WEIRDLAND: July 2021

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

The Portrait of a Lady: Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy

"Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy was wild and vivid in a cautious and pale world, always burning a little more brightly than anyone around her. Her husband was beguiled by the dazzle she left in her wake. She made people into happier, bolder versions of themselves. She made her husband into a better man. Henry James wrote a story about a young girl named Isabel Archer in The Portrait Of A Lady (1881); a girl as brave as she was beautiful, as pure of heart as she was unafraid to love. He was writing about Carolyn, more than a century before she was here." —Carole Radziwill (July, 2019)

The Portrait of a Lady is the story of a spirited young American woman, Isabel Archer, who, "affronting her destiny," finds it overwhelming. She inherits a large amount of money and subsequently becomes the victim of Machiavellian scheming by two American expatriates. Like many of James's novels, it is set in Europe, mostly England and Italy. Generally regarded as the masterpiece of James's early period, this novel reflects James's continuing interest in the differences between the New World and the Old, often to the detriment of the former. It also treats in a profound way the themes of personal freedom, responsibility, and betrayal. The Portrait of a Lady has received critical acclaim since its first publication in The Atlantic Monthly, and it remains the most popular of James's longer fictions. More recent criticism has been levelled by feminists. In particular, Isabel's final return to Osmond has fascinated critics, who have debated whether James sufficiently justifies this seemingly paradoxical rejection of freedom. One interpretation is that Isabel feels as honour-bound to the promise she has made to stepdaughter Pansy as she does to her marriage to Osmond, and that she believes the scene her "unacceptable" trip to England will create with Osmond will leave her in a more justifiable position to abandon her dreadful marriage. The extensive revisions James made for the 1908 New York Edition generally have been accepted as improvements. The revision of the final scene between Isabel and Goodwood has been especially applauded. As Edward Wagenknecht noted, James "makes it as clear that Isabel has been roused as never before in her life, roused in the true sense perhaps for the first time in her life." James's verbal magic allowed him to both obey and evade the restrictive conventions of his day for the treatment of sexuality in literature. Source:

"Ralph Touchett wandered away a little, with his usual slouching gait, his hands in his pockets and his little terrier at his heels. His face was turned toward the house, but his eyes were bent musingly on the lawn; so that he had been an object of observation to a person who had just made her appearance in the ample doorway for some moments before he perceived her. His attention was called to her by the conduct of his dog, who had suddenly darted forward with a little volley of shrill barks, in which the note of welcome, however, was more sensible than that of defiance. The person in question was a young lady, who seemed immediately to interpret the greeting of the small beast. He advanced with great rapidity and stood at her feet, looking up and barking hard; whereupon, without hesitation, she stooped and caught him in her hands, holding him face to face while he continued his quick chatter. His master now had had time to see that tall girl in a black dress, who at first sight looked pretty. She was bareheaded, as if she were staying in the house—a fact which conveyed perplexity to the son of its master, conscious of that immunity from visitors which had for some time been rendered necessary by the latter’s ill-health. Meantime the two other gentlemen had also taken note of the new-comer. “Dear me, who’s that strange woman?” Mr. Touchett had asked. “Perhaps it’s Mrs. Touchett’s niece—the independent young lady,” Lord Warburton suggested. “I think she must be, from the way she handles the dog.” The collie, too, had now allowed his attention to be diverted, and he trotted toward the young lady in the doorway, slowly setting his tail in motion as he went. The girl spoke to Ralph, smiling, while she still held up the terrier. “Is this your little dog, sir?” “He was mine a moment ago; but you’ve suddenly acquired a remarkable air of property in him.” “Couldn’t we share him?” asked the girl. “He’s such a perfect little darling.” Ralph looked at her a moment; she was unexpectedly pretty. 

“You may have him altogether,” he then replied. She was looking at everything, with an eye that denoted clear perception—at her companion, at the two dogs, at the two gentlemen under the trees, at the beautiful scene that surrounded her. “I’ve never seen anything so lovely as this place. I’ve been all over the house; it’s too enchanting.” And then, “Oh you adorable creature!” she suddenly cried, stooping down and picking up the small dog again. She remained standing where they had met, making no offer to advance or to speak to Mr. Touchett, and while she lingered so near the threshold, slim and charming, her interlocutor wondered if she expected the old man to come and pay her his respects. American girls were used to a great deal of deference, and it had been intimated that this one had a high spirit. Indeed Ralph could see that in her face. “Won’t you come and make acquaintance with my father?” he ventured to ask. “He’s old and infirm—he doesn’t leave his chair.” “Ah, poor man, I’m very sorry!” the girl exclaimed, immediately moving forward. “I got the impression from your mother that he was rather intensely active.” Ralph Touchett was silent a moment. “She hasn’t seen him for a year.” 

