A Few from Almaty

I couldn’t make it to the Primitive Breeds Conference in Almaty Kazakhstan this year, which is too bad because many of my friends did.

Here are two friends, saluki man and Arabist Sir Terence Clark and Vladimir Beregovoy, who is now based in Virginia. He is a biologist, an expert on primitive breeds, and a Laika breeder. (We are also working on a Siberian hunter’s book first published in 1865– actually mostly done but hard to find a publisher). Between them is someone I would like to meet: Asylhan Artykbaev: eagle hunter, tazi breeder, and naturalist.

He is also a descendant of the old pre- Soviet aristocracy. Here he is in more resplendent plumage, with an eagle.

The Pups

Some of our pups at a few months more than a year.

John Burchard’s Tigger in the field in California.

Sherri Beregovoy’s Clio has a false pregnancy and is hoarding toys which she treats as pups. Sure looks like her mother (below).

Clio’s sister Larissa, who we kept, at the ranch.

Monica’s Nemrah, another NM dog.

Paul, Nate: send us recent photos of Z and and Maty and we’ll put them in.


In the past two weeks I have finished 4000 words for a forthcoming book on the art of Tom Quinn, had the Peculiars as guests for a week, and screwed up my back by hiking up a canyon with a yielding floor of washed- out gravel. Now four books have arrived in the mail to review. So I am going to give a few links for now, and some pix, then come back with real essay posts in a bit (I hope).

Pluvi’s Gos has caught her first rabbit. She is having the blues at the end of a tough year– go over and wish her well.

Prairie Mary has been to the Montana Festival of the Book, and has some wise and tough things about the publishing world.

Check out Outside Magazine Online for material on Patrick Symmes’ search for the legendary city of Shambhala. No woo- woo stuff here; he points to a real archaeological state in Xinjiang (or as natives prefer, “East Turkestan”)

Camera Trap Codger has some tiger tales to tell. He also knew another ratman. (HT Patrick.

Big gun!

(Actually and strangely, such waterfowling cannons are still legal, if rare, in England.)

Raptors– the non- avian kind– had feathers! Wonder what Feduccia thinks of this?(In- joke I may explain later).

A New Mexico Ceratopsian.

At Bioephemera, a fascinating post on how we present our personal identities. Any blogger or maybe any writer of non- fiction should read this. (also reminds me I need to add about ten blogs to the blogroll!)

At the Moscow Times: a unique sandpiper seems to be disappearing. The Han Empire’s environmental impact continues.

A Daring Book for Girls! Not sure it doesn’t sound tougher than the boy’s version.

Both Chas and Annie D sent me links to stories on the ban on eating ortolans. I’m not sure that a bird common throughout Eurasia could be all that rare in France (and you should note that several songbirds are legally hunted and eaten there). More pc, like the foie gras ban? Does anyone know?

Laura Niven sent me this story about a dachshund who found a very big old bone. She looks remarkably like our Lily.

Darren now has three posts up about “mainstreaming” cryptozoology. Start here and go up. Lots of other fun stuff at Tet Zoo, and good comments. Darren, I still want my monster pigeons.

Maybe there always WILL be an England. Here is a debate in the House of Lords about what to do about gray squirrels. Of course they’re edible!

Pics soon.

The void, two views

Helen recently drew readers’ attention to a startling (maybe terrifying) essay on what it means to live in Los Angeles by Geoff Manaugh, writing at BLDGBLOG.

Helen quotes the opening passage at plenty length to give the gist. But read the whole thing here. It’s very good.

What do I know about Los Angeles? Not any more than it shows us of itself, which is a lot, but how accurate that is I can’t say. Now I know also whatever truth there is to Manaugh’s observations.

Says Manaugh with a shrug, Los Angeles is “the void.”

Los Angeles is where you confront the objective fact that you mean nothing; the desert, the ocean, the tectonic plates, the clear skies, the sun itself, the Hollywood Walk of Fame – even the parking lots: everything there somehow precedes you, even new construction sites, and it’s bigger than you and more abstract than you and indifferent to you. You don’t matter. You’re free.

