the woodshed

"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

funerals and politics

RIP RCMP Constable David Wynn

Constable Wynn was murdered while performing his duties as a sworn officer of the law and by all accounts was a pretty good guy who leaves behind a wife and children who will never see him again. He was a former paramedic who joined the Mounties and did a nasty, occasionally dangerous, often thankless, probably often frustrating job that the vast majority of us would not care to do and for that he is owed our gratitude. We mourn his passing and grieve for his loss and sympathize with his family.

I got into a bit of a discussion on Twitter tonight about the supposed politicization of Wynn's funeral by the prime minister and it may shock you to see me defend him, at least in part.   I don't think Stephen Harper politicized this funeral any more than any other. I emphatically do not wish to politicize Wynn's death. It is tragic and has little or nothing to do with political issues in Canada. I hope his family can be left to mourn without having to make any pronouncements on public policy or electoral politics.

Wynn was investigating a stolen vehicle when he walked into the wrong place at the wrong time and paid for it with his life. That can happen to police officers and no amount of training, equipment, backup or draconian throw-away-the-keys legal code will ever change that.

Unfortunately to my mind, we have reached the point in our culture where the death of any uniformed public servant requires politicians to respond. Wynn's funeral was attended by both the Prime Minister and the Premier of Alberta along with thousands of police officers from across the Canada and around the world. Such funerals get bigger and bigger as we attach more and more moral superiority to police officers. Wynn was murdered in the line of duty, but even funerals for police officers killed in traffic accidents bring out other officers en masse in a show of solidarity, which is in many ways admirable.

I am, however concerned about the question of politicization. The prime minister and the premier are important people, yes, but the prime minister is not the head of state, nor is the premier the highest official in Alberta. (Where the hell were the Governor General and Lt. Governor?) They attend either out of a sense of sincere solidarity or at the very least to show the voters how much they support law enforcement. The former does not require them to do anything but attend, the latter usually means speeches and crass politicking. To complain publicly about their presence at such an event in the absence of such speeches or politicking is rather like protesting the funeral of a soldier killed in combat because you oppose the war. In such a case, I emphatically do not condemn opposition to war, but I question the appropriateness of the time and place of the protest.

If such speeches are made, if politicians do what they do and try to curry favour by their presence, let them. Let the family mourn. Let the funeral proceed without any further distractions. I would compare it to having an estranged family member or ex-spouse or lover suddenly show up at the funeral of a loved one. Especially if they feel compelled to give their own eulogy about how the deceased wronged them. For me, it is simply pragmatic good manners not to raise a fuss there and then, not to scream and shout and make their unwelcome appearance the one thing that everyone remembers from the funeral. At the same time, there is every reason to show up at the unwelcome party's doorstep the next day and give them all the shit imaginable.

For political reasons, Stephen Harper and Jim Prentice had to attend Wynn's funeral. Their base, and probably their opponents, would never let them forget it if they hadn't. Whether they would have attended if they were not in politics is another, more personal question none of us can answer for them. That said, I do not think that they politicize the event by their simple presence. Whether they deserve to be vilified for their actions the next day depends on their actions. (though given the CPC's track record of issuing a plea for funds to help the Prime Minister fight the evil Muslim terrorists who would murder us all in our beds only hours after the Charlie Hebdo office attacks, one might just wonder about the purity of their motives in such a situation). The coverage I have seen has been limited and none of it mentioned speeches by either politician or any role played by them other than attending the funeral. Whether they attempt to make political hay out of it after the fact remains to be seen, though I have seen enough of this prime minister to have little doubt that he would gladly load Constable Wynn's corpse onto his political bandwagon and parade it through the land if he thought it would get him more than a handful of votes. I hope he proves me wrong, it would be a nice change.







