A traditional pachamanca in Peru
In Peru, people like to gather around heat and meat, too. Except the heat — and the meat — are buried in the ground. It’s called pachamanca, a traditional way of cooking that dates back to the Inca Empire. The pit cooking technique has evolved over time but remains an important part of the Peruvian cuisine and culture, especially in the central Peruvian Andes all year-round for family get-togethers and celebrations.
Imagine a cornucopia of dozens of potatoes and corn ears and giant slabs of well-marinated meat, stacked carefully in layers (like these carefully constructed Pizza Hut salad bar salads). Pachamanca is that cornucopia turned upside-down and sealed for hours.
Pachamanca is the combination of two words in the Quechua language: pacha, for earth and manka for pot. To make one, “you basically make a pot in the earth,” says Rosa Maria La Madrid, foodways coordinator of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which is held on the National Mall this year from June 24 to July 5 and this year has Peru as its central theme. Traditionally, you’d dig a hole in the earth. But since this pachamanca demo that happened Friday was on the National Mall, the team improvised by building a small oven with bricks above ground.
“It has to be volcanic rocks that can support all the heat or else the rock will burst,” La Madrid says. The rocks used for demonstration were lava rocks that came from a local gardening store, she says.
After the rocks are blazing hot, they become the bottommost layer of the pit. Then the first layer of food goes on: vegetables that need longer cooking times like potatoes, sweet potatoes and the Peruvian tubers yucca, oca and mashwa. The second layer is the meat — a whole lot of it.
“We use three to four types of meat,” La Madrid says, “The most common ones are chicken, beef and pork. You can also use lamb and mutton. We call these different types of meat Pachamanca flavors.”
“Let’s try it again. This time with a tad less mania.”
Enlightenment on Your iPhone
BY LIZZIE WIDDICOMBE
Headspace, an app created by an ex-monk, teaches meditation to digital burnouts.
Dusting Off A Gritty, Glamorous California Classic –Also Fante’s novel has been made into a good film with Colin Farrell & Salma Hayek
People think of Los Angeles as a city without a past. But as a native Angeleno, I stumble upon the relics of its history all the time: the rails of our long-ago vanished street cars embedded in the asphalt, for example, and the mostly vacant towers of stone in our Old Banking District.
There are many novels that can give their readers a sense of what it was like to live in that old L.A., a city of men in fedoras and women in broad-shouldered dresses. But it’s John Fante, largely forgotten outside Los Angeles, who best brings the passion, the possibility and the hurt of that glamorous city to life, specifically with his 1939 novel Ask the Dust.
Ask the Dust is the story of Fante’s alter ego, Arturo Bandini. Like Fante himself, Bandini has come to L.A. from Colorado during the Great Depression. His dream is to be a great writer. But his so-far miniscule royalty checks allow him nothing better than a room in Bunker Hill, a neighborhood of worn-out apartments and sagging Victorian mansions overlooking downtown.
I love Fante for the intimacy with which he portrays the working people of his day. Los Angeles was the newest big metropolis in the U.S. back then, a magnet for people in search of work and reinvention. Fante populates Ask the Dust with people who’ve come from the colder corners of the U.S.: the bright daylight that makes the California palm trees grow tall unsettles them. Many are drifting, lost Midwesterners searching for wealth and happiness, and they’ve arrived in L.A., as Fante writes, with the “dust of Chicago and Cincinnati and Cleveland on their shoes, doomed to die in the sun.”
Enjoyed a cool matinée at cine de Rōbert.
This film is adapted from the critically acclaimed novel by John Fante, one of my favorite authors/screenwriters that was proflific from the 40’s through the 80’s. The film is about an Italian writer Aturo Bandini (Farrell) as he moves to LA in 1932 in pursuit of inspiration for his next short story. As he struggles to find that inspiration he meets a sassy young barmaid Camilla (Hayek) who both tests his patience and his heart strings, for she is everything he wishes he had and yet is trying to escape.
