Monday, July 22, 2019

Richard Ford and what Trump’s triumph reveals about America

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"There is no use getting sentimental over a motorcycle. Especially a motorcycle. Even if it is the motorcycle I and ten million other American men have coveted all our lives, the last big-bore, honest-to-God motorcycle motorcycle made in America, and the epitome of what the motorcycle dream means. Harley-Davidson." – Richard Ford via granta.com

The acclaimed US writer talks frankly about race and what Trump’s triumph reveals about America.

Ford is fond for motorcycles, Brittany spaniels, bird hunting, fishing, and Bruce Springsteen.

By Neil Munshi April 28, 2017 via ft.com

Richard Ford is taking it easy on me. We’re playing squash at the YMCA that serves the jagged slice of coastal Maine he calls home. We knock the ball around a bit to warm up and then square up. He beats me 9-2 in the first game before he begins to suffer spotty vision from the migraines he’s had since he was a teenager. It’s a minor blessing. The author of the Frank Bascombe tetralogy beginning with 1986’s The Sportswriter, through 1995’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Independence Day, 2006’s Lay of the Land and 2014’s Let Me Be Frank with You is being generous when he says that I’m getting the hang of the game.

He’s 73 and hamstring problems have kept him off the court for the past six months. But he works me in a completely thoughtful and pleasant way even though playing against someone who has spent just 20 minutes on a court can’t be much fun for a man who has played the sport for the past 40 years.

Ford has three hobbies: squash, motorcycles and hunting. He emerged on the literary scene with the so-called “dirty realists”, who included his buddies Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff. He keeps his notes and manuscripts in his freezer, in case the house burns down. He has a reputation for writing clear-eyed, often lush prose, grappling with life’s great themes and for having an explosive temper. At a party once, he spat on Colson Whitehead winner of this year’s fiction Pulitzer after he gave Ford a particularly sarcastic review. Once, he and his wife Kristina, both avid hunters, took an Alice Hoffman book and shot a couple of holes in it, then sent it to the author after she gave Ford a bad review. But Ford says he’s not competitive when it comes to squash. “I’ve just never found that winning was much different from losing,” he tells me. “I mean, I don’t like losing. But when I feel triumphant about winning a point, or a game, I always think, ‘Well, s**t, that doesn’t mean much.’

Fortunately, I don’t win that often.” He’s winning now. But, in my defence, he has home court advantage. Literally. Kristina donated the money to convert the racquetball court to squash as a 40th anniversary gift to her husband. They’ll celebrate number 50 next year. Among the rules frosted on its back glass wall — don’t wear black-soled shoes, change in the locker room, dry mop when you’re done — is one written specifically with Ford in mind: “Use of profanity is prohibited.”
He obliged that morning. But we had brooked no such restrictions at the nearby Thistle Inn during a freewheeling three-hour conversation the previous night, where we touched on race, writing, the recent election, boxing and his family. Ford’s slim new memoir, Between Them, consists of two essays written 30 years apart.
The first is about his mother, Edna, written in 1986, five years after her death. “I just missed her,” he says. “And I’m a writer, so I transact everything that I experience through that particular medium.” The second is about his father, Parker, written in 2016, 56 years after he died of a heart attack, when Ford was 16. “I realised that I’d been living with the memories of him and living with his absence and I just felt that . . . needed to be written into,” he says. “This is just one way in which imaginative writing or even memoiristic writing can function, that it writes into absences. In doing that, it in a way compensates for the absences.” Parker was a salesman for the optimistically named Faultless Starch. He married Edna in 1928 and they spent the next 15 years crisscrossing the Deep South. “They lived on the road. And since they didn’t have children, that wasn’t anything but fun,” Ford says. “Sort of a fly-by-night life.” Then, in 1943, Edna found out she was pregnant; her only son was born the next year. “They could see that it was going to radically change their lives,” he says. They settled in Jackson, Mississippi, “a bigoted, churchy, civil war-devastated town”. His father had his first heart attack in 1948. Ford was sent to live with his maternal grandparents at the 600-room Little Rock hotel his step-grandfather managed. “I became, as my father was fading a little bit out of the picture, more and more the creature of my grandfather,” he says. “There’s no saying he was a great man. But he was a colourful man . . . and he liked women and he wasn’t a racist” no small feat in 1940s Arkansas.

He was also a boxer. When Ford started to get beaten up at high school, his granddad took him to the boys’ club for training. In 1996, Ford wrote a classic New Yorker essay, “In the Face”, on the many people he’s punched there — and the many who have returned the favour. Is it more important to be able to take a punch or give one? “It’s more important not to get hit,” he laughs. “I wasn’t very good at that. I never have been good at that. I’m not fast enough. [I have] a typical naive boxer’s attitude, which is to say, I will absorb what you do to me so that I can do what I want to do to you. Well, that may be a winning proposition but, in the long run, it’s not a good proposition.” Ford’s family had been outsiders in Jackson, so Ford grew up one too.

