Happy Voters

send in their pics after consulting the Helytimes Voter Guide.


Gods of the Modern World and the Cartoon History Of The Universe

José Clemente Orozco painted these crazy frescos at Dartmouth around 1933.  My pal Larry Gonick sends a vivid closeup:

photo: Larry Gonick

Gotta check these out.  If you haven’t read Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History Of The Universe:

Strongest recommend!  Epic achievements in bringing history to life by both artists.

 


Becoming over time becomes being

“The goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us,” Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, once famously said.

(source is this Vanity Fair article).  The ancient sages and strategists would’ve enjoyed that one.  The intersection of becoming and fighting.

The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting

Sun Tzu said. Maybe.  Can’t vouch for the translation.  Elsewhere rendered as:

To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.

or:

to defeat the enemy without battle is the whole of my art


What do these buildings have in common?

One Beacon Street, Boston

one-beacon-street

425 Market Street, San Francisco:

425-market-street

11 Times Square, New York:

11_times_square_new_york_ny_2014_09_02_01

Along with a lot of other buildings in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Paris, London and elsewhere, they’re all 47% or so owned by the Norwegian people, in the form of their nation’s sovereign wealth fund.

They own a lot of other stuff, too.  $21 mill worth of Buffalo Wild Wings, for instance.

bdub

And 1.5% of Whole Foods:

whole-foods

 

In a tiny way, every Norwegian helps Marc Maron, because they own about a million bucks worth of Stamps.com.

maron


Summer

Summer

Wait!  You can’t be shut down for summer!  I need my Helytimes!

writes reader Melanie in Nashville.  Aw, thanks!  Don’t worry, there’s tons to read… in the archive!

long room

There have been over 560 posts on Helytimes.  Here are the ten most popular:

1) Sundown by Gordon Lightfoot

Off the charts most popular post, because of people googling supposed inspiration/John Belushi partyfriend Cathy Smith

2) Great Debates

Those’ll keep coming over the summer!  

3) Cinderella and Interrogation Technique

Disney + Nazis will bring ’em in. 

4) The Story Of Cahokia

A personal passion

5) What was up with European witch trials?

Feel like this is my wheelhouse, summarizing dense history of the general reader, but it’s a lot of work to write posts like this. 

6) Ships’ Cats

I mean, for Convoy alone. 

7) Karl Ove Knausgaard

The “it man” of Norwegian literature! 

8) Finis Mitchell

Just a real great story.  

9) Losing The War by Lee Sandlin

This blew my mind, some of the best writing I’ve ever read on WWII. 

10) Coaches, parts 1 and 2.

About Pete Carroll, Nick Saban, and Bill Belichick

Now, here are just some personal favorites:

– Record Group 80: Series: General Photographic File Of the Department of the Navy, 1943-1958

Almonds and Water

Everything is Something

Fitzhugh Lane

O’Donoghue’s Opera

– Marc Isambard Brunel

Here’s stuff related to a current project:

The Conquest Of New Spain by Bernal Diaz

Tenochtitlan

Wade Davis

– Breaking The Maya Code

Here is some backstory on Donald Trump, lately in the news:

You can also browse yourself by category.  Probably the deepest holes are

America Since 1945

The California Condition

Music

– Painting and Art

See you later!


Almonds and water

Written about California water before.  If I had ten hours to spare for the round trip I’d drive up to Bishop and retake this photo:

IMG_1470

Taken about this time three years ago, I bet there’d be no snow in it now.

This article by Helaine Olsen on The Baffler seemed insightful to me:

Barely mentioned was the fact that the clueless wealthy might just as well go ahead and turn on the taps—let ten thousand golf course bougainvillea bloom. They aren’t the problem, or not much of the problem.

Listen up: California’s agricultural sector uses about 80 percent of the state’s water. As Mother Jonesreported, it takes one gallon of water to grow a single almond, and nearly five gallons to make a walnut edible.

But, hey, Governor Brown says those almonds and other produce grown in California aren’t living large. That’s why agriculture was all but excused from his edict. “They’re not watering their lawn or taking long showers,” Brown told ABC’s This Week, of the farmers. “They’re providing much of the fruits and vegetables of America.”

Nuts: Too tasty to fail?

The ritual shaming of the public, in which politicians blame us for their failures, seems like democratic politics in reverse. And the bigger the crisis, the greater the gall. For example, as we all know but few care to remember, the United States recently went through a financial crisis. Banks made massively leveraged bets that didn’t pay off. Complicated, risky financial innovations were presented as safe by people and institutions all of who should have known better. Subprime mortgages were pushed and promoted, often under false pretenses. Credit was offered up to Americans, many of whom took it because they were told it is was a good idea, and cheap, and, anyway, their incomes weren’t keeping up with the cost of housing, healthcare, and education and they needed to get money from somewhere, dammit.