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a self-fulfilling paranoia

We are told again and again by various right-wing fantasists and push-button death machine fetishists that the oppressive near-fascist-marxist-Islamist-Freemasonist dark-complexioned devil in their White House will be sending out his jackbooted-New Black Panther Party-hoodie wearing-thugs to pollute our precious bodily fluids with fluoride seize everyone's precious, precious constitutionally-protected guns. Probably from their cold, dead hands, even. And so to stick it to The Man and show the world just how very small their penises are  brave and patriotic they are and that the Black Man in the White House is not the boss of them, these 'responsible gun-owners' have decided to show up at gun-control rallies and fast-food restaurants and coffee shops armed to the teeth. Not with the intention to intimidate anyone, heavens no! They are just exercising their God-given constitutional rights as Americans!



Now, you might think I have a problem with this kind of behaviour, but you'd be wrong. Thinking in terms of the long game, I think it is terrific that these ignorant redneck weapons fetishists brave souls are taking their AK-47s to Starbucks. Because sooner or later, one of these assault-rilfe toting nitwits  is going sufficiently startle the wrong 7-11 clerk or run into the wrong armed mall cop or armoured-car guard and shots will be fired. And then there will be a massive armed response from North America's over-militarized police and a whole bunch of people are going to get dead. And then maybe, just maybe the gun people will start realize they don't need to go around armed to the teeth all the time.......or they will decide that the great second civil war of patriotic citizens against the oppressive socialist government that wants to give all their hard earned money to the moocher class is finally at hand and take up arms against The Man, at which point the U.S. Army will pretty much wipe them out, so y'know...win/win.


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Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Mary Tyler Moore Show S06E07 Chuckles Bites the Dust



I think I can say with confidence that you can still get a laugh out of anyone in my family by singing " A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer, down your pants"







Friday, April 18, 2014

Saturday, November 02, 2013

I didn't want to watch this


"Dum, dum dee dum, - yawn- kids are off to bed after watching Bringing up Baby and Casablanca with the old man, I've poured myself a nice gimlet. I wonder what's on TV at 11:30 on a Friday night? Anything fun, or should I watch another old movie. Hmmm, TCM's has William Powell and Myrna Loy in The Libelled Lady, nah, what else is on? "Cold Justice?" that sounds familiar, why do I know that program's name?…..OH SHIT!







Mary Ann Holmes was my cousin. We were about the same age. We didn't see each other very often, but we did sorta connect with each other and she was dear to me. I hadn't seen her since before her daughters were born, but I knew she had children. The last time I saw her, I think she had just moved to Arizona. She was from Chicago. My best memories of her are of dancing together all night at a family wedding when we were about 12 and a visit she made to may parents place in Ancaster one summer. I think I was in university at the time but I remember it was summer and after a week of her being there we finally got to have a proper conversation. I think it was the next night we went out to the Gaslight in Hamilton and I blew harp at an open mic run by King Biscuit Boy. As a Chicago girl, Mary Ann was pleasantly surprised to see Hamilton had a blues scene too.  She went through a lot of shit as a teen and her parents divorce and subsequent family politics were kinda rough on her. She got put into rehab at one point, though she told me it was a joke and unnecessary. She was quick and funny and prettier than she thought she was. I miss her and regret never meeting her girls.  I suppose I'm a little afraid to meet them. "Hi, nice to meet you, I really liked your mom, so very very sorry I couldn't stop them from murdering her in front of you when you were four!"    I know that is not logical, but still….
I knew they were doing this show. I had hoped to miss it for reasons I hope are obvious. Now I want to move to Arizona  and hunt down some motherfuckers. Hell of a thing to find while channel-surfing.




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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

the triangle

Not exactly juggling, but somewhere in the neighbourhood. Some people have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time. I suspect this guy can walk, chew gum and do differential calculus while playing multiple games of chess in his head at the same time.



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Friday, October 04, 2013

Emperor Stephen I

Seriously, can we just appoint Stephen Fry as Emperor of the Earth for Life? Sensible, compassionate, well-read, funny and one of the most agile wits of our time. If only we could talk him into taking the job.





