Saturday, December 31, 2022

Here's Wishing You A Jesse James Steely Dan Jeanner New Year!

 December 31, 2022

   Dang. What a wild and crazy year this has been. I'm glad you are still here to witness it with me. Otherwise nobody would believe it.

Elephant Butte Lit Up

   A subtle, red tint on Elephant Butte this morning at sunrise on the last day of the year.

May you all have a Jeanner New Year. And, by Jeanner, I mean Jeanne Sedello, from the Jones, Boze & Jeanne Show on KSLX back in the day.

Jeanne Sedello in the studio calling me
out for dissing Steely Dan.

That girl was cut and Classic Rock all the way, Baby!

And Here's Your Daily Jesse James Whip Out

Still trying to capture those eyes.

Daily Whip Out: "Jesse James' Steely Blues"

  Seriously, I am glad we are still here seeking the truth on all the important stuff. Sometimes I wonder if it would make any difference in the world if we actually discovered it.

"You shall know the truth and the truth will make you mad."

—Aldous Huxley

Friday, December 30, 2022

Uno Ponders Mount Vesuvius While I Ponder Western Pap

 December 30, 2022

   Out for a wet walk this morning as another storm rolls through Cave Creek. The foreground is one of the burned areas from the 2020 fire.

Uno Ponders Mount Vesuvius

   Uno is contemplating Black Mountain hidden in the mist, which looks more like Mount Vesuvius this morning.

Seven Sisters In The Mist

   That's the Triple B Bunkhouse in the foreground and three of the Seven Sisters in the background, and the long and winding road to both.

The Best Christmas Present of All
   We flew to Seattle to see the grandkids and celebrate Christmas on December 22, and then returned on the 26th. We flew on Southwest Airlines both ways and I just read this morning that in the last week they have cancelled "nearly" 11,000 flights! How our flights were not among them, is to me the greatest Christmas gift I have received this holiday season. Some of the people who got cancelled are still trying to make it home. Just crazy amazing. I don't know what I did to deserve this, but thank you Southwest!

Unwoke Under The Sun
   Oh, boy. I kept reading how "Duel In The Sun" is this classic Western and I finally got a gander two days ago and I hate to say this, but that is one racist piece of cinema, I mean crap. You've got a gringa in "brown" face doing the loca puta thang, another gringo playing a Mexican/Spanish dude straight up as an American (with no attempt at an accent) and then a black servant who pushes the envelope on Step-And-Fetchit by adding Extra-Stupid to the mix. It makes Amos & Andy seem woke by comparison. And just for the record, I hate Woke Westerns, but I'll be a Ding-Danged Cracker Crazy Mo Fo, that is some serious and ridiculous, racial stereotyping. And that's only the first 12 minutes!

Also Known As "Lust In The Dust"

   And what does my favorite gringa have to say about all this?

"What we need right now is stories about cooperation between people who disagree."
—Kathy Sue Radina

Thursday, December 29, 2022

The Truth Is Not Facts Lined Up: Just Ask Jesse James

 December 29, 2022

   If you are a fan of facts, like I am, this is a bit of a rude awakening.

The Truth Is Not Facts Lined Up

   Oh, really? Well, for the past three decades I have been doing timeline books where I tell precisely what happened on each significant date in, say, the life of Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, or Geronimo, and then I line those factoids up by date and year, and I labored under the pretense I was somehow bypassing the fat (i.e. flamboyant storytelling) and getting to the heat of the meat, which is a fancy way of saying, the Truth, with a capital T.

   Turns out, not so much, right El Jefe?

"Be wary of half-truths.

You may get the wrong half."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Will The Truth Set Jesse Free?

   I have been trying to capture Jesse James' visage at the time of his death and I have noticed that his hair and especially his facial hair seemed to be lighter in earlier photos and much darker at the time of this death.

Jesse in Life

   His friends claimed he had light brown hair and a reddish tint to his chin whiskers. But in death, well, check out one of his posthumous photos:

Dark & Deadly Handsome

   And here's why:

Jesse's Ruse

   Mark Lee Gardner is writing a cover story for us in the next issue of True West magazine about the strange and mysterious last days of Jesse James. Mark sent me this newspaper clipping which he thought I would enjoy:

   Mark is correct. I thoroughly enjoyed this little snippet of the "truth."

Workup Sketches On Jesse's Dark Beard

   So far, I've done a couple dozen sketches trying to capture Jesse's dark visage at the time of his death.

