“Rio Bravo” and the Communitas Felix

Rio Bravo (1959)

Rio Bravo (1959) Courtesy of www.moviescreenshots.blogspot.com

“Rio Bravo” (1959) is one of my favorite movies. The cast—John Wayne, Dean Martin, Walter Brennan, Angie Dickinson, Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez and Rickie Nelson–is as unusual and fun as the ragtag bunch of misfits they play, united to contain a lawless power they seem to be no match for. The flawed characters, the good ones and the bad ones, are what drive this story, not ideology, as in the sanctimoniously rigid “High Noon.”

I watched “Rio Bravo” last night, and though I’ve seen it a dozen times across the years, I still found myself cringing and recoiling, laughing and singing and cheering along with the action as it unwound in its now-familiar way. And then I realized something: my novel, Ike Duckworth and the Alienation of Casa Hector, has a similar collection of misfits banding together to weather the slings and arrows of outrageous corporate life. Of course, as my tale is a bit of a lampoon, it’s not as strictly logical as a Western needs to be, but I’m still happy to discover in it a parallel to a favorite story-telling trope.

Communitas Felix indeed!

A Journey Through Twin Peaks


Let’s be clear–I love Twin Peaks.

For me, it’s some of the best cinema–TV or film–ever made. Phenomenal storytelling, driven by character, in a world at once comical, innocent, mysterious and evil. David Lynch’s 1990s TV masterpiece has been in the news lately because a sequel of sorts is scheduled for 2016 on Showtime, and I am so excited. I don’t have Showtime, but I will have to find a way to see it….somehow.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered, via Twitter, the awesomest channel on YouTube, MovieMan0283. This movie man is Joel Bocko, whose blog, Lost in the Movies, won me over from the start by the mix in his banner of art historical with filmic imagery. Old films and new, it’s all here; I can’t wait to dig in deeper. But I got to all of this goodness through his episode-by-episode guide to Twin Peaks. Of course, there are the clips of quirky characters, the general weirdness of the town, the haunting soundtrack by Badalamenti, but there’s also insight about the way the writers/directors are weaving together the characters with the mystery of Laura Palmer to push the story forward, along with fan and critical reaction at the time of its initial run. It’s always a pleasure to take a quick tour through familiar country, see all the familiar faces, but far richer is the journey when a knowledgeable guide shows you through this particularly quixotic terrain.

One chants out between two worlds,

Fire walk with me.

Ah, Dale, I’ve missed you.

Prizes of Janet Frame

The Reservoir, short stories by Janet Frame (1963) Angel

I got interested in New Zealand writer Janet Frame after watching the film, An Angel at My Table (1990), based on her memoirs. Very loosely based, as some critics will have it, but it’s still a good film. Poverty, shyness, creative interests and possibly other issues marginalize Frame as much as her location far from the cultural mainstreams of the 1950s. I recently picked up one of her short story collections, The Reservoir (1963), and though I’ve not finished it, I was especially taken by the story, “Prizes.”

Life is hell, but at least there are prizes. Or so one thought.

These words open the story, and are Frame’s most frequently quotes lines. A lifetime is packed into these seven pages, so much of innocence and its misunderstandings, of desire and disappointment and unanswered needs, but also how easily, especially in childhood, the most precious things we have, even what we are, can be sullied by the remarks and silent judgments of other people. Children may not understand what they see, but they know what they feel, often with more clarity than adults. “I did not realize that people’s actions are mysteries that are so seldom solved” our narrator says, yet the reader has no trouble parsing much that the child cannot.

The story begins in the eyes of a little girl and the style seems as simple and straightforward as a child’s essay, but the visual imagery—bright poppies, wheeling crows, a burnished dock leaf, curdled milk, boys like rabbits—creates a poetic overlay. Colors are vivid with meaning: all that is rosy, red and orange, is good and full of life; white, while clean, milky and welcome, is aggressive and unreliable; black is shame and death; and all the rest of the world is drab gray and dirty brown. As the child gets older, life seems bleaker; the hierarchy of the world and its dismal end are increasingly oppressive as she is distanced from the people around her. And still she doesn’t understand.

Poverty is the water she swims in, like a fish, without seeing it, but her poverty goes deeper, generations deep, drowning in neglect, emptied of all but a striving and observant mind. Over and over, the brightness fades and dims, she sees it, she strives for all that’s polished, gold, best, but prizes aren’t enough. It makes you wonder: Is anything?

I love Frame’s spare, poetic style, while being intrigued by a certain oddness in her vision of life in the world. This year, I’ll definitely be reading as many of her books as I can find.

More of POI

2014-03-06 Carter page2014-03-23 POI 1-1

It’s been a while since I’ve posted my POI drawings. This month I did a quick sketch of Carter–I love her wary disapproval here–and an attempt to render the first episode as a comic-book style sequence. It was interesting to look at the show shot by shot to see how it was put together. I’m not sure how successful I was in using layout and composition to tell the story, but it was fun to do.

Drawing from Person of Interest

profile sm Harold Finch med Finch looks on in disbelief Reese & Finch sm

Oh, but I have a new favorite show…Person of Interest ! Naturally, this means I have to start drawing the characters, and I began, of course, with my favorite, Finch. Brilliant, brave, uptight, secretive and personified by Michael Emerson…what more could you ask for?   I tend to get so involved with the stories I follow–books, shows, movies–that I need to draw to somehow express the connection I feel. Right now I’m connecting to Harold Finch, but I hope to expand soon to the wonderful (cleaned up) Mr. Reese.


BL smThis isn’t a post about playing games on Twitter, so if that’s what you are looking for, keep searching. What I’m thinking about is the aggressive quest for Twitter numbers. I’ve gotten some, I suppose, well-intentioned comments encouraging me to Follow all my Followers or no one will share my work and I will have no audience. Well, that may be true, but considering I am posting this missive to a blog that at best gets 7 reads, winning the popularity contest is not really that high on my priority list. Obviously.

I’d like to think that the people who Follow me on Twitter do it because they like my work or maybe like the things I choose to share from other feeds–that’s why I follow the ones I follow. It’s not bribery; it’s feeding my mind on the pleasures of the kind of intellectual companionship I love the best. Now, I admire a man-with-a-plan as much as anyone, but in this part of my life, because my work means so much to me, I don’t want to lean on strategies and gamesmanship. I want the work to stand on its own, or even fall, if that’s the merits of it.

It could be that I am thinking about this all wrong, and I’d be interested to hear some opinions on the matter, but for now, I am happy with my tiny, yet honest, market share.


Week in Review

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Lots of things have changed…at least, the rules have changed on the job, which has thrown my whole time use/inspiration feeds into a tail-spin. I’m not sleeping as well because I lay awake at night thinking about things I used to have time to think about in daylight. To compensate, I’ve been looking at what I get out of my various surfing/social media indulgences to see where I may be able to regain lost time without losing things that matter to me. It’s probably a valuable exercise.

One thing that is definitely still important is drawing. Tired, de-motivated and inspiration-deprived, I still need to keep moving. Somehow. And I will. As the shape of my work becomes more defined, I feel more determined than ever.