Thursday, April 19, 2018

The BS-er vs. The Natural-Born-Storyteller

April 19, 2018
   We all have been abused by an overbearing storyteller. This usually happens at the bar, where they have a captured audience. 

Daily Whip Out: "The BS-er at The Bar"

   We have a tendency to flee from these BS-ers and, when asked why, we accuse them of telling windies, at best, and outright lies, at worst. The main reason for this is most BS-ers have a hard time getting to the point in an efficient manner. The problem stems from false flamboyancy, or, excessive, exuberant story-telling. Or, as my Texas friends like to put it, "If you can't improve on a story, you have no business telling it in the first place." Well, unfortunately, when it comes to "improving" a story, most BS-ers confuse quality with quantity. Just because you add a half dozen goofy set-ups and sidebars, doesn't make the joke, or the story, better. 

   On the other hand, some old-timers just have the gift. Thanks to the editor of Arizona Highways, Don Dedera, I met one of the best. Don gave me my first illustration assignment for Arizona Highways in February, 1985 for a story on everyone's favorite home town. I traveled to Prescott to meet and draw several Prescott living legends, among them Budge Rufner and Gail Gardner. 

Gail Gardner sketches, February, 1985

   When I got to his house in downtown Prescott, Gail was in a wheel-chair in the living room with a hand-knitted afghan on his lap and chain-smoking. As soon as I came in he started with the stories and the whole time I was there, it was just one story after another, and they were all good. At one point, his caretaker leaned in from the kitchen, and yelled, "Gail, he's here to draw you, not interview you!" He didn't give a rip, and he never even slowed down. He just loved to spin tall tales. And, he never stopped smoking. When I joked he wouldn't live very long if he kept that up (he was in his nineties!) he just laughed and lit another one. As I continued drawing him he told many stories complete with outrageously funny locations, which I jotted down in the corners of my sketchbook, above; including "Fart-Knocker Flats," "Skin-Chin Canyon" and "Freeze-Ass Ridge." There were more, but I couldn't write them down fast enough. When I asked him how a place got the name "Fart-Knocker Flats," he laughed, gave the location, and said, "These flats had big, round rocks all over the place and when you'd come ridin' hell bent out on to those flats, your horse would stumble and it would knock the farts plumb out of you." Even his asides were hilarious and I could have listened to him all day long. Here's the kicker: not once did I think of him as a BS-er. True, the stories were laced with tall tales, but he somehow rose above that.

   His parting comment: "Nobody's had more fun than I've had." No BS there at all.

"A joke is a question, artificially inseminated with tension."
—Hannah Gadsby

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

What Makes Me Happy Besides A Forest of Sombreros?

April 18, 2018
   Not much makes me happier than a gaggle of big hats.

Daily Whip Out: "A Forest of Sombreros"

Unless, maybe it's an old photo of an overloaded stagecoach:

The stage to Rhyolite, Nevada


"Crazy explorers on a Mule"


Goofy named frontier saloons.


Moonrise Beside A Massive Saguaro


Frontiersman In Snow

Or, wolves in snow:

The Outsider


Budding Artists Giving It Their All

"Painting is marvelous. It makes you happier and more patient."
—Hermann Hess

“An artist cannot fail; it is a success to be one." 
 —Charles Horton Cooley

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Ten Things to Say to A White Person

April 17, 2018
   More insights on In-din humor from Vine Deloria, Jr:   

   "ONE OF THE best ways to understand a people is to know what
makes them laugh. Laughter encompasses the limits of the soul.
In humor life is redefined and accepted. Irony and satire provide
much keener insights into a group's collective psyche and values
than do years of research.

   "It has always been a great disappointment to Indian people
that the humorous side of Indian life has not been mentioned by
professed experts on Indian Affairs. Rather the image of the granite-faced grunting redskin has been perpetuated by
American mythology."

   One of the ways to accomplish this is to turn the old stereotypes on their collective heads. Here's an example from Deloria:

"Popovi Da, the great Pueblo artist, was quizzed one day on why the Indians were the first ones on this continent. 'We had reservations,' was his reply."

   Or this example from a Native American Stand-up:

Ten Things To Say To A White Person

• How much white are you?

• I’m part white myself, you know.

• I learned all your people’s ways in the Boy Scouts.

• My great-grandmother was a full blood European princess.

• Funny, you don’t look white.

• Where are your powdered wigs and knickers?

• Do you live in a covered wagon?

• What’s the meaning behind the square dance?

• Oh, wow! I really love your hair. Can I touch it?

• What’s your feeling about riverboat casinos? Do they really help your people, or are they just a short-term fix?

