The Vanishing American (1925) movie review

The Vanishing American is a silent film from 1925 that explores the tragic plight of Native Americans trapped by history and fate, and who ultimately become crushed into non-existence by the grinding wheels of racism and modernity. The source material is the novel by the same name written by Zane Grey. The film was good enough I am thinking of maybe running down the novel and giving it a read.

For a film of its time The Vanishing American is uncompromising on all fronts. It pulls no punches whatsoever. If you can look past the fact the main character of Nophaie is played by the white Richard Dix (a not uncommon occurrence, sadly, even today) the film and the story are strong enough to make a real impact.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but the film looks at the Native American down through history up through WWI. We see how Nophaie and his people are abused by government and institutional racism. But the film makes a stand here, too. It does not portray the Native Americans as “strong, silent and noble savages” which itself is diluted racism. No, it shows them as human beings who are oppressed by more human beings. The film doesn’t preach, though to be sure there is a message here — and a strong one.

For me the power of this film, like I said, comes from the harsh light that shines on the institutional racism. At one point an Army sergeant watches Nophaie and his people march off to take part in a war that has gripped the world. He says they are “pitiful and magnificent” for going off to fight a “white man’s war.” Nophaie hopes by taking part in fighting for a country that has usurped his own culture, he will gain political and social favor and win a white woman’s love. When he returns, he must face the ugly truth. Meanwhile, the white woman he has fallen in love with has waited patiently for his return. She loves him in return.  But, since this is a film from 1925 there is no completion of their love. Nophaie dies in a tragic accident during a clash between his people and the Indian agents of the reservation.

The Vanishing American is not a perfect film about racism. Nor is it meant to be. But the voice it lends and the dignity it gives to the story and the human hearts involved in this story cannot be denied. I definitely recommend this film, especially for western writers and people who love a good human story. Its pretty strong, and worth the time.

Haxan Merchandise for Sale! (Blood, Dust, Wind….)

A while ago I set up an account with CafePress and now have Haxan gear for anyone who might want mugs, tote bags, throw pillows, clocks or shirts. All kinds of cool stuff! But with the recent sale of the novel to CZP I thought some of you might be interested in seeing the link again, and what is available, so here it is.

As usual I’ve kept the price as low as possible. Not interested in making money, just having Haxan Gear out there for western fans (and Haxan fans) who have asked about it, or might be interested in seeing what it looks like. I ordered a coffee mug a while back to make sure they look okay, and I have to admit they are great and I still use it.   :)

So if you’re interested just click on the mug below and you can see all the Haxan Gear that is currently available. Hope you like it! :)

Gumbo!

Nom nom nom. Gumbo! With file powder and Tony Chachere’s!

Gumbo!

Sunset and Moonrise in Caprock Canyon (Bridge of stars between)

The first thing that hits you when you are in the wilderness is the invading silence. It’s oppressive. It seeps into you and invades your core and fills it like spring water welling through a crack in the ground.The silence is everywhere. It lifts you up and carries you throughout the day and night.

The only thing you have to break the crystalline silence is your own thoughts. And sometimes they are not strong enough to overwhelm the emptiness of the desert and the world you have found yourself thrust in.

We are so used to our mechanistic world and our senses assaulted everyday by electronic demands. It is ordinary. We tune out this cacophony until the bleeps and whistles and buzzers that impinge upon our lives must become louder and more insistent with each passing decade. As we lose touch with nature we lose touch with ourselves and all our past and what remains of our future.

Thus the restorative act of camping. This resurrection of our innate humanness, our lost ability to meld ourselves with the natural world becomes found again when we go camping. And it’s not just camping. Watch someone as they sit next to a water fountain in a mall or at a park and they let the sound of water fill their minds. They don’t force that to happen. It happens naturally. It’s who we are. It’s what we lose when we give up so much of ourselves to the grinding demands of modernity.

I had already been in Caprock Canyon for a day or two when I walked out from the campsite about half a mile, found a spot on the canyon rim, and sat down to watch the sun sink below the rim of the earth. I watched darkness rise up from the canyon floor and pale fire light the bottoms of the clouds like reefs of blood. Wind in my ears. Rustle of mesquite. The soft sift of sand being carried along the desert floor by a dying wind. Birdsong dies out and the song of the stars begin their distant and mysterious electric fires overhead.


As the sun set and the night darkened I turned around and rising in the west was a full moon. The cold fire light illuminated the tops of trees, their naked limbs, the smokey shape of deer moving through the dense brush, and my pale arm draped across one bare knee. I was in the presence of something, some moment of poetic power and beauty, and it felt fundamental and atavistic. It both recharged something inside me and reawakened something. Formed new connections, I guess you could say.

Once this was over I went back to my tent and stood under the stars that bridged the full moon with the horizon. I drank some water, sat down in a chair, and let the world close down around me while I strummed arpeggios on my guitar.

As the full moon rose the coyotes gave voice with that terrible cry of loneliness only man hears.  Night was full. Moon high. Desert awakened again with a new rhythm. The guitar lay quiet in my hands. I was tired and I was worn out. And I was happy.

The Ballet Giselle — Inspiration for “At the Center of the World”

It was this clip from the ballet Giselle (ostensibly about a dead woman dancing with her lover) that was the inspiration for my hard science fiction story “At the Center of the World” which was published by New Myths Magazine in their #16 issue. As you might expect, one of the main characters in my story is also named Giselle.

The end of the clip where she walks across the stage after him en pointe is haunting to me. I wanted to capture that same haunting grace and delicate power in the story, and a few readers have intimated they think I did.

I did a lot of research for that story and found the entire ballet world fascinating. All I knew about it before then was The Nutcracker and the paintings of Degas and his petite rats.  As I did more research I became deeply interested in the physical requirements and mental preparation that goes into these performances. As a writer interested in the human condition, I found that world fascinating. Suddenly there was huge story potential. Just researching the structural engineering and integrity of the shoes themselves was eye-opening on so many levels.

Here’s the clip from YouTube that inspired the story:

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