Saturday, November 10, 2018

Crazy Connections on Old Route 66

November 10, 2018
   What happens when you put a moratorium on speaking engagements? Well, in my case, you get booked like crazy. I made myself a vow I would take a break from speaking so I could concentrate on my next book. 

   Well, let's see, I just did an interview on RFD-TV yesterday at the Buffalo Chip Saloon, and I'm doing another documentary as a talking head out at Castle Hot Springs next Wednesday. And, here I am at Bryan's BBQ last Thursday night for a talk on crazy connections in history:

BBB at Bryan's BBQ

   One of the crazy connections I covered during my talk at Bryan's is how my passion for Old West history began at my grandmother's house on Jefferson Street in Kingman, in 1957, when we were watching "The Life & Legend of Wyatt Earp," starring Hugh O'Brian, and how fifty years later I got invited to Hugh O'Brian's birthday party at his mansion in Beverly Hills, and, the guy who took this photo,  above, is the guy who got me invited there. That would be Pierre O'Rourke who was sitting in the front row.

   Small world, eh?

"Yes, it's a small world, but I wouldn't want to paint it."
—Steven Wright

Friday, November 09, 2018

Deadwood Returns!

November 9, 2018
   Yes, the rumors are true. A wrap up version of "Deadwood" is filming even as you read this.

   According to Entertainment Weekly, Timothy Olyphant will again star as Seth Bullock and Ian McShane is back as Al Swearengen, and series creator David Milch wrote the script and is back as showrunner.

  Here’s the first-ever description of the plot: “The indelible characters of the series are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.”

Here’s the confirmed list of returning cast members: Molly Parker (Alma Ellsworth), Paula Malcomson (Trixie), John Hawkes (Sol Star), Anna Gunn (Martha Bullock), Dayton Callie (Charlie Utter), Brad Dourif (Doc Cochran), Robin Weigert (“Calamity” Jane Canary), William Sanderson (E.B. Farnum), Kim Dickens (Joanie Stubbs) and Gerald McRaney (George Hearst). The film will also feature new cast member, Jade Pettyjohn (playing Caroline).

   Powers Boothe, who played Swearengen’s nemesis, the cruel Cy Tolliver, passed away last year.
"I don't collude. I don't cahoot."
—Al Swearengen (Ian McShane)

Talk Is Cheap But BBQ Is Great

November 9, 2018
   Had a history talk at Bryan's BBQ last night. They have this great oldtime cowboy poster in the party room next to where I spoke.

BBB and Rex Bell

   I believe that nothing changes more than the past, and I feel like it's my duty to speak to this phenom, especially as it relates to the Old West.

Tucson, Arizona Territory, 1874

   I try to make this fun and entertaining, but sometimes people reject my message.

"Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed."

—Friedrich Nietzche

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Red Dead Redemption Roll Call

November 7, 2018
   In our staff meeting today, one of the youngsters was raving about Red Dead Redemption II and how cool it is to be in the game and how realistic it is (you have to feed your horse and skin game!). 

   Is anybody playing this video game? Sounds like fun, actually.

   Oh, and here are a couple stats, I got off a piece in the The Washington Post: "Given that Rockstar’s prior game 'Grand Theft Auto V' is the highest grossing media product in history and that 'RDR2’' enjoyed what Rockstar Games is touting as the most lucrative weekend take for any media product in history, with $725 million in sales, one should hope that the company will use its resources to better things for all of its employees and inspire the industry at large. With tremendous fortune comes tremendous responsibility, as they say."
"I'd rather be dead than red."
—Old Right-Wing Slogan

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

My Punk Past

November 6, 2018
   There was a time in my long lost past when I played a style of music that upset almost all of the adults in the United States of America.

    Yes, I was part of the garage band phenom and over several decades I played a whole lotta love and a whole lotta top-forty junk. But, I wasn't alone and I wasn't the only one.

   Somewhere in those rockin' times I was in a band with Jack Alves, Hans Olson and Steve Denis, called The Razz Band and we liked to promote ourselves as the State's Most Mediocre Band. We bragged we hadn't practiced since the Bay of Pigs. And, it was true.