This highly enjoyable film is told in a narrated form like a Raymond Chandler story. Collin Farrell plays a young writer named Bandini who recently moved to Los Angeles from Colorado. He lives in a boarding house where he can just enter his room through the window and he has the view out of the window of the first palm tree he has ever seen. Donald Sutherland plays his alcoholic neighbor who constantly barges into Bandini’s room (it is never locked ) to talk about life and to let Bandini know when he is entertaining the milkman so Bandini can grab some milk from the unwatched milk truck.
Bandini idolizes M L Menckin and aspires to be just like him. He writes stories based on his experiences and submits them to Menckin, hoping that Menckin will publish them. Down to his last nickel, Bandini goes to a bar and orders a cup of coffee from the exotic looking Mexican waitress (Salma Hayak). Bandini uses this to appear angry at Hayak because he can think of no better way to strike up a conversation. He later goes back to apologize to Hayak by having the bartender give her a copy of his one published article (Bandini seems to use this ruse with other people when he owes them money). What Bandini doesn’t know is that Hayak cannot read English so she cannot really appreciate the “gift” that he left for her and this throws Bandini into a rage.
However, Bandini seems to be totally smitten with Hayak’s looks so he continues to pursue her until he has another fight with her. In the meantime a woman comes into Bandini’s life who worships Bandini for his writing. The woman is an abuse spouse and Bandini is eventually smitten by her as well. Their relationship has to go through tribulations because of society not readily accepting Mexicans and because Hayak is hiding a serious illness from Bandini.
The film is well directed and is very open about the racism that existed at that time.
IN MEMORIAM The Skiing Life ~ In memory of James Salter, who died last week ~ 25, 2015 | by Louisa Thomas ~ Paris Review
In memory of James Salter, who died last week, the Daily is republishing a series of essays from 2011, when Salter received The Paris Review’s Hadada Prize. In today’s piece, Louisa Thomas examines Salter’s essay “The Skiing Life.”
To learn more about Salter, read his 1993 Art of Fiction interview or one of his stories from the magazine: “Sundays” (1966), “Am Strande von Tanger” (1968), “Via Negativa” (1972), and “Bangkok” (2003) are available in full online.
I read There and Then: The Travel Writing of James Salter for the parts about skiing the way one reads A Sport and a Pastime for the sex. In fact Salter writes about skiing the way he writes about sex: as something luminous, clean, somehow moral. This was a few years ago, when I was obsessed with skiing; I thought about it all the time. In Salter I sensed a sympathetic hunger, the longing for something transcendent, pointless, permanent, and always vanishing. There aren’t many good authors who write about skiing. Hemingway does a little. Salter does it a lot, as a way of writing about something else, just as writing about sex is a way of writing about other things: beauty, courage, obsession, mastery—mostly, someone else’s mastery.
When I skied, or when I thought about skiing, a beautiful skier would stop me in my tracks. He would slide over a lip into a bowl or glade, or drop into a little chute out of bounds. His solid body would become liquid, slipping through the snow, as he found the fall line. I would watch his back and then fly after him, tracking him, fearless and afraid. “What enables you to learn?” Salter asks. “It’s simple: desire.”
In “The Skiing Life,” Salter describes learning to ski from an instructor:
Follow me closely, he says, as if you can, turn where I turn. Trying to do what he does, forgetting some things, remembering others, somehow you follow. The trail is narrowing, you are going faster than you should and farther, beyond your endurance … One morning you awake unaware that, mysteriously, something has changed. This day it comes to you … All day, run after run, filled with an immense, unequaled happiness, and at the end into town together, down the last, easy slopes, and so weary that you fall asleep after supper in your ski clothes, the lights burning throughout the night.
There are of course some who don’t need to learn, some who are almost born with it. Kids who grow up on eastern mountains are at home on ice and cruddy snow, although they dream of powder days. The kids out west have no idea how lucky they are. It is thrilling to watch a child hurtle past. You can see her future: she will slip through bumps, sleep on the floor, hike up mountains to ski down them. She will be powerful and fast. Years later, you will spot her from the chairlift, graceful and unmistakable. Even on my best days, the days when I belonged to the mountains, I would look for that girl. “There is always that lone skier,” Salter writes, “oddly dressed, off to the side past the edge of the run, going down where it is steepest and the snow untouched, in absolute grace, marking each dazzling turn with a brief jab of the pole—there is always him, the skier you cannot be.”
