funny chart


wait a second

“It’s a free lunch—there’s no way around it,” said Michael Ohlrogge, an assistant professor of law at New York University.

from a Wall Street Journal article by Amrith Rankumar about the boom in Special Purchase Acquisition Companies, or SPACs.

I would say after looking into it and asking some informed people that the lunch has some cost, in the form of you have to pay attention and do some study. Here is more information.


Really rich people

His unlikely rise from obscurity began when he launched a trade publication for data-communications firms in the 1970s. 

I often find that the answer to “how did they get so rich?” is frequently “doing something really boring.”

(That example Sheldon Adelson, but Robert Kraft (packaging) and the Koch Bros (processing) come to mind as well.)

A local angle:

A Boston Globe reporter who interviewed him in 1988 noted that his Needham, Mass., office was ratty, with a peeling vinyl cover on his chair. “I don’t need the trappings of success to feel successful,” Mr. Adelson said.


Brain balls

Discovery of the tomb of Ollamh Fodhla Ireland’s famous monarch and law-maker upwards of three thousand years ago
by Conwell, Eugene Alfred
Publication date 1873

In Irish history and legend, brain balls are small stone-like balls claimed to have been made from the heads or brains of enemies.

a Wikipedia page worth reading.


absolutely ridiculous

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

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


Rich people paying for elections

From Hogarth’s Humours of An Election

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

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

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

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


Absalom, Absalom

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

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

The Civil War approaches:

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

The cover of my 1987 edition:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cocoanut milk

Petey21 for Wikipedia

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


Time for a walk?

from:

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

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

The Kun Lung mountains are no joke:


Imagine

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


Movie Reviews: The Favourite, Mary Queen of Scots, Schindler’s List

Finding myself with an unexpectedly free afternoon, I went to see The Favourite at the Arclight,

You rarely see elderly people in central Hollywood, but they’re there at the movies at 2pm.  While we waited for the movie to start, there was an audible electrical hum.  The Arclight person introduced the film, and then one of the audience members shouted out “what’re you gonna do about the grounding hum?”

The use of the phrase “grounding hum” rather than just “that humming sound” seemed to baffle the Arclight worker.  Panicked, she said she’d look into it, and if we wanted, we could be “set up with another movie.”

After like one minute I took the option to be set up with another movie because the hum was really annoying.  Playing soon was Mary Queen of Scots.

Reminded as I thought about it of John Ford’s quote about Monument Valley.  John Ford assembles the crew and says, we’re out here to shoot the most interesting thing in the world: the human face.

Both Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie have incredible faces.  It’s glorious to see them.  The best parts of this movie were closeups.

Next I saw Schindler’s List.

This movie has been re-released, with an intro from Spielberg, about the dangers of racism.

This movie knocked my socks off.  I forgot, since the last time I saw it, what this movie accomplished.

When the movie first came out, the context in which people were prepared for it, discussed it, saw it, were shown it in school etc took it beyond the realm of like “a movie” and into some other world of experience and meaning.

I feel like I saw this movie for the first time on VHS tapes from the public library, although I believe we were shown the shower scene at school.

schindler

My idea in seeing it this time was to see it as a movie.

How did they make it?  How does it work?  What’s accomplished on the level of craft?  Once we’ve handled the fact that we’re seeing a representation of the Holocaust, how does this work as a movie?

It’s incredible.  The craft level accomplishment is on the absolute highest level.

 

Take away the weight with which this movie first reached us, with what it was attempting.  Just approach it as “a filmmaker made this, put this together.”

Long, enormous shots of huge numbers of people, presented in ways that feel real, alive.  Liam Neeson’s performance, his mysteries, his charisma, his ambiguity.  We don’t actually learn that much about Oscar Schindler.  So much is hidden.

Ralph Fiennes performance, the humanity, the realness he brings to someone whose crimes just overload the brain’s ability to process.

The moving parts, the train shots, the wide city shots.  Unreal accomplishment of filmmaking.

Some thoughts:

  • water, recurring as an image, theme in the movie.

 

  • there are a bunch of scenes of just factory action, people making things with tools and machines.  that was the cover.  was not the Holocaust an event of the factory age, a twisted branch of Industrial Revolution and efficiency metric spirit?

 

  • reminded that people didn’t know, when it began, “we’re in The Holocaust, this is the Holocaust.”  It built. It got worse and worse.  there were steps and stages along the way.

