Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Robert Duvall Lookin' Purdy, Back Seat Driver Too

 January 31, 2023

   Woke up to another ridiculous sunrise this morning.

Ratcliff Ridge at 7:25 AM

   Lots going on at our house, lots of stuff in flux. Including this passenger in a Flex:

Back Seat Driver

   Had a couple concepts going on a Robert Duvall cover.

   Then, at the last minute, Dan The Man pulled this out of his talented rectum:

It's A Winner! Thanks Dan!
   Anybody watching this show?

Harrison & Helen in "1923"

   I wasn't thrilled with the Catholic nuns and In-din school storyline. Bailed on it. And you?

"A true masterpiece does not tell everything."

—Robert Camus

Monday, January 30, 2023

Scott Baxter's Cowboys & Writing From The Inside Out

 January 30, 2023

   I finally got to see "The Gathering" down at the Scottsdale Museum of the West today. The show features ranch photographs from Scott Baxter, like this classic.

Casey Murph from the H Bar Y
Navajo County, Arizona
by Scott Baxter

"They're still out there working. You just can't see them from the road."

—Steve Filmore

   Meanwhile, closer to my studio:

Daily Whip Out: "Orange Dusk Riders"

Meanwhile. . .

 Writing From The Inside Out
   Most writers come at story from the outside in, that is, they write scenes and dialogue and then add to it and add to it, carving from the outside, trying to find the center. Robert McKee makes the case that you very seldom find good stories that way. Instead, you need to write from the inside out. I'll let him explain:

The Step Outline
   "As the term implies, a step-outline is the story told in steps.
   "Using one or two-sentence statements, the writer simply and clearly describes what happens in each scene, how it builds and turns. For example: 'He enters expecting to find her at home, but instead discovers her note saying she's left for good.'
   "On the back of each card the writer indicates what step in the design of the story he sees this scene fulfilling—at least for the moment. . .the goal is to destroy his work. Taste and experience tell him that 90% of everything he writes, regardless of his genius, is mediocree at best. In his patient search for quality, he must create far more material than he can use, then destroy it. He may sketch a scene a dozen different ways before finally throwing the idea of the scene out of the outline. He may destroy sequences, whole acts. A writer secure in this talent knows there's no limit to what he can create, and so he trashes everything less than his best on a quest for a gem-quality story."
—Robert McKee

   There's more, but in terms of finding and telling a great story, this is the best way to do it!

"Art deteriorates when it is done for the audience."
—James Pierce

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Mickey Free Is Charm Free

 January 29 2023

   He was caught in a No Man's Land. Hated by one side, despised by the other. A victim of border conflict and ancient prejudices. No wonder he rode alone.

Daily Whip Out:

"Mickey Free Is Charm Free"

   On the plus side, he rode a mammoth jack who was even meaner than he was.

Daily Whip Out:
"Mickey Free On His Big, Bad Jack"

The Proof Is In The Telling
   "Dimension means contradiction: either within deep character (guilt-ridden ambition) or between characterization and deep character (a charming thief). These contractions must be consistent. It doesn't add dimension to portray a guy as nice throughout a film, then in one scene have him kick a cat. These dimensions fascinate: contradictions in nature or behavior rivet the audience's concentration. Therefore, the protagonist must be the most dimensional character in the cast to focus empathy on the star role. If not, the Center of Good decenters; the fictional universe flies apart; the audience loses balance.

"BLADE RUNNER: Marketing positioned the audience to empathize with Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard, but once in the theatre, filmgoers were drawn to the great dimensionality of the replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer). As the Center of Good shifted to the antagonist, the audience's emotional confusion diminished its enthusiasm, and what should have been a huge success became a cult film."
—Robert McKee, "Story"

“Learn the rules like a pro so you can break them like an artist.”
—Pablo Picasso

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Kathy's Corner & Craig's Big Haul

 January 28, 2023

   Kathy and I have this agreement. I can do anything I want in my studio in terms of decorating or hanging stuff, in exchange for, she has final say in the house. Here she is in what I call Kathy's Corner, where she has gathered items she loves. Yes, that is an Ed Mell, at right. The flowers are in a vase that belonged to her mother Betty. Kathy's sis, Debbie gifted it to my girl.

