Cool Hand Luke’s Dinner

This three star assignment was to take an image from the daily shoot and write a haiku about it. After searching through a few images, I chose this one because it seemed the easiest to relate to the western theme. I don’t think I have ever seen a western movie that they didn’t eat beans at least once.


Eat beans on the trail
No can opener in sight
Guess I need a rock

Seven days this week
I can’t eat another can
Some beef sounds better



2011-272 Beans

How many x words even exist?

This 3 star writing assignment was to write a story in alphabet.  The challenge is to write a story using a word starting with each consecutive letter, the more sense it makes, the better.  X is a real problem though, and there are only two ways around it that I can see…  Either forego literal sense, or bend the rule. I chose the latter as you can see in my story about boy who hates his mother’s dinner option.

A boy called dinner. Everyone from grandmas’ heard. I just kinda lingered, mom’s noodles’ odor proliferated. “Quit remonstrating,” said tiny uncle Vern. “We’ve extra yellow zucchini”

Hot Lead Lunch

This two star  assignment was to write a terrible death ending for a choose your own adventure style book. It was a great assignment to incorporate the western theme; no shortage of deaths in gun battles in westerns. It was fun to take a typical western finale scene and create a silly twist that meant that the hero wasn’t going to go down in glory like usual.

You Chose Wrong!

The man that challenged you to a fight only looked like he was a loner. After venturing out in the street for an old fashioned draw, you noticed an ominous glimmer from a rooftop across the road. Turns out the whole thing was an elaborate scheme, and that the man on the roof whose gun barrel just revealed him was still sore at you for taking the sheriff job in the old 4 horse town you had left. Before you could draw your weapon or even turn tail and run, you heard the loud report from the rooftop rifleman and felt the bullet tear though the flesh in your abdomen. It was at that time that the man who called you into the street drew his revolver and fired two more well aimed shots. You were dead before you hit the ground.


The future: More than just a search for amazing tacos

Your Hopes, Dream and Fears is an assignment to write a letter to myself in ten years, that I might be able to look back and reflect upon it later when I read it.  I am old enough that I think my goals are static, whether I achieve them or not is another matter, but I will remember them…. I think. It is odd that looking back to ten years ago, the goals I had at the time have all pretty much gone by the wayside as life barreled forward. These goals, though both limited in scope and somewhat broad, are more impassioned than those, so hopefully this time it is a little different.  I really dislike thinking so much about the future, but assignments like this are good because they keep the pressing need to progress along the path I have chosen at the front of my mind instead of passively waiting for the world to unexpectedly take notice of how wonderful I am and hand me all the opportunities I desire.

Dear future me,
I think a lot about where my life has been and where I intend for it to go. I spent my youth comparatively aimless for a variety of reasons, so it is nice now to have some intended direction, and to have the wisdom to realize that no matter what I intend, life may have other plans and that I can be ok with them.  Hopefully this is a characteristic that you still share, but let me tell you about the things I aim to work toward in the mean time.
Professionally, you (me) ought to have finished law school or graduate school by now. Don’t put that off like you did college. If we (myself and I) are able to attend a worth while law school, meaning if you did well enough on the LSAT to choose the school, then my primary goal is to be practicing law that in some way helps and assists some undeserved class of people. I will do the best on my end studying to make that come true so that you don’t have to look back and think, “if only.” I don’t mean social justice law or anything like that, at least not exclusively, but some sort that you think betters the lives of everyday people instead of furthering the interests of those with the most power and influence. They have enough lawyers anyway, they will be fine without me. You should probably consider something that at least makes enough money to pay for all this school…. sorry about that.
If law doesn’t work out, or even if it does, teaching of some sort has always had an appeal to me, so I hope that by the time you read this, we have had the opportunity to explore that more. I hope that additionally, you are excited and passionate about learning as I am currently. I will work on keeping that alive for you.
You are blessed enough to already have a large and happy family, so I hope you keep and cherish them as much as I do now. I will keep pushing our children to help them pursue their own goals and have the direction that we did not, but I commit to you that I shall make sure those pushes are as gentle as possible.
If you fail to do all that… then you better at least have a funny comedy routine about it… biggest smiles mask the saddest faces or something to that effect.

