The West

I started watching Ken Burns’s PBS series, “The West”. Rey and I watched the first episode last night and I watched the second episode this afternoon. I’m a big Ken Burns fan, so I don’t understand how I could have missed this series. If you’ve seen one Ken Burns’s documentary, then you are familiar with his combination of historical images with modern-day photography. The modern live action helps bring to life the grainy black and white stills from the past. Burns also combines celebrity voiceovers, reading historical letters and text, with talking head interviews of subject matter experts. One such expert is Scott Momaday, an author and Kiowa. He tells the most marvelous story about the creation of Devils Tower that I’ve paraphrased below. It was featured in the segment, before the white man arrived, back in the time when dogs could talk.

A boy was playing with his seven sisters. Pretending to be a bear, he was chasing them. Miraculously, he was transformed into a Grizzly Bear. His sisters ran screaming from him. They ran by a tree stump that called out to the girls, “Climb on me and I will save you.” They did, and as the bear approached, it began to grow. It grew so tall that the bear could not reach them, scoring the stump’s sides, it could not climb it. The stump grew so tall that the sisters were carried into the heavens. They became the seven stars that form the Big Dipper. – Kiowa legend

Sunday has been a cold, wet and dreary day. We went out for brunch to the City Diner. The above picture was taken while we were waiting to be seated. Rey left for Tennessee from the diner. Anne knitted the afternoon away, finishing the second sock of a pair. Now she has to go back and finish the first sock. She worked it this way, because she was unsure of how much yarn she would have. She and Dave also watched the Rams lose. Dave is staying over tonight and not returning to Purdue until tomorrow.

I watched the second Ken Burns episode and then I thought that this afternoon would be perfect for making a movie. I could make my own little Ken Burns like [lite] documentary. I spent an inordinate amount of time noodling around the Library of Congress website, before I finally gave up in disgust. They have lots of great material, but almost all of it is still under copyright, and as such is not available online. Then by chance, I found Wikimedia Commons. I knew about this resource, but it didn’t immediately come to mind. I typed in a search for “Saint Louis” and was rewarded with ~2,500 entries. I’ve selected two to include with this post that I could never taken.

The first shows Saint Louis, Missouri, as viewed from the space shuttle (STS056) at night, on April, 1993. This is of course the year of the great flood and you can see some signs of it in the unusually wide dark spaces, north and south (left and right) of downtown. The flood didn’t hit full on until July, but I suspect that the water was up even in April. The second photo shows the U.S. 25th Infantry on bicycles, notice that they are all dabbing. It is captioned with, “On June 14, 1897, Lieutenant James Moss, U.S. Army, led his bicycle corps of the 25th Infantry, from Fort Missoula, Montana, up wagon trail and Indian path, to St. Louis, Missouri, arriving July 16, 1897.” After spending all afternoon researching this supposed documentary, I didn’t have time to actually make it, but you can expect that this will be a well that I shall dip into again.


Take hope from the heart of man, and you make him a beast of prey

The second season of the FX TV series, Justified, is available for viewing now on Hulu and I am kicking myself, because I’ve already missed the first two episodes. Each episode is only available, for a limited time period. Justified is part police procedural and part modern-day western. After viewing the last currently available episode, a promotional announcement appeared stating that seven out of ten viewers that watched Justified also liked The Beast.

To vice, innocence must always seem only a superior kind of chicanery

The Beast is another paranoid cop show, this time produced by A&E and starring the late Patrick Swayze. The entire first and only season is available on Hulu. Swayze was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the onset of filming and died after production was completed. I watched the first episode and at its beginning, the preceding quote about making man a breast of prey was shown. It was attributed to a Marie Louise de la Ramée.

It is hard work to be good when you are very little and very hungry, and have many sticks to beat you, and no mothers lips to kiss you

Ramée, was a 19th century English novelist. She was a Guernsey, born to a French-speaking father and an English mother. She derived her pen name, Ouida, from her own childish pronunciation of her given name Louise. She wrote some forty books in her lifetime, including novels, children stories, and collections of essays and short stories. She died a pauper in 1908.

Familiarity is a magician that is cruel to beauty, but kind to ugliness

I have never read any of her books and until seeing her quote at the start of The Beast, had never even heard of her, but seeing that quote, I had to learn more about her. The website, Think Exists, had a collection of her quotes, and many of them appear italicized in this post. Reading these quotes of her, I fell in love with the poetry embodied within them and I had the subject for this post.

An easy-going husband is the one indispensable comfort of life

The preceding quote is one of my favorites, if only because it is also self-serving. I hope that all you married ladies also agree? The following quote is less a favorite of mine, than most of the rest, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I’m sure my biking buddies would agree.

