Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Seraphim Falls- Two Big Irish Guys Finish the Civil War

I haven’t posted a heck of a lot lately, because I usually write to chase off the demons and frankly a month a half of not working, lots of drugs, and yogic meditation does a lot to keep Old Scratch at bay.  I did find myself sitting down recently to pick some westerns off of my Netflix queue, including one I never heard of called Seraphim Falls.  I don’t believe that the script for the adaption of Blood Meridian is done yet, but whoever is writing it should take a look at this movie to see how a bleak, bloody western can be done.

Seraphim Falls takes a while to get into, largely because the action starts around eleven seconds into the movie.  Pierce Brosnan is shot in opening seconds of the movie, and spends roughly the first half hour being chased through the mountains by Liam Neeson and a band of hired killers.  Through this entire act, Brosnan’s dialogue consists solely of screams and groans.  It is a heck of thing to watch.

Eventually, the cause of the chase is revealed as a blood feud going back to the waning days of the Civil War.  As the chase goes for hundreds of beautiful mountain and desert miles, the distances close, and you start counting the remaining bullets on one hand, the emotional tension ratchets up.  Seraphim Falls, as it turns out, is a farm where good intentions turned to tragedy, leading to Neeson’s quest for revenge.  A seraphim is also a member of the choir of angels, which adds a metaphysical twist particularly when Angelica Houston turns up as a huckster, the Devil, or both.  Turns out that Scratch will tempt you when no matter where you run or how much meditation you do.

When the credits rolled I didn’t think that I liked Seraphim Falls.  My reaction was more in the line of “holy crap, what the heck did I just watch?”  With a little distance, though, it is pretty good if hopelessly bleak and blood drenched. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Summer Love- Eurotrashing My Beloved Westerns

Consider this less a blog posting than a public service message- avoid Summer Love.  Billed as the first Polish Western, this is a meandering piece of wishful artsy garbage that makes The Last Rights of Ransom Pride look Oscar worthy.  The movie supposedly stars Val Kilmer, who is dead in the first scene of the movie.  Not dies in the first scene, but dead in the first and each scene in which he appears.  The film is an endless string of overly violent shots and odd accents.  One rare bright spot were the scenes with the beautifully rubenesque Katarzyna Figura.  She is the only actress with a speaking role in the movie, and she plays the town prostitute.  Of course, what else could a woman be?  Good Lord, Poland, stay out of the western and stick with the Witcher!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Cowboy Yogi, Part 2- The Tantric Lone Ranger and Atmamya Kosha

In the last post I discussed classical yoga, the five Koshas, and the ability of the Rawhide Kid to exist daily in the Anandamaya Kosha.  Today, however, is all about Tantra.  Whereas classical yoga is about transcending the world, Tantric yoga rejects this dualistic philosophy and sees that world as something to be lived in, not transcended.  The physical world is something that we are intimately connected to, not something to be rejected or moved past.  Because of this, in tantric yoga philosophy there are two additional layers of the human experience that go deeper than the classical Koshas.  Once one has found the Anandamaya Kosha, the pure space inside where our perfect self lives, we can go further to the Cittamaya Kosha.  Here we start to understand where our perfect self exists in relation to the world.  Yet deeper, there is the pure awareness of Atmamya Kosha, where we realize that our perfect selves are not alone, and that we share a connection to the possible perfect selves, perhaps even the divinity, that exist in each of us across the world.  This is the enlightenment of the Lone Ranger. 

No matter the incarnation, whether in film, radio, or comic, there is a sense of urgency in the Lone Ranger’s actions.  This urgency is not a need for action, but a need to do on behalf mankind.  The Lone Ranger creed, devised in the old radio days of the character (and copied in this post) clearly lay out an almost holy responsibility to the greater world, suggesting an understanding of the deep connection between us all as found in the two innermost Koshas of Tantra.  Indeed, the Lone Ranger’s mask sheds his individuality in favor of integration with humankind.

