Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Eastern Tradition In Contrast It Is


Different takes on the Hero’s Tale; it seems the Eastern tradition begins with the young hero’s apprenticeship to some sort of fight Master, the Sensei — the Sensei’s wisdom, skills, the young apprentice’s bumbling, discoveries of self under discipline—etc.

In the West the stories concentrate more on the Band Of Brothers theme. Both are probably tens of thousands of years old. Band of Brothers, from Ulysses to Saving Private Ryan.

There are always exceptions but in general I am talking.

The Eastern tradition is in full flower on YouTube. So many young filmmakers or would-be filmmakers doing action shorts wherein fighters fling themselves at one another in the best Shinobi tradition and many of them have to do with the apprentice/master plot. Variations are endless. The apprentice who is talented, the one who appears to be a bumbler, the young man from a humble background, the apprentice who wants to use his skills for evil ends; a harsh master, a silent one; the variations are without number. There always seems to be the required scene of reverence for the Sensei, obedience to some strange requirement or task that turns out later to make sense.


In this Eastern aspect tradition is vital; the Shinobi Sensei has of course at one time been an apprentice himself, learning from a master, who learned from a master…going back centuries, perhaps millennia. Using the Band Of Brothers construction, the band of young warriors seem always to have sprung up w/o antecedents. The Band Of Brothers theme has a lot of energy to it.

In the Eastern take, deep respect for tradition. The Brothers in the Band, on the other hand, are irreverent and out to break rules. Much of the plot of the Young Apprentice revolves around a harsh master who seems to impose arbitrary and impossible tasks; young apprentice obediently takes them on, much hilarity ensues, finally triumphs.

The Shinobi Sensei also uses surprising methods to teach the young apprentice. Much depends on the Sensei’s ability to understand his students, to pay keen attention to their skills, failings, etc. In other words in the Eastern tradition a Good Parent we have, although often disguised as a martinet.

So in the Eastern tradition these tales have a two-part plot; apprenticeship, harsh master, then out into the world to involve oneself in revenge dramas or the destruction of thuggish persons etc. The Western tradition is far more individualistic. Both are interesting.








The would-be cowboys

scan0001 This is my grandmother’s first cousin, Stanley Speece. He and his brother Denver and my grandfather decided, when they were about 19, to leave Missouri and go out to Oklahoma and try to find work as cowboys for a while. But before they went, in case they didn’t get hired on, Denver and Stanley had pictures taken of themselves in cowboy gear so they could say at least they looked like cowboys. Apparently the three of them never stopped laughing and were terrible for practical jokes.

My grandmother was very close to her first cousins; her mother died and her aunts’ families raised them. When my grandfather was courting her, he got to know Denver and Stanley who were by all accounts Type A personalities (described as ‘monkeys’) and they cooked up this scheme to go to Oklahoma.

Denver’s picture (which I have here somewhere) is in exactly the same clothes. Evidently Stanley had his picture taken and then went back and gave all the gear to Denver who then had his picture taken. Same chaps, same white turtleneck, same pose, same rope. At any rate, they did go out to Oklahoma and got hired on and spent a year hustling cattle around and repairing windmills etc. etc. They had a great time. My grandfather told me about it and I wrote it all down. When he came back he and my grandmother got married. scan0006   This is my grandmother and her half-brother Alonzo King. Probably taken near New Lebanon Missouri about 1910. She was always this slim, this beautiful, even in her seventies.

Irony and other metallic subjects


Irony; it’s going over the edge and on its way down the falls but how will we live without it? David Foster Wallace, from A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never do Again: “so then how have irony, irreverence and rebellion come to be not liberating but enfeebling in the culture today’s avant-garde tries to write about? One clue’s to be found in the fact that irony is still around, bigger than ever after 30 long years as the dominate mode of hip expression. It is not a rhetorical mode that wears well…entertaining as it is, it serves an almost exclusively negative function. ..persistent irony is tiresome. It is unmeaty.”

(Me; And so on and so on but what to replace it with? We have no larger cultural context to help us avoid sticky sentimentality as the only alternative.)

DFW: “Who knows? Today’s most engaged young fiction does seem like some kind of line’s end’s end. I guess this means we all get to draw our own conclusions. Have to. Are you immensely pleased.”

That was 22 years ago. Still, at present, in order to keep the reader’s interest these constructions called “characters” do head-bangingly stupid things in order that they might involve themselves in desperate situations. I think there is some unknown program running on every author’s computer which if words like loyalty, courage, love or honor come up the entire manuscript is killed.

Thus, fiction continues to slide and people flock to Guardians Of The Galaxy, which is actually a fun film. Sardonic heroes but heroes, great dialogue, action. Fights. Evil crushed by rough men and raccoons standing ready in the night.

Movie quote; African Queen. German colonial official; But you can’t have come through those swamps!

Filthy ragged Katherine Hepburn; Nevertheless.