Beth Daniels

I love space stuff - not enough to take physics or anything, but enough to really wish I had the cash to chase solar eclipses around the world. Why? Because I was in grade school during the best years of NASA's Apollo Program and some of my fondest memories are of our little family huddled around the TV to watch the launches and splashdowns of Apollos 14 to 17.
When I heard that Gore Vidal died July 31 at the age of 86, my first thoughts were of my sister, Jennifer. She discovered him when we were teenagers during the Carter Administration and fell in love with his novels hard. Her devotion to his work was nearly Twihard in scope, except Vidal's books were about real live (now permanently dead) people, had believable character development and sustainable plot lines. I was 13 or 14 and only reading "serious" stuff, like Chariots of the Gods, but my sister convinced me to read Burr. It changed my relationship to fiction completely.
"There are worse things than Apaches," says Dallas, a fallen woman, looking out at the row of tight-lipped, righteous ladies who are running her out of town. It's the kind of line and scene that makes me wish modern blockbusters gave women more to do. I just finished watching John Ford's Stagecoach (1939), a gorgeously-shot film rife with cringe-inducing racial and regional stereotypes that somehow managed to portray the women in it (well, white women) as complicated people. It's the story of a bunch of passengers - a banker, a lady, a tramp, a Southern gentleman, a whiskey salesman, and a drunk (guess who he sits next to) - traveling in a stagecoach through hostile Indian territory. They are joined by an outlaw, the  Ringo Kid, thereby completing the cross-section of society necessary for the film to make all its points about the essential goodness of people, class and station notwithstanding.
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