Smitten by frontier fiction

Anyone who’s read my blogs for awhile or seen my Flickr knows that I grew up around horses and am still a bit horse-crazy. When I played dress-up as a kid, I would put on ridiculous high-heeled shoes that were 12 sizes too big for me and teeter my way across the gravel road to the horse pasture:

childhood me in a dress, in a tree, with Freckles
childhood me in a dress, in a tree, with Freckles the horse

My family spent lots of time at rodeos or on extended camping trips that were basically excuses to go riding for days in a row.  Since then I haven’t really had anything to do with horses, except for daydreaming about them and living vicariously through movies and, more recently, video games. Or, I should say, just one video game: Red Dead Redemption, of course. I’m really close to beating the game, but I suspect I might just come back to it and ride around on my horse, rescuing ladies and shooting crows. All the virtual horse-riding is relaxing. Of course not as relaxing as riding a real horse, but I’ll take what I can get.

The animation of the horses in this game is really amazing. My pardner and I both got cowboy fever thanks to spending so much time in the virtual Old West. I had never seen any “spaghetti” Westerns, so we watched A Fistful of Dollars and will probably watch other Sergio Leone films once I stop wanting to indulge in season one of The Tudors.

What prompted me to make this post was that today, as I walked past the new book shelf at my library, I saw this book and immediately grabbed it. The first paragraph on the back cover is quite eloquent, so I’ll leave you with that in hopes that it will whet your appetite.

“A corral of cattle rustlers, outlaws, and other desperadoes ride the range in this bronco-busting anthology of nineteen tales set in the Old West. Spanning the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the diverse stories prove there’s no ‘average’ cowboy, but a wide range of rugged individuals. Yet these vividly portrayed characters all seem to posses a sense of freedom, a strong relationship with the land, and a desire to live by their own standards. The result is an action-packed collection that’s a feast for anyone smitten by frontier fiction.”

 

See also:

National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum

The Cowboy Encyclopedia

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s book list of Westerns, “When You Call Me That, Smile!”

Summer 1982

One more time.  Summer 1982. The weather in Pittsburgh is unbearably hot.  Two weeks of high temperatures and high humidity.  Nights not much better than the days.  Nights too hot for sleeping, days sapping what’s left of the strength the sleepless nights don’t replenish.  You get sopping wet climbing in or out of a car.  Especially if your car’s little and not air-conditioned, like my mother’s Chevette.  Nobody remembers the last time they felt a cool breeze, nobody remembers pulling on clothes and not sweating through them in five minutes.  “Unbearable” is my mother’s word.  She uses it often but never lightly.  In her language it means the heat is something you can’t escape.  The sticky heat’s a burden you wake up to every morning and carry till you’re too exhausted to toss and turn anymore in your wet sheets.  Unbearable doesn’t mean a weight that gets things over with, that crushes you one and for all, but a burden that exerts relentless pressure.  Whether you’re lifting a bag of groceries from a shopping cart into the furnace your car becomes after sitting closed for twenty minutes in the Giant Eagle parking lot, or celebrating the birth of a new baby in the family, the heat is there.  A burden touching, flawing everything.  Unbearable is not that which can’t be borne, but what must be endured forever.

Of course the July dog days can’t last forever.  Sooner or later they’ll end.  Abruptly.  Swept away by one of those violent lightning-and-thunder storms peculiar to Pittsburgh summers.  The kind signaled by a sudden disappearance of air, air sucked away so quickly you feel you’re falling.  Then nothing.  A vast emptiness rubbing your skin.  The air’s gone.  You’re in a vacuum, a calm, still, vacated space waiting for the storm to rush in.  You know the weather must turn, but part of the discomfort of being in the grip of a heat wave or any grave trouble is the fear that maybe it won’t end.  Maybe things will stay as miserable as they are.

-from Brothers and Keepers by John Edgar Wideman. New York: Vintage Books, 1995.

storm clouds over homestead smokestacks

Two things

Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, my life has been taken over by the South Korean TV show Coffee Prince (커피프린스 1호점). You know how sometimes when a movie is being advertised they have excerpts from supposed rave reviews, and often (especially for kids movies) it’ll say something like “This movie will make you want to stand up and cheer!” Honestly, has a movie ever made you want to do that? I can only think of one, and it was Stomp the Yard. Well this show makes me want to stand up and cheer. It is cute and dramatic and heartwarming. You can watch it all on Hulu! But here’s part of the first episode, just because I’m in favor of multimedia blog posts.

[Youtube=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8eSdFeHlbQ”%5D

Another TV show I wanted to mention is this British show The Supersizers. Premise: A food critic and a comedian eat their way through British history while dressing the part and sharing bizarre trivia about each era. I think my favorite was the French Revolution episode. It can be kind of hard to find full episodes, but you can do it. The show originally aired on BBC4.

The only other thing I got is a quote that seems like a no-brainer, but it makes me ponder things a little:

A key feature of information is that it remains invisible until someone provides an interface to it.

David Benyon. (2007). “Information Architecture and Navigation Design for Web Sites” in Human computer interaction research in Web design and evaluation .

