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Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy Rochelle Wisoff-Fields!

“Hey Kid. I see ya got a innerview with Rochelle Wisoff-Fields this week. I ‘member her from our first art show at the Saloon.”

“That’s right Pal, an’ the second art showin’ too. Oh, here she is now. Howdy Rochelle!”

“Hello Kid, hello Pal.”

“Rochelle, many of us know you from yer blog where ya host and write fer Friday Fictioneers. But yer also a visual artist. When did ya first idennify as ‘artist’?”

“Kid, I can’t remember a time I didn’t identify as an artist. You might say I was born with a purple crayon clenched in my fist. Some of my earliest childhood memories include those of my Sunday school classmates fighting over my drawings. 

My mother was slightly less enamored with my earliest works, saying she could never find a blank piece of paper because ‘Rochelle scribbled on every sheet.’”

“So which came first, the visual art or the literary art?”

“The visual art. Although, I was quite the daydreamer and would often make up stories in my head. Often, I would illustrate these stories on paper while I was supposed to be paying attention in class. I can’t tell you how many times this got me in trouble with my teachers.” 


“Ha!”

“I’m wunderin’, d’ya have different muses or inspirations for yer different arts?”

“What a great question. I’ve never really thought about it before. I’d have to say yes. Although my writing muse speaks to me in pictures…more like movies. I see the scenes and hear the characters’ voices. 

“My painting muse speaks to me in pictures as well. Surely, I’m not the only one, but there are times we’ll be at a restaurant or at someone’s house for dinner when I look at the glasses and think what a great painting they would make. Recently I was inspired by a ketchup bottle.

The same thing happens with landscapes. Once, while working out on my elliptical trainer I saw an amazing shelf cloud. I had to stop pedaling and snap a picture. What did we do before cell phones that double as cameras?” 


“Right? As ya know, Rochelle, we opened up this here Saloon at the beginnin’ a the pandemic, ta give folks a place ta git away an’ ta keep us busy. How was yer arts effected by the pandemic?”

“During the first few months of lockdown I finished a novel I’d been dragging my heels on.  After I delivered the manuscript and book proposal to my agent, I dove headfirst into my watercolors.” 
“So were ya more productive when staying at home during Covid, or less productive?

“One of my bloggers nailed me when he accused me of being a social media extrovert and a real-life introvert. So I really wasn’t scratching at the door begging to go out. Save for swimming. I hated the pool being closed. Anyway, back to the actual question. Was I more or less productive? When I say I threw myself into it it’s no exaggeration. There were advantages in having fewer distractions. Between painting whatever I wanted and the commissions that came in, I counted at least forty-two paintings by the end of 2020.”

“Thet seems like a lot ta me!” 

“Rochelle, tell about the virtual art fairs that you took part in.”

“As for the virtual art fairs, we artists made a concerted effort setting up Zoom meetings and virtual booths. We had a great time getting to know each other, however, at the end of the day, the fairs were disappointing in the sales department.” 

“What hepped ya the most through that time?

“Painting was the main thing. I threw myself into my art. 

Online connections like Friday Fictioneers, the blog challenge I facilitate. We have a supportive international community. 

I lost count of how many shows I binge-watched while working out on my elliptical trainer. I watched the news as little as possible. Just enough to know what was going on.

Walking around the neighborhood. I live in the perfect area for that. I might know every inch within a three-mile radius.”

“What’s a book that you think more people should read?”

“Why my books of course. Wink wink. I actually don’t have a good answer.”

“Well, I read yer trilogy an’ sure think others would also enjoy the characters an’ story.” 

“Thanks Kid.”


“Is there a visual artist or a particular painting that has influenced or inspired you Rochelle?”

“Garth Williams who illustrated the Little House books.”

“Oh yeah. The Little House books and Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, among others.” 

“Yes. I emulated him when I was a youngster. Norman Rockwell has always been my hero.  Mary Cassatt’s mother and child paintings speak to me. At the same time, I love the drama of Van Gogh’s works. I’m a fan of impressionists such as Claude Monet. I’d have to say all of the above have influenced my current work.” 

(Not Kid’s goats, not the Poet Tree)



“What’s the best advice you ever got?”

“It didn’t come directly to me but through a monologue of a rabbi/singer Danny Maseng. His grandfather told him, ‘Be true to your gift. Don’t waste time.’ My advice is, Keep pursuing your dreams. You’re never too old.” 

“Thank you for this innerview Rochelle.”

“Thank you Kid and Pal.”

www.rochellewisoff.com

www.rochellewisoff.com/art

www.rochellewisoff.com/books

Saddle Up Saloon; D. Avery in the Author’s Chair

“Pal, I thought the Author’s Chair feature weren’t till October.”

“Yep, hopin’ ta git someone ta read on October 11th. This here’s like a pilot.”

“Well, I’m sure it’ll take off. Okay, so we won’t have much of a role ‘cept ta innerduce, somethin’ like: 

Howdy, D. Avery. Welcome ta the Author’s Chair.”

“Hello Kid. Pal. Thank you for trying this out with me.”

“What did ya bring ta read t’day?”

“I want to share something you haven’t seen but that was prompted through the weekly challenges. You might recognize Tisquantum, more commonly known as Squanto, from responses to earlier Carrot Ranch prompts. This following one I wrote for the recent “Big Black Horse” prompt:

Reined In

They were the size of moose. Slany called those animals horses. He laughed when I asked if they tasted like deer. 

I remember a black one I saw, bigger and more muscled than other horses I’d seen. Its hide was dark and shiny. The hair on its neck was long, straight and black, like mine. 

Like all English, the man astride this horse’s back was small and dirty. But that great animal, solid and silent, did his bidding.

‘Come,’ Swany clucked, and I followed him along the crowded street to Cornhill while people gawked and stared up at me.

Okay. I’m ready for questions and comments. But first I want to remind you what Charli said in her September 23rd post:

We want to encourage reader interaction and invite the community to ask questions of the featured author. A week after posting, we will randomly draw a name from those who asked questions to offer a free book from the Carrot Ranch Community. 

For this trial run we are offering Chicken Shift to the lucky winner. 

So ask your questions about my “Reined In”— I have lots to say about this! 

And consider signing up to take a seat and read to us from your own writing. I look forward to hearing many voices from the Author’s Chair here at the Saloon.

D. Avery is the author of two books of poetry and one of flash fiction, ‪‪with a growing number of published pieces in print, e-magazines, and anthologies. D.’s writings can be sampled at ShiftnShake. When not writing, D. is in the woods or on the water catching stories. 

View: Amazon author page

Twitter: @daveryshiftn

Contact: shiftnshake@dslayton.com

The “Big Three” and AMC

Before I was born, my mom had a poor AMC Spirit that she ran into an even poorer bull, totaling both the car and the animal in one fell swoop. She told it to me as a horror story with the moral of “why you don’t go too fast” just before I got my license. When she first regaled me with a far gorier version than I relayed to you, I didn’t realize what an absolute piece of history she had violently combined with beef. AMC Spirits (or, really, any AMCs) are now either cult collector items or actual trash. The picture below is of a car very similar to the one she owned.

’79 AMC Spirit. AMC Promotional Media. I’m assuming it’s fair use to put it up here, given the owners of the picture don’t exist anymore.

Whether the vehicles really are trash or treasure, the creation and eventual fall of American Motors Corporation (AMC) is a bizarre and very American story. Buckle up, buckaroos!

It All Began With Refrigerators

Well, it began with refrigerators… sort of.

Back before the great depression, there were lots of car manufacturers. If you think about Grapes of Wrath (my Goodreads review is linked), you’ll remember they drove a Studebaker. You’ll remember things like Hudsons. So where did they all go?

The Great Depression ate the small car companies. The “Big Three” (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) survived because… well, because they had the most cushion to ride out on when the depression hit. They had the best ability to deal with the new union requirements, and they had the most extensive dealership networks.

Three companies, however, made it through in a creative way. In 1937, Nash and Kelvinator merged – and only one of them made cars. Kelvinator made refrigerators, and they bought Nash. Though it was a risk, given all the other dead car companies, it turned out to be a pretty good deal since the motor company’s survival meant it could churn out vehicles for the government during WWII. In 1954, the now-struggling Nash Motors part of Kelvinator also merged with Hudson Motor Car Company. This new car compilation became American Motors Corporation, or AMC. From 1954 until “the fated end”, AMC was destined to struggle, with fewer resources at their disposal, against The Big Three.

They gave ’em hell.

Mitt George Romney

Upon the merger of Hudson and Nash, there needed to be a new leader of the new AMC. That turned out to be George Romney. And yes, indeed, he’s the dad of that other, slightly more famous Romney.

Official picture of George Romney, third Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Made for the US Government, so it’s public domain. Look at that chin – if that’s not the father of Mitt, I’ll be damned.

Romney was at least wise enough to realize that two flagging car companies weren’t set up to compete directly with The Big Three, and he had to find a niche market. As cars were getting bigger and chugging more gas in the 50’s and 60’s, Romney realized there was a market for people who didn’t need a big car and perhaps didn’t have the money for a land yacht. He pushed the new AMC toward a focus on small cars, basing the design and decision on one of Nash Motors’s extant models: the Nash Rambler. The Rambler was the first car in the US to qualify as “compact” (though it wouldn’t qualify under today’s standards), and it was well-known as a reliable but cheap vehicle. It didn’t just takeover the compact market: the Rambler created the market.

In 1962, Romney decided to enter politics and stepped down from AMC so he could accomplish his new goals. Given that he eventually rose to be HUD secretary, he evidently did well.

But that doesn’t really matter to us, because we’re just here for the cars. The problem with Romney stepping down was that someone else, someone who didn’t share the same vision, stepped up to the plate. Abernathy, Romney’s successor, decided he needed to take AMC from the “cheap car” image and blasted non-existent capital at things like the Ambassador line. Though the car sold, development costs churned through the small company’s resources, and some point to this need to save face was the beginning of the end. Others, however, think Romney was wrong to shove the company into a “cheap” hole – who knows, at this point?

The Invention of the Crossover

I desperately wanted to talk about the Gremlin, which happened in the 70’s, but that’s not had the lasting impact of one desperately innovative vehicle: the AMC Eagle. The first true crossover.

Promotional poster/handout for the AMC Eagle. It’s a promo poster for a defunct company, so I assume it’s fair use?

That’s right: AMC invented the crossover. They invented the thing that’s only now dominating markets, even if they didn’t have the term “crossover” yet to depend on. It was way ahead of its time, and yet the Eagle came out too late to save the company. After changing direction so many times, the company’s budgets were spent and there was nothing they could do. They flailed around a bit doing things like selling out to French manufacturer Renault. While the merger seemed beneficial, both ended up losing in the end.

While the financial side of the market just tanked, the Eagle just absolutely stunned in terms of influencing markets. The Eagle was borne of a last-ditch death throe to take the best of 4-wheel drive and off-road Jeep capabilities with what was still AMC’s best category: the economy car. They added things like front suspension to keep the ride smooth and feel like an ordinary sedan. The car did well in the rally scene, as well.

The Eagle still enjoys a cult following, despite the 1988 end of manufacturing. Some say it was a decade ahead of its time, others 3 decades. Regardless, the car was influential to designers and buyers everywhere. It definitely spurred the direction of the automobile market, even through today.

Why There are Jeeple (“Jeep People”)

1970 the company CEO Roy Chapin decided to buy Kaiser Jeep (Kaiser Jeep was, like Nash and Hudson, a conglomeration of smaller car companies that survived the depression). They took control of Jeep and looked forward to government contracting, which Jeep specialized in at the time. Though AMC had control of Jeep, they let the cars develop almost independently in terms of technology. While AMC itself struggled for capital, Jeep continued to run with its solid axle format and used its original military design, giving it the distinctive look and feel we know today. The Jeep Wrangler, started in 1986, was a big success.

1986, however, was too late to save the company. In 1987, Chrysler purchased and put out to slaughter the AMC brand. It kept, however, the nameplate and distinctive designs of Jeep.

That makes Jeep, though a subsidiary of Chrysler, the last descendant of the small car companies. There’s all sorts of loyalty from Ford and Chevy people to their chosen brand, and there was surely loyalists of Nash, Hudson, Kaiser, and Willys-Overland (Jeep) that carried in to AMC. There were probably AMC fans in and of themselves. Now, there’s only one outlet for that love to go. Some Jeeple (“Jeep People”) may not even realize that their devotion to the cars may stem from a parent’s unrewarded loyalties.

Sometimes, I like to fantasize about what could have saved the company, but there’s only one real answer: the end was fated from the very beginning.

AMC Logo, 1970-1987. Public domain where I’m writing, though there may be copyright and trademark issues in some countries.

For More Information

I’ll be honest: while I searched around the internet for various nonsense about this topic, nothing I looked up was truly surprising. If you want a super-deep-dive version of this alongside crude jokes and way, way more reading and research, I suggest this YouTube video from Regular Car Reviews. It’s 2.5 hours long, so you’ll probably need more than one sitting, but believe me that it’s great.

