Boswell’s Life of Johnson

Finally read this one, and it’s a lot of fun! Well, by read I mean skimmed, there are a lot of details of dinners and discussions of particular plays of the period that didn’t hold my attention. Still, sift through the slag and there’s many a jewel here. Boswell was a young lawyer from Scotland when he met Johnson (Johnson never misses a chance to roast Scotland). He reconstructed the life of Johnson previous to meeting him, and then picks up, more or less writing down any witty or interesting things Johnson had to say, which were many.

On Johnson’s college years:

Dr Adams told me that Johnson, while he was at Pembroke College, ‘was caressed and loved by all about him, was a gay and frolicksome fellow, and passed there the happiest part of his life.”  But this is a striking proof of the fallacy of appearances, and how little any of us know of the real interna state eveon of those whom we see most frequently; for the truth is, that he was then depressed by poverty, and irritated by disease.  When I mentioned to him this acocunt as given me by Dr Adams, he said, “Ah, Sir, I was mad and violent.  I twas bitterness which they mistook for frolick.  I was miserably poor, and I thought to fight my way by my literature and my wit; so I disregarded all power and all authority.”  

Johnson recounts to Boswell what happened on the way to his wedding:

Sir, she had read the old romances, and had got into her hear head the fantastical notion that a woman of spirit should use her lover like a dog.  So, Sir, at first she told me that I rode too fast, and she could not keep up with me; and, when I rode a little slower, she passed me, and complained that I lagged behind.  I was not to be made the slave of caprice; and I resolved to begin as I meant to end.  I therefore pushed on briskly, till I was fairly out of her sight.  The road lay between two hedges, so I was sure she could not miss it and I contrived that she should soon come up with me.  When she did, I observed her to be in tears.

Despite this, it appears to have been a happy, if short marriage. Johnson’s was a love marriage to a woman significantly older than him. On marriage in general Johnson muses:

I believe marriages would in general be as happy, and often more so, if they were all made by the Lord Chancellor, upon a due consideration of characters and circumstances, without the parties having any choice in the matter.  

When Boswell met Johnson, he was a widower, who’s often with his friends the Thrales or other people who take him in for his charm. For his dictionary Johnson got paid 1575 pounds, and “when the expense of amanuenses and paper and other articles are deducted, his clear profit was very inconsiderable.” As for money:

He frequently gave all the silver in his pocket to the poor, who watched him, between his house and the tavern where he dined.  He walked the streets at all hours, and said he was never robbed, for the rogues knew he had little money, nor had the appearance of having much.

I liked this:

In 1761 Johnson appears to have done little. 

Johnson has much advice about drinking and melancholy:

Against melancholy he recommended constant occupation of mind, a great deal of exercise, moderation in eating and drinking, and especially to shun drinking at night.  He said melancholy people were apt to fly to intemperance for relief, but that it sunk them much deeper in misery.  He observed, that labouring men who work hard, and live sparingly, are seldom or never troubled with low spirits.    

I heard him once give a very judicious practical advice upon this subject: “A man, who has been drinking wine at all freely, should never go into a new company.  With those who have partaken of wine with him, he may be pretty well in unison; but he will probably be offensive, or appear ridiculous, to other people.”

Boswell goes with Johnson to his hometown, Lichfield, and observes not much work going on:

“Surely, Sir, (said I,) you are an idle set of people.’  Sir, (said Johnson,) we are a city of philosophers: we work with our heads, and make the boobies of Birmingham work for us with their hands.”

Johnson chastises Boswell for using the phrase “to make money.” 

Don’t you see (said he,) the impropriety of it?  To make money is to coin it : you should say get money.  

I feel like rappers are on to this one. On fame:

Talking of fame, for which there is so great a desire, I observed how little there is of it in reality, compared with the other objects of human attention.  “Let every man recollect, and he will be sensible how small a part of his time is employed in talking or thinking of Shakespeare, Voltaire, or any of the most celebrated men that have ever lived, or are now supposed to occupy the attention and admiration of the world.  Let this be extracted and compressed: into what a narrow space will it go!

