Thursday, May 30, 2019

Plumb Bob at The Heatwave Cafe

May 30, 2019
   I am kind of shocked to admit I owe much of my world view to having been a rear chain-man on a survey crew in my youth.

   For one thing, you haven't lived until you have ascended a lofty and rugged peak in the Cerbats to find a section corner, and then chain back down the ridge to a proposed subdivision utilizing a Plumb Bob. 

"You are plumb crazy!"
—Old Surveyor Saying

plumb bob (sometimes referred to as a plummet) is one of the oldest, most fundamental tools in surveying work, dating back to the ancient Egyptians.

   After a couple summers working at the Arizona Highway Department as a surveyor on the new I-40 bypass out by Blake Ranch Turnoff, and then another summer working for Thyrogod Surveyors in Kingman, I ended up in Phoenix in 1970 where I worked at Tel Engineering (as a draftsman) and then L&L (Land and something). 

Roy McHaney

The other day I posted a gag photo we did at the Razz and the model for the photo, above, recently contacted me about getting a copy and when I asked him where we worked together, he sent me this:

"We both worked at L&L corporation. We were contracted out doing survey work to APS (Arizona Public Service utility company) with Ralph Tisdale (Rattlesnake Ralph) as the party chief. You spent hours looking at the heat waves through the transit trying out how to draw then."
—Roy McHaney

The Duke of Dust and The Heatwave Rider

Froggy Bottom In The Middle of Nowhere
   Before L&L I worked for a small survey outfit near 19th Avenue and Camelback. We got a call to go out and locate a section corner, in a remote area north of Buckeye, in the west Valley.

   When we got out there we found this scraggly cafe with an A-1 sign out front and no name.

   The place turned out to be owned by a black couple who put on dances out there, as far away from any town as you could get. It was known as Froggy Bottom. Our survey crew ate lunch here and I remember the dining room was basically their house and there was laundry on the table we were to eat at. Anyway, I totally dug the architecture and came back on the weekend to take photos for future reference. As my cartoon character, The Doper Roper, developed, I envisioned him hanging out at a funky cafe and Froggy Bottom immediately came into my mind as just the place. I renamed the place The Heatwave Cafe and that was the beginning of a magical place, to stage stories of the desert.

Doper Roper Flashback:
Sons of The Anglo Pioneers live on KATL (Moo!) radio, 1972.

The Doper Roper end of the line

   And, by the way, the Doper Roper is based on Ralph Tisdale, the legendary crew chief, Roy and I worked for at APS. His favorite expression was, "Heiffer Dust!"

“The difference between a $10,000 painting and a $20,000 painting is a couple inches of canvas.”
—Peter Max

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Razz Reboot

May 29, 2019
   As the anniversary of the publication of the very first Razz Revue approaches it is only fitting to stop and remember why I decided to reboot it.

Razz Revue, Volume I, Number 1
The Doper Roper vs. The Rolling Stones

   We did 16 issues over a four year period and we earned zero money. Currently, you can buy a pristine first edition for about $74. This is unacceptable to me. Stay tuned.

Daily Whip Out:
"Mining Town Lightning Strike Final"
(from a photo)

   As a record store manager said, in 1972, (North Central Avenue in Phoenix at Circle Records): "Someone on your staff has a major ass fetish."

   That person has passed on, so we won't demean him here, but suffice to say, I intend to redeem his memory as well.

Daily Whip Out: "Tornado Alley"

   It was 47 years ago, this coming month (June 28, 1972) that four people decided to produce an Arizona humor magazine. Here are two of them 11 years earlier on the steps of the Old Building on the Mohave County High School campus in Kingman, Arizona.

Kingman Junior High Eighth Grade Boy Grads, 1961

   That's Dan The Man Harshberger, top row, second from right, and that's the legendary Fred Grigg of Hackberry fame, in the center of the photo, third row center, and that guy with the flapping ears to his left is the other kid who helped launch the Razz.

   So why would someone reboot a failed Arizona humor magazine, I'm sorry—a magazomic!—all these years later? One person, who I happen to be married to, has declared the entire project as "very lame."

   So, there's that. And, then there's this from my first wife:

"A reboot of the Razz? It's about time!"
—Olive Mondello

Monday, May 27, 2019

Geronimo And The Magic of The Number Four

May 27, 2019
   Another cool and windy day as we dodge the heat bullet once again.

A for real sunrise over Ratcliff Ridge
this morning.

   Which leads me to painting with joy.

Daily Whip Out: "Lightning Strike"

Daily Whip Out: "The Horndog"

   Full disclosure: painting at one time was considered what today would be called "deep fake." Simulating real life with brush strokes on canvas is literally a fake simulation of the real world. So, computerized simulations of the same thing are merely an extension of the tradition. But, OH, what an extension.