Why I usually like Bob Garfield

excerpt from his final AdReview column in Advertising Age:

On the other hand, I harbor no regrets whatsoever for eviscerating the most repugnant advertisers of my tenure: Benetton, for ostentatiously exploiting disease, war, religion and the victims of social injustice to push pricey mix ‘n’ match separates; Calvin Klein, arsonist, for using increasingly aggressive sexual images to ignite outrage, knowing that the media engines and ladders would inevitably race to the scene; GoDaddy, for trafficking in the most puerile and degrading T&A; Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, for smears of the ugliest kind (2004); Camel and Kool (1991), the lowest of the tobacco-marketing low, for using cartoon characters to cultivate children; Nintendo (1994), for telling adolescents to “hock a loogie at life”; and General Motors, for 1) jumping on the gruesome tragedy of 9/11 to sell Chevys and Pontiacs with its perverse “Keep America Rolling” 3,000-dead sale-a-bration (2001), and 2) having the gall on Earth Day, after decades of lobbying against emissions and mileage standards, to celebrate “environmental progress” (1990).

This, I said, was akin to “John Wayne Gacy celebrating the International Year of the Child.”

The AdReview staff was proud of that one.

After 25 years critiquing the ad industry in Advertising Age, Bob Garfield is retiring his weekly reviews. “For Ad Age, he will be extending his thought leadership on the digital revolution with a column titled “Listenomics.” He will also be launching a limited consulting practice in association with several strategic partners to be announced later in the spring. […] Mr. Garfield’s opinions on advertising, doled out in the weekly Ad Review, have challenged the industry, rankled creatives and rewarded great work.” (source)

My 2009 in (mostly) fiction

January
Middlemarch by George EliotA World Too Near by Kay KenyonChasm City by Alastair Reynolds

February
Starship Troopers by Robert HeinleinSpin by Robert Charles WilsonThe Inferior by Peadar O'Guilin Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles NordhoffAccelerando by Charles StrossPreacher, no. 6 by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

March – no books?!

April
The Music Room by Namita DevidayalSinger from the Sea by Sheri S. Tepper

May
The Forever War by Joe HaldemanPredator's Gold by Philip ReeveA Confederation of Valor by Tanya Huff

June
The City & the City by China MievilleTrading in Danger by Elizabeth MoonThe Heart of Valor by Tanya Huff

July
Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edogawa RampoMarque and Reprisal by Elizabeth MoonValor's Trial by Tanya Huff

August
The Margarets by Sheri S. TepperEngaging the Enemy by Elizabeth Moon The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West

September
Downbelow Station by C.J. CherryhThe Dunwich Horror and Others by H.P. Lovecraft

October
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

November
The Prefect by Alastair ReynoldsThe Waitress Was New by Dominique FabreDaemon by Daniel Suarez

December
Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey

This post was made possible by LibraryThing, where I tag books I’ve read with the month and year I read them, and keep track of what I want to read in the future.  Now that I’m into the swing of it, hopefully the year in review for 2010 will be more complete.

virtual book drive for prisoners

The folks at the Prison Book Program (in Quincy, MA) are doing a virtual drive to raise funds to buy dictionaries for prisoners. From their site:

Help us raise $2740 to buy 1000 college-level dictionaries! For the vast majority of people in prison with sub-standard reading skills, a dictionary is the key to understanding the books we send them. One prisoner wrote:

“I have only been reading now for about 21 months. I am 46 years old and when I get out of prison, my son will be 11 years old. And I would love to be able to read and write to my son. So please if you all could see to help me I will be able to help my son when I get home.”

We are planning to buy the dictionaries at the wholesale cost of $2.74 which is over 40% off retail.

Donate 1 or donate 100. All help is greatly appreciated.

I just wanted to mention this here in case anyone wanted to help out! I think a virtual drive is a great idea because it makes donating really easy and simple. Also: you can find out if there’s a books-to-prisoners program in your area by consulting this map (thanks, Books through Bars!)

reading Middlemarch

Middlemarch, by George Eliot, has been on my reading list for an embarrassingly long time. Maybe even since high school? I have a tendency to pass over the classics on my list in favor of guilty pleasures. I’ve been having a hard time making progress on Middlemarch just because the style bogs me down and I, um…fall asleep. Twice I’ve been on my way to return the book to the library, but I’ve found myself reading it to pass the time on the bus. And then I come across a quote that slays me somehow, and I can’t bring myself to return the book after all. I don’t know if I”ll ever finish it, but here are a few excerpts that I’ve especially liked:

“Suppose we turn from outside estimates of a man, to wonder, with keener interest, what is the report of his own consciousness about his doings or capacity; with what hindrances he is carrying out his daily labours; what fading of hopes, or what deeper fixity of self-delusion the years are marking off within him; and with what spirit he wrestles against universal pressure, which will one day be too heavy for him, and bring his heart to its final pause” (79).

“He had two selves apparently, and they must learn to accommodate each other and bear reciprocal impediments. Strange, that some of us, with quick alternate vision, see beyond our infatuations, and even while we rave on the heights, behold the wide plains where our persistent self pauses and awaits us”(144).

“Some discouragement, some faintness of heart at the new real future which replaces the imaginary, is not unusual, and we do not expect people to be deeply moved by what is not unusual. That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and feeling of all of ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity”(185).

Eliot, George. Middlemarch. New York: Random House, 1994.