What Salter is describing is not quite jealousy; it is awe. Awe can create a sense of obligation. In the presence of that skier you can never be, skiing becomes a devotional act. I imagined that I would never stop, that I could make this my life. I would train, improve, worship where required. To read Salter on the skiing life is to be aware of this life’s reward: the feeling of a turn, the glide and cut, the nervy edges. The speed and focus. The sun on the mountains. The feeling of being free. Salter moved to Aspen, and I dreamed I might, too. I wanted to think the sport had a claim on me. I broke my elbow skiing when I was sixteen, racing a friend. You can still feel the screws and metal plate through my skin. A month later, I was on the slopes again.
Of course I fell, sometimes badly, but it didn’t much matter. Then I broke my other elbow, this time on an ice rink, and I stopped skiing. It wasn’t just that I was scared of being hurt, though it was true, I was scared. I forgot about the immense sensation of gliding. Instead I thought of what it feels like to fall.
Falling is a word that appears often in Salter’s writing. Snow is falling, rain is falling, dusk is falling. Cities fall away as fighter planes rise. Fighter planes fall from the sky. Eyes fall on bodies. Men fall in a larger sense, loosing control in war or sex. Sometimes they only imagine they will fall. In Solo Faces, a man named Love is in the midst of a difficult climb. “It seemed he was somewhere—he had felt this many times before—where a terrible event, some suspension of physical law, might take place and everything he knew, was sure of, hoped to be, in one anarchic moment would dissolve. He saw himself falling. This feeling alternated with one of confidence. A layer of frailty had been stripped away and a stronger, more spiritual being remained.” This is the hope, to find power—but Love loses strength again. He watches his companion above him, climbing “in harmony” with the rock, amazed. “The physical acts are not hard to imagine but the endless succession of them, far up on a wall—that is another thing. And the distance beneath.” Love makes it to the top, exultant, and walking down the other side, slips and falls.
I read “The Skiing Life” now and I miss the skiing life. It is, of course, a life I never really had. Two years ago I did go skiing again, in Jackson Hole. On run after run, I was extraordinarily happy. On the chairlifts gliding up, I looked out for that girl, that beautiful skier. I wanted to see her very badly. I saw more patrolmen pulling stretchers than I could count.
At night I slept on a bench in a cabin in Grand Teton National Park. In the mornings we heard the avalanche warnings. I thought of Meta Burden, a beautiful skier who had died in Aspen in a flood of snow. Salter had written about her. She was a “goddess,” he said. “They dug her out in the dark and carried her body down.”
Louisa Thomas writes about sports for the Daily. Her book, Conscience: Two Soldiers, Two Pacifists, One Family—A Test of Will and Faith in World War I, will be published in June.
In Chile’s Elqui Valley, Intergalactic Sightseeing Is the Star & its Pisco (muscatel grape) growing/fermenting region ~ Rōbert
One of the mini geodesic domes at Elqui Domos, a hotel catering to stargazers. Each dome has a raised bed and a zip-away ceiling panel for a private viewing of the brilliant night sky.
At 8:45 p.m. on a warm, clear night, the last rays of the setting sun lit up a remote mountaintop a thousand feet above the small Chilean town of Vicuña. Mother Nature’s show, however, was just beginning.
I saw Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, first. Later came the Tres Marias, as the three glittering studs in Orion’s belt are known here. Then as violet hues faded to black, there were dozens, then suddenly hundreds of stars. An hour later the Milky Way blazed across the dome of the sky, a glimmering helix of light and darkness.
Emilio Lepeley, our guide for the night at Mamalluca Observatory, aimed a green laser into the sky. “The Incas had dark constellations,” he said, referring to the practice of finding forms in the “empty” areas between stars. “Can you see the llama?” Outside, 50 or so people milled about at the observatory doors, the usual summer crush waiting their turn for a peek through the telescope inside.
