettiest state highway driving in all of Texas.”

Sold, obvs.

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I don’t think my pictures do justice to the Wild Rose Pass.  In fact, I know they don’t.

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I was distracted listening to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, which I’d never listened to:

I would say “Atlantic City” is my favorite song on this album.  I was never super-into Bruce Springsteen.  But: respect:

Initially, Springsteen recorded demos for the album at his home with a 4-trackcassette recorder. The demos were sparse…

Springsteen then recorded the album in a studio with the E Street Band. However, he and the producers and engineers working with him felt that a raw, haunted folk essence present on the home tapes was lacking in the band treatments, and so they ultimately decided to release the demo version as the final album.

Complications with mastering of the tapes ensued because of low recording volume, but the problem was overcome with sophisticated noise reduction techniques.

“Nebraska” itself is an interesting song, about Charlie Starkweather:

The song begins with Starkweather meeting Fugate:

I saw her standin’ on her front lawn just a-twirlin’ her baton
Me and her went for a ride, sir…and 10 innocent people died

Springsteen was inspired to write the song after seeing Terrence Malick’s movie Badlands on television. The portrait in the opening lines of the girl standing on her front lawn twirling her baton was taken from the movie.

Starkweather himself was [supposedly] influenced by James Dean:

After viewing the film Rebel Without a Cause, Starkweather developed a James Dean fixation and began to groom his hairstyle and dress himself to look like Dean. Starkweather related to Dean’s rebellious screen persona, believing that he had found a kindred spirit of sorts, someone who had suffered torment similar to his own whom he could admire.

Charlie Starweather killed eleven people.  Ban movies, I guess.

Fort Davis:

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From 1854 to 1891, Fort Davis was strategically located to protect emigrants, mail coaches, and freight wagons on the Trans-Pecos portion of the San Antonio-El Paso Road and the Chihuahua Trail …

During the Civil War,Confederate States Army troops manned the fort which was attacked on August 9, 1861 by MescaleroApaches. The native warriors attacked the garrison’s livestock herd, killed two guards and made off with about 100 horses and or cattle.

At Fort Davis they have an audio program, where they play announcements of the sort that would’ve been heard on the parade ground, years ago.  The day I was there the audio program was a list of ceremonies and salutes to acknowledge the death of former president Andrew Johnson.  Gun salutes every hour, and then at sundown.

In the reconstructed barracks, I came upon some National Park Service Personnel discussing the site, and the reproductions they’d used of guns and quilts and so forth.  They got quiet and respectful when I came in, and said if I had any questions they would answer them.  Then they got back to joking about how someday someone would sell the reproduced guns on eBay as “authentic!  from Fort Davis!”

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A poignant obituary:

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At lunch a guy came up to me and mistook me for Dave.  “You look just like Dave  – in profile!”

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A house I saw in Balmorhea.  I sat right down in the middle of the road to take a picture of it.

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In Balmorhea there’s a spring:

Between 20 million and 28 million US gallons (90,850 cubic meters) of water a day flow from the springs.

That’s crazy.

There was a sign nearby offering snorkel rental:

The cienega now serves as a habitat for endangered fish such as the Comanche Springs pupfish and Pecos gambusia as well as other aquatic life, birds and other animals.

I did not take a picture, because you can’t take a picture of everything.  But here’s one from the Texas Parks Department:

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Later a friend of mine described the drive from Marfa to Austin, seven hours away.

“The first time I did it,” he said,  “I was bored because I thought it was nothing.  But then, as I got used to it, I realized everything is something.”

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In Fort Davis I wanted to visit the rattlesnake and reptile museum.  I walked in, and there was no one there.  So I walked around.  A Spanish language radio station was playing.  Then, as I was leaving, I realized it cost $4.  I only had two singles or a twenty.  I debated what to do.  I left the two dollars, and figured that was good enough since no one had been there to explain the various lizards and scorpions anyway.

But then, driving out of town, I thought, “Steve, you know better.  This man went to all the trouble of collecting these snakes.  All he asks is four dollars.”  In my heart I knew it was right.  So I got change and went back.  The snake man was there this time, and he thanked me for my honesty.  He’d been watching my car the whole time, he said.


Cudjoe Lewis

photo

Excitement about how terrific John Jeremiah Sullivan is reached me long ago but it took me awhile to get to this book and believe it for myself.  Now I’m a JJS belieber.

Enjoyed the book on a plane, a fine setting in all regards but one:

after you’ve finished reading the essay “Unknown Bards” – about certain mysterious bluesmen whose lives are vanished to history except for one recording – you have no way of listening to any of the songs mentioned, let alone the entire album Pre-War Revenants.

The collection’s only delimiting criteria would be that nothing biographical could be known regarding any of the artists involved, and that every recording must be phenomenal, in a sense almost strict: something that happened once in front of a microphone and can never be imitated, merely reexperienced.

On return to California a listening party was organized (thanks to Chennai office).

While listening to this amazing thing the question came up of: whether any people were alive in the American South at the time of these recordings (1910-1940, let’s say) who were born in Africa and brought over to the United States as slaves.

My expensive education paid off because I knew that the Atlantic slave trade was abolished in 1808, the first year that the U. S. Constitution allowed it to be abolished.   (Never hurts to remind your strict constructionists how much of what ‘the framers intended’ was “being allowed to own people.”  See Article 1, Section 9).

BUT the story’s more interesting.

Wiki:

Cudjoe Kazoola Lewis, or Cudjo Lewis (ca. 1840 – 1935), is considered the last person born on African soil to have been enslaved in the United States when slavery was still lawful.

Together with more than a hundred other captured Africans, he was brought on the ship Clotilde to Mobile, Alabama, in the United States in 1860 during an illegal slave-trading venture.

Cudjoe was the longest-lived survivor of all those who were brought aboard the Clotilde. He was believed to be the last slave born in Africa and brought to the United States by the transatlantic slave trade. Before he died, he gave several interviews on his experiences, including one to the writer Zora Neale Hurston. During that interview in 1928, Hurston made a short film of Cudjoe, the only moving image that exists in the Western hemisphere of an African transported through the transatlantic slave trade.

Hurston named the last eight of the Clothilde’s survivors as: “Abache (Clara Turner), Monachee (Kitty Cooper), Shamber, Kanko (who married Jim Dennison), Zooma (of Togo Tribe), Polute, Cudjo, and Orsey, or Orsta Keeby. Cudjo is the only one alive at present, a dignified, lovable, intelligent man.”

He died in 1935 at the age of 94, in Plateau (Africa Town), Alabama.

Could explore this forever.  Was he named after this man?*

The Library of Congress has audio recordings of slave interviews.

* alert reader “DS” calls my attention to a more likely explanation: Lewis was born on a Monday


“Four Centuries Of Pueblo Pottery”

Man, if you go see an exhibit called “Four Centuries of Pueblo Pottery” at the Southwest Museum  legally all your property is forfeit to KCRW but I do like this picture.

Like most things involving the site, the show is fraught with uncertainty and controversy, none of it having to do with the artistry and cultural history on display.