Daily Whip Out:

"Only His Hairdresser Knows For Sure"

   Meanwhile, here's a truth about my tribe.

My Kind of Press Club

   In my crazy and ridiculously long career in print media (61 years if you count my work on the Kingman Junior High School Desert Rat),  I have worked with some bonafied, humorless buttheads, but in every single position and job I have had, there were always a few wise acres who made it all tolerable and worthwhile. Apparently, this tradition goes back before my time. Got this fine example— also from Mark Lee Gardner—this morning:

"At the next meeting of the St. Joseph Press Club, we suggest the following resolution for consideration: Resolved, That in the death of the Hon. Jesse James, his family has lost a kind and indulgent husband and father; the City of St. Joseph one of her best and most honored citizens; and the rest of the country a 'holy terror.'"

Kansas City Journal, 1882

   Oh, and here's the final word on what "truth" is and is not:

"Writers of portraiture must realize that 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 occurrence brings us nowhere near the truth. What happens is fact, not truth. Truth is what we think about what happens."

—Robert Mckee, "Story"

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Jesse On The Lam & Wyatt Earp in Babylon

 December 28, 2022

   Been on the road, but now I'm back to Jesse James and how he might have looked in his final disguise.

Daily Whip Out: "The Frame Straightener"

Daily Whip Out:

"Jesse Amongst The Weasels"

Daily Whip Outs:

"Jesse James On The Lam"

   Or, he may have looked more like this.

Daily Whip Out: "Blue Eyes In Disguise"

   Bright blue eyes, hidden under a black hat and a big, full, dark beard (died dark brown to hide his light, reddish hair). It worked for awhile, but it's hard to find good help.

"Saw Babylon on Christmas day and loved it. Contains a funny reference to Wyatt Earp."
—Mark Lee Gardner

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Southwest Bullet Dodging And Uno Morning Face

 December 27, 2022

  I just read this morning there were 3,989 flights cancelled yesterday and of them, 2,909 were on Southwest, the airline we flew to Seattle and back on. When we flew up on Thursday there were 2,700 flights cancelled. According to the article, Southwest does not fly out of a hub and too many of their 10,000 pilots were stranded in airports that were shut down because of the massive storms. This had a cascading effect on all their other flights. One poor Christmas traveler on Southwest had a flight from Boston to Nashville with a second leg to LA to visit family. He made it to Nashville, but his connecting LA flight was canceled because they didn't have an available pilot and he was stranded in Nashville for wayyyy too long. They offered him a voucher and he said, "I don't think I want to ever fly on Southwest again." Ouch! 

    So be thankful, this holiday season, that your job is not in PR for Southwest. I, myself, am even more thankful because both of our Southwest flights, going up and coming back, made it through. Whew.

   My only regret of the trip is I requested a DVD of "Duel In The Sun" on my gift list. It is a classic Western Robert McKee keeps referencing in his "Story" book, and I am anxious to view it. 

   When I opened my stocking stuffer and found it, I was informed nobody in Deena's house had a DVD player on their TV. Mike B. gamely offered with a straight face: "We might be able to watch it in the car." Ha. To think something as ubiquitous as a DVD player is almost extinct? Well, I'm just glad there will always be magazines (he said with just a trace of nervous irony).

   When you've been away for four days and come home, you tend to get this face staring at you when you wake up. 

Uno Morning Face

   I call this Uno Morning Face, which more or less says, "Don't be pulling that crap on me ever again."

"I'm not perfect, but I am perfectly fine."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Monday, December 26, 2022

Local Hipster Dog Gives High Five

 December 26, 2022

   Glided and bounced our way to the SEA TAC airport where there were massive flight cancellations and lines snaking out into the lobby for travelers trying to make it home. 

Issaquah Mist

   We skated around them and eventually got on a packed plane and flew out of the frigid rain, then proceeded from there for 2-and-a-half-hour cruise down to Sky Harbor and landed in solid sunshine. It was a delightful 72 degrees out.

   Whatever you do, don't tell anyone this!

   Got out to the Triple B Ranch at about four and was greeted by this guy.

"Welcome Home, Give Me Five!"

   It's always good to go and it's always good to get home.

"Home is where the heart is."

—Old Lab Saying

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Chrstimas in Issaquah

 December 25, 2022

   Woke up to sleighbells in the air. Then snow and rain. Santa was good to everyone.

   Opened presents and had a Santa breakfast and then a walk in the forest.

A very Bortscheller Christmas

   Lots of laughs and lots of stories. My kind of day.

"To all a goodnight."