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Friday, August 23, 2013

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Leveraging synergies while optimizing dynamic convergences

Want to get your money for nothing and your clicks for free? Here's the plan:

1. Find venture capitalist with deep pockets
2. Write proposal for internet-based business using this
3. 'Orchestrate dynamic deliverables and expedite scalable mindshare metrics'
4. PROFIT!!!!



http://www.wikio.com

Monday, August 05, 2013

GOP still trying to work the referees

Given the propensity of FOX news to put GOP 'personalities' on the payroll and their willingness to call close elections in favour of the Republicans before all the votes have been counted, and the willingness, even eagerness, of the major TV networks to book Republicans and conservative roughly 3:1 to Democrats or - god forbid- liberals on the Sunday news talk shows, and even the willingness to give GOP grifter and perpetual 'candidate' Newt Gingrich his own show and tendency to trip over each other in their rush to offer a microphone to any word salad that happens to drop from the maw of Caribou Barbie ---- Given all that, this is a bit rich even for the Republicans. They really are the party of people who are either bone ignorant or were born on third base, but think they hit a home run and the 'liberal' umpires made them go back to second base.


GOP warns networks to drop Hillary documentary, miniseries or be shut out of 2016 Republican debates 

Party chairman calls planned Clinton programs "political ads masked as unbiased entertainment"

told NBC and CNN to scrap planned programs on Hillary Clinton or forget about sponsoring any 2016 Republican primary debates.
Republican Chairman Reince Priebus called the programs “political ads masked as unbiased entertainment.”
“It’s appalling to know executives at major networks like NBC and CNN ... have taken it upon themselves to be Hillary Clinton's campaign operatives," he said. "Their actions to promote Secretary Clinton are disturbing and disappointing."
Priebus gave NBC and CNN until Aug 14, the start of the RNC’s summer meeting, to cancel the programs or else he would seek a “binding vote” that “the RNC will neither partner with these networks in 2016 primary debates nor sanction primary debates they sponsor.”


Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/republican-partty-warns-nbc-cnn-scrap-planned-hillary-programs-article-1.1417978#ixzz2b7mAmWdb



Mind you I'm sure the notion that if they air a show about Hilary Clinton the GOP won't allow them to air six months of bi-weekly two-hour prime time free commercials for the Republican presidential campaign -- better known as the GOP candidate debates -- will scare the crap out of the networks once they realize that it will mean giving up all the advertising from the Koch brothers and other companies owned by whack-job billionaires. Freedom of the press, indeed.




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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