As he got older, his peripatetic lifestyle kept him that way. His first two novels, 1976’s A Piece of My Heart and 1981’s The Ultimate Good Luck, after which he gave up novel writing and worked for a sports magazine in New York were warmly received but little read. It was only in 1986 that he had his breakthrough with The Sportswriter, which tells the story of a failed novelist who writes for a sports magazine in New York. “The thing that sparks creativity, at least in part, is this torque between being an outsider but wanting really very much to get in, and the instrumentation by which you get in is your work,” he says. “Your work is in a way compensatory for your own inadequacies as a person, for creating for yourself a sense of establishment, of credibility, of plausibility.” *** The next morning, over breakfast, Ford explains why he gave up one particular spirit. “Gin is the fist-fight drug for me. The last time I got put in jail was on the back side of a glass of gin.” He’d fought in the street with a neighbour in New Orleans. “He just nailed me, came out of nowhere.” The next year, he saw the neighbour, apologised and they hugged.

Boxing. Hunting. Motorcycles. Punching someone in the face and then hugging him a year later. Ford has as strong a claim on the bygone American masculine ideal as any writer in the past 40 years. That temperament suits Boothbay, where he lives, and its environs, which are populated by fishermen, shipbuilders and seasonal employees, “and then there’s just a lot of old people who don’t do s**t. I don’t know if I’m one of those or not, I might be transitioning at this moment.” The locals are blue collar and rough-hewn “which isn’t to say dumbbell”. But it is Republican country. “There are a few people in the town that I get in the s**t of,” he says, including an old veteran who owns a big hotel. “I noticed one day, when I was at the grocery store, he had a Trump sticker on his car. I went over and I tapped on his window and I said, ‘What in the f**k are you telling me, you old moron?’ I said, ‘How dare you have this Trump sticker on your car? It’s unpatriotic to vote for this goddamn idiot.’ But I was just picking on a cripple there. He’s old and he’s a lovely man and I’m crazy about him, but I was kidding him.”

The election, he says, revealed a number of grim things about the country: “A strong nihilist impulse. An ignorance of history. A complacence about the status quo, a willingness to blame others for one’s own circumstances, a lack of personal responsibility. Is that enough? And a longing to be lied to.” Ford’s Democratic bona fides are fairly well established. But some of his writing on race has sparked criticism, including his portrayal of black characters in the most recent Bascombe book. Having grown up white in the segregated south, his views are complicated. His mother took him to see Ray Charles and James Brown concerts at about the same age he was going downtown to watch the police set dogs on civil rights activists. He was in part raised by the black people who worked at his grandfather’s hotel in “a not very interesting colonial situation”. One critic noted that Ford, like Bascombe, has used the word “negro” to describe African Americans in what would be for many the far too recent past, including in an interview in the 1990s. Ford has argued that it is not a pejorative term, noting its use by the United Negro College Fund, an African-American scholarship organisation to which the Fords plan to leave their estate. In a candid 1999 New York Times Magazine essay, he grappled with his shame over discovering his use of the word “n***er” in a 1981 letter to a friend. His views on the slur -“that word is denigrating and obscene but I really would have liked to have black people quit using it too, because it certainly does hold back conversation” would be seen as problematic in many liberal quarters. But he never shrinks from the conversation. “Growing up in Mississippi and not being a racist, I’ve thought about [race] all my life. “I kind of have wanted to write an essay about race for about the last two or three years. But, in a way, [Ta-Nehisi] Coates’s book, [Between the World and Me] — although it didn’t relegate all my considerations to irrelevance — it spoke to most of the things that I cared about. I mean, I don’t have, obviously, any insight of what it’s like to be an African American. But I have some insight on what it’s like to be white. And there is this race and there is that race. And the fact that we look different doesn’t mean anything. But so many people think it does mean something, including blacks,” he says. “It’s a really good book. I would like to have a conversation with him sometime, not to prove him wrong but just to kind of advance the argument. But when you’re a 73-year-old white man from Mississippi, people aren’t going to put you on stage [for that conversation].” Ford hasn’t written much about race recently. Instead, his work is, as always, littered with — and occupied principally by — the detritus of failed marriages and busted relationships. His own doesn’t fit the mould. He calls Kristina “my everything”. Childless by choice, they’ve spent an itinerant life travelling for his job or hers, including her seven years as director of city planning in New Orleans. Fifty years in, they still dote on each other. So why the preoccupation with divorce and infidelity? “Marsha Norman, one of our good playwrights, said if you want to write something good, write about the thing that scares you the most,” he says. “So I think that, probably, I write about the things that scare me the most. I’m going to get as close up to it as I can.”
Neil Munshi is an FT reporter in New York

