Category: Writing

Spaghetti (?) Westerns

Both images from pixabay.com
Both images from pixabay.com

 

The ds106 daily create for Jan. 4, 2016, was to do some research on Spaghetti Westerns. I relished this encouragement to do so because, well, the whole idea has never made sense to me. What does pasta have to do with Westerns? And why specifically spaghetti?

I realize that by saying all this I admit I know nothing about Spaghetti Westerns, which is certainly true. I know next to nothing about Westerns at all. The genre has just never really appealed to me, even though I grew up in what is technically the “West.” Small town Idaho had its share of cowboys and cowgirls, and rodeos were big. But that’s really not the same thing now, is it? We had sheriffs and saloons, but things were mighty tame by the time I was born out there in the wilds of small town Idaho.

I don’t know…something about the aesthetic, or about the over-the-top masculinity and violence, about the sexism…it just has all not been attractive to me.

So I am taking it on as a challenge to find something I like in Westerns, by joining #western106 this term, an open, online #ds106 that was supposed to be taking place with Alan Levine at KSU, but that didn’t have enough students (what were they thinking?). So it’s up to use open online participants to corral the wagons.

And as a start, I’m learning a bit about Spaghetti Westerns.


 

The daily create site suggested we look at the TV Tropes entry for Spaghetti Westerns. And there is where I discovered the connection:

  • “A sub-genre of the Western films, so called because they were produced by Italian studios (and tended to feature quite a bit of gore).”

Ah, okay, like tomato sauce. I had no idea that the Italians were into the Western genre. Shows you how little I know about Westerns at all.

I found out more from an Introduction on the Spaghetti Westerns database:

  • “The name ‘spaghetti western’ originally was a depreciative term, given by foreign critics to these films because they thought they were inferior to American westerns.”
  • “In the eighties the reputation of the genre grew and today the term is no longer used disparagingly, although some Italians still prefer to call the films western all’italiana (westerns Italian style). In Japan they are called Macaroni westerns, in Germany Italowestern.”

So spaghetti westerns are macaroni westerns too. The pastas multiply! And if that weren’t enough, some Westerns that focused on political topics having to do with Mexican revolutions were, according to the same site, known as “Zapata Westerns,” but sometimes as “Tortilla Westerns.”

I can’t help but wonder what Canadian-made Westerns might be called. Somehow “Maple Syrup Western” just doesn’t have an authentic ring to it.

I also learned from that same site that A Fistful of Dollars (1964) is a remake of a Kurosawa film called Yojimbo (1961), and Wikipedia tells me that Yojimbo was heavily influenced by “the 1942 film noir classic The Glass Key, an adaptation of Dashiell Hammett‘s 1931 novel.” I haven’t heard of any of these except the 1964 Western, and now I’m interested to follow this particular thread (perhaps mainly because, well, I just really like film noir).

From A Beginners Guide to Spaghetti Westerns, I learned that

  • “Initially, the Spaghetti Western protagonist was a loner/outcast in the Eastwood mold — not a traditional John Wayne-style “good guy” in a white hat, but a morally flexible type, more unpredictable and cynical.”

Okay, that sounds intriguing to me. I can get on board with that to some degree, though I’ll have to deal with the sexism and unnecessary violence somehow.

Also, the genre changed later with the political films (late 60s), according to the same site:

  • “The lone hero was out; collectivist themes were in. Many took as their historical basis the border battles between Mexico and the United States (leading to their occasional branding as “Zapata Westerns”).”

Since I haven’t seen these, I can’t comment on whether or not they have racist or xenophobic overtones (that will have to wait until I see one or two).

A number of sites said that one thing that makes Spaghetti Westerns stand out in part because they were much more violent than other Westerns, apparently. And when I learned that Tarantino was a fan of spaghetti westerns, well, after this, I wasn’t surprised. I haven’t seen Django Unchained, but now, at least, after reading all this, I understand the reference to Django (1966).

 

So after all of this I am more intrigued about Spaghetti Westerns, and will find myself some time to watch a couple (after I’ve finished a lecture on Apocalypse Now that I have to give for a class next week!).

 

Poem 84, for a rainy Friday

IMG_1192The daily create for March 20, 2015, was to write a poem about a rainy day. It’s really pouring here in Vancouver, so this was perfect for us. I asked my 7-year-old son to help me write a poem. He came up with the ideas and some of the lines; I turned some of his ideas into rhymes. Here is the result.

Oh, and as we were trying to rhyme something with rain, he was being silly and said “the number 84.” After we chuckled about that, we decided to put the number 84 into the poem. He said we should call it poem 84.

———————————————-

I don’t like rainy days
in so many ways:
they’re cold, they’re wet,
and they make me fret.

I’m like a cat, I hate water
rain’s too cold, I like it hotter.

I wish there was dry rain.

 

 

 


Changing your past (TDC 1021)

The DS106 Daily Create for October 25: “A free pass to change your past. Today you get a free pass to go back and change anything in your past. What did you change and why?”

