Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.

- Philip K. Dick, I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon

Not New England

A lot of people think of New Mexico, especially southern New Mexico, as all arid. But our landscape is vertical; ecologically and biologically, we can go from the Mexican border to Canada, from Hepatic tanagers through Red faced warblers to Steller's jays and Hermit thrushes to Clark's nutcrackers, in a four- mile stretch.

I need a little help these  days to get into the high country. But yesterday Magdalena's resident poet and fellow outdoorsman Bruce Holsapple and I went to the San Mateos and drove the ridge from Grassy Lookout in the south, where Betsy and I once worked as fire lookouts, to Whittington Lookout in the north, a journey of about eight miles over 9000 feet and often  over ten. Not only did it look like northern New England; it smelled like it. Heavy cloud cover kept birds and game animals invisible and vistas short, but the Aspens were glorious. And it is always good to talk with someone who enjoys both mountain lions and William Carlos Williams. The only thing missing was Ruffed grouse...


Monday, October 20, 2014


I love single malts. Not everybody does.

"Washington and Moscow"

In 1983,  artist and evolutionary biologist John Mcloughlin was so sure of feathered Dinos that, in his novel The Helix and the Sword,  he gave the role of  the pets and executioners of his  post -Apocalyptic  Asteroid Belt civilization's cruel "Regent" to a pair of eagle- like, genetically re- created Deinonychids, with feathers like Golden eagles, and named them after the legendary destroyers of planetary civilization: Washington and Moscow.

It has taken more than thirty years for an artist to produce a version of this wonderful... I almost put "beast", but that is a mammal word-- creature; bird; whatever,  worthy of his vivid  and prescient re- creation. Here it is, with a quote from the hermit of Talpa.
"Man- high, smooth- coated in short blackly irridescent feathers, red of eye and each wearing a diamond- studded Regency orange collar, Washington and Moscow were delivered to Lothar IVM the Sisterhood. Thenceforth, they accompanied  Lothar IV everywhere he went, standing outside his chambers when he slept, beside him when he ate. They were his trademarks, and his joys, and the agents of his Regental wrath as well..."

Snaphance Locks

The first, made by a Mongolian blacksmith,  is younger than I am. No date on the ornate Italian one, from a Twitter photo recycled by David Zincavage. But remember, the invention of the flintlock , in this form, dates back to almost 1600,  and Cherkassov who published the drawing, called them "Primitive" in 1865...

Visual Free Association

David Zincavage sent me this striking image of a Kazakh girl and eagle. The rather formal gold- braided pattern on her coat is common among all the Turkic peoples of Central Asia, from Uzbekistan through Kyrgizstan to the (Kazakh) western "Aimag" of Mongolia. Jack and Niki wore Uzbek versions for their wedding in Santa Fe.

Update: The first photo is from Blog friend and Central Asian scholar and Blogger Dennis Keen; more in comments below.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Quotes and a thought

Bear with me...

Henry James appears, in this quote from this article , to be on the "Art", not the "Theory" side:

"We must grant the artist his subject, his idea, what the French call his donnĂ©e; our criticism is applied only to what he makes of it. Naturally I do not mean that we are bound to like it or find it interesting: in case we do not our course is perfectly simple—to let it alone. We may believe that of a certain idea even the most sincere novelist can make nothing at all, and the event may perfectly justify our belief; but the failure will have been a failure to execute, and it is in the execution that the fatal weakness is recorded."

Well said; Nabokov couldn't have said it better. It is a writer's article, whether or not you like James, one of the better recent critical ones in the NYorker. My fellow cultured barbarians should remember that James loved Kipling, and Hemingway, who read everything, loved with whatever reservations Henry James.

On the other other hand, I am reminded of a sort of koan by Bron Fullington back in the Seventies: "American culture is a duel between the two sets of James brothers..."

"Keep on ridin' ridin' ridin'..." (Warren Zevon, who also read everything)

Excavations at the Lost City of DeMille

Long ago, I put up a couple of posts about a unique archaeological site on the California Central Coast: the movie set for Cecil B. DeMille's 1923 The Ten Commandments buried in the Guadalupe Dunes (has it really been eight years?).