   Gathering photos for my next book and ran across this image of Geronimo, below, and his last family (he had four wives and four children) standing in his melon patch at Fort Sill in the mid-1890s. That is his son Fenton, in the center, which made me smile because I have a grandson named Fenton.

Geronimo's last family, 1890s

And here's a photo a little closer to home.

A flute-playing Hualapai, who I would be willing to bet was related to Wendell Havatone, another musically talented Hualapai In-din from my home stomping grounds. After a stint in the Exits, Wendell and the Havatones became a Mohave County staple wherever dancers congregated. Loved the guy.

"He firmly believes in destiny and in the magic of the number four."
—S.M. Barrett on Geronimo

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Biker Babes And Game of Thrones Redux

May 25, 2019
   Sometimes I get excited about completely disparate things, often at the same time. Case in point:

Biker Babe, 1908

   Ain't she a hoot? Reminds me of a character I created back in the eighties, La Gata. Which brings us to another thing I'm obsessed with at the moment.

The Finale to "Game of Thrones"

   Okay, so Kathy and I have been watching an episode a night for the past several weeks (we're now on season four, episode four), with a break last weekend, when we flew to Seattle and watched the finale—season eight, episode six—with Deena and her family.

A Cover "Get" from Vanity Fair
(decent sub offer as well)

   I thought the finale was pretty lame, with plot holes big enough to drive a bus through, but I still enjoyed it. The writers were really up against it, and there was no way they could have landed that beast without major disappointments. Sorry to mix so many metaphors, but they started it!

   And, boy did they start it. Well, actually, George R. R. Martin started it, way back in 1996, with the first of his four original books, in the series he calls "A Song of Ice and Fire." The TV show is based upon the books and the series was so successful the producers outran the source material and had to start making stuff up. Martin is working on the last two books in the series and plans on publishing them in the near future.

   I resisted watching the show for so long because I'm not a fan of fairies and dragons, or, any of that fantasy sci-fi stuff, but, when I finally gave the show a shot, and then read the source material I was blown away at the life and death scenes of behind-the-throne conflict and intrigue. Martin is so good at throwing together multiple characters into a scene, with multiple opposing goals, and letting them go at it, into what I would call mini and major "death debates." One, or more, are going to die, maybe not in this scene, but certainly in the next and many more in the next.

   And none of it goes where it traditionally "should" go. Oh, there's Robb and his mother at a wedding, nothing terribly bad is going to happen to them because Robb is the protagonist.

   Red Wedding, anyone?

   Here's a little taste of Martin's talent. Ned Stark is arguing, on horseback, with his king about the murder of children in warfare. He deems it "vile" and "unspeakable. . ."

   "'Unspeakable?' the king roared. 'What Aerys did to your brother was unspeakable. The way your lord father died, that was unspeakable. And Rhaegar. . .how many times do you think he raped your sister? How many hundreds of times?' His voice had grown so loud that his horse whinnied nervously beneath him. The king jerked the reins hard, quieting the animal, and pointed an angry finger at Ned. 'I will kill every Targaryen I can get my hands on, until they are as dead as their dragons, and then I will piss on their graves.'"

   That is just one paragraph.

 "Good writers deal with issues of life and death."

—Cormac McCarthy

   And speaking of books, here's a quote from an excellent column today on the unlikeliest comeback of the year:

"The book — with a spine, a unique scent, crisp pages and a typeface that may date to Shakespeare’s day — is back. Defying all death notices, sales of printed books continue to rise to new highs, as do the number of independent stores stocked with these voices between covers, even as sales of electronic versions are declining. Nearly three times as many Americans read a book of history in 2017 as watched the first episode of the final season of 'Game of Thrones.”’

—Timothy Egan

Friday, May 24, 2019

Lone Ranger Frank Hamer

May 24, 2019
   Had fun this morning.

Daily Whip Out:
"Lone Ranger Frank Hamer"

   The above is a reworking of an earlier painting ("Frank Hamer As played by Ben Affleck" 2016). I saw it and knew I could improve it. Or, more honestly, I knew I could overwork it.

Daily Whip Out: "Gully Washer In Progress"

   Decent storm effects. I have a rider I want to put on that road in the middle distance. Wish me luck.

Daily Whip Out: "Big Sky Rider"

   Grabbed a bunch of photo reference and riffed on about a half dozen. This one, below, took hold and I finished it in a flash of strokes.

Daily Whip Out: "The Youngest Cowboy"

   I grew up with Kingman Kids who were already cowboys at a tender age. They had cool cowboy names like Bill Blake, Jimmy Carl Duncan, Robert Odle, Dally Yarborough and Arnold D. I wasn't one of them, but I admired them all (with one exception).