“Well, he has a lovely place to sit. Come along, little hound.” 
They had come by this time to where old Mr. Touchett was sitting, and he slowly got up from his chair to introduce himself. “My mother has arrived,” said Ralph, “and this is Miss Archer.” Mrs. Touchett, Ralph's mother, was separated from her husband, residing in Florence while Ralph stays at Gardencourt. “I'll be showing her four European countries—I shall leave her the choice of two of them—and in giving her the opportunity of perfecting herself in French, which she already knows very well.” Ralph frowned a little. “That sounds rather dry—even allowing her the choice of two of the countries.” “If it’s dry,” said his mother with a laugh, “you can leave Isabel alone to water it! She is as good as a summer rain, any day.” “Do you mean she’s a gifted being?” “I don’t know whether she’s a gifted being, but she’s a clever girl—with a strong will and a high temper. She has no idea of being bored.” “I can imagine that,” said Ralph; and then he added abruptly: “How do you two get on?” “Do you mean by that that I’m a bore? I don’t think she finds me one. Some girls might, I know; but Isabel’s too clever for that. I think I greatly amuse her. We get on because I understand her, I know the sort of girl she is. She’s very frank, and I’m very frank: we know just what to expect of each other.” “Ah, dear mother,” Ralph exclaimed, “one always knows what to expect of you! You’ve never surprised me but once, and that’s today “Do you think her so very pretty?” “Very pretty indeed; but I don’t insist upon that. It’s her general air of being some one in particular that strikes me. Who is this rare creature, and what is she? Where did you find her, and how did you make her acquaintance?” Ralph had listened attentively to this judicious report, by which his interest in the subject of it was not impaired. “Ah, if she’s a genius,” he said, “we must find out her special line. Is it by chance for flirting?” “I don’t think so. You may suspect that at first, but you’ll be wrong. You won’t, I think, in any way, be easily right about her.” His mother shook her head. “Lord Warburton won’t understand her. He needn’t try.” “He’s very intelligent,” said Ralph; “but it’s right he should be puzzled once in a while.” “Isabel will enjoy puzzling a lord,” Mrs. Touchett remarked. Her son frowned a little. “What does she know about lords?” “Nothing at all: that will puzzle him all the more.” Ralph greeted these words with a laugh and looked out of the window.she was better worth looking at than most works of art. She was undeniably spare, and ponderably light, and proveably tall; when people had wished to distinguish her from the other two Miss Archers they had always called her the willowy one. Her hair, which had been an object of envy to many women; her light grey eyes, a little too firm in her graver moments, had an enchanting range of concession.

She had an unquenchable desire to think well of herself. She had a theory that it was only under this provision life was worth living; that one should be one of the best, should be conscious of a fine organisation (she couldn’t help knowing her organisation was fine), should move in a realm of light, of natural wisdom, of happy impulse, of inspiration gracefully chronic. It was almost as unnecessary to cultivate doubt of one’s self as to cultivate doubt of one’s best friend: one should try to be one’s own best friend and to give one’s self, in this manner, distinguished company. The girl had a certain nobleness of imagination which rendered her a good many services and played her a great many tricks. She spent half her time in thinking of beauty and bravery and magnanimity; she had a fixed determination to regard the world as a place of brightness, of free expansion, of irresistible action: she held it must be detestable to be afraid or ashamed.

