Sappho, againPosted: February 5, 2023 Filed under: heroes, women Leave a comment
There is so little of Sappho that the reader with beginner’s Greek can read the substantial fragments in an afternoon.
so says Guy Davenport.
Translated into English the fragments constitute fourteen hundred words* or so, less than the menu at Musso & Frank. Yet we know her name two thousand six hundred years after she died. Fragments of Sappho were found in the wrappings of mummies and in the great trash heap of Oxyrhunchus.
The Sappho mystique is further confounded by later testimonies such as the 10th century Byzantine encyclopedia called the Suda (or the Stronghold), which chronicled the history of the ancient Mediterranean. In one of two entries on Sappho, readers are informed that she was in love with a ferryman by the name of Phaon whose rejection of her caused her to leap to her death from the Leucadian Cliff.
This apocryphal history, which emerged in antiquity, went on to inspire artists, poets and playwrights for hundreds of years, despite the strange origins of Phaon as a figure of myth and legend. In the second entry on Sappho in the Suda, it is stated that Sappho was married, had a daughter by the name of Cleis, and was also a lover of women.
That from here.
Hang on a second Guy, what’s the Greek original here?:
If you know where my copy of Mary Barnard’s translation is, let me know, I couldn’t find it, but luckily some fragments are preserved here, by me, on my own website. Ever thus. As for the paper copy? I hope it’s with you.
* I think that’s about right, might be a little off
Queens ElizabethPosted: May 21, 2018 Filed under: beheadings, Ireland, war, women Leave a comment
O’Byrne’s corpse was butchered and for months the head and quarters hung on pike staffs on the wall over Dublin Castle drawbridge. Several months later the pickled head was presented to the council secretary at London by an English adventurer, who was disappointed to find that the head-silver due on O’Byrne* had already been paid in Ireland. The queen was angered that, “the head of such a base Robin Hood was brought solemnly into England“.
Read enough Irish history and you gain a grudging respect for Queen Elizabeth I. She’s always delivering withering remarks and savage putdowns to people giving her bad news.
In 1603, Elizabeth had seemed a foolish old woman, as men looked expectantly to a Stuart king. By 1630, when Stuart kings had proved rather a disappointment, she had become the paragon of all princely virtues.
Christopher Haigh,The Golden Age of Queen Elizabeth I—Myth or Reality? Awake! magazine, 2010, 1/10 pp. 19-22.
At this remove, who can say if Elizabeth was a foolish old woman or one of history’s canniest power players, but I’m team power player. She managed to survive rebellions, armadas, assassination attempts, plagues, you name it!
Just surviving as a queen is tough.
The (current) Queen did not seem that into the wedding. The Crown may have fooled us into thinking the Queen is more woke than she is.
* was reading about O’Byrne after seeing convo on Tom Ricks’ twitter about the origin of “firebrand”
Hallucinogens and Shamanism (1973)Posted: March 12, 2018 Filed under: adventures, explorers, history, women Leave a comment
This collection of essays from 1973 gets an A+ on cover alone.
Undoubtedly one of the major reasons that anthropologists for so long underestimated the importance of hallucinogenic substances in shamanism and religious experience was that very few had partaken themselves of the native psychotropic materials (other than peyote) or had undergone the resulting subjective experiences so critical, perhaps paradoxically, to an empirical understanding of their meaning to the peoples they studied. Most, although not all, of the authors in the present book are an exception…
I’ll say! From Michael J. Harner’s essay “The Sound Of Rushing Water”:
When I first undertook research among the Jívaro in 1956-57, I did not fully appreciate the psychological impact of the Banisteriopsis drink upon the native view of reality, but in 1961 I had occasion to drink the hallucinogen in the course of field work with another Upper Amazon Basin tribe. For several hours after drinking the brew, I found myself, although awake, in a world literally beyond my wildest dreams. I met bird-headed people, as well as dragon-like creatures who explained that they were the true gods of this world. I enlisted the services of other spirit helpers in attempting to fly through the far reaches of the Galaxy. Transported into a trance where the supernatural seemed natural, I realized that anthropologists, including myself, had profoundly underestimated the importance of the drug in affecting native ideology. Therefore, in 1964 I returned to the Jívaro to give particular attention to the drug’s use by the Jívaro shaman.