Boy In The Water smiling at the above turnabout questions

"Mas tequila por favor, because no great story starts with someone eating a salad."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Wreck of The Tequila Limited

Monday, April 16, 2018

It's Time for an In-din Humor Issue

April 16, 2018
   Here's a little known fact of life in America: In-dins are funny and they don't get credit for it. I want to change that, or, at least try and dispel the popular perception of them as being always stoic and wooden. That's why it's time for:

Dan The Man's Mock-up In-din Humor Cover Idea

   "It has always been a great disappointment to Indian people that the humorous side of Indian life has not been mentioned by professed experts on Indian Affairs," said In-din author, Vine Deloria, Jr. in his classic "Custer Died For Your Sins." He goes on to say, "Indian people are exactly the opposite of the popular stereotype."

   Deloria relates that the two favorite subjects of In-din humor are Columbus and Custer:

   "Columbus didn't know where he was going, didn't know where he had been, and did it all on somebody else's money. And the white man has been following Columbus ever since."

    As for the Boy General, Deloria quips, "Indians say Custer was well-dressed for the occasion. When the Sioux found his body after the battle, he had on an Arrow shirt." 

Daily Whip Out: "Custer Wore An Arrow Shirt"

   Vine also reports Custer's last words: "Well, it's better than going back to North Dakota."

   You get the picture. So we need plenty In-din jokes and humor. If you have any, or know where we can get 'em, we want 'em.

"When a people can laugh at themselves and laugh at others and hold all aspects of life together without letting anybody drive them to extremes, then it seems to me that that people can survive."
—Vine Deloria, Jr.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Two Dudes In Seattle

April 15, 2018
   Kathy and I flew to Seattle yesterday morning. Landed in the rain at noon and Deena and Weston picked us up and we drove to Renton and landed at Luther's Table for lunch. Live band, good food.

"Two Dudes at Luther's Table"

   We have some stories to trade and some paintings to paint. He's four and I have much to learn from him.

Weston's "Roosters In The Sky Fighting"

"A man is only as good as what he loves."
—Saul Bellow

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Mama Mia Mamacita!

April 14, 2018
   Woke up yesterday thinking about when Italian and Spanish women collide: 

Daily Whip Out: "Mama Mia Mamacita!"

    Kathy and I are on our way this morning to Seattle to babysit these kids:

Mamacita Deena, Francis and Weston, 2017

   They're both older and bigger, so grandpa is going to have his hands full.

"What you don't know doesn't hurt you but it amuses a lot of people."
—Old Vaquero Saying

Friday, April 13, 2018

Back Page Memories

April 13, 2018
   No matter how bad your weekend is shaping up, just be glad you are not part owner of The Back Page:

My old friend, Jim Larkin will be in federal custody thru the weekend. My former editor at New Times, Mike Lacey, is supposed to be released today. Both were arrested a week ago today, when the feds raided their homes. Lacey was supposedly getting married the next day at his canyon mansion in Sedona, when the Feds pounced, and Larkin's home in Phoenix was also raided. Scott Speare (former co-owner of World Records) has also been indicted, facing 78 counts of facilitation of sex trafficking. Lacey faces 79 counts, while Larkin faces 70, and their counts includes money laundering and conspiracy. 

With the CEO, Carl Ferrer, pleading guilty and turning states evidence for a five year prison term, my source tells me the boys will get "three to five times as much prison time"!

BBP (Before Back Page): The New Times crew in happier times, Christmas 1978. That's Lacey, second from right and Larkin third from right. The guy in the hat feels bad for them, but one of his friends is a little bitter:

   "Not once did either Jim or Mike ever offer to let me in on their online vagina rental business."
—Wonderful Russ

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Power Grab & Coors Can Shootout

April 12, 2018
   I had lunch yesterday with a fellow drummer and cartoonist, Robert Steinhilber. He now lives in Oregon with his beautiful wife Mica and once a year he returns to the Valley and we usually hook up to solve the world's problems. And, one of the problems we solved is this one:

"Tequila will not buy you happiness, but it's worth a shot."
—Old Vaquero Saying

   Once we got past the happiness issue, it was time to tackle world politics:

The Rise & Fall of The Roman Empire

   According to Bob, this classic, four book tome, came out in 1776 and inspired the founding fathers of the American experiment. It is known that Thomas Jefferson, inspired by the Romans, began a Roman revival in the United States in the 18th century. And we do know that the check and balances created were designed to avoid the inevitable power grab that infects almost every single nation that has ever existed on the face of the earth.
   And, evidently, it was Plato who came up with the concept of three branches of government to balance out and protect against a power grab:

All constitutions have three elements, concerning which the good lawgiver has to regard what is expedient for each constitution…There is (1) one element which deliberates about public affairs [“legislative” branch]; secondly (2) that concerned with the magistrates [“executive” branch]…and thirdly (3) that which has judicial power.