About the Author: H.R.R. Gorman is a PhD chemical engineer with expertise in biotechnology and making drugs. Following science, Dr. G’s greatest passions are writing and history. If you want to know more about this white-trash-turned-excessively-bourgeois maniac, you can go to https://hrrgorman.wordpress.com/.

Saddle Up Saloon; Linkin’ Inklings

“Kid, is thet…”

“Yep. We got ranch hand and columnist Sue Spitulnik ta take the stage. Howdy Sue!”

“Hello Kid, hello Pal. It’s good to be here again.”

“I fer one am real glad ta see ya Sue. What d’ya got fer us t’day?”

“I’d like to share another stage, Pal. I’m here to invite Carrot Ranchers and any writers to take part in Inklings.”

“I ain’t got an inklin’ what thet is.”

“Inklings is a weekly online writing “critique” Zoom meeting, open to the public through the Lilac City Rochester Writers (NY state).”

“Think I mighta heard Shorty goin’ on ‘bout thet group.”

“Well, Charli Mills recently gave a great presentation to this writing group. She talked about the need for three bios and how to tweak them for specific purposes. Of course, my group was impressed with her. She was impressed with our organization and the questions people asked. It was a win-win and I got to introduce my mentor/friend.”

“So how does this work, Sue? You say anyone can take part?”

“Yes. Inklings is hosted every Tuesday from 8 PM to 10 PM EST by David Woodruff. As president of LCRW, I attend regularly. Authors take turns sharing the screen and reading small bits of their WIP work aloud. Then other attendees express what is working and what isn’t. We do our best to not do line edits as we are usually working with first drafts.”

“Soun’s friendly enough.”

“It is! I usually read my weekly 99 word flash. Even those can be improved when others see/hear them. As we say at the LCRW Inklings website:

What if there was a place you could meet your fellow writers virtually? What if there was a place where you could read your draft work to others, without having to edit it or spend hours using a spell checker? What if there was a place you could help other writers with their work… no prep necessary? Now there is. Every Tuesday 8 PM

The group is different from other groups because we focus on what the writer has left out that makes the story clear to the reader. As writers, we know what our characters are thinking and doing, but sometimes we don’t share enough details for the reader to get what we are trying to convey. This group shares thoughts of whether the writer has accomplished their goals.”

“Sounds good, Sue.” 

“It is. Barbara Helene Smith says ‘The weekly Inklings sessions provide excellent feedback on my submissions, but I also learn even more from the comments on the other contributors’ works. Join us on Tuesday evening at 8:00 and become a better writer.’ And Rick Taubold has found the group to be very helpful; ‘It has offered diverse perspectives on my writing that are hard to come by otherwise. The various comments have given me good insights on how to improve my storytelling.’

I know for me, listening to all the comments with an open mind has helped me improve my own writing because I have become more aware of what to do to engage a reader and keep them wanting more. And participants do not have to be members of LCRW.”

“Really?”

“Really. Some of us are regulars and members, but we get other participants. Inklings and can be found on Meet-up. That’s where the Zoom link for the 2-hour sessions is. You must join the LCRW meetup group to be able to click on the events tab, and then the Zoom image to get the meeting link. But there is no other obligation.”

“So we kin jist go ta   https://www.meetup.com/lilaccity-rochesterwriters/   ta join in?”

“That’s all, Kid. And you get camaraderie and feedback on your WIP.”

“Wow! Thanks fer sharin’ Sue.”

“Thank you Kid and Pal!”


I
f asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

What’s your Style of Conflict?

Conflict is necessary when writing a story. Tension is the conflict’s little brother. While conflict might be more visible through a friend’s fight, a lover’s betrayal, or a tragic accident, it will keep the reader on edge from one scene to the next as they wonder how it will all come to an end.

If omitted, readers may decide to skip your novel entirely.

The principle of conflict is that it should rise and fall at uneven intervals. Escalation and resolution should occur so that conflict has motion. As a writer, you will want your characters to respond. For example, a woman leaving her husband can not happen without reason. Here, you begin to see how certain factors in story-building affect one another. 

We have to consider the degree of conflict and how that will impact your characters. 

Eventually, as writers, we try to make peace with the characters involved in the conflict. We try to think about their personality traits, their motivations, or their goals. We try to be in our characters’ shoes by considering what they will do. How would my characters respond, or does the conflict change them? The transition could be a bumpy one. 

Similarly, when we conflict with others, we ought to learn to make a truce.

The above applies to our lives. 

A conflict in our day-to-day lives helps us stay alert and, in some cases, grateful. If nothing ever went wrong in our lives, we would never have a chance to grow stronger. On the other hand, life, all rosy, would be so dull, aimless, and bland. A rise and fall at uneven intervals can keep us on guard and allow our intellect to make decisions when we are in a puddle. It’s also a test of our intelligence, which makes us different from any other living species. 

Conflict is the vehicle for change in our society, our personal lives, and at work.

Martin Luther King, Jr., looked at conflict as a means of making positive social change. It is how we handle conflict that we need to consider.

According to the Thomas-Kilmann, Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), used by human resource (HR) professionals worldwide, there are five major styles of conflict management—collaborating, compromising, avoiding, competing, and accommodating.

Collaborating: 

While working in collaboration with another peer at work, an individual could create concerns and needs. Although partnership could generate creative solutions, foster respect, trust, and build relationships. But it can also lead to competition to create a win-win solution. 

Collaboration is far more powerful than competition. Your body and brain work best when you’re joyful and peaceful, not when you are pushed to the wall.

Compromising: 

People who work as compromisers are willing to sacrifice some of their goals while persuading others to give up theirs. They are ready to walk the extra mile to help maintain the relationship. Although the compromise is not necessarily intended to make all parties happy, to split the difference, game-playing can result in an outcome that is less creative and ideal.

Avoiding

People who use this conflict style deliberately ignore or withdraw from it rather than face it when in such a situation. However, they hope the problem will go away if they lay low by not taking responsibility or being involved. But then avoidance can be destructive if the opposite party perceives that you don’t care enough to engage. The result could be a loss for both parties since the argument could result in angry or hostile outbursts by not dealing with the conflict. 

Competing

People who compete come across as aggressive, confrontational, and can be intimidating. Having a competitive style is mainly to gain power while pressuring a change. However, this style could help in making difficult decisions and can harm relationships beyond repair. 

