Tuesday, July 04, 2006

July 4, 2006
Early on, a French philosopher made a prediction about our country: "A new Greece will perhaps give birth on the continent to new Homers." Of course, it came true, and we are today known worldwide as a nation of Homer Simpsons.

Enjoyed a wonderful day at home yesterday, painting, writing and seeking. Plenty of discoveries, both at the end of a brush, and in the “swirling” piles of my “stuff.”

Did my six sketches early (1,508 total, without missing a day), then started three big gouaches inspired by recent efforts where I hold back and only hint at form and detail. Late in the day I nailed a painting, “Reap The Whirlwind,” that will be one of the opening scenes in my proposed Tales From The Triple B graphic novel series. A huge weather front, lifted from a National Geographic issue on tornadoes, is bearing down on the silhouette of a young boy, who stands innocently, looking up at the windy, metaphoric approach of death and destruction. The accompanying text will read:

“When he was just a boy, he started a war; the longest in the history of the United States.”

Kathy and I have been catching up on movies. Saw A Prairie Home Companion on Friday, then caught The Devil Wears Prada, on Saturday down at Desert Ridge. Liked them both. (paid $18 for tickets— $9 each!— and $11 for a medium popcorn and a small bottle of water.) The Brinks are going to see Prada this weekend and I’m anxious to talk to them because they know the Vogue editor that the Meryl Streep character is based on.

On Wednesday night, I think it was, I stumbled across Lawrence of Arabia on Turner Classic Movies. I’m half-embarrassed to admit I’ve never seen it. What an epic sweep! I remember all the hoopla in 1962, the sweep at the Academy Awards and even an old Merv Griffin or Dick Cavett where Omar Sharif sheepishly admitted a stuntman was riding the camel in the famous water hole shooting scene that introduced his character.

I was struck at how much of a Western it is, or at least it had the components and feel of a Western. And I really loved the Bedouin character played by Anthony Quinn. And there is a photo of the actual guy, Sherif Nasir, in the magazine I bought, see below, and he looks like Anthony Quinn!. We recorded the movie and watched it in installments over three different nights, finally seeing the ending on Saturday night.

On Saturday, I bought a magazine (MHQ: the Qaurterly Journal of Military History, $9.99) at Barnes & Noble that features T.E. Lawrence on the cover. Turns out the real Lawrence of Arabia was an avid photographer (and writer!) and took photos on his Arab campaigns.

While watching the film in three easy installments (oh, it’s nice to have Tivo capabilities on Dish!) Kathy asked where they were geography wise (the Arab army was going the back way to Akaba on the coast of somewhere). I didn’t know and made a vow to get a book on the real Lawrence and even clipped an ad in the back of the magazine that was advertising one.

Lawrence of Arabia: The Life, The Legend, $39.95. Check it out at:


Then, yesterday while sorting through a pile of books in the breezeway that I intended to give to the local library, I did a doubletake: one of the books I was casually going to give away was “Revolt In The Desert,” by T.E. Lawrence. Could it be? Yes, it was! What are the odds? If I saw it in a movie, I wouldn’t believe it.

And, in the back, it has a beautiful, fold-out map of all the Arab campaigns Lawrence fought in. Akaba is at the end of a long inlet in the Red Sea, east of Cairo and south of Damascus (yes, I am obsessed with knowing where things are, and this is why we always have good maps in True West). Amazing. I had the book all along (the original 1927 edition), and it appears the movie follows this book almost to the paragraph.

Speaking of Movies. . .
It seems to me, so many movie plots today are hackneyed and lame. Take this description of Nacho Libre in The New Yorker: “Jared Hess (‘Napoleon Dynamite’) directed this comedy, about a cook (Jack Black) who takes up Mexican freestyle wrestling to save an orphanage.” Sounds like a 1920s plot, or, something out of an Andy Hardy movie.

Now, check out these two new movies, both foreign, also listed in the New Yorker, right after Nacho Libre:

“Only Human: A comedy from Spain, about a Jewish woman who does not tell her family that her fiance is Palestinian.” (granted it could be argued this is only a twist on Romeo and Juliet, but, still, at least it’s edgy). But, here’s my favorite:

“Uncut: A man with a fractured pelvis, naked and confined to bed, attempts to seduce women.”

I’m there! Now that’s something fresh and new and today! Somehow this kind of thinking has to be injected into Westerns. And if you look at the genre from this direction, it helps explain the critical success of Brokeback Mountain and Deadwood.

“Every day holds the possibility of a miracle.”
—Elizabeth David

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