May this letter find you in good health, until then,
Present Me

Meet Merrell Shale

Merrell Shale is a mean looking but warm spirited man in his late thirties. At present, he is a gambler, but his outward appearance deliberately reflects his more humble beginnings. He is the son of a miner, his mother died from cholera at a young age. His father worked very hard to provide for his children, and Merrell, the oldest of three, sought very early to assist his father in that endeavor.

His younger siblings were both educated, a lawyer and a banker’s wife, respectively, but he was always the sharpest of the bunch. He was never afraid of hard work, and, as soon as his father consented, he went to work with him in the mines. The long years of hard work took a brutal toll on his father, however, and he is very ill, near death. Merrell, resolving to accomplish more with himself was always looking for a better way, and when his younger siblings were off living their own lives, he starting looking for one.
He had always been able to read people well, there was little more concerning than going into a hole in the ground on the word of a man who told you that the mine was safe. And even outside that, it was a natural talent of his. As a youth, he was fond of finding ways to ruffle the feathers of his teachers and such, and maybe it was that as much as it was anything else that prevented him from following the path his sisters chose. While he was considering his alternatives, he used to play quite a bit of cards at the local saloon. He was always reluctant to take his coworkers’ money, however, so he brought home very little.

One particular evening, a sharp dressed man was in the saloon and had gathered quite a crowd taking the money of men who had come for a game of poker. Having noticed the solemn look on the faces of the men with him he worked, he bought his way onto the table to play a game. Unchained from the moral conviction that usually restrained him, he played the man, and won quite handsomely. The anxiety that one might experience from spending so much of his life in a death trap had given him meant that no game of cards would ever shake him so that his face might reveal whatever lay concealed there.

The winnings, after returning some to his friends who had squandered their pay, were enough to get his father out of the mine for a time, and get him started in becoming a gambler himself. He would never dress like the man whom he had beat, lest he make a target of himself or tip his hand. There was no money at home gambling though, unless he wanted to take it from his friends. So, he set out on the road. He would take any bet he knew he could win, although he lost a few in places he could have never seen it, but playing cards always held a special place for the man.

Week Three: Writing the Old West

This week, I spent the first portion of my time revising my website. I used a WordPress site for a previous class, but shy of distinguishing between pages and posts and adding a timeline to our page, we did very little to flush it all out. The first things I did this week was to reorganize categories so that my site is easier to navigate for potential visitors. Realizing the limitation on posting single twitter post for my daily creates, I searched and found how to create a category and add tweets which can then be added to a widget that provides a feed for those posts. Accordingly, I created a new page dedicated entirely to my daily creates.

On the daily creates, one was rather simple. I just posted an old photo from a Civil War Museum as a bit of history. The other two were gimp edits. The first, putting a saying on western picture, I just created text, outlined it with a path, grew my selection, filled it, dropped it behind the white text, and moved the white text off center above the created layer to give it an embossed look. The saying I chose about not making bets later provided some inspiration for my character.

The more challenging of the two was to put a western scene reflection on a window; it involved doing things I had not done before or at least using photo manipulating tools I rarely touch.  I cut out the glass in the windows, and I took a few elements that could be seen from inside the window and cut and made new layers out of them as well, the lamp and the picture on the wall, in particular. I noted the different reflections from the interior window trim as well, so it became a layer on its own. I distorted a picture of the OK Corral using transform tools, the way that a window reflection might. Then, using different levels of transparency, smoothing on the light from the lamp, and careful layer order selection, I created a window reflection that has some of the indoor elements from before showing though the window to give it a realistic effect.
The western story analyses were rather straight forward, but they inspired more thought toward my character that I created afterward. The first I chose two stories and sorted out some common elements to investigate the nature of the western literary genre. The second, I used Kurt Vonnegut’s simple story shape analysis to think about how the story I read had been composed, what shape the plot had on the simple graph.