—Old Christmas Saying

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Charistmas Eve & Cowgirls Deluxe

 December 24, 2022

Christmas Eve in Issaquah and the stockings are hung with great care.

The Happy Hearth

One of our treasured family heirlooms is a Jay Dusard print which my daughter and her family now have prominently displayed just off their living room. It is of cowgirl Julie Hagen, and is signed to me with the inscription in June of 1983, "Honkytonk Sue lives!" Which is appropriate because Deena posed as Sue many times. Here she is with her daughter Frances, and I call this Cowgirl Deluxe.

Cowgirls Deluxe

And then there's this:

More Praise for

"The Assasination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford"

   "I've read the book four times. When the film first came out It was viewing in one theatre in our state 70 miles away, our kids were in Junior High and we took them out of school to see it. Years later we still talk about it. the movie is one of the most beautiful movies filmed and captures the book in its spiritual entirety. The film is lyrical and haunting and I agree maybe the best western of all time. Ron Hanson and Cormac McCarthy are two gifted writers who have equally captured the soul of the American West- I have gifted their books and film adaptions many times. Merry Christmas, True West!"

—Bradley Ross

Jesse James reference

"The spirit of creation is the spirit of contradiction—the breakthrough of appearances toward an unknown reality."

—Jean Cocteau

Friday, December 23, 2022

Snow Day Creators

 December 23, 2022

   Packed and loaded the Flex yesterday for our on again-off again flight to the snowy Northwest. One guy wanted to go with us pretty badly.

Uno Grabs A Seat: "I'll be good. I promise."

   We recruited these wild and crazy dog sitters to babysit Uno while we are gone.

The Dog Sitters

   Drove down to Sky Harber at noon. After a two hour wait and 157 cancelled flights we finally got on a plane and after a 45 minute delay we took off and made it to SEA TAC and then on to our destination. We woke up this morning to this.

Three Cold Trashcans Near Issaquah

   More snow storms followed by ice storms rolling in. Strangely beautiful to a desert rat.

   Of course, the most delightful site to grandpa Ha ha is this one of grandkids doing art.

Snow Day Creators

"When people say they love winter and snow what they really mean is the proof against it."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Dirty Little Coward Finally Gets His Due

 December 22, 2022

      This week I got a chance to catch up with the brilliant writer who created the book that launched the movie that many of us consider the best Jesse James movie and—some of us maintain—the Best Western, ever. I told Ron Hansen we were going to feature the new Jesse James scholarship in True West and how it's changing the legend and the myth. Here are selected comments he made to me about the making of the movie, "The Assassination of Jesse James by The Coward Robert Ford":

Dan The Man's Clever First Take On A Cover

   "I'm told that when Brad Pitt decided to do my Jesse, at Angelina Jolie's urging—she's claimed it's his finest acting performance—Brad knew the first thing Warner Bros. would change was its title, so he had it written into his contract that my title would stay.  And I also wanted it to reflect the cowardice that the media assigned to Bob Ford ever since 1882.  Some reviewers were troubled by my use of the term "assassination" since they thought it only applied to the killings of political figures, but readers of True West are aware that any shocking murderer was called an assassin back then. I liked the 19th century idea of incorporating all the major incidents of a book into its title, such as the now-cropped front-page title to Pat Garrett's The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid, with its full, newspaper-like description for the uninformed of who Garrett and Billy were.   

   "I've heard that cinematographer Roger Deakins loved a four-hour cut of the film, yet Andrew [Dominick, the director] denies such a cut ever existed.  But I would not be surprised if Andrew's original preview was far longer, because I saw a lot of fascinating scenes in the dailies that finally didn't get incorporated.  I also saw a cut that was 2:15, but too many intricacies were lost.
   The film is intentionally slower than we're used to, both to increase suspense and, as director Ang Lee noted in defense of the pacing, to more fully represent an ambling, no-hurry sense of time in the 19th century. 

   "My information on the financials is not even as lofty as secondhand, but I've heard that it cost $30 million to film even though Brad took far less than his going rate for his role in it.  Warner Bros. seems to have made the decision not to push it, so it generally only lasted in a theater for a week before the copy was hustled off to another venue.  The film did far better in England and elsewhere internationally, and it's frequently available on streaming channels, so I suspect it's earning back the cost to film it, even if it hasn't been a big score for the studio.  Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller fell flat in 1971 despite having Warren Beatty and Julie Christie in the leads, but a decade later Altman said he was shocked to find out his film was considered a classic, an opinion shared by both Andrew Dominik [the director] and myself. 