the way to counter bad speech is with more speech - this is how it is done

Last night, I was killing a few minutes scanning my twitter feed and lo and behold I find the Toronto Sun's Lorrie Goldstein taking a shot at some bureaucrats for overstepping their mandate in a ridiculous way like those crazy bureaucrats always do, what with how they waste public money and breathe our air and get bureaucrat cooties on everythink and stuff.
I know, must be a day of the week that ends in "Y." right? Because if a government employee found the cure for cancer the Sun would be bitching that they had denied the private sector the chance to do it cheaper and for profit, buncha goddamn soshulists!
Anyways, Mr. Goldstein was fretting on Twitter that Toronto's public health department had issued a press release calling on ABC to fire Jenny McCarthy from The View over her very public campaigns to get people to stop having their children vaccinated. 
He felt this was one of those ridiculous bureaucratic overreaches that was none of the public health authority's business and whatnot. And as usual, a half dozen or so fans had joined the conversation with  complaints that the employees at the public health board were paid and wasn't that an outrage and why didn't they fire this greedy loafer who runs the public health department and hire one of the hundreds of unemployed doctors in Ontario to the job better and cheaper etc etc etc ad nauseum.
I'll let  you look up Jenny McCarthy's sincere but completely wrong-headed crusade to stop vaccinations. Googling  "Andrew Wakefield" might be a good start.  Suffice to say that she has used her B-list celebrity status as former Playboy model and MTV VJ and 80s almost it-girl to campaign against the use of vaccines because she thinks vaccinations caused her son's autism. She is assuredly wrong and the medical studies she cites have long since been exposed as fraudulent. I do not question her sincere belief or dedication to her cause, but she is just plain wrong. And her advocacy has caused thousands of people not to get their children vaccinated, which has led to a return of nearly vanished diseases like measles in North America because, basically, people are stupid. But I digress.
So Lorrie Goldstein was tweeting about this and basically complained that Jenny McCarthy was none of Toronto Public Health's' business and it was ridiculous for them to call for ABC to fire her.
i jumped in to tell him he was wrong and we went round and round and round as you do when you argue with a conservative  -- he tried the usual false equivalencies and tried to claim that I had put words in his mouth and that I claimed said he opposed vaccination  when I had done no such thing. He would not admit that countering disinformation about health issues was a key task for public health officials. My favorite was his argument that "you spread the correct information the old fashioned way, by hard work, not stupid press releases"  I guess he figured the public health department should be going door to door to tell people Jenny McCarthy is wrong and vaccinations are a good thing, or sending everyone telegrams or standing on a soapbox on the street corner. like back in the old day when we all wore onions on our belts or something, rather than doing what they did.
The thing is, what the Toronto Public Health PR people did has worked beautifully. They have Goldstein and every other political columnist is Toronto talking about vaccinations and none of them, not even those like Goldstein that think their call to fire McCarthy is an overreach, are going to tell you that Jenny McCarthy is anything but wrong. It has drawn attention to the issue of misinformation around vaccination.
At the same time, they have seized the high moral ground and done what public health officials are duty-bound to do -- fight the spread of misinformation about a vital health issue.
I doubt very much that anyone at the Toronto Public Health dept. thought for a single second that ABC would fire Jenny McCarthy, but by publicly calling for her to be fired, they have garnered all sort of attention, got everyone talking about the issue and reminded everyone not to pay any attention to dingbat celebrity health advice.
While I know that congratulating public employees other than the police and military for a job well done is anathema to anyone at the Sun, this really should appeal to them and their readers. After all, for little or no cost to the taxpayer, Toronto's public health department has managed to piss off a Hollywood celebrity activist, raise awareness around a vital public health issue, stem the tide of anti-scientific bullshit and maybe convince a few more people to get their kids vaccinated.

Bravo to the Toronto Public Heath department's PR staff.

Update: After sleeping on it for the night Mr. Goldstein seems to have realized he didn't really have much to complain about. He didn't exactly say I was right and he was wrong, but I never really expected he would. He did at least admit that the U.S. has 50 states.

One of the others who jumped into the fray provided this link to info on the antivaccine kooks that Toronto Public Health are trying to counter.


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Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday night music fix




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"we create our own reality"

Right-wing nut jobs believe some incredibly weird shit:

But this one, this one takes the cake.

"Mayor Rob Ford top male hottie at Toronto City Hall, survey says"

( post title from here)

http://www.wikio.com

Monday, July 15, 2013

Another day, another murder

So another white guy shoots and kills another black kid, what's the excuse this time?


MILWAUKEE (AP) — The attorney for a Milwaukee man who fatally shot his 13-year-old neighbor says his client did not mean to kill the boy.
John Henry Spooner is charged with killing 13-year-old Darius Simmons last year. Spooner confronted Darius because he believed the teen had stolen guns from his house.
Spooner is white and Darius was black, prompting comparisons to the case of neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
But Spooner's attorney, Franklyn Gimbel, says the cases are very different. He says the main similarity is that both victims were black teens.
(snip of recap of Zimmerman's acquittal in the murder of Trayvon Martin)


According to this story from the Milwaukee Sentinal-Journal, the other differences are that Spooner is 76 as compared to Zimmerman's 29 and that he shot the boy, a neighbour barely into his teens, in front of the child's mother.


Spooner suspected Simmons of stealing guns from his home and confronted the teen about 10 a.m. May 31, 2012, according to a criminal complaint. Then, as the boy's mother watched, Spooner shot Simmons in the chest with a handgun from five feet away.
Even if someone stole guns from John Henry Spooner's home, given the defence his attorney plans to offer, it may have been less a case of larceny and more a case of clearly justified concern for  public safety.
 (from the original AP story quoted at the top)

Gimbel acknowledges Spooner shot Darius. But he says an expert will testify that Spooner had mental illness that kept him from realizing his actions were wrong.
Because someone who doesn't realize it is wrong to shoot the neighbour's kid  is exactly the kind of guy you don't want to have to submit to some kind of pesky background or mental health check before starts stockpiling deadly weapons, because, y'know, freedom and shut up, you America-hating pinko!