South American shamanism and hallucinogens is one of the topics explored in
Yet the essay our reader found of most interest in this volume was was “The Role of Hallucinogenic Plants in European Witchcraft,” also by Harner. The topic of witchcraft, European and American, has been of great interest to Helytimes.
What was going on with the wild bursts of witchcraft persecution in medieval Europe and early colonial America?
A prevalent attitude among present-day historians and scholars of religion (e.g. Henningsen, 1969: 105-6; Trevor-Roper, 1969:90, 192) is that late medieval and Renaissance witchcraft was essentially a fiction created by the Church.
says Harner. But what this essay presupposes is: what if it wasn’t?
Probably the single most important group of plants used by mankind to contact the supernatural belongs to the order Solanacæe (the potato family)… each of these plants contains varying quantities of atropine and the other closely related tropane alkaloids hyoscyamine and scopolomine, all of which have hallucinogenic effects (Claus and Tyler, 1965: 273-85; Henry, ,1949: 64092; Hoffer and Osmund, 1967:525-28; Lewin, 1964: 129-140; Sollmann, 1957: 381-98).
From here, Harner goes on to suggest:
As is familiar to every child in our culture, the witch is fantasized as flying through the air on a broomstick. This symbol actually represents a very serious and central aspect of European witchcraft, involving the use of solanceaous hallucinogenic plants. The European witches rubbed their bodies with a hallucinogenic ointment containing such plants as Atropa belladonna, Mandragora, and henbane, whose content of atropine was absorbable through the skin. The witch then indeed took a “trip”: the witch on the broomstick is a representation of that imagined aerial journey to a rendezvous with spirits and demons, which was called a Sabbat.
Wild claim! More:
The use of a staff or broom was undoubtedly more than a symbolic Freudian act, serving as an applicator for the atropine-containing plant to the sensitive vaginal membranes as well as providing the suggestion of riding on a steed
Historical evidence seems thin. Harner presents a case from 1325, when a Lady Alice Kyteler was investigated in Ireland:
…in rifleing the closet of the ladie, they found a Pile of oyntment, wherewith she greased a staffe, upon the which she ambled and galloped through thick and thin, when and in what manner she listed.
Kyteler fled the country, but her servant was flogged and burned to death. Her house is now a pub:
We ran this idea by one of our female editors, who pointed out that if you were going to apply some salve to your vaginal membranes, you’d probably use something a little softer than a broomstick, perhaps a vegetable. The biodegradable nature of such an applicator perhaps explains why archaeological evidence is so scant.
Thought-provoking, in any case.
SkiingPosted: February 16, 2018 Filed under: Hemingway, Hemingway, sports, winter, women, writing Leave a comment
There were no ski lifts from Schruns and no funiculars; but there were logging trails and cattle trails that led up different mountain valleys to the high mountain country. You climbed on foot carrying your skis and higher up, where the snow was too deep, you climbed on seal skins that you attached to the bottoms of the skis. At the tops of mountain valleys there were the big Alpine Club huts for summer climbers where you could sleep and leave payment for any wood you used. In some you had to pack up your own wood, or if you were going on a long tour in the high mountains and the glaciers, you hired someone to pack wood and supplies up with you, and established a base. The most famous of these high base huts were the Lindauer-Hütte, the Madlener-Hause and the Wiesbadener-Hütte.
So says Hemingway in A Moveable Feast, “Winters in Schruns”
Skiing was not the way it is now, the spiral fracture had not become common then, and no one could afford a broken leg. There were no ski patrols. Anything you ran down from, you had to climb up to first, and you could run down only as often as you could climb up. That made you have legs that were fit to run down with.
And what did you eat, Hemingway?