 

  • what happened in the the Holocaust happened in a particular time and place in history, focused in an area of central and eastern Europe that had its own, centuries long, context for what you were, who belonged where, history, which tribes go where, what race or nationality meant, how these were understood.  Göth’s speech about how the centuries of Jewish history in Kraków will become a rumor.  I felt like this movie kind of captured and helped explain some of that, without a ton of extra labor.

 

  • In a way Schindler could almost be seen as like a comic character.  He didn’t start his company to save Jews. He starts it to make money from cheap labor.  He’s a schemer who sees an opportunity.  A rascal out to make a quick buck, a con man and shady dealer who ended up in the worst crime in history, an honest crook who finds he’s in something of vastness and evil beyond his ability to even comprehend.

 

  • There is a scene in this movie that could almost be called funny, or at least comic, when Oscar Schindler (Neeson) tries to explain to Stern (Ben Kingsley) the good qualities of the concentration camp commandant Göth that nobody ever seems to mention!

 

  • Kenneally’s story of how he heard about Schindler:

  • The theme of sexuality, Goth’s sexuality, Schindler’s, what it means to love and express your nature versus trying to suppress and kill.  Spielberg is not really known for having tough explorations of sexuality in his films but I’d say he took this one pretty square on with a lot bravery?

 

  • if I had a criticism it was maybe that the text on the little intermediary passages that appear on screen a few times and explain the context felt not that clear and kind of unnecessary.

 

  • I feared this movie would have a kind of ’90s whitewash, I felt maybe takes exist, the “actually Schindler’s List is BAD” take is out there, with the idea being that Spielberg put in too much sugar with the medicine which when we talk about the Shoah, unspeakable, unaddressable, is somehow wrong, but damn.  I was glad for the sugar myself and I don’t think Spielberg looked away.  The Holocaust occurred in a human context, and human contexts, no matter how dark, always have absurdity.

 

  • the scene, for instance, were the Nazis burn in an enormous pyre the months-buried, now exhumed bodies of thousands of people executed during the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto, Spielberg took us as close to the mouth of the abyss as you’re gonna see at a regular movie theater.

What does it mean that Spielberg made a movie about the Holocaust and the two leads are both handsome Nazis?

 

*As a boy I was attracted to the history of Britain and Ireland as well as Celtic and Anglo-Saxon peoples in America.  The peoples of those islands recorded a dramatic history that I felt connected to.  They also developed a compelling tradition of telling these history stories with as much drama and excitement as possible eg. Shakespeare.

At a library book sale, I bought, for 50 cents a volume, three biographies from a numbered set from like 1920 of “notable personages,” something like that. 

These just looked like the kind of books that a cool gentleman had.  Books that indicated status and intelligence. 

One of this set that I got was Hernando Cortes.  I started that one, but even at that tender age I perceived Cortes was not someone to get behind.  The biography had a pro-Cortes slant I found distasteful. 

Another volume was about Mary Queen of Scots.

Just on her name, really, I started reading that one. 

Mary Queen of Scots’ life was a thrilling story, and this one was melodramatically told.  Affairs, murder plots, insults, rumor, execution. 

Sometime thereafter, at school, we were all assigned like a book report.  To read a biography, any biography, and write a report about it. 

Since I’d already read Mary’s biography, I picked her. 

As it happened, I overheard my dad confusedly ask my mom why, of all people on Earth, I’d chosen Mary Queen of Scots as the topic for my biography project.  My dad did not know the backstory, which my mom patiently explained. 

My dad’s reaction on hearing I’d picked Mary Queen of Scots, while not as harsh as Kevin Hart’s imagined reaction on hearing his son had a dollhouse, helps me to understand where Kevin Hart was coming from.  Confusion, for starters.  Upsetness.

At the time the guys I thought were really heroes were probably like JFK and Hemingway.  


A funny idea

IMG_3140

from this week’s Economist

if you read about Nietzsche there’s always this idea that at some point he “went” insane.  A funny idea is trying to determine where the line is there, exactly.


Yang-Na

This Columbus day, I renew my call for Los Angeles to return to its original name, Yang-Na

Helytimes

Santa Paula, CA Chumash mural Santa Paula, CA Chumash mural

Petition this Columbus Day to return LA back to its original name of Yang-Na:

yang-na from:eternity-street

View original post


Cool

I made the syllabus!


Robert Mueller

Reading up on him on Wikipedia:

He went on to study at Princeton University (receiving an A.B. in 1966), where he continued to play lacrosse; he has cited his teammate David Spencer Hackett’s death in the Vietnam War as an influence on his decision to pursue military service. Hackett was a Marine Corps First Lieutenant in the infantry and was killed in 1967 by small arms fire.