Mamalluca is one of about a dozen observatories in northern Chile’s Elqui Valley region that cater to astrotourists (once known simply as stargazers). An oasis in an otherwise arid landscape, the roughly 90-mile-long valley stretches from the Pacific Ocean eastward into the Andean foothills. Its geography, with the cloud-blocking Andes to the east and the bone-dry Atacama Desert to the north, produces exceptionally clear conditions, optimal for stargazing.
Starting in the 1960s, a string of major international research telescopes were built here to take advantage of that, including Cerro Tololo, La Silla and Gemini South, and in 2014 work began on the planet’s most powerful space camera. Within five years, an estimated 70 percent of the world’s astronomical infrastructure will be in Chile, much of it in the Elqui Valley.
Increasingly, would-be astronomers and stargazers are getting in on the act, too, drawn by the region’s famously clear night skies and a host of charms equally evident by daylight. Growing popularity among Chileans and international visitors, however, has posed a challenge of its own: As towns sprawl onto surrounding hillsides and resulting light pollution spreads, will those pristine night skies last?
To reach Vicuña, the biggest municipality inside the valley and a hub for astrotourism, I had driven an hour east from the coastal city of La Serena, climbing slowly along the aptly named Ruta de Las Estrellas, or Route of the Stars. Vineyards and orchards along the valley floor eventually gave way to cactuses stippling the flanks of steep ridges. The region has long been a getaway for Chileans, who flock to a string of small towns filled with centuries-old Spanish churches and distilleries that produce pisco from local grapes. After dark, however, attention turns to the skies.
While Mamalluca was among the region’s first observatories for casual stargazers, others now offer a more intimate peek into the universe, with better equipment and smaller groups. The following night, I headed down to Vicuña’s main plaza for a ride to the area’s most powerful tourist telescope, situated on a hard-to-reach mountaintop outside town. In the plaza, a restaurant named Halley (after the comet) did a brisk business in empanadas, while stray dogs lazed in the shade of an ornate Catholic church.
At 9 p.m., a battered S.U.V. rumbled up, and I got inside with a half-dozen other stargazers. On a moonless night, we barreled up rutted dirt roads for nearly an hour, climbing along switchbacks before reaching our destination, the privately run Pangue Observatory, which was seemingly the only structure for miles.
We were met by Eric Escalera, a retired French astrophysicist who formerly worked at nearby La Silla Observatory. “Government telescopes are actually very boring,” he said, leading us to an outdoor viewing platform and a 10-foot-tall telescope silhouetted against the sky like a piece of artillery. “They’re just for collecting data — you never actually get to see anything. This is more fun.”
On the isolated ridge, conditions were inky black, and it was impossible to see more than a foot or two ahead without a flashlight. Mr. Escalera motioned to the Milky Way, even gaudier up here, and pointed out two faint puffs of light nearby — distant galaxies more than 150,000 light years away known as the Magellanic Clouds.
The surface of Helheim Glacier is incredibly rough and large. (Credit: Nick Selmes, Swansea University)
If Greenland goes, it is becoming clear that it won’t go quietly.
Scientists have already documented entire meltwater lakes vanishing in a matter of hours atop the vast Greenland ice sheet, as huge crevasses open beneath them. And now, they’ve cast light on the mechanisms behind another dramatic geophysical effect brought on by the rumbling and melting of this mass of often mile-thick ice: earthquakes.
In a new paper in the journal Science, a team of researchers from Swansea University in the UK, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, and several other institutions explain how the loss of Greenland’s ice can generate glacial earthquakes. In brief: When vast icebergs break off at the end of tidal glaciers, they tumble in the water and jam the glaciers themselves backwards. The result is a seismic event detectable across the Earth.
“These are all around magnitude 4.6 to 5.2, they’re all pretty close to magnitude 5,” says Meredith Nettles of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, a co-author of the study. “Which is a pretty big earthquake.”