Can't wait to see the NRA jump in on this one.

I want a border wall and I want it now.




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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Cultural literacy

I'm noticing a disturbing trend in the newspaper copy I edit. Writers are assuming a stunning lack of cultural literacy in readers and dumbing down stories, often to an annoying extent. This week I've seen a food writer decide that in a review of the food at an English Pub, it was necessary to explain that "bangers and mash" was sausages and mashed potatoes. A Canadian Press story on the acquittal of the killer of Trayvon Martin contained this paragraph:

 Trayvon Martin’s brother, Jahvaris Fulton, said on Twitter: “Et tu America?” — a reference to the Latin phrase “Et tu, Brute?” known as an expression of betrayal.
I'm guessing that if an American public school-educated teenager knows enough Shakespeare to make reference to Julius Caesar's dying words, we probably don't need half-assed explanations like this.
I know we all think that nobody reads anymore (which makes me wonder why e-readers sell so well) and that the great unwashed have had their minds dulled by Reality TV and TMZ and video games and Hip Hop culture, but am I now going to have to explain what lasagna is a review of Luigi's Trattoria or explain that when a politician claim some statement or other is the "gospel truth" that he is comparing the statement to the Christian holy book know as Bible?
Are people really getting this dumb?

And by the way, get the hell off my lawn, whippersnappers!

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Monday, July 08, 2013

Leadership

So today, Toronto got more than 90 mm of rain in a couple of hours and low-lying areas of the city, including major highways and rail links were flooded. Subway stations were closed, there were power outages across the city and underpasses were underwater.




When Calgary was flooded a couple of weeks ago, Mayor Nenshi did a fantastic job leading his city's response to the most serious crisis to hit Stampede City in decades.

Meanwhile in Toronto: (via twitter)



UPDATE: While Rob Ford did give a few statements to the press, presumably from the comfort of his idling SUV (in violation of the city's no idling bylaw) his brother Doug spent a few hours directing traffic in Etobicoke (though what qualifies a city councillor to direct traffic I'm not sure, nor could I hazard a guess (cough, tax-break driven budget cuts, cough) why the cops weren't directing traffic in Etobicoke.


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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Adios Ernesto



RIP Ernest Hemingway

July 21, 1899 - July 2,  1961

Your reading assignments for today are:

Hemingway's 1954 Nobel acceptance speech

And this:


What Lured Hemingway to Ketchum?

By Hunter S. Thompson
National Observer, May 25, 1964 

KETCHUM, IDAHO
"That poor old man. He used to walk out there on the road in the evenings. He was

so frail and thin and old-looking that it was embarrassing to see him. I was always afraid
a car would hit him, and that would have been an awful way for him to go. I was tempted to go out and tell him to be careful, and I would have if it had been anyone else. But with Hemingway it was different."

The neighbor shrugged and glanced at Ernest Hemingway's empty house, a comfortable looking chalet with a big pair of elk horns over the front door. It is built on a hillside
looking down on the Big Wood River, and out across the valley at the Sawtooth Mountains.

A mile or so away, in a small graveyard at the north end of town, is Hemingway's simple grave, lying in the afternoon shadow of Baldy Mountain and the Sun Valley ski runs.
Beyond Baldy are the high pastures of the Wood River National Forest, where thousands of sheep graze in the summer, tended by Basque sheepherders from the Pyrenees. All winter long the grave is covered with deep snow, but in the summer tourists come out
and take pictures of each other standing beside it. Last summer there was a problem with people taking chunks of earth for souvenirs.

When news of his death made headlines in 1961 there must have been other people besides myself who were not as surprised by the suicide as by the fact that the story was date-lined Ketchum, Idaho. What was he doing living there? When had he left Cuba, where most people assumed he was working, against what he knew was his last deadline, on the long-promised Big Novel?
The newspapers never answered those questions -- not for me, at any rate -- so it was with a feeling of long-restless curiosity that I came, last week, up the long bleak
road to Ketchum, over the drainage divide between the Magic and the Wood River valleys, through Shoshone and Bellevue and Hailey -- Ezra Pound's hometown -- past Jack's Rock Shop on U.S. 93, and into Ketchum itself, population 783.