BBB In The State's Most Mediocre Band

  We played all the garage band anthems: "Gloria," "Louie Louie," "Satisfaction" and "Wipeout." And if you've ever picked up a guitar pick or a drum stick, you know each and every one of those tunes, in addition to "Why Don't We Do It In The Road?"

The Fab Four at The Crossroads

   Of course, some of these garage bands went on to everlasting fame:

ZZ Top From Bottom

A Blast From The Past
   My old bandmate, Jack Alves, drove out to Cave Creek yesterday to pay me a royalty check for a punk song we recorded in the 1980s. Evidently, "I Need Her" is climbing the punk charts in Japan and Jack wanted me to enjoy the spoils all these years later. I took him for lunch at Janie's and he ordered a Bloody Mary that had bacon in it. 

Jack Brings Home The Bacon

   If I remember correctly we did the song in one take.
"Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen." 
—Benjamin Disraeli

Monday, November 05, 2018

On The Border With Buckeye's Dad Buck

November 5, 2018
   I've got an artist pard who comes from a long line of cowboys.

Buckeye Blake's father, Bud Blake, on the left. On the border with the border patrol, near Lukeville, Arizona, 1952

   So what I'm saying is, Buckeye has the genes and the jeans.

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."
—Groucho Marx

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Seeking Narrative Truth

November 4, 2018
   This weekend I started on a journey to seek an alternative way to treat frame sequences in the graphic novel format.

Daily Scratchboard Whip Outs:
"Moon of The Mojave"

   In the West, we look at these frames from left to right, top to bottom. It's interesting that Anime and Manga comics have reversed this sequence, as I believe the Japanese comics go right to left? And, even back to front!? So, based on this crazy, modern mish-mash-smash-up, I've been collecting odds and ends in terms of narrative sequences, like this:

From my Odd Narrative Clipping File

   Is it possible to push the form this far and still tell a story? Or, put another way, could you tell an even better story if you broke the form and rebuilt it? What if there were scenes in the middle of the book that answered a sequence in the front of the book? What if the story ended on the first page and went backwards in the traditional, left to right, top to bottom way, but if you read it the other way, you would come to a different conclusion?

Airborne sketches: Germany to Atlanta

   I do know this: at the center of the story I want to tell there is a terrible secret, one that a certain captive has spent her entire life hiding from the public.

Daily Whip Outs: "Seeking Olive"

   Meanwhile, Sharlot Hall based her life on finding the truth. She detested a lie. To her there was the taint of death in a lie.

There's a story in here waiting to get out.

In the long run, it's better not to know. Olive had suffered enough. She had suffered the loss of two mothers, all but one of her siblings and, apparently, her own Mojave children. Which begs an even bigger question.

   Is it possible to tell a story that's so true, people are turned off by it?

"I liked it so much, I never saw it again."
—James Cherry, on "A Clockwork Orange"

Friday, November 02, 2018

The Twilight Magic of Ansel Adams

November 2, 2018
   In the movie biz they call it the "magic hour," when the light gets long and the sunset dust makes for great cinema.

   In still photography there was one particular guy who was a genius at capturing this twilight magic.

   On this date, yesterday—Nov. 1—back in 1941, late in the afternoon on US 285, Ansel Adams sees the moon rising over Hernandez, New Mexico, stops the car and sets up on the roof of his woody and captures one of the most iconic images in the history of photography.

"Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico"

   The position of the moon over the snow clad mountains almost seems preordained but the real magic in the photograph is the subtle glow on the crosses in the cemetery. Adams made more than 1,300 prints of "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico," during his career.

   Today, we would simply roll down the window and try to capture something like this with our iphone but when you realize how fleeting these moments are, and the amount of preparation Ansel had to do to even set up to get the shot, it is nothing short of amazing.

This photo of Ansel on top of his car
was taken in Yosemite, but this is
also how he got the shot at Hernandez.

"You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved."
—Ansel Adams

Thursday, November 01, 2018

The Work of A Cowboy And Ed Mell Clouds

November 1, 2018
   Woke up to an Ed Mell morning.