Granted, these earthquakes aren’t caused by faults – they’re caused by massive movements of ice and how those impact the ground beneath. Compared with the early 1990s, Nettles says, scientists are now measuring seven times as many of these glacial earthquakes coming from Greenland — the rate has shot up as the ice sheet has begun to lose more mass from the calving of icebergs at the front end of glaciers.
To understand the dynamics behind how these glacial earthquakes are happening, the researchers put GPS instruments atop Greenland’s fast moving Helheim Glacier, which is located in the southeast part of Greenland, across the Denmark strait from Iceland. They also monitored the glacier’s calving front, where it meets the water, by camera, and used global seismic data to track earthquake occurrences.
To get a better sense of what they discovered, you first have to wrap your mind around how big these calving icebergs actually are. The amount of ice mass that breaks off in large iceberg calvings from Helheim Glacier, explains Nettles, is around a gigaton, or a billion metric tons. “If you took the whole National Mall, and covered it up with ice, to a height about four times as high as the [Washington] monument,” says Nettles, you’d have about a gigaton of ice. “All the way down from the Capitol steps to the Lincoln Memorial.”
Measured in space rather than mass, a big iceberg breaking off Helheim can be 4 kilometers in length — or over two miles. So maybe it is no surprise that a body this large can shake the Earth when it moves — and especially when it throws its weight against another solid object, as occurs during iceberg calving.
A bathtub ring marks the high-water line on Nevada’s Lake Mead, which is on the Colorado River, in 2013.
In 1922, seven Western states — Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming and California — drew up an agreement on how to divide the waters of the Colorado River. But there was one big problem with the plan: They overestimated how much water the river could provide.
As a result, each state was promised more water than actually exists. This miscalculation — and the subsequent mismanagement of water resources in those states — has created a water crisis that now affects nearly 40 million Americans.
Environmental reporter Abrahm Lustgarten began investigating the water crisis a year and a half ago for the ProPublica series Killing the Colorado. He tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies that he initially thought the water crisis was the result of climate change or drought. Instead, Lustgarten says, “It’s the policy and the management that seem to be having a greater effect than the climate.”
Lustgarten says conservation and increased efficiency in farming could reintroduce enormous quantities of water back into the Colorado River system. By Lustgarten’s estimate, if Arizona farmers switched from growing cotton to growing wheat, it would save enough water to supply about 1.4 million people with water each year.
But, Lustgarten adds, “There’s nothing really more politically touchy in the West than water and the prospect of taking away people’s water rights. So what you have when you talk about increasing efficiency or reapportioning water is essentially an argument between those who have it, which are the farmers and the people who have been on that land for generations, and those who don’t, which are the cities who are relative newcomers to the area.”
From the Arabian Peninsula to northern India to California’s Central Valley, nearly a third of the world’s 37 largest aquifers are being drained faster than they are being replenished, according to a recent study led by scientists at the University of California, Irvine. The aquifers are concentrated in food-producing regions that support up to two billion people.
A companion study indicates that the total amount of water in the aquifers, and how long it will last at current depletion rates, is still uncertain. “In most cases, we do not know how much groundwater exists in storage” to cover unsustainable pumping, the study said. Historical estimates, it argues, probably have unrealistically overstated total groundwater volume.
“We’re depleting one third or more of the world’s major aquifers at a pretty rapid clip,” said Jay S. Famiglietti, a professor of earth system science at the University of California, Irvine, and a leading researcher for the two studies. “And there’s not as much water there as we think.”
Your Contribution to the California Drought
The average American consumes more than 300 gallons of California water each week by eating food that was produced there.
Dr. Famiglietti and his colleagues found that eight to 11 of 37 major world aquifers are overstressed, meaning they are losing much more water than man or nature returns to them.
The new studies do not come as a surprise to hydrologists like Jerad Bales, chief scientist for water at the United States Geological Survey. But for him and other experts, an open question is whether the governments and individuals who control groundwater can or will work to gain more knowledge about the extent of the resource and how much use is sustainable.
Another question is whether those with responsibility for managing the aquifers will act to limit groundwater use, particularly if groundwater is essential to their livelihoods.
