Category for art and humor

Greatest hurricane movie ever? Key Largo

Key Largo has to be the greatest hurricane movie ever, and one of starriest pictures of all time. The cast will knock you out: Beginning with Bogart and Bacall, and including Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor and Edgar G. Robinson, for crying out loud, who dominates the picture as a gangster threatened by the power of the storm.

This one frame from Key Largo tells that story:

“You don’t like it, do you Rocco, the storm? Show it your gun, why don’t you? If it doesn’t stop, shoot it.”

Image may contain: 4 people, people sitting

Can’t you just hear the harsh grain in Bogart’s voice, as he forces the brazen gangster to face a truth bigger than he can handle? Where are the heroic truth tellers of today? Where have you gone Humphrey Bogart? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

(In fact the inevitable “Shoot at Hurricane Irma” Facebook group formed in Florida in 2017 as Irma churned its way towards Florida — but forget all that, the movie is so much better. And so much better than the filmic Sharknado fare of today, or so it seems with the benefit of eighty years of hindsight.)

 

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Dear Sam Shepherd I miss you already

One of the most American of us all died yesterday. Sam Shepherd, I miss you today.

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In tribute, let me quote a short piece from his countless marvelous writings. This one happens to be about his father. It’s just another of his countless little miracles of writing, another “how did he do that?’ But it’s straight from the heart.

From a daybook of sketches and road thoughts called Motel Chronicles, published 1982 by City Lights.

My Dad keeps a record collection in cardboard boxes lined up along his bedroom wall collecting New Mexican dust. His prize is an original Al Jolson 78 with the jacket taped and even the tape is ripped. Last time I saw him he tried to bribe me into taking it back to L.A. and selling it for a bundle. He’s convinced it’s worth at least a grand. Maybe more, depending on the market. He says he’s lost touch with the market these days. 

My Dad has a picture of a Spanish senorita covered in whip cream pinned above the sink to his kitchen wall. My Dad actually does. He walked me over to it and we both stared at it for a while. “She’s supposed to be naked under there, but I’ll bet she’s wearing something,” he said.  

He gave me a tour of all his walls. All his walls are covered with pictures. Wall-to-wall magazine clippings. Each picture is a point of view. Like peering out through different windows into intricate landscapes. I stared at the pictures. A waterfall with real rocks glued onto the foreground. Rocks he’d found to fit the picture. A white dog with a green fish in its mouth. Saguaro Cactus in the setting sun ripped from a 1954 Arizona Highways. An orange Orangutang fiddling with its privates. A flight of B-52 Bombers in Wing Formation. A collage of faces splattered with bacon grease.  

My Dad has a collection of cigarette butts in a Yuban coffee can. I bought him a carton of Old Golds but he wouldn’t touch them. He kept twisting tobacco out of butts and rolling re-makes over a grocery bag so as not to lose the slightest bit. He sneered at my carton of cigarettes, all red and white and ready-rolled. 

He spent all the food money I’d gave him on Bourbon. Filled the ice box with bottles. Had his hair cut short like a World War II fighter pilot. He gleamed every time he ran his hand across the bristles. Said they used to cut it short like so their helmets would fit. Showed me how the shrapnel scars still showed on the nape of his neck.  

My Dad lives alone on the desert. He says he doesn’t fit with people.  

Love that “on the desert.” So precise. So laconic.

In the book, they have some rough black and white pictures of Sam and his father looking at each other. In some of them, his dad is wearing a cowboy hat, a white cowboy hat. In some of the

In one of the pictures, his dad is wearing a cowboy hat, a white cowboy hat. In another of the pictures Sam is wearing the hat.

From today’s New Yorker, a wondrously lyric remembrance of Shepherd by Patti Smith, his one-time lover and lifetime friend. Just a slice of life here, I promise, nothing of its miraculous whole given away.

He sent a message from the mountains of Bolivia, where Mateo Gil was shooting “Blackthorn.” The air was thin up there in the Andes, but he navigated it fine, outlasting, and surely outriding, the younger fellows, saddling up no fewer than five different horses. He said that he would bring me back a serape, a black one with rust-colored stripes. He sang in those mountains by a bonfire, old songs written by broken men in love with their own vanishing nature. Wrapped in blankets, he slept under the stars, adrift on Magellanic Clouds.

Sam liked being on the move. He’d throw a fishing rod or an old acoustic guitar in the back seat of his truck, maybe take a dog, but for sure a notebook, and a pen, and a pile of books. He liked packing up and leaving just like that, going west. He liked getting a role that would take him somewhere he really didn’t want to be, but where he would wind up taking in its strangeness; lonely fodder for future work.