Mueller earned an M.A. in international relations from New York University in 1967 and a Juris Doctor from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1973, where he served on the Virginia Law Review.

Mueller enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1968, attending officer candidate school, Army Ranger School and Army jump school. He then served as an officer leading a rifle platoon of the 3rd Marine Division during the Vietnam War; he eventually became aide-de-camp to 3rd Marine Division’s commanding general. He received the Bronze Star, two Commendation Medals, the Purple Heart and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

If my friend was killed in Vietnam I don’t think my reaction would be I should go to Vietnam.

Impressive man.


Emolument

mill-wheel

Source: giphy

emolment

screen-shot-2017-02-16-at-10-30-27-pm

From the Heritage Foundation, about as conservative as it gets:

Similarly, the Framers intended the Emoluments Clause to protect the republican character of American political institutions. “One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous advantages, is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption.” The Federalist No. 22 (Alexander Hamilton). The delegates at the Constitutional Convention specifically designed the clause as an antidote to potentially corrupting foreign practices of a kind that the Framers had observed during the period of the Confederation. Louis XVI had the custom of presenting expensive gifts to departing ministers who had signed treaties with France, including American diplomats. In 1780, the King gave Arthur Lee a portrait of the King set in diamonds above a gold snuff box; and in 1785, he gave Benjamin Franklin a similar miniature portrait, also set in diamonds. Likewise, the King of Spain presented John Jay (during negotiations with Spain) with the gift of a horse. All these gifts were reported to Congress, which in each case accorded permission to the recipients to accept them. Wary, however, of the possibility that such gestures might unduly influence American officials in their dealings with foreign states, the Framers institutionalized the practice of requiring the consent of Congress before one could accept “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from…[a] foreign State.”

Meanwhile I read the news:

China awards Donald Trump valuable trademark deal

Donald Trump sons set for UAE visit to open Trump International Golf Club Dubai

(A fun aspect to the Trump deal is: feels like every Joe and Josephine on Twitter is rapidly presenting themselves as a self-taught expert on like intelligence practices and the Ninth Circuit and what “emoluments” means.)

A thing I don’t understand: there must be at least one or two of the 248 Republican congressmen who’ve fantasized since youth about a chance to go full Profiles In Courage.

profiles

Here’s your chance bro!  Take on your scumbag President, go down for it, live on!  Are they all too lame? (Update: a possible candidate)

Anyway.  A chance to revisit famous mills of my youth:

Wayside Mill, Sudbury, MA

Wayside Grist Mill, Sudbury, MA

 


Ed Harris in Westworld, Ed Harris in Walker

If you enjoy Ed Harris in Westworld, as I do, you may be curious to have a look at his role in Walker (1987) in which he plays a similarly attired character:

walker

Harris plays the real life William Walker who went down to Nicaragua with some armed guys and declared himself president there from 1856-1857.

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-10-06-52-am

I went down to Nicaragua and visited some of the places Walker shot up.

nic-bar

I tell the story of Walker, and of Nicaragua, and of the troubled film

nic-house

in my book, THE WONDER TRAIL: True Stories From Los Angeles To The End Of The World

treee

available at Amazon or your local indie bookstore.  You’ll enjoy it.

 

 


The writing process


Back again soon!

thanks to reader Jess K. in  Australia for this one

So glad you enjoy what you find here.  We’re on a brief hiatus but look forward to a return.

If you haven’t already, try my book: available at Amazon or your local indie bookstore.  You’ll enjoy it.

If you’ve read my book, do send me a picture of it in some cool setting, on your shelf or next to some good coffee or your favorite houseplant.  I’ve been collecting and compiling these photos, they’re a joy.

Riches await in the archives, on such topics as:

and:

 

 

Ciao for now!

Adios for now!

 

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Fo

People are mad that Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature?  Why?  Because he does music, which is not the same as literature?  What is the difference?  More sounds? Instruments are allowed?  Hmm.

Anyway, have heard no mention in the convo about the time a literal clown won the Nobel Prize.

OK fine Dario Fo was a playwright but what he did was more than just write words down, right?

Mr. Fo attributed the State Department’s change of heart to the intervention of President Ronald Reagan, a former actor. It was, Mr. Fo said dryly, “the gesture of a colleague.”

Was reminded because heard he died.  Dario Fo obituary.