Shane – my thoughts

Shane – my thoughts

I just seen the film again and must reread the book. I am surprised at some of the positive reviews, as I consider the film disappointing, certainly so when compared to the book. At the centre of my hesitancy is two things, the portrayal of Shane by Alan Ladd and the acting competence of Brandon de Wilde who plays Joey, the family’s son and the protagonist of the book, if not the film. Much of my problem with Alan Ladd is physical, he’s too clean, and does not appear dangerous enough, and certainly not at first sight. (Has my expectations of the arriving stranger been set for ever by Eastwood/Leone’s “Fist full of Dollars”).

I feel that Shane’s past, his reputation, and his desire to leave it behind is also underplayed, partly because some of it is exposed in poorly acted, at least on one side, conversations with Joey. The sexual/romantic tension between Marion and Shane is also, in my view, underplayed, I feel because of its time, and what they could then show in the movies. Not that I need to see them shagging, which would be wrong as it is not part of the story; possibly, those commentators that say her attraction was to him and was resisted due to Shane’s sense of honour and love for Joe are right.

It all comes right in the end, the honourable stranger, kills the homesteader’s nemesis and their hired gun, moves on, and the nuclear family, we assume lives happily ever after and the town becomes a peaceful law-abiding community, foretold by Chris’s epiphany which is more clearly stated in the book where he becomes the Starret family’s hired hand. I think that this is more hopeful and closer to the author’s intent than alternatives explored in Barham’s recent review;  the story is told by Joey and I think the pessimistic outcomes suggested in that review, are not part of the story Schaeffer wrote.   

The imagery of Fistfull of Dollars seems appropriate, the motive of money in Fistful, if not Yojimbo is not; although the there’s the release of Marie Sol but the story is Kurosawa’s and comes from Japan. It’s not quite right, the themes of a man trying to leave a dark past behind him and build a better future, is better reflected in the Outlaw Josie Wales. I also rewatched Pale Rider, and am taken aback by the number of people who can’t see Shane in the story and revisit the mysticism of High Plains Drifter where the protagonist is either the most real ghost ever, or possessed by the spirit of the dead Marshall. On the other hand, Josey Wales is the story of a war tired warrior trying to create a family home and eventually leave his violence behind him. In this case, he survives the confrontation with the biased law chasing him, in Shane we are unclear, but Shane has to move on.

Perhaps it’s not possible to watch this post war film, released in 1953, with 21st century eyes, but I have always felt there’s something off about it. Alternatively, it’s another proof point for not watching a movie of a book you love.

Read the book!

I think I must have read the book first, as I agree with Roger Ebert, Alan Ladd is too clean, if not pretty and the buckskins are wrong (and again too clean). I also think Ladd lacks the aura of dangerousness. Ebert would seem to agree, and says

There are intriguing mysteries in “Shane,” puzzles and challenges, not least in the title character and the way he is played by Alan Ladd.

Over the last couple of years the decline of the Western and its part in the politics of the USA have come under review. An article from Marc Barham, places the film firmly in the category of a political diatribe, and the author ends the review with a highly critical view of the flawed coming of the American dream. Barham also places the homesteaders vs. ranchers in the context of the theft of land from native Americans; from his point of view, justice was on neither side. This is a view examined by the Cynical Historian on Youtube, in a piece called, When the Western Genre Perished, 1968-75 who also centres his focus on the making of the frontier and the genocidal conflict with native Americans. There are others. There are also those who disagree, see Eric Monkonnen’s review of “Gunfighter Nation” on which much of this critique is based, the book not the review.

Many westerns contained a cold war message, but some would argue that in Shane the need for lethal violence comes from another ideology. While it was an early example of this narrative, it is part of a desire to sanctify the individualism of justice in the USA while ignoring the oppression of native Americans who were the original custodians of the land. Possibly it’s the victory and need for skill in violence that the cleanliness and politeness undermine. There’s something deeper to be written about how a nation, coming from the ultra-legal response to the Boston massacre, the creation of a republican constitution of laws developed such an individualistic, and self-justifying, scofflaw, might is right, approach to law and order. We can see forces that would take advantage of this in the USA today, I wonder if they can restore the original ideas of equality (albeit then, only for some) before the law.

