Archive for July, 2004

A New Political Barometer

Posted in Uncategorized on July 31, 2004 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

The Electoral Vote Predictor 2004 Page takes a new slant on opinion analysis. It tallies a state for red or for blue based on the results of the most recent polls and awards that states electoral votes to the Democrat or the Republican based on that poll. It also nuances the results, plainly displaying whether a state is strongly or weakly for the given candidate.

It tells a very fascinating story. As we were all clearly reminded in the 2000 election, the popular numbers are of secondary importants. It’s the electoral numbers that matter. I’ve found it helpful to envision the presidential election not as one big election, but as fifty-one (counting the Federal City) state-level elections held simultaneously.

I’m not too thrilled with the electoral college, myself, but until someone comes up with a better plan, man, this is the shape of the playing field.

The current tally has Kerry 289, Bush 232, 2 states dead ties with a total of 17 between them (MN, IA).

And this site goes on the Links list.

Catch Up With Ted Rall

Posted in Uncategorized on July 30, 2004 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

This Week’s Column (clicky)

Last Week’s Column (clicky)

Read ’em while it’s legal to do so, people!!!!!

And, hey…it’s your tax dollars at work.

Kerry and Edwards Get Started

Posted in Uncategorized on July 30, 2004 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

Wasn’t that an absolute corker of an acceptance speech?

Fine gentlemen going to succeed Bush.

I wonder what nastiness the Republicans are going to start coming out with. They’ve been quiet, which means either they have nothing, or they are waiting to spring something.

The radio host, Ed Schultz, has it right. There are two cardinal rules:

1. They will do anything to win.

2. It’s all Clinton’s fault.

Remember this as you watch what they say.

Catch Up With Ted Rall

Posted in Uncategorized on July 30, 2004 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

This Week’s Column (clicky)

Last Week’s Column (clicky)

Read ’em while it’s legal to do so, people!!!!!

And, hey…it’s your tax dollars at work.

Kerry and Edwards Get Started

Posted in Uncategorized on July 30, 2004 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

Wasn’t that an absolute corker of an acceptance speech?

Fine gentlemen going to succeed Bush.

I wonder what nastiness the Republicans are going to start coming out with. They’ve been quiet, which means either they have nothing, or they are waiting to spring something.

The radio host, Ed Schultz, has it right. There are two cardinal rules:

1. They will do anything to win.

2. It’s all Clinton’s fault.

Remember this as you watch what they say.

In Praise of the Western

Posted in Uncategorized on July 29, 2004 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

Not just any Western, mind.

As usual, there’s a story. A while back, my The Wife[tm] got in the mood for Westerns. This has more or less exploded. In the last several months, she has read a ton of Louis L’Amour and has gotten her hands on a bunch more Western lit.

I still don’t have much use for the Western novel or story, but the screenplays, that’s another matter.

When I was growing up, I had my cowboy phase, just like every other little American boy. It passed, I moved to the SF world of The Future[tm], and have stayed there ever since.

Along the way I began to recognize what many fiction affectionados realize, and that’s sometimes, no matter what the story is, or where it’s set, it’s the characters that count. I’ve resonated with shows I have no interest in because I either like or can identify with what I see in the characters.

The American Western is, I think, a rather unique beast. In America, the word frontier has a different meaning than in Europe. I can think of no other genre from any other cultural body of literature that really compares. The USA established and consolidated her early success as a nation…for good and evil, better and worse…by expanding into areas considered ’empty’ by the occupying peoples (the aboriginal Americans, those we imprecisely call “Indians”, put up a spirited but ultimately futile struggle to hold the invaders back…and not all of them resisted the new neighbors, but that’s for another program).

Values considered classic and enduring gave rise to the Westerner and that most singular representative of that, the Cowboy. The Cowboy wasn’t invented by Americans…even the word buckeroo is said to have been borrowed from the Spanish vaquero…but once we got our hands on it we gave it a character that is uniquely American. We call the gaucho “Argentine cowboys”, but we don’t call cowboys “American gauchos“.

Perhaps it’s this uniqueness that made the movie and television cowboy of the 30’s through the 60’s such icons.

The Westerns I refer to in the title:

Have Gun, Will Travel. 1956-62, CBS Television Network. A truly complex Western series centering on the ronin-like character Paladin, which made the actor Richard Boone’s repuation and would be forever identified with him. Paladin leads a double-life; dapper, cultured man of independent means in 1870’s San Francisco/Man-in-black gunfighter, troubleshooter for hire. He scans the newspapers for apt situations, and, once found, sends his card emblazoned with a white chess knight and the legend “Have Gun, Will Travel. Wire Paladin, San Francisco”. Suitably checkered past, accomplished chess player, quotes Shakespeare and the Classics with ease, strong sense of ethics, will work against his employers if they turn out to be the black hats. Is clearly a Western but through the freelancing of Paladin we have elements of the private detective. Immensely satisfying to this non-Western buff.

Shotgun Slade, 1959-61, not sure what network. Portrayed by Western and B-Movie stalwart Scott Brady, Slade (we never find out his real first name) was an actual private detective based in Denver of the 1870’s. If Have Gun had shadings of the private detective, Slade went all the way, with plots that would have been equally at home in such fare as Peter Gunn and a pulsating jazz soundtrack to boot. This is not widely available, but it should be. This was apparently Brady’s finest TV moment and the Slade character is actually quite likable. His moniker comes from the custom shotgun he carries: an over and under model, combining a rifle for distance and shotgun for close quarters. In what appears to be the pilot, he reveals he mad it himself. The quirky charm of the series was augmented by surprising guest stars, such as Ernie Kovacs as a crooked prospector in the pilot.