War:

We talked of war.  JOHNSON: Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier, or not having been at sea.  BOSWELL: Lord Mansfield does not.  JOHNSON:  Sir, if Lord Mansfield were in a company of General Officers and Admirals who have been in service, he would shrink; he’d wish to creep under the table.  Were Socrates and Charles the Twelfth of Sweden both present in any company, and Socrates to say, “Follow me, and hear a lecture on philosophy;” and Charles, laying his hand on his sword, to say, “Follow me, and dethrone the Czar;” a man would be ashamed to follow Socrates.  Sir, the impression is universal; yet it is strange.

(I feel this is often misquoted, leaving out the “having been at sea” part, and the part about Socrates vs. Charles The Twelfth. Of course, if Socrates was in the Peloponnesian Wars like Plato claims, he could handle both).

Travel:

He talked with an uncommon animation of travelling into distant countries; that the mind was enlarged by it, and that an acquisition of dignity of character was derived from it.  He expressed a particular enthusiasm with respect to visiting the wall of China.  I catched it for the moment, and said I really believed I should go and see the wall of China had I not children, of whom it was my duty to take care.  “Sir, (said he,) by doing so, you would do what would be of importance in raising your children to eminence.  There would be a lustre reflected upon them from your spirit and curiosity.  They would be at all times regarded as the children of a man who had gone to view the wall of China.  I am serious, Sir.  

Johnson was not a fan of America:

From this pleasing subject [Jesus] he, I know not how or why, made a sudden transition to one upon which he was a violent aggressor; for he said, “I am willing to love all mankind, except an American: and his inflammable corruption bursting into horrid fire, he breathed out threatenings and slaughter, calling them, Rascals – Robbers – Pirates; and exclaiming, he’d burn and destroy them.  

Later, Boswell tries to put this in context:

Notwithstanding occasional explosions of violence, we were all delighted upon the whole with Johnson.  I compared him at this time to a warm West-Indian climate, where you have a bright sun, quick vegetation, luxuriant foliage, luscious fruits; but where the same heat sometimes produces thunder, lightning, earthquakes, in a terrible degree.

How about:

Depend upon it, said he, that if a man talks of his misfortunes, there is something in them that is not disagreeable to him; for where there is nothing but pure misery, there never is any recourse to the mention of it.  

Medicine:

On Sunday, March 23, I breakfasted with Dr. Johnson, who seemed much relieved, having taken opium the night before.  He however protested against it, as a remedy that should be given with the utmost reluctance, and only in extreme necessity.  

The idea comes up a few times that Johnson might be considered something of an underachiever, or at least that his position in the world doesn’t match his brilliance:

Mrs Desmoulins made tea; and she and I talked before him upon a topic which he had once borne patiently from me when we were by ourselves – his not complaining of the world, because he was not called to some great office, nor had attained great wealth.  He flew into a violent passion, I confess with some justice, and commanded us to have done.  Nobody (said he) has a right to talk in this manner, to bring before a man his own character, and the events of his life, when he does not choose it should be done.  I never have sought the world; the world was not to seek me.  It is rather wonderful that so much has been done for me.  All the complaints which are made of the world are unjust.  I never knew a man of merit neglected; it was generally by his own fault that he failed of success.  A man may hide his head in a hole: he may go into the country, and publish a book now and then, which nobody readys, and then complain he is neglected.  There is no reason why any person should exert himself for a man who has written a good book: he has not written it for any individual.  I may as well make a present to the postman who brings me a letter.  

A zinger on Adam Smith:

I once reminded him that when Dr Adam Smith was expatiating on the beauty of Glasgow, he had cut him short by saying, “Pray, Sir, Have you seen Brentford?”  and I took the liberty to add, “My dear Sir, surely that was shocking,”  “Why then, Sir (he replied,) YOU have not seen Brentford.” 

Animals:

I shall never forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat: for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters

(Boswell doesn’t really like Hodge, but tolerates him)

Mrs Thrale, while supping very heartily upon larks, laid down her knife and fork, and abruptly exclaimed, “O, my dear Mr Johnson, do you know what has happened?  The last letters from abroad have brought us an account that our poor cousin’s head was taken off by a cannon-ball.”  Johnson, who was shocked both at the fact, and her light unfeeling manner of mentioning it, replied, “Madam, it would give you very little concern if all your relations were spitted like those larks, and drest for Presto’s supper.”