Sunrise Over Ratcliff Ridge

   Those clouds sure have a strong resemblance to one of Ed's paintings, don't you think?

Mell Cloud Painting

   Scrambling to finish our January issue. Lots of hangouts, last minute changes and typos. A new crew member trying to get up to speed. It's stressful but this is what I do.

Up On The Design Review Wall

   When I was a kid, of course, I wanted to do this kind of work:

Eddy, New Mexico Cowboys

   And, although I had the jeans for it, I never really had the genes for it.

"A miner is a cowboy with his brains bashed in."
—Old Vaquero Saying

"Cinema is an empathy-injection mechanism. It maneuvers us, emotionally, so we can care about people who don't exist, whom we have never and will never meet." 
—Marc Bernardin

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Olive's Dark Secret And The Lack of Smiles In Old West Photos

October 31, 2018
   Is it possible to capture the sadness and suffering in a person's eyes?

Daily Whip Out: "Olive's Dark Secret"

   Is it possible to gauge the happiness of a face in a photo where the sitters are not smiling?

The Spencer Boys

Sioux Warrior

   We once did a feature in True West magazine on all the smiling photos we could find from the Old West. It's funny that when people smile, it doesn't seem like an Old West photo, does it?

  In fact, Rita Ackerman did a great feature in True West last year on the myths of the long exposure, bad teeth and overall sadness being the reason sitters in the Old West didn't smile. Check it out.

 "Death smiles at us all. All a man can do is smile back."
—Marcus Aurelius

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Fight to Redeem Frank Hamer's Name

October 30, 2018
   John Boessenecker wrote a wonderful and very accurate book about the real Frank Hamer, and we featured an excerpt on his epic rise as a Texas Ranger in True West magazine.

  The problem we still have with Hamer is that a half-century ago, a classic movie turned him into a villain.

The Twisted Genius of "Bonnie And Clyde" 

   "When I was a kid, I noticed four things about movies: the characters could always find parking spaces at every hour of the day and night; they never got change in restaurants; and husbands and wives never slept in the same bed. Women went to sleep with their makeup on and woke with it unmussed. I thought to myself, I'm never going to do that. In 'Bonnie and Clyde', Bonnie counts out every penny of change, and C.W. [Moss] gets stuck in a parking place and has a hard time making a getaway."
—Robert Towne, who worked on the script for three weeks and added these counter-intuitive touches

   During the shoot, the crew called the death scene, "the Jack Kennedy scene," and with good reason. In the Zapruder-like, slow-motion, protracted, spastic death sequence, a fragment of Clyde's scalp is blown away as a grim reference to JFK's assassination, which had transpired a mere three years earlier. The bloody scene took four days to shoot. Both Warren Beatty and the director Arthur Penn wanted to make a statement about Vietnam, just then heating up. They wanted to show the disproportionate use of power against the powerless, or as one writer put it, "B-52s, against black-pajama-clad peasants." The director, Arthur Penn couched it this way: "They're not Bonnie and Clyde, they're two people who had a response to a social condition that was intolerable."

   The filming wrapped in December of 1966.

   Warner Brothers released the film "Bonnie and Clyde" starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in 1967 and it became a runaway hit, earning two Academy Awards. But Warren Beatty and his creative team made one mistake. They foolishly used Frank Hamer's real name and made him the villain with a fictitious plot point where he is captured by the Barrow gang and humiliated, so Hamer kills them in revenge. Mrs. Gladys Hamer was not amused over the portrayal of her dear, dead husband (he died in 1955) and sued Warner Brothers for defamation and the unauthorized usage of Hamer's name. The studio paid $20,000 as a settlement, but the damage had been done. Because of the film, most people around the world still view Hamer as a bad guy. This would take a long time to remedy, but it started with Boessenecker's acclaimed book and then earlier this year it took the gumption and commitment of another guy and we are about to honor that guy with the True Westerner Award for 2019 for his new movie, starring Kevin Costner as Hamer, that attempts to redeem the Ranger's good name.

