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True story of Hollywood, with uplifting moral.


As your vigilantly responsible author drifts off to sleep courtesy of his NHS prescriptions, he thought it might be time for a short story in which the moral will be delivered up front : Sometimes losing is better.


Strangely enough, losing can open up opportunities. I shall demonstrate with a real-world example.


From the age of six I “knew” I was born to be a storyteller. Movies were my first love, yet at the same time I fell under the spell of books when my grandfather blessed me with a present of the first hardcover books I ever owned, a two-volume set of the stories of Sherlock Holmes. I loved the look of the books inside and out (in my mind's eye I see now their green hardcovers), and kept them visible in my bedroom. One day, I told myself, I would produce something of the sort.


But I never read them. Not then. Too many words.


Instead, at nine years old I began making Super-8 films. Cut now to Los Angeles, 1987. I entered a VHS film into a national contest sponsored by the American Film Institute. The category was short film made by any American aged sixteen or under. I was sixteen. I made a film with two of my friends; and the three of us represented three different ethnicities. (“Politically correct” wasn’t a phrase back then; they were just my friends.) The film, no revelatory work of incipient genius, though made competently enough, was a suspense thriller, and concerned a devotee of Hitchcock’s Psycho who plans a shower murder, but is snuffed out instead by his intended victim, whose favorite film is Texas Chainsaw. I laid in music from To Live and Die in LA and other films, and won second place. I was crushed. I couldn’t believe I didn’t win it all. I had storyboarded every shot! And the work I put into it! I edited the film with two VCRs plugged together!


The judges of the contest were Francis Ford Coppola, Shelley Duvall, LeVar Burton, and two others. In the aftermath after the loss, the organizer of the event saw something cataclysmic in my face. She spoke kindly to me, reporting (I hoped) that there had been a “heated argument” in the judge’s room about which film should win, mine, or the one that won. Perhaps Coppola stumped for me, if only because I used his old pal Friedkin’s music.


The winner was an entire classroom of students. Their film was very obviously edited on proper equipment. It was a series of stills of “Oriental Women” dissolving one into another (a dissolve was beyond my capability). Over this montage a voice in a monotone intoned : “All Orientals look the same.” Truth be told, back then I couldn’t compute what the movie meant. After all, my film was a homage to Hitchcock (it was entitled “Shamley Green”). Nowadays it all makes sense, and it’s all good. Back then, however, I was shattered, mystified. How could a genre film not win a top prize in Hollywood? In which every shot had been storyboarded in advance?


The upshot of all this is that I decided there was no way I was going to gamble my fortunes on the decisions of others. I went to the UK for my education (ha)—my self-education, it turned out to be. In the process, my storytelling mutated from film to literature, and I’m not weeping over the result. All I need to produce my work is a pen and piece of paper.


I’d been producing in secret for thirty years until I was forced to emerge to defend my honor, and I seem far from finished, unless my Nazi enemies eliminate me finally (I wish I were joking). Translating the Iliad in one mega-blast in eight months last year was a true Stargate : I have been reborn hard. I am a clear example of art's rejuvenatory power—if you endow art with that power, it will give it back to you.

Recapitulation of the theme : If you think all is lost, think again.  


Goodnight and best wishes, all.




Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Sophocles : innovator of the concept, “Don’t Shoot the Messenger”?


Rashomon (1950), 36:00. Doesn’t that look like a film strip along the bottom of the frame?    



ἀλλ᾽ εὑρεθείη μὲν μάλιστ᾽: ἐὰν δέ τοι

ληφθῇ τε καὶ μή, τοῦτο γὰρ τύχη κρινεῖ,

οὐκ ἔσθ᾽ ὅπως ὄψει σὺ δεῦρ᾽ ἐλθόντα με

(ll. 327–329)


 = Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now : “And with a whimper, I'm fuxking splitting, Jack.” (2:56:46)


Truth Hurts, and that’s that. The Bearer of Truth is demonized because Truth itself is Demonized. Persuade the public of too much Truth and they may decide to stop being suckers for a lifetime. That said, self-enhancement is such a monumental effort, such a tireless ongoing effort, that the ordinary person would rather reject Truth (the revelatory impetus of change) in favor of living in asinine delusion and the stress of Tyranny with all of its suckerdom—because Life’s just easier that way. The stress of delusion is apparently less of a strain than the stress of the Truth. Far easier to be a sucker : less effort is involved. Truth is rejected as inconvenience; and the bearer of the Truth is branded a “nuisance”, or worse.


Evidently this Situation is as least as old as the ancient Greeks, because Sophocles encodes into Antigone a humorous portrayal of the position of the authentic artist in society.


Since Sophocles saw the world around him as bleak and absurd, it is not out of the question to theorize that once in a while some ancient Greek man saw him walking down the street and said to himself, “Oh no, there’s Sophocles, he’s going to bring me down with his negativity and ruin my day with Truth.” So the ancient Greek thereby turned tail and beat a hasty retreat in the opposite direction. Going on the evidence of Antigone, Sophocles experienced such phenomena from others : denials of his words, accusations of being a “nihilist”, insults of “troublemaker”, of “godless negative downer”, of “a rebel hoping to bring down the system”, and so on.