Accommodating

People who adopt this style of conflict usually keep aside their own needs because they want to keep the peace. Accommodators are cooperative and keep their egos at bay. They wouldn’t mind losing and allowing the other person to win.

Conclusion

How we respond to someone challenging our ideas or questioning our views is an essential aspect of our personality that we would be wise to recognize. At work or within the family, how we engage with others can make the difference between a positive and mutually beneficial relationship or one that is fraught with distrust and frustration.

We might consider this mode as our instinctive reaction to conflict. Knowing our mode can help assess whether we are the right person to engage in a row.

My two cents

By first gaining self-awareness, engagement with others can be more thoughtful and considerate, which is critical in improving one’s work situation and achieving professional objectives. 

Different situations demand different conflict approaches as long as we continue to heal ourselves with any process. 

So, what’s your style of conflict?

=========

This post comes from Rough Writer Ruchira Khanna

A Biochemist turned writer who gathers inspiration from the society where I write about issues that stalk the mind of the man via tales of fiction.

I blog at Abracabadra which has been featured as “Top Blog” for five years. Many of my write-ups have been published on LifeHack, HubPages to name a few.

I can be found at:

https://www.facebook.com/RuchiraKhanna01

Twitter: @abracabadra01

Instagram: ruchira.khanna

Saddle Up Saloon; Picture Prompt

“Kid? It’s awful quiet aroun’ here… do we got a guest? Who’s takin’ the stage this week?”

“Ain’t got nuthin’. Again. But don’t go blamin’ me, Pal, I cain’t do it all. Our dang writer— ah, shift, here she is now, this cain’t be good. D. Avery, where in heck ya been? We could use a little help runnin’ this here saloon.”

“Sorry Kid. And no, I don’t have anyone lined up for you to interview. My computer is on the fritz, I’ve been working and playing hard, and quite frankly it isn’t easy corralling people to be interviewed by you.”

“D., yer excuses is lamer ‘an a old broken down nag.”

“Whoa, back up. Shush, Kid. Yer workin’ D.? Thought ya was retired. What’re ya doin’ now thet ya ain’t teachin’?”

“Working at the local hemp farm.”

“Hmmf! Hemp? Ya makin’ rope or smokin’ dope?”

“None of the above. It’s CBD marijuana, cannabidiol type. You know, for medicinal oils and tinctures.”

“Sounds like snake oil ta me.”

“All I know is it’s a growing business. And I get paid to exercise outdoors on one of the most beautifully situated farms in the great state of Vermont.”

“Exercise? Thinkin’ ya mean manual labor.”

“Yes, but you know what the 4-H kids say.”

“No, I don’t. What d’they say?”

“Well the pledge is, as I recall, ‘I pledge … My Head to clearer thinking, My Heart to greater loyalty, My Hands to larger service and My Health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world’.”

“Ya tryin’ ta tell us this’s some sorta 4-H project? Growin’ pot?”

“No, Kid, but it sure does my heart, health, and head good to be working with my hands again. And I’m among good people and the operation is all organic. Worse things could be going on on that acreage.”

‘S’pose thet’s a fact. So what’ve ya been doin’ there, D.?”

“Well, this past couple of weeks it’s been a lot of weed whacking.”

“Weed whacking the weed?”

“Yes, clearing the weeds and ground cover that are around the plants. Clearing the way for harvest. And, from that work, maybe there is something we could run for the saloon this week Kid. See, when you have row upon row of repetitive work to do, your mind gets to travel a bit.”

“Uh-oh…”

“The crew and I are out there, dressed for our work, you know, long pants, boots, and a harness that helps support the straight shaft weed whacker. We march in and transform shaggy fields into regimented, groomed rows of sturdy plants.”

“Uh-huh…”

“Anyway, my mind went back to a scene from a family visit to Arlington National Cemetery a couple years ago.”

“‘Cause a them straight rows?”

“No. Because of the weed whacking brigade. On our way to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the Marine in full dress uniform makes his precise drills, I noticed men in drab green work clothes marching through the rows of headstones. They moved with precision and as a unit, their weed whackers held expertly as they maintained those hallowed grounds, keeping them in pristine condition.”

“I kin see how ya made thet connection whilst weed whacking with yer crew, D., but what’s thet got ta do with runnin’ somethin’ fer the saloon?”

“I’ve had these pictures handy for over two years. The picture in my head is stronger. I’ve thought there is a story there, but I have yet to write it. So maybe—”

“A photo prompt! Mebbe folks’ll connect ta these picture an’ they kin provide some stories!”

“Yes, exactly. Any length they wish. They can post and pingback through their own sites and/or leave their story below in the comments. And it doesn’t have to be exactly this scene. Their story could be about going to an acclaimed event, but then they see something that leaves an unexpected impression… my visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is more memorable for me because of the parallel scene.”

“When I’m at a rodeo sometimes I miss the action in the arena cuz I’m takin’ in the re-actions in the stands. An’ thet’s what I end up ‘memberin’ the most a thet event.”

“Yeah, Pal. So what’s the prompt?”

“Folks, if these here photos inspire ya ta a story, or lead ya ta a memory or story ‘bout a time thet weren’t the main event, please share in the comments or with a pingback ta yer post. Ev’ry pi’ture tells a story. What d’ya have ta say ‘bout what ya see?”

The Unknown by D. Avery

The boss calls me Manuel, calls me Mexican. Manuel is not my name, Mexico is not the country I come from. I am Guatemalan. “What’s the difference?” he asks, but does not really want an answer. 

Hundreds of people come every day to this cemetery where I do this work. These people honor their soldiers. They are awed by the endless rows of headstones, each engraved with a name. 

My father, my mother, my brothers and sisters— they had names. My village had a name. 

The boss says I am lucky to have this job. I know that’s true.

 If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Porch Talk

I write within a porch in the heart of the Keweenaw. It looks out over a bustling village street, an old railway line, a ball diamond. There’s a Veteran’s memorial down the lane, flags flapping, begonias blooming. One name listed there belongs to a relative I never met, though I knew his Grandpa, my great-uncle. That memorial connects me to half of my family, to mining immigrants, to this place. That’s the way it is around here.

It is in this porch I sit each day, beside a patchwork bird on a wooden pedestal and a tabby cat who lounges in the sun. It’s a feminine space. An old space. Once cold and dark, it has undergone a transformation in recent years. A transition. The walls and floor have been insulated, the thin window replaced, the door repaired. It’s been painted and papered, received fresh lighting, a sturdy boot box, and a line of aged-bronze coat hooks to hold outerwear. It has become a conglomeration of the passing times. Just as I am a conglomeration of ancestry. 

I imagine this old porch was once like many Keweenaw porches. Or sheds. Or mudrooms. The walls were probably lined with wooly coats, peas of ice melting from their cuffs, scant puddles forming in rings below. I envision galoshes strewn about on its bare wood floor, rag rugs soaking up the slushy weep from their soles. Somewhere in its past lies the smell of damp dog. Of coal. Of firewood. Maybe even pasty or pannukakku. There have been times sitting out here I swear I can almost hear the voices of past residents coming from interior rooms—the Finnish or the Cornish or perhaps the French Canadian—chatting over morning coffee or afternoon tea. I imagine the clink of their cups. The slurp of liquid from their spoons. They speak with confidence, with pride, with identity. Unhindered, they raise their voices in their mother tongue. They laugh, sing, whisper. They are who they are and are licensed that freedom.

There are days I sit and think about that. I think about the freedom to speak the language of one’s choosing, and I act upon it. Though on most days I may be writing or editing from this porch, there’s at least one day a week reserved for the study of language—Anishinaabemowin, the language of the Ojibwe people, my maternal blood. I log in remotely to a makeshift classroom hours away. I don my headset, turn on my camera, and join a group of others like me, students of all ages hungry for the words of their ancestors.

It is in this porch once built by immigrants that I’ve come to understand the beauty of an Indigenous language. And the value. It is here, where European descendants have stomped their boots and hung their overcoats, that I have learned another side of me. Beyond the French Canadian that contributed to my father’s blood. Beyond the Cornish of his mother.

My journey began over a year ago, in stutters and stammers. I could hardly speak. I saw my face in a small square on the screen. Other faces, too. Strangers, all of them. All of us wondering who we were. Why we’d come. What had drawn us to that virtual classroom. “Aaniin, boozhoo,” I said, my voice timid, the words foreign. And that was the beginning.

These days I introduce myself in the language with greater ease, a rhythm gradually developing, though still far from adequate. Like a graying toddler, I pick up syllable by syllable, word by word, the elders my teachers. Each week I grow in the culture, learn history, hear stories. The elders tell jokes and tease one another. And we laugh. “We don’t want to make it too heavy,” they say.

Though each member of our class comes from different walks of life, from different locations across the country, many share a similar linguistic history: Our Anishinaabe grandparents didn’t pass down their language, because they feared for their children—and their children’s children. They feared they would be taken away, feared they would be punished, as that is how it was back then. And so our parents grew up hearing the language, but not speaking it. They grew up understanding some of what they heard, but not storing it away. And we, as their children, grew up without it.

So, that is why we gather.

To honor.

To restore.

To revitalize.

I sit on this porch on a Thursday morning caressed by wisps of mashkodewashk, the scent of wiingashk in the air, nibi at my side. Sage, sweetgrass, and water ready me for the day’s teachings. We’re reading a story during this lesson, each slide on the screen a page of the storybook. I review what I see before I’m called on. To my surprise, I recognize the words, understand their meaning. There are tears in my eyes. A lump in my throat.

“Giinitam,” the elder says to me. Your turn. He wants me to read out loud what I see on the screen.

Before this day, I’ve never understood as many words grouped together. I’ve never passed a slide without relying on the English translation for clarification. I’m excited. In disbelief. “Before I begin,” I say, “I just want to tell you that I understood some of this before I read the translation. And that almost makes me cry.” My cheeks are warm. My heart glows.

“Nishin,” the elders say, nodding. “Nishin.” They are happy with my progress, proud of their student, grateful that Anishinaabemowin will not be forgotten from Aki, this Earth. I feel in this instant that somewhere in the distance my Ojibwe ancestors are smiling and nodding, too. En’, they are saying. Nishin, n’doozhisheninaan. Yes. Good, our grandchild.

It is Wednesday now, a writing day. Beyond my Keweenaw porch cars pass, children call, neighbors mow their lawns. My keyboard clacks amidst the delicate snore of the cat. I often grumble about the noise, but I’ve grown accustomed to it. I know, if I wait, there’ll come a lull in the din. The cars will quiet. The children will go home. The lawns will be tidy, and the cat will rouse herself and wander off in search of kibble. I’ll pause my typing in those moments. The click-clack of the keys will fall silent. And I’ll listen. I’ll listen for the sounds of those familiar voices—the voices of the Keweenaw immigrants. The miners and the railway workers and the lumbermen. The Finnish. The Cornish. The French-Canadian. But these days, if I listen close enough, I’ll hear another voice, too. One fresh to my ear, like a robin’s spring call. It rises from an inner space. Claims a place in the dialogue. Adds to the melody of my history. “En’,” I’ll say, for I know who it is. It is the voice of my other half. The voice of the Anishinaabeg. And I’ll smile.


Photo by Natalie Carolyn Photography

Born amidst the copper mining ruins of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, T. Marie Bertineau is a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of the L’Anse Reservation, migizi odoodeman. Her work has appeared online with Minnesota’s Carver County Arts Consortium; in Mino Miikana, a publication of the Native Justice Coalition and Waub Ajijaak Press; and in the annual journal U.P. Reader. Her debut memoir The Mason House (Lanternfish Press, 2020) was named a 2021 Michigan Notable Book by the Library of Michigan. Married and the mother of two, she makes her home in Michigan’s Keweenaw.

Saddle Up Saloon; Receipt Rustlin’

“Shouldn’t thet title say ‘Recipe Rustlin’’ Kid? Er did ya go an’ change the plan? Agin?”

“No, we’re good ta go. We put the word out fer summer recipes an’ some folks has sent us their receipts.”

“Receipts? Are we payin’ folks fer their recipes, or are they payin’ us? What’s the word Kid?”

“The word could be receipt or recipe. According ta Merriam-Webster 

‘Both recipe and receipt derive from recipere, the Latin verb meaning “to receive or take,” with receipt adding a detour through Old North French and Middle English.’

“The dickens, you say!”

“Yep. Receipt’s jist the older version a recipe. In fact, still accordin’ ta Miriam-Webster, 

‘The form recipe is the Latin imperative, and its original use, a couple hundred years after receipt, was not in cooking instructions but in prescriptions, where it was used to preface a list of medicines to be combined (as though to say, “take these”). Eventually that word got abbreviated to an R with a line though the leg, which we later would render in print as Rx. So on a doctor’s prescription pad, Rx originally indicated the command to take that which was listed after, and Rx (or the R with a line through the leg) eventually came to serve as the universal symbol for a pharmacy or pharmacist.’