"I've long been puzzled by the reluctance of the U.S. literary community to embrace [Westerns] more wholeheartedly. I sense nervousness, evasion and self-consciousness whenever the topic comes up in polite circles. Is it just that the Western seems to be owned so much by the cinema? Or, is there a deeper unease about the territory it inevitably occupies?"
—author Kazuo Ishiguro

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Swearing By The Real Al Swearingen

May 23, 2019
   Here's a little historical dust up that happened today.

Mr. Bell:
    Your articles on Deadwood in the current issue inspired me to get the series on Netflix and do some research on the subject.  I then noticed the difference in spelling of Al Swearengen’s name.  It appears that your June issue misspelled his name throughout your articles.
—Tim Daley
Union Grove, Wisconsin

Daily Whip Out: "The Real Al Swearingen"

Our Editor, Stuart Rosebrook Responds:
   I highly recommend you buy the Jerry Bryant and Barbara Fife book, "Deadwood's Al Swearingen: Manifest Evil at the Gem Theatre.Bryant was the historian HBO used to advise them on the character. The real spelling, with the i, is based on genealogical records and the US Census. Chapter 1 of the book has details back to Texel, Holland. They shipwrecked on Long Island 1657 and settled in New Amstel, today's Delaware. Aelbert and Albert are family names going back to The Netherlands. The 1860 census show's Al's father writing the name with an i. And on multiple headstones in Forest Cemetery and Old White Cemetery in Oskaloosa, Iowa,  Al's family members are buried under headstones spelled with the i. Al's funeral is listed in the funeral records, as Ellis A. Swearingen (his formal name), cause of death, RR accident. pp 113-114. He was buried with his mother, no marker. His father is buried with the marker DJ Swearingen, His mother Keziah wife of DJ Swearingen, chapter 7, page 118. 

Here is a site with info on the mother's grave where he is buried:

   Why does HBO spell with an E? Could be legal reasons or that is how the original screenwriter chose to spell it. Why does Deadwood have it spelled with an e? It is incorrect and it has not been updated. But, as you know, all across the West there are debates about every point of history--from the Alamo to Billy the Kid....What's in a name could be an interesting article for us-as inspired by your query. Thank you. 

   By the way, Bryant spent a lifetime researching Al Swearingen. I stand by his spelling and research. In previous materials in TW, including Bob's book on Hickok, the name is spelled with an e. This research and their book was just published in 2018. We are updating the spelling across all publications.

   We will stand by the updated research that demonstrates his name is Al Swearingen. 
Just an aside, if you did research on my family name you would discover the following variances;
Roxburgh, Roxbrugh, Rosbrugh, Rosburgh, Rosebrugh, Roseburgh, Rosbrook, Rosebrook, Rosborough, Roseboro, Roseborough, and many more; they are all connected back to the same family in Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. And not one is more correct than the other...just different ways the family spelled the name and changed it over time. 

We really appreciate your interest in True West! 

All the best, Stuart

   "I'm Bob Boze Bell and this has been a True West Moment."

Maynardo vs. The Poacher

May 23, 2019
   Working on a desert character. This is a poach from a self-portrait of an artist hero of mine:

The Poacher

Daily Whip Out: "Maynardo"

   I read a letter where my artist hero referred to himself as "Maynardo," which is hilarious and I intend to create a character in an upcoming story that uses this handle. Thus, the sketch.

Maynard Dixon self-portrait, 1940

   This character will show up in a set piece with the working title, "The Last Fandango at The Heatwave Cafe."

"The process of remembering is, by definition, an act of imagination and invention."
—Meghan O'Grady

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Whole Bunch of Wild Bunch Covers

May 22, 2019
   Well, here we go again on a cover hunt for the August issue with the intrepid Dan The Man Harshberger leading the charge. Our art director has already done seven cover mockups so far. Here's my fave, so far:

   Some on the staff think we should zero in on Redford's red glare, like this:

   My concern with this one, above, is the hat is lost and he looks like a big, bad surfer (Joe) from 1968. Then there's this take:

Straight Up Western style

 What do you think?


BUTCH CASSIDY (Paul Newman): Then you jump first.

THE SUNDANCE KID (Robert Redford): No, I said.

BUTCH: What's the matter with you?

SUNDANCE: I can't swim!

BUTCH: Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill ya!

Bonus Butch:

BUTCH: Kid, there's something I ought to tell you. I never shot anybody before.

SUNDANCE: One hell of a time to tell me.

“Nobody knows anything. Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what's going to work. Every time out it's a guess and, if you're lucky, an educated one.”
—William Goldman

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Control Your Children If You Can Por Favor

May 21, 2019
   Flew back from Seattle yesterday and after landing at Sky Harbor, Kathy and I decided to try an old standby.

We tried. Believe me, we tried.

   In the end they have a mind of their own. One kid moved to Seattle and the other to Thailand. So much for the "control" theory.