“We still have a ways to go in terms of learning how, and having the willpower, to manage our groundwater systems,” Dr. Bales said. “We need to think about it more. Water — people all over the world think, ‘If it’s under my property, it’s my resource.’ But it affects everybody.”
Pradeep Aggarwal, who leads the isotope hydrology division of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, said in an interview that there was growing recognition of the extent of groundwater depletion but that the problem remains “an orphan.”
“Unless the government has an alternative to provide for their livelihoods, who is going to stop it?” Dr. Aggarwal said.
A farmer, he added, will figure that “my livelihood depends on pumping that water — if I stop pumping it, my neighbor keeps pumping it.” The problem of groundwater depletion, he said, cannot be solved by individuals. “This requires action on a larger scale,” Dr. Aggarwal said.
The stress on the most-used groundwater, measured over broad geographies by a NASA satellite that has provided 13 years of data, is a matter of real concern because, as the study said, “groundwater is currently the primary source of freshwater for approximately two billion people.”
Another scientist, Marc Bierkens, who holds a chair in earth surface hydrology at the Department of Physical Geography at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, estimated that about 20 percent of the world’s population depended on crops irrigated by groundwater. In 2012, he published a study in the journal Nature that pointed to the same groundwater overuse reflected in the NASA data.
“Humans are overexploiting groundwater in many large aquifers that are critical to agriculture, especially in Asia and North America,” the Bierkens study said.
Details about individual aquifers are hard to come by. The data from NASA’s twin Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (Grace) satellites cannot show a level of detail below 150,000 square kilometers.
Dr. Famiglietti, who is also senior water scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that for the managers who have some control over the use of aquifers, the data from Grace is “too coarse” to provide useful data for local decisions. “They are waiting for us to do the research — we call it downscaling it to a resolution they can use, that makes it actionable for them,” he said.
The volume of water in 11 of the 37 aquifers studied has declined over more than a decade, according to the study, which was just published in the journal Water Resources Research.
The researchers looked at what appeared to be the loss of groundwater in the aquifers — many of the most stressed are in arid or semiarid regions — and examined how the water has been used, whether for irrigation, supplying the daily needs of large populations or for industrial purposes.
“Quantifying our understanding of how we use water in the world is very important, especially when the resource becomes limited,” Dr. Famiglietti said. “It’s important to understand where the big users are because that is key to affecting management in the future.”
If you traveled by way of Florida’s Route 1 in the ’60s and ’70s, you might have encountered young African-American landscape artists selling oil paintings of an idealized, candy-colored, Kennedy-era Florida. They painted palms, beaches, poinciana trees and sleepy inlets on drywall canvases — and they came to be known as the Highwaymen. The group made thousands of pictures, until the market was saturated, tastes changed, and the whole genre dwindled.
The story of the Highwaymen is one of beauty and heartbreak. Their original — and perhaps most talented — artist was a young man named Alfred Hair. He founded the group when he crossed the color line to study with artist A.E. “Beanie” Backus, a friend of Hair’s art teacher. Backus encouraged him to paint. Hair went on to develop a speed-painting technique that involved tacking up multiple canvases into a kind of artists’ assembly line.
But when Hair was gunned down in 1970, the Highwaymen nearly disbanded.
Al Black was the group’s original salesman. He was the one responsible for getting so many of those glistening, still-wet paintings onto motel and office walls.
“He could sell a jacket to a mosquito in summer,” says Mary Ann Carroll, the group’s sole “Highwaywoman.”
After Hair’s death, the group fell on hard times, but Black kept at it. When he needed more paintings to sell, he just painted them himself. Then came drug addition and a 12-year prison sentence. Black spent his time in prison painting bayous and beaches. Scores of his paintings have helped transform the state’s jails.
Black and Carroll were eventually rediscovered by Gary Monroe, a Florida documentary photographer who exhaustively researched the group for his 2001 book,The Highwaymen: Florida’s African-American Landscape Painters.
