Monthly Archives: October 2013

BOO!

It’s All Hallows Eve, the day everybody gets dressed up to scare their neighbors, friends, family, etc.  A couple of songs that fit in with today’s theme include:

“Sittin’ Up with the Dead” by Ray Stevens (http://www.raystevens.com/raytv.html?ma_id=2&mc_id=20&p=3)

and “One-Eyed, One-Horned FLyin’ Purple People Eater” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx47qrH1GRs).

And no Hallowe’en would be complete without a viewing of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! (http://vimeo.com/52484438)

So, in parting I will say….

Picture 016

And beware of low flying pumpkins!!!

The Mithril Guardian

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Air, Fire, and Water

Air, Fire, and Water

Air, Water, and Fire…an exquisite dance of the elements is at hand.  While these three are a deadly mix on earth – here, they put the greatest human painters to shame.

What do I see in this picture?  I see a horizon of possibilities.  A horizon where the bold stand, looking toward their next adventure.   A horizon where love is triumphant, where it dresses the sky with its glow and briefly makes a weary world as beautiful as it is itself.  A war between dark and light rages here: a battle for the hearts and souls of every man who lives.  The light is winning….  It cannot lose.

Perhaps I am a babbling romantic.  But if I am, then I shall go on so.  It is preferable to being sane.

Ballads of the Frontier West, Part 2

Marty Robbins Ballads

Hi, Giselle!

Are you ready for some more music, partner?  Then let’s get to it!

I don’t know if you and your family like to watch old westerns.  Most original Westerns have the bad guy and the sheriff/good cowhand/reformed gunfighter face off against each other at noon on Main Street.  They walk forward a few paces and then whip out their guns.  Usually the good guy is faster and he wins the duel.

This standard plot is no exception in the ballad ‘Big Iron,’ performed once again by Marty Robbins (you can find it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGmUsJvRv7U).  The hero of this tale is an Arizona Ranger.  He is after a no-good 24 year old man called Texas Red.  Red has notched his pistol once for every man he has killed, twenty in all.  He hears about the Ranger who has come to town for him and decides that he will make an excellent number twenty-one.

The two walk into the street at a quarter past eleven (not exactly noon, but close enough).  The whole town is indoors, waiting with bated breath.

Then, before Texas Red has ‘cleared leather,’ (gotten his pistol clear of his holster) there is the report of a gun.  The Ranger has turned out to be the faster draw.

The song is called ‘Big Iron’ to describe the Ranger’s armament, likely a Colt pistol.  These were known back in the day as rather large handguns, and so when people saw a man ride into town with one, they said, “He had a big iron (pistol) on his hip.”

The song is great fun.  You can tap out the tune or sing along with it no problem, and it is a great addition to Western folklore.  ‘Big Iron’ is a story in the best Old West tradition.  Just like the films High Noon and Rio Bravo, it is a story that stays with you wherever you go.  There are worse stories to have following one around, I must say.

Another cheerful song is ‘A Hundred and Sixty Acres’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbyBUtvd8oo).  Like ‘Big Iron,’ this song is also performed by Marty Robbins.  It was written when the Homestead Act was passed.  Under the Homestead Act, a man could get a hundred and sixty acres out west if he worked the land for a certain amount of time.  For the most part, the song is repetitive; it speaks about the singer being his own man, totally reliant on himself for his wages and success.  Whoever composed the song must have been extremely happy with his wide open 160 acres!

Another ballad Robbins did is called ‘Strawberry Roan,’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z81gbEhez7w).  It tells the story of a bronco buster who is hired to tame an untamable horse.  The Rider is sure he can bust any bronc.  Ol’ Strawberry is sure he can bust any rider.

I’ll let you find out which one wins.

Next is one of my favorite Western themes of all time.  This one was originally performed by Frankie Laine, and it topped the charts back in the 1960’s, the first TV theme song to do so – if my information is correct.  It was certainly the most popular TV theme to make it to the charts, anyway.

The theme song I’m talking about is the one that introduces the show Rawhide (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSHr4ubuD64).  The show ran for seven years, and listening to the theme song, it is no surprise why.  This song is harder to sing along with in some ways than any of Robbins’ ballads, but that is because the tempo is faster.  It is a song meant to match the gallop of a horse, I think; a song meant for the hard, dusty work of a trail ride.  Rawhide chronicled the adventures of a band of cowhands who were eternally herding cattle to the railroad.  It was the show that got Clint Eastwood his big break.

Then there is Kenny Rogers’ ‘Graybeard,’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdJ1irW5iWA).  It’s about a young gunfighter called ‘The Devil Kid.’  He meets an old timer in a ghost town by the name of Graybeard.  This old coot is still lightning quick with his iron, and he overcomes the Devil Kid.  And you will not believe how he does it!

Last, but not least, is a theme song from yet another Western TV show.  You see, Giselle, Westerns were to the ‘sixties what crime shows have become to the current era.  You could not trip over a rock without running into one of them, no matter where you went.  And they rewarded the actors who performed in them very well.