Anybody who considers himself a writer or even a serious reader cannot help but wonder just what it was about this outback little Idaho village that struck such a
responsive chord in America's most famous writer. He had been coming here off and on since 1938, until finally, in 1960, he bought a home just outside of town, and, not incidentally
a 10-minute drive from Sun Valley, which is so much a part of Ketchum that they are really one and the same.

The answers might be instructive -- not only as a key to Hemingway, but to a question he often pondered, even in print. "We do not have great writers," he explains to the Austrian in Green Hills of Africa. "Something happens to our good writers at a certain age. . . You see we make our writers into something very strange. . . We destroy them in many ways." But Hemingway himself never seemed to discover in what way he was being "destroyed," and so he never understood how to avoid it.
Even so, he knew something had gone wrong with both himself and his writing, and after a few days in Ketchum you get a feeling that he came here for exactly that reason. Because it was here, in the years just before and after World War II, that he came to hunt and ski and raise hell in the local pubs with Gary Cooper and Robert Taylor and all the
other celebrities who came to Sun Valley when it still loomed large on cafe society's map
of diversions.

Those were "the good years," and Hemingway never got over the fact that they couldn't last. He was here with his third wife in 1947, but then he settled in Cuba and 12 years went by before he came again -- a different man this time, with yet another wife, Mary, and a different view of the world he had once been able "to see clear and as a whole."
Ketchum was perhaps the only place in his world that had not changed radically since the good years. Europe had been completely transformed, Africa was in the process of drastic upheaval, and finally even Cuba blew up around him like a volcano. Castro's educators taught the people that "Mr. Way" had been exploiting them, and he was in no mood in his old age to live with any more hostility than was necessary.
Only Ketchum seemed unchanged, and it was here that he decided to dig in. But there were changes here too; Sun Valley was no longer a glittering, celebrity-filled
winter retreat for the rich and famous, but just another good ski resort in a tough
league. "People were used to him here," says Chuck Atkinson, owner of a Ketchum motel. "They didn't bother him and he was grateful for it. His favorite time was the fall. We
would go down to Shoshone for the pheasant shooting, or over on the river for some ducks. He was a fine shot, even toward the end, when he was sick."

Hemingway didn't have many friends in Ketchum. Chuck Atkinson was one of them, and when I saw him one morning in his house on a peak overlooking the town, he had just
received a copy of A Moveable Feast. "Mary sent it from New York," he explained. "I read
part of it after breakfast; it's good, it sounds more like him than some of the other
stuff."

Another friend was Taylor "Beartracks" Williams, a veteran guide who died last year and was buried near the man who gave him the original manuscript of For Whom the Bell Tolls. It was "Beartracks" who took Hemingway into the mountains after elk, bear,
antelope, and sheep in the days when "Papa" was still a meat-hunter.

Not surprisingly, Hemingway has acquired quite a few friends since his death. "You're writing a story on Ketcbum?" asked a bartender. "Why don't you do one on all the people who knew Hemingway? Sometimes I get the feeling I'm the only person in town who didn't."
Charley Mason, a wandering pianist, is one of the few people who spent much time with him, mainly listening, because "When Ernie had a few drinks he could carry on for
hours with all kinds of stories. It was better than reading his books."

I met Mason in the Sawtooth Club on Main Street, when he came in to order coffee over the bar. He is off the booze these days and people who know him say he looks 10 years younger. As he talked, I had an odd feeling that he was somehow a creation of Hemingway's, that he had escaped from one of the earlier short stories.
"He was a hell of a drinker," Mason said with a chuckle. "I remember one time over at the Tram [a local pub] just a few years ago; he was with two Cubans -- one was a great big Negro, a gun-runner he knew from the Spanish Civil War, and the other was a delicate little guy, a neurosurgeon from Havana with fine hands like a musician. That was a
three-day session. They were blasted on wine the whole time and jabbering in Spanish like revolutionaries. One afternoon when I was there, Hemingway jerked the checkered cloth off the table and he and the other big guy took turns making the little doctor play the bull.
They'd whirl and jerk the cloth around -- it was a hell of a sight."