Sophocles’ trials and tribulations of being an Artist dedicated to showing the world the Truth as he sees it, and the ramifications of such subversive behavior, are encoded into Antigone in the character of the Militaryman (Φύλαξ).


Telling the Truth is subversive : hence the humorously dangerous situation the Φύλαξ finds himself in once he begins conveying the Truth to Creon, the king of Thebes.


At lines 223–331, the Φύλαξ is terrorized by the king simply for conveying the accurate news that someone has ignored the king’s Word and has buried Antigone’s brother. The king, infuriated at this news, takes his anger out on the Φύλαξ, who then finds himself in the curious position of having his life threatened simply for conveying simple Fact in all honesty and good intentions.


This absurd Situation is Sophocles showing us the plight of the Artist in society. The Artist presents to the world a portrait of what the world is, and the world, rather than face the music and move forward with new strategies for enhancement and self-overcoming, shoots the messenger instead and happily continues along its path of horror—because living in delusion as suckers for a lifetime is far less of an effort (however hard it is!) than dedicating oneself 24/7 to becoming a better person.


Sophocles defines this Situation as Absurd. Give the world the Truth and you’re the bad guy. In our world, they who tell the Truth are branded Criminals.


Funny thing is : one theory of your presently upbeat author is that not a single human being living on our Earth would raise their hand at the question : “If you want to be a sucker, raise your hand.” Yet that is precisely what people are, for the entire duration between the beginning and the end. So here comes the Artist to wake people up. Instead, the public defends its asininity.


No wonder Sophocles had a negative view of life. But he has the last laugh, because we’re talking about Antigone right now.


Addendum : the “positive-negative” statement.



ἀλλ᾽ εὑρεθείη μὲν μάλιστ᾽: ἐὰν δέ τοι

ληφθῇ τε καὶ μή, τοῦτο γὰρ τύχη κρινεῖ,

οὐκ ἔσθ᾽ ὅπως ὄψει σὺ δεῦρ᾽ ἐλθόντα με

(ll. 327–329)


 = Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now : “And with a whimper, I'm fuxking splitting, jack.” (2:56:46)


Funny thing is, at line 376, the Militaryman returns, hoping for a more positive outcome with the king. He returns to “do the right thing” by following the king’s law—yet in “doing the right thing” he reveals himself to be a terrible human being. In saving himself, the Militaryman humiliates himself. Is this not funny?


This contradiction in the Militaryman’s Situation is a deft technique employed by first-rate storytellers.


Example 1 : Henry James, The Awkward Age, 4 : “Lord Petherton, a man of five-and-thirty, whose robust but symmetrical proportions gave to his dark blue double-breasted coat an air of tightness that just failed of compromising his tailor. . . .”


I call this a positive-negative statement. Henry James is a master of such constructions. The author conveys a positive (Lord Petherton is a well-turned out fellow) via a negative (his fine figure almost causes his tailor embarrassing trouble).


Example 2 : Rashomon (1950), 35:40–37:17. As Toshiro Mufine gets more and more impressed with himself as he delivers his words to the court, he embarrasses himself more and more with his words.




Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Dunkirk : Resurrection


(1:16-53–1:17:05). Does the reader think the following might be a resonance of Dunkirk?


1. The so-called “Ingmar Bergman Boat” (because its interior Situation seems heavily symbolic) represents the threat of death and, indeed, obliteration itself (the trawler finally sinks).


2. Soldiers from the trawler swim through the deep to the Moonstone. They are escaping their sinking vessel just as the shellshocked soldier had escaped his, the lone survivor of a U-Boat strike.


3. Indeed, now we see the shellshocked soldier take in the situation, turn away, and think.


What if, as one resonance, the soldiers swimming from the sinking vessel are a reincarnation of the soldiers who went down in the U-Boat strike?


The shellshocked soldier may be remembering those close to him who were lost. Now they are returning : and now the shellshocked soldier gathers the power to finally act positively again—he helps to haul soldiers into the boat. The appearance of the ghosts of the dead invest him with a revivalistic power.


DÜRER, Albrecht, Harrowing of Hell; or, Christ in Limbo (1512)






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Grand Hotel : Strikingly Sophisticated Visual Technique?


(23:06–23:15). For this duration of screen-time, an emotionally troubled Greta Garbo has her face obscured. This obscurity is a visual expression of her inner mystification.

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Sophocles and E.T. : the Wondrous Mood


The audience spellbound.


Antigone, ll. 497–525. Suddenly, dead-pan seriousness. Antigone faces off in words against the king. The conversation is wondrously labyrinthine, conveying that Reason alone will never understand life. Thankfully, this post stops before Antigone and the king enter the labyrinth of thought.


Recall the sudden shift in tone just as the play Antigone begins (ll. 18–9). Now, Sophocles serves up for the audience another Grand Effect : he rouses up a heavy atmosphere in the audience, then promptly undercuts expectations. At the same time, he's jeering at dramatic theater conventions (recall “art automatically makes light of itself”). Sophocles uses convention successfully, then twists it equally successfully.


Antigone says something sharp and pertinent, and the king replies :



σὺ τοῦτο μούνη τῶνδε Καδμείων ὁρᾷς. (508)



This you alone among the Cadmeans see.