I just ran across this article in the LA Times that tells how archaeologists have recently uncovered one of the sphinxes at the Lost City of DeMille.

The wilderness next door

Back in the 1970's Thomas McGuane was giving an interview and was asked why he lived where he lived, in Montana and (then) Key West. One of his reasons was proximity to wilderness and big predators-- "megafauna" to use today's popular term. He cited grizzlies in Montana and a less obvious choice-- great sharks in the Gulf Stream.

I have always remembered this. You may live in a big city or on the deeply tame coast of Massachusetts, but if you are on the edge of the sea you are still in proximity to the ever- wild.

My musing prompted by this photo of herself my sister Karen Graham, who lives on that coast, just sent.
When I mentioned I occasionally envied her coastal access, she told me that a couple of weeks before, a great white shark had bitten a kayak in half near there, though the kayaker escaped unharmed. "We just stay in a group now, and keep our eyes open!"  THAT is a good attitude.

Update: Lucas Machias checks the news-- OK, not bitten in half (my not K's interpretation), just bitten hard enough to launch the kayaker out of the canoe. Scary enough!)

Friday, October 17, 2014


From Lauren McGough: a rather sweet photo of the late Christopher Hitchens that doesn't fit any stereotypes, just because:


I ma hoping you are all reading Malcolm Brooks's Painted Horses, at least as much for your pleasure as because he is a friend who deserves it-- for why would I be saying such good things about a bad writer? (There is a Russ Chatham story about beautiful women who are not quite as bright and talented as they think, and I have no intention of navigating THOSE waters late on Friday night!)

Meanwhile Malcolm has been busy. Here is his NYT "Opinionator" piece, about Glacier, his kids, and change,  albeit truncated and with some of the most inappropriate and uninformed comments you could (not?) imagine. I may publish it uncut later.

And his review of the Book of books, which makes me blush, here (which he had a hard time placing, because nobody knew what genre to assign my book to).

reading in Denver


Something sent by Teddy Moritz, who read it in a book called Defending Jacob, though the quote itself is from the 1921 textbook A General Theory of Human Violence. Despite its seriousness and truth there is just a bit of an air of Wodehouse in the language...

"Let us be practical in our expectations of the Criminal Law....(For) we have merely to imagine, by some trick of time travel, meeting our earliest hominid ancestor, Adam, a proto-man, short of stature, luxuriantly furred, newly bipedal, foraging about on the African savannah three million or so years ago. Now, let us agree that we may pronounce whatever  laws we like for this clever little creature, still it would be unwise to pet him."

A Familiar Place...

The road runs straight south from the ancient city of Sanliurfa in Turkey (actually "Urfa"-- the title is a post- Ataturk designation) to a border, or, in our fraught times, perhaps, a BORDER, like our southern one.

 The land is almost flat, dry, but productive since the dam on the Euphrates, which drowned may old villages, allowed irrigated winter wheat to be grown. The drowned villages have been rebuilt. The people of the countryside are Kurds rather than Anatolians, with a leavening of Arabs near the border.

They are contentious, argumentative, overwhelmingly hospitable (one thing they do is continually roll you cigarettes; once I had one behind each ear I HAD to smoke, but sweet Turkish tobacco is not that bad). They drink endless coffee and not very hidden "raki", the anise- flavored local vodka. One reason they do not have all that much visible alcohol is not Islamic; booze in Turkey is a state project, which means the Kurds would have to  buy it from a government they do not love, but I ordered and drank it every night in our hotel.

That road runs into Syria about thirty miles south of the city. On the other side... well, go west 40 more miles or so, turn left, and you can watch the seige of Kobani.

The people in Urfa fly pigeons; Turkey is the most pigeon- fancying nation in the world. Urfa is the only city I have stayed in that has large art- photo portraits of pigeons, signed by the photographer, in the lobby of its most prestigious luxury hotel. This one is a Reehani dewlap, with the inked label saying "Urfa Guvercin"-- simply "Urfa Pigeon".

In the countryside, people hunt, with gun and tazi and hawk.

