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)

Thursday, January 19, 2023

More Wood Stove Fuel & Graveside Regrets

 January 19, 2023

   The older I get the more I cherish the glory days on old Route 66.

   But, as time has marched on, I have discovered some things from my past have shrunk!

   And some of these places I loved have disappeared completely!

Peach Springs In The Rearview

More Fuel for My Studio Stove

Blake from Rio Verde delivers a half cord
of oak to the Triple B Studio

Travel Writing Writ Large

   I read an obit of Jonathon Raban, 80, who took readers on travel adventures and elevated "travel" writing to another level. Here he is describing abandoned farms in eastern Montana (part of a homesteader enterprise the railroads cooked up to develop arid lands in 1907). After a few thriving years, the weather turned dry again and the homesteaders "left the prairie littered with the wreckage of their dreams." Here is Raban describing what he found in his 1996 book, "Bad Land: An American Romance":

"Their windows, empty of glass, were full of sky. Strips of ice-blue showed between their rafters. Some had lost their footing and tumbled into their cellars. All were buckled by the drifting tonnage of Montana's snows, their joists and roof beams warped into violin curves."
—Jonathon Raban

Daily Whip Out: "The Past In Collapse"

   The moral seems to be: if you want to tell better stories, elevate the descriptions, borrow from the best. RIP Jonathon Raban.

A cluster of graves by the side of the road
Photo by Buckeye Blake, Maes, New Mexico

"I don't want to go to my grave saying I wasn't brave enough."
—Jonathan Wang, the producer of "Everything Everywhere All At Once"

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Kristi Jacobs Organized A Very Unorganized Artist

 January 18, 2023

   It is with a heavy heart that I must report the passing of my curator, Kristi Jacobs. I received news from Grace Hill Ranch that she died last night. She had been in declining health for some time.

Kristi The Curator Heaven Sent

   This talented young lady did something that few would or could do, and that is make sense out of my jumbled and scattered artwork, which some might rightfully call a "hot mess." She not only created systems and packets to file my crazy categories, but she rode herd on the signing of artwork (something I have been loathe to do for reasons later explained) and she created a website to feature my artwork.

   She had been in assisted living for much of last fall, but she still had the strength to spearhead my art show at the Phippen Museum which opened on November fourth. She also helped choose the art and organized the framing for the show. 

   She will be missed. And, by the way, she loved the Old Vaqueros.

"Winning isn't always finishing first. Sometimes winning is just finishing."

—Old Vaquero Saying

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The Creek Is Rippin' But Is History Dying?

 January 17, 2023

   The creek is rippin' and the skies are still dramatic with all the rain in the last three days.

    Dramatic cloud cover over Fortification Rock and New River Mesa this morning. And here's the view over The Seven Sisters.

Crazy Horse In The Clouds. 

   See him? Here's a closer look:

Chin Up Yashoosh!

   Still noodling a scene hinted at by the Top Secret Writer in his most famous paragraph on the Kid.

Daily Whip Out:

"Rider Out of The Past, Part II"

"Got to be good looking 'cause he's so hard to see."

—John Lennon, "Come Together"

   I read with interest an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times on the alarming decline in tenured historians. Written by Daniel Bessner, an associate professor of International Studies at the University of Washington, he claims "only 27 percent of those who received a Ph.D. in history in 2017 were employed as tenure track professors four years later." He goes on to say "the work of historians has been 'de-professionalized."

   I wondered what The Top Secret Writer thinks of this and I didn't have to wait long for an answer:

"Considering what drooling, brain-dead morons most academics are, this is probably a good thing."

   I also knew he'd have a smart-ass response like this, so I followed up and asked him to be more thoughtful. Here is that answer.

"History is declining as a subject in schools at every level (which is because of the way it is taught). The current media/technology generation appears brain-dead to the past. History books still sell. History like life simply exists."
—Paul Andrew Hutton

Monday, January 16, 2023

Here's Thumbing My Nose at You, Kid!

 January 16, 2023

   I don't know about you, but I think it's time for

   Dan The Man's cover concept utilizing an actual Old West photo we recently found in the True West archives.

Here's Thumbing My Nose at You, Kid!

   I'm not sure which is funnier. His face and eyes, or that hairdo!

Daily Whip Out:
"William Allan Pinkerton On Horseback
c. 1910"

   Original photo from the Mark Lee Gardner collection. Meanwhile, I'm studying compact writing, like this.

"From Hell's heart I stab at thee."
—Moby Dick

   And, here's that damn Robert McKee waxing on good storytelling:

"A story well told gives you the very thing you cannot get from life: meaningful emotional experience. In life, experiences become meaningful with reflection in time. In art, they are meaningful now, at the instant they happen."
—Robert McKee, "Story"

   No wonder we love stories so much!

One Final Request
   A crusty, old cartoonist is on his deathbed. He grips his son's hand and whispers these final words:

"Make sure the hats are right!"