She strolled again under the great oaks whose shadows were long upon the acres of turf. At the end of a few minutes she found herself near a rustic bench, which, a moment after she had looked at it, struck her as an object recognised. It was not simply that she had seen it before, nor even that she had sat upon it; it was that on this spot something important had happened to her—that the place had an air of association. Then she remembered that she had been sitting there, six years before, when a servant brought her from the house the letter in which Caspar Goodwood informed her that he had followed her to Europe; and that when she had read the letter she looked up to hear Lord Warburton announcing that he should like to marry her. It was indeed an historical, an interesting, bench; she stood and looked at it as if it might have something to say to her. She wouldn’t sit down on it now—she felt rather afraid of it. She only stood before it, and while she stood the past came back to her in one of those rushing waves of emotion by which persons of sensibility are visited at odd hours. The effect of this agitation was a sudden sense of being very tired, under the influence of which she overcame her scruples and sank into the rustic seat. Her attitude had a singular absence of purpose; her hands, hanging at her sides, lost themselves in the folds of her black dress; her eyes gazed vaguely before her. “You don’t know where to turn. Turn straight to me. I want to persuade you to trust me,” Goodwood repeated. And then he paused with his shining eyes. “Why should you go back—why should you go through that ghastly form?” “To get away from you!” she answered. But this expressed only a little of what she felt. The rest was that she had never been loved before. She had believed it, but this was different; this was the hot wind of the desert, at the approach of which the others dropped dead, like mere sweet airs of the garden. It wrapped her about; it lifted her off her feet, while the very taste of it, as of something potent, acrid and strange, forced open her set teeth. “The world’s very small,” she said at random; she had an immense desire to appear to resist. She said it at random, to hear herself say something; but it was not what she meant. The world, in truth, had never seemed so large; it seemed to open out, all round her, to take the form of a mighty sea, where she floated in fathomless waters. —The Portrait Of A Lady (1881) by Henry James

John F. Kennedy, Jr: The Death Of An American Prince Documentary ( - This Friday, July 16, 2021, will mark the 22nd Anniversary of the tragedy Kennedy-Bessette. Episode 11 of the “Fatal Voyage: The Death of JFK Jr.” podcast discusses how John F. Kennedy Jr.’s radio was a “digit off the proper frequency” during his final flight on July 16, 1999. This surprising detail reveals that JFK Jr. wasn’t able to communicate with air traffic control after leaving from Essex County Airport, New Jersey, in his Piper Saratoga. “I don’t know whether that was due to the impact or whether it was truly he just didn’t have the proper frequency tuned in,” says Jeff Guzzetti, a member of the National Transport Safety Board investigative team that compiled the report about JFK Jr.’s final flight. “I documented that in the report. 'From the moment the plane left here at Essex, it was all over,' McLaren explains. “They never heard from him. The investigation found out, and the director of the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] told me, that in their assessment of the equipment they felt that the frequency button for the radio, he didn’t have it on the right degree. He wasn’t able to communicate.” Source: 

Thirty years after his Oscar-winning political thriller 'JFK,' Oliver Stone discusses why he’s returning to the subject with documentary 'JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass,' which premieres in Cannes. Stone has amassed enough material to return to the the subject with the documentary JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass. The film, which is being sold by Altitude, will make its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

-Hollywood Reporter: Why did you decide to revisit this subject?

-Oliver Stone: We started this about two to three years ago. And there were a hell of a lot of details that were put out [because of the JFK Records Act], and they were not reported on. There’s a memory hole about Kennedy. And I think, before I quit the scene, I would like to reveal what I know about the case. I can’t put everything I know into this documentary. 

But I can assemble a lot of the facts that came out after the movie [1991’s JFK] as well as reaffirm some of the facts in that movie because it was attacked on a broad scale. It’s very important for my conscience for the people who care to have this exist. That’s what motivated the documentary. We got the documents out. Not all. Trump was about to release them in 2017. And 12 hours before, he backed off. There’s a lot of documentation that hasn’t been released, and that’s in addition to the Secret Service, which fucked up unusually on that day and [later] destroyed everything. It’s very important to this younger generation because the country seems to be adrift. We’ve lost a sense of what we are as a country, and there’s been a tremendous amount of racial division. You have to equate this to 1963. There was a motive to kill Kennedy. He was changing things too much. He was a reformer. He was going to break up the CIA into a thousand pieces. Kennedy was pulling out of Vietnam and was looking for detente with Russia, making peace with Cuba. These things were denied by many historians. Not all the serious historians are really looking [now] at the documentation. And there’s plenty of it. We are going to release a four-hour version of [the documentary] as well.

-Did you feel a certain amount of freedom in doing this documentary now that Jackie Kennedy is no longer alive and may have objected to the assassination footage?