This line is heavy solemn, a virtuoso atmospheric moment. The translation is virtually word-for-word. Creon says this solemnly and everybody is reminded of Oedipus the man. Feeling the presence of Oedipus is no light feeling. At the end of the line comes a suspended moment of hushed visionary heaviness for everyone, like when audiences watched E.T. in 1982.


Sophocles undercuts all this, and immediately. Antigone the character is heroic in her comeback.



ὁρῶσι χοὖτοι, σοὶ δ᾽ ὑπίλλουσιν στόμα. (509)



All see this, but keep silent before you.


She punctures the charmed hush of Oedipal remembrance. And Sophocles engineers here another sheer shift in tone.


"All see this, but keep silent before you." Hmm. Is she also referring to the audience?


Then things get complicated.




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Grand Hotel : “Here comes seven like a Gatling gun.”


“Someone who happened to be in your room. I often come here when you’re at the theatre.”



“I’m finished.”



To catch a thief.



A heavy “Who are you?”




The two-shot.



DEGAS, Edgar, Dancer Adjusting Her Slipper (1874)



The Scarlet Empress (1934) 12:02




Shanghai Express (1932), 1:14:59 / Faust (1926), 1:44:26


“Holy mackerel! That is football!”

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The Unconscious?


Underlying the Fundamental—the story part of the story that is required for there to a story worth watching—might the Unconscious process this early scene in the following manner?


We never see the enemy. All we the audience absorb are percussive effects in vision and sound, jarring detonations threatening a young man in an otherwise peaceful suburban environment. Might the Unconscious receive this Situation as social pressure? and the need to seek peace and freedom?




Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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"They know where you were." (1:32:05)


In a similar spirit :



ὧν τοὔργον, Ἅιδης χοἰ κάτω ξυνίστορες:

Hades and the dead know what happened.



Note the halo of lamplight shining on Mark Rylance.

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Following his triumphant showing in Washington D.C., Hughes spent the next eleven weeks obsessed with completing his Flying Boat, which earlier in the year had been given experimental license number NX-37602 from the Civil Aeronautics Administration.[1] From August to November his crew of 100 mechanics and engineers worked round-the-clock shifts seven days a week.[2] Here are reminiscences from his employees at Hughes Aircraft at the time:[3]


Electrical engineer Merle Coffee: “Howard came down every night during August, September, and October, 1947.”[4]


Engineer John Glenn: “He came to the boat at night—he always worked at night. This man was unbelievable as far as mechanical engineering went. I remember one time we had some trouble with the rpm on one of the engines. Howard said, “We’ll pull that propeller off.” And sure enough, the stops were set wrong. He would sit there and run those engines for hours on end. Feel them out and see how they were. He knew that airplane before he flew it backside and frontside. He was unbelievable.”


Crew chief Chuck Jucker: “I’d say that 90% of the time he came down at night. Occasionally he brought Jean Peters down with him and sat her off in front of the flying boat in the car [Chevrolet] while he ran the engines.”


Engineer Jack Jacobson: “Hughes was a perfectionist, extremely fussy about the smallest details. When new engines for the flying boat had to be brought by rail from the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Virginia, Hughes worried that the bumping across the country with the crankshafts in one position would harm the bearing surfaces. So he arranged for them to be shipped in a special car equipped with devices on each engine that slowly rotated their crankshafts during the entire trip and special instrumentation that recorded the speed of the train, the bumps, the starts, everything, all the way from Norfolk to California. When the engines arrived in Long Beach they were torn down completely, inspected, and reassembled. Then we would have to take them one at a time up to Culver City and run  ’em  through a special break-in procedure on the test stand there. But we could only run them from twelve o’clock at night to eight o’clock in the morning providing the wind was lower than three miles an hour (laughs). And by golly, he was out there to see that we did it.”


Aircraft inspector Clarence Selleng: “In quality, standards, and workmanship, the flying boat is perhaps the best wood-structured aircraft ever built. Hughes was very meticulous regarding stress of materials, quality of workmanship, and appearance. Wood parts to be assembled were mated to each other at the glue bond area to a maximum of .003 inches gap . . .”


Hydraulic engineer Dave Grant: “Howard probably spent more time positioning controls and instruments that he did anything. His cockpit arrangements were probably the best you could get.”




“MY GOD, WE’RE FLYING!” While the Senate hearings were adjourned, Hughes determined that his best course of action would be to get his Flying Boat into the air, thereby embarrassing the War Investigating Committee and sealing his victory against “the big dogs”. Let us recall that the HK-1—or the Hercules, Hughes Flying Boat, ‘Spruce Goose’, or even the ‘flying lumberyard’, Senator Brewster’s own pejorative phrase—which at that time was the largest plane ever built, and of wood moreover, was originally commissioned by the U.S. Government in 1942, but only reached completion after the apocalyptic combat ceased.[5] Its test flight, its maiden and only voyage, didn’t come until the autumn of 1947.


The historic day was Sunday, November 2, 1947.[6] No one at Hughes Aircraft knew for sure what was going to happen; some of the engineers believed that getting the 400,000-pound Flying Boat into the air was an impossibility.