They have flock guardian dogs too, though it is best to get back in the car if they get too close. This one was already starting towards me.
It can be a lot like here. I have often teased people with this next one, asking what part of New Mexico it was taken in. Most think maybe Taos though some go for Rio Arriba county.
There will be more. Strange how knowing a place just a bit makes your perspective so vivid...

Roman a Clef?

Two characters from John Moore's Looking for Lynne reading about themselves:

The New York Carriage Horses

Jon Katz is doing such a serious, informed, and fundamental service in documenting what may turn out to be the landmark Animal Rights case of our time* that anyone who breeds, trains, or otherwise is involved with all our ancient ways and "memes" of human- animal interaction should subscribe to Bedlam Farm Journal and get it in their box every morning (and there is a lot of beauty, humor, and poignancy as well, not just his continuing defense of the horses and their owners-- Jon's animals, his recovery from open- heart surgery, his photos, and more).

My own battles so far were helping the California coursers, and I think my best column helped (though meanwhile we lost an important fight in Albuquerque, our own back yard, on breeding dogs). Those interested in the coursing column, which I think contains enough material of more than local interest that I plan to recycle it in my dog book, can find it here.

But the most important public battle over us and our animals is going on now. One group of people has the whole of history, of human and domestic animal evolution, training, learning, adaptation, work, and even love on its side (though like many "animal people" or country folk they may not be able to articulate it like members of the chattering classes). The other side consists of a Marxist, uninformed, callous mayor (and I feel bad about insulting Marxists here-- photos of Trotsky and his dogs suggest that even Marxists usually know more about dogs than DiBlasio-- all right, he is Italian too, and I hang my head in shame); a billionaire real estate developer; and, because Manhattan is just MORE than other places, some of the most unhinged, hysterical, fanatical, and near- violent Animal Rightsers in the United States. They have lied outright; DiBlasio sounds positively Aspergian every time he opens his mouth (he told a child of one of the carriage drivers that his father was "immoral"). They seem to think that killing the horses would be better for them than letting them work; the mayor seems to think that a godawfully expensive electric vehicle would be a more "environmental" solution; can you see tourists, maybe a couple coming to the city for their honeymoon, stepping into a romantic scaled- up golfcart to drive through central Park?! As  somebody said (who? -- and Magdalenians please refrain from saying "Tom Kelly"!), only an educated fool could possibly believe something like that.

Against that, we have the thoughtful essays of Jon Katz, who has written a couple of them every week on the subject, full of old- style wisdom and kindness. Read him if you care about the Old Ways, as I suspect most of the readers here do. Here are a couple of thoughts from October 11 "What are People For?":

"In New York City, hundreds of people live in fear and uncertainty as the future of the carriage trade is suddenly in doubt because a millionaire real estate developer decided it is abuse for horses to work.The carriage drivers have been the victims of almost continuous and slanderous assault and cruel condemnation and abuse for years while the mayor who seeks to end their work and way of life refuses to even speak to them in the name of being humane to animals...

"Countless animals suffer every week in America as the movement that calls itself a protector of animal rights claims  that people are not fit to live with animals, care for them, or deserving of help in keeping them. Everywhere – in farmer's markets, on pony rides, in carriage horses, circuses, movie sets, agricultural schools, small farms, private homes – it is becoming too complex, controversial, expensive or complicated to own and keep and work with an animal, especially those that are not pets. Animals are disappearing everywhere, just as the carriage horses will disappear if they are banned from New York City...

"Is there dignity and compassion in losing one's livelihood, in being publicly and cruelly dehumanized. Is our goal to remove animals from the lives and consciousness of human beings?  The horses are awakening us to understand that there is much work to be done, those of us who love animals have abandoned them to the awful fate of having their fates decided by people who hate people. When we dehumanize people, we dehumanize ourselves, when we dehumanize ourselves, we cannot possible build a world that is humane to animals. Compassion is not selective, we don't get to choose who deserves it, we either offer it or we do not...

"Animals can only thrive in partnership with people, without animals people are broken and disconnected from their lives, their past and the world. We cannot be compassionate for animals as we become increasingly cruel to people.

