Friday, November 30, 2007

November 30, 2007 Bonus Bonus Bonus Bonus Blog
Spent the afternoon cleaning off my desk and answering mail. Found things I have been looking for the past two weeks. Ha. Really raining now. A steady pour for the past two hours.

Just Robert Ray and I left in the office (4:45 P.M.). He's stressed. Had a good talk with him about deadlines and all the extra projects he has to handle: January issue (out the door in two weeks), new website (going up next Wednesday), my power point presentation at the SASS Convention in Vegas (I'm leaving next Thursday), True West Preservation Society brochure (goes to printer this afternoon), Mickey Free skyscraper ad on new website (due Monday). And, of course, tomorrow night is the True West Christmas party at the Brinks. Robert is bringing his famous margaritas and I'm bringing the rest of the drinks.

Speaking of Robert Ray, his wife's best friend has a sister who is a best-selling author. Today she sent this unsolicited review of our magazine:

"A VERY belated but very heartfelt thanks for the issues of True West that you left at Lenore's house. I lapped them up while I was flying home, and found them quite entertaining (and this comes from someone with little interest in that time in history, and in guns). The magazines are beautiful, classy, wide-ranging, engaging, and full of life. I also loved how humorous many of the articles were, and the way they were written for everyone from the serious old-time history buff to young ranch hands. The whole thing was enormously appealing, and I can easily imagine your circulation climbing if you keep up the new level of marketing, as well as, perhaps, trying additional venues. It was so NOT the stodgy, dusty publication that one might imagine, but instead a magazine that feels really in keeping with our times, and anyone who sees even a single copy, like in a doctor's office, will recognize that. A lot of fun all around.

"Knowing that our stepfather reads westerns, I sent them on to him when I was done. My hope is that he'll be so enchanted that he'll become a subscriber, because I have a feeling that he'll enjoy every page."
—Rachel Simon, Author of Riding The Bus With My Sister

Perplex The Marshall?
We get some really crazy questions, sometimes, like this one: "Did any Indians in the Old West ever try and save a herd of Buffalo from extinction, like the white men did?"

That's sort of like asking, "Did the Japanese ever try and clean up Hiroshima like the Americans did?"

"A fanatic is one who cannot change his mind and will not change the subject."
—Old Vaquero Saying
November 30, 2007 Bonus Bonus Bonus Blog
Started raining, drizzling really, at about 11:30. A big semi delivered several pallets of the Source Book but the trucking company our printer in Kansas City, hired, wouldn't deliver inside. So Carole, Joel, Michelle and I ran out in the rain and helped the driver cart two pallets up the ramp and into the office. The flustered driver had to make his next stop at the Prescott Post Office at three and couldn't wait any longer, so we left the rest of the mags on the truck and up the hill he went. Need to sort this out with our rep (Banta was bought out by RR Donnelley late last year).

Carole and I went up to Carefree for lunch and ate at China Joy. Felt good to have hot tea and soup. We had the restaurant to ourselves, which is fun, but now that I own a business, I always worry about the owners and their overhead. Carole bought, which helped my overhead. (in bed)

Speaking of weather, one of the doubletrucks I did for New Times back in the eighties was "Monsoon Fashions," featuring my suggestions for what to wear during our late summer storms which annually blow major dust and mosty verga (rain that doesn't reach the ground) on our clothes and in our hair. Here's the lead illustration:

And the layout for the newspaper, which also ran in Low Blows, the first of two cartoon books featuring the best of my New Times stuff:

In spite of what I have learned from McKee on the guidelines for good story writing, there are those who don't buy it. Got an email from Will Shetterly warning me McKee has his detractors. And I imagine the more successful a book like this is, and the more screenwriters emulate the "rules," the more commercial stories and movies start to lockstep and seem too much the same. This, of course, allows some "genius" to break all the rules, or at least redefine what works (naked exposition is so hip now!).

Gee, I wonder what Tommy Lee has to say about this?

"I've read all the acting books, and I know what they mean when they write, but I don't think what they write has a lot of meaning."
—Tommy Lee Jones
November 30, 2007 Bonus Blog
Well, it took me 5,264 attempts, but last night at about 7:30 I finally got Remington's style of pen and ink nailed to my satisfaction, without copying an actual work of art or sketch. Here are six images from the Mexico sojourn part of our story that I can see Freddy sketching on location:

Old Times At New Times
Once the group Women Take Back The Night had me in their sights, they became obsessed with my "sexist" and "demeaning" cartoons. Here's an illustration I did for New Times' Annual Best of Phoenix ad campaign that featured the slogan, "We Settle All The Arguments." I did a series of illustrations showing various professions fighting, chefs choking each other, Mexican food restaurant owners choking each other ("We have The Best Salsa!" No, We Do!"), and for the billboard campaign I created a pen and ink illustration of Phoenix mayoral candidates, Terry Goddard and Margaret Hance, choking each other. Seemed rather harmless to me. Publisher Jim Larkin bought several dozen billboards across the Valley to promote the Best of Phoenix issue. As soon as they went up, Women Take Back The Night began picketing the boards. They claimed Terry Goddard had a "superior chokehold" on Ms. Hance, and therefor the illustration and the paper were promoting "violence against women":

Raving Ray Red
Among other things, Robert Ray is a Mac snob. In many ways, our production manager is the spitting image of John Hodgeman in those Mac commercials—condescendingly witty—only Mr. Ray takes the opposite position from the talented Mr. Hodgeman. Robert has little patience for anything or anybody who uses a computer not made by Apple. I say this, to illustrate his demeaner, which is prickly and quite funny. And to help you understand why he and his wife Bea (also a graphic artist and Mac snob), painted their house like this:

The Rays live in an old neighborhood with setback homes from the thirties. So far, according to Robert, everyone is digging the color scheme. People have even stopped and walked up to rave about the color, which is "Rave Red" by the way.

Gee, I wonder what my main bro has to say about all this?

"Many people are inventive, sometimes cleverly so. But real creativity begins with the drive to work on and on and on."
—Margueritte Harmon Bro
November 30, 2007
Cloudy and warm. Supposed to rain today. Sprinkled on the way into work. Finally finished Robert McKee's excellent book on Story, which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to learn the craft of storytelling. Here are just a few of the highlights:

• When emotional experience repeats, the power of the second event is cut in half. And if the power of the Story Climax is halved, the power of the film is halved.

• A character is not a human being. A character is a work of art, a metaphor for human nature. We relate to characters as if they were real, but they’re superior to reality. Their aspects are designed to be clear and knowable; whereas our fellow humans are difficult to understand, if not enigmatic. We know characters better than we know our friends beacuase a character is eternal and unchanging, while people are shifty. In fact, McKee claims, “I know Rick Blaine in 'Casablanca' better than I know myself.” And, as William Faulkner observed, human nature is the only subject that doesn’t date.

• A character comes to life the moment we glimpse a clear understanding of his desire. Ask: What does this character want? Now? Soon? Overall? Knowingly? Unknowingly? With clear, true answers comes your command of the role.

• The root of all fine character writing is self-knowledge. Or, as Chekov put it, “Everything I learned about human nature, I learned from me.” How would we react, or what would we do, is the guiding question.

• Regarding dialogue: “Speak as common people do,” Aristotle advised, “but think as wise men do.”

• Movies are a visual medium: never write a line of dialogue when you can create a visual experience. The more dialogue you write, the less effect dialogue has. The first attack on every scene should be: How could I write this in a purely visual way and not have to resort to a single line of dialogue? (a cartoonist’s wet dream, but perhaps a writer’s nightmare?)

• Ninety percent of verbal expression has no filmic equivalent. “He’s been sitting there for a long time” can’t be photographed. So we have to revert to visual tricks: he stubs out his tenth cigarette, or, he tries to stay awake and looks at his watch.

• In script writing avoid generic nouns and verbs with adjectives and adverbs attatched and seek the name of the thing: Not: “the carpenter uses a big nail,” but “The carpenter hammers a spike.” “Nail” is a generic noun, “big” an adjective (and begs the question: “How big?”).

• Write dialogue with the “periodic sentence”: “If you didn’t want me to do it, why’d you give me. . . “ Look? Gun? Kiss? The periodic sentence is the “suspense sentence.” Its meaning is delayed until the very last word, forcing both actor and audience to listen to the end of the line. McKee claims script readers, directors and movie people look for the dangling prepositional phrases in screenplay dialogue, with the meaning somewhere in the middle, as a sign someone doesn’t know what he's doing.

• "A story must not retreat to actions of lesser quality, but move progressively forward to a final action beyond which the audience cannot imagine another."