I think the most interesting task of the week was creating my own western character.  A couple of the key elements, that he was a miner turned gambler, but not necessarily the deceitful sort, I had decided on before hand. Inventing him though, was just a matter of sitting down and writing in a way that might explain how and why he was the way he was, as well as revealing something about his internal character. I look forward to the things we will do with the character later in the course as I give him more life.

For the weekly assignments, the first one I chose was to write a letter to my future self. As I detailed in the post, although I dislike writing or even thinking about the future, it is a healthy thing to do at times to make sure I keep to my path in the present.
The two assignments, I was able to relate to the western theme pretty easily. In the first, I wrote a pair of haikus about the joys of eating beans. In the second, I wrote the ending of a story about a gun battle gone horrible wrong.The final writing assignment I completed had nothing to do with westerns, but it did give me important time to contemplate and research every word that starts with x in the English language. It was a very simple story using the alphabet as a guide. The story ending was the most entertaining of the three but they were all fun ways to be creative with words, and in two cases, to get even further into the western theme.

The stoic boy gets the girl

The above curve represents, in Kurt Vonnegut’s mode of story analysis, a representation of the story, “Moment of Vengeance” by Elmore Leonard. In the very early story, they allude to an earlier elevation of the protagonist. I decided to include that because it was discussed, although the associated action was already finalized. Afterward, there is a rapid decent as it becomes clear to the reader that Treat is incapable of preventing Korgeson and his men from taking his wife and Korgeson’s daughter.

That portion is the early fall in the line. After the fall, despite more attempts to break Treat’s resolve, he proves himself to be a hearty, stoic, western hero capable of withstanding, and even combating the adversity thrown at him. His station is, despite external circumstances, the same for that whole portion because he lacks his wife, his sole object. The whole scene against Korgeson’s men is a relatively flat spot despite being the beginning of the climax.

The rise at the end to above the starting point is based on the fact that now, in addiction to getting his wife back, Treat has won the grudging approval of her father so they will be able to live their lives without his interference. Additionally, Treat has proven himself the worthy victor who will do far more than just provide, as Korgeson said that he feared was all Treat was capable of.

What does it mean to be Western?

Having read “The Ice Man,” “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky,” and other Western stories, both for class and beforehand, some common elements, style, settings, and characters, stand out. As stated in a previous blog, the western genre seems to be the literary embodiment of the prevalent frontier mentality that still exists in the shadows of American mentality, coupled with typified individualist characters that Americans hold in such high regard. In some ways, many of the elements of those stories can be associated with that idea. I chose these two stories in particular because I was interested in the temporal distance between them. The former is a relatively new western, while the later was written by one of the earlier western writers. The commonality between them, then, suggests the immutability of any genre characteristics that they share.

Rugged, tough, and defiant characters are common in westerns. Indeed, in the two stories under review, both protagonists and antagonists in the stories generally match this description. In “The Ice Man,” Victor internally recognizes the smart, passive thing he ought to reply to the immigration office if he wished to be left alone, but decided against it despite the trouble it will bring. In “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky,” both Jack Potter and Scratchy Wilson are hard men willing to participate in gun fight, when necessary for the former, and when he is drunk and feels like it for the later. Potter reacts unlike a normal man might, ducking at hiding at the sight of the gun, or even acting in deference toward the man wielding it. He remains steadfast and informs Wilson that it might well be his best opportunity to kill him if he wishes so. In this way, our protagonists are both willing to stare down the odds and face their adversaries.