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Garrison Keiller on the piousness of climate activists

Humorists and contrarians so often seem to drink from the same well, as Garrison Keiller did this week in mocking Trump, Trump supporters, climate activists, Europeans, the Chinese, smokers, and himself in a column this week.

No sensuous pleasure can compare to the thrill of righteousness, and when the poor schlump [Trump] stood in the Rose Garden and read his speech about America victimized by the crafty Europeans and the treacherous Chinese who designed the Paris accords, he could not have imagined the uproar he would cause. Moments later, everybody to the left of Jabba the Hutt was shaking their fists as if he had stuck his hand up under the Statue of Liberty’s gown. Birds shrieked from the trees, small dogs growled, even heinous criminals looked upon him with loathing.

Love that hyperbole! A picture from outside the White House gates:

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But as is typically the case with the great Keillor, he’s got surprises — a little poke for one and all:

People love the chance to get all apocalyptic: The right wing has enjoyed this for years and now it was everyone else’s turn. The polar icecap melting, the incidence of depression among chickadees rising, tooth decay in chickens, acorns falling, the planet turning to toast. Prophets of doom wherever you looked.

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Even though the scientists are right about climate change, the sanctimony is awfully heavy. It’s like the people who told me the mortality statistics for heavy smokers back when I was doing four packs a day. They took satisfaction from my imminent demise and to demonstrate my immortality I upped my intake and switched to unfiltered Camels. The Paris accords were a bunch of drunks agreeing to go on the wagon, and what the guy at the podium did was to invest in a chain of distilleries. So what?

The man is only trying to please the folks who voted for him. They want him to walk into church and moon the clergy. They’ve always wanted to do it themselves but didn’t dare offend their devout neighbors. So they went along, saying the appropriate things about Community and Cooperation and Tolerance and the Value of Education, which made them miserable because they didn’t believe in any of it. They believed in Family Loyalty and outsiders can go to hell. Be a winner. Race to the buffet and pick all the beef out of the stew and let the others have the celery and onions.

It’s a selfish world view but so what? Sew buttons on your underwear. They never had a champion until this guy came along and spoke for them loud and clear, and they eked out a narrow win in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and now they’re making the most of it. That’s how it works. And every week or so, their guy walks up to the altar and drops his trousers.

The guy is trying to save the coal industry. We each have our causes. I am fighting for the typewriter industry and for the revival of rotary telephones. That doesn’t make me a bad person. I think the 1951 Studebaker was the most beautiful car of the 20th century. With a few billion dollars in federal subsidies and a ban on foreign imports, we can bring the Studebaker back. This will be a great boon to South Bend, Indiana.

The truth is, the man has a lousy job. He is penned up in the White House with a bunch of gossipy underlings and he is expected to make big decisions about matters he doesn’t know or care about and he is expected to make nice with world leaders who disdain him, like the Frenchman who gave him a bone-crushing handshake.

And he did the speech and was reamed by the media and academicians and loser Democrats, that whole high-fiber crowd, and you know what? He does not care. He is 70 and no scientist in the world says the sky is going to fall in the next 20 or 25 years so what exactly is the problem? Like his followers, he has no beliefs, only urges. Look at the expression of chill hauteur on the man’s face as he shoves his way through the NATO heads of state to stand in front. It’s all there. That’s him. The Duke of Earl. When you know nothing, nothing can stop you.

But as many have noted, the bizarre twist is that the President pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement is not only unpopular in polling by about a 2-to-1 margin, but it’s also sent interest in the agreement through the roof.

Will this President ever get control of the narrative?

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What is the musical analog of poetry? (Moonlight)

Composer Nicholas Brittel talks to Song Exploder about how he discovered the theme to Moonlight:

On what drew him to Moonlight:
When I first read [the script], I was just overwhelmed by this feeling of beauty and poetry, that was really the starting point for my personal experience with the film. There was just this incredible sense of beauty and of sensitivity and tenderness and intimacy in the screenplay. What was amazing to me when I first saw the early cuts of the film after it was shot was how well Barry had preserved that feeling of poetry in the movie.

My first emotional reaction to the film was that sense of poetry. I actually was saying to myself, What is the musical analog of poetry? Among the first things I sent to Barry was a piece of music I wrote that I called “Piano and Violin Poem,” because I was sort of trying to channel this idea — that actually [turned into] Little’s theme.