• “Generally, a feature-length Archplot is designed around forty to sixty scenes that conspire into twelve to eighteen sequences that build into three or more acts that top one another continuously to the end of the line. To create forty to sixty scenes and not repeat yourself, you need to invent hundreds. After sketching this mountain of material, tunnel to find those few gems that will build sequences and acts into memorable and moving points of no return. For if you devise only the forty to sixty scenes needed to fill the 120 pages of a screenplay, your work is almost certain to be antiprogressive and repetitious.”

• "The Climax of the last act is far and away the most difficult scene to create: It's the soul of the telling. If it doesn't work, the story doesn't work. But the second most difficult scene to write is the Central Plot's Inciting Incident. We rewrite this scene more than any other."

• Here is the question to ask: "What is the worst possible thing that could happen to my protagonist? How could that turn out to be the best possible thing that could happen to him?"

• Stanislavski’s “Magic if”: If I were this character in these circumstances, what would I do?”

•You don’t keep the audience’s interest by giving it information, but by withholding information, except that which is absolutely necessary for comprehension.

• Pace exposition (details about characters and backstory): the least important facts come in early, the next most important later, the critical facts last. And what are the critical pieces of exposition? Secrets. The painful truths characters do not want known.

• What does the protagonist stand to lose if he does not get what he wants?

• In order to progress a scene, after your protagonist makes an actionable move, you ask, “What is the opposite of that?” We must seek the opposite of the obvious.

• The Controlling Idea has two components: Value plus Cause. “It identifies the positive or negative charge of the story’s critical value at the last act’s climax, and it identifies the chief reason that this value has changed to its final state. The sentence composed from these two elements, Value plus Cause, expresses the core meaning of the story.”

• And then, building on The Controlling Idea as your guide, he says, “If a plot works out exactly as you first planned, you’re not working loosely enough to give room to your imagination and instincts. Your story should surprise you again and again. Beautiful story design is a combination of the subject found, the imagination at work, and the mind loosely but wisely executing the craft.”

• The writer, Paddy Chayefsky (Network) would work on The Controling Idea, and "when he found the 'story’s meaning' he’d scratch it out on a scrap of paper and tape it to his typewriter, so that nothing going through the machine wouldn’t in one way or another express his central theme.”

• “If your finished screenplay contains every scene you’ve ever written, if you’ve never thrown an idea away, if your rewriting is little more than tinkering with dialogue, your work will almost certainly fail. No matter our talent, we all know in the midnight of our souls that 90 percent of what we do is less than our best. If, however, research inspires a pace of ten to one, even twenty to one, and if you then make brilliant choices to find that 10 perent of excellence and burn the rest, every scene will fascinate and the world will sit in awe of your genius.”

• “Genius consists not only of the power to create expressive beats and scenes, but of the taste, judgement, and will to weed out and destroy banalities, conceits, false notes, and lies.”

• “History is an inexhaustible source of story material and embraces every type of story imaginable. The treasure chest of history, however, is sealed with this warning: What is past must be present. . .you must find an audience today. The best use of history. . .is to use it as a clear glass through which you show us the present.”

“Historical Drama polishes the past into a mirror of the present, making clear and bearable the painful problems of racism in GLORY and violence against women in UNFORGIVEN.”

• “Facts are neutral: The weakest possible excuse to include anything in a story is: ‘But it actually happened.’ Everything happens; everything imaginable happens. Indeed, the unimaginable happens. But story is not life in actuality. Mere occurence brings us nowhere near the truth. What happens is fact, not truth. Truth is what we think about what happens.”

• "Stories and movies are our best effort to make sense out of the anarchy of existence."

• “Talent without craft is like fuel without an engine. It burns wildly but accomplishes nothing.”

• When McKee first came out to Hollywood he read scripts, analyzing screenplays for NBC and UA. He said after reading a couple hundred screeplays, he could have written up in advance the report and then just filled in the title and writer. But, instead, here’s the report he wrote over and over:

“Nice description, actable dialogue. Some amusing moments; some sensitive moments. All in all, a script of well-chosen words. The story, however, sucks. The first thirty pages crawl on a fat belly of exposition; the rest never get to their feet. The main plot, what there is of it, is riddled with conveneint coincidence and weak motivation. No discerible protagonist. Unrelated tensions that could shape into subplots never do. Characters are never revealed to be more than they seem. Not a moment’s insight into the inner lives of these people or their society. It’s a lifeless collection of predictable, ill-told, and cliched episodes that wander off in a pointless haze. PASS ON IT.”

• “Of the total creative effort represented in a finished work, 75 percent or more of a writer’s labor goes into designing
story.” This is what we spent four days in Prescott doing.

• “Nothing moves forward in a story except through conflict. Conflict is to storytelling what sound is to music," and "The music of story is conflict.” McKee makes the point that if we were at a concert and the musicians stopped playing for three minutes, how we would start hearing the clock ticking, wonder about our roof repair, mull problems at work. This is exactly what happens in a story when we don't have conflict. The audience goes away. And this isn't some made-up rule, this is trial and error by story tellers going all the way back four thousand years to the caves. Stop with the conflict and the listener goes away.

• “The essence of reality is scarcity, a universal and eternal lacking. There isn’t enough of anything in this world to go around. Not enough food, not enough love, not enough justice, and never enough time. Time is the basic category of existence. We live in its ever-shrinking shadow.”

• McKee is even a good philosopher: "The quantity of conflict in life is constant. Something is always lacking. Like squezing a balloon, the volume of conflict never changes, it just bulges in another direction. When we remove conflict form one level of life, it amplifies ten times on another level.”

• “Serenity turns to boredom. Now Satre’s 'scarcity' is the absence of conflict itself. Boredom is the inner conflict we suffer when we lose desire, when we lack a lacking.”

"Serenity and boredom are not the same thing: although they both share a room."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

November 29, 2007 Bonus Bonus Blog
Okay, here's the New Times doubletruck that led directly to Women Take Back The Night kidnapping a boatload of New Times newspapers and holding them for ransom with the demand that I be fired:

The second page of the doubletruck (below) had one of the finest pieces of objective journalism I have ever done:

When the papers were kidnapped and word leaked out to the media, a reporter for the Arizona Republic contacted the leader of the group, and she had this to say:

"I don't think Bob Boze Bell is funny. Period."
—Chiquita Rollins
November 29, 2007 Bonus Blog
In meetings all morning, going over our proposed new True West Preservation Society. Lots of details and planning. Broke at noon and went to lunch with Bob Brink and Ken Amarisano at Tonto Bar & Grill. Lucky to have them both. Very talented guys who make me look good.

More sketches for the Not So Secret Top Secret Project. Noodling action blur and layout tones. Learning.

Sometimes we study history so closely we forget our own history and our place in it. Gee, I wonder if Herman has anything to say about this?

"We forget that we ourselves are a part of history, that we are the product of growth and are condemned to perish if we lose the capacity for further growth and change. We are ourselves history and share the responsibility for world history and our position in it. But we gravely lack awareness of this responsibility."
—Herman Hesse
November 29, 2007
Just got this from Paul Cool and wanted to post it:

It's a bit late, but I want to add my 2 cents (more like 2 bits) to the Salt War Siege Shoot-Out discussion started some days ago by Darryl. To be upfront about this, the paintings in that section were what you called "three-fers," since they have appeared in both True West and Classic Gunfights III, and some will appear in my book, "Salt Warriors: Insurgency on the Rio Grande," slated for publication next February by Texas A&M University Press. Also, the text resulted from our collaboration, including my input to specific questions, helping lead to your decisions. So I feel a stake in public opinion about your salt war pages, and that should be known.

The painting of Chico Barela halting Captain Thomas Blair's cavalry column (and not, as you point out, Texas Rangers), is inaccurate in one sense. Neither Barela nor any other one man brought the column to a halt. It was done by a group of insurgents, some hidden behind the hedges. Barela in fact only showed up minutes after the column came to a halt. So, in that sense Darryl's complaint is justified. However, having spent the last 6 years immersed in this story, and having uncovered Blair's life history, I was most pleased with the painting and feel fortunate to include it in my heavily documented history. Why? Because it is an outstanding artistic interpretation of what happened internally to one man, Captain Blair. I asked you the name of the painting and you offered a one-word title, "Spooked." At first glance, that title appears to refer to Blair's horse. But it really refers to Captain Blair. While he was not spooked by the appearance of one man that night, he was spooked by the responsibility of command and by the prospect of battle. After accepting Barela's opinion that he wasn’t needed and had no business there, he high tailed it for the safety of El Paso, where he proceeded to hide. He did offer to put himself in Barela's custody, as a prisoner, but even this offer would have removed him from any responsibility for accomplishing anything.

