Cowboys and their Country

My mother inherited an obsession with westerns from her father, my Papaw Sam. He has never been a big talker, perhaps since he’s not a great listener on account of his bad hearing.  Most the time he nods or he smiles when you ask him a question like a child who knows you want something just not what.

But his ears perked up, his hearing miraculously improved, and his butt was poised on the edge of that Tahoe seat the entire three weeks that he, my grandmother, my aunt, my mother, and I road-tripped around west. We saw wild buffalo, rolling plains the extended pass Da Vinci’s vanishing point, and deserts the colored under a high sun like a child’s coloring box.

Since I’ve been home from college this past week, I’ve watched two westerns. Of course my mother participated in the watching, which made it all the more fun. The first was William Wyler’s BIG COUNTRY with Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, and Burl Ives. The opening scene starts in the threshold of a homestead. The camera moves out and the screen widens the take in the vast color and emptiness of the west, the Big Country. My mother sitting in the wingback chair next to me sighs, “It’s that pretty.” A similar shot opens THE SEARCHERS, a John Wayne classic based on the book I just finished by Alan Le May. I like the Duke in the 1969 TRUE GRIT, but I’d give him his Oscar for his portrayal of Ethan (Amos in the book) Edwards.

The west is truly beautiful, and as I contemplate where in the world I’d like to end up I can’t rule out west of the Mississippi. Seeing Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and the arches of Arizona made me appreciate the landscape and made me appreciate on a deeper level what the wide focus of those good ole American movies were trying to capture. As my aunt said repeatedly on our summer trip two years ago, somethings in life and in the movies are just unbelievable.

Eye of the (White) Tiger

A year ago I was in the beginning stages of filling out a Fulbright Scholarship application to teach English in India. Why India? Well, for the superficial reason that they didn’t require proficiency in another language. My more in-depth response is because I’ve always been fascinated with Indian culture. I didn’t get the scholarship probably because I struggled defending my interest in India while trying to prove my merger, undergraduate level qualifications. Eh—other opportunities are out there, and I’m more than thrilled with returning to TT Patton for another summer of teaching crazy kids creative writing.

Still, that interest in India is there. The country’s heritage of British Imperialism, of Gandhi, and of dance and Bollywood has always held my interest. One of my best friends, Insha, is a first generation Indian-American, and I remember spending afternoons at her house dressing up in saris with dozens of bracelets on each wrist, practicing cultural dances for KUNA and BETA talent shows, eating curry while we watched Indian Soap Opera and guessed at what they were saying, and drinking chia when we studied for exams. I got a taste for the Indian culture, and I love it for it’s similarities and for it’s vast differences.

Jhumpa Lahiri, Khaled Hosseini, and Salman Rushdie helped mature this idea of India. So, when I dove into the pages of Aravind Adiga’s “The White Tiger” as an example of Post-Modernism for my British Literature class—last literature class ever!—I brought a lot of background with me.

The narrator is cynical and very abusive to the socio-political culture of India. With Adiga, though, I was able to step away from the fact that he is an Indian writer, writing about India, and think of him just as a writer. His book then become less derogatory toward India and expands to critiquing a world that would allow such behavior to continue anywhere. And, though I know no exact examples, I’m sure situation present in “White Tiger” happen in America as well. Dr. McCaffrey, my creative writing professor, keeps telling me that a writer is more universal when they are specific. Listening to the bad reviews “White Tiger” received for its abuse of India, her words resonated.

What I like best was the narrator’s explanation of his education, eavesdropping mostly. Also the timethat he spent lingering at the market, picking up books and reading them until the stall owner shooed him away. At one stand he hassled the owner to explain poetry to him and the couplet, “I was looking for the key for years,/ But the door was always open” is introduced to the story. Balram, our narrator, repeats this over and over again to himself as he contemplates a way to escape his situation.

I apply this couplet to my own life—“I was looking for the key for years,/ But the door was always open.” How often do I sit back and whine and complain about my situation when the power to change it is already mine?

“I Gotta Get Back to Hogwarts”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 opens in theaters on July 15th, just 85 days away! In equal parts, I’m excited for this film and dreading this film. Every time Harry Potter has a big release, I turn up the dorkhood. Book releases, film openings—I’m there early, I’m there tirelessly smiling, and I’m there normally dressed a Harry Potter t-shirt. I guess I’d more of a hardcore dork if I dressed up like a character or at least painted a lighting scar on my forehead . . . I might pull out all the stops in July. Stay tuned for that! But a part of me sad that this will be my last Harry Potter opening. I’m not ready for it to be over.

With graduation so close I can taste it, I feel the need to conjure up my own patronus. As my high school career ended and shifted into college mode, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” was there in 784 pages of childhood comfort. Now that I’m free falling into adulthood—I DON’T WANNA GROW UP—the last installment of the film series is being released. The only thing that will be left for me after that is Harry Potter World at Universal Studios.

And you know, a lot of people don’t get the Harry Potter buzz. It’s nothing like the Twilight hype, and if you would like to point out any ridiculous similarities, I’ll punch you in the nose. My mother, for one, doesn’t quite understand why her 22-year-old daughter turns into a heap of excited giggles when Harry Potter comes up. Last night, as I hugged Baby Mac to my chest watching “A Very Potter Musical,” she wouldn’t have understood.

I guess I’m behind the times—“A Very Potter Musical” is old Youtube news—but it still managed to defeat the evils that are Crusade primary sources and the woes of reading one more page of Virginia Woolf.  These real world evils must be revisited, probably with a cup of coffee later tonight, but for an evening I revisited Hogwarts and my favorite literary characters, and I got super excited for the last movie! It. Will. Be. Epic.

I stumbled upon “A Very Potter Musical” in an Entertainment Weekly interview with Glee’s Darren Criss. He wrote the music for the musical before he landed his role on Glee as the heartthrob Blain. Below is an excellentnontraditional performance of the “Very Potter Musical” opening number.

On a side note, two non traditional movies have made my list this week. “A Very Potter Musical,”which I think it’s worth of seeing, and the Lifetime movie “William and Kate.” Next week is the Royal Wedding. So excited for that, too! Today I’m going to try to fit in Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” to make penance of these seemingly sacrilegious movies. “Oh, my Rowling!”