Alex Tabarrok saying similar things on Marginal Revolution:

The NYTimes has an article on California’s extreme water drought with the usual apocalyptic imagery (see the video especially):

California is facing a punishing fourth year of drought. Temperatures in Southern California soared to record-high levels over the weekend, approaching 100 degrees in some places. Reservoirs are low. Landscapes are parched and blighted with fields of dead or dormant orange trees.

The apocalyptic scenario needs to be leavened with some basic facts.

California has plenty of water…just not enough to satisfy every possible use of water that people can imagine when the price is close to zero. As David Zetland points out in an excellent interview with Russ Roberts, people in San Diego county use around 150 gallons of water a day. Meanwhile in Sydney Australia, with a roughly comparable climate and standard of living, people use about half that amount. Trust me, no one in Sydney is going thirsty.

So how much are people in San Diego paying for their daily use of 150 gallons of water? About 78 cents. As Matt Kahn puts it:

Where in the Constitution does it say that the people of California have the right to pay .5 cents per gallon of water?

Water is such a small share of most people’s budgets that it could double in price and the effect on income would still be low. Moreover, we don’t even have to increase the price of water for residential or industrial uses. As The Economist points out:

Agriculture accounts for 80% of water consumption in California, for example, but only 2% of economic activity.

What that means is that if agriculture used 12.5% less water we could increase the amount available for every residential and industrial use by 50%–grow those lawns, fill those swimming pools, manufacture those chips!–and the cost would be minimal even if we simply shut down 12.5% of all farms.

Moreover, we don’t have to shut down that many farms, we just have to shut down the least valuable farms and use water more efficiently. If you think water is cheap for San Diego residents it’s much cheaper for Almond-Trees-and-Flood-Irrigationfarmers. Again from The Economist:

Farmers flood the land to grow rice, alfalfa and other thirsty crops….If water were priced properly, it is a safe bet that they would waste far less of it, and the effects of California’s drought—its worst in recorded history—would not be so severe.

Even today a lot of CA agriculture uses the least efficient flood irrigation system.

According to data from the state Department of Water Resources, 43 percent of California farmland in 2010 used some form of gravity irrigation, an imprecise method that uses relatively large amounts of fresh water and represents a big opportunity for water conservation.

The NYTimes article is worried about farm loss:

“I’m going to fallow two acres of my land immediately,” said Geoffrey C. Galloway, who has a citrus grove on his ranch near Porterville, in the Central Valley. “Depending on how the season goes, we may let another four go.”

…Last year, at least 400,000 acres went unplanted, and farmers reported losses of $2.2 billion, said Mr. Wenger, the head of the farm bureau, who owns a farm in Modesto. “This year we could see easily 50 percent more,” he said. “We are probably going to be looking at well over a million acres.”

California has approximately 25 million acres of farmland. And while our bodily fluids might be precious not every acre of farmland is. A few less acres of farmland producing low value crops in return for a lot more water is a very acceptable tradeoff.

Addendum: Low prices are not always wasteful. David Zetland’s short primer on water policy is available for free as pdf. Matt Kahn’s Fundamentals of Environmental and Urban Economics is on Amazon for Kindle for just $1. Both are very good.

I have a personal, untested theory of a major factor in the California water problem:

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 11.25.35 AM

The boom in almond milk consumption.  Almond milk is made of 1) water and 2) water intensive almonds.


Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Get a load of this dandy:

Born in Glasgow the year Seward bought Alaska from the Russians, one of twelve children, he became an architect.  He designed this house which wasn’t built until 1996:

He had this idea for Liverpool Cathedral:

But they built this instead:

(Giles Gilbert Scott, the winning architect, was 22)

Frustrated with architecture, Rennie became a painter:

The fort in Port-Vendres, France?  Or a mad vision of the PCH between Big Sur and San Francisco?

The Lighthouse, Glasgow:

Died 1928.

(Cathedral plan from here, everything else from Wikipedia per usual)


The Field of Blackbirds

Larry McMurtry in Hollywood: A Third Memoir describes Peter Bogdanovich at the 1972 Oscars:

he sat in his tux looking like a Serbian martyr – the only survivor of the Field of Blackbirds, perhaps.

The Field of Blackbirds refers to the Battle of Kosovo of 1389, which was indeed a bad time for everyone involved.  The Prince of Serbia at the time was Lazar Hrebeljanović.  Here he is with wife Milicia:

The Ottoman Empire, meanwhile, was led by Mulad I:

The Ottomans decided to invade Serbia, and the two armies met on the Field of Blackbirds:

Wikipedia describes the grim scene:

The bulk of both armies were wiped out in the battle.

Both Mulad and Lazar were killed.