(Presto being a dog who was present). 

One of Johnson’s good buds was the painter Joshua Reynolds.


Visions of Captain Cook

for leisure he would climb a nearby hill, Roseberry Topping.

ChrisO for Wikpedia

Cooks’ Cottage, his parents’ last home, which he is likely to have visited, is now in Melbourne, Australia, having been moved from England and reassembled, brick by brick, in 1934.

CloudSurfer for Wikipedia

In 1745, when he was 16, Cook moved 20 miles to the fishing village of Staithes, to be apprenticed as a shop boy to grocer and haberdasher William Sanderson. Historians have speculated that this is where Cook first felt the lure of the sea while gazing out of the shop window.

Staithes, by Mike Murphy for Wikpedia

Fantasizing about a trip to Hawaii, I was reading up on Captain Cook. This led me to the poem Five Visions of Captain Cook, by Kenneth Slessor. An excerpt:

Cook was a captain of the powder-days
When captains, you might have said, if you had been
Fixed by their glittering stare, half-down the side,
Or gaping at them up companionways,
Were more like warlocks than a humble man—
And men were humble then who gazed at them,
Poor horn-eyed sailors, bullied by devils’ fists
Of wind or water, or the want of both,
Childlike and trusting, filled with eager trust—
Cook was a captain of the sailing days
When sea-captains were kings like this,
Not cold executives of company-rules
Cracking their boilers for a dividend
Or bidding their engineers go wink
At bells and telegraphs, so plates would hold
Another pound. Those captains drove their ships
By their own blood, no laws of schoolbook steam,
Till yards were sprung, and masts went overboard—
Daemons in periwigs, doling magic out,
Who read fair alphabets in stars
Where humbler men found but a mess of sparks,
Who steered their crews by mysteries
And strange, half-dreadful sortilege with books,
Used medicines that only gods could know
The sense of, but sailors drank
In simple faith. That was the captain
Cook was when he came to the Coral Sea
And chose a passage into the dark.

Kenneth Slessor seems interesting; how many poets wrote about rugby for Smith’s Weekly? Maybe when I head to Hawaii I’ll bring a copy of Slessor’s 100 Poems.

I come back to pictures of Roseberry Topping. You picture Cook in the Pacific, encountering these wild exotic landscapes, but on the other hand this hill in north Yorkshire, doesn’t it look like it could be some outcropping in the South Seas?

Mr R Jordan for Wikipedia


Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair

Matthew G. Bisanz for Wikipedia

Always moved by George Washington’s words on the Washington Square Arch.

Try not to think about the 20,000 anonymous people buried in what’s now Washington Square Park — history is complicated!

 

 


Warren Buffetts, real and fake

These dudes started a fake Warren Buffett account on a bet, and within a few days it was retweeted by Peggy Noonan, Kanye, etc.

Impressed with how generic and bland the advice was.

The worship of Buffett as an oracle is not just a US phenomenon.  If anything it may be stronger in Asia.  In Korea in 2007, I saw subway vending machines selling biographies of Warren Buffett.  In this video, being interviewed by a Chinese magazine, you can see Warren Buffett’s partner, Charlie Munger, attempt to explain why he thinks he and Buffett are so popular in China.  He suggests that it’s because much of their advice is very Confucian:

Actual Warren Buffett’s advice is free and very available.  You can read all of Berkshire Hathaway’s letters to shareholders, which are funny and interesting at times (the better you are at skimming the boring parts, the more enjoyment you will get out of them).  You can see everything he invests in — he legally has to tell you!

Investing is simple, but not easy

is a quote often attributed to Buffett, though I myself cannot find the original source for it.

Buffett himself was asked about the fake account on CNBC:

QUICK: BUT THERE WAS A FAKE TWITTER ACCOUNT, A FAKE WARREN BUFFETT TWITTER ACCOUNT THAT WENT FROM 20,000 FOLLOWERS TO 200,000 FOLLOWERS IN 24 HOURS BY TWEETING OUT ALL KINDS OF PITHY SORT OF SOUND ADVICE, THINGS THAT FOLKSY SAYINGS THAT SOUNDED LIKE IT COULD HAVE COME FROM YOU. WHY DON’T YOU TWEET MORE OFTEN?