The many thousands of spectators having gathered at the shore were astounded at the size of the ship. The plane was something you had to see to believe. The cockpit sat thirty feet above the water. The eight propellers were each 17 feet 2 inches in diameter. The eight Pratt & Whitney engines were the largest radial engines ever built. At the Senate War Hearings on August 9, Hughes had described the wingspan of the Flying Boat as “longer than a city block”.[7] Put another way, the wingspan was 20 feet longer than a U.S. football field! James Phelan cleverly pointed out that the wingspan measured “twice the distance of the Wright Brothers’ first flight.”[8]


At the August 9 hearings, Hughes explained that the plane’s wing area was “almost three times that of any plane ever built.”[9] John McDonald in his book on the Flying Boat marvelled at the immensity of the wings, observing, “You could erect average-sized homes on top of them.”[10]


The incredible wings were over eleven feet thick! And that wasn’t the half of it. The tail of the aircraft was 50 feet high. The massive rudder, an amazing 49 feet high, was so thick a man could crawl inside it for 20 feet.[11] Measuring from the base of the hull to the tip of the tail, the Hughes Flying Boat was an astounding 79 feet, 3 3/8 inches high—as tall as an eight-story building.[12] The Flying Boat is still today the tallest aircraft ever built.[13] The length of the seaplane was 218 feet, 6 inches long. 750 troops or two 30-ton Sherman tanks could fit inside the cargo deck.


Barlett and Steele described how “overwhelmed” newsmen became when they first beheld the Flying Boat, which “seemed a creation of science fiction . . .  its smooth, aluminium-lacquered hull glistening like metal in the sun.”[14]


The taxi tests were originally to consist of skimming the Flying Boat along the surface of the water for stretches of three miles each. “On any airplane of new design you don’t normally fly the first time out,” noted Joe Petrali, flight engineer for the taxi tests.[15] Hughes was accompanied on the plane by seventeen crew members and seven observers, but hadn’t prepared any of them for a flight.[16] There had been no safety briefings, nor was the experimental aircraft equipped with life rafts or parachutes—and there were only a few life jackets.[17]


For a few hours at least the Long Beach Harbor was the busiest offshore site in America. Many thousands of spectators lined the waterfront. Dozens of small boats watched from beyond the harbor, monitored by patrolling Coast Guard boats as well as a Hughes vessel. Buzzing in the air high overhead was a Los Angeles Daily News BT-13 photoplane.[18] A blimp even drifted by at one point.[19]


Reporters from bureaus nationwide were present to witness the events. Hughes had erected a press tent replete with fifty telephones, typewriters, paper, and luxury catering to keep journalists and photographers happy.[20]


Inside the cockpit of the amazing Flying Boat, surrounded by its incredible array of switches, dials, levers, and instruments, Hughes sipped from a carton of milk, put the carton down, then applied power to all eight engines, and the eight sets of four-blade propellers whirred into action. The enormous crowd roared in pleasure and awe. Boats blew their horns. Newsreel cameras sprang into action.


Hughes ran the plane up to 45 mph during the initial two-mile taxi test which went smoothly and beautifully. He turned the plane around to face Long Beach and pushed forward on the eight throttles. He reached up to 90 mph on the second test. “She was up on the step and planing just like a modern high-speed boat does,” said John J. McDonald in Howard Hughes and his Hercules.[21]


The Hughes Flying Boat cutting through the harbor waters, its wake sparkling in the autumn afternoon sunshine, was a throwback to the 1930s—the great age of the flying boats (especially Pan Am’s fleet which included the China Clipper, Pacific Clipper, Anzac Clipper, Yankee Clipper, Dixie Clipper, Atlantic Clipper, American Clipper, Capetown Clipper, California Clipper, and Philippine Clipper). The Hughes Flying Boat was tinged with nostalgia for a lost time. By 1947, flying boats were an anachronism, a memory of the past.[22]


During the third taxi test at 1:30 p.m., Hughes, in a sudden inspiration, lifted the wooden behemoth off the choppy waves and into the air for a short space of time. James McNamara, a radio reporter on board, recorded these breathless words on his tape recorder: “My God, we’re flying!”[23] The spectators cheered. Hughes’ fabulous aircraft cruised 70 feet above Long Beach harbor for about a mile at 90 miles an hour. Then he lowered the plane gently back down upon the waters.[24] “It just felt so buoyant and good, I just pulled it up,” Hughes said later.[25] The plane had flown through the air for about 80 seconds.[26]


Yet again was Howard Hughes the Aviator front-page news and a major talking point for Americans and the world. Reporters dubbed his airplane the “Queen Elizabeth of the Skies”.[27] It was a personal triumph for Hughes, who had put not $7.2 million (as he said publicly) but close to $20 million of his own money into the $38 million (non-profit) project.[28]


             RADIO REPORTER (aboard Hercules) Howard, did you expect that?

            HUGHES: (at controls) Exactly. I like to make surprises.

REPORTER: (summing up) At one time, Howard said that if this ship did not fly that he would leave the country. Well, it certainly looks at this moment that Howard Hughes will be around the United States for quite some time to come. (turning to Hughes) Howard, may I again offer my congratulations, sir?