-Oliver Stone: No. We never heard from Jackie on this issue. She wrote me a beautiful letter on Platoon. She loved Platoon and thought it was a major piece of work, like an American institution. And she asked me to come visit her and [to reach out] if I ever wanted to write a book. She was working in one of the publishing houses. I think JFK shocked the family. I know that Teddy Kennedy didn’t want to see it. Robert was dead. But according to his son, the moment JFK was killed, Robert called up the CIA and said, “Did you do it?” They knew that the Russians had not assassinated Kennedy. And then they basically hinted very strongly that it was a right-wing movement in the United States that got him killed. And Robert had no power after Lyndon Johnson took over. Johnson cut his balls off.

-And did you ever talk to John F. Kennedy Jr. after the film?

-Oliver Stone: I met with John and worked with him on George magazine. I wrote a couple of articles. And then I had dinner with him one night in New York, and he was a very nice, charming young man. I saw him at the time as a bit scared of this whole thing because he didn’t have political power. And for him to come out there as a potential presidential candidate and say something [about his father’s assassination] would have been [problematic]. But he had suspicions. Why else would he ask me to dinner and ask me what I thought and this and that. I saw him as a Hamlet. Hamlet feels that something’s wrong, but he can’t act. Source:

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Dinner in America (I wanna be your boyfriend)

Simon (Kyle Gallner – ‘Ghosts of War’) and Patty (Emily Skeggs – ‘Love You To Death’) don’t really fit in, because no one is making any effort to listen or connect with them. Pyromaniac Simon, who lives every day like it’s the last one, doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him. He’s always ready to fight whomever looks at him the wrong way. That kind of attitude often gets him into trouble. Socially awkward Patty is a quiet young woman who gets made fun of for her appearance by strangers. Her parents are overprotective, so when she finally gets to be alone in her bedroom, she rocks out to music as some sort of escapism. Adam Rehmeier fine-tunes his vision to perfection with interesting wide shots, quick editing, witty and foul-mouthed dialogue, and a sick soundtrack. His screenplay is one of the strongest I’ve seen all year. ‘Dinner In America‘ could easily be compared to films such as ‘Napoleon Dynamite‘, ‘Superstar‘ and ‘PEN15‘, but it goes so much deeper, by exploring an underlying layer of drama and romance.

Kyle Gallner is mostly to thank for that. What a powerhouse! It’s baffling how he’s not a bigger name – the man can act. He brings emotion, heart, facial expressions, attitude, confidence to his performance and makes it all look so easy. Skeggs is just as good, if not better. The Tony-nominated actor takes it up several notches while showing a sense of vulnerability and poise. Gallner and Skeggs’s chemistry is believable and off the charts. Source:

Dinner in America (I wanna be your boyfriend) video.

Kyle Gallner as Lou Reed in "CBGB" (2013) 

Born in the New York City punk explosion of the 1970s, the music of the influential band the Cramps was built on guttural yells, dissonant electric guitar clangs and a not-insignificant amount of LSD. While the Cramps were regulars at the iconic Manhattan venue CBGB, their most famous show was held in Napa, California alongside the San Francisco-based band the Mutants – and played, for free, to an audience of psychiatric patients at the Napa State Hospital. Featuring archival footage of the Cramps’ 1978 performance captured by the San Francisco-based production company Target Video, the short documentary We Were There to Be There recalls how the unique gig generated a chaotic and joyful musical moment – for band members and audience alike. From the Cramps’ performance at the film’s centre, the US directors Mike Plante and Jason Willis craft a broader exploration of San Francisco’s explosive 1970s art scene, as well as the lasting negative impact of US government efforts to defund and privatise mental healthcare over the past several decades. Source:

Saturday, July 03, 2021

50th Anniversary of Jim Morrison's death

Audio book poems read by Jim Morrison.

The sister of Doors singer Jim Morrison said their father, a decorated flag officer in the U.S. Navy, offered to resign as his son became a counterculture icon. George Stephen Morrison served from 1938 until 1975, retiring as a rear admiral with 15 career decorations, including honors for valor and merit. He fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. In a recent interview with the Del Mar Times, Anne Morrison Chewning recalled that her older brother had been known for misbehavior long before he found fame with the Doors. “Jim was loads of fun,” she said. “He would do pranks and silly things, and he would get us into trouble on the Navy base.” Even though the first song Morrison wrote was a collaboration with his pianist father, Anne said that George Morrison “just didn’t understand Jim’s poetry, and he was clearly not into rock ‘n’ roll.” At one point, the officer wrote a letter to his son, telling him to “to give up any idea of singing or any connection with a music group because of what I consider to be a complete lack of talent in this direction.”