BUFFETT: WELL I JUST DON’T SEE A REASON TO. I PUT OUT AN ANNUAL REPORT, AND I DO NOT HAVE A DAILY VIEW ON ALL KINDS OF THINGS. AND, AND MAYBE I’VE GOT A GUY IN THIS COPYCAT OR IMITATOR, MAYBE HE’S PUTTING OUT BETTER STUFF THAN I WOULD. SO IF HE PUTS OUT GOOD ADVICE, I’LL TAKE CREDIT FOR IT.

QUICK: WE HAVE SEEN SOME CEOs WHO LIKE TO TWEET VERY FREQUENTLY, INCLUDING ELON MUSK.

BUFFETT: YES.

QUICK: HE’S CERTAINLY SOMEBODY WHO TWEETED A LOT. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT PEOPLE WHO TWEET A LOT?

BUFFETT: I DON’T THINK IT’S HELPED HIM A LOT. NO, I THINK IT’S — WELL, IT’D BE PARTICULARLY DANGEROUS TO START COMMENTING ON BERKSHIRE DAILY, WHICH I NEVER WOULD DO. I WON’T DO IT WITH YOU. BUT I THINK THERE’S OTHER THINGS IN LIFE I WANT TO DO THAN TWEET. I MEAN, I’M NOT THAT DESPERATE FOR SOMEBODY TO HEAR MY OPINION ON THIS.

This aspect of Buffett is much celebrated:

It’s sometimes forgotten or overlooked that he also owns a $7.9 million house in Laguna Beach.

Though in fairness he bought it in 1971 for $150,000.


Particular grace at the Constitutional Convention

Picture it: Philadelphia, Friday, May 25, 1787.

The convention is getting started.  First job is to choose a president.  Mr. Robert Morris of Pennsylvania nominates George Washington of Virginia.

Mr Jn RUTLIDGE seconded the motion; expressing his confidence that the choice would be unanimous, and observing that the presence of Genl Washington forbade any observations on the occasion which might be otherwise be proper.

General Washington was accordingly unanimously elected by ballot, and conducted to the chair by Mr R. Morris and Mr. Rutlidge; from which in a very emphatic manner he thanked the Convention for the honor they had conferred on him, reminded them of the novelty of the scene of business in which he was to act, lamented his want of better qualifications, and claimed the indulgence of the House towards the involuntary errors which his inexperience might occasion.

That’s George Washington, the guy who had just defeated the British Empire, who held the Continental Army together over seven horrible years on the strength of his own character.  He begins this job with an expression of humility. An apology for any involuntary errors.

Then Madison adds, in a parenthetical:

Particular grace.

Happy Fourth of July everybody!


This guy Jordan Peterson

The first piece of advice in his book

is

stand up straight with your shoulders back, as a lobster does.

(paraphrase)

That’s as far as I think I will get in the book, partly because I seem to have misplaced my copy.

Stand up straight with your shoulders back is good, valuable advice, a reminder we could all use, maybe even worth the price of the book.

(Surely Joan Didion and Jordan Peterson could agree on John Wayne?)

Is it funny that stand up straight with your shoulders back is literally the opposite advice of :

(reminded of course of:

)  Greaney once claimed the secret to life is posture.  He’s rarely 100% wrong.

Is Jordan Peterson just a less chill Joseph Campbell?

If you are a lost young man may I suggest Joe Campbell will let you into a lot of the same insights in a way that may be less likely to prove distasteful to women you are trying to get with?

Joseph Campbell is cool

Very YouTubable and less into being aggro.


RIP Robert Hely

From The Telegraph, behind a paywall.  To my knowledge not a relative but sounds cool:

He established himself in the early 1960s just as celebrity “crimpers” were emerging from the salons to become arbiters of style, and the client list of the Hely Hair Studio included many eminent Glaswegians including footballers, models, the star of Gregory’s Girl, Clare Grogan, and the television presenter Ross King.