HUGHES: Well, thank you very much.[29]


Aviator Hughes steered the plane back to its drydock on Terminal Island. All the while the harbor resounded with the sound of spectacular acclaim for the American Hero. After powering down, Hughes lingered in the hull and talked with his crewmembers. Reporters came and went. “Right after the flight,” Petrali recalled, “Howard was like a little kid. He was grinning and talking a lot, almost jumping up and down in his elation.”[30]




Back on dry land after the flight, Hughes shared his brown-bag lunch with the radio reporter, James C. McNamara. McNamara was given a plain peanut-butter sandwich. After that, Glenn Odekirk drove Hughes to an unnamed girlfriend’s house in the San Fernando Valley.[31]




That night in Washington, D.C., Hughes’ nemesis Senator Owen Brewster had no choice but to tell newsmen that he was “pleased” that the Hughes Flying Boat had flown successfully.[32]




With its flight that lasted barely over a minute, Hughes’ Flying Boat flew its way into the history books. An airplane ahead of its time, it proved to be a necessary step in modern airplane technology. Its development not only solved a series of enduring design and engineering problems, but tested a series of new concepts such as large-scale hulls and large lift capability. It was groundbreaking in its electrical and hydraulic systems. The Hughes Flying Boat trailblazed a series of innovations later to be employed in the wide-bodied jets of the present day.


The flight control areas (ailerons, flaps, elevators, and rudder) comprised an amazing 4,414 feet.[33] They were so large and heavy that moving them meant exerting close to 200 times the power that Howard Hughes could naturally generate.[34] In order for a pilot to operate the massive plane, the Hughes Aircraft engineers had innovated an “artificial feel system”. The successful result of its series of servomechanisms was that flying the magnitudinous flying boat felt not much different from flying a light aircraft. For example, for each pound of pressure that Hughes exerted on the control column, 1,500 pounds of pressure were generated to raise or lower the elevators on the horizontal stabilizer.[35] Applying pressure on the control column or pedals sent pressurized hydraulic fluid flowing through tubing to relay valves at the control surfaces; the valves then sent pressurized oil to power cylinders which moved the flight controls.[36] The electrically-driven hydraulic system was an historic achievement, a crucial step in the journey toward large-scale modern aircraft. One pilot in the Flying Boat’s cockpit could produce 26,000 pounds of pressure to operate the control systems and, therefore, fly the plane.[37] On the subject of the plane’s hydraulics, Hughes remarked at the War Hearings, “The research that was done . . . and the knowledge we have gained, will be of considerable value to everyone in the building of bigger planes hereafter.”[38]


The aircraft was so large that the problem of communicating with a normal flight crew of 11 had to be addressed. Hughes and his engineers fitted a series of 28 intercom stations at various points throughout the cavernous interior. Moreover, the Flying Boat innovated the presence of radio sockets located on the exterior surface of the plane as well, so that guides on the outside could plug in a transmitter and communicate with the pilot inside, a practice in common use with large aircraft today.[39]


Lawrence A. “Pat” Hyland remarks in his autobiography that the November 2 flight was the first time an inflight cockpit recording was taken from pre-flight to landing.[40]


Fascinatingly, virtually no nails or screws were used on the Flying Boat; rather, Hughes Aircraft used special waterproof glues to fit the wooden parts of the plane together.[41] Materials were mostly birch veneer, with some balsa, spruce, poplar, and maple.[42] In case of fire, no less than 36 carbon dioxide pressure containers were distributed along the cargo deck.[43]


Hughes’ flying boat is still the largest airplane ever built. In wingspan (320 feet), weight (400,000 pounds), and wing area (11,430 square feet)—among other technical points—no other modern aircraft surpasses it.[44]


Estimated performance of the Hughes Flying Boat was as follows: cruising speed: 150 mph at 5,000 ft; top speed: 231 mph at 5,000 feet; range: 2,975 miles at a ceiling of up to 20,900 ft.[45]


As it turned out, the Hughes Flying Boat had no military purpose.[46] The Hughes Flying Boat had no commercial purpose.[47] In fact, the airplane, in and of itself, would have no constructive purpose in any way. Hughes had dedicated millions of dollars and years of much effort simply to follow the dream.[48] It had been one of Hughes’ investments which, like the investment in his H-1 Racer, had no hope of producing a financial return. Like the H-1 before it, the Flying Boat turned out to be a record-breaker and a showpiece. When the Flying Boat launched itself off the water of Long Beach Harbor, the old 1920s flamboyance was back! Sheer American brio was in the air once more.


Aviation historian Walt Boyne : “The Hughes Flying Boat is almost undoubtedly the most famous aircraft to fly only once.” [49]




After Hughes’ death in 1976, flight mechanic Bill Grant reflected on his boss at Hughes Aircraft:



It’ll be a hell of a long time before we get another guy that will devote his own personal interest and money in aviation like he did.[50]





[1] See War Hearings, p. 24472; Marrett, Howard Hughes: Aviator, p. 90. ¶ Meanwhile Hughes’ TWA airline will never be entirely out of his thoughts. Hughes conducted a business meeting with two TWA employees, engineer Robert Rummel and engineering pilot Robert C. Loomis, at the site of the Flying Boat in early October 1947. At this meeting Hughes gave clearance for TWA to purchase 12 Lockheed 749’s for overseas service. This decision, according to Rummel, was a good one, as the planes, delivered in 1948, went on to “pay their way”.  See Rummel, Hughes and TWA, p. 136.