"If you want to be happy," says the Dalai Lama, "practice compassion." Do we really wish for the unhappiest people in our world to decide the fate of animals?"

Quick Links

Cornell is besieged by hordes of pest deer and tries "non- lethal" management; the result is surprising in more than one way. (From Reid)

The most interesting PD development in a long time, though fruit flies are a long way from humans. (Though more genes are shared throughout the animal kingdom than you might think).

Giant extinct kangaroos on tiptoes.

A historic photo of a jackrabbit drive in Idaho.  Patrick Burns explains. Would you believe I can still hardly find one despite this year's returning (if out of synch) rains?

Real time break! EVERYTHING is a little odd because of disturbed weather. I live on a dirt road, but I am only one block from the center of town, and in twenty odd years I have never seen the birds in the following photos closer than the edges. I heard birds calling, thought it was a wandering fall flock of what we call "pinoneros" (Pinyon Jays) and went out my front door to surprise this little covey of Gambel's quail walking nervously down the middle of the street!
They immediately ran for Chavez's driveway, but I snapped these two quick shots before they disappeared. Right or double click for bigger.

On Tim Gallagher's Imperial Dreams blog, he shows two pieces of ancient falconry art he saw in Portugal. The Accipiter is interesting because it recalls how ancient the sport of hunting quail with Sparrowhawks all around the Mediterranean must be, even if it only survives perilously in three locations now. Remember, this is the far west of the Roman Empire, and I have seen similar realistic mosaics in Turkey, in the formerly  Byzantine eastern end (actually, the little museum was east of Istanbul, east of Ankara, well on the way to the Kurdish non- state north of Syria and Iraq. But artistically, this stylized one, possibly 1000 years old, is more intriguing to me. In the dog, hawk, and quarry I see echoes of the dragonish saluki with its rider in Karen's image below-- and even more intriguing hints of images on rocks made a thousand miles and more further east, and millenia before...

Ataika, still Queen of the World

Arthur's work.
As Reid says, it's Ataika's world; we just live in it. As Arthur said of her late "sister" Lashyn, "the only dog I ever knew who was so confident in her ownership of the living room furniture that she kicked me off the couch."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Links, Big Birds, and all the news that fits...

When you have been dealing with meds and other unavoidable and  annoying facts of aging, everything piles up. You don't think Lucas Machias or Lane B stops mailing or that Annie D doesn't send me a mix of the surreal and the biological, or JP stops writing his serious essays, do you? The world goes "whirling still"*, and all the news is not Ebola or Isis (though they are as close to where I spent time in Kurdish Turkey as I am to Socorro-- thirty miles!)

News per se is boring. Once the too- difficult new meds were done away with, and my schedule tweaked, I still have mornings and late afternoons when I can do physical stuff, and if I get to the bar in the evening I can sit there until they throw me out. The next of my reprints, On the Edge of the Wild, with a new intro by Paula Young Lee and a cover by Vadim Gorbatov, is out soon-- see more a few posts past. After that is Eagle Dreams with a splendid black and white profile of the late Aralbai by Cat. And more to come.

Fall continues absent. My essentially northern soul (my Italian ancestors were in the Alps warring with Otzi after the Ice Age; most of the rest were mad melancholic Celts, mercenaries  fighting others of the same lineage in Scotland and later Ireland) is irritated by this golden weather everyone else loves. We should have had a hard frost  four weeks past; instead we have hot days and FLIES. Enough! Quail will start soon but I can never quite get in the mood for bird hunting unless there is a touch of frost, and your breath is visible when you open the back door just as the sun makes a bright edge over the mountains to the southeast...

I was having trouble with Rio; no, I was having trouble with my legs. Tavo Cruz came to my rescue without my having to ask, and will get him going, with me pitching in as I am able. Tavo is a biologist, a dog - in- law, and has a Gyr Merlin, so we can all relax. It is a much better solution than either giving him up or leaving him bored; so far Rio is free of vices, but boredom makes Gyrs as crazy as it does humans...

Work- we don't talk details, but I have had a sudden inspiration on how to proceed in my latest project-- perhaps why my subconscious now suggests I get back to work here too.