And while Barela did not single-handedly oppose the US Cavalry, he was a property holder and old Indian fighter who put his life and family's livelihood on the line to oppose Charles Howard, Sheriff Kerber, the State of Texas and, on the occasion of his meeting with Blair, the US Army and entire Federal Government. Throughout the war, Blair was spooked, Barela was not, and your painting conveys that aspect of their characters marvelously.

Again, I was fortunate to have this painting and others, including a very dramatic cover, in my book. We have so many western artists who use art to tell us what contemporary digital photos would, if we had them. Your work, and that of others like Thom Ross, may play around with the facts, but it sure tells us a lot about the truth.

Paul Cool

"Spooked", the painting.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

November 28, 2007 Bonus Blog
Stopped into Black Mountain Feeds this morning to get a big bag of scratch (chicken feed): $11 plus a $1 tip for the guy who put the bag in my truck. Drove home and fed both sets of chickens. One of the Silkies got out (dug under the wall) and was running around trying not to get pecked to death by the big white hen. Saved her silky-assed beak and shoved her back in with her brothers and sisters. Of course, she didn't appreciate it and as much as told me I was a big, fat jerk. Chickens!

The Source Book came in this morning (office copies). Very clean and striking cover. Thankyou Daniel Harshberger! It includes our Sixth Annual Best of The West awards and guess who got Best Living Artist? If you're a subscriber you should be able to answer that any day now.

I had a fun lunch with Deena down at Earl's on Frank Lloyd Wright. Left here at 11:30 and drove down Pima. Traffic horrible starting at about Pinnacle Peak Road. Sat outside on the patio and she had green chile stew and I had a Caesar salad and a cup of the green chile, and a glass of wine. Deena had hot tea.

She's flyiing to Peru tomorrow to visit her brother and she's very excited, although she caught a cold and is trying to kick that. I brought her a thumb drive Kathy bought to deliver to T. Charles.

We talked about story telling and how much she loves to tell stories. She told me when she comes back from being on the road everyone crowds around her desk to hear her stories. This made me proud and I told her she is a story teller and that some day she'll make her living telling stories. I also told her she is more talented than I am. Told her about Robert McKee and his theories about story telling. And that Deepak Chopra says, "It's all story."

The server kind of messed up on our order, so the manager came by and comped the two soups, so it was only $17 for the entire lunch (I paid $33 plus $6 tip for Saba's yesterday) and when I got the bill Deena reminded me I had to leave a tip on the original total, so I tipped the guy $7. Having been a server herself, she was looking out for the working stiff. Not sure where she got that.

Here's the jewelry ad I poached the border idea from. I'm always looking for inspiration and invariably rip two or three things out of the paper every morning:

As you can see, I kind of went border crazy (below, right-hand page) and it's too much. Like doing this blog, it only works in moderation.

FYI: The Best Living Artist for 2007 is Thom Ross (reader's choice: the guy who did the sketches, above, in bed).

"The only certain means of success is to render more and better service than is expected of you, no matter what your task may be. This is a habit followed by all successful people since the beginning of time. Therefore the surest way to doom yourself to mediocrity is to perform only the work for which you are paid."
—Og Mandino
November 28, 2007
Our Managing Editor, Meghan Saar, is back in the office and she is catching up on everything. She emailed me this morning and said, "Who's stupid idea was it to discontinue the blog?"

Well, that would be me. Ha. Here's another opinion:

"BBB: OK I've kept quiet as long as I can. First, because I'm afraid I might give you a reason to give up the blog; second, because I thought Darryl may run out of steam. Mostly I have to say you are probably the least liberal artist I ever met. I agree sometimes you have opinions that seem to come out of left field but in the end they are justified( or at least make sense). I feel that sums it up."
—Kip Coryea

More Sketches From The World's Least Liberal Artist

Or, as Sherry Monihan puts it, "more sketches for the Not So Secret Top Secret Project." Still experimenting with the thick-lined border. Like all things, it's a matter of balance. Too much and it is ruined (you'll see this in tomorrow's sketches). Just like life, eh?

When I was doing cartoons for New Times in the early eighties, I had just become a dad and, like new dads everywhere, I was suffering under the delusion that no other father in the history of the world had ever had kids before. Ha. As proof of my ridiculousness, here's an almost full page illustration of my daughter Deena (caption: "Sunset on a Beautiful Genius") that ran in the alternative weekly in 1983, or so. The baby at top is Carson Mell, Ed and Gail Mell's son, who actually had a tiger skin baby suit like the one shown:

"There are two people you have to be true to—those people who came before you and those people who come after you."
—Gayl Jones

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

November 27, 2007 Bonus Blog
Rather quiet in the office. Robert Ray and Meghan Saar are on vacation. At noon, Carole Glenn and I went to lunch at Saba's Greek Restaurant up in Carefree. We both had the chicken on the green salad and iced tea. I bought ($33-something, plus $6 tip, cash).

A patron of the arts just dropped in and bought one of my Wild Bill HIckok paintings for a Christmas present. Gave her a deal (I like her husband): $600. It's the full page image of Wild Bill and Dave Tutt, who's holding the infamous watch), CGI, page 115.

Moving closer to a decent style for the Top Secret Project. Inspired by our trip to Prescott to push my game a bit. Saw a jewelry ad with a funky border in the paper last week and emulated that thick style (middle, right). Works pretty cool.

I'm starting to create a world and I hope you can see it take shape. Not easy. I've learned quite a bit recently from Will Eisner, Scott McCloud and Robert KcKee, that scene is character. So true. Even though these scenes are not connected by narrative, they begin to convey emotion and character no matter how random they are. Amazing.

Kathy and I watched Lina Wertmuller's Swept Away (1974) last night. I ordered it from Netflix because I wanted to see the turn that the lovers make. It's about a shipwreck that lands a fiery upper-class Italian woman and her yacht hand on a deserted island, where the absence of other distractions leads to heated discussion about politics, race and gender. And don't forget wild, deserted island sex. I remembered it was quite dramatic and it still is, but oh my, did Giancarolo Giannini beat the crap out of Mariangela Melato. I didn't remember it being that brutal and I can't imagine someone even approaching that level of violence towards women today. In fact, I want to rent the recent Madonna remake version to see how she got around this. Or, I should say, tried to get around it. I've heard nothing but bad things about the movie, but still, sometimes you learn more from bad movies than good ones.

"I never exaggerate. I just remember big." (in bed)
—Chi Chi Rodriguez
November 27, 2007
Last night, Kathy made me go out to the end of the driveway with her and look back at her Christmas lights. They do look pretty.

Pretty redneck. Ha. And speaking of which:

Another Exchange With Darryl

Just let me address a couple points. Larry McMurtry, a fellow Texan and the guy who created Lonesome Dove co-wrote Brokeback Mountain. It wasn't some Hollywood goober.

In the "Salt Siege Shootout," the troops who are turned back by Chico Barela are not Texas Rangers but U.S. Army militia, who high tailed it back to El Paso and let the Rangers fend for themselves. Yes, I said the Ranger recruits were a Motley Crew, but so did the guy who hired them. Look at the photo. They are not some slick SWAT team. They had no training at all. The only criteria was that they have a rifle and a horse. But, I agree with you, those guys had more sand than I will ever have. Trying to get an objective handle on just who the insurgents were, and finding the only description of the insurgent leader as having blue eyes, is, I think interesting, and insightful, and helps us get a clearer picture of the situation. Just my opinion.

“My mistake. In retrospect everything was perfect .... Well, uh, except for Honkytonk Sue. But you took care of that, didn't you? Did those crazy vaqueros ever say "adios"?

Mr. Buck Weighs In On Darryl
“When it comes to putting out a magazine, the customer is not always right. If you change your content, art, whatever everytime some ahat complains, you won´t have a magazine. You called the guy´s bluff and he comes up with what, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN and HONKYTONK SUE. Can we conclude that men, sheep, and women make him nervous? A hard guy to please. Maybe he should subcribe to GOLDFISH WEEKLY.

“Personally—the inner ahat in me speaking—I like HONKYTONK SUE, while the OLD VAQUERO SAYINGS strikes me as about as interesting as a Chinese fortune cookie. Though you may recall that they way to perk up the fortune cookie advice is to insert at the end, ‘in bed.’”
—Dan Buck

Thoughtful points Dan, and, like so many of my blog readers, I look forward to actually meeting you someday (in bed).

Meanwhile, here's an email exchange written to a group of people reading books from the 1700's:

“Judy, I read on the internet that the Miniver columns were very popular in the US. I wonder if people in the US realized that Mrs. Miniver was a fictional character. I think perhaps the popularity was not connected with any literary quality but was a result of a human interest in learning about Mrs. Miniver's life.