The Ottomans conquered Serbia, and Milicia had to send her youngest daughter Olivera to the harem of the new Ottoman Sultan, Mulad’s son, Bayezid I.

Before the battle Prince Lazar issued the “Kosovo Curse”:

Whoever is a Serb and of Serb birth,

And of Serb blood and heritage,

And comes not to the Battle of Kosovo,

May he never have the progeny his heart desires,

Neither son nor daughter!

May nothing grow that his hand sows,

Neither red wine nor white wheat!

And let him be cursed from all ages to all ages!

Today it’s inscribed on a pillar at the battlefield:

Peter Bogdanovich:


Someday My Prince Will Come

Recently we were invited by a correspondent to test-listen to some new speakers.  It had been a long time since “listening to music” was the whole activity we were doing.  Among other things we tried out this Miles Davis album, recorded March 7, 20, 21st of 1961.

During the next session, while Miles was about to wrap up “Someday My Prince Will Come,” John Coltrane suddenly appeared in the studio between two sets at the Apollo Theater where he was performing.

So says milesdavis.com, which continues (demonstrating why reading about jazz is associated with being a huge douche-out):

In two choruses,Coltrane conveyed the quintessence of his art. The next day he returned bringing, forthe last time, the intensity of his flame to the music of Miles, who in “Teo,” took advantage of his presence to extend the modal explorations of “Flamenco Sketches” even further.

Anyway.  The following anecdote was once reported in The Guardian:

In 1987, [Davis] was invited to a White House dinner by Ronald Reagan. Few of the guests appeared to know who he was. During dinner, Nancy Reagan turned to him and asked what he’d done with his life to merit an invitation. Straight-faced, Davis replied: “Well, I’ve changed the course of music five or six times. What have you done except fuck the president?”

Snopes however tells us it wasn’t so, and quotes Davis’ own autobiography, where he wrote:

Reagan was nice to us, respectful and everything.  But Nancy is the one who has the charm between those two.  She seemed like a warm person. She greeted me warmly and I kissed her hand.  She liked that.

Too bad.

What a great album cover.  That’s Miles’ then-wife Frances.  According to a message board we came across, she was working as a hostess at Hamburger Hamlet on Sunset Blvd. as of 2004.

She’s still beautiful and has the body of a dancer. Totally charming woman… She seemed totally open about who she is and her past with Miles and would probably be happy to chat with anyone about it should they stop by the restaurant.

Hamburger Hamlet is now closed.


Lionel Pries

Reading up on some Disney animators and writers.

Ken Anderson, one of the credited screenwriters for The Rescuers, Aristocats, The Jungle Book, and Cinderella, was (wikipedia tells me) “particularly influenced” by his University of Washington architecture professor, Lionel Pries.

Lionel Pries designed the Andalucia building in Santa Barbara:

Here’s a house he designed for himself:

“He used affordable modern materials — concrete, concrete block and cement-asbestos board.”

Here’s another house Pries designed, in the Laurelhurst neighborhood of Seattle:

Wikipedia:

Pries was gay, but deeply closeted in the University of Washington community. He anticipated teaching at least until he reached retirement age, but was forced to resign his university position in 1958 after he was picked up in a vice sting in Los Angeles. The reason for Pries’s abrupt departure from the university was concealed at the time.

Pries worked as a drafter until he was able to retire in 1964, then lived quietly until his death in 1968.

Lionel Pries:

(Pries photo is credited to Dorothy Conway and the Pries Collection, Special Collection, UW Libraries, Pries house photo to Charles R. Pierson from the same collection, Laurelhurst house photo “courtesy Max and Helen Gurvitch, and I got them all from this Seattle Times article by Laurence Kriesman.)


John Cage

Tyler Cowen talks about John Cage today, as what would be his 100th is coming up.  His quotes link doesn’t include my favorite.  Possibly apocryphal, I believe I got it from the Paris Review interview of Sam Shepard which I am WAY too busy to reread right now:

Theater exists all around us and it is the purpose of formal theater to remind us.

I told that quote to the actor friend I thought would most appreciate it and even he kinda scoffed.

Couple curios from Cage’s wikipedia page:

On his education at Pomona:

 I was shocked at college to see one hundred of my classmates in the library all reading copies of the same book. Instead of doing as they did, I went into the stacks and read the first book written by an author whose name began with Z. I received the highest grade in the class. That convinced me that the institution was not being run correctly. I left.

And:

After several months in Paris, Cage’s enthusiasm for America was revived after he read Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass – he wanted to return immediately, but his parents, with whom he regularly exchanged letters during the entire trip, persuaded him to stay in Europe for a little longer and explore the continent.

Whose parents ever did that?

He went to Santa Monica, California, where he made a living partly by giving small, private lectures on contemporary art.

