Dances with cattle -- 02/07/04

We watched the DVD of Kevin Costner's cowboy epic Open Range last night. Interesting film, in its own long, slow way.

It's somewhere just short of two and a half hours long... beautiful scenery -- filmed in Alberta, where Costner could still do 360° panorama shots without encountering highways or powerlines -- and the film begins with lovingly depicted scenes of cowboys herding cattle along gorgeous miles of rolling grasslands, coping with the challenges of a sudden thunderstorm that scatters their cattle and horses, leaving them with the task of first rounding up their horses and then their cattle and digging their wagon out of the mud. Then we get entangled in the plot of the movie, based on Lauran Paine's novel The Open Range Men, about the conflicts between the "free grazers" of the open range and the settled ranchers who fence off the open range -- and which will bring to mind the plot of about a gazillion double-feature westerns of half a century ago with the villainous grasping robber baron rancher and his gang of thugs and gunmen, the corrupt town marshal who is in the pay of the bad guy, the meek and downtrodden townspeople, the pretty school marm... oops, Annette Bening is not the school marm, she's the sister (and assistant) of the the town doctor. (Robert Duval is the crusty and colorful old trailboss.)

It's easy to make fun of this movie, but actually we did enjoy watching it. The plot may be generic cowboy movie, but Costner treats it with the devotion that might go toward filming a Shakespeare script. The film is intended as an homage to a vanished era, to the days of the open range, to the cowboys and the settlers. The first half of the movie is so filled with nature and cattle and glorious scenery that the sudden brief bits of violence almost seem to evaporate away. The climactic big shoot-out is startling in contrast with its slow buildup. Loud, violent, intense. But the movie continues on, filling in the aftermath almost as completely as did the concluding Lord of the Rings movie. It's tempting to compare this with any one of Clint Eastwood's westerns -- and to speculate as to how Eastwood might have played the Costner role and how he might have directed it (Costner directed as well as stared in this film). To sum it up, too long and too slow, but interesting nevertheless.

Costner seems to have an affinity for westerns (although I think this was his first one since Dances with Wolves)... westerns and baseball movies...

That was the good part of Friday.

Got up around six in the morning -- the forecasted snow began around seven. Jill's car was not in the driveway. She had gone to a concert at some club Thursday night with Lia -- had driven up to Warwick to meet Lia and then they went to Boston. Had she been too tired (or whatever) to drive home? But Jill always calls in situations like that. Call her cell phone. Where are you? In bed in her room. She'd been too tired to drive home so had left her car in a Starbuck's parking lot in Warwick and Lia had brought her home. I told her to go back to sleep, I'd wake her up in another hour or so and I'd give her a ride to campus and we could retrieve her car later. I'd decided to work from home anyway because of the weather.

Woke Jill up for class. She doesn't feel well, she feels much too sick to go to school. Okay, so I wake Jeremy up... c'mon, take a ride with me up to Warwick so we can get your sister's car. (Jeremy has no Friday classes -- I had a schedule like that one semester, 'twas wonderful.) Snowing heavily. Three inches or so of very wet, heavy snow on the ground. Main roads are wet and slushy. About a twenty mile drive. Find Jill's Honda, clean off the snow. Jeremy takes my car and I drive Jill's. I need a decent reference book about Adobe FrameMaker and there's a large Barnes & Noble bookstore near the Starbuck's -- one of those supermarket sized places that will be sure to have the kind of book I want -- but, much to my surprise, they are closed, I mean closed as in lights out, building vacant, signs down -- so I continue on home. (Later, I found out that they didn't go out of business, they had moved to the other side of the highway -- well, I pulled in from the rear access road and did not look on the other side of the highway and they had no "we've moved" signs up. So I've just ordered a book from Amazon, except now I will have to wait for it to be shipped.) I wanted to talk with Jeremy so I called his cell phone -- which immediately began to ring in my car -- he'd left it behind when he took Jill's car.

When I got home, Jill told me she was very sick, had been throwing up, and she thought she should see a doctor. So I drove her to our doctor's office -- a very busy place (two doctors, a physician's assistant and one or two nurse practitioners) -- and she had to wait in the waiting room for more than an hour and then another stretch of time in an examining room before someone could finally see her. Finally, a very lovely and friendly nurse practitioner, someone Jill has seen before (for her sinuses) -- diagnosed as one of those 24 hour stomach bugs -- "there's a lot of that going around" -- prescribed some medication to stop the vomiting, etc., cautioned about dehydration and told to go to ER for an IV if the medication doesn't work in a timely fashion. By the time I get her home, go to the pharmacy to pick up her medicine, get back home, shovel the heavy wet slush out of the driveway (snow had changed over to sleet and then to rain -- but, fortunately, it was not freezing rain) I was exhausted and hungry and a good chunk of the afternoon was gone. A quick hot shower (shoveling slush in the rain had gotten me soaked and even though it was above freezing, it wasn't that much above freezing) and I was able to get back to work. (Of course, I ended up a bit short for the day and I'm probably going to be working later today to make up for it.)

So a few minutes ago I'm putting together an order on Amazon.com (so I can get a copy of FrameMaker 6: Beyond the Basics, along with a copy of the new Neal Stephenson novel and one of John Scalzi's books -- since Santa Claus hadn't selected either of those from my wish list -- and, what the heck, it might be useful, a copy of How to do Everything with Adobe Acrobat 5.0) and I asked Nancy if she had anything for me to add and she said her reading group was going to be doing The Last Temptation of Christ in April. Cool. Nikos Kazantzakis. I read that book many many many years ago and loved it. I must still have a copy somewhere.... somewhere in the basement with countless other books... I just took a quick look and didn't see it. One of these days I've got to get those books organized.... yeah, right, alphabetical by author... uh huh, sure, that'll happen.

(By the way, Jill is feeling much better today.)

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