“Today, I think that blogs serve the same sort of function as Mrs. Miniver's columns. For years I have followed the blog of a man I went thru school with. He appears regularly on TV, has published books, gets interviewed for NY Times etc. But I do not follow the blog for these 'exploits'. What keeps me reading , is the human interest--his dog ate his hat, a coyote ate his cat, the continuing stories of his children and the love and respect for his wife which is never stated but which comes thru clearly. Just last week he wrote that the current entry was 2,000 and that he would be ending soon.

“Although I have not seen the man for 40 years, the family seems like neighbors. I felt regret at the end of the blog which I think is similar to what Fanny Burney felt when she lost her neighbors (Jane Austen's relatives) . "We quitte Bookham," writes Fanny, "with one single regret’that of leaving our excellent neighbors the Cookes. The father is so worthy and the mother so good, so deserving, so liberal, and so infinitely kind, that the world certainly does not abound with people to compare with them.".
—Cathy Lamb, (Salutatorian and fellow classmate at Mohave County Union High School, class of 1965), who has lived in Sweden for the past 20-some odd years

Back to The Blog Debate
“About the BBBB—have you considered compromise? Every other day? Tri-weekly? Bi-weekly? Weekly? True, there will be many suffering withdrawal, but it's like your best favorite old ropin' horse.... ya can't ride 'im every time ya go out, but it ya don't wear 'im out, he'll still be the best one in the remuda when ya really do need a good un! No resemblance intended!”
—Sharon Tally

“Your blog serves as a fine showcase for your artwork and publications. By posting your work on the web you are reaching folks that are not aware of your talents and history. Not only is your "serious" art enoyable but your humorous work from years past is fascinating. In many ways your work captures a time and place in history that is quickl disappearing.....just like the Old West itself has been fading in the hearts and minds of many people. You are doing a great service to your readers and yourself by posting such interesting material. If time to work on the blog is the issue you could always just cut back on the number or length of the entries. Ending the blog would be a missed opportunity to promote your work and interests.”
—Alan Archambault

“Your Blog is my only hope, Obi -wan. Please continue. Some day I'll tell you my Yuma stories at a book signing.”
—Robert Leavitt, last of the Mormon train robbers.

“Please don't stop it. I'm just a 50 year old cowboy wanna-be, but I still wanna-be one because of some of the things you write here. I suppose I could live without it, and you should do whatever you really want to, but I will miss it if you stop it. There, I've said my piece.”
—Jeff Hinkley, in North Phoenix

“It sounds like to me you have a delegation problem. You need to let your highly capable staff run the magazine and you need to concentrate on the important stuff like your art, True West Moments, gunfighter books, and this damn blog!! Although we have never met I consider you a friend and when I tell my wife about something you said on your blog I get this are you nuts look. So once again I have to say you must keep the blog you sumbitch.”
—Kyle, Buffalo Prairie, Illinois

"I’m glad you saw part of the original 310 to Yuma. I think it’s a good movie. Glen Ford and Van Heflin play well off each other. Of course, Van Heflin seems to have resurrected his role of Joe Start from Shane. I especially like Glen Ford’s character. He plays a pretty sinister bad guy with this unique honor code. There is also a great line from the Sheriff involving lemon pie Indian fighting and granny when having a discussion about being safe. If you have not seen the whole movie, don’t miss this part.

"By the way, I’m going to miss Honkytonk Sue. As an old Vaquero might say, she is a 'muy bonita Senorita.'

"See You Down the Trail, you liberal you."
—Hugh Howard, Maniac# 9, SASS# 49890

“What are your peers doing in the publishing world? Are the senior editors/publishers of the weeklies keeping Blogs? This Blog keeps me tied in DAILY to a magazine I feel I have ownership in, am sure others feel the same. If time management is a problem, then discipline yourself to do it one time a day and at the close of business or something. I am about to return to Iraq and I appeal to your patriotism (Hippie/Marxist/Free Sex that it is) to give me something good to read on a daily basis. There, I’ve said it.”
—Alan C. Huffines, Texas

"Bob Boh Bell: Pleaze dont stop your blog. I dont really read it ya know, but I like the picturs."
—The Guy I Met At End of Trail, SASS #33154 (I think he was from New York)

”When you run into someone who is disagreeable to others, you may be sure they are uncomfortable with themselves; the amount of pain we inflict upon others is directly proportional to the amount we feel within us.”
—Sydney J. Harris

Monday, November 26, 2007

November 26, 2007
Back in office after four days at home. Felt good to veg out, and not fret over budgets, quotas, circ problems and upset subscribers, like this one:

Speaking of Redneck Behavior. . .
When the movie Gandhi came out in 1982 I wondered what would have happened if he had visited Arizona. So I did a doubletruck for New Times of Gandhi visiting local places like the Phoenix jail where guards had just been accused of using deadly chokeholds (1982). Here is Gandhi gettiing the chokehold greeting from the Phoenix press and police. (Hey Darryl, notice the cool hispanic guy, at left, with the blue eyes and great tie):

"The frangrance always remains in the hand that gives the rose."
—Heda Bejar (not a Mexican)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

November 25, 2007
First fire in the studio stove in a long time (since last March?). Felt good. Wind blew all night. Quite cool out today.

Kathy and I worked on the roof of the house and studio yesterday afternoon. I foam-filled holes in the roofing (termites?) and drained the coolers while she strung Christmas lights. She loves those damn lights and would leave them up all year if she thought she could get away with it. I think Gretchen Wilson gleefully sings about this in "Redneck Woman."

Speaking of rednecks, got a testy email from a Texas boy, upset with our "left-leaning" editorial in True West, he's cancelling his subscription, etc. I wrote him back and asked him for specifics. It has to do with my Salt War Classic Gunfight and Honkytonk Sue. I'll run the entire exchange tomorrow.

Cleaned out the chicken house. Two big hens left from the old batch and six new Silkies. Have to keep them apart or the big birds will kill them. To boot, they stopped laying eggs. One of the little Silkies started crowing this morning. I just hope there's only one rooster, but that's probably a hopeless wish. He sounds great though and is worth the price of chicken feed, to hear the little cock crow.

Worked most of the afternoon on scenes for the Mickey Free story. Sent them off to Hutton. Still reading Robert McKee's masterful book, "Story," and getting great insight into building strong scenes. For giggles, I Googled his name and come to find out he does these huge story symposiums all over the world, and he's doing one in Vegas on December 7-9. The Top Secret Writer and I will both be at the Riviera Hotel that very weekend at the SASS Convention (he's the key note speaker and I'm doing two sessions, one on "Low Slung Guns" and the other on "When Did The Cowboy Hat Get Its Wings?") Talk about serendipity. Not sure we can get to the McKee Story Sessions at UNLV, but would like to get day passes if they have them. Tickets are $650 for the weekend.

Kathy's back from Home Depot so we have to go back on the roof to finish stringing the lights.

"He who demands little gets it."
-Old Vaquero Saying

Saturday, November 24, 2007

November 24, 2007
Like three quarters of the people who live in this country I have a conceit I could write a popular movie.

A Stark Confession
I've wanted to make movies ever since my cousin and I filmed V-2 Rocket Farm at our grandparent's farm in Thompson, Iowa.

The Stark Reality
That was in the summer of 1963, so I'm 0 for 44 (years at bat). And as a certain therapist I'm married to likes to say, "The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior."

I have come close. In 1980 two different Hollywood producers attempted to buy the rights to my cartoon character Honkytonk Sue. After landing an agent at William Morris I chose a third suitor, Solt-Leo Productions in Hollywood. Thru them I got a shot at writing a treatment (a Cliff Notes version of a script) but when it was shown to the potential star, Goldie Hawn, she said, and I quote, "I think we need to get a pro." Since her career was on fire (she had just starred in the box office smash Private Benjamin and had landed a five picture deal), they went right to the top of the food chain and brought in "Mr. Lonseome Dove" Larry McMurtry and Leslie Marmon Silko to write a script. They ended up writing three. They weren't very good. Columbia Pictures then hired another writing team, Jerry Leischling and Arlene Sarner, who had recently written the much sought after screenplay Peggy Sue Got Married (1986, Nicholas Cage and Kathleen Turner, directed by Francis Ford Coppola), and they came in and working off of McMurtry's efforts, wrote three more scripts on Honkytonk Sue. They were a little better.

Even with Goldie Hawn attached, the movie never got made. So, the lesson has been clear to me for a long time: it ain't as easy as humming (see below).

But I digress. I'm sixty and I still believe I can create characters and stories that would make good movies. I've read William Goldman's Adventures In The Screenwriting Trade, and a couple other "how to" books, so I have long thought, Hey, I know story.

Based on what I've been reading the past few weeks, I don't know jack.