   Stay tuned. We are covering all of this in the next issue of True West magazine.

   Oh, and the movie premieres in March of 2019.

"When our boys are overseas, they are fighting for the safety of their country and people. Likewise, peace officers fight for the safety of the public. Yet if they have to kill a man in the line of duty, they are usually criticized severely by the people they are defending."

—Frank Hamer

News From The Newsstand Wars And The Meaning of Work

October 30, 2018
   This just in from the front lines of the newsstand wars:

Front and Center:
Barnes & Noble Westside Store Albuquerque 

  My son gifted me a copy of the classic short story that allegedly was the template for Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now."

  Finished the first chapter of "Heart of Darkness" this morning. Here is a quote I just read that I originally thought was a stand alone concept about the nature of work, but, actually it's two sentences buried in the story!

"I don't like work—no man does—but I like what is in the work,—the chance to find yourself."

   Then, he adds, this:

"Your own reality—for yourself, not for others—what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means."

    So, there you have it. The nature of work as an existential quest. Doesn't get much better than that.

   Another damn epiphany tomorrow, no doubt.

"We live, as we dream—alone."
—Joseph Conrad, "Heart of Darkness"

Monday, October 29, 2018

Pay Attention: The Universe Is Trying to Help You

October 29, 2018
   Based on two encounters I had last weekend I am returning to a graphic novel idea I had earlier, which features, among others, this guy:

"The Prophet James Collins Brewster"

    James Collins Brewster, 24, had visions of a promised land—The Land of Bashan—and his passionate message gathered adherents wherever he spoke: "Fear not, for I am with you. I will bring your people from the east and gather you into the west. The wilderness and the wasteland shall fall away and the desert will rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly and the glory of Bashan shall be given to it. Behold the days are coming when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed shall give way to the flowing of thy staff. The mountains shall drip with sweet wine and the hills shall flow with it."

   And where was this so-called Land of Bashan located? At the confluence of the Gila and Colorado Rivers, today known as Yuma, Arizona. Never mind that the area rarely gets more than 3.5 inches of rain a year, is mostly sand dunes and harsh desert with daytime temperatures reaching triple digits every day for months on end. Oh, and never mind that James Collins Brewster had never been to Yuma Crossing and spoke of the banks of the river being lined with pine trees.

   This incredible story involves a certain young lady you may have heard me talk about before:

"The Captive"

A Random Encounter On The Way to The Library
   I was on my way to the Special Collections Library at the University of Arizona campus in 1991, to do research on my first "Illustrated Life & Times" book on Billy the Kid. I parked on the west side of campus, where I used to live when I attended college there in the sixties, and as I walked across the campus and past the student union, I noticed there was a speech going on upstairs, so on a lark, I walked up there and stood in the doorway of a banquet hall where the best-selling author, Ray Bradbury, was giving a speech.    
   In fact, I actually came in about halfway into his talk, but he said two things in the time I stood there, that have always stuck with me: "Every day is Christmas Day to a dog." And, "Writing is easy: throw up in the morning, clean up in the afternoon."

"Pay attention: the universe is trying to help you."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Big Three at Pita

October 27, 2018
   Had a fun and productive day in Scottsdale talking about future projects with these two guys:

Big Three at Pita

   Don't want to give away the topics, but "Narcos" and "The Mojave" were discussed. That's Jeff Mariotte and Mort Mortenson with me at Pita Jungle in Scottsdale. Afterwards, Mort and I went down to Cattletrack to talk to Brent Bond about an upcoming show I want to do there in January.

"The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much."
—Joseph Conrad, "Heart of Darkness"

Friday, October 26, 2018

Bringing Out The Detail In Emiliano Zapata

October 26, 2018
   In the Can't-Leave-Well-Enough-Alone Department, I couldn't resist giving Emiliano Zapata some more definition.

Daily Whip Outs:
"Mexico Reaps The Whirlwind, I and II"

   Meanwhile, I've been noodling fire effects, like this:

Daily Whip Out: "Fire Down Below"

   Having fun and staying loose. Just got this from my friend Buckeye Blake:

"He Used to Own A Magazine."

