Friday, May 12, 2006

May 12, 2006
I almost forgot, last Sunday we had a great birthday dinner for Deena at Taco Villa down on Camelback. Hard to believe we have been going there for 26 years. Dora, the owner hugged Deena and related how she remembered holding the Deen as a little baby so her parents could eat in peace. All the Radinas came, and Brad picked up the check ($200 plus!).

Today we’re working hard on a Cowboy Chronicle piece. We are on the same deadline schedule so we had to wait until our mag went out the door, yesterday, and then shift gears on doing something worthy for Tex, Chis and Dobie. Abby Pearson is hammering it out and we need to overnight this puppy this afternoon.

I woke up this morning thinking about the potential for the Whambam CG as a full blown book. It has so many elements: The Buffalo Soldiers, Mormons, politics (all the way to the White House), then when you factor in the side stories: Billy the Kid killed his first an at Bonita, just off the Fort Grant reservation; Geronimo and his Apaches came through the same area and had a big fight with the army about three miles from the Wham site; one of the lawmen (Whelan) who tracked down the Mormon robbers, faced off with Johnny Ringo, the Clantons and Johnny Behan; Tombstone Deputy Billy Breakenridge arrested several of the suspects; two of the defense attorneys lived in Tombstone and knew all the legendary men of that story (O.K. Corral); Gibert Webb went to Mexico and dealt with Pancho Villa, and W.T. Webb helped draft Arizona’s constitution. It really has everything. Almost too much.

News From The Front Lines
My girl friend and I watch the western channel faithfully with our 7 month old daughter. As a matter of fact our daughter who's name is Grace, can be asleep in her mothers lap and hear your voice, wake up to watch you then go back to sleep. Even if shes not asleep when you come on you get her attention.

Lately we have been watching you tell about steam engines, you give us all kinds of information we enjoy learning about. But what we would like to asked you is how did they get the water into the water towers? Especially in the desert?
—Raymond Hill

Excellent question, my Man. I know they used pumps, but I'll have to do some research on what kind and how. Of course, the water tanks were placed at springs, creeks or rivers, so the water supply was already there. In fact in the Southwest the rails headed for the water at every turn. More later.

Mark Boardman forwarded me this movie review and I agree, Stephen Hunter is an excellent writer. Check this out (and the movie as well!):

White Hat, Dark Heart In 'Down in the Valley'
By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 12, 2006

Hear the wind blow through "Down in the Valley": It's an ill gale, the wind of memory and illusion, the wind of ugly violence, the wind of domestic turbulence.

David Jacobson's harsh, possibly twisted but always mesmerizing little film begins with America's fondest dream -- the cowboy. He's lean and lanky, calls everybody "sir" or "ma'am" and looks you straight on when he shakes your hand. His eyes are blue; he's true, he's steady, a man's man. Any adult would see the other thing: He's also a psycho.

But no 15-year-old can, like Tobe (the luminous, dangerous Evan Rachel Wood of "Thirteen") and when she meets Buffalo Bill, no, Wyatt Earp, no again, Harlan Carruthers (Edward Norton) in a gas station off the freeway in the valley called San Fernando, she is taken.

The psychology is transparent. Adrift in the scrubby fast-food and doughnut-shop wilderness that is the San Fernando, Tobe is a latchkey child. Her father, Wade (David Morse), works for the Sheriff's Department. He's not a bad man, but he carries melancholy and repression wherever he goes (lost dreams? a vanished wife? memories of a war he fought in heroically?) and he lashes out in profanity and anger when challenged. So naturally, his daughter challenges him a lot, and the silent witness to this bitter discord is the second sibling, Lonnie (Rory Culkin), upon whose grave face is marked the bitterness of the family's fetid inner life.

So for both Tobe and Lonnie, Harlan is a godsend: He's a man off the screen, idealized, fair, perfect. He listens, he comforts, he adores, and of course, ultimately he seduces and usurps. For Wade, Harlan is the Devil: He sees Harlans everywhere in his professional life, that is, drifters with screws loose, with narcissistic impulses that require them to think far higher of themselves than any accomplishment merits, boy-men who want it all, and fast, thank you.

But Wade, inarticulate and already distanced from the kids by virtue of his harsh temper, can't find a way to express his doubts and fears except via rage, which is hopelessly futile. The more he seethes, the more he drives his kids away to the waiting arms of the seemingly better man, Harlan.

And who is Harlan? Isn't that the interesting question? Connoisseurs of the career of Edward Norton will immediately associate this tour de force performance with Norton's first film role, the Oscar-nominated turn in "Primal Fear." It's that same trick: the mild, decent exterior, the anonymous face, the unassertive body language, the small, still mouth, the diffident posture; but underneath, there might be something else, something darker. Somehow Norton is able to carry these contradictions easily and make them whole. He's also always, and to his and the movie's benefit, a surprisingly agile, athletic presence. He seems so wan, so ephemeral, so insubstantial -- and then he whip-cracks into action with stunning speed.

The subtext in all this happens to be the western movie, and some of its
icons, namely guns. Dad Wade carries a gun, cleans it frequently, and is also a gun collector. Cowboy Harlan has a couple of Colt single-actions -- Jacobson loves the geometry and grace of the old Equalizers -- and a low-hanging speed rig built for fast-draw contests. Rory, like most boys, is drawn to shooting irons, and his father's passion for safety is another source of discord, in contrast to Harlan's openness and willingness to share in the fun of the things. For the record, Norton has become a extremely impressive gun handler. When he draws and shoots, it's clear he's had professional coaching. Memo to Edward Norton: Get yourself into (producing and directing if necessary) a movie on the life and times of that other youngster of speed and violence, Billy the Kid, before you lose your youthful looks. I kept thinking: What a Kid this guy would make! And as much-movied as that tale of New Mexican clan warfare has been, no one's achieved greatness yet.

Anyhow, soon enough Harlan has become Lonnie's best pal and Tobe's lover. He shows them a world they never knew existed. But soon enough also, he shows them oddities of personality that would raise the hackles of any adult: A horse-riding expedition almost turns violent when it's discovered that Harlan stole the horse they're riding. Harlan's mystery is of course ultimately revealed, as is his true nature, and in an impressively light way, Jacobson maneuvers events toward a western make-believe town, where the games of white hats and black hats, of men facing men in streets of mud in front of rows of wooden buildings, will be played for real.

"Down in the Valley" is exactly what we don't have enough of: It's singular, unusual, unexpected, fresh and familiar at once. Maybe too long and maybe cinematographer Enrique Chediak's photography of a natural zone of beauty blighted by Mr. Doughnut and Carl's Jr. lays it on a trifle thick, but it's a surprisingly intense and disturbing movie.

End of piece. Google the Washington Post if you'd like to see more of Stephen Hunter's prose. This is the same guy who wrote so eloquently on the demise of the Winchester a couple months back. I'm a big fan. And I want to see the movie!

“The future is made of the same stuff as the present.”
—Simone Weil

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