There’s no question to me that aspects of the book were amended for the film to make it suitable for a 1950’s audience. The [American] civil war slurs used to provoke one of the homesteaders into a gun fight have replaced the insult that the farmer had native American blood from the book, although I wonder why? The Searchers did not shrink from this racism. On re-watching I had wondered about that part of that scene. What were ex-Confederate fighters doing so far North in Wyoming, and in the film, Shane uses the same albeit reversed slurs. In the book, this is not what happens,

“What you want Wilson, and what you get are two different things you’re killing days are done. Wilson had it now. You could see him grasp the meaning. This quiet man was pushing him just as he had pushed Ernie Wright. As he measured Shane, it was not to his liking. Something that was not fear but a kind of wondering and baffled reluctance showed in his face. And then there is no escape, for that gentle voice was pegging him to the immediate and implacable moment. “I’m waiting, Wilson. Do I have to crowd you into slapping leather?”

Shane – Jack Schaeffer

Even in 2008, when in California, I found colleagues in the US company I was working for who had difficulty with a Brit using ‘Yank’ for American; the memories are still live it would seem and the film was made less than 100 years after the ACW.

One thing that Barham might have wanted to pick up, is that the location of the town in ‘Dollars is indeterminately in Mexico or the USA. If in the USA it will have recently been acquired from Mexico and the role of those tied to the land in Fistful is merely that of observers.

They argue that telling the story from Joey’s eyes is an important part of the story; as said I think Brandon de Wilde’s acting lets the film down. And while this review  gets the story, I am not sure it’s the one the film tells but this quote nails what it should have been,

Though Alan Ladd was never formally recognized for his performance, the innate sadness and complexity he brings to the title role is key to the film’s success. He subtly embodies the plight of a lonely man who cannot escape his past, however hard he tries.


On WOTCs permissive licences

On WOTCs permissive licences

Earlier this year, Wizards of the Coast, the owners of Dungeons & Dragons, bought D&D Beyond, the premiere and largest web store for the rules of D&D and they are now trialling a new version of the rules called One D&D; they are also planning to release a virtual table top solution and have a new movie in production. Also recently at a Hasbro earnings call, one of their executives stated that D&D was now a lifestyle brand and was under-monetised. This has created a sense of fear amongst 3rd party creators that WOTC will revise their intellectual property sharing agreements to the detriment of themselves and non-Dungeon Master players who have been identified as under spenders. Depending on where you look, this has created a lot of noise; I think there’s a lot of fear being generated, and it interests me to consider the issues in the context of the software industry practice. I think that software industry grew the open source models and the interaction by games vendors such as Wizards with software continues to inform good & bad practice, There's more overleaf ...

European food, will it go or will it stay?

European food, will it go or will it stay?

I mixed in some French mustard with my scrambled eggs this a.m. and strangely it reminded me of the first time I ate it, the mustard not the eggs; in France on my exchange. It reminds me of how much food in England has changed, via the influence of foreign holidays and EU imports. I can’t remember the first time I ate garlic (or garlic flavoured food) but it wasn’t served at school or at University and was hard to find in the green grocers. I mean probably in France, chez Mary. The rest of this post, brings back comments reviewing Back in Time for Dinner and reminisces about my first Kebab & Curry ...

Meyer’s Cultural Map

Meyer’s Cultural Map

I have just finished the Culture Map by Erin Meyer. It’s taken me longer to read than it should, but that’s not her fault. She argues, building on the work of, her predecessors, including Geerte Hofstede,  that there are eight dimensions of business communication, these are communicating, evaluating (feedback), leading, deciding, trusting, disagreeing, scheduling and persuading. She argues that cultures share positions on these dimensions as people’s comfort and natural style is based on their education systems and often deep seated cultural and historical factors. She argues that differences are relative i.e. you might be mediumly robust in offering direct feedback, but if you come across someone more so, you will find them rude, and need to recognise that if delivering such feed back to some one from a more robust culture, they may fail to understand. She uses charts to illustrate cultural differences across the dimensions and I reproduce one. I also offer an Anglo-Dutch phrase translator. I finish by wondering how useful this is for 121s. The blog article says much more, ...

Culture for all

Culture for all

Tracy Brabin, in her statement, “Culture for All” says,

When times are dark, culture and creativity provide a light. That’s why I’m proposing a vision of Culture for All to be at the heart of Labour’s forward journey.

She has great ideas on Football, the BBC, diverting the festival of Britain funding, access to the creative industries,and comments on nepotism, class bias and the impact of other informal networks, together with the impact of the growing gig economy relationships in the creative industries.