Here’s my entry…


 

 

See, I know that ten years from now I’ll say: Damn, I should have spent more time with my son and less time on work. I know I’ll say that; I can hear it already. I’m practically saying it now. He’s seven, and the next ten years are going to be crucial to our future relationship. And yet, I work 9-11 hours per day, 5 days a week, and another 5-8 hours per day on most weekends. At least, during the 26 weeks of the year that I’m teaching at my university job. (Anyone, anyone who thinks that university professors all have it easy because they only teach a few hours a day should just take a look at my schedule. And not only mine.)

So I know that in the future, I’ll wish I had changed the past that is now the present.

So why don’t I just take this advice now and keep myself from having to say this ten years from now (or even today)?

What I’d like to change in my past is whatever the hell it is that keeps me from taking this advice. Whatever it is that drives me to work longer than is probably necessary, to prep for classes and mark essays. Whatever makes me stay up to all hours of the night doing teaching, research, and service work. Whatever won’t let me say “no” to that next really interesting project that honestly, will push me over the edge.

But the thing is, I don’t know what that thing is.

But if I had the chance to change it, I’d probably do so, even though it means that my career wouldn’t be where it is now, most likely. But what am I gonna really think is important when I’m old(er) and grey(er)? Pretty obvious answer: my family. Duh.

Can’t fight the natural zombie

I’ve been playing #TvsZ this weekend, a game on Twitter designed to help new people learn Twitter, to do digital storytelling, and to have fun. Check out http://tvsz.us for details.

Yesterday, while I was still human, I did a post on my other blog to create a #safezone to avoid zombies for an hour. That post was done on a phone and I couldn’t easily embed tweets or images (the latter I couldn’t do at all, the former would have been quite time consuming on a phone). Some of my time was spent in @NanaLou022’s #safezone called #NanasPlace, which you can read about here, thanks to Nana Lou Storifying our tweets while there.

Then today I got turned into a zombie by a #zapbite–basically, a bit that can’t be defended by any means. It turns you into an instazombie, according to @MTPcgr:

 

So then I became a zombie.

 

 

But I heard about something called the “non-violent zombie coalition,” started (I think) by Nirmal Trivedi:

 

As a newly-turned zombie, I decided to join. I still had feelings for the humans and an instinct to avoid killing them. I asked, though, what #nvzc zombies eat. Trivedi replied:

 

So I made a pledge:

 

And another one:

 

All along I knew that my resolve was weak, but I hoped my fellow #nvzc members would help support me when I starting having cravings.

 

Then I went dark for the rest of the day, hoping that if I stayed away from humans I would keep the natural zombie urges down. Eventually I resurfaced. Fortunately, the humans were all in #safezones at that time and I couldn’t #bite any of them. But unfortunately, none of my fellow #nvzc members were around to help me, and try as I might, the natural zombie won out. I recorded what it sounded like when it broke through:

 

I still have enough decency left to feel badly for having left the #nvzc even after solemnly pledging. I tried. But peace is not easy for a zombie, and I’m a weak zombie. I admit it. I have a problem. And I need brains. Now there is a new rule that allows for a third species: there are now humans, zombies and #chorus members, who are no longer part of the main game actions (they can’t be bitten by zombies or bite humans, or #swipe zombies away from other humans), but they act as a Greek chorus might, commenting on the game, moving the narrative forward, etc. This is a mighty interesting move, but this zombie wants to play, not watch. The hunger is strong with this one. At least @NanaLou022 offered me some of the #Burgeron106 sheep in her #sheepshed (see here for the sheepshed safehouse she created).  

 

So my hunger is staved off for awhile, long enough to sleep. But sheep brains just aren’t as tasty or nutritious for us zombies. Tomorrow I’ll be on the hunt again.

What happened to the Boos?

This is in answer to the daily create for June 15, 2014: “The Burgeron family in Bovine County is well known. Of course stories about the family are heard, rumors. Tell a story that is whispered in Bovine County. Make it ART.”

It’s all part of the Burgeron summer of ds106, happening here: http://thebergerons.wordpress.com/


 

A cropped version of a photo on Flickr, here.
A cropped version of a photo on Flickr, here.

Many of you who are familiar with the Burgeron family know of the family ghosts, Mama Boo and Little Boo. See here for a post about Mama Boo that has a link to another about Little Boo.

In that post, Mama Boo says she’s not gonna tell us what happened to them or how they became ghosts because she says all that matters is that they’re still around and hanging out with the family and having fun and singing and such, so why dwell on how they got there? But really, how can she think we’re going to just rest with that? There have been rumours ever since she and Little Boo showed up, so many years ago that few can now remember when it was. It was all so hush hush at the time that no one seems to have written down what happened, and now those who can remember aren’t around anymore.

Some say the Boos drowned in the floods of ’57, but that makes no sense because we know they were around before that. At least, that’s what I heard from someone who said she heard it from one of the family members, who heard it from his grandpa, who said he distinctly remembered them being around during the war to end all wars.

Some say they succumbed to that god-awful flu that wiped out so many people during that god-awful war, but so did several members of the family, and why were the Boos the only ones to hang on as ghosts? Others say they died in an accident involving the family still, and the strength of that backwoods brew kept them going as ghosts for the foreseeable future. Well maybe, but then why aren’t the rest of the Burgerons who took some mighty big draughts of that stuff while alive also ghosts after they passed on?

I got no answers here, only rumours and unasnwered questions. Somehow we gotta get that Mama Boo talking.