[2] See “It Flies!” Time, November 10, 1947.

[3] See Barton, Flying Boat, p. 87; 197-8; 234.

[4] This is corroborated in Marrett, Howard Hughes: Aviator, p. 90: “Don Smith, one of the two flight engineers, remembered that Hughes arrived every day at Long Beach in the afternoon and ran the engines until midnight, getting them tuned up.”

[5] For ‘Flying Lumberyard’, see, for example, Lane, “The Enigma of Howard Hughes”, p. 17; Helenthal, The Keokuk Connection, p. 16.

[6] On November 1, 1947, water was channeled into the dry dock, lifting the Flying Boat to sea level. See Dwiggins, Howard Hughes, p. 43; McDonald, Hercules, p. 73; Odekirk, HK-1, p. 98.

[7] War Hearings, p. 24357; also in White, “Hughes Promises to Exile Himself If Big Plane Fails”, p. 3; Gerber, Bashful Billionaire, p. 50.

[8] Phelan, Money, p. 241.

[9] War Hearings, p. 24357; also in White, “Hughes Promises to Exile Himself If Big Plane Fails”, p. 3.

[10] McDonald, Hercules, p. 92.

[11] See Skow, “In California: The Goose Lives!”; McDonald, Hercules, p. 103.

[12] See “It Flies!” Time, November 10, 1947; Phelan, “Howard Hughes: He Battles for an Empire”, p. 19; [HH:HLM], p. 156; Helenthal, The Keokuk Connection, p. 16.

[13] See “Howard Hughes’ Flying Boat ‘Spruce Goose’: Historic Mechanic Engineering Landmark”, p. 6.

[14] See [HH:HLM], p. 156.

[15] See Petrali, “‘O.K., Howard’”, p. 57.

[16] The Hercules had seventeen crew members (appointed by Chuck Jucker, crew chief): Dave Grant, co-pilot; Joe Petrali and Donald Smith, flight engineers; Warren Read, assistant flight engineer; Dave Evans, radio operator; Merle Coffee and Jack Jacobson, electricians; Thomas Dugdale and Bill Noggle, hydraulic mechanics; Phillip Thibodeau, Harry Kaiser, Al Gererink, Jim Thompson, Donald Shirey, John Glenn, Mel Glaser, and Dave Van Storm, aircrafts mechanics. Also representatives of various organizations: George Haldemann (CAA); Mathew Whelan (Pratt & Whitney); Bill Newman (Hughes photographer); and Rea Hopper, William Berry, Dave Roe, and Jim Dallas (Hughes Aircraft Company engineers). See Maguglin, Hughes: His Achievements, p. 91-2.

[17] See Barton, Flying Boat, p. 218; McDonald, Hercules, p. 82; 139; Marrett, Howard Hughes: Aviator, p. 93.

[18] See McDonald, Hercules, p. 76; Maguglin, Hughes: His Achievements, p. 92; Dwiggins, Howard Hughes, p. 3; 5; Hill, Gladwin, “Hughes Flies 200-Ton Plane A Mile 70 Feet Over Water”, New York Times, November 3, 1947, p. 1.

[19] See newsreel of Flying Boat flight on “Howard Hughes: The Real Aviator”, DVD documentary.

[20] See Petrali, “‘O.K., Howard’”, p. 56; Barton, Flying Boat, p. 202.

[21] McDonald, Hercules, p. 77. See also Hughes quote in Heide, John Von Der, “Hughes Flies Questioned Plane Mile in Surprise First Trial”, Washington Post, November 3, 1947, p. 1

[22] See Gandt, China Clipper, p. 159.

[23] Quoted in Dwiggins, Howard Hughes, p. 4. ¶ Marrett, Howard Hughes: Aviator, p. 94, quotes Hughes as saying just as the Flying Boat rose into the air, “There you are, Senator Brewster, you son-of-a-bitch, it’s flying!”

[24] Takeoff speed varies according to the account. “Approximately 80 mph”, says McDonald, Hercules, p. 82; 94 miles an hour, says Dwiggins, Howard Hughes, p. 43; “95 miles an hour”, says Heide, “Hughes Flies Questioned Plane Mile in Surprise First Trial”, p. 1.

[25] Quoted in “It Flies!” Time, November 10, 1947; Gerber, Bashful Billionaire, p. 54; Gonzales, “Secret Files”, p. 198.

[26] CAA observer George Haldeman, present aboard the Flying Boat, timed the flight at eighty seconds. See Marrett, Howard Hughes: Aviator, p. 94. ¶ “40 seconds”, says Murphy, “The Blowup at Hughes Aircraft”, p. 117.

[27] See Dwiggins, Howard Hughes, p. 43.

[28] At the time of the flight, the cost of the plane was reported as $25,000,000. ¶ “The flying boat . . . provided some useful design information, at a cost to Hughes of $17 million and the RFC of $18 million, but as built it was not suitable for any practical use.” Rae, John B., Climb to Greatness: The American Aircraft Industry, 1920-1960 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1968), p. 192. ¶ “$17 million up to 1951.” MacDougall, William, “Hughes May Get More Time on ‘Spruce Goose’”, Washington Post, May 27, 1962, p. 5. ¶ As of 1954: “Hughes . . . invested a total of $27 million.” Murphy, “The Blowup at Hughes Aircraft”, p. 117. ¶ “$23,000,000,” say Lee, “Hughes’ Empire Facing A Crisis”, p. 11; “Life of Howard Hughes Was Marked by a Series of Bizarre and Dramatic Events”, p. 70.

