Quote of the Day: Paul Newman on character

1969:  American actor Paul Newman in a still from the film 'Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid', directed by George Roy Hill., with a bloody scratch on his cheek.  (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

If you don’t have enemies, you don’t have character.

Paul Newman, via bklynfather

Justin Bieber meets Gordon Pinsent (raincoaster)
Sean Penn is a big drag (Ayyyy)
Mister Rogers’ neighborhood is kinda rough! (Lolebrity)
World’s Worst Couple Award shoo-ins (CelebrityBeehive)
The Recession has been hard on everyone, even Monte Carlo call girls (AgentBedhead)
High, Angelina! (BusyBeeBlogger)
Lindsay is free, LOCK UP YOUR COKEPANTS (CelebDirtyLaundry)
Kanye Kant help himself (HaveUHeard)
Lisa Marie on MJ (INeedMyFix)
You can’t Sh!t on the Shat! (SeriouslyOMG)

Greaser’s Palace: my next must-see DVD

Greasers Palace

A Sixties stoner cowboy movie about Jesus: why not, eh?

Apparently the DVD of Greaser’s Palace exists, but only as a rare (and, thus, overpriced) collectable. But I must have it; the Youtubes and online references are simply too tantalizing. Don’t believe me? Check it out:

And a review from Badmovies.org:

You are probably thinking to yourself, “It couldn’t be that outlandish. Could it?” Go and look up “naive” in the dictionary. Now.

The entire movie is an anecdote [I think he means “allegory”] for religion, Christianity to be precise… Greaser’s Palace is a huge saloon in some tumbleweed town out west… Seaweedhead Greaser is the Catholic Church as represented by a gunslinger with itchy trigger fingers. Why in the world does he have a mariachi band and his mother locked in wooden cages? The musicians are easy to explain; they provide entertainment while Greaser tries to have bowel movements (which he is unable to do)…

Right from the start it is evident that Greaser hates Lamy Homo (pronounced as “lay me homo”). He shoots, stabs, and even dumps the little guy down a well. The Church’s efforts to eradicate his homo problem are to no avail; Jessy keeps bringing the reluctant Lazarus back. Lamy consistently recites the same story upon his return from the other side and it’s a trip. Readers old enough to remember when Puff relaxed immigration laws and all those runny noses invaded Honah-Lee (Honalee? Hon-a-lee? Who knows?) might identify with me. It’s that weird.

Any movie about Western religion would be incomplete without Martin Luther; so where is he? He is the man trying to perform a card trick for Seaweedhead. Check it out, the would-be magician does the old “pick a card, any card” bit. He then holds up card after card, inquiring “This one? How about this one? That one?” Poor Martin Luther, trying in vain to decide which interpretation is correct. History says the man finally gave up and just wrote something to the effect of “Figure it out for yourself!” Then he went to get a hammer and nails, but I’m getting sidetracked.

Not at all, not at all. It makes SO MUCH SENSE now. If only I’d seen this movie before I took all those Religious Studies courses at University!

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Lost Arts: How to Commit a Train Robbery

Bill Miner wanted poster

Never let it be said that we at the ol’ raincoaster blog stood by passively and watched our proud Canadian heritage slip into oblivion unmourned, unrecorded, unblogged. Now that the last of The Grey Fox‘s victims has been enveloped by the sweet embrace of the eternal, it is time to pause and reflect for a moment on that archetype of the Old West, the train robbery.

Consider this post to be the blogosphere equivalent of all those Schools of Chinese Culture, Roots Regained Circles, and those noble, innumerable, federally-funded oral history projects staffed by earnest future spinsters equipped with digital recorders and, always, the wrong shoes for the weather.

In true Canadian tradition, the art of the train robbery was introduced to Canada by an American, who brought it up from the States. Bill Miner, AKA The Grey Fox, AKA The Gentleman Bandit, was often taken for a Canadian by his own countrymen, perhaps on account of his legendary softspokenness and courtesy, despite possessing, all of his life, a telltale trace of his Kentucky birthplace in his accents.

Miner was no ordinary bandito when he arrived in British Columbia. Having been a stagecoach robber since the age of 16, he was as famous throughout North America as the man who first put crime and syntax together in the felicitous and elegantly simple catchphrase, “Hands up.”

