So … I just finished this great biography of Larry McMurtry by Tracy Daugherty. And I want to let that sink in because I imagine there is no one under the age of 40 who has ever heard of Larry McMurtry.
Maybe if I told them he was the father of musician James McMurtry some thing might click in.
I just asked Kendall if she’s heard of the musician James McMurtry. Blank stare.
But if I tell her Larry McMurtry wrote the screenplay for “Brokeback Mountain,” there’s some recognition. And if I tell her McMurtry wrote “Terms of Endearment,” there’s further recognition, because that’s one of those tearjerkers that mothers and daughters and granddaughters tend to re-watch together over the holidays.
But the part of the book I want to discuss is where McMurtry, who grew up in rural Texas, publishes his first novel, “Horseman, Pass By.”
The novel is adapted in a film, “Hud,” starring a young Paul Newman. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards.
“The filmmakers,” writes biographer Daugherty, “were profoundly uneasy with the general audience’s reaction to the movie. Director Martin Ritt (a left-leaning director who’d been blacklisted in 1952 for his political views) had “intended a social drama warning about the dire consequences of ignoring traditional American values. He meant Homer [the deeply principled father played by Melvyn Douglas] to be the embodiment of social responsibility, and Hud [played by Newman] to be boozing, womanizing and scheming, the personification of hateful narcissism and the breakdown of society.”
“We felt the country was moving into a kind of self-absorption, indulgence and greed,” said screenwriters Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank. “It was a terrible shock to us … when audiences cheered Hud rather than rebuking him. Here’s a man who tries to rape his housekeeper, who wants to sell his neighbors poisoned cattle, and who stops at nothing to take control of his father’s property. And all the time, he’s completely unrepentant. Then, at the first screenings, the preview cards asked the audiences, ‘Which character did you most admire?’ And many of them answered ‘Hud.’ We were completely astonished.”
*Hud came out in 1963. I can imagine a 17-year old Donald Trump in the theater. I’m sure he loved it.
I reflect upon this as I think back to last week’s Mammoth Council meeting. Where Council voted to extend the moratorium on the issuance of nightly rental permits.
They appeared to do so with little enthusiasm – at least little enthusiasm from Councilmembers Rea and Bubser. Rice and Wentworth seemed more keenly interested.
I believe the vote to extend was a matter of dogged orthodoxy. Well-meaning liberals virtue-signaling that they care about affordable housing.
Without properly considering what potential “downriver” impacts such a decision would have on the broader community – on property owners, tradespeople, real estate activity, reservation agencies, et al.
And weighing those impacts against benefits.
There is zero chance that this moratorium will create one more long-term rental.
What it has sown is distrust in the town’s leadership.
There was an essay by Walt Street Journal columnist Jason Zweig about the late Charlie Munger in the Dec. 2-3 weekend edition where Zweig writes, “More than almost anyone I’ve ever known, Munger possessed what philosophers call epistemic humility: a profound sense of how little anyone can know and how important it is to open and change your mind.”
“Part of the reason I’ve been a little more successful than most people is I’m good at destroying my own best-loved ideas. I knew early in life that that would be a useful knack and I’ve honed it all these years, so I’m pleased when I can destroy an idea that I’ve worked very hard on over a long period of time. And most people aren’t.”
Which immediately brought to mind Rusty Gregory. Regardless of what you thought about him, he was capable of destroying his own best-loved ideas. I can’t think of anyone else in town right now with that capacity.
One note I received this week with the header of ‘Thoughts on the Law of Intended Consequence:’ If a property owner can’t do an STR and economically can’t charge enough monthly rent to pencil out, they will use the property themselves. They potentially could change their registered voting address to Mono County. They could cause a regime change on the council as an intended consequence and affect the [upcoming school] bond measure.
I did make comment at this week’s Mammoth Lakes Tourism meeting regarding Advanced Air flight bookings, as I’ve been looking into a flight to bring my daughter up from Carlsbad for a few days over the Christmas break.
The flight up was listed at about $325. The return was listed at about $460.
So I thought to myself, well, maybe I’ll fly her up but drive her home. After all, drive her home and she’s stuck in the car with me for six or seven hours – so she has to talk to me.
But I also thought … if there was a last-minute standby fare, I’d fly her home at a certain price.
So I asked the MLT Board and Executive Director John Urdi if they had considered some sort of standby policy where Advanced Air or MLT could announce three hours in advance of a flight that they have, say, six open seats available and the seats would be $200 apiece first come, first served.
My thinking: We subsidize the seats, so better to fill it at $200 and pay a partial subsidy than let it sit empty and pay full subsidy.
The response I received: The airline would consider such a policy as a devaluation of their product and even though we subsidize the seats, we don’t have much leverage to dictate terms.
As for the rest of the MLT meeting, the good news was that Transient Occupancy Tax revenue was up 16% in October, and exceeded $1 million in October for the first time ever.
September TOT revenue was also record-setting.
Executive Director Urdi anticipates “We’ll see a slide” in November and December due to the lack of early-season snow.
Speaking of marketing … I also just finished rereading Kurt Vonnegut’s debut novel, Player Piano, published in 1952.
The guy was fairly prescient.
The story is about the third industrial revolution. “I guess the third one’s been going on for quite some time,” ruminates the main character Proteus. “Machines that devaluate human thinking.”
But as we’ve witnessed, inventing ways to devalue human beings isn’t the most popular or easiest sell. That’s when you bring in the marketing team.
“The crusading spirit of the managers and engineers, the idea of designing and manufacturing and distributing being sort of a holy war: all that folklore was cooked up by public relations and advertising men hired by managers and engineers to make big business popular in the old days, which it certainly wasn’t in the beginning. Now, the engineers and managers believe with all their hearts the glorious things their forebears hired people to say about them. Yesterday’s snow job becomes today’s sermon.”
And the marketers have certainly become clever enough over time to repeat the sermons on the importance of marketing until they’ve become absolutely ingrained and entrenched in the collective psyche.
Finally, on a random note which came up during the STR Moratorium hearing … I disagree with Councilman Sauser’s assertion that he doesn’t pay attention to the people who show up for meetings and hearings – he says they’re too self-interested and that he gathers his public feedback from independent sources outside Suite Z.
Fair enough, but being in the room should also matter. The idea that a Councilmember would represent so-and-so who is working a third job and can’t participate … that’s a convenient excuse to hide behind. It’s dead in town right now and interested persons could have found a way to be there/attend online.
Oftentimes, participation in the public process involves having to invest time you’d rather spend doing something else. So if you can’t be bothered to speak up for yourself, don’t complain about the outcome – or that everything is unfair.
Sure seems like discounting public input during meetings ensures Councilmembers will all succumb and revert to their biased and personal feedback loops.