Free to be anything you want to be, even nothing at all. “Literally no one cares,” repeats Manaugh, “You’re alone in the world. L.A. is explicit about that. “

Manaugh’s dispassionate delivery is chilling, exquisitely scene-setting. The accompanying photos to his essay are suitably abstract, beautiful and bleak.

To the condition of being “free,” as related to life in L.A., he gives its fullest expression and reveals it to be a state of total isolation:

In Los Angeles you can be standing next to another human being but you may as well be standing next to a geological formation. Whatever that thing is, it doesn’t care about you. And you don’t care about it. Get over it. You’re alone in the world. Do something interesting.

Manaugh admits upfront that he loves this about L.A., and there’s a little bit of Carl Sandburg in his admiration for the city.

L.A. is the apocalypse: it’s you and a bunch of parking lots. No one’s going to save you; no one’s looking out for you. It’s the only city I know where that’s the explicit premise of living there – that’s the deal you make when you move to L.A. The city, ironically, is emotionally authentic.

This is one vision of freedom, adrift and alone in a crowd, responsible only for “doing something interesting,” if you care to. There are other views: Just about anything Wendell Berry writes will offer you a vision of freedom virtually the opposite of Manaugh’s L.A.

Reading him today, I found a passage not much different than the usual Berry polemic, but after Manaugh the contrast is stark. I offer it as a look at an older form of freedom, and as a kind of antidote.

These ways of marriage, kinship, friendship, and neighborhood surround us with forbiddings; they are forms of bondage, and involved in our humanity is always the wish to escape. . . . But involved in our humanity also is the warning that we can escape only into loneliness and meaninglessness. Our choice may be between a small, humanized meaning and a vast meaninglessness, or between the freedom of our virtues and the freedom of our vices. It is only in these bonds that our freedom has a use and a worth; it is only to the people who know us, love us, and depend on us that we are indispensable as the persons we uniquely are. In our industrial society, in which people insist so fervently on their value and their freedom “as individuals,” individuals are seen more and more as “units” by their governments, employers and suppliers. They live, that is, under the rule of the interchangeability of parts: what one person can do, another person can do just as well or a newer person can do better. Separate from the relationships, there is nobody to be known; people become, as they say and feel, nobodies.

–from Berry’s essay, Men and Women in Search of Common Ground, 1985

Dzien dobry from Polski…or something

As a so-called ‘foreign’ correspondent, yours’ truly feels a very mild need to be odd, to be, as it were, foreign.
At first, this seems a very easy thing to be in Eastern Europe, specifically, in rural Poland. Gone, for sure, is America, and gone, even, is the cosmopolitanism of Istanbul, which has the grace at least to be a ridiculously large city, with party-hardy Americans aplenty, et c.
Gone now is the sense of: when I was young was America and now is Different.
Turns out Different comes in a lot of different forms. Who’d a thunk?
I had tons of things to say about the beauty of the graffiti here (which is beautiful) especially compared to the buildings (which are hideously garish), but from the time I arrived at my petulant-child thesis: Graffiti must at least strive at beauty, since its goal is to overwhelm the aesthetics of whoever wants to paint it over, to make them acknowledge its beauty and leave it alone because they can’t bear to compromise it, whereas building-painters in post-Communist Eastern Europe feel compelled to throw up bright colors as an assertion of the fact that they have no one at all to answer to, no one to paint over them, as it were–An idea that ran, eventually, against the time that I’d spent walking around actually thinking about this nice sounding idea, testing it against reality a bit and finding it severely wanting.
At the same time I was coming to almost hate the things I’d written about a magnificent trip to Jordan.
The flaw’s maybe easy to diagnose, a childish desire for resolution or at least a surmising statement, ‘spose.
But when differences keep coming up and being different from one another, when after a month those hideous apartment blocks start seeming bold and okay, aesthetically, and treks cross-city for awesome graffiti walk you past blocks of ugly graffiti, and you realize that what you thought after one touristic week in the place to be a bold insight is revealed to be a superficial conclusion-jump, you (and by you I mean I) come to the conclusion that the sport of all this vagrant wandering is being constantly wrong. Not just in prejudices or presuppositions, but in analysis and understanding, too. Being foreign, it turns out, is a lot like being 15 and aware of it. Always thinking you’re right. Always being proved wrong.
But that sounds a lot like a grand conclusion, don’t it….

