I'm finishing up Walter Benjamin at the Dairy Queen by Larry McMurtry. I don't know why it's taken me so long to finally read it. McMurtry's In a Narrow Grave, another book of his essays, is one of my all-time favorite books on Texas. Another book of McMurtry's that I'm fond of, and have read several times, is Leaving Cheyenne. And I have read a good many of the rest of his famous, wonderful books, like The Last Picture Show and Lonesome Dove.
You might wonder, "books on Texas?" Well, yes, for those of us who grew up there at about the same time as he did, it was a terrific place to be, particularly Austin. Texas in the 1960s and even early in the late 1950s was beginning to wake up to what was going on in the nation, particularly culture and writing. McMurty and I are the same age; he's a year older. He went to Rice Institute as it was called back then, one of the best schools in the nation, even then. I went to the University of Texas.
I suppose in the political climate of today, it's just impossible for a president to say no to military intervention in Libya. Michael Walzer, our nation's leading political theorist and social critic (in my view) makes the case against intervention here. Meanwhile, the new headlines, for the new crisis goes up, and once again billions will fly out of our Defense Department while we cut the budgets for the poor and stand silently when many states attack the collective bargaining rights of public workers.
Everything, I mean everything, in both parties is always about the next election, and meanwhile, those who try to govern or to address our dire domestic need struggle away as they are dragged before House investigating committees.
Our politics are not pretty to watch, especially when you grasp that the endless spectacle of the news is literally engineered to assure massive inattention to what our true long term interests and needs are. Spectacle is fun; social criticism and sober, in-depth speaking truth to power is hard and results in phone calls to the front office from irate corporate leaders who are the moneybags of our endless campaigns of inattention.
I am a temprano, an early riser, a good time to read or write. But the other morning after getting up very early, I watched "Los Tres Entierros de Melquiades Estrada" ("The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada") for the third or fourth time. I have written briefly about the movie before. I said then that while I enjoyed "No Country For Old Men" by the Coen brothers, "The Three Burials...." is the better movie. Tommie Lee Jones directed and starred in "Three Burials.." Jones's movie is not about the wild violence that Cormac McCarthy writes about in his novels like No Country for Old Men; Jones's movie captures how the endless political and cultural warfare that some think of as a sideshow in the circus of everyday life has become the main show, dragging more and more of us into its endless center ring dramas.
In the movie, Barry Piper plays Mike Norton, a new agent in the Van Horn, Texas Border Patrol station. Norton is frozen and closed off to everyone around him. He is far from home; he tells the mobile home salesman that Border Patrol agents are always far from home. He buys the home and in the next scene in his newly purchased manufactured home, after asking what's for supper he casually pulls his wife's panties down and takes her from behind at the kitchen counter while she watches a soap opera on the small counter television.
This marriage is just about as joyless and temporary as the manufactured home they just bought.
Well, we saw "Crazy Heart" the other afternoon in Sierra Vista and Carole and I both loved it, if that's the right word. It was a very painful movie for me; I know a little about a life that can drift out of control, running on empty, even as it might seem to some as if things are all right.
Jeff Bridges played the part of an aging, alcoholic country and western singer who had become a legend and was fading from view, playing in bowling alleys.
We watched JFK, Oliver Stone's riveting film last night, mainly because I have started reading JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why it Matters, by James Douglass, another (and very good) case for the assassination of Kennedy by groups connected to the CIA and to the Special Ops group within the military, the group that during and after WWII assassinated foreign leader, rigged or stole elections, and overthrew governments.
Douglass's book focuses on Kennedy's turn toward struggling for peace, ending our involvement in Vietnam, and the growing menace of the CIA and the national security state. Kennedy was far from perfect but it seems certain he was turning toward nuclear disarmament with Russsia and there were enormous pressures resisting this turning, including many leading generals and the Joint Chiefs who wanted to launch a preemptive nuclear attack on Russia.
This was written December 10 and for one reason or another I didn't post it. I am posting it now to celebrate four months in Bisbee, and also to wish all my friends here and in North Carolina and everywhere a Happy New Year.
I also would like to note that Dan Wikler and his wife Sarah and their son Sam were in Bisbee for 10 days and we loved seeing them and having dinner with them Monday evening. Dan and I have known each other for over 20 years and he is now at the Harvard School of Public Health holding a chair in population ethics.
Also, we saw my brother Steve and his wife Cristen over the holidays twice, the second time they brought their son, Greg with his new fiance Katia. The fact that Steve and I are drawing close again is one of the best things that has happened in my life in a long time.
We've been back in Bisbee four months now. It feels good, really good. Carole is finally beginning to get over the trauma of the move and of leaving friends and our wonderful house in Durham, NC.
I also feel the loss of friends and place there too. I watched "Loggerheads" the other night, a movie that takes place in three parts of North Carolina, the coast, the Piedmont, and western Carolina (Asheville). I got homesick for that beautiful state once again. We actually lived longer there than anywhere else in our 41 years of marriage.
We have so many good friends in Durham and especially our friends at Pilgrim United Church of Christ.
The movie “Tender Mercies” is to be shown on December 9 in Bisbee in the Fellowship Hall of St. John’s Episcopal Church, the second film in a movie festival being held to celebrate Advent.
I have written about the movie before here: the story is simple enough. Mac Sledge, played by Robert Duvall, is a famous country western song writer and singer who now is washed up, an alcoholic.
He was married to Dixie Scott (Betty Buckley), an aging country western singer who became famous singing Mac Sledge’s songs.Their marriage was tumultuous. In a drunken rage Sledge threatened to kill Dixie and she divorced him. They have a young daughter, Sue Anne, played by Ellen Barkin. She is now a teenager, 16. He hasn’t seen her in 7 or 8 years or so.
We don't learn any of this until the movie is well along.
The movie starts when Sledge wakes up in a forsaken little motel out in the middle of nowhere under a big Texas sky. He tells the owner, Rosa Lee (played beautifully by Tess Harper) that he is broke and asks if he can work off what he owes.
Rosa Lee says yes but there can't be any drinking and Sledge says, "Yes, Ma'am."
Rosa Lee is a young woman, much younger than Sledge, a woman widowed by the Vietnam War, with a young son named Sonny.
I'm reading a terrific book, Downsizing Democracy: How America Sidelined Its Citizens and Privatized Its Public, by Matthew Crenson and Benjamin Ginsberg. The book is about how we have been changed from a popular democracy to a personal democracy, a democracy where the citizen typically faces government as a consumer and customer individually and privately rather than collectively as a member of a mobilized public.
The tale is complicated and about far more than the rise of conservative populism over the past decades, or what I call "The Invasion of the Body Politics Snatchers." Democrats and Republicans alike have had a hand in transforming the character of our democratic politics.
I surely have the minority opinion here but Carole and I walked out of Casino Royale after 10 minutes. It was insanely violent and dangerous-to-your-hearing loud. I know that Bond movies are violent but there was always an ironic grin behind them, at least the ones that I saw. The new Casino Royale, it seemed, during our brief acquaintance, has lost the grin.