On another evening, out at Sun Valley, Mason took a break on the stand and sat down for a while at Hemingway's table. In the course of the conversation Mason asked him what it took "to break in on the literary life, or anything else creative, for that
matter."

"Well," said Hemingway, "there's only one thing I live by -- that's having the power of conviction and knowing what to leave out." He had said the same thing before, but whether he still believed it in the winter of his years is another matter. There is good evidence that he was not always sure what to leave out, and very little evidence to show that his power of conviction survived the war.
That power of conviction is a hard thing for any writer to sustain, and especially so once he becomes conscious of it. Fitzgerald fell apart when the world no longer danced to his music; Faulkner's conviction faltered when he had to confront Twentieth Century Negroes instead of the black symbols in his books; and when Dos Passos tried to change his convictions he lost all his power.
Today we have Mailer, Jones, and Styron, three potentially great writers bogged down in what seems to be a crisis of convictions brought on, like Hemingway's, by the mean nature of a world that will not stand still long enough for them to see it clear as a
whole.

It is not just a writer's crisis, but they are the most obvious victims because the function of art is supposedly to bring order out of chaos, a tall order even when the chaos is static, and a superhuman task in a time when chaos is multiplying.
Hemingway was not a political man. He did not care for movements, but dealt in his fiction with the stresses and strains on individuals in a world that seemed far less
complex, prior to World War II, than it has since. Rightly or wrongly, his taste ran to
large and simple (but not easy) concepts -- to blacks and whites, as it were, and he was
not comfortable with the multitude of gray shadings that seem to be the wave of the
future.
It was not Hemingway's wave, and in the end he came back to Ketchum, never ceasing to wonder, says Mason, why he hadn't been killed years earlier in the midst of violent
action on some other part of the globe. Here, at least, he had mountains and a good river
below his house; he could live among rugged, non-political people and visit, when he chose
to, with a few of his famous friends who still came up to Sun Valley. He could sit in the
Tram or the Alpine or the Sawtooth Club and talk with men who felt the same way he did
about life, even if they were not so articulate. In this congenial atmosphere he felt he
could get away from the pressures of a world gone mad, and "write truly" about life as he
had in the past.

Ketchum was Hemingway's Big Two Hearted River, and he wrote his own epitaph in the story of the same name, just as Scott Fitzgerald had written his epitaph in a book called
The Great Gatsby. Neither man understood the vibrations of a world that had shaken them
off their thrones, but of the two, Fitzgerald showed more resilience. His half-finished
Last Tycoon was a sincere effort to catch up and come to grips with reality, no matter how distasteful it might have seemed to him.

Hemingway never made such an effort. The strength of his youth became rigidity as he grew older, and his last book was about Paris in the Twenties.
Standing on a corner in the middle of Ketchum it is easy to see the connection Hemingway must have made between this place and those he had known in the good years. Aside from the brute beauty of the mountains, he must have recognized an atavistic distinctness in the people that piqued his sense of dramatic possibilities. It is a raw
and peaceful little village, especially in the off season with neither winter skiers nor
summer fishermen to dilute the image. Only the main street is paved; most of the others are no more than dirt and gravel tracks that seem at times to run right through front
yards.

From such a vantage point a man tends to feel it is not so difficult, after all,
to see the world clear and as a whole. Like many another writer, Hemingway did his best work when he felt he was standing on something solid -- like an Idaho mountainside, or a sense of conviction.

Perhaps he found what he came here for, but the odds are huge that he didn't. He was an old, sick, and very troubled man, and the illusion of peace and contentment was not enough for him -- not even when his friends came up from Cuba and played bullfight with him in the Tram. So finally, and for what he must have thought the best of reasons, he ended it with a shotgun.
National Observer, May 25, 1964 






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