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Ronald Scheer "rockysquirrel" RSS Feed (Los Angeles)
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A Policeman's Lot
A Policeman's Lot

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wild West Wales . . ., June 21, 2010
This review is from: A Policeman's Lot (Kindle Edition)
This tightly plotted and cleverly conceived crime fiction novel is set in the Welsh town of Pontypridd in 1904. Our central character is police inspector Frank Parade, who on a normal day has his hands more than full. Parade's job gets even more complicated when Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show comes to town. There is Bill Cody, larger than life, and not all that cooperative, especially as one of his employees turns up with his throat slit. And thus begins a murder investigation that generates a slag heap of difficulties for Inspector Parade and produces a string of corpses.

Dobbs has done his research and packs a lot into his novel. We become immersed in a time and place on the cusp of the twentieth century. Old methods of law enforcement are yielding with the introduction of new technologies. Economic changes create new problems and social pressures.

And there's the entertaining collision of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show with turn of the last century, coal-mining Wales. Cowboys and Indians wander through some of the scenes, and Bill Cody himself figures into the plot at key points. Well drawn, he is a self-important presence used to being regarded as a living legend. Meanwhile, Inspector Parade is a thoroughly enjoyable creation. Happy he is when he's on duty, which is nearly all the time. Such is a policeman's lot.


A Woman of Five Seasons (Emerging Voices)
A Woman of Five Seasons (Emerging Voices)
by Laylá Aṭrash
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.42
53 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars The story of a marriage . . ., June 19, 2010
Two stories in one, this absorbing short novel tells of the marriage of an intelligent and thoughtful woman to an ambitious man who makes a fortune for them both in a fictional oil-rich nation on the Gulf. His story is of an obsessive rise to power and of taking six- and seven-figure commissions on deals he works out between high-level government officials.

Hers is an equally complex story of yielding at first to the traditional role of an Arab wife and then slowly asserting her independence. While her husband takes an attractive European mistress, she takes up residence in London and finds a partner to go into real estate. Reading, in some ways, like a high-class version of "Dallas," the book is a well-conceived and well-plotted page-turner. It's also a feminist argument against the corrosive effects of traditional gender roles on marital relationships.


Cattle, Horses and Men
Cattle, Horses and Men
by John H. Culley
Edition: Paperback
17 used & new from $29.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Frontier ranching remembered . . ., June 13, 2010
This review is from: Cattle, Horses and Men (Paperback)
Of the many memoirs and reminiscences of frontier ranching and cowboying, this is one of the best. It is packed with information of all kinds and written gracefully and intelligently by its author, John (Jack) Culley, who came out West from a wealthy family in northern England and was educated at Oxford. The word "cattle" comes first in the title because he is first and last a cattleman. At the age of 30 he was already range manager at the massive Bell Ranch in northeast New Mexico, with its herds of Hereford stock.

The book was first published in 1940, so Culley is looking back over a half century of Western history, observing sometimes tongue in cheek how times have changed. Mostly, he is a rich source of detailed information about ranching life when the ranch where he worked in the 1890s was the only fenced-in rangeland between Canada and Mexico. His recollections include character sketches of the men who worked with him as well as a number of bandits who robbed trains and were eventually captured. There's also a chapter devoted to a curiously likable local gunman who killed many men in self defense but was never taken to trial.

There are chapters devoted to horses, good and bad, and styles of riding and training horses. He describes a day on a roundup from dawn to dark. He challenges the romantic notions about the West perpetrated by Hollywood. And he has an encyclopedic knowledge of ranches in the region (including southern Colorado), brands, and cattle breeding. As someone who likes to consider himself well read in frontier ranching culture, I found myself learning much that I didn't already know. It's a treasure of information and anecdotes for anyone interested in the Old West as it really was.


Four Sheets to the Wind
Four Sheets to the Wind
DVD ~ Wes Allen
Price: $13.99
31 used & new from $4.94

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow, gentle, heartfelt . . ., June 10, 2010
This review is from: Four Sheets to the Wind (DVD)
I found this story of young Oklahoma Indians absorbing in the way any story is about young people finding themselves in a world that doesn't offer much of a place for them to fit in. Cufe, the central character is wonderfully played by Cody Lightning, who gives a thoughtful, quiet performance as a young man on the cusp of learning who and what he is. The death of his father awakens him to his real isolation in the world, and through him we understand his sister's desperate lostness as her life finds a dead end, off the reservation in Tulsa.