Uma’s example

into Uma’s example of not speaking in anger and waiting to be ready to speak on stuff.

feel like Twitter Internet etc. has made everyone feel like they need to have a Take on everything instantly.  I enjoy a good Take a much as anybody.  But feel like I can’t remember the last time I heard someone say “I need to reflect on this before I comment.”

Remembering that Uma’s father is a scholar of Buddhism.

The Man From Onion Valley. source.


The story of Profumo

In the early 1960s Michael Profumo was the British minister of defense.  He was also banging a party girl who was also banging a Russian spy.

at like big swinging sex parties.
He had to resign, disgraced.  But he handled it well.  Wife stuck by him.  Spent the next forty years cleaning toilets and working in East End soup kitchens.

Shortly after his resignation Profumo began to work as a volunteer cleaning toilets at Toynbee Hall, a charity based in the East End of London, and continued to work there for the rest of his life. Peter Hitchens has written that Profumo “vanished into London’s East End for 40 years, doing quiet good works”. Profumo “had to be persuaded to lay down his mop and lend a hand running the place”, eventually becoming Toynbee Hall’s chief fundraiser, and used his political skills and contacts to raise large sums of money. All this work was done as a volunteer, since Profumo was able to live on his inherited wealth. His wife, the actress Valerie Hobson, also devoted herself to charity until her death in 1998. In the eyes of most commentators, Profumo’s charity work redeemed his reputation. His friend, social reform campaigner Lord Longford said he “felt more admiration [for Profumo] than [for] all the men I’ve known in my lifetime”.

Right before he died the Queen invited him to dinner and had him sit next to her.
Like forty years of solid, humble repentance.
From his obituary:
Profumo’s dedication and dignity won him enormous admiration from people in all walks of life. The author Peter Hennessy, a fellow trustee at a charitable foundation associated with Toynbee Hall, described him as “one of the nicest and most exemplary people I have met in public or political life; full of the old, decent Tory virtues”. Margaret Thatcher called him “one of our national heroes”. “Everybody here worships him”, a helper at Toynbee Hall was once quoted as saying. “We think he’s a bloody saint.”


Considering John Kelly

Compelled by John Kelly, Boston Marine turned Trump babysitter / White House chief of staff.

John Kelly, like Robert E. Lee, is brave, self-sacrificing, dignified, and wrong.

It’s possible to be noble and admirable and honorable and really wrong.  Like, a force for wrongness.

Watched his entire press conference re: presidential respect for fallen soldiers.  Found it very moving.  He mentions walking for hours in Arlington National Cemetery to collect his thoughts.  Maybe he should send the president.

In one of the infinite amazing connections of American history Arlington National Cemetery was built on the grounds of Lee’s wife’s house.

INTERVIEWER

What about General Robert E. Lee?

FOOTE

The single greatest mistake of the war by any general on either side was made by Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, when he sent Pickett’s and Pettigrew’s divisions across that open field, nearly a mile wide, against guns placed on a high ridge and troops down below them, with skirmishers out front. There was no chance it would succeed. Longstreet told him that beforehand and Lee proceeded to prove him right. Having made this greatest of all mistakes, Lee rode out on the field and met those men coming back across the field— casualties were well over fifty percent—and said, It’s all my fault. He said it then on the field; he said it afterwards, after he’d gotten across the Potomac; he said it in his official report a month later. He said, I may have asked more of my men than men should be asked to give. He’s a noble man, noble beyond comparison.

(from the Paris Review interview with Shelby Foote)

Henry Lee, Robert E.’s father

Why did people love Robert E. Lee so much?  He was handsome, for one thing.  Here’s Elizabeth Brown Pryor going off in her Six Encounters With Lincoln:

“Matinee-idol looks.”

They liked Lee too because he reminded of them of George Washington.

Is this interesting?: two of the most prominent American slaveholders, Washington and Lee, only owned slaves because they’d married rich women.

Lee’s wife was Martha Washington’s great granddaughter.

Anyway: whatever, it’s time for some new statues!

John Kelly made his most recent remarks about Lee on The Ingraham Angle on Fox News.