“Well Some good summer recipes— receipts— might be good fer what ails us. Geoff LePard has an innerestin’ one here fer what he calls summer pudding that looks as easy as one, two, three. Says it’s a simple way to use up any surplus summer fruits—strawberries, raspberries, red and black currants, blue berries, etc.”

You cook up about 800gms with a tablespoon of sugar until the juices are released. 
Then you line a l litre pudding bowl with slices of white bread — the cheaper the better — that you have de-crusted and soaked in some of the juice. When the bottom and sides are complete you put the fruit gunk inside and cap with more soaked bread. 
Put a plate on the top, weigh it down and chill for a few hours.

When needed turn out and eat with cream/ice cream/yoghurt. You can freeze it too. 

“Oh, that’s seems yummy, Pal. But it looks like we put dessert first. Here’s a marinade fer some hearty barbecue an’ a substantial an’ tasty macaroni and shrimp concoction from ranch hand and columnist Sue Spitulnik. These two recipes are some a her family’s favorites.” 

Bar-b-q Chicken Marinade

2 eggs – beaten well

2 cups brown cider vinegar

2 rounded tablespoons poultry seasoning

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup vegetable oil

Mix all ingredients together, pour over chicken (with skin) to cover

Marinate at least 24 hours

Cook chicken over charcoal fire turning and basting a few times.

Macaroni – Shrimp Salad

   1 box macaroni rings – cooked

   5 or 6 hard-boiled eggs – chopped

   2 cans baby shrimp with liquid

   4 green onions – cut in small rings

Dressing

   1 cup sour cream

   3/4 cup mayonnaise

   2 tablespoons brown cider vinegar

   1 teaspoon grated celery seed

   1 teaspoon salt

   3/4 teaspoon black pepper

“An’ all the way from South Africa is Robbie Cheadle’s mielie milk bread recipe, a staple a their braais.”

“Their what?”

“Braai means barbecue, Pal.”

“My word!”

“Yep.”

Mielie Milk Loaf

Ingredients

4 x 250 ml (4 x cups) self-raising flour (or use plain cake flour and add 2 teaspoons of baking powder)

10 ml white sugar

5 ml salt

1 x 400 gram tin creamy sweetcorn

300 ml low fat milk

15 ml oil

Method

Preheat the oven to 190 C. Grease a loaf tin.

Sift the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.

Add sweetcorn and incorporate. Add the milk and oil and mix well.

Spoon into the loaf tin and bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester comes out clean.

In South Africa, cooking meat, and other things like corn on the cob, over an open fire is popular and traditional. Here it is called a braai as opposed to a barbecue and the meat that is cooked is usually steak, boerewors (a traditional Afrikaans sausage), chicken pieces, and chops. 

The men braai and the women make the salads and other side dishes including mielie pap and tomato relish and this delicious mielie milk bread.

“Those recipes all sound real good Kid. Innerestin’ too. But what about our writer? Nuthin’ from her?”

“Shift, Pal, she don’t have too many tricks up her oven mitt. She was gonna share a couple a her father’s pickle recipes, but… 

Yep, she was all proud a hersef, was preservin’ her brother’s plethora a picklin’ cukes along with preservin’ her father’s legacy fer fine pickles. Thought that was a fine thing ta do, what with him gittin’ on in years an’ all. Was gonna organize this treasure chest too. Reckon if she don’t find them pieces a lined paper he writ on she’s gonna have ta go back an’ ask fer the secrets all over agin.”

“Hmmf. Makes ya wunner what her receipts file looks like.”

“No. It don’t. Speakin’ a recipes an’/or receipts, here’s more from Merriam-Webster:

The sense of receipt that we know today—that of a statement documenting the receiving of money or goods—began in the 16th century, and by the 17th century, both words were referring to cooking instructions. While recipe is the preferred word for that meaning today, the memory of being handed down “a receipt for cookies” does get handed down—like a beloved recipe—from older generations:

I was after a recipe (or “receipt,” as my mother called them) for corn bread that came from the heart of the Old South. 

— Theron Raines, Gourmet, May 1988

Her receipts, as she insists on calling them (rightly, too), are in the best tradition of New England cooking, often rich perhaps in eggs and cream, but not exotic… 

— The New York Herald Tribune Books, 13 Dec. 1942

“Reckon when our writer does git aroun’ ta rootin’ through thet recipe box a hers she’s gonna stir up some memories a people an’ places from her past. I know she’s been purty selective ‘bout what she collects fer thet box. There’s stories in there.”

“Yep, our fav’rite foods come with stories, Pal, ‘sociations. Mebbe some a our Saloon patrons’ll leave a recipe or a family food story in the comments.”

“What d’ya say folks? D’ya call it recipe er receipt where ya come from? D’ya have a old family recipe been handed down over generations? D’ya have a favorite cookbook or one a these file card boxes?”

Brined in 99

The cucumbers are cut lengthways and set in a crock of brine. Like him, the crock and its contents are a presence. His grandkids love or hate his infamous sour pickles. They goad one other, laugh through watering eyes as their faces twist and pucker. Some claim to like them and go back for seconds.

The Old Man’s bent walk is more labored, the slicing and onion dicing more challenging for his swollen hands, yet each summer he pickles. His progeny find the crock in its place, solid and reliable, pickles sour yet surrounded by sweet memories. Like him.

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon; Back in the Saddle?

“Well, Kid, yer puglet cleaned out the pantry an’ now we’ve finally cleaned up after her. Phew! So now the Saloon’s cleaned up what d’ya got planned fer this week?”

“Planned? Thought ya knew I was on vacation, Pal. Thought you was gonna take the reins.”

“Ah jeez, Kid, not agin! An’ thet writer a ours done dropped the ball week afore last too, also off gallivantin’ aroun’. Well, mebbe I’m on vacation too!”

“It’s a funny word, ain’t it Pal? Vacation. ‘Specially fer our writer, ‘cause near as I kin tell she don’t really do anythin’ anyways, so what’s she gittin’ away from?”

“Reckon folks jist need ta git away from their reg’lar places an’ people so’s they kin ‘preciate ‘em more mebbe when they git back.”

“Reckon. An’ it’s good ta git out an’ see dif’rent people an’ places. Kin be right thought provokin’. Where do you vacation Pal?”

“Ain’t so much where as what Kid. Cain’t ever’one git ta go too far, an’ anyways, why would I wanna vacate this here Ranch? But they’s ways ta git all relaxed without too much trouble. Fact thet’s an important thing fer folks ta be able ta do.”

“Take a break fer themselves?”