Anne – who compiled an upcoming book of Morrison's writings – added: “I only heard this later, but my dad offered to resign from the Navy if what Jim was doing was upsetting to the Navy – and my dad loved the Navy! It was really special to him, and he didn’t want anything to upset the apple cart with the Navy. But, in the end, he didn’t have to resign.” Both of Morrison’s parents outlived him by decades, and although they were estranged at certain times, Anne said the singer told people they were dead in order to protect them from his world. On the subject of the Doors song “The End,” which refers to a character killing his father and sleeping with his mother, Anne noted that "people would whisper to me: ‘Are your parents upset about ‘The End?’ And I’d say: ‘Not in the least. The lyrics are just a Greek myth.’ Jim did it in a new way, and I loved the drama of it.”

On his record label biography distributed in 1967, Jim Morrison listed his parents as dead. "He just didn't want to be involved in dad's life," Chewning observes today. "And he knew dad probably wouldn't approve of some of the things he was writing and singing about - and his behavior and his life. He was just totally the opposite of my dad. So, I think he just decided to separate." Chewning moved back to California with her husband and infant son shortly after discovering that her brother was a rock star. Hearing that the Doors were due to fly into Los Angeles, she decided to surprise Morrison at the airport. "We went and met him - my husband and my little son. Jim looked at me and said, 'You don't happen to be my sister, do you?'" It was the start of a joyful reunion for the Morrison siblings. Chewning dropped in on a Doors session, where Morrison gave a sweet mid-song shoutout to her baby boy.  Source:

They also visited the home Morrison shared with his girlfriend, Pamela Courson, and cooked them a Thanksgiving meal. "We'd see him, but not often," Chewning admits. "We were all in our 20s, I was pregnant. People were just busy in their own lives. You didn't know that soon it would be the last time. There just wasn't an urgency, which was the sad thing. I didn't ever see him perform. I wish I had." When Jim Morrison died on July 3, 1971, at the age of only 27, he left behind a formidable library of notebooks and loose-leaf. One scrap bore the heading "Plan for Book," followed by a short outline for how to organize his original works. He never lived to finish the project, but now, 50 years after his death, his family has fulfilled his creative wish. Chewning, who wrote the prologue for “The Collected Works,” is the co-executor of her late brother’s personal estate. She devoted years to compiling and guiding this comprehensive new book, which includes a foreword by novelist Tom Robbins and an introduction by Frank Lisciandro, Morrison’s close friend and collaborator.

“I knew several Jims,” Lisciandro writes in his introduction. “The shy loner who was my classmate at the UCLA School of Film; the rock performer who was always raising the stakes on what was culturally acceptable; the lyricist, poet and writer who surprised me with notebook pages of complex poems and gifts of self-published books ...” In one of his notebooks from the trial, Morrison wrote: “The joy of performing has ended. Joy of films is pleasure of writing.” Those sentiments are shared by former Doors guitarist Robby Krieger. His memoir, “Set the Night on Fire,” is due for publication this fall by Little, Brown and Company. The Morrison men were never able to put aside their differences - in life, at least. "It's too bad," says Anne Morrison Chewning. "Pam called my dad after Jim had died and said they had talked about Jim reconnecting. It had only been five years or six years. That's really not very long in terms of most lives." 

“There’s so many young people who just see him as a rock star,” Chewning explains. “I want to dispel the ‘Lizard King’ and all those things that you hear. We wanted the reader to see the complete Jim, to see that he was a full writer in multiple areas, thinking in lots of different directions.” Agreeing that the trial made Morrison realize he needed a reset and led him to seek solace in Paris, Chewning says the trip was “kind of what he needed.” “He actually said, ‘Maybe I was ready to be done,’” she shares. “He was quite drunk and who knows what he was saying. But he said himself, ‘Maybe I wanted this to happen, so I could be done for a while.’ Later, reflecting on his conviction, he admitted, “Miami blew my confidence, but really I blew it on purpose.” For Chewning, going through her late older brother’s writings was bittersweet. She was amazed at the vast sum of writings he completed at such a young age. But it’s what Morrison envisioned for his future that touched Chewning the most. But there were glimmers of hope, as he also wrote about his “desire for family” and wished for “a chance to write my Paradise Lost?” “Doesn’t that break your heart?” Chewning asks, adding that she’d never heard him speak about wanting a family of his own, but that he was always “very sweet with children.” Source: