Namaste as the Nepalese Say - Day Four

“Hello sister! My house; no house. My husband; no husband. You very, very rich. Hello sister!” Says the mad woman at the window. There's something almost comic about the insane that makes them seem far less sinister than the desperate. Still, while we sit for an incredibly uncomfortable amount of time waiting for traffic lights to change, the message is the same: I want your money.
We're on our way to Pokhara in the centre of Nepal, having left Tiger Tops at 5am. The next part of our journey will take us into the mountains. We pick up our guides in the city, then drive another hour into the sky before we get ready to set off.
“This isn't really trekking though, is it?” Asks Wee Mo shortly after we leave Nayapul, our starting point. “Well I think so,” I offer. “Maybe not – just walking I guess, or maybe hiking. Still, when people ask, we'll say it was trekking. Trekking in the Himalayas.”
Our first pause is a distressing one. A couple beg with their child, who has some very obvious wounds on his arms and wrists. They look like burns and the wee bastard must only be about three. Though we don't say anything, we're both filled with the dread that the parents may somehow be responsible for the scars. We walk on.
The thing about Nepal, though – it's absolutely teeming with kids. Most of them seem to be under 10 and they're so numerous, I wonder if the government had some kind of ill-conceived breeding programme at the turn of the millennium. They're unbelievably cute, though – and friendly too. Not to mention good for pictures.
The two guys with us are an odd couple: Dawa, our guide, and the seemingly mute Minbhadur, who has lashed our backpacks together, thrown them over his skinny 51-year-old shoulders and is already sauntering off over the horizon. He wears nothing more than a pair of beaten leather loafers on his feet. We look at our sturdy boots and smile.

As we've only got three days and don't do much hiking, we've organised a tailored “comfortable” trek towards the village of Ghandruk. It's early afternoon and already the peaks towards which we are heading are covered in cloud. Nepal has reliable seasons throughout the year but locals say that this afternoon occlusion is equally dependable. Still, while the peaks are shrouded, it's a nice day and the views up the valley are nonetheless gorgeous. It's such a nice day, in fact, that before long we've had to stop to take off our top layers to cool down.
The dirt path into the hills is well used by dozens of locals heading to and from their homes. Many have sacks of rocks and other raw materials strapped round their heads, but uniformly offer a cheery “Namaste” as we pass. Most of the small shack-based shops have an English speaker to help sell water or energy-laden chocolate bars and to my pleasant surprise, there are occasional rubbish bins attached to telegraph poles. This is all good. I like this.
We've been walking up a gentle incline for an hour, sweating lightly in the afternoon sun, when we reach the start of The Stairs. Initially, the craggy slate steps don't seem to stretch too far, and while we both quickly feel our quads burning, it's nothing out of the ordinary.
But every time we turn another corner, there's just another stramash of stone. Then another. They quickly become demoralising and we soon start to get a little testy with each other. I offer to carry Wee Mo's bag; she refuses. I call her stubborn; she calls me a nag. When she accidentally sits on a stinging nettle, neither of us expect to see the funny side for at least a couple of days. And still the stairs come, more and more. The light sweat has turned into a graceless torrent. “Namaste,” sounds like a piss take. The price of water from the shops seems to be increasing with the elevation too. I'm not sure if I like this after all. Seeing that we are toiling, Dawa suggests a break.
The 44-year-old comes from the Everest region and so can rightfully lay claim to the name Sherpa.
He's been doing this for 20 years and has met people from all over the world. He has two children back in Kathmandu and can't honestly say he enjoys living in the polluted city. But that's where Dolpa Treks is based and so must he be. His wife runs a little shop to support the family while he guides trekkers around his country. This is important, as when he's not working, he doesn't get a wage.
“When is your next group arriving?” I ask.
“Not for about two months.” He replies with a half-smile.
We head off again. Short, affable and utterly unstoppable, Dawa walks ahead with feet slightly splayed, happy to answer questions (“Do you think we could be suffering from altitude sickness?” “No.”) as we continue on our slog. One thing about Dawa, he never lies. Never exaggerates for our benefit; the distance we have to go is never shortened to con us into thinking we are closer than we actually are. For example: having been told we're half an hour from our next stop, we make a vessel-rupturing effort until we grind to our next standstill.
“How far now?” I pant, tongue lolling slightly.
“About 25 minutes,” replies Dawa.
Minbhadur, meanwhile, remains permanently illusive. Every time we reach some new horizon, there he is sitting on a wall, our bags at his feet, a crooked smile on his face. I'm not sure if the Nepalese do smug, but this feels like the tortoise and the hare, where the hare is the unrelenting victor.
On and on the stairs climb, past a sign that reads there are 12,000 steps between our starting point and Ghandruk, our destination (we have 4,252 to go). Occasionally the path flattens for a few hundred magnificent metres and once in a while, we even make small descents which by this stage feel completely alien. Then the light fails and just when it seems that all hope is lost, it starts to rain. Wee Mo is on the brink of tears. I think I am too. We've made it to the edge of Ghandruk, but our lodgings are conveniently at the village's highest peak.
We're tired and wet when we check into Gurung Cottage, but more than anything we're grateful. After a quick, quiet dinner, we're in our room. The hot water is on the blink and it's so cold we can see our breath in the air. Still, after putting on layers of dry clothes, we fall asleep within seconds.

Filling The Void

Don't you find that when things happen in your life, things really happen big time? The timing is usually off and everything should be finished yesterday! I love that pressure but it can cause a lot of insanity.  I have been battling bronchitis for two weeks now but I have been forging ahead, albeit slowly, and working at some new things.

I have just finished one fabric line and am working on a second one. They'll be showing at Spring Market in Minneapolis in May. I can't wait!


In the meantime, I am working with an incredible group of artists from varying fields at a new site, CraftEdu. This is a new on-line learning site for crafters. I am going to teaching a few courses and am working on the content right now. Is there anything that you're looking for in a quilt, knit or scrapbooking class that you haven't seen? I always love to hear what you're interested in. You can check out my portfolio here.

Check out the latest Quilts and More magazine. That's my little monkey bib on the cover. There's another bib of mine inside and a cork board idea! So fun.

I hope that you're getting a lot accomplished this week. It's been great staying inside weather. Is anyone else anxious for spring? I am. xo, L


13-year-old Hailee Steinfeld will portray 14-year-old Mattie Ross in Paramount's True Grit, Joel and Ethan Coen's remake of the 1969 John Wayne starrer, from the Charles Portis novel. Hailee is a relative newcomer to the biz, her previous credits being a pair of short films, and an episode of Back To You(2007), where she played 'Little Girl.' She'll be following in the footsteps of Kim Darby, who played Mattie, the daughter driven to catch her father's killer, in the original. Rooster Cogburn, the role that won the Duke his Oscar, will be filled by current Oscar hopeful Jeff Bridges, with Matt Damon taking over for Glen Campbell as the Texas Ranger, and Josh Brolin as the killer. Brolin, one of the few young actors with cowboy creds, going back to playing young Bill Hickok in Young Riders (1989-92), and the Coens' No Country For Old Men, will be the hero and title character in Jonah Hex, due in theatres June 18th.


