Thursday, April 29, 2010

Coming Up on Laurie's Wild West

It's gonna be a busy weekend, but I have some good things planned for the blog as well.

We have a special surprise guest blogger tomorrow for Photo Finish Friday, with some really intriguing photos to share.

Then sometime over the weekend I'll be putting up the next installment of Whatever Happened To..., our series on pulp magazines that came and went without so much as causing a ripple in the big ocean of pulp fiction magazines. What's interesting and ironic is that although some of these magazines were discontinued for lack of sales at the time, interest in them has intensified over the years due to their rarity, their fascinating histories and their sometimes really oddball themes.

Some of you might recall one of the earlier installments of Whatever Happened To, in which the magazine OCEAN was featured.

I have been on a book buying binge this past week, and one of the books I ordered was THE OCEAN: The 100th anniversary collection, edited by John Locke. I can't wait to get this and start reading the stories. And I expect that the collection will be prefaced by one of John's great introductions. I recently acquired his book GANG PULP, and I was very impressed by his introduction in that book.

I also hope to put up at least one more installment of ADVENTURE covers in celebration of that magazine's 100th anniversary.

That's all for now. I have to get back to watching the Dodgers lose their fourth game in a row. Or is the fifth? I've lost count.

Photo Finish Friday: Guest Blogger Patti Abbott

This Photo Finish Friday is hosted by Patti Abbott, who runs the very popular Friday Forgotten Books over at her blog pattinase. Because FFB takes up her Fridays, and because she loves the idea of Photo Finish Fridays, Patti asked if she could use my blog to post her contribution this week. I am very glad to do so.

Photo Finish Friday is organized by Leah Utas over at her blog The Goat's Lunch Pail.

Here's Patti:

These photos were taken in February, 2010 at the compound Thomas Edison and Henry Ford built in Ft Myers, Florida. This Banyan tree was planted by Edison who came there first and is actually located at the visitor's center across the road. It is much larger than the photo reveals and was quite the most interesting thing we saw.

Here are the stats:

This banyan is the largest in the continental United States and is a Florida Champion Tree.

Genus/Species: Banyan Tree - Ficus Benghalensis

Height: 62

Girth: 32

Age: 83

Historical significance:

This tree was given to Thomas Edison in 1925 by Harvey Firestone and was only 4 feet tall at the time. Thomas Edison experimented with different trees and plants for use as rubber and filaments.

Planter: Thomas Edison

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Grandfather and Other Mentors

I walked to the local coffee shop tonight, hoping that I'd be able to get some serious writing done. It has been going well over the past week, but like a lot of my writing projects, I get overwhelmed. I'm writing a memoir, and it looks like it's going to have several different aspects to it, and it's creating a lot of anxiety for me. This is the dangerous time for me: when I get overwhelmed, I get full of self-doubt, and the odds are that I will start to falter and stop writing.

I also get very anxious because I feel like I don't have enough time to really do a good job. With a 40+ hour a week job, a house to keep up, and a million other projects going, time to write is at a high premium. It's at times like these that I really wish my grandfather was still around, because I think he would have been a terrific mentor.

Over the past year, I've been able to keep my memory of my grandfather somewhat alive. I've got the Wild West Weekly stories to read, and now I've got the unpublished stories that I found. But sometimes it's almost as if he's turned into some other kind of entity, like an estate. It's evenings like this that I want the person, not the memory or the legacy, back.

I think he would have given practical advice on how to structure this confounded memoir, and would have given me some tips on the writing process. I think he also would have told me when I was making excuses or whining or too ambitious or when he thought I was full of shit. But most of all, he would have been a cheerleader - someone who really believed that I could write something of quality and would tell me that. When you think of it, a good mentor has all of these abilities.

But I am so very lucky in a lot of ways, even though he isn't here. I can read PULP WRITER again, closely, and especially the parts when he was struggling. I also have his journals from the years when he was really struggling (1950-53), and while a lot of it is mundane, (fed the dog, went for a walk, etc.) there are parts that will help me. For a while I guess that will have to do.

I had two very good mentors while I was going through the process of writing my parts for PULP WRITER. Dan Horowitz, my advisor in college, was the first. Even though Smith College is a very liberal and PC-conscious school, and most students write their honors theses on lofty subjects, he did not once show me that he thought writing a thesis on pulp Westerns was a ridiculous idea. The other was Ann Parker, a mystery author, who I worked with at my job in Livermore. I had failed miserably as a science writer for the Lab's monthly magazine, and to say that I was very discouraged is a massive understatement. Ann met me for lunch occasionally and over a course of a few months, encouraged me and when the time was right, suggested that I deliver ten pages by our next meeting. Very simple baby steps. Yet it made a world of difference.

Mentoring can be a very fulfilling endeavor and having a mentor is something that many writers crave. But I imagine that being a mentor can be very time consuming. Thank your lucky stars if you have one. I think we should have a National Mentor Appreciation Day.