When it comes to the Academy Awards tomorrow night, La La Land will probably win for best score (and most other categories) but Moonlight’s score is in fact musical poetry — deserves rememberi

As the composer manipulates the sound itself, algorithmically dropping the pitch and in other ways reworking Little’s theme, refracting it so it’s almost but not quite unrecognizeable, we hear memory itself grinding gears, struggling to process the emotions it stirs up.

The only flaw in the score, sez me, is that the official version doesn’t include “Hello Stranger,” the classic R&B song with which the story concluduesa. So I”m including it here.

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Earth will become like Mars: Discoverer of Global Warming

The great science reporter Andrew Revkin has been posting early newspaper stories about global warming (as we call it today). These stories go back a hundred years and more.

From his Twitter account, here’s an interesting example, featuring a talk given at a Midwestern college by the Swedish scientist, Svante Arrhenius, who first calculated the consequences of adding vast amounts of a trace gas, carbon dioxide, to the atmosphere.

In an Illinois paper focusing on a talk Arrhenius gave in May of 1911, the story is headlined:

EARTH LIKE MARS?

The subheadlines (characteristic of the era) read:

Dr. Arrhenius of Sweden says Change is Gradually Taking Place

WILL NOT SUSTAIN LIFE

However, It May be 10,000 Years or More Before Carbon Di-Oxide Is Exhausted. 

The first lines of the story (sent by a reader and excerpted by Revkin) read:

“That this earth will become like the planet Mars, incapable of sustaining life, was the prediction made by Dr. Svante A. Arrhenius, Stockholm, Sweden, in a lecture at Augustana college on the subject, “The Development of the Atmosphere of Planets,” Saturday night. Dr. Arrhenius, who won the Nobel prize in chemistry in l903 because of his electrolytical dissociation theory, is regarded as the world’s foremost authority on cosmogony.”

Arrhenius may have been too optimistic by 9795 years, argues Matt Davies, a Pulitizer Prize winning editorial cartoonist for Newsday.

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Baked Alaska

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From The New Yorker, of course, in today’s daily cartoon.

It’s worth noting that in earth’s long history yes, evidence of the existence of palm trees and other tropical plants living at the North Pole has been documented. A tropical Arctic existed for over a million years. Runaway global warming is not only possible, it’s already happened.

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Who is the biggest climate villain in the land?

Well, we know who is the biggest, um, talker:

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From Tom Toles, of course, who follows up with a Denier’s Club of the usual misleaders. A deep post, adapted from his new book The Madhouse Effect with scientist Michael Mann, who originated the famous “hockey stick” graph that some folks very much do not want to see, and, having seen, want to forget.

The almost famous stick figure cartoonist XKCD came up with a wonderful and clever version of that graphic that’s just too darn big to post here, but is very much worth seeing.

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People of the PCT: Birdman

Met Birdman a day or maybe two south of Sierra City, in Section L, north of Donner Pass. He’s a true thruhiker: “flip-flopped” the AT last year (meaning he went up and back down).

“And I’ll tell you, it’s a lot more dramatic finishing up at Mt. Katahdin than it is in Springer, Georgia!” he said. Think he has the right to say such a thing, given that he hails from Georgia.

Birdman (from Georgia)

Birdman (from Georgia)

 

Birdman was making what I would consider excellent time — 25+ miles a day — but complained of a knee that was giving him trouble, and was trying not to give up on the trail at the halfway point, just a few days ahead.

“Never quit on a bad day!”

 

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Wait — is that a Half Dome in your beard?

Happy Birthday John Muir!

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Taken wholesale for Jer Collins, a fascinating artist and adventurer, highly recommended, for his care in drawing, and for his imagination. On Instagram. Affiliated with National Geographic.

 

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a rare soupcon of spicy humor

From Kelly Conaboy at The Awl:

What does a bay leaf taste like? Nothing. What does a bay leaf smell like? Nothing. What does a bay leaf look like? A leaf. How does a bay leaf behave? It behaves as a leaf would, if you took a leaf from the tree outside of your apartment building and put it into your soup. People say, “Boil a bay leaf in some water and then taste the water if you want to know what a bay leaf tastes like.”

No.

In search of confirmation, as well as freedom to ignore the bay leaf portion of future recipes I might encounter, I reached out to a number of chefs and asked them, “Are bay leaves bullshit?”

Chef Anna Klinger, of Park Slope’s Al Di La, said: “I like them and use quite a bit.”

Anna Klinger and I are not technically friends so I do not take this lie personally, and I appreciate the way she did not explicitly state on record that bay leaves are not bullshit. Sneaky.

And yes, it goes on that way, adamantly, and it’s pretty hilarious. If a bay leaf can be funny and not bullshit.

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