This news flash comes courtesy of noted film historian Andy Erish. All this week, the Annual Italian Film Festival is taking place in Hollywood, at the famed Chinese Theatre complex. The showings are all free, but you should RSVP for the films you want to see, and get there early, as it's first come, first served seating. On Wednesday, March 3rd, at 11:00 a.m., they will be showing DJANGO RIDES AGAIN (1976), a.k.a. KEOMA, starring Franco Nero and Woody Strode, and honoring writer-director Enzo G. Castellari, who will attend. This film is generally aknowleged as the best of the countless official and unofficial DJANGO sequels. Castellari's many other directing credits include ANY GUN CAN PLAY (1967), I CAME, I SAW, I SHOT (1968), KILL THEM ALL AND COME BACK ALONE (1968), and the soon-to-be-released CARIBBEAN BASTERDS. If you visit his IMDB page, and click on the link, you can watch his post-apocalytic WARRIORS OF THE WASTELAND (1982) complete.
Incidentally, Hollywood is an insane place to visit this week because of the Oscars on Sunday, whic take place at the Kodak Theatre, one block away. Many roads are closed all week! If you can possibly take the subway in, and get off at Hollywood and Highland, you'll be right there. For more information, and to reserve tickets, click here.


Also at the Chinese Theatre, on Saturday, March 6th, 2:45 p.m., you can see JONATHAN OF THE BEARS (1993), one of the newest of spaghetti westerns, starring Franco Nero, John Saxon and Floyd 'Red Crow' Westerman. As with DJANGO RIDES AGAIN, the screening is free, the director will be present, but you need to RSVP to the link in the write-up above.


HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL -- On March 2nd, CBS Home Video will release Season Four, Volume I of the great western series, starring Richard Boone as the "...Knight without armour in a savage land." His first name may or may not have been 'Wire', but his last name was definitely Paladin. I hope to have more details next week.

And if you attend, please (a)let us know how it was and (b) tell 'em you heard about it at Henry's Western Round-up!

AUTRY CENTER - MASTERS OF THE AMERICAN WEST - last day, Sunday, March 7. For more info, CLICK HERE. And don't forget, there are family activities every weekend at The Autry, including Gold Panning! CLICK HERE to find out more.

GEORGE EASTMAN HOUSE - ROCHESTER, NEW YORK -- Friday Feb 26th- Saturday Feb 27th -- A TOWN CALLED PANIC. Okay, it's not a traditional western. In fact, it's animation, very limited animation stop-motion, but it does feature a cowboy, an Indian, and a horse, and except for some cursing in the subtitles, it's supposed to be great for kids! If you're on the east coast, and not snowed in, check it out, and report back! CLICK HERE for more info.

OLD TOWN MUSIC HALL - Friday March 6 - Sunday March 8, THE GREAT K&A TRAIN ROBBERY (1926 silent) starring TOM MIX, DOROTHY DWAN, TONY THE HORSE. How often do you get to see Tom Mix on the big screen, with an accompaniment on the Mighty Wurlitzer, no less?! If you've never attended a movie at the Music Hall, you're in for a treat. It's at 140 Richmond St., El Segundo, CA 90245. (310)322-2592 For more information, visit their website here.

Note:AMC=American Movie Classics, EXT= Showtime Extreme, FMC=Fox Movie Channel, TCM=Turner Classic Movies. All times given are Pacific Standard Time.

Monday, March 1st
TCM 2:41 a.m. CALGARY STAMPEDE (1949) Eighteen minute short about the famous Canadian rodeo.
TCM 7:15 p.m. DAYS OF HEAVEN (1978) Terrence Malick wrote and directed this, odd turn-of-the-20th-century tale where lovers Richard Gere and Brooke Adams pretend to be siblings while working on a farm. A beautiful, haunting movie, with Oscar winning photography by Nestor Almendros, and nominated sound, costumes by Patricia Norris and magnificent score by Ennio Morricone. Also a wonderfully quirky deadpan performance by Linda Manz.

Tuesday March 2nd
TCM 1:30 a.m. LITTLE BIG MAN (1970) Arthur Penn directs from Calder Willingham's screenplay from Thomas Berger's novel about an incredibly old Dustin Hoffman recalling his upbringing by Indians and fighting alongside Custer. Yet another western where folks see AVATAR parallels. Also starring Faye Dunaway and Oscar-nominated Chief Dan George.
EXT 8:25 p.m. GANG OF ROSES (2003) Female rappers Lil' Kim, Macy Gray, Monica Calhoun, LisaRaye play gunslingers in a search for revemge and gold, not necessarily in that order. Written and directed by Jean-Claude LaMarre.
TCM 10:00 p.m. GIANT (1956) James Dean, Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Wither star in Edna Ferber's story of a Texas ranching dynasty trying to survive changing times. George Stevens earned an Oscar for his direction of the Fred Guiol screenplay. The 'aging' of Taylor and Hudson is laughable. And just to prove the Academy is unsentimental, the great James Dean got his second posthumous Oscar nomination for this one, and lost both times.

Wednesday March 3rd
EXT 9:30 a.m. THE CLAIM (2000) Michael Winterbottom directs from Frank Cottrell Boyce's screenplay, based on Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge, moved to the American west. Stars Peter Mullan, Wes Bentley, Nastassja Kinsky, Sarah Polley and Milla Jovovich.
TCM 1:30 a.m. CIMARRON (1960) Another Edna Ferber 'sweeping saga', about the settling of Oklahoma, has some good things in it, but could have been better. All of Anthony Mann's other westerns should be seen first. Script by Arnold Schuman, starring Glenn Ford, Maria Schell, Anne Baxter.
TCM 12:30 p.m. OKLAHOMA! (1955) Delightful Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, script by Hammerstein, directed by Fred "HIGH NOON" Zinnemann. Stars Gordon MacRae, Shirley Jones, Rod Steiger and Gloria Grahame as Ado Annie, the "Girl Who Can't Say 'No.'"
TCM 9:15 p.m. HEAVEN'S GATE (1981) Michael "DEER HUNTER" Cimino wrote and directed this infamous box-office flop, and I'm dying to see it: lots of westerners have highly recommended this story of Wyoming's Johnson County War. Stars Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, John Hurt. Get a comfortable chair -- it's 219 minutes.

Thursday March 4th
EXT 3:15 a.m. THE CLAIM (2000) Michael Winterbottom directs from Frank Cottrell Boyce's screenplay, based on Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge, moved to the American west. Stars Peter Mullan, Wes Bentley, Nastassja Kinsky, Sarah Polley and Milla Jovovich.
John Ford directed with gusto from the Lamar Trotti, Sonya Levian script, based on the Walter D. Edmonds novel. Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda star in one of the finest of 'eastern' westerns, a Revoltionary War story packed with Ford stock company greats like John Carradine, Arthur Shields and Ward Bond. In a more normal year, it might have been named Best Picture, but in 1939 it received only two Oscar nominations, for Edna Mae Oliver's comic turn as Best Supporting Actress, and for Ray Rennahan and Bert Glennon's glorious Technicolor photography -- and it won neither. Highly recommended.
FMC 11:00 a.m. THE TRUE STORY OF JESSE JAMES (1957) Nicholas Ray directed this remake of the 1939 classic, starring Robert Wagner as Jesse, Jeffrey Hunter as Frank, and Alan Hale Jr. as Cole Younger, with Hope Lange and Agnes Moorehead. Scripy by Walter Newman, adapted from Nunnally Johnson's original.
FMC 1:00 p.m. THE UNDEFEATED (1969) D:Andrew V. McLaglen, W:James Lee Barrett, from a story by Stanley Hough. At the close of the Civil War, Confederate officer Rock Hudson leads a group of southern loyalists to Mexico and Emperor Maximillian -- unless John Wayne can stop him. Rock Hudson later described the movies as "crap." Ironic, considering it's one of his more convincing performances. With Ben Johnson and Harry Carey Jr.
FMC 3:00 p.m. THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER (1982) An Australian 'western' based on a poem by A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson, scripted by Cul Cullen, directed by George Miller. Stars Jack Thompson, Tom Burlinson, Kirk Douglas, and the lovely gal from the under-appreciated series, PARADISE, Sigrid Thornton.
FMC 7:15 p.m. THE MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER - see above

Friday March 5th
TCM 4:30 a.m. ROMANCE OF ROSY RIDGE (1947) Studio pro Roy Rowland directs lovely Janet Leigh in the Lester Cole adaptation of a MacKinlay Kantor tale. She falls for a man who, according to her family, was on the wrong side of the Civil War. With Van Johnson and Thomas Mitchell.
AMC 1:00 p.m. - DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990) Actor Kevin Costner's directorial debut won him an Oscar, and there were seven more: best picture; Dean Semler for cinematography; Neil Travis for editing; John Barry for his score; Michael Blake for his adapted screenplay; and Russell Williams III, Jeffrey Perkins, Bill W. Benton and Gregory H. Watkins for sound. Starring Costner as an army officer who befriends the Lakota Souix. With Mary McDonnel.
EXT 3:15 p.m. GANG OF ROSES (2003) Female rappers Lil' Kim, Macy Gray, Monica Calhoun, LisaRaye play gunslingers in a search for revemge and gold, not necessarily in that order. Written and directed by Jean-Claude LaMarre.

Saturday March 6th
AMC 1:00 a.m. BROKEN LANCE (1954) D:Edward Dymtryk, W:Richard Murphy, from a story by Philip Yordan. You'd think this one couldn't miss, but it does. Richard Widmark, Hugh O'Brien, Earl Holliman and Robert Wagner are Spencer Tracy's sons, but only Wagner is current wife Katy Jurado's as well. There are two nice set pieces, but no other action, and the characters are so unlikeable that it's hard to care what happens to any of them. Hugh O'Brien is wasted -- he's in many scenes, but has two or three lines. Although the color is great and the image sharp, it's still a lousy pan-and-scan of a Cinemascope original, so you only see about a third of the picture. Katy Jurado will say a line off-camera, and it's the first time you know she's in the scene.
EXT 4:30 p.m. SHADOWHEART (2009) A bounty hunter is out revenge in 1865 New Mexico. Directed by Dean Alioto from his and Peter Vanderwall's script. Starring Justin Ament, Angus Macfayden, Daniel Baldwin, William Sadler, and two great pros, Rance Howard and Charles Napier.
TCM 9:00 a.m. HELLER IN PINK TIGHTS (1960) It was HELLER WITH A GUN when Louis L'Amour wrote the book -- director George Cukor put on the pink tights. It's the story of a theatrical troupe in the Wild West, starring Sophia Loren and Anthony Quinn, scripted by Walter Bernstein.
AMC 9:00 a.m. DANCES WITH WOLVES(1990) Actor Kevin Costner's directorial debut won him an Oscar, and there were seven more: best picture; Dean Semler for cinematography; Neil Travis for editing; John Barry for his score; Michael Blake for his adapted screenplay; and Russell Williams III, Jeffrey Perkins, Bill W. Benton and Gregory H. Watkins for sound. Starring Costner as an army officer who befriends the Lakota Souix. With Mary McDonnel.

You may want to check the blog again later this weekend -- I'll have an interview with spaghetti western star Robert Woods either this weekend, or in next week's entry!



Egg Salad

My fixation with egg salad started when I was just a little girl. My family would go on long road trips (say, to the mountains up north, or to the seaside) and my mom would prepare a variety of sandwiches for the ride. The egg salad was my favorite.

I remember savoring each small square (she would slice each sandwich into two), biting a bit at a time, chewing slowly, pausing between bites, attempting to make it last as long as possible. My mom would pack a lot, but I dared not eat too many for fear I would receive one of those stern looks she reserved for when I overstepped my food boundaries (ah, childhood food issues…let’s not traverse that dark road for O, that way madness lies!). My father however, knew no food boundaries (and still continues to be unaware of such) and would dip his hand into the sandwich bag many times on one trip. I would sit and hope that, when the proper amount of time since my last sandwich passed, and I reached for another, there would still be an egg salad left. There usually was, owing to my dad’s penchant for cheese pimiento, but it was always a dodgy moment, that second when I would rummage through those neat squares of white bread.

That little girl has since grown up, and now makes her own egg salad – which she happily consumes whenever, and in whatever quantity, she wishes. AND she does it with bacon :)

My Favorite Egg Salad
  • 6 hard boiled eggs (prepared as your preferred hardboiled egg procedure dictates – I know there is much debate on this)
  • 60 grams bacon
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green/spring onion
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
  • 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

- Chop the bacon and fry in a dry non-stick pan until crisp and golden. Drain cooked bacon on a plate lined with a paper towel (fold it into two for double thickness and extra oil-absorbency).
- While the bacon is cooking, chop the hard boiled eggs into chunks, no need to be exact, and place in a bowl.
- Add green/spring onion and dill to the bowl with the eggs. Add bacon (well drained of residual oil) and mayonnaise.
- Sprinkle with salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Toss gently (Gently now…the eggs will break, there’s no avoiding this, but you don’t want to pulverize them) to mix. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Store in a jar in the refrigerator.

This egg salad is based on the egg salads of my childhood, perked up with some fresh herbs, and tailored to suit my love for bacon. Bacon and eggs go together so well don’t you think? :) I like my eggs in not-too-small chunks and the mayonnaise to coat every piece…not too much but not too little either because, as horrible as this makes me sound, I love mayonnaise (trust me; I have tried to cure myself of this affliction to no avail). Pile onto a greens-lined slice of wheat bread…I love this with either arugula or alfalfa sprouts, but all I had was the romaine you see in the photo.

My mom doesn’t make much egg salad anymore. If we go on a long road trip together we are more likely to stop for coffee somewhere along the way (now that coffee shops abound and her daughter can drink it with her) than take along a bag of sandwiches. I think however, that the time is ripe to bring back this old tradition. We will now have a little non-coffee drinker on our trips after all. And I can make the egg salad :)

Namaste as the Nepalese Say - Day Three

With a quick coffee and a bit of cake in our bellies, we find ourselves again on the back of an elephant and out into the early morning mist. Despite the lack of visibility, we see a lot more wildlife this time round: nervous herds of spotted deer are joined by a dozen or so snorting one-horned rhinos. They might look a bit threatening coming out of the gloom, but in the face of an elephant, they all go a bit biscuit-arsed.

Kalu Ram sheepishly admits that he has been working at Tiger Tops since 1974, before hastily adding “I was very young when I arrived…” In his 36 years at the park, he has seen all kinds of cool shit including, while he was on the back of an elephant, a tiger come out of the grass and grab a baby rhino, only to be chased off by its outraged mother.
When the going is good, he says he averages around two to three tiger sightings a week. So good is his eye – combined with a ridiculous number of hours in the park – that he has grown to know individual tigers over the years. Fiercely territorial, a significant number of tiger deaths these days are from natural causes – typically other tigers. One of the more charismatic dominant males also died from a wound sustained in hunting a baby rhino. After an entire night of stalking, the tiger struck at dawn, but not before receiving a nasty gash on its lower jaw. Some days later a virulent infection led to the creature’s demise. When local authorities found the body, Kalu Ram was asked to come and identify it, just like on a cop show.
We get back to the Roundhouse for a quick breakfast, then follow the diminutive Nepali into the jungle for a nature walk. The high, hard Sal trees are spread out enough to allow light to filter through to ferns, younger trees and fungus below.
There are thousands of smooth, fruit-like rocks too, prepared to make their annual journey in the monsoon rains when the time comes. Once in a while, the floor clears to small patches of sand, beds of tributaries formed in the rains. These dusty spots capture the footprint of any animal walking through, whether it be man, tiger, bear or any one of the park’s five types of deer.
Kalu Ram shows me clear evidence of tigers in the region: enormous gouges on tree trunks around 10 feet from the ground, evidence of a tiger standing on its hind-legs and marking its territory; fat, deep paw prints in the sand.
It then dawns on me, that there is nothing in the jungle that makes as much noise as a human, save perhaps the elephants. And I certainly don’t have their size or strength – nor do I have the fleet of foot, or lightning reflexes of a deer. Meanwhile, tigers have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to be apex stealth predators.

After lunch we head off to the nearby river for a brief cruise in a raft. On the way, the Jeep skids to a halt: the jungle alarm call is ringing out. A collaboration between the barking deer, screeching monkeys and squawking birds, it's an ancient racket that means: “Someone saw a tiger: A F**KING TIGER IS OUT THERE!” (Or maybe a leopard. Either way, something badass.) We stop and stare into the bush. There's no chance that anything would go for us in this big armoured car, but the tension is unreal. I've no idea how long we all sit there, stock still, shiting ourselves, but eventually we move off without seeing anything. Still, seeing my first crocodile from the boat a few minutes later is a decent consolation.
They're not the only thing that eats people around here: man-eating tigers are not a myth. “Conflict has been a major issue in the last decade,” explains affable American conservation student and tiger expert Neil Carter in the dark of the Roundhouse later. The 28-year-old has chosen Chitwan as the world's best place to study tigers in their natural environment. “They've always had some attacks on people, but based on a pretty recent paper, since 1998 the number of attacks on people has increased dramatically. It went from 2-3 per year to 9 or 10, and it's been pretty steady since then.”
Initial attacks are often driven by accident or desperation from sick or ageing tigers. If they then go on to become a man eater, then the villagers had better not stray too far from the light. “It's very rare that it happens, but when it does, they go and eat humans as regular prey,” says Carter. “It's incredibly damaging. Just last October, they had three people killed by a man eater. That happened in just a month. I've also heard – and this is kind of gross – that human flesh is saltier so when tigers taste it they become kind of drawn to it.” My face must screw up at this point. “How could you possibly know that, right?” Laughs Carter.
Kristjan, Tiger Tops' owner knows. Apparently, cannibals who have tasted human flesh and pork say they taste kind of similar. As pigs, like humans, east basically any old shit, the logic seems sound.
This, though, is one of his more ordinary stories. We're all sitting around the dinner table enjoying some surprisingly excellent food as Kristjan tells us the amazing tale of his life, the vast majority of which has been spent here in Nepal. In fact, until he was seven or eight, he thought he was Nepali – Nepalese was his first language. Despite the fact that he sounds like an old Etonian, English was only his third, after Icelandic. And odd triumvirate and perhaps unique in the world.

His dad founded this place after driving from Stockholm in a bid to promote an old Saab, then drove Kristjan out here when he was only a few months old, while transporting more vehicles to the site. Kristjan's grandfather, meanwhile, left him a load of land in Iceland. Though he refuses to say absolutely which nationality he considers himself (his first answer is "none") it is perhaps Iceland to which he feels he most belongs. Meanwhile, he plans to spend three months later in the year driving a heard of 40 horses over land from Mongolia back to Tiger Tops. Like I said, he may be a bit mad, but then he’s led the most extraordinary life I’ve ever heard of. I mention this to him as we begin to excuse ourselves before bed. “Oh,” he says with a chuckle. “It all just seems so terribly normal to me.”

Apple Galette

I love having a stash of all sorts of food items squirreled away in my freezer. Not just any old things, but homemade edibles safely packed and put down for a chilly nap, to have on hand for any emergency, and to be woken up when needed. Different kinds of stock and soup, cookie dough, small batches of b├ęchamel, meatballs and burger patties already formed, apportioned tubs of slow-cooked meat sauce, pie dough, and anything else homemade and freezable.

Oh the smug contentment of knowing you have these nourishing provisions at the ready! Set to be whipped out at a moment’s notice. Perhaps when you are too busy to get a proper dinner on, or you have sudden surprise visitors….or you are just in the mood for some pie.

Apple Galette
(pie dough recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours as adapted by Cenk of Cafe Fernando, filling adapted from Cenk’s recipe)

For the pie dough:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 sticks of butter, cut into small chunks and chilled in the freezer for about 20 minutes
  • 1/3 cup ice water
    • For the filling:

    • 2 – 2 1/2 apples (approximately 500 grams – I used Fuji apples), peeled, cored, and cut into eighths
    • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
    • 1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
    • Juice of half a lemon
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
      • 1 egg, slightly beaten (for assembly)
        • - Pulse flour, sugar and salt in a food processor using a metal blade.
          - Remove butter from freezer, add it in the processor, and pulse until it resembles a coarse meal. Do not over mix! The pieces don’t have to be uniform. Dorie says some can be the size of fat peas and some the size of barley.
          - Add ice water little by little, pulsing once in between each addition, until the dough forms clumps and curds (I lessened the water from 1/2 cup to 1/3 due to the moisture already present in my air). Again, do not over mix! Chunks of butter in the dough are fine (yum!) :)
          - Turn the dough out onto a work surface and very lightly and sparingly, knead just to incorporate dry ingredients.
          - Divide the dough into two even balls. Flatten balls into disks and wrap individually in plastic.
          - Refrigerate dough for at least an hour (at this point you can stash one disc in the freezer for future use if you are not going to use all the dough).
          - Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough between two sheets of baking parchment (you can roll dough directly on a floured work surface or between two sheets of plastic wrap but parchment works best for me) into a rough 11-inch circle. When rolling, turn dough over frequently and lift the parchment so it doesn’t form creases. Trim the edges to form a clean circle (I didn’t, oops!).
          - Place your flattened dough (covered in the parchment) back in the fridge for about 20 minutes to chill again.
          - Remove dough from fridge, peel of top layer of parchment, and transfer the dough, on the bottom layer of parchment, to a sheet pan or pizza pan (I used one of those pizza pans with holes on the bottom).
          - Mix 1/2 tablespoon of the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a bowl and spread on the bottom of the dough.
          - Toss apples with the rest of the cornstarch, sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon.
          - Arrange the fruit on the bottom of the dough, leaving 2 inches of dough left outside.
          - Fold up and pleat the dough (as best you can) over the top of the fruit, leaving the center uncovered.
          - Lightly brush the top of the pastry with the beaten egg and sprinkle both the dough and the fruit with sugar (I used Demerara sugar with large crystals).
          - Place the galette in 400F oven and cook for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.
          - Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack immediately.

          This isn’t a pie per se but a free-form tart, or galette if you want to sound cute and French (which I must admit I sometimes do). Unlike a pie you don’t need a special tin or even a top crust to make this. Just roll out the dough, nestle the fruits in the middle, pull up the edges (as neat or as messily as you want), and place on any flat baking pan. Pop in the oven and that’s that!

          I have made this before using plums and nectarines and it is just as charming with apples, although of a different charm altogether. While the plums and nectarines were bright and tart and cheery, the cinnamon-perfumed apples are pure cozy comfort. I like both and I’d be hard-pressed to choose one over the other but I think it does say something that both C and my mom liked this one better.

          I didn’t peel the apples when I made this as I thought it would add some color, and, truth be told, I was lazy. I do recommend you peel them though (and have indicated peeled apples in the recipe) as it can be a bit awkward when trying to cut your slice with a fork.

          I used the Good For Almost Anything pie dough from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours, as I did in the plum and nectarine version. I have typed out the recipe again here because this pie crust is truly so wonderful that I do believe it deserves repeating. For this galette I used some dough that had been sitting in the freezer for (the shame!) months. Aside from its old age, it was extremely hot in my kitchen making the dough too soft…I was sure it would be a disaster. But Dorie’s crust must be imbued with magical powers because from less than promising conditions it still emerged golden and flaky and absolutely delicious!

          One batch of dough will give you enough for two galettes, so you can store one in the freezer for the future. And as far any homemade-goods-freezer-stash goes, this is definitely an excellent addition!


          IN PRODUCTION:


          Nobody's seen a frame of film, but the action figures were already a hit at the Comic-Con. And speaking of action figures, Megan Fox, as Leila (seen below in what is being euphamistically called her saloon-girl outfit), is currently billed above Josh Brolin, who plays the title character, a face-scarred bounty hunter on the trail of a voodoo-er planning to liberate the South with an army of the undead. Based on the long-running comic book, the film also stars John Malkovich, Will Arnet, and Aidan Quinn as President McKinley.
          The director is Jimmy Hayward, the writers are Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor.

          No coincidence that it's the day after the Academy Awards. The Coen brothers are hopeful that Jeff Bridges will win an Oscar for Crazy Heart, which would put him in a good mood for playing Rooster Cogburn.

          The Oscar-winning actress is interested in following in the boot-steps of Barbara Stanwyck, who played Victoria Barkley in series which ran on ABC from 1965 - 1969. The feature will be produced by Katy Edelman Johnson, whose father, Louis F. Edelman, co-created the series with A.I. Bezzerides. Daniel Adams, who penned the screenplay, and is Johnson's producing partner, will direct.

          The Jerry Bruckheimer project, with Johnny Depp on board as Tonto, still lacks a masked man, but it's got a new writer. Justin Haythe, who wrote The Clearing and Revolutionary Road, takes over the reins from Pirates of the Caribbean scripters Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot.

          CBS Films, reportedly pleased with Gregory Poirer's draft of a Gunsmoke feature (he previously wrote National Treasure: Book of Secrets) is looking at Brad Pitt as a possible Marshall Matt Dillon, and Ryan Reynolds is also in the running. Pitt may have the edge, having starred in a western, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

          According to Variety, Chad St. John's script, The Further Adventures of Doc Holliday,will be produced by Transformers/G.I. Joe vet Lorenzo di Bonaventura. The aim is to make a history-based western tentpole.

          It's well-known that the Inglourious Basterds director has been toying with doing a western for some time, but he recently got specific in a chat with the New York Daily News. "I'd like to do a western. But rather than set it in Texas, have it in slavery times. With that subject that everybody is afraid to deal with. Let's shine that light on ourselves. You could do a ponderous history lesson of slaves escaping on the Underground Railway. Or you could make a movie that would be exciting. Do it as an adventure. A spaghetti western that takes place at that time. And I would call it 'A Southern.'"

          LIVE EVENTS:


          Saturday Feb. 27th -- The 10th Annual Saddle Up festival in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee will feature a reunion of stars from the NBC series which ran from 1962 to 1970. James Drury, Gary Clarke, Roberta Shore and Randy Boone will meet up for a three hour event that will include clip screening, Q&As and autographs. Not coincidentally, the event coincides with the release of the first season of The Virginian on DVD, which will be available for sale at the event, but otherwise not until late May. At a time when most series were thirty or sixty minutes, The Virginian was unusual: it's 90 minute time slot gave a chance for greater depth of plot, making each episode a small movie. For further information, click here.

          The next time you're working hard at the lap-top, and get a sudden urge to see some Italian cowboy action, click here, and you'll be brought to the AMC B-Movie Classics site, where, with a simple click of the mouse, you can see Dynamite Joe (1968) or The Ruthless Four (1968). I haven't seen either movie yet myself, but Ruthless Four, which claims to be "In The Tradition of Treasure of the Sierra Madre," stars Van Heflin, Gilbert Roland and German western star Klaus Kinski, so it's certainly worth a peek. Incidentally, there are a number of other movies in various genres at the site.

          ON THE TUBE

          Note:AMC=American Movie Classics, EXT= Showtime Extreme, FMC=Fox Movie Channel, TCM=Turner Classic Movies. All times given are Pacific Standard Time.

          Monday Feb. 22nd
          AMC 2:00 a.m. Dances with Wolves (1990) Actor Kevin Costner's directorial debut won him an Oscar, and there were seven more: best picture; Dean Semler for cinematography; Neil Travis for editing; John Barry for his score; Michael Blake for his adapted screenplay; and Russell Williams III, Jeffrey Perkins, Bill W. Benton and Gregory H. Watkins for sound. Starring Costner as an army officer who befriends the Lakota Souix. With Mary McDonnel.
          AMC 1:00 p.m. Dances With Wolves (1990) See above.

          Tuesday Feb.23rd
          TCM 5:00 p.m. Ruggles Of Red Gap (1935) Comedy pro Leo McCarey directed this 3rd version of Harry Leon Wilson's novel, with a script by Walter DeLeon and Harlan Thompson. Charles Laughton, in a delightful comic turn lays the gentleman's gentleman imported from England to give a western family some class. With Charley Ruggles, Mary Boland and Zasu Pitts.

          Wednesday Feb. 24th
          TCM 11:00 a.m. Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) John Huston directed from his own screenplay, based on novel by the elusive B. Traven. Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston (Academy Award perfoemance) and Tim Holt go gold prospecting in the Mexican Sierras. For my money, one of the best movies of any genre ever made. With Bruce Bennett, and with Barton MacLane in one of the most realistic bar-brawls ever filmed. Look for John Huston himself as the frequent victim of a panhandler, and little Robert Blake as the kid with the lottery tickets. "Badges?! I don't got to cho you no badges! We don't need no stinkin' badges!"
          TCM 1:15 p.m. Duel In The Sun (1946) Directed by King Vidor, producer David O. Selznick wrote his own screenplay from the Niven Bush novel about a half-breed Jennifer Jones who comes between two brothers. With Gregory Peck and Joseph Cotten.

          Thursday Feb.25th
          FMC 8:00 a.m. Drums Along The Mowhawk (1939) John Ford directed with gusto from the Lamar Trotti, Sonya Levian script, based on the Walter D. Edmonds novel. Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda star in one of the finest of 'eastern' westerns, a Revoltionary War story packed with Ford stock company greats like John Carradine, Arthur Shields and Ward Bond. In a more normal year, it might have been named Best Picture, but in 1939 it received only two Oscar nominations, for Edna Mae Oliver's comic turn as Best Supporting Actress, and for Ray Rennahan and Bert Glennon's glorious Technicolor photography -- and it won neither. Highly recommended.
          TCM 9:45 a.m. General Spanky (1936) Though not the best of Our Gang's work, it ceratinly is a novelty, and the only Our Gang feature (I don't count the two from the 1940s, with replacement kids). Gordon Douglas and Fred C. Newmeyer direct from a script by Richard Flournoy, John Guedel, Carl Harbaugh and Hal Yates. Spanky MacFarland, along with Buckwheat Thomas and Alfalfa Switzer, fight the Civil War.
          FMC 10:00 a.m. Flaming Star (1960) An early film from the soon-to-be-great Don Siegal, working from Nunnally Johnson's script of a Clair Huffaker novel. Elvis Presley, playing a role planned for Marlon Brando, is the half-breed son of white John McIntire and Kiowa Dolores Del Rio, forced to take sides in a local war between white and Indian. Surprisingly good, you realize how good an actor Elvis could have been if Col. Parker hadn't steered him into mostly inane crap. With Steve Forrest and Barbara Eden.
          TCM 7:00 p.m. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) The finest of John Ford's later films, and his last great film with John Wayne. James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck adapted Dorothy M. Johnson's story, told in flasback, about a Senator (James Stewart) whose career turns on the fact that he shot outlaw Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin).

          Friday Feb. 26
          EXT 2:30 a.m. Sukiyaki Western Django (2007) Directed by Takashi Miike, co-written with Masa Nakamura, the filmmakers try to transplant every spaghetti western cliche' into one pseudo Samurai epic. Strikingly shot and edited, but after an hour of identifying the homages, I did a lot of fast-forwarding. Starring Hideaki Ito and Masanobu Ando, with Quentin Tarantino popping up at the start and finish to tell you the story.

          Saturday Feb. 27
          TCM 2:00 a.m. The Reivers (1969) Charming, easy-going turn-of-the-century tale of Steve McQueen, Rupert Cross, and Mitch Vogel's adventures in a stolen car. Sharon Farrell is at her most radiant, and B-western fans will appreciate the cameo by Roy Barcroft as the judge. Written by the Oscar-winning wife and husband team of Harriet Frank Jr, and Irving Ravetch, from William Faulkner's novel. Directed by Mark Rydell.
          TCM 4:00 a.m. Tom Sawyer (1973) Disney tunesmiths Robert and Richard Sherman wrote the screenplay as well as the songs for this musical adaptation of Mark Twain's novel. With Johnny Whitaker as Tom and Jodie Foster as Becky Thatcher. Directed by Don Taylor.
          AMC 6:30 a.m. Stagecoach (1966) No, not that one, it's the pointless remake. Gordon Douglas directs with flair as always, and Joseph Landon's adaptation of Dudley Nichols 1939 screenplay, from the Ernest Haycox story is fine. But even with good actors like Alex Cord, Ann-Margaret, Bing Crosby and Red Buttons, could they possibly think they were improving on the John Ford version? Yes, because this one would be in color, and in tghe 1960s, that meant everything.
          AMC 9:00 a.m. The War Wagon (1967) You've got John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, and an armored coach packed and gold and protected by a Gatling gun. What more do you need to know? Great fun, directed by Burt Kennedy, written by Clair Huffaker, featuring Bruce Dern and Bruce Cabot.
          AMC 11:30 a.m. Silverado (1985) Larry Kasdan directs from a script he wrote with his brother Mark. Lots of good stuff in it, but at 133 minutes, it's at least a half hour too long. Starring Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn and Kevin Costner.
          AMC 11:00 p.m. Silverado (1985) See above.

          Sunday Feb.28
          AMC 2:00 a.m. Backlash (1956) Director John Sturges is at the top of his powers in this western mystery scripted by Borden Chase from the Frank Gruber novel, starring Richard Widmark and Donna Reed.
          AMC 4:00 a.m. The War Wagon (1967) You've got John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, and an armored coach packed and gold and protected by a Gatling gun. What more do you need to know? Great fun, directed by Burt Kennedy, written by Clair Huffaker, featuring Bruce Dern and Bruce Cabot.
          AMC 6:30 a.m. Silverado (1985) Larry Kasdan directs from a script he wrote with his brother Mark. Lots of good stuff in it, but at 133 minutes, it's at least a half hour too long. Starring Kevin Kline, Scott Glenn and Kevin Costner.
          EXT. 9:45 a.m. Barbarosa (1982) Fred Schepisi directs from western specialist William D. Wittliff's script, about a young man falling into company with an outlaw. Stars Willie Nelson, Gary Busey, Isela Vega and the great Gilbert Roland.
          FMC 11:15 a.m. Rio Conchos (1964) D: Gordon Douglas, W:Joseph Landon and Clair Huffaker. Stars Richard Boone, Stuary Whitman, Anthony Franciosa.
          FMC 3:30 p.m. - The Undefeated (1969) D:Andrew V. McLaglen, W:James Lee Barrett, from a story by Stanley Hough. At the close of the Civil War, Confederate officer Rock Hudson leads a group of southern loyalists to Mexico and Emperor Maximillian -- unless John Wayne can stop him. Rock Hudson later described the movies as "crap." Ironic, considering it's one of his more convincing performances. With Ben Johnson and Harry Carey Jr.

          That's it for this week! Again, if you attend any events we discuss here, let's have some feedback -- click on the 'comments' thing below. Or e-mail me at And I need your suggestions -- there's got to be a lot of western happenings around the globe that we don't know about, so fill us in. Next week we'll feature an interview with spaghetti western star Robert Woods!


          Private Lives

          Last night, I went and saw Private Lives by Noel Coward at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. So far, I have seen four shows there and each one is better than the last. The acting, sets, costumes - brilliant, all of it. It's refreshing to see truly great theatre every once in awhile.
          I was a bit distracted, though - the costumes were unbelievably fantastic. I mean - vintage silks, scarves, suits, shoes, hats, jewelry, hair - and so I spent the majority of the show trying to figure out how I could make such costumes for myself and everyday wear. Today, I started doing research:

          (side note: the styles of the last two dresses and shoes were not seen in the show, but I had to share them because they appealed to me greatly.)

          So, being inspired, and noticing that one of the patterns was Vogue, I browsed the Vogue pattern website. They are having a sale, so I was doomed from the beginning. I purchased:

          Vogue 1162 (I LOVE the sleeves)

          and Vogue 2859 (because what woman doesn't need a slinky black dress?)

          I should inform my readers that I have never made a dress before (!!!), so the adventure of making clothes for myself will be well documented and hopefully enjoyable.
          While we are on the topic of vintage, one of my favorite sites in the whole world, choc full of vintage images that are copyright free:

          Some of my favorite images from the site:

          My best friend, Steph, made photo pendants for me that incorporated these images. I wear them constantly!

          My favorite image, of course, is the background of my blog header - to me, it's artistic and peaceful, beautiful and vibrant.

          My New Obsession

          First off, I love living in Chicago. The thrift stores here blow away any I might have encountered in Ohio. My boyfriend and I went into one on the North Side, and he spots this:

          A Singer sewing machine, complete with cabinet that it tucks into when it needs to sleep at night. (Sorry - I didn't get a picture of the cabinet, but I will post one soon). My boyfriend talks me into buying it, since we don't have much room at each of our places and we are trying to move in together. After plugging it in and seeing it work beautifully, I bought it. Price tag for the amazing sewing machine and cabinet: $15!!!!

          Secondly, I love the internet. Where else could we find out the machine was made in June of 1950 in New Jersey?? (Thanks to my boyfriend for hunting that information down). Even better, we found the manual for the sewing machine online:

          While I haven't gotten to sew with it yet, we did take the time to shine it up and clean the gears. It has the most musical humming noise when running (does that sound entirely too cheesy?). My goal this weekend: sewing on said machine...or at least learning how to thread it.

          Namaste as the Nepalese Say - Day Two

          Owing to a series of niggles and some strong suggestions of outright skulduggery, the Tiger Tops resort in Royal Chitwan Park has been closed for the last six months, despite the fact it was actually founded before the land was a designated park. Now, with a new lease signed, the oldest tourism company in the region is getting ready to open again. Founded as a hunting lodge in the mid-60s, by 1972 it had been bought out and rebranded as a place dedicated to conservation. A couple of years later the park was founded around it; Tiger Tops even helped set the boundaries and rules for visitors. A shame then that their good work – including nearly 40 years of dedication to conservation – is so rarely rewarded by the authorities. Where one might expect tax breaks in the UK, here they are hammered into submission by greedy ministers.

          A Jeep old enough to be my father takes us through the jungle and through a couple of streams before we transfer to a boat to cross a much meatier river. It's back in another 4x4 from there and into the Sal jungle (so named after the predominant tree type) and to the stilt-top residences. The two lanky buildings are separated by The Roundhouse, a Viking-style building with a log fire filtering up through the conical thatched roof. It's all located just on the edge of the jungle as it suddenly changes into fertile grasslands. This is tiger country.

          We're a little late, so barely have time to dump our bags before having to gather ourselves for a trip into the jungle on an enormous tusked elephant. “He’s a handsome boy, but very rude.” Says Kalu Ram, our diminutive little guide who stands barefoot atop the behemoth’s shitting arse. Habitually dumping out is apparently the big boy’s signature move and, when he needs feels the need, no amount of prodding behind his big ears will get him moving again.

          We cross the river, and veer off the path through the long grass, the elephant using it’s ivory, brute force and unending appetite to forge a way through the 20-foot-tall brush. It’s late afternoon as this is prime time for watching tigers, who are just waking up and thinking about addressing their hunger. I’m straining so hard to hear or see one of the big cats that I initially mistake a plane’s far off engine noise as a roar.

          Unfortunately for us, three hours of rattling around in the old box, the wooden safety bars of which have been worn smooth by four decades of white-knuckle tourists, turns up no tigers. Or much of anything really, other than one nervous rhino and a far-off stork or two.

          We get back to the lodge and try to summon some kind of warmth into our bones, but it’s tough work, especially as our stilted accommodation runs on solar power. Shivering, we head back to the Roundhouse for some dinner and a talk with the owner. He looks a bit like Willem Dafoe and is in his late 30s. He’s also definitely a little bit mad, but when I find out his life story the next day, that becomes perfectly understandable.

          Pickled Japanese Cucumbers

          A couple of Japanese cucumbers followed me home from the market. They lay in my crisper all slender and green. They seemed to be taunting me, and all other tubby cucumbers out there, with their lean taut bodies. So smug they sat, unblinking, secure in the knowledge of their perfection.

          I made short work of them. Oh yes I did. Now they are pickled for me to enjoy at my leisure…their crisp tart deliciousness.

          I used to strongly dislike pickles. Once upon a time, when I was just a little girl, and all the pickles I knew of were sweet pickle relish (which I can’t eat to this day) and sad dill pickles that had sat too long on a supermarket shelf. When I started cooking however, I discovered a whole other world of pickles. Pickles that were far afield from the sad specimens of my childhood. Pickles you made yourself with ingredients carefully chosen and infused with all kinds of different flavors. Pickles from all over the world – Japan (I love Japanese pickles!), Slovakia, and right here in my beloved islands.

          I don’t have an actual pickle recipe, as I’ve mentioned here. Since my pickles are done in small batches and stored in the refrigerator (as opposed to long-term storage for my non-existent winter) I don’t go through strenuous sterilization procedures. I usually use a base of vinegar, salt, and sugar, then add whatever else, by way of herbs and spices, that suit my present mood. With these Japanese cucumbers I used rice vinegar (delicious for pickles!) and a lot of freshly cracked black pepper (which I love with cucumber pickles). Some salt, some sugar, and a short nap in the fridge to chill, and they are ready! Excellent side for fish or grilled pork, or tucked into a ham sandwich.

          Now I love pickles. I still avoid sweet pickle relish and those ages-old jars of dill pickles on the supermarket shelves, but I have embraced the rest of the pickle world with much affection and fervor. Not only are they, I’ve found, delicious, they are also an excellent way to preserve vegetables…if perhaps you have a bit too much on your hands, or if you are simply tired of looking at a couple of skinny cucumbers! ;)

          ***check out the lovely pickles here! This will be next on my list of pickle recipes to try...

          Baby Bear on the Cintiq

          It's cold and snowy outside ... but warm and cuddly
          in the studio creating new sketches using the Cintiq!


          A few years ago, while working as a substitute teacher, I was having lunch in the teachers' lounge when another sub noticed I was reading a Luke Short novel, and we started talking about westerns. His name was Paul Harper. He was a big man, older, and he told me that he had acted in several westerns, and played Ross, one of the scurvy bounty hunters in Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch(1969). That's Paul with Ernest Borgnine in the picture below. Interestingly, this man who played very scary men on the screen, in real life specialized in the side of teaching that requires the greatest patience and kindness: teaching special ed kids. I never ran in to him again.

          On Thursday, November 12th, 2009, I was one of the many in the sell-out crowd who packed the Million Dollar Theatre in downtown Los Angeles for the 40th Anniversary showing of The Wild Bunch. It was done as a fund-raiser for a French/American charity outfit called Jules Verne Adventures, and in the advance publicity I'd learned that cast members Ernest Borgnine, Bo Hopkins and L.Q. Jones would be there, as well as members of Sam Peckinpah's and composer Jerry Fielding's family. As the big night approached, I suddenly remembered meeting Paul Harper, and wondered if he knew about the event. But I couldn't find the card he'd given me, and none of the other subs I knew were acquainted with him. So I was delighted to be in the audience, and hear him introduced to warm applause, and see him walking down the aisle in costume, grinning broadly. I tried to catch up with him later, but didn't manage to. Paul Harper died the next day, having had a wonderful time reminiscing with fans and friends and co-workers about a film that was one of the high-points of his life. Among his other westerns, all from 1972, are The Culpepper Cattle Company, Bounty Man, J.W. Coop, and finally Bloody Trail, in which he had the lead role.

