This Is No Time To Ride Into The Sunset

I have an awful confession to make. And probably the least American thing about me: I don’t like Westerns.

To be fair, this was also the least Portuguese thing about me, since the westerward expansion and everything it implies is now an ur-myth of the Western civilization that includes Europe, and most Europeans are mad for a good Western. The only Europeans who don’t love a good Western are the pseudo sophisticates.

There used to be an area, just out of the village that looked (for some reason) like the old west, and Italian movie companies used to film scenes there (there was even a rickety train bridge, and of course, until I was about 10 all the trains in Portugal were coal and really old.) We used to walk out, my brother, his friends and I, and sit and watch them film.

Why did I never take to them? I don’t know. It’s not pseudo-sophistication, not given the other stuff I read. And yes, I tried Louis L’Amour. I slid right off. Now, maybe it would be different now — don’t know. Sometimes it’s a “language feel” and my “language slide off” changes every few years — but when I tried him 20 years ago, I slid off.

I like the ideas and the concepts, but can’t for the life of me read the book till the end.

I’d like to blame the myriad spaghetti westerns I read (it’s a thing. Portugal had a minor industry of writing/publishing pulp westerns every week or so, for some houses) when I was under six. You see, my brother and cousin (who lived with us) collected them, spending pretty much their entire money on them, and one of my first memories of reading was of reading their collections before anyone knew I was reading. They were very bad, of course. But I read a sh*t ton of bad mysteries and bad science fiction, published by the same knock-off factories (maybe not as many, but close) and I still read the genre. And sure, cousin’s bullfighter romances did put me off romances for a good long time, but I came back in my thirties, even if just to Georgette Heyer.

So– Why don’t I like Westerns? I don’t know.

But yesterday I was sitting on my chair in the family room, minding my own business and trying to work through a script rewrite when suddenly a bad dude my husband, who was waiting for me to be ready to go to bed decided to put Rango on. He says he watched it a decade or so ago with the guys, and maybe he did. I have trouble sitting down and watching movies, but we used to have a Friday pizza and movie night, where I normally watched with the guys as it was a big family thing. However if I was sick or on deadline (and there was a lot of both) I might have missed that one.

Anyway, at some point some sound or movement called my attention and I looked up. It’s Walter Mitty meets the classical western (which I do understand is a normal western trope, yes, with the tenderfoot finding out he has to live up to his dreams. I told you I read a sh*tton of them before I entered elementary.) But it’s animated, and weirdly the visuals are stunning.

I got interested when the chameleon who is the protag survived in the desert simply by refusing to give up. He’s not the least suited to survive. He should have died in five seconds flat. But he refuses to. And he makes it.

And then I stayed for the rest of it (which means I need to get some caffeine in me and get my ass upstairs to finish the script rewrite.)

If you haven’t watched it, you should, and yes, this is me recommending a movie. And if you need to learn plot structure, just cribbing it off that is not a bad idea. It works, not just for Westerns. Also you have to see the posse riding chickens. This might have hit me particularly hard, since I’m one of those people who find chickens inherently hilarious just by existing. (I once had a screen saver of chickens and cows flying with balloons attached to their mid-sections.)

Anyway, this morning I was talking to my husband while we stumbled through the morning routine, both of us still technically asleep and literally walking into walls and I told him I was amazed at how much I enjoyed the movie, and thank you for actually having it on, because I needed that, even though I didn’t know it.

He said, “I needed the ending, when he realizes he has to go back and fight, because “the hero can’t walk off on his own story.””

I think a lot of us need to hear that right now.

You can’t walk off on your own story.

You might feel impotent — I know I do — and you might feel like you’re not the hero, and you’re waiting for the hero.

But each of us is the hero of his own story. And we can’t walk out. We can quit, and turn our story into one of those Frenchmen love, with despair and nihilism as the message. Or our form of heroism might be the little caryatid where we know the cause is doomed, but we go out fighting (and if that’s it, try for the defiant song to the end, please.) Or we might think the end is foretold and we’re already doomed, but still fight. And fight the best we can and as big as we can. And sometimes, sometimes, a miracle occurs and we win anyway. Now that’s rare enough that it becomes the stuff of legends… and westerns. But you know, the chance is worth it.

Anyway, we might be impotent, or frankly ridiculous int he hero role. Or we might be temperamentally suited to play the villain, and bit and curse, but….

Each of us is the hero in our story, and a lot of us are puzzled at being on the side of light.

The battle is much bigger than us, and has been going on a long time. But each of us has a role to play. Even if we are a misguided pet chameleon lost in the middle of the desert and having to face up to a conspiracy much bigger than any of us.

Yes, we’ll surely die. But not today. Today, we fight.

476 thoughts on “This Is No Time To Ride Into The Sunset

  1. I remember being on a tour in Germany ( or maybe in my friend’s car) and passing a Wild West amusement park, complete with giant tepees. I’d had no idea.
    And I don’t do Western novels, either. Other than The Virginian, which is nothing like the TV show of the same name.

    1. When I visited my cousin in Germany in 1989, he had a Confederate flag on his bedroom wall with the motto, “The South Will Rise Again.” Doubt he knew anything about the American Civil War, but I smile thinking how triggered today’s leftists would ve.

      1. Uh. No.
        The Europeans, particularly the European left, have a romantic thing for the South when they lost the Civil War. They had the classy living. They should have won. And it is so tragic. Etc.
        See White Mansions, the album. Pretty much encapsulates the European feelings for the period.

        1. That’s good to know, although my cousin was about fifteen at the time. I bet he doesn’t think like that now, especially since the last I heard anything from him, it was a political cartoon he posted on Facebook of Trump grabbing Lady Liberty by the …. Unfriended him then. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll hear from him about wanting to get the heck out of Germany. His extended family all fled Romania with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, but he doesn’t seem to have learned from that.

        2. Maybe it’s because they look to the French for cultural leadership, the French lost both world wars, so losing is the thing to do?

        3. That, and most of Europe was backing the Confederacy, to take some of the wind out of the sails fo the upstart Americans and their freaky “republic” thing. France had already tried that and proved it wouldn’t work.

          None of them cared who won, they were just happy to see the country ripping out its own guts.

          1. make a france meme with a pic of a guillotine and the caption “Republic, you’re doing it wrong”

          2. None of them cared who won, they were just happy to see the country ripping out its own guts.

            So… not much has changed, then, between then and now.

          3. I read a book once about European reactions to the civil war and the first wave of them was all sorts of people rejoicing that we would now have to deal with borders and all that jazz.

            1. In college, my best friend’s Honors thesis for History was on pre-war abolitionist reaction to the 1856 Sepoy Mutiny. Apparently the people who were 100% against slavery in the US were universally appalled at brown people in India rebelling against imperialism. Interesting.

              1. Well, not so much “brown people” as “people killing women and children as part of a religious war, and killing everybody in as horrible a way as possible”. It was very similar in horror to the India vs. Pakistan partition crud, when everybody got raped and murdered by everybody.

                I mean, I love the Tribal People React channel, but they are all from the Punjab. So best not to ask about their grandparents’ deeds.

                1. A lot of them leapt at the chance to conduct witch hunts. A lot of slaughter that way. . . .

        4. Off topic to todays post but i’d like your thoughts on publishibg dates.

          I live in Canada, in our province the left took over the government agency years ago that manages libraries. The latest mandate is that no library may add a book to thier stacks that was 1st published over 5 years ago and they are pushing the libraries to also scrap any book in their stacks which were published over 10 years ago.

          Now our library refused and no has a special reserve of books / authors the government says can not be in our stacks anymore. Those are some of the most popular books. Besides the obvious Dr. Seus there is a bunch of romance authors, lovecraft, twain, and non-fiction books on history.

          Our local library polled the patrons to see which authors/ books they should add. We ended up getting a couple of your books and since they were 1st published over 5 years ago… your in special books stacks.

          So I’m assuming the reason for the 5 year age thing isn’t to get rid of books with outdated info like they claim but more than likely because newer books are more likely to lean further left. What are your thoughts?

          1. I hate to say it, but “Canadian content” is a thing, and it’s probably the grift that’s keeping Canadian publishing alive. And if the libraries don’t constantly buy new Canadian content, the publishing companies go bankrupt. But if the libraries buy all the cruddy Canadian content, they won’t have room for books. Therefore, there must be constant turnover of newish Canadian content, in order to keep the grift machine rolling. And who cares whether the readers and the community are served, as long as government money keeps the publishing companies alive.

            See, the publishing companies are important feudal vassals and money laundering machines, and libraries are important cogs in the system. But readers are just money-providing machines or money-sinks.

            1. Very similar to the way publishing companies in this country provide grift to Democrat politicians in the form of large advances.

          2. The Canadian gummint has been confiscating books at all the border and destroying them to my certain knowledge since 1995. At the same time the U.S. had book purchase abroad as duty free (I once had to buy an extra suitcase to get the books home.THAT we taxed). I do not know if that is still true.

            I’m truly sorry your library workers have decided to take their “Freedom to Read” motto to new levels of dank humor.

            My library system, despite being ridiculously conveged, politely told the Seuss I banners to get stuffed. I just checked out a copy of McElligawhoosits Pool to a young man yesterday.

            A rose growing through the concrete.

            And good for your local team for having the guts to draw the line!

          3. That same effort is being pushed in American libraries, even in the schools. The idea behind it is to get rid of aging books (insect infestation, fire hazard, other lame excuse). They will pay for a large part of the acquisition costs, if you both scan the books and use their cataloging system, which keeps track of how often the book is taken out.
            They did this on the belief that they could cull the UnGood books on the grounds of lack of circulation. Unfortunately, they found quite the opposite – the old books were most often checked out. So, that’s apparently the next step – cull by age – and the money to replace with a new edition will not be forthcoming.
            One of the things that has been done in some libraries is that staff – particularly the volunteers – are checking out the Woke books, and pushing them on customers. Also, teachers are assigning them as class reading, and telling kids to go to the library to get the books before they are gone.
            You always wanted to know how books are pushed up the bestseller lists, that’s how. My library not only has availability information on its online site, but how many copies of the books there are. Most of the Woke books have so many copies it’s ridiculous – 60 or more. Yet truly popular books might only have 1 or 2.
            I’m telling you, it’s imaginary checkouts that are driving this.

            1. Don’t you realize the only way to end Systemic Raaaaacism is to eradicate obsolete thinking? And if that means editing out a few old books that is a price the Woke are willing we pay! Why, they’re even cleaning up the WWE library so modern rasslin’ fans are not corrupted:

              NBCUniversal is scrubbing racist scenes from WWE matches
              NBCUniversal is quietly scrubbing racist, risqué scenes from classic WWE matches before it adds the wrestling network’s massive trove of old footage to its new Peacock streaming service.

              According to wrestling fan site, PWInsider, Peacock has deleted a match from the 1990’s “WrestleMania VI,” which featured a match between Roddy Piper and Bad News Brown that included Piper, a white wrestler, painting half his face black while facing off against Brown, a black wrestler.

              “I hear Bad News Brown, how he’s talking about Harlem, and how he’s proud to be from Harlem,” Piper said during the pre-match interview, which was also removed from the service. “Now I can stand here, and I can be black! I can be white! Don’t make no difference to me. … It’s what’s inside.”

              A source familiar with the situation told The Post that the Peacock is reviewing all 17,000 hours of WWE content to ensure it aligns with its standards and practices. WWE is also being made aware of any edits. …

              Do we really want to live in a society in which the content of a person’s character matters more than the melanin content of their epidermis?

        5. The American South was a landed aristocracy. I cannot imagine why their cause would appeal to Europeans.

          1. It was also the location where the Cavaliers fled, during the English Civil War, as opposed to the Roundheads who later fled to the northern parts.

    2. I’ve read a few. The Virginian, one of Stan Lynde’s novels (because back when, Rick O’Shay was one of my favorite comic strips), probably Shane, don’t recall what else. Love them while I’m reading, but don’t feel an attraction to read the next one. I have no idea why.

      Conversely, my sister reads Louis L’Amour and pretty much nothing else.

      1. L’Amour “wrote to market”, for whoever was willing to write a check. Different pulps, higher-end magazines, eventually novels. Some of them read very trite and hackneyed, because that was the type of magazine he was selling to. Others were more erudite.

        L’Amour’s agent was also an idiot, and geshtupfed the copyright paperwork on some of his stuff, which led to chunks of L’Amour’s work falling into the public domain, where it was reprinted as it was, or sometimes “fluffed” by ghostwriters, so not only were these books coming out with his name on them, they weren’t even his work… that’s why you’ll sometimes see “Authorized Edition” on reprints.

        So you’ll see a lot of variance in his stories. Some stank. Some were quite good. His later work didn’t impress me a whole lot, but that happens to a lot of writers.

        L’Amour mentioned his chosen genre was “Far East”; Shanghai, China, Macau, with pirates and tongs and colonials, piggybacking on Fu Manchu, Mr. Moto, etc., but after WWII he thought that Westerns were likely to sell better.

        1. I see he also wrote one SF novel, tho from the synopsis on Wiki, nowadays we might call it urban fantasy. I don’t think I’ve ever read him, tho I suppose I should dig up a few on G.P. — My sister is only interested in decompressing, so likes popcorn with gunfire and explosions.

        2. I’m currently reading Last of the Breed – a Cold War-era story set in the USSR. The Indian is an American pilot, who was captured for the purpose of giving up valuable information about the military. He is escaping through Siberia.
          I’m telling you, it is hard to put down, even to sleep.
          I only started reading it because L’Amour and my brother share a birthday, and I thought it would make a nice gift, if we both read it and discussed it. But, I’m loving it.

          1. Last of the Breed is outstanding. I have the leatherbound (fake?) set although I’m missing a few because we ran short on money at some point and had to cancel the subscription. Any time I run out of stuff to read I can grab one off the shelf at random and know I will be entertained. Yes, it is written to market. It is also well written to market.

            I recommend the Sackett series which starts in the fens of England and covers at least 150 years, if not more. Also, How The West Was Won, although I will say it’s a bit sad that people keep not seeing their families again, given how used we are to frequent contact in this day of electronic communications and quick travel. I get that it’s realistic, it just seems sad.

            Also also, if you don’t want to read, watch the Sackett series with Elliot, Selleck, and Osterhage. Two part TV movie and again, well done. And of course, HTWWW with an epic cast, three epic directors, and eight Oscar nominations. Probably won’t see that again for a while unless the west gets re-won with more diversity.

          2. I love Last of the Breed, just be aware, and I hate to do this to you when you are still reading it, but it was meant to be a two-parter and the man had the gall to go and die before writing the sequel.

            Flint is great. Radigan is great. The Key-lock Man is a treatise on asymetrical warfare disguised as a story. I adore L’Amour’s work and will go through 2-3 in a day when I’m doing popcorn/fluff reading.

            1. Just a word for audio book fans: just about ALL of L’Amour’s tales are great on audio book. Carefully produced and well-suited to the issues of listening to a book while driving, doing housework or yardwork. Last of the Breed works well, and the first few Sackett novels – chronologically, that would be Sackett’s Land and To The Far Blue Mountains – are delightful, read by a performer who knows how to render all of the various English, Irish, Welsh, Scots, Devonshire and other accents.

              The books are good for superficial enjoyment and offer greater depth than is initially apparent, they’re a model of what audio books ought be.

        3. L’Amour’s good, but I’m not much of one for westerns either, except on the screen. If I pick him up, it’ll more likely be Hills of Homicide or another of his collections of hardboiled short pieces. It’s just a genre preference, really. R. E. Howard has a collection of western stories on the library shelf here, but I read one and fulfilled my Western fix for the day. I just prefer Cimmeria to Colorado.

      2. I happily endorse The Virginian, which is a novel set i the West more than it is a Western — even if it deemed to have largely started the genre.

        L’Amour’s books are a kind of popcorn reading, pleasant without much nutrition. Those who find him readable find him very readable, those who don’t cannot comprehend the attraction. Not that he is the only author (or genre) about whom that can be said.

      3. At one point in my career, I spend about a year in West Africa. My access to English-language books was small, and had it not been for Baen’s Webscriptions my access to English-language SF/F would have been pretty much nonexistent. The local English-language library, made up of whatever books various expats had donated over the years, had a dozen or so Louis L’Amour books. I had never thought I liked Westerns, but I read them because I had nothing else to read, and discovered that I really liked L’Amour.

        My favorite part of his books is probably how it was never “cowboys vs. Indians”, but it was always more complicated than that, just as real history was. The main characters often had friends from this tribe, and enemies from that tribe, and so on. I was left with the impression that he’d done his research and was writing situations that were similar to real history, even though he wasn’t writing historical fiction per se.

        But in addition to that, his stories were really just… engaging and fun.

        1. One of the things said about him is that he also got the terrain right.

          As in, there are western readers who go track down specific locations and will check the descriptions against how it is now or was then.

          1. L’Amour wrote a book about his time in the merchant marine, Education of a Wandering Man. He also wrote that later he and his wife would travel, and when they were camped or staying someplace he would think about what the place would have looked like 100 years ago, how far they could travel, where they might get food, etc. It kept his stories somewhat realistic.

            I have to admit that’s the only book by him I have been able to finish. And that’s even with buying a novel and a book of short stories by him in an airport shop to read on the plane.

            Zane Grey wrote about several places in Eastern Arizona and Western New Mexico, and every autumn people travel there to take in the sights and see the places he wrote about.

    3. They’re all over Scandinavia as well; including one in Sweden call “High Chaparral.” Just like the western TV show filmed at Old Tucson.

      I would occasionally bug marketing to get ahold of them and try and make some sister park deal with them (we had one with a park in Mexico), but nothing ever came of it.

    4. Sigh.
      The western is an enduringly popular thing … but I can almost understand why some readers bounce off it. I think the original “western serial novel” trope was an artificial thing at the start. Created out of whole cloth by a scribbler going by the moniker of Ned Buntline.
      I think it was about the man on the horse image thing – a free agent with his own transport, a hold-over from tales of knights of old. Must have been an enticing read for some poor schlub in a factory or in retail somewhere.
      The real “old west” in America (which means the frontier in the mid-19th century, a mythic place which moved from what is now the middle-west to the trans-Mississippi over the course of half a decade or maybe more) was an interesting and complicated place. It really was – and ought to be more interesting to scribblers of fiction. I tried to get agents and publishers interested in my first couple of ventures, and got the snooty-turn-down. “We don’t rep/consider Westerns!” Me saying “Nononono – they’re historical fiction set on the American frontier in the 19th century cut no ice whatsoever. So I embraced the “western” category.
      Whatever works.

      1. And, yet, the themes are enduring – LOTR is essentially a Western, with indigenous allies, enemies, and some natives that might ally with the Good Guys for their own purpose, in order to defeat the Bad people in just one more fight.
        Where your word means everything. The old weapons defeat the new-fangled machinery and artillery, and even the womenfolk will join the fight, as best they can.
        We call that Hero story a Western in this country, but it’s as old as humankind. The enduring myths follow the same themes.

        1. Hero starring Jet Li. One of my favorite movies. Basically a pre-Western Western, except Chinese.

          And of course Seven Samurai by one of the great directors of all time. Also a Western except Japanese.

          And who could forget Terence Hill who, by the way, has a new movie coming out called My Name is Thomas. Not a western but a biker movie. So that’s cool for some of us.

          Sorry to get off track onto movies but sometimes that’s what we need. 😁

          1. I own Hero, and like it, but…

            The Chinese Emperor that the ruler character is supposed to represent is one that China likely would have been better off without. Even if he did reunify the country.

            Because of that, I’m horribly torn over that movie, and haven’t watched it in a long time.

  2. I love the message that each of us his the hero of his own story. I think it really helps to transmute the slogginess (totally a word) I’m not looking forward to of the next few. years.

    Sometimes I think that the reason that the left gets away with its idiotic policies and endless lies is that they provide stories that allow people to make their own lives more dramatic. “The underdog fighting against the forces of evil” is a big one. Even if the left is in NO WAY an underdog now, they STILL buy it. It gives their lives meaning.

    I also have a hard time watching series and films on the television. I just get twitchy and irritated by the story lines and have to walk away. I’m not sure if it’s the shallowness and predictability or just that I’m more accustomed to reading, where I can control what happens more by skimming or picturing things in my head. I did manage to watch a few seasons of the Great British Bakeoff recently 🙂 But my husband is working through all of SG-1 and I dip my toe in to see if I’ll be able to tolerate the episode or not and often wander off, but sometimes wander back. I really must sit down and analyze my reactions to figure out what’s going on…

    1. Watch Babylon 5. Can’t recommend it enough.
      Delenn: “There are beings in the universe billions of years older than either of our races. Once, long ago, they walked among the stars like giants, vast and timeless. They taught the younger races, explored beyond the Rim, created great empires. But to all things, there is an end. Slowly, over a million years, the First Ones went away. Some passed beyond the stars, never to return. Some simply disappeared.”

      1. Absolutely. Two of my all time favorite scenes in TV history: “Be somewhere else!” and “Who am I?”

          1. Zathras used to being beast of burden for other people’s needs.
            Very sad life. Probably have very sad death.
            But, at least there is symmetry.

            1. This. I want to do a cosplay of Zathras, but would probably die of heat stroke if I tried to do it properly.

      2. You have to start at the beginning and watch them in order. You can’t just pick random episodes or you’ll never figure out what’s going on.

        “You may not believe this, G’Kar, but all I ever wanted is what is right for my world. I’m a patriot, as you are. I have made some… very poor choices in the last two years. Because I did not think, those choices almost destroyed my world, and yours. That is a humbling realization, G’Kar. If for the single wrong word I can become the enemy, do I any longer really understand who the enemy is?”
        — Londo Mollari, ‘No Surrender, No Retreat’

        1. Absolutely. Babylon 5 is not a typical TV series; it’s a set of 5 video novels, each consisting of 22 chapters, in order. Some plot threads weave through two or three seasons before they join together. ‘Throwaway’ bits turn out to be significant. Some of the episode titles alone can give you chills: ‘A Race Through Dark Places’ ‘Falling Toward Apotheosis’ ‘A Tragedy Of Telepaths’ ‘Between The Darkness And The Light’

          Some of them only give you chills after you’ve seen them…
          Susan Ivanova: “You’re saying just because I’m holding this right now, I’m Green Leader? But I’m human!”

          Former Green Leader: “Rules of combat older than contact with other races. Did not mention aliens. Rules change…caught up in committee. Not come through yet.”

          Susan: “Bureaucracy. Ya gotta love it.”

          1. Don’t forget my favorite episode: “The Deconstruction of Falling Stars”

            1. “You came all this way, just to say that?”

              Delenn: “You came just as far, to say less.”

            2. I love that one too. In one part it feels like an homage to “A Canticle For Liebowitz”. The hardest thing is that seasons 4 and 5 got a little swapped/mangled as they were rushing to close down season 4 as they thought 5 was canceled and then it got rescued.

            3. It was also the first series to seriously use “arcs,” in the storyline.
              I spent a lot of time on the Compuserve Babylon 5 forum. Straszynski (know I butchered the spelling) sometimes popped in and commented and talked about doing the arcs, and how hard it was to sell the concept.

              1. First series in at least a decade, probably three, rather– at some point when they started being able to rebroadcast TV, the three-to-eight episode arcs screwed up the “just play whatever” thing. Same thing that hurt B5, if I remember correctly– they played the episodes in an order that didn’t make sense and confused the viewers.

                I seem to remember that “everybody knew” that viewers liked the “characters never much change anyways, basically reset the situation at the end of the episode” type setups so common in the older situational comedy stuff.

                Having characters change and interact and remember stuff from five episodes back made you a soap opera!!!!!
                *pauses for gasps of horror to fade away*

                My dad had quite a nice little rant about this, most of his examples were radio shows he’d listened to that became TV shows so 50s and 60s; the main thing I remember was something about Batman being related to Zorro, the Scarlet Pimpernel and… argh, either Green Hornet or Blue Beatle? Which I think was mostly from the radio shows, but was discovered then mentioned again, later, and I think there were crossovers.

                1. I seem to remember that “everybody knew” that viewers liked the “characters never much change anyways, basically reset the situation at the end of the episode” type setups so common in the older situational comedy stuff.


                  Yes. That would be why those sitcoms had a useful life of 2-3 years before all the jokes were used up and the characters became so exaggerated that they became cringe.

                  Though Hogan’s Heroes is a notable exception to that.

                  1. The flip side of that is that you can’t arc forever — only straight lines can do that.

                    Then it’s an observation as old as Aristotle that works of art can’t be arbitrarily large. (Though he was thinking more of the capacity to be observed as a whole.)

                2. The Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet were some kind of relatives, in the radio show era, when they were invented.

                  There was also an author, I want to say Philip Jose Farmer, who wrote on the basis that a bunch of the old media figures were all relatives.

                  And there have been significant massive crossover theories involving more recent television series.

                    1. Thanks for saving me having to look that up – I’ve scarce read it in nigh unto fifty years. The thesis is that a group of folk were present at a meteor’s crash and they and their descendants formed the basis of a society of extraordinary people. Holmes, Tarzan, Doc Savage, Lamont Cranston, G-8 and his Battle Aces) and about every heroic character of pulp and radio all were connected by that singular event.
                      Farmer’s “Tarzan,” “Doc Savage” and other knock-offs have been reprinted in recent years in very nice Trade PPB editions and frequently turn up at Dollar Stores.

                    2. Not available in Kindle, unfortunately. Will have to add to list of books to buy at some point. Used bookstore time if I can find one still open.

              2. It was the first SF show to use story arcs. Wiseguy, starring Ken Wahl, which aired starting in 1987, used story arcs before Babylon 5 did.

                1. Homicide: Life on the Street, starting contemporaneously with B5, used story arcs.

                  I think it may have been 1981’s Hill Street Blues that initiated the concept. At least, that is what claims:

                  Hill Street Blues was the first American prime-time drama to rely on arcs, and is probably when the term came into the American TV vernacular. British Shows have a longer-standing tradition of arcs (See Doctor Who).

                  I think Rocky & Bullwinkle can make a strong argument for being first American television show employing story arcs (outside, of course, of the daytime soaps which were nothing BUT arcs.)

                  I never watched the 1977 series Soap and so cannot attest to whether that sit-com employed arcs, although I suspect it did. The syndicated series, Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman debuted a year before that and may have employed arcs — it has been a very long time since I watched it and I was hardly a huge fan at the time. BBC shows such as Butterflies (1978), The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976), and The Good Life (1975) which ran in America as “Good Neighbors” might also claim to have employed, to various degrees, story arcs.

          2. HBO Max has all seasons of Babylon 5 available restored to a higher quality than anything previously offered – they worked with Warner to rescan everything from original film at higher res. I’m watching the whole thing through again now.

            The show is in 4:3 format due to the expense of rerendering all the effects shots in widescreen – JMS shot all the live action in fully framed 16:9, so prints exist in that format and various releases to disc have made that available over the years, but the early CGI was only rendered in 4:3. Quite a lot of fan-rendered effects shots are around using the original CGI models that are really strikingly pretty, but there is as yet no rich dude willing to front the rerendering cost in 4k for the whole series.

            1. “the expense”
              ahhhhhhhhhhh hahahahahahaha

              do you *know* how fast those scenes would render, just loading the original scenes into Lightwave setting them to 1080p and smacking F9?

            2. Originally, the effects scenes were done on Video Toaster boards, on Amiga computers, in full 16:9 HD. Downscaled 4:3 versions were extracted for broadcast. When TBN(?) broke up, the hard drives with the HD effects video were lost. Only the 4:3 film remained, so the DVDs were made from that.

              I bought ’em all anyway.

              1. They were NOT completed in HD. The HD spec wasn’t even *finished* when they started working on B5. They were rendered in 720×480 at 24 FPS and then pulldown was added to make it 30 fps, and then they were burned to laserdisc to create uncompressed archival copies. When Foundation Imaging went out of business, who knows what happened to the archival copies…. check B5 Scrolls or ask Paul Bryant, I wasn’t working there anymore.

                1. The “1080p” version is a bit sharper than the old DVD set; I just had two synchronized copies playing on identical monitors. Frankly, it doesn’t look better-enough to get the improved version.

                  Definitely time for a re-watch, though. Hard to believe that show is a quarter of a century old now.

            1. Michael O’Hare was holding off schizophrenia with his fingernails and as a result found it hard to have chemistry with anyone.

              1. From information coming out later, O’Hare was in really bad shape. He told Straczynski he was going to have to quit, but jms talked him into staying for the rest of the season. The medication he was on gave him some quirks that creeped out some of the other actors.

                There are cases of stage actors finishing a show with various ailments, but O’Hare came back day after day, week after week, and gave everything he had to do the job.

              2. Oh, sorry, brain fart. I meant Sheridan. When I watch B5 I have to put a mental placeholder that says “Assume epic love affair HERE” over all of there scenes, because their relationship is just un-credible to me.

                1. I don’t know anything about Boxleitner… but as far as his character went, Sheridan was the kind of commander where I might have been the guy to roll a grenade into his tent some night.

                  We used to watch movie clips in ROTC, where the instructors were trying to point out the difference between “management” and “leadership.” Nowadays, they could mine everything they needed from Babylon 5.

                  1. Meanwhile, Sinclair is the one that jumps into his Starfury to take it to the enemy. Very different styles.

                    1. And yet when it was time to go to Z’ahadum, Sheridan went. Because he analyzed. correctly, that this was where he alone could do the mission. “Reckon, then risk.”

                  2. >> “We used to watch movie clips in ROTC, where the instructors were trying to point out the difference between “management” and “leadership.” Nowadays, they could mine everything they needed from Babylon 5.”

                    I realize the answer might be too long to give in a comment, but now I’m curious. What was the problem with Sheridan? Can you link any of those movie clips and give me an idea of what your instructors where trying to get across?

                    Keep in mind that I’m a life-long civilian with no experience in management or leadership positions.

              3. I’ll state that when i met him at a con during the midseason break for first season, he was a really nice guy.

          3. I can’t decide which quote I like best, but I am fond of, “First you will know pain. Then you will know fear. Then you will die. Have a nice flight.”

            1. My favorite (quoted from memory, so apologies for any errors):

              “Learn the Babylon 5 mantra… Ivanova is always right. I will listen to Ivanova. I will not ignore Ivanova’s advice. IVANOVA IS GOD. And if you ever do anything this stupid again, Ivanova will personally rip your lungs out. Babylong 5 out.” Pauses, looks upward. “I was just kidding about the God part. You know that, right?”

              1. One of my favorites:

                Londo Mollari: We made a mistake, I’m sorry. Here, open my wrists.
                Michael Garibaldi: Centauri don’t have major arteries in their wrists.
                Londo Mollari: Of course not, what, do you think I am stupid?

              1. Na’Toth: “Ambassador, it is not my place to speculate on how anything gets into your bed.”

                Caitlin Brown had a severe allergic reaction to the plastics used in the Narn makeup, and gave up her part on doctor’s orders. But she did come back as Na’Toth at least once despite the problem.

                1. BTW, it wasn’t until near the end of Season 3 that I realized the Narn starships were “flesh color.”

            2. “Are you Ambassador G’Kar?”

              “This is Ambassador G’Kar’s quarters. This is Ambassador G’Kar’s table. This is Ambassador G’Kar’s dinner. Which part of this progression escapes you?”

      3. I likewise add my pitch for Babylon 5. It’s really one-of-a-kind, and has all the best elements of things like space opera, cyberpunk (but with more hope), and Lord of the Rings (right down to the part where, while you really like ’em, you also wanna slap the Space Elves sometimes.)

        1. We watched it long ago when it was actually broadcast and it was great. I think I need to find it and watch it again.

      4. The closest current media thing to “Babylon 5” is “The Expanse”. Like B5, you have to watch episodes in order.

          1. I keep hearing good things about the Expanse, but every time I try to watch it, I can’t even make it through the first episode.

            1. It starts slow to setup the plot and players, but gets better later in Season 1. Season 2 and 3 are really good dramatic Sci-Fi. Helps if you can binge-watch two to four episodes at a time.

              1. Somehow, when I can’t even get through one episode, being told, “Of you need to watch three or four!” Is not encouraging ! 😉

      1. “…they’re [better] than the programmes in-between.”

        Alright, maybe the Alexander with a Grasshopper chaser had more effect than suspected. }:o)

    2. Decades ago I was watching “Airwolf,” with friends. The hero’s team was protecting an injured woman and there was a bit of dialog. I said, “Now they’re (the minions of the Evil Politician who know she knows something she doesn’t know) going to try and kill her in the hospital.” The next scene, the minions were sneaking in.
      I got a lot of funny looks.
      And no, I don’t watch a lot of TV.

      1. Highlander: the Raven; I think the first few eps. “Say, wouldn’t it be funny if X character turned out to be Immortal?”

        Cue end of season, and people banning me from making predictions ever again….

      2. A gal I knew from visiting renfaires bewildered a kid who asked if she seen some show. “I don’t really watch much TV.” and the kid starts telling about the show (comedy) and the gal keeps filling things in.. “I thought you didn’t watch TV!” “I don’t but, but I do do local theater and that show strung three classic vaudeville bits together.”

    3. I also have a hard time watching series and films on the television. I just get twitchy and irritated by the story lines and have to walk away.

      I’ve been having the same problem.

      Part of my difficulty is that I have Projects That Need To Be Done, and if I’m watching TV, I’m Not Doing Projects. I could, hypothetically, have them on in the background if I were Working On Something, and then I might get distracted and start actively watching if the show is sufficiently interesting.

      I gave up on TV instead.

      The only other thing that will get me to actually watch a show is if it’s in a foreign language and I have to read subtitles.

      1. “Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning.” The movie is in Finnish.

        The English subtitles are hilarious Engrish. They have subtitles in dozens of languages, including Portuguese. I’d be interested to know if Our Gracious Hostess thinks the Portuguese ones are as amusing as the English ones…

        (and it’s on the place of tubes)

    4. I’m more inclined to being the anti-hero of my story, but what I really want is to be the plucky sidekick who offers sardonic commentary on the hero’s efforts.

        1. Egad, now there’s a post for Sarah when she’s not feeling up to a full post or needs the time for Something Important: “You’re all a bunch of characters. Cast each other.”

          1. I know a Dalek that has a good match for my mental flexibility and compassion, but there’s also a Necron Pariah that has basically the same spirit as I do.

            1. There is a reason I phrased it “cast each other” rather than “cast yourselves.” I don’t know it would be any more likely or accurate, but it might prove more interesting. Or terrifying. One of those. Or, yes, both.

            1. I am both horrified and intrigued at the prospect of finding out what other people think of me in this manner.

          2. *blink* For some reason or crossed neuron or other, I read that and thought “if the Huns are bait, what are we fishing for?”

            Misses coffee, I do. Needs my wake up juice.

            1. Old Ones: “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.”

              Huns: “Hey! A bigger venue for LibertyCon!”

              Old Ones: “This neighborhood went downhill fast…”

                  1. [applauds]

                    Not only was that a clever rewording, but you’ve got the perfect screenname for that line. 😉

        2. (Takes bow)

          Thanky, but I am not sure I can claim to be plucky. Many a person has recommended I get plucked, but few were sufficiently thoughtful to tell me how.

    5. I love all the Stargates, my very favorite of anything-on-screen. In my head it’s a complete parallel universe, entirely real, where I could move in without a blip. But it’s really all One Big Novel, and if you arrive in the middle you’ll miss half of what’s going on, and won’t have any of the long long tail of interwoven backstory.

      I remember the first one I saw… somewhere in Season 5, I think… looked like good quality SF, but I had NO fucking idea what was going on, or why all these different factions and people were tangling, or… it still hooked me good and hard.

      1. Could you recommend a viewing order, please? I have watched the Stargate film, and IIRC I can watch Stargate SG-1 on… either Amazon or Netflix, can’t remember which now, but I haven’t started it yet. Is SG-1 the next one to watch after the film? And if so, what should be next after SG-1?

        1. Original film, then start watching SG-1 from the pilot, Children of the Gods.

          CotG has some nudity that I do not recall showing up later.

          Basically, the complexities are more when you start watching Atlantis. IIRC, somewhere between season 6 and 8 of SG1 you want to start watching Atlantis.

          Ark of Truth and Continuum are pretty good, and watchable post SG1.

          Some recommend watching the third live action series. I do not. Origin also looks skippable, sadly.

          Infinity is fine compared to the third live action series, but most definitely not in continuity, or anywhere near SG1’s quality.

          1. The nudity in Children of the Gods was edited out for commercial TV once SG1 started to go into syndication and once it shifted its first run airings from Showtime to SyFy. Children of the Gods was made expressly for Showtime.

        2. Stargate movie, director’s cut
          Stargate SG-1 through about season 6
          Stargate Atlantis/Stargate SG-1 remaining seasons
          The Ark Of Truth
          Stargate Continuum

          Save Stargate Universe for when you want to become clinically depressed. It’s that bad.

          About halfway through Stargate SG-1 they discover the Ancient city of Atlantis in another galaxy, and from then on SG-1 and Atlantis run sort of concurrently, with infrequent contact between the two galaxies. Start watching Atlantis after that happens. I don’t remember episode-level detail from almost 20 years ago, though.

          I’ve got all the DVD sets except Universe. Check with your local library; they might have the DVDs.

          1. > Check with your local library; they might have the DVDs.

            Not in the country I’m living in, they won’t. At least, not in English. But from time to time I’m back in the US, and then I take full advantage of what’s available at my local library. And I don’t feel any qualms about converting a DVD from the library to MP4 format for watching later when I’m back in this country, because all I’m doing is timeshifting. I acquired the DVD legitimately, with a library card, and turned it back in after a week or two. That the week or two when I watch the episodes does not coincide with the week or two when I’ve reserved exclusive access to the library’s copy… well, that might technically break the letter of the rules but it does not break the spirit of the rules. Because I’ve still reserved exclusive access to the library’s copy for a week or two, during which time that copy was not available to other people to watch. So the net effect is the same: the library gets feedback that a borrower liked that set of DVDs. And if multiple holds pile up on that DVD set during the time I’ve got it checked out, they’re likely to buy a second copy, thereby providing more money to the show’s producers. Whereas if I downloaded a copy from the Internet without checking it out from a library, I would not give that feedback, there would be fewer holds piling up on the DVD set, and the library would be less likely to buy another copy.

            Anyway, point is: thank you for the library recommendation, and I plan to take advantage of it as soon as it’s practical for me.

    6. Oh, ghod, my take on a movie that the Daughter Unit and I blundered into watching…

      It wasn’t a bad movie, just a profoundly mediocre one. Careless gaffes abounded, from the heroine’s loose and flowing hair, her costumes with zippers down the back and labels in the neckline, and the presence of barbed wire in 1850, when it wouldn’t be available in the Western US for another twenty-five years, neat stacks of canned goods (?), some jarringly 20th century turns of phrase – and where the heck in the West in 1850 was there a hard-rock mine and a cattle ranch in close proximity? Not to mention a mine-owner oppressing his workers in the best Gilded Age fashion by charging them for lodgings, fire wood and groceries, as if he had been taking lessons from the owners of Appalachian coal mines. It was as if there was no other place of work within hundreds and hundreds of miles – again, I wondered just where the hell this story was set. It passed muster with some viewers as a perfectly good western, but to me, none of it rang true. Whoever produced it just pulled random details out of their hat – presumably a ten-gallon one – and flung them up there. Hey, 19th century, American West; it’s all good and all pretty much the same, right?

      1. I’ve been studying fashion history for about fifteen years, especially the Victorian and Edwardian eras. The amount of mistakes I see in the few glimpses of shows or movies that I catch makes me want to throw something at the screen.

        1. It is a classic case of the more you know the more that you see wrong. There ain’t a blog big enough for all the tales of armament mistakes in war movies, and fashion mistakes are probably more numerous. Women’s hair fashions are particularly troublesome, because a star demands and gets her own hair-stylist and is generally more concerned with what compliments her and how her fans expect her to appear than what is historically correct. And even when she isn’t, the studio execs know what they’re selling to fans and by Harry, Brigitte Bardot is going to effing look like Brigitte Bardot and not some 19th Century bit of Eurotrash.

          BBC, OTOH, is usually pretty good in their costuming.

          1. The downside of readers is that they outnumber and probably know more. Hence one reader will complain that your military never runs out of ammo or even worries about it; another will complain women of a historical era would regard blue jeans as shockingly immodest; another that democracy and religious toleration are not self-evident ideas that need only to be presented to be accepted.

  3. I just finished a therapy session. You just wrote the summary of it.

    Whether I want to be a light in the world or not, that’s my role. And I’ve got to be “me” to do it. Hence, therapy.

    This is a fight worth fighting. I choose to stay.

  4. The Alamo
    Wake Island

    (Corregidor surrendered 6 May 1942; the Battle of the Coral Sea was fought 4–8 May 1942, which marked the first sea battle the IJN didn’t win. One was army and one was navy so causality can’t be inferred, but it’s interesting.)

    1. Oddly, John Wayne was in movies about at least 3 of those. (Fighting Seabees and They Were Expendable being generic for Wake and Corregidor.) 4, if you count Back to Bataan.

    2. Yamamoto knew the US would take 6 months to get their act together. Coral Sea was at best a draw, as US losses were higher, but won a strategic victory as the IJN didn’t land at Port Moresby. The true defeat came a month later at Midway when they lost their fleet carriers and, more importantly, all their veteran pilots.

      1. In “Shattered Sword”, Parshall and Tully make a good case for the idea that the loss of Japanese pilots at Midway wasn’t all that bad on a percentage basis. They claim that what really crippled the kido butai (besides the loss of capital ships) was the near-100% losses among trained aircraft mechanics, due to overpressure waves and shrapnel ricocheting through the fully-enclosed hangars of the Japanese carriers. The Japanese couldn’t make up the losses quickly from their population of laborers on mostly-unmechanized farms, in contrast to the U.S. where most young men were familiar with automotive engines.

        1. Going from Prang’s Miracle at Midway one of the issues of losing the pilots was that Japan had a rigorous, and very slow pilot training program. I assume the skilled pilots were supposed to be the cadre for training those not yet deployed. It’s also likely that the A&P mechanics had a similar situation, where the best of the bunch were deployed to finish off the US Navy for good.

          My understanding is at the end, Japan was sending up pilots barely able to fly the planes, and if memory serves, some of the flying bombs were the pilot’s first (and last) flight.

          As I recall, the US pilot training system didn’t guarantee pilots as good as the best of the Japanese, but once a) we understood the Japanese weaknesses (lack of armor on the planes, for one) and b) had sufficient aircraft and pilots capable of exploiting those weaknesses, we did all right. “Quantity has a quality of it’s own,” to borrow a phrase.

          1. Miracle at Midway is getting pretty long in the tooth, and since it was written an awful lot of new primary sources have become available (including declassified U.S. documents and translations from Japanese sources). The Japanese point of view in “Miracle”, IIRC, was largely from Minoru Genda’s book, and that is only one man’s point of view.

            Parshall & Tully put forward data to show that the IJN had no problem crewing their aircraft until after the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot, but they had a lack of serviceable aircraft due to deteriorating maintenance crews. I highly recommend their book.

          2. It’s also probably relevant that the “Turkey Shoot” was such a bloodbath for the IJN in large part due to the combination of fire control radar and the then-secret radar-proximity-fused 5″ shells of the USN surface fleet. The Japanese got a strike package in that should have done significant damage to the US fleet, but the new technology made large formations of dive bombers much less effective than they had previously been.

            1. The US Navy was free to use the supersecret proximity fuses at sea for antiaircraft applications since any duds were not likely to fall into enemy hands for reverse engineering. Such use was prohibited until quite near the end of the war in the ETO as prox fused flak used against the USAAF and RAF heavy bomber formations would have ended the European bomber offensive full-stop.

              The Turkey Shoot issue for the Japanese was that IJN and Japanese Army Aviation tactics simply did not keep up with known technology of USN radar fighter direction – those fighter director radio frequencies were not encrypted, and IJN intel folks could and did monitor how far out raids were detected and how the USN was positioning and directing fighter cover to intercept, as well as how they were excluding fighters from dedicated gun AAA areas. But the Japanese were still delivering effectively uncoordinated waves of attacks, as they had the entire war (the same as the USN had at Midway, serendipitously as it turned out).

              There’s a memoir out there of one of the senior cadre long service IJN pilots (maybe Saburo Sakai?) who basically circled up above everything at the Marianas and watched the various Japanese attack flights dribble in and get massacred piecemeal.

              If the Japanese had come up with something like the Soviet long range aviation coordinated wagon-wheel attack pattern, designed specifically to saturate radar-directed air defenses, it would have been a lot worse for the USN in the late Pacific war.

              1. Yes, I think that was Sakai. I’m not sure the IJN could have effectively employed a tactic like that in naval combat, given the limitations of sensors and communications at the time. Heck, the USN didn’t really ever manage proper coordinated strikes against surface vessels with air cover.

                1. Yeah, most of our battles seem to have gone:

                  “We think the enemy is somewhere around here. Fly there. Find enemy. Attack.”

                2. The sinking of Yamato was pretty coordinated – 386 planes from lots of carrier wings off different carriers in TF58 got there pretty much at the same time and made various attacks to hit with five 1,000 lb bombs and ten aerial torpedoes before it sank, all without bumping into each other, but they were effectively unopposed in the air.

                  1. Exactly. The YouTube channel “drachinifel” has a series of videos on the naval action around Guadalcanal, and at the end of one of them he pulls out highlights from the Enterprise after-action report.

                    The report emphatically concludes that even with TBF Avengers, torpedo bombers were nearly useless if attacking against air opposition. It recommends that no more than ten or so should be included in an air group, because of their large size and rare utility.

                3. Yorktown’s planes managed to pull off a mostly coordinated strike at Midway. The fighters and torpedo bombers arrived together just before the dive bombers. But there simply weren’t anywhere near enough Wildcats to protect the Devastators.

                  From the sound of things, the Hornet strike group might have been able to pull off a coordinated strike if the CAG hadn’t picked the wrong heading, and taken the dive bombers and fighters completely out of the battle. There was apparently a very vocal argument after the planes were in the air between Cmdr. Ring – the CAG – and Lt. Cmdr Waldron – the lead of Hornet’s TB-8 – about the proper heading to take. As it turned out, Waldron was right, and Ring was wrong.

                  It’s a bit ironic that the Enterprise groups – which get most of the glory – were the most disorganized.

          3. Pilot training:

            We rotated combat veteran pilots home to train the next batch. The lessons learned in combat were quickly passed along by eye-witnesses.

            These were also veterans of combat with aircraft that lagged the enemy, thus they were good at finding and exploiting little things.

            Japan and Germany kept their aces on the front to kill more enemy. Their lessons were shared more locally, to fewer new pilots. Thus, they struggled to adapt and replace. We essentially industrialized and assembly-lined training.

            Thus we were able to staff new units with people who had current-relevant training, in great numbers.

            Our aces were not so high-scoring, but they were numerous and teachers.

          4. “I assume the skilled pilots were supposed to be the cadre for training those not yet deployed.”

            Then they would have pulled them back after N many missions and assigned them to training. That was what we did, instead, and it was a great advantage to have our pilots trained by veterans.

            1. There may be a cultural issue at the root of this– at least in anime, you don’t become a teacher until after you’re done being awesome, unless they’re out training with you while you fight/travel, one-on-one. And teaching someone while you’re out fighting seems to be a really big imposition, though I’m not great at “reading” the implications.

              Vs America, where we do classrooms for a lot of training, and the idea of being good enough to teach something you know but someone else doesn’t is another job, kind of flattering but a lot of work and maybe a pain, do it well and get it over with. (unless you’re a total geek on the subject, in which case you’ll corner strangers and teach them)

              1. What, personally, makes someone awesome?

                Germany was deep into a cult of expertise at the time.

                Japan has stories about people who start out good and become awesome, and stories about people who start out competent and gain a motivation that lets them become awesome because of what they discard. Okay, also some awesome guy picks out and trains a loser to become awesome, but based on criteria that goes against what average people can comprehend.

                WWII era America was probably much more itno the idea that a current loser could be good in unknown future circumstances. Sherman was originally a drunk, forex. Horatio Alger, self improvement by choosing to read books, etc. Loser becoming awesome by continuing to try, without being supplied seed awesome somehow.

                1. You forgot John Paul Jones, who got to Awesome via F’ing Nuts.

                  That said, in American culture, there is no conflict between still being awesome, and being a teacher– while the idea I get from pop culture out of Japan is that teaching is something you do after you faded.

        2. The US Navy also replaced the F4F Wildcat with the F6F Hellcat, and later added the F4U Corsair and the P-38 Lightning. We designed and built the Essex-class aircraft carriers, and the Iowa-class battleships. The Japanese Navy ended the war with the same ships and planes they started with.

          By mid-1945, the United States was building enough aircraft, ships, tanks, guns and trucks to equip an entire army, navy and air force every month. The Japanese spent 20 years building a navy with 200 combat ships and 12 aircraft carriers; the U.S. built more than 900 combat ships, 36 fleet carriers and 70 smaller escort carriers in 3 1/2 years.

          We had to cut back ammunition production because there was no place left to store it. We were still shooting ammo left over from WW2 until Operation Desert Storm.

          1. The IJN was building new ships. A few Unryuu-class carriers were completed. Taihou was supposed to be the first of a new class of carrier, but the Japanese couldn’t finish the follow-up ships.

        3. Japanese pace of technical development was also an issue – the A6M Zero first entered service in 1940, but the IJN’s replacement for the Zero, the A7M Reppu (Sam), was still only in early preproduction in spring 1945 when a B-29 bombing raid destroyed the plans and production jigs. Total wartime production of the A7M was 9 aircraft.

          The USN F4F Wildcat also entered service in 1940, which held its own (barely) against the Zero but was largely inferior.

          Total US wartime production of the F6F Hellcat, which entered service in late 1943 as the next-generation replacement for the Wildcat, was 12,275.

          The US was test flying prototype jet fighters by 1942, and by 1945 the US was in volume production of both the F7F Tigercat and F8F Bearcat for the USN, each being the third generation past the Wildcat, as well as being in initial production of an operational jet fighter for the USAF in the P-80.

          Even with the small numbers of newer designs that IJN and Japanese Army Aviation received, there were major reliability issues with the engines. And as the war continued the impact of USN unrestricted submarine warfare also caused increasing impacts on the industrial capabilities in the home islands, leading to materials shortages and more production delays.

          So the Japanese just kept building Zeros – total wartime Zero production by 1945 was 10,939. Zeros, the main aircraft in the IJN air raid on Pearl Harbor that started the war, were involved in one of the last dogfights of the war in the Pacific over Honshu against USN Hellcats some two hours before the surrender announcement on August 15th, 1945.

          The Japanese designs could be excellent, but their slow technical development pace, reliability issues, slow rate of production, and the lack of domestic industrial resources to sustain the war without the overseas possessions which they started the war to gain, together were an insurmountable obstacle to winning anything other than a short war.

          1. Engines were the big problem Japan had with developing new aircraft, and I’ve never understood why. Certainly it wasn’t a problem with metallurgy. But they never really made the jump to the >2000HP engines that powered mid-to-late-war Allied designs. Everybody had failed engine development programs, but Japan never really had a successful one.

            1. *raises paw* I’d argue that it was excess complexity. I’ve gotten to study a real WWII Japanese engine, out of a Kate (if I recall correctly. I’d have to go back and see if I still have any notes). It was/is a complex monster that fit quite nicely in a confined space but was a PITA to try to work on, at least for someone used to US radial engines and even a Merlin. Just staring at the wiring gave me a headache. The outside of the engine looked as if it had been draped in spaghetti, because of how the wires to the spark plugs ran from the alternators. In the half hour or so I had to examine the engine, I never did manage to trace out the airflow and fuel lines. I suspect the design was also a bit fragile in the sense that it wouldn’t take much damage to knock it out of service because of close tolerances.

              1. a) Japanese have a reputation for a culture extremely focused on perfectionism.
                b) IIRC, Deming and Drucker were wildly popular in Japan /after/ the war.
                c) This gives us some shrewd guesses about how they understood systems engineering before and during the war.
                d) How do you handle the control of something with a lot of little choices to be made? One option is to look at each choice, and make it individually perfect to the limit that the current art of science and engineering allows.
                e) Issue is, each little thing you put in has a chance to break. If you have a lot of little things, these add up and something /will/ be broken. A little feed back controlled system that is ‘perfect’ when everything is working will not be so when something unknown is broken. It isn’t really possible to experiment all possible configurations of broken.
                f) The reality and statistics of this isn’t obvious when you are discovering it for the first time for your organization.
                g) It seems possible that the Japanese were blind to this little hiccup, and followed the drive of perfectionism down the road to engineering hell.
                h) And then Deming or Drucker made it visible.

                1. The Japanese didn’t learn Total Quality Management until after the war. I’m pretty sure it was Drucker who wrote that he went to a factory just after the war where radios were lovingly handcrafted to elegant technical designs, but had something like a 50% failure rate. I wonder if the same was true of engines. Certainly Japan (and oddly, Germany) never adopted the idea of mass assembly-line production that was SOP in America.

                  1. I thought I was explicitly trying to make that more or less exact point.

                    Concluding that quality control/statistical reliability must have addressed some shortcoming in the way Japanese were doing engineering, otherwise it would not have been such a big hit.

                    Of course, an alternative explanation is postwar enthusiasm for whatever it was that let the victor win.

                    But there was an actual anime, something like ‘an ordinary highschool girl reads Drucker’s management.’ My feeling is that there was specific lasting enthusiasm, and this was partly because of the degree of the shortcomings before the war.

                    Thing I was saying about experiments for configurations of broken components? That is basically a similar type of fundamental problem to a lot of industrial experimentation challenges. Which the post-war Japanese worked on to the point that it was Taguchi, not a Schmitt or a Brown or a Park, who did Taguchi squares.

                    Anyway, Fisher was something like ten or twenty years before, so in some ways it is a little surprising that the American engineers had those insights already.

              2. Unlike the Pratt & Whitney R2800 Double Wasp and the Wright Cyclone II, which brought many P-47s and Corsairs home with several cylinders shot out.

              3. Interesting. But I wonder what was the cause of the complexity? Complexity is often a cover for some fundamental problem.

    3. It’s interesting that despite the IJN reputation for suicidal bravery, it was typically the Americans that charged, and the Japanese that often broke and ran. The Battle Off Samar comes to mind, where the IJN battle fleet was chased off by a handful of DD’s and DE’s, with assistance by ground attack aircraft.
      Even at Pearl Harbor, the IJN called off their third wave, and missed the opportunity to cripple the crucial repair infrastructure, because they got a bit of the panics.
      True, they would fight and die if ordered, but there was a strong reluctance to do so with initiative. VDH makes the point better in “Carnage & Culture”.

      1. The contrast between the suicidal bravery of Japanese soldiers, sailors, and airmen, and the seemingly-timid behavior of Admirals on occasion, is probably explained by the material position in which Imperial Japan found itself. Japan found itself bursting at the seams with people–they weren’t just set on conquest to gain resources, they were looking to colonize other lands with their excess population. Thus, individual lives were cheap.

        Capital ships, on the other hand, were in short supply. The materials and skilled personnel required to replace them were in even shorter supply. Admirals were routinely admonished to carefully weigh the risks they took with their fleets. Thus, Kurita’s almost incomprehensible decision to retreat before Taffy 3, and Nagumo’s caution at Pearl Harbor and Midway. Of course, Spruance was accused of being overly cautious with his carriers as well, and most people agree that Halsey made an egregious blunder in going after Ozawa’s decoy force and failing to cover the amphibious fleet.

        1. Also Nagumo’s caution at Pearl Harbor not re-arming for a third strike. IIRC he was worried that he hadn’t destroyed all the land-based air and the American carriers were who knows where and the Kido Butai would be vulnerable if it hung around too long. When in fact a third strike could have set the USN back another year at least.

    4. Depends on whether you count amphibious invasions as sea battles.

      The Japanese lost in their first attempt to invade Wake Island.

      Also, Java Sea should be added to the list. The fate of the ABDA Fleet is heartbreaking.

  5. I think that was one of the last movies I watched with Otto. Funny thing is– I used to be the hero. I think I’m a side character now. I’ve learned that I need to take one step at a time. I’m sure I’ve said that before… I cannot quit because if I do then I will have forsworn myself. I made a promise and I will keep it.

  6. When Obama said “Be the change you want to see” I don’t think he had us in mind. Surprise! We’re here and we’re creating the change WE want to see! Neener neener Barry!

      1. Interesting vid… being a nine-stone weakling with knobbly knees, if I can’t run away and shoot at ’em from a safe distance, my melee weapon of choice would be 30 inches of half-inch conduit. Light enough to be fast one-handed, hits bloody hard (use the tip, not the middle), won’t get hung up on anything, and I’m experienced with using it (breaking up major-league dog fights, where you can’t be afraid of hurting ’em). And don’t need to close with ’em like you do with a hatchet. (Or throw it at ’em, which you only get to do once.)

      2. . What would you use. Right now as you’re watching this…

        I looked up at the wall art… Huh. Though according to Shadiversity medieval flails aren’t very useful.

        (Not practical mind you. A gun is way better. But I’d never realised how weird our taste in wall art is) He is also underestimating what a woman protecting her child would be willing to do with the knife she uses to debone chickens. Though as he points out, if you’re in knife range you’re probably in deep kimchi.

        1. yes and according to Lindybeige attacks from the sides are rare and from teh rear don’t really happen, proving some of these guys need to go spar with some SCA guys

      1. Sorry, I had Western on the brain and misread that, I thought you were talking about Johnny Ringo and darn near asked why you’d want anything to do with that psycho and his band of cutthroats.

        1. Well, dropping them in DC and letting them have at it has a certain attraction to it.

        2. Say what you will, those shows had some great theme music …

          Riverboat, ring your bell,
          Fare thee well, Annabel.
          Luck is the lady that he loves the best.
          Natchez to New Orleans
          Livin’ on jacks and queens
          Maverick is a legend of the west.

      1. The Dorsai led by Cletus or Donal Graeme, or perhaps The Galactic Patrol with Kimball Kinnison at its head. Although I’d take the Stainless Steel Rat…

        1. My Dream Team:
          Light Infantry: Falkenberg’s Mercenary Legion
          Special Ops: The Dorsai
          Raiders: 1st Mobile Infantry Division
          Light Armor/Scouts: Hammer’s Slammers
          Heavy Armor: The Dinochrome Brigade

          Why no, I do not believe I have ever heard of this “overkill” that you speak of…

  7. Isn’t it interesting that, no matter the genre, the best stories are filled with protagonists who do not, not ever, under any circumstances, give up? From the time I could read and “The Little Engine That Could” was one of my favorite books, the theme hasn’t changed. What if Frodo had turned back at Bree? What if Paul Atreides had given up in the desert? What if…what if that person in the mirror didn’t get up and dust herself off and face another bone-wearying day? What if?

    1. I learned the importance of not giving up the hard way (like most of my learning). In high school, while I wasn’t one of the cool kids, I was in the “smart” classes, and reasonably popular. There was one boy on our bus who was almost a cartoon of the big, dumb bully. About 6′ 6″, maybe 280-300 pounds of muscle, 20 lbs in his head alone. He decided, Bog alone knew why, that I was a smart alec that needed a beating, and we were going to fight. I did my high school best to avoid it, but no go. I decide to just fight him, take the beating, and get it over with. The fight went like this: I would hit him a couple of times to no apparent effect, he would hit me once, knocking me down, and I would get back up. Rinse and repeat multiple times. Finally, I was too dizzy to get up – likely concussed. Next day at the bus stop, he was staying well away from me. I found out later he told his friends (I guess everybody has friends) “That SOB hurt me. I don’t want anything to do with him.” Lesson learned? If you’re in a fight, keep on hitting, you may be doing more damage than you know.

    2. Persistence is underrated. In school, they teach safety, going with the crowd, and going for the kill too soon.
      Kids are coddled, not allowed to fail. I once ‘failed’ a teacher aptitude test, because I answered the question, “Is it every right to fail a child?” with a loud YES!
      Failure is a wonderful teacher. It teaches you what NOT to do. That can be a lifesaver.
      I also believe in 2nd and 3rd chances – that’s a very American idea. By doing so, we allow people to lose decisively, and yet come back again, recharged and refreshed, eager for victory.

      1. I once ‘failed’ a teacher aptitude test, because I answered the question, ‘Is it every right to fail a child?’ with a loud YES!