Enough of me. What about all of you? Who were, or are, your mentors? Are they still around? I'd like to hear about them.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention - A Stunning Success

Walker Martin was kind enough to write up a report on the Windy City Pulp and Paper convention in Chicago last weekend. Here's his report:

I'm back from an eventful four days at the Windy City Pulp convention in Chicago. I got up Thursday at 4:00 am and met a fellow collector for the drive to Ed Hulse's house where we packed boxes and pulp cover paintings into a 12 passenger van. Then four of us began the 14 hour drive to Chicago, which was completed in one insane burst of speed, with very few stops along the way. We arrived at 8:00 pm and headed for the hospitality room where the festivities were already in full swing. Thank god they had beer and potato chips.

Despite some pre con worries about attendance, I saw and talked to many members of the PulpMags group. All told, there were over 400 registered attendees and around 125 tables, packed with pulps, pulp reprints, vintage paperbacks, old movies on dvd, and pulp artwork. Once again I was in pulp heaven and almost overdosed due to pulp fever. PulpMags members that I saw and talked to were the following serious collectors:

Nick Certo, Mike Chomko, Scott Cranford, Doug Ellis, Steve Haffner, Mark Halegua, Rick Hall, Scott Hartshorn, Paul Herman, Ed Hulse, Chris Kalb, Dave Kurzman, Steve Lewis, John Locke, Bill Mann, Rob Preston, Tom Roberts, David Saunders, Dave Scroggs, Tony Tollin, Al Tonik, and Bill Ward. There were many other non-members that I consider friends such as John Gunnison, Frank Robinson, Bob Weinberg, etc. Too many to mention all and forgive me if I have left out somebody.

In addition to thousands of pulps, there was the film program hosted by Ed Hulse, a panel discussing ADVENTURE MAGAZINE, an art exhibit, and the auction. Not to mention the many meals and drinks shared with fellow collectors over the four intense and stressful days.

The theme of the convention was ADVENTURE'S 100th birthday and it was a rousing success. The panel consisted of myself, Doug Ellis, Tom Roberts, and Ed Hulse. In a hour we attempted to cover just about every facet of the magazine's incredible history: the editors, writers, artists, letter column, and as many other topics that we could think of. One interesting thing that almost drove me crazy was the subject of picking one forgotten but excellent author. I couldn't narrow it down to one and cheated by mentioning three: Leonard Nason, Hugh Pendexter, and Robert Simpson. Others mentioned were Georges Surdez and T.S. Stribling.

The art exhibit concentrated on ADVENTURE cover and interior art. Doug Ellis had many cover paintings on display and I bought five ADVENTURE paintings to the exhibit. Tom Roberts and others also contributed. Frankly, I was so nervous about driving my paintings over 800 miles to Chicago that I was lucky to avoid a stroke. Only the honor of taking part in ADVENTURE'S birthday convinced me that I should display the paintings.

The auction had an excellent number of rare and desirable pulps. I was stunned by the many rare and high quality condition REAL DETECTIVE TALES. Many other detective titles were auctioned including some fine condition copies of NICK CARTER. One obviously crazed collector was high bidder on several lots of love pulps and the auctioneer gleefully poked fun at him. Several people questioned this demented soul as to why he was buying large amounts of love titles. He mumbled something about having collected everything else except love pulps.

One interesting thing I noticed was that there was no Guest Of Honor and no one seemed to notice this at all. I did not hear one single complaint and it certainly looks like such a lack is not a problem and has absolutely no impact on attendance. From what I observed, just about everyone was there to sell and buy pulp related items. The lack of a guest was not an important factor.

The 14 hour drive back was done in another incredible burst of speed. How we managed to cram the big van with boxes, luggage, paintings, and four over the top collectors, is beyond me. Next stop: PulpFest in Columbus, Ohio. Visit and register, or you will miss the summer's pulp collecting event of the year. Fellow readers and collectors, lets support PulpFest and match the Windy City covention's attendance of over 400!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pulp Cover Day: Adventure Magazine, 1910-1920

At the Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention this weekend, one of the highlights was a celebration of the 100th anniversary of ADVENTURE magazine. Because I couldn't go to the convention, I thought I'd do a little celebrating of my own. Here are some of my favorite covers from the first decade of ADVENTURE's existence: 1910-1920.

December, 1910.
April, 1911

August, 1911

April 1913

October 1913

March 1916

November 3, 1917

February 18, 1918

April 18, 1918

July 18, 1919

September 3, 1920

October 18, 1920

December 18, 1920

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Movies in the Santa Clarita Valley, Part 13: The Cowboy Festival at Melody Ranch

Well, I guess you've figured out by now that I did make it to the Cowboy Festival after all. Earlier yesterday morning we drove by only to find mobs of cars and people. But at 2 in the afternoon, the crowd had thinned out somewhat and I found myself hopping on the shuttle without a wait.

The bus went through the neighborhood that borders Melody Ranch - a very exclusive neighborhood. My fantasies of renting a house near the ranch evaporated in a nanosecond when I saw the houses - these were all, let's say "higher priced custom homes."