The atuhor of Story, Robert McKee, makes the convincing point this is tantamount to being able to hum and thinking you can write a symphony. And, he says that's what good movies are—symphony's.

Case in point: let's suppose a character named, oh, I don't know, Mickey Free, decides to go to a nearby wickiup and interview an Apache woman who he suspects killed her husband's lover. He rides up, goes inside and talks with her. She's upset, tries to lie her way clear, but he slaps her around a bit, and she finally confesses.

Seems like a decent scene to me. Well, here's how a certain screenwriting pro actually handled this premise:

J.J. Gittes pulls up to a bungalow in Santa Monica and jumps out of a Buick, bolts up the steps, twists the door knob, finds it locked and bangs on the door.

A Chinese servant comes to the door and says, "You wait." [this is called a stop, or gap, and according to McKee every single scene in a screenplay should have this dynamic, which I didn't know].

"You wait," Gittes snarls back, barging in the house, adding, "Chow hoy kye dye!" (translation: "F*** off, punk!").

Inside, Gittes looks up as Evelyn Mulwray appears on the stairs behind the servant, nervously adjusting her necklace as she descends. Evelyn smiles reassuringly to Khan and gestures for him to leave.

Evelyn: "It's all right, Khan." Then turning back to Gittes: "How are you? I've been calling you."

Gittes turns away and steps into the living room: ". . .Yeah?"

Evelyn follows him, searching his face: "Did you get some sleep?"

Gittes: "Sure."

Evelyn: "Have you had lunch? Khan can fix you something."

Gittes: "Where's the girl?"

Evelyn: "Upstairs. Why?"

Gittes: "I want to see her."

Evelyn: "She's having a bath now. Why do you want to see her?"

Gittes looks around the room and sees half-packed suitcases. "Going somewhere?"

Evelyn: "Yes, we have a 5:30 train to catch."

Gittes picks up the telephone. Evelyn is clearly alarmed: "Jake?"

Gittes, ear to phone: "J.J. Gittes for Lt. Escobar."

Evelyn: "Look, what's the matter? What's wrong? I told you, we've got a 5:30 train. . ."

Gittes: "You're gonna miss your train. (into phone) Lou, meet me at 1972 Canyon Drive. . .yeah, soon as you can."

Evelyn: "Why did you do that?"

Gittes tosses his hat on the table. "You know any good criminal lawyers?"

Evelyn: "No."

Gittes takes out a silver cigarette case: "Don't worry. I can recommend a couple. They're expensive, but you can afford it."

Gittes calmly takes a lighter from his pocket, sits down and lights a cigarette.

Evelyn: "Will you please tell me what this is all about?"

Gittes pulls out a wrapped handkerchief and sets it on the table. Carefully pulling back the four corners of the cloth we see broken eyeglasses. "I found these in your backyard in the pond. They belonged to your husband, didn't they. . .didn't they?"

Evelyn: "I don't know. Yes, probably."

Gittes jumps up: "Yes, positively. That's where he was drowned."

Evelyn (stunned): "What?!"

Gittes: "There's no time to be shocked by the truth. The coroner's report proves that he had salt water in his lungs when he was killed. Just take my word for it, all right? Now I want to know how it happened, and I want to know before Escobar gets here because I don't want to lose my license."

Evelyn: "I don't know what you are talking about. This is the craziest, the most insane thing. . ."

Gittes: "Stop it! I'm gonna make it easy for you. You were jealous, you had a fight, he fell, hit his head. . .it was an accident . . .but his girl's a witness. So you had to shut her up. You don't have the guts to harm her, but you've got the money to shut her mouth. Yes or no?"

Evelyn: "No!"

Gittes: "Who is she? And don't give me that crap about a sister because you don't have a sister."

Evelyn: "I'll tell you. . .I'll tell you the truth."

Gittes: "Good. What's her name?"

Evelyn: ". . .Katherine."

Gittes: "Katherine who?"

Evelyn: "She's my daughter."

Gittes lashes out and slaps her flush across the face. "I said the truth."

Evelyn: "She's my sister. . ."

Gittes slaps her again.

Evelyn: "She's my daughter."

Gittes hits her again, sees her tears.

Evelyn: ". . .my sister. . ."

Another slap. Evelyn: "my daughter, my sister. . ."

Gittes give her a backhand, grasps her and hurls her into a sofa, snarling, "I said I want the truth!"

Evelyn: "She's my sister and my daughter."

Hearing the racket, the servant Khan pounds down the stairs. Evelyn: "Khan, please, go back. For God's sake, keep her upstairs. Go back!" Khan gives Gittes a hard look, then retreats upstairs.

Evelyn: "My father and I. . .understand? Or is it too tough for you?"

Gittes: "He raped you?"

Evelyn, shaking her head in shame: "No."

In an earlier draft, Evelyn explains at great length how her mother died when she was fifteen and her father's grief was such that he had a breakdown and became a little boy unable to feed or dress himself and this led to incest and then he turned his back on her, etc. But it was decided that this slowed down the scene and gave her father, Noah, too much sympathy. So the one word answer, "No," conveys a world of back story, left unsaid.

Of course the scene goes on and there are more reversals (Evelyn comments that those aren't her husband's glasses) and now the two of them are desperately trying to escape events that he put in motion, and Gittes asks where Khan lives, maybe they could go there and he, of course, lives in Chinatown, where Gittes once had a girlfriend who, because of him died tragically, and now he's going back there one more time and maybe, this time he'll get it right.

"Humming indeed."
-BBB, commenting on Robert Towne's screenwriting ability

Friday, November 23, 2007

November 23, 2007
Kathy, Deena and Mercedes joined several million other women on Black Friday and went shopping this morning at six. After dinner at grandma Betty's the girls went to Deena's pad in Scottsdale, got up and went to Target at 44th St. and Thomas. By the girl's own estimate there were 300 women already in line. One had been there since 3:30. Just amazing behavior. The only way you could get me out there like that is to tell me Billy the Kid has been dug up, and he's walking around on his own, dying to talk to a historian. And, even then, I'd ask if he could wait until 9:30 (and to meet me at Matador for huevos rancheros).

Instead we all met at Chompies at Greenway and 32nd St. for brunch. Had the corn beef hash egg skillet. Brad Radina joined us as well, to pick up his daughter Mercedes. Deena is leaving this Thursday to go visit Tomas in Peru, so we loaded her up with stuff to take to him.

Been reading more of Robert McKee's excellent book, Story: Substance, Structure, Style, And The Principals of Screenwriting. And to think I thought I knew story. Ay-yi-yi.

Meanwhile, the Top Secret Writer is hard at work finishing up the first draft of our Mickey Free story. Gee, I wonder if Hemingway has anything to say about that?

"The first draft of anything is shit."
—Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, November 22, 2007

November 22, 2007
Had a good talk with Trish Brink last night about the blog. She encouraged me to hang in and keep doing it. I have more comments from blog readers to run, but they're on the office computer and I'll post those on Monday.

First time to post at home in a long time. We finally bit the bullet and got a wireless connection ($60 a month) so I won't have to go to the office on the weekends to post this blog. See, that saved a couple hours right there.

Kathy and I caught the last twenty minutes of the Glenn Ford version of 3:10 To Yuma (1957) last night on the Westerns Channel. I have to agree it's much leaner and meaner than the new version with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. The other cool thing about it is they filmed the train sequence at Elgin, which is right in Dave Daiss' front yard (Dave is one of the True West partners). Elgin, which is between Sonoita and Sierra Vista, Arizona became a popular movie location for a brief period in the 1950s (Red River and several other Westerns used the train depot and tracks) but the train and the tracks are long gone by now. However, those distinctive hills in the background are just to the east of Dave's. It was also interesting to see they cut between Old Tucson, Elgin and a movie town location in California (Burbank?) and it blended seamlessly.

Going over to Grandma Betty's at three for Thanksgiving turkey. Deena is coming along with Frank. James Radina is driving in from San Diego.

Spent this morning working on the 40-some-odd scenes for the Mickey Free story, tagging each scene for its conflict component. Not easy. Part giant jigsaw puzzle and part term paper (I became an artist to avoid term papers!). This is definitely the most dificult project I have ever taken on in my life. Gee, I wonder if James Allen has anything to say about this?

"Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be. One who cherishes a beautiful vision, a lofty ideal, will one day realize it."
James Allen

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

November 21, 2007 Bonus Blog
Robert Ray and I are the last ones in the office. Everyone else took off early for Turkey Day. Just now (4:45 PM) Robert brings in several NT cartoons that were left on the scanner and places them on my art chair and says, "What happened to Phoenix's sense of humor?" I knew exactly what he meant. He was looking through these cartoons I have been sharing with you (some of the most edgy are yet to come) and he can't believe they actually ran in Phoenix, Arizona in the eighties!