During that appearance, Kelly says something not true, that the events in the indictment came from well before Manafort knew Donald Trump.  Not true, if we believe Slate’s helpful timeline. Manafort and Trump have known each other since the ’80s.

Didn’t Manafort live in Trump Tower off the money he made as a lobbyist for dictators?

Kelly also says that the part about where got wrong what Fredrica Wilson said at the FBI dedication, that part “we should just let that go.”

Also brooooo!  What is American history up to the Civil War but a history of compromises?

Happened to read an interview in PRISM, a publication of the Center For Complex Operations, with John Kelly yesterday.  He’s talking about his career leading the Southern Command, ie Central and South America.

This was not my experience talking to Latin Americans.  More than one South American has pointed out to me that in their countries, “the troops” are not assumed to be good guys or on your side.

Didn’t love this:

We need more Marine generals like Smedley Butler:

I wish John Kelly would also remember the time Henry Lee put himself in harm’s way to defend the freedom of the press.

During the civil unrest in Baltimore, Maryland in 1812, Lee received grave injuries while helping to resist an attack on his friend, Alexander Contee Hanson, editor of the Baltimore newspaper, The Federal Republican on July 27, 1812.

Hanson was attacked by a Democratic-Republican mob because his paper opposed the War of 1812. Lee and Hanson and two dozen other Federalists had taken refuge in the offices of the paper. The group surrendered to Baltimore city officials the next day and were jailed.

Laborer George Woolslager led a mob that forced its way into the jail, removed the Federalists, beating and torturing them over the next three hours. All were severely injured, and one Federalist, James Lingan, died.

Lee suffered extensive internal injuries as well as head and face wounds, and even his speech was affected. His observed symptoms were consistent with what is now called post-traumatic stress disorder.

Need to learn more about this!

Maybe a statue of James Lingan, outside Prospect House?:

source: wiki, photo by AgnosticPreachersKid

One last bit from Shelby Foote:

Bud, history always has bias!  You don’t think this guy

thought Lee was cool, if only because they looked alike?

 

Does Ta-Nahesi Coates get tired of having to say the same stuff over and over?:

“History’s history,” says John Kelly on The Ingraham Angle.  Is it?

Personally, when I think about John Kelly’s life, I’m prepared to cut him some slack, but man.  I can’t say he “gets it.”

Thomas Ricks, as always, has the take:

A must read.

The comment of Kelly’s that hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves is when he half-jokingly suggests (around 26:41)

that they’re gonna replace the Washington Monument with Andy Warhol.

 


McCain

Happened to be reading this this weekend.

Michener says:

 

The ugly old aviator:

Dropped dead four days after the Japanese surrender.


Hoover Boys

our Chicago correspondent sends us this find:

The authors:


Ants

reprinting this 2013 classic because can’t find my copy of this book, wondering if I loaned it to one of you.  
IMG_7611

IMG_7641

IMG_7642

IMG_7643

Nice work boys.

IMG_7644

Wilson got his start doing a survey of all the ants in Alabama.

There’s the question of, why did I pick ants, you know? Why not butterflies or whatever? And the answer is that they’re so abundant, they’re easy to find, and they’re easy to study, and they’re so interesting. They have social habits that differ from one kind of ant to the next. You know, each kind of ant has almost the equivalent of a different human culture. So each species is a wonderful object to study in itself. In fact, I honestly can’t…cannot understand why most people don’t study ants.

(source)

Somewhere else I think I heard Wilson say something like “once you start to study ants it’s hard to be interested in anything else.”

Look at the wild coolness on Bert Hölldobler:

IMG_7646

Bert Hölldobler:

 


Denis Johnson, Walt Whitman

We’ve been thinking a lot about the glow of some of your poems, the visionary language seeping through parts of Angels, and the electric way in which the border between Fuckhead’s consciousness and the outside world is always being dissolved throughout Jesus’ Son. Could you talk a bit more about Whitman’s influence in your poetry and prose?

