Monday, November 24, 2014

Western movie themes

A change of pace today at BITS—a baker’s dozen of western movie and TV themes. Click through on any of the titles and give a listen at YouTube. Feel free to mention any you would add to the list.

For this week’s posting of Overlooked Movies and TV, click on over to Todd Mason’s blog, Sweet Freedom.

Image credit:
High Noon poster, Wikipedia

Coming up: TBD

Sunday, November 23, 2014


Morning sky
Change of pace this weekend as I recovered from a four-day “chemo hangover” (fatigue, no interest in food). An apartment mate from undergraduate days who has retired to Palm Springs rode his Vespa over to spend a couple days and nights as a houseguest. My wife, meanwhile, took a much-needed break from caregiving and met up with a friend for some R&R in Los Angeles.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Robert J. Conley, Quitting Time (1989)

This short novel is a curious cross between a standard western and an Agatha Christie murder mystery. The central character, Oliver Colfax, is something of a range detective, with a license to kill, should he be so inclined. But he’s grown weary of the work that has been his livelihood and is looking to retire from being a gunman for hire. It is, as he says, “quitting time.”

Considering a job for a Colorado cattleman who believes he is the victim of rustlers, Colfax travels to a small frontier town, drawn in part by the opportunity to see a touring theater company perform Shakespeare’s bloody tragedy, Titus Andronicus. Agreeing with the cattleman to find out who, if anybody, is rustling his stock, Colfax gets to work and determines before long that a gang of cowboys at a nearby camp are the only likely suspects.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Five Easy Pieces (1970)

Not many viewers will ever have seen this as having connections with frontier fiction or the western, but they are there. The young Jack Nicholson plays the black sheep of a cultured family of musicians. Trained as a classical pianist, he has long ago left home and lives as a drifter, taking jobs and then moving on, as he explains, to “get away from what gets bad if I stay.”

He is currently working as a roustabout in oilfields not far from Bakersfield, California. He has a live-in girlfriend (Karen Black) with musical aspirations of her own—to be a country and western singer. (There are Tammy Wynette songs on the music track.) His best buddy (Billy Green Bush) is married, but the two men happily drink nights away, or they hook up with a couple of unattached females (Sally Struthers, Martina MacGuire) that Nicholson meets at a bowling alley.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ginger, cinnamon, and cardamom

Autumn grasses and blooms
Cancer has me rather knocked out of orbit, and I’m trying to let go of some old behavior patterns that once offered me some stability. Or I thought they did; now it could well be that they were just holding me back. There is a tenseness across the shoulders that’s easing, and I am less in the thrall of worry when familiar reassurances of health, predictability, and order are no longer handy to lean on.

Still, to keep from awfulizing, I fall back at times on an old mantra: “Everything’s working out beautifully.” The alternative is to be constantly anticipating the worst, which robs the present of the strength it gives to live each day for what it’s worth.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

B. M. Bower, Jean of the Lazy A (1915)

Jean and Lite
This was B. M. Bower’s 15th novel, and like her The Phantom Herd a year later, it draws on her knowledge of the movie business. Sixteen-year-old Jean Douglas, the title character, is a no-nonsense daughter of a Montana rancher, Aleck Douglas, who in the opening chapters is wrongly found guilty of murder and sent to prison. With the help of a ranch hand, Lite Avery, she spends the rest of the novel finding the real killer.

Help also comes in the form of a movie company from Hollywood, which hires her as the stunt double for the leading lady of an action-packed western. Able to ride, rope, and shoot with ease, Jean also contributes ideas for making the film more realistic. Before long she is dreaming up scenarios for a Perils-of-Pauline style serial, with herself in the starring role.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Sunrise sky
A portal I passed through this week has surely been another stage of accepting my mortality, which has continued to be largely an abstraction for me until now. I am beginning to let go of an expectation that I can persist in a routine of reading, writing reviews, and blogging, while actively participating in an online community of like-minded virtual friends.

In recent weeks, as the latest round of chemo has slowed me down again, I have become aware of the effort required to do all that. I have been surprised by a falling off of interest in reading and a diminished ability to write coherently and at length about books and films that I can relate to what has been a focus of my blog—frontier fiction as it originated and continues to evolve and flourish.