[29] Quoted in Barton, Flying Boat, p. 214; 216. ¶ Hughes told reporters, “I’d sort of hoped to fly it today, but I didn’t want to make any prediction.” See Hill, “Hughes Flies 200-Ton Plane”, p. 6.

[30] Petrali, “‘O.K., Howard’”, p. 57. See also “Technicians Laud Hughes Flying Boat”, Washington Post, November 4, 1947, p. 10.

[31] See Barton, Flying Boat, p. 216-7.

[32] See Heide, “Hughes Flies Questioned Plane Mile in Surprise First Trial”, p. 2.

[33] “Howard Hughes’ Flying Boat ‘Spruce Goose’: Historic Mechanic Engineering Landmark”, p. 3.

[34] See McDonald, Hercules, p. 71.

[35] See “Howard Hughes’ Flying Boat ‘Spruce Goose’: Historic Mechanic Engineering Landmark”, p. 3.

[36] See “Howard Hughes’ Flying Boat ‘Spruce Goose’: Historic Mechanic Engineering Landmark”, p. 3; Barton, Flying Boat, p. 149.

[37] See Hill, “Hughes Flies 200-Ton Plane”, p. 6. See also Tinnin, Everybody v. Hughes, p. 12.

[38] War Hearings, p. 24364; also in Gerber, Bashful Billionaire, p. 52-3.

[39] See McDonald, Hercules, p. 72.

[40] See Hyland, L. A. “Pat”, Call Me Pat: The Autobiography of the Man Howard Hughes Chose to Lead Hughes Aircraft (Virginia Beach, VA: The Donning Company, 1993), p. 191.

[41] The ‘Duramold’ process. Hughes acquired the rights to use Duramold from its original developer, The Fairchild Aviation Company. ¶ “Constructing any plane from wood is far more difficult than building from metal. . . . The duramold process is much like plywood construction. Alternate layers of wood and glue are sandwiched together to produce the ultimate thickness of material. The crisscrossing of the grains of wood, bonded together with a resinous glue, form a plastic and wood combination of amazing strength. In the case of duramold, the veneers were as thin as 1/32-inch in thickness. The structural shapes were laminated and formed in special moulds by a secret process which included steaming to produce the intricate shapes required. The skin was formed as a continuous sheet without seams. Each individual sheet of veneer was laid up until the entire surface was covered. Then the second layer was added in a criss-cross pattern to avoid having any seams in the same place. This is much the way bricks are laid in building. This method provided not only greater strength, but also eliminated any surface disturbance for the air flow. The skin of the Flying Boat is uniformly smooth.” McDonald, Hercules, p. 94-5. ¶ “Members were built up using several piles of thin veneer bonded together. When glued and steam heated, birch held up better than spruce . . . Birch was also superior in terms of weight reduction in high stress applications. . . . Thousands (about eight tons) of small nails were used to provide pressure for attaching the hull and wing skin. After the adhesive had cured, they were removed with specially designed nail pullers.” “Howard Hughes’ Flying Boat ‘Spruce Goose’: Historic Mechanic Engineering Landmark”, p. 3.

[42]  “Howard Hughes’ Flying Boat ‘Spruce Goose’: Historic Mechanic Engineering Landmark”, p. 3. ¶ “Pieces of birch veneer of various thicknesses were laminated together in a crisscross grain pattern with resinous glues into all of the basic structural shapes required to build an aeroplane. Then they were assembled and covered with a laminated seamless skin of that same birch veneer to form the wings, fuselage, empennage, floats, etc.” McDonald, Hercules, p. 50.

[43] See “Howard Hughes’ Flying Boat ‘Spruce Goose’: Historic Mechanic Engineering Landmark”, p. 3.

[44] The Hughes Flying Boat still has the world record for remarkable length of wingspan. See Guinness Book of World Records 2000: Millennium Edition (London: Guinness World Records Ltd, 2000), p. 180. ¶  “You could . . .  place two B-17s under them [wings] and never see them from above.” McDonald, Hercules, p. 92. ¶ The wingspan of the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress (entering military service in 1955) is 185 feet. ¶ Before the Hughes Flying Boat, the largest aircraft was the Glenn L. Martin Company’s Mars flying boat, which looks somewhat like the Hughes Flying Boat. Rolling off Martin’s Middle River, Maryland assembly line for the first time in September 1941, the Mars had a wingspan of 200 feet, a length of 117 feet, an empty weight of 75,573 pounds; and four Wright R-3350-18 Duplex Cyclone radial engines. Between November 1943 and March 1945, the Mars was in service for the U.S. Navy as a cargo plane, stationed first at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland, then at the Naval Air Station at Alameda, California. After March 1945 the Mars was retired from service and returned to the Martin Company.

[45] See “Howard Hughes’ Flying Boat ‘Spruce Goose’: Historic Mechanic Engineering Landmark”, p. 6.