        If children learn they can fail and recover, do you not realize how much that diminishes the System’s power? If we promote absence of dependence, resilience, and [attribute to be named later] this whole nation is at risk of becoming ungovernable. Is that what you want – a country of people whose happiness is not dependent upon their government’s approval?

  8. Never got into westerns (does “Blazing Saddles” count as a western?) not entirely sure why. Grandpa had some Louis L’Amour floating around the house up north and I was a voracious reader, but never touched them. I’d spend more time flipping through the encyclopedia set they had, stopping on any article with an interesting picture and reading it.
    I’ve heard good things about Rango, maybe I’ll track it down and give it a try…

    But here’s the thing about being the hero. Everyone is the hero of their own story, that’s how they see themselves. Maybe not fully thought out, but I’d bet if you had 1000 people describe themselves and their lives, you’d be able to find a “classic” hero trope for them.
    The plucky underdog, the never give up / never surrender type, whatever you can think of.

    Some of us, the best we can do is, be the best we can and try to be the sort of person others look at and, consciously or sub-consciously think, I want to be like them. To be one little match, perhaps the match that starts the fire that becomes a light in the dark.

    Ghandi (and from my understanding, there’s things about him that were NOT nice things,) Mother Theresa, Buddha, Jesus, and who knows who else…

        1. The rest of Tom Selleck’s western oeurve is universally top rate as well.

          It’s obvious he really loves the genre.

    1. > does “Blazing Saddles” count as a western

      Yes. Same as “Shakiest Gun in the West”, “Support Your Local Sheriff”, or Bruce Campbell’s “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.” TV series…

      1. The Villain with Kirk Douglas(The Villain), Arnall(The Hansom Stranger), and Ann Margarette(Charity Pureheart). A Great Western.

        1. Okay, here’s one few will have seen and even fewer reacll: from 1956, Red Garters.

          “It’s the Code f the West” (places Stetson over heart)

    2. I watched a lot of Westerns on TV as a kid (Hopalong Cassidy, Zorro, Sky King, Bonanza and so on), but don’t recall going to see one in the theater. (OK, we did see How the West Was Won as a field trip in grade school. Cinerama was pretty cool… (I wouldn’t turn down Western movies on TV, including Blazing Saddles and Support Your Local Sheriff and such.) Novels, not that I can recall, though OldNFO’s takes on the Western have me thinking about one or two when the TBR stack gets a bit smaller. (Whether the Rimworld series should count as Westerns is open for debate.)

      My Ukrainian stepfather loved Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey.

    3. “But here’s the thing about being the hero. Everyone is the hero of their own story,”

      Heck no I don’t want to be the hero, bad stuff happens to heroes. Closest I want to come is someone like Bob Hoskins in Brazil, sneaking in, fixing things for the kicks, and then GTFO.

      1. DeNiro was the Phantom Phixer (Archie Tuttle?). Hoskins was one of the foiled apparatchicks.

  9. I found I don’t care for Westerns, as such. Maybe it was all the John Wayne & so on films the folks watched, and Gunsmoke on TV. The lighter versions (Gene Autry, etc. including the screwy ‘Radio Ranch’ serials) I could deal with… though as something to have on while running an injection molder the bar is quite low.

    I did discover a couple oddities. While I simply cannot stand Gunsmoke the TV show, I rather like it in the radio show version. And, to my surprise, Ma said she doesn’t care for westerns in book form… though did like Peter Grant’s Brings the Lightning (partly as the the territory is stuff that’s really there and proper research was done. Not that she’d been there, but likes the idea she _could_ go see it or where it was.) and I think the following book? She’s interested the rest of the series as far as it might be, but she’s strictly “dead tree” and I see only e-book versions.

    1. My introduction to Gene Autry was The Phantom Empire, with Queen Tika and the underground kingdom of Murania, so I’m afraid I was forever after convinced that all Westerns are barely concealed bizarre science fiction camp. XD

        1. I guess to answer that we’d have to define what constitutes a Western. My instinct, though, is ‘no.’ 🙂

        2. ::looks pointedly at original Star Trek, DS9, Firefly, and even–to a large extent–Babylon 5:: lotta Western genre elements, at the very least.

          1. Andre Norton’s The Beast Master. Former soldier who lost his home in a war goes to the frontier, ostensibly to seek out a new life for himself but really to find an old enemy and take revenge. Once there, he impresses everyone with his horsemanship skills and finds himself making friends among both the settlers and the natives. When trouble arises between the two groups, the soldier must put aside his personal feelings in order to keep the peace and prevent this new land he has come to love from falling victim to bloodshed.

            If there aren’t at least a dozen western novels and movies with that exact same plot, I’ll be shocked.

          2. Rodenberry openly acknowledged that Star Trek was conceived as “Wagon Train in space”

            1. And I couldn’t help but think of Star Trek: Voyager as Dusty’s Trail in space. If you don’t recall DT, think of it as “What if Wagon Train and Gilligan’s Island were combined?” Also: Lucky you.

              1. I tended to watch ST: Voyager with the sound off, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

    2. I used to like westerns. Still like the Eastwood man with no name movies; but most just turn me off with either being too sanitized, or the ones with native Americans as poorly written bad guys.

      1. But the indians /were/ poorly written bad guys. There was too much alien going on for their motivations to be written well for a modern audience.

        Just like the left will be poorly written bad guys to the descendants of the survivors in a hundred and fifty years. The knowledge and skills will exist to depict them as complex and multidimensional villains, but few of those writing boog stories will bother at that point.

        1. Indians were poorly written? Not always.

          Sometimes critics didn’t understand what they saw. Two warriors meeting in mutual respect, one for the other, was not something they comprehended.

    3. Support Your Local Gunfighter, Briscoe County Jr. and Firefly. And anything set East or the Mississippi.

      The problem with Westerns is that they’re set in the Western States.

      1. Everyone considers Little House a western. They moved from the big woods in Wisconsin to the Prairie of Minnesota, but they did have to cross the Mississippi to do so.The James Gang and a carp ton of “Old West” stuff is damned sight closer to the east coast than the west. Ohio was once considered the wild west.

        1. Tennesee and everything else over the Appalachians were once considered the wild west.

          The moving western frontier, both as an escape valve and a societal memetic theme structure, is one of those things without which the US would be a very different society.

      2. I expected that there’d be a British equivalent of “Westerns” set in the days of the Raj, when the sun never set on the British Empire… Australia, Canada, all of the Subcontinent, the African protectorates and colonies… it’s not a completely barren field, but there aren’t enough books to rightfully call it a “genre.”

        I asked some British friends about it, in case I was missing something. No, no Raj genre they knew of, just American Westerns.

        1. It’s pretty clear that the modern Brits are actually fully and deeply embarrassed by pretty much all of their ancestors, and wish they would all just go away so they can watch rural priest detective shows set in the early 1950s in peace.

  10. Oh, and as for “riding off into the sunset”… doesn’t the Hero (for variable values of… Dripalong Daffy comes to mind, alas) do that… only AFTER having put things right?

    1. In Shane and The Searchers the hero rides into the sunset because by bringing Law & Order to the West he has created a society with no place for folk like him.

      This is very much the theme of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Two versions of the self-sufficient man Lee Marvin’s Valance and Wayne’s Tom Doniphon) have to be cleared before civilization can flourish. One must be removed, one permitted to withdraw.

        1. Yep – and if you like that you should check out MY Name Is Nobody, on the difficulties the notorious face with retiring.


  11. Some think that being the hero of their story means preservation of self and wealth for them and their family members. They have trouble with the balances one must choose in life. Had a friend years ago that summed up his direction as, “take the path of least resistance”. He had a hard time seeing how much that limited the probability he might never stand for any important principles. Hope he’s changed by now.
    Matt 10:28 may show the ultimate in courage.

  12. Having been employed at a famous western film location, I am appalled by the lack of love for westerns around these parts.

    1. I wonder if part of the problem is that we’ve been too exposed to the anti-Western (Little Big Man, Billy the Kid, et al).

      1. Lack of frame of reference for me. Westerns on TV, but my reading seemed to jump from Dick and Jane to SF (partly via Boy’s Life and a bunch of short stories in there). This also coincided with the space program and an explosion of SF (of variable quality) on visual media. I guess I saw LBM in the theater, but it couldn’t kill what wasn’t alive for me.

        1. Not quite so abrupt a jump, but life changed my library and reading habits about when I would probably have otherwise gotten into reading westerns.

          Video side of things I’m much less likely to experiment or consume at all.

      2. When Silverado came out it was both fairly successful and pretty revolutionary, in that it did not invert the good-guys with bad-guys as had become de rigueur for Hollywood in the post-Easy Rider era.

        1. Silverado was the first film i really noticed the surround mix on. When he takes the shot at rage, you hear it from the rear speakers quite clearly in a theater.

    2. Overlooks too much of the awesome real history of the region like burning down towns to stop alcohol sales, hanging outlaws, submarines napalming indians, and the work they did in Utah and Nevada with radar targeted rayguns.

      In all seriousness, there’s a very good chance that I just haven’t given it a good enough opportunity.

      1. The submarine napalming of Calcutta is one of those dark episodes best suppressed.

  13. I’ve already seriously looked at taking my own life. I don’t ever want to be there again. That means being around the people I love, both family and not. And living for them.

          1. Hadn’t-seen-before feature in Microsoft’s word– their spellcheck now gives a basic definition and/or synonyms when you click on a word to correct it.

          2. >> “”

            Apparently preciptate is an actual chemistry term, but it’s such an obscure one it doesn’t even seem to show up in online dictionaries.

            Preciptate: “is the formation of a solid in a solution or inside another solid during a chemical reaction or by diffusion in a solid”

            I found that definition here:

            1. Meant to quote FlyingMike saying “Oh, and autocorrect thinks that’s OK?” at the top.

            2. *does the ah-HA motion*

              I do know this!

              Because of silly joke– if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the precipitate!

              1. Hmm… Fair point. The term does show up in various discussions of chemistry if you do a DuckDuckGo search, but it’s possible those are all just misspellings.

                1. It kept coming up with chemistry pages when I did a search, but then there’d only be the one post that used that spelling.

                  Was thinking it might be like honor/honour but I can’t find anything non-social-media.

                  1. If it were just an alternate spelling then both spellings should appear in dictionaries, so it was probably just a typo after all. I thought it might be a real word because FlyingMike complained about auto-corrupt treating it as one, but I guess not.

                    1. I never really thought about it but that does sound reasonable. I’m not interested in crusading to make it varient spelling, though.

                    2. And of course I misspell “variant” while stating that I’m not going to intentionally misspell words to create variant spellings. Why you gotta do this to me, brain?

                    3. It is the same Law of the Universe which dictates any time you point out somebody else’s spelling (typing) error you will commit a similar error in that very post.

                    4. Of course, it’s Muphry’s Law. When you try to correct somebidy else’s misteaks, you’re temptimg Muphry.

    1. I’ve already seriously looked at taking my own life.

      This is not the Way.

      I don’t ever want to be there again. That means being around the people I love, both family and not. And living for them.

      This is the Way.

      1. How many of them
        Can we make die?

        it matters to the great*-grandchildren.

    2. Adding a quilt to that Afghan. Nice soft warm cotton quilt. Can’t say I haven’t thought *bad* thoughts along those lines, never more than a fleeting second. Not for a long, long, time. Never again.

  14. Unfortunately, I’ve long had a suspicion that the end of my movie looks very much like the end of Casablanca–I’ve never believed that Rick lasts long after the final reel. All in all, I think I’d prefer being the comic relief in my film, although Signor Ugarte certainly didn’t come to a good end, either.

    1. The police chief mentions a nearby Free French garrison at the end of the movie. The implication is that he and Rick should be able to get there with only a little trouble.

      French North Africa stayed under French control throughout the war, so I’m a little more optimistic than you.

      1. That’s assuming that Rick and Renault stayed in French controlled territory. Given his penchant for “lost causes” I can see Rick volunteering to assist the Resistance or joining the OSS or SOE.

    2. How long Rick survived isn’t really the issue – we all die. The issue is how Rick chose to live, who he chose to serve, and who paid his butcher’s bill.

    3. It’s A very drapable dog… (Checks) We’re watching it right now.

      “And welcome back to the fight”

      If you get sidelined for a while, you can always get back into the game. The Gamergaters were really good at understanding this.