Kathy and Uno in her corner

   Speaking of Ed Mell, saw this in the paper this morning:

Edmundo Segundo Hangin' With

Warhol and Picasso

My number one art patron, Craig Schepp, came out this morning to pick up eight paintings, plus this little scratchboard.

Daily Scratchboard Whip Out: "Hopi Hottie"

   The guy has great taste in art. He also purchased this cover art.

Daily Whip Out: "Jennie Rogers Shoots"

"I shot him because I love him. Damn him!"

—Soiled Dove Jennie Rogers

   Oh, and for the record, he also bought the original of this little dittie:

"Las Tules"

Craig Schepp's Big Haul

How to Hire The Best Managers

collection of short interviews with Steve Jobs about his recruiting philosophy at Apple. Two principles stand out: (1) The greatest people are self-managed but need a common vision, which comes from leadership; and (2) Apple wouldn’t hire somebody unless they absolutely lit up when they saw the Macintosh computer. Apple hired a number of professional managers who didn’t pan out. From this mistake, Jobs learned that the best managers don’t want to be managers, but take on the role to maintain the company's quality standards.

“Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” – Andy Warhol

Friday, January 27, 2023

Flashback Sketchbooks Revisited & In Some Cases Revised

 January 27, 2023

   Let's take a stroll through some old sketchbooks.

Daily Flashback Sketchbook Page

May 13, 2015

Daily Flashback Sketchbook Page

August 6, 2009

Daily Flashback Sketchbook Page

September 1, 2017

Daily Flashback Sketchbook Page

January 21, 2020

"I'm by nature a very wistful person, and I miss the black-and-whiteness of the 20th century."
—Graydon Carter, retiring editor of Vanity Fair

Daily Flashback Sketchbook Page

September 21, 2016

Daily Flashback Sketchbook Page

January 20, 2022

Daily Flashback Sketchbook Page

January 10, 2022

"Free Coming Up The Trail"

Daily Whip Out:

"The Mighty American Mule"

(revisited & reworked)

Daily Flashback Sketchbook Page

December 14, 2021

"We have two lives and the second one starts when you realize you only have one."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Thursday, January 26, 2023

An Ass Movie Excites Me

 January 26, 2023

   I'm very interested in a new movie about an ass. Seriously.


   One of the reasons why I am so interested is that over the past several years, I've been noodling a Mula Suprema, who Mickey Free calls "Tu" which is Spanish for "you."

Daily Whip Out: "All Mighty Tu"

   He is very big and powerful (18 hands high) and, of course, he is stubborn and ornery (he eats hats). He has also been used and abused, but he has a big heart and a tenacity that is, well stubborn as a, well, you know.


   It's cold out! Thank goodness I have this oldtime contraption in my studio.

My Big Bug Creek Studio Stove

working overtime

"Gags come naturally when the comic structure calls for them. Concentrate on Turning Points. For each action first ask, 'What's the opposite of that?' then take it a step farther to 'What's off-the-wall from that?' Spring gaps of comic surprise—write a funny story."

—Robert McKee

The Lapdog

   Once there was an old couple who thought they were getting a small, companion dog but when the puppy they chose grew into a medium-sized pony, they refused to admit their mistake and continued treating him like a lapdog. It took a court order and a crane to remove the dog, but the old fart in the chair still wouldn't admit to being wrong.

The Lapdog and his favorite Cushion

"It may be hot and smells bad, but at least there’s nothing to do!"

—Mad Coyote Joe, describing the time he spent in Maricopa

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Why The History of Humor Is Not All That Funny

 January 26, 2023

   You'd think that once something is deemed funny, it would be funny forever, but increasingly, the cold hard facts, seem to definitely undermine that.