Turkish and Tunisian falconry are virtually identical, and I am told by Vadim that Georgia's is too. All use Eurasian Sparrow hawks caught on first passage using a mole cricket and a shrike; all employ a method that looks insane to us, throwing hawks like baseballs; though they know the hood, the birds are so well- manned that it hardly seems necessary to use the hood except in emergencies. The birds are flown as the migrant Coturnix quail move through, and can take astonishing bags. Once the quail have passed through, the hawkers release their birds.

There was a four -part YouTube on Turkish traditional hawking available for a while that had the look of being made for the state's educational TV company. These next two works are not as exhaustive, but are still fun. The first is this Vimeo of the Festival de L'epervier in Tunisia. No real hunting is done, but you can see real bird handling (the competition consists of tossing a quail off the side of a steep hill, then bowling a Spar after it). Some of the  Spars appear to be trailing 3 or four feet of string,  which doesn't slow them down much. The remarkable thing about this film is that falconry is obviously just a part of life, not some  strange exotic revival. Teenaged kids, young toughs and older working men hold forth on the virtues of their birds (one does see that the universal redneck signifier is redneck camo EVERYTHING-- have seen it as far from Magdalena, or Tunisia, as Bayan Olgii, and in Nick Fox's films of Southwest China). It makes a strange contrast to the old men in linen suits and finely woven broad brimmed straw hats...

Oh and-- don't take the written notes too seriously-- most of the birds are NOT "Barbary Peregrines" whatever that means-- most, and all but one flown (that by a dolt who treats a still- living quail as an inert object), are Accipiters, Spars, Accipiter nisus, and the exceptions look like Mediterranean Peregrines rather than the similar but distinct Barbary. One little guy is so calm and well- manned that he sits unhooded on the floorboard of a motor scooter, unhooded and unruffled, as his owner starts up and rides away.

The other link is to the White Review and is titled "The Forgotten Sea: the Falconers of the Eastern Pontos". Its tone is between that of a travel piece and a scholarly article; though the writer was not a falconer he kept his eyes open; this may be the most comprehensive of the accounts of this falconry I have read by anyone. The author seems to think Turkish falconry is dying, albeit  slowly. He certainly documents signs of its decadence: birds being kept after the season as pets because of their color; obsession with color rather than hunting ability; not flying special birds for fear of losing them... I approve of getting birds pet- TAME, but Spars that are not flown are not really hawks. Rio would make a better "pet" than any Accipiter nisus, but he is now learning to be a bird, as Libby puts it, with the attendant dangers and possibilities.

Jackson and Niki ALMOST made it up to the Black Sea coast last trip; let us hope that they can see it before this sort of magical survival disappears. As a Turkish speaker familiar with falconry since his childhood, he may bring back nuances yet unknown here.

Very different bird. You may have seen this little video of a Redtail taking down a drone, filmed BY the drone on the banks of the Charles (River, between Boston and Cambridge Massachusetts), but it is irresistible. I flew my old Redtail Cinammon less than a mile from there forty years ago, but never caught anything that exciting.

Cambridge hawker, '72?

My other links are not for the most part about birds, and I will put them in the next or another post. But first; remember how Robert Bakker, back in the nineteen eighties, called T rex "The Roadrunner from Hell"? And how Peter Larson, whose conviction and (I would say) unjust jailing for fossil offenses I don't quite understand even after reading about them, called it "The biggest bird of all"? I think that an actual paradigm shift is upon us, even as the nerds debate the producers over whether the "Velociraptors" in the next Jurassic Park episode should finally be allowed their feathers or stand shivering like plucked chickens. Bigger and bigger Tyrannosaurs are being discovered with feathers, especially Eutyrannus, and some dino kids are saying "why is the Tyrant King naked?"

Eutyrannus AND "Velociraptors"** in the snow
 Sensible, mostly young scientists, pointing to the acceptance of likely feathers on young rexes, ask when any adult in any birdlike line had no feathers when the young did. And now our most innovative paleoartist, John Conway, gives us a calm, feathered, close- mouthed Tyrannosaurus that is about the scariest thing I ever saw. He doesn't want to roar  at you***-- he just wants a snack!
* Who am I quoting? (A poet from his first book- whole stanza will appear).