This theme song is from the show Have Gun, Will Travel.  The song itself is called ‘The Ballad of Paladin’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgvxu8QY01s).  It’s named after the hero of the series, Paladin, a gunman for hire.  I have not had the chance to see many episodes of the series, but from what I have seen, he is an interesting character.  The song describes him as a “knight without armor in a savage land.”

That is a moniker most cowboys wear in stories, and doubtless wore in times past.

The thing about these songs is that they are ballads in the truest sense of the word – with the possible exception of ‘A Hundred and Sixty Acres.’ I can’t help but think it was written more for a special occasion, like the song ‘Happy Birthday to You.’  That doesn’t make it inappropriate though; it is still part of the ‘Old’ West culture.

To me, there is nothing old about that culture.  It will always be there.  One would just have to get out there and find it.

That wouldn’t be too hard, especially if one found a willing guide and kept their eyes open.

I have to go.  The sun is setting.

Later,

Mithril

Much Obliged

Louis L'Amour

Louis L’Amour (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The ways of dishonest men were never as clever as they assumed, and the solving of a crime was usually just a painstaking job of establishing motives and putting together odds and ends of information.  Criminals suffered from two very serious faults.  They believed everybody else was stupid, and the criminal himself was always optimistic as to his chances of success.

The idea that men stole because they were poor or hungry was nonsense.  Men and women stole because they wanted more, and wanted it without working for it.  They stole to have money to flash around, to spend on liquor, women, or clothes.  They stole because they wanted more faster. – Louis L’Amour, the Chick Bowdrie series, A Job For a Ranger

“Nothin’ romantic about bein’ an outlaw, son.  Just trouble an’ more trouble.  You can’t trust anybody, even the outlaws you ride with.  You’re always afraid somebody will recognize you, and you don’t have any real friends, for fear they might turn you in or rob you themselves.

“The trouble with bein’ an outlaw or any kind of criminal is the company you have to keep.” – Louis L’Amour, Chick Bowdrie, Bowdrie Passes Through

Book Review: Dinotopia: A Land Apart From Time

Dinotopia_LAFT_cover

Hi, Meggie,

How is the writing going?  That’s great!

How am I doing?  Well, I’m busier than I would like to be.  But aren’t we all?

I know.  Usually, I write to Murdock about a book I have read.  And if he was not so busy with the rest of the A-Team at the moment, I suppose I would be writing to him.  But he’s out with Hannibal, “on the jazz,” and I don’t know when he’ll be back.  You don’t mind if I write to you since I can’t reach him, do you?

Great!  Let’s get started.

There is a book I know of which you may want to hunt up.  It is called Dinotopia: The Land Apart From Time.  I read it some time ago and have never forgotten it.  The story is not too bad; it is a bit of a cross between The Swiss Family Robinson and The Lost World.

See, in Dinotopia, dinosaurs never became extinct.  After some years of living quietly on the island, they had visitors: humans washed up on the shore after their ships were wrecked.  These vessels either crashed and wrecked on the reef surrounding the island, or were damaged in the storms that encircle Dinotopia 24/7.

Some humans found ways off of Dinotopia.  But most stayed, making a new civilization with the dinosaurs.  This new civilization (like its language) is an amalgamation of all the other known societies on the planet.  The dinosaurs add their own elements to the culture, including their language, known in the story as Saurian.

Yes, you guessed it.  This is a language of chirps, hoots, and any other sounds that dinosaurs can make.  The sounds humans cannot replicate themselves are imitated by other means.

All in all, though, the story is not quite what fascinated me.  Why?  Well, we will have to go back a bit in order for me to explain.

The author of Dinotopia is James Gurney, an artist for National GeographicDinotopia is largely composed of his fantastic paintings and sketches of life in the fictional land of Dinotopia.  He draws the dinosaurs, the landscapes, the people, and the buildings.

This is what stayed with me after reading Dinotopia.  The drawings are not just beautiful; they get the mind whirling with possibilities.  What would it be like to live amidst waterfalls (such as in the Dinotopian metropolis Waterfall City)?  How about making a bridge designed after a dinosaur’s (or other vertebrate’s) backbone?  What about making gliders designed to resemble real flying creatures?

This is what stayed with me.  The artwork often stays with me after reading any kind of fiction, but specifically Dinotopia.  And this makes me ask this question: When was the last time anything was built beautifully?  I do not mean beautifully safe, or beautifully perfect.  I mean beautiful.

Take the example of, say, the Chrysler building.  It is a unique skyscraper with engravings and gargoyles on its outside.  And it has a spire reaching for the sky, almost like a needle at the top of a block tower.  Then there is the Space Needle in Seattle, the Lincoln Memorial, and countless other landmarks around the world.

I have seen a lot of different skyscrapers.  Some are unique in their own way; a few are even beautiful.  But after a while, I feel that if you have seen one skyscraper, you have seen them all.  Over the years skyscrapers have become nothing but pillars of steel and glass.  There is very little to distinguish one skyscraper form the other; very little that makes them anything more than giant metal, glass-encased obelisks.  Cities across the globe are, after a point, full of nothing but glass Lego towers.