Friday, June 21, 2019

Kingdom of Heaven, from the Holy Land to Hollywood

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Balian d'Ibelin (1143-1193), also known as Balian le Jeune , was a crusader noble of the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the 12th century. Balian was the youngest son of Balian le Vieux d'Ibelin, a knight in the County of Jaffa and Alvis de Rama. (Today Jaffa is known as the southern and oldest part of Tel Aviv and Ramla founded circa 705–715 CE is a city in central Israel.) Talking about the movie "Kingdom of Heaven", Balian is a legitimate son and not the bastard son of Godefroy d'Ibelin, he was born and lived his youth in the Holy Land, not in the south of France and he married Marie Comnène, the widow of Amaury 1er, and not Sibyl, daughter of Amaury 1er. After the fall of Jerusalem in October 1187, Balian remained in the Holy Land.

Balian d'Ibelin, heroe of the battle of Montgisard  

Guy de Lusignan, king of Jérusalem (1186-1192) and Renaud de Châtillon (killed by Saladin at the battle of Hattin in 1187) never were  Knight Templars 


Sybille, Queen of Jerusalem (after her brother the great King Baudouin IV also called The Leper King), daughter of Amaury I of Jerusalem and of Agnes de Courtenay married in first marriage in 1176 with Guillaume de Montferrat (1150-1177), Count of Jaffa and Ascalon whence Baudouin V (1178-1186) , king of Jerusalem married in second marriage in 1180 with Guy de Lusignan. (Today Ascalon, is a coastal city in the Southern District of Israel on the Mediterranean coast, 50 kilometres south of Tel Aviv, and 13 kilometres north of the border with the Gaza Strip.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

La Chaiserie Landaise

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Located south of Les Landes de Gascogne, an area of swamps and woodlands, La Chaiserie landaise workshop tell us its story. In 1850, The Hayedot family created la Chaiserie béarnaise and drew on local natural resources (timber and straw) for its production of chairs.In 1950, La Chaiserie béarnaise became La Chaiserie landaise and still offers exceptional chairs made ​​in the purest local tradition. In 2005, The two sisters became head of the company. Marie-Pierre and Karine Hayedot perpetuate the ancestral knowledge passed through six generations whilst bringing a contemporary air to La Chaiserie landaise. By using designers sensitive to the use of natural materials, and the region in which they are found, they register their new collections in a design governed by tradition. Since 2010, La Chaiserie landaise has been working with the designer Christelle Le Déan to create the collection Hossegor, combining craft and design. Then it is the turn of historical models to be reinterpreted with the "Intersection collection".

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Víctor Iturria: the Basque pelotari

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Víctor Iturria, the Basque pelotari admired by Churchill who destroyed Nazi tanks by throwing grenades.





In one of his first actions during the Battle of France, in 1940, he knocked out seven tanks in a single day. He was decorated on several occasions by the French Army, which still reminds him today. The Basques fought in all the stages of World War II, from the landing of Normandy to the beaches of the Pacific, through the liberation of Paris and the defenses of London. They did it in many different ways, pilots, sappers, cooks, paratroopers, armored drivers and, of course, soldiers. But above all of them stood one, a pelotari from the small town of Basusarri, now unknown to many historians, who was praised by the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, for his ability to shoot down Nazi tanks with grenades that he launched at surprising distances with his own hands. His name: Víctor Iturria.

Victor Iturria (1914 -1944) was a French paratrooper during World War II. He served as an anti-tank gunner during the Battle of France and was evacuated to England during the Battle of Dunkirk, where he joined the Free French Forces under General de Gaulle. Iturria was assigned to the Free French paratroopers that joined the British Special Air Service in North Africa, with them he took part in several raids behind enemy lines. In 1944 he parachuted into occupied France during the liberation and fought with the French Resistance in Brittany and then in Southern France, where he was killed in an ambush.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Jean-Luc Parisot, Master Saddler

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Saddler at the "Ecole de Cavalerie de Saumur" for 35 years, Jean-Luc Parisot dedicated his professional life to saddle craftsmanship. Passionate about horses, rider from the age of 10, his future was all traced, the world of horse riding. He will head towards the saddlery almost by chance, having the chance to meet two great French "Master Sellier", former workers of the famous Maison "Hermes", with whom he will work for two years with the one and ten years with the other. His dexterity will push him to run for the "Meilleur Ouvriers de France" contest and will win the gold medal in 1986