Gunsmoke, ca 1957-77, CBS Television Network. This is the grandaddy of all TV Westerns. Beginning as a half-hour b/w (the pilot introduced by none other than The Duke himself) and later going to color and hourlong, it was the chronicle of the life and times of Dodge City, Kansas, as lived by a group of significant characters. Chief among these were Matt Dillon, the marshal, played by wide-shouldered James Arness (brother of Peter Graves). The accent is on Dillon the lawman, which almost sometimes comes across as a police procedural…though procedure usually involved Dillon working the various personalities to the outcome of keeping the peace. Dennis Weaver got his start as Dillon’s limping sidekick Chester, replaced later by the actor Ken Curtis as the iconic deputy Festus.

The supporting casts of these read like a Who’s Who of up and comers…Robert Blake…Charles Bronson…Burt Reynolds…William Schallert and other future TV-Series character-actor standbys.

Sometimes I think that literature waits for me to be ready for it. It’s a rewarding experience when I find I can finally approach these. For Western novels that may be a long way off still, but for early TV Westerns, I’m there. And it is an enthralling study in an art form that’s truly American.

In Praise of the Western

Posted in Uncategorized on July 29, 2004 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis

Not just any Western, mind.

As usual, there’s a story. A while back, my The Wife[tm] got in the mood for Westerns. This has more or less exploded. In the last several months, she has read a ton of Louis L’Amour and has gotten her hands on a bunch more Western lit.

I still don’t have much use for the Western novel or story, but the screenplays, that’s another matter.

When I was growing up, I had my cowboy phase, just like every other little American boy. It passed, I moved to the SF world of The Future[tm], and have stayed there ever since.

Along the way I began to recognize what many fiction affectionados realize, and that’s sometimes, no matter what the story is, or where it’s set, it’s the characters that count. I’ve resonated with shows I have no interest in because I either like or can identify with what I see in the characters.

The American Western is, I think, a rather unique beast. In America, the word frontier has a different meaning than in Europe. I can think of no other genre from any other cultural body of literature that really compares. The USA established and consolidated her early success as a nation…for good and evil, better and worse…by expanding into areas considered ’empty’ by the occupying peoples (the aboriginal Americans, those we imprecisely call “Indians”, put up a spirited but ultimately futile struggle to hold the invaders back…and not all of them resisted the new neighbors, but that’s for another program).

Values considered classic and enduring gave rise to the Westerner and that most singular representative of that, the Cowboy. The Cowboy wasn’t invented by Americans…even the word buckeroo is said to have been borrowed from the Spanish vaquero…but once we got our hands on it we gave it a character that is uniquely American. We call the gaucho “Argentine cowboys”, but we don’t call cowboys “American gauchos“.

Perhaps it’s this uniqueness that made the movie and television cowboy of the 30’s through the 60’s such icons.

The Westerns I refer to in the title:

Have Gun, Will Travel. 1956-62, CBS Television Network. A truly complex Western series centering on the ronin-like character Paladin, which made the actor Richard Boone’s repuation and would be forever identified with him. Paladin leads a double-life; dapper, cultured man of independent means in 1870’s San Francisco/Man-in-black gunfighter, troubleshooter for hire. He scans the newspapers for apt situations, and, once found, sends his card emblazoned with a white chess knight and the legend “Have Gun, Will Travel. Wire Paladin, San Francisco”. Suitably checkered past, accomplished chess player, quotes Shakespeare and the Classics with ease, strong sense of ethics, will work against his employers if they turn out to be the black hats. Is clearly a Western but through the freelancing of Paladin we have elements of the private detective. Immensely satisfying to this non-Western buff.

Shotgun Slade, 1959-61, not sure what network. Portrayed by Western and B-Movie stalwart Scott Brady, Slade (we never find out his real first name) was an actual private detective based in Denver of the 1870’s. If Have Gun had shadings of the private detective, Slade went all the way, with plots that would have been equally at home in such fare as Peter Gunn and a pulsating jazz soundtrack to boot. This is not widely available, but it should be. This was apparently Brady’s finest TV moment and the Slade character is actually quite likable. His moniker comes from the custom shotgun he carries: an over and under model, combining a rifle for distance and shotgun for close quarters. In what appears to be the pilot, he reveals he mad it himself. The quirky charm of the series was augmented by surprising guest stars, such as Ernie Kovacs as a crooked prospector in the pilot.

Gunsmoke, ca 1957-77, CBS Television Network. This is the grandaddy of all TV Westerns. Beginning as a half-hour b/w (the pilot introduced by none other than The Duke himself) and later going to color and hourlong, it was the chronicle of the life and times of Dodge City, Kansas, as lived by a group of significant characters. Chief among these were Matt Dillon, the marshal, played by wide-shouldered James Arness (brother of Peter Graves). The accent is on Dillon the lawman, which almost sometimes comes across as a police procedural…though procedure usually involved Dillon working the various personalities to the outcome of keeping the peace. Dennis Weaver got his start as Dillon’s limping sidekick Chester, replaced later by the actor Ken Curtis as the iconic deputy Festus.

The supporting casts of these read like a Who’s Who of up and comers…Robert Blake…Charles Bronson…Burt Reynolds…William Schallert and other future TV-Series character-actor standbys.

Sometimes I think that literature waits for me to be ready for it. It’s a rewarding experience when I find I can finally approach these. For Western novels that may be a long way off still, but for early TV Westerns, I’m there. And it is an enthralling study in an art form that’s truly American.