** They are not Velociraptors, which were only coyote size-- more like, oh, Utahraptors--  but the name is better. You know those aspirin ads where some weary oldster has to tell a young person that Aspirin is not just for heart attacks? Kids either think I am being inventive, metaphorically, or that I am wrong (and correct me) when I refer to birds of prey as "raptors".

*** John McLoughlin used to roar himself: "WHY do they always show predators with their MOUTHS open, ROARING? They would all STARVE!"

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Another day's wait ...

Before regular traffic begins. A productive day, but at 8:21 PM I am unlikely to blog much after a day spent working and answering correspondence at this desk. I should leave you all with an image or two to hold  you from... what? Something surreal? Poignant? Beautiful? Art or artifice or nature?

Aahh, I know. Karen Myers sent me this, from 14th Century France: a hare out hunting,  riding his dragon- tongued saluki, hawking with a ... snail.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Back Tomorrow

I am tempted to snark "New Meds", and leave it at that. But not really, though for anyone with these problems, chemistry is a factor. Mostly just had to clear decks and do some catching up. Pics & even words coming...

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Old photo #1

Found a hundred or so old photos. Here is Constant Commenter  John Hill, better known as "Johnny UK", on one of his many stays here, riding the Qureshi's Cebolla north of town.

Random Doggage #1

Lots of photoblogging coming today because I have a ton of good images. First, an Irish team:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


There is no scientific anthropology here, for anthropology is not a science, no matter how much its young practitioners wish it to be. You can feed apples into a computer until the cows come home, but all you will get out of it is applesauce. I am defiantly an "eyeball anthropologist," a man with what might be called extensive knowledge in this sad age of rampant ignorance, with an insatiable curiosity and a visceral need to know the whys of human behavior, and the propensity to form a theory out of any two pieces of data. Watch out for that. I will not lead you down a straight Yellow Brick Road, but off into the poppy fields to look at his or that apparent irrelevancy, which will lead to another irrelevancy - but we will get to the Emerald City at last.

- John Greenway, Down Among the Wild Men    


"Work that does not lead directly to food should be forbidden in fall."

- Carlos Martinez del Rio

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Photoblog: China, early 20th C.

A collage of sorts. Explain, improvise, interpret, or even deconstruct.

UPDATE. Everyone in comments had the idea. The elements: books on China by the American Museum's Roy Chapman Andrews, "Indiana Jones", before he ever got to "outer" Mongolia and its fossils, and his China host, missionary, ornithologist and big game hunter Harry Caldwell. Caldwell hunted almost entirely with Savage 99's in .250 Savage ("250- 3000" for its hitherto unmatched velocity) and .22 Hi- Power, the obsolete cartridge shown here-- he used the 250 on the local elk and shot many tigers, at least one a maneater, with it. Perhaps only the easy confidence of a man of God let him get away with that.

Other objects include Mongolian snuff bottles-- snuff is still popular there, as it was back then, and a little animalier bronze of a tiger by Tiffany. Photo of me with eaglers including the late R Suleiman in Olgii on first Mongolia  trip, 1997.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The wheel turns

The great season song, the great New England song, the song that haunts me. Take it, Tom...

Bron, Karen, this one is for you.

Weekend Dogs: Teddy's Teckels

In his comment below, Gil mentions a hunting dachshund. Our own late Diamond Lil was another, but for the best hunting dachshund pics we go to Teddy Moritz, who bred our Lil. Here is Lil, and a few of Teddy's through the years.
And Teddy's:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

At Mark's: Gratuitous weiner dogs plus

I took a lot of photos at my friend Mark's "new" office in a historic building here-- firearms, animal specimens, and gratuitous dogs. Rather than publish  them all in one monster post, I think I will parcel them out.

Mark is a fan of bird dogs and dachshunds. He has several dachsies, plus Kena who is both (half German shorthair)...

 Dogs can be as visual as cats. They are chasing a laser dot here...
 Where'd it go?

Play fair!