I'm not sure you could run any of these today, but I must say it was because of Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin that they ran at all. No one else had the guts to run them, and so, I really admire them both. Mike only edited me once, and I'll run that cartoon after Thanksgiving (ironic, no?).

Meanwhile, here's a cartoon I still get comments on. I did a piece on how to survive Phoenix in the summer:

People still come up to me and say, "People with their windows down have the right-of-way." And then they laugh. It's become sort of a Valley Road Law.

"But it's a dry deadly heat."
—The Anti-Chamber Slogan
November 21, 2007
Still wrestling with the blog and whether to continue. Got this today:

"Everything changes, Bob. So must you."
—Fred Nolan

And this:

"Dang it Bob Boze Bell! I have your Blog on my Yahoo home page, and actually look forward to your commentary and insight every day. I’ve followed the 3:10 to Yuma and Assassination of Jesse James (still not released in Florida) discussions with much interest. Plus, I believe this is one of the very best advertisements, both for True West and your books, that you can have. Frankly, I probably wouldn’t have purchased CGIII unless I had read about it in your blog. Now I’m going to have to purchase CGI and II to complete my set. The old cartoons are hilarious! Best, as always, whatever your decision. I’m a 'True' Fan – and have been since my teen years in ‘60’s Oklahoma."
—Jim Holden, Weston, FL

And I got this from an attorney:

"Bob, I spend my days charging people for advice. So here is some free advice for a fellow MCUHS colleague. There is another choice between choice # 1 of stopping the blog and choice # 2 of continuing the blog daily. Choice # 1.5 is to do a summary blog once per week during the weekend.

"Caution -- remember, advice is worth about what you pay for it."
—Ben E. Connor, The Connor Law Firm, PLC
Phoenix, Arizona 85016

Meanwhile, here's two pieces of art I found in the garage. It's my son Thomas Charles, just out of the womb in January of 1983, and wearing his dad's lid. This was the artwork for his birth announcement (Guess What We've Been Keeping Under Our Hat?):

And, if you are wondering what's up with Mickey Free and the Top Secret Project, here are the latest sketches (#5,209) and I must say they cover all of the new plot points we developed in Prescott:

"The future belongs to people who see possibilties before they become obvious."
—Ted Levitt

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

November 20, 2007
Big discussions this morning with Kathy, Bob and Trish Brink about continuing this blog. Then I checked my email, and got this:

"BBB: You write a blog?!"
—Tom Carpenter

I will miss the humor. My biggest problem is I get manic. I enjoy doing the blog and I look up and it's 11:30, which is exactly what happened this morning. Now it's not all Blog-ville, and there are meetings in there (arguing about the pros and cons of the blog) and tours (A True West Maniac from northern Alberta just came in with his wife and her sister and I gave them the tour of the True West offices, and he had questions about where Glenn Reynolds and Al Sieber are buried), but it eats up a ton of time and I go home at night and wonder where the time goes and too much of my time is spent on this blog.

Meanwhile, the garage is still a mess and I need to get it organized, but I keep finding these little gems. Like this one:

This cartoon (which is part of a New Times doubletruck that won me the 1983 Arizona Press Club Editorial Cartoonist of The Year Award) was about how Native Americans can succeed in a white man's world. The basic advice: tell good jokes. If I remember correctly, the white guy, second from left, was modeled after Kemper Marley, the old school liquor magnate who, many believe, ordered the killing of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles in June of 1976.

But I digress. One thing that is amazing to me, is the farflung locations where all the blog readers are writing from. Here's one from a Canada Cowboy:

"Seeing your blog each day lets me know how the horses feel when they see me coming to feed them in the morning.
Now I know I could live without your 'to the point and sometimes hard to digest comments' but I'd rather not have to.
If it does come down to the worst case scenario, please leave Email Bob at the top of the page!"
—Bill Dunn

At least all of you can read. When the Top Secret Writer and I were working on the graphic novel last weekend I told him about a guy who came up to me at my book signing at End of Trail last summer and said, "I can't read your books. I've tried. I like movies." And he walked away. I told Paul, "Here I make my books as visual as possible. They're written for ADD aflicted guys like me, and I still can't reach some of these guys."

The rest of the weekend, whenever we were stuck, or arguing over a plot point, Paul would go into a "Rainman" voice (Hutton is a master at mimicry) and say, "Baub Bo Bel, I can't read yor books. Words too big. I like movies, Baub Bo Bel."

"No man is useless while he has a friend."
—Robert Louis Stevenson

Monday, November 19, 2007

November 19, 2007
Back from Prescott. This morning on the bike ride I wore a jacket for the first time this fall. Nippy. Probably in the low fifties. B-r-0r-r-r-r-!

It's Dan Harshberger's birthday today. He's the Big 6-0. Just called him. He also became a granddad yesterday. Congrats Big D.

Got some excellent work done on the graphic novel in Prescott. We spent four days doing plot points and ended up with 34, so we are a bit long on story, but then so was Lonesome Dove.

Minnesota Mike Does His Stand Up Sitting Down
"BBB: What about those Wildcats? I didn't even know they had a football team. I always think of Tucson as a college town of wannabe artists and good Mexican food if you can't eat some in Texas. Bob Bell and NASCAR, talk about 2 things that go together. After seeing photo of Jeff Gordon's wife (look at that personality on her), I got to start driving race cars. I dig looking at your New Times era drawings. My favorite Bob Boze Bell book is still Low Blows. Your positive things about Yuma made me laugh out loud. I showed one of my co-workers (who has a band The Plastic Flappy Bats-hey its better name than The Meat Puppets, who mostly cover Rolling Stones songs) your artwork of the band, he thought you got everyone right, but Mick. I've told you that I always thought you draw women exceptionally well and your drawing of the artist in bed with the model proves it. I remember you telling when you were a kid, you sent in some of your drawings into those ads 'Draw Me' ads and they turned you down. Not bad from an Iowa kid who grew up in Kingman. By the way, Kingman is a Lakota name for 'Land of the Trailer'. Lute Olson-out!"
—Minnesota Mike

This is post number 2001. Still debating how and why to keep it going. Got some immediate feedback, though, like this:

"Say it isn't so! While your blog provides a unique and quick dose of perspective regarding a wide range of subjects and I will miss it, I can't imagine the Damoclesian threat I would feel if I had to write something insightful every day."
—Larry Murphy

"Hope you don't quit your blog. I've enjoyed it so much and I'm loving your new times cartoons. Brings back memories of my days in Phoenix. I used to live at 27th Ave and Bethany Home Rd. I think it's a really crappy area now but it wasn't too bad when I was there 20 some years ago. I worked at Rawhide Travel at 1710 W Bell rd. Close to the track, I liked Turf Paradise, the jockeys were crazy. I better get, we're pushing some cows to a different pasture for a while. Taking them up the wall and then we'll gather and bring them back right before Christmas. What a life I have. LOVE it."

"You may quit the blog? Where will I go for cowboy humor and great vaquero sayings? You the best."
—Scott Matula

"I've been a fan since KOPA became KSLX back in the eighties. When I moved to Atlanta I looked you up on the internet and found you at True West. I've been reading your blog ever since. Your blog is exceptional, better than anything on TV. Almost every other blog out there is just another half-assed column; yours is completly different and one of the few worth reading. I hope you find the resolve to keep the blog going."
—Cactus Dan

"Hey Bob, . . . I love seein' them old cartoons of yours. . . . and STOP THE BLOG ! No way. . . . Blog lovers will come picket your office if ya do that. . . . I love it. And so do others. . . . . Good drawin', . . . ."

"Really, really enjoy seeing all the old pages, cowboy/western art/artists was a classic. Here in Colorado, those pages ran in Westword, which is where I became familiar with you/your work. I worked the night shift at another paper, and on Wednesdays we would take a break early evening, go down to the corner and pick up that week’s edition, and go straight to your page. We would use that laughter to get us through Wednesday night, one of the two toughest nights of the week at the paper. I think people are just disappointed those pages and humour are just not there for a weekly fix anymore, they were just fantastic. It is not a reflection of what you do now, they (we) (me) just want more pages like those in our life again. So funny. So well drawn. So well done. People want all the great stuff to just keep going, and never end. Sure, you’re busy, but come on, your public’s happiness must mean something? You could probably skip sleeping one night a week, right?"
—Ray Geier

Thanks for making the decision tougher, you Bastards! And speaking of illegitimate sons, one of the "doubletrucks," as they were called in-house, really got me in some serious trouble. It was actually Jim Larkin's idea (the publisher of New Times Weekly). He came into my office and said he passed a truckload of illegals on the way into work and "somebody needs to tell them how to blend in." I thought that was a great idea. The subsequent doubletruck was called, "How To Blend In," and the main advice was to dress formally and used anglo sayings, like, "Nice portfolio," and "No, way, Jose!" Obviously, I was being ironic. Here is an illustration from the piece:

When the piece ran in the Phoenix New Times (February 13, 1985), there was the usual reaction, "Typical Boze." A shrug. And to be fair, there were always those who said, "I can't believe they have the huevos to run that stuff." But when the same piece ran in Tucson, in the Tucson Weekly their office was fire bombed! And they ran a front page editorial retraction about how much of a mistake it was to run such "racist trash." For about a year after that, when I went down to the Old Pueblo for my usual Mexican food fix, I told everybody my name was Charlie Waters.