          Speaking of Ernest Borgnine, I don't know how many saw the Friday night update of this blog about the Hollywood Show this weekend, featuring stars like Borgnine, but Mike Stern did, and he saved five bucks by following the link I provided. He reports that the show was as expensive as I had warned it would be. Once you'd paid your $20 to get in, actors like Mitch Vogel, last of the Bonanza regulars, were charging $25 for a signed picture. Richard Chamberlain wanted $50 for his paperback autobiography, to which I say: Dr. Kildare, Heal Thyself! (Okay, Chamberlain isn't exactly known for westerns, but Dr. Kildare was created by Max Brand.)

          This past Tuesday was the 108th birthday of Red Ryder comic-strip creator Fred Harmon Sr. Those who have watched Christmas Story and, wondered who was this puveyor of BB guns that so obsessed Ralphie, can learn plenty by clicking here. If you go to the bottom of the page and click the link 'Bronc Peeler The Lone Cowboy complete text', you'll be able to read a Big Little Book about one of Harmon's earlier characters, page by page. Republic Pictures made a hugely successful series of Red Ryder films during the 1940s, starring either Wild Bill Elliot or Alan Rocky Lane as Ryder, and all with Bobby Blake (later Robert Blake -- yes, that one)as Little Beaver. Almost all of them, and the earlier serial that gave Don 'Red' Barry his nickname, can be found at my primary source for western movies, and every other kind of movies for that matter, Eddie Brandt's Saturday Matinee. You may have seen a featurette about Eddie's on TCM recently. The store is at 5006 Vineland Ave., North Hollywood, CA 91601. (818)506-4242. Tuesday through Friday they're open from 1 to 6 p.m., Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. For their website, click here.

          AROUND TOWN:

          Monday 2/15 - Normally closed on Monday, the Autry will be opened on Presidents' Day, and free for kids under 9.
          Saturday 2/20 and Sunday 2/21, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., kids can learn about the Gold Rush, and pan for gold. On Sunday from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., you can see Edge of America, directed by Chris Eyre, part of the Native American Women In Film Series. For more about the Autry, click here.

          Sunday 2/21 Living History. From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. you can step back in time! The living history program features a working blacksmith shop, 19th Century children's games, traditional music, tours of the historic structures, and strolling folks in period costume -- great fun for kids and adults, and you can feed the ducks! They do this program on the third Sunday of every month. Los Encinos is located at 16756 Moorpark St., Encino, CA 91436-1068. (818)784-4849.

          Friday 2/19 7:30 p.m. BRONCO BILLY (1980) D:Clint Eastwood, W:Dennis Hackin, starring Eastwood, Sondra Locke, Geoffrey Lewis and Scatman Crothers.
          9:40 p.m. - HONKYTONK MAN (1982) D:Clint Eastwood, W:Clancy Carlile, from his novel, starring Eastwood, Kyle Eastwood and Verna Bloom.
          Saturday 2/20 7:00 p.m. UNFORGIVEN (1992) D:Clint Eastwood, W:David Webb Peoples, starring Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman, Richard Harris. An astonishingly good, heartfelt, dark western - a must see. I can't begin to count he number of times I've quoted (hopefully correctly), "Hellevah thing, killing a man. Take away everything he's got, everything he's ever gonna have."

          Sunday 2/21 - 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. Though not so well known in the U.S., Colorado-born Woods was a major leading man of European western in the 1960s and 1970s, starring in CHALLENGE OF MCKENNA (see poster above), 4 DOLLARS FOR VENGEANCE, 7 PISTOLS FOR MACGREGOR and a fistful of others. He'll be signing autographs, and there will be a screening of the newly remastered GATLING GUN.
          Incidentally, Spudic's is a great movie resource. Actor-writer Eric Spudic buys out video stores to stock his own, doesn't rent, but sells all DVDs for $6, all VHSs for $3 -- and if it's a VHS without a box it's a buck fifty! Lately I've picked up a lot of movies I'd missed -- HANNIE CAULDER, CULPEPPER CATTLE COMPANY and Kris Kristofferson in THE TRACKER to name just a few. Spudic's is located at 5910 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys, CA 91401, and the store is open 7 days a week from noon to 8 p.m.

          ON THE TUBE


          Note:AMC=American Movie Classics, FMC=Fox Movie Channel, TCM=Turner Classic Movies. All times given are Pacific Standard Time.

          Monday 2/15
          FMC 3:00 p.m. - SHERIFF OF FRACTURED JAW (1959) Comedy western, D:Raoul Walsh, W:Howard Dimsdale, starring Jayne Mansfield, Kenneth More, Henry Hull, Bruce Cabot.

          Tuesday 2/16
          AMC 3:00 p.m. - BLAZING SADDLES (1974) Mel Brooks directed and co-wrote this delightfully coarse western comedy about a town that gets a black sheriff (Cleavon Little). With Gene Wilder.

          Friday 2/19
          FMC 11:30 a.m. - BANDOLERO! (1968) D:Andrew V. McLaglen, W:James Lee Barrett, starring James Stewart, Dean Martin and Raquel Welch. Grreat fun with Stewart and Martin as feuding brother outlaws.
          FMC 1:30 p.m. - BROKEN ARROW (1950) James Stewart, Jeff Chandler, D:Delmer Daves, W:Albert Maltz(another writer's name may be one the credits -- Maltz was blacklisted and had someone 'front' for him)
          TCM 9:00 p.m. - SHANE (1953) - Director George Stevens' masterpiece, from the Jack Schaeffer novel, screenplay by A.B. Guthrie Jr. Although all the leads -- Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin and Brandon de Wilde -- are excellent, to me it's the performances by Jack Palance and Elisha Cook Jr. that are unforgettable.

          Saturday 2/20
          AMC 6:30 a.m. - BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969) Directed by George Roy Hill from William Goldman's original screenplay. This film and WILD BUNCH, about the same people, came out the same year. Very different treatment, and both excellent - this one won four Oscars. Starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford and Katherine Ross.
          AMC 9:00 a.m. - DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990) D:Kevin Costner, W:Michael Blake. Starring Kevin Costner and Mary McDonnel, the picture won seven Oscars.
          AMC 1:00 p.m. - BROKEN TRAIL (2006) D:Walter Hill, W:Alan Geoffrion. The best western miniseries since LONESOME DOVE stars Robert Duvall, Thomas Haden Church and Greta Scacchi attempting to rescue Chinese women from prostitution. With James Russo.
          AMC 10:00 p.m. - BROKEN LANCE (1954) D:Edward Dymtryk, W:Richard Murphy, from a story by Philip Yordan. Pity Spencer Tracy, with the four sons he must contend with: Richard Widmark, Hugh O'Brien, Earl Holliman, and just-out-of-jail Robert Wagner. With Katy Jurado.
          TCM 11:45 p.m. - COMES A HORSEMAN (1978) - D:Alan J. Pakula, W:Dennis Lynton Clark, stars Jane Fonda, James Caan, Jason Robards Jr.

          Sunday 2/21
          AMC 11:00 p.m. - DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990) - Please see write-up above.

          That's about it for this week -- bulletins as the need arises. If you want to check out any of Robert Woods' movies before the signing at Spudic's, they've got at least a half dozen in VHS for rent at Eddie Brandt's. If you attend any of the events we feature, please let us know what you thought of them. And please tell 'em you heard about it here. And please send me ideas on anything that oughta be included. Happy Trails!