‘True Detective’ and the Shady History of California Noir How the show’s new season draws on everything from Chandler to ‘Chinatown’ ~ RollingStone
Colin Farrell in ‘True Detective’ and Jack Nicholson in ‘Chinatown.‘ Lacey Terrell/HBO; Everett
There are few more evocative first lines in 20th-century American literature than that of James M. Cain’s 1934 novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice. “They threw me off the hay truck about noon,” begins the book’s narrator, an amoral drifter named Frank Chambers. He soon finds himself near a roadside sandwich joint called the Twin Oaks Tavern, a spot that, Chambers says, is “like a million others in California.” But bad things happen at this rural little diner — things like adultery, kinky sex and first-degree murder. The book’s sinister series of events winds up being Chambers’ undoing; not surprisingly, Hollywood would end up seeing those same salacious, fatalistic situations as the perfect source material for numerous film adaptations. But more importantly, Cain’s pulp masterpiece would also end up laying the groundwork for the several decades’ worth of California noir and detective fiction that followed in its wake.
Now the latest addition to the genre is upon us: the second season of HBO’s hit crime-anthology series True Detective, which takes the first season’s Bayou-based metaphysical machismo and drops it into in various parts of the Golden State, including the kinds of small-town stretches that were once home to joints like the Twin Oaks. Long before last night’s premiere introduced us to the show’s new lineup of conflicted cops, crooked officials and real-estate–obsessed criminals, creator Nic Pizzolatto had promised that the series’ sophomore outing would be situated in “the places that don’t get much press and where you wouldn’t normally set a television show,” including the sparse SoCal industrial town of Vernon (known, in the show, as Vinci).
So what is it that continually draws writers and filmmakers like Pizzolatto to keep going back to both the region’s cities and its sparsely inhabited expanses? The answer is not as simple as proximity to Hollywood, though that’s certainly a factor; the roots of the California detective story and its noirish crime-lit counterparts actually go back decades, to the notion of a state shrouded in promise and veiled with disappointment during World War I, the Prohibition era and the Great Depression.
The last hit particularly hard in California in the 1930s, especially among the middle-class in the southern part of the state. Those frustrated everyday folks, wrote City of Quartz author Mike Davis, became “the original protagonists of that great anti-myth usually known as noir.” This is what inspired Cain’s dark tales of murder and betrayal; it also served as grist for the mill of Raymond Chandler’s eloquent and haunting Los Angeles–based Philip Marlowe novels like The Big Sleep, and Dashiell Hammett’s brutal NorCal crime opus Red Harvest. These books revolved around the notion that California’s allure, like everything else, is basically illusory — as essayist Edmund Wilson once noted, the locale was an expansive, picturesque and ultimately empty place.
“California is the golden dream, the end of the rainbow manifest destiny chased for a century,” says Charles Ardai, founder of the pulp and crime-fiction publisher Hard Case Crime. “But when you got there, the gold turned out to be tin, and the dreams soured and died. It’s this tension between the romance and the reality that underlies all noir detective fiction.”
It’s also likely that it will be the underlying theme of True Detective’s new season, given that the catalyst that kicks off the story proper is a body found near Big Sur — a corpse in the middle of heartbreakingly beautiful land off the coast. But the contrast between the milk-and-honey dream and the dour, hardbitten reality has been the core theme of almost all California noir since it began. You see it in those first wave of books and the short stories published in pulp magazines like Black Mask that use the desperation of the state’s denizens to such good effect. You notice it in the classic 1940s black-and-white movies that the French would end up dubbing “film noir” and the 1970s colorful neo-noirs like Chinatown. It’s there in television shows like Dragnet, the Los Angeles proto-procedural that adopted the terseness of crime-fiction prose, to The Rockford Files (Vince Vaughn says he came to the HBO show in part because he was discussing a Rockford Files re-boot with Pizzolatto).
“In one way or another, most contemporary writers are still paying homage to the first generation,” says Blake Allmendinger, a professor of humanities at UCLA and the editor of the upcoming anthology A History of California Literature. “Although we now have more women detectives [in fact, Rachel McAdams plays a hardened female cop on True Detective], minority detectives, even comic detectives, the writers are still working with same basic formula.”