This is a movie about sons, as most of the screen time belongs to Cufe, especially as he opens up to a young woman he befriends while visiting his sister in the city and talks of his grief for his dead father. It is also a movie about motherhood and the pain and fear to be seen in the wonderful performance of Jeri Arredondo as Cufe and Miri's mother. While the film has more than the usual level of emotion, it avoids sentimentality and easy resolutions. It also has moments of wry humor, especially at the opening when the family has to fake a funeral for a man whose body has already been disposed of. Whites in the film, for a change, are stereotyped for their well-meaning foolishness on the one hand and coarse insensitivity on the other. This is a fine film with a Native American voice, and I look forward to more from director Sterlin Harjo.


Gigante
Gigante
DVD ~ Horacio Camandule
Price: $19.48
37 used & new from $0.97

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Secret admirer . . ., June 10, 2010
This review is from: Gigante (DVD)
I loved this charming, funny film from Uruguay about a shy overweight guy who falls for a fellow employee on the night shift of the supermercado where he works in surveillance and she cleans floors. About all he can do is watch her on camera while she's at work and helplessly stalk her during the daylight hours. That she could possibly not notice his hulking presence wherever she goes requires some suspension of disbelief until you begin to realize that she knows he's there and is just waiting for him to work up the nerve to talk to her.

What makes the film work are the endless moments of dry humor and quirky surprises that keep you wondering how many different ways the writer-director can postpone their eventual meeting. A subtext of the movie is how the employees deal with the dreary boredom of their jobs and manage to show up day after day and get through their shifts. Gives new insight into what goes on at Wal-Mart after closing time. Couldn't be much different.


This Side of Innocence (Emerging Voices)
This Side of Innocence (Emerging Voices)
by Rashīd Ḍaʻīf
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.94
38 used & new from $0.14

5.0 out of 5 stars Not so innocent . . ., June 6, 2010
Lebanese author Al-Daif has read his Kafka. Once again an ordinary man finds himself in the grip of a nightmarish tyranny, in which he is as much the victim of himself as that of a brutal modern state. There are elements of a novel here (character, narrator, conflict, setting) but the narrative goes in and out of focus, like a dream with a logic of its own. On one level, it's a suspenseful political thriller and on another it's an inquiry into the nature of guilt and innocence themselves.

The subjective experience of innocence collides in the story with the interests of interrogators who are determined to get potentially incriminating information. In this case, a poster has been maliciously torn, and a man suspected of knowing the identity of the person who tore it is brought into custody for questioning. Left alone for several hours, he agonizes over circumstantial evidence that points toward his complicity, and he rehearses strategies to outsmart his captors and to divert suspicion from himself.

Meanwhile, he is confronted with the knowledge that he has made "mistakes" in his life that give the lie to his profession of innocence. While starting out sympathetic with him, we begin to realize that the narrator has been withholding information that would affect our own judgment of his character. Eventually, in a protracted scene involving his wife, we come to understand that in the attempt to save his own life, he is no better and no worse than anyone else. In these increasingly polarized times, it's a lesson that speaks to the assumptions and fears of many.


Last Buckaroo
Last Buckaroo
by Mackey Hedges
Edition: Paperback
Price: $20.00
16 used & new from $20.00

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old-timer, young sidekick, many adventures . . ., June 2, 2010
This review is from: Last Buckaroo (Paperback)
This is one of the best books I've ever read describing the day-to-day, real-life work of cowboys. There is something of a story to follow in this novel, but once you get past the fairly far-fetched antics at the beginning, you're treated to an informative description of what it's like moving from one ranch job to the next -- each time getting used to a new boss, a new bunch of cowboys and horses, and the conditions of various kinds of ranch operations and cow camps in various seasons of the year. There are a few digressions, as Tap the narrator in his sixties recalls adventures from earlier times. Mostly it's the absorbing accounts of working cowboys who seem completely real, like they could walk right off the page.

The novel is set in the Great Basin of the West, so the lingo, the gear and the cowboy way are all buckaroo-style, harking back to the vaqueros from old California. The terrain is mostly Nevada and Oregon. In northern California the two heroes take jobs packing dudes into the mountains. Later they settle down for a while working in a huge feedlot operation. There's also a side trip to Arizona, where our boys fetch up with an outfit of Apache Indians, and the author explores in fascinating detail the uneasy relationship between white cowboys and their Native American counterparts.

It's also a story of friendship, as old-timer Tap acquires a young, greenhorn sidekick, Dean, who knows kickboxing but not much about what it takes to be a cowboy. Over the seasons and years, the boy learns a great deal, giving the reader a chance to learn some things along with him. The author captures the romance of cowboying without denying the discomforts, the dangers and risk of accident and injury, and the potential for conflict between men who don't get along. The novel is punctuated with several violent fights, and there are two or three accounts of accidents sending cowboys to hospital emergency rooms.