For instance on football, which she identifies as important community resources and hubs, she says, “We need to tackle the mostly undemocratic ownership and control of football clubs, and the way that sport is organised, so that fans and communities are properly engaged.”

While she recognises the stake holding interests of fans in sport, she doesn’t spend the words on talking about them in terms of acting, music nor film? Although she does say ” … Campaign to put more digital cultural content online. Just as the National Theatre has done in response to Covid-19, so too must we support our regional arts institutions in reaching new audiences.”, although this is also weak on the contribution of value by fans.

There is a good section on health and well being

On digital she says, amongst other demands, the UK needs, “a new properly resourced internet regulator to tackle online harms, abuse and misinformation” is needed and Labour should “Make the case for a Digital Bill of Rights so UK citizens have greater control over their own data”. She does not repeat the free broadband promise on which I comment positively here, and less positively here.

This is a thoughtful review of what we could do, it might be a shame she lost the shadow spokesperson position, but she remains Shadow Spokesperson (Minister) on Cultural Industries.


This does not repeat big media’s bollocks on the “Value Gap”, which is an unmeasured & unmeasurable concept aimed at appropriating the value created by fans and commentators and implementing a trickle-down approach for artists and performers. It appeared in one of the NPF reports.

Featured Image: cropped from Tracy’s twitter feed …

Moving to Mars

Moving to Mars

I went to this exhibition, amazingly there are projects in place that are thinking about this despite the horrendous difficulties this would entail. Getting there might not be the problem, but there is no oxygen and very limited water. It’d have to be taken with and recyled well. There are four exhibits that caught my eye.  A film from the Curiosity rover showing the Martian landscape, an exhibit/poster showing the world’s investment in space flight, in which the UK does not appear, an exhibit on what human houses might look like and an exhibit on a multi ten thousand year terraforming project using plants.

The Martian landscape is bleak and subject to, for humans, lethal dust storms. People and their homes would need to be protected from these, once the problems of oxygen and water, there is none, were solved.

Once the brexit transition period is complete, we’ll be out of the European Space Agency, so much for a high-tech, high wage economy. One of the exhibits on the geo-politics of space travel included a panel with Interkosmos suit patches from the Soviet Union, India, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cuba and others, a reminder that space travel does not belong to the USA.

They seem to be suggesting that people will live in kevlar tents, buried underground by robot builders. …

Free and fast broadband; it wasn’t to be.

Free and fast broadband; it wasn’t to be.

It’s time for me to consider the election results; I think in terms of ideas I am set back four years  but in this blog article I want to look at Labour’s manifesto for the Arts, callled a Charter for the Arts. One of the criticisms that being made of the campaign is that unlike 2017, the manifesto was not seen as signpost for better times. It was seen as a classic shopping list to bribe a winning coalition, and constructed without thought or knowledge of how to pay for it. The promises need to be bound into a single promise, and the details need to be the result of debate and consensus in the Party. Much, including the Arts manifesto seemed to be an after thought, an insight underlined by it’s late publication.

Policy for creative industries has not been debated at Conference in my memory, and the NPF reports have been weak although the 2017 manifesto played with ideas around the “value gap“; this document does not repeat this. Corbyn’s introduction is radical, as you would expect, establishing Art as the property of and the right of all.

The manifesto promises to defend and extend free access to museums and art galleries, invest in diversity in the arts, ensure lottery money is fairly distributed, that schools are invested in to support the arts, and possibly most radically, but equally unprepared, promised free broad band for all.

The decades old commitment to free access to museums and libraries, the productive macroeconomic arguments and the failure of the market to deliver nationwide fast broadband are all good reasons to make this promise but we allowed it to hang on the question, “Why free? We don’t do it for water!” and I don’t have an answer to that. (Although we do it for museums, galleries and libraries). …

You gotta laugh (or not!)

You gotta laugh (or not!)

I had reason to look at a YouTube compilation of what passed for comedy when I was growing up, in the Seventies. I was shocked at how poor it was; I actually saw very little of it. One reason for this was that we had only one TV in the house and my parents controlled the channel selector switch, there was no catch-up technology. Some of what we watched, and more importantly didn’t watch may have been based on their cultural aspirations; certainly we never had “The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club” on in our house, or in any house in the street; I grew up in, in Ruislip, not a hot house of working class or socialist culture. …