The taming of the wild is an elements that seems common in western and is associated with the aforementioned frontier mentality. Both stories, each in their own way, represent that struggle. The civilized man, Jack Potter, who was so ashamed that he could have abandoned his sense of propriety and duty to his community in something as personal choosing a bride for himself, must face down the wild, drunken, gun toting maniac with whom is he always willing to do battle. “The Ice Man” keeps one element of the man facing the wild, but turns another on its head when Leonard made the law man the antagonist. Victor still tests his might and courage against bulls, so he is, in that regard, our normal western hero. Nothing of a coward shows inside of him, unlike the dishonest, self-serving law enforcement official. The good wins out in the second story in a unique way, that our protagonist retains his dignity in the face of his opposition. 8 seconds on a mighty bull is more fearsome than a short time in a cell on account of a dishonest law man.

In Westerns, there is generally a clear sense of right and wrong, good and bad. While the characters may all exhibit signs of each of them, their actions are plainly interpretable. In “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” the antagonist, himself a duality, recognizes his good side at the resolution of the story even if he is personally incapable of understanding it. When he hears about the Sheriff’s marriage, he abandons his cause and lets the sheriff be. In “The Ice Man,” there is very little doubt that the uncouth immigration and customs officer is the bad man, his way of trumping up charges against Victor and his friend makes his nature plainly evident to the audience.

The simple narrative structures, admirable, albeit somewhat stock, characters, the good versus evil, man versus wild, elements of westerns are evident in both stories, despite the differences. Rugged individualism is a mainstay of American idealism, and the idea that there is always something out there that needs civilization to be bestowed upon it still reign in American literature, western and otherwise.


Much ado about week two.

This week, while more work than the previous, was certainly more intriguing. I did not carefully read the weekly schedule carefully so I only completed one daily create this week.

It was simply enough, and sort of fun, so I am actually disappointed that I missed the others. The assignments were really good to get my brain thinking more creatively. The whistling a song assignment was simple enough but it made me think about the sorts of things that a good audio assignment might entail, which prompted me to think of what I feel is the beginning of a potentially decent contribution to our group assignment creation.
Writing a story from the perspective of a household tool was a different sort of challenge. It gave me the opportunity to think about writing in a way that my academic career generally does not. It was an interesting bit of self expression, even if what it was expressing was simple and mundane.
My other assignment, which was to put myself in a movie scene was a fun and easy visual assignment. Later I will aim for more challenging ones, but this week I was enjoying dipping my feet into the assignment pool. Describing what I had done and why I had done it added a level of complication, but it was still relatively simple, and again, provided a unique opportunity for self expression.
The about me was probably the most daunting task this week. As I believe I stated in last week, I dislike writing about myself. I decided to keep a portion of what was a digital about me that I made last week and add on to it. The digital history portion, I moved to another posting. I think that the actual about me and the digital section could do with some revision and addition later, so I will keep my mind open for creative ways to add to them.
This week, I also spent some time perusing other people’s work to see what they had done. I only posted one comment this week, but I think the assignments and other tasks in the coming weeks might prevent more opportunity for collaboration, discussion, and interaction. I am still learning to navigate the main site a bit to see what sorts of things people are posting.

Digital Me

This about me is a little different than my other because I want to focus on my internet and digital experiences. I came of age with the internet and consider myself rather tech savvy. I had an AOL when that was the thing and grew up using yahoo messenger. My original myspace account user ID is in the first hundred thousand or so, although I am not quite sure why I know that. But, I readily admit that the latest generation of social networking and internet use has left me behind. I am, therefore, enthusiastic about DS106 because it will help me gain the tools to get caught up on using the internet as a medium. Mostly all I use social networking for now is participation in a handful of political and philosophical debate groups and keeping up with my friends and family at their various locations around the globe. I had a twitter… but I never got around to doing anything with it, maybe now that will change.

Hopefully at the end of the course, I will have developed the tools I need to utilize my degree in online environments and open up avenues for my professional and personal aspirations as well.