But I digress…

Put simply, there are several traditional methods of holding up a train.

First (and this is common to all methods) select your train. It is advisable to select one carrying a great deal of money and moving slowly through rough, deserted territory. Steam trains taking safes full of gold dust south from the Cariboo mines are ideal. As you can see, here we tawdry moderns face our first insurmountable obstacle: the Cariboo gold fields are relatively played out, and you could probably get more money sticking up a bingo hall on Welfare Wednesday. Sic transit glamour mundi.

Now that you have selected your train, the methods diverge:

  • Method A is simply to put something big on the tracks, in hopes the driver will simply become so confused he’ll stop and sit there, perhaps wondering how that large, freshly-cut log got there, or cursing the obscure illness that struck that moose dead right across the tracks. At this point, the robbers pop out of the woods, flourish a weapon, and either take the loot or, for the more discriminating robber, proceed to Method D’s advanced steps. This method, however, is easily thwarted by train drivers who simply back up instead of sitting still. A variation of this method was used in the Great Train Robbery as late as 1963. I guess those Brits don’t watch a lot of Westerns.
  • Method B is simply to put something on the tracks that will derail the train, thereafter following procedures as outlined in Method A, only maybe sometimes horizontally. This has the following disadvantages: it is hella noisy, drawing unwanted attention even on the most desolate of mountainsides; it kills a lot of people, and this is always a disadvantage when you factor potential jail sentences vs potential lynchings into the ROI; and the entire thing may catch fire, preventing you from making off with the gold and rendering the entire episode needlessly gruesome and unprofitable.
  • Method C, favoured by film directors who’ve never left Los Angeles County, is to gallop up alongside the train and climb aboard, flourish your weapon in the engineer’s startled face, and take the loot, although not before stealing the heart of a winsome blonde passenger.
  • Method D, and this is the method favoured by the Grey Fox himself, is to wait till the train makes an scheduled stop at a mail depot or some other unpopulated spot, sneak aboard, climb over the tender (which carries the wood or coal for the engine) flourish your weapon in the engineer’s face, and proceed to the advanced steps.

The advanced steps are as follows:

  • You want the money. You don’t want the passengers; they’re a lot of hassle, just ask any porter. So you stop the train and uncouple the passenger cars, taking great care to keep the engine attached to the express car, the one with all the gold in it (some robbers were not so careful about this and even The Grey Fox’s team screwed it up from time to time). You then proceed forward with the train; this has the advantage that, if another train is following up the track, it’ll hit the passenger cars and that will slow down pursuit as well as buffer the cars that the gang is in. You convince the guard, through effective flourishment of your weapons, to open the safes. If he fails to open the safes, you proceed to use dynamite to open them. You then stop the train at a prearranged point, where your getaway man is waiting with the horses, bid the beleaguered train crew good evening, and ride off into the night with gold and securities worth a king’s ransom.

Any questions, class?

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Not Abandoned abandons us

Freedom, so close and yet so far

I guess he’s still bitter about that whole “gelding” thing. Thoroughbreds are so sensitive!

In news that will delight fans of Walter Farley‘s classic Island Stallion books, a winning and winsome registered Thoroughbred racehorse called Not Abandoned has slipped the surly bonds of civilization and apparently either dematerialized entirely or joined a herd of wild brumbies in the Outback. Unfortunately for the brumby gene pool, the horse has long since been parted from his twin tickets to immortality, having been gelded as a colt. Still, I’m sure he’s an excellent conversationalist.

Australian authorities are also investigating the possibility of horse rustlers, although the market around Alice Springs for an internationally infamous seven year old gelding who can’t be raced (no papers) or sold would be less than millionaire-making; he’d be worth perhaps 35 cents per pound, meaning about $400.

I’m sure, however, that this case will be solved. Just as soon as OJ Simpson finds the real killers of Shergar.

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Michael Slade’s Cowboys and Indians

Michael SladeSo there I was in the hallway, sitting stoically at my Shebeen Club trade show table at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference.

And there, in the room right in front of me, was Jay Clarke, retired Vancouver criminal lawyer, better known as Michael Slade, notorious writer of gory best-selling thrillers. He was talking with some consternation about his ancestors. Crofters, every one. Now, you’d think, particularly if you were naturally of a bloodthirsty turn of mind as indeed thriller writers must be, that one’s ancestors would naturally include a black sheep every few generations at least (mine seems to include them about every eight chromosomes, but then that’s the raincoaster gene pool for ya) but not in this particular case. While other people’s ancestors were out raping and pillaging, his were sitting by the fire knitting, and, when placed under duress, saying “och” alot.