What?  Who paid for that?  How much?  Sounds like something PON might get away with:

Cage was working at his mother’s arts and crafts shop, where he met artist Xenia Andreyevna Kashevaroff. She was an Alaskan-born daughter of a Russian priest; her work encompassed fine bookbinding, sculpture and collage. Although Cage was involved in relationships with Don Sample and with architect Rudolph Schindler’s wife Pauline when he met Xenia, he fell in love immediately.

Well, yeah.  An Alaskan-born daughter of a Russian priest walks in, introduces herself as Xenia, and starts talking bookbinding, it’s Robyn time.

Cage met [Allen] Kaprow while on a mushroom hunt with George Segal and invited him to join his class.

That’s from the chapter of the wiki called ’60s: FAME


Lon Chaney’s Cabin

High in the Sierras, the cabin of actor Lon Chaney, Sr., “the man of a thousand faces.”

Both of Chaney’s parents were deaf, and as a child of deaf adults Chaney became skilled in pantomime.

From this LA Times article:

“Tonight I start out for the High Sierra. No shaving, no makeup, no interviews for four long, lazy weeks. We take a stove along and the wife cooks the fish I catch. We sleep under the pines and I try to climb high enough to reach the snows. Camping’s the biggest kick in life for me,” Chaney told a writer in 1928.

And:

The Forest Service considered destroying the cabin to comply with the 1964 Wilderness Act, which calls for the restoration of natural conditions in wilderness areas. But the agency changed its mind when it became clear that the amount of dynamite required to demolish the massive stone structure would cause major damage to the surrounding trees.

 


Vincent Thomas Bridge

On October 26, 1990, 1964 Olympic diving bronze medalist Larry Andreasen was killed jumping from the west tower of the bridge in an attempt to set a diving record.


Automatic Dumper, Jack Delano, 1943

from Library of Congress


The Los Angeles Basin

(wikipedia via Landsat)


Albert Bierstadt

Bierstadt sometimes changed details of the landscape to inspire awe. The colors he used are also not always true. He painted what he believed was the way things should be: water is ultramarine, vegetation is lush and green, etc.

 Now me, I just show what I saw:
But that’s just because I haven’t bothered getting into Lightbox yet.

Hamburgers

Like the film, the hamburger is a non-California invention that has achieved a kind of symbolic apotheosis in Los Angeles; symbolic, that is, of the way fantasy can lord it over function in Southern California.  The purely functional hamburger, as delivered across the counter of say, the Gipsy Wagon on the UCLA campus, the Surf-Boarder at Hermosa Beach or any McDonald’s or Jack-In-The Box outlet anywhere, is a pretty well-balanced meal that he who runs (surfs, drives, studies) can eat with one hand; not only the ground beef but all the sauce, cheese, shredded lettuce, and other garnishes are firmly gripped between two halves of the bun.

But the fantastic hamburger as served on a platter at a sit-down restaurant is something else again.  Its component parts have been carefully opened up and separated out into an assemblage of functional and symbolic elements, or alternatively, a fantasia on functional themes.  The two halves of the bun lie face up with the ground beef on one and, sometimes, the cheese on the other.  Around and alongside on the platter are the lettuce leaves, gherkins, onion rings, fried potatoes, paper cups of relish or coleslaw, pineapple rings, and much more besides, because the invention of new varieties of hamburger is a major Angeleno culinary art.  Assembled with proper care it can be a work of visual art as well; indeed, it must be considered as visual art first and foremost, since some components are present in too small a quantity generally to make a significant gustatory as opposed to visual contribution – for instance, the seemingly mandatory ring of red-dyed apple, which does a lot for the eye as a foil to the general greenery of the salads, but precious little for the palate.

Reyner Banham was writing in 1971.  I have a used addition, in which someone (I like to imagine a foreign student) has underlined the word “hamburger.”

 


Baton Practice at the Manzanar War Relocation Center, 1943

Ansel Adams, the original king of US 395.


Los Angeles

Someone tagged this tree.


“In Shark’s life there had been no literary romance.”

In Shark’s life there had been no literary romance. At nineteen he took Katherine Mullock to three dances because she was available.  This started the machine of precedent and he married her because her family and all of the neighbors expected it.  Katherine was not pretty, but she had the firm freshness of a new weed, and the bridling vigor of a young mare.  After her marriage she lost her vigor and her freshness as a flower does once it has received pollen.  Her face sagged, her hips broadened, and she entered into her second destiny, that of work.

In his treatment of her, Shark was neither tender nor cruel.  He governed her with the same gentle inflexibility he used on horses.  Cruelty would have seemed to him as foolish as indulgence.  He never talked to her as to human, never spoke of his hopes or thoughts or failures, of his paper wealth nor of the peach crop.  Katherine would have been puzzled and worried if he had.  Her life was sufficiently complicated without the added burden of another’s thoughts and problems.