The festival itself was very professionally run - this is the 17th year that they have ran it - and the planners had pretty much the bases covered. All types of races and lifestyles were covered. Most of the exhibits were mostly vendors, but the quality of the goods being sold - from books to silver to hats to tack to art - was quality stuff. No junky trinkets to be found, at least that i could see.

Anyway, I got busy and started taking photos. i'll let you enjoy them.

There were more than enough people dressed in costume. I did a double take when I first walked in - I could have sworn this guy on the right was the Seth Bullock character from Deadwood.

They had quite a few things for kids to get involved in - learning exhibits like what it was like to make your own clothes, what was in a kitchen in the wild west, and even a little opportunity to see what it would be like to be put "into custody" by the local sherriff.

Several demonstrations, musical performances and poetry readings were going on. There were also several authors with tables for selling their books.

As the sun started to set, the crowds thinned out and things quieted down. And while I didn't have a wait for the shuttle going in, there was a line at times going out.

It was sad to leave; but at least I know there's always next year. I was very glad that I decided to give the Festival a second chance. Anyone who is interested in movie history and especially the history of this fabled ranch and its role in the history of the Western movies should try to get here. It's the one chance you'll have to walk the same street as Gary Cooper in High Noon.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Movies in the Santa Clarita Valley, Part 12: A Visit to Vasquez Rocks

Actually, we weren't planning to go to Vasquez Rocks. We WERE planning to go to the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, which started on Thursday and finishes tomorrow. I had been looking forward to going to the festival (mainly so I could get in to see Melody Ranch, which is only open one weekend - this weekend - all year).

We got there at what I thought was a reasonable time: 11 AM. We drove down Railroad Avenue and turned left on 13th Street. When I had called in last week to order the tickets by phone, the woman had told me that we'd have to park at the bottom near the intersection and a shuttle bus would take us up to the Ranch. "The parking lot at the ranch is too small, she said, and we don't want to disturb our neighbors). Ok, I said. That sounds fine. I expected a smallish parking lot and maybe twenty, thirty people waiting in line to get the shuttle.

Except the parking lot was gigantic, and it was FULL. We're talking acres of parked cars. Disneyland parking lot full, a sold-out baseball game parking lot full, a golf tournament where Tiger Woods is going to appear full. Woodstock comes to mind.

Oh, my God, was all we could keep saying. Oh my God.

And then we saw the line for the shuttle buses.

There must have been two hundred, three hundred people waiting in that line.

And we did what I never thought we would do - we bailed. I was disappointed, very disappointed. But I knew that if it was going to be that crowded, chances were that whatever was on the top of that hill, even if it was worth the wait, was going to be ruined by all those people. Go ahead - call me a misanthropist, a crowd hater, a wet blanket. I prefer to call myself a realist.

So we went to Vasquez Rocks instead. And I really glad we did.

Some of you might remember i wrote about Vasquez Rocks last fall, as part of the Movies in the Santa Clarita Valley series. It's been in dozens, if not hundreds of movies and television shows over the years, starting from the B westerns in the 30s and 40s to Blazing Saddles to Star Trek.

It's a really long drive out to the park (it's now a County of L.A. park), longer than I thought. The road gets windy and deserted, and it just kept going and going through the hills on the Sierra Highway. Then you turn right on Agua Dulce Canyon Road, and the landscape gets a little more interesting. There's a very small outpost (town is too big of a term for this area) with a cafe, a market, a small and very charming hardward store (after having to deal with Home Depot for years, small hardware stores ARE charming), and a dog grooming place. A couple of churches along the way. When you finally reach the park, the rocks are right there and you don't have to travel too much farther to see them.There is a dirt road that goes all the way down to the rocks. But we didn't know that, and parked in a small parking lot and walked in. On the way, we kept seeing cars pass us.

Huh, we thought, and then we got to the top of the hill and saw the REAL parking lot, at the bottom right next to the rocks. Oh well. It was a nice walk.

I'm not sure if I like the parking lot right at the rocks. I think the heavy travel of cars will cause erosion if it goes on for too long, and the noise of the cars, not to mention always having to get out of the way of some huge SUV barreling through, makes it less of a nature preserve and more of a tourist spot.

But it's still beautiful, as these photos will show.

I was thrilled to be there. If you go, you can walk on the rocks, as you will see, and there are also plenty of trails for longer hikes. Just keep an eye out for wild critters.

We stopped and took a few more photos before heading out. That little cafe that was just down the road, The Sweetwater Cafe, was calling my name.

This is my plan for the next visit: to take a long hike, soaking in the history and thinking of Gene Wilder, Harvey Korman and Cleavon Little having the time of their lives filming Blazing Saddles here.

On the way out of town, I decided to go by the Cowboy Festival again, just to see how crowded the parking lot was and whether I could see a long line for the shuttle. I knew if I didn't I would kick myself later for not trying one more time.

So what happened? Did Laurie make it to Melody Ranch after all? Tune in for the next installment of Movies in the Santa Clarita Valley to find out!