Apartment buildings and condominiums have the same problem.  Walking around in such neighborhoods one gets the feeling they are stuck in a world of cardboard boxes.  The buildings on the left side of the street are often (not always, but often) the mirror image of the buildings on the right side of the street.

This lack of individuality, flair, cheerfulness, etc., has not only largely invaded the world of architecture, it has crept into other ways of life, too.  Cars and trucks, for instance, are no longer built for size or beauty.

Now, instead of being spacious and appealing eye-candy, cars and trucks across the country are nearly clones of each other.  One can hardly tell the difference between a Chevy Suburban and a GMC Yukon.  I cannot tell the difference between a Toyota Corolla and most Ford sedans.  Only minute details proclaim the distinction between vehicles, excepting the names on the vehicles’ sides and the emblems blazoned on their grills.

All in all, I cannot help wondering whether or not the people who build the skyscrapers, the architects for those skyscrapers, or the designers for vehicles, have ever read anything other than their handbook materials since they went into business.  They are all buried in a dull anthill pattern of life that simply builds because that is how they win their bread.  There are no longer many personal touches added to the hoards of buildings being constructed presently, nor are designers stamping the vehicles they churn out every day as notable standouts from the crowd.

It is a pattern of these artists own weaving; as such, only they can find a way to change it.

I know that, Meggie.  I am not unsympathetic.  I know that contractors, architects, and designers have to follow safety guidelines.  I certainly would not want someone to build an ‘abstract’ skyscraper, with one floor jutting out to the left and the next one up jutting out to the right.  I definitely do not want to see an apartment complex built to look like a mountain of sludge.  I am not even sure that either suggestion would be geometrically possible.

But there are creative touches that can be applied to these buildings and machines which are within the realm of geometric possibility, and which are within safety guidelines.  There is proof of it all over the world.

As I said, it is a pattern that these artists have chosen to weave for their lives.  If they choose to march in identical uniforms, none but they can change their costumes.  Therefore, I am glad that, in the realm of fiction at least, there are those who choose to weave brighter and better patterns for public consumption.

I have to go.  Maybe we could chat another time?

Wonderful!  See you then!

Later,

Mithril

A Great Poet – with Quite the Feature!

English: Lloyd Corrigan (left) & José Ferrer i...

English: Lloyd Corrigan (left) & José Ferrer in Cyrano de Bergerac – cropped screenshot (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cyrano de Bergerac:

Ah, no young sir!

You are too simple. Why, you might have said –

Oh, a great many things! For example, thus: –

AGGRESSIVE: I, sir, if that nose were mine,

I’d have it amputated – on the spot!

FRIENDLY: How do you drink with such a nose?

You ought to have a cup made specially.

DESCRIPTIVE: ‘Tis a rock – a crag – a cape –

A cape? say rather, a peninsula!

INQUISITIVE: What is that receptacle –

A razor case or a portfolio?

KINDLY: Ah, do you love the little birds

So much that when they come and sing to you,

You give them this to perch on? INSOLENT:

Sir, when you smoke, the neighbors must suppose

Your chimney is on fire. CAUTIOUS: Take care –

A weight like that might make you topheavy.

THOUGHTFUL: Somebody fetch my parasol –

Those delicate colors fade so in the sun!

PEDANTIC: Does not Aristophanes

Mention a mythological monster called

Hippocampelephantocamelos?

Surely we have here the original!

FAMILIAR: Well, old torchlight! Hang your hat

Over that chandelier – it hurts my eyes.

ELOQUENT: When it blows, the typhoon howls,

And the clouds darken. DRAMATIC: When it bleeds –

The Red Sea! ENTERPRISING: What a sign

For some perfumer! LYRIC: Hark – the horn –

Of Roland calls to summon Charlemagne! –

SIMPLE: When do they unveil the monument?

RESPECTFUL: Sir, I recognize in you

A man of parts, a man of prominence –

RUSTIC: Hey? What? Call that a nose? Na na –

I be no fool like what you think I be –

That there’s a blue cucumber! MILITARY:

Point against cavalry! PRACTICAL: Why not

A lottery with this for the grand prize?

Or – parodying Faustus in the play –

“Was this the nose that launched a thousand ships

And burned the topless towers of Ilium?”

These my dear sir, are things you might have said

Had you some tinge of letters, or of wit

To color your discourse. But wit, – not so,

You never had an atom – and of letters,

You need but three to write you down –an Ass.

Moreover, – if you had the invention, here

Before these folks to make a jest of me –

Be sure you would not then articulate

The twentieth part of half a syllable

Of the beginning! For I say these things

Lightly enough myself, about myself,

But I allow none else to utter them.

 

(One of my favorite speeches from the play! Shakespeare is great, but I haven’t heard anyone yet to beat Cyrano!)

Heaven and Earth

Where My Heart Will Take Me

“Ooh, baby do you know what that’s worth?  Ooh, heaven is a place on earth!”

Oh, for wings to fly into that other realm!!!!  Oh, to see that never ending sunrise, that land where everything is possible!!  But still gravity has its surly hold on all things.  Still I must wait!

But someday – someday I shall fly!!!!