Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Appeal of the Western

Let's face it, the classic tale of frontier justice in the Wild West is one of the most iconic images of the United States and is forever branded in our culture and historical identity. There's simply no way around it. Although the cowboy concept is not unique to us, we immortalized it in our earliest films in silent black and white, and yet even now the idea remains popular. We've seen it a thousand times. A corrupt cattle baron or land grabber uses his hired muscle to force good folk off of their lands despite their genuine protests, his hired toughs killing when they refuse and more than likely the mayor and sheriff are in his pocket. A handful of resilient trail toughs however stand up to his iron fist and take on a force far larger, and usually inspire the cowed citizens to join them and restore justice.

This is as cliche as love at first sight, slaying a dragon and ending with a big explosion. And yet the idea still appeals worldwide. Why?

When you break it down, it's rather simple. What land and people haven't had to deal with oppressive lords and barons, taking all they own and trampling them like cobblestones beneath their feet? In the breast of many dwelt the desire to fight back, to overthrow the oppressor and restore justice and equality. But they lacked the spirit and weapons to do so. Often such people tried, and just as often were cut down by superior skill at arms. But not always so. Every now and then someone rallied average good folk to cut down the evil ones. It wasn't always a happily ever after, but it still served to show that courage and resolution was capable of toppling the once mighty.

Today oppression still exists. Almost anyone in the world can watch a Western, understand the problem, and sympathize with the average folk and the steely-eyed hero standing firm for what they believe in and fighting back. The language might change, the land, the skin color, the weapons, but the story is almost exactly the same the world over. It's a powerful story that resonates across everyone. We all want to be the square-jawed hero rallying the townsfolk behind us, and many want to be the townsfolk following his example.

The western movies and books allow people to live vicariously through their adventures. It gives a voice and example to those who wish to enjoy freedom from tyranny and bandits, those often being one and the same. More than anyone else in history, America has embraced the idea of a few men standing up against many and winning. And we've done it. In World War One Alvin York singly rushed an entire German company armed with multiple machine gun positions, killed a score of men and captured the rest, over a hundred men, all by himself, armed with naught but a single Colt 1911 and a standard issue bolt action rifle. Nor was he alone in that exploit. I've read it mentioned by many vets in multiple wars that a single American soldier vanquishing a score of enemies by his lonesome.

All across the Old West the lawless flourished and forced the lawful to stand up and fight back, often viciously.

The Arizona Rangers scarcely ever had more than twenty men to patrol the entire state, and yet they did so, capturing, killing or driving away hundreds if not thousands of outlaws. The Minutemen of the East were called on time and again at a moment's notice to drive off or pursue hostile bands of Indians attacking a remote settlement, sometimes only a small group able to arrive in time to fight. And yet for every story of these we hear, there are probably twenty more we haven't heard simply because they were never reported. Countless homesteaders fought their own small wars that were so commonplace they almost seemed routine.

While the movies are certainly romanticized to a degree, such events were only too real and too common. But the heart still rings true, and it rings in the hearts of countless others who yearn for the bringing of true justice. That is the appeal of the classic western.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Early Halloween Spookiness

Okay, I was going to wait for October to start my descent into deliciously macabre scary stories, but I can't restrain myself!

I was poking around and recalled the old movie The Beast With Five Fingers, with the awesome Peter Lorre. On a whim I typed it up on Youtube and found the audio book version. But of course! All good movies are based off of books!

I'm only a portion through, but I'm absolutely delighted with it. It's the classic strange opening you get in old English tales, and it won't fail to grab your interest should you desire some classic horror. Take a look and expect more to come!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Plain Good Singing

Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is one of my all time favorite first person shooters, and it'll take a devil of an effort for anyone to knock it from that spot. Something tells me it ain't gonna happen. On it's own it's one of the most pulse pounding, adrenaline pumping, nerve straining games I've ever touched, it's got solid story, and as icing on the cake it has one of the most hauntingly beautiful renditions of the haunting song Oh Death I've ever heard. Don't believe me? Take a listen. You won't regret it.

That is to say, unless you're afraid of Death.