Indian Peaks

On Sunday of last week, Connie and I went with our friends Jeremy and Monica and their two children (plus one friend) up to Boulder County for a picnic and hike in an area just east of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. This is a shot of the Indian Peaks from near where we parked. They had a dusting of snow from a storm a few days earlier.

Our mountain trees are mostly evergreens so we don’t get the dramatic color changes seen in Eastern forests. The aspens here do change to a very bright yellow that highlights the green of the rest of the forest and thousands of people drive up from the city in September to see them. The valley floor where we parked was at about 9,000 ft. and several granite domes like this one thrust up from it. We clambered to the tops of two of them for better views.
It was very breezy at the tops and here you see Connie, Monica, the kids, and Sadie on a ledge to get out of the wind.
Here we are hiking through an aspen grove on our way between the domes. It’s interesting how neighboring groves can simultaneously be green, have turned yellow, or have already dropped their leaves. From what I understand, the roots of all the aspens in one grove are all connected so in essence each grove is one big plant. The top of the second dome had this big notch in it that served as a big wind tunnel. As you can see it had a big pothole full of water that the dogs splashed into to get a drink. Somehow we kept the kids from falling in.

More Kapuscinski

Following Steve’s lead, here’s another quote from Ryszard Kapuscinski’s Travels with Herodotus:

“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our doorstep once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable.”

Neanderthal Range Extended

Nicholas Wade, working the paleoanthropology beat for the New York Times, reports again on Neanderthal DNA research. Svante Paabo at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany (where Steve’s friend Laura Niven works) has recovered Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA from bones excavated from two sites in Central Asia:

“One is Teshik Tash, in Uzbekistan, some 750 miles east of the Caspian Sea and, until now, the easternmost known limit of Neanderthal territory. The other bones are from the Okladnikov cave in the Altai mountains, some 1,250 miles farther east.

This huge extension of the Neanderthal’s known range puts them well into southern Siberia.

Because the mitochondrial DNA sequence of the new finds differs only slightly from that of the European Neanderthals, Dr. Paabo believes that they may have moved into Siberia relatively late in the Neanderthal period, perhaps as recently as 127,000 years ago, when a warm period made Siberia more accessible.”

As the article points out, this is a big step on two fronts of research. One is of course that the previously known range of Neanderthal populations has been expanded. But the second is that DNA analysis allows for the species identification of small fragments of bone. Previously Neanderthals (and other earlier hominids) could only be identified by skeletal morphology, which meant that a much larger percentage of the skeleton had to be recovered to positively identify the species. The article doesn’t say it, but this new methodology opens the door for reanalysis of museum skeletal collections excavated over the last hundred years or so, potentially vastly increasing the known database on Neanderthal populations.

More Southern Illinois Salukis

Steve posted last month about his delight at discovering that the mascot of the Southern Illinois University athletic teams is the Saluki. We’ve since found more SIU Saluki stuff like this picture of a guy in a saluki suit who prowls the sidelines at their football games. Apparently local saluki owners take turns bringing their dogs to the games as well.

We also found this image of the SIU football helmets with their Saluki logo. (Image courtesy of The Helmet Project).

Finally, I had completely forgotten that our friend Jeremy had gotten his degree from SIU and is a fervent Saluki supporter. Here’s a picture of his five year-old son Ian, proudly wearing his Saluki logo hat.

The Ranch

We often speak of “The Ranch”– Lee Henderson’s acreage of miles of high desert grassland, canyon, and foothill, located on La Jencia Plain under the Magdalenas and not touching pavement on any side. It is an idael place to run dogs and fly falcons. I thought you might like to see a few pix.

Here is his house.

Me, walking with the pack.

Larissa, the brat:

And Lee himself, showing a print Vadim Gorbatov signed to him, of quail through the windshield of our car, on the ranch.