   Funny, yes?

   As I have been perusing my significant collection of old comics and cartoons I have been struck with how the vast maority of these curated "humorous" and "hilarious" cartoons do not translate as funny at all. As I pondered yesterday, is it time and distance that undermines humor? Is all humor dependent on social context? And what happens to humor when times change?

   Boy Howdy.

   Check out this excellent drawing of Western types by Percy Leason, 1923. Wonderful caricatures, a bit humorous, but the cutline is weak, weak, weak.

Hard Luck

"Is it true that you have races here tomorrow?"

"Yeh, but you're too late to enter him—entries closed yesterday."

   Quite a few old cartoons are brilliantly drawn with riveting caricatures, like this excellent likeness of Teddy Roosevelt by James Montgomery Flagg:

   I would call it vaguely humorous, perhaps nifty, but not funny, funny.

   So, what exactly produces the funny?

   "When a society cannot ridicule and criticize its institutions, it cannot laugh. The shortest book ever written would be the history of German humor, a culture that has suffered spells of paralyzing fear of authority. Comedy is at heart an angry, antisocial art. To solve the problem of weak comedy, therefore, the writer first asks: What am I angry about? He finds that aspect of society that heats his blood and goes on an assault."

—Robert McKee, on comedy as it relates to "Story"

   Sometimes, if you wait long enough, some cartoons becomes funny again, for different reasons.

A cartoon lampooning the preponderence of off-the-shoulder dress styles of 1872

in Harper's Bazar.

   "Why Not?" Indeed! Given the evolution of men wearing women's clothing, this seems almost prescient. But still not funny funny.

   In order for humor to work there needs to be a tension between what we think we are and what we actually are. Into that gap, humor flows.

   One cat from the American frontier is still funny and that is this guy:

"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man."

—Mark Twain

   Of course, when it comes to the vast amount of unfunny twaddle that remains lame, it could simply be a numbers game. When Science Fiction writer Harlan Ellison was asked if it bothered him to be working in a genre where "95% of the product is crap," he quipped:

"95% of everything is crap."

—Harlan Ellison

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

A Cold Day In The North Country, A Warm Day Inside

 January 24, 2023

   Made a run up the hill this morning to retrieve the artwork from the Hellraisers Art Show. The show came down yesterday after a three month run.

   Left the house at 8:30 and had an easy run up I-17, took the turn-off at Cordes Junction and up 89. Caught this cold scene near Dewey-Humboldt, above, and shot it right out the window. Landed at the Phippen at 10 and ran into this wrecking crew.

The Phippen Wrecking Crew

   These are the fine folks at the Phippen who wrapped up my show so I could bring it home.

   Took me about a a half-hour to load out and so I drove home and it was fun because it's all downhill.

"If you feel pain, you are alive. If you feel other people's pain, you are a human being."

—Leo Tolstoy

Monday, January 23, 2023

Seriously, Bring Me The Funny!

 January 23, 2023

   Here's a semi-funny confession: I don't think I've taken humor seriously enough in my life. True, I relish it, I've dabbled in it, I have even made a living from it, but I never fully engaged with it, studied it, or disciplined myself to the art of creating it. So, don't you think it's time to get serious? I do.

Seriously, Bring Me the Funny!

   When I study historic Old Funny, I find that the drawings are often spectacular, but the "humor" is pretty thin.

   Some get a little closer to funny, but not by much.

A Harper's cartoon from 1862
(during the Civil War when the Moniter and the Merrimac Iron Clads were big news)

   Or, maybe it's the old time and distance deal. Maybe this 162-year-old cartoon killed back in the day.

   For my tastes, simple is way better. . .

From The New Yorker

"There is a story behind every story."

—Michelle Pollard, who has uncovered compelling new evidence on the death of Jesse James

   Sometimes to get to the funny, you have to consider the source.

"It is undeniable that every good painter drools."