So, what was my contribution to this heavy conversation? Well, when it comes to black hats vs. white hats, I always choose the one with the biggest brim.

"White Hat vs. Black Hat"

   Plus, my curator, Kristi Jacobs, found some old scratchboards and, in addition to the hats, above, she found this one:

"Buck Taylor Coors Can Shootout"

Okay, that is enough Civics for today.

"All history is only one long story of men struggling for power over their fellow men in order that they might win the joys of earth at the expense of others, and might shift the burdens of life from their own shoulders upon those of others."
—William Graham Sumner

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Wild Bill Abides

April 11, 2018
   Finishing up our Wild Bill issue. This morning I wanted to do a better illustration for my editorial on "Stag his nibs!" and did this one, utilizing a photograph of Hickok and Tom Selleck. Unfortunately, I ended up with more Selleck than Wild Bill:

"Stag His Nibs"

   So, I went home for lunch and took another stab at it:

Daily Whip Out: "Stag His Nibs II"

   Here's the genesis of the scene: Wild Bill was quitting show biz. He hated it. Then this happened:

March 14, 1874
   A Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reporter spots Wild Bill "passing down State Street" after Buffalo Bill and Texas Jack have departed for Lockport. In the blowing snow, Wild Bill greets the scribe with a firm handshake ("an iron vice from which we were glad to be released.") While the reporter walks with Hickok, an "impudent youngster" newsboy recognizes the famous Westerner and cries out, "Oh! Stag his nibs wid the long hair!"

   This weird slang eluded me for the last forty years, until I finally got it translated for me. It is one of the most satisfying finds of my long and humble career.

   Meanwhile, all this research has led me back to a film I had kind of dismissed. Found a review in the garage when I was cleaning a couple weeks ago:

The Wild Bill Dude Abides

December 1, 1995

   "Walter Hill's 'Wild Bill' isn't so much a screen biography of the Old West's most legendary gunfighter, James Butler 'Wild Bill' Hickok, as a multilayered meditation on how fact evolves into myth."

Wild Bill Bridges

"Jeff Bridges plays Hickok, and he's superb. It's hard to think of anyone else who could have done the part, combining the heroic, larger-than-life qualities of the early Wild Bill with the confused and slightly bewildered Bill of Hickok's last days."
—Allen Barra, in The Ticket, from the Star-Ledger

An advertisement from 1995

   I don't know about you, but this makes me want to see the film again. I remember not liking it very much, although I seem to remember that Jeff Bridges was excellent. I hated the Ellen Barkin portrayal and thought it was derivative of the Doris Day role. And I seem to remember it was "town bound," which is a criticism me and my friends give to a film that doesn't get out on the plains or desert to air it out.

"Still, 'Wild Bill' deserves to have some slack cut its way, because it delivers subtleties and pleasures that are becoming increasingly hard to find in mainstream films."
—Allen Barra

In Praise of Trump and Billy the Kid

April 11, 2018
   It's a known fact Americans love underdogs and outlaws, but it's been my personal experience country folk have an even deeper abide for outlaw underdogs.

   My favorite saying about this is: "A typical Westerner will punch you in the face if you call his father a crook, but he'll puff up more than a little when he starts spinning tales about his grandfather's outlaw exploits."

   By way of example, my Kingman cowboy cousins are mighty fond of Trump. They forgive his sexual peccadillos ("JFK and Clinton did worse") and they minimize his lying and buffoonery. ("We need a junkyard dog in Washington right now.") This reminds me of another mythic character who was both loved and reviled in his day:

"Halo Billy, The Outlaw Saint of New Mexico"

   As for the junkyard dog metaphor, I am also related to someone who likens Trump to an oversized poodle dry-humping America's leg. Somehow, all the above kin are still talking to each other. We are Americans, after all. We violently disagree on so many things it's a wonder it all hangs together, but it does. Personally, I am in awe of the contradictions we all live with. Plus, history has taught me a few things.

   Based on my lifelong studies of the Kid I predict we will someday look back on the Trump presidency with a wistful fondness for a simpler time. 

   One request: don't punch the messenger in the face.

"His crimes are minimized or forgotten, a halo has been placed about his scapegrace brow."