I’m not sure I could trace the lines of his influence on my language, particularly, or the way his work affects the strategies in my work, or anything like that.  His expansive spirit, his generosity, his eagerness to love – those are the things that influence me, not just as a writer, but as a person.  His introduction to LEAVES OF GRASS I take as a sort of personal manifesto, especially the passage:

This is what you shall do:  Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body. . . .

found in this interview with Denis Johnson.  Oddly or presciently or synchronistically enough I’d been looking for Denis Johnson materials as I did ever so often.  How did this guy know this stuff? was what I was looking for as usual.

so good!

 

May I please recommend to you you have actor Will Patton read you the audiobook of:

I loved the experience so much I got into the full unabridged 23+ hours of:

Will Patton is such a gifted, subtle performer of audiobooks.

from a profile in AudioFile

Let’s give the last word to DJ:

 I love McDonald’s double cheeseburgers and I don’t care if they’re made of pink slime and ammonia, I eat them all the time because they’re delicious.


Will and Ariel Durant

One of the local branches of the LA Public Library, the one on Sunset across from Wendy’s, is named after Will and Ariel Durant.

David Brooks grows wistful as he considers the Will and Ariel Durant project:

Between 1935 and 1975, Will and Ariel Durant published a series of volumes that together were known as “The Story of Civilization.” They basically told human history (mostly Western history) as an accumulation of great ideas and innovations, from the Egyptians, through Athens, Magna Carta, the Age of Faith, the Renaissance and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The series was phenomenally successful, selling over two million copies.

I’ve taken a look at the first volume of the series,

and was astounded, amused, and delighted by what I found there.  Here’s an example.

When Will met Ariel Durant, her name was Ida, she was fourteen, and she was his student.

She was 15 at her marriage on Oct. 31, 1913, and came to the ceremony with her roller skates slung over her shoulder. Her husband was just about to turn 28. He called her Ariel, after the the imp in Shakespeare’s ”The Tempest,” and she later had her name legally changed.

(from Will’s NYT obituary).  In Our Oriental Civilization, Will makes the case for himself:

It’s pretty funny that we named the library after a pair of lovers whose romance would get the man arrested today.

On the other hand, that’s the kind of paradox of historical and civilizational change that Will Durant took so much joy in teaching about.

More from the NYT:

Dr. Durant consistently took a generally optimistic view of civilization, despite a growing belief that ”the world situation is all fouled up.”

”Civilization is a stream with banks,” he said in his precise voice. ”The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting and doing the things historians usually record, while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry and even whittle statues.

”The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river.”

Will and Ariel, from Wikipedia:


Literary Life

Some real talk from Larry McMurtry

One of these days I’m going to rank all of McMurtry’s non-fiction books.  They’re all chatty and great.  This is the single best one.

Either Film Flam or Hollywood tells what it’s like to be friends with Diane Keaton and her mom.

McMurtry has really meant a lot to me.  Here are some other posts about him:

his book Roads

about the time I heard him talk about Brokeback

Oh What A Slaughter and Sacagawea’s Nickname

Sarah Palin and glamour

The Field Of Blackbirds


Roundup of books I haven’t read all the way through but have in a crate in my garage

 

Wow.

PFC Albert Bullock took this one of the damaged Franklin.

My copy is pre-owned and comes already highlighted:

I’ve always hated Hugo’s.  On acting technique:

How about this one, about Australian historians?

Geoffrey Blainey’s recipe for peach-tin eggs:

Graeme Davison on the wrong side of the law in Melbourne:

There are no wasted humans:

 

from the boss Thomas Cleary:

And finally, some Daily Drucker:


Edelman learns Super Bowl has ended

seen on Inside The NFL on Showtime.


Coaches for Super Bowl LI

MORE ON public lands under Trump to come, but first we have to address a reader email:

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Dear Helytimes,

Will you continue your tradition of discussing the Super Bowl coaches, in anticipation of Big Game LI?

So writes reader Abigail J. in Wellesley, Mass.

Thanks for writing Abigail!  Last year, we profiled the somewhat dim personalities of Ron Rivera and Gary Kubiak.

Photo Credit: Reginald RogersParaglide Carolina Panther head coach Ron Rivera, left, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Carolina Panthers player Mike Rucker sign autographs and photos for Soldiers at the 1st Brigade Combat Team dining facility Friday during their visit to the post.