And this did not take him to his happy place.

Finally, he found an ancestor who was a genuine black sheep. A scandalous ne’er-do-well who essentially fled the family home lest he expire at a young age of sheer boredom. Instead of doing whatever it is that crofters do (croftation? croffination?) he set out for the New World, with, I believe, an arrest warrant following him all the way to the Three Mile Limit.

Upon reaching the New World he did many things, but foremost among them was that he joined the Great Land Rush across the Prairies, hoping to stake out a decent living on the frontier of the Great Plains, then embroiled in the Indian Wars south of the border. The turmoil below the 49th had sent many bands to Canada to avoid the troubles, but moreover it sent some of the more bloodthirsty parties up, to avoid capture. Canada was, at the time, somewhat like Pakistan is today: a superficially lawful place where known enemies of the United States could take refuge, re-group, and re-arm before crossing the border and re-engaging with the enemy.

This made the Great Migration across the Prairies somewhat more dangerous than your common-or-garden trek a thousand miles across an unknown and largely unmapped land with a team of fragile animals all too ready to succumb to the workload, or the local pestilence along the way, leaving one stranded and dying of thirst or worse would otherwise be.

Not to mention the bootleggers. Then as now, they shot interlopers on sight.

So there he was, I think his name was Edward, trekking across the great grass plains with a mule and an ox as his Mutt-n-Jeff team, Conestoga wagon lumbering behind like a double decker sailboat of the wheaten sea, and no doubt a mongrel dog trailing mournfully along behind.

When suddenly…

over the horizon…

came a group of Indian warriors. Armed. Bloods. The dangerous kind. The kind that taught Custer a lesson he didn’t live long enough to forget.

“OhshitI’mdead,” thought Edward the Ancestor.

They surrounded the clumsy wagon and mismatched team, their war ponies standing shoulder-to-shoulder, glittering eyes silently mocking the draft animals for their plodding slowness.

The leader approached.

“Ohshit,” thought Edward. “He wants my scalp and then they’ll take everything I have and ride away and nobody will even know I’m dead.”

And this did not take him to his happy place.

“Hail,” said the young Indian. “Do you have tea? Do you have tobacco?”

“Uh, no,” replied the ever-so-slightly petrified Edward.

“I see,” replied the brave, who immediately remounted his horse, signalled to his warriors, and led them away at a gallop.

What was that? thought Edward the Vastly Relieved, as he sat there on the wagon bench, reins as slack as his jaw. The ox and mule began to graze, unconcerned.

After a time, Edward recovered enough to pick up the reins and urge the team forward through the heavy grass, towards the settlement of Fort Edmonton, the Mountie outpost established to bring Law’nOrder to the godless Prairies; the largest settlement in the territory was actually Fort Whoop-Up, which was not an authorized agent of the Hudson’s Bay Company, but rather a post established by the Yankee bootleggers, who traded whiskey to the Natives through a hole in the palisade: Canada’s first drive-through window. Then as now, the Americans were foremost in systems management and streamlining the rapid delivery of supply-chain essentials.

Meanwhile, back at the Conestoga wagon…Edward was approaching Fort Edmonton. He could see the walls wherein he hoped to find safe refuge. His relief was complete and his hopes were rising, when he heard a noise from behind him.

Turning, he saw, much to his consternation, mortification, and horrification, that the band of Indians who had left him alive were returning after him at a gallop.

Edward was many things. Stupid was not one of them. He picked up his whip and he flailed that pathetic team as if his life depended on it, which he was quite certain it did. They responded as only a tired mule and ox team can respond: they went what the hell? and then broke into a bone-jarringly mismatched gallop, headed straight for the fort and presumable refuge.

If only they reached it in time.

They did not.

Surrounded once again, Edward thought momentarily about doing something truly dramatic, but he managed to stifle the thought and simply sat, stoically waiting for his fate.

The leader approached. He dismounted from his pony and stepped towards the wagon, hand outstretched. In the hand were two pouches.

Tea. And tobacco.