[46] “Its purpose, to carry troops so high over the ocean that U-boats would not be able to intercept it, had never made sense to begin with: it was lumbering, could not be camouflaged, was highly flammable, and was a literal sitting duck for any self-respecting German or Japanese fighter pilot.” Higham, Howard Hughes, p. 130.

[47] In 1946, Hughes asked TWA engineer Robert Rummel to assess the commerical potential of the HK-1. Rummel’s first reaction to the flying behemoth was: “Seeing was not believing.” . . . “The more complete my analyses became, the more obvious became the conclusion that the HK-1 had no commercial potential whatsoever, then or ever. I could not make any business or operational sense out of it. Deployment would have required construction of dedicated hangars, terminals, and water clearways at appreciable expense because, being a seaplane, the HK-1 could not land on commercial airfields, most of which were landlocked. To me it seemed obvious that the future belonged to land planes rather than seaplanes because passengers could be delivered directly to where they wanted to do rather than transferring. While all-cargo operations were marginally conceivable, the cargo market was entirely too small at that time to give this possibility serious consideration. And the HK-1 was grossly oversized for comercial marketing purposes, anywhere.” Rummel, Hughes and TWA, p. 82.

[48] Hughes publicly acknowledged Glenn E. Odekirk’s primary contribution to the Flying Boat on November 14, 1947: “With the senate war investigating committee’s probe into his wartime plane contracts temporarily halted, Howard Hughes took time to reveal that the actual builder of his 200-ton flying boat is a former Portland man, Glenn Odekirk. Hughes . . . paid high tribute to Odekirk’s share in the construction of the cargo plane.” Forrest E. Finley, “Hughes Reveals Plane Built by Ex-Portlander”, newspaper article reproduced in Odekirk, HK-1, p. 3.

[49] Boyne, “The Most Elusive Hughes”, p. 47.

[50] Quoted in Barton, Flying Boat, p. 238.




Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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The egg cracks open. (Who laid it?) Ten dimensions, dark matter, a freakish exorbitance of gravity, gush out (from where?) in an unimaginable conflation of Force having infinite density and infinite curvature and a cataclysmic heat, distributed equally to every point in Everywhere, far hotter than a hydrogen bomb explosion. It is an irrational singularity, an arena of paradoxes: birth of spacetime.

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The eye = the explosive “I” caught in the order of things. The opening shot's nuclear explosiveness captures visually the creative force of the Individual. / The shot of the eye joins image with audience. The art enters through the eye, but that’s only the beginning. We make Art happen. An active participation in meaning-production leads to Revelation. / Does the blue-silvery vibe recall say, Spielberg’s Minority Report (a film with a notably few “benchmark colors”?). Is the audience glimpsing a feeling of the future? / Shots 1 and 2 : contrast of red and blue. / The eyelights describe a complex depth to this eye. A character of the future, Difference, is caught in the present order of things. . . .

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Particles, 100 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 of them, whirling turbulently, quarks and leptons spinning on their axes and scattering in giddy trajectories—in narrowing coils, obtuse arches, arrowy projections—diffusing from no specific starting point outward in the inflationary expansion, the opaque muddle of collisions where nothing yet clings. But as the yawning gap enlarges, spacetime cools. As a result the particles slow down, fuse together amid weak and strong forces, and join with electrons electromagnetically. Thus the one-second-old multiverse overfills with helium and deuterium as it bulges outward in the manner of the convex thrust of a balloon, or perhaps the tubular wrap of a doughnut.


Here in the soundless flux of wave functions there are no absolutes, neither absolute position nor absolute rest nor absolute time.


One item we do know : the color blue engineers a relationship between the eye we just saw and this shot.




Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Three hundred thousand years pass. Diffuse swirling gases hang loosely together as irregular patches of luminosity in the widening, now transparent vacuum. These bunches of cosmic crumbs are atoms, infinitesimal kinks in the blank, bundles of power created out of the protons and neutrons glued quarks made. Adhering together as plasmas of visible matter resisting the tide of expansion, the chance inhomogeneities eventuate into amorphous but stabilized formations, hazy oases of energy in an otherwise abysmal universal absence. Embedded in the gases, quasars appear, ultrabright beacons signaling the incipient birth of Life out of Non-life.


The dissolve joins imagery suggestively : the audience is gently urged if not forced to make thematic connections.


Between the particle-shot and the raindrops-shot a sheer shift in perspective takes place of many orders of magnitude : from the infinitesimal to our measure of things. The dissolve urges us to “see” the infinitesimal all around us; urges us to remark to ourselves, for example : “That’s not water, that’s not slate : everything’s just fundamental particles. I myself am a creation of fundamental particles. If all this is so, what, then, is going on? And why do people pay attention to network news? Does the news remind us of this weirdness on a daily basis? Do our schools? No. The general public receives truth only from Art. If it is recognised there.


Bipolarity : explosiveness to peace.


Ripples above the foundation : thoughts in the mind. Delicacy. The Zen leaf, a memory of nature in the futuristic blue, recalling the use of nature in Minority Report, for example 4:28 :


Back to the Oppenheimer shot : Question regarding the Foundation (the slate) : In what soil is Infinity buried?

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