      1. Oh brother.

        Afghan Hounds are not like greyhounds it seems: 30mph lap dogs. What do you get when you cross a horse with a cat?

        And we’re watching Casablanca.

  15. “The true secret in being a hero lies in knowing the order of things. The swineherd cannot already be wed to the princess when he embarks on his adventures, nor can the boy knock on the witch’s door when she is already away on vacation. The wicked uncle cannot be found out and foiled before he does something wicked. Things must happen when it is time for them to happen. Quests may not simply be abandoned; prophecies may not be left to rot like unpicked fruit; unicorns may go unrescued for a very long time, but not forever. The happy ending cannot come in the middle of the story.”
    ― Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

      1. Peter Beagle is a poet. I am steadfastly avoiding any and all news of him lest I discover he hates people like me. -_-

        1. Well, then I’ll share this with you: after a long legal battle, he finally regained IP rights to The Last Unicorn. And plans to write more. 🙂

  16. Parenthetical asnide; (I followed, I think it was Sarah’s link, on instapundit, to Bayou Renaissance Man’s “What do you mean, you won’t RESPECT MAH AUTHORITAH!!!???”. I posted the link on my farcebook page but, without explanation, without comment, farcbook just blanked the link out so no one could see it.)

    So! Appears they’re quite ready to stuff our mouths with tar and feathers and ride us off into the sunset on a rail no matter what we want.

    Lot of, not unexpected, quite germane,talk about Europe & Frenchies in these comments. All things considered, that Frence guy, Al, said it pretty well back in the day; “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” – Albert Camus

  17. I don’t read Westerns. I’ve also never watched Western tv shows. But there are quite a few Western films that I like.

    In any case, I’m pretty sure that I still haven’t got the slightest clue what my story is supposed to be. I’ll find out one of these days, but I hope it’s in this life and not the next.

  18. Don’t like Westerns? Maybe it’s getting close to time for folks like me to ride off into the sunset.

    Saturday, kids, manatees at local theaters 10 or 15 cents got you hours and hours of Lash LaRue, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, a Hopalong Cassidy serial and at least two cartoons!

    It hadn’t occurred to me, until just now, this is a world where the great majority of folks never played cowboys and Indians in their youth and, probably, never even owned a cap pistol.

    Oh well Champion , old pard, maybe it is time for me to mount up and us to move on.

    1. I’ve never seen manatees in the theaters. Maybe you lived next to a canal?

      I guess they’d be fans of beach and surf movies?

            1. One of the manatees is named Fred, and he’s working at the theater in order to pay his way through cooking school…

                1. He went back to school to start a second carer after he retired from the Army, so he was the huge Major Manatee majoring in Humanities …

                    1. It is a generally forgotten fact that the Hindenburg was an enormous flying manatee, thus the forgotten broadcaster’s wail of, “Oh The huge manatee”

                  1. Do not forget his studies in Hotel Management, providing him with a minor in amenities.

                    1. Now you’ve done it! Ear worm warning…

                      “I am the very model of a modern major general,
                      I’ve information vegetable, animal and mineral.”

            2. “Manitee Matinee” would probably make a great annoying kids’ song on YouTube, too.

          1. >> “I really like the image of manatees wearing movie usher uniforms…”

            I looked and couldn’t find any images of manatees in clothes, sadly. But there’s this at least:

            This is all heading towards an aquatic parody of Chicken Boo, isn’t it?

            1. Although there is a game called Octodad, which is about an octopus trying to pass himself off as human while raising a human family. Which raises serious questions about what drugs his wife is on that keep her from noticing what he is, but never mind.

              A videogame critic who went by Totalbiscuit teamed up with his wife for a hilarious playthrough of part of the game:

                1. So do I. I suspect his political positions and rants would have gotten unbearable by now, but damn was he good at his job.

                1. You mean the wife? No. She thinks there’s something strange about him, but has no clue she’s married to an octopus. Which, as I said, raises questions.

                  But it is a comedy game, so it gets a pass under “Rule of Funny.”

              1. “Which raises serious questions about what drugs his wife is on that keep her from noticing what he is…”

                I guess you did not see much tentacle porn in your youth. 🙂

        1. I don’t remember ever seeing any manatees in the Erie Canal. Then again, there was a huge multiplex nearby the part I know best. Maybe they were all working imside….

          1. You may have suppressed the mid-afternoon manatee sightings for being so phonetically repetitive, or they may have just hidden when you came by. Or, as you noted, they may have all been hired to work the matinee shows.

      1. You gotta remember that ‘laska Jim is a old coot, and that when he was a kid there was still some lingering effect of Vaudeville so that Saturday afternoon slates not only consisted of cartoons, a serial and suitable for kids movie – there was often a live show Manatees were famous jugglers and knife throwers back in the day, although there was a few did amazing ventriloquist acts.

    2. I DID play cowboys and Indians and Bonanza was a part of my childhood. I mean I don’t like reading them that much, and most of the later western movies/etc were rather depressing.

      1. There are lyrics to the Bonanza theme.

        As to whether they are any good… well, the show didn’t use the lyrics, as I recall. There’s likely a reason for that.

        1. Sure there are:

          Dun da-da-dun da-da-dun da-da-dun bo-NAN-ZA! Dun da-da-dun da-da-dun da-da-dun, dun-da-da-dun-dun-DUN!

          That’s how my dad and I sang it when I was four.

        2. Mandatory heart-jerking story–
          when the show was on, one of the guys who played a brother was asked if he’d sign a picture for a little boy who was dying. He was in town for some sort of other thing and the whole friend of a friend thing happened.

          He agreed on the condition that he was the one to deliver it, showed up as his character, and chatted with the boy. I think the kid lasted another week.

          And yes, I am tearing up as I type it.

      2. … most of the later western movies/etc were rather depressing.

        Yes, deliberately so. It was to demonstrate filmmaker seriousness and sympathy to the plight of the downtrodden. You might try Quigley Down Under and Silverado for less depressing later westerns.


        1. It was also a sop to Euro sentiments. They lost, decisively, in WWII, so had their fee-fees hurt by having the Americans swoop in and rescue them (and, take away the cream of the crop of Euro women).
          The depressing Westerns were their way of settling the score. The American would SEEM to win, but it was a mirage. Despair and death were their hallmarks.
          That gloomy POV was to last for some time, only to be revived by those spunky Eastern Euros who took up the banner of Never-Quit Americans, and, eventually, helped bring down the USSR.
          So much for the Soviet and Eurotrash disdain for “those American cowboys”.
          Yippee-kay-yay, MF.

    3. No recall of Lash LaRue save by name, but I could deal with Autry and Rogers. Not sure about Hopalong… I know there is one western radio show that makes me push a button for another channel, but I think that’s Cisco Kid. And if it bugs in the radio version (where, it seems, I am able to tolerate more than I do with movies or TV) then, erf.

      Fwiw, with perhaps the exception of Jack Benny, I am finding I have almost no tolerance for sitcoms anymore. Even Burns & Allen — and I know Allen is playing Gracie.

  19. Oh my goodness disown ya!

    No, not really, there’s Westerns I like, and Westerns I didn’t. Gimme Zorro and True Grit. (not the new one)

    1. Wayne’s TG was a Wayne movie based on the novel, The Coen’s TG is much more the novel put on screen. I liked ’em both, though for different reasons.

  20. Don’t like Westerns? Maybe that’s just Sturgeon’s Law at work. I’ve seen good ones, and bad ones.

    Give ‘Paint Your Wagon’ a shot. Clint Eastwood, Lee Marvin, Jean Seeberg and Ray Walston in, I shit you not, a Western musical comedy. You HAVE to hear Lee Marvin sing ‘The First Thing Ya Know’.
    “You a doctor?”
    “Horse doctor, but bones is bones.”

      1. Not only is Paint Your Wagon a good movie, I’m know knew the onsite location of No Name City on East Eagle and Jack Creeks in the Willowa-Witman NF. Our summer fishing camp and fall hunting camp was the meadow by Jack Creek back off the road. Not that we were allowed in the year they were filming.

        Didn’t get to see the movie when it was released. We girls weren’t deemed old enough. It was years before I saw it.

    1. Marvin’s warbling of “I was born under a wanderin’ star” made #1 in the UK.

      Mark Steyn wrote it up as a Song of the Week some time back.

      1. “They Call the Wind Mariah” pretty much shows what PNW “Black Months” is all about …

    2. Never seen it, but I know all the songs by heart. My mom used to play the songs constantly when I was growing up.

      “There were fools enough to swim in
      But not a bit of women
      There were just 400 men in Lonesome Creek.”


  21. Kobayashi Maru. I don’t believe in a no win scenario.
    If you can’t win going straight ahead, look for the angles. Come at it on a slant, sideways, under, over, etc.

  22. I tried Louis L’Amour. I slid right off.

    L’Amour published quite a few novels before he learned proper writing, and remained somewhat formulaic nearly his entire career. If you’re of a mind to sample other writers in the genre I suggest Jack Schaefer’s Shane (a tremendous exercise in point-of-view), Charles Portis’ True Grit (an even better novel than movie), almost anything by Elmer Kelton, and The Adelsverein Trilogy, by Celia Hayes. Schaefer, Portis and Kelton were accomplished novelists working within the genre to write their novels, just as Hayes’ series is more a historical novel series set in the West than it is a Western.

    Or, of course, keep on reading stuff you know you like; I presume there’s a sufficiency of that. Life is too short to read stuff you don’t much fancy.

    1. > Life is too short to read stuff you don’t much fancy.

      So far, that’s the main wonder of the 21st century.

      Before, we re-read everything a dozen times while waiting for something new to show up. And even then, we were limited by available funds.

  23. The battle is much bigger than us, and has been going on a long time. But each of us has a role to play. Even if we are a misguided pet chameleon lost in the middle of the desert …

    Or a hobbit, keeping his master’s garden in the Shire.

  24. I don’t dislike westerns, but I don’t go out of my way for them either.

    I did like True Grit. I got a kick out of seeing it remade but still prefer the original. Also The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Those two stick out mostly because I remember watching them when I was a kid (somewhere around second or third grade) so there is some nostalgia involved. Especially with Good/Bad/Ugly, I occasionally go back and enjoy re-watching it, even though I would be surprised if someone raised on today’s movie aesthetics could even make it through the entire movie. But my kids will tell you, I watch the most boring bizarre stuff sometimes.

    1. It seems like “Silverado” was the first Western in a long dry spell. I recommend it—Brian Dennehy, Jeff Goldblum, Linda Hunt, Kevin Costner, John Cleese—and a good plot and good action.

      1. It was essentially meant to revive the genre, possibly to try and take advantage of Reagan’s popularity.

        It may have been Costner’s first movie(?), and also had Danny Glover and Scott Glenn (the only other movie I remember him in was Hunt for Red October as the captain of the American Los Angeles class).

        1. Costner preceded that role with a performance in The Big Chill, in which he played the deceased (and all his scenes were cut from the final print. He had several roles before that, including in Night Shift (Starring Henry Winkler & Michael Keaton where he’s billed as “Frat Boy #1”.

          Scott Glenn can be seen in The Right Stuff as Alan Shepard, made two years prior.

  25. I may be the main character in my story, but I’m not sure “hero” is exactly the word. Like Anodos or Mr. Vane, I seem to be better at screwing up than winning. Given Who put me here, though, I’d better not try to walk out on the story.

    OTOH, I did wed the princess, and discovered that raising childen brings adventures of a different sort.

    1. I’d kinda wanted to be the (non-evil) “mad scientist” …but, well, moo.

      Kinda like, Bond character? Q. Gets to work with/make all the gadgets – and then just go home. Or so it seems.

      Flash Gordon? No. Zarkhoff? Oh yeah.


      1. >> “I’d kinda wanted to be the (non-evil) “mad scientist” …but, well, moo.”

        Hard to handle beakers with hooves. eh? 😉

    2. I don’t know about being the hero, but I could do without the sense of being in one of Donald Westlake’s Dortmunder books.

  26. One can be a hero by simply interacting with the wrong in front of you, this one time.

    You don’t have to be the pilot who blows up the Death Star. Just distract that one Stormtrooper with a clumsily dropped mug in the Cantina.

    Or clobber the one that took off his helmet in the alley if you are really feeling froggy.

    Or, on a more real and mundane level, help someone who needs it, when no one would notice if you didn’t.