   This is a sign, above, in Rosita's on McDowell Road. We haven't been there in a decade, or two, but decided to give the Mexican food joint another try. I had the mole and it was quite good.

   Lots of reflection on the old days.

Bullhead City aerial, early 1960s

   This photo was posted on Facebook by Andy Sansom, a Bullhead river rat from way back. This part of the river has exploded with growth. Virtually all of the Nevada casinos were built on that naked strip on the left bank of the river.

   Big storm blew thru yesterday with a report of hail up the road, a piece.

Sunset over Ratcliff Ridge

      Heading back to graphic novel territory. Got a new plan, based on the old plan, but tempered with the fire and ice of Game of Thrones.

"Novels rise out of the shortcomings of history."
—The German Romantic Novalis

Monday, May 20, 2019

Casper Babypants, Honkytonk Frances & The Uber Lecrae History Lover

May 20, 2019
   In Seattle for a birthday party.

Honkytonk Frances

   She's two. And she knows it. Meanwhile. . .

The Chess Champion

    He's almost six and he handily beats grandpa (check out the board, Grandpa Ha ha in black).

   We watched the finale of "The Game of Thrones" last night. A full report later.

   Took off for home this morning.

The Uber Wavers including a couple fans of Casper Babypants

   I'll explain the Casper Babypants connection in another post, but I must say I enjoy traveling because it exposes me to music I would never hear. Our Uber driver to the airport is a fan of Lecrae and he had it blastin' in his Kia, so I sat up front with him to find out why and I didn't have to wait long for the answer.

"Yeah, it's all fact no fiction
It's my interpretation
You wanna know how it went down?
I'll tell you"


Saturday, May 18, 2019

George R. R. Martin Delivers The Goods

May 18, 2019
   Good storytelling involves withholding information AND evoking emotion through conflict.

   Imagine my surprise when I discovered both at a birthday party in Seattle, Washington.

Birthday party for Frances

   The birthday girl is two.

   It's a cliche that good writing feeds on strong conflict. I brought along the first book of "Game of Thrones," to read on the plane. Here's a nice short scene that has both conflict AND emotion: the bastard son of Eddard Stark, Jon Snow, is leaving Winterfell to join the Nightwatch, but he wants to say his goodbyes and so he shows up at the room where his brother Bran is in a coma and his mother has been at his bedside for a fortnight. Jon is nervous about going in and when he does, the mother rebukes him. The tension between the two is at a two on a scale of one to ten. When he insists on staying, she says, "I told you to leave. We don't want you here." Each comment and exchange escalates the tension. When Jon pleads for sympathy, "He's my brother," the mother says, "Shall I call the guards?"

   "Call them, Jon said, defiant. "You can't stop me from seeing him." Now we're at a seven, or eight on the conflict scale.

   The mother, in her grief, confesses she prayed for the boy in the coma to stay behind with her. In an attempt at compassion, Jon says, "It wasn't your fault." Then we get this:

   "Her eyes found him. They were full of poison. 'I need none of your absolution, bastard.'"

   Jon retreats to the door but she has one more vicious comment: "It should have been you."

   In other words, it should have been the bastard son who fell out of the broken tower and is in a deep coma. She collapses in sobs, weeping. George ends the short scene with "It was a long walk down to to the yard."

   Boy howdy. That is a short, masterful confrontation pegging at ten and staying there. At the same time we don't feel anger towards either character, the mother guarding her injured son, or, the injured son being rejected by his step-mother. Just a tragic situation with well earned emotion on both sides. How does Martin do this? Well, a friend of mine knows him and has this to say:

      "George is one of those 'overnight successes' who toiled for decades to get there. He was a moderately successful horror writer for a long time. A writer's writer, who's always been good and was read by everybody else in the field, received awards, etc., but could walk into almost any bookstore in the country without being recognized. 

   "Somewhere along the line he got it into his head to combine epic fantasy with epic horror in a way that's never really been done, and to make it all seem utterly realistic. It worked. The books caught on quickly and made him a household name in fantasy-loving households. But it wasn't until HBO came along that he became a household name almost everywhere. Now he's so famous they made a Funko Pop out of him (one of two authors so honored, that I know of. Proud to say I've met them both, George, of course, and Ted Geisel, who lived in La Jolla where I managed a bookstore for a decade.). And as he says, trucks roll up to the front door every week and unload money into the house. Another friend, Charlaine Harris, had a similar experience when HBO made True Blood, She'd had a pretty successful book series with her Sookie Stackhouse books, but when the TV series hit big, suddenly she had 8 books on the New York Times bestseller list simultaneously--an unmatched feat, I believe. 

   "Anyway, he's a fine writer and a really good, deserving guy. I'm envious of his success, but don't begrudge him a second of it."
—Jeff Mariotte

"I always expect the best from George R. R. Martin, and he always delivers."
—Robert Jordan