—Walter Noble Burns, on Billy the Kid

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Wild Bill's Limpid Eyes

April 10, 2018
   We had Design Review this morning and I asked our Art Director, Dan The Man Harshberger, to give the bottom of Hickok's pupil a limpid look on our cover image, like this:

   Hickok allegedly had blue-gray eyes which added to his intimidation in a face down. I told Dan to go check out the famous photo of the Afghan girl on the cover of National Geographic that sold a million copies:

Intimidating eyes

So, here, for your viewing pleasure is what Dan came up with:

Wild Bill's Limpid Eyes

The Deadly Conclusion
John Wesley Hardin is often mentioned as the deadliest gunfighter having killed some 40 men. Never mind that many of these “kills” were merely assassinations, or worse—he once shot a man for snoring—and even though he claimed he got the drop on Hickok, there is no evidence of this other than Hardin’s bragging. in my estimation, Hardin was closer to Charlie Manson than a bona fide gunfighter. The same can be said for other pretenders to the throne. In my humble opinion, Hickok is the first gunfighter and the deadliest.

"A man is only as good as what he loves."
—Saul Bellow

Monday, April 09, 2018

Hat Wars Revisited And A Merry Whip Out Weekend

April 9, 2018
   Spent a good deal of the weekend working on a variety of artwork:

Daily Whip Out: "Don't Touch My Hat!" series #7.5

Also noodling nighttime sky effects, like this:

Daily Whip Out: "Ring Around The Moon"

I'm always seeking images and ideas for stories from the road and last weekend in Santa Fe I saw these formidable pictures:

A Page from my Narrative Scrapbook: Z.Z. Wei Page

   Notice how the placement of random paintings on a page starts to create a narrative. We want to hear the story.

    I also wanted to do a storm rider at night lit up by lightning and that led me to here:

Daily Whip Out: "Scratchboard Storm Rider"

   This next one resulted from Kathy coming out to the studio and asking me to show her what I was referring to as "the lift." So, I had lifted the white out of the blue, which created a nice water effect and the shimmering river soon evolved.

Daily Whip Out: "Sky Slipper"

   And here's another shot of Mickey Free on the hunt for the Apache Kid:

"The Reconnoiter" also "Enemy Camp"

   In this age of maniacal social media it's interesting to note that: 

"The Constitution was designed to constrain our worst impulses. Facebook encourages them."
—Paul Bergevin


"We are in a social trust apocalypse."
—David Brooks

"Everything you want is on the other side of fear."
—Evan Rachel Wood

Sunday, April 08, 2018

The Reconnoiter

April 8, 2018
   Something the Top Secret Writer said to me in Albuquerque last week, has been nagging at me.

   I find myself on the back trail. It's familiar territory, although I have never found a way out of the box canyons. I do know one thing. 

   Others are on the trail.   

   High on a ridge, above the Bisti Badlands, Mickey Free peeks over the edge to calibrate the location of an enemy camp.

Daily Whip Out: "The Reconnoiter"

   I know this little scamp as well as anybody. I know what makes him tick, what he wants, what makes him laugh. Still. . .I feel boxed in.

"Mickey In Dust"

In the dusk of a dying day, I clearly see him, but I can't write down what he says. Why is that?

"Mickey Free Rides Out of The dust"

   Someday, maybe. . .

"I would rather have my own ignorance than another man's knowledge because I have got so much more of it."
—Mark Twain

Friday, April 06, 2018

The G-Man Is On Deck, Rasch In The Hole

April 6, 2018
   My Book Project Commander-In-Chief, Robert Ray, took me thru the images for my next book. One of the paintings was this little gem:

The G-Man Is On Deck

"He Who Yawns"

Looks like it's going to be a good follow-up to the Prince of the Pistoleers:

"Stag His Nibs!"

   My curator, Kristi Jacobs, found this Daily Whip Out, above, from May 21, 2001. It didn't make the book because I had forgotten about it!

"My Boyhood Dream"

Rasch In The Hole
   Growing up in Kingman our arch rival was Needles, California. During a high school baseball game on their home turf—as we took the field we heard the announcer say something that my friends and I laugh about to this day. The Needles team had a catcher named Rasch and at the top of the inning it was customary to announce the next three batters and without a trace of irony or humor, the announcer proclaimed over the loud speaker, "Coming to bat for Needles: McCullough; Madison on deck; and Rasch in the hole." We laughed about this all thru the game and on the ride home, and for the next two weeks. 

   To this day, if I see Dan The Man Harshberger and the discussion gets a little stale, all I have to say is, "And Rasch in the hole," and it still breaks him up.

   I know what you're thinking: those kids from Kingman were easily amused. True. Every guy in this 1965 yearbook photo thinks "Rasch in the hole" is hilarious, especially Allen Tapija (back row) and "Buns" Ray Bonham (front and center).

"I told my girlfriend that unless she expressed her feelings and told me what she liked I wouldn't be able to please her, so she said, 'Get off me.'"
—Garry Shandling