Friday, October 24, 2014


I would like to get this, if I can figure out how to afford it, quite difficult-- perhaps my last best chance for a Best gun...
There's always a way...

St Giles Cathedral

Guy Boyd was in Edinborough, and captured not only the cathedral but its amazing animal carvings.

Says Guy, "... When they're visiting, I wonder if these folks contemplate their long tradition of  partnership with the animals depicted here in contrast to current restrictive laws."

Hot Links

The BBC had an interesting write-up on "aircraft boneyards" around the world with lots of emphasis on the USAF facility at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson. It's quite impressive just driving around outside of it. They offer tours and taking one is on my list.

Back in my aerospace days I worked at the Mojave Airport where a lot of planes are stored, mentioned in the article and pictured above. We were operating a Boeing 747, and occasionally we would buy used parts off of some of the 747s parked in the boneyard. We got a discount if we sent our mechanics to take it off the plane. One day our guys had to open up an internal bulkhead to reach an assembly when several plastic bags of a suspicious-looking white powder fell out. The Kern County Sheriff was immediately called. IIRC it was Bolivian marching powder.

A DNA study of Easter Island natives indicates that their genomes contain Native American DNA. Its presence seems to indicate that Native Americans somehow traveled to Easter Island in Precolumbian times and interbred with the Polynesians there. We have known for some time that there was contact between Polynesia and South America because sweet potatoes (native to South America) were cultivated throughout Polynesia when Europeans first arrived there and chicken skeletons (whose DNA matches Polynesian chickens) have been found in prehistoric sites in South America. This information adds to that story.

Rock art researcher Larry Loendorf has been working in a series of prehistoric Jornada Mogollon sites in southern New Mexico. He has noticed a repeated motif of yellow, red and black triangles (see above) on 24 pictograph rock art panels spread out over an area from Carlsbad to Las Cruces. Larry also noticed that growing under each of these panels were hallucinogenic plants: wild tobacco and datura. He believes that Mogollon shamans were using the plants to enter trances when preparing to paint the rock art.

Archaeologists in Norway have found a 1300 year-old  ski melting out of a glacier. It still has its leather bindings attached.

This is an interesting article, but I couldn't resist putting it in for the title alone: Allosaurus Died from Stegosaur Spike to the Crotch.

Photoblogging: Kurdish Turkey II: Village Life

Hounds, houses, house partridge, sheep, field pigeons...

 Partridge, called "Keklik" are kept as pets and for calling their wild relatives, which they catch with fine nooses... demonstrated below

 These "swift" pigeons are bred for show in the west but fly free here. The one on the ground had just evaded a wild Peregrine and was feeding on the ground again.
 The Lebanons below are big enough to eat though also handsome. They are probably ancestor to the Carneau, a squabbing and show breed, in the west.

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: