Culture & History
A great artist can start a story or a song challenging your entire understanding of the world and have you a believer by the end. I'm constantly drawn to singers, writers and filmmakers who not only avoid cliches but take them straight on. I think I like it because that's the way real life works, as any student of human events knows. We are constantly upsetting convention, and by doing so ensure the course of history will never be a straight and boring one.
Winter in the blood
In his debut novel, James Welch laid waste to the old dichotomy of cowboys vs. Indians by telling the heartbreaking story of a young Indian man who was a cowboy, trying to make his way through life on Montana's desolate Hi-Line. When a film adaptation of Winter in the Blood was announced, I caught up with the actors and filmmakers to examine why it's still so rare to see an honest depiction of Native Americans on screen, and how one goes about capturing on film the loneliness of the Montana plains. You can read the full piece I wrote for Cowboys & Indians here.
The untold dead of Grand Coulee Dam
Some 82 men were killed during the construction of the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State, one of the largest public works projects ever undertaken in the U.S. The dam proved vital to the war effort in WWII, as it sent electricity to Seattle for the construction of war planes and Hanford for the enrichment of nuclear bomb material. Yet no monument exists to honor the men who died building it; there was one at one time, but in a stranger-than-fiction account, it was hauled away by men with guns and a lift, never to be seen near the dam again. Read the full story I wrote for the Spokesman-Review here.
The sublime perfection of the Handsome Family
For all the stellar acting built around a serviceable whodunit storyline featured in HBO's True Detective, my favorite moment of every episode comes at the very beginning. In the intro, New Mexico-based band the Handsome Family’s haunting “Far from Any Road” soars over equally haunting imagery of the alien landscape that acts as a living, breathing character in True Detective. As a longtime fan of the band, it immediately offered me—and I suspect other fans as well— something more: some promise that True Detective would deal honestly with the plight and triumphs of rural America in the same the way that the Handsome Family has been doing for so many years, better than almost anyone else in music today. I enjoyed an email conversation with the songwriter in the group to discuss how she goes about capturing the true spirit of fly-over country, potholed though it is with tired cliches. You can read it here.
Where was Twin Peaks?
While Twin Peaks is often thought to have taken place in Western Washington--on account of the filming locations there--the script in fact places the show in Eastern Washington. In honor of the show's recently announced return, I made the case for Eastern Washington, much to the delight of Spokane residents who so often feel cast aside in this world. Here's the Spokesman-Review piece.