We were always hungry and every meal time was a great event. We drank light or dark beer and new wines and wines that were a year old sometimes. The white wines were the best. For other drinks there was wonderful kirsch made in the valley and Enzian Schnapps distilled from mountain gentian. Sometimes for dinner there would be jugged hare with a rich red wine sauce, and sometimes venison with chestnut sauce. We would drink red wine with these even though it was more expensive than white wine, and the very best cost twenty cents a liter. Ordinary red wine was much cheaper and we packed it up in kegs to the Madlener-Haus.
What was the worst thing you remember?
The worst thing I remember of that avalanche winter was one man who was dug out. He had squatted down and made a box with his arms in front of his head, as we had been taught to do, so that there would be air to breathe as the snow rose up over you. It was a huge avalanche and it took a long time to dig everyone out, and this man was the last to be found. He had not been dead long and his neck was worn through so that the tendons and the bones were visible. He had been turning his head from side to side against the pressure of the snow. In this avalanche there must have been some old, packed snow mixed in with the new light snow that had slipped. We could not decide whether he had done it on purpose or if he had been out of his head. But there was no problem because he was refused burial in consecrated ground by the local priest anyway; since there was no proof he was a Catholic.
What else do you remember?
I remember the smell of the pines and the sleeping on the mattresses of beech leaves in the woodcutters’ huts and the skiing through the forest following the tracks of hares and of foxes. In the high mountains above the tree line I remember following the track of a fox until I came in sight of him and watching him stand with his forefoot raised and then go on carefully to sop and then pounce, and the whiteness and the clutter of a ptarmigan bursting out of the snow and flying away and over the ridge.
And, did you, btw, sleep with your wife’s best friend?
The last year in the mountains new people came deep into our lives and nothing was ever the same again. The winter of the avalanches was like a happy and innocent winter in childhood compared to that winter and the murderous summer that was to follow. Hadley and I had become too confident in each other and careless in our confidence and pride. In the mechanics of how this was penetrated I have never tried to apportion the blame, except my own part, and that was clearer all my life. The bulldozing of three people’s hearts to destroy one happiness and build another and the love and the good work and all that came out of it is not part of this book. I wrote it and left it out. It is a complicated, valuable, instructive story. How it all ended, finally, has nothing to do with this either. Any blame in that was mine to take and possess and understand. The only one, Hadley, who had no possible blame, ever, came well out of it finally and married a much finer man that I ever was or could hope to be and is happy and deserves it and that was one good and lasting thing that came out of that year.
Google, show me Schruns:
Did not knowPosted: October 26, 2017 Filed under: America Since 1945, music, women Leave a comment
That one Jody Miller, no relation to Roger Miller, did a response to his song “King Of The Road” entitled “Queen Of The House.”
SapphoPosted: June 4, 2017 Filed under: women, writing Leave a comment
I find Mary Barnard’s photo on the Oregonencyclopedia:
Her literary career took her from a childhood in the Oregon backwoods, where she often traveled with her timber-wholesaler father, to Reed College in Portland, where she was introduced to the classics and to the modern poetic revolution by Lloyd Reynolds.
Good sentencePosted: April 1, 2017 Filed under: women, writing Leave a comment
from Jean Rhys wikipedia page:
After her father died, in 1910, Rhys appeared to have experimented with the prospect of living as a demimondaine.
Ngiao MarshPosted: September 1, 2016 Filed under: heroes, women, writing Leave a comment
In New Zealand I got invited to participate in the Great New Zealand Crime Debate, which was a blast. I was on a team with Christchurch lawyer Kathryn Dalziel and sociologist Jarrod Gilbert, who got badly beaten several times while writing this book:
My job it turned out was to roast the members of the other team, namely New Zealand broadcaster Paula Penfold (who was lovely and a good sport):
Anyway, afterwards they had the Ngiao Marsh Crime Awards. Who was Ngiao Marsh?
She was a New Zealand writer of detective stories, mostly starring Roderick Alleyn. Some of the covers of her books are great:
Marsh never married and had no children. She enjoyed close companionships with women, including her lifelong friend Sylvia Fox, but denied being lesbian, according to biographer Joanne Drayton. ‘I think Ngaio Marsh wanted the freedom of being who she was in a world, especially in a New Zealand that was still very conformist in its judgments of what constituted ‘decent jokers, good Sheilas, and ‘weirdos’’,’ Roy Vaughan wrote after meeting her on a P&O Liner.