“Yep. Kin be somethin’ simple like makin’ a space an’ a time fer yersef, ya know like when Shorty does yoga an’ listens ta calmin’ music in her unicorn room. An’ thet kayakin’ sounds like a good way ta take a break, git all calm out on the water.”

“Sure, or takin’ a hike, mebbe fixin’ a picnic, anythin’ where yer takin’ time fer yersef. Jist doin’ somethin’ outta the ordinary kin be a break thet refuels ya fer the stuff thet was drainin’ ya.”

“Yep. But I bet ya used ta take big family trips when you were a kid, Kid.”

“Sure did Pal. Lotsa campin’ an’ fishin’. Always liked seein’ historical places too.”

“Well, since we ain’t got nuthin’ planned fer the Saloon stage this week, ain’t got no one featured er anythin’, mebbe folks’ll hep us out an’ share their vacation stories in the comments.”

“I jist hope if folks are gittin’ out an’ about that they’re bein’ real careful. But the Saloon is a safe space ta share yer campfire yarns or yer vacation memories. An’ if folks email our writer with their favorite summer recipes we kin have another Recipe Rustlin’ next time. I always injoy learnin’ what other folks like ta fix.”

“Thet’s a good plan.

Folks, use the comment section ta tell us ‘bout yer vacationin’ er ways thet ya manage ta git a break. An’ also, email our writer at shiftnshake@dslayton.com an’ git yer favorite summertime/barbecue recipes featured in our next Recipe Rustlin’ episode. Heck, git yerself featured. Jist contact our writer. Unless yer on vacation a course.”

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Tales from the Silver Screen: Part 7 Seriously Right-Wing Noir

In this series-depending on how long it lasts, for life, writing, and so many other things, are quite fleeting-I hope to look at a few classic films, give my take on them, perhaps even say something new that will have significance for today, and, failing that, try like the devil to be entertainingly provocative. I also hope to post a link or two about/to the films I examine, if available, so that they can be enjoyed (or dismissed) with full access.   

This time, the time of my seventh offering in my limited series of film observations, I thought I would sharply swerve into the far-right lane and dabble in what I have frivolously and unimaginatively decided to call right-wing noir. Seriously right-wing noir. There may be no such animal but there are films that do proffer a political tone, that attempt to inform, or, possibly, to confuse those wallowing in the centre of political thought:  One of these choice exposés is the Gordon Douglas directed 1951 film, I Was A Communist For the FBI (which subsequently generated a radio series) and a second is a John Wayne Movie that may not quite fit the noir mould but has its own duke-it-out charm, or harm, the Edward Ludwig helmed 1952 effort, Big Jim McLain. As you can tell by the years of release, both films landed smack dab in the heyday of Senator Joe McCarthy, his second wave House Un-American Activities Committee assault on Communism, his interrogation/bashing of such Hollywood luminaries as Orson Welles and Lucille Ball, as well as writers, Lillian Hellman, and Dashiell Hammett. By 1954, America had temporarily come to its senses and the Senate censured McCarthy by a vote of 67-22 for “conduct contrary to Senatorial tradition.”

It is hard to imagine that same level of accountability happening in today’s political divide.

That last sentence by the way is a poor attempt at humor.

I will also include a few thoughts on a third film, 1949’s The Red Menace. It fits more securely into the noir genre than Big Jim McLain, but because I succumbed to the temptation to have a little fun with John Wayne (whose movies I totally admire and enjoy regardless of what his political inclinations might have been), a third film with more noirish credibility seemed appropriate.

Seriously Right-Wing Noir: I Was a Communist for the FBI

As this film begins, we are up to our belly button in the narrative. The FBI is tracking a communist agitator, Gerhardt Heisler, as he travels around the country proselytizing, organizing. His next destination: Pittsburgh.

The main protagonist in I Was A Communist for the FBI, a title incidentally which pretty much gives away the theme, has already immersed himself in his duplicitous mission as the movie begins. He is in deep undercover mode. Based on a series of Saturday Evening Post interviews with Matt Cvetic, the film attempts to replicate Cvetic’s immersion into Pittsburgh’s Communist underground. By the time we meet Cvevic, stolidly portrayed by Frank Lovejoy, often a supporting actor who seemed to revel in playing hard-ass characters, he had been at his task awhile. Matt Cvevic is a pariah within his own large family. At one point early on we are witness to a family gathering and the awful strain that Cvevic’s assumed political leanings have placed on his family.

There are compensations for Cvevic. Or, at least, for his Lovejoyian doppelganger. One is his dalliance with Dorothy Hart, an actress with not a particularly lengthy film pedigree but who managed a range of interesting roles including Howard Duff’s girlfriend, Ruth Morrison in one of the great noirs, The Naked City, and her final role as the tenth movie Jane to Lex Barker’s lean interpretation of Tarzan in the 1952 jungle delight, Tarzan’s Savage Fury.

In I was a Communist for the FBI, her character is somewhat deceitful, a communist version of a femme fatale. She does it quite well.

Hollywood had little appeal to the “luminous” Ms. Hart. She is quoted as follows: “Acting wasn’t enough. I felt some of the movies were mediocre. I wanted to do something important with my life, so I began working with the American Association for the United Nations. It was very, very fulfilling. I’ll never regret having given up Hollywood for it. “

Dorothy Hart and Frank Lovejoy

There were other fine cinematic moments for Lovejoy during his career. He supported Bogart in Nick Rays brilliant 1950 mystery drama, In a Lonely Place, and a couple of years later, starred in a tidy little thriller noir, The Hitch-hiker, a film directed by Ida Lupino.

Seriously Right-Wing Noir: Big Jim McLain

As noted above, Big Jim McLain is not really a film noir. More a bit of a hybrid. However, purist definitions aside, it is a black and white film, which counts for something although there are a number of excellent noir filmed in color.

Events in BJM mostly happen in the daytime in Hawaii. The bad guys are “commies” and HUAC investigators, Big Jim (John Wayne), and his sidekick, Mal Baxter, (played by James Arness, who, I should note, appeared with Wayne in a handful of other films (Island in the Sky, Hondo, and The Sea Chase) before becoming his definitive character, Marshall Matt Dillon, in the long running television series, Gunsmoke,) are deployed to Honolulu to seek them out.

Big Jim and Mel Arrive in Honolulu

  

While engaged in that worthy activity, Big Jim get romantically entangled with the fetching Nancy Olson who is employed by a suspected Communist medical practitioner. In some respects this romantic entanglement occupies a significant portion of the film. Wayne and Olson appear to be having a rare old time throughout, ostensibly making a movie but also makin’ whoopee.