Photo Credit: Reginald RogersParaglide Carolina Panther head coach Ron Rivera, left, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former Carolina Panthers player Mike Rucker sign autographs and photos for Soldiers at the 1st Brigade Combat Team dining facility Friday during their visit to the post.

Rivera’s Panther’s may have controlled their APE but it wasn’t enough.

This year we have a return for Bill Belichick, whom we investigated to the edge of known facts before the epic XLIX game.  In that battle he squared off against Pete Carroll, the most compelling coaching figure in the NFL and subject of an in-depth Helytimes profile.

This year comes Dan Quinn.

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He won a Super Bowl under Pete Carroll in 2014, and seems more Carroll than Belichick for sure.  Here’s an article about him from the AJC by Jeff Schultz.  Bumper stickers are a theme:

Quinnisms: Iron sharpens iron. Do right longer. Do what we do. It’s about the ball. It’s about the process (Former coach Mike Smith left that one behind.)

Quinn also has had a dozen T-shirts or hats with punchy thoughts made up during the season, the latest being, “Ready to Ride, Dog.” The week of the first playoff win over Seattle, players wore shirts reading: “Arrive violently.” Those words were referenced by Neal after the game.

Don’t have much more to add.  In light of Belichick’s Trump support perhaps this a revealing moment, from Inside the NFL:

We’ll see what happens in Houston.

At the moment, who can fail to find NBA coaches more compelling?:


Top Ten HelyTimes Posts Of The Year

Watching the America's Cup Race. Mrs. Kennedy, President Kennedy, others. Off Newport, RI, aboard the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. by Robert Knudsen

Watching the America’s Cup Race. Mrs. Kennedy, President Kennedy, others. Off Newport, RI, aboard the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. by Robert Knudsen

Hey, thanks for voting in this year’s HelyTimes Awards!

By reader vote, these were considered

The Top Ten Helytimes Posts Of The Year

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10) Shorter History Of Australia

about Geoffrey Blainey’s book on how that country became what it is, and their national cry Cooo-EEE!

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9) Jo Mora and Mora Update

about how the Uruguayan-Californian artist influenced almost a century of design

8) Travel Tips From Bill and Tony

Conversations between Tony Blair and Bill Clinton

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7) San Francisco

A visit to that famed city and the Diego Rivera murals hidden around it

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6) Khipus

On Incan rope counting systems and their decipherment

5) Jackie Smoking Pregnant

An investigation into a photo of the former first lady

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4) Twenty Greatest Australian Accomplishments of All Time

This was by far our most popular post by views

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3) Death Valley Days

A trip to the national park, and its place in our national consciousness

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2) Lady Xoc

About the Mayan queen of the 8th century

The definitive winner for the year?:

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1) Boyd, Trump, and OODA Loops

A review of writing by and about fighter pilot John Boyd, who offers a way into DT’s thinking.

Honorable mentions:

Understanding Politics,

a brief look at Sanders and Trump

Four Bits About Donald Trump,

about you know who, comparing him to Tim Ferriss.

Sunday Takes,

a big wild roundup.

Nestle,

on how a Swiss chocolatier came to own freshwater springs in Southern California

The Death of Michael Herr,

about the Vietnam War correspondent, Kubrick pal and Zen Buddhist

Microsociology,

on the work of Randall Collins, an underappreciated hero

A Description of Distant Roads,

extracts from a 1769 description of California,

Cape Flattery,

a dispatch from rainy New Zealand,

and a personal favorite,

O Pioneers,

about Willa Cather, Walt Whitman, and America.

The most popular post of the year

by views, was

American Historical Figure Who Reminds Me Of Trump

Thanks for reading Helytimes.  We really appreciate all our readers.  We write it just out of graphomania and a compulsion to work out, catalog and channel puzzles, curiosities and questions of interest.  It’s wonderful to know there are people who enjoy the results.

You can email us anytime at helphely at gmail.  Let us know what you think.

All the best for 2017.

Buy this book on Amazon or at your local indie bookstore:

sent by reader Katrina

sent by reader Katrina