The Observer, Nov. 5 

Make no mistake, this is an observation and not a complaint. The Observer would never complain about the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, which is one of our very favorite things in our favorite state. We go every year.

What we observed with some concern last week is that many films seemed to be suffering from a malady that has afflicted other kinds of entertainment. The Observer can remember TV shows that were very well done at 30 minutes but suffered when stretched to an hour. The average Hollywood movie used to come in at not much more than 90 minutes. They're elongated now to the point that The Observer always checks on the length before we buy a ticket, having too often found aching to get up and leave but feeling that we dare not without seeing the ending, especially since we paid so much to get in. (The increasing cost of Hollywood movies is a story for another time.)

When we started going to the Hot Springs Festival years ago, a documentary more than an hour long was a marathon of a movie. Many of the best films ran no more than 20 or 30 minutes, some considerably less. This was particularly true of those that were intended to be funny. Brevity was and is the soul of wit.

But on one day at this year's festival, no movies were shorter than an hour, and one was an hour and 45 minutes. Most of the ones The Observer saw needed cutting.

More people are making documentaries, and some of them don't fully appreciate the value of good editing. There's probably more money available for documentaries, too. The earlier film makers never got their hands on enough of it to make a documentary nearly two hours long. 


The Observer doesn't have too many close friends, but one of them is Stuart “Sy” Hoahwah. Stuart is a poet, and a dang fine one. He's a card-toting Comanche — graduated from the University of Arkansas's creative writing program awhile back. He recently published a book called “Velroy and the Madischie Mafia” through West End Press in Albuquerque. When The Observer got his copy, we found that old Stu had dedicated one of the poems inside to us. Nobody ever did that for us before. Jaded as we are, it still dang near moved us to tears.


Plum Bayou Combinations

The bayou dries up at the edges

The place desires sunken cars and compromised love

The old clapboard mansion disappears

Tornadoes and UFOs are working together

Sounds of a chainsaw on the trail

Sounds of hunger in an angry man

Barbwire on the horizon

A red horse stands up, steps over like a human

I am still thinking about the ghost

It is still thinking about me

I watch white dogs of the dawn

A hand struggles at the water's surface


On Halloween night, The Observer and fambly was motoring home from our Auntie's house at around 1 a.m. Auntie lives way out in the sticks and in the fall and winter, she throws epic get-togethers, with a bonfire, and hot dogs to roast, and marshmallows to burn, and we hang out in the cold air until the wee hours of the morning, watching the sparks from the fire compete with the stars.

Driving home from one of those on Halloween, we spied, sitting at the red light at the corner of Markham and Scott, the ultimate proof that the trend toward Skank-o-ween costumes — those Halloween get-ups for adult females that reveal more skin than three hours on Bourbon Street — has jumped the shark.

Standing at the corner was a young lady of perhaps 22. It sure looked like she was in her panties to us. Up top, she had on what appeared to be a red and black bustier. Crowning her head was a set of ladybug antenna — the only thing that seemed to separate her outfit from a page out of Victoria's Secret. Did we mention that it was all of 45 degrees at the time? 

The Observer hates to sound like a prude, especially given that we enjoy the sight of a comely young lass in her skimpiest as much as anybody. But remember kids: While you're flaunting it in the freezing cold, it might be a good idea to bring a coat.



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