   "I was in a bookstore where employees were carrying boxes of the film's DVDs and one stocker asked another what the movie was like, and his pal disdainfully and ironically said, 'It's like reading a book.'  All the voice-over narration and, with just a few exceptions, the dialogue are indeed from my novel.  The poetry in it is what attracted Andrew to the project, and probably Brad and Casey Affleck, whose stunning performance as Bob Ford made him a finalist for the Academy Award."
—Ron Hansen

Daily Whip Out: "Jesse James The Martyr"

   Did Jesse James embrace his death? Was it, in fact a suicide? You'll have to wait for the next issue of True West magazine to come out to read Hansen's compelling answer.

"I remember telling Ron once that I considered The Assassination of Jesse James, as by far the best Jesse James movie ever made. He replied that he thought of it not as a Jesse James movie but as a Bob Ford movie."
—Mark Lee Gardner, author of "Shot All to Hell"

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Jesse James And His "Crystal Blue Eyes, Beautiful & Mesmerizing"

 December 21, 2022

   Sometimes the key to a successful portrait can come down to the tiniest detail.

Daily Whip Out:
"Blue Eyes Grinnin' In The Rain"

"Blue Eyes #2"

"The most striking feature of Jesse's face were his crystal blue eyes, beautiful and mesmerizing. (The color of your pool!)"

—Mark Lee Gardner 

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

When Old Friends Are Told Not to Bring A Gift

 December 20, 2022

    Had a quiet birthday at home yesterday. One of my best friends, and former art studio mates, came out to hang with me. And, of course, I insisted he not bring a present, but, you know how old friends are.

"Two Direction Storm"
by Edmundo Segundo

   We laughed about all our early adventures when we knew everything and listened to nobody.

Edmundo absconds with my hat, June, 1984
Photo by Ralph Rippe

"J. Frank Dobie, Teddy Roosevelt and Arthur Conan Doyle probably could have written great songs, but didn't."
—Bob Dylan

   J. Frank Dobie wrote often for True West magazine (he's in the very first issue in 1953) and was good friends with our founder Joe Small. That Dylan would juxtapose him with Teddy and the Brit who created Sherlock Holmes is just so, well, very damn Dylan.

Clouds Split Sky Last Night

   Finally saw "The Fabelmans" today and I was disappointed. But then, I know too much of the real story and know too many people who knew Steve when he lived in Phoenix. Yes, they all called him Steve. Steven is a formal name he picked up in La La Land.

“Everything will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end.” 
― Nita Prose, The Maid

Monday, December 19, 2022

Jesse James Peeks At Us From Beyond Death's Door

 December 19, 2022

   Sometimes a little life can be found in death.

Jesse James photographed in death
 April, 1882

   After the assassination of Jesse James on April 3, 1882, numerous photographers took photos of the corpse leaning against a wall and in his ice casket, and an illustrator for Frank Leslie's used one of these photos and, with a few pen strokes, opened Jesse's eyes.

Apparently he was not alone.

Peeking Jesse
   "In a letter from William F Uhlman to Mr. N. H. Rose, dated September 14, 1927 (William Uhlman was the son of photographer Rudolph Uhlman) William writes...
'All the local photographers, my father among them, were privileged to take pictures of the corpse and thousands of these pictures were mailed all over the United States. . . At that time my father sent a copy of this picture to a celebrated artist in St. Louis and had it reproduced with the eyes open.'

   "As the Leslie newspaper, above, states, their image was made from an Alex Lozo photo, both evidently had cuts [copies?] made with the eyes open."
—Michelle Pollard

   Kind of creepy, but it's the closest we'll ever get to how the famous outlaw looked in his final days.    

   Which, is a long way of saying, this is where I got my reference and inspiration for this series of sketches.

Daily Whip Out:

"Hoity Toity Jesse James"

Daily Whip Out:

"Jesse James' Furrowed Eyebrows"

Daily Whip Out:

"Jesse James Paranoid"

   Of course, I have five more of these going in various stages of finish, including "Dapper Jesse" and "Jesse James Picture Frame Straightener" but those will have to wait because it's my birthday and I have to go eat street tacos from Fantasticos for breakfast, because that was my request.

Back Gate Extravaganza

   Sometimes I walk from the house to my studio and catch a little bit of heaven beyond the breezeway. This is one of those moments, last night. 