This book was a great pleasure to read. I'm happy to recommend it to anyone with an interest in cowboying, ranching, and the West.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 6, 2010 3:35 PM PST


A Balcony over the Fakihani (Interlink World Fiction)
A Balcony over the Fakihani (Interlink World Fiction)
by Liyānah Badr
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.77
34 used & new from $0.01

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Palestinians in Beirut . . ., June 1, 2010
Set in war-torn Beirut during 1980-82, this powerful collection of three novellas by Jerusalem-born writer Liyana Badr tells the stories of several displaced Palestinian men and women. With memories still vivid of exile from former homelands and being driven out of Jordan in Black September of 1970, theirs are accounts of attempting to rebuild lives, sometimes unsuccessfully, as unwelcome foreigners in Lebanon. "A Land of Rock and Thyme" describes the brutal relocation of refugees from a camp in a Christian area of Beirut. The brutality is underscored by the shocked and numb response of the narrator, a young widow, whose grief for her dead husband leaves no room for the loss of others in her family.

The title story, "A Balcony Over the Fakihani," is in effect a love story as a young mother, her closest friend, and her husband take turns describing a life that clings to a kind of normalcy even while that life requires continued armed vigilance. "The Canary and the Sea" is convincingly told from the point of view of a Palestinian soldier during the Israeli invasion of Beiruit. The shattered city, held by rival factions, forms the backdrop of a story of near-death and becoming a prisoner of war in the land that had once been his home.

Badr writes as a witness to the "catastrophe" that drove Palestinians into exile. These, she says, are what the West thinks of as "terrorists." And while her stories are graphic in their portrayal of brutality and grief, they are also alive with the joy of living and the refusal to despair. She seems to have special regard and affection for the men who bring warmth and reassurance to the women and families they love. The grief at their loss, described by both wives and comrades, is deep and palpable. We get a glimpse behind their hope and gentle optimism only in the final story, as a man who loves canaries is interrogated as a dangerous "terrorist" by his captors. Well translated, with a helpful introduction.


The Hired Hand
The Hired Hand
DVD ~ Peter Fonda
Price: $9.71
17 used & new from $1.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars True west . . ., May 31, 2010
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This review is from: The Hired Hand (DVD)
Adding my 2 cents to all the praise for this film from other customers, I want to mention its authenticity and realism. Instead of the noise and fast action of the typical western, we get what the experience of living on the frontier was surely like for most men and women. Time moved slowly, the quiet was mostly uninterrupted, distances were vast and isolation profound. Death was more likely to come from accident and disease than violence (e.g., the drowned body of a child discovered in the first scene). Life was devoted to hard physical labor, and much of it was lived in the outdoors.

Fonda uses all that as a context for a tale of loyalty and retribution that puts a lonely woman between two fellow drifters who are bonded to each other in a way that excludes her and finally breaks her heart. Fonda's intention, as he explains in the commentary, was to get the viewer to simply slow down and pay attention to the play of emotions among these three characters and the carefully detailed settings in which their story takes place. There is gunplay and a death toll before it's all over, but the violence is not romanticized, and it's not what you're likely to remember. "The Hired Hand" is a beautifully photographed film, well acted, with a lovely acoustic soundtrack. Images and scenes linger with you long afterward.


Shifting Sands: Jewish Women Confront the Israeli Occupation
Shifting Sands: Jewish Women Confront the Israeli Occupation
by Osie Gabriel Adelfang
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.00
37 used & new from $9.98

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Israel's Vietnam . . ., May 30, 2010
In this collection of essays, editor and writer Osie Gabriel Adelfang has brought together a number of compelling pro-Palestinian voices from among Jewish American women. They all speak to the need for Israel to engage in good faith in the long-postponed peace process which would grant Palestinians the right to live free and independent of their IDF occupiers. More than that, as much for Israel as Palestine, they argue for the need to recognize Palestinians as human beings with full human rights and not simply as obstacles to policies of Israel's assumed manifest destiny - claiming ownership of all lands believed to be part of the biblical Israel and driving out all who have made a home there over the past 2000 years.

As contributors to the book argue, the political parallels to South African apartheid are easy to make. More devastatingly, the parallels to the genocidal treatment of Europe's Jews during WWII and the "good Germans" who turned the other way suggest a disturbing erosion of basic human morality among modern-day Israelis and American Jews who reflexively support them. Like Old Testament prophets, these writers dare to speak truth to power. Their essays range in tone from tentative accounts of assumptions surrendered to starkly factual reports of human suffering in Gaza and the Occupied Territories. The book closes with maps showing the progressive settlement of Palestine by Jewish immigration over the last 100 years and calls to action.

Readers will find a more thorough analysis of the history and prospects of Israel/Palestine relations in Sylvain Cypel's book Walled: Israeli Society at an Impasse. Novels about the displacement of Arabs in 1948 include Ibrahim Fawal's On the Hills of God. Film versions of some of the situations described in the book can be found in Private and Color of Olives, The.


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