It sounds like her mysteries, which revolve around poison on darts and that kind of thing, are exactly what Raymond Chandler was ranting against in his essay “The Simple Art Of Murder“:
This, the classic detective story, has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. It is the story you will find almost any week in the big shiny magazines, handsomely illustrated, and paying due deference to virginal love and the right kind of luxury goods. Perhaps the tempo has become a trifle faster, and the dialogue a little more glib. There are more frozen daiquiris and stingers ordered, and fewer glasses of crusty old port; more clothes by Vogue, and décors by the House Beautiful, more chic, but not more truth. We spend more time in Miami hotels and Cape Cod summer colonies and go not so often down by the old gray sundial in the Elizabethan garden. But fundamentally it is the same careful grouping of suspects, the same utterly incomprehensible trick of how somebody stabbed Mrs. Pottington Postlethwaite III with the solid platinum poignard just as she flatted on the top note of the Bell Song from Lakmé in the presence of fifteen ill-assorted guests; the same ingenue in fur-trimmed pajamas screaming in the night to make the company pop in and out of doors and ball up the timetable; the same moody silence next day as they sit around sipping Singapore slings and sneering at each other, while the flat-feet crawl to and fro under the Persian rugs, with their derby hats on.
Chandler calls for something a little harder edged:
The realist in murder writes of a world in which gangsters can rule nations and almost rule cities, in which hotels and apartment houses and celebrated restaurants are owned by men who made their money out of brothels, in which a screen star can be the fingerman for a mob, and the nice man down the hall is a boss of the numbers racket; a world where a judge with a cellar full of bootleg liquor can send a man to jail for having a pint in his pocket, where the mayor of your town may have condoned murder as an instrument of moneymaking, where no man can walk down a dark street in safety because law and order are things we talk about but refrain from practising; a world where you may witness a hold-up in broad daylight and see who did it, but you will fade quickly back into the crowd rather than tell anyone, because the hold-up men may have friends with long guns, or the police may not like your testimony, and in any case the shyster for the defense will be allowed to abuse and vilify you in open court, before a jury of selected morons, without any but the most perfunctory interference from a political judge.
It is not a very fragrant world, but it is the world you live in, and certain writers with tough minds and a cool spirit of detachment can make very interesting and even amusing patterns out of it. It is not funny that a man should be killed, but it is sometimes funny that he should be killed for so little, and that his death should be the coin of what we call civilization. All this still is not quite enough.
In everything that can be called art there is a quality of redemption. It may be pure tragedy, if it is high tragedy, and it may be pity and irony, and it may be the raucous laughter of the strong man. But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world. I do not care much about his private life; he is neither a eunuch nor a satyr; I think he might seduce a duchess and I am quite sure he would not spoil a virgin; if he is a man of honor in one thing, he is that in all things. He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a detective at all. He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job. He will take no man’s money dishonestly and no man’s insolence without a due and dispassionate revenge. He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him. He talks as the man of his age talks, that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness. The story is his adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure. He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in.
If there were enough like him, I think the world would be a very safe place to live in, and yet not too dull to be worth living in.
Wow. The world’s big enough for both kinds of mystery I guess.
This year’s award was won by Paul Cleave:
For his book Trust No One:
Oh What A Slaughter and Sacagawea’s NicknamePosted: July 11, 2016 Filed under: adventures, America, the American West, women, writing Leave a comment
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.
How about this, as McMurtry describes the buildup to the Wounded Knee massacre?:
How can you not like a book that has this in it?
Sacagawea’s Nickname wasn’t as compelling to me.
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:
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.”
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.
Anyway let me go ahead and give you a spoiler that Sar car Ja we a’s nickname was Janey.
Jim HarrisonPosted: March 28, 2016 Filed under: America Since 1945, food, how to live, women, writing Leave a comment
Briefly shared a publisher, Grove/Atlantic, with Jim Harrison, which made me feel cool. Some gems in his New York Times obituary:
There was the eating. Mr. Harrison once faced down 144 oysters, just to see if he could finish them. (He could.)