John Wayne and Nancy Olson

      

Of course, there are some exquisite noirish moments in Big Jim McLain, and if they challenge the popular definitions, who’s to complain.

A Flashy Summary Hot Off the Presses

One set piece is quite entertaining. As Big Jim seeks out a communist, he encounters Veda Ann Borg, his quarry’s landlady. Borg almost always was consigned to play delightful and brassy types. She outdoes herself in this film and provides some of the film’s best moments. Politically, she was somewhat to the left of the Duke, as was Nancy Olson (both women were democrats), but clearly Borg was having fun in this film.

Veda Ann Borg and the Duke

     

During their investigation, Big Jim goes to the famous leper colony of Kalaupapa on the Hawaiian island of Molokai to interview a reformed communist, Mrs. Namaka, played by actress Soo Yong.

Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement

She sees her career as a nurse serving the leper colony as penance for her years as a red. This scene includes a beautiful baby, born to leper parents. Mrs. Namaka explains that infants are taken away at birth (though the parents are allowed to see their child through glass), Some months later, the children, all the newborns, are sent away to be adopted.

 Soo Yong

                                                                                            

There are other absorbing minutes in the film, not the least of which is the appearance of one of the major communist party members, an elegant if sinister fellow played by Alan Napier who years later would gain more fame as Alfred, butler to Adam West, aka Bruce Wayne aka secretly TV’s Batman.

Alan Napier

        

As is my habit, I will leave the conclusion of the film to the viewer. But don’t be surprised if these nefarious commies have up their sleeves an epidemic that they want to spread. And also don’t be surprised if the producers pull out as many patriotic stops as possible as the movie winds up.

I will mention an odd fact that, for a more successful worldwide distribution, the producers changed the films name from Big Jim McLean to…wait for it…Marijuana.

Marijuana-aka Big Jim McLain

 

Seriously Right-Wing Noir: The Red Menace

The Red Menace was a quickly made programmer. It aligned nicely, if a tad excessively, with the post-war resurgence of HUAA. It starts in a bleak noirish manner, a couple in a car speeding through the night,

Hanna Axmann-Rezzori and Robert Rockwell

pausing for gas, afraid that the world they are fleeing is about to squash them…and then the voice-over and we go back in time, a Veteran of WW 2, the male half of the fleeing duo, complaining to a Government agency that a real estate scam has cleaned him out.

From there, the pace quickens. He gets targeted, taken to a communist bar (yeah, I know, but there it was) and then somewhat seduced by a fervent, young, and literate communist beauty played by Barbra Fuller.

The Vet, played by Robert Rockwell, is probably best known as Mr. Boynton, Eve Arden’s fellow teacher in the classic comedy series, Our Miss Brooks.

Robert Rockwell

There are a few quite interesting sub-narratives in the film. One of the characters, Sam, is black and seems to be the key propagandist. He is a  friend of a communist poet, who dies.  Sam’s loyalty to the party changes after the death of his friend.  Draft headline for the Toilers, the Communist’s news organ,  starts out as “Decadent psycho poet a suicide.” and becomes, “Dead Poet a Hero.”

Bosley Crowther’s review from 1949 accurately describes a great deal of the characters in the story:

“There is Mollie O’Flaherty, for instance, a “party girl” in more ways than one,

                      

Barbra Fuller

who believes in Marxist doctrine because of her impoverished youth. She is in love with Henry Solomon, a revolutionary poet and intellectual. There is Sam Wright, a Negro student who works for The Toilers, the party newspaper, whose notion is that communism will improve conditions for his race. There is also Nina Petrovka, a sad-eyed European refugee who got into the party because her father was a Communist. All of them soon are disillusioned by the intolerance and brutality that they see in the operations of the party and their leaders and, in one way or another, they break out. The most effective demonstration of charges against the Communists that the film provides is the disclosure of how the party allegedly abuses and intimidates those members who endeavour to break away. And for this, at least, the picture has a certain validity. But its credibility is diminished by the fustian representation of the leadership, played with villainous expressions by Lester Luther and

              

Betty Lou Gerson

Betty Lou Gerson. In the roles of the discontented members, Robert Rockwell as the ex-GI and Hanne Axman as the refugee are moderate, and Duke Williams is effective as the Negro boy, but the rest are specious and over-zealous. And they all speak much more than they act, for the script is a complex of speeches with dramatic action virtually nil. “

Betty Lou Gerson, incidentally, is most well known as the voice of Cruella de Vil, the villainess in Disney’s The One Hundred and One Dalmations.

The Red Menace ends quaintly in a small Texas town (a town incidentally which when googled, appears to not exist…if it ever did.)

The hero, Bill and the heroine, Nina, stop over in Talbot and throw themselves on the mercy of Law Enforcement and Government and heroine. They encounter the folksiest sheriff you’d ever want to meet. He asks them to tell him their story and to take their time because, “You know there’s lots of things we ain’t got here in Talbot but time ain’t one of them.” We have a “thing” where I live called the Slow Islands Movement. The imaginary town of Talbot, Texas, would fit right in.

Some Final Thoughts:

Film is an excellent vehicle to educate. It is also most certainly an excellent vehicle to entertain. It is also, sadly, sometimes a weapon. These three films in my view manage, in varying degrees, to serve to educate, to almost succeed in entertaining, and absolutely could, in the wrong hands, or the wrong eyes, whose ever hands or eyes those might be, but I am thinking of the easily led and manipulated, that these films might become weapons of, shall we say, mass hallucination.  But I guess that is one of the functions of film, to hallucinate us, treat us to others ways of being…

About the Author

Bill Engleson is a retired social worker, Pickleball aficionado, energetic novelist, poet, humorist, essayist, flash fictionista, an engaged community volunteer, and pro-vaccine fellow and is resident on Denman Island in British Columbia.  He has published one noirish social work novel, Like a Child to Home, which received an Honourable Mention at the inaugural 2016 Whistler Independent Book Awards.  In 2016, Silver Bow Publishing released his second book, a collection of humorous literary essays entitled Confessions of an Inadvertently Gentrifying Soul.

During the pandemic, his poetry appeared in four poetry anthologies.

He has any number of writing projects in the hopper including a local monthly column, In 200 Words or Less, a prequel to his first novel, Drawn Towards the Sun, and a detective mystery set in the 1970’s, A Short Rope on a Nasty Night.

For more information, check his twitter, @billmelaterplea, and his occasionally updated website/blog   www.engleson.ca

Bill Engleson peering into the mirror of his life, reflecting on all that has occurred.