The Lone Ranger has achieved a deeper awareness than the Rawhide Kid, moving past the Anandamaya Kosha through to the Atmamya Kosha.  By connecting to the wider world, his worth as a hero far exceed his talents.  While I will always take joy in the Rawhide Kid, it the example set by the Lone Ranger that informs my day, and my yoga practice.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cowboy Yogi, Part 1- Krishna and the Rawhide Kid

Earlier this week I attended the first part of a meditation workshop at the Newington Yoga Center, which teaches Embodyoga, a modern style of tantric influenced yoga.  Throughout the workshop, I couldn’t help but draw connections between yoga traditions, the Rawhide Kid, and the Lone Ranger.

A large part of the workshop involved discussing the layers of human consciousness.  In classical yoga, the human experience is defined by a series of five layers, or Koshas, progressively moving towards our core being.  The first is Annamaya Kosha, represented by earth, which is our physical body.  Inward is Pranamaya Kosha, represented by water, which is the motion of our physical form.  Still further inward is fire, the Monomaya Kosha, the chattering thinking monkey brain that compels our body into motion.  Within that is Vijiianamaya Kosha, the air Kosha, which is the emotional heart that motivates our thoughts.  Finally, classical yoga has at its core Anandamaya Kosha, representing space, the central core of who we are, the perfect self that lies within us all that through leading a good and just life we are able to access.

In this understanding of the human experience, the Rawhide Kid (as seen in his modern interpretations) in touch with Anandamaya Kosha and achieved self-actualization.  He is the best.  Really, he tells people so all the time, and proceeds to consistently prove it.  The Rawhide Kid is the best fighter, best shootist, best horseman, chef, vinter, hairstylist, and military officer in the world.  Also, the snappiest dresser.  The Rawhide Kid, in the manner of a classical yogi, he has transcended this mortal coil and lives his daily life as the most perfect form of himself. The Rawhide Kid appears to have embodied the lessons of Prince Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita.  At each quickdraw duel you can almost hear Krishna whispering in his ear, “Do not yield to unmanliness, O son of Prithâ. It does not become you. Shake off this base faint-heartnedness and arise, O scorcher of enemies!”

The Rawhide Kid, however, has no personal connection with anyone outside of himself. He rides throughout the West righting wrongs and defending the defenseless.  The Kid does these things not because he cares for the townsfolk he protects from bandits, but simply because it is right to do so and is within his capabilities.  In one exchange with the Two Gun Kid in The Sensational Seven, Two Gun asks Rawhide, “No offense, but do you think it’s possible that deep down you’re incredibly self involved and not terribly interested in other people’s lives because you feel certain that you’re the most fascinating person in the world?”  The Rawhide Kid’s smirking response: “It’s not even that deep down, partner.  I’m the Rawhide Kid.”  Although he has achieved pure sense of himself and is able to actualize this ideal, he still lacks a greater awareness.  That greater awareness is explained through the deeper Tantric Koshas, and achieved by the Lone Ranger.

 Tune in next time for the thrilling tantric adventures of the Lone Ranger.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Teddy Roosevelt- Cowboy President

Image courtesy Sharpwriter @ Deviantart
I know that we have had self described cowboy presidents in the recent past, but Teddy Roosevelt was the real thing.  A rugged individualist, conservationist, environmentalist, he left his asthmatic childhood in New York to become a rancher and cowboy in the Dakota Badlands.  While in the Dakotas, he took a turn as a deputy sheriff and managed to capture and transport a group of three outlaws nearly a hundred miles to trial without carrying a firearm.  Later, having stolen the mistress of the French owner of a local ranch, he was challenged to a duel.  Roosevelt accepted, and per the European code duello chose sawed off shotguns at ten paces as the weapons.  The duel was soon called off, Roosevelt and the French rancher became lifelong friends, and he kept the mistress.  After a turn as the New York City Police Commissioner and Secretary of the Navy, he rounded up a group of cowboys and Ivy League classmates to form the Rough Riders and went to war in Cuba.  Later, he became President of the United States, and once he got bored of that he went on epic expeditions exploring Africa and South America.  Awesome.