“If you’ve known a lot of actresses and models,” he once confided with characteristic plain-spokenness to a rapt audience at a literary gathering, “you return to waitresses because at least they smell like food.”
Mr. Harrison had his detractors. With its boozing and brawling and bedding, his fiction was often called misogynistic. He did himself no favors with a 1983 Esquire essay in which he called his feminist critics “brie brains” and added, in gleeful self-parody, “Even now, far up in the wilderness in my cabin, where I just shot a lamprey passing upstream with my Magnum, I wouldn’t have the heart to turn down a platter of hot buttered cheerleaders.”
Julie LondonPosted: August 7, 2015 Filed under: actors, America Since 1945, music, the California Condition, women Leave a comment
came up on my Spotify. One great sentence after another on her wiki page:
In 1947, London married actor Jack Webb (of Dragnet fame). This pairing arose from their common love of jazz.
Her widely regarded beauty and poise (she was a pin-up girl prized by GIs during World War II) contrasted strongly with her pedestrian appearance and streetwise acting technique (much parodied by impersonators).
London and Troup appeared as panelists on the game show Tattletales several times in the 1970s. In the 1950s, London appeared in an advertisement for Marlboro cigarettes singing the “Marlboro Song” and in 1978 appeared in television advertisements for Rose Milk Skin Care Cream.
A private and introverted lady, London suffered a stroke in 1995 and was in poor health until her death on October 18, 2000 (the day her husband, Bobby Troup, would have been 82), in Encino, California, at age 74.
In an interview, Mantooth claimed London “was not impish nor a diva. She was a soul, kind of mother. She was the kindest person I have ever known.” He also added, “I don’t know if it was up to her, but Kevin and I were both kept calm by her personality, when we were shooting in the hospital. Only Bobby Troup knew who she was…she was just like Julie! She made us laugh!”
These hysterical slutsPosted: June 9, 2015 Filed under: religion, women, writing Leave a comment
Finally getting down to this one. Not all old philosophical classics are easy reading but Boethius gets off to a rip-roaring start. He’s got the Muses of Poetry at his bedside trying to cheer him up when all of a sudden Philosophy appears:
Philosophy is like
A lot of credit is probably due to the translator, Victor Watts. He sounds like just the man for the job:
The (sexy) Epic Of GilgameshPosted: February 26, 2015 Filed under: women, writing Leave a comment
Gilgamesh is crushing it, basically:
Gilgamesh the tall, magnificent and terrible;
who opened passes in the mountains,
who dug wells on the slopes of the uplands,
and crossed the ocean, the wide sea to the sunrise;
who scoured the world ever searching for life,
and reached through sheer force Uta-napishti the Distant;
who restored the cult-centres destroyed by the Deluge;
and set in place for the people the rites of the cosmos.
Who is there can rival his kingly standing,
and say like Gilgamesh, ‘It is I am the king’?
Gilgamesh was his name from teh day he was born,
two-thirds of him god and one third human.
But his dominance is getting to be a problem:
Though he is their shepherd and their protector,
powerful, pre-eminent, expert and mighty,
Gilgamesh lets no girl go free to her bridegroom.
So complain ‘the warrior’s daughter, the young man’s bride’ to the goddesses. So the goddess Aruru makes a man who will be a match for Gilgamesh.
In the wild she created Enkidu, the hero,
offspring of silence, knit strong by Ninurta.
All his body is matted with hair,
he bears long tresses like those of a woman:
the hair of his head grows thickly as barley,
he knows not a people, nor even a country.
Coated in hair like the god of the animals,
with the gazelles he grazes on grasses.
Joining the throng with the game at the water-hole,
his heart delighting with the beasts in the water.
Enkidu scares a hunter, who goes to Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh says “ok, go get Shamhat the temple prostitute and go tempt Enkidu”:
Then Shamhat saw him, the child of nature,
the savage man from the midst of the wild.