–Salvador Dali

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Wide World of Real Maps Fuels Dream Trip to Jesse James Land

 January 22, 2023

   I miss real maps. Turns out I am not alone.

Alleged California Rangers Who Always
Insisted On Good Maps

A Return to the Fold

   A news item in a recent Wall Street Journal (with the clever headline, above) states that "sales of custom made maps exploded in 2020 with an increase of 144% compared with the year before."

   The digital maps our phones produce for GPS apps, are great but they don't give you the big picture, at least for my tastes.

   I am planning on a spring research trip to Missouri and I wanted to see this region so I could study it. Studying this on my phone doesn't cut it.

Jesse James Map by The Mapinator

   Man, that Gus Walker was just the best map maker. Check out this little gem:

Another Fantastic Mapinator Map

The Late Great Gus "The Mapinator" Walker

   I asked Mark Lee Gardner if he could put together a Jesse James-centric itinerary for me and Man, did he ever:

Jesse James On The Brain 

Fly into Kansas City. I'm assuming you've already been to the Jesse James Home in St. Joe, but if you haven't, that's obviously a must-see. Even if you have seen it, I'm guessing you'll be planning to go back. Anyway, it's 37 miles north of KCI. Also while in St. Joe, don't skip the Buchanan County Courthouse, built in 1873. The judge's bench in Division 6 is supposed to be the bench where Bob and Charley pleaded guilty to Jesse's murder. You'll have to ask to see it. A very cool historic building. If it's around lunchtime, Boudreaux's Louisiana Seafood and Steaks is catty-corner to the courthouse. The restaurant has a wonderful antique backbar that came from Chadron, Nebraska. Also check out the 1859 Missouri Valley Trust Building, just two and a half blocks away on Felix Street. If you can get inside, you'll see a perfectly preserved 19th-century bank interior. Amazing. The movie Paper Moon includes a scene at this building. 

Before leaving St. Joe, visit the Heaton Bowman Smith Sidenfaden Funeral Home. (Yes, I said funeral home.) They have on display the original undertaker's basket that was used to carry Jesse's body to the Sidenfaden establishment and also Sidenfaden's original 1882 ledger that contains the entry for the outlaw.

The Jesse James Birthplace Museum is 27 miles northeast of KCI. Allow yourself at least half a day here, because not only will you want to go through the house, but you'll want to spend some time in their Milton F. Perry Research Library. The research files in the file cabinets are what you want to concentrate on. Anything pertaining to Jesse, Frank, the James family, the James-Younger gang, known robberies, etc., has a file. Extremely useful. Beth can also show you some things that aren't on display. For example, the Jesse ambrotype and other fascinating artifacts.

After your done at the James farm, drive three miles east to Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and Historic Site. The Watkins family were neighbors of the Jameses, and their correspondence often mentions the doings of the boys. The home and mill date to before the Civil War and would have been well known to Jesse and Frank. Be sure to take the mill tour, as well as the house tour. The mill contains nearly all of its original machinery. The Watkins home featured in several scenes in Ride With The Devil, which you definitely want to watch before your trip. Watch the Criterion Collection edition.

The Jesse James Bank Museum is in nearby Liberty. Jesse wasn't involved in this robbery, but it marks the beginning of Missouri's bank and train robbery era.

Forty minutes southeast of the James Farm is the Battle of Lexington State Historic Site, which you should definitely visit. But on your way, stop in Richmond. Bob and Charley Ford are buried in the Richmond Cemetery, just a few blocks west of the courthouse square. The homestead of the Ford family was within site of this cemetery to the west. About six or so blocks north of the courthouse square is the Pioneer Cemetery. This is the final resting place of Bloody Bill Anderson (in the corner). By the way, there's a great bronze of Alexander Doniphan, the legendary hero of Sacramento, in the courthouse square. Now, head on to Lexington. Frank James participated in this fight, known as the Battle of the Hemp Bales. The small visitor center does a good job of interpreting the conditions in Missouri prior to the outbreak of the war. Next take time to see the historic buildings in town, including the antebellum courthouse, which has a cannonball embedded in one of the columns. A wounded Jesse recuperated in a Lexington hotel after his surrender, and bushwhacker and James boys pal Arch Clements was killed in Lexington shortly after the war. If it's lunchtime, hit the old Maid-Rite drive-in, a local institution. I grab a Maid-Rite sandwich there at least once a year, a real treat.

