There is a scene where Mattie and LeBoeuf watch from a cliff as “Rooster” Cogburn takes on Ned Pepper and gang (watch the scene dubbed “Bold talk for a one-eyed fat man” from 1969 and 2010). I wouldn’t say this is my favorite or least favorite scene. But a brief shot in the 1969 version, where Rooster rides through a wide shot, firing his rifle, that always reminds me of Eadweard Muybridge‘s often-giffed study of motion of a horse and rider.
The sequence is set to motion using these frames, originally taken from Eadweard Muybridge’s Human and Animal Locomotion series, (plate 626, thoroughbred bay mare “Annie G.” galloping) published 1887 by the University of Pennsylvania
So I decided to make an animated GIF of that scene, which doesn’t work as well as the Muybridge photographs because of all the timber. I think the horse’s motion works quite well though, and even the shooting.
The GIF was easy and quick to make using the new-to-me giphy.com. All I needed to do was paste in the URL of the movie clip on YouTube. There was a little bit of trial and error with the start and endpoint sliders. Eventually I found it easier to enter 00:38 as the start point after pausing on that spot on the YouTube video, rather than try to hit a specific point using the giphy slider. For duration, I made guesses, starting with entering .3 seconds and eventually settling on .5. I captioned the GIF using the “Subtitle” choice on the text tool. Then I used giphy’s Advanced tab to download the GIF to my computer. From there, I uploaded it to my blog post so that it’s mine-all-mine.
Because I have a need to reignite my creative self, I saddled up with the Western106 folk. Then I promptly blew off the first week because work was busy, my feline companion is having health issues, and mainly because when asked to comment on what Westerns mean to me, I came up firing nothing but blanks.
As a kid, I never really enjoyed watching an actual Western. I remember feeling bored. And I don’t have any memories of a plot I understood. I didn’t care for guns, shooting, clouds of dust or men with menace on their faces. I didn’t find a reason to stay tuned.
Probably the first piece of media of the Western genre that I connected with emotionally was the one-minute PSA “The Crying Indian,” part of the Ad Council’s Keep America Beautiful campaign.
Given that this ad came out when I was around 3 years old, it’s probably the first “Western” I remember seeing. I think it probably colored my reaction to actual westerns and their often shallow portrayals of Native Americans (and women). I remember feeling like I couldn’t be seeing the whole story. And because of that, I couldn’t lose myself and just enjoy the story. I mistrusted the Western. Even more so after learning that even the hero I had connected with, “Iron Eyes Cody,” wasn’t a Native American at all, but rather a son of Sicilian immigrants with a wig and a lapse of integrity.
Growing up in Phoenix, my childhood relationship to the Western was even more muddled because of locally iconic The Wallace and Ladmo Show. Instead of watching real Westerns, I watched Bill Thompson’s Nasty Brothers short films, where the Western genre was parodied and mashed up with other things like comic book heroes and Marx brothers-style slapstick:
These shorts, shot before I was born and aired regularly on local TV, formed my main impression of the Western genre. And that’s totally messed up.
The first Western I really enjoyed as a kid was a Space Western/Space Opera you may have heard of:
Over time I’ve come to understand the whole good guys wear the white hat/bad guys wear the black hat thing is prominent in Westerns. And that many many iconic film scenes are recreated from Western forbears. But I don’t know the origins of those images – where they came from first. I know I could research and find out, and that people will probably think I’m being lazy for not already knowing such stuff. It’s just never been a priority to me to find out.
A few years back my husband orchestrated an experience for me and a few of our friends who, for one reason or another, had mostly grown up without the pervasive influence of movies and television, and especially of science fiction. He had us watch a series of classic scifi films in chronological order of when they were released. We did this over a period of weeks.
Then, at the end we watched Mars Attacks!, and we laughed and guffawed our way through probably as many movie references as you can pack into a single film without your head exploding.
And I’m guessing I’m going to have that sort of an experience delving into Western106. I’m looking forward to it.
Mr. John Goodpaster, my sixth grade teacher who intervened so compassionately the day my best friend told me ‘I don’t care if you die today’ and broke my heart during a spat.
Mr. John Dant, my high-school junior year obnoxious-paisley-tie-wearing English teacher, whose only final exam question, ‘Define what it is to be human,’ terrified, intrigued and motivated us from the first day of class.
Ms. Merry Wilson, my college geology teacher, who added test questions that required more critical thinking just to challenge me. And who gave the best lecture I’ve ever witnessed on how the natural weathering of rocks provides our bodies with salt and potassium, concluding that we are evolutionarily predisposed to needmargaritas and chips after a day of field work.
And there are more. And what struck me is that even though we may not keep in touch or indeed ever meet again after I’ve left their classroom, when I think of them, what I feel is genuinely love. Some of them I’ve already made an effort to tell about the impact they’ve had on my life. But today suddenly I wanted to work on a little shout-out to my teachers to express my gratitude. And that’s part one of this post, now done.
On to part two.
It also occurred to me that teachers come in many forms, including the wonderful fiction authors who’ve influenced me but who I’ll probably never meet.
Standing with the soap still in hand, I though of one author particularly, Neil Gaiman, who taught me about ideas with his Sandman story ‘Calliope‘. Reflecting on people asking him ‘where do you get your ideas?,’ he wrote: You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. You get ideas all the time. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.
Turning off the water, I thought ‘I just had an idea and noticed I’d done it.’
So this is my thanks to Neil Gaiman for teaching me that it’s not so much about having an idea as it is about doing the work to create something. Even something as little as this silly blog post.
I’m also adding a WICF category to my blog, ‘where ideas come from.’ Because after a while deliberately trying to notice when and where my head serves up an idea, I think it will be amusing to peer back at such an odd collection of places and times. And the ideas will be there waiting if I forgot them and need one again.
On my birthday I woke to a beautiful fog at 6:30 am. My husband and I took the most peaceful morning walk. Fog is so rare in Phoenix, we savored the dreamlike quality of muted sound, the stillness of the morning such a wonder. The palm trees on this vacant lot, formerly a trailer park, were an eerie, oddly peaceful juxtaposition with the thick fog. It’s a birthday moment I will definitely remember.