‘This is he, Shamhat! Uncradle your bosom,
bare your sex, let him take in your charms!
Do not recoil, but take in his scent:
he will see you, and will approach you.
Spread your clothing so he may lie on you,
do for the man the work of a woman!
Let his passion caress and embrace you,
his herd will spurn him, though he grew up amongst it.’
Shamhat unfastened the cloth of her loins,
she bared her sex and he took in her charms.
She did not recoil, she took in his scent:
she spread her clothing and he lay upon her.
She did for the man the work of a woman,
his passion caressed and embraced her.
For six days and seven nights
Enkidu was erect, as he coupled with Shamhat.
When with her delights he was fully sated,
he turned his gaze to the his herd.
The gazelles saw Enkidu, they started to run,
the beasts of the field shied away from his presence.
Enkidu had defiled his body so pure,
his legs stood still, though his herd was in motion.
Enkidu was weakened, could not run as before,
but now he had reason, and wide understanding.
Wild man fucks prostitute, loses his gazelle friends — oldest story in the world.
That’s all on Tablet One, by the way. Remember the old rule: by Tablet Two, you should have established your characters and relationships.
What happens next is Gilgamesh and Enkidu become best friends and decide to go to the Cedar Forest to kill the monster Humbaba.
St. VincentPosted: January 5, 2015 Filed under: America Since 1945, music, women 3 Comments
What red-blooded American hasn’t considered suicide?
HIGHEST recommendation to Marc Maron’s interview with St. Vincent. A truly fantastic interview with a person who can’t seem to say anything except in some intriguing, innovative way. Super cool.
A fun twist in my listening experience: I was skipping over the first ten minutes as is my way with WTF Podcast, but because there’s a mini-interview or teaser at the beginning, I listened to about five minutes of Andrea Martin, thinking she was St. Vincent:
A trippy misunderstanding.
One thing St. Vincent said is that, as a kind of resolution, she’s stopped reading the Internet, and she’s found — whether it’s causation or correlation — that she’s been more present, has more interesting conversations with people she comes across.
Unachievable goal for me, but I am gonna continue to think about this, she’s onto something here.
Today I looked at Drudge Report, as I so often do, and was like “what the fuck am I doing looking at this garbage?” Some headlines from Drudge today, punctuation is sic:
Students slam Michelle O lunch rules: Mayo banned
‘SEX SLAVE’ MET QUEEN
PAPER: Unending Anxiety of ‘ICYMI’ World…
Man posts bail — with sneakers…
BABIES WITH ‘THREE PARENTS’ TO BE LEGAL WITHIN WEEKS…
RISE OF THE MACHINES: ROBOTS LEARN WATCHING YOUTUBE!
Al Qaeda warns of new ‘undetectable’ bombs to be used against US…
Egypt defence lawyers challenge police in gay bathhouse case…
Do I need this garbage in my life?
(Hey serious q: if any HelyTimes readers know some best practices for using photos from the internet on your non-profit blog please lemme know. Can’t find a source for that St. Vincent photo, not sure how hard I should try/worry about that)
WildPosted: December 20, 2014 Filed under: America Since 1945, movies, nature, screenwriting, the California Condition, women, writing Leave a comment
Contains WILD spoilers!
1) This movie has a high degree of difficulty.
I read 2/3s of the book Wild – abandoned it before I finished, but I did the same thing with Eat Pray Love and then years later started over and found it very impressive. Perhaps a similar fate awaits Wild & me.
At least two top-notch women I know swear by Tiny Beautiful Things. I like reading interviews with Cheryl Strayed, she seems like the real deal.
In books you can get into somebody’s head. That is their killer advantage, and why I don’t think books are going anywhere anytime soon. You just can’t do that in a movie. Wild the movie does a pretty good job of this, but it’s sort of just doomed, imo. This is a story about a person’s journey from one mental state to another, with most of the work done internally. Very hard to dramatize.
While there are good tricks towards doing that in this movie, it comes up a little short on the radical innovations needed to tell that story in a movie. Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay: a dude who is good at this kind of thing, his books make excellent movies, but maybe a true writer-director could’ve worked the solutions even tighter?