"To be desperate is to discover strength. We die of comfort and by conflict live."
—May Sarton

Saturday, November 17, 2007

November 16, 2007
Finally came into Prescott and civilization this morning. Been up at Ed Mell's cabin with the Top Secret Writer, working almost nonstop for three days on The Top Secret Project.

Got up here at five on Wednesday and met at the Palace Bar for beers. The TSW drove in from Albuquerque. Had dinner at Murphy's ($45, plus $9 tip, biz account) and went right to work on "the story." Our goal is to nail the plot points once and for all in this rambling epic. Hard work. Worked all day yesterday and this morning. Nailed down 34 scenes. Now we need to prune it down and make them work with reversals and negative charges, with a believable arc and resolution, etc. (all screenwriting jingo from McKee). Much harder than it seems. Back and forth. Scratch that. This creates a problem in Act II, can't have that.

Can't dilly dally. Need to go back up the hill. Cabin is tucked in under Thumb Butte.

"We're either going to have a manuscript, or someone's coming out of here in a body bag."
—Paul Andrew Hutton

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

November 14, 2007
Closing in on 2,000 posts (this one is 1,999). It's been a ton of fun, but I may soon be done (too busy, not enough time to do it right).

Meanwhile, I am still cleaning and filing art stuff in the garage. Here's a subject that was a large part of my life in the late seventies: the phenom swept through Arizona, starting in Tucson and migrating to Phoenix. Looking back, it was a natural progression from the Byrds' Sweetheart of The Rodeo and the Eagles' Take It Easy. The dance craze captured almost everyone from hick hipsters to hippie tree huggers. Ironically, it was rejected by rodeo cowboy types (they would embrace it like so many other trends, long after it became passe to the hipsters). Ladies and Gentlemen, The Country Swingers:

I believe these two dancers were poached from one of the first cover photo shoots I art directed for New Times in late 1978. Not too bad. Of course I had excellent photo reference. I'm using Grafix Art Board which has two hidden tones, a light gray and a darker, mid-tone to simulate halftones for newspaper reproduction. Most editorial cartoonist used it in those days from Oliphant to McNelly to Benson. Not sure if it's still in use.

One thing that is still in use is the opaque projector, whereby many artists, including myself, cheat by projecting existing photos and artwork and then tracing the image onto illustration board or canvas. Here is a cute comment on that phenom, in a piece I did on how to be an successful Cowboy Artist:

Another piece of art I did on artists is this image (actually two pieces, I was trying to save paper and did two scenes on it).It portrays the fantasy of what every kid wants when they think of becoming an artist: sleep 'til noon (thus the pajamas), sleep on a waterbed (the heighth of hipness at that time) with a beautiful model (seen tickling my, I mean, someone's feet):

And a final dig at the slew of wannabe Cowboy Artists:

The proofs for the Source Book are in and I need to go take a gander. Going up the hill to Prescott at two for a secret session with the Top Secret Writer. Home stretch on the Mickey Free story. Gee, I wonder who might like to make the Mickey Free and Apache Kid story into a movie?

"We still want to make a real period Western, with no cars and in black and white. But it might be a little narrow."
—Joel Coen, of the Coen brothers, in The New York Times Magazine

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

November 13, 2007 Bonus Bonus Blog
Here's a YouTube video that has 249,301 views, but I have never seen it (Thanks Norm!). Check out a ukulele orchestra do a mean version of the theme to Good, The Bad & The Ugly. Really made me smile.
November 13, 2007
Paul Cool's long awaited Salt Wars book is in the final stages at Texas A&M and will be out sometime next year. Here is a sneak peek at the cover:

Yes, that's my artwork and I'm really looking forward to the book. We have long known about the El Paso Salt Wars, but nobody to my knowledge has ever delved into it with such clarity and detail.

Meanwhile, my Billy the Kid oil painting that graced the cover of Arizona Highways (1991) and the cover of my book on the Kid (1992), has a new home in Fountain Valley, California. Dirk and Tonya Rash bought the painting and sent me this photo of the painting in their living room. I'm always happy when my children find good homes:

"We do not err because truth is difficult to see. In fact it is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable."
—Alexander Solzhenitsyn
November 13, 2007
I'm reading a good book, "Story: Substance, Structure, Style And The Prinicples of Screenwriting," by Robert McKee. And one of the chapters deals with Antiplot, which is the opposite of Classical Form. I think Mckee sums up my problems with Cormac McCarthy's book and the new film by the Coen brothers, No Country For Old Men.

As I mentioned in my review of the film last week, we are rooting for Moss (Josh Brolin) to get away from the bad guy. Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is trying to save him as well. Neither happens. We see the aftermath of a fight. But at least in the book, we have a bit of closure when Sheriff Bell goes to the motel later and realizes the bad guy, Chigurh, has just retrieved the missing money and is nearby, probably watching him. He calls for backup but the bad guy escapes with the money. In the movie, Tommy Lee goes to the hotel, sees the vent duck panel and the screws on the floor and we see the villain in shadows nearby. We have to assume he took the money, but it's not very clear. Nor is it clear where Chigurh is.

So, the weakest part of the movie for me is this band-aid on that sequence. Here's what author McKee has to say about this kind of writing: "He avoids closure, active characters, chronology and causality to avoid the taint of commercialism. As a result, pretentiousness poisons his work."


As for the Coen brothers, I would give Fargo a 9.5 because it was a complete story with closure. I have to gig No Country because it seems incomplete, just like the book. I still enjoyed the movie, but it just doesn't have that classic arc or full journey that thrilled me with Fargo. As I said, I'd give No Country an 8.5.

Speaking of Genre Expectations
When I went from being a wild and crazy cartoonist at New Times to a graphic historian with my first Billy the Kid book in 1992 I left behind some disappointed fans who have never quite gotten my True West side.

This is ironic because when I made a decision to follow my childhood passion on the Old West, it wasn't like I had been ignoring the Old West. Oh, far from it. I had been infusing my weekly cartoons for New Times with plenty of Old West subjects. Here's a couple examples from the mid-eighties:

These were the least favorite of editor Mike Lacey, and he more or less tolerated these forays into the Old West.

Yes, the Wyatt Earp (below, left) made it into my book (1993):

All Things Must Pass
I made the decision yesterday to discontinue the Honkytonk Sue strips in True West. Starting with the January, 2008 issue I am going to do a new feature, called "Old Vaquero Sayings." Gee, I wonder if the old vaqueros have anything to say about that?

"For everything you gain, you will lose something and for everything you lose, you will gain something."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, November 12, 2007

November 12, 2007 Bonus Blog
Some of the cartoons I have done over the years have drawn heat (a women's rights group once absconded with many bundles of New Times papers and held them hostage with the demand that I be fired). Here's another one: in the early eighties, I read in the Republic that the Yuma Chamber of Commerce was paying a professional ad agency thousands of dollars to come up with new slogans for Yuma and I thought, Hell, I'll do a whole bunch for free:

I whipped out a whole slew of slogans, but I think this is my favorite (above). Here's the entire article as it appeared in New Times:

After this appeared, one of the Yuma newspapers came out with a front page article lambasting me for my "lame attempt at humor," sighting someone from Phoenix, who was quoted as saying, "He's not funny. No one here is laughing." A Yuma talk radio program called me for an ambush interview late one night. Fortunately for me, Wonderful Russ was visiting and I just said, "I think you need to talk to my lawyer, Wonderful Russ," and I handed the phone to Russ. The radio guy would say things like, "This is an outrage! It's simply not true. It's irresponsible journalism!" And Russ would say things like, "Sir, do you want to go to court and lose your house? We can prove in a court of law that Yuma is the armpit of the United States."

This went on for a half hour. We laughed until we cried. I sorely wish I had a recording of that flustered radio jock trying to outwit the best ad-libber this country has ever produced.