   Ha. It's actually Walter Ufer one of the Taos Seven. Great painting, never seen it before.

"They've got one thing in common, they got the fire down below."
—Bob Seger, "Fire Down Below"

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Three peaks 113 years apart

October 25, 2018
   Just saw this great photo of the owner of Spur Cross Ranch, taken in 1905.

   The photo shows the former mayor of Phoenix standing on his land with three prominent peaks in the background. That would be Fortification Rock, on the left (which is at the front end of Elephant Butte) and Sugarloaf on the right.

   Here are those same three peaks taken 113 years later and just down the road from the above photo:

Old Stage Road leading
towards Morning Star.

   I couldn't leave well enough alone on my tragic young Lady of the Cribs:

Daily Whip Out: "Life On Line #2"

So I gave her another wash, or two. Here is the original, below, which has some looseness I lost on the second go round. Proves the old saying: for everything you gain, you lose something, and, for everything you lose, you gain something.

"Life On The Line rough"

"I can tell if people are judgmental just by looking at them."
—Old Pompous Ass Saying

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Bizarre Connections Between Pancho Villa, A Chicago reporter, Billy the Kid, Bonnie & Clyde And Brushy Bill

October 24, 2018
   When you tug at the threads of history you will find it connected to some pretty disparate events.       For example: If the United States government had not supported Venustiano Carranza in the Mexican Revolution and allowed his troops to use U.S. rail lines between El Paso, Texas and Douglas, Arizona, Pancho Villa and his army would not have stumbled into a trap, near Agua Prieta, where the Carrancistas employed klieg lights in a night attack and mowed down Pancho's men with machine guns (over 5,000 were killed or captured.) 

"Oh, Pancho, What Have You Done?"

And, if Pancho Villa hadn't become so livid over the debacle that he decided to attack a U.S. outpost in retaliation, a Chicago newspaper crime reporter—would not have been dispatched to Columbus, New Mexico to do a story on this Mexican invasion of the United States of America and the subsequent punitive expedition into Mexico mounted by John J. "Black Jack" Pershing. And if that Chicago reporter hadn't followed up the story in El Paso, Texas and not gone into the Coney Island Saloon for a beer, and not been curious about the pistol hanging over the bar, he would not have heard that it was the actual revolver that killed Billy the Kid. And if the Chicago journalist hadn't asked, "Who's Billy the Kid?" the owner of the saloon wouldn't have told him that the Kid was the most famous outlaw in New Mexico Territory, many years ago. And, if this crime writer hadn't decided, seven years later, to go visit his sister, who was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he wouldn't have borrowed her car and drove out to Fort Sumner to interview Paulita Maxwell and others who knew the Kid, and if he hadn't done those interviews he probably wouldn't have published the first Book of the Month Club title, "The Saga of Billy the Kid," by Walter Noble Burns, and it wouldn't have become a national best seller and capitulated the long forgotten Billy Bonney back into the spotlight, which eventually spawned over 65 movies and hundreds of books and articles.

   And I swear to God, I only wrote half of them.

   Oh, and one more thing: when the legendary Texas Ranger Frank Hamer and his posse ambushed Bonnie and Clyde, in May of 1934, the authorities found inside the bullet-riddled "death car," Clyde's saxophone, three BARs (Browning Automatic Rifles), two sawed-off shotguns, a dozen hand guns, fifteen sets of stolen license plates and a book, "The Saga of Billy the Kid," by Walter Noble Burns.

   Wait! There's even more. This just came in from Mark Lee Gardner:

   The husband of Walter Noble Burns' cousin was Thomas Mabry, who would later be New Mexico's governor, and, who, in 1950, would interview Brushy Bill Roberts to determine if he was really Billy the Kid and grant his request for a pardon. Brushy wasn't, and Mabry didn't grant the pardon. The irony here is that Brushy Bill probably got most of his information from—you guessed it— "The Saga of Billy the Kid," by Walter Noble Burns.

—Mark Lee Gardner

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."
—John Muir