It’s easy to imagine Pizzolatto is drawing on the wave of revisionist Cali-noirs that came out of the Nixon era, given how they utilized the sunbaked feel of the state and a paranoid state of mind. (It’s also obvious in the visuals: Just look at how the first episode’s director, Justin Lin, shoots everything in washed-out browns and yellows redolent of drought and decay.) But he’s also faced with the looming question of what a California-based True Detective can contribute to a genre that’s thoroughly saturated our bookshelves and screens for so long now.
The season will inevitably be stood up against that rich history. Vaughn, McAdams, and co-stars Colin Farrell and Taylor Kitsch must walk down those same mean streets as a million other Golden State residents who weren’t necessarily mean, tarnished and afraid. Either the show will set itself apart, or it will wind up being just another crime story that happens to be set way, way out west.
BOROWITZ REPORT TODAY 11:34 AM ~ Republicans Fear Victory for Health Care Could Pave Way for Education, Environment BY ANDY BOROWITZ ~ The New Yorker
WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—The Supreme Court’s decision to preserve Obamacare subsidies has drawn sharp rebukes from Republican Presidential hopefuls, who warn that the victory for health care might eventually pave the way for similar advances in education and the environment.
“The Supreme Court has decided, apparently, that every American should have access to quality health care,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas). “What if it decided to say the same thing about education? I don’t mean to be an alarmist but, after today, I believe that anything is possible.”
Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) also blasted the Court, telling reporters that “a government that protects health care is one small, dangerous step away from protecting the environment.”
“The nightmare that I have long feared is now suddenly upon us,” Paul said. “Mark my words, we are on a slippery slope toward clean air and water.”
On the campaign trail in Iowa, the former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee raised another doomsday scenario, telling his audience, “If the Court thinks people should be allowed to see a doctor when they want, they probably also think that people should be able to marry anyone they want. My friends, that is not what God intended when He created America.”
Speaking from New York, candidate Donald Trump offered his own scathing critique of the Supreme Court. “You look at them in their robes, and you say, ‘Those robes look freaking cheap,’ ” he said. “When I’m President, we’re getting more expensive robes.”
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The Supreme Court Saves Obamacare, Again ~ FINALLY, maybe the Republicans will let the less fortunate have some health care security! Rōbert
FOR A HUGE SWATH OF PEOPLE HEALTH RULING INVITES A BIG SIGH OF RELIEF
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD ~ NYT
The decision put an end to a preposterous legal claim and made a powerful defense of the law that has helped millions pay for health insurance.
On Thursday morning, for the second time in three years, a majority of the Supreme Court rightly rejected a blatantly political effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act. The case challenging the law, King v. Burwell, was always an ideological farce dressed in a specious legal argument, and the court should never have taken review of it to begin with.
Its core claim — that an ambiguous four-word phrase buried deep in the 900-page law eliminates health insurance for millions of lower-income Americans — was preposterous. The entire point of the law, as embodied in the title of its first chapter, is “Quality, affordable health care for all Americans.”
Hello, Fellow Americans!
As some of you may know, last Friday, June 19th, 2015, Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America, came to my house to talk to me in my garage for today’s episode of WTF.
YES! It really happened. I sat with the President and talked to him for an hour. IT WAS INSANE! The conversation wasn’t insane. The reality of the situation was. I still can’t really wrap my head around it or believe it happened. I have moments when I’m just doing something during the day and a shudder runs through me in flash of excitement over the monumental fact that I hung out with the President and had a conversation with him in my garage. I shake my head and well up with emotion. It was an amazing and a completely bizarre experience.
I would like to say this: Whatever your politics are or whatever your opinions may be and however you think you would have handled it, I just have to tell you it is an overwhelming and beautiful experience, as an American, to meet and talk to the President of the United States. It was a privilege and an honor.
I kept it together the best I could.
We will post the entire interview with the President today. On Thursday my producer, Brendan McDonald, and I will share our reactions to the event and talk about how it happened and the lead up to the interview. I will talk a bit about the aftermath, both immediately following the talk with Obama and after it posted.
Boomer lives! ~~~~ LIVE INTERVIEW ~~~~