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The Culture Scene (c136)

New West Daily Roundup for Mar. 20, 2017

Today in New West news: Rocky Mountain Land Library, Denver-based SquareTwo Financial Services declares bankruptcy, and Montana State University Youth Writing Camp registration open.

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New West Daily Roundup for Jan. 13, 2016

big sky documentary film festival, missoula, wilma theater

Today in New West news: Big Sky Documentary Film Festival unveils this year’s lineup, Frontier Airlines to add three nonstop flights from Denver International Airport, and Yellowstone National Park has busiest year on record.

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Power to the powwow moms

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Homo for the Holidays

The sacred imagination is an ancient thing. An archaeologist in Botswana recently uncovered evidence that seventy thousand years ago, the Sanpeople worshipped a snake god. The archaeologist, Professor Sheila Coulson from the University of Oslo, found a stone, six meters long by two meters tall, in the shape of a python in a cave in the Tsodilo Hills. Buried in a pit beneath the snake’s mouth were more than 13,000 artifacts, mostly red spearheads that had been trekked to the site from hundreds of miles away and burned in some kind of ritual. On these ritual occasions, did Mr. and Mrs. Snakeworshipper expect their daughter Patience and her girlfriend Sarah to pretend that they only shared a hut back in Pythonburg to save on wattle and daub? Probably not. Homophobia is a comparatively recent phenomenon. We know that in the animal kingdom, mammals, birds, fish and reptiles often engage in same-sex relations. Ten percent of rams have no interest in mating with ewes. They prefer to consort with their fellow rams. Male penguin couples have raised borrowed eggs; same-sex swan couples have mated for life. So much for the homosexuality is against nature and the barnyard argument. Birds do it. Bees do it. Sheep, dolphins, and giraffes do it. Why are human beings expected to pretend that we don’t?

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Why I Live in Moscow, Idaho

The title of my first novel is Idaho Code: Where Family Therapy Comes With a Shovel and an Alibi. I began my talk in Amsterdam by asking if anyone in the audience had ever been to Idaho. No hands were raised. I then asked if anyone knew where Idaho was. A few hands -- there were a couple of transplanted New Yorkers in the crowd. I decided that before I read from my book and its sequel, From Hell to Breakfast, I'd try to give a brief description of my adopted home state. I said that it took about twelve hours to drive from the Canadian border in the north to Idaho Falls in the south, and that was if you didn't mind getting a speeding ticket. I pointed out that our state population only recently topped the one million mark. I said that Idaho was a libertarian place; that although it was technically Republican Red, it was wild and open and free. Finally, I told them about a fellow I knew whose grandmother had been eaten by a grizzly bear. That's when they began laughing. They laughed harder when I explained that when I'd expressed my condolences, the man had said, "No, it's okay. That's the way she'd have wanted to go." And that, I believe, captures the true spirit of this state. What are we like? This is what we're like. We're odd and strange and funny and tough. We are real live cowboys.

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Once I Had a Not-So-Secret Love

Fall is upon us. The weather has turned chilly, the days are getting short, and everywhere, Idaho lesbians are defying national stereotypes and loading up to shoot Bambi. And Feline. And Bambi’s father, his mother, his grandparents -- the whole extended Bambi family. Some of us are hoping to shoot Uncle Buck. We have tacky dreams of tacky antler chandeliers and tacky horned hat racks. We are the lesbian hunters of Great White North. Look out, Doug and Bob MacKenzie.

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Darkest Idaho’s Pitiful Hemingway Cult

By Dean Miller Executive Editor Idaho Falls Post-Register Scholars and Hemingway fans are gathered in Sun Valley last weekend to perpetuate the myth that Ernest Hemingway was an Idaho Writer. Hemingway didn’t write about Idaho or Idahoans. Idaho didn’t shape Hemingway’s writing in any substantial way. But Idaho tourism pimps and some scholars have learned that Macho Papa makes for a good brochure and rescues Idaho Literature from obscurity. They have all-but worn the serifs off Hemingway’s 11 words about Idaho. Papa was a celebrity adorning Sun Valley in the 1930s when the resort was new and seeking publicity. News cameras followed Hemingway there the way they now follow Paris Hilton to nightclubs.

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I’ll Never Be Mrs. Idaho America

A few days ago, I received an invitation from Amanda Feely (call her Mandi!) to enter the Mrs. Idaho America beauty pageant. The rules are simple: fill out and sign the application form, send them a photograph and fifty bucks, and find myself a couple of suckers . . . I mean sponsors. Then, I might, just might, qualify as an entrant. What's the hold up? Well first, although I've been happily married for 14 years, I am not legally married. Under current Idaho law, same-sex couples cannot wed. Second, entrants are required to have been born female. As far as I know, I was born female, but without a genetic test, who can say? Not you, not me, and not the damned fools running this beauty contest.

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The American West, Reexamined

History Now, the online quarterly journal supported by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, has devoted its latest issue to a reexamination of the American West, and it's a trove not just for Western history buffs but for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the forces shaping the Rocky Mountain region today. Anchored by essays by renowned historians of the West, the Web magazine features a wonderful collection of 19th- and early 20th-century photographs, from Teddy Roosevelt on horseback before the second mission at San Antonio to an Ansel Adams-like view of Fort Ellis, deep in the Montana Territory. Comprising more than 200 images, the collection includes views of famous places -- Yellowstone, Pike’s Peak, Yosemite, Promontory Point -- as well as some priceless, candid snapshots of everyday life on the frontier. "Born Modern: An Overview of the West," the lead essay by Richard White, an American-history professor at Stanford University, explodes the central myth of the West: that it was shaped by rugged and lonely men engaged in heroic struggle with the environment (and not-so-heroic with the native people).

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Mental Illness in a Mason Jar

My mother-in-law, Rose, hasn's slept for three weeks. She's been up all night testing recipes for the Latah County Fair. She wants to win the Master Baker ribbon. Our house reeks of burned cookies, crumbled cakes, and failed experiments in pie crusts and fillings. Our flock of chickens are happy; they'll eat anything. Me? I'm trying to think of ways to have her involuntarily committed, at least until the fair is over.

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