If all feeling for grace and beauty were not extinguished in the mass of mankind at the actual moment, such a method of locomotion as cycling could never have found acceptance; no man or woman with the slightest aesthetic sense could assume the ludic*

* Ludic derives from Latin ludus, play, and is an adjective meaning playful. The term is used in philosophy to describe play as an act of self-definition; in literary studies, the term may apply to works written in the spirit of festival. -Wiki

Double Rush

There are four bicycling movies, that I hold above other much better movies, for the simple reason that these four feature bicycles. There are many other, much better movies that I like, but these four I love. They are Breaking Away (1979), Quicksilver (1986), American Flyers (1985) and 2 Seconds (1998). To this quartet of movies, I would like to add a TV series, Double Rush (1995). I can’t believe that I only became aware of its existence this week.

All four movies plus the TV series, exercise the theme of speed on a bicycle. In the coming of age movie, Breaking Away, speed is equated with freedom, breaking out of a small town, with its narrow range of options. In Quicksilver, the Kevin Bacon bicycle messenger movie, speed was necessary to perform the job. It soon becomes necessary to stay alive. American Flyers rolls out slowly from Saint Louis and as the opening credits roll, so does the protagonist, along Leonor Sullivan, in front of the Arch. Flyers is a bicycling racing movie, so the need for speed is self-evident. 2 Seconds is another bike messenger movie, set in Montreal and uniquely about a girl, instead of one of the guys. It is my favorite of this fab four. Double Rush is another messenger based show. It is a sitcom, set in NYC and a product of its time.

I learned of Double Rush from reading Bike Snob NYC. This blog is popular and its title gives you fair warning of the New York attitude that you’ll encounter. Bike Snob’s post was in part motivated by the new reality TV show, Triple Rush. In bike messenger parlance, rush, double rush and triple rush are successively faster and more expensive grades of package delivery. I have no interest in reality TV, so Triple Rush holds no interest for me, but Bike Snob had a YouTube link to the pilot episode of Double Rush. This hooked my interest and I watched all three YouTube segments. This is the IMdB synopsis:

Johnny Verona is trying to hold together his struggling bike messenger service. Standing in the way of success are his smart-ass slacker riders, cutthroat competitors, and a whiny executive-wannabe constantly telling everyone within earshot that she shouldn’t really be doing this job because she’s a Harvard graduate.

Double Rush was both a spinoff series and a derivative TV series. The cast’s anchor, Robert Pastorelli, and head writer, Diane English were spun off from Murphy Brown. Though well written, this show is also rather derivative. Similarities to the TV series, Taxi and Cheers are self-evident. The show only lasted once season and the title of one of its later episodes says it all, “The Show We Wrote, the Day We Found Out, We Were Going on Opposite Roseanne”. Here are the YouTube links to the series pilot episode segments, one, two and three. Watch them and enjoy them, before the censors rot them.

The above photo shows the brand new drive train on Anne’s bicycle. In the picture, it glitters in the morning sun, all shiny and new. Friend and Team Kaldi’s member, Phil, overhauled it for and did an excellent job. It looks like new, rides like new and propels Anne faster than ever before. I just hope to keep her in sight, when she races ahead on it. I also hope that she will eventually wait for me. Of course, all those fixies, with their fixation with fixed gears, would abhor Anne’s shiny new cog. More is pity for them, and more the gears for Anne and I. Maybe next this Luddite subculture will give up pneumatic, for solid tires?

Home Alone 2-gether

This week, before work, on both Monday and Tuesday morning, I have managed to crawl out of bed, go downstairs and then go biking.  I find it strange that I couldn’t mount this effort back when the weather was unseasonably warm, but waited until November’s true nature showed itself, but I guess that is just me.  I got 10 and 16 miles, respectively.  I took the picture of the Muny and Pagoda Circle in the dark.  I rested the camera on a bridge pillar and took a one-second exposure.  I think that this technique deserves more exploration.

Anne is seen modeling, in her very own independent fashion, two of her latest knitting creations.  The headband and matching fingerless mittens are for Ashlan.  We were eating dinner together while the NPR Marketplace business show blared out from the kitchen radio.  I don’t know how exactly we got on the subject of retirement and the proposed raising of the standard retirement age from 65 to 69, but we couldn’t decide when the proposed increase would occur.   Would it occur in 2018, 2048 or somewhere in-between?  But why let the facts (or the lack of them) get in the way of one of Anne’s great soliloquies:

The year is 2048, the place a classroom in Saint Louis.
 “Oh no, it’s that old bag Mrs. R.  I bet you that she is a hundred years old.”
 “Not yet honey, not for another six years.  Then I can finally retire.  I remember way back in the day when a person could retire at the age of 65.”

After dinner, I blogged for a bit and then we sat down on the couch and watched Glee together.  It was a fun episode that managed to smash together, substitute teaching, Gwyneth Paltrow and the musical, Singing in the Rain.  Paltrow may do a better musical song and dance routine than Anne, but Anne is the better substitute teacher.  Nine out of ten teachers agree.  The tenth teacher was some disgruntal gym teacher named Sue Sylvester.