You'll of course want to visit one of the James-Younger gang robbery sites, and there's none better than Rocky Cut, an hour and twenty minutes southeast of Lexington. The robbery site is just east of the little town of Otterville. There's a historical marker in BrownField Roadside Park, on old Highway 50. Leave your vehicle in the park's parking lot and walk west downhill until you can cut through the narrow slip of woods on your left, separating you from the railroad tracks. When you get to the tracks, look east and you'll get a good view of the cut through the limestone bluff. The opening chapter of my Shot All To Hell chronicles this famous robbery.

Make time after or before visiting Rocky Cut to stop in Sedalia, Missouri, which is 15 miles west of Rocky Cut. Lots of meal options there (home of the Missouri State Fair!). Also, be sure and check out the restored Katy Depot, 600 E. Third Street. A wonderful building and restoration.

If you can squeeze it in before heading back to KCI, visit the 1859 Jail Museum in Independence. You can see the original jail cell where Frank James was held awaiting trial.
—Mark Lee Gardner

Dang Dude!
   This is a very impressive itinerary. Thank you very much.

Barry Blitt Gets All Betsy Ross On
The Road Map Metaphor

"We're all pilgrims on the same journey, but some pilgrims have better road maps."
—Nelson DeMille

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Hey Joe, Where You Goin' With That Guitar In Your Hand?

 January 21, 2023

   It was an A-1 evening last night.

       Early this morning I got wind that Mad Coyote Joe was headed home to Cave Creek. Specifically, he was headed for Janey's for a morning gig so I dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.

Mad Coyote Joe Is In The House

   Joe opened with this old chestnut:

… Well, when you're down on your luckand you ain't got a buck,in London you're a goner.Even London Bridge has fallen downand moved to Arizona;now I know why.And I'll substantiate the rumorthat the English sense of humoris drier than the Texas sand. . .

—Jerry Jeff Walker, London Homesick Blues

Mad Coyote Joe Kills

   I actually got tears in my eyes. That song is such a time capsule of a certain time and place (The Seventies! Mr. Luckys!) And it doesn't help a bit that I have too much estrogen in my veins. But dammit, The Mad Coyote killed it.

   Of course, I should have been working on Jesse James, but it turns out there are no limits to what you can accomplish when you're supposed to be doing something else!

Jesse Understands

And, just for the record, here is the version of "Hey Joe" we played in The Exits;

"Hey Joe," by the Leaves

The Back Story on Red Herrings

   "As peasant poachers of deer and grouse made off with their booty through medieval forests, they would drag a fish, a red herring, across the trail to confuse the lord of the manor's bloodhounds."

—Robert McKee, "Story"

Friday, January 20, 2023

Fading Jesse James & Mark Lee Gardner Bonus Track

 January 20, 2023

   When you live as long as I have, you have a tendency to remember all the stupid things you have done and somehow survived them. So many did not. What is THAT all about?

Daily Whip Out: "Jesse James Faded"

   Sorry, that's not gonna cut it. Needs some riders at the bottom and some blood. The guy was conflicted and he was a killer. It's got to have some angst

Daily Whip Out: "Jesse James Conflicted"

   Speaking of Jesse James, I received Mark Lee Gardner's Outlaws CD with his classic cut on Jesse James.

And here's a peek inside.

Stone Cold Killers

Cole Younger, Robert Ford & Mark Lee Gardner

And, here's the cut in question:

   Jesse James

"I was tremendously lucky, surviving injury, illness and stupidity."

—David Crosby (1941-2023)