“Aggressive fighting for the right is the noblest sport the world affords”- Teddy Roosevelt

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Here Comes the Space Cavalry: Seeking the link between Westerns and Military Sci-Fi

Since I started exploring westerns through this blog, I have tried to keep my reading to books related to the genre.  Turns out it is not too hard to do.  The western mixes well with practically every other genre or type of novel out there.  Looking for a mystery?  Try the Holmes on the Range novels.  Eco-fiction?  Anything by Edward Abbey.  Romance?  How about the Hell’s 8 novels.  Crime stories?  Practically anything by Lauren Estleman.  And there is almost an embarrassment of cowboy erotica available on e-book.  I was therefore surprised when last week I couldn’t find a western version of one my other favorite genres, military science fiction. 

My interest in military sci-fi started a few years ago at the same time that I started running.  I was looking for an audio book about a long, adventurous journey, which seemed fitting for the miles and miles I had ahead of me.  I had just listened to Lonesome Dove, which fit the bill quite well, then stumbled upon the March Upcountry series from John Ringo and David Weber.  Over years and miles I have listened to the four book series at least twice, enjoying being immersed in a military language and culture that I have never experienced myself.  Since finding Ringo and Weber, I have gone back and reread Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet series, more Ringo, and a handful of others.

So where is the western version of military sci-fi?  Or the techno-thriller?  I hate to think that the two genres are mutually exclusive, but I am having a hard time making the match.  Something about the US Cavalry would work, especially something with the attention to military culture and tactics that you would get in a John Ringo or Larry Bond book.  There are plenty of cavalry movies out there (I recently watched She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, for example), and one astute reader pointed out that the first half of Star Wars is pretty close, but I am having a hard time finding a novel that fits the bill.

Any recommendations?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Bad Wind Blowing- Epically Awesome Trashy Western

Peter Brandvold holds a special place in my western shelf.  When I first tried getting into westerns almost a decade ago Brandvold had just published the first of his Lou Prophet: Bounty Hunter novels.  Funny, well written, and action packed, with at least one tawdry romance per novel, this series has been one of my favorite guilty pleasures.  Brandvold has written a number of other books under his name and the pen name Frank Leslie.  I have avoided them, though, they always seemed much grimmer than the Lou Prophet books.  A few weeks ago I stumbled upon Brandvold’s own blog, where he talked about getting a long shelved weird western, Bad Wind Blowing, published as an e-book.  I definitely need to read more of his books.

Bad Wind Blowing tells the story of a gold prospector, a school marm, and a female town sheriff fighting off the evil presence haunting the Poudre River Valley in 1800’s Colorado.  I am not sure where to start with this book.  Gunfights?  Check.  Demons?  Check.  Crazy Indians?  Check.  Hot sex scenes?  Got that, too, but less than you would think from trashy cover (in fact I am not sure how the cover is related to the book at all).  By his own admission, Brandvold has given up writing anything that would look like great literature in favor of writing great campfire stories.  He is dead on with this book.  Always riding the rim of being over the top, but never quite crossing it, Bad Wind Blowing is consistently fun page after page.  I am not sure if there is a literary category for brilliantly written trash, but Brandvold owns it for the western genre. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cowboy Valkyrie 2- Electric Boogaloo

A few days ago I made a blog post about my musing over a Cowboy Valkyrie, deciding that Nancy Callahan from Sin City fit the bill.  Minutes after making the post I mentioned the topic to my wife, who said “Oh, you picked Salma Hayek, right?”  Despite my cogent arguments that Jessica Alba’s turn as Nancy Callahan has certain operatic majesty that fits the bill, my lovely wife was certain that I had made the wrong choice.  What do you think?