    1. And sometime a Class 5 “event” can (eventually?) have a Class 1 effect.

      “What makes one step a Giant Leap? All the steps before.” — Leslie Fish, A Toast to Unknown Heroes

        1. I occasionally mention to people that War and Peace has a character quite literally die because he decides that things are going too well for him (Seriously! He basically pulls a “turn to the wall and die not long after.”). And then I note that it’s considered an upbeat Russian novel.

  27. I’ve seen Confederate flags in a Metis village in Canada. I asked around and people told me it just means “Be a rebel” to them.
    But the notion of how triggered our SJWs would be to see mixed-race people endorse the Stars and Bars still tickles me.

    1. A few years ago, I followed a very large pickup into the library parking lot. The pickup was flying the US flag and the Stars-and-Bars, and had an AR-15 outline on the back window with “Don’t Tread on Me.” The truck parked, I parked, and a Gentleman of Color hopped out of the big truck. He was wearing an NRA life member hat.

      So much for stereotypes! 😀

    2. The “Confederate flag” isn’t. It is the “Battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia”. A completely different thing, with a different meaning. A meaning that people CHOOSE when they choose THAT Flag. It is the Flag of the men who fought, it is NOT about their CAUSE. It calls forth THEIR Ideas, not the politicians. Fighting for Home and State and the men beside you.
      If people had wanted to endorse the Cause they would have used on of the forms of the Confederate National Flag. Most people don’t even remember what they looked like.

  28. Rango was an amazing movie that I need to go re-watch. I think one of my favorite bits was Ned Beatty doing a dead-on Walter Huston impression.

      1. Someday I hope to have/see something of a map of Goldport. Yes, I know, some stuff has to be invented as needed most likely. Not having to CO, save for change of aircraft, the closest I get to Fairfax is to think of it like 41st ST in Sioux Falls. E-W, and while not everything is on 41st ST, it’s a reasonable first approximation. There is a lot on Minnesota Ave, and 10/11th streets (they merge/separate so directions to use one or the other can seem a bit strange), and a bit on Western… and then there’s the newer place(s) that tried to be trendy and not rectilinear which results not in quaint but confusion.

  29. “Blazing Saddles” – the ultimate anti-SJW western.

    The funny thing is the Governor reminds me of the puppet that “leads” the junta that currently wears the Republic as a skin-suit.

      1. I often post the “we’ve gotta protect our phoney baloney jobs” clip to mock progs trying to find a crisis to point and screech at.

        Harrumph! 😉

  30. The Villain (1979 film) – Kirk Douglas, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ann-Margret.
    A Wile E. Coyote film.

    1. “I have two guns. One for each of you.” (A drunken Doc Holiday.)

      Dunno how much of that is moviewriting, but it is historical fact that Holiday won most of his gunfights by showing up drunk with a shotgun… and the other guy suddenly found an elsewhere to be. *G*

  31. The only westerns that I ever read were the “Lonesome Dove” series, which I read multiple times. They were fantastic, worth reading several times.

  32. I had not watched “Rango”. The whole rationale seemed kind of silly but, on your recommendation I gave it a try. Frankly, I might have turned turned it off after the first ten minutes if my wife had not said she enjoyed it so far. It turned out much better than I expected. Thank you.

    1. We watched it too, and I found the opening kind of frantic and hard to understand. I too found it improved a lot later and enjoyed it quite a bit. I might even watch it again, now that I know where it’s going.

      It’s odd, but sometimes I *prefer* watching movies knowing how the plot unfolds. I shrug at spoilers. Rarely do spoilers ruin my enjoyment; usually they improve it. I’ve been known to sneak looks at the plot summaries of series that I watch. It might be because I really really don’t like suspense and the emotions involved in it. Novels with scenes cut in of the cackling evil guys plotting the demise of the protagonists just infuriate me.

    2. I’ll be honest, I missed AT LEAST the first ten minutes, because I was trying to work. I first looked up and got caught during the chase in the desert, with him trying to escape the hawk.

  33. My late hubby pointed something out to me when I told him I didn’t care for Westerns except for “Blazing Saddles.” He told me that Sci-fi is just a Western in the future.

    1. This. A lot of people didn’t understand that the original StarTrek was not a sci-fi show. It was a space western, with Kirk as the travelling Sherriff who wanders into town, has a shootout or fist fight (sometimes both), gets the girl, and then rides off into the sunset. It had a lot of sci-fi trappings, but the themes and plots were pure western pulp.

      A lot of people also compare Kirk to Picard, which is a false dichotomy, because Picard was not the Kirk character in TNG, but that is an entirely different soap box…

      1. Roddenberry’s elevator pitch that sold Star Trek was “Wagon Train in space”, referring to the western TV show that ran 1957-1965 – repeating characters in their travels to exciting places meeting interesting people and shooting at them:

        1. Roddenberry’s also many times admitted he modeled Kirk as “Horatio Hornblower” in space.

          I do not think we can off-handedly discard the thesis that Old Gene was a liar and happy to tell anybody anything he thought would win their backing.

          1. Sure, he was a Hollywood Producer – see the historical document “The Producers.”

            That “Wagon Train” pitch was for studio execs who knew what that was as it was a very popular series then currently running. Hornblower references were for a different set of people, the more “literary” execs. But he would tell his pitch story any way necessary to get someone to start paying him to make it.

            1. see the historical document “The Producers.

              The original one, with Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel.

              Leo Bloom: “Well, if we assume you’re a dishonest person—”
              Max Bialystock: “Assume, assume!”

              Franz: “Ah, yes. Zat is vhat I thought. Ziss ist der kvick fuse.”
              Everybody: “THE QUICK FUSE!!”


    2. Thing is, westerns are sea-stories, or other “traveling adventurer” stories, just in the West. Same way that cowboy songs were usually sea songs first.

      And, as folks have pointed out, Seven Samuri is a Western but in Japan. (which is what makes the Seven Samuri but as a western so freakin’ awesome in a meta way, besides the other ways)

      1. Strip it down to Joseph Campbellism and they are all variants upon themes. Westerns, space opera, sea tales, adventure yarns, heck, there has even been an effort at telling King Lear as a Western. Basic themes extend across all – survival and at what cost), preservation/establishment of Civilization, rites of passage and other elements combined in entertaining ways.

        There are likely few tales that cannot be retold as Westerns, and few Westerns that couldn’t be adapted into other genres.

        1. I have NO IDEA what it would look like, but that sounds fun!

          ….hm… A collection of washed-up (heh) sailors and privateers, defending a port city from pirates?

            1. That would be a good jumping off point, since I seem to remember they didn’t exist but were catching a ‘type’.

              My imagination is making Limsa Lominsa, so I’m not much help. (city-state of former pirates, with three official pirate groups for defense)

      2. Seven Samurai was Kurosawa’s tribute to the American western (according to Kurosawa himself), because westerns influences his own filmmaking so much. Of course Seven Samurai itself was then remade AS a western, The Magnificent Seven.

        1. … remade AS a western, The Magnificent Seven.

          Which was later remade as a gold-plated turd.

          A claim which might arguably be an insult to turds.

        2. and as SF, “Battle Beyond The Stars”

          Featuring some kid with an architecture degree as one of the model builders.

    3. To a large extent I believe your departed husband is correct. I once described Firefly as “Stagecoach in space,” the Harry Potter stories as “westerns with magic,” and Star Wars as “Searchers with blasters and light sabers.”

      I guess a good story is a good story when told by a good storyteller.

      1. Star Wars as ‘Searchers with blasters and light sabers.’

        Taking just the first film, The New Hope I think the stronger argument is for Shane as the model.

        Both The Empire Strikes Back and Rio Bravo were (ostensibly) written by the same author, Leigh Brackett, but they are not very much alike …

        1. There were certainly similar elements in both Star Wars and Shane. There were even some things that reminded me of the Flash Gordon serials. I was not so much arguing that any specific western was a model but that Star Wars arose from a very similar set of themes and tropes as did John Ford’s iconic western.

          I suppose I could go even further and argue that the success of The Mandalorian is because Jon Favreau fused those classic elements from old westerns back into the story.

        2. The original Star Wars was based on Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress, according to Lucas who himself is a fan of Kurosawa.

          1. Please. Evil sorcerer. Otherwise you are starting to get into skeletons and then you start getting people asserting that people look alike because their skeletons do.

            1. I’d go with Evil Knight, myself, since Vader’s boss is also an evil space sorcerer and Vader is in black armor, with a sword.

              The wordplay of The Dragon (meaning enforcer for the Big Bad) is pretty funny, though.

              And guess who the picture for that trope….

              1. Genre is significant, because which trope it is will determine which one it’s a retelling of.

  34. Rango is fun and I enjoy the characterizations and references to other movies.

    At the beginning, Rango’s aquarium falls from the back of the car and he ends up squashed against the windscreen of a following car, eyeball to eyeball with the screaming driver. This harkens back to Johnny Depp’s earlier movie, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I didn’t like that one except for the beginning where Depp’s character is high and hallucinating about running into bats as he drives through the desert.

    Even more fun, in my opinion, was the evil humpbacked rabbit named Kinski. He is a dead ringer for Klaus Kinski in For a Few Dollars More, where Kinski played a humpbacked gunslinger.

  35. I have never been a fan of Westerns. My hubby, on the other hand, loves them. I attribute it to our upbringings, mostly. We were both small town kids, but I also think it had as much to do with the male/female attitudes that were still prevalent in the 60s and 70s. As for books, I never read anything by Louis L’Amour. But I was a big fan of Agatha Christie and Earl Stanley Gardner, because those were the books that always seemed to be around the house or borrowed from the library.

    My parents never watched Bonanza or Gunsmoke or The Rifleman or any of the John Wayne westerns. They were big on cop shows – Mannix, Columbo, and Kojak and my mom and one of my aunts were huge fans of Perry Mason. My hubby and his brothers, on the other hand, watched Gunsmoke and all those other Western-themed programs religiously. Their only sister, my sister-in-law, was about as uninterested in them as I was.

    I will say that it is through my hubby that I know anything at all about Doc Holliday and Johnny Ringo, so there’s that.

    On the other hand, Blazing Saddles is a scream.

  36. > Yes, we’ll surely die. But not today. Today, we fight.

    No, today we train. Tomorrow we fight.

    We have three choices at this point, fix the Republican Party or fix the Democrat Party, or start shooting people.

    I’m going to try the first one, as the second one seems at least 3 orders of magnitude harder.

    9 AM, 27 March 2021:

    It’s on Zoom, so you don’t even have to go anywhere.

    See you there.

      1. But while we’re all voting by mail mailing in ballots —

        After which, who knows what happens to them? They vanish into a black hole, and then some sort of cockamamie result is announced which may or may not have anything to do with how real people voted, or intended to. Pennsylvania counted 2.6 million mail-in ballots out of 1.8 million sent out. And now the Democrats are trying to nationalize the election fraud.

        Any efforts made by states to prevent large-scale election fraud is deliberately mischaracterized as ‘an attack on the voting rights of minorities’ — well, maybe, if you consider those with NO RIGHT to vote in the first place a ‘minority’, as well as voters long dead or purely fictitious.
        There is nothing so simple that the government can’t fuck it up.

    1. I’m pretty sure the second requires the third.

      The first does not require the third only because the party is too cowardly to require the actual shooting part.

    2. … or start shooting people.

      Point of order! Are MSM journalists people or craven curs?

      Asking for a friend who watched Thursday’s Biden “press conference” and has become confused.

  37. Will just add one Western tidbit for the “gun” people here:

    There is a sport where one dresses up as a cowboy and shoots Old West guns: Cowboy Action Shooting.

    (Grin) You are welcome.

    1. Such a contest was a setting for an episode of Bones in its penultimate season (S.11,E.9):

      The Cowboy in the Contest
      8.0 (441) Rate
      A corpse dumped in a Virgnia wood is identified as the accountant reported missing after two weeks by his supervisor, Jim Chou. He regularly won the $10,000 in a Wild West make-belief shooting show staged monthly by Luke and Franny Nicholson. Booth participate undercover, but fearing his recent taste for ‘dangerously’ fast vehicles Bones follows suit, and arrogantly claims she can beat him with ‘antique’ weapons. Aubrey later joins in, eager to share I the fun as they unearth secrets from the couple and another regular, as well as the accountancy firm.

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