"No, you heard me sir, we have photographs and the statistics to prove it."
—Wonderful Russ
November 12, 2007
While sitting outside Jeff Gordon's motor home yesterday I had a good talk with the man who helped mold the legend: John Bickford, Sr. is Vice-President & General Manager of Jeff Gordon, Inc. And he had some great stories to tell about how he molded his stepson into a champion NASCAR legend from the age of five.

One of the stories John told me, was about testing equipment and tires and how a couple of hotshot drivers got into his car, took it around the track, came back in and said, "There's something wrong with the steering." Another hotshot went out in the car, and came back with the same complaint. John put his young stepson in the rig and sent him out and he turned record times and brought the car in. "Handles great," the kid reported. According to John, this car was so sensitive if you tried to steer the thing, you would spin out, but Jeff had such a subtle touch and he instinctively knew, "if you thought about going left, that car was going to go left." Amazing.

When I talked to Archie about equipment and safety he said, "Let me put it this way. If you took a car we raced in 1997 and parked it beside the ones we run today, we'd all say, 'How did we ever run that dangerous junk?' That's how much the cars have improved." Archie also told me that some of the neck and head safety equipment that is in use today would have saved Dale Earnhardt and others. An amazing world.

Jailbirds Fly
Having been in jail myself (14 hours, 1968, Nogales, Sonora, Drunk & Disorderly, B-29 Club, Canal Street) I know what it must have felt like for Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin to have been arrested by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and put in the county slammer recently. Fortunately, for all of us it just adds to the legend.

On that note, one of the cartoons I found in the garage is this cartoon I did for New Times in about 1986, which predicts what they'd be doing in twenty years. Well, here we are, twenty years later, and I have to admit I think I nailed their codger-like resemblence and I was also right about the shovelling of money. It's even more amazing that they allowed me to run this cartoon in their newspaper! The company they now run, Village Voice Media, is worth some $400 million dollars. Not bad for a couple of guys who couldn't make their car payments when I met them in 1973 (in the spirit of full disclosure, not long after I met them my truck was impounded for late payments). I guess we all came out of poverty and irresponsible behavior to become legit. Ha. Too funny. Go tell my English teacher.

"Pay attention, Mr. Bell, or you'll never amount to anything."
—Mrs. Faye Logsdon, M.C.U.H.S. Senior English teacher
November 11, 2007
Kathy and I got up early and left the house at seven to drive down to Phoenix International Raceway to meet and hang out with Jeff Gordon and his pit crew. You may wonder how a guy who has never been to a NASCAR race in his entire life, could land an invitation to hang with such royalty, and the answer might shock you:

Wyatt Earp.

Yes, Jeff's right-hand-man, Archie Kennedy is a huge fan of Tombstone (both the movie and the town). In fact he and his high school sweetheart, Tina, got married in Tombstone last year. He is a nut for all things Tombstone, he even bought my book on Wyatt Earp, and, so he emailed me and invited me to come down and see the race as his guest.

We got to PIR at eight and parked in East Egypt (otherwise known as South Avendale) and walked to the NASCAR Special Pass Trailer, filled out a big form (we had to fax them our driver's licenses several weeks ago) and got our Hot Pass (as opposed to a COLD PASS) which gave us access to the pit area. The info packet says the pass sells for $614, so I guess I have to say, Thankyou Mrs. Earp for having that boy!

Archie came out and picked us up in a golf cart and sped us past the assembling humanity, down into the tunnel and out onto the garage-pit area. We landed at Jeff Gordon's motor home and sat outside at the picnic table and talked at length about Wyatt Earp and Tombstone. Jeff and his wife came in at ten via helicopter (they were staying at a resort in Scottsdale).

The Whoosh!
At one, security walked Jeff to the Victory Lane area where they had a huge Woodstock type stage to announce and introduce the driver's. Archie told Kathy and I to walk behind and as we did, it was like entering a wind tunnel. You could feel the Whoosh! of celebrity as people gawked, craned around, leaned forward, their iPhones clicking en masse. I was walking right behind Ingrid Vanderbosch, Jeff's wife (not a bad view, see reverse side, below).

From the stage area, Ingrid, Kathy and I were escorted down to Jeff's pit crew area and were given the tour. A set of tires on Jeff's ride cost $15,000 and they run through ten to fifteen sets in a race. Archie gave us headsets so we could hear the spotters talking to Jeff in his car and Jeff talking back. That was way cool.

A great day in the sun, and hearing the thunder of those NASCAR beasts firsthand, you instantly realize why the sport is so popular. The stands were filled with some 100,000 rabid fans and here we were hanging with one of their heroes, and wearing a HOT pass to boot.

"Shake and bake, Baby!"
—a line from "The Legend of Ricky Bobby" which we watched the night before the race to bone up. Kathy later said, "Well, they got the women right."
November 10, 2007
Continued cleaning out the garage, sorting several large piles of artwork, all of which unleashed a gaggle of memories and a ton of badly drawn crap. Not to mention panels and cartoons I don't even remember doing. Sigh.

Here's an early New Times piece I did in about 1982 or 83, that still stands, and was prescient to boot:

The caption under the top cartoon of the two guys talking (with Camelback Mountain in the background) is: "Well, Hell, I know it's worthless but for an extra $100 I'll throw in the mountain." Of course, today the mountain is riddled with multi-million dollar homes.

In the bottom cartoon, a couple in a convertible, at Monroe and Central (that's the Adams Hotel in the background) get advice from a local: "If you're in a hurry, take Grand Avenue." Of course, today, Grand Avenue, which runs diagonally in from Wickenburg, has five and six way stops as it cuts across the grid of West Phoenix and is a nightmare of traffic and congestion.

Page two is just as ironic:

The caption on the top cartoon says: "You mean to tell me that I'm going to pay for a full tank of gas and all I'll get is some piddly tumblers?!" Of course, gas is 18 cents a gallon and she is being waited on by four attendants.

The bottom cartoon caption reads: "Let's drive out to Bethany Home Road and neck." And today, that road is all homes and shopping malls.

"Not bad for a kid from Kingman."
—Caesar H. Nipple, Kingman native and bon vivant

Friday, November 09, 2007

November 9, 2007 Bonus Bonus Bonus Bonus Blog
During my New Times tenure I did some cartoons that even make me blanch. Two cases in point: the first is a Native American chief telling the rest of America what time it is:

And the second illustration answers the question, what if Hitler had vacationed in Arizona? And what would he have enjoyed doing while he was here?

Well, the young Boze pondered, he probably would have enjoyed the annual branding of illegals down on the border.

Or, maybe not.
November 9, 2007 Bonus Bonus Blog
We just got Fred Nolan's new book, "The Billy the Kid Reader" and it's a hum dinger. Check it out at:

University of Oklahoma Press

Royal Wade Kimes is bringing a video crew to Arizona to shoot his new CD cut "The Apache Kid." I can't play all of it for you, but here's a taste:

November 9, 2007 Bonus Bonus Blog
Out off The Doperoper came Honkytonk Sue, who was a neice of Granthum P. Hooker (or D.R. as his friends called him). She first appeared in National Lampoon in the summer of 1977. She was then picked up by the Phoenix New Times in early 1978, and bought by Columbia Pictures in 1983. Here are two strips from that era (1978-80):

Actually some pretty decent cow-noir effects from that period.

—Honkytonk Sue's lasting lament
November 9, 2007 Bonus Blog
Went home for lunch and Brad Radina was there trying to fit the new screen door to our existing doorway. My neighbor J.D. ("Mad Dog" Nelson) was also there. He came down to see if the little Silkie chickens could co-mingle with the two big hens. The door won't fit the jam, and the two hens tried to kill the one chicken that we experimented with. Had to go in and save the little booger. I'll tell you, chickens are, well, not chicken, when it comes to pecking order. Ha.

Ate lunch then went out into the garage to sort and file some more of my old artwork. Found a couple of gems. Here's part of a submission I sent to National Lampoon magazine in the summer of 1977. The article was rejected, but I think it still stands:

Meanwhile, here's an early cartoon strip attempt from 1973. It's the opening page of The Doperoper (later styled as Doper Roper). Here it is 34 years later and I'm still trying to integrate saguaros and two-lane shimmering blacktop into my stories and art.

The Doperoper ran from 1973 to 1977 in The Razz Revue, a humor magazine (or magazomic as Dan Harshberger styled it). Here's an end page, in color, from near the end of the run:

Nice progress, if I do say so myself. If you are from the West you no doubt recognize the trailer culture of that era, with the wrecked car and dirt bike (it's a 441 BSA Victor). Yes, growing up among all my Kingman Kowboy Kousins, I became privvy to a certain style of liviing and dressing. Here's a couple I'm related to, I mean, I happened to spot at the annual Andy Devine Days Rodeo in about 1971:

"Heiffer Dust!"
—The Doperoper's signature line