[One particular note: it seemed to me like all the cutaways should’ve cut a few beats earlier. You’re always like, “ok, here we go, we’re about to cutaway to Cheryl’s childhood.”]
2) The story has a motivation problem.
Cheryl decided to do this, herself. No one made her, asked her, even cares if she accomplishes her goal. So when she faces difficulty or problems, it easy to think “well, you’re the one who decided to hike the PCT, dumdum. Why should I care about this?”
In a story, a person sets out to do something and arrives at a win/lose/draw (thanks to John Gardner for articulating that for me). What would count as a win in this story? Getting to Ashland? No, who cares about Ashland, nothing but hippies in Ashland. The goal of this story is: Cheryl restoring herself (whether or not she knows that’s the goal at the start).
But: that’s an internal goal, how will you show it in a movie? It’s easier to answer these questions in a book, where Cheryl can articulate her reasons and get you with her and make you see that this particular journey is important even if nothing tangible’s at stake.
3) Still, pretty good movie.
Despite all that I thought the ending was pretty satisfying. It’s hard to make a pretty good movie. When Reese Witherspoon yells “FUCK YOU BITCH!” I thought that was good acting.
Sometimes I think all the hugely successful actresses [Reese, Anne Hathaway, etc.] are such intense people that when they act like normal people their instinct is to be way too intense. I would argue Julianne Moore might be the best at not doing this. Think how hard that must be: to act intense but not at your full-bore intense because you somehow intuitively understand that your own “full bore” is too strong for the screen. Acting is crazy hard.
Like all criticism should, let this come with a disclaimer: it’s easy to be a critic hard to make a thing, makers > critics x1000!
4) Interesting sex stuff in this movie.
I do remember in the book being jarred by the period of sexual degradation and heroin, hadn’t realized that was part of the tale. It was new territory, I felt, in exploring a woman’s sexual… could we call it addiction? self-punishment? Cheryl’s not not in control at that point, right? But she also isn’t having a great time. It’s fucked up, she knows it’s fucked up. But it’s not fucked up because she’s a slut, it’s fucked up because she’s not being the woman she wants to be (right?).
Whatever, it made me think/was also slightly titillating/made me feel kind of bad for the husband she was compulsively cheating on. What are the nice guy husbands of America to make of Eat Pray Love and Wild, two biggest women’s memoirs of the last ten years, that both start with a woman leaving her nice guy husband for sexual adventuring?
How often in a movie do you see sex that is intended to be not rape but also not fun?
5) The music in this movie is kind of good but also kind of sucks.
That’s my take anyway. What if I told you that in 2014 we were making an epic movie about a woman’s adventure across America? Would you say that scattered samples of Simon & Garfunkel is the best we could do? Fuck no! Why didn’t they get some awesome woman to make a badass score like Eddie Vedder did for the man-equivalent, Into The Wild?
6) There’s a weird shoutout to REI in this movie.
Where Reese calls them to get new boots and is like “you’re my favorite company ever.” Maybe Cheryl really felt that way. I have a bunch of stuff from REI, but sometimes I think their business model is based on making you think going outdoors is more expensive and complicated than it really is to sell you more junk. Which, weirdly: in the same scene where Cheryl learns about REI’s return policy, the dude is like “you don’t need all this shit.”
Former REI CEO Sally Jewell is Secretary of the Interior.
Strikes me as a very Obama kind of pick: on the one hand, kind of hip and modern and innovative, but on the other hand she was still the CEO of a huge corporation.
7) Wild and Eat Pray Love are in long American literary tradition of spiritual narrative.
If I were a grad student at Yale I’d write my Ph. D. on this, trace it all back through Emerson and Puritan religious narratives and captive narratives of 18th century New England and I’d be the smartest boy in the seminar. Since I’m not in grad school though I can make my point in one sentence which is that things that seem radical and new are often just new versions of an old tradition, we’re not so different from the past or as wildly inventive as we think we are, etc.
8) Is this how women go through life? Constantly having to wonder if a random dude is a rapist?