"Alls well, that ends well, and if it's not well, it's not over."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Spielberg's Unfair Head Start & Lust In The Dust, Part II

 December 18, 2022

     Today is Steven Spielberg's 76th birthday. He was born some 24 hours before me which explains, at least to me, his head start on the whole iconic-director thing.

A Ray of Hope In A Darkening World

   Speaking of spectacular rationalizations, I read with some interest about male violence and the transference, of said violence, into female lust, at least as it relates to Western stories.

Lust In The Dust

   According to Will Wright in "Sixguns & Society," there are "structural rewards of transforming male violence into female lust in the Western myth, and [this] perhaps reveals some unconscious symbolism in the more standard Western: There is a strong friendship or respect between the hero and a villain. Because villains are stronger they endanger the existence of society."

Daily Whip Out: "Lusty Larcena"

   There is also something unsettling about a woman who knows who she is and smiles against the conventions of her time and place.

The Smiler

   So, in the Last Fandango at The Heatwave Cafe, we encounter Honkytonk Sue meeting the love her life who has been unfortunately married to the bitch she always hated. The bitch in question is now dying and will he finally see Sue as a possible late life mate? I kind of doubt it, but that is where the story starts.

Another Saguaro Morning

I walk past these two giants twice a day, going up to Morningstar and back down, and almost every time I pass, I look up in awe and simply marvel at their imposing dignity and quiet calm.

Tension Begets Boredom

"If we slowly turn the screw, increasing tension a little more, a little more, scene by scene by scene, we wear the audience out long before the ending. It goes limp and has no energy to invest in the Story Climax. Because a story is a metaphor for life, we expect it to feel like life, to have the rhythm of life. This rhythm beats between two contradictory desires: On the one hand, we desire serenity, harmony, peace and relaxation, but too much of this day after day and we become bored to the point of ennui and need therapy. As a result, we also desire challenge, tension, danger, even fear. But too much of this day after day and again we end up in the rubber room. So the rhythm of life swings between these poles."

—Robert McKee, "Story"

Saturday, December 17, 2022

The Irony of It All

 December 17, 2022

   I am still reading, no, make that studying, Robert McKee's masterful book "Story" trying to find the key to unlocking the mechanics of story, so I can better tell my own stories. Of course, today, the mechanics of storytelling are a Google search away. Still. . .

"The computer can't tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact mathematical design, but what's missing is the eyebrows."

—Frank Zappa

Daily Whip Out:

"The Eyebrows of Jesse James"

Irony In Storytelling
   A Moor finally gets what he always wanted, a wife who is true to him and who never betrayed him with another man, but when he finds out, it's too late, because he just killed her. That, my friends, is the plot of Othello.
   An out-of-work actor, who has alienated every producer in New York, impersonates a woman and gets cast in a soap opera where he falls in love with his co-star, but he's such a brilliant actor, her father wants to marry him and his co-star thinks he's a lesbian. That, my friends, is the plot of Tootsie.
   Four funny friends miss out on major financial sucsess but laugh about it until the cows come home. That, my friends, is the plot to The Zane Brothers.

The Zane Brothers, Minus One 

   Dan The Man Harshberger, the editor of National Lampoon Tony Hendra, and, ironies of irony, me.

"I love irony, I just wish I knew how to use it."

Friday, December 16, 2022

Digging Out In Deadwood, Digging It In Cave Creek

 December 16, 2022

   And we thought it was cold in Arizona.

Rose Speirs Digs Out

Here's Rose Speirs, Communications Director at Deadwood History, trying to dig out of her driveway on Wednesday after three feet of snow fell. Then, Rose tells me, they proceeded to get another foot of snow! No thanks.

   Funny who you meet at El Encanto. Kathy and I had lunch at the popular tourist Mexican food spot in Cave Creek yesterday. As we were settling up the bill, these two came and sat in the next booth.

Hyatt Pfiefer and Emily at El Encanto

   When they were growing up, our daughter Deena and Hyatt had a crush on each other. As she puts it, "He's the kid who, in kindergarten, brought me a flower on the bus."

Daily Whip Out:

"Makin' Tracks to Fort Apache"


Daily Scratchboard Whip Out:

"Seri Bruja (Witch)"

   I feel a necessity to move, to get going and not wait for anything.

Act On It Right Now

"Necessity is absolute truth. Necessity is what in fact happens when we act. This truth is known—and can only be known when we take action into the depth and breadth of our world and brave its reaction. This reaction is the truth of our existence at that precise moment, no matter what we believed the moment before. Necessity is what must and does actually happen, as opposed to probability, which is what we hope or expect to happen."

—Robert McKee, "Story"