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Aphrodite, Long Island

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Aphrodite was built by the Purdy Boat Company and launched in May of 1937 for Wall Street financier and later Ambassador to the Court of St. James, John Hay (Jock) Whitney of Manhasset, Long Island. Best described as a “Commuter Yacht”, this elegant and sleek 74-footer would each morning whisk Mr. Whitney from his large two-story boat house westward down Long Island Sound and thru the East River to his Wall Street office. During the 45 minute commute Mr. Whitney would go up to the forward cockpit and read the Herald Tribune to catch up on the day’s news. Aphrodite's guest list over the years reads like a “Who’s Who” in the worlds of government, business and entertainment with such luminaries as Fred Astaire, Sir Laurence Olivier, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Henry Ford II, FDR advisor Harry Hopkins and Nelson Rockefeller aboard for summer day cruises down Long Island Sound. Aphrodite also once served as the site for a birthday party for Shirley Temple. The day after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mr. Whitney offered Aphrodite to the government for war service and she was commissioned in April 1942 as a Coast Guard auxiliary vessel (CGR-557). The boat spent most of its war-time career ferrying dignitaries up and down the Atlantic coast and transporting President Roosevelt to and from his home at Hyde Park on the Hudson River... continue reading

Sunday, May 26, 2019

L.A Latinas by Stefan Ruiz

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Stefan Ruiz studied painting and sculpture at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Accademia di Belle Arti, Venice, before turning to photography. In addition, he has taught art at San Quentin State Prison and was the creative director for Colors magazine from 2003 to 2004.

 Salina Zazueta-Beltrán, Isabella Ferrada, and Victoria Valenzuela in East Hollywood.

"My style is a tribute to my culture and the originals who came before me,” says Gabriela Medina, photographed here with her daughter, Aubrey at the Barrio Dandy showroom in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles.
Theodore Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles.

Isabella Ferrada is an artist, model and aspiring cinematographer. Her makeup and style is a mix of inspiration from drag culture, her mother and aunts in the 1980s and 90s, and her friends who she describes as "a group of young, queer, woke brown artists.” She wears a top from Mujerista Market designed by her friend, Salina Zazueta-Beltrán. Photographed in Westlake, Los Angeles.

View from Ascot Hills Park in East Los Angeles.

Amber Rose Comacho poses in front of a shrine for La Virgen de Guadalupe in the parking lot of El Mercado de Los Angeles in Boyle Heights.

The Westlake, Los Angeles workspace of 20 year old Chicanx fashion designer Salina Zazueta-Beltrán, who makes each piece of clothing that she sells in her online store, Mujerista Market, by hand.
Maritza Amezcua and Sailor Gonzales have known each other since middle school.

From left to right: Maya Martinez, Dorys “Dee” Araniva, Dora Araniva, and Dianna Araniva. Dorys grew up in South Central L.A.; a mother of three (her eldest serves in the US Army), she founded a clothing company called DXCollective two years ago as an artistic outlet: the designs incorporate her love for graffiti, tattoo art and Los Angeles/Chicano culture.

Melissa Hurtado, a model, artist, and zine curator identifies as Chicanx, and gender non-binary. Their work often deals with intersectional feminism, coping mechanisms, and femme safety.

A view of Downtown Los Angeles from Ascot Hills Park in East Los Angeles. Right Aubrey Camila gravitated naturally to her mother’s pachuca style of dressing, and hopes to encourage other girls to be themselves without fear. Photographed at the Barrio Dandy showroom in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles.

Ofelia Esparza and her daughter Rosanna Esparza Ahrens in front of their home in East Los Angeles. Rosanna, the fifth of nine children, is an artist and graphic designer who runs Tonalli Studio with her mother. Ofelia has lived in this neighborhood all of her life: her mother originally lived in this house, and it is four blocks from where Ofelia was born, and across the street from where she attended middle school.

Angeles Zeron was named after Los Angeles. She writes poetry, takes inspiration from Alice Bag, and is proud of her family and their history. “I don’t want my culture to be exploited or to be a fashion trend,” she says. She was photographed in Crenshaw.

Ofelia Esparza, 85, is a master altar maker and lifelong resident of East Los Angeles. As an artist and educator, she has dedicated her life to her community and to continuing traditions she learned from her mother. She is well-known for the public ofrendas she creates each year in celebration of El Día de Los Muertos. She was photographed at Tonalli Studio, an art space she runs with her daughter, Rosanna, in Old Town Maravilla, in East L.A. 

An altar to María Felix by Dorys “Dee” Araniva in Westchester, Los Angeles.