Damn, that might be the most important aspect of Wild, seeing the world through a woman’s eyes, showing that tension of life. When I walk around at 11pm or so in my neighborhood and I see women walking their dogs it always feels very tense. My instinct to somehow indicate I am not a rapist usually just seems to make the problem worse.
ANYWAY: one reason I was excited to see Wild is I’ve been to many of the settings along the Pacific Crest Trail on fishing trips. Here, for example, is a photo of Kennedy Meadows:
Kennedy Meadows is like a plateau high up in the Sierras. To get there you drive up a crazy 27-mile twisty road up from the 395. If you find yourself there, be sure to stop at The Grumpy Bear:
They’re happy to teach you about jerking meat:
Don’t get it confused with the other Kennedy Meadows up in Sonora.
While I was up there I crossed the PCT and wondered if it would be interesting to film a couple seconds of walking on it:
If you’d like to see Wild, but only have ten seconds, my film gets at similar themes but with more nauseating camerawork.
Fist CityPosted: December 16, 2014 Filed under: America Since 1945, music, women Leave a comment
Loretta has such an admirable way of getting right to the point.
More Celia JohnsonPosted: April 30, 2012 Filed under: adventures, film, Future Mrs. Hely, heroes, how to live, women Leave a comment
tubechopped her speech from Noel Coward’s “In Which We Serve” (1942).
Fact (?) I learned in college: Goebbels was constantly infuriated and impressed by how much better and subtler American and English propaganda films were.
[Celia Johnson] later recalled her choice of an acting career with the comment, “I thought I’d rather like it. It was the only thing I was good at. And I thought it might be rather wicked.”
She was married to Peter Fleming, brother of Ian. He held his own in the adventuring department:
In April 1932 Fleming replied to an advertisement in the personal columns of The Times: “Exploring and sporting expedition, under experienced guidance, leaving England June to explore rivers central Brazil, if possible ascertain fate Colonel Percy Fawcett; abundant game, big and small; exceptional fishing; ROOM TWO MORE GUNS; highest references expected and given.”
The expedition, organised by Richard Churchyard, travelled to São Paulo, then overland to the rivers Araguaia and Tapirapé, heading towards the likely last-known position of the Fawcett expedition. During the inward journey, the expedition was riven by increasing internal disagreements as to its objectives and plans, centred particularly on its local leader, ‘Major Pingle’ (a pseudonym).
Here is a picture of him from this intriguing blog:
Celia JohnsonPosted: April 29, 2012 Filed under: film, Future Mrs. Hely, heroes, women Leave a comment
Sundown (Gordon Lightfoot), 1974Posted: April 6, 2012 Filed under: love, music, women 5 Comments
There are rumours that “Sundown” was inspired by his then girlfriend, Cathy Smith, later more infamously known for her involvement in the death of John Belushi. Lightfoot has commented in interviews that she was “the one woman in my life who most hurt me.”
More, from Cathy Smith’s wikipedia page:
Catherine Evelyn Smith (born Catherine Evelyn Smith, 1948 in Hamilton, Ontario) is an occasional backup singer, rock star girlfriend, “groupie” and drug dealer, who served 15 months in the California state prison system for injecting John Belushi with a fatal dose of heroin and cocaine in 1982…
…Smith became an employee and then mistress of Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot in the early to mid-1970s. At one point, she even drove their tour bus. Smith sang backup on Lightfoot’s song “High and Dry” which was on the Sundown album. She apparently sang more backup on the album but Lightfoot mixed most of it out.
By several accounts, the Smith-Lightfoot affair was volatile and illustrated in the lyrics of “Sundown”, Lightfoot’s Number One hit and most financially lucrative song. It reflects the dark feelings Lightfoot was experiencing at the time. Drinking too much and married to another woman, he on one occasion broke Smith’s cheekbone in a fight. Lightfoot has stated of his three-year relationship with Smith, “I was sometimes crazy with jealousy”.
Picture of Cathy Smith, from this amazing website:
Once, on a bus between Vancouver and Whitehorse, I heard a woman tell the story of how Gordon Lightfoot kissed her one time.